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.

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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:

TIGETS MILES – FOR EXTRA STRENGTH!

“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.

THE END

 

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!

My childhood novel: The Bag Basher

When I was younger I loved writing stories.

I was always writing short stories and poems. I’m sure that if I was to go back to my mum’s house and look in wardrobes and under my old bed that I would find lots more. 

A while back, I was looking through some old stuff in my apartment and I found a book that I’d written. The Bag Basher, my first novel (hmmmm) was written when I was eleven years old.  

It’s really taken me back in time. The story is rather tragic. I’m sure a psycologist would have a field-day interpreting what it means. Basically, the story is ‘violence meets a touch-of-campness’. Read on and make of it what you will. Happy Reading.

Chapter 1:

Mrs Brambleberry was the worst type of woman who you would like to be with because she was always bashing people. This had gone on for about one year now and the postman was considering leaving. He looked so bad with all his bruises, all over his body. Each time he’s tried to post big letters he had to fold them in half. SHE DIDN’T LIKE IT. She would just stomp out of the house and hit him.

In her back garden people said she must grow handbags because she had so many. One day she would carry a green one, the next day it would be blue.

Anyway, let’s get to the point. She had a nephew called Jeremy Stimple and it was the summer holidays, so he was coming to stay with her.

When he came, she was nowhere to be seen. He looked all over but she was not there. This started his mind going. “Where are you Aunty?” he shouted, but there was no answer.

As soon as he went round into her back garden, there she was with her handbag tree.

Stick with it… It gets very exciting! Who’d have believed in handbag trees.

Chapter 2

By now he had started to wonder what she was doing because when he came she didn’t even say hello to him. Next to Mrs Brambleberry was a little chemistry set.

She dropped a little bit of solution onto a branch of the tree and a little bag grew.

“Aunt”, Jeremy shouted, “It’s me”. But she didn’t look.

That night they were both very tired and went straight to their beds.

It was about 12 o’clock at night when two evil-looking men smashed the back window and crept into the house. The both had brown bags and started to pick things up.

Mrs Brambleberry started to cough in bed. She got up and went downstairs. On the way to the kitchen she thought to herself “Where’s my picture? Oh well, I must have moved it and then forgotten.”

The burglars both said “Cor, we were lucky, but we had better get down again before she comes back”.

When she went back to bed they started stealing things again. In one corner of the room there was a big golden bag. Mrs Brambleberry probably used it when she went to dinner. They quickly put it into their sack. By now it was 1 o’clock and so they left.

In the morning Jeremy came down into the front room to watch TV. The only problem was….there was no television set nor any of his aunt’s things. He quickly looked out of the back window and saw footprints in the sandpit and a piece of black and white material. This was when he knew what had happened. They had been Robbed! (Notice my use of a capital letter – I was really emphasing the event!)

Could this story be more stereotypical if it tried? Okay, so it all seems rather predictable, but black and white robber material? What!? What was I thinking? Tragic – hope you’re enjoying it so far.

Chapter 3

Jeremy just couldn’t believe his eyes. He ran upstairs and into his Aunt’s room shouting “Aunt you’ve been robbed!”

When she woke up she said “Calm down now, you must have had a bad dream”.

“No, no, I’ve just been downstairs to watch TV but there’s nothing there”.

They both went downstairs to find an empty room. “Aaaargh” she screamed. “Phone the police!”

They phoned the police and then went on a burgulars trail. It was quite easy because they found a trail on Aunt’s beads on the floor. “They must have fallen out of my jewellery box when they ran away”, she said. Everything they found they put into a carrier bag so that they could take them home. Eventually they got to the very last bead and thought that they’d lost the trail, but they were wrong. The trail had stopped by a thorn bush and there were tiny bits of black and white material caught – so they followed it.

Mrs Brambleberry went right through the bush and sat down in dismay. There she found a secret map.

Seriously!?? Black and white material. I can’t believe that the 11 year old me really thought that people wore black and white when breaking into houses… Oh oh. So – How will it end? What do you think is going to happen in the fourth and final chapter?

Chapter 4

Mrs Brambleberry clearly understood the map and she went into the tree-house (which was in the map). She found the secret rope and got inside. Once inside, she was struck dumb.

Where are the thieves? she thought.

Jeremy came running in and said “Look around. There must be a trapdoor somewhere. We’re upstairs. It’s only upstairs”.

They searched for ages bu they couldn’t find the trapdoor until Jeremy spotted a piece of carpet out of place – and underneath they found the trapdoor.

It was hard to open but eventually they opened it and caught the thieves. Mrs Brambleberry got all her things back.

THE END

P.S. Before the thieves were put into prison, Mrs Brambleberry poshly smashed them in the face 100 times with her handbags.

Oh – A happy ending. Well, for some. It was all too easy. The shortest chapter seems to indicate that I’d lost a certain level of interest in the story.

As for ‘poshly smashing them in the face with handbags…’ All I can say it  – Don ‘t get on the wrong side of Mrs B.

I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it made you giggle. It was a long time ago when I wrote it. Such innocence.

And –

Just in case you wondered… I wrote a sequel three years later.

I might share it with you all one day.

Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

I have just finished reading ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ by John Boyne. I read it in two sittings. There are not many books that make me want to read on and on until finishing. Admittedly, the book is quite short (216 pages). A fast but addictive read. After finishing the book I was left speechless.

The story, based on a German boy called Bruce Hoess, takes the reader back to life in 1940. It centres around the Auschwitz ‘death’ (concentration) camp in Poland where Bruce is moved when his father is promoted to the position of Obersturmbannführer, a paramilitary Nazi Party rank used by both the SA and the SS. 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….

Warning: This is the most disgusting book. Ever.

Stunned. Shocked. Speechless – well almost speechless.

Who’s coming over for dinner then? I’m cooking!

This book is real. If you don’t believe me – Google it. Cooking with natural ingredients is one thing – but this is one step too far.

A cookbook to remember

The summary reads:

Americans and Europeans consume vast amounts of milk and other dairy products that consist of mammary excretions from cows. Compared to semen, milk might seem positively disgusting.

Semen is not only nutritious, but it also has a wonderful texture and amazing cooking properties. Like fine wine and cheeses, the taste of semen is complex and dynamic… Semen is inexpensive to produce and is commonly available in many, if not most, homes and restaurants…

Once you overcome any initial hesitation, you will be surprised to learn how wonderful semen is in the kitchen.

The recipe titles are no better (then again how could they be).

  1. Tuna Sashimi with Homemade Dipping Sauce
  2. Man Made Oysters
  3. Creamy Cum Cakes
  4. Almost White Russian
  5. Spunky Candied Pecans

But the creepy winner just because it sounds so innocent until you know the secret ingredient? Chocolate Truffles with White Centre.

If you’re still reading this post then you must have a cast-iron stomach. I apologise if you were eating.

The book reviews are hilarious. Here are some of my favourites from various sites featuring the book:

  • “I guarantee this will get men to cook and have fun doing it!!” (Karen)
  • “Wow, this is my new absolute most favorite horrifying book”. (Oriana)
  • “We’re having a pot-luck”. (Will)
  • “Dinnertime! Cum and get it!” (AJD)

Thinking of buying yourself a copy?

So, go ahead. Share this delightful post with your friends. Just click on share below and let everyone know what they’re missing out on. Jamie Oliver you haven’t got a patch on this book! Delia Smith, stick to what you know.

Dancing with cats! (Don’t try this at home).

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I love cats. I have two cats, but I’d never even think about buying this book.

Dancing With Cats is even reviewed on goodreads.com. (Check it out here). It’s a real book! (I’m stunned). It’s a crazy world out there. Who in their right mind would buy it?

My friend Alison, the published author. This blog includes mysteries, adventures and family secrets.

My blog ‘One Life’ is the closest I get to having something/anything published. OK, each and every blog I add is ‘published’ here on WordPress, but it’s not the same as popping into a book shop or looking on Amazon.com and seeing my very own book. How I envy my friend.

Alison with her book.

The friend I am thinking and writing about in this post is Alison Zeitler. Alison and I met a couple of years ago in The Netherlands when she started working with my class at school (the joys of working in an international community as a teacher). Alison was, and still is, a superb teaching assistant. (It’s just a shame she’s not my teaching assistant anymore).

I was really impressed when Alison told me that she had written a book and even more so when I discovered that her book was complete and published. Alison was officially the first person I’d ever really known to write a book* – and I couldn’t wait to read it.

[*I mean a published book that people can buy and not the kind of book that I wrote when I was younger. I have stacks of stories and books that I made myself. Now, that is another story.]

Alison’s book ‘The Legend of Dragonmoon’ is a story about a girl who discovers that there is more to her family than she knew. She goes to Norway to stay with her aunt and there unfolds a series of events that turn her world upside down. A book with mystery, adventure and family secrets….. (“I’m going to like this”, I thought).

Inspiration for the house in the book.

I searched for reviews and information about Alison’s book online and arrived at the Amazon site. Their description of the book was as follows:

The Legend of Dragonmoon – The Big Green House follows the adventures of three cousins who are sent to Norway to stay with their great-aunt at Villa Skasen. They discover that their great-aunt can no longer afford the upkeep of the Villa which may have to be sold. It is left to the cousins to find the buried treasure on Skasen Island. Their task is complicated by superstition and myths of witches and lake dragons. A series of strange events place the three girls in danger. Their failure to find the treasure leaves only one option – they must rely on the old legend of Dragonmoon to save them.

 

While putting the finishing touches to this post, I spoke with Alison and explained that I wanted to talk about her book. This is Alison’s story and how she came up with the idea for ‘The Legend of Dragonmoon’:

“I have literally been trying to write THE book for my whole life.  At age 15, I promised myself that one day I would write and publish a book.  Over the years I began many stories and books, but none grabbed me and I always lost interest in them.  Then in the summer of 2004, we went on holiday to Finnskogen, Norway, and spent 2 weeks in a 100 year old green and white house standing on the edge of a beautiful lake. In the middle of the lake is an island.  Very Famous Five! We did a lot of the things that you can read about in the book, eg. Rowing over to the island and sitting on the porch roof.  Of course, my imagination just took off and soon a story began to form in my mind which originated from these three things – the big old green and white house, the 3 old ladies who used to live there and the word Dragonmoon which is actually the name of a woodland track in the forest.  I began to research the area and found out that it is full of old myths and strange legends.  I invented the legend of Dragonmoon which I weave thru the other myths and legends of the area.  I added a lake dragon to Lake Skasen and came up with a history for the 3 old ladies and finally, I had a story that I really liked”. 

 It all sounds simple when it’s put like that. More exciting news followed when Alison told me that the sequel was also in its final stages. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy. 

 

 

A place of mystery and magic.

 

 

A place of inspiration.

 

Alison explains that “the sequel carries the story on with the introduction of new characters/villains, the death of one character, and more about  the legend of Dragonmoon as the danger and excitement escalate to new heights. What I write is considered “low fantasy” because magical things happen in a real and natural setting.  My goal is to eventually write “high fantasy” (a la Tolkien) where the setting and characters etc are all based in a world that doesn’t really exist.  I already have a basis for a “high fantasy” story also connected to the legend of Dragonmoon so watch this space…”

With the first book published and the sequel on its way, what could be next?

“I would also love to write Scandinavian fairytales about witches, trolls, moose, shamans, etc. And I already have the outlines of 2 stories for my fairytale book which has the working title of ‘The Witches of Storberget’.  And in between all the magic and mystery, I write poems too, 122 to date and still counting…”

Now I am left thinking “Alison……Where do you find the time?”

If you are interested in finding out more about the book, the items or indeed the author and my friend, Alison Zeitler, you can check out more on her website here. There are some great photographs that reflect the essence of the story. You can find the location of the green house by the real Lake Skasen here.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed reading this post you may enjoy sharing it with friends and family via facebook, Twitter or other means. Click share below. You could also email the hyperlink (URL) to anyone you like.

Perhaps you’d like to comment. I will pass comments to Alison too.