Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams

It’s always a bit worrying when a celebrity decides to write a novel, firstly are they actually writing the novel and secondly just because they are famous does that mean that they can actually write? Well in the case of David Walliams yes he did write the book and yes he can indeed write and very well too.

The Boy in the Dress is a tale about Dennis, he is different, and why is he different? “Well a small clue might be in the title of this book.” I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Dennis is not only dealing with the fact that his Mum left the family when he was young, his family don’t talk about her and they don’t really communicate or show emotion as it’s not deemed as manly. Dennis also likes dresses and when he finds Vogue things really change.

Walliams deals with the subject very sensitively whilst also with great humour and most importantly in a way that kids (and adults) will enjoy. It isn’t just the fact that the illustrations are by Quentin Blake that whilst you’re reading it you are reminded of a modern version of Roald Dahl. The humour helps but it’s the way the book progresses with the hero’s and the villains and the school mentality which in some ways reminded me of Matilda. I loved Roald Dahl as a child and think that legions of children will love this book. I only hope that Walliams doesn’t stop the book writing at novel number one.

A short review I know but it’s a very short book and at the same time I don’t want to give too much away. All I will say is that I was touched by this book and found myself laughing the whole way through. I would recommend this to anyone who has kids or who wants a read that cheers you up in the few hours it will take to read.

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Filed under David Walliams, Harper Collins, Review

Mitford & Maupin Missions

My complete and utter favourite book of last year was undoubtedly The Mitford’s: Letters Between Six Sisters, I don’t think I have ever enjoyed any non-fiction as much in all my reading years. At the time it wasn’t the Mitford’s that appealed to me it was partly the fact it was letters between sisters but more the amount of time that the letters spanned, all that history. It wasn’t until reading the letters that I started to twig just who the sisters were, I had heard of Deborah and Nancy before only I knew Deborah as the owner of Chatsworth House which is just down the road from my Gran’s and Nancy as an author most authors raved about. At the time I got the book there was also a TV show on Unity and the rumours of her affair (and pregnancy) with Adolf Hitler. As everything about them became more and more unusual and the more letters I read I gained a bit of a fascination which has resulted in this…


Now four of these are new additions to the collection as I received In Tearing Haste from the delightful John Murray before Christmas, The Pursuit of Laughter and A Life of Contrasts from the lovely Gibson Square just after Christmas and Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford from the very kind people at Orion only yesterday, naturally I haven’t read any of those yet. I have in fact of that whole collection only read ‘The Letters’ and The Pursuit of Love, the rest have all come from some very good routing through charity shops. There are still so many I am missing though; Nancy’s biographies as well as The Blessing and Jessica’s books on Death in America etc, to name just a few. (I also should thank Mitch as she bought me The Letters for Christmas after my Gran, yes you naughty thing, ‘borrowed’ mine and then said I had given it to her lol – well you can have it now.)

I now have one more mission for 2009 is to read all the ones that I haven’t read yet but own. Plus there are many more coming, I actually have a PDF proof version of Deborah’s next book, but I am not allowed to say anymore than that.

Dovergreyreader looked at Mitfordmania when she reviewed A Pursuit of Laughter by Diana Mosley and it brought up some rather heated debate on Diana as a person. I don’t condone her like for Hitler I don’t even attempt to understand it, but what I was always taught in history was to look at both sides and someone who saw both sides of Hitler and one of the biggest events in our worlds history was Diana and though I don’t agree with her ideals I will be interested to hear her side of things if that makes sense. The other question that was raised was ‘are there too many Mitford based books on the market?’ I would say no, I actually think that some of their own books need to be reprinted rather than so many books about them in all honesty. I can understand the fascination though, they knew a wide range of famous people and indeed some of histories most renowned faces and through their love of letters and essays have captured years and year’s worth of history. I just wonder what Debo makes of it all as the furore around her and her sister is going and she is living to see it?

On a slightly different note another series of books I am going to make it my aim to read (well re-read in some cases) arrived yesterday also The Tales of the City Series by Armistead Maupin….

I first read the first three or four (or possibly five) of these about 8 years ago and wanted a land lady like Miss Madrigal, and strongly believed when I moved to London I would make some of the best friends in the world and they would be diverse and wonderful and everything would be fabulous. I would say half of that wish came true. I very rarely re-read novels I have read so it will be interesting to see what I make of these almost ten years down the line! I will keep you posted. I am currently debating if I should read all of them with no stop-gap, but am worried I will get Maupin Overkill, any advice?

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Filed under Armistead Maupin, Charlotte Mosley, Deborah Devonshire, Diana Mosley, Jessica Mitford, Nancy Mitford

Cutting A Long Story Short…

Now those of you who pop by regularly will possibly have noticed that I have been having quite a fight on my hands with Anna Karenina. When I pick it up and sit and read it I find myself whizzing through the pages. However picking it up isn’t happening anywhere near as much as it probably should be and I don’t take it on the tube with me as it’s simply too big and is like having a brick in my bag all day long. Oddly I am also reading the Adam Mars-Jones’ Pilcrow in paperback which comes out in March and seriously is already proving a must read. This book itself is a fairly large novel but is somehow much lighter and so is being whisked to and fro on my travels.

When I was telling someone of my ‘Anna Dilemma’ they answered that it was simple ‘you’re just a thrill reader aren’t you, you don’t want to spend hours on a book, you just want to read as many as you can each year and Anna is conflicting with that’. Whilst I agree I do like to read a lot of books, I have nothing against a longer book although occasionally the thought of ‘oh I could be reading eight books to this one monster’ does pop into my mind. But what is a thrill reader when its at home? I dont read a mass of thrillers if thats what was implied, though I am partial to a good Tess Gerritsen.

Another Simon who loves books covered this on his Stuck In A Book blog (I have him to thank for letting me use his picture – thanks Simon) and asked the question which do people prefer long or short books and the answers are very interesting. I also admire Simon’s honestly regarding why he prefers something around 225 pages ‘because I like to make lists of my books, and I like them to be long…’ and I do have to admit I agree. But is that wrong?

So which do you all prefer, a long or a short book? How long is the perfect novel? I have to say I am a fan of anything between 250 – 400 pages so either I am sitting on the fence or I just like medium sized books. On another slightly similar note, does anyone remember the furore over Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach being too short to be on The Man Booker List (I thought it was an amazing book and just the right length), which raises the question can a book be too short? I await your thoughts…

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Filed under Adam Mars-Jones, Leo Tolstoy

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale

So I am on time for the second of the Richard & Judy Books of 2009, and it is the superb The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale. Nothing to do with the fact that I had in fact read this book last year and it was in fact in my Savidge Dozen, ok it’s sort of cheating but not really. I mean be fair, with the amount of books arriving at the moment I need to keep ahead. So here is the review from when I read it back in November…

The subtitle of the book refers to the fact that this is not your normal gothic Victorian murder mystery; it’s a real murder mystery. In fact ‘The Murder at Road Hill House’ somewhat gripped the nation back in 1860 and saw the dawn of the detective in the form of Jack Whicher. This murder mystery in a country house where one of the occupants definitely did it sparked imaginations of the greats and inspired novels by Dickens, Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins over the years. The case took place during the night in Summer 1860, the next morning the body of a young boy was found having died in tragic circumstances, the police couldn’t work out who had done it and so Scotland Yard were called. The case became huge news and in the small town of Road there was uproar and unwanted attention with the whole world guessing ‘whodunit’.

Now I am not a massive fan of non fiction, I love diaries and letters but with most non fiction I tend to wander and read it alongside my fiction, the fiction taking priority. Not when this book was around it wasn’t. Summerscale makes all the facts and theories turn into a wonderful and spellbinding read that could put to shame some crime fiction around at the moment. The research she has done is incredible down to the trains caught on what dates, the timetables from the time to match the possible escape of the killer. Clothes worn, movements of every member of the household and makes it come to life effortlessly. You really could have been a member of the public at the time following the case, making your own assumptions and falling for the red herrings along the way.

The book does also deal with the time significantly after the murder and looks at the future of all those involved including the murderer themselves. What is also fascinating with this book is that Summerscale shows how the best writers of that era and just after used various parts of this story and its characters to create some of the masterpieces still being read today such as the ‘Moonstone’ so it’s a fascinating look at the history of crime fiction and the ‘sensationalist’ novels that became so popular following, and of course left me with a list as long as my arm of books to read in the future.

This book is nothing short of pure brilliance, and will appeal to so many people for so many reasons. If you love books then you can learn about the history and add another twenty to your TBR. If you love crime then read the murder that helped establish the genre. If you love a good yarn this ones brilliant and its true. If you like non-fiction then the research and facts you’ll read and learn without even knowing is unbelievable. Yes you might have guessed that this book is one of my very favourites of the whole year, simply a must read.

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Kate Summerscale, Review, Richard and Judy

What Are You Reading Right Now?

My Gran and I always have one question to each other when we are on the phone which is ‘so what are you reading right now?’ Its something we compare and contrast and gives us both new books that we might want to read. My Gran takes part in two occasionally three book groups and I have been known to follow along with a book they are doing. I was put off when they read The Testament of Gideon Mack which I read at the same time and didnt really love. I might however join in with the next one (I’ll email my Gran my thoughts – not actually sit in on the meeting in Matlock, its a bit far from London) as they are doing Engleby which I have had on my TBR for absolutely ages. Anyway I digress…

When I saw that Cornflower Books had done a blog on this last week the response she got, from me included, was fantastic. All sorts of people reading all sorts of books and yet there were slight trends. People wewre recommending what people should and shouldnt try, and I whole heartedly agreed with one comment that it was a shame we werent all in the same room together having a natter with tea and biscuits. It also made me decide that when i have finsihed and review a book I will let you know what am reading next in advance.
Anyway my reading has changed since Cornflowers blog I thought I would let you know what I am reading right now in case any of you are interested, or have thoughts, or want to join in and read a long. You all know that I have had Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy on the go since the start of the year, its weird when I pick it up and get reading I really do enjoy it but when I see the great bulk of pages it scares me off. Its still happening at a part at a time and lots of books in between parts. I refuse to give up.
The other book I am now reading is Pilcrow by Adam Mars- Jones which I only actually started this morning on the tube. I am now about 50 pages in and am already loving it. The voice of the protagonist is superb and at a fairly bulky 544 pages of small writing I am still pretty sure I will have polished this off before I know it. I have an inkling that unless something goes terribly wrong it might shape up to be one of my favourites of the year, we’ll see. You’ll now doubt be seeing a review soon. So what about all of you? What is everyone else out there reading? What can you recommend?

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Filed under Adam Mars-Jones, Leo Tolstoy

The Great Book Sort

Ok so as mentioned yesterday was the day of the great book sort, now when I said that I had boxes and boxes of books to sort out some people might have disbelieved. Well it started with these and these…

… And carried on with more in these and these…

… Which ended up looking something like this at 1 o’clock this morning…

So I have quite a lot of sorting left to go frankly. I have made an excel spreadsheet now so I know where every book is! Yes I am that much of a book geek, its wrong isnt it! I have 647 books I am keeping which the Non Reader says is excessive! Pah! Now a question for you all, what do you do with books you dont want? Charity, eBay, Amazon, what? I did do readitswapit but the book pile merely stays at the same level and never goes down! Recommendations please!

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Apologies

No long blog today as I am in the middle of sorting all the books that have come in plus all the ones that I have got already and sorting which ones am realistically never going to read (none of the recent ones I have been sent of course) as you can see I use the staircase for my new ‘incoming’ books as they arrive which the Non Reader has declared is a health and safety issue.

Then after the stairs have been decluttered and made ‘safe’ I have the joys of sorting my TBR which in all honesty is organised very badly and really should have some kind of organised system I guess! Sorry did I say TBR, I meant my TBRs! Yes thats right I now appear to have two seperate ridiculously large TBRs that even I as the person who owns them has no idea of what is in which one. How do you guys sort your TBR do you update it weekly or switch it around after each book? Do let me know! Anyway here are my current ones for you…

TBR1 and TBR2

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