Books, life the universe

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The chocolate lovers' diet

I loved 'The Chocolate Lovers' Diet' by Carole Matthews. It is the sequel to 'The Chocolate Lovers' Club'. 4 friends - Nadia, Autumn, Lucy and Chantel - are chocoholics. They meet whenever there is an emergency in their lives at a cafe called Chocolate Heaven. What happens when Lucy finds herself mixed up with her ex-fiance Marcus; Nadia tries to find out whether her estranged husband has kicked his gambling habit; Chantel decides she'd like to get back with her estranged husband Ted and Autumn wonders whether she'll ever be free of her drug addict brother. As I said in my Amazon review, the wedding day is worthy of an Ealing comedy. Whilst the book is strictly chick lit it does have its more sombre moments and deals with some serious issues - on-line gambling, male prostitutes - for women that is - debt, pregnancy when you don't know who the father is, drug addiction, class divisions. Well worth a read - epsecially if you cannot resist descriptions of chocolate!

I reviewed my to read pile and finally chose 'The Diary of an on-call girl' by E E Bloggs. This is written by a WPC and is along the lines of the popular blog turned book called 'Wasting Police Time' by PC David Copperfield - another pseudonym. I think I've read most of the current crop of 'reality' books and found all of them engrossing. What is there to beat an insider's view of their own profession?

I have just received today in the post Rosie Thornton's 'Hearts and Minds', and I'm looking forward to starting it. Its theme seems to be how a man survives in a woman's world. I shall say no more until I've read it.

I have read so many really good books lately. It seems to me the standard of published books is increasing though perhaps I'm reading more widely that I used to. This is very much thanks to dovegreyreader - linked to this blog - and to Writers' News and Writing Magazine. Amazon having the facility to search inside books also makes me try things I might otherwise not consider at all. Then of course there's cheap second hand books available. I don't mind paying £2-£3 to try an unknown author. Though I also buy loads of new books as well.

Off to have a shower and curl up with 'Diary' as above, with maybe a dip into 'A dangerous man' and 'Hearts and Minds' as well.

Monday, 26 November 2007

The Hit List

I finished reading Anne Brooke's 'The Hit List' last night. If you want something a bit different - though not in the same vein as 'Pink Champagne and Apple Juice' by the same author - then go for 'The Hit List'. Jamie is doing sterling work looking after his cantankerous elderly father and running his own business from home. His half brother, Mark, the apple of his father's eye, is working in Japan.
One of Jamie's friends from University returns to the village in Suffolk where he and his father live. But David appears to be gay, which he definitely never used to be - which worries Jamie - who soon adds him to his hit list of people he really needs to do away with to improve his quality of life. Then there is Robert - Mark's former boss - who turns up after six years away. The reason for his absence only becomes clear as the story progresses.
Naturally his father who is always comparing him unfavourably with Mark is top of the hit list. I was on tenterhooks wondering how and when Jamie was going to succeed in carrying out his list. The sexuality of many of the main characters is constantly in doubt which adds to the drama. It is not a comfortable book though there are many moments of comedy.

I am also reading - in complete contrast - Carole Matthews' 'The Chocolate Lovers' Diet'. This is chick lit though it does have a bite to it, apart from the chocolate, with a suicide because of huge debts, a drug problem and its effects on immediate family, and two gay men running a chocolate themed cafe . The book has a feel good factor to it with its emphasis on the power of female freindship.

What's next on the list to be read? John Cowper Powys 'A Glastonbury Romance'; Anne Brooke 'A Dangerous Man'; John Mortimer 'The Anti Social behaviour of Horace Rumpole', Erica James 'Tell it to the Skies' - the pile is growing ever taller. I know I buy books at a faster rate than I read them, so eventually I'm liable to disappear under a pile of unread books!! To stop that happening I'm off to decide what to read next.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Agatha Raisin and others

I have just finished reading the latest Agatha Raisin - 'Kissing Christmas Goodbye' by M C Beaton. This is one of the best ones. The detective agency is thriving and Agatha takes on a new detective - Toni - female and 18. She turns out to be an asset to the firm, and is probably going to be a permanent character in the series . I won't give away why that is - you'll just have to read the book! Agatha is longing to see ex-husband James who has said he will arrive home in time for Christmas. Agatha, naturally determines to make the celebrations as perfect as possible. At work she is dealing with a lady who believes - not without cause - that her family are out to get her. Well worth a read especially curled up inside on a cold day.

I have belatedly read some of the comments made by Rosie back in October, and have, belatedly again ordered her new book this is 'Hearts and Minds' by Rosie Thornton. I enjoyed 'More than Love Letters' and I'm looking forward to this one.

I've just had an e-mail to say that I won a hardback copy of R F Delderfield's 'The Spring Madness of Mr Sermon' on Ebay. I'm very pleased because I've been trying to get a hardback for the last three years. Years ago I read his Swann Saga which started with 'God is an Englishman' and found it engrossing. The same with the Avenue series and the one about the school which included 'To Serve them all my Days'. One day quite by chance I came across 'the Spring Madness of Mr Sermon'. It features a school teacher who suddenly walks out of a class room in the middle of a lesson and goes in search of adventure. What happens to him makes fascinating reading. I do enjoy books about people who break out of their pigeon hole and dare to be someone different.

I have acquired a habit belonging to the younger generations - an MP3 player. No I did not go for an ipod. I have a sleek silver Sony Walkman. I have had it for nearly two years and I used to take it away with me to listen to when I was staying in hotels for work. Now I have a job where I'm in the same office pretty well all the time so I don't get as much chance to use it. Since it's been too dark really to read on the bus to and from work I now listen to my Walkman instead. My music is often classical - selections from opera and orchestral music, Charlotte Church, music from films such as 'Cabaret' and 'Evita', The Corries, Abba, Neil Diamond, Baroque music by various composers, Eurovision songs, Andrea Boccelli - a pretty eclectic mix all in all. Trouble is I realise I've started to sing along with it if I'm not careful, and my singing is hopeless even though I love music. I can see I'm in danger of being carted off to the funny farm if I'm not careful.

Off to curl up with a good book . . . . .

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Pink Champagne and Apple Juice

I have just finished reading Anne Brooke's novel 'Pink Chmapagne and Apple Juice'. It is really good. Angie runs away from home and descends unnanounced on Uncle John - the black sheep of the family. He turns out to be a transvestite running his own club for like minded people in Muswell Hill. How Uncle John welcomes her into his home and yet manages not to 'corrupt' (her mother's word) her in the process makes for an amusing story. There are serious aspects to it though and Angie has to come to terms with John's role in the break up of her own family before the end of the story.

As might be expected the book is full of colourful and yet believable characters. Derek the doorman, Malcolm - Uncle John's lover, Philippe the French waiter and Heinrich the German chef who always cooks mushrooms. Thrown into the mix is Lisa - Angie's friend from university - who turns out to be lesss of a friend than might be expected. This is a brilliant story and it would make a good film or tv drama. Why it hasn't been snapped up by a main stream publisher I don't know. It deserves to become a classic like John Hadfield's 'Love on a Branch Line'.

It doesn't fit into any particular category and will still be readable in 20 years time. Go out and buy it! Anne Brooke has her own web site - and a blog at

I've also read Mary Nickson's 'Secrets and Shadows'. A group of people meet on a creative writing week in Scotland. All have secrets and shadows in their lives. Some are known to each other, some are strangers. All are changed by the course. Some find happiness where they least expected it others have a harsher future in front of them. Some have to make compromises and some find their ambitions are not realisable in the form they had hoped for. Interesting reading if you want a change from light fiction. This is still not heavy reading but it is more thought provoking than many.

I have just bought Ken Follett's 'Pillars of the Earth' which looks like a hefty read at over 1000 pages. It's about the building of a cathedral in the twelfth century. There is a sequel to it - recently published - 'World Without End'. On an epic scale I've bought John Cowper Powys' 'A Glastonbury Romance'. I've come across his books before mentioned in Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series. if you want more information.

Back to work tomorrow - I shall have to cut down on my reading then - not as much time.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Paper dolls

Now I know why there are so many blogs out there in cyberspace - it's because people start them with good intentions and then never add any more posts!

I was browsing Amazon - as you do - and came across a category that I did not even know still existed - paper dolls to cut out and then dress with cut out paper clothes. I remember them from my childhood. I preferred them to 'proper' dolls. Now you can get film stars - Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly - Maria Callas, Bill Clinton, John F Kennedy, Robert Reagan etc etc. As well as historical costumes and costumes from films. There is far more variety than there was in the 1950s. I was almost tempted to buy one but there were nearly 500 to choose from and I couldn't make up my mind which one.

I've just finished reading 'Sepulchre' by Kate Mosse. I think it was better than 'Labyrinth'. Definitely not a book you want to read on your own in an old house. It covered some of the usual ground - Holy bBood and Holy Grail territory. The 1891 part of the story was set near where the Abbe Sauniere was flourishing at the time -Rrennes le Chateau - and even brought the man himself in as a minor character.
I thought the modern day story was more convincing. Meredith - an American -is writing a biography of Debussy and visiting places he lived during his life time. She is also going to take time out to trace her own family history. Coincidence - she stays in a hotel which was once the home of one of her ancestors. The book as a whole was gripping as such stories often are, and Meredith does not get her happy ending without a few murders along the way. A mysterious and pwerful Tarot pack is involved in both stories.

I was just reading about bullying on the news sites. It was something I really was not aware of when I was at school. People didn't speak to you for a few days and then it was on to someone else - big deal - what goes round comes round. Name calling is not bullying - why do people think it is? If someone sends you nasty text messages - complain about it! People can be banned from having a mobile phone. If someone puts nasty things about you on the internet - don't read them! Victims can take action themselves - and no reaction from the victim means the bully goes elsewhere. Stand up to them and bullying ceases to be fun. In some cases bullying only works because everyone is so worried about what others think of them. If you aren't worried what people think then you can't be bullied. The same rules apply in adult life.

I have been bullied at work and it was only because I didn't make enough fuss about it that it worked. As soon as I started complaining loudly and publicly about it the bullies slunk into the shadows. It made me feel better too. If you're bullied as an adult don't worry about being reasonable - complain, stamp your feet, have a tantrum, burst into tears. If your manager doesn't do anything go higher up the chain - someone won't want the bad publicity you can give them. Don't be a victim - oppose the bullies. People only bully because it stops them feeling insecure.
Make sure you don't use bullying tactics yourself. If you're a manager think about how people are reacting to instructions you give. Be firm and fair - don't pick on one person. If someone isn't pulling their weight help them improve.

Lecture over! We wouldn't need laws if everyone was considerate and courteous.