31 Oct 2009


In Germany, a 22 year old student who mooned* at railway staff after being thrown off a train in Lauenbruck for not having a ticket was dragged 200m along the platform when his trousers got caught in a carriage door as the train moved off.

* For those of you who don't know this is the art of pulling one's trousers part-way down in order to flash the bare bottom at unsuspecting people - generally, though not always, a past-time reserved for young men or those who should know better but are on a 'stag' party.

30 Oct 2009


Yes I know HALLOWEEN isn't until tomorrow but due to time differences etc I thought I'd get in a little early - besides which, the weather in most parts of the UK is set to be awful tomorrow so I expect we may well have lots of 'trick or treat(ers)' this evening. So here are some guidelines that Hubby and I (along with a little help from Tim Dowling of the Guardian newspaper) have found useful over the years.

1. Don't pretend to be out, sitting in the dark doesn't work - they KNOW your in, I don't know how but they do. If you don't wish to keep answering the door to hordes of children, go out.

2. If you do decide to stay in - join in. We always find a basket of sweets is a must. NO fruit (or anything else that can be considered even remotely healthy) and Tim Suggests "nothing too desirable, you don't want word of your exceptional generosity to get round".

3. It really doesn't do any good to suggest that 15 might be a touch too old to go about begging for a fun-size Mars bar and besides which they are probably only doing so because they've had one Fentimans' lemonade (see my PREVIOUS POST) too many.

4. Kids love Halloween, they've seen ET, they've heard about the sweets so putting them off trick or treating is virtually impossible. You'll just have to grit your teeth and join in. Tim suggests if need be "Dress your children in costumes that are uncomfortable and hard to walk in and after half an hour, consult your watch and remind them of something they're missing on the television".

5. If, as an adult, you are invited to a Halloween party remember that as far as costumes go - anything goes - and here in the UK, where the choice of costume isn't as varied as it is in the US, a bed sheet over the head will probably do, as will a set of vampire teeth or even a mask. However if your first instinct is to say no, you are probably best sticking with this.

6. You can probably take it that if you haven't seen more than two of the little darlings by 7.30/8.00 you can start eating the sweets. LIKEWISE you can probably consider Halloween officially over for another year if you've (A) eaten the entire bag of fun-sized goodies or (B) the time is now 9 pm.


With it's list of soothingly archaic ingredients - burdock, juniper, speedwell - it's elegant glass bottles and Victorian labels, the FENTIMANS range of soft drinks seems to hark back to a more innocent age.

But not everyone finds its wares morally palatable. A transatlantic row has erupted between the Northumberland company and campaigners in the US after a schoolboy in Maine noticed the bottle of Victorian lemonade he was drinking contained 0.5% alcohol and took the offending beverage to the principle's office.

The principle of HOULTON High School got in touch with the police and the matter is now in the hands of Maine's Liquor Licensing officials and the state Attorney Generals office.

Two pressure groups - The Aroostook Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (Asap) and The Maine Alliance To Prevent Substance Abuse (Mapsa) - are now calling for the lemonade to be banned from sale to those under 21 and reclassified as "imitation liquor".

Claire Desrosiers, project director for the Asap coalition, said the lemonade contains alcohol and so should not be sold to minors. "To me, it is sold in what looks like a liquor bottle".

The reaction at Fentimans' Head Quarters in Hexham is an odd cocktail* of bemusement and gratitude.

"I think it's quite amusing, really," said Eldon Robson, Fentimans' managing director and master brewer.

"Maine is of course where our Puritanical forefathers went because Britain was not strict enough and it has been said that Puritans are people who were always worried that someone, somewhere might be having fun."

The company said it did occasionally receive inquiries about the 0.5% alcohol content of it's drinks, adding that trace alcohol content of its drinks, which is the result of botanical brewing and a seven-day fermentation process.

It pointed out that its beverages are legally classified as soft drinks, adding that trace alcohol could be found in "bread, mouthwash, orange juice and even chewing gum"

Not that the company is complaining: the row has left it's US operation "inundated" with inquiries from people in 30 US states and parts of Canada asking where they can buy Fentimans lemonade.

And while McKirdy (Fentimans spokesperson) stressed that underage drinking was a serious issue, she doubted that Fentimans lemonade would become the 'poison' of choice for American teenagers.

"To get the same effect as drinking a pint of 4% beer, you'd have to drink 16 bottles," she said. "You'd be awash or in hospital."

SOURCE: Sam Jones, reporting in the Guardian newspaper.

PETTY WITTER SAYS: * A bad choice of words? I hope that's a non-alcoholic cocktail they are talking about. Seriously though ....

A non drinker or am I?

Expensive as it is, I do enjoy the odd glass of Fentimans lemonade/cola/dandelion & burdock or, my personal favourite, ginger beer and have never noticed that it contained 0.5% alcohol but then, even if I had, it wouldn't have put me off as, as the Fentimans spokesperson says, that amount of alcohol (if not more) is found in so many every-day products and even occurs naturally in some food stuffs.

I don't, however, think it was very helpful for Eldon Roberts (managing director and master brewer) to make the comments that he did with regard to it being said that "Puritans are people who are always worried that someone, somewhere is having fun." Even if, as I suspect, this was said purely tongue-in-cheek, surely it is only adding fuel to the fire? Much more sensible of the spokesperson who pointed out that 16 bottles would have to be drunk in order to obtain the same effect as having drunk a 4% proof pint of beer. Now that's an awful lot of lemonade and, as nice as it might be, I'm sure it's more than enough for anyone to drink in one go and though I don't know much about any alcohol problems in Maine (or anywhere else in the US for that matter) I'm also pretty sure that it won't become the choice of 'poison' for youngsters if only because, if it's anything like here in the UK, a litre bottle of cider can be cheaper to buy than a 275ml bottle of Fentimans lemonade - and certainly a lot cheaper than 16 bottles of the stuff.

Well, that's me having had my say, where do you stand on the issue?

29 Oct 2009


No jokes about me actually thinking please.

I always thought I was the one in our household who did the SILLY jokes but oh no, Hubby has joined me in this venture - to see his offering press HERE, oh and please feel free to tell me that my jokes (which you can find by scrolling down to LABELS and clicking on ONLY JOKING) are so much better, after all we don't want to be encouraging him.


The Madman's Tale By John Katzenbach.

When the body of a young female trainee is found brutally murdered in the Nurses' Station of the Western State Mental Hospital, Massachusetts, there is apparently no shortage of suspects - a whole hospital of them. One inmate claims to have seen the killer, whom he will describe only as The Angel.

Twenty years later, Francis Petrel, once a patient at the hospital, writes his account of the events of the murder and its investigation on the walls of his tiny apartment. As he writes he is visited by hallucinations, and by an increasing anxiety at his loosening grip on reality. As he goes deeper and deeper into his story about these events, his own madness returns. He remembers being co-opted into the investigation by Lucy Jones, a driven young profiler who has her own reasons for pursuing this particular killer. But she and Francis face the same conundrum: how does one find a cold-blooded killer masquerading as mad in a world populated by the deranged?

In the end it will come down to Francis. He is the only member of the investigating team capable of recognizing the essential lie that The Angel embodies: for though his acts are those of a madman, he most emphatically is not ......

..... From the inner, front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): I can no longer hear my voices, so I am a little lost.

The Madman's Tale has two very distinct strands to it - one being the events that took place in a mental institution some twenty years ago and, the second, the memories regarding these events that Francis Petrel, one-time patient, records on his apartment wall. Sound complicated? Not really as the strands, though sometimes combined together in the same chapter, are quite distinct with the present events written in italics as opposed to the rather more common font that is used for the past events.

Reading fiction almost always takes us to a different place, often we need to use our imagination and sometimes suspend disbelief. This book went too far and, never mind suspending disbelief, was almost totally unbelievable - I say almost totally as there were some moments that were all too believable. Take for example the atmosphere within the institution where "Patients were released. Patients came back. A boomerang of madness" and "Cries for help were pretty familiar and often ignored".

Lucy Jones is the profiler/prosecutor who is supposedly in charge of the investigation and yet most of the time seems totally clueless. She arrives at the institution merely presuming that a patient is the guilty party capable of murder, never considering it could, just as well, be a member of staff. Then, helped by no other parties from outside, she chooses patients Francis (C-Bird), Peter The Fireman (one-time arson investigator turned arsonist) and orderlies, who also happen to be brothers, 'Big Black' and 'Little Black' as her team of fellow investigators with Francis, seemingly, the only one capable of following clues despite the fact that Lucy and Peter, to a certain degree, are trained to do so.

As for the ending? If the rest of the book was unbelievable, the author credits his readers with very little intelligence if he expects us to believe the lengths the killer, who by now is revealed, went to in order to track down his 'real' victim.

MY RATING: 2 out of a possible 5. A very disappointing effort, I know you can do better.

28 Oct 2009


THE CRIME FICTION WRITERS ASSOCIATION (CWA) is responsible for administrating Britain's leading crime fiction awards, The Daggers. Membership is open to any author who has had one crime novel produced by a bona fide publisher. It is a commercial body, of over 450 members, that decides upon the awards.

There are seven Dagger Awards including The CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger which is the largest award for crime fiction in the world for the best crime novel of the year, earning a prize of £20,000.

The CWA awards celebrate the very best in crime and thriller writing and are the longest literary awards in the UK. These premier awards are recognised internationally as a mark of excellence.

This year The Daggers were announced in two stages - the first being held in London on the 15th of July and the second, in collaboration with Specsavers Opticians, Cactus TV and ITV3, on the 21st of October but televised on ITV3 last night.

For crime fiction, suspense or spy fiction which have been translated into English from their original language, for UK publication. FRED VARGES - THE CHALK CIRCLE MAN, translated by SIAN REYNOLDS.

Goes to any crime short story first published in the UK in return for payment. SEAN CHERCOVER -ONE SERVING OF BAD LUCK FROM KILLER YEAR.

Awarded not for an individual book but for the author's body of work. Authors are nominated by UK libraries and readers groups and judged by a panel of librarians. COLIN COTTERILL.

Open to anyone who has not yet had a novel published commercially. CATHERINE O' KEEFE -THE PATHOLOGIST.

THE CWA GOLD DAGGER AWARD (Announced October).
Awarded for the best crime novel of the year. WILLIAM BRODRICK - A WHISPERED NAME.

Awarded to a new author of note. JOHN THEORIN - ECHOES FROM THE DEAD.

Awarded for the best thriller. JOHN HART - THE LAST CHILD.

Sponsored by Specsavers Opticians and voted for by ITV3 viewers, this is a brand new award. HELEN CUBAN - HOLD TIGHT.

*Founder of the Crime Writers Association.

27 Oct 2009


Rightly or wrongly, I'm one of those people that believe (within reason of course) that no matter what young people are reading, at least they are reading something - take our nephew for example, he isn't really interested in reading anything that's not football related (better still if its Newcastle United related) but at least he's reading something unlike Niece #1 who believes (despite our trying to persuade her otherwise) that ALL books are boring.

So, though not my idea of a good read by any stretch of the imagination, I was interested to see that Katie Price (once known as Jordan) had released a set of books all about ponies aimed at young girls as well as an autobiography that chronicled her life thus far - Niece #1 had gone to the lengths of BUYING this but it too has gone unread - that were proving popular.

Imagine my dismay then to read the following article in our local Sunday newspaper and to view this IMAGE on the Internet both of which detail the day that Jordan came to the area to sign copies of her latest book.

"Katie Price sparked a frenzy among fans yesterday as thousands clamoured to see the former glamour girl during her whistle stop tour of the North.

"The star - also known as Jordan - brought Newcastle city centre and the METROCENTRE in Gateshead to a stand-still at two separate events to promote her new book.

"And books certainly flew off the shelves when she attended the MetroCentre signing, although not quite in the way organisers intended - young fans proceeded to clamber all over the shop's stands to get a better view".

Now call me a book snob if you wish but most of these so-called fans of Jordan are just that - fans of Jordan - as opposed to fans of books and it may be controversial but I'd even go as far as to say that I'd put money on the fact that many of these people aren't usually book readers with some of them never having set foot in a book shop before. (And probably not doing so again until Jordan is back in town though I'd be very surprised if WATERSTONES, the shop in question, would have her back).

Apologies for my rant but, setting aside any other personal concerns I may have about Jordan and her business ventures, as a book lover, it both upsets and angers me to see books being destroyed in such a way.

SOURCES: Newspaper article, an edited version, courtesy of Coreena Ford reporting in the Sunday Sun. Internet image taken from the Sun's website.

26 Oct 2009


In Palestine, because of a blockade on the borders of Gaza meaning new animals can't be imported, entrepreneur Mohammed Barghouthi disguised two donkeys as zebras (press HERE to see the results) at his Marah Land Zoo. A professional painter used hair dye to give children visiting the zoo something new to see.

PETTY WITTER SAYS: Never mind the latest celebrity/actress advertising various hair dyes, I think the job should go to these two donkeys cum zebras.

25 Oct 2009


Forty years ago a student typed 'Lo' on a computer - and the Internet was born. Only academic researchers were supposed to use it. It was hobbyists who opened the Internet up to allcomers - Oliver Burkeman

To celebrate the internet turning forty, the Guardian newspaper produced a special issue supplement which looked at it's history.


Six feet under, buried in the soft sand of a north Cornwall beach popular with surfers, is one of the most important tele-communications cables in the country - the £250 million Apollo North OALC-4 SPDA cable that provides physical internet connection between the UK and USA.

The 3,800 mile-ling cable was laid across the Atlantic seabed in 2003 and runs from the Cornish coast to Fire Island just off New York's Long Island. The last time you sent an e-mail, did a Google search, watched a YouTube clip or tweeted, there's a very good chance that some of that data travelled at the speed of light through this very location.

Leo Hickman.


"I believe it to be the trend that is going to have the greatest impact on the English language in the 21st century." - linguist, David Crystal once wrote of the internet.

The meanings of well known words (bookmark, surf, spam, web) have shifted dramatically, while our vocabularies have expanded to accommodate new ones. The lower case is in ascendance, @ has flourished, the full stop has been reinterpreted as the 'dot' and entire trends have been refreshed by the prefix 'Cyber'. Here are some of my favourite internet contributions to the language.

Friends - An accumulation of people you found on the internet.

;alskadjf - (Not one I have ever seen, let alone used) Used to fill space and waste time, often spotted on social networking sites.

404 - (Another one new to me) Error message when a file is not found; also suggests general cluelessness (I'm surprised I haven't seen this then).

ROFL - Rolling on the floor laughing, or LMAOROFL - Laugh my ass off rolling on the floor (Whatever happened to the simple LOL - laugh out loud?).

POKE - Touching someone via FaceBook. Annoying and excessively flirtatious, yes, but chaste and hygienic.

GOOGLEWHACKING - (What?) An attempt to 'defeat' Google by typing in two words and retrieving a single search result.

LURKER - Someone who visits forums and reads others' comments, but never leaves his/her own posts.

RICK-ROLLING - (Seriously?) Trick in which a posted link leads to a YouTube video of Rick
Astley's hit Never Gonna Give You Up.

MOUSE HAND/BLACKBERRY THUMB - Physical injury as a result of addiction (Just another name for Repetitive Strain Injury).

Laura Barton.

So to summarise.

PASS NOTES - No. 2,670, THE INTERNET.......

AGE? 40

APPEARANCE: Flat, rectangular: dimensions vary.

WHAT IS IT? An unquantifiable ocean of free-flowing data; a boundless, virtual universe that in many respects closely mirrors our own world, but with a lot more porn.

WHAT IS IT REALLY? A bunch of computers hooked together.

SO THE WEB IS 40 YEARS OLD! Wrong. The World Wide Web is only 20. The Internet is 40.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? The internet is the software and hardware architecture that enables the world's computers to be connected. The web is an application that runs on the internet, a way of linking and accessing documents through a browser.

SO, WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED 40 YEARS AGO? Some boffins working for the US Department Of Defence's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) sent the first message over a link between two host computers.

AND THUS THE INTERNET WAS BORN? Not quite. The term 'internet' first appeared in 1974.

WHAT ABOUT E-MAIL THEN? IS E-MAIL THE INTERNET? Technically, e-mail predates the internet; it started in 1965 as a form of communication for computer users who were timesharing on the same mainframe (OK, now you've lost me, mainframe?).

SO WHEN YOU SAY THE INTERNET IS 40 ........ You don't really mean anything by that?
A fair point - it's just as likely that the internet as we will come to know it hasn't even been born yet.

And finally,


At 104, Ivy Bean may be the oldest person in Bradford, England. She is also, thanks to the internet, one of it's most famous residents. After 'maxing' out the friend capacity on FaceBook (with 5,000) Bean graduated to Twitter in 2008.

Sarah Phillip

PETTY WITTER SAYS: Unless otherwise stated all articles in this post are courtesy of various journalists writing in the Guardian. My own comments are highlighted in blue.

23 Oct 2009


" Rainbow,
Up above the streets and houses,
Rainbow climbing high,
Everyone can see it,
Smiling over the sky,
Paint the whole world with a

...... So went the theme tune of Rainbow, a much loved children's tv programme that was broadcast here in the UK twice weekly between 1972 and 1992.

Intending to develop language and number skills in pre-school children, each episode of Rainbow revolved around a particular activity or situation that would arise in the Rainbow House where the main characters lived. Usually involving a dispute between the puppet characters George (a shy, pink, ever so slightly camp hippo), Zippy (a loud mouthed, domineering, hand-operated character) and Bungle (a large, clumsy bear played by a man in bear suit) it was left to Geoffrey (along with musicians, Rod, Jane and Freddy, a human) to calm things and keep the peace.


"The mystery surrounding Zippy is to be laid bare in the latest book by a north publisher, Blaydon-based Stu Wheatman of Tonto Books.

Master puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew is to tell all about being the man behind the loudmouth creature in Rainbow in Unzipped: Life On The Inside - a 'behind-the-scenes story which is set to lift the lid on what really went on behind the puppet suits, including the creative struggles, conflicts with the network, fights for control of the scripts and public scandals.

Ronnie's work on Rainbow also provided him with a passport to hit feature films of the 80's and 90's, as a puppeteer on Little Shop Of Horrors, Labyrinth and the Muppet movies, working with the likes of David Bowie, Michael Caine and Frank Sinatra amongst others.

In 2008 he received the prestigious Harlequin Award, the Oscar of the puppetry world".

SOURCE: Coreena Ford, reporting in the Sunday Sun.

PETTY WITTER SAYS: Due to be released next summer, I can see this being popular with many Rainbow fans though I'm afraid that I, for one, shan't be putting it on my wish list for I have such fond memories of watching this alongside my (naughty) little sister and have no desire to spoil that memory.

22 Oct 2009


Scrabble, also known as Literati, Alfapet, Funwriter and Palabras Cruzadar (Crossed Words), is sold in 21 countries and is available in 29 languages.

Whilst browsing through Tuesday's Guardian newspaper, I came across this interesting article about The National Scrabble Championships which took place here in the UK in August.

Here are 10 words from the final board that you may wish to remember. And yes, I know that most of them look like a word you'd find on Word Verification Balderdash as 'played' on Sheila's ONE PERSONS JOURNEY THROUGH A WORLD OF BOOKS.

1. ZOEAL - Any of the free-swimming larva of certain crustaceans, such as the crab, having rudimentary legs and a spiny carapace. (24 points)

2. FORINT - An aluminium coin and the standard monetary unit of Hungary (39 points)

3. ORIBI - A small tan covered antelope (24 points)

4. OESTRAL - From the noun oestrus. a period of sexual receptivity in most female mammals, during which ovulation occurs (21 points)

5. OU - South African slang for a man/bloke/chap (4 points) *

6. GI - A loose -fitting white suit worn in martial arts (3 points)

7. SEIF - A long narrow sand dune parallel to the prevailing wind direction (22 points)

8. CONTEAU - A hilly upland including the divide between two valleys (38 points)

9. VAV - The sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet (13 points)

10. TI - A widely cultivated tropical plant, Cordyline terminalis, of the agave family (2 points)

* I was very dubious that this would be allowed but, yes, there it is in The Official Scrabble Dictionary.

Congratulations, by the way to Dave Wiegard - National Scrabble Champion 2009.


Following on from my post 'Where The Wild Things Are, Too Scary?' and a comment from Susan S who had this to say on the matter "It's no worse than the fairy stories of old. When I was young, we loved to be scared by myths etc. Real life was harsh, but fairy tales were an escape and usually ended up with rescue or triumph .... as in Hansel And Gretel, Three Billy Goats Gruff, etc" I decided to do my post today on a series of pamphlets/booklets we received free with our daily paper, The Guardian and, it's Sunday equivalent, The Observer.

A series of seven, entitled 'GREAT FAIRYTALES', each pamphlet/booklet contained three or four fairy tales, some of which I was familiar with, others of which I had never come across. To view any of these tales, simply click on the words highlighted in red and select the tale you wish to read.

Part 1, WICKED PARENTS containing the tales of Hansel And Gretel, Snow White, and, The Tale Of The Juniper Tree, all three written by the Brothers Grimm. The first two of which I am very familiar with, the third being new to me.

Part 2, RAGS TO RICHES. Only one of these tales is familiar to me, Cinderella by Charles Perrault (strange to say but up until this point, as familiar as I am with the tale, I couldn't have named the author). The other two, The Tinder Box by Hans Christian Andsersen, and, Mossycoat, an old English folk tale, retold by Philip Pulman, I do not know.

Part 3, LOVE. This contains my best loved fairy tale The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen (I always cry at this one), Rapunzel, another of my favourites, by the Brothers Grimm and The Little Mermaid, also by Hans Christian Andersen, a tale I have never read though am familiar with thanks to Disney's animated version.

Part 4, QUESTS AND RIDDLES. Four tales in this one, only the first of which I have ever come across. Rumpelstiltskin by the Brothers Grimm, The Sleeping Prince, retold by Alison Lurie, The Tale Of The Boy Who Set Out To Learn Fear, also by the Brothers Grimm, and, The Lion and the Hare, retold from Sanskrit by Ramsay Wood.

Part 5, WISDOM AND FOLLY. Another four tales here and, once again, only the first is familiar to me. Jack And The Beanstalk by Joseph Jacobs (A well known tale and very popular as a Pantomime choice, I, once again, couldn't have named the author). The Mixed-Up Feet And The Silly Bridegroom by Isaac Bashevis Singer, though here it is retold by Elizabeth Shub, and, retold by Alison Lurie, The Black Geese, and, Clever Gretchen.

Part 6, JUSTICE AND PUNISHMENT containing Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault, which, for me, is probably one of the scariest of all the tales, The One Handed Murderer by Italo Calvino, a tale unknown to me as are the following - The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Ansdersen, and, The Fisherman And Ifrit from the Arabian Nights.

Part 7, BEASTLY TALES containing Beauty And The Beast by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, Hans my Hedgehog by the Brothers Grimm (a tale I only know thanks to The Story Teller, a tv programme made by the James Henderson Puppet Workshop in which a storyteller recites a different tale from around the world every week. No longer on tv, I enjoyed it so much, I bought the DVD), and, unknown to me, The Heart Of A Monkey retold by Andrew Lang.

How many of these tales do you know? What's your favourite tale of all? Care to do a guest post and tell us all about it? Do let me know.

21 Oct 2009


In China, lovesick commuter Shen Wang has been banned from using a bridge in Beijing after crossing it 50 times in one day so he could gaze longingly at the woman who operated the toll gate! Wang told police he had to "keep coming back to see the beautiful girl".


Where The Wild Things Are, By Maurice Sedank, - "The story of Max's adventure when he sails away to the land Where The Wild Things Are" - a book I came to later in life when Hubby bought me a copy after we had put on an impromptu play of the story at a youth event we were at, is now a firm favourite of mine and well viewed for the fantastic illustrations, let alone the wonderful story.

A film version is to be released here in the UK on the 11th of December but already there have been complaints by American movie-goers (where the film was released on the 16th of October) that it's too scary.

Want to see Maurice Sedank's reply to this criticism? Click HERE. *

Have you Read the book/seen the film/intend to see it, if so what do you think? Too scary or merely 'a storm in a teacup'?

* Thanks to Hubby who found this article on The Guardian web-page.

20 Oct 2009


The Gates By John Connolly.

Samuel Johnson has a number of problems. Samuel's dad cares more about his car than his family, Samuel's mother is lonely, and only Samuel's dog, Boswell, truly understands him.

Oh, and as if things couldn't get any worse, Samuel's neighbours, led by the villainous Mrs Abernathy, are trying to open the gates of hell. It's up to Samuel to stop them, except nobody will believe him, and time is running out....

Now the face of humanity lies in the hands of a small boy, an even smaller dog, and a very unlucky demon named Nurd.

.... From the back cover.

First Sentence: In the beginning, about 13.7 billion years ago. to be reasonably precise, there was a very, very small dot.

Recommended for those aged 12 years and over, or as the author says "A strange novel for strange YOUNG people" - The Gates is one of those books that I'm sure will appeal to all ages though some readers, like myself, may find the author's tone a little patronizing at times.

With an interesting front cover, slightly embossed with a slight shimmer to it, the book is noticeable straight away and doesn't disappoint on the opening where we are presented with a Gothic style print interior.

Quite topical in content, the action starts when "the computer screen, which was occupied by a visual representation of all the exciting things happening in the (Large Hadron Collider) particle accelerator, beeped" and a portal is opened which allows demons through into our world.

A story all about bravery, the love of a boy for his dog and that dog's love for a boy, it is also about friendship and kindness, and is very funny in places - the image of Mr and Mrs Mayer doing battle with demons, he armed with a pair of fire tongs and a dustbin lid and she with a poker, will stay with me for a long time. My only criticism, apart from the occasional patronizing tone, being the large number of footnotes, some of which took over the best part of the page.

MY RATING: 3 out of a possible 5.


Yesterday I took us back in time to the 'Noughties' (see post below). Today I'm going back (and yet forward) even further in time - back because I'm going back to the 1990's and forward because I'm going to the summer of 2010, for according to Emma Sibbles writing in The Guardian;

"While we're still struggling to come to turns with this season's 80's love affair, designers have already moved on. Next summer is all about a 90's revival: sportswear and grunge mixed with a massive shot of sex and glamour. Some of the trends seen on the catwalks over the last months are as easy to slip into as an old Nirvana T-shirt, but others will take a little more practice."

So, exactly what will those of you who, unlike myself, are fashion conscious be wearing come the summer.

* Kitten Heels - though with a makeover (Well, they would have to have had or it would be soooo 1990's), Missoni has added hippy ribbons and straps, Marc Jacobs, feathers and at Marni, the shoe took on an orthopaedic shape with a thick wooden platform sole. (Thanks to Marni (?), there might be some hope of me being able to wear these heels then - if I could afford a pair.) Warning though, these are best kept away from floral bias-cut dresses (As if I didn't know that.)

* Cycling Shorts .

* Sportswear - including leather hoodies, scuba-inspired bodysuits and dresses complete with buckles, surf-inspired bermuda shorts and, to finish the look, a Louis Vuitton rucksack, the ultimate sporty bag.

* Safety Pins - (Yes, that did say safety pins.)

* Bum Bags - Over at Louis Vuitton, the bum bag, to be worn low around the hips, has taken a 'luxe' (Whatever that means) turn. In embossed leather complete with extra tassels (Of course, as if we'd settle for anything less) AND extra pouches or with a fur tail these were oversized and teamed with huge affros. (However) for a cheaper and more immediate version, hit American Apparel where they come in nylon and denim.

* Neon.

* Layers - With next season's sheer, floaty fabrics (What? There's nothing floaty about cycling shorts or bodysuits whether they're scuba-inspired or otherwise) we're being encouraged to layer up. Put a long-sleeved t-shirt under a summer dress and add tights and boots if you want to try it now.

* The Swimsuit/Body Hybrid - With poppers at the crotch (Making it so easy to 'spend a penny' in a hurry) they're starting to appeal for layering over t-shirts and under dresses.

* The Rave Whistle - Spotted attached to necklaces. Remember the raving 90's and blow with pride.

19 Oct 2009


The Top Ten Bestsellers of the 'Noughties' (2000 - 2009) has just been announced here in the UK.

Music wise, we have the 10 best selling albums as:

1. Back To Bedlum - James Blunt
2. No Angel - Dido
3. Back To Black - Amy Winehouse
4. Wide Ladder - David Gray
5. Life For Rent - Dido
6. The Beatles 1 - The Beatles
7. Spirit - Leona Lewis
8. A Rush Of Blood To The Head - Coldplay
9. Hopes And Fears - Keane
10.Scissor Sisters - Scissor Sisters.

SOURCE: Official UK Chart, courtesy of HMV as quoted in The Guardian.

(Sad to say, not a huge music lover, I haven't got a single one of these albums. In fact if I'd been asked I couldn't have even named any of them.)

Whilst, book wise, we have:

1. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows- JK Rowling
2. Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince - JK Rowling
3. The Tales Of Beedle The Bard - JK Rowling
4. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
5. Breaking Dawn - Stephanie Meyer
6. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
7. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
8. The Book Of General Ignorance (A Quite Interesting Read) - Stephen Fry, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
9. The Dangerous Book For boys - Conn Iggulden
10.New Moon - Stephenie Meyer.

SOURCE: Amazon as quoted in The Guardian.

(Much better. I've read most of these and have highlighted them in blue. The books I have both read and reviewed being highlighted in red with links to them."Why have they not all been reviewed if you have read them?" I hear you ask. Well, though it is my policy to review every book I read, these were read before I started Pen And Paper.)

18 Oct 2009


In one of the peculiarities of language, the 'ghostwriter' traditionally assists a living author, but this has been a year of more literal literary ghosts.

Ian Fleming published another Bond (The Devil May Care) book with the help of Sebastian Faulks, while a descendant of Bram Stoker has co-written a Dracula sequel and the A.A. Milne estate has licensed an official continuation of Winnie the Pooh (Return To 100 Acre Wood).

Eight years after the death of Douglas Adams and 17 years since the release of 'the fifth book' in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy trilogy, Eoin Colfer, author of the Artimis Fowl series, has been given permission by the Adam's estate to create 'And Another Thing .....', which he terms, in appropriate Adamsian fashion, 'part six of three'.

The creator made a sixth book difficult by destroying most of the familiar characters at the end of Mostly Harmless but with the subtle use of alternative universes, virtual worlds and Adams's 'infinite improbability drive', the substitute author is able to get players and narrative back together (and so), just as Faulks stayed close to Fleming in his new Bond, Colfer spins off from the original plot.

Some grumblers in the blogsphere, an aspect of the galaxy that didn't exist when Adams began the journey, will inevitably subject the posthumous ghostwriter to pedantic and resentful fury but I feel that Eoin Colfer has achieved a perfectly calculated adaptation: a novel which serves as a fitting memorial but also has a life of its own.

SOURCE: From a longer extract (Available by clicking HERE) by Mark Lawson, author of Enough Is Enough, writing in yesterdays Guardian newspaper.

PETTY WITTER SAYS: I took the decision to only use an extract from the article as I felt to reproduce the whole thing may have given away too many things about previous books as well as this latest to those of you who, like myself, are yet to read any in the series.
P.S. Hubby, a fan of the books, has 'And Another Thing ...' on order so may be persuaded to review it as some point, if not, then maybes one of you might like to.

17 Oct 2009


Thanks to Hazra over at Advance Booking for her post on Diwali which begins today.

Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, is the most popular of all the festivals from South Asia and is also the occasion for celebrations by Jains, Sikhs as well as Hindus.

The festival extends over five days. Because of the lights, fireworks and sweets involved, it's a great favourite with children.


Tired of your pet scratching the door to come in?

Then you're ready for the PETCHIME, a wireless doorbell that allows your pet to tell you when it wants to go out or come in to the house. To activate the chime, your pet simply has to step on or push the paw shaped transmitter with it's nose.

From £25.

16 Oct 2009


Blood Is The New Black by Valerie Stivers.

The Devil may wear Prada, but real fashion taste is in the blood .....

When Kate is offered an internship at top fashion mag Tasty, everyone tells her she's the luckiest girl alive. But Kate's not so sure. Her fellow interns are bitchy, her superiors are backstabbing, and she's constantly getting it in the neck from her boss.

Then people start to go missing, and Kate starts to really worry. Why is everyone condescending, black-clad and emaciated? Doesn't anyone sleep? What's with the sharp teeth? Are they ... vampires?

Armed with a stake, a crucifix, and James the cute photo assistant, Kate sets off for a showdown - only to realise that she's more out of her depth than a homeless person in Hermes. Starting your first job may be difficult, but working at Tasty is draining. Literally...

.... From the back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: I'm crouched under a desk in the assistant's bullpen.

Set in the world of fashion this is a tale of vampires but not as we usually know them. Blood Is The New Black is an easy read, full of dark humour and practically blood and gore free though it does begin with the 'dogocide' of Marc Jacobs.

The characters are an odd bunch to say the least and, as a reader, your not always too sure who is a vampire and who isn't. My favourite is the depressed Lillian who "as the years go by," finds herself, "having to spend more and more time in spas. Not to keep," her, "looks, but to remain fresh". Then there is the 'heroine' of the story, Kate, who soon realises that things aren't quite what they seem and maybe she has bitten off more than she can chew (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun).

Tongue in cheek all the way through, there are, however, some very funny, laugh out loud moments. I particularly liked the idea of the Tasty sponsored benefit for 'The Low- Income Ladies' Plastic Surgery Fund (LILPSF)' and then there's Sylvia's research into 'vampire qualities' and Kate who tries to pass holy water off as a 'Creme de la Mer product'.

A fun read though I suspect that those into the more traditional vampire story might find themselves disappointed.

MY RATING: 3 out of a possible 5.

15 Oct 2009


I don't know about where you are but here in the North East of England it's a horrible damp, dark day - only teatime (4.20 pm) and I've had to put the light on to see to read.

Anyway, I've decided what we all need is a giggle, so here are some of my favourite 'Knock, Knock' jokes(?). "But where did the 'Knock, Knock' joke come from?" I hear you ask.

Well, Ask Yahoo has this to say: "The truth is nobody really knows the exact history of the 'Knock, Knock' joke. Shakespeare did have a Knock, Knock, Who's there? line in Macbeth but there's no evidence to suggest it spawned a new path in comedy.
"The jokes we're familiar with today are popular in the United States as well as France, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa. Knock, Knock jokes are fun if somewhat corny. But we like them because they often involve a play on words, and don't require too much thinking". *

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Alex who?
Alex plain later if you let me in.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Ike who?
Ike'n see you through the keyhole.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Annie who?
Annie one you like.

* I don't know about not requiring too much thinking - it sometimes takes me ages AND having to say it out loud several times before I get it, not to mention the times Hubby has to explain it to me.


Firstly I'd like to thank all those who contributed to the original post about the classification of modern and historical books - you certainly gave me some food for thought.

As well as on Pen And Paper, we also had this discussion on Book Blogs where several different theories were put forward. My thanks to you all but especially to Jaime Huff over at REVENGE OF THE BOOK NERDS (as well as Book Blogs) who discussed the matter at some length and pointed me towards the following sites which help to clarify the matter.

* Wikipedia.

"Historical fiction is a sub-genre of fiction that often portrays fictional accounts or dramatisation of historical figures or events. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, nominally attempt to capture the spirit, manners and social conditions of the person or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity.

"Historical fiction presents readers with a story that takes place during a significant event in that period. Historical fiction often presents actual events from the point of view of people living in that time period."

* The Historical Novel Society.

"To be deemed historical (in our sense), a novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only in research)".

Petty Witter says: Judging by the definitions supplied by these sites, I think I'll go back and re-classify the three books (Guernica by Dave Boling, The Return by Victoria Hislop and Hamers War by Francis Cottam) mentioned in my original post as it would seem they should indeed be classified as historical rather than modern fiction.
P.S. Having gone back and re-classified those three books, I found several others that really ought to be classed as historical rather than modern fiction - it's amazing how these things snowball.

14 Oct 2009


A London aquarium has found steamy Barry White doesn't just do it for humans. He was played to help shy shark Zorro to mate - and it's done the trick.

13 Oct 2009


They say that a piece of furniture, ornaments, jewellery etc only truly become an antique when they are 100 years old. My question is when does a work of 'modern' fiction become a work of 'historical' fiction - is it when the story is set 'x' number of years ago?

As an example, take three books that I have read and reviewed lately - Guernica by Dave Boling, The Return by Victoria Hislop and Hamers War by Francis Cottam, the first two set during the Spanish Civil War and the third during the Second World War. I would have classed all three of these books as historical fiction and yet all are classified as modern fiction. Why?

12 Oct 2009


Guernica By Dave Boling.

An epic novel already compared to Captain Corelli's Mandolin and The English Patient, set in the Basque town of Guernica at the time of its destruction by the Luftwaffe on the eve of World War II.

In 1935, Miguel Navorra finds himself in conflict with the Spanish Civil Guard and flees the fishing village of Lekeitio to make a new start in Guernica, the centre of Basque culture and tradition. Once there, he finds more than just a new life - he finds someone to live for. Miren Ansotegui is the charismatic and graceful dancer he meets and the two discover a love they believe nothing can destroy...

Rich in the history of the region, the Red Baron, the Luftwaffe and even Picasso make appearances in Guernica as the fate of the Navarro family is traced through the early decades of the twentieth century.

... From the back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: Justo Ansotegui returns to the market to hear the language and to buy soap.

A first time novel, GUERNICA is well written, poignant and rich in history - a story full of tradition, customs, love, loyalty and passion in which the reader can have difficulty telling fact from historical fiction.

Set largely in the Basque town though later events take place in England, the story begins with the exploits of three small boys, Justo, the eldest brother who, along with the youngest brother, Xabier plays a major role in the book, unlike middle brother, Josepe, who plays a much less evident role.

It is the story of Justo's family that takes the book through what are fairly peaceful times to the advance of Fascism and Civil War to the tragic events of the Second World War. Descriptive and, at times, very harrowing, the book, though set in times when poverty and oppression were rife, is nonetheless full of love, humour and hope.

On the whole a very good read though, at times, the author seems to lose himself and strays from the plot. Then there are also some additions that seem, somehow, pointless and beg the question why were they added. And, finally there is the somewhat contrived and highly improbable ending. The author, however, is forgiven all of these as he has the reader grasped in the story and his characters are so warm and giving that you can't help but want good things for them.

MY RATING: 4 out of a possible 5.


Today sees the start of NATIONAL CHOCOLATE WEEK here in the UK - the American celebration takes place in March.


* The eating of chocolate has long been associated with love. Apparently, Aztec Emperor, Monteczuma (c1502) drank 50 cups of chocolate a day to advance his ardour. (A lover of chocolate myself - I'm not too sure 50 cups of the stuff would improve my ardour, more likely to leave me feeling extremely sick.)

* Chocolate contains Phenylethylamine and Serotonin both of which also occur naturally in the human body. These mood lifting substances are released into the nervous system when we are happy and when we are experiencing feelings of passion, creating a rise in blood pressure and heart rate and inducing a feeling of well being. So when you need a lift - eat chocolate.


* 1502 Christopher Columbus introduces chocolate to Spain from his fourth voyage to the New World but not as the product we know today. It was only consumed as a drink. The word 'chocolate' was derived from the Aztec word 'xocolat' which means bitter water.

* 1615 Anne of Austria (wife of Louis XIII) declares chocolate the drink of the French Court, although this was only after much skepticism, as initially it was considered a 'barbarous product and noxious drug'.

* 1640 Chocolate finds its way to England, among other European countries.

* 1657 The drink becomes a best seller in England and 'excessive' duties are imposed on chocolate. It takes almost 200 years before the duty is dropped.

* 1828 Dutch chocolate maker, Conrad J. Van Houten, created the hydraulic chocolate press. The press enabled chocolate makers to crush the 'nibs' or 'centres' of roasted cacao beans into a paste (chocolate liquor). After crushing, some of the cocoa butter was extracted.

* 1848 English chocolate maker, Joseph Storrs Fry, created the first 'eating' chocolate by further refining the cocoa, adding sugar and mixing the cocoa butter back in.

* 1875 Swiss, Daniel Peter, added condensed milk to chocolate and marketed the first solid milk chocolate bar.


For all of those worried about chocolate not being good for their health, research has shown chocolate MAY

* Lower your blood pressure

* Provide protection from heart disease

* Soothe coughs

* Prevent tooth decay.

(Something tell me this 'research' may very well have been carried out by a chocolate company or is that just me being cynical?)


Even more surprising than this research, 10yetis reports that a 'leading celebrity fashion website' has discovered that
it's own UK users are more interested in National Chocolate Week then they are the fashion events taking place in the Capital City. (Good to see we have our priorities right!)

11 Oct 2009


As many of you are aware nearly every Saturday morning sees Hubby and I off to the Breakfast Club where a group of us discuss that days newspapers over a cuppa and light breakfast. Amongst other items of news (including the bizarre announcement that The Simpson's Marge Simpson is to be the latest celebrity to bare all in Play Boy magazine), these two articles caught my attention.

E.T. Voted Greatest Alien Flick.

On Friday E.T. was voted the best alien movie of all time.

The 1982 classic, starring Drew Barrymore, told the story of a friendly extra-terrestrial stranded three million light years from his home planet.

The Stephen Spielberg movie was a huge worldwide hit and spawned the immortal catch-phrase "E.T. phone home."

It beat Will Smith's Men In Black to the title in a poll of 7675 film fans. Another film starring Smith, Independence Day, took third place.

The 1979 blockbuster Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver, was fourth and Transformers, released in 2007, was fifth.

Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, was sixth. Star Trek was seventh, War Of The Worlds was eighth, Fifth Element was ninth and Aliens was 10th.

A spokesman for the phone recycling website which carried out the study said "E.T. is funny and engaging and will never be equalled in terms of originality and global appeal."

SOURCE: The Mirror.


Grannies and knitting are inextricably linked, but only now has heightened demand meant that they can charge for their woolly creations. By getting customers to order exactly what they want as opposed to letting the ladies go wild with lime green.

Katie Mowat, 27, has taken the knitting phenomenon to it's logical conclusion and founded Grannies Inc. (http://www.granniesinc.co.uk/). The website harnesses the knitting power of time-rich grannies across the country, to produce made-to-order, hand-knitted beanies for the younger generation without the time or patience (prices start at £20.)

A keen knitter herself, Katie left her job in the City to start her business and found that when she tried to recruit knitters to fulfil her orders, they were all of an older generation. "I decided to take advantage of their experience and turn it into a quirky element of my company" she says. So not only do customers get the benefit of decades of knitting knowhow, but grannies make extra money through their hobby. And hopefully there will will be fewer reindeer jumpers around this Christmas.

SOURCE: Alexia Skinitis reporting in The Telegraph.

9 Oct 2009


Funny isn't it - just yesterday afternoon I did a post mentioning the works of T.S. Eliot, only for Hubby to come in with a copy of our local newspaper which contained this article about the poet and his famous book - OLD POSSUM'S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS - which celebrates it's 70th anniversary this year.


A popular children's illustrator met with young fans to an exhibition launch in our region.

Axel Scheffler, who is best known for illustrating the award-winning picture book The Gruffalo, opened a new display at Seven Stories, the centre for children's book based in Newcastle's Ouseburn Valley.

The mini exhibition commemorates Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, which has been re-illustrated by Axel for it's 70th anniversary edition, as well as the 80th anniversary of Faber And Faber Publishers.

T.S. Eliot's much-loved collection of poems has been a success since it first appeared in 1939 and has never been out of print.

Eliot (1888-1965) was born in St Louis Missouri, USA. He came to England in 1914 and published his first book of poems in 1917.

Most of the poems in Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats were written between 1936 and 1938 including the famous poems MACAVITY, DEUTERONOMY and MR MISTOFFELEES.

The collection was also the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber's award-winning musical Cats, in which the poems are set to music.

Axel is the latest in a long line of distinguished illustrators to bring Eliot's cats to life.

Axel said: "I felt very honoured to be asked to illustrate such a classic and I'm always impressed how popular the poems are in the English-speaking world."

The work is now open to the public. The Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats will be running until Spring 2010 in the Bookden at Seven Stories.

It is also the inspiration for Paws And Claws week - an entire week of crafty feline fun at Seven Stories this October half term which starts on Saturday, 24th October.

SOURCE: The Chronicle.

8 Oct 2009


Today, October 8th 2009, is National Poetry Day.

I'm not a huge fan of poetry as such, and though I do have a few books I don't like reading them myself - to me poetry is something to listen to.

Being a lover of cats I, of course, have a copy of T.S. Eliot's OLD POSSUM'S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS which Hubby reads to me every now and then. And then, of course, there's THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, a childhood favourite by Edward Lear.

Also based on cats, is this poem that was sent to me a long time ago by a friend who is also very fond of all things feline.

Cats sleep
Any table,
Any chair,
Top of piano,
In the middle,
On the edge,
Open drawer,
Empty shoe,
Lap will do,
Fitted in a
Cardboard box,
In the cupboard,
With your frocks -
They don't care!
Cats sleep,

And, from another poetry book of mine, THE POETRY OF CATS, edited by Samuel Carr, comes this wonderful little poem entitled ' The Scribe' Cat' - written in the 18ty century, author unknown, it is translated from the Irish by Robin Flower.

I and Pangur Ban, my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

PETTY WITTER SAYS: There is lot of information about National Poetry Day available on-line but one of my favourite sites is THE POETRY SOCIETY which contains lots of poems plus a wonderful article entitled 'knit a poem' which might be of particular interest to all you arty-crafty bloggers out there.


As most of you are probably aware I like amusing (some would say silly) articles, something to put a smile on my face.

Today, whilst browsing through the blogs I regularly visit I came across this gem that made me laugh - "Two yobs who attacked a pair of cross-dressers picked on the wrong guys - they were cage fighters on a night out in fancy dress." To see the whole story pop over to THE WORLD OF DOORMAN- PRIEST who along with his wife, Mrs. Doorman Priest, and a group of several others encouraged me to start blogging - yes, he's one of the people you have to blame.

7 Oct 2009


Trade Wind by M.M. Kaye.

In Trade wind M.M. Kaye tells a story which displays a wealth of exciting incident against a historical background of great fascination, much of which is based in fact. This novel gives full scope to her skill in devising a full-blooded tale of adventure, suspense and romance, which will enthral the huge audience which M.M. Kaye now has throughout the world following the success of The Far Pavilions and Shadows Of The Moon.

Most of the action of the novel takes place in Zanzibar in the middle of the nineteenth century, at which time the lovely island has become the last and greatest centre of the Slave Trade.
The story involves two pairs of adversaries - Daniel Larrimore, a naval officer of the British ant-slavery patrol, versus a renegade English slaver Emory Frost; and the ruling sultan, Majid-bin-Said, whose half -brother and Heir-Apparent, Seyyid Bargash is plotting to dispose him. A visitor to the Island, the American Consul's niece, Hero Hollis, who has arrived there under peculiar circumstances, instantly embroils herself in both conflicts. For Hero is a passionate opponent of slavery, and her main reason for coming to Zanzibar is a determination to do everything possible to stamp out its abominable traffic in human beings; a crusade in which she feels sure that her uncle's handsome stepson, Clayton Mayo, can be counted upon to help her. But the task she has set herself proves to be far harder, more violent and more complicated than she had ever imagined, and she finds herself involved in considerable trouble, including an armed revolt, an abduction, and an appalling cholera epidemic that claims the lives of over twenty thousand of the island's inhabitants.

... From the inner, front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: In view of the far-fetching effects that a few words mumbled by a disreputable old Irishwoman were to have on the life of Hero Athena Hollis, only child of Barclay Hollis of Boston, Massachusetts, it would be interesting to know to what degree, if any, pre-natal influence was responsible for her character and opinions.

If I am to be brutally honest, I can't help but think that Trade Wind sells itself on the back of the popularity of The Far Pavilions. At over 550 pages it is too long and has neither the plot or characters to sustain interest.

Having read The Far Pavilions many years ago, I was pleased to receive a copy of this novel as I had really enjoyed its predecessor - perhaps this was part of the problem and I was expecting too much from it.

The book started very well with an exciting opening sentence that captured my imagination and had me intrigued but sadly this wasn't to be the case for very long.

I like historical novels and especially those based around actual events and/or people but I'm afraid there was nothing new in the telling of this story which was overlong and, in places, quite rambling. The fact that so much was made of Hero being against slavery was also a bit of a let down as the issue of slavery seemed to come a poor second to other aspects of the story such as the relationship between Hero and the roguish Emory Frost. The characters, though with wonderful names such as Hero Athena Hollis and Batty Potter, were also poorly written and seemed to fall into one of two categories - either total stereotypes or so far from stereotypical they were unbelievable.

All in all, a very disappointing effort that was hard work and took a lot longer to read then it's 553 pages warranted.

MY RATING: 1.5 out of a possible 5.

6 Oct 2009


YES I've done it, mission accomplished - I've finished Trade Wind and will review it tomorrow.

Probably just as well as tonight was my book club night so I have another book to read for that plus one of the members passed on two books that she had duplicates of.

The book club read is GUERNICA, a first novel by Dave Boling and was chosen by our only male member - yes, the lucky man gets to spend an hour every month in the presence of us 10 or so woman discussing books.

Whilst the two books given to me are, also a first novel, FALSE AMBASSADOR by Christopher Harris and A QUESTION OF INTEGRITY by Susan Howatch.

Leigh Russell's 'Lemmings'.

Like me, I'm sure that many of you have bought books at discount prices, buy one get one free promotions and/or charity shops - how many times have I written about the 'bargain' that I got at the library?

Have you ever stopped to think about the effect this has on the author and publishers? If I'm being totally honest, me neither. Leigh Russell, blogger and author of CUT SHORT wrote a really interesting article entitled 'Lemmings' on her blog CRIME FICTION which looks at just this subject. Now, I'm not saying I'll never step foot in a charity shop again or buy that cut price book but it will certainly make me think. Why not visit Leigh, I'm sure she will be delighted to hear your views, just as I will be .

5 Oct 2009

Stories Which Captivate Readers.

I don't know what's wrong with me but I'm not enjoying reading at the moment -perhaps this is more to do with the book than me, but it is unusual all the same.

Years ago I read THE FAR PAVILIONS By M.M. Kaye and really enjoyed it so when Hubby brought in a copy of TRADE WIND last month I was delighted. Only problem is, I'm finding it really hard work and am not enjoying it at all but I can't give in and admit defeat so shall carry on despite having a large pile of books looking at me, begging to be read.

Anyway, this morning a catalogue from RED HOUSE arrived, this being a book catalogue aimed mainly at children but also young adults, inside of which was an article by children's author Andy Stanton entitled "Andy Stanton highlights the importance of magical stories which captivate readers." It's a really interesting read in which the author explores "What on earth is Magical Storytelling?" To find out for yourself merely click on 'Red House' and follow the links to Featured author, Andy Stanton.

P.S. Yes, I did order some new books. Well, they are at discounted prices plus the packaging and posting is free.
-'The Gates' by John Connolly
- 'The Declaration' and 'The Resistance' both by Gemma Malley.

Combine these three with the 4 ex-library books I bought at the weekend for the bargain price of £1.50 with the already large pile waiting to be read, add in the fact that tomorrow is my book club night and I'm going to be very busy reading - if only I could finish Trade Wind.

4 Oct 2009

Picture Books 'Lose Out To Exams'.

Traditional picture books are disappearing from schools as reading for pleasure takes a back seat to exam revision, according to a leading author.

Anthony Browne, the Children's Laureate, said there was an increasing focus on more serious novels at a young age as parents and teachers attempted to boost children's reading skills.

He said it risked "devaluing" a number of books - such as WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak and Julia Donaldson's GRUFFALO - which children find "hugely enjoyable".

Next week the Booktrust charity's Children's Book Week will be based on the theme 'words and pictures'. Browne said: "Picture books have been marginalised in recent years. It may be driven by the focus on children passing tests".

"Parents also try to get their children to read more serious books from a younger age. But there is a danger that children can lose their enjoyment of reading if they are pushed on to books they're not ready for."

Source: The Daily Telegraph.

2 Oct 2009

How's That For Revenge!

In England, according to a poll of 3000, the average male spends 43 minutes a day eyeing up women. However, the average woman only spends 20 minutes a day checking out men. The poll found that most people felt flattered at being noticed, but 16% of women said it made them uncomfortable and 20% said it was embarrassing.

Meanwhile, In Austria a group of construction workers in Vienna, who regularly chat up women who pass their building site, fled and hid when one of their targets stripped naked and ran up to them shouting, "Who wants me?"

1 Oct 2009

All gone?

Almost 4 weeks ago (was it really that long ago?) I wrote a post about some unwelcome guests who had decided to take up residency in the roof space just outside our bedroom window - Yes, we had a wasps nest.

Today the man from pest control turned up to do the necessary, not any protective gear in sight (was I disappointed!), he merely aimed a narrow tube full of some chemical in the general direction and left with the advice that they should all be dead within the hour but if we were still having problems in the next week to give him a call, we might consider not walking about in our bare feet as if any were to get into the house, even if they were dead, they could still sting and, oh yes, a bill for £35.00.

Childhood favourites.

Today's post was inspired by Sharon's Garden Of Book Reviews. Talking in her post 'Charming Children's Books' about children's books made me think back to my first and (not to mention) second childhoods.

I have a shelf at home that contains all my favourite 'childhood' books including some that belonged to my mam as a girl, some that belonged to my (naughty?) little sister and I as children and some that were given to me as a, supposedly, grown-up.

On that shelf is a book belonging to my mam entitled THE FAMILY FROM ONE END STREET, it's author is Eve Garnett and inside is the inscription 'Presented to -------, a pupil of Falla Park Road JM*. A very polite and mannerly pupil whose industry and ability has gained her two scholarships - H.D.L Hardwick, Class teacher, 1960.' Imagine how pleased I was to find that this is still being published today though no longer in it's plain maroon cover and certainly more expensive then it was then.

Also on that shelf is a book bought just recently by Hubby, entitled ONE RAINY DAY, this book was written by M. Christina Butler and is all about a hedgehog (no surprises there then) with wonderful shimmering graphics by Tina Macnaughton.

So what else is there?

+ A box-set of all seven books in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
+ The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
+ Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
+ Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne

+ The House At Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
+ The Hedgehog by Angela Sheehan
+ Prickly Pig by Gillian McClure
+ The Tale Of Anabelle Hedgehog by Stephen Lawhead
+ The Tale Of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter
+ Tales From Fern Hollow, Spike And The Cowboy Band by John Patience
+ The Happy Hedgehog Band by Jill Barton
+ The Adventures Of Hadrian Hedgehog by Candida Lycett Green and Christopher Thyme
+ Forest Folk Tales, The Prickly Hedgehog by Snezana Pejacovic
+ The Hodgeheg by Dick King-Smith
+ The New Oxford Treasury Of Children's Poems
+ A Tapestry Of Tales by Sandra Palmer and Elizabeth Breuilly

+ The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss
+ How The Grinch Stole Christmas By Dr. Seuss
+ Green Eggs And Ham by Dr. Seuss
+ The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
+ The Gruffalo's Child by Julia Donaldson
+ Spot Tells The Time by Eric Hill
+ The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
+ Q Pootle 5 by Nick Butterworth
+ A Day With Sam by Debbie Hunsley**
+ Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
+ The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley
+ The Life And Surprising Times Of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
+ Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

+ Song Of The South by Disney Productions
+ Once Upon A Christmas by Davis Oxtoby
+ A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
+ Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
+ Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
+ Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
+ The Boy In The Blue Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
+ A box-set of all 7 books in the Harry Potter series.
+ The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon

*JM - Junior Mixed
** Unavailable to buy, this book published by ARTHRITIS CARE is distributed by hospitals and was written for children living with various different forms of arthritis.

How many of these books are favourites of yours, your children or, even, your grandchildren? What would you add to the list?