1 Dec 2017


You may remember my raving about the first book in this series, J.C. Bemis Proudly Presents The Mystifying Medicine Show, by Jean Claude Bemis way back in September. Well, we've finally managed to track down the other two books that conclude the trilogy (please click on book title for synopsis but be warned they do contain some spoilers). 

Presents from MR T. My goodness were they difficult to track down. I've noticed that though The White City is now listed on amazon.co.uk (which it wasn't at the time), The Wolf Tree still isn't and neither book is listed on amazon.com. 


Flickers of emerald buds were emerging on the mountainside.
- First Sentence, Chapter 1: Shuckstack

Ray knew a number of hoodoo spells that could over-power or at least persuade the man to leave them alone. But they all required Black Sampson root or coffin nails or any number of items he didn't have on him.
-Memorable Moment, page 118

MY THOUGHTS ... So often overshadowed by the first and second, the beginning and end in any trilogy, and yet my favourite of all three books. 

The author's world building just got better (and believe me it was pretty exceptional in the first book, J.C. Bemis Proudly Presents The Mystifying Medicine Show), the American 'tall tales combined with other myths and legends (there was definitely some Norse mythology in there unless I'm very much mistaken) had me itching to read up on them and, oh my goodness, those characters. Those introduced in the first book went from strength to strength with some of my favourites playing a much larger part as the story was told not only through the eyes of Ray but also several others (including one who came as quite a surprise) and as for the new ones? Well, lets just say I loved Quorl, his fight to keep his humanity as he travelled in search of the dying Wolf Tree (surely a nod towards Yggdrasil, Tree of Life) compelling in itself.

Buck rode behind the killer Stacker Lee.
- First Sentence, Chapter 1: Chicago

From their high vantage, the clockwork monster looked more like a pacing bull. The ground crackled with frost under its heavy paws. The cold drifted up on the breeze. As the Hoarhound neared the trunk of their tree, it stopped and sniffed the ground. 
- Memorable Moment, page 125

MY THOUGHTS ... Not a series you can dip in and out of at whim, as with most trilogies The Clockwork Dark books must be read in order. 

Marketed as being particularly suitable for those aged 8 to 13, as an adult I can testify this is just as worthy a read for those a lot older. And personally I'd regard the series as being more suitable for the upper age limit and above and because of some of the content would advise caution for younger or more sensitive readers.

Set partly in the 1883 World Fair, I thought the historical context combined with the fantastical a work of genius. The characters, flawed enough to give them depth. And that's just the 'goodies' ... the 'baddies', delightfully evil. I found myself not just curious about what would become of Ray and co but actually losing sleep needing to know. The multiple plot lines coming together nicely, all wrapped up in, what else but an exciting battle between good and evil. Yes, I think it fair to say this is a series  I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.

25 Nov 2017



Valentina is the best dancer in Mendoza. She longs to dance at the Tango Day Celebration in Buenos Aires. But she needs a partner to dance with. She's heard that Fernando can tango but will she find him in time?

Valentina es la mejor bailarina de tango en Mendoza. Ella quiere bailar en el Festival del Tango en Buenos Aires. Pero necesita un compañero con quien bailar. Ha escuchado que Fernando baila el tango ¿pero lo encontrará a tiempo?
- Back Cover Blurb

Valentina was a brilliant dancer, the best in Mendoza. 

Valentina era una brillante bailarina, la mejor de Mendoza.

- First Sentence

"Would you like to be my partner?"
"How kind of you to ask, but no thank you. I'm a penguin and I don't dance. I waddle. .......
- Memorable Moment, page unnumbered

SOURCE ... Received with thanks from the author on Book Connectors (FaceBook).

READ FOR ... Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS ... A little bit of school girl French, enough German to say please and thank you, where are the toilets, where can I get some chocolate? and, oddly enough where is your cat/dog? - you know, all of the important things. But no, no Spanish whatsoever. I went to school at a time when a second language wasn't taught until you got to 'senior' school at eleven and even then, allowed to drop it at thirteen, many of us only spent a mere two years learning another language and in my case that language was French.

But I digress ...

A great idea for young English speakers learning Spanish or indeed for young Spanish speakers learning English. Fernando Can Tango! is a  bilingual story written in both English and Spanish. Ideal as a fun read to be shared at home and yet, equally, a wonderful resource for the primary school library where children now start learning a second language at an early age. 

The use of repeating phrases an ideal structure to aid learning. The story itself interesting enough to hold the attention and prompt discussion. And, oh my goodness, those glorious illustrations, innocent and simplistic and hugely appealing. I've seen illustrations done by adults that are made to look as if they have been done by children but have rarely come across illustrations that have actually been done by children as is the case here.

24 Nov 2017


Yes folks, its that time of year again ...

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls ..
(Emm, actually better forget the boys and girls, this is definitely one for the grown-ups) .. I bring you ...

The 2017 Bad Sex In Literature Awards shortlist. 
(Warning: Contains material that may offend the easily offended, minors please check with an adult, otherwise click here to proceed. TT)

.... He led her back up the beach to where the sand was dry. Then he took off his coat, placed it on the ground and she lay down upon it.

So far so good. He (whoever He is) sounds like the perfect gentleman, very chivalrous of him to be laying down his coat for his lady friend, don't you think? After all we don't want sand getting anywhere unmentionable, do we?

Read the rest of the quote that saw Wilbur Smith shortlisted though and you'll realise that Leon (as we now know him to be) isn't exactly the perfect gentleman, his lady friend, well, hardly ladylike and, by the sound of it, not too worried where sand may or may not be getting.

I've got to say I'm with the judges, this year's nominations are 'quite good'. I'd love to know which author you think worthy of the award. For anyone new to Pen and Paper, please lets keep it clean and don't add any of the actual quotes themselves in the comment box, just the author will do.

23 Nov 2017


A box set of three books, I've chosen to review each book separately. For the full synopsis of each of the books please click on its title.


SOURCE: Belonging to Mr T, they came off our shelves.

READ FOR ... Books 21 to 23 of 24 read for the Mount TBR 2017 Challenge as well as the What's In A Name 2017 ChallengeNorthern Lights for the book With A Compass Direction in the title category, The Subtle Knife for the book With An Item Of Cutlery in the title category which means I have now completed all six categories.

NORTHERN LIGHTS (Otherwise published as The Golden Compass).

Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.
- First Sentence, Part One: Oxford, Chapter 1: The Decanter of Tokay

"Oh, this was the seventeenth century. Symbols and emblems were everywhere. Buildings and pictures were designed to be read like books.
- Memorable moment, page 173

MY THOUGHTS ... Ah! Where to begin?

Lacking any substantial characterisation. To me there was just something flat about about the characters, I guess for a book just short of 400 pages I expected more growth.

As for the world building ...

Oh dear! There were so many aspects of this story that didn't really seem to lead anywhere, at times it was almost as if any sense of direction, of purpose, was sacrificed to dramatic effect. But to me worst of all, too much of Pullman's world resonated with our own, making for what I thought of as lazy writing.

However, the main thing I took away from Northern Lights was a feeling of utter confusion - were the dæmons actually the character's inner voices of what was right and wrong and that was why they changed until the individual reached adulthood?  Was I missing something obvious? Was I was looking for something that wasn't there? I just didn't know.

Will tugged at his mother's hands and said, "Come on, come on ...'
- First Sentence, Chapter 1: The Cat and the Hornbeam Trees 

He saw a ring of silver and turquoise, a Navajo design, he saw it clearly and he recognized it as his mother's, he knew its weight and the smoothness of the stone and the way the silversmith had folded the metal over more closely at the corner where the stone was chipped, and he knew the chipped corner had worn smooth, because he had run his fingers over it many, many times, years and years ago in his boyhood in the sagelands of his native country.
- Memorable Moment, page 221 

MY THOUGHTS ... Hoping to come away with some answers. Alas as with Northern Lights I came away from this, the second instalment, with the same sense of confusion and NOW was also left wondering if the two main protagonists, Lyra and Will, are metaphors for Adam and Eve.     

I suppose I have at least come away from The Subtle Knife having finally vaguely invested in at least one of the characters (I kind of like Will), a distinct improvement from the last book.  

The world building however hasn't improved any. Gone are the 'gyptians', gone are the 'panserbjörne' - a trifle odd when so much time was devoted to them and their cultures in Northern Lights. Hey-ho! I suppose we now at least have gay angels, an interesting addition I thought.

Summed up ...

I think I may have stopped reading here if Mr T hadn't urged me to carry on, convincing me that all became clear in the third book, The Amber Spyglass.   

In a valley with rhododendrons, close to the snow line, where a stream milky with melt-water splashed and where doves and linnets flew among the immense pines, lay a cave, half-hidden by the crag above and the stiff heavy leaves that clustered below.
- First Sentence, Chapter 1: The Enchanted Sleeper    

She was tall, naked, winged, and her lined face was older than any living creature Mrs Coulter had ever seen.
- Memorable Moment, Page 219        

MY THOUGHTS ... Having read the previous two books, Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife, and come away from both totally confused the thousand dollar question (shouldn't that be thousand pound question given that I'm here in the UK?) is ...

Do I now get the books?

In short, yes .... and no. Like the Narnia books with their Christian analogy, whilst I now get that these are their 'anti-religion counterpart', I do however think I may well have enjoyed all three that little bit more if I'd taken them at face value.

Whilst previously it was the world building (or lack there of) that I found particularly vexing. With The Amber Spyglass it was the characters, and in particular Lyra, that I found irksome. Never a character I took to to begin with, now 'grown up' I was hoping to see her go from strength to strength instead of which she (when actually conscious) became increasingly submissive to Will. Then there was Mrs Coulter ... bad, good, bad and so on, totally inconsistent, I lost track of the number of U-turns her character took. Oh and then there were the characters whose only purpose seemed to be to explain things before disappearing.

Taken together as a box-set, I'm glad I read all three 'books' one after the other and not just because not so memorable that events would not have been forgotten between readings BUT (and I'm still trying to get my own head around just what I mean by this) I'm not convinced that rather than treat as three individual books they should be treat as one.