Saturday, 25 January 2020

Kentishbookboy Goes It Alone

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

As I said in my last post I've been reading for various projects recently and so I haven't had time to keep up with the Kentishbookboy, however this year as well as having our book group we also taking part in a family Book Bingo challenge.

This lets chart lets me, KBB, his mum, his nanny and his great aunt all count other reads towards our game - although we are all planning on sharing lots of books too! 

(just one review this time - all from Kentishbookboy)

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning

Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, through to itchy clothing, a plot to steal the family fortune and cold porridge for breakfast, the children have much to overcome,

The Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with their distant relative, Count Olaf. From their first day, they experience nothing but non-stop torture. They need to work together and stop Count Olaf from getting hold of the Baudelaire fortune.

There are a few themes for this book. I think cunning, greed, courage, love and family are the main ones. I think courage is one because in chapter 10 the eldest Baudelaire, Violet, tries to save her sister, Sunny, by making a grappling hook to climb up the forbidden tower. She shows courage when she climbed up, she hoped it didn't fall down to the ground.

This book is an interesting story and it contains from weird bits too. I think Lemony Snicket is a great author and has a talent for writing stories. I would like to read the next book: The Reptile Room and give it four stars.

I'm really glad that Kentishbookboy enjoyed this book - I remember reading both this one and The Reptile Room when they were first published in the UK and quite enjoying them but I don't think I read on past these two. I definitely haven't seen the film or TV series, although I did get to meet Lemony Snicket's alter ego Daniel Handler once...

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Championing books

Quick Reads Return

Back in 2018 when I was at my poorliest I was kindly gifted some of the wonderful Quick Reads titles (I wrote about them here). After a break of a year, and some funding woes, the scheme is back and this time I get to tell everyone just how special these books are thanks to the Reading Agency featuring my story as part of their promotion of the scheme.

It was pure serendipity that on the day my story was published four of this year's titles came in to the library for me and carried them home with great excitement. I have just spent an intense month dipping into piles of books (fiction and non fiction) for various projects and the chance to relax with some shorter books by fabulous authors was a real treat.

So far I've finished A Fresh Start - which was a wonderful collection of 10 brand new short stories from well known authors, all with the loose theme of 'a fresh start'. Some of the stories were incredibly funny, some poignant but unlike many short story collections I enjoyed them all. They were the perfect length for reading at bedtime - just a few pages each - and all were thoroughly satisfying.

Next up was Notting Hill Carnival by Candice Carty-Williams. This was subtitled A Westside Story and was a contemporary love story using the plot of Romeo & Juliet / Westside Story as a starting point. Again I loved the writing style and I've instantly put a request on Carty-William's full length novel Queenie.

I've now moved on to Milly Johnson's The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe - and as the characters are taking a trip to Amsterdam, a city that I love visiting, it all bodes well. After this will come Clare Mackintosh's The Donor which looks like a gripping thriller. As After the End by this author made my top reads of 2019 list I'm hoping I like this one as much.

As I say in my piece for the Reading Agency these books really are for everyone - the plots are great and the authors incredibly talented. These aren't just simplified books for new readers they are just gripping shorter reads - and at only £1 (or free from your local library) you really should give them ago.
Another bonus - they are ever so light and compact in size so they'll fit in your bag/pocket easily meaning you're never without a book!

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Kentishbookboy & Norfolkbookworm Read - Book 1, 2020

Clockwork or All Wound Up by Philip Pullman

I'm really pleased that Kentishbookboy wants to continue with our book group in to a new year, reading can be a solitary hobby but the joy of sharing books does turn it in to a social activity.

We've started the year with a new 'book bingo' sheet as well as new reading journals and as well as this our group has attracted a new member with Kentishbookboy's great aunt joining in too.

In a way I've got off to a slow start with sharing books with the family as I have been taking part in two book projects that had stricter reading deadlines that KBB imposes on me. Mind you as you read his review for this book you might think that I should give up the reviewing and turn the blog over to him alone!

Like last year Kentishbookboy's thoughts are in purple and mine in brown.

Clockwork or All Wound Up by Philip Pullman


Karl's final task as a clockmaker's apprentice is to make a new figure for the great clock of Glokenheim (Germany). He has not made the figure, or got an idea of what it could be - and the unveiling is tomorrow. Fritz is also in the tavern; there to read aloud his new spooky story. Like Karl, he hasn't finished. Well he knows how it starts and he knows it's called Clockwork - so, with the snow swirling down, inside he sets his story going and just hopes that an ending will come to him as he tells it. Suddenly Fritz's story and real life merge in a completely sinister way - and just like clockwork it cannot be stopped...

In this modern fairy tale we join the villagers of Glokenheim in their inn on a cold and snowy night. The next day is one of the biggest in their calendar as it is the unveiling of the new figure on the impressive clock. However the man responsible for this, Karl, has not managed to create his work of art and he is worried that he'll fail his apprenticeship as well as become the laughing stock of the village. Star storyteller Fritz is also in the tavern on this evening and encouraged to tell a new tale. Like Karl he hasn't finished this either, then at a crucial part of the story appears to come true...


Karl has not made a figure for the great clock yet, nor has Fritz finished his story, and they both have to finish by morning.

Karl and Fritz are very different, but yet still seem to face the same problem, in that they haven't finished their important work and people are dependent on them doing so. There is also the plot thread of how far people will go to get what they want - in this case an heir for a local prince.


The moral and theme of this book is about the importance of hard work and doing things yourself, not just trying to find an easy way out.

Like all good fairy stories there are morals to be found in this tale, and as Kentishbookboy says a prominent one is all about not taking the easy way out. There is also the message that love will won out over ambition and finally I'd also add in that you should be careful what you wish for, and to always read the small print! 


Personally, I quite enjoyed Clockwork. There were lots of strange parts as well, but I thought the end was a good way to finish the book. I rate it four and a half stars. I would recommend it to people who like mystery.

I've not read any of Pullman's younger fiction before and quite enjoyed this one, although I feel it has more in common with early, moralistic tales than more recent middle grade fiction. For some reason it made me think of Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale set in Russia - I think that this is because of the merging of narrative fiction and fantasy. The boxes of information that sprinkle the text were fun to read - far more noticeable than footnotes.
It may be very shallow but I particularly liked the clockwork image in the corner of the page which was flickbook!

No image of Kentishbookboy with the book this time, Nanny snaffled it so she could read along too - I'm not sure she enjoyed it as much as us - her first thoughts were that it was a little too moralistic.
Kentishbookboy has moved on to Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events, now I read the first few of these when they first came out but I don't remember much about them so I'm looking forward to hearing what he thought of them.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Books of the Year 2019

My top rated books of 2019.

After the shocking discovery yesterday of just how many books I've read in the past decade it is time to look more closely at the list from 2019 and pick my top reads from this smaller set.

It was an interesting book year, I am by no means back to where I was for reading stamina and plot retention and so to be honest looking over the past 12 months worth of books I was very thankful for the one line synopsis I do write for each one as an aide memoir.

The books on these two lists (fiction and non-fiction) needed no prompts for me to remember how much I enjoyed them!

Fiction (in no particular order)

  • If I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
  • A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
  • Those Who are Loved by Victoria Hislop
  • Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain(trans. Jane Aitkin)
  • Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
  • Umbrella Mouse by Anna Fargher
  • A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
  • The Flat Share by Beth O'Leary
  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (trans. Geoffrey Trousselot)
  • After the End by Clare Mackintosh

Nonfiction (in no particular order)

  • The Eastern Most House by Juliet Blaxland
  • Chasing the Sun by Linda Geddes
  • Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
  • The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es
  • Between the Stops by Sandi Toksvig

Somewhat unusually for me I think that the majority of the these books were published (in English at least) during 2019. I know that I read a lot of them through Net Galley or thanks to projects with the Reading Agency or of not that they came from the library.

I read a lot of nature writing books/memoirs in 2019 but it was the Easternmost House that has remained lodged the strongest in my memory - not least for the sad, newsworthy end it had in real life. 

A friend challenged me last night to whittle this list down to just my top books but even though I gave her three titles (kidlit/fiction/non fiction) under 24 hours ago this has already changed and in all honesty I don't think that I can get it any lower than these 15 titles.

Here's to another year/decade of reading pleasure!