Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Reads of 2011

Like a lot of book bloggers, I have been looking back on the books I have read in 2011. In total, I managed to read 17 books, more than I had anticipated due to the fact that I'm such a slow reader. Here's a list of my completed books (click on the links to read their reviews):

'Songs Of Blue and Gold' - Deborah Lawrenson
'One Day'- David Nicholls
'The Lantern'- Deborah Lawrenson
'Slipstream'- Elizabeth Jane Howard
'The Book of Ebenezer Le Page'- G.B Edwards
'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'- J.K Rowling
'School Stories'- Elinor.M.Brent-Dyer
'Pillars of the Earth'- Ken Follett
'Tin Toys'- Ursula Holden
'Room'- Emma Donoghue
'The Prestige'- Christopher Priest
'The Maltese Falcon'- Dashiell Hammett
'Short Stories'- Edith Wharton
'Of Mice and Men'- John Steinbeck
'Falling'- Elizabeth Jane Howard
'Our Spoons Came from Woolworths'- Barbara Comyns
'The Bones of Avalon'- Phil Rickman

My book count would have been 18. Unfortunately I haven't quite finished Andrea Levy's novel 'The Long Song', so it will qualify as a 2012 read. Out of the list, there have been some great (and not so great) books. My top 6 books of 2011 (I couldn't help but sneak an extra book in)are:

'The Lantern'- Deborah Lawrenson
'The Pillars of the Earth'- Ken Follett
'One Day'- David Nicholls
'Of Mice and Men'- John Steinbeck
'Room'-Emma Donoghue
'Our Spoons Came From Woolworths'- Barbara Comyns

What all of these novels have in my opinion were fantastic storytelling, great characters and vivid description. What were your favourite reads of 2012? What books are looking forward to reading in the new year?

Now that I have looked back on my reads of 2011, I can look forward to the books to come in 2012. All that is left for me to say is thank you for visiting my blog throughout the last year and whatever you are doing to welcome in 2012, have a happy and healthy new year.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Word of The Week

For the last 'Word of the Week' of 2011, I thought that this would be rather appropriate:

Auld lang syne
- 1.old times, especially times fondly remembered. 2.old or long friendship.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Felíz Navidad!

This week there's no 'Sunday Snippet' as usual. By the time you read this (I actually wrote this post on 23rd December), I will be busy celebrating Christmas with my parents.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a safe and Happy Christmas. I will be back blogging some time next week.

Here's a special song for you all:

Felíz Navidad!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 13

This is the final 'Chapters In My Life'. I have really enjoyed hosting the series and may host another in the future. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who have contributed to 'Chapters In My Life' and those of you who have stopped by and read it.

For the final installment, Steph from the 'StephTheBookworm' blog, will share with us the 5 books which have influenced her life:

1. Ramona series by Beverly Cleary - what would my childhood have been without Ramona? I have often cited Beverly Cleary as being my hero. Ramona were the books that started my love for reading, and reading has directed my life completely - I'm even in library school. So without these books, I truly don't know what I would be doing or what my life would be like. Ramona is also important to me because I was always a shy kid and often picked on, but Ramona was a friend and her antics always made me laugh.

2. Marley and Me by John Grogan - I have ALWAYS been an animal lover, but Marley and Me showed me just how wonderful the love of a dog could be. Before, I was mostly a cat girl. I stayed up all night reading and bawling my eyes out. Now, I have my own dog to love.

3. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster - This book is my all time favorite. It made me laugh so hard and Jen showed me to be fearless in who you are.

4. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman - I adore this book to pieces. It's one of my favorites and is such a touching, Southern coming of age tale. But the reason it is so important to me is because of the author. Beth contacted me when I reviewed it and we have grown to be friends. We even went out to dinner together with a group of her favorite bloggers during BEA in NYC. This was important to me because it showed me how gracious, grateful, and compassionate authors can be. Beth is the epitome of gracious. Don't authors rock?!

5. The Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - I started reading this series when I was about 8 or 9 and it quickly grew to become one of my favorite series. What's better still is that new Alice books always came out with Alice being a little older and we were always the same age. I grew up with Alice and am SO happy to see the series is still going on.

If you have just discovered this series and would like to catch up on past weeks, click on the links below:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson

Publisher: Arrow Books

ISBN: 978-0-099-50519-8

Length: 432 pages

What the 'blurb' says:

'In the horseshoe bay of Kalami in Corfu, a tumultuos love affair begins between a renowned novelist and a woman escaping scandal. Years later, her daughter Melissa, running from her own past, returns to the island...

Melissa's life in England is in disarray. There are cracks in her perfect marriage, and her elderly mother, Elizabeth, is losing her memory and slowly drifting away. In the last glimmers of lucidity, Elizabeth presents her daughter with a gift that suggests a very secret history- one that leads Melissa to Kalami, where Julian Adie, poet, traveller and novelist, once lived.

But what is the connection between Adie- an alluring hedonist who discarded four wives- and Meliss'a mother Elizabeth? As Melissa chases Adie's shadow across the golden places he loved, she finds her mother may not have been the person she thought. Forced to question morality, loyality and her own unwillingness to let love in, Melissa is gradually led to a dramatic re-evaluation of her own life.....'

Opening Line: 'By the time I reached Corfu, the season was in its last gasp.'

What's good about this novel?

This novel is well written and keeps the reader in suspense as to the answer to the mystery.

Something that I find particularly effective in this novel, is the contrast in atmosphere that Deborah Lawrenson creates throughout. The calm, tranquil backdrop created around Melissa in present day Corfu, emphasizes the intense and dramatic storyline of her mother's past. This is a sign that Deborah is a great story teller.

The characters in this story were well structured, however I did find Elizabeth the more interesting of the two main characters.

The pace of the story was evenly balanced and I was kept interested throughout.

What's wrong with this novel?

Having read Deborah's latest novel 'The Lantern', I didn't feel that the writing and descriptions in 'Songs of Blue and Gold' were as complex and magical. I also found that the two main characters, even though they were well formed, were not quite as strong as the characters in 'The Lantern'.

In 'The Lantern' I was not only able enjoy the story, but the descriptions and the social comment Deborah Lawrenson was making about how the past influences the present day. I didn't feel that 'Songs of Blue and Gold' had these elements. The story on it's own however, was entertaining.

Is this worth a read?

Personally I prefer 'The Lantern', however I do think that 'Songs of Blue and Gold' is well worth a read. It would be perfect in the summer or if you want to be transported to warmer climes, on a very cold winter's evening.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday

As some of you may know, Aguja from 'WordStitcher' and I are friends in real world, as well as the Blogosphere.

We often stop off for a coffee after our Art class to chat about books, writing, blog post ideas and all sorts of other things. As the life of a writer can be rather lonely at times, it's really good to able to share ideas with each other and encourage one another, when the writing process takes its toll.

This year to celebrate the festive season, Aguja and I decided to go to a restaurant for a 'Writer's Pencil' Christmas lunch and here are some photos (which I have to credit Aguja for, as I forgot my camera and my phone camera isn't very good):

The restaurant was decorated with a lot of lovely Christmas decorations, including this beautiful Christmas tree.

'The Writer's Pencil' about to dive into the delicious food on offer!

This is one of the very rare occasions you will see a photo of me on the blog, particularly wearing a dress! I'm on the left, Aguja is on the right.

As you can see from this photo, the food was delicious. The portions were also rather large, so we felt very full afterwards.

'The Writer's Pencil' Christmas Lunch was a great success. I hope that there will be many more lunches like this one soon!

Are you in a Writer's Circle or even a Writer's Pencil? If so, do you go on outings like this? Also, have you been to any interesting restaurants lately?

Monday, December 19, 2011

'League Of Extraordinary Gentleman' Book Challenge

At this time of year, us book bloggers look back on the books we have read throughout the last 12 months and look towards the titles and authors we are going to discover in the coming year.

I'm going to talk about the books I have read in 2011 in due course, but I wanted to talk about a book challenge I'm about to embark on. I have never taken part in any blog book challenges before, but as one of my book new year's resolutions is to read more of the classics, the book challenge on 'Man Of La Book' seems perfect. Here are the rules:


1. The goal is to read the clas­sic books and the graphic novel to see how they all tie together. No blog is needed, a review on Ama­zon, Goodreads, etc. is good enough.

2. What counts: books, eBooks, audio books

3. Crossovers from other read­ing chal­lenges count.

The books are (in no spe­cific order):
– Drac­ula by Bram Stoker
– Twenty Thou­sand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne- Read
– Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Steven­son-Read
– The Invis­i­ble Man by H.G. Wells
– The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells
– Any Fu Manchu novel
– Any Sher­lock Holmes novel- Read
– Any Allan Quater­main novel
– Any James Bond novel


- The League of Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­men graphic novel to tie it all together. (if you don't have it in your local library Ama­zon sells afford­able issues).

As you can see from the list, I have already read Jules Verne's 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea' (you can find my review of it here), but there are many books on the list that I haven't read. The list does include a 'James Bond' novel. I hate the James Bond films, but I'm willing to give the novel version a go.

So if you fancy challenging yourself in 2012, consider signing up for this one.

What book challenges are you signing up for, or setting for yourself in 2012?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Snippet

It's hard to believe that this time next week, it will be Christmas! I'm determined to finish 'Songs Of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson by Christmas day and I think I might just achieve that. Here's a snippet:

Page 333- 'She was unsure what their relationship was- friendship, shared interest, or was it stronger than that? Had that one night in Corfu been a stupid mistake, or the only honest part of a tentative game they were both playing?'

'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson

Whatever you're doing, enjoy this Sunday before Christmas. I'm going out for a pre-Christmas Sunday lunch with my parents, before the craziness begins!

Happy Sunday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 12

It's the penultimate week of 'Chapters In My Life'. I don't know about you, but I have really enjoyed reading the varied choices of books my guest posters have made and I'm planning to do another series in the future.

This week, Tiffany from 'Dancing Branflakes' is going to share with us the five books that have a significance in her life:

'The five books that have influenced my life:

Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Before then my desire to read was almost non-existent. But once I picked up that book my love to read took off and I read almost everything in sight. I discovered it at an age when I was trying to find my own voice and for some reason felt that he expressed my own thoughts in a shockingly accurate way.

Jane Eyre

Growing up I always loved dark men with hidden secrets, which is ironic because the man I love is the total opposite. But back then I wanted to be Jane. I related a lot to her because she was plain like me and I liked that she got the man in the end. I think I figured that someone tormented by his past would be more apt to overlook physical flaws so Mr. Rochester really appealed to me.

The Zahir

It's the best love story in that it isn't a love story but a collection of random thoughts from a man about his wife. It's a fascinating read that sheds an interesting light on how men view their wives and marriage in general.

Le Petit Prince

I don't think any child or adult should live their life without reading this book. I picked up a used copy for a boy I was dating and when I gave it to him I realized, "there is only one reason I am giving this to him and it's because I love him." We married a year later.

Betty Crocker Cook Book

Okay, I know this sounds weird but that big red cook book was my first foray into becoming obsessed with food. Even though I don't use the recipes anymore I have to give credit to where credit is due because without it I would not have even tackled homemade spaghetti sauce or cinnamon rolls. She's old school but she laid a good foundation.

Word of The Week

In the spirit of the season, this week's 'Word of the Week' is:

Christmas, or the Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday

Last weekend, our town had a 'Tapas Festival' with loads of food, drink and the obligatory band.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Snippet

This week has been very busy. Firstly, there was a Christmas party on Monday in which I discovered Egg Nog.

Then I had a day trip to Benidorm which was great. However at one point I felt like I was in a 'Vicar of Dibley' Christmas special, as I had to eat two dinners (one being a full blown turkey dinner), so as to not to upset anyone. I felt VERY ill afterwards!

The week was rounded off, by going out to dinner with the Intercambio group I go to on Friday's. I have been going to the group for about 4 years now and for me, it's not just a group to practise my Spanish, but I have also made some great friends there. This year's dinner had a touch of sadness to it, because it was the first Christmas dinner without one of our group leaders and a very good friend, who passed away a few months ago. He wasn't there physically, but he was all with us in our hearts.

Anyway, in between shopping and partying, I did manage to do some reading! I think that I should re-name this blog 'The Slow Reader', because it's taking me so long to finish 'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson! I am still really enjoying it though. Here's a 'Snippet':

Page 264: 'The weather turned suddenly on 20 August 1968. Adie stood alone on the stone jetty, his back to the White House as the storm struck.'

'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson

Whatever you're doing, enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 11

We have reached week 11 of 'Chapters In My Life' and this time it's the turn of Melissa from 'So about what I said....' to choose 5 books which have had an influence on her lfie:

Books are an amazing thing, aren't they? They have the power to at once teach us about ourselves and transport us to a different world, as if we're living the story right along with the characters we're reading about. If you think about it, books make the perfect best friend. They never judge. They're always there when you need them. And they always make you laugh and provide hours of entertainment.

But maybe I'm a bit biased. My parents raised me on books. From the early days of our afternoons spent marveling at the colorful illustrations in my favorite children's books to reading what would become my favorite books in high school, books have always held a special place in the metaphorical bookshelf of my heart (cheesy, I know, but true!).

So when Spangle asked me to write about 5 books that had a lasting impact on my life, it wasn't hard to come up with my top 5:

Hamlet: High school seems to be prime Shakespeare-reading time. I read Romeo & Juliet, MacBeath and Hamlet, but my favorite to this day continues to be Hamlet. It's an action-packed play and I love all the metaphors and symbolism.

The Catcher in the Rye: Ahhh, Holden Caulfield. What teenage girl read this book and didn't fall in love with him? He's got that James Dean rebelness to him and is just so relateable, even for young people today.

Guilty pleasure reads: I've always been a fan of guilty pleasure reads. My mom says I should be ashamed of that. I'm not. At all. I love everything from Nicholas Sparks (A Walk To Remember is my favorite ) to Simon Cowell's book (yes, I did read it...). There's just something incredibly relaxing about getting lost in those characters and their thoughts.

The Glass Menagerie: This Tennessee Williams classic about the relationship between a mother and her two children hit so close to home when I first read it in college. My mom was the mom. My sister was Tom. And I was Laura.

The Diary of a Young Girl: I've read it twice, and it's probably the book I can identify with the most. Here was this incredibly courageous young woman keeping a diary during the scariest time in her life, and yet, she chronicled everything so honestly. Her fears. Her first love. Her dreams. It makes me wonder if Anne would have been a blogger if she lived today...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

(Not So) Wordless Tuesday

I did not take this photo.

Last night I went to a Christmas party at my local bar and I tried Egg Nog for the first time. It was a revelation! Like drinking (very) alcoholic custard mmmm...

What are you favourite Christmas drinks and food?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Snippet

Firstly thanks for all of the lovely comments left on last week's 'Sunday Snippet'. It has given me the boost to continue with the blog. Also welcome to my new followers, I'm glad that you decided to stop by!

As you might have noticed, I have added a new gadget which means that you can now share my posts on Twitter, Facebook and E-mail. Thanks to Carol from 'Dizzy C's Little Book Blog' for helping me with this.

Anyway back to this week's 'snippet'. I'm still really enjoying 'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson. I love the gentle pace of the novel and the story in itself is intriguing. Here is a slightly longer 'snippet' than usual, but I think it illustrates how Deborah Lawrenson keeps her audience wanting to know what happens next:

Page 178: 'Now I was peering in, trying to understand, trying to place my mother in the picture too- but I had no clue how she featured. The Corfu that Julian Adie recreated in his book belonger to another era, decades before she could have met him. His words were useful only in that they painted a background picture of him and the place. They cast no light on what came later.'

If you are posting your own 'Sunday Snippet', don't forget to leave the link on your comment.

Whatever you are doing, enjoy the rest of the weekend. Today I will be relaxing with my book, before a busy week of Christmas parties. I have one tomorrow night and then a Christmas dinner on Friday, with my friends from the Intercambio Language Group I go to. Are you off to any Christmas do's soon?

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 10

There are only 3 weeks left until Christmas and 3 weeks left of 'Chapters In My Life'!

This week, crime writer and blogger of 'Do You Write Under Your Own Name?' Martin Edwards is sharing the 5 books which have had an influence on his personal and writing life:

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie was the first adult fiction I ever read, at the age of nine, and it sparked my ambition to write a mystery novel of my own one day. This book saw the debut of Miss Jane Marple, one of the great detectives in fiction. The puzzle is not absolutely top calibre Christie, but it’s pretty good, and the book remains an entertaining read as a period piece to this day.

And Then There Were None, again by Christie, remains in my opinion the most stunning detective novel of the Golden Age. A teasing set-up, a series of killings and a truly baffling mystery, what more could any detective fan want? I read it when I was nine or ten, and have read it several times since. It showed me the potential of the well-plotted mystery, but it is also a book which has something interesting to say about justice.

Billy Liar, by Keith Waterhouse, is a classic story about a young Northern lad with an active imagination. I identified very strongly with Billy, even though I never worked for an undertaker. It’s a funny yet very poignant novel, which made a huge impact on me in my teens. Waterhouse wrote a follow-up years later, but it wasn’t a patch on the original.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is not only a brilliant satire on the futility of war, a book with a serious and enduring message, but also full of memorable scenes. A funny book which I loved as a teenager, and still enjoy dipping into. Heller was never able to write anything as good again, but this is a masterpiece.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens is wonderful from the opening scenes where the London fog matches the obscurity of the legal system, to the end. The story is terrific, with a splendid detective character, and Dickens’ sharp portrayal of lawyer and legal life has stayed with me as I’ve combined a career in the law with life as a crime novelist.

Martin Edwards’ latest Lake District Mystery is 'The Hanging Wood'.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Word of The Week

The site Dictionary.Com has voted the following word the 2011 'Word of the Year':

Tergiversate- change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject,
2. To turn renegade.

Have you ever used this word? Do you think that 'Tergiversate' should have won this year's 'Word of the Year', or can you think of a more worthy winner?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'One Day' by David Nicholls

Hodder & Stoughton

ISBN: 978-0-340-89698-3

Length: 435 Pages

What the 'Blurb' says:

' You can live your whole life not realising that what you're looking for is right in front of you. 15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows?'

Opening Line:

Friday 15th July 1988 Rankeillor Street, Edinburgh

'I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference,' she said.'

What's good about this novel?

Fundamentally the thing that I liked about this novel, were the characters themselves. In my opinion, if you can't identify with a book's main characters then there is no point reading on, because why would you care what happened to characters, that you couldn't identify with them in some way?

The main characters Dexter and Emma were believable and likeable. Even though Dexter is perceived as a self absorbed idiot, I warmed to him. I also thought that David Nicholls' interpretation of love was also realistic. Too many times I have read 'chick-lit' type novels (although 'One Day' isn't strictly a chick-lit book), where the idea of love is all hearts and flowers, but not in this novel. In my opinion, this made a refreshing change.

'One Day' has a plot which keeps the reader on edge and the story has many twists and turns that I had not anticipated. I also liked the concept of delving into Emma and Dexter's lives, on the same day every year. The plot was still linear, but Nicholls' way of structuring the novel is, innovative and interesting.

I enjoyed Nicholls' style of writing. He is humourous and intelligent, in parts I laughed out loud at his turn of phrase and narrative. However, there is also great sensitivity in his writing.

What's wrong with this novel?

Although I feel that the ending of this novel was sufficient, for some reason I felt that it was all a bit too convenient. It was as if the book was wrapped up a bit too nicely. However, closing a novel such as this was always going to be difficult. This is because by the end of the novel, I felt like I knew Dexter and Emma and so leaving their story was difficult, because I wanted to read on.

Is this novel worth a read?

Before reading 'One Day', I thought I was going to hate it. I didn't, I loved it. This novel gives a realistic portrayal of love, has brilliant, believeable characters and a compelling plot. I really recommend this.

Have you read this novel? What did you think of it?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Snippet

You could say that over the last few weeks I have felt disheartened with the whole blogging process. After spending a lot of time organising my new blog feature 'Chapters In My Life' and not really receiving much response, I have contemplated throwing in the towel and deleting the blog.

However, yesterday I read a really interesting blog post by litlove on 'Tales from the Reading Room'.

It talked about why people post reviews and the reason why they blog in the first place. Like me, a lot of the people commenting, said that they felt disheartened when they spent hours on a blog post, only to have no comments. What I have learnt, is is no science to creating popular blog posts and so I should just carry on and write, despite whether my blog posts receive a lot of comments or not. What are your views on this subject? Do you blog for yourself or an audience? Have you found a secret to lots of comments?

Another thing that has revitalised my blogging passion, is that Carol from 'Dizzy C's Little Book Blog' suggested that I visit a blogging forum called 'Blogaholic Social Network', which is a forum for bloggers to get together and swap ideas. I think this will help me to feel involved in blogging again than lost in CyberSpace, which I have done lately.

Some of you might think that I'm ungrateful to you my small, but loyal readers for stopping by and reading my posts. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. What I think I'm trying to say, is that I have been in a blogging rut and it's time to shake things up a bit.

One element of the blog that I want to carry on is 'The Sunday Snippet'. I have been terribly slow with my reading progress of Deborah Lawrenson's novel 'Songs of Blue and Gold' but, as I have probably said before, that has no reflection on the book itself. It has lovely descriptions of sun-kissed Corfu and a interesting storyline. Here's a 'snippet':

P76- 'The sea and the light constantly moving together, interweaving and patterning, made Melissa aware of being alive, of blood coursing around the body, sun on her arms as she stood at the open window.'

'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson

Sorry for writing such a long post for a Sunday. Whatever you are doing for the rest of the weekend, enjoy yourself.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 9

It's already week 9 of 'Chapters In My Life' and this week, Zohar from 'Man Of La Book' is going to share their book selection:

'I have read many books over my life, but not that many were significant or influential. Of course there are some of those books, those ones we all look for, which make you look at the world differently when you read them or beyond – but they are far and few in between.

When Spangle contacted me about the guest post I thought “sure, no problem”, but with a little more thought I was hard pressed to come up with five significant or influential titles. I was actually surprised, being a lifelong reader, how difficult this assignment was, but here we go.

1) Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes is a book which I clearly remember my grandfather reading to me (the condensed version of course). I will always have a soft spot for this wonderful book and even named my blog as a Quixotic pun.

2) Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson – this was the first book I remember that I loved and that my mother loved as well. It’s a book which we talked about and talked about again when I read it recently.

3) Kofiko, the Monkey by Tamar Borenstein-Lazar – this is a series of children’s books which I read non-stop in second/third grade. I remember cracking up at the adventures of Kofiko. These books taught me to love reading.

4) On the other hand, the Young Sportsmen by Avner Carmeli – a series of books about two high school students who are playing for the Israeli national team – was the first series of books I could talk about with other kids my age.

5) Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott taught me two lessons. The first, when I read it as a child of 10-11, is that I could read and enjoy “grown up” novels. The second lesson I learned recently when I re-read it, this book was as good as I remembered it, even better if you could believe it.

Thanks Spangle for making me go through this exercise, it was very beneficial and enlightening. Happy holidays to one and all.'

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 8

It's week 8 of 'Chapters In My Life' and this week, Carol from 'Dizzy C's Little Book Blog' is sharing the books that have influenced her life:

I don’t have early memories of reading with my mum but know that books were important in our house. We had two bookcases on the upstairs landing full of books. Each night I would choose books to take to bed.
Some of these would be comic style annuals like The Beano, Cor, Whizzer and Chips.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C S Lewis

A magical story that still delights children today. I remember a teacher reading this to us at school and then re-reading it at home.

I do feel a little sad that these days some of our literature is turned into Hollywood blockbuster films and that many children go straight to watching the film.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl.

Every child should read at least one R Dahl novel. This was my favourite and for me the most exciting. How I longed to visit the Chocolate factory. I visited Cadbury World in Birmingham, UK with my own children a while ago. I believe the Cadbury factory was the inspiration for this book.

As a mum with 3 children of my own I have found many more exciting children’s books, including

Green Eggs and Ham – Dr Seuss

How did I miss these as a child? Great fun rhyming books. Green Eggs is my favourite as I used to read this to the class (as a teaching assistant) and they would challenge me to see how fast I could read it. We had fun with this one.

Digital Fortress – Dan Brown

I was bedridden for a couple of weeks after an accident with my back. A friend I worked with at school dropped off some books. Dan Brown? Not my type of book, but I read it and loved it..I went on to read Angels and Demons. I still have The Lost Symbol on my TBR shelves.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell.

A novel about a young woman spending most of her adult life in an institution until the home closed down and her great niece is asked to collect her. Her story unfolds in this wonderful novel by one of my favourite authors.

Saving Cee-Cee Honeycutt – Beth Hoffman

This is where my reading changed dramatically. It was a recommendation I found on a book blog. I had no idea what a blog was until I happened upon one. I managed to get a hardback version of this book from overseas and loved it.
I realised there were many more resources and books out there I could get hold of.
I am so pleased for Beth Hoffman that the UK will finally get this novel in Jan 2012.

Star Gazing – Linda Gillard

A beautifully written novel. I would not have found this novel if it had not been for the author contacting me. Until then, I had only looked at books in the top 20 charts from a few sites. It just shows the power of book forums and book blogging. Fairly unknown, but amazing novels can be reached by a wider audience.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Snippet

Apologises for not doing a 'Sunday Snippet' last week. It's not the attitude to take, but I wasn't feeling in the mood to blog. However, I'm trying to make an effort to get back to blogging.

Having read Deborah Lawrenson's brilliant novel 'The Lantern' recently, I've turned to another one of her novels 'Songs of Blue and Gold'. Reading progress is slow, but I am enjoying the book so far. Here's a snippet:

Page 52: 'The following morning, Melissa stood on the bridge where the two rivers met not far from her mother's house. A turquoise kingfisher darted like a bullet down the river. A few flashy seconds and it was gone, leaving only a stab of remembered brilliance.'

'Songs of Blue and Gold' by Deborah Lawrenson

What are you reading at the moment?

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 7

It's week 7 of 'Chapters In My Life' and this week, Simon from 'Stuck In A Book' tells us about his book choices:

I’m so pleased that Spangle asked me to participate in this series, it’s fun to delve back into what bloggers and authors used to like, as well as what they tell us about now. But that’s where I hit my first dilemma – my reading tastes have changed a lot since I was a teenager. Whose hasn’t? I’m only in my mid-twenties, so if I look back to half-my-life ago, I do wrinkle my nose in disgust a little. Sweet Valley High? Point Horror? Goosebumps? Shouldn’t I have been one of those prodigy kids who reads Dostoevsky under the covers aged six, and is translating postmodern Urdu poetry by the time I turned ten? Well, I decided to pick books which reflected what I loved at particular times in my life, but also those which pushed me towards my current tastes.

Five Get Into Trouble by Enid Blyton
This was the first book I ‘read by myself’, although really it was me reading one page very slowly and then Mum reading the next one – and, when things got exciting (will George, Julian et al ever escape from being kidnapped?! Er, yes) I would read one page and Mum would read three.

It saddens me that a lot of children were banned from reading Blyton – I read little else for several years, and it helped turn me into the voracious reader I am today. Yes, she could be sexist and even racist, but I’m not one who believes in getting rid of every book which reflects mindsets of the past. What Blyton could do best (and goodness knows it wasn’t style or dialogue) was write a ripping yarn which made a five year-old desperate to turn the pages – and keep on turning pages for the rest of his life.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I was too embarrassed to pick something from my Sweet Point Goosebumps phase – although kudos to my parents for letting me read what I wanted to, rather than making reading seem awful by forcing me into books I didn’t want to read. Luckily for me, my pre-teenage years were not entirely blighted by unillustrious reading matter. I can’t remember what led me to pick Anne Frank’s Diary off the shelf, but I was engrossed and fascinated. I haven’t reread it since, but I remember Anne being an exceptional writer, as well as the voice of a generation.

It has also led onto my love of real-life recordings of 20th century history, usually through diaries or letters. I always have a volume on the go (Nella Last’s War has been a recent love of mine) and I feel as though I understand the past much more intimately.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four was the first ‘grown-up’ book I ever read – and also, I believe, the first non-children’s book that all four members of my family had read. Again, I have no idea why I chose it, but I thought it was brilliant. For the first time in my reading life I was grappling with a classic – and all that that implies: deeply complex characters, a sense of purpose to its construction, and above all Orwell’s brilliant writing. I suppose all these ingredients can be present in children’s writing, but let me remind you of my diet of Blyton. Nineteen Eighty-Four didn’t turn me into a socialist, but it did make me realise that books deemed classics weren’t necessarily dull – and re-reading this one a couple of years ago confirmed that it was still an incredible novel.

Modern Humour by various
I’ve tried to pick books for Chapters in My Life which I haven’t done to death on my own blog, and this was an important little book for me which led onto all sorts of other delicious reading. Don’t let the title fool you, Modern Humour was actually published in 1940, and I picked it up in a little book stall on our local market. I bought it because it had a short story by AA Milne, but of course I flicked through the rest – and really loved two pieces by E.M. Delafield. Off I went to my library catalogue, and that’s where my love of EMD started (with a large-print copy of The Provincial Lady Goes Further, being the only Delafield title Pershore had.)

Modern Humour didn’t only send me off to read Delafield, now one of my very favourite writers. It also made me feel part of a early-20th-century reading world, even if vicariously. Reading any novel in isolation is really only an experience of one author and one set of characters – Modern Humour surrounded me by many authors, many glimpses into different books and different readers. It helped set off a love for the period which has only increased.

Speaking of Love by Angela Young
Finally I’m going to choose one of the books which has been most important to me in the most recent stage of my reading life – which is blogging. I started Stuck-in-a-Book in mid 2007, and was extremely excited when I started being offered review copies of books later that year. Now I get offered so many that I can’t read them all, but back then I eagerly read everything I was sent – including Angela Young’s first novel. It’s a novel about mother/daughter relationships, the impact of mental illness, love, and above all: story-telling. So it helps that Young is a story-teller par excellence. The reason I’ve chosen it isn’t merely because it’s very good – but because I was quoted on the back of the paperback edition. You can imagine how excited I was – and how pleased that it was on a book I really loved.

So, five quite different books, even though four of them come from the 1940s. My reading tastes still aren’t as wide as some people’s (although I’m willing to experiment sometimes!) but I doubt I could love books any more than I currently do! I’m very grateful all the reading of my youth led me in this direction, and look forward to many more years of reading to come!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Word of The Week

Unfortunately I couldn't find an appropriate image for this week's 'Word Of The Week'. However, I liked the sound of it:

Flibbertigibbet- 1. A chattering or flighty, light-headed person.
2. A gossip

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 6

This week on 'Chapters In My Life', my friend and fellow blogger Aguja talks about the books that have had an influence in her life:

'As a child, I was totally absorbed in and mesmerised by fairy tales; it did not matter whether they were gruesome or romantic as I had entered into the realm of imagination and fantasy. I believe that I have carried this parallel existence – reality travelling alongside fantasy – through my life, so it has influenced both my writing and my drawing. Fairy tales were often illustrated in detail and I loved to wander through the illustrations, wondering what was 'just beyond the page'.

Adventure stories were the genre for later childhood, in particular 'The famous Five' series by Enid Blyton. My friends and I emulated the characters for our own adventures around the streets, or on the beach. And then, at thirteen, 'The lord of the Rings' by J.R.R. Tolkien and 'The Diary of Anne Frank' became my obsessions.

Later, Virginia Woolf and Alain Robbe-Grillet took over, along with plays, especially Theatre of the Absurd and Greek Tragedy. I based a painting on Ionesco's 'The Rhinoceros'.

There followed a period of Jane Austen which I read each summer, along with my older daughter; one novel after another.

I read diversely, now, and the books that draw me are those that are well written and composed; where character, description and structure meld; the words excite and challenge to create an intrinsic fabric of delight.

Throughout, from the age of five, poetry has been the greatest influence on my own words. Poetry is the essence of my 'word-stitching'. Poetry is a part of my inner being.

Did I mention 'obsession'? I used it deliberately because I am indeed obsessed by the way in which words come together to create their own world – be it the words of others, or my own.'

To view my list of 'More Than Once Books', go to my blog at:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

'The Lantern' by Deborah Lawrenson

Publisher: Orion Books

ISBN: 978-1-4091-3548-7

341 pages

What the 'Blurb' says:

'When Eve falls for the charming, secretive Dom, their whirlwind romance leads them to Les Genévriers, a run-down, yet beautiful house in the South of France. But as summer fades to autumn, Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries the house seems to be hiding- not least the strange disappearance of Dom's beautiful first wife. And what is the connection to a young girl who lived in the house decades before?

As Les Genévriers' tangled history begins to unravel, and Dom grows increasingly distant, Eve must discover the secrets of the past- before history has a chance to repeat itself.'

Opening Line: 'The rocks glow red above the sea, embers of the day's heat below our balcony at the Hôtel Marie.'

What's good about this novel?

The writing in this novel is exquisite. 'The Book Club' reviewed this novel recently and one of the panelists said that this novel contained too much description. I disagree completely. I have never read a book which contained such unique descriptions that engulf the reader into the world being created, without distrupting the flow of the story. Also, I have a never read a book in which perfume and smells were so vivid. Lawrenson's use of language creates atmosphere and impact. So much so, that from reading page 1 of 'The Lantern', I was intrigued and wanted to read on.

Being a regular reader of Deborah's blog, I also enjoyed making the connection between subjects and places in which she has talked about in her blog and how they inspired 'The Lantern'. In some ways, this gives an almost autobiographical feel to the book.

The plot is quite complex, combining events taking place in the past, present and also a crime/mystery plot running throughout, but I didn't feel that this was too much in one novel.All of the elements within the novel related to each other and I felt that all of the plot lines were given equal attention.

One thing that I found particularly interesting is how the novel was not only a good read, but also made a social comment on how the past has an effect on the future. Not just on a personal level, but Lawrenson highlights how traditions and myths can shape people on a larger scale for example, the village in which the book takes place.

When reading most novels, as readers we focus on the words on the page and then when we are finished, pick up another book and focus on that. But what I found with 'The Lantern', was that I was thinking about the ideas Lawrenson presented in 'The Lantern' for a long time after reading the last page.

What's wrong with this novel?

If I had to be picky, I would say that the only thing I found difficult about this novel, was that sometimes at the start of chapters I wasn't sure whether the story was in the past or the present. Occasionally I had to re-read the first part of the chapter again to clarify this. However, I soon became used to the structure of the novel and it didn't really pose too many problems. It certainly did not inhibit my reading experience.

Is this worth a read?

In my opinion, yes. Its beautiful prose and intriguing plot would make 'The Lantern' a brilliant book for a holiday or for curling up with on a cold, winter evening.
It is also the kind of book in which you could find new elements within it, the more times you read it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Slipstream' by Elizabeth Jane Howard

'The Oliva Reader' is supposed to be a book reviewing blog. In reality, the last few months have shown no sign of a review, good or otherwise. There are many reasons for this, but mainly it's because I have been too lazy to sit at a computer and write something. Seeing as there are a small group of you who take the time to visit the blog (of which I am very grateful), it's time that I make more time and effort, to try and give you something half decent to read.

The first book that I am going to talk about is Elizabeth Jane Howard's memoir 'Slip stream'. Having already read and enjoyed Howard's thriller 'Falling', someone commented that I should read Howard's autobiography and I took their advice. So here's my review:

Publisher: Pan Macmillan


477 pages

What the 'blurb' says:

'In this candid and remarkable memoir, Elizabeth Jane Howard tells the story of her eventful life, using her skills as a novelist to reveal the friends, family and times that she has known and loved........

'Slipstream' is a superlative word of autobiography. Honest and unflinching, it brilliantly illuminates the literary world of the latter half of the twentieth century and gives a deeply personal insight into the life of one of our most beloved British writers.'

Opening Line:

'The first thing I can remember is a dream.'

What's right about this novel?

One of things that I enjoyed the most about this book, was the style of Howard's writing. It's conversational and it makes the reader feel as if Howard is having a chat with you.

I also found, being a budding writer myself, that I could relate to Howard's sense of insecurity to do with writing and also in some places, in life itself. I thought that it was interesting to read about the series of events, which lead to Howard writing her novel 'Falling' and was interested to discover what influenced Howard's writing.

What's wrong with this novel?

Throughout the book, I found myself increasingly exasperated by the fact that Howard repeatedly made the same mistakes with men, without seemingly learning from it. Possibly this shows the complexities of human nature, but I found that I felt frequently annoyed by this.

Although some of Howard's encounters with famous stars were interesting, towards the end of the book I found the 'name dropping' to be a little tiresome. It also felt as a reader, that it was as if Howard was telling me about people that I should know, but didn't. This I found to be a little boring.

Is this worth a read?

To be honest, I wouldn't have chosen this book. It was mildly interesting, but didn't give me the insight into writing, that I was anticipating.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 5

This week on 'Chapters In My Life', Melissa from 'This Too...' is sharing the 5 books, which make up the chapters of her life....

The first book I remember being enamored with is Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I read it as a young girl and the story set my imagination free. I wanted nothing more than to discover a hidden key that opened up a place to call my very own. The story has always stayed with me. Its message, so simple and beautiful, it remains one of my firmest beliefs: We can help things grow.

I knew I wanted to be a writer after I read The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. I was thirteen, the same age as Anne when she began her diary. And I spent most of my young life wondering what so many young people wonder, why will no one listen to me? This book taught me that writing is a way to be heard. That, even after an unimaginable tragedy, words can hold on tight to a too-short life and find their way into the hearts and minds of so many.

At this point in my life, my reading habits became a little strange and unfocused (a Bronte sister one day, Stephen King the next). But I liked it that way. I read anything I could get my hands on and I became fascinated with reading (rather than seeing) plays.

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee changed everything I thought about the way you could tell a story. All of these extraordinary conversations were happening over bottomless glasses of scotch. People were yelling and crying and playing terrifying mind games with one another. One story was unfolding on the surface and another, an even darker one, was quietly marinating beneath. This play taught me that the best stories are not straightforward. That people say one thing and mean another. I had never read anything like it and when I finally saw it performed…well…I was blown away.

I’m going to admit that things got pretentious in my reading life when I started college. I took postmodernist literature classes, read Dostoyevsky, and convinced myself that I was really something. To be honest, I did not understand anything I read over those years. Very little of it has stayed with me and I really struggle to find a book that captures this time.

I sat with Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and knew that what I was reading was just so epic. So very huge. There was too much of her philosophy that I did not understand or necessarily agree with. But it didn’t matter. I was so caught up in the detailed world of this book that I dreamt of it, feverishly, for weeks afterwards. I put it on this list because it represents that time in my life best. I thought I was a lot bigger than I was. I wanted a book like that to mean something to me. I’d like to think it does even if I’m not smart enough to know why.

After school, I began to take my writing and reading much more seriously. I wanted to truly understand the kind of stories I loved. It took a while but I found it when I read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. She tells quiet stories that have loud consequences. She takes small moments and makes them life-sized. Her words take my breath away because she always says things exactly the way I wish I knew how.

Melissa is a writer and producer living in Brooklyn, NY. After working in television production for several years, on the sets of live televised events, promos, commercials, and reality tv, she made the switch to children’s media. Now, she writes and produces content for toys and interactive games. When she's not writing elegant prose for preschoolers, she writes novels and short stories. She blogs at 'This Too...'

Friday, October 28, 2011

Word of The Week

I learnt this word last night, at my local quiz:

Ort: Usually, orts. a scrap or morsel of food left at a meal.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Snippet

Page 237- 'They ride the next twenty storeys in silence. Beside her Stephanie Shaw stands smart, petite in a crisp white shirt- no, not a shirt, a blouse- tight black pencil skirt, a neat little bob, years away from the sullen Goth who sat next to her in tutorial all that time ago, and Emma is surprised to find herself intimidated by her old acquaintance; her professional demeanour, her no-nonsense manner. Stephanie Shaw has probably sacked people.'

'One Day' by David Nicholls

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chapers In My Life- Week 4

It's already week 4 of 'Chapters In my Life' can you believe it!? This week, Mike from 'The Blue Cabin' is going to talk about the 5 books which have influenced his life:

Many thanks, Spangle, for inviting me to post. Selecting five life-changing books has been hugely enjoyable, albeit a lesson in discipline, even ruthlessness! Five books… where on earth do you start? I decided to follow the brief literally; that’s to say, if I loved a book for its narrative, its use of language, rhythm or whatever, it was a contender – but unless in some way it also changed my life, or at least my thinking, it was consigned, with great regret, to the Rejects pile.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn’s own experience in the Russian penal system made this story of oppression, suffering and survival so brutally real that I remember feeling sick when I first read it as a teenager. It had the same shock value within Russia, because until its publication in 1962 no-one had dared to describe the gulags or even to admit their existence. Largely because of Ivan Denisovich, my favourite charity has always been Amnesty International. That the Soviet literary journal New World was allowed to publish the book at all is down to Nikita Khrushchev (I’m not sure he gets enough credit), and it is arguable that Ivan Denisovich opened another chink in the Iron Curtain which led, eventually, to the collapse of communism itself. When you add to its historical importance the novel’s beautifully spare and uncontrived prose, it easily qualifies for my top five.

Reporting America – Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America, 1946-2004

I may be cheating a little, as this is a collection; also, it was the actual broadcasts that changed my life, not the book. Still. I began listening to Letter from America on a Sunday morning – you could say religiously – in the 1970s, and I rarely missed a broadcast from then until Cooke’s death in 2004. I have a fascination with America anyway, but it was the use of language that kept me glued to the radio. I don’t know if anyone wrote with greater elegance or economy, and if I ever find myself staring at a blank sheet of paper, I reach for my thoroughly dog-eared copy of the collection. Cooke himself said that of the many great speeches written by statesmen and others, the best were written to be spoken and heard – not read. On a personal note, aside from the pleasure of Cooke’s inimitably silken delivery, I always knew that wherever I was at 8.45 on a Sunday morning, in some sense my mother was there too, because she was addicted like me.

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1992)

This epic novel of adventure, revenge, loyalty, love, tenderness and violence, set in Texas and New Mexico and following the exploits of cowhand John Grady Cole, sixteen going on thirty-five, was a complete revelation for me. Until All The Pretty Horses, I thought that outside the realms of blank verse, punctuation was an indispensable tool in any writer’s search for rhythm and flow – but McCarthy eschews it almost entirely and the result is mesmerizing. To be honest, it’s hard to see how he does it, he is so artful and his use of language so individual, but All The pretty Horses is another book (any McCarthy will do, if you can handle the unrelenting bleakness of most of his other stories) that I reach for when I’m stuck.

The House at Otowi Bridge by Peggy Pond Church (University of New Mexico Press, 1973)

I’ve blogged about this classic of Southwestern literature before (here) and so has Spangle (here), so I know we both enjoyed the read! It is the beautifully-told true story of Edith Warner, a wise, compassionate and thoroughly likeable woman from Pennsylvania who settled at the Otowi switch on the Rio Grande, in Northern New Mexico, in 1925. She opened a tearoom in her front parlour, and for a few fascinating years shared her otherwise quiet life with the Pueblo Indians of San Ildefonso on the one side, and the nuclear scientists of Los Alamos (the Manhattan Project) on the other. The juxtaposition of such wildly different cultures and the potential for their mutual accommodation as personified by Edith Warner, makes for an inspirational and life-affirming read. For me, coming from Northern Ireland, it epitomises the need to transcend tribalism and to live and let live.

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick

Again, I’ve blogged about this book before (here). Jock is the story, set in the goldfields of the Transvaal in the 1880s, of a plucky and intensely loyal little dog, and owes its existence to a suggestion made to the author by his friend Rudyard Kipling. It’s exciting, funny and poignant by turns, and you’re looking for a copy I would make sure it has Edmund Calwell’s illustrations. A beautifully rebound edition of this, my favourite of favourites, was given to me by my mother as an engagement present in 1990, and it’s open in front of me at the Dedication page: ‘The Story of Jock (is dedicated) to Those Keenest and Kindest of Critics, Best of Friends, and Most Delightful of Comrades: The Likkle People’.

Perhaps a year ago, rather bizarrely, I was asked in an interview to name three books I loved and three I hated. I had no trouble with the first part, but as an author I’m uncomfortable with the idea of criticising anyone’s honest writing endeavours – so in the end I fudged it. I need a thicker skin. As an unnamed philosopher wisely said:

‘Before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticise them, you are a mile away and you have their shoes.’

Like everyone else, I thought this was Jack Handey. It’s not, but it gives me the opportunity to slip a sixth book in by the back door: Deepest Thoughts by Jack Handey, because it always lightens the moment.

Michael Faulkner is the author of two books about island life: The Blue cabin – Living by the Tides on Islandmore (Blackstaff Press, 2006) and Still On The Sound – A Seasonal Look at Island Life (Blackstaff Press, 2009). He lives with his artist wife Lynn McGregor on the otherwise uninhabited island of Islandmore, Strangford Lough. For background on the books go to 'The Blue Cabin' website , and if you’re interested in a daily snapshot of island life, 'The Blue Cabin' blog.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Word of The Week

Loll- 1.To recline or lean in a relaxed, lazy, or indolent manner; lounge.
To hang loosely; droop; dangle.
To allow to hang, droop, or dangle.

The act of lolling.
A person or thing that lolls.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Snippet

I'm tempted to see the film version of 'One Day' by David Nicholls. However, I'm enjoying the novel version so much, that I don't think that the film with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, will live up to the image of Emma and Dexter in my head. Have you seen this film? Is the film as good as the novel? I'd be interested to hear your views on it.

Here's a 'snippet':

Page 188: 'Heart thumping, soaked with sweat, Dexter was woken just after midday by a man bellowing outside, but it turned out to be M People.'

'One Day' by David Nicholls

Whatever you are doing, enjoy what's left of the weekend. I have just acquired a new mobile phone, so a big portion of my weekend has been taken up by trying to figure out how it works! I'm hoping to get some reading done.... if I can tear myself away from my phone.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 3

This week on 'Chapters In My Life', blogger and author Deborah Lawrenson is going to choose 5 books, which have had an influence in her life:

L’Assommoir by Emile Zola. This heartbreaking tale of a laundress comes with the harsh moral that even the best and hardest-working are not immune from the tragedy of the demon drink. I first read this when I was about fifteen, living in Brussels. It belongs to that time in every teenager’s life when anything seems possible if you want it enough, and as I was fiercely competitive academically, I was an ambitious reader. I think I may have attempted it in French first, but had to give up. The edition that survives on my bookshelves from that era is the Penguin classic, at any rate. L’Assommoir had a huge impact, in the way it portrays life’s terrible unfairness.

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Sharp, sly and mischievous, this is a glorious send-up of the Bright Young Things of the 1920s. It was one of the first novels to have a cinematic quality, for example in the depiction of a party scene that swoops from one side of the room to the other, assassinating all characters in its “flying” narrator’s path, all in the space of a paragraph. Waugh also uses telephone conversation in a way that was innovative in its time, to great comic effect. This was the book that lit the spark of writing my first novel. In my twenties I worked for a while on Nigel Dempster’s newspaper gossip column – a great fun job for a young journalist, meeting film stars and the louche cast of aristos and arrivistes featured on the page. I always knew that milieu would make the basis of a book, and when I saw how Waugh had done it, I knew I had to try to write a modern version. (It didn’t quite turn out how I envisaged, but that’s another story!)

Mary Swann by Carol Shields. Pulitzer prizewinner Shields is such a fine writer. Her novels are intelligent and engaging, even when the subject matter is quiet. Mary Swann is my favourite: a story of a Canadian housewife who wrote poetry but is murdered by her husband before she is published. It’s a literary quest, on one level, as four diverse people who knew her, or know her work, try to unravel the secrets of her writing life.
This is the kind of writing I love to read: flowing, full of intelligence, yet understated – and the kind of writing I aspire to achieve. My favourite of her novels, this is a quietly gripping story of literary detection.

A History of the World in 10½ Chapters by Julian Barnes. Epic voyages, history, art, survival and philosophy are explored in this marvellous book through a series of linked stories, starting at a slant with the re-telling of Noah’s Ark through the eyes of a stowaway woodworm. I have very happy memories of this book and a holiday in Antigua, when my husband and I had been married a year. We both read it, and one evening we started talking about its various themes while sipping a first cocktail, and were still discussing it over late-night coffee. It seemed the perfect scenario: a lovely island, a lovely book, and a lovely clever husband who was interested in the same books and issues I was.

Prospero’s Cell by Lawrence Durrell. No-one does spellbinding nostalgia and spirit of place quite like Durrell. Here is a slim book that masquerades as a diary/notebook of the time he spent on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s – the same material shaped in a very different way by his younger brother, the zoologist Gerald Durrell in his comic masterpiece, My Family and Other Animals. Lawrence’s version of those island years is an elegy to lost youth and his first wife (never even mentioned by Gerald) in a dazzling sensory recreation, gilded by distance and rosy memory. It was this difference between the two brothers’ accounts that was the beginning of a wonderful book trail, through both their biographies and on to the many autobiographical works by other writers they knew, that resulted in my fifth novel, Songs of Blue and Gold.

[You might find it disingenuous that I haven’t mentioned Daphne du Maurier, Charlotte or Emily Brontë. I can only say that that I’ve explained in plenty of other spaces this summer about the influence of Rebecca and the gothic tradition on The Lantern, and wanted to give something in addition to that here.

You can read Deborah's blog here.

Deborah's latest novel 'The Lantern' is available on , and all good book shops.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Word of The Week

Cosmogony: The theory or story of the origin and development of the universe.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday

This photo is a little blurry, but seeing the Lemars was one of my favourite parts of the visit to 'Bioparc' in Valencia last week. The lemars are not in cages, they live freely in a forest and it's the visitor's job to find them. When I first entered the Lemar area I didn't see anything, but suddenly I looked up and this one was looking straight at me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Snippet

When beginning to read 'One Day' by David Nicholls, I was ready to hate it. However, I am really enjoying this book. It's very funny and not at all the cheesy 'chick lit' I was anticipating. Here's a 'snippet':

Page 156: 'Emma turns, pads back to bed and lies there listening grumpily to the farming forecast and, in the background, the flush of a toilet, then another flush. Eventually he appears in the doorway, red-faced and martyred. He is wearing no underwear and a black t-shirt that stops a little above his hips. There isn't a man in the world that can carry off this look, but even so Emma makes a conscious effort to keep her eyes focussed on his face, as he slowly blows air out through his mouth.'

'One Day' by David Nicholls.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chapters In My Life -Week 2

This week on 'Chapters In My Life', Jen from 'Unedited' ( is going to tell us about her list of 5 books which have influenced her life:

Thanks for having me Spangle!

I’m Jen, I is a girl, I’m twenty-five, I’m married, and have two kitties (who are great listeners). I’m a data ninja by day and a writer by night. I is a lover of chick lit, cupcakes and cocktail. I don’t read books, I devour them.
Here are the five books that influenced who I am today.

The Red Heels by Robert D. San Souci – I was eleven, it was then I should have known I’d be a writer, but it took me thirteen years later! I saw this book at the scholastic book fair at my school in Iowa. Next to it they mentioned the author and illustrator would be available to sign it. I knew I had to have that book. My sisters (nine and ten at the time), helped raise money for me to buy it. The best sixteen dollars I’ve ever spent. I read it every year; it’s about a shoemaker who visits houses to make shoes and falls in love with a witch who wears her red heeled shoes to fly each night.

Roald Dahl (Yes, I’m cheating) – From Matilda, The BFG, to The Twits, Roald Dahl shapes young minds from the beginning. I’ve read many of his books and each one I loved for the lessons you learn. For Matilda it’s about being independent, but also allowing someone to love you, as you want to be loved. I learned so many wonderful things from Mr. Dahl; I couldn’t imagine a day without him. My children will read these books, and I hope my children’s children will.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips (The Chicago Series – This Heart of Mine) – This one I’ll unfortunately be cheating on as well. SEP taught me to LOVE romance. She is the one who brought me back to life and showed me I could be anything I wanted to be. She taught me, I wanted to write for a living. I wanted to sweep people up in books and let them laugh, cry, and eat a carton of ice cream and not feel bad about it. If you want a great romance that melts your heart, you’ll want to pick up her novels, they’re addicting.

On Writing by Stephen King – This man is badass! Everyone has that one writing book they tell people about… this one, is mine. He doesn’t teach you how to set up your plot, write your characters, even finish a novel, he just shares his story. The depths of emotions he went through. The trials he endured to write a novel. The amount of times he gave up, and when he decided to call himself a writer. He allows you to think for yourself all while sharing his story. This really shed light on writing, and the chaos and insanity that ensues.

See Jane Write: A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit by Sarah Mlynowski & Farrin Jacobs – These girls melt my heart. The geniuses they are putting together an amazing How-to book. If you’re looking for the depths of chick lit, from the plots, to the characters, these writers will change your life.

Those are the five books (I realize I cheated) I heart. I could name many more, from Harry Potter to several other YA novels that changed my life, but these, these will stay in my heart and on the shelves for years to come. For a rainy day when the writings tough, or when my confidence is down, these books were made for me.

Thanks Jen, you have made some great choices!

Come back next Saturday for another 'Chapters In My Life'.