23 Sep 2017

THE NAUGHTIEST GIRL ... AGAIN.

THE NAUGHTIEST GIRL ... AGAIN by Enid Blyton.

BACK COVER BLURB: The naughtiest girl in the school is back! And this term she's trying to be good.

But someone wants to spoil things for her. And they're not going to let her forget how she got her nickname.

FIRST SENTENCE {1. BACK AT WHYTELEAFE}: Elizabeth was excited.

MEMORABLE RANDOM MOMENT* {PAGE 77}: Kathleen took out the book and opened it at the place where the work had been done. She dipped a pen in the ink - and then she made three large blots on the page by shaking hard.

SOURCE: Ex-library stock.

READ FOR: The 16th of 24 books read for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017.

MY THOUGHTS: Given that my childhood had been spent reading, amongst many, many other books, The Faraway Tree series (in the days when Fanny was not yet Frannie, Dame Slap not yet Dame Snap) and, to a lesser extent, the Famous Five and Secret Seven books, I was rather surprised when I came across this book, the second of what I believe to be a series of four, that had obviously passed me by ... until now.

Arguably reading a book 'meant' for children as an adult is different to reading that book as a child and, yes, we may not feel the same magic we might once have felt but then many so-called children's books are loved no matter what the age of the reader. 

OK, so a story about friendship, of doing the right thing but ...

With concerns of the author's works being sexist, xenophobic, racist ... the list goes on ... going back to before I was reading the books in the early/mid-seventies. Set in a boarding school, it has nothing to do with the fact that this isn't Harry Potter and everything to do with the fact that, whilst I can't say I particularly picked up on any of these criticisms, I found the writing sloppy and unimaginative, the story terribly outdated (arguably not surprising given its original publication date of 1942), the characters unbearably pretentious. 

* Having tired of the post-it-notes marking my Memorable Moment (MM), I decided to go hi-tech (at least hi-tech for me) and make a note of my MM using the Notebook on my mobile phone. Alas too clever, I somehow or other managed to delete it hence, for the moment, my Random Moment. TT


14 Sep 2017

AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD.

AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD by TRACY CHEVALIER.

BACK COVER BLURB: In the inhospitable Black Swamp of Ohio, the Goodenough family are barely scratching out a living. Life there is harsh, tempered only by the apples they grow for eating and for the cider that dulls their pain. Hot-headed Sadie and buttoned-up James are a poor match, and Robert and his sister Martha can only watch helplessly as their parents tear each other apart.

One particularly vicious fight sends Robert out alone across America, far from his sister, to seek his fortune among the mighty redwoods and sequoias of Gold Rush California. But even across a continent, he can feel the pull of family loyalties.

FIRST SENTENCE {BLACK SWAMP, OHIO: SPRING 1838}: They were fighting over apples again.

MEMORABLE RANDOM MOMENT* {PAGE 64}: Then the preacher started to shake a little bit - his hands, then his arms, then his chest. Then he was repeatin himself over and over and shakin a little more and a little more until he was head to toe shakin, and then we were all of us answerin, Yes, I feel the lord, over and over like a wave.

SOURCE: Thanks to Pat for the loan of this book.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: Having recently read two books (one of which dwelt heavily on funghi, the other, I forget) that featured non-characters in such depth I was concerned that this book, like the cider so readily enjoyed by Sadie and the giant sequoia groves so beloved of son, Robert, would prove too much However .... 

A book of two parts. The first of which (set in 1838) sees James and Sadie Goodenough set up home in the stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio, the second of which (set in 1853), haunted by his homelife, we find youngest son, Robert, travelling through California where he, like his father, finds solace in seeds.

Whilst yes I did come away with more (much more) knowledge about apples (and to a lesser degree, redwoods and the giant sequoia) than I had started with and, yes, I did at times worry that the author may have become bogged down in her research about apples, in the end the overall plot and, in particular, the strong characterisation prevailed even if ...

  • In two parts, the timeline did jump around somewhat. Something that can prove both confusing and detrimental to the flow of the narrative but thankfully in this instance didn't prove too much of a hurdle. 
  • Sadie's voice took a little getting used to, her tendency to not finish words ('repeatin', 'shakin', etc) a tad tiresome to begin with.
  • Though undoubtedly indicative of the times, of living in such close proximity in such poverty, I found the familial violence, to be found mostly in the former parts of the novel, not just emotive reading but extremely painful to the point where I was tempted to skip passages.
  • Part of the narrative was written in letter format ... not something that bothers every reader, its just not to my liking.
But do you know what made At The Edge Of The Orchard for me?

No? Well, let me tell you.

I loved that, so cleverly written, the trees, indeed the very landscape itself, seemed to me to be metaphors reflecting the lives of the characters. The inhospitable Black Swamp, the grafting of the trees, the saplings that failed to survive surely indicative of the environment in which the family found themselves, of the difficult coming together of James and Sadie, of the children's lives lost.

Without giving too much away, ending with Robert travelling around the globe, transporting the seeds of a renowned naturalist, I'm very much hoping there is going to be a part two.

* Having tired of the post-it-notes marking my Memorable Moment (MM), I decided to go hi-tech (at least hi-tech for me) and make a note of my MM using the Notebook on my mobile phone. Alas too clever, I somehow or other managed to delete it hence, for the moment, my Random Moment. TT

8 Sep 2017

(A MAX BROWN NOVEL): HOW SPELEOLOGY RESTORED MY SEX DRIVE.

Now! Now! I don't know, what are you like? Put the word 'sex' in the header and here you all are like bees to a can of cola.  

Well, I'm sorry but in this respect ... and only in this respect mind you ... you are going to be disappointed.


HOW SPELEOLOGY RESTORED MY SEX DRIVE by MICHAEL BERNHART.

BACK COVER BLURB: Some people can’t stay out of trouble. Happily married, the father of two precocious nine year old girls, and comfortably off, Max Brown should have it easy. Not yet; that’s where the little girls come in. They maneuver Max and his wife into a dangerous treasure hunt through abandoned gold mines. As Max forewarns, “the closer you get to the treasure the more competitors show up, some of whom don’t play by the rules.” The competitors in this case are seven Klansmen who believe that the object of the treasure hunt, a large cache of Confederate gold, is theirs to finance a second rebellion.

Set in northern Georgia, Max combats bears, snakes, and the Klan to protect those he loves. His most cunning and committed adversaries, though, turn out to be his own children.

FIRST SENTENCE {1}: "But why can't we?"

MEMORABLE MOMENT {PAGE 13}: It didn't matter; they weren't listening. As I concluded my admonitory lecture Margaret boarded a suitcase on the luggage carousel and disappeared around the turn while her mother tried to fight free of the other luggage watchers to chase her down. 

SOURCE: Received from the author.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: A man questioning his virility for the first time (hence the reference in the title to sex, of which there is actually very little), a wife who turns heads everywhere she goes and, handily as it turns out, is something of a sharp-shooter, Margaret and Mary aka M&M the wickedly funny and resourceful twins prone to getting into trouble who, though they make great reading, at the same time make you thankful that they're not yours, good old Uncle Skeeter with his stories of buried confederate gold hidden in them there caves (thus the Speleology of the title) .... just some of the memorable cast of characters to feature in this wonderful madcap rollercoaster of an adventure that, with its themes of racism and police corruption, sadly if cleverly hi-lights just some of the current political and social environment. 

Perhaps a tad too reliant on stereotypes - but then don't they say that stereotypes are in fact based in truth no matter how loosely? Arguably not altogether politically correct and yet so gloriously OTT as to be inoffensive. Utterly compelling from start to finish, How Speleology Restored My Sex Drive is way up there when it comes to my favourite reads of 2017. 


3 Sep 2017

ERIC ESTRADA? OH AND NEWLY VIEWED: AUGUST 2017.

Why Eric Estrada? I hear you ask.

Not as random as it might at first seem. I loved the US cop show CHIPS when I was a girl.

 Why then the mention of CHIPS all these years later then? I hear you ask.

Once again, not as random as it might at first seem. Kelly's mention of CHIPS - OK so it isn't exactly that CHIPS but the newer version - here in her One-Sentence Movie Reviews got me thinking of one of my first school girl crushes.

But I digress ....

Actually not a post about Eric Estrada (or indeed CHIPS for that matter), rather Kelly's post got me thinking that MR T and I hadn't posted any movie reviews for some time.

The reason? A long story which I won't bore you with but in a nut shell .... 

  1. With my being in hospital/Mr T's Ordination we haven't exactly had a lot of weekends/spare time in general in which to watch DVDs.
  2. We cancelled our subscription to LoveFilm in favour of AmazonPrime where ...
  • We've both been thoroughly enjoying Vikings (we're up to Series four, part one) with, not just its pillaging and sex scenes (of which there are thankfully very few of the latter) but its, who'd have thought it, insights into religious intolerance, feminism and disability.
  • Mr T has been watching Preacher. A bit too bizarre for my tastes and not something I'd put my money on him enjoying but, hey-ho, Series 1 was watched in next to no time.
  • Last Sunday afternoon, Mr T took leave of his latest essay, in favour of us watching The BFG. Unlike himself, surprisingly not a book I'd actually read. The film was delightful (and I'm informed very true to the book), the animated characters not so human looking as to creep me out in the way that those who are too human to be animated whilst too animated to be quite human do (think The Polar Express) ... Oh, come on, please tell me its not just me ... And, oh my goodness, those Frobscottle guzzling corgis.