Annabel's House of Books

Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

Month: September 2009 (page 1 of 3)

Mostly Bookbrains

Dear Booklovers,

On Tuesday November 3rd, on behalf of Mostly Books I’m hosting a Literary Quiz entitled ‘Mostly Bookbrains‘ at the Manor Preparatory School in Abingdon. Guess who’s Quizmaster and writing the questions? Yes, it’s me.

We will cover the whole world of books – from bestsellers to prizewinners, cover art to author photos, children’s books to all sorts of non-fiction, all are included.
You are invited to submit teams of up to eight people, or just book your place(s) and we’ll make up teams on the night. The entry fee is just £2 per person if paid in advance (£3 on the night) and there will be a cash bar with wine, beer and soft drinks. All profits will be donated to Helen & Douglas House, the wonderful hospice for children and young people in Oxford. Tickets from Mostly Books above.

We’ll also have a Bookswap Table. Bring a book you’ve enjoyed and are happy to pass on, and swap for another at half time. (I nicked this idea from Scott at Me & My Big Mouth who runs the Firestation Book Swap monthly events in Windsor.)

Now I must go an compile some more questions!

Mostly Bookbrains

Dear Booklovers,

On Tuesday November 3rd, on behalf of Mostly Books I’m hosting a Literary Quiz entitled ‘Mostly Bookbrains‘ at the Manor Preparatory School in Abingdon. Guess who’s Quizmaster and writing the questions? Yes, it’s me.

We will cover the whole world of books – from bestsellers to prizewinners, cover art to author photos, children’s books to all sorts of non-fiction, all are included.
You are invited to submit teams of up to eight people, or just book your place(s) and we’ll make up teams on the night. The entry fee is just £2 per person if paid in advance (£3 on the night) and there will be a cash bar with wine, beer and soft drinks. All profits will be donated to Helen & Douglas House, the wonderful hospice for children and young people in Oxford. Tickets from Mostly Books above.

We’ll also have a Bookswap Table. Bring a book you’ve enjoyed and are happy to pass on, and swap for another at half time. (I nicked this idea from Scott at Me & My Big Mouth who runs the Firestation Book Swap monthly events in Windsor.)

Now I must go an compile some more questions!

Short Takes

Catching up on some shorter reviews …

Amulet by Roberto Bolano

To paraphrase the Cranberries album title, Everybody else is reading it, so why can’t I? – I’ve finally read some Roberto Bolano. He is definitely the flavour of the moment; his posthumously published epic 2666 is generating acres of discussion and review. However I wanted to read something shorter before deciding whether to commit myself to 900+ pages of the other.

Published before he died, Amulet is a short and slightly surreal novel set in Mexico during a period of political unrest. Auxilio, a Uruguayan woman, who hangs out with the poets of Mexico City is trapped in a bathroom at the university when the army invades to put down a student revolt in 1968. She’s there for 12 days, and lies on the floor starving, remembering and fantasising about the future and her life with the poets.

Knowing nothing of Mexican poetry or politics it was hard to know what, if anything, was real in the background to the novel. I was hoping to be dazzled by the writing, but found the confusing nature of the plot darting between Auxilio’s memories and reveries difficult. The opening lines promise much – a horror story of murder, detection and horror, but immediately this is taken away as the teller says it won’t seem like that if told by her. Interspersed among the ramblings, which become increasingly surreal prophecies, are some more conventional scenes of life with the literati, and their experiences with both the underbelly of Mexican society and the regimes in charge in Latin America; these episodes briefly brought the novel to life and I could see why he is so admired.

As for reading more Bolano, I may well try The Savage Detectives, but find the prospect of 2666 about 600 pages too much for me at the moment! (Book supplied by the Amazon Vine programme).

Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome

I read Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome as a companion piece to the wonderful Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick, reviewed here.

Ransome collected a wide selection of typical Russian fairy tales, but rather than present them as separate entities, the tales are told by a grandfather to his grandchildren. The first segment, The hut in the forest introduces Old Peter, little Maroosia and Vanya. The children are a keen audience and as they settle by the stove, they demand to hear a new tale and we’re off straightaway into a land of a rich merchant and his three daughters, followed by many others: the witch Baba Yaga with her hut on chicken legs, Sadko the dulcimer player who plays by the river (made into an opera by Rimsky Korsakov), and ones like the intriguingly titled The Stolen Turnips, the Magic Tablecloth, the Sneezing Goat and the Wooden Whistle. They are delightful, quirky tales and are highly moral. Those who are bad always get their come-uppance, and happy endings are not guaranteed.

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs by Tom Baker

It was seeing Jackie’s review of this book, that reminded me that I read it a few months ago, but didn’t get around to writing about it.

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is by Tom Baker – yes, the fourth Dr Who. Incidentally, I can really recommend his autobiography Who on Earth is Tom Baker?, and having read that was intrigued to read this truly bizarre and gothic novella. It tells the story of an evil thirteen year old who kicks pigs – it starts off with his sister’s piggy bank, but progresses to anything porcine including a bacon butty which is his downfall. He pledges revenge and

Although written as a children’s story in style – a bit Lemony Snicketish, it most definitely is not – but fans of Tim Burton would love it. It is also full of arcane adult references from the 1960s – from Will Fyffe (eccentric news reporter) to Hylda Baker (Lancashire actress). Clocking in at just 124 pages, of which half are evocative line drawings, it doesn’t take long. I found that imagining Baker himself narrating made for an entertaining reading!

An evening with Alan Titchmarsh

The people of Abingdon had a treat tonight. Another national treasure came to visit in the body of Alan Titchmarsh, gardener supreme, broadcaster, chat-show host and great favourite of ladies of a certain age. I don’t count myself as one of them yet, but he is responsible for encouraging me into gardening during his stint at the helm of the BBC’s Gardener’s World, so I was more than happy to go along and help Mostly Books on the book stall.

He took to the stage in a lilac jumper, and proceeded to charm the audience with stories from his TV career. These included encounters with Charlie Dimmock and her ‘unfettered protruberences‘ on Ground Force – the garden makeover show that made him a real TV star, (Charlie is a Rubenesque and braless specialist in water features), and Willy the mad Irishman who did a lot of the behind the scenes prep for the hard landscaping. He also told us about several encounters with the Queen: firstly at the Sandringham Women’s Institute where she is the Patron; then when he went to the palace to collect his MBE, and the Queen told him ‘You’ve made a lot of ladies very happy.’ Alan declared he’d like that quote on his gravestone. He read a couple of passages from his new volume of memoirs, Knave of Spades before answering questions from the audience.

Mark from Mostly Books asked how a Yorkshire lad that left school at the age of 15 and went to work in the Ilkley Parks department developed a love of reading, books, and became a writer? Alan put it down to his English teacher’s comments on a précis he had to write of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which he used the word ‘reciprocated’ talking about Helena and Demetrius – and how that taught him the power of words.

He was delightful company, charming and very funny. He was also chatty at the signing table with his adoring fans, and there were lots of them there. I would have cropped the photo, but I wanted to show you some of the presents they brought him – knitted clown dolls and a special Christmas cracker. I do wish he’d give up the chat shows and go back to gardening on the telly though …

Guilty Secrets #3

When I started my blog just over a year ago, I wrote a couple of posts about things I haven’t read but should have. I’ve had so much to say since, I haven’t had much time to reflect further on the gaps in my reading.

Then this afternoon on Radio 4, they were talking about the Wodehouse appreciation society, and I realised I have never read a P.G.Wodehouse book! Moreover, I don’t even posess one in the TBR mountain range; whereas I own and love the complete Fry & Laurie Jeeves & Wooster on DVD. How can this be? How can I have missed reading one of the greatest funny writers ever?

Something to be rectified as soon as I’ve done my vampire bit for Halloween I think. Should I start with the first Jeeves & Wooster, or one of the Blandings, or indeed any other – What do you think?

A nail’s tale.

This is not a post about books – It’s a musing about fingernails!
I tend to keep my nails really short – it’s a habit – I used to be a fiddle player. My nails have never been strong either, flaking at the slightest exposure to harsh treatment; but apart from painting on nail strengthener when I remember and filing the odd rough edge, they get no special care.
Just occasionally, a fingernail will grow and not get broken and I’ll see how long I can get it – just for fun. Well today, I gave up on my right little fingernail. It’s lasted for several weeks and also naturally shaped itself and looks lovely – my daughter wishes her nails would grow that long. But now it’s in the way! I can’t type properly with it and I’m conscious of it all the time as it pokes into your palm when you close your hand, and importantly is there when you’re holding a book. There is something about a nicely shaped nail that makes your fingers look longer but this one is a distraction. It has to go…
Done! Trimmed back to a neat 1mm – it instantly feels better.
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