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?