The books I read and loved in 2011

My year of reading is done! I did better this year than last. I found more time to enjoy reading and although I got through a mere eleven books – I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Here are the books that I read in 2011. I don’t read a great deal. I am more a lover of films and theatre.  My comments below are my views on the books. You may agree or disagree with my views. Perhaps you wish to comment or to recommend my some ‘great reads’ for the year.

One Day by David Nicholls (2009)

Is it possible for anyone to read this book without crying? Possibly one of the best books that I have ever read. It is truly heartwarming and beautifully written. I loved the characters and felt as though I knew them so well. I also felt as though I had lost someone. I was shocked at the end. I didn’t see the shock coming and I didn’t want to believe it for a few pages… If ever there was a book to make you sit up and think about your life and how it is too short, then this is it. Pure masterpiece!

A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French (2010).

From the first sentence I was drawn in. Dawn French is brilliant on TV and her writing is just as brilliant. The story takes you on a journey with one family. An ordinary family. The mother (almost 50) and the daughter (almost 18) have a difficult relationship which comes through from both perspectives. I felt as though I knew them both. Oh, there are real people that I can imagine being just the same. The brother in the story had me in fits of laugher. Oscar Wilde reborn. Brilliant. Heartwarming. Hillarious. So very realistic. This is an easy book to read and one that is well worth doing.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K.Rowling (2000).

A superbly written book by Rowling. The first of the mammoth books and a real page-turner. I couldn’t stop reading it. There were so many wonderful elements to the book and lots that had been missed out of the film-adaption. Rowling starts to bring in dark twists and a more mature approach to the story. Brilliant throughout. Of course, knowing the story from beginning to end, it is fantastic to re-read and appreciate where clues are continually dropped in. o many unanswered questions… I surprised myself with how much I’d forgotten. For anyone who’d ever doubted the depth of Rowling’s novels – this is the book to sway even the most sceptical reader. A must read. I can’t wait for the next one – the biggest book (a pause in the series first….).

Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K.Rowling (1999).

The third book had always been one of my favourites. I love the twists in it especially the use of the time-turner by Hermione and Harry later on in the book. Again, Rowling drip feeds the reader with more clues about how the whole story will develop. Great stuff. When I first read the book I didn’t get the clues about Scabbers until late on in the story. How could I have missed it?! The anticipation from this book was immense. The last of the ‘little’ books. The big instalment next…

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K.Rowling (1998).

Back in 1998 when this was written, Harry Potter was still new to the world. The real craze had not quite started… I hadn’t queued up for this book at midnight to buy it. The return to Hogwarts is not without adventure. Rowling needed to summarise many of the important parts of the plot from the previous book (Dursleys, Quidditch, the four houses, etc). The second book flies by. The story has all the ingredients of the last and speeds through a year in the life of Harry Potter. Great to see the plot thickening,….. Harry Potter has a link to Lord Voldemort from the night he was attacked. Of the mystery,….. I love this series. Next book, please! :))

Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997).

Re-reading the first if Rowling’s Harry Potter book’s has been thoroughly enjoyable. When I first read the book back in 1997 it took some convincing to finish. I tool the story at face value and saw it as yet another ‘witch and wizard fantasy adventure’. Knowing how the entire series unfolds I’m amazed at the clues that she managed to weave into the first book. An extremely well written and multi-layered book with super characters. The first hints that Harry has similarities to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named are planted in the story, the pain in the scar, the importance of wands and the invisibility cloak are also mentioned. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Book 2 here I come!

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (2005).

What an anti-climax. There were parts of the book which I felt were so funny, but after weeks and weeks and weeks or reading, I’ve finally finished the book. I’m not impressed. I wish I’d given up, but I never do. I slogged on through it. Depressing at times (it is about suicide after all) and funny at others. I just thought the story drifted into a nothing story. I don’t think I’ll be reading more by Nick Hornby.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (2006).

 A fast but addictive read. (Full review here). After finishing the book I was left speechless. Whilst reading, Ireally felt as though I was back in 1940 observing the effects of the war on Bruce, his family and the Jews. The story centres around the Auschwitz ‘death’ (concentration) camp in Poland where Bruce is moved when his father is promoted to the position of Obersturmbannführer. Bruce and his family live in the guard house and it is only after some exploring and questioning that Bruce begins to become more aware of who the people are on the other side of the fence.

The innocence of Bruno and the friendship that grows between him and Shmuel is heartwarming. The book touches on the horrendous truths of what happened back during World War II. By the end of the story the hairs on my arms were standing on end….

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox (2004).

Phew – I finally finished! It took me long enough to wade through this heavy book. Funny in most parts and quite deep (exploring the English and class) in other parts. I survived the journey. Kate Fox’s exploration into what makes the English – well, English was great to read. There were so many truths that I could relate to. Saying “sorry” for almost everything (including breathing), tutting at everything in life but never complaining directly, the joys of tea and the interest in everyone else’s lives were all mentioned. Since reading the book I have to say that I am more interested and more aware of the things my English friends do. I even find myself putting them onto a scale of Englishness. Maybe I’m not so English after all.

I have already blogged a little more about the book and Englishness in general here.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003).

I started reading this book alongside a Dutch student that I have been tutoring for the past 18 months. The book takes the first-person perspective of a fifteen-year old boy, Christopher, with ‘learning difficulties’. It is not explicitly stated in the book, but there are characteristics behaviour from within the autistic spectrum. This book opened my eyes to autism and really made me think about what the world would be like from their perspective. The book begins with the death of Christopher’s neighbour’s dog. He sets out on a quest to find the dog’s killer and ends up crossing boundaries that he’d set himself. A gripping plot that made me want to keep reading until the very end. This was a very satisfying read.

The Legend of Dragonmoon by Alison Zeitler (2010).

My first book to finish in 2011 and it was one written by a friend of mine. This book, written for children, is all about a girl’s unexpected adventure as she travels to stay with family in Norway. There’s plenty of mystery and a legend that the local people keep well hidden. I blogged about this book and my friend Alison. You can read it here.


Christmas. All Gone Wrong.

Tis’ the season to be jolly… Well, that’s what I thought.

This post is all about where the Christmas festivities take a rather sharp turn for the worse…

Prepare for Christmas like you’ve never imagined it (even in your worst nightmare).

I don’t know which one is more freaky. Santa skulking by a little girl’s window or the horror that is the little girl. Poor Santa is likely to have heart failure the moment he catches a glimpse of her face… This could be the last Christmas ever!

No, no, no… What is this? Two questions? Who’s idea was it for Dad and baby to wear matching outfits? WHY – oh WHY is the very attractive woman with him? Surely the baby is not his. I am most disturbed by this.

I can only be grateful that we never did the ‘family shot’ in at Christmas time with my family. Go Mum!

No time to dress for the photo? Clearly not… It’s gonna be a grim Christmas.

Oh lordy, lord. Inappropriate balloon modelling if ever I saw it. No wonder he’s smiling so much.

Hmmm. All the best intentions look so WRONG. This ad is for funky underwear for hot dads. The only problem is it looks a tad pedo… What is really going on here? No no no…

Haha! The future of Christmas photos! This is what it might just end up like….

Haha. D ftr of Xms fts. Dis is wot it mght jst end up lIk… ttfn

Oh my, Mary! Just what have you been up to?

Have a great Christmas season everyone!!

My Childhood Sequel: The Basher Returns!

It’s nice to see that so many people enjoyed reading my first novel, ‘The Bag Basher’, from my last post. Apart from the fact that it was littered with shameful clichés and dreadful descriptions – it sort of stood out.

A few years after writing the first book I re-visited the idea. I wanted to take the character, Mrs Brambleberry, on another adventure. This was my story – aged 13.

I have to warn you all now that this sequel contains a mature and hard-hitting drug theme. I know, I know – you’d never have believed it. Violence and drugs. Oh – and there’s plenty of mystery. I think there are a few unanswered questions to be discussed.

Read on and enjoy the sequel – ‘The Basher Returns’.

Chapter 1

It had been two months since the great robbery and all the troubles of court cases were out-of-the-way. The two men were given sixteen years and Mrs Brambleberry was quite pleased.

Jeremy, her nephew, was also going to be moving house this week and their new house was next door to Mrs Brambleberry. ‘Ski Hovel’ was the name of his new house and it overlooked the valley, Grey Stone Nag.

On the day of the move Mrs Brambleberry was going shopping at Goldmanor’s Shopping Centre for (Can you guess?… Yes – bags!).

At 3 o’clock the removal vans arrived and Mr Stimple, Jeremy’s dad sat in the van outside admiring their new house.

“Oh look”, said Mrs Stimple.

“I know, Mum. It’s fantastic”, replied Jeremy.

Mr Stimple stepped out of the large van and on to the muddy strip of grass. It made a disgusting squelching noise, like a sloppy kiss that mothers give their children.

“Frank, dear. Hurry up. I’m just so excited and I can’t wait to get in”.

They all kept rushing in and out, carrying more and more furniture. It seemed like an endless van full of everything!

At 6 o’clock Mrs Brambleberry arrived home in a superb taxi. It was gleaming and looked a sharp jet-black colour. When she got out of the car you could see four or five carrier bags – possibly more. It was hard to tell, considering it was the evening.

In the morning the postman came, but he was not in a very good mood….because he knew that in less than five minutes Mrs Brambleberry would barge out of her front door and – well, I can’t say!

He walked up to the door and counted to ten. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – go. He pushed the paper through the door and turned for the gate. There he saw……Mrs Brambleberry. It all went very quickly and he saw his life flash before him.

“No Miss. Have mercy!” cried the posty.

“You dare to post large letters and then fold them in half. You must be punished!” screamed Mrs Brambleberry.

Jeremy had heard all this noise from his bedroom and was now watching.

“Aaaargh, get off…..Help!” wailed the postman.

“Never! You’ll have to learn!” she shouted.

She took one swipe and SMASH, BIFF, BOP – she hit him.

Jeremy had to think quickly. He ran for the phone and dialled 999. A Mr Wilberforce answered.

“Hello. Which department please?”

“Police and ambulance, at High Road,” he replied. “Quick though, hurry!”

The postman was hurried to the nearest hospital where he was taken into intensive care. There they wired him up to a life support machine.

That night, Mrs Brambleberry spent the night in the police station answering questions and outside you could hear the media. Through the window flashes came from cameras and though the letterbox a man shouted.

“We’d like to speak to the crazy one, haha!”

Jeremy and his parents couldn’t believe that a member of their own family could do such a thing and that was when Mr Stimple said “She’s my sister and I’m going to get to the bottom of this mystery.”

“Could be pills, eh Dad?” joked Jeremy.

“That’s right son, great. Let’s see if she’s on any medication,” replied Geoff.

So, Mrs Brambleberry’s house was searched from top to bottom, when Mrs Stimple found a tub which read:


“Hey, look! I’ve found it. These must be making her – wild, I think,” yelled Gloria.

They took the pills to the police station was PC Clopper examined them. They were eventually found out to be drugs.

“Who gave you these pills, Miss?” asked the constable.

“Dr. Blaketon from Coatbridge Surgery,” said Mrs Brambleberry. “I’m sure of it”.

“Oh no!  This so-called Dr. Blaketon was arrested six months ago for drug dealing,” explained the constable.

“I didn’t know. I always wondered why he mysteriously disappeared. He had two helpers as well, didn’t he?” Mrs Brambleberry replied, “Have you caught them?”

She was now getting hot and very worked up!

“Yes, we did! They robbed your house and while they did that you didn’t notice them go upstairs did you?” said Mr Wilberforce walking in from the other room.

“They swapped over the tubs in your medical cupboard and from then on you’ve been taking drugs”.

Mrs Brambleberry couldn’t believe what they were telling her. Neither could the Stimples. They just stood in shock and listened.

“Mrs Brambleberry. I’m letting you go a free woman and I promise you that your name will be cleared!”

Mr Stimple got everyone into the car and drove them home.

When they reached home, Mrs Brambleberry went into her house, just as the phone was ringing.

“Hello, Mrs Brambleberry speaking”.

“Darling, it’s me, Alf. I’m getting the train from London now. I’ll be home by 8.30 and you can tell me what’s been happening”.

Mrs Brambleberry couldn’t believe it. She hadn’t seen her husband for two months because he went to America just after the robbery.

At 8:30 the whole family went to Mrs Brambleberry’s house to welcome him home. Two months was a long time to her and a lot had happened.



A few worrying points which I have thought about on re-reading, some 19 years later.

  • Why did I bother with chapters? There was clearly only one chapter.
  • What happened to the postman? Did he live?
  • How did she manage to escape the law? Lucky woman, I say.
  • Why was drugs the first thing that sprang to the mind of young Jeremy?
  • Just what had her husband been doing since the burglary. Why did he leave? Was he involved?
  • How could my maths be so poor that I claimed the husband had been away for two months (since just after the robbery) when the robbery was six months ago? Hmmmm.
  • Where did I think up the names PC Clopper and Mr Wilberforce. Crazy names!