30 Sep 2010



Washington DC: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned at the last minute to deliver an evening lecture in the Capitol Building. Within moments of his arrival, however, a disturbing object - gruesomely encoded with five symbols - is discovered at the epicentre of the Rotunda. It is , he recognises, an ancient invitation, meant to beckon its recipient towards a long-lost world of hidden esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon's revered mentor, Peter Solomon - philanthropist and prominent mason - is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes that his only hope of saving his friend's life is to accept this mysterious summons and follow wherever it leads him.

Langdon finds himself quickly swept behind the facade of  America's most powerful city into the unseen chambers, temples and tunnels which exist there. All that was familiar is transformed into a shadowy, clandestine world of an artfully concealed past in which Masonic secrets and never-before-seen revelations seem to be leading him to a single impossible and inconceivable truth.
...... From the inner front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (from the prologue): The secret is how to die.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: The library's closed lady.
But the woman didn't seem to care. She seized one of the heavy ring-shaped handles, heaved it backward, and let it fall with a loud crash against the door. Then she did it again. And again. And again.
Wow, the homeless man thought, she must really need a book.

Almost a year since The Lost Symbol was released and still there is a list of people all wishing to reserve this book at our library.

What can I say? Wonderful, fascinating and totally unputdownable even if it was a bit unbelievable with cheesy dialogue in places. How I wish I knew where fact ended and fiction began in this masterpiece by Dan Brown.

Full of twists and turns, this was a roller coaster of a ride with wonderful characters throughout. I especially liked the female leads, Katherine Solomon and Sato, both driven and intelligent, they were wonderfully written. And as for the 'baddie' Mal'akh? Perhaps my favourite character of all, evil genius (his torture of Langdon was truly chilling) and yet, a strangely sad character - some of the best written parts, I firmly believe, involve his story.

A great read, I'm sure this will also be made into a film.

The Lost Symbol was a library book read, read as part of the SEPTEMBER SPECTACULAR READING CHALLENGE it is my fifth and final book. Click HERE for links to the other books read for the challenge and HERE to see what other books bloggers have been reading/reviewing as part of their challenge.

29 Sep 2010


Now nearing the end of Banned Book Week I thought I'd add another dimension to the posts I have already written on the subject by bringing you this article from BBC Magazine (thanks to Husband dearest for providing the link) which, in part, looks at the differences between the system here in the UK and the USA.

In the US more and more parents are pressing schools to withdraw books with bad language or sexual content. But should children's books be restricted in this way?
There is a battle being fought in America over books.
The skirmishes see concerned parents "challenge" books which are being used in schools.
Other parents are fighting for the right of their children to go into their school library and pick up those very same books.

There's a disparity between the US and UK. While in the US, formal challenges to books in school libraries are routine, they are very unusual in the UK.
Part of the difference is in the level of local control over schools. Typically in the US, locally-elected school boards can have books withdrawn when parents petition them.
In the UK, control lies almost exclusively in the hands of headteachers, says Sally Duncan, of the School Library Association. She can recall one primary school that refused to have any Harry Potter books because of the supernatural content, but such moves are rare.
"Parents are perhaps less likely to complain about the content of books in the UK as, by and large, we are a less 'religious' society," says Ms Duncan.

Click HERE to see the whole article. Oh and do let us know what you think.

28 Sep 2010


Over eighty years since Winnie-the-Pooh first delighted readers, David Benedictus takes us back to the Hundred Acre Wood for more adventures.

From the excitement of Christopher Robin's return to the curious business of learning to play cricket, Return To The Hundred Acre Wood allows readers to spend a few more treasured hours with the Best Bear in All the World.

....... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: Pooh and Piglet, Christopher Robin and Eeyore were last seen in the Forest - oh, can it really be eighty years ago?

MEMORABLE MOMENT: "Oh, Lottie, I am sorry," said Christopher Robin, but the truth of it was that he couldn't remember whether Lottie had four legs or two, and it seemed rude to look.

Oh dear what a disappointment. I so loved the 'Pooh' books as a child (and adult) and this latest offering just didn't come up to scratch.

Inspired by the original works of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard, these stories were not nearly as endearing and the addition of new characters (including Lottie) did little to compensate.

Some of the original characters were almost unidentifiable with Eeyore (always my favourite) being particularly badly written. Always gloomy and often quite cynical, he occasionally bordered on being sarcastic in a very lovable, funny kind of way and yet in Return To The Hundred Acre Wood he was sarcastic to the point of nastiness. Then there was Pooh himself - what ever happened to his love of honey? In this edition his snack of choice was said to be 'toast and marmalade,' (surely the preferred choice of that other British bear, PADDINGTON) 'and condensed milk'.

Winnie-the-Pooh - 1926.

As for the illustrations - I did not like these either as they were quite unlike the drawings of the originals with Tigger and (once again) Eeyore looking particularly different from the Tigger and Eeyore of my childhood.

Would I have enjoyed this book more if I was not so familiar with the original books? Somehow I doubt it but you never know.

Return To The Hundred Acre Wood was a Christmas gift.

27 Sep 2010


A post in which I normally bring you the news in the week-end's papers but I couldn't resist including this article which featured in Thursday night's (Newcastle) Evening Chronicle.

A modern-day Romeo failed to win back (the fair hand of) his Juliet after a bungled romantic gesture landed him in court.
In a scene likened to the William Shakespeare classic, heartbroken Lee Kinson climbed up the drain-pipe (surely that should be stood under the balcony) to his former girlfriend's home in an attempt to win back her heart.
BUT as he leaned over to knock on Sarah Davison's bedroom window, the drain-pipe snapped and he fell into her neighbours garden.
(Obviously without a romantic bone in their bodies) the police arrested Kinson who was later fined for criminal damage, with the district judge commenting that rather than a scene from Romeo And Juliet this was more like a scene from Mr Bean (pictured above).

Then in Friday night's Daily Telegraph were these two articles.

Forget all those anti-aging creams, face lifts, botox injections etc - the answer to aging it seems is a ground-floor flat or bungalow.

Proving one of EINSTEINS THEORIES OF RELATIVITY, researchers found that the further away from the Earth you are, the faster time passes. This means, though the differences are minuscule, you will age quicker if you live in a top-floor flat than a bungalow. - Richard Alleyne (click HERE  for full article.)

I know they say that if one is ever confronted by a shark you should smack it on it's nose but what about a bear? Well, if it was Paddington, that marmalade loving bear, I suppose one could always offer a sandwich but otherwise I'm not too sure, however ........

(This) woman fended off a bear attack with a courgette.
The 200lb black bear attacked one of the woman's dogs on the porch of her home (and she) reached for the nearest object to hand - a courgette she had harvested from her garden.
The woman threw the courgette at the bear which fled.

With more and more parents having to work and childcare places often expensive, it is falling more and more to relatives to fill the gap. Enough is enough!

A call has gone out for grandparents around Spain to down tools this Wednesday and go on strike. - Giles Tremlett, the Guardian. (click HERE for full story.)

And so onto Saturday's papers with these two articles from the Daily Telegraph.

(Talk about singing for one's supper) The world's leading karaoke singers have flown to Russia to compete for a top prize of  ........... one million Siberian dumplings.

Police send police search and rescue helicopter AND five cars to look for lost police dog.

A spokesman for North Wales police said 'A training exercise took place involving the dog section. On the same day an off-duty police dog, that was not involved or played any part in the exercise, got away from it's handler and was missing for around about 20 minutes.'

26 Sep 2010


A 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy enter a concealed space and remain there for two years. They do not like each other. She is precocious and attention-seeking. He is sullen and grieves for his lost girlfriend, to whose memory he miserably masturbates. But as time – marked only by the changes in the patch of sky and single treetop visible from an attic window – passes them by, they fall in love. Sexual desire uncoils in this dim hiding place. Unfortunately, the couple have no privacy to explore, let alone consummate, their relationship because they are living in very close quarters with her parents and her sister, his parents, and a querulous dentist. In these circumstances, every murmur, fart, endearment, is overheard; every glance, move, touch is witnessed. They cannot escape this purgatory because actual hell awaits them in the outside world.

Sounds interesting? Yes, I thought so until I read further and discovered that this was a new book ANNEXED, by Sharon Dogar - a brave retelling of Anne Frank's story according to Mal Peet in her article for the Guardian (click HERE to view.)

Now I'm usually a fairly opened minded person, not usually the type to totally condemn a book/a film etc without having watched/read it for myself and I'm not going to start now BUT at the same time I believe that certain books should be left well alone.

The harrowing, true life story of a young Jewish girl who, along with family and friends, is forced to go into hiding in an attic in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, I believe should be read by every school child. Therefore to say that I am disappointed that some author has seen fit to retell (exploit?) the story is to put it mildly but as I said I'm not one for condemning things out of hand which leaves me with a bit of a dilemma - to read Annexed or not?

What do you think? Do you intend to read the book? Should certain stories be left well alone? It's over to you.

25 Sep 2010


Isn't it strange how some people can get away with saying certain things to you without any offence being taken and yet if another person was to say similar you may well be offended by what they had to say. Well! I kind of like feel like this about these jokes.

A little boy gets home from school and says "Dad, Dad, I've got a part in the school play. I play a man who has been married for 25 years."

Woefully shaking his head, the dad replies, "Never mind son. Maybe next time you'll get a talking part."

A man wakes up this morning at 8 and could smell something was wrong. He goes down stairs and sees his wife lying face down on the kitchen floor, not breathing. He panics, he does not know what to do ....... then he remembers, McDonalds serve breakfast until 10.30.

Thanks for those Paul, Perhaps I shouldn't have laughed but I did.

Not had enough yet? Need to hear more jokes? I have just the thing ....... Go visit BETTY for yet another post that will have you smiling/laughing/groaning (delete as applicable).

24 Sep 2010



Things are looking up for Measle. He's been reunited with his parents and they're making up for lost time and having lots of fun. It seems too good to last.

And it is. The mysterious Dragodon and his gang of wicked Wrathmonks have cast apell on Measle's dad and snatched his mum. Measle and his dog, Tinker, have only one clue, and it leads them to a deserted theme park - The Isle of Smiles.

Being hunted down by horrors in a dark, wet funfair is anything but fun! Measle is on a mission with more ups and downs than any rollercoaster - can he save the day once again?
...... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: The dingy, dreary street was still there, with it's two rows of dingy, dreary houses.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: "You can't have a dragon getting married! And even if you could - well, my mum wouldn't do it! She'd never marry a dragon. And she wouldn't hold hands with one, either!"

The second in a series of books and though I haven't read parts one or two I do not feel this has in any way spoilt my enjoyment of this story though of course I'm sure to be missing some of the history of Measle and his previous adventure.

Not unlke Harry Potter, Measle is the son of two magical types, his mother's magic much 'stronger' than his father. Both bounty hunters, they are employed by the Wizard's Guild to 'ferret out Wrathmonks' - wrathmonks being 'the most feared branch of sorcery'.

Anyway, this story finds Measle back at Merlin Manor where nothing is quite as it seems - certainly not the yellow beans or the seemingly innocent garden gnome.

With a cast of 'intresting' characters (I think that that is the best way of describing them), Measle And The Dragodon is very funny in places but in others the author tries too hard to be funny and it all becomes overly silly though whether or not an 8 to 13 year old (the age range it is intended for) would agree is debatable.

Quite scary in place (I will never look at a fairground toy or carousel horse in the same way again) one of the really delightful things about this book was the talking car which shared some witty, if not obvious, dialogue with Measle.

But do you know what I reall, really liked about this book? The graphics - simple ink drawings, I thought they were delightful.

A novel I will be recommending to Niece #2. Hopefully she will also get the others in the series and I can then read them as well.
Measle And The Dragodon was exchanged at a Wetherspoons pub Book Exchange.* Book 4 for  my SEPTEMBER SPECTACULAR READING CHALLENGE - click HERE for links to the first three books read and HERE to see what other bloggers are reading as their challenge.

* Yes! As well as good, fairly priced food I can now also exchange books for free with other like-minded people.

23 Sep 2010


I don't normally do competitions and giveaways in my main post, I have a special page dedicated to this, but decided to make an exception for this one.

Having earlier in the month posted on BANNED BOOKS I thought I'd follow up with this post, SPEAK OUT , courtesy of Karen over at For What It's Worth who informs us of Bloggers Speak Out.

Bloggers Speak Out is a movement sparked by the recent article, Filthy Books Demeaning to Republic Education (click HERE to view) by Dr. Wesley Scroggins that was published in the Springfield, MO News-Leader on September 18th. In this article, Scroggins vehemently advocates the censorship of books in schools, and specifically requests that the following books be removed from the Republic school system: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. To show our support of these authors and to fight against book banning and censorship, we have decided to take action and speak out.

Anyway, having decided that as many people as possible should read these books in order to make up their own minds Karen has five copies of SPEAK up for grabs. In order to be in with a chance of getting hold of one of these simply click on the Speak Out  link at the top of this post for terms and conditions etc.

22 Sep 2010



For Lucy Sweeney, motherhood isn't all astanga yoga and Cath Kidston prints. It's been years since the dirty laundry pile was less than a metre high, months since Lucy remembered to have sex with her husband, and a week since she last did the school run wearing pyjamas.

Motherhood, it seems, has more pitfalls than she might have expected. Caught between perfectionist Yummy Mummy No 1 and hypercompetitive Alpha Mum, Lucy is in danger of losing the parenting plot. And worst of all she's alarmingly distracted by Sexy Domesticated Dad. It's only a matter of time before the dirty laundry quite literally blows up in her face ....

.... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: I leave my contact lenses to soak overnight in a coffee cup and wake up in the morning to discover that Husband on a Short Fuse has drunk them in the night.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: "Once upon a time, middle-aged men blew their cover by calling trousers slacks and referring to all women under sixty as girls now all it takes is writing a text message in long hand."

I thought this would be a quick read, something I could easily delve into between hospital visits - wrong! I found myself reluctant to pick it up at all and could only manage to read a few pages at a time before becoming bored by it all.

With no real story as such and characters I failed to identify with, Slummy Mummy seemed more like a collection of memories put together as opposed to a novel.

Filled with stereotypical and predictable characters - yes, they were all there, the glamorous mother, the mother who takes her children to school wearing a coat over her pyjamas and the token, handsome father - the only one of any interest was Joe, a five year old who has a fixation with David Bowie's Major Tom, he comes out with some great things ......
(Told he is suffering from growing pains) "How do you know it isn't shrinking pains? Granny is smaller than she used to be. By the morning I will be so small you won't be able to see me any more" he said, his voice getting quieter and quieter. "And then I might get eaten by a dog on the way to school."

Riddled with urban myths (has anyone ever really put on yesterdays clothes only to discover, hours later, yesterdays underwear still in there, poking out the bottom of their trouser leg? I thought not) and cultural 'in jokes' that anyone outside of England would find difficult to understand and certainly wouldn't appreciate this is not a book I would personally recommend.

The Secret Life Of A Slummy Mummy came free with SHE magazine.

21 Sep 2010


Answer - they were all in the newspapers this week-end.

Enid Blyton once described herself as “a sightseer, a reporter, an interpreter”, the viewer of “a private cinema screen inside my head”. And this peculiarly guileless way of working, coupled with her remarkable speed – she wrote more than 600 children’s books, and claimed to be able to produce up to 10,000 words a day with her typewriter balanced precariously on her knee – gets to the heart of how we feel about her.
Though adults tend to find her books unoriginal and sloppily written, not to mention all the other complaints that have been heaped on Blyton over the past 20 years, from racism and sexism to snobbery, children keep coming back to her - Lorna Bradbury

An interesting but quite long article, I include the LINK for anyone who is interested.

As a child I can remember felling sheer dread as I swallowed a loose tooth along with a mouthful of banana. Dread that I would choke? No, dread that there would be no tooth to leave under my pillow for the tooth fairy.

Tradition has it that the tooth fairy would leave a silver coin for the child who had lost a milk tooth.

That meant a sixpence (2 1/2p) not so long ago (I got 10p) but now the fairy will have to carry more change on her journeys because the average gift has reached ****** (Go on, guess, I'll post the answer tomorrow) with 10% of parents fairies leaving  £5 or more. That would mean £100 for a whole set.

The myth was believed to have originated with the Vikings, who were said to have paid a 'tooth fee' for children's teeth because they were considered  valuable tokens that warded off witches and demons.

I've brought you several articles about cows over the last few months - cows that were played music, cows that had Shakespeare recited to them - but this takes the biscuit OR should I say the oregano?

An answer to global warming may well be sitting on your kitchen shelf.

Scientists have found that feeding oregano to cattle cuts their wind - from both ends - by nearly half. And that's no small matter, for the methane they let loose - mainly by burping - is 23 times more effective in heating up the planet than carbon dioxide.

And now for the Picture Of The Week (click HERE) How cute is this? Bob the meerkat has been young lioness Zinzi's best pal ever since her mother rejected her at birth.

All of today's post comes courtesy of articles in the Daily Telegraph.

PS. The average amount left by the tooth fairy is ........... £1.63 stirling which I believe is just over $2.5.

20 Sep 2010


“I don't pretend to know what love is for everyone, but I can tell you what it is for me; love is knowing all about someone, and still wanting to be with them more than any other person, love is trusting them enough to tell them everything about yourself, including the things you might be ashamed of, love is feeling comfortable and safe with someone, but still getting weak knees when they walk into a room and smile at you." - Hugh Walpole, British dramatist and novelist 1884 - 1941.

And this is how I still feel, my Husband dearest, after 24 years of marriage.

And now for what Husband dearest had to say:-
"The following was in the charts the year after my beloved was born. It is possibly the most cheesy 60's record I have ever heard, and also the only track I know of, called 'Tracy'. Its high score on the cheesiness scale however does not obliterate the sentiment expressed, with which I wholeheartedly agree after 24 years manacled together...and so begins our 25th year together in unholy dreadlock."

Click HERE to go visit him and hear this wonderfully cheesy song.

When I'm with you,
Something you do,
Bounces me off the ceiling."

19 Sep 2010


Kids! Don't you just love 'em and especially when they get to that age when it's all questions - why, what, when - and all usually asked at the most inconvient of times.

Following on from Suko's KID'S QUESTIONS I thought I'd get on the bandwagon and join in with the fun.

But why can't I marry the cat

Why are they a flock of sheep and not sheeps

Is it true that the ice-cream man only plays that song when he has no ice-cream left

Can a wolf really huff and puff until they blow the house down

Did she really eat that baby in her tummy

Nana's so old, will she die soon

Is thunder really God moving his furniture around

18 Sep 2010


Thanks to JENN over at Just Add Water, Silly it seems I'm now 'IT' .....

"and I have to answer several questions about me to let you know me better. Then I tag four other unsuspecting bloggers. Hehehe. This game of tag started all the way across the water in the Neatherlands. Isn't it fun that one can get to know so many widespread people because we all blog?"

OK, as my nana would say, "in for a penny, in for a pound."
4 Things in my purse (my bag?):-
* A small velvet bag containing amethysts which is my birthstone.
* Various medicinal things - inhalers, pain killers etc.
* A photograph of Husband dearest and myself.
* A piece of cake from last Sunday's Christening (urgh, I forgot that was there).
4 Things in (on) my desk:-
* Various newspaper clippings (no surprise there).
* A 'lucky' coin.
* A bell.
* A tin of mint imperials.
4 Favourite things in my bedroom:-
(Hd isn't really a thing. No, can't add him.)
* A Bag Puss hot water bottle cover (similar to the one right).
* The tv/video remotes.
* My 1950's jewellery box
* A lava lamp.
4 Things I always wanted to do (but haven't yet):-
* Rolled around on a bed of bubble wrap.
* Be a bridesmaid.
* Slept on an train.
* Find a bag that lights up when opened.
4 Things I enjoy very much at the moment:-
* Planning our 25th wedding anniversary celebrations for next year.
* Being out and about in Madge.
* Reading a book by an author I've only just discovered.
* Another series of True Blood.
4 Songs I can't get out of my head:-
(Sorry to remind you all) *  'If I only had a brain' (No silly, that's the title of the song).
* 'Living next door to Alice' by Smokie. (click HERE to listen).
* 'We will wash it' (click HERE to listen to my favourite song from Bag Puss. I love to sing whilst I have a duster in my hand and guarantee I'll have you all singing it).
* 'Black Velvet' by Alannah Myles (click HERE to listen).
4 Things you don't know about me:-
(Unlike Jenn) * I can't whistle.
* I promised to marry my first love ..... when I was two years old.
* Yum, I tried some rose, and violet flavoured chocolates for the first time last month.
* I once sent for some incontinence pads just because they were free.
Now the four people I'm tagging:-
I thought I'd go with four bloggers who are fairly new visitors to Pen and Paper, so ..........
SUKO @ Suko's Notebook
SG @ Shoot The Breeze
HEATHER @ Buried In Books
......... You are all IT

To see Jenn as IT and for a link to Kimminita who started it all click HERE.

17 Sep 2010


A bit of a change to my line up of books - I was going to read Measles And The Dragodon by Ian Ogilvy as book 3 in my SEPTEMBER SPECTACULAR CHALLENGE but instead opted for Dead In The Family by Charlaine Harris. Not to worry though I will be reading Measle next and then The Lost Symbol as my final read. Apologies to those of you who were expecting Ken McCoy's Hammerhead, I promise I will read and review this at another time.

To view books ONE and/or TWO read for this challenge simply click on the relevant link. Whilst to view what other bloggers are reading as part of this challenge click HERE.

It's all about family .....

If you think your relationships are complicated, think again: you haven't seen anything like the ones in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Sookie Stackhouse is dealing with a whole host of family problems, ranging from her own kin (a non-human fairy and a telepathic second cousin) demanding a place in her life, to her lover Eric's vampire sire, an ancient being who arrives with Eric's 'brother' in tow at a most inopportune moment. And Sookie's tracking down a distant relation of her ailing neighbour (and ex), Vampire Bill Compton.

In addition to the multitude of family issues complicating her life, the werewolf pack of Shrevesport has asked Sookie for a special favour, and since Sookie is an obliging young woman, she agrees. But this favour for the wolves has dire results for Sookie, who is still recovering from the trauma of her abduction during the Fairy war.
....... From the inner front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: "I feel bad I'm leaving you like this," Amelia said.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: .....  a child locked in a permanent grayness, a child who experienced only occasional flashes of pleasure and color in his new 'life'.

Normally a big fan of these books, I was so delighted to hear this, the latest novel in the series, was on it's way. What a disappointment.

With very little of the usual action we have come to expect of the 'Sookie books' and with several new strands of the storyline started only to fizzle out there was just something woefully lacking about Dead In The Family. I don't know if the author was under  pressure to write this the tenth novel or whether it was written as a 'bridge' to an eleventh book but I'm extremely sad to say that it just wasn't up to what we have come to expect from Charlaine Harris. And this from someone who has thoroughly enjoyed all her previous books -  I'm far from convinced I would have read any more of the series if this had been my first experience of her work.

That said, it wasn't all bad  - perhaps the one redeeming feature was the inclusion of Eric's 'brother' who, like 'Bubba', was another famous face who, though believed to be dead, had 'joined' the vampire community. A small glimpse of humour, this was just too little in what was an otherwise fairly humourless story that went nowhere.

Dead In The Family was a gift purchased from Amazon.

16 Sep 2010


Nursery rhymes . a waste of time? Teaching young children to recite the alphabet, memorise nursery rhymes or play musical instruments may be a waste of time, according to research.
Parents who spend hours educating children outside school have little impact on their future results, it was claimed.
The effect on children's language, literacy and social development was the same irrespective of how much time parents spent trying to improve their skills, said the Warwick University study.
The conclusions come despite repeated calls from the Government to get parents involved in their children's education. - Graeme Paton, the Daily Telegraph.

As an aunty to three, I have always believed in the importance of nursery rhymes and books both as a fun way to learn as well as a way to feel close to our nieces and nephew. Having helped raise Niece #1 and Nephew I always felt this was a positive thing to do and I still do.

All of this was further confirmed by my teaching assistant training - I mean we all agreed that the parents who took a real interest in their children's education, the parents who took time to read with their children, the parents who had fun with books/rhymes etc well, it showed in their children's wish to learn and very often in their children's use of language - so to be told it all may be a waste of time ......... what utter rubbish.

OK, so even if it was to be proven that all these activities had little or no impact on an educational level, what about the sheer joy of spending time with your children, of opening their eyes to a range of activities just for the sheer fun of it?

Too angry to write more. What do you think?

Off visiting my fellow bloggers as I do, I came across this INTERESTING POST over at Satisfaction For Insatiable Readers which looked at a book called Richard Wright And The Library Card which was about :-
"a young black man making his way in the world as society dictated...working, keeping his head down, and not asking questions.  Acceptable to some as a full life worth living, but Mr. Wright had other ideas.  You see, he had a burning desire to read, not only for enjoyment, but in the hopes of one day being able to change the hand he'd been dealt."

Which got me to thinking what if Richard Wright had been told that reading would not in any way, shape or form change the hand he had been dealt? Hmm, interesting. Anyway to read Gina's thoughts on the book simply click on the link above.

15 Sep 2010


 "The Shelf of Awesome is a shelf of books that, in brief, inspire me. No, you won’t find any “inspirational” books on The Shelf of Awesome. By inspire I mean these books are the ones that always inspire me to write, to read, to imagine, to love, to smile, and to find happiness."

First seen over at BRANDILEIGH'S SITE (Click HERE to view her Shelf Of Awesome) I was inspired to join in the fun by posting about my own Shelf Of Awesome.

* The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - All about becoming 'real'/ finding yourself.
 * Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - Oh to sail away if only for a day. To release your wild side, to let your inhibitions go.
* Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift - Imagine the amazing postcards you'd be able to send from all those different lands.
* The Enchanted Wood/The Folks Of The Faraway Tree by Enyd Blyton - Once again, to have all those magical lands at the top of your 'tree'. And with the Saucepan Man around you need never go looking for a pan again.
* The Matthew Shardlake series of books by CJ Sansom - Brings history to life.
* The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Unusual, one of the best books I've read for a long while.
* I Am What I Am/Anything Goes by John Barrowman - John Barrowman? Phwoar. Need I say anything more.
* The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - OK, so it probably isn't the best book in the world but anything that causes such controversy has to be worth a look.
* The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom - Truly inspirational and thought provoking.
* My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell - Probably the only animal stories that I can read without reaching for the tissues.

So-- If you had to chose 5-10 for your shelf of awesome-- what would you chose?

Feel free to leave your comments on Pen and Paper OR, better still,  make your own post and use Mr. Linky on Brandileigh's site by clicking on the above link.

14 Sep 2010


Not at all surprised with the contents of this week-ends newspapers - the release of TONY BLAIR'S BOOK, the outrage over the proposed Burn A Koran Day, the POPE'S VISIT to England - no, what surprised me was what was not in the papers.

The end of an era? Here in England, Friday night saw the end of BIG BROTHER - not just the end of the series but the end of the show .....  forever (or not as the case me be. I have the feeling some other company will take over the format). Anyway, I digress. Normally huge news, this years BB failed to get many inches of column space throughout the series but I thought as it was the final, the Ultimate BB, where we got to vote for our favourite housemate of all time it may have made the front pages in some of the newspapers. Alas, not a mention. Shame when you consider just how popular this programme once was.

OK, so now we know what wasn't in the papers, what was?

In the Daily Telegraph:-

Booker shortlist 'is a cliche'. Leading authors have criticised the Man Booker Prize shortlist because half of it is made up of novels written in the present tense.
Philip Pullman, the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy said: "This wretched fad has been spreading more and more widely. I can't see the appeal at all. To my mind, it narrows the options available to the writer."
(While) Philip Hensher, whose novel The Northern Clemency was Booker listed in 2008, said writers were mistaken in thinking that the present tense would make their writing more vivid.
"Writing is vivid if it is vivid," he said "A shift in tense won't do that for you." - Laura Roberts. (To view the Booker nominations list 2010 click HERE and to see my review of The Long Song by Andrea Levy which is one of the nominated click HERE.)

Know the man who has everything ........... or are you indeed THE man who has everything? OR perhaps you are just sick of buying/receiving handkerchiefs/socks and ties as gifts? Whoa, steady on there. Sick of buying/getting ties! Think again. I bet you have yet to buy/receive one of these .........

A tie that allows you to sleep on the job. Weary office workers can now snooze at their desks in comfort using a necktie that contains an inflatable cushion.
The Pillow Tie can be blown up with one breath and, if the boss walks past, this ultimate 'office sleep solution' can be deflated in seconds - AND the soft blend of fabric won't leave telltale creases on the face. (Let's hope it doesn't make too much of a, err, 'wind being released' sound as it deflates. Yes, you all know what I mean, no use pretending otherwise.)
The tie, costing £14.95, goes on sale in Britain next month (Just in time for Christmas.)
Click HERE to visit the official site - it really is quite funny as the advert below, only one of several, illustrates.

From the Sunday Sun:-

An Armenian sweet factory has made a chocolate bar (knew I'd get your attention) that Guinness World Records has certified as the world's biggest.
The chocolate bar produced by the Grand Candy factory in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, weighs 4,410 kilograms (9,702 pounds).

And, last but not least, from the Observer:-

An 81-year-old man had to be rescued by lifeboat after he went out to sea on a rubber dinghy to recover a ......... wheelie bin.
The man had spotted his neighbour's bin being swept out to sea as gales and high tides hit the coastline.
But when strong winds took hold, he was blown a mile off shore before the coastguard was alerted.
Suffering from mild hypothermia, the man was not wearing a life jacket or waterproof clothing.
 The lifeboat crew then went back out to tow in the wheelie bin, which (and the reporting of this is what had me really giggling) was still half full of rubbish.

Very neighbourly, very community spirited, very stupid .....

 Many of us will have heard (perhaps even made) the jokes about the elderly 'uncle (why is it always the uncle?) who, having had one or two drinks, takes to the dance floor at the wedding. Arms wind-milling, in danger of knocking over anyone who comes within ten feet of him, he always takes centre stage. An embarrassment/ a huge joke? Think again.

 Dr Nick Neave of Northumbria University has revealed that he's spent a great deal of time researching the male bump and grind. (No, it's not what you are thinking. Dr Neave has spent a lot of time researching what makes a man a good dancer -  or not.) He took 30 men and recorded their dance moves to a simple drum beat with motion-capture technology.
The resulting films of the men dancing with mannequins (health and safety would not allow the use of 'real' women in case their toes were stood upon) were played to women who were asked to rate each figure's attractiveness.
(The conclusion?) 'Seductive' male dancing involved "strength, suppleness and creativity" - bizarrely running on the spot and windmill-like arm movements were all considered attractive by the female judges. "It is showing off but it really works," said Dr Neave. "What the dancer is saying is 'I'm young, strong, healthy and fit'. If you had had a drink, you might think (what an idiot?) 'he's interesting, I'll go and have a chat'."
Rather eerily, blood samples taken after the experiment confirmed the theory - the 'best' dancers were also the healthiest. - Ian Tucker.

13 Sep 2010



England 1950. At Buckshaw, the crumbling country seat of the de Luce family, very-nearly-eleven-year-old Flavia is plotting revenge on her older sisters. Then a dead bird is left on the doorstep, which has an extraordinary effect on Flavia's eccentric father, and a body is found in the garden. As the police descend on Buckshaw, Flavia decided to do some investigating of her own.

..... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: It was as black in the closet as old blood.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: As he drank, I remembered that there's a reason we English are ruled more by tea than by Buckingham Palace or His Majesty's Government: apart from the soul, the brewing of tea is the only thing that sets us apart from the Great Apes.

The first of the Flavia De Luce mysteries and what a wonderful read it was. Nostalgic, witty, cleverly written and with a memorable cast of characters - who could resist names such as Flavia, Ophelia Gertrude, Dr Kissing, and Jacob Tingle?

Almost 11 year old Flavia is the rather unusual, unwitting heroine of our story. Kicked out of the Brownies for manufacturing ferric oxide to earn her domestic service badge, Flavia is intelligent beyond her years and yet. at the same time, argues with her sisters (Daphne and Ophelia Gertrude) as is typical of a girl her age.

Somewhat reminiscent of The Secret Seven/Famous Five Books made famous by Enid Blyton, Flavia is a child of times gone by, a child, who despite having found a dead body in the garden, lives in gentler times which makes this such a nice story to read.

A book I would highly recommend to those who like their crime served with a little sugar, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie is an enchanting read.

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie was a book club read.

12 Sep 2010


Over the last few days I've visited several blogs who were 'talking' about judging books by their covers - covers that made you want to pick up a book, covers that turned you off. Only human, I've occasionally judged a book by its cover. Indeed, I've been guilty of just this 'crime' in the last day or so.

A big fan of the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series of books by Charlaine Harris, I was delighted when Husband dearest announced he'd ordered me a copy of her latest book DEAD IN THE FAMILY.

But what an awful cover - not that I would have been put off buying it but given the option I would have preferred a different cover.

What do you think? Ever been tempted to buy/not buy a book by looking at its cover?

11 Sep 2010


I can remember there being some blog talk about Banned Book Week (BBW) last year but, to be honest, had not thought about it since until I saw this comment left by Heather (BURIED IN BOOKS) on Pen and Paper:-

"We are celebrating Banned Book Weeks over here in the States- celebrating our right to freedom of speech and freedom of the books that didn't get banned, such as Harry Potter series objection-witchcraft, Twilight Series-religion, sex, many of Roald Dahl's books etc.
"Just wondering since we're talking PC, do you have a lot of do gooders trying to ban books and do your libraries have a celebration for winning out over the objectors?"

Hmm! Interesting.

Firstly, for those of you unaware of what BBW is all about, it's

 "an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September*, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States."

So what sort of books are on the list? Well, according to the Guardian newspaper the top10 banned books 2010 include:-

+ At number 01 - And Tango Makes Three - Justin Richardson (Anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group)
+ At number 02 - His Dark Materials trilogy - Philip Pullman (Political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence)
+At number 09 - The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group)
+At number 10 - Flashcards Of My Life - Charise Merigle Harper (Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group)
Click HERE for full article)

Which brings me to ALISON CAN READ, who along with HEATHER, is currently taking part in a Banned Books Challenge and has recently reviewed The Giver by Lois Lowry (click HERE for her review.)

Oh and while I'm on the subject, why not go visit BANNED BOOKS in which various bloggers including Sheila (Book Journey) who takes a look at TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD (what you didn't know this was on the list) - get to review banned books.

But not only about the banning of books, during BBW, AMNESTY INTERNATIONALdirects attention to the plight of individuals who are persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read - PEOPLE LIKE ........(click on link to view.)

Not aware of any such week here in England, I thought I had better do some research.

According to that font of all knowledge Wikipedia:-

"Almost every country places some restrictions on what may be published, although the emphasis and the degree of control differ from country to country and at different periods." 

Unable to find any list(s), I put my thinking cap on and remembered, that whilst they had not actually been banned, there were several books that had caused a certain amount of controversy here in England in recent years - books such as Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and, indeed, as mentioned above,  And Tango Makes Three which has been banned by some (mostly catholic) schools. And then of course, going back through history, we had the Bible, many versions of which were prohibited/destroyed at one time or another largely depending on whether there was a Catholic or Protestant Monarch on the throne at that time.

But do you know what I found even more hateful, even more disturbing, than BBW? A church in America was actually organising a Burn A Koran Day which was thankfully (and rightfully) cancelled at the last minute.Is it just me or does this have awful parallels with the burning of certain religious texts during the Second World War?

*This year BBW takes place between the 25th of September and the 2nd of October.

So what are your opinions, do you believe books should be censored? Have you read any books that have been banned and if so do you agree/disagree with the ban?

10 Sep 2010



He watches them from afar. He knows who they are and where they are. He is waiting in the dark .......

A stranger stalks the streets of Houghton-Le-Spring and for Detective Inspector Lorraine Hunt he is getting too close for comfort.

Selina, the daughter of Lorraine's partner, DS Luke Daniels, is a beautiful and wilful sixteen-year-old with a dark past. Just as it seems she's finally getting back on her feet, she is attacked. Is Selina's past catching up with her? Or is there an even more sinister motive for the assault?

Before long, Lorraine and Luke's worst fears are realised, and a body is found. A young woman, brutally murdered,her heart cut out, and in its place - a single white rose.

Soon the White rose killer steps up his campaign. Is DI hunt imagining it, or does he have a message specially for her? As he circles ever closer, nobody escapes suspicion and Lorraine faces her toughest case yet.
..... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (from the prologue): Early February, bitterly cold, with a frost that gave everything it touched a shimmering cover of tiny pinhead diamonds.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Scottie was a hugh bear of a man and had more hair on his body than his head, strands of black hair peeping out of his cuffs and over his collar. But, although he looked large and gruff, he had a big heart and a kindly face.

Careful not to include any spoilers, it's no big secret that Lorraine and Luke finally get together (or do they?). One of the things I have disliked about the three previous books in the Seahills series is the somewhat juvenile lusting between these two characters. Instead of being full of suspense and sexual tension, I just found the whole will they/won't they thing boring.

Every breath You Take - compelling, largely unputdownable and with it's fair share of red herrings. Why then didn't this fourth instalment quite hit the mark for me?

 With thankfully little swearing, the bringing back of Mickey and the Lumsdon's AND getting to know Selina's story this should have been one of the better books in the series and yet, for me, it was lacking something.

A bit predictable at times (how I long for a Sheila Quigley book in which the killer is a woman), I quickly guessed who-done-it and their motives, and with a murderer who came across as a bit of a pantomime villain ('HA' - if you have read the book you'll know just what I mean) I couldn't help but feel just a tiny bit disappointed and yet not so disappointed that I shan't be eagerly awaiting book 5, Thorn In My Side, to be released later this month.

A Book Club competition win, signed by the author, Every Breath You Take was my second book read for the SEPTEMBER SPECTACULAR READING CHALLENGE (click HERE for book one and HERE to see what others are reading as their challenge.)