Published by Profile Books.

This is a small biography, but for all that adds details that might not be known about the family, particularly for readers who have only read Gerald Durrell’s writing and are either not aware of Lawrence Durrell’s books, or have not read them. It gives a wonderful back ground to My Family and other Animals, with details of many of the characters that are so intrinsic to the success of that book.

It is a biography of the family and as such it is perhaps, too small – the details of Lawrence Samuel Durrell, the father who was an engineer in India are tantalising and I suspect only flutter across his story. There are several biographies of Lawrence Durrell available, but very little can be found about Leslie, Margo or Louisa Durrell.

There has been some talk of the book not giving enough details of the problems that the family had – for example Louisa’s depression after her husband’s death and alcohol problems. I don’t think, however, that biographies should always relate the stories of people, warts and all – there is enough here to give an indication that their life was not all sun, sea and scorpions and why.

They were all born in India, but were intrinsically English – the English abroad. The book is liberally seasoned with photographs and some of the story is perhaps a little graphic for some of my younger readers – and so I have noted it as Adult. It will not take you long to read, but it does quote my favourite episode from My Family & Other Animals, and is perhaps a book that should be kept along side that, to give a little background to this extraordinary family.

 

Published by Pan Books

I have been a ‘fan’ of Gerald Durrell’s since I was a child and read My Family & Other Animals along with the other natural history books that he wrote. I remember them with great affection, but haven’t read them for a while. Recently a new book has been published, a biography of his family (The Durrells of Corfu / Michael Haag) which I read and in which I found reference to this book, Marrying off Mother & Other Stories by Gerald Durrell – one I knew nothing about.

It contains just eight glorious vignettes of writing. There is a small note at the beginning of the book – A Word in Advance from the author, “All of these stories are true or, to be strictly accurate, some are true, some have a kernel of truth and a shell of embroidery…”

They cover everything from the story of a truffle hunting pig, a butler, and a boat trip, through to the eponymous marital arrangements for Gerald Durrell’s mother. It is not so much the stories, though once more Gerald Durrell has had me laughing out loud, but the use of language – he had a wonderful use of language, and I am only sorry that he died in 1995 – I would have liked to have written to him to tell him how much I enjoy his writing. These stories remind me a little of Saki’s short stories – brilliant observations of people and life.

“She was not ready when she should be, always she did not want to do what he suggested and, sin of sins, she left stockings and brassieres lying about on the floor in her efforts to get dressed quickly. He felt that this last habit, combined with a certain age gap, made the idea of marriage impossible or, if not impossible, suspect. I said I thought that that was exactly what he wanted: someone young, vital, who would argue with him and keep him permanently waist-deep in discarded brassieres and stockings. I said that marriages had been ruined by the wife being too tidy and that many others had been saved by a brassiere being dropped at the right moment…”

“My creatures, each in its own way, abused me, reviled me, slandered me and condemned me out of hand for being five minutes late with their food. But gradually their ferocious criticism of my callousness died away to give place to the contented champing of jaws, the slushing of frit and the cracking of nuts…”

“She was a small, fragile woman whose skin, at the throat, hung in folds and pleats like a curtain. Her face was a network of fine wrinkles like a relief map of the mouth of some great river. Her nose was prominent and arched like an eagle’s beak. Her eyes were blue, a muzzy, watery blue, like faded periwinkles, and in the left one she wore a monocle tethered by a long piece of watered ribbon….”

This is an adult book – or perhaps a young adult. My Family and other Animals should be read by everyone – and has its own post on this blog. I shall presently write another for The Durrells of Corfu (Haag) – to complete the ‘set’ – that too is an Adult book, perhaps in some ways more than this. It does contain photographs which could be said to be a little revealing.

Sadly I have tried to copy the cover of this book onto the post – but it refuses to come – so I have resorted to the above image of Gerald Durrell – the book has a picture of a blue lake with a building in the middle, and some boats to the side. Its not a large book by any means…but the contents are delicious.

 

 

 

 

Related image

Published by Orion

Have you been to Venice (Italy)?

This was first published in 2009 and I was very lucky in that I received a proof copy of the book when I was working in Harrods and promptly fell in love with it. I suddenly realised the other night that I *have never written a post about this quite extraordinary book.

 I wrote a review on the Waterstones web site as a result and it read:

“Atmospheric, beautifully written and about Venice…a superb volume of adventure encompassing- all that makes a good solid read. Includes ghosts, retribution, death, mermaids, seahorses, bravery… Absolutely brilliant. Read it in Venice if you can, if not, then read it and visit as soon as you can…’

Sadly they changed the site, so you can no longer read it – I really should put this up again – it is a marvellous book.

Should you be an adult about to ignore this small volume as it was written for younger readers, be aware that if you do you will be missing one of the gems of English writing, and I won’t be responsible for that.

I think the characters of the mermaids are perhaps my favourite – they wouldn’t have much time for the more traditional sirens of the sea really – wilder and more full of life.

I sold nearly a thousand copies in Harrods – I sold it to everyone: a gentleman who wanted a copy of the Koran in English; he left with two books, one he had intended to read, the other, was a copy of this. Another man wanted to look for accounting books and requested to see our section, which I told him was very small. He complained that it was, so I told him that I had already said so. I did, however, have a book he would like (it is better than a book on accounting), and sold him one too…and a famous comedian once told me he had finished with me after I had found him all the books he wanted, and noticed me waiting for him. To which I replied I hadn’t finished with him – and sold him a copy of it too, along with all the health books his wife had gathered together. Numerous people were asked if they had been to Venice and if they had liked it. Once I had the reply in the affirmative (I only ever had one person say they didn’t**), I would tell them about this and they would buy it, and go back again. Others hadn’t been – and would take a copy to read before they went. Some I ‘caught’ for want of a better word just before they were going – which was marvellous – they would take it with them and read it in Venice.

This is the book for taking to Venice.

If you are one of my younger blog readers and your parent’s / significant adult hasn’t taken you to Venice – then persuade them to buy you this book, read it and then nag them. You should have been taken to Venice by now. If they are being recalcitrant, then either ask them to visit me (and I will persuade them), or ask them to read it – a book that makes you yearn for the city of water, cats, mermaids and history.

Venetian cat: Venice used to be a city of cats – but then they decided to sort out their strays and they have been moved onto a local island. Which is a pity – it is still a city of cats; the dogs are there as a temporary anomaly – I am sure the felines will return – after all, Venice is an intricate city full of tiny alleys, and bridges, and little space for dogs to exercise, and the cats are still there. You just have to keep an eye out…

*Having written and illustrated this post, I find on typing in the Categories and Tags that it seems I have already reviewed it. No matter – it is definitely worth two posts.

**As to that lady who sadly hadn’t enjoyed her visit to Venice.

I was confused by this reply, and asked her what it was that she didn’t like.

To which she replied ‘The gondolas’. Venice Canal:

I assumed she hadn’t meant the boats (they are a beautiful craft) and that she had meant gondoliers (the gentlemen who punt them) and that one of them had been a little unprofessional, perhaps and asked her.

To which she replied ‘No, the gondolas!’ So I asked her what it was that she didn’t like about the gondolas – and she replied

‘They wobble!’ Which is true and part of their charm.

There was nothing I could do or say about that and so she left without buying this miraculous piece of writing…

The second volume in the series is called The Mourning Emporium, and the last, Talina in the Tower – since they are all in print, you may as well buy them together. After all, you will buy them once you have read The Undrowned Child, so why wait and have to return to the book shop to get them? Or for Waterstones to deliver them? Image result for talina in the tower

 

 

 

 

 

Picture credits: venetiamicio.blogspot.fr / Patti Wood

 

 

Published by Canongate

I haven’t finished this one yet – and must admit to being attracted to the book first, because of its cover. I do read a lot of ‘children’s books’ – and mostly ignore the dust jackets and covers, as often they have very little to do with the content. A good book can have an appalling cover; and the reverse, sadly is also true. This one though I picked up initially as it had a sticker on it saying it glows in the dark, which I suppose does indicate that stickers work…(though do see below). The dust jacket does glow in the dark – they haven’t given the boards the same treatment – but as far as that goes, it does. That is not the reason to buy this book.

This is book one of the Worldquake Books  – a new trilogy to rival Harry Potter, yes, to rival Harry Potter. It is a story about a library, another world, and books – books that can pull characters through into another world all together.

It is very clever – and without doubt a series that should be given more publicity than it has so far.

Effie Truelove goes to a school with a rather wonderful name: the Tusitala School for the Gifted, Troubled and Strange along with her friends, Maximilian, Wolf, Lexy and Raven – and the name of the school is reflected in her and her friends’ characters.  Effie inherits her grandfather’s library along with other gifts, but these are not handed down to her as they should be.  A book collector manages to get his hands on them – and that is just the start.

There are some wonderful vignettes in the book – one of the princesses, who has managed not to be eaten by the dragon…has a t-shirt with the statement ‘Badass Gristle’ on it – which I thought was a lovely touch –

This is a trilogy not to be missed…

Harry Potter has taken the world – there are numerous spin-offs from the original 7 volumes – the Red Nose & Beedle the Bard books, the 8 films, the books of the films, wands, time-turners, snitches, hats, cloaks, owls, board games, jewellery, maps, watches, snow globes, nodding headed manikins, events around the books, (at least on a six month cycle), notebooks, badges, a new film about one of the characters, a play, and the scripts from the new film and the play, toys – the list is never ending…but, fundamentally there were seven, just 7 books. Everything else hangs from those.

This trilogy could rival those books – without a doubt. They won’t have the paraphernalia attached to them or the fans yet, but hopefully they will in time.

If you don’t want to visit another Potter Event, or to have another edition of the same books you already have, and are perhaps, dare I say this, a little Potter-weary, whether temporarily or otherwise, you might do worse than to pick up this small volume and begin to follow Effie’s adventures.   If you are still enjoying Potter-mania – all to the good – you will without any doubt at all enjoy this new trilogy as well – buy it and read it.

My only slight reservations about this book are that the illustration on the dust jacket (that one that glows in the dark) – shows a girl in silhouette – who looks a little older than I feel is right and someone has decided to put a pink sticker on my dust jacket that states – This Book Glows in the Dark.

I  hate stickers on books -whether booksellers’ or publishers’.  With all the will in the world, they invariably can’t be removed easily – and are a distraction from the design of the books if left in place or worse, leave a mess behind if removed. A bookmark with a note stating that the dust jacket is a special edition and glows – or a note to the booksellers to make us aware, would have been better…but that is one of those bug-bears of my life… I have to admit, the sticker did bring my attention to the book – but mainly because it was there – I’d have much preferred a nicely designed bookmark…

Volume 2 The Chosen Ones is due out in April 2018, and volume 3, Keepers in April 2019 – keep an eye out, but be aware it may be that the titles change & / the publications dates shift…it does happen…

 

Published by Chicken House

This is the second book written by Kiran Hargrave – the first The Girl of Ink and Stars has just won the Waterstones Book Prize for 2017 – it was good, but not as good as this.

Ami lives on an island with her sick mother. She does most things for her as her condition worsens, however, life is good – the island is beautiful, there is fresh water, fruit, butterflies and they are together. When Ami is taken from her island to an orphanage as a result of a directive, she worries about her mother, but soon finds herself also worrying about the other children. They also have been taken from their parent’s and families to protect them; as their beautiful home is designated as a leper colony.

Moving, and rather beautiful this is the story of love, friendship, bravery and ultimately people. It is a much better book than The Girl of Ink and Stars – though that one shouldn’t be missed either. It is just that this one has much more depth.

Enjoy both – they are not connected (apart from being written by the same author), so it is no matter in which order you read them.

 

Published by Pushkin Children’s Books

This is probably the most extraordinary cat book I have ever read. Part love story, part adventure this really has something for everyone. Liberally illustrated by Andrezej Klimowski and translated from the Russian.

Baguette likes to lie in a window space watching the birds. The love of his life was slender and striped, her nose was as pink as a rosebud, her whiskers as white as snow on New Year’s Day, and her coat shone like a diamond necklace…

The black cat Noir lives close by and is a rival for Purriana’s affections and tries to encourage Baguette to leap to the birds (and his death), but Baguette is more intelligent than that…

It is great fun – very different from any other cat book I have read. Whether Baguette wins the paw of Purriana is for you to find out – another rather special book from Pushkin Press.

Published by Chicken House

I’m not sure I believe in Bigfoot. I’d like to believe that there are places still out there that no one reaches, where such entities might still survive. I sometimes feel we are all pervading as a species, and that this isn’t a good thing at all.

This though is a rather fun volume. Lemonade has moved recently to Willow Creek after her mother has died. The place is very different from home and she’s not sure that she will stay, if given the chance to return home. She meets though a rather earnest young naturalist / explorer, who is fascinated by all things Bigfoot and has set up his own detective agency to investigate any sightings…. This is funny, hopeful and really a rather lovely book – full of hope, acceptance and to be frank bravery.

Just remember – should you ever see Bigfoot, the first thing to do is to take a photograph.

It was a wonderful read – and I loved the cover too!

 

Published by Electric Monkey / Egmont

I know very little about cerebral palsy and found this introduction to the condition curious – though the situation that those with the condition find themselves cannot be said to be anyway curious at all – traumatic, and difficult to say the least. One of the good things about reading is that it often introduces you to subjects you wouldn’t normally investigate. This is Jemma’s story – her particular problems include a total inability to speak, she is unable to move around by herself, though she is liable to twitch erratically. Her brain, though, is certainly working on all four cylinders (to use a veterinarian term)….She is bright, resourceful and aware of people and their general machinations, hopes and desires. She is unlucky enough to be verbally bullied by a character in the book who tells her that he is responsible for a murder, but that after all is fine; after all she can’t tell any one, can she!

It is the story of families, belief in yourself and overcoming fears. It is also a coming of age book too – a super book from this always edgy publishing house.

 

 

 

 

Published by Allison & Busby

I picked this up as I had finished my last Children’s book, and needed something to read on the journey home. Most will know that I don’t read many Adult books – I find that if I am to give an honest review and help our younger readers then I need to have read the books I suggest. Most of my customers are visiting the Children’s section – so I read mainly children’s books. I do though like a little bit of crime (usually of the ‘friendly’ variety, though I do like Janet Evanovich), some more classical volumes have stolen my heart (Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, the short stories of Saki/HH Munro), & the odd bit of non-fiction too, also grace my shelves.

This is, I think the second in The Bradecote & Catchpoll mysteries. I haven’t read the first having only found this one in the proof piles at work. A nice mix of history and crime. I didn’t expect to be drawn into the descriptive passages as I have been.

He was quite young, perhaps only in his late twenties, but the stern demeanour aged him. He was tall, almost gangly, and the robe hung from him as though is body were the clapper of a bell. The ring of hair about his tonsure was very dark, and showed a tendency to wave, but looked as though such frivolity was frequently chastised by water and comb. The dark brows beetled over a finely chiselled face with hard grey eyes.

Its super – the plot is engaging, the deaths not too graphic, wonderful characters and I love the English. Set in 12th Century Worcester it feels accurate historically (I am no historian) – and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I shall be looking to see if we have Servant of Death on our shelves when I get back to work in a couple of days – and if its not there I will be ordering a copy. If it is – I shall be buying it and settling down another good read.

There is something about reading an ‘Adult’ book that always makes me feel a little guilty (I really should be reading more 9-12 / Teenage / 5-8) – however, I am enjoying this so much I am not feeling a even a little bit shame-faced.

After all – I think a 9-12 reader could read it and enjoy it, just as much as those who are a little older. So go out and buy this, but don’t, if you are buying books from Finchley Road O2 buy the last copy of Servant of Death (if it is in stock), until I have had a chance…I will have finished this one by the time I go back to work on Saturday…

Actually I think I might have circumvented any of you who might be thinking of buying our last copy – it seems we do have one in stock (so the Internet says), and so I have used technology and have Clicked and will Collect on Saturday – so there! You can’t have it (if they find it) – I have reserved it. Do though buy another copy – or order one. If it is as good as this – and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be – it will be worth every penny.

 

Published by Walker Books

This is a wonderful science fiction volume, set initially in Norway and then in London. It is the story of William Wenton a boy fascinated by all things to do with codes. It doesn’t matter in what form – they just draw him to them, and he enjoys pitting his wits against those who think they can out-wit him. His parents moved to Norway with him when his grandfather disappeared, some eight years before the book really begins. At the same time, everything about him was changed. Even his name. The book begins with a mystery and then spirals down into something quite extraordinary. It contains everything you might want in adventure, including sentient doors…

I had hoped that Bobbie Peers would be willing and able to come and be an author for one of my school events I hold each year. Sadly, this was not to be. He lives inconveniently in Norway (a place I have always wanted to visit), & it is too far to expect an author to travel. Further Waterstones won’t contribute in any practical way travel expenses of that calibre. Which is a pity – this is an excellent book and I would have loved to have included Bobbie in our yearly celebrations.

If you would like to read something engrossing and enticing, this is for you.