Published by Puffin Books.

Some of you may have read The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, some years ago. This volume continues the adventures of Ted Spark – just three months after he solved the mystery of what happened to Salim, his cousin who, (if you didn’t guess, or know) disappeared off the London Eye. This is Ted’s second mystery – set around the theft of a picture from the Guggenheim museum in New York.

I have dipped into The London Eye Mystery, but haven’t yet managed to read it; it sells itself by word of mouth, and I do like to encourage new good books. I have read enough though to be happy to include it in my piles, with the notation that though not read by me yet, I believe it to be good. I will be reading it very soon; I loved The Guggenheim Mystery – its brilliant and extremely well written.

Ted Sparks is rather a unique character – and having a trip to New York to see Salim should be a holiday to remember, but not for his aunt being arrested for theft….

Robin Stevens is the author of the Wells and Wong detective novels.  There are six so far, and are very distinctive cover wise, with very bright covers. I have read the first in the series (I have too many books to read to try them all) – and wrote a post about it some time ago. This is very different – set mainly in New York, and is a brilliant bit of deduction.

So, for all those potential Poirots, Christies, Holmeses, Chestertons e.t.c that are out there – do read the Wells and Wong books, but start with The London Eye Mystery (Siobhan Dowd), then this and then disappear into Murder Most Unladylike. They will keep you out of mischief for some time to come!

Do remember, though, to read as wide a range of authors as possible – it is very easy to just follow one; only to miss out on new potentially superb authors. Its important for your health to eat a wide ranging diet, the same is true for reading – your English will improve if you read many different authors…(they use different words, and their use of language is different)…. It makes reading more interesting and food, quite extraordinary…

The titles in the Wells & Wong series so far run to six:

Murder Most UnladylikeArsenic for Tea, First Class Murder, Jolly Foul Play, Mistletoe and Murder and Cream Buns and Crime.

There are also two mini volumes: The Case of the Blue Violet and The Case of the Deepdean Vampire.

 

Published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

I recently organised a school event for Elizabeth Laird and at the end one of the boys asked Elizabeth Laird which was her favourite book, that she had written. It was obviously a very difficult question; her reply much the same as many parents’ – she loves them all, however, she did go on to say that the character Ben, in the story, was based around her younger brother, and so perhaps, if pushed this is her favourite.

This is the story of Anna’s family – her Mum, Dad, little sister, Katy and their new baby brother Ben. It is a tale of growing up, of accepting responsibilities, of acknowledging who you are, and who other people are too – along with realising that love comes in many forms and ways. It is a story of a family dealing with someone special, who though severely disabled, has a massive impact on the family.  Sometimes in a good way, and at other times taking all the attention.

The preface explains just a little about Elizabeth’s relationship with her brother Alistair – the positives and the negatives. Superb.

 

Published by Firefly

Why on earth I never picked up Horatio’s books before I really don’t know. I am in the middle of this one, having just finished Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds.

These books are beautifully simple, but also wonderfully intricate, a little like a good netsuke. This story is the first in the collection – there is to be a third (Aubrey and the Terrible Spiders), but it is the second one I have read.

Aubrey’s father is under attack by the terrible Yoot. His depression is all pervading, and devastating, but with help Aubrey and his mother there is a chance that things might change. I haven’t finished this yet – and am writing this in my lunch hour at work – because you need to buy it – along with Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds. Touching, clever, educational (I know…), and superbly written this tells the story of what can happen when the black dog gets you between its jaws, when the Yoot begins to colour all your thoughts and life…

This is, I think a 9 – 12 and perhaps I should adjust The Terrible Ladybirds to the same age group – though I think a good eight year old could read both. This one though is a little darker than that. The books encompass natural history, good English, and wonderful story lines. They are marvellous. I am so looking forward to Aubrey and the Terrible Spiders

Published by Faber & Faber

This is Emma Carroll’s latest novel. It is set in the Second World War and encompasses the blitz, refugees, and evacuation – friendship, bravery and a little bit of luck – well more than a little. It will become a classic – there’s mystery and danger from the first page – it is a real page turner – a book that details the sense, and atmosphere of a very dark time in our history.

This is the first book of Emma Carroll’s that I have read – which is slightly embarrassing; five others are listed in the front, and her seventh book – The Lost Boy is being advertised in the back. Well written, edgy and engrossing. Superb.

 

Published by Firefly Press

There is an old adage that you should never judge a book by the cover. I believe that on the whole this is true (you can miss superb stories, by assuming things, just because of the illustration and design), however, I am also aware that sometimes a cover can lead to extraordinary books.

This is one such.

On the whole books about the environment can be a little worthy, this though is marvellous – which is just one of the reasons why I love it.

I have thought about reading the first book in this series before, but never got around to it, however, my colleague Tom (without whom my working life would be much more stressful), showed this to me yesterday and I fell in love. First with the cover, with its brilliant design and then found myself enchanted by this wonderful story. The plethora of insects, mammals and arachnid characters are colourful and superb – this is about intolerance, the environment and natural history – a gorgeous extraordinary mix – like nothing else I have come across… There are classical and binomial references too – and the details of the lives of the smaller wildlife, out in our gardens is carefully covered, and there are references too to the solar system and the more complicated aspects of physics…

It is one of those special books. The first volume is called Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, which I will read as soon as I can get hold of a copy. I am also excited to report there is a note in Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds that there is to be a third…about spiders – those glorious arachnids… called appropriately enough Aubrey and the Terrible Spiders.

These are books for anyone who is interested in our smaller fauna – with brilliant plots too…I could go on, but I had better not….

Oh, almost forgot – it has some lovely illustrations too – just enough, and not too many by Jane Mathews….

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PAKKA

20th NOVEMBER 2003 – 27TH APRIL 2017

 

The voles are not wanted now, And shrews are no longer needed, either.

My friend, cohort, companion and familiar –

She is Dead.

We hunted, wandered, and explored, together. She high amongst the

oaks, whilst I paused, beneath the trees. Then stood below,

a stepping stone, back to earth again.

The rabbits are lazy now; and lope away, where before: thumping,

and a flight of fur; she flushed them.

The cattle, our friends against the canines, can wander as they like.

They are not required today.

She is not here, and the house is silent.

Small birds now, are complacent. The trees aloud with sound.

The dogs and foxes she liked to bother, walk past, with impunity;

They are not wanted now.

The corvids loud and unmolested. No longer slice the air above, hoping to divide and conquer.

That would never be.

The other cats, fat and dull compared now sit and glare.

She has gone.

I tramped through snow, she leapt the drifts. We battled the wind and after rain & thunder shared a towel and went to bed.

We sat together for hours. She, upon my knee, as I read on, deep down in the depths of wilderness.

We hid together and watched out together.

Riding my shoulders, growling, vibrating, till owners, mutts ahead, departed.

Then watching; noting details, her body warm against my ears, her tail around my head, directing.

We’d listen to the tawny owls, and later the tiny birds would start the chorus.

I’d wait for her, as she hunted gardens. Standing under lights, as though a woman of the night, till, with a gentle stroke, she’d let me know, and we would continue, carefully through the early morning light.

The boys and girls in blue, were mystified, confused. it seems a torch is not a tool against the dark, and walking a cat is not the usual behaviour.

Though soon enough they learnt -we weren’t the usual cat & ‘owner’.

Together we gazed in awe at kingfishers, daubentons, kites and kestrels; all hunters too.

I watched as stoat or weasel (I don’t know which), turned and hissed; her curiosity knew no bounds.

And several times we sat until the deer departed and once or twice we stopped to listened to heavy noises from the bank. Then once we watched with paws scrabbling he disappeared away towards the bridge.

We searched together for fresh monticles; dark, soft and so very long – unintentional gifts from men in velveteen jackets. Then a balance; four paws to the edge with tail held high, before the scattering, of soft brown earth.

A gaze, a look, was all it took before I knelt, so she could climb; from knee and onto shoulder, to gaze across and use my height, once more to her advantage. Or, without a warning, if standing still, she might just run, and climbing hard against my m’skins, clamber up, to gaze upon the misted world.

The cattle would nibble jackets, and she would retreat a foot, or two. Till their curiosity abated, and then she would come out and walk with me, near enough, but not too near.

She liked to walk apart from me, along the edge, her shadow dancing above the water. Then would stop to watch the boats, with geese approaching fast, but would come away when called.

She chased the dogs, and foxes too, disappearing, distance far; to return again with tail held high, calling back to me.

She loved to leap, and dance, stiff legged and high, as Spring got in the air.

I watched as she intently stepped, into a coney’s burrow; to reappear; a little dusty, but none the worse for that.

Together we herded ducks, hunted voles together, basked against a tree or two, and called and found each other, when out of sight too long.

Once we watched a baited owl land above our heads, exhausted resting, three foot higher, Until we left him to recover.

We would stop a while and I would paddle, gently in the Gade, and she would come and lap a little, before we ran together, bolting back to the gate before the dogs began their morning walks.

Her paws would smell of earth, and grass, her coat of wind and rain.

Her claws were sharp, the sharpest pins, her teeth were tools of death.

She would allow me though, to spread her claws, and rub my thumb against her teeth, whilst purring upon my lap.

She slept and dreamt, within my bed, her head upon my shoulder, legs and tail entangled within my arms. Her whiskers twitching gently, a tickle against my face.

No longer will there be, the hunts beneath the beds; no moves of tables, chairs and things to trap and then return, the wild thing back, as evenings turn to dark.

No puffs of feathers left,  No note, no proof of day’s success.

There are no calls to arms, no calls to tell, no calls to walk, to eat, or bed.

She no longer waits upon the wall, or scrambles o’er the gate.

There is no weight against my legs, no claws outstretched against my skin, as I curl, within my bed.

I will not find her, upon her side, deep within my drawers, kicking socks and other things out upon the floor.

She would disappear and return too late, perhaps once or twice a year. Shaking her fur and smelling of night, calming my terrible fears.

She flirted with vets, respectable men, and put up with females too, but wouldn’t accept disrespect and would make her feelings known.

The common & estate are different now.

The kingfishers are whistling still, and the wrens still tick, but, they no longer come to scold.

It is so different now.

Published by: Chicken House

Since I wrote my post about this volume one of my customers has been in touch and sent me the following email:

Firstly, I’m very grateful that you recommended The Girl of the Ink & Stars to me. I found it REALLY interesting and wanted to tell you some of the parts I most enjoyed.

Next, what really pleases me about this book is that it hooks you in as you read along. Karen Millwood Hargrave (the author) is brilliant in the style she writes in – it’s funny but also sad and terrifying! All mixed into one book! This is only the first book I’ve read of Hargrave’s and I think I will start to read more!
 
And like I said before, I really am grateful that you recommended the book.
 
Kind regards,
Anya Daniels
I asked Anya if she would be happy to have her name and review quoted on my blog and following her confirmation I am now posting it here for her.

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.

 

 

 

 

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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