Saturday, 11 June 2011

An Unexpected Lull

Woman Lying on a Bench - Carl Larsson (1913)

I am so sorry for the quiet that has descended upon Rochester Reader recently and rather unexpectedly.  Studies and other distractions were in full flow at the end of last month and the beginning of June and I have lately developed a particularly nasty cold which has had me confined to bed.

As a result I have been unable to respond to your comments or visit your blogs but I hope to very soon.  The May Roundup will be posted in the next few days and I hope to get back into the swing of things with a few reviews of some fantastic books.

I hope that June turns out to be a wonderful month for you all.  Happy reading!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Shooting in the Shop

I read this Christmas-themed murder mystery shortly before Christmas last year.  It's nice on occasion to read books that reflect a current season or holiday as it helps to get you into the spirit of things... especially when you're having a hot South African Christmas after having years of cold (and occasional snowy) English Christmases.

Jude and Carole, our unconventional amateur sleuths, find death on their doorstep when the body of a young woman is found in the cinders of the new boutique shop in the village of Fethering.  The Police think the death was an accident but when it is revealed that the victim was shot, our intrepid sleuths' noses start twitching.

There is a host of interesting and nasty characters in this novel and Simon Brett's writing appears to be taking a turn for the contemporary.  I've noticed in this and the previous novel that certain expletives have crept in and that a few unattractive loutish characters are being included.   Is Mr Brett trying to reflect current day reality a little more, I wonder?  Personally, I could do without the extra grit and grime (however small it may be) in the narrative but it doesn't detract from the overall style of the series, which is a nod to golden age mysteries.

I have been a fan of the Fethering mysteries for a few years so this book did not disappoint but I do feel that the last couple of books lacked a certain warmth.  I have the next instalment lined up and look forward to revisiting Fethering soon.  If you're fond of English mysteries with a cosy feel to them and with intelligent prose and sympathetic characters, I heartily recommend this series. 

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for kindly providing a review copy.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Enthralled (and Terrified) by Miss Brodie

"'It has been suggested again that I should apply for a post at one of the progressive schools, where my methods would be more suited to the system than they are at Blaine.  But I shall not apply for a post at a crank school.  I shall remain at this education factory.  There needs must be a leaven in the lump.  Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life'

The Brodie set smiled in understanding of various kinds.  Miss Brodie forced her brown eyes to flash as a meaningful accompaniment to her quiet voice.  She looked a mighty woman with her dark Roman profile in the sun.  The Brodie set did not for a moment doubt that she would prevail.  As soon expect Julius Caesar to apply for a job at a crank school as Miss Brodie.  She would never resign.  If the authorities wanted to ger rid of her she would have to be assasinated."

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Blogger Glitch when Leaving Comments

Waiting for the Writer by Sharon Kearns
I have had an infuriating problem with leaving comments on my own blog and on that of other blogs (Blogger only) since last night.  A quick Google search confirmed that there is something amiss with Blogger and that they are working on it but I, along with many others, were still unable to leave comments.

The problem is that Blogger doesn't recognise you when you try to leave a comment and puts you down as Anonymous.  When you try to sign in to your Google account, so that you can leave a comment with your details, you end up in a login loop from which there is no escape.

For anyone who tried to leave a comment since yesterday, I am sorry if this has inconvenienced you and even more sorry if you are unable to reply to comments on your own blog...

But I think I have hit upon a temporary solution, garnered from the many Blogger Help posts.  When you log in to Blogger, UNTICK the Stay Signed In box and hey, presto, Blogger recognises you again and you can post your comment.

I hope this helps.  Fingers crossed they'll sort this out properly soon.  If you need any help please do not hesitate to e-mail me at and I'll do my best.

Given what happened to Blogger not so long ago, I am now making weekly backups of my blog by using the Blogger export function and storing it on my PC.  Just in case.

UPDATE: The problem continues and it seems that it is particular to embedded commenting on Blogger.  So, as an extra measure, I have changed the way you add a comment to the page; instead of comments appearing embedded below the post, it will now take you to a separate page.  This seems to solve the problem without you having to do anything else on your side.  Thanks to Bev for passing this on.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Conspiracy of Friends

This is happily the third installment in Alexander McCall Smith's charming online serial novel, Corduroy Mansions, that is published around September each year in the Telegraph.  McCall Smith already had a very successful serial going in The Scotsman which centred around a handful of Edinburgh inhabitants and he has replicated the formula and set it in Pimlico, London - where, happily, anyone with Internet access can enjoy his daily chapters online.

I must admit that I was not as in love with the inhabitants of Corduroy Mansions as I was with those of 44 Scotland Street but that changed after reading the second book, The Dog Who Came in from the Cold.  The more time you spend in their company, the more invested you become and I look forward to following their everyday - and in some cases extraordinary - lives as I would with old friends.

A Conspiracy of Friends reintroduces us to the Corduroy Mansions inhabitants and the people in their world: William French, Master of Wine (Failed) and his (formerly vegetarian and MI-6 agent) Pimlico terrier Freddie de la Hay; the only unpleasant Lib-Dem, Oedipus Snark; Barbara Ragg (of the Ragg Porter Publishing Agency - publishers of the Yeti's Biography); Berthea Snark (psychotherapist and reluctant mother of Oedipus) and her New-Age, Porsche-driving brother Terence Moongrove...  to mention a few.

This book is filled with McCall Smith's light and sympathetic touch with dashes of humour and human observation.  I found it engaging and fun, especially since a large dose of interesting new situations are foisted upon our group of friends.  Perfect pick-me-up or calm-me-down reading.

Thank you to Birlinn/Polygon for kindly providing a review copy.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

In My Book Bag (2)

[In My Book Bag highlights library loans and book purchases (second-hand, new or e-format) that make their way into Rochester Reader HQ.]

Since acquiring a Sony Reader in March, I have been steadily building up an e-library of various books that I have been wanting to read for a while, along with a few obscure titles that appealed.  I am especially happy to be able to access humourous books from the early 20th century as well as lesser-seen classical works.  Darlene kindly reminded me about Girlebooks who have a mouth-watering range of ebooks written by women, many of which I haven't been able to find in paper format in my neck of the woods.  Books like Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women' series (I had no idea there were quite a few sequels) as well as books by American and British humourists.

So my current book bag is virtually laden with a number of e-books and a smaller selection of hard/paperbacks. 

A few weeks ago I received a lovely new edition of Mary Stewart's first novel, Madam, Will You Talk?.  I ordered this from the Book Depository as soon as I learnt of the stylish new publications from Lyn.  I read a handful of Stewarts in High School and enjoyed then immensely.  I haven't read this one and hope that it'll be great escapist literature for a rainy day.

The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens is a free e-book version I found on the Web so sadly not a luxurious Persephone edition. I'm looking forward to reading this especially after all the great reviews I've read by fellow bloggers.

Roast Beef, Medium by Edna Ferber is not a title that would usually appeal to a vegan but the write-up was humourous and entertaining and how could I refuse a book about a travelling saleswoman in the early 20th century with a wry sense of humour?

Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers is the third novel in the Lord Peter Wimsey series and my next read on the road to advancing in the As My Whimsy Takes Me Challenge. I've loved the previous two so can't wait to visit Lord Peter's London again.

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith has been in my wish list for a few years and it's now residing in my Reader, patiently awaiting my attention.  I love books with illustrations and these look promising and entertaining.

I have a few classic comic novels in reserve for days when I need a lift.  They include well-known works as Three Men in a Boat... books that I have heard about all throughout my life but that, for some reason or other, I haven't yet read.  There's a great sense of anticipation and expectation with these books and it gives me a warm feeling to know that I'll finally have read them and be 'in on the joke'.

Bones under the Beach Hut by Simon Brett is the latest book in the Fethering Mysteries set on the beautiful West Sussex coast.  This series has become an annual staple after I discovered it a few years ago and made my way through all the then available books in order.  The detecting duo consist of two ladies in their fifties who have a keen nose for murder...

That's all for now...  I have a couple of books winging their way to me from the Book Depsitory and I am seriously considering buying my second Whipple soon... but can I stand the two-week wait?!  In the meantime, there's thankfully plenty to read but sadly less time to devote to it whilst I am in the midst of studying for next month's exams.  Oh for more reading hours in the day!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four... and Five...

Simon over at Stuck in a Book has come up with a fun little game surrounding the status of five books that have come into your life recently.  My response is as follows:

1 - The book I'm currently reading:
Miss Buncle Married by D. E. Stevenson - I'm nearing the middle and certainly enjoying it so far.  It is a little different from the first book but Miss Buncle is exactly the same (except better dressed, a little more confident and happily married).  It's been fun to meet her and her husband again and it makes a snuggy read in the chillier Autumn nights over here... especially when I'm nursing a hot cup of tea and a biscuit.

2 - The last book I finished:
The Eliza Stories (a.k.a. Eliza) by Barry Pain - I came across a free e-book copy of this collection of short stories on Project Gutenberg and thought it might be a delightful read as it had glowing reviews spanning a number of decades.  It is a short book published in 1904 with stories narrated by Eliza's husband - a self-satisfied, pompous man whose observations about life and marriage can be quite funny, especially as he is usually unaware of his wife's sarcasm and wit.  I found it quite a pleasant read - humourous in places - although not laugh-out-loud funny as you can forsee some of the outcomes (which I guess are familiar to us now as modern comedy may have borrowed from it).  It was still enjoyable and a light, urbane read - and heartily recommended.

3 - The next book I want to read:
Aunts aren't Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse - Lyn at I Prefer Reading wrote an excellent post about this book recently and it got me hankering after some more Wodehouse.  I think this later Jeeves and Wooster novel will be perfect and it will be my first J&W read.  I'm really looking forward to it!

4 - The last book I bought:
Angel with Two Faces by Nicola Upson - I purchased this today!  It is the second instalment in the Josephine Tey murder mysteries (where she is the main character) and I hope that it will live up to the first.  I quite like the cover and the different shades of blue.

5 - The last book I was given:
Bones in High Places - Suzette A. Hill - My dear friend T. treated me to this book very recently and I can't wait to read it.  This series is a real gem of a find... it always puts a smile on my face.

Thank you Simon for coming up with such a great game!  I had fun putting my responses together and it makes you think about where your book tastes (or moods) are at the moment.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

April Roundup

Woman Reading in a Garden by Richard Emil Miller (1875 - 1943)
April was a more productive month reading-wise with the majority of the books completed by the middle of the month.  I kicked off the month with my first Read Cornwall challenge book, Manna from Hades which I I quite enjoyed and was very pleased with being transported back to Cornwall after such a long time.

I also attempted a couple of new-to-me M. C. Beatons with mixed results.  You can read my thoughts on Emily goes to Exeter here and I hope to put up a short review of the latest Hamish Macbeth mystery.

I also finally managed to read an Edith Wharton for the first time, which also counted as my first completed classic for the Classics Challenge 2011The Age of Innocence was a rewarding read and set in a time in America that I don't usually encounter.  I enjoyed it but felt that the ending was bitter-sweet and left me unsatisfied.  I shall definately be searching out more Wharton though as her prose is rich and her observations of upper-crust New Yorkers at the turn of the last century biting yet slightly sympathetic.

I felt like reading something a little lighter after that and who better that Suzette A. Hill to cheer me up and give me a warm, comforting feeling?  Bone Idle is the third book in the Francis Oughterard series and I continue to be delighted with it.  I hope to post something about this unusual, humourous and thouroughly English series soon.

And now I'm on an extended visit to Corduroy Mansions in Pimlico, London.  I completed the second book in the series and enjoyed it so much that I proceeded onto the third, A Conspiracy of Friends, which is officially released today in the UK.  Although the Scotland Street books by Alexander McCall Smith is my favourite of his series, I find that the Corduroy Mansions serials are fast becoming a favourite too.

I hope everyone had a comfortable and peaceful Easter and holidays.  How was your April?

The books:

1. Manna from Hades - Carola Dunn
2. Emily goes to Exeter - M. C. Beaton
3. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
4. Bone Idle - Suzette A. Hill
5. Death of a Chimney Sweep - M. C. Beaton
6. The Dog Who Came in from the Cold - Alexander McCall Smith

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Persephone Biannually Spring/Summer 2011

Cover: Alice Ashley on a Green Seat by Donald Towner (1937)

It's arrived!  Well in the UK at least and a very good friend has sent it winging its way to me in Africa.  I should have it in my hot little hands in 5 working days along with the colourful book mark that goes with The Sack of Bath.  The Biannually is one of the few catalogues I look forward to receiving and I find it such a shame that Persephone no longer publish it on a quarterly basis (alas, I never experienced the anticipation of receiving the Quarterly as I only learned of Persephone Books a few years ago).
I love the cover of this Biannually... a lady sitting outside on a comfy swing seat doing her knitting whilst having a newspaper on her lap and a book beside her... a glass of lemonade nearby with an opened letter next to it... is it news from a dear friend?  Such a relaxing and tranquil scene that lends itself to a story.

Some of the items that I look forward to reading in this edition include articles Persephone in Sicily and Battered Bath: the Case for Freezing a City, as well as an article by Maureen Lipman.  There is a short story entitled The Real Thing by Diana Athill and info on the three books for Spring/Summer:

Miss Buncle, Married by D. E. Stevenson
Midsummer Night in the Workhouse by Diana Athill
The Sack of Bath by Adam Fergusson

Forthcoming events that I wish I could attend include an afternoon walk in Bath, a lunch talk with Felicity Jones (star of the film adaptation of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding) and the good news that Persephone are reviving 'Possibly Persephone' which is being held on 25 May and where you can put forward suggestions for future Persephones!

I hope that they will eventually publish ALL of Dorothy Whipple's novels as I so enjoyed High Wages that I have a feeling she is going to become a favourite author.  I wish I could get hold of a beautiful Persephone copy of Miss Buncle, Married - which is silly since I have a 1970's paperback with me here.  Sadly it just doesn't feel as luxurious as a Persephone... I may read it yet and I hope that it is as good as the first novel.

Have you received your Biannually yet and what are you looking forward to reading?  Have you placed an order for any of the new publications?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

High Wages

I finished this beautiful Persephone book early last month as part of Persephone Reading Week and have been meaning to share my verdict for quite a while.  The plot and my initial thoughts on the novel are chronicled here.  This novel has been a perfect introduction to Dorothy Whipple and this is now one of my favourite Persephones.

It is a charming, heart-warming read with enough daily ruptures and minor occurrences to keep things interesting.  The main protagonist, Jane, is a worthy heroine - head-strong, independent, hungry for knowledge and graced with a kind heart.  The novel started off very cosily with Jane fortuitously securing a position at a draper's and we learn of her ambition to own her own clothing store.  The characters surrounding Jane are all realistically and skilfully drawn so that you feel as though you are right there with Jane.
The book progresses through Jane's friendships and her ultimate independence but then it takes an unusual turn with an unexpected and complicated romance.  I wasn't too sure about Jane's choice (I can't say more or I'll ruin the surprise element) and I found myself feeling quite anxious for her and hoping that she would come to her senses.  There is also one character who appears a little creepy in the beginning but he improves as the novel progresses, although I think that Whipple was a bit harsh with him by inflicting quite an injury.  Whipple certainly manipulated my emotions towards the end, which just goes to show what a superb writer she is.

I find myself wanting to read more Whipple but I am without any other of her novels... I must try to remedy that.  I have a copy of Someone at a Distance in the UK (the beautiful Persephone Classics edition) but I fear that I shall be in for constant heart tugging with that one.  Any suggestions on what should be my next Whipple fix?

Dorothy Whipple

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Travelling Matchmaker

Being a fan of M. C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin and Edwardian Murder Mysteries series, I thought that the attractively reissued novels from the Travelling Matchmaker series might be fun.  These were originally issued under the pseudonym of Marion Chesney in the 1990s but have recently been reissued by Constable Robinson this year.  I started with the first in the series of 6 novels.

These novels follow the matchmaking (or meddling) adventures of Miss Hannah Pym, a housekeeper of the 1800s, who inherits a substantial sum of money after her employer passes away.  Miss Pym has always dreamt of travelling on the Flying Machine - the stagecoach - and realises her fantasy once she finds herself a gentlewomen of independent means.

Each book appears to deal with a different heroine that Miss Pym encounters on her travels and your usual dashing male hero.  The first novel is fairly light with a few touches of humour and the prose is superior to some of Beaton's current Agatha Raisin offerings but I found it a little predictable.  I was also disappointed not to actually read much about Exeter as most of the novel is set in an inn en route to that town.

On the whole, not a bad novel and probably a decent low-key historical romance but without much substance and certainly without the whimsy that I anticipated.  There were nuggetts of historical information about travelling in England in the 19th century as well as inteteresting descriptions of dress and household concerns.  It was a quick, undemanding read that helped pass the time whilst waiting to been seen to in hospital (just a routine appointment for my Mom).  I'm not sure if I'll follow the series through as I read this more for the ambience of the titular towns but I doubt that much of the books actually deliver in this regard.  I was particularly looking forward to getting to the second book, Belinda goes to Bath, but alas that also appears to be thin on the Bath front.  I read this on my Sony Reader after purchasing it from Amazon at a discounted price... a nice way to try out an unfamiliar series.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Manna from Hades

Set in a fictional north-Cornish village, with a pseudo-sixties timeline, this cosy mystery novel is the first book in a new series by prolific author Carola Dunn.  This novel introduces us to Eleanor Trewynn, a widow who previously travelled the world working for an international charity, who has returned to Cornwall and has settled in the picturesque village of Port Mabyn.  Eleanor lives above a charity shop with her charming West Highlands terrier Teazle and spends her days driving around her corner of Cornwall collecting donations and items to sell in the charity shop.
Port Isaac, Cornwall

It is during one of these outings that she discovers that a briefcase filled with jewellery has been deposited in her car.  Later she discovers the body of a teenager in the charity shop's storeroom and realises that the briefcase is gone, although she had the foresight to stow away the jewellery in her own safe.  The mystery revolves around identifying the victim and unravelling the motive for murder, not to mention the mystery behind the generous donation of jewellery.

This is a smooth, comforting read with enough references to Cornish places to please and create the appropriate atmosphere.  It is peopled with likeable characters such as the indomitable vicar's wife, the dotty vicar, a witty artist as a next-door-neighbour and Eleanor's niece, Megan, who works for the Cornish Police in Launceston.  The grumpy Superintendent Scumble's frustration and sarcasm in dealing with Eleanor's constant forgetfulness and woolly thinking raises a few chuckles.  We are also reminded that women police officers were not the norm at that time and it is interesting to observe how Megan deals with prejudice and misogyny as she goes about her duties.

The adorable dog Teazle is beautifully drawn and her antics and personality shine through.  I found the dialogue and description of the countryside and people's movements and day-to-day tasks quite evocative and I found it an enjoyable read.  The only criticism I have is that Eleanor's constant lack of locking doors and her revealing information to the police piece-meal was a bit irritating, especially since you are several pages into the novel and you just want to shout at her to get on with it and tell the police about the pertinent clues she found but forget to mention.  I found that this stretched my patience a bit but it did eventually get better.

I read this novel as part of the Read Cornwall challenge devised by the lovely Fleur Fisher and will be seeking out the second instalment in the series.  Although it's set in the sixties, without mobile phones and other modern-day conveniences, I found that it worked quite well and I did picture myself in Cornwall throughout, which is a lovely bonus.

Friday, 1 April 2011

March Roundup

Man Reading - John Singer Sargent

Manic March is over and I fortunately managed to complete a few books towards the end of the month.  Poor Pickwick is still on my bedside table awaiting another reading session but I did manage to read my second Lord Peter Whimsy novel to add to the As My Whimsy Takes Me challenge.  I also took part in Cornflower's Book Group for the first time by reading the first Brother Cadfael novel by Ellis Peters. 

I acquired a lovely midnight-blue Sony Reader in the middle of the month which has been a boon in terms of enabling me to read novels that I am finding difficult (or too expensive) to acquire here in South Africa.  The McCall Smith novel was my first ebook read on this device and I was quite impressed!  This won't replace the luxury of books but it is invaluable when you are struggling to get hold of a book that you've been pining for.  And it's great to take with me on long journeys.

So not a fantastic month for me but not bad... certainly better than this time last year.  There just aren't enough reading hours in the day!

The books:

1. High Wages - Dorothy Whipple
2. Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers
3. The Charming Quirks of Others - Alexander McCall Smith
4. A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Charming Quirks of Others

This book is indeed charming!  Fans of the Isabel Dalhousie series, set in Edinburgh, will not be disappointed with this latest offering.  Isabel, philosopher and editor of an ethics magazine, continues to ponder on life's moral questions and tries to assist people in predicament along the way.  Her latest request for help involves investigating the origin of a note, warning of an undesirable incident that occurred in someone's past.  Three men are in the frame to replace the outgoing headmaster of a private boys' school and Isabel has to look into their backgrounds to uncover a less than ethical candidate.

This is a very gentle read with delicious descriptions of Edinburgh, sprinkled with the odd real-life Edinburgh citizen and set in actual Edinburgh establishments.  I always have a hankering to visit again after reading these novels and this one had the added bonus of leaving me quite content and serene.  
Alexander McCall Smith and Augustus Basil (me thinks)

Click here to listen to a short interview with Alexander McCall Smith discussing his latest book, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No. 12 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series).

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Brother Cadfael

I am quite enjoying reacquainting myself with the worldy-wise and enigmatic Brother Cadfael, thanks to Cornflower's current Book Group pick.  I was first introduced to this series whilst in school (but I only read one book, The Devil's Novice) and years later I watched most of the episodes of the TV adaptation with Derek Jacobi in the lead role. 

Edith Pargeter (a.k.a. Ellis Peters) and Derek Jacobi (Source)
I'm half way through the first novel in this series and I was pleasantly surprised at the subtle humour to be found in this book.  Brother Cadfael is a Benedictine monk in 12th century Shropshire who is of Welsh descent and who lived a very full and worldly life before taking his orders.  There are lovely descriptions of his tending his herb garden and the medicinal uses he has for each plant that he cultivates.  He seems to be a shrewd observer of human behaviour which comes in handy when he finds himsef in Wales bent over the body of a prominent landowner.  Suspicion is cast upon his prior as the murdered man opposed the removal of a Welsh saint's bones to Brother Cadfael's church in England.  A finger of suspicion is also pointed at an Englishman who worked for the murdered man and who had been seeking to marry the murdered man's daughter.

Shrewsbury Abbey

It's a smooth, pleasurable read with rich descriptions of North Wales and Shrewsbury.  Fortunately, I have forgotten most of the plots used for the TV series so I can enjoy this novel on its own merits.  I must say that the Cadfael in my mind looks and sounds nothing like Derek Jacobi and Shrewsbury seems brighter and greener than that portrayed in the series.  Oddly, it seems that the TV series was filmed on location in Hungary!  I think that this will be a mystery series that I will seek out in future especially since I picked up a second-hand book a few years ago of Ellis Peters' Shrewsbury.  I only had a glimpse of Shrewsbury once and that was mostly of the castle and the lush countryside.  I am now aware that there is a Brother Cadfael walk and museum so I would love to visit again to do this historic town justice and to follow in the footsteps of Cadfael.

Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Currently Hooked on... Laurel and Hardy

There's nothing like watching an L&H short to swiftly chase away the blues!  I've been re-watching some of these since the end of last week and it never fails to make me grin - if not splutter with sudden laughter.  I've also come across a few that I hadn't seen before - thanks to my brother - which is such a pleasant delight.

Twice Two (1933)
One of my favourite shorts is Brats wherein Laurel and Hardy also portray their own offspring, who obviously take after their fathers. Clever, cute and comical to see these two grown men behave (legitimately for once!) like little children, surrounded by giant furniture to add perspective.

Brats (1930)

I just love these men.  So gifted... they excelled equally at slapstick, word-play and subtle humour.  Even a cocked eyebrow from Hardy or a silly shrug from Laurel makes me smile.  Hardy's musical interludes are sublime and watching them dance together or do a little spontaneous twirl is sheer joy.  This is truly comfort watching and I have them on in the background sometimes just to cheer things up.

Towed in a Hole (1932)
L&H Jeep Die Cast Model - A gift I gave my Dad a few years ago - it still sits on top of his monitor.

Friday, 18 March 2011

For Japan with Love and Animal Rescue

Photo source

Thanks to Rachel at Book Snob, I've just been made aware of a blog-based movement who are collecting donations to provide necessary equipment and supplies to those affected by the terrible disaster in Japan.  Like everyone else, I have been concerned and moved by this tragedy and have been thinking of helping in some way.   Rachel's post has provided a nudge. Please visit her blog for more information as she has investigated this charity and found that our donations will be getting to those in need.  If you'd like to donate, please click here.

The plight of humans and animals are interlinked on this earth and my heart goes out to companion and other animals that inevitably suffer during these times of crisis but who do not always get the help required.  This prompted me to search for animal charities in Japan who try to rescue and rehome animals who have been caught up in this disaster.  It's a race against time as Japan's shelters have a kill policy and 72 hours in which a guardian can claim their companion animal.  I've seen the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support mentioned several times in news stories concerning abandoned and lost dogs and cats being rescued.  They are a coalition of three animal charities and no-kill rescue centres with track histories and experience so I think making a donation to them will help ensure that they can rescue, treat and rehome dogs, cats and any other animals in distress without their lives being placed in further jeopardy.

If you'd like to donate, you can do so by PayPal here.  Please be patient as it sometimes takes a while to load.  You you may need to click the arrow in the top right-hand corner for English if the PayPal page appears in Japanese.  HEART (one of the animal groups involved) is collecting the donations and donations are in US Dollars.  There are regular updates on the coalition's Facebook page here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for your help.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Manic March

The White Rabbit - John Tenniel (from The Nursery Alice)
I can't believe that we're already in the middle of March and that it's turned out to be a bit of a hectic month.  Is it just me or is time going by quickly again?  I feel awful at not having posted in two weeks and that my reading ambitions for this year have shifted into a lower gear (for the moment!). 

I've recommenced studying (home study for an accounting qualification) and it demands a lot of time each day so less time for reading.  My body clock's also been a bit out of kilter for some time and I tend to go to bed late which completely throws out the next day and leaves me feeling a bit like Alice's White Rabbit at times... "No time to say Hello, Goodbye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!"  

This being the Year of the Rabbit and my Chinese horoscope sign being the rabbit, I was promised a smooth and productive year but I have yet to see it!  Fingers crossed, things will get better as the year progresses.  At least matters are drawing to a close with regards the handling of my father's estate and I'm planing on returning to the UK in a few months.  It'll be a wrench, though, as it always is.

So, I have to take myself firmly in hand and apportion time to all the vital daily tasks, especially reading and blogging.  I have two reviews to post (the charming High Wages and the first Wimsey for the As My Whimsy Takes Me Challenge) and I'm currently enjoying my second foray into Sayers' wonderful work.  Thank you to you all who have signed up for the challenge.  I look forward to receiving your links and reading your thoughts.

I hope you all have a lovely March... Spring is in the air for some and for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, autumn is getting closer.  Have a lovely week!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

February Roundup

Reading (1884) - Julius LeBlanc Stewart

Well, February has not lived up to my hopes of reading a fair amount of books.   I managed to finish only three - perhaps the shorter month has something to do with it?  Instead, I seem to have a number of books on the go.

I have Pickwick Papers on my bedside table to dip into at a leisurely pace.  I've covered the first three chapters and am enjoying the company of the Pickwickians and Dickens' descriptions of Rochester.

I am part way through my first re-reading of E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia, brought on by a fit of nostalgia after posting about the lovely Wordsworth and Vintage editions published this year.

I have yet to complete the last Virago book that I started during Virago Reading Week, Pirates at Play, and I'm currently reading and savouring High Wages, which I started during Persephone Reading Weekend.

I don't think I've juggled so many fiction books at once before - at least not for pleasure!  Looking to March, I hope to tackle a few of the challenges that I signed up for.  I have my next Lord Peter Wimsey lined up and I hope to make a sizeable dent in Pickwick Papers.  Then there's the Edith Wharton to look forward to, an Ellis Peters (for the Cornflower Book Group) and hopefully room for something fun and frivolous.  How has the shortest month of the year fared for you?

The books:

1. Mrs Ames - E. F. Benson
2. Bones in the Belfry - Suzette A. Hill
3. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding - Julia Strachey

Sunday, 27 February 2011

High Wages: Initial Thoughts (Persephone Reading Weekend)

My first Whipple has proved to be an utterly charming read.  I'm 100 pages into the story and am absolutely captivated by Jane's independent mind, quiet determination and hunger for life.  Jane is almost nineteen and she is fortunate to secure a job as an assistant in a draper's shop in a market town in Lancashire.  There she makes friends with fellow assistant Maggie and her boyfriend Wilfrid, who works at the Free Library, and who develops a crush on Jane.  Wilfrid reintroduces Jane to the world of books and she finds her spirit and courage expanding through reading.  Jane also befriends Mrs Briggs, the wife of one of the partners of a cotton mill in the town, and we can see how the people around her are starting to shape her and open her up to a world that had previously appeared restricted.

I love the way Dorothy Whipple writes, the dialogue she uses and the dialects (which are not at all intrusive) that are sparingly interspersed.  She is skilled at painting a picture of a cotton mill town after the turn of the century and in portraying the different classes.  We are not only privy to Jane's thoughts but also to the thoughts of others in a higher social circle.

I can already tell that this book is going to be a favourite of mine.  It is evocative and entirely gripping.  I feel as though I am following Jane around during her morning duties or her ablutions at night.  I now finally understand the Whipple attraction and fully comprehend what other readers meant when they said that it was her writing style, rather than what actually occured, that captivated them.

I was hoping to have moved on to another Persephone today but I don't want to rush this beautiful book.  I want to savour it slowly and enjoy every minute that I spend in its company.  As the highly enjoyable Persephone Reading Weekend draws to a close I would like to thank all my fellow bloggers for such fantastic posts and recommendations.  And a special thank you to Claire and Verity for hosting yet another successful event.  It's been bliss!

Pop over to the Persephone Reading Weekend host blogs for interesting posts and fabulous competitions. Hosted by Claire and Verity.