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Surrey, United Kingdom

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Looking forward to 2010

It's always interesting to look back at the end of the year and ponder on achievements, disappointments and start thinking about plans for the coming year.
My resolutions for 2009 were:
  • Run a 5k in under 30 mins (and run all of it!)
  • Have a piece of writing published
  • Eat five portions of fruit/veg a day
  • Drink eight glasses of water a day
  • Reduce caffeine and refined sugar intake
  • Be more considerate (includes managing my temper!)
  • Lose three stone
  • Take better care of appearance
  • Be more active
  • Make better use of my free time
  • Write daily (and publish on blog!)
  • To clear my book backlog - buy no new books (although second-hand allowed)
  • Stop hoarding - clear the clutter
My success in achieving these aims is mixed. I haven't improved my fitness or diet in any measurable way. I have only just begun to post regularly on my blog and I have failed to write anything, let alone get anything published. On the other hand, I have made steps towards clearing my backlog of books (although I did crumble a couple of times on buying new books and became a regular in the local charity shops...) and I have become much less of a hoarder. I also think more about what I wear and how I look. So, what should I aim for in 2010? Much remains the same as in 2009 and reviewing this list has actually made me think about what I feel is important and what is not worth worrying about. So, I think I can trim the list a little which will hopefully make it more achievable:
  • Be more active - find an activity I enjoy
  • Eat more healthily - eat to live, not live to eat!
  • Write, write, write - be it blog, general jottings or the start of something more substantial
  • Make more of an effort to keep in touch with friends and family
I'll also be sticking to the 'no new books' resolution. My 'To Be Read' shelf is still groaning with titles awaiting my attention.

Anyway, rather a self-obsessed post, but it has been useful for me to just get some things in focus and I now feel read to face 2010. BRING IT ON!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Top 10 Books Read in 2009

Everyone's doing it, and far be it from me to miss an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. Most other book bloggers whose lists I have read have either had me nodding in agreement, or reaching for my list of books to read in the near future. I hope that anyone reading this list will find it equally engaging! Some of these books I had read before I began blogging reviews properly, so I haven't written a review for them (with the exception of The Shrimp and the Anemone, which I haven't finished yet, but know already it is one of my favourites this year!)* I'll endeavour to write up my feelings on these books over the next couple of weeks...

Of course, it wouldn't be fair to give my top 10 without giving the other side of the coin. Not all the books I have read in 2009 have been as enjoyable as I had hoped. The reasons for this vary, so without further ado, here are the (dis)honourable mentions:

Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor - I had read and enjoyed Andrew Taylor's Roth trilogy and An American Boy previously, but this novel fell far short of my expectations.
The Dice Man by Luke Reinhart - I suggested and read this for my Book Club, having heard a great deal about it and it's status as a cult novel. As it turns out it seemed little more than titillation and pop psychology.
The Jewel Box by Anna Davis and The Art of Love by Elizabeth Edmondson - both these books were, I admit, fun to read but to me their ease in reading is coupled with an instant forgetability. No strong characters and join-the-dots plot. Borrow these from the library by all means and enjoy the moment - just don't expect to be blown away!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Christmas Gifts

Well, I certainly can't complain about my haul of Christmas goodies. I received several books from my Amazon wish-list and a couple of 'pleasant surprise' books too!

Diana Mosley by Anne de Courcy

What a wonderfully compelling and interesting biography this is! I suppose you could argue that writing the biography of someone with such a colourful life would be an easy job, but there are many things that make Anne de Courcy's book so wonderful. It is clear that she got much of her material from first-hand sources - she cites conversations with Diana and many of her contemporaries and the whole book reads like a deliciously scandalous novel. Diana's personality shines out of the pages - charismatic, charming, single-minded, determined, witty and vivacious. What impressed me was that even the questionnable aspects of her personality seemed, if not excusable then at least acceptable as part of the whole package. Her devotion to Sir Oswald Mosley in the face of such persecution is strangely admirable. The overall feeling I get is that while it would be easy to dismiss Diana as a traitor, fascist and selfish aristocrat it is only by reading her story that you come to realise that her life choices came at a high cost, which she accepted without complaint.

I have read several of Anne de Courcy's books - The Viceroy's Daughters, Debs at War and 1939: The Last Season and have thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend all of them. Her style is fluid and simple, but obviously thoroughly researched and her passion for each of her subjects shines through.

Currently Reading:
The Art of Love by Elizabeth Edmondson (I will admit I am struggling with this, but am halfway through and determined to see it through to the end)
The Shrimp and the Anemone by L P Hartley (I remember reading excerpts of this at school but have never read this or any other Hartley until now!)

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson

It might be lazy, but there are times when all you want is a quick read and something that you can get engrossed in for a day or two. For me, that means a Peter Robinson novel. I bought a 'box-set' of his novels about a year ago and love having them there as a stand-by read, when I really can't decide what I am in the mood for. Inspector Banks is a great character - no great quirks or idiosyncracies just a solid, no-nonsense man who has seen and experienced a great deal during his time in the police. In this novel, we get to learn more about his past in London and how the experiences he had lead him to move to Yorkshire. Peter Robinson's books are not lurid or shocking - I would describe them as unsettling and realistic. In Past Reason Hated the murder victim is Caroline Hartley, a woman in her mid-twenties. We find out that she has a troubled past - she ran away from home in her teens and went to London. Despite Caroline being dead from the opening of the novel we learn so much about her that she feels like a complete character. I think this is Peter Robinson's main talent - his characterisation is subtle but effective and while the novels don't appear bogged down in descriptive detail all his characters are strong and effective.

Currently reading:
Diana Mosley by Anne de Courcy (I know, I know - hoping to finish this later today; I got distracted by Past Reason Hated)
The Art of Love by Elizabeth Edmondson - I have not read any Elizabeth Edmondson before, but this novel caught my eye in the library.

The Men Who Stare At Goats

I didn't really know much about this film before going to see it, although I had seen the trailer. The main reason I wanted to see was the cast - George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and goats...in one film? What was there not to like? It turns out, there was quite a lot not to like. For quite a short film (93 mins) it really dragged and I think this was due to a lack of plot. The whole story could have been summed up in about 15 mins, which leaves rather a lot of slack. The other thing that I found distracting was Ewan McGregor's American accent. Now, I don't know if it is because I know that he is Scottish, but I just found his accent throughout the film confusing. I'd love to know what Americans think of his accent and whether it is really as dreadfully embarrassing as I fear it is. The whole question of accents in films is very interesting and one which Mark Kermode explores with relation to Valkyrie here
There were some big laughs, and having just re-watched Burn After Reading I am becoming more convinced that George Clooney's true talent lies in comedy.
So, probably not a film worth paying to go and see, but good fun all the same. And certainly very pleasing on the eye ;)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Glorious 39

I have this week off work and rather than doing my usual vague pottering and trash tv watching I decided to be productive this time. So, yesterday I went to Croydon to do 'the Christmas shop'. Usually this would be a complete disaster but for once I got myself organised and wrote a list, stuck to it and consequently am about 95% complete on the Christmas shopping front (pending deliveries from both Amazon and Play). Today, I went into Reigate (a very different kind of shopping experience) and did some shopping then took myself off to the cinema to see Glorious 39.

Now, I don't know about you, but there are few things in life quite as enjoyable as going to the cinema on your own in the afternoon. It somehow just feels so decadent! I treated myself to some milk chocolate honeycomb pieces and sat slap-bang in the middle in front of everyone else so I could feel as though I was there on my own. As it was, there was only about six other people in the cinema (again, the joys of a small independent cinema cannot be underestimated!)
Now, on to the film. I heard about Glorious 39 during the London Film Festival. The director is Stephen Poliakoff, who is a favourite of mine - everything I have seen of his has been really interesting, not to mention beautifully shot. He tends to also introduce an element of the unusual, which I love. Glorious 39, therefore, is a little more than a straight-forward period drama. I don't want to give away the plot, but basically it centres around Anne, the eldest (adopted) of three children in an aristocratic family. She discovers some unsettling plots connected to the outbreak of war and slowly things begin to unravel as she discovers who the 'bad guys' actually are. I absolutely loved every minute of this film. There was a real undercurrent throughout the film and some of the characters and situations were genuinely menacing. Watching a character fall apart is emotionally difficult and I found myself spending the journey home thinking about the true horror of the war and it's cost both emotionally and physically to everyone.
Romola Garai was engaging and beautiful, and all the supporting cast were equally strong. It was interesting to see Bill Nighy in a serious role, which I don't think I have seen him play before. I also loved Juno Temple, who is simply gorgeous (and got to wear some enviable outfits) And on top if it all, I adored the all the clothes, period detail and cinematography. A definite 5* film and one I can't wait to own on DVD.

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

Finished reading The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir on Saturday morning, just in time to return it to the library! It was one of those books that I never quite got into. I enjoyed reading it, but the compulsion to read on to the next chapter when I really should be doing something else wasn't there. It was an interesting imagining of Elizabeth's early life and there were enough historical facts there to make it convincing. If anything, I would say that the facts were a little intrusive and my overall feeling was that I would rather have read a straight biography of Elizabeth. I did read Elizabeth by David Starkey a few months ago and will confess that I think that was a more enjoyable read (but then, despite his more dislikeable qualities, I am a big fan of David Starkey). For me, Tudor historical fiction doesn't really come any better than Philippa Gregory. I am yet to try any Suzannah Dunn and would be interested to hear what other bloggers think of historical fiction - who are your favourite authors and what period of history do you most enjoy reading about? For me, it's Tudor, or Victorian to Edwardian.

Currently reading:
Diana Mosley by Anne de Courcy (only about 100 pages to go, so review coming soon!)

Recently bought:
Picked up a copy of Diaries of Evelyn Waugh (ed. Michael Davie) in the local Oxfam bookshop today

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Mariana by Monica Dickens

Finished reading Mariana by Monica Dickens yesterday and not ashamed to admit that I was genuinely sad when it ended. I had been so swept along in Mary's story that it was not until she fell in love with Sam that I remembered how the novel had opened. This sense of impending doom made sure I read the last pages with my heart in my mouth. For me, what was so wonderful about the novel was Mary herself - I found her such an endearing and sympathetic character, with many traits that I could identify with. Being surrounded by other more colourful characters didn't even detract from her, by comparison, simplicity and plainness. It reminded me of so many other stories I have enjoyed, but was in no way an imitation or inferior to them. It evoked so effortlessly my image of life in the early twentieth century when everything seemed more innocent and simple. Those wonderful summer holidays in the country with her cousins, the heartbreak of unrequited love and the passionate affair with the sophisticated and fascinating man which eventually fizzles out all seemed so real, almost as if they could have been my own memories. If you're looking for a book that will totally engross you, as well as make you think about the nature of love, then Mariana should serve you well.

I also, by chance, came across another Monica Dickens in the wonderful Oxfam bookshop not far from where I work (too close, some might say!) At £1.99 I could hardly resist and so have The Angel in the Corner now added to my To Be Read pile. There doesn't seem to be much available info about this novel on the Amazon website, but I think the very short review by 'A Customer' convinces me that it will be worth a shot:

"A middle class girl with a smothering mother falls in love with a spiv - a working class man on the make who dazzles her by flashing his cash."

I have also come to the conclusion that I have been writing this blog all around the wrong way...I get so excited about reading a new book that I rush straight in and talk about it before actually reading it, which makes me feel like I'm repeating myself when I come to write my review of it! So, from now on, I shall simply mention the book(s) that I am reading at the end of my review.

Currently reading:

Saturday, 28 November 2009


Went to see 2012 at the cinema earlier this week. Strangely, I quite like disaster movies, especially now that CGI can create such amazing images and realistic effects. Couple this with the fact that I have had a crush on John Cusack since back in the day, this film seemed like a safe bet. I had heard some rather conflicting reviews of it, however. The majority seemed to be saying that the budget had all gone on the special effects, leaving very little for plot or script. I think the fact that I went prepared for the film to be all action and no trousers (so to speak) probably stood me in good stead. Yes, the effects are AMAZING, but quite frankly the entire storyline (I don't think I can even call it a plot), the characterisation and the dialogue was downright abysmal. I'm not even sure I know where to begin in describing the sheer badness of it all, but perhaps best to limit myself to a few choice selections:
the American bias of the film (shouldn't really have expected anything less)
the sloppy morals (Russian oligarch dies=greed is bad)
the over-abundance of movie clich├ęs (small dog surviving, last minute resolutions)
the verging-on-racist stereotypes
unrealistic character actions and reactions

So, go and see it by all means, but just don't go expecting any moral or philosophical revelations. Just enjoy the massive tidal waves, the collapsing buildings and the general destruction of planet earth. Oh, and John Cusack, if possible, improves with age ;)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Mariana by Monica Dickens

I began reading Mariana by Monica Dickens this week. Unfortunately, not in the beautiful Persephone edition as pictured, but a rather bedraggled 1970s Penguin edition, which I picked up in a charity shop about a month ago. This was another book and indeed author that I had not heard of until I began exploring the wonderful world of book blogs. It sounded like exactly the sort of book I would love and was given rave reviews from many book bloggers whose tastes seem to be in line with mine. The opening chapter made me wonder if I had been misled, but it soon became the book I had imagined it being. The story is idyllic and makes me nostalgic for a lifestyle I was born two decades late to have ever enjoyed! I'll review more fully when I have finished it, but the first couple of days' reading have assured me that I am going to enjoy every minute of this story. I can't help thinking there may be tears before the end...

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin

Finally getting round to writing up my thoughts on Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin - and it's a bit of a mixed bag. The plot and the characterisation are wonderful (I don't remember such a memorable dog in any other book!) The only thing I didn't really enjoy about it was the rather prolonged exposition which took over the last chapter of the book. The plot was complex and had some quite interesting and complicated aspects to it, but I prefer my detective stories to make the clues and solution apparent in more subtle ways than by having the detective explain it all to another character in the final chapter. So, rather disappointing in the end. BUT, I will not let this colour my view of Edmund Crispin's books just yet. I am dying to read The Moving Toyshop, mainly because I find the title so fascinating!

The Jewel Box

I was lucky enough to win a free book from Transworld Publishers who I am friends with on Facebook. They give away a couple of books a month to the first twenty people to email them - this is the second time I've got lucky. Shamefully, this is the first time I have actually read the book...It's called The Jewel Box by Anna Davis. I'd not heard of book or author beforehand, but being set in 1920s London I thought it would be worth a shot. It's not a serious book - in fact it's probably best described as chick lit - but with the added bonus of being period chick lit! I wasn't sure of the main character for the first few chapters. She came across as actually quite arrogant and abrasive, but things seem to be settling down a little now. I've also struggled a little with the way that period facts are brought into the storyline - I always find this a little clunky and I don't know why. It's probably just a personal thing that I find fiction and fact can all too easily clash and aren't very easy to merge together. Anyway, it's a fun, fast read and I shall certainly be looking out for Anna Davis's other novels ... The Shoe Queen, Cheet, Melting and The Dinner.

An Education

Went to see An Education last night - absolutely loved it. A brilliant cast who all made the characters so memorable and real. I loved Rosamund Pike as the ditzy girlfriend and Alfred Molina as the unintentionally comic Father. The story really swept me along and I was completely caught up in the romance and excitement of it all. It made me rather nostalgic for those days when every experience was new and you were just beginning to see that the big, wide world had so much more to offer than the narrow path you were following. It made me laugh, cry, gasp and wince. Definitely a film worth seeing - and one that I keep thinking back to. Carey Mulligan is wonderful - and absolutely beautiful. Great soundtrack, beautiful cinematography.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Lady Elizabeth and Love Lies Bleeding

Last week I finished Circle of Sisters and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and so had the joyous task of picking not one, but two new books to read. At the library I found Alison Weir's The Lady Elizabeth in hardback. This will be my 'at home' book - as any commuter will appreciate, hardback books are not very convenient for lugging on trains! There is something quite comforting and exciting about reading a chunky hardback book though. Instantly makes me think of rainy, autumn afternoons curled up on a sofa with a steaming mug of hot chocolate - bliss! I'm only a couple of chapters in so far and all is going well, although as I think commented after reading An Innocent Traitor, Weir's style can be rather jarring when she is trying to weave in actual historical fact. I don't know if this is a sensitivity on my part, or because I am used to the smooth storytelling of Philippa Gregory.

My commuting book is one that I borrowed from my Dad a couple of months ago and hadn't yet got around to picking up. My Dad has piles of detective fiction by pretty much any author you care to mention. He'd recommended Peter Robinson and Josephine Tey to me and so I trust his judgement! When I was last on the hunt for some new reading material he suggested Edmund Crispin. I then promptly forgot that I had borrowed the book until I read about some other Edmun Crispin on one of the wonderful readers' blogs that I follow - Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover - and decided that the time was right. I'm reading Love Lies Bleeding, which was an excellent choice by my Dad to get me totally hooked. It's set in a boy's boarding school and already (five chapters in) I am completely absorbed. It's wonderfully witty and intriguing at the same time and thankfully there's a whole load more to read...!

I now need to concentrate on picking a suitable book for my book club. It's always a tough decision as we are quite a diverse group (even though there are currently only three of us!) and I know that I can be quite predictable and unadventurous in my choices. I need to steer clear of detective and historical fiction - something contemporary always seems to be popular.

Monday, 19 October 2009


Feeling very cultural today, having booked two theatre trips... Firstly to see The Misanthrope, starring Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis, which I blogged about previously, and secondly Public Property, starring Nigel Harman (I know, I know, but he's a local lad, I'm just doing my bit to support my home town(ish)).

Can't wait!

A Circle of Sisters by Judith Flanders

Having finished Tomas in just over a week (pretty miraculous seeing as I felt no compulsion to pick it up) I am now back to reading something that I really want to read! This is a book I picked up in the amazing Oxfam bookshop just around the corner from where I work. Judith Flanders has an uncanny knack of writing books that I wish I had written - The Victorian House and Consuming Passions are both on my bookshelf. A Circle of Sisters is about, not surprisingly, four sisters, all of whom were wives or mothers of prominent Victorians/Edwardians. So not only should this book provide an interesting social history of two of my favourite periods of history, but also biographical anecdotes of Edward Burne-Jones, Stanley Baldwin, Rudyard Kipling and Edward Poynter. Flanders writing style is uncluttered and simple, as easy to read as fiction but without being simplistic. Brilliant!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer

Have been off sick today and yesterday and managing to occupy my time quite well. Spent yesterday catching up on Criminal Justice (BBC drama) which I missed last week. Harrowing, beautifully acted and certainly raised a number of questions in my mind about the nature of justice, the purpose of prisons and how exactly we are meant to deal with these kind of cases. A very brave and well executed drama - yet another justification of our licence fee.

Today, I started the day by reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is a book I had heard a great deal about but didn't really have any inclination to read. It just didn't strike me as something I would enjoy reading. But, then it was recommended to me by a friend who had just finished reading it and really loved it. So, I thought I would give it a go. I did enjoy it, and I was really moved by some of the stories told by the islanders about their experiences of German occupation during WWII. The problem was that I found those parts of the story infinitely more interesting than any of the story about the narrator. I like the way the book was written and I found some of the letters amusing and all of the characters very well drawn and memorable. It's just that, overall, I think I would rather have read a solidly factual book about the experiences of people living in Guernsey during the occupation than enjoying the few glimpses of this fascinating, traumatic and inspirational story of how people cope and pull together when they are faced with true horror and their lives, and those of their loved ones, are threatened.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Up-coming theatre

Very, very excited to read that the Comedy Theatre will be staging The Misanthrope, starting in December. The headline star seems to be Keira Knightley, but for me it's all about Damian Lewis. I know I am slightly biased what with him being one of my favourite actors, but he really does have an amazing stage and screen presence. Maybe it's the ginger hair?

Let's just hope that getting tickets isn't too difficult...

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Films to see

Have been reading about An Education which is showing at the BFI London Film Festival (starts next week). Unfortunately, I think the showings are all sold out, but the film opens in cinemas on 30 October.

It's about a young girl (Carey Mulligan), heading off to study at Oxford, who is seduced by an older man (Peter Saarsgard - one of those actors I always recognise but can never think what I have seen him in). I have just watched the trailer and it looks amazing - beautiful cinematography and an emotionally engaging story. To top it all, Emma Thompson also has a role...

I also like the look of Glorious 39, set on the eve of the outbreak of World War II. Written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff and starring Romola Garai, Julie Christie and David Tennant (to name but a few of the great names) this film ticks a large number of boxes for me!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Man Booker Prize 2009

I find myself taking more and more interest in the Man Booker prize as I get older. I don't know if it is my taste in books that is maturing, or if the longlist is dumbing down, but each year I seem to have heard of and plan to read more and more of the contenders.

This year's shortlist was:

The winner was Hilary Mantel, which by all accounts was quite a surprise to
those who express opinions and predict these type of things.

I have only read one Hilary Mantel novel - Beyond Black - and I really enjoyed it, but I don't remember feeling like I had read a literary masterpiece, so I am interested to know what is different about Wolf Hall. The story sounds fascinating, so the second it is out in paperback, I'll be there!

The Little Stranger is already on my wish list. I have read all Sarah Water's other novels and loved all of them. Her eye for historic detail and skill at creating period atmosphere is amazing. Not only that, she also has a terrific imagination and the ability to unravel a mystery in a compelling way.

New reading

After the usual indecision I have just started reading another Inspector Banks novel - The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson. The great thing about these books is that they are just so engaging and easy to read. I'm only a hundred or so pages in and yet again I am really impressed with the way Robinson creates such striking and memorable characters. The Yorkshire dialect dialogue is a little overplayed, but well done. And of course, the murder mystery is fascinating. It does seem that as I progress through the Inspector Banks novels that there is less and less of a continuing back story. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not. It does mean that you could dip in or out of the novels at any stage without feeling that you are missing out, but I also feel that if you do choose to invest time in reading the whole series it would be more interesting to see Inspector Banks' personal story develop and grow. That said, maybe I am jumping ahead of myself and this is an element that shows itself in the later books.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Next Book Club Book

The next book I am reading for my book club is Tomas by James Palumbo. As far as I can make out at the moment, it's a bit of a 'cult' book. Written by the founder of Ministry of Sound it couldn't really be anything else. All I know about it so far is that it has had a glowing review from none other than Stephen Fry and it has its own website: http://www.tomas-book.com/

I'm hoping it's not going to be a case of style over content - the book itself is beautifully compact and printed on good quality, bright white paper. And it has illustrations.


Of course, I had to do it didn't I? What with Season 5 of House just coming to an end I was feeling rather bereft and ready for a new tv series to get hooked on, and along comes FlashForward. The first episode, shown on Channel 5 on Monday night, really hit the ground running and has totally captured by imagination. Everyone in the world falls unconscious at exactly the same time, for two minutes and seventeen seconds (any significance in the length of time?) during which they have a 'flashforward' of the same time (around six months ahead). There was a cheeky nod to Lost with a billboard advertising Oceanic airlines and one of the main characters is the actress who plays Penelope Widmore in Lost. The cast is actually quite impressive - Joseph Fiennes and Jack Davenport in particular.

Definitely looking forward to seeing how this is going to unfold...

Latest reading

I decided to read A Necessary End last week - found it such an easy and compelling read. Peter Robinson fills his books with interesting characters, even those that only appear for a short time are so well described and recognisable. My only problem with detective fiction is that it's so disposable. They are the type of books that you can pick up and read quickly and love while you're immersed in the story, get totally caught up in the mystery...and then feel vaguely let down when you finish them. Does anyone else feel like that? Even with a series of detective fiction - like the Lydmouth series by Peter Robinson - the continuing story arc of the main character is never quite enough for me to feel I must rush straight into the next book. But, I am not complaining - sometimes you just want to pick up a book that guarantees a great read.

I have just started The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. Really enjoying the style of this book. I do feel that all the hype around this book has been quite misleading though. I got the impression that it was fiction, based on an actual murder case, but it is actually a straight forward case history. The great thing is that it still reads like a mystery and the clues unravel as I imagine they actually did at the time. I'm quite surprised by the reviews on Amazon - seems a lot of people felt duped in all the wrong ways, and disappointed at the 'dryness' of the book. For me, it's the background social commentary and placing of the case in it's historical context that is making it so interesting. Of course, the fact that it is based in one of my favourite periods of history. It's also giving me plenty of things to add to my list of things to find out more about!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

New books and new watching

Being on my own for the weekend always gives me the perfect excuse to spend my time reading without being disturbed and watching all those dvds that I hubby won't watch!

I finished Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and have already put Chamber of Secrets on my bedside table. The great thing about these books is that they are such easy reading. And I must admit that having watched the films probably also makes them quicker to get through. I'm actually looking forward to getting into the bigger story and moving on to the chunkier books!

I also finished Innocent Traitor, which I did not enjoy as much as the Philippa Gregory historical novels. I found the 'history' parts of the novel a bit clunky, but thankfully I found the story itself fascinating (there were even a few tears at the end). I'm always surprised/dismayed by how little I actually know about nearly every aspect of British history - and reading novels like this just makes me want to go and read every available book about the subject. Any recommendations on biographies on Lady Jane Grey are gratefully received!

I can't quite decide what to read for my commuting book... At the moment the choice is between:
A Necessary End by Peter Robinson
Picadilly Jim by P G Wodehouse
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

I watched the second episode of the BBC Adaptation of The Crow Road. It's from 1996 but didn't feel dated at all (probably because I remember it so vividly from when it was on and because it feels more contemporary with the setting of the novel). Now I just have to wait for the next disc to be delivered by LoveFilm (and with the postal disruptions at the moment, who knows when that could be). Thank goodness I know how the story ends, or I would be really tearing my hair out.

The other thing I watched which I bought about three months ago, was Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky.

I knew nothing about this story when I bought the DVD, but it sounded like the sort of thing I would enjoy, and it was on sale! Anyway, it is absolutely brilliant. I watched it from beginning to end and got through three tissues mopping up the tears at the end. It's a trilogy following the same period of time through three different characters, who are all interwoven and is set in 1930s London. Great cast - all people you know you have seen in something else, but can't quite place. A quick trawl through www.imdb.com answered most of my questions though! It's an adaptation of a trilogy of novellas by Patrick Hamilton, an author (and dramatist) I am ashamed to say I had never heard of. It seems there has been a little revival of Hamilton's work in recent years and he sounds like he was a fascinating character. I have been working on my Amazon wish list accordingly...

Second part of the X-Factor double bill this evening, and the penultimate episode of House season 5. Busy, busy, busy!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Time Traveler's Wife

Went to see The Time Traveler's Wife on Friday at the Croydon Clocktower. Lovely cinema - so much nicer than the Vue at Grants, mainly because it's not packed full of teenagers who are more interested in their mobile phones than the film.

I hadn't read the book, so didn't really know what to expect. I'd heard various opinions from friends and colleagues - ranging from those who loved it and couldn't put it down to those who didn't get what the big deal was. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would - the only down side was that I couldn't help my mind wandering and try to get my head around the whole time travel concept. I mean, how, why? Where does he live when he travels in time? How does he ever keep a job? How does he get money?! It did spoil it a bit for me, but I do think that the film was really well done and I was sorry it finished when and how it did.

After the film we walked down to South Croydon to Pizza Express. Three words: Dough Balls. Yum!

Baked pizza dough balls with garlic butter by j9.

Harry Potter

I have finally given in and decided that I really should read the Harry Potter novels. I read the first two years ago (when there were only two!) but never got any further. Having seen all of the films so far I thought it might be nice to try and read all the novels before the final two films come out (I hear that the last novel is being made into two films...)

I'm only a few chapters into the first book and am really enjoying it so far, although I don't feel hooked. Maybe I'll feel differently when I get to the first cliffhanger?

Sunday, 6 September 2009

New reading

Well, finished off A Dark Adapted Eye pretty darn quick. It was a really absorbing read and I feel quite bereft now I will not learn anymore about the strange lives of the Hillyards et al. Definitely the type of characters that will stay with me for a long time. Has made me want to read more Barbara Vine, but then there's always the worry that another novel just won't be as good. Any suggestions or recommendations very gratefully received!
Thought of another book it reminded me of, or rather a series of books - The Cazalet chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard, probably because of the similar period setting and the family saga elements.

So, for a change of scenery, my next book is Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir. I'm a big fan of Philippa Gregory's tudor court novels and am hoping that I will enjoy Alison Weir's historical fiction just as much!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Comment on Giles

Hmmm, in an idle moment I have just flicked back through all my posts. I have only ever received one comment, and that was when I mentioned my weird crush on Giles Coren. So maybe mentioning Giles Coren again will rouse people's interests? Worth a try!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

New reading

Have started reading A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine. It's one of those books I have had my eye on (excuse the pun!) for a while and keep meaning to read but have never quite got around to. Finally found it for 50p in a charity shop and decided now was the time. So far, it hasn't disappointed. In fact, it has un disappointed (if that's possible). I do love it when you find a book that totally draws you in and you find yourself sneaking another couple of pages/chapters in at any opportunity. It's dark and sinister, funny in parts with a lively and totally believable range of characters. It reminds me slightly of so many books, but in very good ways - The Crow Road by Iain Banks, The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey and The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. There's hints and references to all these mysterious happenings in a large and complex family. Just brilliant. Kind of wish I had suggested it for our next Book Club. Instead, I shall have to settle for telling everyone how thoroughly enjoyable it is. And I'm only on chapter 7...

Even more exciting, I have just found there was a tv adaptation back in 1994, starring Helena Bonham-Carter and Celia Imrie (oh, and Honeysuckle Weeks, whom I love just because of her name...) Bliss! I'm off to Love Film to stick it on my rental list!

Monday, 24 August 2009


Managed to get a FREE BOOK today. Wow! Cannot tell you how excited I was on getting to work, checking my emails to see that one of the managers (who is heading off to live in Hong Kong) had brought in a box of books she wanted to get rid of. I was over there like a shot and managed to nab Claire Tomalin's biography of Samuel Pepys - The Unequalled Self. Lucky ol' me.

I also managed to resist picking up three Kate Atkinson novels, telling myself they're really more of a library book then one to have your own copy of. I don't know - maybe you disagree. I have only read One Good Turn and thoroughly enjoyed it, but don't think I'll ever want to read it again, or lend it to a friend as a must-read, although I definitely do want to read more of her work.

Funny how you categorise books... I'd be really interested to hear how you justify a book purchase, or what criteria you follow...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Derren Brown

Going to see Derren Brown's Enigma show tomorrow night. Am unspeakably excited about it and praying I can curb my enthusiasm and not come across as a complete stalker in front of my work colleagues. I think the whole appeal is his sheer intelligence, humour and dedication to what is quite obviously his passion. And annoyingly it's not just the mind control stuff that he's good at. He is also a very accomplished artist. So unfair...


Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor

Public Enemies

Went to see Public Enemies this week and absolutely loved it. The cinematography is gorgeous - very atmospheric and just beautiful in parts. In terms of a narrative though, it is quite odd. It feels a little bit like a bunch of set-pieces strung together. There are a number of unexplored characters who, at the same time, seem to have quite a bearing on John Dillinger's story. I don't know how historically accurate it is, but the period detail certainly seems very thorough. And it's gorgeous. Totally.

Oh, and did I mention that both Johnny Depp and Christian Bale look stunning?