Monday, 31 March 2014

Day 21 - Favourite Book From Your Childhood

I read a lot as a child. I was the stereotypical bookish only child and I went to the library at least once a week.  I read voraciously, anything I could get my hands on.  It was also the golden time of "Jackanory" on kid's TV and I found several of my favourites from there.

I had so many favourites - I've probably missed out loads, so may have to add to the list as I go along.
Milly Molly Mandy - can't remember much about these except the stylised illustrations, but I lapped them up.
The Faraway Tree - who didn't read these in the seventies?
Secret Seven - I did read the Famous Five, but I found these more interesting.
Malory Towers, St Clares and The Naughtiest Girl in the School - I so wanted to go to boarding school!
Arabella's Raven - Bernard Cribbens read it on Jackanory and I loved these books.
The Swish of the Curtain series - I was a real drama kid at heart but wasn't brave enough to actually do it!
Sue Barton series - I've only remembered these by doing the challenge and am currently re-reading them.  Sheer nostalgia.
Danny Champion of the World - The first Roald Dahl I ever read.  Thank you to Mrs Drury who read it to our class at story time.  Kids at school don't seem to get this any more, but I loved it and still do.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - again, thank you Mrs Drury! 
Bogwoppit - another Jackanory find this time Prunella Scales.  I found it hilarious.

But apart from books, I also went to dancing class (and was a bit of a frustrated, inhibited actress too) and had a strict teacher who was beyond terrifying!  I read lots about the ballet and although I knew I'd never be good enough, I loved immersing myself in that world and so read everything by Noël Streatfeild.  They were all good but my favourite is Ballet Shoes.  I first found it as BBC children's TV programme and I nagged mum to buy me the became a regular thing for my poor mum! 
I went through phases of related to each sister, but as I said earlier in the challenge, it was Pauline (the actressy one) that was my real favourite. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Day 20 - Book That Makes You Laugh Out Loud

Today's choices are:

James Herriot Vet series - There's just so many bizarre situations throughout these books, I defy anyone not to laugh!
Bridget Jones' Diary - only the first one and only the first time I read it, but it was different to most chick-lit at that time.
Good Omens - haven't read it in years, but remember annoying people around me by sniggering.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole - another one that was of it's time, and it didn't stand a re-read when I was in my thirties, but I first read it at a similar age to "Adrian" and all his trauma's resonated.  
The Wee Free Men - I love the Mac Nac Feegles!

But my overall winner is...

Mort by Terry Pratchett.  I was forced to listen to a friend at college giggle her way through this and it seemed to take her ages to pass it on so I could see what the fuss was about.  However, when I finally got it off her, I laughed throughout too and ended up buying my own copy, which was unusual as a poverty stricken student who spent any spare cash in the pub not the bookshop!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Day 19 - Favourite Book Turned Into a Movie

I've had to think carefully about this one as even if the film is good, I always prefer the book.  Due to this I try to not watch the movie until I've read the book so I can imagine the characters my own way.
I can be a bit of a geek when I feel they get the casting wrong.  As an example, I enjoy all the Harry Potter films but I just never thought they got Hermione right.  Nothing against Emma Watson, she just isn't how I imagined Hermione. 

The problem today is do I include TV adaptations? I think these tend to be better than films due to the time allowed within a mini series, so I've indulged myself and allowed these too. 

So, films of books that have been pretty good (in my opinion):
The Color Purple
I sob, every time!  Whoopi Goldberg is amazing.
Bridget Jones Diary
Not perfect and Renee Zellweger was too nice and a bit too posh (I always imagined Bridget to be slightly more grubby and rough!) but Hugh Grant and Colin Firth were brilliant and so it sneaks into the list.
Remains of the Day
Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson - sheer class.  Beautifully adapted.

TV adaptations
Pride and Prejudice - BBC with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.  Do I really have to explain?  perfect casting and stuck to the book, apart from the wet shirt scene which is completely acceptable.
North and South - BBC.  Mainly due to Richard Armitage.  It does differ to the novel but it was beautifully filmed and one I can watch again and again.
Cranford - BBC - again, perfect casting.
Persuasion - There two versions, both very different but good in different ways.  The 1995 BBC version with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds is probably more true to the novel, but the 2007 ITV version with Sally Hawkins has Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth. favourite book into film is...
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  
It's epic, it's brilliantly well done and the casting throughout was perfect.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Day 18 - First "Chapter" Book you Remember Reading as a Child

An easy one for today.

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson

I was six, in Miss Buxton's class (which would now be called Y1) and she was a lovely young teacher who chose fabulous stories to read out loud.  She read this to the class and after the first chapter I nagged my mum to get it for me.  I remember standing in the bookshop, which is sadly long gone, and describing the cover and saying I wanted the book about Plop the Owl, but I couldn't remember the actual title.  I think we had to order it as my mum brought it home from work with her one day.  Things were so much more hassle pre-Amazon!  
Plop is a baby barn owl who doesn't want to go out at night.  He also has difficulties in flying and falls out of his tree with a plop!  Each chapter tells of Plop meeting someone who has a reason for liking the dark and eventually he is convinced that the dark is alright and he goes out with his long suffering parents.  Simple stuff, but I loved it!  It's since been adapted into a picture book and I still regularly use both versions in school.

I must also thank Miss Buxton for introducing me to How the Whale Became, My Naughty Little Sister and the Danny Fox stories.  Danny Fox was my second "chapter" book that my poor mum had to search for!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Day 17 - Favourite Quote From Your Favourite Book

So, I'm well over half way through the challenge now...feeling pretty smug that I've managed to say something every day!
But...I think I'm going to have to cheat a little on this one.  Firstly, because I haven't decided on my all time favourite book, so I can't pick a quote from it, yet.  I also put in my favourite quote from Persuasion when choosing my favourite classic book.
So, here's a few of my favourite quotes from some of my favourite authors and I hope you will be kind enough to allow me to fudge the challenge today.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
Jane Austen

A large income is the best recipe for hapiness I ever heard of.
Jane Austen

“My idea of good the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”
“You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company, that is the best.”
Jane Austen

He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two.
Victor Hugo

It looked like the sort of book described in library catalogues as "slightly foxed", although it would be more honest to admit that it looked as though it had been badgered, wolved and possibly beared as well. -- Ah, but has it been hedgehogged?
Terry Prachett

"It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever," he said.  "Have you thought of going into teaching?"
Death's face was a mask of terror.  Well it was always a mask of terror, but this time he meant it to be.
Terry Pratchett

It is difficult to be angry with a gentleman who pays you compliments, even impertinent compliments.  Especially impertinent compliments.

Elizabeth Peters

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Day 16 - Favourite Female Character

Elizabeth Bennett - I know, predictable again but she's clever (but not clever enough to see through Wickham), witty, can dance and has a pair of fine eyes.  She gets her man and Pemberley...I want to be her!
Belle (or whatever different people call her) in Beauty and the Beast - my favourite fairy tale.  I love Belle as she's bookish, brave and amazingly loyal both to her father and eventually the Beast.
Pauline Fossil - I went through phases of wanting to be all the Fossil sisters, but it was Pauline that I really admired.  She isn't always nice but she gets her comeuppance and learns from it.  She can do it all - the first triple threat I'd ever heard of!
Esme Weatherwax - a complete legend.  Proud, brusque but kind, an amazing understanding of how people tick and magical powers that she refuses to flaunt.
Nanny Ogg - I wouldn't want to be her, but you've got to admire her chutzpah!
Anne Elliot - starts out as a bit of a doormat but gets her man eventually.

But today I choose...
Amelia Peabody Emerson
This this choice could seem a bit strange as I've chosen her son as my favourite male character (and I do adore him) but my dilemma is I'm just not keen on the overly fragrant Nefret who eventually marries the gorgeous Ramses.
So I'm going for Amelia in her younger days, early in the series before Ramses really makes any impact in the books.
Amelia is an independent woman of means, who takes on the world, rights all wrongs and uses her parasol to great effect.  She also develops a love for all things Egyptian and the wonderful Emerson.  Although she's no great looker, her personality and dynamism not only attract Emerson but also the attentions of the mysterious Sethos.  Any lady who manages all this is fabulous!  

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Day 15 - Favourite Male Character

Today, brings difficult choices!  My favourite male character, ummm...let me see.

Darcy - predictable, I know he's on just about every girls list, isn't he?  Not the easiest guy to get to know and possibly a bit deep and brooding at times, but he's attractive, honest to a fault and there's always Pemberley to get excited about!  
Captain Wentworth - any bloke that can write a such a fabulous letter is worthy of consideration. 
John Thornton - an all round good bloke, who despite being misunderstood, continues to try to do the right thing and this is probably a bit sad, but he's nice to his mother and his foul sister under very trying circumstances!
Severus Snape - bit of a odd one but he's my guilty crush!  There's just something about him (the crushing sarcastic comments) that I admired and I knew he wasn't all bad!
Erik (Phantom of the Opera) - again an unlikely crush and it's Erik from the fiction based on the musical rather than the original novel.  I just do have a soft spot for my tortured, damaged (and psychopathic) males.  He's just so misunderstood and I can't get beyond the Lloyd Webber version of events.
Jean Valjean - doesn't have the best of starts but definitely redeems himself.  My only reservation is why does someone so sensitive to others bring up a self- centred piece like Cossette?
Nicholas Brisbane - he's fit, gorgeous and can handle himself well.  He also marries a stroppy, opinionated woman.  What's not to like?
Radcliffe Emerson - as above, plus he's an Egyptologist! Bliss!

However, after much deliberation my favourite male character is...

Ramses Emerson.
I've covered some of this ground before, but after being a precocious child who was immensely irritating, he develops into a brave, daring young man with a talent for disguise who just happens to be amazingly good looking as well as being intelligent and sensitive.  He's knowledgeable about Egyptology, speaks many languages, writes scholarly books and also manages to fight crime and help out with the intelligence agency in the First World War.  Loyal to his friends and kind to animals.  The down side is he remains a little too close to his mother and he adores Nefret, but everyone has their faults!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Day 14 - Favourite Book By Favourite Writer

The problem here is that he's written so many!  How to narrow it down?
I love The Wee Free Men, purely for the Nac Mac Feegles. 
I adore all the witch books, particularly Maskerade (well it is based on Phantom!) and Greebo is a total star in this one!  But I also really like Wyrd Sisters.

However, the one I still go back to and laugh the most at is Mort.  
The hapless Mort is taken on as Death's apprentice and predictably chaos ensues.  But the whole concept of Death having a mid-life (?!) crisis, giving up the scythe and wanting a normal life is what makes it so funny, that and him having a horse called Binky!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Day 13 - Favourite Writer

There's several possibilities for today's challenge, and many have already been mentioned.
If going for a classic angle, it'd predictably be Jane Austen.  If going modern then I love Elizabeth Peters (already done!) or my romcom favourites (mentioned in Day 5).  But if it's down the author that I've read most books from and I'm still buying them, it has to be (small drum roll, please)...
Terry Pratchett.

I've read everything he done, including the ones for children/ young adults and the man is brilliant!  Not only is he an amazing author, his ongoing work on raising awareness and challenging perceptions about Alzheimer's disease has been inspirational.

I was introduced to his work by a someone at college and although that we quickly lost touch, the one useful remaining aspect of the friendship was the Discworld books.  I didn't even know fantasy books existed until then!
They're all witty, clever, completely bonkers and they make me laugh!  A lot!
I particularly love the witches, Esme Weatherwax is my role model for when I get older and I believe that one of my very good friends is well on the way to becoming Nanny Ogg.  I'm also a huge fan of Death and his take on humanity.
If you've never read them, you should.  If you don't get them, then that's a shame.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Day 12 - A Book You Used to Love But Don't Any More

Today's challenge is relying on books that's you've re-read, other wise how can you say you loved it but don't any more unless you've gone back to it and age, experience or some other reason has made you change your mind?

So, I'm going for Wuthering Heights.
Ooooo, anyone shocked?!  I think this a marmite book anyway...and I think if I'd been made to read it at school I possibly would have loathed it.  But, I read it in my mid teens in a self-indulgent, "nobody understands me phase" and the sheer wild, passionate desperation of it all swept me along.  I wanted to be Cathy, I understood her pain and Heathcliffe was the perfect hero.  The atmospheric gloom and unremitting misery of it all - gorgeous!

When I was at Uni, I visited the Haworth and the Bronte Paronage with some friends.  What struck us all was how bleak it all was, all that stuff at school about the environment  inspiring their writing made sense!  I read it again just after that and it still resonated with me...I still loved it.

However, I reread it a couple of years back (now in my forties!) and although I quite enjoyed it, I found it all "overdone", it just didn't work for me any longer.  I still think it's perfect for how I was then, but not now.  So although I don't love it, there will always be a small soft spot tucked away for Wuthering Heights and the impossible all encompassing love it describes. 

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

An elegantly written story of the world of ballet, talent and the search for perfection.

Joan is a young dancer who realises she's already reached the peak of her career and will never get beyond the corps de ballet. Her brief fame from helping the great Soviet star Arslan Rusakov defect and the resulting love affair are long over and she takes her ticket out by marrying the reliable Jacob. They move to California with their son Harry, but has Joan completely given up her hopes for ballet?
It becomes apparent that Harry is a prodigy. His ongoing obsession with Arslan Rusalov and his desire to be a top class dancer draws the family back into the intense world of ballet and opens up secrets from Joan’s past.

The story flits backwards and forwards in time, shifting narrators to show differing views, although Joan remains the central character. The insular and demanding world of dance is described beautifully; the egos, demanding schedules and the perpetual struggle to improve. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and although the “twist” wasn't a surprise, the story is so involving I still wanted to know how things would be resolved. All the characters have their flaws and some seem very lightly sketched. The younger Joan is an empathetic character, but once she becomes a mother she seems more distant and merely an extension of Harry. However, I did have a sneaky admiration for Elaine, with her determination, persistence and her love for Mr K.
Overall, it’s a fascinating and captivating read and I love my dance themed books!  Give it a go.

I received a free proof copy of this book through
Thank you.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Day 11 - A Book You Hated

Similar in some ways to Day 8 with the overrated books.  Most of those would probably fit into this category too.  However, today's contenders are:
Alice in Wonderland - I just never got it! Not as a child and certainly not as a student teacher having to do it as part of classic children's fiction.
Jane Eyre - another one I just don't really get, although I did enjoy the BBC adaptation with Toby Stephens and his dodgy hair extensions!  I find the beginning purely depressing, the middle bit ok and the ending disappointing.  Yes, I get she's plain, has a tough deal, remains constant but won't give up her ideals, but it's all so wearing.
Sons and Lovers - I've tried to do D.H. Lawrence, but find them too slow, too depressing and there's no fun even in Lady Chatterley!

However, today's overall winner is Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy.  Probably unfair, but this was one of my "A-level" set texts (with this actual cover!) so it was forced upon me and any enjoyment was wrung out by over-analysis and rote learning of quotes and overall themes.  I haven't been able to pluck up the enthusiasm to read it since I finished the exam, so I although it may deserve a second chance and could be an undiscovered still remains my most hated book.  At the time I found the whole novel turgidly depressing and rather sanctimonious.  I have never tried any other hardy novels due to my lack of enthusiasm for this one.  On a positive note, I did do very well in my exams!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Day 10 - Favourite Classic Book

Now I feel that I'm back on track, I can do this day's challenge a bit of justice!  The problem is going to choosing my overall favourite classic.

The contenders are:

North and South - purely for John Thornton, who is a wonderful hero and will now forever be Richard Armitage in my head.  
Pride and Prejudice - I know, it's a cliche, but I do truly love this book and for more than Mr Darcy but he helps!
North Riding - a more recent find.  I read it after I saw the TV adaptation and was a bit disappointed by it.  As usual the book is so much stronger and I hope it now it gets the attention it deserves.
Les Miserables - already covered, but Jean Valjean's redemption is beautifully sad.
Lord of the Rings - I've read the whole lot a few times now and yes, I admit that I do skip some of the historical background stuff, but it's an epic and I always feel rewarded when I've got to the end and all is well.
Winnie the Pooh - just gorgeous, brilliantly quotable...and I love Eeyore.
1984 - scarily clever.
Rebecca - I'd some how avoided reading this until a couple of years ago.  Not really sure why, but I loved it.  So atmospheric.
Brideshead Revisited - found it as a teenager with a crush on Anthony Andrews.  Although it's only a small aspect of the book it conjures up images of hot summers, punting and a teddy called Aloysius. 

But my overall favourite classic book is...

Persuasion by Jane Austen
This is a much quieter and less "flashy" novel than P&P.  Maybe it's an age thing and it was also Austen's last completed book and is much more reflective, but I really empathise with Anne and feel that she deserves her happy ending much more than many other characters.
Anne is an older heroine,  for the times she is past her prime and well into spinsterhood and all the assumptions and embarrassment this meant for single women.  She has been disappointed in many aspects of her life and with her grasping and insensitive family she begins the story downtrodden and undervalued.  However she has an inner strength, a sense of rightness and purpose that grows throughout the story.  She is the type of person that values her old friend who is ill and in reduced circumstances; she does the right thing even when it goes against her wishes and although she regrets the choices she made in her youth she doesn't blame others for their role in it. 
It is a story of regret, longing and hope.  My favourite part (and I think the most romantic letter ever written) is:

"I can listen no longer in silence.  I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach.  You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.  I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.  Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.  I have loved none but you.  Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath.  For you alone, I think and plan.  Have you not seen this?  Can you fail to have understood my wishes?  I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine.  I can hardly write.  I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me.  You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others.  Too good, too excellent creature!  You do us justice, indeed.  You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.  Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in 

F. W. 

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible.  A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."

 Absolute bliss!
Just couldn't resist!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Day 9 - A Book You Thought You Wouldn't Like But Ended Up Loving

These past few days of the challenge have been really difficult ones to pin down, I'm pleased to say that tomorrow's is soooo much easier!
I do tend to read in my comfort zone and so if I think I'll hate a book, I tend to not read it.  As it's very rare for me to give up on a book once I've started it, I don't set myself up for books that I don't expect to enjoy.  So after a bit of reflection, I've come up with the following suggestions for today's challenge.

The Hobbit - I was given this as a child by a friend of my mum's who knew I was "bookish" and so thought it'd be ideal.  I didn't know anything about it, (I am very old and this was way before Peter Jackson had probably even thought about making the films!) and I hated it!  Actually that's a bit unfair as I didn't get very far, got bored and gave up.  Maybe I was too young or it just wasn't the right time.  However, when I did go back a couple of years later, I loved it.

Little Women - was given to me at school (probably by a frustrated teacher when I was moaning that I'd read everything else!) and it had a nasty twee cover, which if not exactly the one I've included was pretty close.  With blushing girls with fussy ringlets and prissy dresses on it, I loathed it on sight.  It didn't help that I wasn't very keen on that particular teacher, either.  But as we had regular silent reading sessions and with nothing else to do, I gritted my teeth and read it.  Although I didn't understand what calf's foot jelly was all about, I did love it and wanted to be Jo, just like every other girl forced to do something they didn't want to.

Twilight - I know it's sad and as I said earlier, the whole series didn't stand a re-read but I adored Twilight for the sheer romance of it.  I only bought it as I was fed up of all the hype (again, pre-films) and wanted to hate it particularly as Bella is such a pain and Edward is controlling, but it's a bit of a guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Day 8 - Most Overrated Book

Ooo again, a tricky one.  As I said yesterday, I assume if I don't get on with a book that it's just down to me.  However, there are a few that were raved about and I just didn't like.
Here goes...and apologies if you adore any on this list.

The 50 Shades Trilogy - Urgh!  Left me feeling slightly unclean and regretting the time I'd wasted reading them on the promise of a friend that they got better.  In my opinion, they didn't.
His Dark Materials - again, highly recommended by friends and colleagues, I just didn't get it and didn't want to go any further...I have the whole series sitting unloved on the bookshelf.  Maybe I'm not clever enough.
Cold Comfort Farm - maybe I read it on a bad week, but I didn't see that it was funny.
I Capture the Castle - again, maybe I would have got it when I was younger, but not my thing.
The Thirteenth Tale - ok, but didn't understand what the fuss was about.
The Postmistress - a Richard and Judy choice that I was massively disappointed in.
One Day - I accept I might have been swayed by the "meh" audiobook version but although I though it was alright, I couldn't see why people rave about it.  I found the central characters rather annoying and cold and so couldn't connect emotionally with their story. 
The Girl with Glass Feet - beautiful cover and pretty silver edging on the pages...It had fabulous reviews and I wanted to love it.  Sadly, didn't. 
The Host - I found it dull and I just didn't care.  I'm sticking to the vampires.

The overall winner is...
Captain Corelli's Mandolin - one of the very few books I've ever given up on.  I've read the first 50 pages three times and still can't get any further.  I'm sure many have loved it, but not me.  I hated the film too!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Day 7 - Most Underrated Book

This is a difficult I mainly read popular fiction, I don't think there's much I've read that I felt was under rated.  I just assume that it's down to taste.  I don't like the snobbery about romantic fiction and so maybe the work of popular fiction writers can be under rated by the reviewers in the big newspapers, maybe?

So after a bit of reflection, I could only come up with the following:
North and South - a brilliant classic which probably was overlooked until Richard Armitage played John Thornton in the BBC adaptation.  (I did read it before the TV, too!)
Some Jane Austen's gets overshadowed by Pride and Prejudice (I hold Colin Firth responsible!) but Persuasion is equally good, just different.

Apologies for being a bit vague on this one...I really struggled.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Day 6 - A Book That Made You Sad

I'm certainly not a fan of "misery" books.  I read for enjoyment and entertainment and although I'm happy to tackle more heavyweight subjects I don't purposely choose books that will make me sad, but every now and then I'll find a novel that I connect with more intensely and although reasonably rare, I have been known to cry.   

Books that I've sobbed at:
Les Miserables - already covered!
Can't remember which one it was but definitely Jilly Cooper and the dog was killed (any ideas?)
The Colour Purple - even worse when I watch the film!
The Remains of the Day - all those missed opportunities.
Phantom by Susan Kay and Chanson de l'Ange - back to one of my obsessions, but it still gets me.
Me before You - didn't everyone?
100 Pieces of Me - a very recent read that touched a personal nerve.
A Monster Calls and 100 Ways to Live Forever - both children's/ YA books that I read in preparation for school but would never manage to read them to a class.  Both beautifully written.
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece - I had the audio version of this and David Tennant is amazing.

However, my choice for book that made me sad is...
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
One reason - Dobby.
I know other major characters were killed off or badly maimed but that didn't affect me at all.  Killing Dobby was so unexpected and cruel, it came as a real shock.  I was inconsolable on the first read (but couldn't tell anyone as I'd bought it early on the first day of publication, no one else I knew had read it or wanted spoilers!) and I still cry when I re-read it even now.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Day 5 - A Book that Makes You Happy

I've made an executive decision...I'm going for happy, "comfort" books here rather than the ones that make me laugh as that comes further down the list.  Although these books give me pleasure, they're not necessarily without a darker aspect or maybe cover serious issues.

I love a good romance book, what I consider to be more grown up chick-lit.  However the term is often seen as been derisive and I don't mean it in that way at all.  These authors are consistently brilliant and I look forward to any new novels coming out.  My favourites are:

Milly Johnson - all fabulous books and she's from Barnsley!  What's not to like when the characters go shopping in Meadowhall?!  Particularly liked Here Come the Girls.
Trisha Ashley - all good, I even managed to get old battered copies of her early stuff before they were republished.  Particularly liked A Winter's Tale.
Jenny Colgan - a recent find but devouring all the sweetie and cupcake related books and they have recipes.  Not that I've tested any, yet.
Erica James - all brilliant but Tell it to the Skies is set in Venice which makes it even better.

Other cosy reads -
Amelia Peabody series - think I've already covered that one!
No1 Ladies Dectective books - they're so gentle and relaxing.
Beauty and The Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley - both variations on the story of Beauty and the Beast which is my all time favourite fairy tale.

 I'm a sucker for a happy ending and so my all time "Happy" book is Pride and Prejudice for a dark, moody but honourable hero (in the Colin Firth mould) and the best happy ending!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Day 4 - Favourite Book of Your Favourite Series

Umm, a bit trickier than yesterdays challenge.

I really enjoy the first of the series "Crocodile on the Sandbank" as it sets up the whole series really well.  Amelia is a delight and the acerbic Emerson is a true hero.  When I first read these books, I had mixed feelings about the character of their son Ramses.  As a young child he's pretty annoying at times and I felt he got in the way of the more interesting stuff going on between Amelia and Emerson.  However, as the series progressed, I think it's the later books where there children have grown up and developed strong characters that allow much more to happen within each book.  The themes become darker and more complex and there's less boisterous humour than in the earlier novels.  Due to these reasons, I was stuck between Falcon at the Portal (#11) and Thunder in the Sky (#12).  These do need to be read back to back as the events of Falcon have a huge impact on characters actions in Thunder. 

I enjoy Falcon as the reader finally gets the whole Nefret/ Ramses relationship sorted (briefly) and I love that section of the book but then Nefret completely loses it and as she has never been my favourite character (too perfect, too smug, too adored by everyone who I feel should know better) I still find it hard to forgive her actions...she's just sooo not good enough for Ramses! 

However, I'm giving the award to Thunder in the Sky, as the gradual development of characters and the accumulation of all their quirks really drives the story.  Amelia is allowed to show her more vulnerable side and on a purely girly level it's where Ramses really comes into his own as a complete action hero.  
When you've invested so much time in a series, you really care about the characters and you want the "right" ending.  Although I wouldn't have been happy if the series had ended at this point, I felt a sense of satisfaction and I don't think any of the books that came after this point, although all good and enjoyable, gave me same fulfilment.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Day 3 - Favourite Series

Easy... The Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters. 

I love, love, love this series.  I could be an absolute geek about this series and I have tried to get everyone I know to read them. (With varying degrees of success!) It has it all, Egyptology, strong female lead, humour, crime and mystery.  Amelia is a feisty feminist ready to defend herself and her family with her trusty parasol and belt of tools, but most importantly there's two clever and handsome heroes, three if you count Sethos who definitely has his moments too.  Firstly, the wonderful Emerson and then he passes the riskier stuff onto his son Ramses as the series progresses.
These my comfort reads and I adore them...I also have the audiobooks and I tend to go through the whole lot on my daily commute every couple of years just for the fun of it. 
I found the first of the series completely by accident years ago when on an Egyptology summer school killing time in Waterstones over lunch rather than risk looking a total Billy-no-mates.  I'm sure all my serious classmates wouldn't have approved but I lapped it up and then devoured the rest of the available books.

Other series (serious?!) contenders:
Harry Potter - need I say more?
Lady Julia Grey - I love Brisbane! I admit it, I'm easily swayed by a dashing hero.
Sebastian St.Cyr - ditto! 
Terry Pratchett - the witches books, I love Esme Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg
Mary Russell series - ageing Sherlock Holmes.  Started off well but the later ones didn't entertain as much.
Rivers of London - a recent audiobook find.  Really enjoyed them and had developed a bit of a sad crush on Nightingale by the end of Book 4!
No 1 Ladies Dectective - cosy reading where nothing much happens.
Twilight - loved it first time round, but they didn't stand the test of a re-read for me.
Secret Seven - read everything by Enid Blyton but these were my favourites and I prefered them to the Famous Five, but not sure why.
Sue Barton Nurse series - ooo, I read these years ago as a pre-teen, maybe I ought to revisit?!

Do you know, I hadn't realised that I'm a serial series reader?!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Day 2 - Book You've Read More Than Three Times

Ooo the past I was a bit of a habitual re-reader and even now there's several favourites that I go back to as a comfort read.  There's also been times when due to lack of cash to buy new fiction and limited access/availability from the library that I re-read purely as I had to read something rather than nothing! 
There's also the dilemma of my childhood reads, is it still usual for kids to re-read their favourites?  The older children at school don't seem to do so now but then there's all the technological distractions that are available.  I know I sound ancient, but as an only child with few children of my age living nearby and only 3 TV channels showing very limited kids programmes (and no daytime TV at all!) you read or got very bored, very quickly!!

So what have I read multiple times?
Removing children's books, which come on a different day.  There's everything by Jane Austen and Terry Pratchett; all the Amelia Peabody series and all the Harry Potters. (I count these as I read them as an adult, is that cheating?)  I adore Remains of the Day and have revisited it several times and as always although the film was beautifully acted I still prefer the book. 1984 is also on the list, I read it first to be clever and then realised how brilliant it was...long time since I last looked at it though.  
On a lighter note I have read several Jilly Cooper's many times, particularly Riders which was educational and possibly instructional and kept me occupied through a damp boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads. 

So I can't really say simply one book I've read more than three times...there's just too many!  Hope that's not too much of a cop out.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Day 1 - The Best Book You Read Last Year

So, it's the start of my challenge!

I had to look back at what I'd read last year, I'd read more than 120 books and unfortunately, many had slipped my mind.  I blame the inconvenience of having to work, but thank goodness for goodreads!  As I'd been really poor at doing reviews or making any notes during most of last year, it was a bit of a struggle to remember what I'd really been impressed with.

5 star reads included amongst others, a Milly Johnson and a Trisha Ashley, both truly fabulous romantic reads from authors I really love.  There were several by Terry Pratchett (including a few re-reads) which I always enjoy.  The Chanson de l'Ange trilogy fed my phantom obsession for several weeks and although the ending wasn't what I'd envisioned I thoroughly wallowed in my Erik obsession.  I really loved The Rosie Project on audiobook too.
However, (slightly off tune fanfare) my winner for best book of last year is rather predictably Les Miserables!  I've not chosen it to be clever, or pretentious (honestly!) or simply because it is my second favourite musical...but it was one of those books that I'd promised myself that I'd read at some point and when I finally did, (after the big push of the film and planning to see the musical again) I loved it.  No, it's not perfect, it does ramble on and there were a few sections that I found really hard work and irrelevant to the story, but I never skipped over (no matter how tempted on the Napoleonic War bit) and although I took it steady over several months alongside lighter reads, I found it a fulfilling read.  I admit I am still biased and found Cossette was even more irritating and unworthy of the attentions she receives than in the musical (and let's be honest she's pretty "meh" for most of that too!) the story of  Jean Valjean's redemption was engrossing and very moving.  I'll admit it...I sobbed several times before I got to the end.

Monday, 10 March 2014 30 Day Book Challenge

Apologies for not being original and being a bit behind the door at catching on...but I found this challenge by accident.  There's loads of people on their blogs, facebook etc who've done it (thanks to whoever started it) and it seemed an interesting idea. I thought as I've been a very bad blogger of late it'd also be a bit of a push to make me get back in the habit so I'm going to have a go. I'll be really interested in anyone's views and I hope it might make me remember some old favourites.
Here's the complete challenge:
Day 01 - Best book you read last year
Day 02 - A book that you've read more than 3 times
Day 03 - Your favourite series
Day 04 - Favourite book of your favourite series
Day 05 - A book that makes you happy
Day 06 - A book that makes you sad
Day 07 - Most underrated book
Day 08 - Most overrated book
Day 09 - A book you thought you wouldn't like but ended up loving
Day 10 - Favourite classic book
Day 11 - A book you hated
Day 12 - A book you used to love but don’t any more
Day 13 - Your favourite writer
Day 14 - Favourite book of your favourite writer
Day 15 - Favourite male character
Day 16 - Favourite female character
Day 17 - Favourite quote from your favourite book
Day 18 - First "chapter" book you remember reading as a child
Day 19 - Favourite book turned into a movie
Day 20 - Book that makes you laugh out loud
Day 21 - Favourite book from your childhood
Day 22 - Your guilty pleasure
Day 23 - A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 - A book that you wish more people would've read
Day 25 - A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 - A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 - The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 - Favourite title
Day 29 - Favourite book you read in school
Day 30 - Your favourite book of all time

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

In my mailbox...#10

Can't possibly fill you in on all the buys I've had since my last post.  So here's the latest!

Anyone still out there? Probably not...and I don't blame you.

So, more than twelve months on and so much for my good intentions for 2013.  They just didn't happen...well not on here anyway!
So what have I been doing?  All the usual, really, same as everyone else.  Sadly work and family became bigger priorities and although I have been reading, I've not managed to review.  Goodreads has just been getting star ratings for the last year or so.  I still have a huge TBR list and my kindle is starting to groan with the titles that I just can't resist.

I did manage to read Les Mis and I loved it!  Sobbed like a wuss too towards the end (no surprises there, then!) and I also got to see the show in London again too, which was fabulous.

I've recently become a member of the lovereading review panel too and so am starting to make a greater effort to write up reviews promptly and I hope to get them on here too.