31 Aug 2009

Bank Holiday Monday '09.

No need to tell you how hubby and I spent our Bank Holiday Monday - yes, we were down on my farm. Whilst I was really poorly Hubby took care of things but wasn't too happy about the lay-out, he thought it could be a lot more profitable whilst I just wanted it to look pretty, so we compromised and did some rearranging.

Now I'm just desperately longing for a pond for my ducks but in order to get one I need another neighbour, so anyone who follows me on FaceBook, PLEASE put me out of my misery and at least consider becoming my neighbour on FarmVille - it's great fun, honest!

Philippa Gregory in Profile.

When a new Philippa Gregory book is published it's like Take That releasing a new single. It's halfway to the number one spot in the charts as soon as it hits the shelves.

Sure enough The White Queen - a blockbusting tale set amid The War Of The Roses - will today (30.o8.09) hit the top of the Sunday Times Bestseller List, less than two weeks after publication.

With a secession of bestselling novels behind her - including the hugely successful The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into the hit movie starring Scarlett Johansson - Philippa has been hailed as the queen of historical fiction.

Her books sell an astonishing eight million copies a time but in Glasgow last week Philippa admitted to me that despite her success she is something of an accidental author.

She had no intention of becoming a writer and, after completing a doctorate in 18th century literature at Edinburgh University in 1984, her only aim was to be a professional historian.

"However, at the time there were massive cuts in academic funding and they froze all the posts," she remembers. "I couldn't get work and so while I was figuring out what to do, I wrote a novel for fun.

"Suddenly there were English and American publishers bidding for the book, Wideacre, and it was a best seller.

"They signed me up for three books so I thought I'd do that for a bit and then go back to academia. And of course it never happened."

Philippa's books feature powerful female characters from history and are paced - some might say inevitably - with bitchiness and backstabbing, love and hate, intrigue and incest, sex and death.

In other words, the perfect ingredients for blockbuster novels.

Her skill is to bring history to life. It is the storyteller's art but always with painstaking attention to detail. There are no 'Braveheart'-type liberties taken with the facts in a Gregory novel.

For all that, she is no stranger to controversy and her interpretation of historical events and characters has inevitably attracted criticism from those who think they know better. However, Philippa maintains everything in her books is as accurate as it can be.
Apart from her family, Philippa's other passion is her own charity, Gardens For Gambia, a small project which has clearly grown into something she is proud of.

Her eyes light up as she describes meeting a headmaster of a provincial school in the West African country in 1983 and sending him a donation to build one well for his school.

That single plot has grown into 140 others and she's well on her way to her target of a well in each of Gambia's 250 schools.

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Craig Robertson, The Sunday Post.

30 Aug 2009

And They Called 'It' PILLOW Love.

In Lagos, Nigeria, labourer Okeke Ikechkwu, 26, is planning to get married - to his PILLOW! He started cuddling it at night out of loneliness when women laughed at him because he stutters. "Now I've fallen in love with it and want to spend my life with it," he says.

Comment: I know it's a cliche but he obviously hasn't found the right women yet and, after all, there are plenty more fish in the sea (make that two cliches). Still, marrying a PILLOW must have some advantages. I just don't fancy their chances when he refers to the, so called, love of his life as 'it', surely he could have given 'it' a name - any suggestions?

Nice To See You.

Thanks to FaceBook, I was able to make contact with M from Guildford, an old friend of Hubby and I, who we hadn't seen for the past 12 or so years. Anyway a week or so ago M announced that he would be doing some training in Newcastle, could we meet up? Of course we could.

That meeting took place last night and saw an extremely wobbly Pettywitter out of the house for the first time in three weeks. And wobble, I most certainly did. In fact, it go so bad that I even found myself looking at out taxi driver and announcing "I'm not drunk, honest" as I grabbed hold of Hubby to steady myself - how embarrassing though thankfully it was our usual taxi company and a driver we knew well so not as bad as it could have been.

Apart from this, a wonderful night was had at Marco Polo's in Dean Street, an Italian restaurant with really good food at reasonable prices AND Hubby's favourite pudding, Panatonne bread and butter pudding with strawberries and whipped cream.

The conversation, like the food, was also plentiful - after 12 years, as you can imagine, there was an awful lot of catching up to do. And so a pleasant evening soon came to an end and we dropped M off at his hotel with promises that we would meet again and hopefully before another 12 years had passed.

29 Aug 2009

As My Nana Would Say .....

... "This jokes as 'old as the hills' but still funny".

There was a terrible bus accident that, sadly, no-one but a monkey survived. As the only witness to the event, the police questioned the monkey who seemed to respond using gestures.

The Police Chief questions the monkey, firstly asking "What were the people doing on the bus at the time of the accident?" In answer, to which, the monkey starts dancing.

The Chiefs says "Ok, so they were dancing but what else were they doing?" The monkey raises his hands and puts them to his mouth as if drinking from a bottle.

The Chief says "Oh, they were drinking, huh? Ok, were they doing anything else?" The monkey nods his head and moves his mouth gesturing they were talking.

The Chief, at this point, looses his patience and demands "OK, OK! So they were having a great time but just who, exactly, was driving the bus whilst all this was happening?"

The monkey cheerfully swings his arms to the side as if grabbing a wheel.

Hamer's War.

Hamer's War By Francis Cottam.

A courageous and dedicated German Soldier, Martin Hamer has never questioned the cause for which he fights - until he is seconded to a labour camp in occupied Poland to recover from a war wound. There, in that desolate backwater, Hamer finds himself confronting the evil and horrors of Nazism for the first time.

He also finds himself falling in love. As Hamer's growing relationship with the enigmatic Julia Smollen, an inmate at the camp, causes mounting tension among prisoners and guards alike, a startling revelation will force him to reassess and reevaluate his troubled past.

Just as Hamer is coming to terms with the fact that much of his life has been based on a tragic lie, he will be faced with a heartbreaking choice - and a chance of redemption. A chance which would mean forsaking his rank, reputation and homeland. Is he brave enough to take it?

.... from the front, inner cover.

First Sentence: "The medal presentation now, in Hamer's memory, was impressionistic and distant."

You know when you are expecting so much from a book and it totally fails to deliver? Well, this happened with HAMERS WAR which I found to be very disappointing.

The front cover is wonderful - dramatic and emotive - if only the same could be said for the rest of the book.

To start with there were no chapters, a personal dislike of mine as I think the end of a chapter is a natural place to leave a story until it is picked up again. Then, there was the fact that the story jumped from between distant past, not so distant past and the present which could be quite confusing. Also, at times, it was repetitive in nature and often too melodramatic - so much so that at one point, what should have been an extremely moving piece of writing had me crying ..... tears of laughter as it was so 'over the top' as to be funny.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed the story more if I hadn't had such high hopes for it but, as it is, I can't say I thought much of it or, indeed, the author's way of writing.

MY RATING: 2 out of a possible 5.

28 Aug 2009

RETAIL THERAPY? Just what the Doctor (didn't) order.

A man has been diagnosed with clinical depression caused by his girlfriend* constantly dragging him on shopping trips.

Psychiatrists are treating Wu Cheng, 28, who told them: "I can't even look at a shop now. Every time she tries to drag me to a mall my heart starts to pound. I'm short of breath and I feel sick.** We have been going out for 2 years and at least 12 months of that time have been spent in shops. She is obsessed."

Wu's girlfriend, Zhang Keyi said from her home in Chongqing, Central China: "When he's better I promise we'll only go to the shops once a week. Except when the sales are on."

* Spellchecking revealed I has mis-spelt this as 'girlfiend' - perhaps I should have left it as this.
** I bet lots of men (and some women), when faced with a day spent shopping, have felt like this at one time or another.


13th September 2009 ... Celebrate Roald Dahl Day in true phizz-whizzing style!

He's one of the world's best-loved storytellers, famed for his hilarious tales and larger-than-life characters. Who is he? Roald Dahl of course!

In celebration of his incredible contribution to storytelling, on September 13th, the day of his birth, people all over the country will hold events and try to complete the spectacular Roald Dahl Challenge. So join in and try it yourself. Your target? To complete as many Roald Dahl challenges as your age. That means if your ten or older you have to try and complete them all, even if you do end up looking a bit of a twit.

1. Wear yellow - Roald's favourite colour.
2. Wear one or more items of clothing backwards.
3. Give someone a treat.
4. Swap a Roald Dahl book with a friend.
5. Talk backwards.
6. Tell a silly joke.
7. Play an 'unexpected' prank.
8. Drop 'gobblefunk' convincingly into a conversation.
9. Write your own revolting rhyme.
10. Make up an Oompa Loompa dance and get your friends to join in.

Visit http://www.roalddahlday.info/ for more info plus lots of fun activities.

SOURCE: RED HOUSE - The Home Of Children's Books.

27 Aug 2009

'It's The Summer Of The Chunky Book'.

Books are heavy. You know why the University of Massachusetts has a tall library building which only houses books on its ground floor? Because the architects forgot to factor in the weight of the books.

We, though, do factor in the weight of the books we take on holiday, if we are flying. And as publishers make books bigger and bigger in the misguided belief that this is the only way we will take any notice of them, whole swathes of literature are closed off on the foreign holiday. But now that we are all 'staycationing',* hurrah! We can take what we like. **

The thing is, if you're staying in 'Blighty', it is best not to take books set abroad. They will only make you yearn for foreign lands. Anthony Burgess's EARTHLY POWERS is the best fat holiday read ever, but it zips around all over the place, and you don't, so leave it behind. You may also give the Proust a miss.

Stick to native stuff. Any Dickens you haven't read? (Hmm, maybe too London based.) Try Thackeray's PENDENNIS, not as well known as Vanity Fair, but well worth it and almost as funny.

If you're going to Wales or Cornwall, try Malory's MORTE d'ARTHUR, which is not nearly as hard to read as it looks at first sight. If you would rather history, take Peter Ackroyd's ALBION, to get you really rooted in the country. If you like to keep up to date, this is an opportunity to take to the block-buster hardback; Neal Stephenson's ANATHEM (may be too SF for some, and breaks the Britain-only rule by being set on another planet; cf Susanna Clarke's alternative history, JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL, Hilary Mantel's WOLF HALL, or A.S Byatt's THE CHILDREN'S BOOK. Any three of them together would actually prevent a plane from taking off, but you have no excuse now. Get packing.

SOURCE: Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian.

DISCLAIMER: Any books mentioned in the above article, are the views of Nicholas Lezard and not myself.

* 'Staycationing' ? Yes, I don't know about you but it took me a while to work it out - staycation/vacation.

** Not if you are travelling by coach or train.

The Family On Paradise Pier.

The Family On Paradise Pier By Dermot Bolger.

Donegal, 1915: although war rages in Europe the Goold Verschoyle children seem hardly touched by it, with midnight swims, flower fairies and regatta parties forming the backdrop of their enchanted childhood. But cataclysmic events in Spain, Russia, Ireland and London soon wrench the family apart. Art travels to Moscow to witness communism at first hand; Brendan is caught up in the General Strike in England before running away to experience the Spanish Civil War; Eva follows the more conventional route of marriage and family, but dreams of being an artist. Driven by idealism, wrecked by argument and united by love and the vivid memories of childhood, the Goold Verschoyles' incredible lives capture the struggles of a generation that must learn to create a new world from the ashes of the past.

Though not a biography, THE FAMILY ON PARADISE PIER 'originated from taped conversations made in 1992 when Sheila (Goold Verschoyle) was almost 90 years of age' and agreed to the writing of a book based on her life 'with some name changes and deliberate blurring of facts'

To me this novel was too 'busy', almost like the author was concerned more with quantity than quality. With so many strands to the story, there was no real depth to either characters or storyline.

Effectively three books in one: it told the stories of Brendan, Art and Eva and was set in four different countries. Then there were the stories of the lesser characters, including eldest daughter Martha and, the unusually named, Mr and Mrs Ffrench, who were mentioned every now and again.

At 546 pages (not to mention the 25 or so pages about the writing of the book and the author profile) I found the book too long and quite confusing at times. In my opinion, it would have been a far better if the author had concentrated on the story of Eve, her husband Freddie and their two children, the tomboyish Hazel and delicate son, Francis.

MY RATING: 1.5 out of a possible 5.

26 Aug 2009

With criminal intent.

Burglar, John Pierce, found his thieving plans scuppered when he trapped his foot in the window of a house that he was trying to break into. John, 32, dangled there for an hour until a neighbour in Dartford, Kent, spotted him and called the police, who arrested him.

Some people might regret getting a tattoo done, but none more than Aaron Evans, 21. He was captured on camera breaking into a police car in Bristol - he was identified by his surname and date of birth tattooed on the side of his neck.

A German bank robber was his own worst enemy when he forgot to cut eye holes in his mask. At the crucial moment, he pulled his mask on, realised he couldn't see, so had to lift the mask to demand money from the cashier. The photos of his face allowed police to identify him, and he was quickly caught.

Mobile phone ring tones can be annoying at the best of times, but for Eric Nolan, 42, they were much worse than that. Nolan had broken a court order banning him from visiting his ex-girlfriend in Massachusetts, USA. When he showed up, she called the police and he hid in nearby woods. The police simply called his mobile phone and listened for the ring-tone.

After a day's heavy drinking, two men in Holyhead, Wales, missed their ferry home to Dublin. Spotting an unattended trawler, they hopped on board, hoping to sail it across to Ireland. After two hours going around in drunken circles, they finally managed to send out a mayday call for help.

Two men who broke into a drinks depot in Swansea were found by police in a drunken sleep in the yard next door, after they began supping their haul on the spot. Keith Cullen and Paul Wiggins have since been convicted of burglary.

A dozy car thief was arrested at the wheel of a stolen Audi convertible after he drove into an Adelaide automatic car wash - and then fell asleep! He was snoozing for an hour before the police were called and woke him up.

Clothes smuggler Oleg Demchak was arrested as he tried to enter the country from Ukraine wearing 15 pairs of pants, 4 tracksuits and 3 pairs of trousers. Customs officers became suspicious because he was sweating profusely and could barely walk.

A Dangerous Fortune.

A Dangerous Fortune By Ken Follett.

A shocking secret behind a young boy's death leads to three generations of treachery in this absorbing drama of wealth, passion and revenge, set amid the riches and decadence of Victorian England.

By the 1800's, the Pilastars are one of the world's greatest banking families, with connections that reach from the city of London to far-fetched colonies. However, as the family grow ever richer in the shadow of oppression and tragedy, their very future is threatened by the self-same ambition and greed that first earned them their fortune.

Covering a period of 26 years, this is a real thriller of a saga, peopled with wonderful, though on the whole, flawed through to down-right unpleasant, characters.

There are the three privileged boys who are involved in the original events - only son and heir to the Pilaster banking dynasty, Edward, who is a weak, rather sad individual, seemingly incapable of breaking loose from his mother's ties, his cousin, Hugh and their 'friends' Miguel 'Micky' Miranda (possibly one of the most unpleasant characters I have encountered in a long while) and, the rather naive, Antonia 'Toni' Silva.

However it is the women of the novel who are really interesting. On the whole, so much stronger then their male counterparts - they are Maisie who at 11 years old runs away to find herself as a performer in a circus only to find herself, as an adult, living a totally different lifestyle that, once again, sees her involved with the Pilaster family. Then, there is the evil and, somehow, desperately lonely, Augusta who much of the story centres on in one way or another.

A wonderful read, this novel has it all - murder, passion, romance and high society as well as a real insight into how life was lived by the 'have' and 'have not's' of the eighteen hundreds.

MY RATING: 5 out of a possible 5.

25 Aug 2009

Don't quote me on that.

As part of my FOOD FOR THOUGHT POST I quoted 'Yesterday was history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift which is why it's called the present' and attributed it to Confucius. Several people commented on this, questioning if it was indeed Confucius who said it. WELL! Further research seems to suggest it wasn't, so who was it? There seem to be several alternatives - Musician, Babatunde Olatunji, Comedienne, Joan Rivers and Eleanor Roosevelt being the most common. Any further suggestions?

White Gold.

White Gold By Giles Milton.

In the summer of 1716, a Cornish cabin boy named Thomas Pellow and fifty-one of his comrades were captured at sea by Barbary corsairs. Their captors - Captain Ali Haken and his network of fanatical Islamic slave traders - had declared war on the whole of Christendom. Poked, prodded and put through their paces at the great slave markets of Morocco, thousands of Europeans were sold to the highest bidder.

Thomas Pellow was bought by the tyrannical sultan, Moulay Ismail, as a personal slave, and he would witness first-hand the barbaric splendour of the imperial Moroccan court, as well as experience daily terror for twenty-three years. He was one of the fortunate few who survived to tell his tale

.... from the back cover.

Like most of the population, I am, of course aware of the slave trade but what I didn't know was that this also involved the enslavement of vast numbers of white Europeans during the 1700's.

WHITE GOLD tells the tale, not just of Thomas Pellow, but the many who were captured not just at sea but also along the coasts of the United Kingdom, France, America and also, in particular, Spain to be sold as slaves in Morocco.

It was shocking enough to imagine the frightful conditions these men, women and children must have existed in but what shocked and saddened me most was the way in which the UK government at that time received those who, under terrible, prolonged torture, renounced their Christian beliefs and turned to Islam.

Undoubtedly well researched and written, it was still quite a difficult read and not just because of the subject matter. The way in which the book was presented - with fairly small typeface, long paragraphs and nothing to break up the vast amount of print apart from the dozen or so pages of sketches that were collected together - could have been better. That said, it was still an interesting and, at times, inspiring read.

MY RATING: 4 out of a possible 5.

Good Afternoon.

Just to let you know that I'm feeling so much better, the world has at last stopped spinning all of the time - it now only happens when I lie down/ stand up, move my head suddenly or something flashes before me. Anyway, many thanks for all your kind messages both on my blog, Facebook and through Book Blogs and BookArmy. Many thanks also to Hubby who has been keeping things ticking over, especially on Farmville, as well as generally taking good care of me but then doesn't he always?

21 Aug 2009

Husband here.

Just in case you haven't read elsewhere, her ladyship is rather unwell at the moment. (Bacterial Labyrithitis) She apologises profusely for her lack of presence and looks forward to being back soon. She did try to sit at the computer tonight but the screen brought on a severe fit of collywobbles so she has retired.

10 Aug 2009

The Mesmerist.

The Mesmerist By Barbara Ewing.

Early nineteenth-century London sees the controversial rise of the practise of Mesmerism with it's genuine practitioners - and it's fraudulent chancers. Miss Cordelia Preston, a beautiful, ageing, out-of-work actress, terrified of returning to the poverty of her childhood, and with disturbing secrets to hide, suddenly emerges as a Lady Phreno-Mesmerist.

In her candle-lit Bloomsbury basement, with it's mirrors and red velvet flowers, it's shining glass stars, she finds herself advising young women on marriage and, inadvertently, on the matter that must, of course, never be mentioned - the wedding night. Popular and rich - her success seems unstoppable - especially after she meets the enigmatic Monsieur Roland, student of the famous Dr Mesmer, and learns even more about her talent and the art of Mesmerism.

But success is fragile when you have a past filled with secrets and loss. On a wintry moonlit night a body is found in Bloomsbury Square: in a crowded coroner's court, love, hate, murder and revenge are dissected under the full glare of an extremely unreliable popular press and, suddenly, what began as an audacious subterfuge erupts into a volcanic scandal as Cordelia's past is revealed, bringing not only heartache but terror - and a cloaked figure who waits in the dark and shadowy London streets

.... from the inner, front cover.

What a warm, heartfelt, well researched novel - with characters that will have you crying both tears of laughter as well as sorrow, you really do wish things go well for them.

Split into three part. The first of which, though rather slow and overlong, sets the scene by introducing Cordelia 'Cordie' Preston and her good friend/fellow actress Amaryllis 'Rillie' Spoons who, at 45, are finding it difficult to find work as actresses. Then, like her aunt before her, Cordie finds she has a gift for Mesmerism which sees them rise above poverty to live in Bloomsbury Square.

The second part which starts with the murder of someone from Cordie's past and ends with the loss of her 'respectability' (Cordelia understood 'She had been undone by the gentle intricacies of the wedding night') in the Coroner's Court is very telling - a great social commentary on how people, and in particular, woman of that time were viewed and, generally, treat, as second class citizens, if not, as in the case of actresses, even lower.

The third, concluding, part goes onto deal with the return of Cordie, Rillie, Mrs. Spoon and Regina back to their roots until an unexpected offer from the 'new world,' where the case of Cordelia Preston, Mesmerist has been closely followed, comes their way.

Very touching and moving, not to mention, in places, extremely funny, almost to the point of being farcical - after all who could ever forget Mrs. Fortune who 'regularly made a big pot of stew, added to it nightly: (until) if actors became ill it was time to throw it out and start again' or the 'demented' Mrs. Spoon who instead of dressing when company arrives, takes her clothes off or, indeed Rillie, herself who 'arrived with her chamberpot, took in the situation at once and pounded the pot on to ...'. I can't help but hope there may be a sequel which will tell of their further adventures.

MY RATING: 4 out of a possible 5.

Long arm of the law.

Heard the one about the judge with no fingers?

Justice Thumbs.

Anyone for ice cream?

Lucky pups have got a tasty treat when it comes to keeping cool this summer after a North company created a range of special doggie ice cream.

The frozen yoghurt treats come in three flavours, panting peanut mutter, oaty pawfection and chase your tail cheesecake.

The Frost And Hound deserts have been developed by pet nutritionists at pet food company Wagg Foods, based in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire.

They are made from natural frozen yoghurt which contains good bacteria to help digestion, as well as yucca extract to help reduce unpleasant odour from flatulence. Also hidden in the ice cream are dog biscuits.

The products are still in the development stage and are being tried out on some pets. Creators hope to have them on the shelves in time for next summer and aim to sell them in pet shops and super markets. The price has not yet been decided.

Tom Page, sales and marketing director at Wagg, said 'Brits are well known for being a nation of dog lovers .... with their pets often becoming one of the family. Because of this, we often treat them the same as our kids, although the titbits we give them aren't always healthy or safe for dogs.
'We wanted to develop a dog friendly icy treat which owners could feel confident would help cool down their pets and still be healthy - meaning dog and owner could both enjoy everyone's favourite summer pleasure together.' *

Nicola Purcell, whose dog Lawrence was one of the first to try the ice cream, said 'I love ice cream and Lawrence will always pester me and ask to lick out the tub, he won't stop until he gets his way.** This is the perfect solution to a hassle free night in front of the tv ... I can have my treats and Lawrence can have his.'

SOURCE: Lucy West, Sunday Sun.

* Make mine a Panting peanut mutter please. (who came up with these names?)
** Ever thought of saying and meaning 'NO'.

7 Aug 2009

Today - August 7th 2009

I know it's probably one of those things that everyone has heard but as I hadn't, well, there might be someone else out there who hasn't so DID YOU KNOW ......

On August 7th 2009

At 34 minutes and 56 seconds past 12

the time and date would have read


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.

This won't happen again for another thousand years.

The Heretic Queen.

The Heretic Queen By Michelle Moran.

When Nefertari's entire family is killed in a fire, she's left to grow up alone, a spare princess in the palace of the new Pharaoh. Her young life is overshadowed by the past - the name of her infamous, aunt, Nefertiti, the Heretic Queen, still strikes terror into the souls of Egyptians. So, when she finds herself falling in love with the young Pharaoh, Ramesses, she knows it's not going to be easy to win his heart.

But when the Pharaoh's aunt takes Nefertari under her wing and begins to educate her in the way's to gain a man's attention - and hold it - marriage to him seems within her reach. Yet, even as Ramesses declares his love for her, she knows there's more work to be done. If she's to be Queen, all of Egypt must recognise her worth and overcome her connection to the dark, heretical days of the past.

Ramesses will face challenges from all sides: war, drought, conquest and the determination of a man named Ahmoses will all threaten his reign. Could Egypt's rulers, and more importantly her people, ever allow him to marry the woman he loves, let alone make her his Queen?

.... from the inner, front cover.

Having read many novels set in Egypt, many of them involving Ramesses, I'm afraid this book was one of the poorest. There seemed to be so many different strands to the story that were started and, yet, never finished.

'Ramesses will face challenges from all sides, war, drought, conquest' and so on, claimed the synopsis of the book. Sounds exciting? But, I'm afraid it wasn't as so many of the story lines were simply skimmed over and not gone into in any great depth. I don't think it helped that the characters were also poorly written and, on the whole, quite one dimensional.

However at times, the reader was given, an albeit fleeting, glimpse of what life was like in Egypt at that time and just how hierarchical society was which may have just saved it from being an altogether uninteresting, uninspiring read.

MY RATING: 1.5 out of a possible 5.

Bairn's Book Challenge.

Being an aunty and having trained as a teaching assistant (not to mention all of the little darlings Hubby and I have minded for friends over the years) I am all too well aware of the difficulties that can be had in getting/keeping children interested in books so I was pleased to see this scheme reported in Newcastle's Evening Chronicle yesterday.

Nicola Juncar (nicola.juncar@ncjmedia.co.uk), reporting on the scheme had this to say

'Almost 5,000 children have become Quest Seekers this summer.
Youngsters across Newcastle have been making the most of the school break by signing up to the Summer Reading Challenge.
The annual event, which for 2009 has the theme of Quest Seekers, is being run in all Newcastle libraries and is being supported by the Chronicle.
It is aimed at primary school children and each child who takes part is asked to read six books during the summer holidays.
Youngsters can sign up to the challenge at their nearest branch library, or the new City Library, and can follow their progress by collecting Quest Seeker stickers and a poster'.

How the search works.

* Any child over the age of four years old can take part.
** The child has to be a member of Newcastle Libraries and can sign up at any branch.
The aim is to read six books before September 18. (This means they can take out two books if they visit three times during the summer).
*** If the child wants to take out more than two books at any one time, they can. However, only two books will count towards Quest Seekers.
**** Once a child has read six books they will be presented with a certificate and medal.
***** They will also be entered into a prize draw where they could win books, laptops, MP3 players and digital cameras.

5 Aug 2009

Hello Kitty.

Whilst browsing through one of the many supplements that came with Saturday's Guardian newspaper, I came across a section in The Guide, entitled internet. Now, normally I wouldn't have taken much notice but something caught my eye - that something being a piece on a blog called kittyhell.com.

'Hello Kitty', writes JD, 'for the uninitiated is a cute, fictional, red bow-tie wearing Japanese cat, who since the early 80's, has become an obsession for tween-age girls and women who don't want to stop being tween-age girls. This is the blog of a man who lives with one such obsessive in a home furnished and decorated entirely in Hello Kitty merchandise; in part it's his fault because he suggested hie wife turn her hobby into a business. He shares a Hello Kitty family car, sleeps under a Hello Kitty duvet, talks on a Hello Kitty phone and uses a bathroom containing Hello Kitty toilet paper. Nothing, it seems is incapable of being branded by the pink kitten from nipple tassels to condom holders'.

A truly, truly scary site - you have to visit it.

4 Aug 2009

FaceBook - Not all bad?

Last week Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, claimed that social network sites (FaceBook amongst them), text-messaging and e-mails were undermining community life.

Part of me understands where he is coming from. After all Niece #1, still staying with us, seems to prefer telling anyone and everyone of her movements (' am so hungry any 1 wanna cum make me tea'')* or sitting doing all manner of quizzes ('Are you a tease?' and 'How dirty is your mind?' to name but two of them) on FaceBook rather then communicate with Hubby and I. But, and I never dreamt I'd be saying this, it also has it's plus sides.

For one thing, it's given my nurturing side an outlet since I discovered FarmVille where I now have rabbits, sheep, cows and pigs to 'look' after. Then, almost daily, it has allowed a certain Swedish Priest (well known to quite a few of us for his contribution on our blogs) to send me at least one hug and sometimes flowers - ok, so they are only virtual ones but they still make me smile. And thirdly, it has allowed a relative who we lost touch with almost 8 years ago to get in touch again. Yes, we could all argue how awful it is that family loose touch like this but it happens - and isn't it nice when these so called social net-working sites allow us the means to get together again?

* Personally, and call me old fashioned if you like, but, it is this lazy, not to mention incorrect, use of the language that concerns me more. What do you think?

2 Aug 2009

Puss on Bus

This is Casper. Posted in yesterdays Guardian. though not on their web-site. His owner was wondering where he got to for an hour or so of every day. Turns out he gets on the number 3 bus outside his house near Plymouth, curls up in an empty seat and travels into the centre of town and back. The drivers keep an eye on him and make sure he gets off at the right stop.

The Dream House.

The Dream House By Rachel Hore.

Everyone has a dream of their perfect house - in the heart of the countryside, or perhaps a stately residence in the middle of a wonderful city?

For Kate Hutchinson, the move to Suffolk from the tiny, noisy London terrace she shares with her husband Simon and their two young children is almost enough to make her dreams come true

Space, peace, a rural pace of life have a far greater pull for Kate than the constantly overflowing in-tray on her desk at work. Moving in with her mother-in-law must surely be only a temporary measure before the estate agent's details of the perfect house fall through the letterbox.

But when Kate stumbles upon the house of her dreams, a beautiful place full of memories, it is tantalizingly out of reach. It's owner is the frail, elderly Agnes, whose story echoes so much of Kate's own. And Kate comes to realize how uncertain and unsettling a life built on dreams can be - wherever you are, at whatever time you are living and whoever you are with.

.... from the back cover.

Why has it become so popular for books, like THE DREAM HOUSE, a debut novel, to be written from the point of view of two people?

I'm sure that many readers will recognise some aspects of this story and even identify with it, and then, there will be others, such as myself, who will read it and think ' if only real life could always be like this, with the perfect, happy ending'.

A perfectly good, light read, with characters that I'm sure people will recognise, it's the storyline that lets it down. Predictable ( I figured out where the plot was going long before it actually got there), unconvincing, it relied far too much on the reader accepting flimsy coincidences and, at over 400 pages, too long, perhaps this is best read as a holiday novel.

I had to think about it.....

.... but once I got it, how I laughed.

A termite walks into a pub and asks "Is the bar tender here?"