Wrapped in Different Coloured Banners & Musing Mondays

reading passion

I had been planning to re-blog some reading related posts from an a-z  a few years ago.  so the random question from Musing Monday this week has resulted in this.  Some of my childhood books. All these would have been read during the 1950s when I was between child and what is called YA today. These are only the historical favourites, I read many other genres.  They are a mixture of those written for youngsters and those such as Buck, Weyman or Hornblower written for adults.  I ranged between the two quite happily.

I wonder now which was the first historical novel I ever read, The Children of the New Forest? The Eagle of the Ninth? The Silver Sword or maybe A Moor of Spain? They all meld into one period of my life. These would have been those I could read to myself. What of those which were  read to me, how young was I when someone first read Gulliver’s Travels to me, I seem to have memories of that tale stretching way back. Or Treasure Island? I remember listening to The Black Arrow on the small radio set high on the walls of the fourth form at my primary school, I would have been ten years then.

 Many books I considered historical when a child of course were no such thing. I had assumed it because they were written in the past, whereas in reality they had been contemporary to the author. Kipling wrote of a time and place that was a reality to him in the same way as Austen did. The Black Arrow by R.L.Stevenson was certainly an historical novel as it was written in 1813 and set in the time of the War of the Roses, an exciting blood thirsty time if ever there was:) but a book written in 1813 does seem to a child to be historical already. 

Lines blur often in reading:)                                  

That we were listening to the Black Arrow at Primary School, seems to indicate the powers to be considered it more historical than romance! There is more line blurring there.

I like my historical tales to inform me, the action is important but action on it’s own is never enough. Romance? well that never has been my thing. No, historical must fill me with a feeling I have walked the dusty/smelly streets, know the why? what and how? of a time long passed.Know that people were the same as us just wrapped in different coloured banners. Historical must cause a heart pounding fear/pleasure/excitement as I read. Historical must leave me battered by  the experience.

A Moor of Spain by Richard Parker set in the time of Christopher Columbus and written in 1953, this was mDSCF0786y first introduction to the Inquisition and showed me a startling fact of history. The Moors had at one time a great deal of control over Spain, I never  knew. It led me to explore a little more of Spain’s history as well as that of North Africa. The beauty of books ? those diverse side paths they can lead you down.

 The Children of the New Forest also served up to us on the school radio, set this time during the English Civil War but printed in 1847. From that one I discovered much; that the Civil War was not just about plumed hats and round helmets, that Cromwellian were not always the enemy. Learnt in fact that history is many sided. It was an interesting discovery and one which appealed to my sense of fair play. Look at both sides of an argument/dispute/is a lesson well learnt.

 I mustn’t forget The Eagle of the Ninth, that wonderful adventure in Roman Britain written by R.Sutcliffe and published in 1954.The Romans, beloved of our primary school teachers. Such misty times, especially in the 50s, much more is known now of life around Hadrian’s Wall and of the remains of Roman rule. Because of this book I developed an interest in ‘really long ago times’ and I have followed with interest the discoveries being unearthed from the ground. Marvelling as I do, how history refuses sometimes to remain buried.

 The Silver Sword also, is deemed historical, being published 10 years after the Second World War, but how far from the period being written about does an historical novel need to be set – The Silver Sword never felt like an historical story to me, the Second World War and it’s horrors were everyday fare, as more was discovered of the atrocities of war, in the years following, when children on still played on bomb sites, it felt like everyday life. – this was a contemporary story for me. On that criteria as soon as any book is published it becomes after all historical.

Lines blurring again.

One of my favourite historical authors was Stanley Weyman, and on a recent re-read 60 years later I found he stood up reasonable well.  Again with this sense of blurring, was he romance or historical adventure or. . .   

I read him for the adventure and history, be it Elizabethan history or 16th & 17th century French. The romance part was barely there for me. There was much to learn from his pages of the grander sweep of history than was ever found in the dry history of school text books.

I read Gone with the Wind very early, because it was one of my mother’s favourite books. Scarcely veiled rape scenes passed me by on the first reading but my entire view of the American Civil War was first introduced and then fixed by this book. Scarlett was my kind of girl, she did – whatever she had to – from spoilt brat to woman in control. With forces of such universal power against her – I say, didn’t she do well?

The descriptions of hospitals full of the wounded the burning of Atlanta , birthing dying –  Life as I hadn’t experienced – the romance was neither here nor there for me. Not the lovey dovey stupidity of Ashley or the looser attitude of Brett – why didn’t the one move on and the other give her a good hiding. No, but the romance (old fashioned definition here) of the whole the grand sweep of history – great.

Another firm favourite were the Hornblower books. Set during the Napoleonic wars and set, what’s more on the sea. Discovered by me because they were my father’s favourite books (he of the navy) action, history and life in olden times, what’s not to enjoy.  The descriptions of life at sea, of the storms, battles, life below decks so good I was seasick reading them:(

I latched onto Pearl S Buck for years – staple reading for me from the mid 50s onward. Not only set in days of yore but in such a different culture it was almost shocking. China was a closed book to most of us westerners, but within those closed covers lay a magical land of mystery, I knew that. Pearl Buck delivered.She delivered well. My only regret, that not more of them have been turned into audio books.

 History is never just the history of one country, every nation interlinked to others in strange and divers ways. Reading these grand sweeping global extravagances shows how one tiny event on a small rocky island can be influenced by and influence many greater worlds.


Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What would you say is the best children’s book you’ve ever read?

That is so difficult  – it was so long ago, so many thousands of books past.  When is childhood defined. What age are we discussing. As a very small child I liked the Orlando books, about a ginger cat and his family, complete with pictures in lurid colour! I was very small then, I could just spell out the words.  I have some still upstairs.

Later ? well I suppose a great book is one that is remembered over 60+ years, re-read a few times and still in the bookcase.  so I would have to include The Wind in the Willows, the Jungle Books, Aesops Fables, The Just So Stories, The Borrowers, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

Early teenage books? Teenagers hadn’t really been invented then! again so many and mixed by then with adult books but The Silver Sword, A Moor in Spain, The Children of New Forest and the Eagle of the Ninth.  Aall written for children.

Mid teens It was all adult books , Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Sayers, Harper Lee.  I was into detective and science fiction, 1984, Brave New World and stuff like that. Late teens I guess The Group, One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest and Catch 22 would be among the top contenders.

I’ll stop here because it was mainly books written for adults I was reading from about 13 onward.


Musing Mondays



I have been writing this week so haven’t managed to read much, however, I have read one from Clare North, –  Touch. Ever since I found she was Kate Griffin in another guise I have been intrigued at the small differences in the writing – I plan on doing a piece about it later.
So books in a series, I read:

Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann – Urban Fantasy, No2
The Hollow City by Ransome Riggs – YA Fantasy, No 2
Primal Cut by Ed O’Connor – Detective No3

One off
Touch by Claire North – fantasy

84 Charing Cross Road – Non-fiction

I enjoyed them all in different ways and will be writing reviews later on. I found Touch needed the most concentration, as the hero! leaps in and out of bodies sometimes many in a few moments, it was fascinating to see how Clare North handled this.  She is an amazing writer whether as Clare North or Kate Griffin. She plays with the English language inventive and at times lyrically and often with a deft British kind of humour. This book scored the highest mark from me.

84 Charing Cross Road I have read many times in my life from way back when it first arrived on the scene. this time it was a re-read for a book group. It never fails to entertain me .I was trying to guess how often I had read it and I think it is probably around the  20 mark.

The Hollow City is, as the first in the series, a fine example of how the best of the YA genre overlaps the adult market.  They are beautiful books for the old photos alone and the plot lines, characters and action are supurb.

Now Primal Cut is not for the squemish and I’m not sure I could read too many of these detective stories but this old lady does enjoy a bit of gore and an easy read.  Quite blood thirsty moi:)


84, Charing Cross Road

It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene’s sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.(Goodreads)

Die and Stay Dead (Trent, #2)

A brutal murder in Greenwich Village puts Trent and the Five-Pointed Star on the trail of Erickson Arkwright, the last surviving member of a doomsday cult. Back in the day, the Aeternis Tenebris
cult thought the world would end on New Year’s Eve of 2000. When it didn’t, they decided to end it themselves by summoning Nahash-Dred, a powerful, terrifying demon known as the Destroyer of Worlds. But something went wrong. The demon massacred the cult, leaving Arkwright the sole survivor.

Now, hiding somewhere in New York City with a new identity, Arkwright plans to summon the demon again and finish the job he started over a decade ago. As Trent rushes to locate a long-lost magical artifact that may be the only way to stop him, the clues begin to mount… Trent’s past and Arkwright’s might be linked somehow. And if they are, it means the truth of who Trent really is may lie buried in the twisted mind of a madman( Goodreads.)


Miss PereHollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #2)grine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages( Goodreads.)


BeforePrimal Cut the days of the National Health Service and modern psychiatry, common wisdom called for brain paste – a mash of the pituitary glands of cow – as a remedy for mental illness. Doctors have forgotten; the general public has forgotten; but Bartholomew Garrod, of East London s Garrod s Family Butchers has not forgotten, and he is using more than just animals to treat his brother . . . he is murdering people.When a body is found, ripped apart and torn, although the slashings appear random, Detective Inspector Alison Dexter recognizes that the marks are actually butchers cuts of meats: the primal cuts.Meanwhile, in Cambridgeshire, a vicious bare-knuckle fight, results in a dead body, complete with bite wounds. Are the cases linked?As Alison Dexter investigates, she starts receiving threatening letters and body parts – human body parts. Time is running short and Dexter desperately needs to find the murderer . . . before he finds her.(Goodreads)


Kepler haTouchd never meant to die this way — viciously beaten to death by a stinking vagrant in a dark back alley. But when reaching out to the murderer for salvation in those last dying moments, a sudden switch takes place.

Now Kepler is looking out through the eyes of the killer himself, staring down at a broken and ruined body lying in the dirt of the alley.

Instead of dying, Kepler has gained the ability to roam from one body to another, to jump into another person’s skin and see through their eyes, live their life — be it for a few minutes, a few months or a lifetime.

Kepler means these host bodies no harm — and even comes to cherish them intimately like lovers. But when one host, Josephine Cebula, is brutally assassinated, Kepler embarks on a mission to seek the truth — and avenge Josephine’s death.(Goodreads)


Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…


Have I read The Shannara Chronicles by Terry Brooks – have I seen the TV version?

The answer to both parts of the question s no – have I missed something is this a series I should have read. I am always open to recommendations although  my TBR pile is huge and tottering.  Sorry cannot comment on the books.

No Book Can Be Perfection For Everyone

senior hands on a bible

 I have in the past few years joined four reading groups down here in reality. I am also joined up with Goodreads up here on cyberspace. One of the things  that is required is a mark of approval. Some sign of opinion of the worth of the book just read. In the book groups we mark out of ten, and it is understood that it is only our opinion of the book. In cyberspace the star system seems to have lost its way.

Even in the groups, down here, I have noticed that many times only a gut opinion is offered. ‘I didn’t like it’ with no attempt to say why not. I find this distressing and strange. One should be able to work out what you dislike if you have read the book. Give a reason.

In book groups in particular one has to read outside one’s comfort zone sometimes. Genres, authors etc not normally chosen.  Often a splendid new is discovered, just as often one struggles to engage in plot, characters etc.

Maybe I go too far in my attempt to be fair; if I don’t particularly like a book I will say so but I try to work out if it is a good book for its type.

Cosy  Mystery?

Does it deliver Cosy Mystery?

Chick Lit (what a dreadful name)?

Does it do what it says on the tin?

If they do, then they should not be marked down to zero just on a gut dislike. Well, in my opinion they shouldn’t. Every book I have ever read deserves some mark. Maybe I have been lucky.

This problem becomes worse when up here in cyberspace. Here everything is universal,not local. Everything up here remains as long as radioactive decay, maybe longer:) Up here the star system appears to be all over the place. Many authors lament anything less than 5 stars

 5 stars would mean perfection.

While I appreciate that is a wonderful thing to be told that your book is perfection,  it is just not possible to write a book that is perfection for every reader.  Giving 5 stars for a book that has room for improvement begins to make a nonsense of the star system.

On Goodreads, 3 stars means the book was enjoyed.

3 stars does not mean the book is being trashed, does not mean your life as  an author has slid down the side of a pit.

It means someone enjoyed the book!!:)

What a wonderful thought, someone enjoyed your imaginary world.

I have given 5 stars for a few – these have mostly been books that have travelled through many decades with me, standing the test of decades, giving the same intensity of enjoyment after the 20th or 40th or. . . reading.

I mostly give 3 and 4 stars. I enjoy, at some level, most books I read.

I have reluctantly given a 2 star for books I really didn’t like  much at all, unless it is impossibly bad, there is always something I can enjoy in a book.

I don’t give a rating of 0 or 1 to the rare books I really dislike because I  feel it is my fault somehow.

I began entering all the books I could remember reading before I realized the importance, to many, of the star system. I am now in the process of adding the stars, it may take some time but one thing I am sure of when I have finished there will be no zeros. There is always something worth a star in every book.

The Earth Hums in B Flat; Book Friends:Musing Mondays


This last two weeks, while I have been ill, I have indulged in a bit of a reading fest. Because my head was stuffed and my lungs cranky I kept to lighter books such as fantasy and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy – I will be reviewing them in the following weeks.

I also had to read a book for one of the book groups I belong to. It was to be a re-read, I had recommended it to the others (hope they liked it) I knew I had really enjoyed it the first time years ago. So I settled down to do so again.

The Earth Hums in B Flat

 Every night, 12-year-old Gwenni Morgan flies in her sleep. She leaves the bed she shares with her sister and soars into the night sky, listening to the nighttime sounds of her small Welsh village below. Irrepressible Gwenni — a dreamer full of unanswerable questions and unbounded curiosity — is childlike yet touchingly adult. Reluctantly facing a modern world, she prefers her nightly flights to school and her chores. Blessed with the uncommon insight of a young girl, Gwenni’s view of the world is unparalleled.

Quaint, odd, touched, funny in the head: Gwenni is all too familiar with the taunts of her peers and fields them with equanimity beyond her years. She knows she can no more change her nature than stop the sun from rising.

When a neighborhood family is rocked by the sudden, unexplainable disappearance of their patriarch, Gwenni believes that her unknown talents will allow her to discover the truth. But distinguishing fact from fiction carries more difficulties than she first predicted, and her quest for answers will soon lead her closer to home than she ever imagined. (Goodreads blurb)

 Well what a treat I had I had forgotten just what a delight young Gwenni Morgan was.

The Earth Hums in B Flat is by Mari Strachan and was her debut novel and what a debut.

Enough to make anyone give up:)

There are some titles I personally cannot resist – how could resist this one.

I have run out of delicious words to describe, what on the face of it is, an ordinary enough tale. Narrated through the eyes and heart of Gwenni Morgan, 12 years old, brimful of curiosity beyond sense, imagination richer than her peers, and  of a tenacious breed of impressibility.

The tale is a dark one filled with domestic abuse, mental disorders, and illegitimacy. Of family secrets best left secret. Yet Mari Strachan has delivered not just a heart breaking novel but a tremendously uplifting book.

Gwenni innocently sets out to emulate her favourite literary detectives in solving a mystery. Against everyone’s advice and orders. She is not deterred

She knows something is wrong, Gwennie can fly in her sleep and she has seen something wrong:) Now whether or not this is her imagination or she really can fly is left to the reader to decide. Through this child, Mari Strachan has managed to imbue this closet full of darkness with a freshness which, without diminishing these dark deeds, offers an intense and improbably, an enjoyable read.

Gwenni inhabits a small closed North Welsh community in the 1950s,a chapel driven world tiptoeing, as are the children, toward a scary modernity and growth. A community full of treacherous undercurrents best , in most folks opinion, left alone.

She is also beset with the usual troubles of childhood, of friends betrayal, her own body’s betrayal and the fear of growing older. Gwenni’s first mystery is solved, not by her, but then she is in full cry after injustice and fairness, still ignoring advice to leave well enough alone and with events spiralling out of control, family secrets and modernity begin to unravel all that is familiar to her.

Mari has captured brilliantly the mind of this child of too much imagination and too much reading – can their ever be too much?:) She has peopled her book with some wonderful characters and her eye for detail and description all come together in a fabulous read. Better maybe if possible the second time around.

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Have you ever made a new friend because of a book? (or books)?
My immediate thought was no – however, immediate thoughts at my age, of uncertain memories and telescoping of time, are often wrong:) Through life my friends have seldom shared enthusiasms for the same kind of books as myself, all we had in common was that we read, they were friends first.

But. . . but. . . but –  a few years ago now, after a loss of books, I did join a book group to try and solve my problem and amongst the members were two others whom I became friendly with. I had forgotten because I joined the U3A on their recommendation  almost immediately  after meeting them, To my memory they are U3A friends.

I have been a member of the U3A ever since. Through the U3A they have become part of the Living History and Writing groups that I run. So with the Reading Group still going after 15 years and the other two groups which I run (10 years and 9 years respectively) we meet up three times a month and on other occasions such as lunches; over the years we have become good friends.

They are friends with differing tastes than myself – but in fact we enjoy more of the same than any other friends I have.
So yes it was initially books that introduced us.

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

 + a random question of the week

Happy reading everyone:)

Kate Atkinson and changing styles



I fell into Kate Atkinson’s writing years ago when I first read Behind the Scenes of the Museum – followed by Human Croquet and Emotionally Weird. I loved her collection of short stories, Not the End of World.  This was an author I could hope for a lifetime of good books from.

Then she published Case Histories and my loyalty took a beating.

A detective book!

Where the magical and lyrical quirky imagination? Detective books are two a penny I grumbled, as I read the blurb on the back cover.

Traitor, I could have thought, as the Bob Dylan fan did when Bob changed to a new sound – I had dismissed that fan as a Luddite. I could follow Bob into the grave maintaining whatever he sang was worth listening too.

Could I do so with Kate?

The fact that she had changed genre hampered me at first, but the sheer brilliance of her storytelling won me over.

Kate has an eccentricity of imagination which can weave together compelling plots, sub plots, darkness and wit in an often lyrical and always satisfying way. Such a keen observer of human nature, the psychology of her lovingly and fully drawn characters always appears to ring true. Some have referred to Dickens in the same breath and I can see where they come from. In the deft way she can keep all the stories convincing, her characters the ability to combine darkness with domesticity and mix chaos with the mundane.

There have been four now with the same hero – is Jackson Brodie a hero? Yes, of course, but no superman, far from it. I have settled into her new format and enjoy them as much as have her first four. Now I am about to have challenge myself again for on my TBR pile I have Life after Life.  No detective this, but a time changing experience, they tell me, and her next book presumably the same – I can do it. While her writing remains so high and her skill of storytelling so good I look forward to delighting in her books for years to come.

Recently one of my reading groups down here in reality had Started Early took my Dog which  pleased most of the members, even those who like me had fallen for her earlier writing. I was reading it for the third time and enjoying it more each time. A mark if ever of a good read.

Started Early, Took My Dog: (Jackson Brodie)

Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson

This is the fourth of Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson. It is full of murdered women, has connections between the events in the 70s to the present day, secrets to be kept at all costs, and Brodie wanders into it all unarmed by any useful information.

Tracey Waterhouse, a retired lonely policewoman, unmarried and unfulfilled, makes a spontaneous decision leading her to take an action which is not only illegal but highly dangerous, changing her life completely.

Brodie Jackson appears to be a hard action man, certainly attracting action against him. However, some could argue he is naive and continually being taken in, or indulging in failed relationships. He starts this book on a quest to trace the ancestry of a woman in New Zealand, who was adopted in Britain. He increasingly finds mystery, murder and mayhem, and finds his paths crossing that of another at frequent intervals. Adding to his general confusion, he is fighting alone, against unknowns.

Running alongside his search for his clients birth parents run a more sinister and dangerous plot line.

Kate Atkinson brings a deft touch to the stories of Jackson Brodie, there’s humour lacing the edges of darkness. The plots, although convoluted and full of subplots and little detours, seem realistic enough and the endings even more so.

As with the other three books, you do need to keep your wits about you, this is not a straightforward cozy mystery novel, but rather an intricate weaving together of disparate threads. In this tale of Brodie’s we have child abduction and the murder of women of the night ,two classes of the population who are not automatically protected. We have police cover-ups, dementia and violence .

Oh and we have a dog as well:)