Review : The Clocks

August 30, 2009

Title : The Clocks
Author: Agatha Christie
ISBN:  0006161731
Rating : 8/10
Great for : a rainy afternoon

I feel a bit of a cheat doing a review for any Agatha Christie whodunnit because I’ve read most of them a gazillion times over and being a huge AC fan, I’m not really impartial.  They’re just delicious, easy (I read this one in an afternoon), quintessentially England circa 1920-1960), funny and perfect for those days when you want to be distracted but don’t want to commit to anything heavy.

In what other books do you get lines as glorious as: “No, I was an innocent passer-by.  Suddenly a girl came flying out of the house like a bat out of hell. Nearly knocked me down. She said there was a dead man on the floor and a blind woman was trampling on him“.

Scrumptious.

The Clocks is typically wholesome A.C. fayre – a dead body or two,  a sardonic detective, a few ingenious red herrings.  Hercule Poirot even makes a brief appearance but this isn’t really a Poirot book.

If anyone else has read any AC’s I’d love to hear whether you’re a fan or not.

urbangardener

Title : The Urban Gardener
Author: Elspeth Thompson
ISBN:  978-0752826998
Rating : 8/10
Great for : reading about gardening and not falling asleep

Yes folks, it’s a gardening book!  This is a collection of Elspeth Thompson’s columns in the Sunday Telegraph over a period of three years cataloging her progress on an allotment and in the tiny London garden.

In easy to read bite size chunks, this book had me laughing on more than one occasions.  From the dreaded ‘weed police’ and the allotment committee to the debate sparked on cruelty to slugs, I loved this book.

A tiny bit too much detail on plant names and descriptions of colours that I found hard to imagine, but it’s enough to make you want to create a masterpiece of a garden outside your back door.

I’m on a bit of a mission with gardening books at the moment – anyone recommend any?

apow…

Wednesday Whip-Round

August 26, 2009

Just squeezing in this post on a Wednesday!

What’s by your bed, out of the library or by your baths this week?

Hello lovely bookgroupers!  How did you get on with The Time Traveler’s Wife (henceforth known as TTTWF to save my poor fingers from repetitive strain injury)? 

Did you weep so much you boosted Kleenex’s quarterly profits? 
Did you wish you were a paper sculptress living in Chicago? 
Did you wish you’d never bothered read it? 

You know I love the book, so please be prepared for some heavily biased questions – if you disagree on anything PLEASE pipe up, I won’t hate you forever or think badly of you if you’ve not enjoyed the book (honest!) 😉 

1. Let’s kick off with an easy one.  What would you rate the book out of 10?

2. Apparently Audrey Niffenegger wrote the last scene first, so let’s also get into the topsy turvy spirit of things.  Did you like the ending? Do you think it was fitting or a bit trite?

3. The publishing industry have found TTTW hard to categorize – some have classified it as a romance, some as science fiction, although apparently Niffenegger never thought of it as the latter.  Did the sciency time-travel element of the story get in the way of your enjoyment of the romance?  Or do you think it added to it?  Could you suspend your disbelief about the time travel?

4.  Henry DeTamble : utterly scrumptious character. Discuss.

5.  Both Henry and Clare have strained relationships their parental figures.  Does this add to our understanding of their characters and why they do what they do?   

6. What aspects of the book didn’t you like?

7. How did the mini storyline about Alba add to the book – do you think it changed Henry and Clare, and their relationship?

Those are for starters – if you have any more please shout!  Though here’s a bonus one for you:

8. Have you seen the film?! What did you think?!

I’ll be away until Monday but I can’t wait to see what you think when I get back

Kat xx

Books aren’t just about words.  Oh no.

If you love those design coffee table books, check out all the eye candy at Book By Its Cover.

HGTD

Title : The Household Guide to Dying :  A Novel Celebrating Life
Author: Debra Adelaide
ISBN:  000727470X
Rating : ??
Great for : um…if you’re dying?

Okay, I have to ‘fess up.  Hand on my heart, I can not genuinely give you a proper review of this book.  I’ve wanted to read it for ages, and finally my library coughed up the goods.  But there was a hitch…it was the book I had to read and finish before re-reading The Time Traveller’s Wife for our book group.  I therefore had no patience with it and couldn’t give it the attention it deserved because I wanted to hang out with Clare and Henry again.  It’s MY fault, I know this.  I am a bad person.  Sorry Ms Adelaide.

The basic premise is interesting. The main protagonist is an author of a number of housekeeping guides.  She is dying of cancer, so decides to write a guide to dying – it is cathartic, and almost a gift to the world before she departs.  She also has some personal issues she needs to resolve before she passes on, so we follow her on a bit of a personal journey.

It is funny in places and there are nice passages about the beauty of housekeeping but if I’m being wholly honest, I skim-read a fair chunk of it.  If you like the sound of it, please give it a go and let us know what you thought!

So sorry, feel like I’ve failed you!

Kat xx

Taking a wee little wobble off piste today.   I wanted to share this documentary with you which I found fascinating.

It’s called Time Warp Wives and we get a little insight into the lives of three women who are living in modern Britain but as though they were in the 1930s, 40s or 50s.   It’s all porcelain skin, domesticity and amazing vintage dresses.  You know me, I’m fascinated by world war literature and this is just an extension of that.   It’s weird and wonderful, I hope you enjoy.

Just so I can vaguely make it book-relevant, I’ve  heard about a book called 101 Things for the Housewife to Do (1949) and I really want a copy! Going to hunt one down as soon as I can.  I’m not a housewife by any stretch of the imagination but the description from Amazon made me laugh:

If you can learn to lift your ribs right out of your waist, and to let them expand outwards and inwards when breathing, you will soon develop that “upward buoyant poise” which is the secret of grace and which would bring less drudgery and more joy to the daily dusting, bedmaking, picture straightening, and all the dozens of things which go towards making your home beautiful’. A classic piece of 1940s publishing from B. T. Batsford (originally published 1949) reissued to inform and delight all readers about the housewife’s lot as Britain emerged from the war. Although the war-time emphasis on making do is still paramount, we see glimpses of a new world of ‘luxuries’ with ‘Washing and Ironing with Electricity’ and ‘Making a Modern Divan Bed’. Advice on every aspect of the housewife’s life is given, from household chores to useful hobbies for themselves and wholesome ones for their children. Choose from: Arranging the menus – Carpet sweeping; Hobbies for housewives (leather work, basketry and pewter modelling); How to make a pouffe; Physical culture (Irish jig in front of the window in the morning); Cleaning gloves; Care of the complexion and hair; Hat wardrobe; Repairing and binding carpets; and, toys from matchboxes. With dozens of diagrams, patterns and instructions, this book is not only a delightful look at the past but can be used for reference even now: very much the intention of the authors more than 60 years ago. These 101 suggestions are, by turn, funny, charming and useful, but all are a fantastic insight into a woman’s life and aspirations after the watershed of the war.

Kat x

After the lovely Caroline’s guest post review about ReadItSwapIt, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and have a nosey round myself.   I’ve now parcelled up and packed off two three books to loving new homes and I’m very much looking forward to recieving the swapped ones in the post (I must now mentally prepare myself for my postman’s evil eye. The poor lamb, I always have him lugging around heavy parcels up two flights of stairs). 

One thing though : I’d like to ask you lovely folk in bloggerland with regular ebay/swap site experience for your tips on cutting down wrapping costs.  I don’t send parcels very often and I must admit the cost of even 2nd class post shocked me slightly.  One book cost £1.80 and the other £2.40 – have Royal Mail hiked their prices alot recently?!  I know, I sound like a right cheapo, but back in the day when I used to send parcels more regularly it was a lot less dear…I think?!  Anyways, whinging aside, post office prices are out of my control so I’m looking to cut down the cost of wrapping the books.  At the moment I’ve first wrapped the books in a plastic bag to make it waterproof, then I’ve just shoved the books in a jiffy bag.  Is there a better, cheaper way?  Jiffy bags are costing me about 30p each. It’s not extortionate but it will start adding up so if you know of a nifty trick, please do shout!

Kat xx

I got tagged on Facebook for this, but thought it was worth doing here.  It was originally set in March 2007, but leave us a comment with how many you’ve ticked off these 100 books, or post on your own blog and link back to us.  I managed a measly 12!

1 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series JK Rowling – Yes, all seven of them!  Was it seven?

5 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations Charles Dickens

11 Little Women Louisa M Alcott – Yes, years ago though at school

12 Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

13 Catch-22 Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare William Shakespeare

15 Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit JRR Tolkien – Yep

17 Birdsong Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger – ermmmm, moving on

20 Middlemarch George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia CS Lewis

34 Emma Jane Austen

35 Persuasion Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe CS Lewis -Yes

37 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis de Bernières

39 Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh AA Milne

41 Animal Farm George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown – Yes

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney John Irving

45 The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies William Golding

50 Atonement Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi Yann Martel

52 Dune Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen – Does watching the film count?

55 A Suitable Boy Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Mark Haddon – Yes

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck – Yes, another school classic

62 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold – Yes

65 Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary Helen Fielding – Yes

69 Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist Charles Dickens

72 Dracula Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett – not sure if I read it or watched it?

74 Notes From A Small Island Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven Mitch Albom – Yes, one of my favouite books. EVER!

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection Enid Blyton –  Yes, yes!

91 Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory Iain Banks

94 Watership Down Richard Adams – Sob, yes

95 A Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl – Yes

100 Les Misérables Victor Hugo
Total: 28/100

TWWB

Title : The Wonderful Weekend Book
Author: Elspeth Thompson
ISBN: 978-1-84854-046-0
Rating : 10/10
Great for : Ideas, tips, links to websites, reminding you what weekends are all about

It’s a 10/10 for me.  This book is just fab, so much so, I’m raving about it on my blog as well.

The concept is this.  Weekends should not be two days of cramming everything in that you didn’t get done in the previous five days.  Weekends should be about so much more than that.  With ideas of things to do all year around as well as during each season, you’ll never be lost for something to do.  I couldn’t put this one down and have a huge list of things I want to do towards reclaiming the weekends for us.

This one is definitely a keeper and is going in the bookcase for future reference.