November Summary and Plans for December

I finished 10 books in November, which I thought was OK considering the fact that it included most of The Dark Side of Love. I managed to finish reading the Richard and Judy Winter Reads and am working my way towards completing the 2010 Orange long list – I am hoping to complete it in Orange January.

Book of the Month

Books Reviewed in November:

The Dark Side of Love – Rafik Schami  

Haweswater – Sarah Hall  

The Wilding – Maria McCann  

Star Gazing – Linda Gillard  

The Snowman – Jo Nesbo  

The Well and the Mine – Gin Phillips  

All My Friends Are Superheroes – Andrew Kaufman  

No and Me – Delphine de Vigan  

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris (Audio Book) 

Sister – Rosamund Lupton  

A Place of Secrets – Rachel Hore   (DNF)

Plans for December

I’d really like to finish Lonesome Dove this month. I’m only at page 250 (out of nearly 1000) and am finding it slow going. It is OK, but it has no forward momentum and so I find that I always prefer to read something else. It has the potential to be a wonderful story, but I think I just need to make a big effort to pick it up and hope that it grabs me soon. At what stage does the action start happening?

I don’t like to read more than one chunkster at a time and so I’m afraid Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong has been neglected this month. I really hope that I can make it to the end of Lonesome Dove soon so that I can start on this one.

Other books that I hope to read in December:

The Harmony Silk Factory – Tash Aw 

Hand Me Down World – Lloyd Jones

The Lotus Eaters – Tatjana Soli

The Awakening – Kate Chopin

Finch – Jeff VanderMeer

Player One – Douglas Coupland

Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet

The Way Things Look to Me – Roopa Farooki

The Spider Truces – Tom Connolly

Have you enjoyed any of these books?

I hope that you all have a wonderful December!

2000 - 2007 Commonwealth Writer's Prize Historical Fiction Recommended books

Haweswater – Sarah Hall


Winner of the 2003 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize First Book Award and 2003 Betty Trask Award

I spent my teenage years living in the Lake District and so I have a soft spot for anything set in Cumbria. Haweswater is one of many lakes in the Lake District, but unlike the majority it is man-made; created by the construction of a dam and the subsequent flooding of the valley in the 1930s. Haweswater gives a moving account of how the remote farming community came to terms with the fact that their village was going to be destroyed and describes their final months as they prepare to leave a home that has been theirs for generations.

Photo Credit: Trevor Rickard

Haweswater had an extra impact on me as I visited the village of Mardale when it was revealed during a drought. The photo above shows a typical view of Haweswater as it is today; whilst the one below shows a similar view during a drought – with the roads, demolished houses and farm walls revealed.

Photo Credit: Janet Richardson

I loved the Cumbrian dialect in this book. You don’t hear it on television very often and I think it is the first time I have read a book containing it.

Teddy’s gone fer Frithy. Nowt else to dyah but wait. Thowt aboot garn misell, Sam. Twa arms better un yan, eh? Even auld bugger like misell?

When I first moved to Cumbria I couldn’t understand a word the locals were saying and I suspect that many readers will struggle to understand the dialect in this book. The good news is that the majority of the novel is written in beautiful, descriptive prose and so you will still understand everything that is happening even if you don’t catch what they are saying!

For the last three hundred years or more there often could be seen a man or a child pausing on the bridge to look below at the water, idling in conversation with a companion, or as a solitary, watching the trout rise and flick between the reeds under the bridge. Casting an eye over the river, as if for no other reason than there was water flowing past.

Despite the fact that you know what happens in the end, this is a fantastic story. The characters are very well developed and I felt a strong emotional connection to them. A dark sense of foreboding builds as the novel progresses and the ending is heartbreaking. This is a beautiful portrait of a lost community.

I’m slightly biased, but I highly recommend that you read it.

Have you read any books set in the Lake District?


I’m featured on Book Bloggers Abroad!

Book Bloggers AbroadToday I’m featured on Book Bloggers Abroad, a weekly feature on Leeswammes’ blog in which book bloggers reveal what it is like where they live.

Head over there for a rare glimpse of me and my family!

Other Richard and Judy Book Club

Why I No Longer Trust Richard and Judy

I have always loved Richard and Judy. When I was a child I watched them on This Morning and I loved the fact that they moved to their afternoon show at exactly the same time as I started my first job – meaning I could come home from work just in time to catch them!

When they started their book club I was very excited. I remember rushing out to buy two or three of their selections the moment the list was announced. It was a great way to start the New Year as I knew that at least one book would become my favourite of that year and several others would get close. Richard and Judy introduced me to The Time Traveller’s Wife, Cloud Atlas, Notes on a Scandal, Random Acts of Heroic Love and Mr. Pip – as well as many other wonderful books.

Unfortunately Richard and Judy left our TV screens a few years ago. I missed them, but was excited to learn that they planned to start an online book club. I hoped that I’d be able to recapture that book club feeling!

The eight books were announced in September :

I have now read them all and I was very disappointed.

Titles are linked to my review for each book.

The Wilding – Maria McCann 

The Snowman – Jo Nesbo 

Operation Mincemeat – Ben Macintyre 

No and Me – Delphine de Vigan 

The Crying Tree – Naseem Rakha 

Sister – Rosamund Lupton 

A Place of Secrets – Rachel Hore   (DNF)

Waiting for Columbus – Thomas Trofimuk   (DNF)

A few were enjoyable reads, but none will get close to being my favourite of the year. I won’t be recommending these books in 5 years time as I do with many of the original books from their TV show. These aren’t thought-provoking, special books. Just average, light reads.

I’m not sure I can blame Richard and Judy. They entered into an agreement with WH Smiths. A WH Smiths buying team then sent them 30 books to choose from. These probably are the best books from those 30, but they are a very different from the original, more literary, book club. I’m afraid that this selection has broken my trust with the Richard and Judy book club. I’ll be sticking with the TV Book Club whose books are chosen by Amanda Ross, the woman who used to choose Richard and Judy’s books.

If you’re missing the type of books that Richard and Judy used to choose then I highly recommend that you try:

Rupture by Simon Lelic

Room by Emma Donoghue

Bad Karma by David Safier

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

What do you think of the Richard and Judy Book Club this year?

Will you be reading their selections next year?


2008 Other Prizes Romance

Star Gazing by Linda Gillard

I don’t read many romance novels, but I received an email from the author explaining that this book had been short-listed for 2 awards in 2009 – Romantic Novel of the Year and the Robin Jenkins Literary Award, the UK’s first environmental book award. This combination of awards intrigued me and so decided to give it a try. I was surprised when readers of Women’s Weekly voted it the best romance novel of the last 50 years as I thought that a more well known author would win, but it made me very curious about the contents of this little book.

Star Gazing is set in Scotland and focuses on Marianne, a blind woman who was widowed in her twenties. Now in her forties and living with her sister in Edinburgh she has resigned herself to a life alone, but all this changes when a mysterious man turns up on her doorstep.

I was immediately impressed by the quality of the writing. The descriptions of what life is like when you are unable to see were amazing and I felt that I came understand how she viewed the world.

I tell sceptics and doubters that I go to the opera because opera pours a vision of a wider world into my ears in a way that excites me. Plays, novels and poems move, entertain and educate me, but they don’t rock me to my foundations and make me see. I can read Tolstoy’s account of the French retreat from Moscow, either in Braille or as an audio-book, but I have never seen a city. Or snow. I’ve never seen a man, let alone an army. Tolstoy uses a visual language that I can read, haltingly. It’s not my mother tongue.
But music I can ‘read’ much more easily. In fact, I don’t need to read it at all. When I hear music it goes directly to my heart, it pierces my soul and stirs me with nameless emotions, countless ideas and aural pictures.

The characters were all well developed and engaging, but this book turned me into a gossiping woman! It was a very weird experience that I have never encountered with a book before. I found that I didn’t like the central character and wanted to slap her on numerous occasions. I told several people about the stupid things she’d done and had lengthy conversations about her decisions. This makes the book a perfect choice for book groups as I guarantee that you will enjoy discussing the events in this book.

I also had a problem with some of the plot towards the end of the book. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but a few things were a bit far-fetched and I’m afraid I’m a miserable sceptic who has trouble believing that people can have visions of future events.

Despite these criticisms I think the fact I wanted to talk about this book so much proves its quality. I don’t think it is the best romance novel of the last 50 years (The Time Traveller’s Wife  and The Dark Side of Love are my favourites), but it is an original, heartwarming book. 


2010 Richard and Judy Book Club

A Place of Secrets – Rachel Hore

 Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Read

A Place of Secrets begins with Jude, an auctioneer, being asked to value a collection of scientific instruments near her childhood home in Norfolk. She jumps at the chance to leave London, look over the valuable pieces, and catch up with her Gran, who still lives nearby.

Unfortunately I can’t tell you what happens after that as I gave up. This book is 450 pages long and if I am to dedicate that amount of time to a book then I need to be fully engaged. The writing failed to connect with me from the start. There was a large amount of dialogue and it didn’t feel natural.

‘Listen, quickly, how do you think Gran is? I’m going to stay with her on Thursday night.’
‘Oh she’ll love that.’ Claire’s voice softened. ‘She’s all right, Jude, a bit frail. Summer and I took her to buy shoes in Sheringham on Saturday. It was a bit of an ordeal because they didn’t have her usual style but we found something in the end. What are you doing down here in the middle of the week, then?’
‘I know it’s a great coincidence, but I’m visiting Starbrough Hall to value some stuff.’
‘Starbrough Hall? Really? Well Gran will fill you in about that. Look, I’ve got to go.’

The writing didn’t flow very well and felt jumpy. At the 70 page mark I considered giving up and went to check reviews on Amazon. There was a good spread of people who ranged from loving it to hating it, but I noticed that many people shared my opinion on the writing. Some also felt that there were too many coincidences and as I had already spotted a few I can only imagine how this could worsen with another 400 pages. I decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea to continue and so moved on to a book I would find more enjoyable.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys the above passage.


I have now tried all of Richard and Judy’s 2010 Winter Reads.

Keep an eye out for my summary later this week!