31 Mar 2011



Jakob Beer is seven years old when he is rescued from the muddy ruins of a buried village in Nazi-occupied Poland. Of his family, he is the only one who has survived. Under the guidance of Greek geologist Athos, Jakob must steel himself to excavate the horrors of his own history.
....... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: Time is a blind guide. I strangled her with my arms, leaning over with my cheek against hers, as if somehow to see in the tiny black letters the world Bella saw.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Before I learned to read, angry to be left out,

KEEP IT OR NOT?: Purchased with a gift voucher, a 3 for 2 offer, this will go to either a charity shop or the book exchange.

Oh dear, another miss on the book front. Without a doubt this was a beautifully written novel, a first for Anne Michaels who is a published poet which probably goes a long way to explaining the overly poetic and flowery language used.

Very powerful at times and yet strangely lacking in emotion,  it seems I don't enjoy books with an overly poetic script. No, I much prefer a book with a no-nonsense approach, a novel is which a spade is called a spade to use one of my nana's expressions.

Very philosophical in nature, this, to me, was not so much  story as a collection of ideas and thoughts which at times came across almost as if the author was thinking aloud and recording these thoughts.

Not much better on the character front either, I felt as if we didn't get to know any of them well and as such I couldn't even begin to relate to any of them.

A real disappointment, this was another of those books in which using poetic language reigned supreme at the cost of all else.

Book 30 in my 100+ Reading Challenge.

30 Mar 2011


Not something new to Husband dearest or myself - we took our dog, Peg, on many a children's residential holiday and found her a great part of the team as upset, home-sick children often sought comfort in her big brown eyes, knowing that whatever secret they whispered into her ears would go no further.

Anyway onto my post about children reading.

LISTENING DOGS. When children read to Danny and Batman they do not criticise or correct pronunciation. They merely pick up their ears, sometimes close their eyes, and act as if they are not listening.
Yes, Danny and Batman are greyhounds, 'Listening dogs' who help children overcome their fear of reading. - BBC News (02/03/2011)

I cannot think of a time when I didn't have a book in my hand and though I was never forced in to reading a book at the same time I was always challenged as to what I might enjoy, as to what might hold my interest, as to what might stimulate me to further investigate the huge world that was literature. Shocking than to think .....

FALL IN READING STANDARDS AS CHILDREN OPT FOR 'EASY' BOOKS. Reading standards are in sharp decline as pupils opt for easy books in school and at home, according to a report.
By the end of primary education, pupils start to ignore relatively difficult texts in favour of more straightforward alternatives suitable for younger children.
It emerged The Hungry Caterpillar, a classic picture book by Eric Carle was one of the most popular books among 14 to 16-year-old girls in England (It's target audience is 1+) - The Telegraph (03/03/2011)

Also included in this article (which can be seen in full by clicking on the link above) are the top 5 books enjoyed by today's adults when they were teenagers and, in brackets the top 5 books enjoyed by the teenagers of today.

  1. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend. (The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling)
  2. The Lord of The rings by JRR Tolkein (The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer)
  3. Novels by Stephen King (The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkein)
  4. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams (The Da Vinci code by Dan Brown)
  5. The James bond novels by Ian Fleming/ 1984 by George Orwell (The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams.)
Hmm, not too bad, there is only The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and the James bond novels that I have yet to read.

Ebooks are becoming more and more popular not just amongst us adults but amongst younger readers, children even - though alas not with this blogger who still prefers the feel AND smell of a real book, a book like The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson - which is why I'm pleased to hear Julia say

I WON'T LET THEM TURN MY GRUFFALO INTO AN EBOOK. the best selling author Julia Donaldson, whose rhyming picture books dominate top 10 lists, has revealed that she vetoed an ebook version of her most famous title, The Gruffalo, because she thinks interactive book apps for children are a bad idea.
She sees the practical advantages of digital publishing in terms of portability and storage. But she feels that time spent reading books is valuable, and that we spend much of our lives plugged into screens and headphones already.
"The publishers showed me an ebook of Alice in Wonderland. They said, 'Look, you can press buttons and do this and that', and they showed me the page where Alice's neck gets longer. There's a button the child can press to make the neck stretch, and I thought, well, if the child's doing that, they are not going to be listening or reading, 'I wish my cat Dinah was here' or whatever it says in the text – they're just going to be fiddling with this wretched button." - Susanna Rustin, The Guardian (26/03/2011)

Whilst discussing this with Hd, himself an avid reader though where The Gruffalo stands in his affections I don't actually know, he made the following point which just about sums it up for me .....

"It all depends on whether we believe imagination should be supplied or developed."

It's not all bad news though, despite it all research has shown ........

Two-thirds of adults go to sleep after reading the equivalent of six and a half pages of a standard-sized paperback - managing around 2,134 words on average before becoming too tired to read on. - The Telegraph (03/03/2011)

So, what are your views? How many of the books listed have you read, which did you like/dislike? What do you think of teenagers taking the easy option? Ebooks - love them/hate them, are they a good idea for children?

29 Mar 2011



Sixteen-year-old Vittorio, sole survivor of a bizarre and violent massacre at his father's Tuscan hilltop palazzo, escapes to the Florence of Cosimo de Medici seeking vengeance. He has been saved from death by a mysterious woman, only to find himself at the mercy of demonic and bloody nightmares, war and political intrigue, and torn apart by a dangerous love.
...... Inner front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: When I was a small boy I had a terrible dream.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: But I think we all - human, vampire, all of us who are sentient and can weep - we all suffer under a curse, the curse that we know more than we can endure, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do about the force and the lure of this knowledge.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: A charity shop buy this shall either be returned for others to purchase or taken to the book exchange.

Having read and reviewed my first Anne Rice novel (VIOLIN) last year and being very disappointed with it I was persuaded by several people to give the author another try.

A great start, atmospheric, sensual (but not graphically so) and moody, I could hardly believe this was the same author. And then, just short of half way through, it changed and, for a while I was lost, wondering just what exactly had happened and how. Thankfully this was explained further on but I have to admit this period of events not making sense did mar my enjoyment somewhat. Still, on the whole, I did find this an enjoyable read and must confess that I prefer the 'old school' vampire (think Dracula, think Vittorio) as opposed to their new counterpart, Twilight's Edward.

Basically, a good old-fashioned romance (without too much 'mush') the story of Vittorio and Ursula melted my heart. And yet at the same time there were other aspects of the story - the town of Santa Maddalana for example where there were next to no children/young people nor 'cripples' nor 'ruffians' - that completely chilled me to the bone as did the very gory scenes of the Court of the Ruby Grail.

The 29th book read in the 100+ Reading Challenge.

28 Mar 2011


"A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse bike"  - (not quite) Shakespeare's Richard III.

Scientists in Bristol have invented a nylon bicycle (pictured above) that is as strong as steel. The Airbike was designed on a computer and a 3D printing process built the machine using layers of nylon powder. - (21/03/2011)

You remember my telling you of the nun who had left the convent after complaints she spent too much time on the computer? Well, I've found her the perfect job.

ONLINE RETREAT NUNS. Two nuns are offering "online retreats" to help pay the bills at their Benedictine monastery in Oxfordshire. 
The nuns, from the Holy Trinity Monastery in East Hendred, near Wantage, are inviting people to spend time in prayer under their guidance.
Participants will have to pay between £10 and £150 for the programmes, each lasting a total of five days. - BBC News (23/03/2011)

For once a royal story that has nothing to do with 'that wedding. It's no big secret that Prince Charles advocates the talking to of plants but now we have ..........

An album for gardeners to play to their plants in the hope it will encourage greater growth has been released by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Research has found that there is some evidence to suggest that music , especially classical, is beneficial to plant growth and many amateur gardeners enjoy playing the radio in their potting sheds.
As a result, the orchestra has released The Flora Seasons: Music To Grow to, a 45-minute recording of highlights of a recital of works by Mozart. - Harry Wallop (24/03/20110)

One of those stories that proves that real life is stranger than fiction?

A man was convicted yesterday of murdering his brother-in-law after a court heard evidence that his victim's severed thumb "fell from the sky".
Mohammed Riaz, 33, was arrested on March 11 last year, four days after his wife's brother disappeared and a day after the victims left thumb was caught on CCTV falling - possibly from a bird's mouth - to the ground where it was found by a security guard. - (24/03/2011)

Please now visit John's SILLY SATURDAY post on Full-On-Forward and see if you can see which image fits so perfectly with this article.

What can I say? Apart from ...... this is my favourite story of the week.

MAN WITH MANURE FETISH JAILED. A man with a fetish for cow manure who terrorised a farmer and his family for 6 years has been jailed.
David Truscott was discovered in a field covered in manure and mud and naked apart from one sock (please, please tell me this was on his foot) by the farmer's 16-year-old son on February 26th. - Farming Life (24/03/2011)

For a long while now I've said the next generation will be born with differently shaped thumbs as a result of all the text messaging they do. It seems I may not have been too far from the truth.

BLACKBERRY THUMB IS NEW HEALTH HAZARD. Blackberry Thumb is the name given to to a repetitive strain injury caused by over-using mobile phones to send emails and texts.
"Most causes are absolutely preventable if the right health and safety rules are followed" (Enough said.) - (25/03/2011)

Good news if like me you take your tea without milk.

CUPPA CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT. Drinking tea could help you lose weight, research has found - but the effects are cancelled out if you add milk (and eat a packet of biscuits whilst drinking it.)
Scientists have found that tea contains high levels of compounds that help to reduce the amount of fat absorbed and can cut cholesterol. But proteins in cows milk neutralise this fat-fighting ability. -Richard Gray (27/03/2011)

PLEASE NOTE: All of today's articles came courtesy of The Telegraph unless otherwise stated.
Wherever possible I Will endeavour to bring you the links to articles I have used in my Media Monday posts but this is not always possible.

27 Mar 2011


The 28th book in my 100+ Reading Challenge.


'People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.'

Friends since university, with busy working lives behind them, Dido and Georgia have long been looking forward to books and outings, conversation and carefree days. Alas: life is rarely as one wishes it to be. Dido, for the time, has cause to question her marriage; widowed Georgia is certain her husband will return to her. Meanwhile an eccentric country cousin goes wildly off the rails, children are unhappy in love, and perfect health is all at once in question.

With so much at stake, even this old friendship comes under strain. As hatches are battened down, it takes all their loyalty and humour to recover the easy, confiding intimacy of the past.
....... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: There they go, two clever women of sixty, making their way through the wet towards the car.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Each longs for the solace good books offer, but life is taking over from art, and Dido, with today's discovery, isn't sure if she'll find pleasure in reading, or anything else, ever again.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: A reading group read, keeping it is not an option, this will be going back for other groups to read and discuss. I won't be buying a copy of this but will probably look the author up at another time.

Left to my own devices despite a wonderful title - Reading In Bed (my favourite place to read) - and the promising blurb of the back cover, I'm not too sure I would have read this.

A very slow start, if I had been a reader with a '100 page rule' I would never have finished the book but as it was I carried on and was glad I did.

With several interesting plots, some of which, I'm sure most of us will identify with, and well observed characters, once again I'm sure most of us will know/know of someone just like them, this was an enjoyable, and in some ways, comfortable and familiar read.

I say in some ways a comfortable read as it was not all like this, two strands to the story being particularly harrowing, but that said it was a story all about relationships and as such was bound to have its 'ups and downs'.

"Was it chick-lit?" asked a friend. I wouldn't have described it as such, no, as, to me, it wasn't 'fluffy' enough and dealt with two very serious issues (if not in an overly deep way). "Aah, hard core chick-lit then." Not a term I've ever heard before but, yes, I suppose its one way of describing it.

My problem with the book then?

I just didn't like the authors style of writing. Grief another book without chapters, I hear you say. No, this wasn't my complaint this time ....... lack of speech marks was what really annoyed me. Confusing and just plain lazy(?) I really didn't like the lack of these and the authors use of a hyphen instead.

Also, though I'm no fan of collections of short stories, I think that perhaps given the number of strands to this book and the number of characters playing a major role, it may well have proved a more suitable (and, especially in the beginning, less confusing) format if each of the 'events' was dealt with as an independent story with the common theme of friendship, family and books running throughout.

26 Mar 2011


Huh, how dare he?

I don't know if any of you have noticed Husband dearest's comments on my Red Nose Day post, DOING SOMETHING FUNNY , (I've only just seen it myself) in which he writes, and I quote ........

"There are moments in a chaps life when he needs to realise that his wife's objections are a little more than simple fun. So sorry to disappoint but there will be no red-hair photographs, I couldn't face it. She is really scary you know!"

Scary? SCARY? Moi?

OK, so I admit it I can be scary ....... very scary. In fact some days Hd merely opens his eyes, sees 'the look' on my face and heads on out knowing that I'm looking for an argument and won't rest until I get one.

Then there's Niece #1 and Nephew who reckon that I, along with every other teacher they have ever known, had to take lessons in 'the look', Nephew having been known to shake his head and say to his uncle (Hd) on hearing us row have a difference of opinion "She'll be right, she's always right." (Well done, long may he continue with this thought).

Anyway, I witter, I have to admit that 'the look' did cross my face on reading this article on Thursday. In fact not only deserving of 'the look' I swear I had steam coming out of my ears.

 The heart sign has entered the English Oxford Dictionary as the first graphic symbol to signify a word in the reference works 127-year history.
Users looking up the word 'heart' will find the symbol listed as an entirely new usage, as a verb meaning 'to love'. - Andy Bloxham, the Telegraph (24/03/2011)


Yes, yes, I know the English language is forever changing, forever developing, but surely this is a step too far - for goodness sake it isn't even a word, its a symbol.

I mean can you imagine this, this, this symbol appearing on exam papers OR how about word games such as Scrabble - are we going to see the game re-issued with an extra tile? How cute, it could even be heart shaped as opposed to the more traditional square shape. Aaaaggggghhhhhhh, it doesn't bear thinking about.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, other new additions include ........

  • Bang one's head against a brick wall (phrase) - To engage in a futile or fruitless effort.
  • Hedge one's bets (phrase) - To confront uncertain circumstances by pursuing multiple courses of action; to avoid committing oneself.
  • Scrunchy (adjective) - Of a wrinkled or ruffled appearance.
  • Tragic (noun) - A boring or socially inept person, especially one who pursues a solitary interest with obsessive dedication.
  • Tasty - Violent; good at fighting.
  • Lashed - Drunk.
As well as, reflecting the nations increasing eclectic diet, ........

  • Banh mi - A Vietnamese sandwich with pickles and meat.
  • Taquito - A small Mexican taco or fried roll of filled maize bread.
  • Kleftiko - A Greek dish of slow-cooked lamb.
To view more click HERE.

Rant over. What do you think? Any words (or symbols come to that) would you include?

PS Just to point out that I am not in fact a teacher but a teaching assistant.

25 Mar 2011


Thanks to Patti and her post INFORMATION OVERLOAD I was inspired to post this.

I used to be a health magazine junkie. Every week I'd go to the grocery store and buy a Shape, or a Fitness or a Women's Health, the latter being my favorite. I 'd devour the exercises, try the recipes, and read all the tips.
Then it got to be overwhelming. Every article seemed to have a different opinion on what was the best way to get toned triceps or a flat stomach. Should you only do cardio or add in strength, and how much lifting should you do? These food fight cancer, but they might cause heart problems. Don't eat this if your diabetic but it will help your kidneys - wrote Patti.

OK, so whilst these types of magazines have never been my forte, like many other people I have been confused by what is often conflicting information overload.

Take for example .......

.......The humble chuckie egg.

During the 1950's we were encouraged to 'go to work on an egg' . Alright, I see your point, yes, this was a slogan thought up by the UK Egg Marketing Board, but you can't get away from the fact that eggs were deemed healthy AND considered  the best way to start the working day.

Then, of course, came the 1980's when eggs went out of favour thanks to the 'SAM N ELLA' (otherwise known as Salmonella) SCANDAL. Yeah, 1988 saw Health minister Edwina Curry provoke outrage by claiming that most of Britain's egg production was infected with the 'killer' bacteria.

But even worse was too follow when it was widely thought that an egg consumption of more than 3 per week was bad for you and led to high cholesterol and imminent heart attack.

Not so said the researchers of the 'noughties',  regular eggs cause NO HARM TO HEALTH and limiting consumption has little effect on cholesterol levels.

Quite why I'm wittering about eggs I don't know when the aim of this post was to bring you this information (overload?)

 A sleepless night leaves you with dark circles under the eyes and feeling irritable burns the same amount of energy as walking two miles, research shows. Not getting enough sleep can burn up to 135 calories per night.

All I can say to that is thank goodness I'm not sleeping too well at present.

And, knowing that she loves chocolate almost as much as me and to whom the word 'diet' is also a nasty four-letter-word, I dedicate this next article to JENNERS.

DIETING MAKES PEOPLE ANGRY. Being on a diet makes people more likely to feel angry and irritable and to watch violent films, a study has suggested.
The effort involved in exerting self-control can lead to an aggressive frame of mind. Research has shown that exerting self-control makes people more likely to behave aggressively toward others and people on diets are known to be irritable and quick to anger.

Hmmm, I wonder just how much conflicting information there is out there that shows that sleepless nights result in one putting on weight and chocolate eaters are more likely to resort to murder than those who munch on apples?

Myself? I take all such information with a pinch of salt. Oh, I forgot, I can't do that - too much salt = high blood pressure ....... until some research shows otherwise.

PS. Both of today's articles come courtesy of The Telegraph, I'm sorry I was unable to bring you the link to the first.

24 Mar 2011


 * A record-breaking naan bread, 10ft long and weighing 88lb, has been created by chefs  at Mayflower Brewers Fayre pub, Harwich, Essex, England.  They cooked up the idea to promote a curry night.

** Forget tea for two, it was tea for half the town when a bakery in Paignton, Devon, England, broke the world record for the biggest ever cream tea. The bakers made a 6ft scone and topped it with 40lb of clotted cream.

*** Fancy a pizza and got cash to splash? Chef Renato Viola from Salerno, Italy has created the most expensive pizza topped with caviar, lobster and handpicked grains of pink salt. For £8,000, he'll even cook it at your house.

23 Mar 2011



"I don't burn things. Fire's just there, waiting to start. Telling you light it."

That's Reece. My new next-door neighbour. He's got matted blue hair, all spiked up and red at the tips. Like the flames on a matchhead. He thinks we're mates.

I can't help feeling sorry for him. But then I think what he dis to Annie's doll ......

He's dangerous.

I should avoid him. Ignore him.

But I can't.
....... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: It feels weird, watching Dad drive Mum off.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: I shake my head, grateful for any excuse to stop chewing my leathery gammon steak. Can your dad's cooking be cruelty to children.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: A book exchange read, definitely one for the shelves.

Another hit, I really enjoyed this novel which rather unusually, but thankfully, I'm sure will appeal to boys as well as girls. At least that is to say boys seem interested and impressed by both the title and the cover which I'm sure is half the battle won in getting them to pick up a book in the first place.

His mother away at a conference, his father working all day, teenager Keith is left in charge of his three-year-old sister, Annie. Set over a period of seven days, the week starts well and then ......... you'll have to read the book for yourself.

Only a short read (150 pages) and written with teenagers in mind, I found myself emotionally torn, feeling my sympathies should lie with Keith, Annie and family, I also found myself feeling profoundly sorry for Reece.

Not always an easy read, it is at times quite disturbing, I found myself continually questioning what I would do in the place of 'x', 'y', 'z'.

Having enjoyed the book as much as I did you would think I'd have more to stay but Firestarter is one of those novels that is difficult to review without giving away too much of the plot. All I can say is if you like a gritty, thought-provoking reads then you should enjoy this, I know I did - a lot.

The 27th book read for my 100+ Reading Challenge.

22 Mar 2011


Before I begin this post may I say that I know this has the potential to cause a certain amount of controversy and possibly anger/upset and may I therefore say that, as regulars of Pen and Papers are aware, though all comments are valid I would ask that you do not use any offensive language. Thank you.

As many of you may have already noticed, I'm not a blogger who usually posts about anything too serious, my book reviews generally being as serious as I get, BUT every now and then I do get a bee in my bonnet about something or other and feel the need to get up on my soap box and get it all off my chest ...... today is such a day.

 And whilst making declarations, I thought I'd better mention that generally speaking I'm a live and let live kind of a person - as long as its legal and no one gets hurt then, broadly speaking, its ok with me.

Anyway, moving on .........

I was going to include this article in yesterdays Monday Media post as on the face of it it is quite a funny story - a real live vicar raising money for charity by attending a 'Tarts And Vicars' party. A what? For those of you who don't know, though you can probably hazard a guess, this is a party, very popular here in England several years ago (what about where you are?), where woman dress as vicars and men? Well, they, err, dress as 'tarts' and by this I mean the so-called loose women type as opposed to the strawberry kind.

Where was I? Oh yes, tarts and vicars parties.

GOOD HEAVENS! VICAR LOSES HIS JOB OVER TART OUTFIT reported Patrick Sawer in the 20th of March 2011 copy of the Sunday Telegraph. 
When the parish priest of St Lawrence The Martyr, was invited to a 'vicars and tarts' party he decided to dress against type.
Discarding his dog collar for gold tights, a little black dress, pink high heels, and a long black wig, the Rev Martin Wray received a warm welcome at the charity event.
But when his picture was published in a local newspaper the reaction was less enthusiastic. Some parishioners complained he had brought the church into disrepute.

As I said, on the face of it all good fun until the possibility of homophobia raised its ugly head.

 Now after accusations that some among the congregation were being homophobic,
the 59 year-old has quit.
His family and friends said that he had been called a pervert and threatened with violence. His sister said she suspected that some of his 'elderly and very old-fashioned' parishioners had used the pictures as a smoke-screen to attack his sexuality. (To read the full article please click on the highlighted link.)

Ok, so we will never know the full story and it is very easy to sit in judgement BUT here, for what its worth, is what I think.

Vicars ..... Men of God (I've yet to hear of our female vicars being called Women of God but then I suppose its still relatively early days - and a whole other post) ....... its sometimes easy to forget that, at the end of the day, they are firstly and foremostly men with flaws the same as any other man, that they too make mistakes.

But was it a mistake of this vicar to act as he did and did it bring the church into disrepute? I personally would argue not.

A stressful job, vicars also need to let their hair down from time to time and to me this vicar was showing he didn't take himself too seriously whilst raising some much needed funds for a, no doubt, worthy cause. The thought that homophobia is behind it is just awful.

What thinks you?

PS. Thanks to Lilly for expanding on this by sharing her own experiences. Read her post, God's Men Against The 'Norm', by clicking HERE.

21 Mar 2011



Wallace (pictured right), of Wallace and Gromit fame, must be pleased to learn that ........

EATING CHEESE CAN HELP YOUR TEETH. It might sound unlikely, but one of the best and easiest ways to combat acid erosion in your teeth is to eat a piece of cheese after every meal.
Cheddar is best, because it contains the highest levels of alkali - soft cheese like brie or feta won't have as much of an effect. - Laura Barnett (15/03/2011)

A few Media Monday's ago we had the video footage of the police dog who wanted to have a game of football ..... today, it's the turn of a rugby playing fox.

FOX MAKES A TWICKENHAM DEBUT. After darting towards the 22-metre line, the star turn on the pitch at Twickenham spoiled a promising debut by panting with exertion and skulking behind the pre-match band. The fox that enlivened the Six Nations rugby match between England and Scotland last Sunday (the 13th) was the latest animal to, ahem, dog a great sporting occasion. - Patrick Barkham (15/03/2011)

Sticking with animals (sort of) and sporting events .....

Well, THE EQUESTRIAN LOOK IS ALWAYS A WINNER.  Proving the point that you can never overestimate the bad taste of rich people, the stupidity of people who gamble on horses, or posh people's preference for animals, a beting company by the name of Betfair has decided that the best way to mark the beginning of  the CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL is to commission and sell  pairs of 'equine' shoes (pictured above left) for charity - the horse hair is real, incidentally. The hoof, thankfully, is not. -Hedley Freeman (16/03/2011)


Fit for a king? Well, maybes a prince.

WILLS AND KATE SCULPTED INTO A CAKE.  Cake maker Michelle Wibowo spent more than 80 hours creating her own masterpiece (pictured below) in honour of next month's royal wedding, featuring likenesses of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The result is a traditional English fruit cake, carved into 3D busts with an armature inside, covered with apricot jam, 10kg marzipan and 10kg icing sugar.
The icing was sculpted with details then airbrushed with colours to make it look more realistic. - (14/03/2011)  (For video footage click HERE)

WHOOPS!!!!!!!  Keeping with the royal wedding ........ A mug celebrating the wedding of Will and Kate has a slight problem - a picture of Prince Harry and not William. - Sunday Sun (20/03/2011)

Some kind of record?

WOMAN FAILS DRIVING THEORY TEST 90 TIMES having spent £2,790 and that's before she has even sat the actual, practical test. - Martin Newman (17/03/2011)


Ouch!!!!!! Perhaps not one to be read by any of my male followers.

WOMAN CHARGED WITH BITING MAN'S TESTICLES OFF. (Here's me telling you all what a wonderful place my home city is and then this news ........)  A WOMAN has appeared in court accused of biting off her boyfriend’s testicles.
Martin Douglas, 45, needed emergency surgery to reattach his genitals after Maria Topp allegedly bit them off in an early-morning drunken attack.
The badly-injured victim has since recovered in hospital following the incident last month.
Topp, a mother-of-four from Waterloo Street, Newcastle, has been charged with grievous bodily harm and will appear before Newcastle Crown Court, next month. - (18/03/2011)

20 Mar 2011



Everybody thought her father was a charming spiritualist preacher. Only Judy lived in the shadow of his terrifying cruelty.

Judy was three years old when her con-man father snatched her from her mother. Kept like a dog in his backyard, she ate from bins to stay alive.

Judy was then taken to South Africa where her life became unimaginably appalling. Beaten, treated as a slave and subjected to horrifying cruelty, escape was her only option. But living on the streets was just as dangerous. Through sheer determination she survived.
...... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: I reckon that as soon as I came into this world I knew better than to cry for my mother.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: I'd always felt I could trust animals; be myself, I was wary around my own kind.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: Not, though I do have several friends who are fans of this genre and I will be passing this amongst them.

Not that I often read this type of memoir but when I do I somehow always feel guilty. Guilty that though I can't say I enjoy reading them, I generally find them interesting and informative and take the view that perhaps, just maybes, that individual needed their story to be heard. I certainly felt this way reading Judy's story as it enabled her to 'advertise' her charity, PEGASUS CHILDREN'S TRUST, which works with today's Street Kids.

A very disturbing story in many ways, and yet I somehow wasn't as upset as I thought I would be. Maybes this was because of the author's very matter-of-fact way of writing or perhaps it was because she seemed to find some humour in her situation no matter how bleak it was OR maybe it was because she never seemed to lose her faith in humanity, her faith that someone somewhere would bestow on her some act of kindness, no matter how small.

All in all, a very inspirational read, Judy's story is a truly amazing one.

The 26th book read for my 100+ Reading Challenge.

19 Mar 2011


Coming fast on the heels of Thursday's RED NOSE DAY post, I couldn't help but think this festival had similarities ......

Witness the beauty of the great cupid festival which excites curiosity as the townsfolk are dancing at the touch of brownish water thrown from squirt-guns.
They are seized by pretty women while all along the roads the air is filled with singing and drum-beating.
Everything is coloured yellowish red and rendered dusty by the heaps of scented powder blown all over.

- Ratnaval, 7th century drama

As many of you are now aware, I'm not a religious person but tend to think of myself as quite a spiritual person in that I have an interest in people of all faiths as well as those of none.

Anyway, getting on with today's post. I noticed this festival mentioned in a 'The  Week To Come'  column in a newspaper and thought, hmm interesting - I need to find out more.

The festival in question? The festival of Holi.

A Hindu festival, associated with Krishna, that welcomes Spring and celebrates new life and energy, Holi is the most energetic of the Indian festivals filled as it is with fun and humour. It is also the time when the distinctions of caste, class, age and gender are put aside.
Also known as the Festival Of Colours many celebrate by covering each other in paint and throwing dye around.
Bonfires are lit in the streets after dark which  purifies the air the air of evil spirits and marks the story of Holika and Prahalad.
Seen by many as being similar to the spirit of St. Valentine's Day there is much flirting between the sexes and in one part of India a tradition of men and women taking part in mock battles, the rule being the men are not allowed to fight back. - BBC Religions (Click HERE to read more)

For even more details about this festival I recommend you visit Arti at MY YATRA DIARY.

18 Mar 2011



Didi Wood is nine months pregnant, doing some last-minute shopping before the baby is born. Stepping out of an air-conditioned Dallas shopping mall into the cruel heat of the parking lot, she hears a voice behind her .... and the nightmare begins.

Abducted by an increasingly unstable young man, Didi must endure an epic drive across the Texas plains, heading through the relentless heat towards a destination that only he knows.

Meanwhile, her anguished husband Rich is on the trail with an FBI agent who may or not be as good as he says he is at rescuing hostages.
...... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: Didi Wood was walking to the mall from her car when her pregnant belly began to tighten until it felt like a taut basketball.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: He is not Winnie-the-Pooh, and I am not Piglet. This is not the Hundred-Acre Wood. I have to stat right here.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: A charity shop buy, this will certainly be going on our shelves.

Only the other day JENNERS made the comment that as for as my choice of reading material went I seemed to be having more misses than hits of late so I'm delighted to let you all know that this was a hit - a big hit.

I know we are not yet a quarter of the way through 2011 so it's early days yet but I have to say that this has been my favourite read .... so far.

Fast paced, gripping and with lots of twists and turns, Eleven Hours had me engrossed with the fate of Didi from page one, so much so that I couldn't put the book down.

That said, this was not always an easy read and at times, I have to admit, I did find it very dark and, at times, very very disturbing but given the subject matter I suppose that was only to be expected.

With only four main characters (Didi,  her kidnapper, Lyle and 'good guys' Didi's husband, Rich, and FBI agent, Scott Somerville) you really got to know the characters and felt their pain (Scott's to a lesser extent).

Didi's desire for a drink had my mouth dry and her growing fear, my heart hammering in my chest. As for Lyle, my favourite character, you felt him growing more and more sinister by the chapter, his actions becoming increasingly desperate, and yet despite his horrendous actions there were times I actually felt a little sorry for him. Rich and Scott we did not get to know so well but I could easily imagine the lack of power Rich must have felt in being unable to do much to aid his wife and as yet un-born child.

As for FBI agent Scott - the one weak link in the story, we never really got to know his story and I don't think he really grew as a character though his growing realisation that this was actually about saving the victim and not about capturing the bad guy was interesting. Not a realistic character to me, I'm pretty sure that no FBI agent would allow a victims relative to take such an active part in the rescuing of their loved one, he was also a bit of an egotist and, it has to be said, at times, came across as a bit of a Rambo, action man type.

A book that I'm sure men will find just as enjoyable, I will be surprised if this is not made into a film at some stage.

The 25th book in my 100+Reading Challenge and the 4th book in my What's In A Name Reading Challenge (Book with a number in the title category).

17 Mar 2011


"Do something funny for money" .......

If only Husband dearest hadn't decided (along with hundreds, possibly millions, of others) that it might be a fun idea to dye his hair bright red.

I have suggested he have his chest/back waxed instead - something I'm only too happy to assist him with, not that I'm relishing the thought of inflicting pain on him ...... (laughs wickedly) MUCH - but as he points out he's too much of a coward isn't really hairy enough and therefore it is no big sacrifice ..... what, and his dying his hair bright red is? I think not.

"What is she wittering on about now?" I hear many of you ask.

Tomorrow, Friday the 18th of March is RED NOSE DAY, of course. Aimed at raising money for charities both here in the UK and in Africa,

"Red Nose Day is  a day like no other when the whole country gets together to do something funny for money and change countless lives in the process."

Anyway, in the spirit of the day I thought I could .....

  • Wear something funny for money
  • Eat something funny for money OR ......
  • Try ANY OF THESE OTHER FUNDRAISING IDEAS (as long as it doesn't involve me dying my hair red or sitting in a bath full of cold baked beans.)

Knowing how much you all love my jokes (no groaning, thank you very much) I thought I'd literally be funny for money, so here goes .......

Police are appealing for help in finding a man who stabbed 6 people with a knitting needle.
They think he's following some sort of pattern.

I've got £100 in one trouser pocket and another £100 in the other trouser pocket, what have I got?
Someone else's trousers on.

Two sausages were cooking in a frying pan.
One says to the other, "Phew, it's hot in here."
The other says, "Oh my God! A talking sausage."

So, why not join me in .......
  • Nagging suggesting Hd re-think dying his hair red OR
  • Telling us your favourite joke?
AND for yet more jokes click HERE for BBC Derby's Gagathon.

16 Mar 2011


How alike are these two book covers?

CASA ROSSA by Francesca Marciano.

In Casa Rossa, Roman native Francesca Marciano tells a riveting tale of three generations of women whose separate acts of betrayal set the stage for later destruction. Renée, the grandmother, forsakes her artist husband and her life in rural Puglia at Casa Rossa, to live with a woman. Alba, her daughter, takes a lover and pushes her husband to suicide. Isabella and Alina, Alba's daughters, take extreme measures to keep each other out of their lives, leading to upheaval. Told through the voice of the youngest daughter, Alina, Casa Rossa weaves the selling and closure of the family estate with the family's sordid and unforgettable history. Spanning the 20th century and providing entrée into the not-so-incompatible worlds of Italian cinema and political terrorism, Marciano, author of Rules of the Wild, reveals an authenticity in the way this emotionally warped family comes to terms with its fragmented past. It's a fine, highly entertaining work, laced with lovely writing and emotionally resonant characters - Amazon.com review.

THE WOMAN WHO WAITED by Andrei Makine.

A crumbling farmhouse in Puglia, Casa Rossa was bought by Alina Strada’s grandfather at a time when no one else wanted it. Now busy preparing it for sale, Alina endeavors to recover the memories it still harbors—in particular of three women whose passions indelibly shaped her family’s dark past. There’s grandmother Renee, whose love of novelty won over everything else. Alina’s mother, Alba, whose marriage to a screenwriter inspired both great art and unbearable sadness. Finally Isabella, Alina’s sister, whose fervent politics drove her to ever-escalating betrayals. Moving from Jazz Age Paris to 1950s Rome to modern-day New York, but returning always to the uncompromising beauty of Italy’s south, Casa Rossa is a spellbinding story of how loves and losses, secrets and lies, resonate across the generations. - RandomHouse reviews.

And talking of books, in case you didn't already heard here is a list of the books nominated for this years Orange Prize for Fiction.

•Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) - Sudanese; 3rd Novel

•Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (Canongate) - British; 10th Novel

Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador) - Irish; 7th Novel (SEE MY REVIEW)

•The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi (Bloomsbury) - Indian; 1st Novel

•Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty (Faber and Faber) - British; 6th Novel

•A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Corsair) - American; 4th Novel

•The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury) - British/Sierra Leonean; 3rd Novel

•The London Train by Tessa Hadley (Jonathan Cape) - British; 4th Novel

•Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson (Sceptre) - British; 1st Novel

•The Seas by Samantha Hunt (Corsair) - American; 1st Novel

•The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna (Faber and Faber) - British; 2nd Novel

•Great House by Nicole Krauss (Viking) - American; 3rd Novel

•The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone (Chatto & Windus) - American; 3rd Novel

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) - Serbian/American; 1st Novel (Win a copy courtesy of BIBLIOPHILE BY THE SEA by clcking HERE)

•The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (Viking) - American; 1st Novel

•Repeat it Today with Tears by Anne Peile (Serpent's Tail) - British; 1st Novel

•Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Chatto & Windus) - American; 1st Novel

•The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin (Serpent's Tail) - British/Nigerian; 1st Novel

•The Swimmer by Roma Tearne (Harper Press) - British; 4th Novel

•Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Jonathan Cape) - Canadian; 1st Novel

Have you read any and if so would you recommend it?

15 Mar 2011



George and Sabrina Pemberton arrive in the wilds at the North Carolina mountains to build a life together. Unlike any other woman the timber empire has ever seen, Serena oversees crews, hunts rattlesnakes and even saves her husband's life. But when Serena learns she will never bear a child, it sets in motion a course of events that will change the lives of everyone in the community.
...... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: When Pemberton returned to the north Carolina mountains after three months in Boston settling his father's estate, among those waiting on the train platform was a young woman pregnant with Pemberton's child.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: An unlidded pine coffin leaned against the commissary's back wall, the deceased propped up inside. A placard bearing the words Rest In Peace had been placed on the coffin's squared head, but the corpse's tight-shouldered rigidity belied the notion, as if even in death Ledbetter anticipated another falling tree.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: A reading group book I shall be returning this and have no intention of buying a copy.A novel in which some of the characters actually existed though they are fictional representations, I would love to know how much truth there is in the telling of the story.

Not too sure what I made of this book if I'm being totally honest. Not a badly written story, it just wasn't a book for me.

'A story of passion and revenge ..... There has never been a heroine quite like this.' claimed The Times on the front cover.

Hmm, not too sure I would agree with this statement. Sad to say I just didn't get any sense of passion - not between husband and wife Serena and George Pemberton who seemed to share a love that was more obsessive than anything else and nor when it came down to 'passion' being the determining factor in the events that were to take place which, to me were, largely, too calculated to be passionate.

As for the heroine? I'm not too sure to which of the two characters The Times refers as neither Serena nor Rachel lived up to my idea of a heroine, the first being too cold and ruthless (dare I say verging on the psychopathic?) and the latter being, though a protective mother, somewhat a 'wet blanket'.

Actually it is probably the characters I have the most difficulty with as I'm one of those readers who generally speaking will put up with a poor plot if I 'like' the characters which I didn't as, with the author having very clearly defined ideas of just who the 'goodies' and the 'baddies' were, there was no 'middle ground' which led to fairly one dimensional people.

Too slow and plodding for my tastes, this novel took a long time to say little and was predictable in the extreme though to be fair there was a twist at the end which I wasn't expecting and almost missed as I felt the story had ended with chapter thirty seven only to discover that there was in fact a 'chapter thirty eight' though it was not labelled as such and almost seemed to have been added as an afterthought - an afterthought that though not expected seemed a little ludicrous.

Set in the late 1920's during the time of the 'Great Depression' I did think that this angle of the story was covered well and that you got a real feel of just what  hard times times they were. Also wonderfully captured was the somewhat 'gallows humour' of the loggers which I really delighted in as I did the glorious descriptions of the landscape.

The 24th book read for my 100+ Reading Challenge, this was a reading group read.