Is this the best cake in the world?

How much do you love this cake?

It was my niece Sophie’s 9th birthday last week and this is the cake that my super-talented sister-in-law made for her. Sophie is  a bookworm too – she loves reading pretty much anything she can get her hands on and for her birthday her mum and dad got her a brand new big bookcase to home her expanding collection (much to her huge delight). That’s my girl! 🙂

Six delicious cakey books

Cover of The Secret Garden which Sophie has just read this year

 

The back of David Walliams' book Mr Stink

 

And the winner is….

Thank you to all who dropped by to wish me a Happy Birthday after my mammoth (and trust me, it felt like it) 40 day challenge. There were days when I wondered why I’d commited myself to posting every day but I got so many lovely comments and someone even said it was like opening a new door on an advent calendar every day which really made me smile 🙂

Anyway, on the final day of my challenege I offered the chance for one person to win their choice of any of the books that I had read and posted about in the previous 40 days (and there were lots to chose from). So, after using random.org I now have a winner….

(drum roll please)

Sabrina

Sabrina blogs at Thinking About Loud and she has chosen Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris. It’s a fantastic book, and I hope you enjoy it Sabrina 🙂

 

Day 40 – Win one of my favourite books!

♫ ♪Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeeee ♪ ♫…..

Well, this is it! I am now officially old! The BIG FOUR-OH has come knocking at my door and I have shuffled over to let it in. Only kidding! (not about being 40, but about the shuffling bit). Age is a state of mind and I still feel 17 (and still act it sometimes too ;))

My orginal challenge for today was to pick a favourite book about a celebration but I have changed my mind and I’m feeling very generous today so instead I am going to give away one of the books that I have mentioned in this series of post.

 

The Rules

All you have to do is leave a comment below saying which book you would like to receive and why and I will enter you into the draw. I will pick the winner using random.org on Wednesday 12th October at 6pm GMT so you have 3 days to enter. Here is a link to all my 40 posts so happy deciding.

 

Good luck!

 

Day 39 – A book I expected to hate but loved

Love me, love me not, love me…

When I was younger I read and loved Agatha Christie books but that was probably as near as I got to crime fiction until James Patterson which I used to read in a single sitting on holiday. Then back in about 2004, our chosen book club book was layed out on the table and I remember picking it up tentitively and wrinkling my nose at the title. That book was The Torment of Others by Val McDermid.

I remember being almost so sure that I wouldn’t enjoy it (it sounded gory and hardcore and the cover wasn’t as nice as the new one shown below) that I nearly didn’t even buy it that night. Once home, however, curiosity got the better of me and I ended up flying through the chapters, completely enthralled by the twisted tale before me. It was brilliant!

The Torment of Others wasn’t the first book in McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan (it’s the fourth I think) but it didn’t matter. Once I had read that book, I went right back to the beginning and read them all in order, pretty much back to back (just like I did when I discovered Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series). McDermid is one very clever author – I love the twists and turns, not just of the stories themselves but of the killers minds; I loved being alongside Tony Hill as he tries to fathom out their motives and what they’ll do next.

 

  Have you ever expected to dislike a book and had a pleasant surprise?

 

Day 38 – An author crush

Reader, I heart them…

Is it cheating to bundle these into one (especially as only a week or so ago I did a post about not being able to read Wuthering Heights)? If I had to pick only one sister then it would be Charlotte but how can I leave out poor neglected Anne and yes, even Emily? Yep, I have a crush on them all – thoses feisty, weather-worn Yorkshire lasses who like to roam around on moors and pen stories by candlelight.

I am lucky enough to only live about a 45 minute drive from Haworth where the Bronte sisters grew up with the Vicar father, brother Branwell and their Aunt once their mother and other sisters had all passed away in their childhoods. The Parsonage is still there today and is now a museum and I have wandered though their home on several occasions, looking at the chair Charlotte sat on to write or the sofa that Emily died on (determined to the last hour that she was OK and wanted to get up).

 

Wonder why their books had that gothic feel?

 

Bleak, bleak, bleak! Love it!

 

Haworth Village - cute little town with lovely book shops 🙂

 
Charlotte is my main crush, having penned my favourite book of all-time – Jane Eyre – and also the wonderful Villette (which I know some people find a challenging read); both books had me in awe and I didn’t want either of them to end. I still have Shirley and The Proffesor to read (and I also have a lovely copy of The Tales of Angria which she wrote as a child). I have also read Charlotte Bronte’s Letters in which she writtes to her friend, nurse, sisters and even William Thackaray and Elizabeth Gaskell!
 
I have read and loved both of Anne’s books too, and although I did enjoy Agnes Grey it didn’t have the magnitude of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall which was way before its time and I would love to know what sort of a reception it got back then (a woman not towing the line? Pffft!) .
 
I have made my feelings of Wuthering Heights clear before but despite having had 3 attempts at it, I still don’t feel ready to stop trying. Is it because she’s a Bronte? Probably.
 
So, there you have my author crush(es).
 

  Who is yours?

 

Day 37 – A book that I still think about years after having read it

Memoirs of a smitten reader…

There are many books that don’t want to seem to let me go after I have finished those final pages; books that I can’t stop thinking about or that haunt my thoughts for days, even weeks afterwards. I love those books – the ones that get under your skin. However, how many of those book do I still remember years later? Yes, there are books that I look back fondly, even passionately upon, but it is a really special book that stays in my mind so vividly years and years later that every now and then I will be taken completely unawares when one of the characters sneeks into my head and waves hello.

One such book that has that effect on my is Memoirs of a Geisha which I read in the summer of 2003. I can clearly remember entering the Japanese tea houses and walking under the cherry blossom trees so much so that whenever I looked up from my book I was surprised to find myself still sat on a sofa in a house in Yorkshire. I was so emmersed in sayuri’s life for the few days that it took me to read it that I actually felt as though I’ve lost a friend once I had finished: I felt lost without her and her world. Even now, every now and then,  I find myself thinking about not only Sayuri but also Mameha, the Chairman, Nobu and even Hatsumomo and wondering what became of them.

Memoirs of a Gesiha is a breathtakingly beautiful book and one that will stay with me for a long, long time. And when I stop remembering…..I will read it again.

 

  Which books have you been able to let go of even years later?

 

Day 36 – A favourite book recommended by another book blogger

What does “need” have to do with it?…

Where to even begin! Since I began blogging my shelves have more than quadrupled in size, my floorboards are creaking under the weight and my husband nearly has a stroke every time he comes near my office and sees piles of books all over the floor! I keep trying to tell him it’s not my fault – it’s all the other book bloggers who keep reading things that make me need to read them too to which he tried to argue that I don’t “need” them. Oh but I do!!!!!

Anyhoo, after much deliberation I have chosen The Likeness by Tana French which ended up in my top 10 of last year. I saw a review of this book written by Sakura of Chasing Bawa book blog and just knew I would love it and I did. If you haven’t been over to Sakuras blog yet, make sure you do – she has a fantastic blog (one of my favourites). If you haven’t been acquainted with this book yet then take a look at my review here and then buy or borrow it! 🙂

 

  Have you ever been recommended a book by another blogger and loved it?

 

Day 35 – The longest book I have ever read

Count how many pages…

I’m not really one for long books. I wish I was – there are so many I want to read! It’s the size that puts me off even picking most of them up: what if it takes too long to read when there are so many other books out there waiting to be read? I am easily distracted by things that drop through my letter box and books that have been on my shelf for a long time can be overlooked.

I would love to read more though including Charles Dickens (David Copperfield, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend to name just a few), Gone With the Wind, The Passage, The Crimson Petal and the White, Quincunx, Shantaram, Shogun and A Suitable Boy are all on my shelves, staring sadly at me every time I pass them.

Despite saying that, I have read some long books and I almost always love them when I do (although part of me wonders if I love them so much becasue I am so rapturous of  having got through them!). The longest book I have read so far is The Count of Monte Cristo which I loved. Swashbuckling, dramatic and thrilling!

 

  Which is the longest book you have read and was it worth it?

 

Day 34 – A book I wish I had written

Coulda, shoulda, woulda…

To be honest, I never actually get to the end of a book and I wish I had written it; if I did then I should have been an author. What I do do at the end of a great book is close it in awe and admiration and respect for an author that can conjour up a world so real that I have actually been there, lived through what the characters have lived and been gutted to leave them behind at the end. If I were to name books that had that effect on me I would include favourites such as The Secret History, The Magus and The Hunger Games as those are books I truly envy the author their imaginations. However, I am going to chose abook that I absolutely loved, lived and laughed through and that book is….

Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson. Atkinson is probably better known for her Case Histories series books with Jackson Brodie (Started Early, Took My Dog was the latest) but BTSATM is one of her stand-alone books and I remember reading it on holiday in Morocco: I fell in love almost from the first line of the book and it never let me go from then on. Not only was it laugh-out-loud funny in many places (and I love funny books!) but it was also quirky, magnetic, nostalgic and emotional. If I had written a book I would love it to be something like this one.

 

  Do you ever finish a book and wish you’d written it yourself?

 

Day 33 – A book that I would love to read but never do

Whether I shall turn out to ever read this book…

There are many, many, many books that I want to read and to read soon. I constantly have a mental list of what I think I want to read in the next few weeks but then my magpie instinct take over when shiny new things arrive.

One author that I don’t feel that I have read nearly enough of is Charles Dickens. My first encounter with Dickens was as a 15 year year old when I had to read Great Expectations for school and I hated it! Twenty-two years later I decided to give it another go and loved it, and I quickly followed it with A Christmas Carol which is now one of my all-time favourites. So I am slightly perplected as to why I haven’t read any other since and the only reason I can think of is that they are bloody thick books!

The one I really want to read is David Copperfield and I have picked it off the shelf on several occasions and put it back because I can envisage weeks and weeks stretching in front of me with this meaty tome and with shiny new things piling up around me!

 

  Which book do you keep putting off even though you really want to read it?

 

Day 32 – A book that has been on my shelf unread for more than 5 years

Frankly my dear, this has been on my shelf far too long….

It has been in my home for years. I want to read it. I really want to read it. So why haven’t I?

Has anyone out there read this and can offer a compelling argument as to why this should be one of my next reads? What is stopping me picking it up? (Or could it have a little something to do with the fact that there are several hundred other books in the same predicament on my shelves too? – Damn those new shiny things that keep dropping through my letterbox!)

Day 31 – A book that everyone else seems to love except me

Let me in at your window…

Actually,  the fact that I am the only one who doesn’t love this book isn’t strictly true as I know others who have struggled with it too, but the reason I have picked it is because I sort of feel I ought to love it: it’s written by a Bronte (√), it’s set in Yorkshire (√), it’s set on windswept moors (√), it’s gothic (√), it’s a love story (√). So why then don’t I love the damn thing? This book has all the ingredients for the perfect book for me! It’s not for lack of trying either: I have attempted to read Wuthering Height at least three times and each time I can’t even get past 100 pages.

 

The big question is:

  Do I keep trying? Is it worth it? Or should I just accept that Wuthering Heights and I don’t   get along and move on?

 

Day 30 – A favourite sensational novel

Pass the smelling salts…

This is one of my favourite genres: victorian sensational books. All that drama, mystery, plotting and intrigue. It’s like reading a gossipy soap-opera with guilded carriages and dastardly villains. The first book I ever read that was classed as “sensational” was Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. From the first page I was hooked:  A 19th century who-dunnit complete with beautiful but cunning villainess, rambling old houses and an upper-class layabout-turned-detective. Fabulous!

Lady Audley’s Secret was one of the first “sensation” novels ever written, and while it doesn’t have the sophisticated and multi-layered plots of todays thrillers, that keep us guessing until the very end and on the edge of our seets, it is nonetheless a great page turner and so much fun. This book was originally serialised in a paper back in 1862, and I can imagine eagerly awaiting the next installment as they would have done back then.


 

 

  Have you read any sensational novels? Any other recommendations?

 

Day 29 – A favourite book with animals in it

Oh but they do talk, James….

This is THEEEE most difficult challenge day yet.  I am a huge animal-lover and I have a real soft spot for books with them, about them or narrated by them. Funnily enough, if a book is supposed to be narrated by a child, unless it is really well done – e.g. ROOM – then they generally make me cringe. However, a book narrated by a dog……well! That’s differnt. It cvan be heartwarming or pure comedy gold.

After umming and ahhhing for ages which book to pick (I don’t want to offend said animals who didn’t quite make it, you see) I have decided to include twelve books today. Yes, TWELVE!

So, in no particular order:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I read it in one evening and even skipped dinner for this book. I cried my way through half of it and I still think about those animals now. Boxer broke my heart (if you’ve read it you’ll know what I mean :().

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

This book is actually called Lorelei’s Secret in the UK, but I bought it when I was in NYC on a long weekend about 6 or 7 years ago and read it on the flight home. A man’s wife dies by falling out of an apple tree and the only witness is the couple’s dog, Lorelei, so he tries to teach her to speak to that she can tell him what happened. Loved it.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

You all know what I think about this book. I fell in love with Richard Parker the bengal tiger. Still love him now.

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

My all-time favourite book, and not just because there are animals in it but it’s all the better for them being there. Wolves, horses, foxes, they’re all in there. And if the baby wolf cub doesn’t break your heart, I think it’s possible you may not be human. Sigh.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Yes, the rather sexy R-Patz stars in the recent movie (always a bonus) but before even he came along, I fell in love with Rosie the elephant and Queenie the dog in this book. Superb book.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

Read this on a plane to Norway one Christmas and it melted my heart. A little girl, Patsy, lives on a trailer site near a little town in Alabama and becomes befriended by some of the residents. She makes friend with a redbird called Jack who becomes her bestfriend. Truly heartwarming.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I didn’t read this book as a child. In fact I read it for the first time two years ago. Black Beauty is a lovley natured horse who has a great life but his owners are forced to sell him and he starts a life of hardship and cruelty. But even among this there are kind, gentle people who want to help him and of course he makes lots of horsey friends. Lovely.

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung

I just loved this book and can’t understand why it’s not better known. In freezing, communist Moscow and 4 year old Ramochka is fending for himself on the streets when he follows a stray dog to its den and becomes one of their pack. This book is all about the bond between human and animal and it affected me so profoundly that I bawled my eyes out. Fantastic book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Enzo is the most loyal and lovable dog in the world and he tells us the story of his family through his eyes. Cry much?

Homeless Rats by Ahmed Fagih

I will be reviewing this book tommorow so keep a look out for it.

If Only They Could Talk by Jame Herriott

And finally, if I absolutely HAD to pick one then the prize would go to the James Herriot series. I have only read the first two out of my boxset and I love knowing that I have all the rest to come. James Herriot is a vet in the Yorkshire Dales and his books are laugh-out-loud funny. James tried to fit into the town of hardened Yorkshire farmers and animals with minds of their own. My fabourite characters were Mrs Pumphrey and her dog Tricki Woo had me bent over double, crying with laughter!

  Do you like books with animals? Which other ones can you recommend to me?

Day 28 – A book I loved that nobody else did

Housekeeping…

Strictly speaking, this can’t be a book that nobody else loved as it won the Orange prize in 2003 but the reason I have picked it is that when we read it at my old book club when it first won, out of the twenty or so members I was the only one who liked this book.

Property is set in the USA deep south in the mid 1800’s and Manon is the wife of an adulterous slave owner which leads to very sad consequences. Despite the subject matter, I found this book a gripping read and I loved the voice of Manon (who had moments of sarcasm which really appealed to my sense of humour). I can’t really remember much more about this book as it is 8 years since I read it but I do remember being really surprised by everyone in my groups reaction.

 

  Have you ever loved a book and been surprised by other peoples negative reaction?

 

Day 27 – A book I love that deserves to be better known

 Bewitching…

Although I can think of lots of books that I wish more people would read, this challenge was quite an easy one for me as I can’t understand why more people don’t read this book. When I read it in January 2010 it instantly became a favourite and I passed it on to my mum who read it, fell in love with it and has read it again since: in fact it is now her all-time favourite book (and she is as much as a reader and book-lover as I am).

The book I am referring to is called Witch Light, although when I read it in hardback it was called Corrag. Here is my review from back then:

“Rarely does a book bewitch (pardon the pun) and mesmorise me quite so much as this one. It is truly one of the most beautiful and lyrical books I have ever read.

The story is narrated by Corrag, a 16 year old girl who is awaiting being burned at the stake for being a witch in 17th century Scotland. Corrag is visited in jail by Charles Leslie, an Irish Jacobite who wants to prove that the recent massacre in Glencoe was the work of the soldiers under William of Orange. Corrag is English and has run away “north and west” at the command of her mother who is about to be hung for also being a witch. Corrag takes the old and beaten horse of a cruel neighbour, a grey mare who becomes her best and only friend, and spends the next year living off the land and making her way north-west where she arrives in Glencoe. At first the clan is wary of her, but over time they welcome her into the fold although she still lives in her self-made little hut on the moor.

What is magical about this book is Corrage’s voice. She lives, breathes and dreams nature and the land around her. Every tiny thing is spoken of with such love and passion and she notices everything – a dew drop on a leaf, the changing colours of the rocks through the day, the silver sand as the grey mare gallops over beaches in the moonlight. The way she narrates is lyrical and equistite and the world she inhabits makes you feel like you can breathe again. Despite her life so far and her hardships, she has such a capacity for love and kindness for eveyone she meets.

Through her visits from Charles Leslie, Corrag tells her life story from her birth through to the night her friends were slain in a Scottish valley during a blizzard. Each person is wary of the other at the beginning – Leslie returns daily as he is waiting for details on who was behind the massacre (believing it to be the new King) and Corrag is determined that her life will not be forgotten. After several weeks they find a strange comfort in each other and a friendship is born. Corrag has found companionship in her final days and Leslie learns to see whe world through fresh eyes.

I honestly just loved this book. It has now become a firm favourite and I am sorry it has ended. I have never read any of Susan Fletchers other two books but I will now be seeking them out.

Highly, highly recommended!”

I really, really hope that I have persuaded you to read this book – I can’t rave about it enough.

 

  What book do you think we should all be reading?

 

Day 26 – A favourite science-fiction book

One flew over…

I don’t read much science-fiction at all; it seems to be one of the few genres that I seem to avoid despite having really enjoyed the ones I have read. For that reason, for this challenge I didn’t have much to pick from so it made my job a bit easier. That said, the one I have picked I absolutely LOVED!

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (author of The Day of The Triffids) starts as a normal day in a little English village until a bubble forms around the village that makes every single resident fall asleep. When they awake they are unaware of anything that is happened….that is until they discover that every girl or woman of child-bearing age is pregnant! The children of Midwich are the focus of the story as not only do they all look alike and only appear to want to be together and woe betide anyone who crosses them.

 

  Have you read anything by Wyndham? Which other authors might I enjoy?

 

Day 25 – A favourite chicklit book

It’s party time!

I do love to read chicklit from time to time – it’s my my way of comforting and soothing the soul or refreshing the palate between heavier reads. Shopping, handbags, office romances, holidays in the sun, I’m not fussy so long as it cheers me up and leaves me with a smile on my face.

I have spoken before about my favourite authors in this genre and Sophie Kinsella and Katie Fforde are my top two but I also really enjoy Jane Fallon, Paige Toon, Jane Green and Adele Parks to name a few more. The book I have chosen to go with, though, is by Christina Jones who is an author I haven’t mentioned on my blog before. Not only did I absolutely adore this book, but it’s also called Happy Birthday (and afterall this is my birthday challenge :)).

Happy Birthday host a wonderfully quirky cast an quaint English villages with funny names. The story centres on Phoebe, a list-making, highly-oragnised, horoscope reading hairdresser who turned up for her immaculately planned wedding to discover that the groom hasn’t. As Phoebe tries to come to terms with what’s happened and carry on alone, she has to put up with the return of Rocky, her noisy, bad-tempered neighbour as well. Then she meets Essie, a glamorous pensioner who dabbles in something called Happy Birthday magic and that’s when things take a turn…

Happy Birthday  is a wonderful, magical read. I adored all the characters and there is such humour and comedy moments that I laughed out loud in places. Loved, loved, loved it.

  Do you like chicklit books? Which books or authors would you recommend?

 

Day 24 – A favourite “unputdownable” book

It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it…

I love finding a book that I just cannot put down; I just have to keep reading to find out what happens, chanting “just one more chapter, just one more chapter”. What’s better than being sucked into another world so brilliantly that when you look up you’re surprised to find that you’re still in your own living room. LOVE ‘EM!

There are so many books that would fit this challenge so I have decided to go for one that I haven’t mentioned on my blog yet. Even that was difficult but I have finally gone for The Job by Douglas Kennedy. I was first introduced to Kennedy by a friend years ago with an insistance that I read The Big Picture (just as unputdownable, by the way) and after that I went on a little Kennedy bings and devoured about 5 books in one go by him. The Job really struck a chord with me though as it is set in the corporate world (which I work in – yes, anoyingly enough I do have a day job which is rather inconvenient to my reading-life….).

The Job  is the story of a Salesperson who left the sticks to relocate to Manhattan, determined to be a success at any cost which leads him to make a decision that will alter the cause of his life and find him unable to get out.  This book races along so fast, with so many twists that it truly was impossible to put down! Brilliant, just brilliant!

Ignore the naff cover – this book isn’t even about a woman and there’s certainly no romance in it – and pick up a copy of this book. Then read his other stuff (I have loved all his books that I’ve read and I still have about another 5 to read!) and let me know what you think.

 

  Which books have you found unputdownable?

 

Day 23 – A book that is a most treasured possession

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…

When I was a little girl I loved Twinkle comics and every year my Auntie, Uncle and cousin would buy me the annual for Christmas. In the 1974 version there was a story called Rosie the Reindeer and each year after that, on Christmas Eve and once I was in my pyjamas, I would sit on my dad’s knee and he would read me this story. He laughs because even now if I see him on Christmas Eve I bring it with me so he can read it to me (although I don’t sit on his knee anymore!)

That Twinke annual is now battered, bruised and taped up with celotape but I still love it and I still know most of the stories in there by heart. I will never, never part with my pink Twinke annual.

 

 

I posted about this book last Christmas and I wrote the whole story of Rosie and The Reindeer out in full so to read it and see more pictures click here.

  Which book is your most treasured possession and why?

 

 

Day 22 – A book I hope to get for my birthday

Wot, no books?…

OK, there are two problems here:

1) I hardly EVER get books for my birthday or for Christmas (family and friends seem to be under the impression I have too many already – tsk! There’s no such thing!)

2) If I really want a book I will generally buy it / borrow it or be sent it by the publishers if they know I like that author/genre

That may sound like a good enough reason for me not to get books as gifts, but let me tell you – I waaaaaaant them!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I can see why people would think that it’s a waste of a gift, but seriously – I have an aholism! Bookaholism! I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeed them books and I need ’em now!

To answer my own question though I’m not actually sure which book I would like to be bought – I suppose a really beautiful edition of one of my favourites, or books signed by authors I always love too. Or I would love to be given a book by somebody who loved it themselves and wants to give me a copy because it means something to them. Frankly, if I were to be given a book that had come from a second hand shop and that cost 20p I would be over the moon – if somebody had thought about me when buying it then that’s a special book in my eyes. Oh, and book tokens…..can you just imagine spending a couple of hours in a huge bookshop, browing, stopping for coffee, browsing some more. HEAVEN!!!

On the other hand, if a member of my family were to win the lottery then I wouldn’t just be asking for books, I’d be asking for a new house with its own library. Any of the below will do, I’m not overly fussy 😉

 

  Do you get books as presents? Which has been your favourite bookish gift?

 

Day 20 – A book with a character most like me

Know Thyself…

This is probably the hardest challenge yet and I have racked my brains about this for weeks but still can’t decide on a character that fits me exactly. There are parts of characters that I see in myself, but only parts. Contenders for this were:

Alicia Johns from Enid Blytons’ Malory Towers series. Alicia is a fun-loving chatterbox who likes to play tricks on the form mistresses. I never actually played tricks in class but I was most definitely a chatterbox (some may say I still am ;)) and had a habit of talking to and distracting those who were still working when I had finished mine. I was also cheeky but managed to get away with it mostly:I was told by one form teacher that I “looked like an angel on the outside but was a little devil on the inside”.

My husband suggested Stig of the Dump! How rude! To be fair, he does have a point. I detest housework and only do it because I have to and would quite happily live in a mess if it meant I could just lie around and read books. How inconvenient that hoovering and cleaning the kitchen get in the way of my leisure time. Le sigh.

Another suggestions was given by an old school friend of mine who I am back in touch with on Facebook: Belle from Beauty and The Beast. She said “Intelligent, avid reader, a good friend with a warm personality and a true beauty.” How lovely is that?

Anyway, in the end I have decided to abstain from this post as I can’t make my mind up which one to go with (does that make me schitzophrenic?) and instead I am going to ask all you to come up with ideas.

Based on what you know about me from my blog, which character do you think I am most like?

 

   Which character do you think you are most like and why?

 

Day 19 – A book that scared me

Boo!

As a teenager I loved scary books and films etc. Then I turned into a wimp.

Now I am on a quest to find the ultimate scary read again (especially now the nights are drawing in and it’s getting colder – the perfect time to snuggle up on the sofa with a book that creeps and chills). Last year I did a “Dare You Read It?” series in an attempt to find that special spine-tingling book and, while I did read some great books, none of them scared me to death. And that is because…..

I already know which book will do that as I attempted to read it about 2/3 years ago and it scare the bejeesus out of me so much that I had to put it down less than half way through. That book is The Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. If you’re not aware of Joe Hill, he is the son of Stephen King (let’s face it, if you grow up with King for your Dad then you’re gonna know how to tell a spooky yarn!). The Heart Shaped Box starts with a man – Jude – who likes to collect macabre things and when he spots an add on ebay from a woman selling the ghost of her step-father, he presses “buy now”. By the time Jude has taken receipt of the suit that the old man used to wear (that comes complete with said ghost), things start to get really chilling. His dogs start barking and going mental and he sees the old man sitting on a chair outside his bedroom and tries to sneak past. I think that’s pretty much where I left it…

Now, since then I have read Hill’s other book Horns which isn’t scary in the same way at all. I have also met the man himself at a book signing of Horns in Waterstones in Leeds and he was very nice, but The Heart Shaped Box still remains firmly shut and at the back of my shelf!

As it’s Autumn and as I am also doing the RIP Challenge again this year, I am contemplating giving it another go. However, I am too chicken to try it on my own (just incase that man is still sat on the chair where I last left him!) so are there any volunteers to read along with me?

                            

 

What is the scariest book you have ever read and why?

Day 18 – A book I tell people I have read but haven’t

Pride comes before a fall…

I have a confession to make. I haven’t read any Jane Austen books! I know, I know, I can already hear your jaws hitting the floor, but it’s true. Well not entirely true actually…..I have attempted to read Jane Austen but haven never finished (is that even worse?).

Maybe I am missing something here as pretty much everyone I know (bloggers or otherwise) love Austen books and the funny thing is that I love a) the classics (Victorian fiction in particular which is only one era away from Austen), b) I love a bit of romance and wit (I mean chicklit-types, not bodice-rippers) and c) Colin Firth as Mr Darcy is HOT! (OK, I digress…)

Maybe it is precisely that – I have seen all the TV adaptations – that I know the story lines and don’t feel the need to read the books (where’s the surprise?) but I’m not even sure it’s that. Several years ago I did start reading Pride & Predjucide (hence my teensy fib about having read the book) but I only got half way through. It wasn’t because I hated it (I didn’t) or because it was badly written (it wasn’t) so why then? I just got distracted by something new and shiny and P&P didn’t have enough pulling power to force me back.

If you’re still my friend after reading this post, should I persevere? Which one should I try and why?

  Which books have you fibbed about reading?

 

Day 17 – A book with the best evil character

Exit stage left please…

Who doesn’t love a book with an evil character? Mwaaaaahahahahahahaaaaaa! I adore books with characters so devious or dastardly that you can almost hear the swish of the curtain as they exit stage (or page, in this case).

My “almost-made-it” for this challenge was Count Fosco from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Rotund and with a fondness for brightly coloured waistcoats and pet mice, Count Fosco (despite seeming likeable for much of the book) is an evil genius and the brains behind the plot in this book (I can’t give away any more than that incase you haven’t read it yet – and if not why not???? ;))

However, despite it being a closely fought final, I have decided to go with Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and the brilliantly nasty Hilly Holbrook  as my winner. What makes her my number one candidate for most evil character is the fact that on the surface she is quite normal – she is a mother, a wife, has a lovely home, attends church and organises most of the towns charity events. You don’t have to scratch the surface very hard, though, to realise that all is not what it seems. Cross Hilly at your peril! Hilly Holbrook is a bigotted and spiteful woman who will think nothing of seeing to it that others are fired from their jobs, sent to jail and have you run out of town (and all without barely lifting a finger herself).

Hilly is no moustache-twirling villain, but she is one of the best bitches I have ever read!

If you haven’t read my interview with Kathryn Stockett you can see it here too.

 

  Which are your favourite evil characters? Who else should I be reading about?

 

Day 16 – A favourite book from childhood

Donuts and peanutbutter cupcakes…

I think I’ve made it pretty clear over my (almost) two years of blogging that I was (and still am) a massive Enid Blyton fan, so rather than being really predictable (and making you all yawn) I have chosen another author for this challenge.

In the summer of 1982 (a few months before my 11th birthday) I went with my family to the USA for the first time. My mum’s brother (my Unlce Eddie) moved there years before and lives in New Jersey with my Auntie Ginni and cousins Jayne and Billy. I remember Auntie Ginni picking us up from JFK airport and on the way back to their house she stopped and bought us a huge box full of donuts: my brother Jamie (then aged 8) and I were stunned and just a teensy bit (OK, a lot) excited! When we got to their house, my cousin Billy was watching a horror movie on TV before school and again we couldn’t believe it: in the UK back then we only had 3 TV channels and it was only the news that was on before school. It was like being in a different world!

One day when we were there, we were shopping in Bergenfield, NJ and we stopped to look in a bookshop. Auntie Ginni asked if I liked Judy Blume books as all the American kids were reading her. I had never heard of Judy Blume as her books weren’t available in the UK back then. Auntie Ginni asked me to pick one out and so I remember excitedly thumbing through loads of different books with really weird titles such as “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” and “Otherwise Known As Sheila The Great“. In the end, I settled on Blubber. I can really clearly remember the front cover (the one shown below) and how I got stuck straight in to reading the book. It felt so grown up and exotic because we didn’t have these books back home and the kids in the book ate things like peanutbutter cupcakes (which I thought was really American). I absolutely LOVED this book and have really fond memories of when I first read it! Thanks Auntie Gin ♥

 

  Which books made your childhood?

 

Day 15 – A book I have read the most number of times

Chasing butterflies…

I’m not really one for re-reading books to be honest (there’s far too many book on my virtual pile and well in huge piles all over my house!) to read the same ones over again, despite the fact that there are a few I swear I will re-read one day. However, The Collector by John Fowles is a book that I have read a total of three times and loved each time. I first read it back in 1990, the summer before I went to university, and thought it was so brilliantly creepy that I have picked it up again twice over the years.

You may remember seeing my challenge post a few days ago about a book that blew me away – The Magus: this is the very same author. The Collector is narrated by Frederick who is a loner who collects butterflies and becomes obsessed with Miranda, a beautiful and well-off young woman whom he begins to stalk and fantasise about capturing her. He just wants to admire her, as he does his butterflies and so he lays down an elaborate plan to take her (which includes fitting out a room in his cellar to keep her in). For those who don’t like crime fiction, this is not a book that neatly fits into that category; it’s more of a pyschological thriller (in fact it is classed of one of the first in this genre as it was written back in the 60’s).

Despite having read it three times I still can’t remember what happens at the end and writing this has made me think I need to read it a fourth time! I heart John Fowles! 🙂

  Which book have you (or will you) read over again? Why?

Day 14 – A favourite 19th century novel

                      Reader, I love this book…

I love Victorian novels, although for years I was afraid of them. After reading (and hating) Great Expectations in school I was put off reading any more for another 20 years until on a whim I decided to give GE another go to see if I still felt the same….and I loved it! Shortly after that I picked up Jane Eyre and I was blown away from the first page: it is a thriller, a romance, it is gothic, had wit and warmth and there was not a single moment in the book that I wasn’t enraptured. I had no idea that 19th century literature could be so wonderful.

Jane Eyre is a fantastic character and I had more than a few laugh-out-loud moments with her. My favourite being when the school governer tell her she is naughty and asks how she can stop being burned in the pits of hell to which she replies “I must keep in good health, and not die.” Genius! Jane is a wonderful character and it was a pleasure to spend time in her company. This is a book that I love so much that I have about 6 different copies of the book and I visit the Bronte Parsonage (only an hours drive from my house) about twice a year now.

 

 

  Which books from this century do you love?

 

Day 13 – A book that made me laugh out loud

LOL!

I love to laugh! In fact I am told that I am always laughing or giggling at something (I’m not aware I do it sometimes but it beats being miserable, doesn’t it?) I love to laugh at TV programmes, funny people crack me up and I do love to read books that make me giggle too, especially ones that make me belly laugh!

There are lots of books that have made me chuckle but for this challenge I just had to go with David Nicholl’s Starter For Ten. I remember reading this so clearly: we were staying in a remote cottage in Scotland for a week, in 2003, with no TV and just a pile of books. From the very first page I was howling with laughter! All the references to the glorious 80’s (Kate Bush, Grandad shirts, DM’s, leotard tops, Newky Brown, being drunk every night and hungover every morning) were such a wonderful trip down memory lane for me but it was the non-stop humour that had me falling about. Starter For Ten follows Brian Jackson to university in the late 80’s as he falls in love, gets drunk and stars on the iconic TV programme ‘University Challenge’ (which I still watch just to see people with names like Horatio Menzies-Poncenby). It is clever, nostalgic and hillarious!

By complete coincidence, my Dad started to read this only last week and I received a text message from my Mum saying “Your dad is reading Starter for Ten and he is embarassing me! He keeps laughing out loud and can’t stop. He’s only read 2 chapters. Everywhere we sit there is an explosion of uncontrollable laughter!”

 

 

 

  Which books have had you rolling around in hysterics?

 

Day 12 – A favourite historical novel

I’m Henry VIII I am, I am… ♪ ♫

 

I must admit to having a little crush on the Tudors. All that feasting, snobbery, coruption, jousting, ruthlessness and beheading – fantastic!

At almost 1000 pages (and pretty small print) this book is not a quick read but having said that, I was so engrossed in the story that it did take me only about 10 days to read. Sometimes when I invest time in reading a really long book I feel so damn pleased with myself by the time I get to the end of it that I may think it’s better than it is. Not so with this book; it’s worth every page. The story of Henry VIII is told by his “fool” Will Sommers and charts Henry’s life from before birth to after his death. So much research and period detail has gone into this book and I have read that it took Margaret George over 10 years to write. It really is such a great book and even if  you haven’t read anything about the Tudors since you were at school this is a great refresher. It assumes no knowledge of those times but isn’t patronising. I never once felt lost or out of my depth; just engrossed in a page-turning book.

 

  Which other historical novels should I be reading?