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December 2016




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Apr. 27th, 2016


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Reviews Published

100 Book Reviews

Dec. 6th, 2016


‘Like stars upon some gloomy grove’

I know I’ve used that quote before but I love it and it seems particularly appropriate just now. It’s been so murky here I’ve needed lights on in the car and in the house all day long. I might just as well have kept the curtains drawn. About half an hour ago I had reason to step outside and was struck by the beauty and profusion of the winter jasmine. It’s quite tightly clipped all around a window and positively shone in the gloom. Earlier, being vexed by things, I didn’t even notice it but then it lifted my spirits and I hope it does yours. Happy St Nicholas' Day.

Dec. 3rd, 2016


Nature watch: at last!

I was complaining recently about the big, fierce birds eating all the food I put out. Today, a robin was feeding the whole time I was enjoying a cup of coffee. Yes, I know he's almost invisible but it's proof.

‘Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,’

When not nipping out for a paper and gossiping with neighbours, I’m listening to Sounds of the Sixties. Tim Rice is standing in again for Brian Matthew, who is ill. There’s no better stand-in than Sir Tim because no one knows more about pop history than he does but I’m worried about Brian because he’s eighty eight. If another legend of my youth leaves us this year I shall be distraught.

I was thinking about how, in my early teens, I would listen regularly to Brian Matthew on Saturday Club. Those were the days when The Beatles might appear on the show, larking about and playing live. In these days of stadium rock and tickets for big name concerts at £80.00 a pop, it’s hard to believe how accessible the big names were in those days. The Beatles and other bands famously appeared on variety bills in small theatres even after they’d become well known. When I was a student, the band booked for the weekly Union dance might be Cream. Seems incredible, doesn’t it? Ah, some of you were born too late.:-)

Dec. 2nd, 2016

life on mars

‘I know nothing’

RIP Andrew Sachs. There was much more to him than Fawlty Towers but it’s what he’ll always be remembered for. ‘I know nothing’ is his most famous line, from the episode with wonderful Joan Sanderson as the grumpy deaf woman (Communication Problems). I’m also fond of ‘she go crazy’ (The Psychiatrist) and the scene where he climbs into a laundry basket, saying, ‘I stay here, is nice’ (The Kipper and the Corpse). Timeless.

Dec. 1st, 2016


It's frosty, man!

Colder than ever this morning and a suitable start to December: sunrise at about 8 o'clock this morning. As if that weren't enough, Ive just heard the first radio airing this season of Slade's Merry Christmas.

Edit. Bizarre thing. The field beyond my hedge is *really* frosty. Yet a tractor is buzzing about cutting the long grass. Huh?

November reading and new books

American Gods, Neil Gaiman
The Girl Before, J P Delaney sample
Clover Moon , Jacqueline Wilson
The Evenings, Gerard Reve (1947)
Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams, Jenny Colgan
A Year and a Day, Isabelle Broome
reviewsCollapse )

Nov. 25th, 2016


Nature watch: deer

Drew the curtains this morning and saw this deer having a nice little lie down in the garden. The pic is the best I could do as it's not fully light yet. I wait to see if the beastie will move when I start crashing about. So far, it's taken no notice of me at all.

edit Oh dear, the poor thing has a bad leg and is only using three. Even so, fear gave it the strength to leap through the hedge into the field. I have enough things to worry about without adding injured deer to the list.

Nov. 17th, 2016


Clover Moon, Jacqueline Wilson

I’ve read nearly everything Jacqueline Wilson has written and, as I’ve said before, I prefer the books she writes about modern children with modern problems to her Victorian series. Clover Moon is set in vague ‘Victorian times’. Clover lives in Hoxton with her father, sister, stepmother and a horde of half-brothers and sisters. Even though her father is in work, the family is desperately poor and the children looked down on as ‘street children’: dirty, ragged and always playing in the alley. They don’t go to school. Stepmother Mildred treats Clover like a skivvy and childminder and beats her so badly that the neighbours notice. In spite of this, Clover remains feisty and optimistic, dreaming of a better future. She has a friend, a hunchbacked old doll maker who teaches her to read and write or, as Mildred would have it, ‘get above her station’. It’s the sauce factory for Clover as soon as she’s old enough to work there.

How she escapes this fate by running away and finding a better life makes for an engrossing read, if an unlikely story. It’s interesting to compare this book with Victorian morality tales like those by Mrs O F Walton which also deal with ‘poor children’ and how they can be rescued. In Mrs Walton’s world, religion plays a great part in the redemption of her characters, an option Wilson would reject. Part of the problem I had with this book is the first person narrative. It reads as though a nine year old girl had been told the story and asked to put it in her own words. That’s how anachronisms like ‘she disrespects me all the time’ creep in. It irritates me, but perhaps not the children the book is intended for.

At the end of the book there is a section about the history of child protection laws in Britain and advice on how to contact Childline if necessary. Very good. Not good is a page called ‘About the Victorians’. This is historically inaccurate, appallingly simplistic and didactically imposes on children opinions about things they can know nothing about.
Another triumph for Jacqueline Wilson, because of course the book is compulsively readable and will be an instant bestseller. But I stick by my reservations and wish that Dame Jacky would write more books like Double Act, one of my favourites.

I read this courtesy of NetGalley.

Lots of other Jacqueline Wilson reviews here.

Nov. 14th, 2016

Harry Potter books

Good intentions about reading

This morning, I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. ‘So wot?’ I hear you ask. So it’s the only complete book I’ve read this month. It was worth it because, Wow, what a book! But also, what a long book.

What are these good intentions? To read, in December, only what I really want to, with probably quite a lot of re-reading. I still have books which should be reviewed, or at least given a mention and it makes me feel guilty. Guilt and reading should never go together, IMO. So I’ve been resisting all most of the tempting offers from NetGalley.

I have very much enjoyed Issue 4 of The Scribbler. Books about women’s war work, books about nursing, Christmas books. A frightening short story by Ethel Lina White* which I read elsewhere recently. Best of all is a brilliant Twelve Days of Christmas quiz. I’ve looked through it and am really looking forward to having a go some wet afternoon. Recommended, as I said here, for lovers of middlebrow fiction and children’s books.

*Recently? It was nearly a year ago! Took me a while to find but it’s reprinted in Serpents in Eden, one of the British Library Crime Classics. The fact that I remembered it so vividly shows how good it is.

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