The Book Monster

About 12 yeBook Monsterars ago I was lucky enough to be running a semi-professional website all about children’s books called The Book Monster. I wrote, edited, reviewed, interviewed and organised competitions and had the pleasure to talk to some great authors including Melvin Burgess (he of controversial Junk fame – this website very much incorporated teenage and young adult fiction), Nina Bawden (who wrote Carrie’s War) and that twisted mastermind Lemony Snicket.

 I met JK Rowling amongst others at the Smarties Book Prize awards (circa Chamber of Secrets) as well as attending several rather fabulous book launches (Louise Rennison – author of the Angus, Thongs series was a bit of a luvvie and her first two books were launched at the Groucho Club in Soho and The Ivy respectively!).

I also worked alongside Jason Wallace, a friend and colleague who specialised at the time in Sci Fi fiction and wrote and edited a website on the subject called The Fifth Dimension. He has consequently gone on to write an amazing piece of young adult fiction himself, Out of Shadows which won the Costa Book Awards Children’s Prize in 2010.

Unfortunately the company I worked for at the time cut their budgets and, as the websites were a sideline to the core business, they were closed down. I enjoyed that part of my working life probably more than any other as it gave me the chance to be a bit creative, and an excuse to revel in bookwormery!

The thing about working with books in that way, was that I was surrounded by the most brilliant artefacts as well as having a first peek at glorious artwork – I’m a massive fan of children’s book illustrations by the likes of Chris Riddell, Jonny Duddle and Ian Falconer. I also love young adult fiction (The Fault in our Stars is next on my list and I’ve been meaning to read Meg Rosen’s How we Live Now for years). Maybe one day I will try my hand at writing my own story for this market…

Linking up to Mum Turned Mom for this week’s Prompt, Books.

 

 

mumturnedmom

Having a vocation

old typewriter

I recently read this post by Sara over at Mum turned Mom. She discusses her difficulties with pronouncing to the world that she is a ‘writer’. I understand. I haven’t thought much about how I label myself in recent years, preferring to just live out each day and fulfil each role necessary (you know the score: care-giver, cook, cleaner, employee, nurse, driver, decision maker, party planner, and on, and on…) but nowadays I manage to squeeze in ‘blogger’ and ‘reader’ and ‘commentator’ too.

The problem Sara has is that she loves to write, she lives to write, but she isn’t a paid and published author. I’m the same and it got me thinking about vocation. I believe this word, this concept, has been commandeered by the careers police – those who would seek to define each person by what they do to earn their money.

I knew from an early age that I was in love with words, reading voraciously and writing for pleasure. I was steered through otherwise murky career waters by my Mum who could see what I had in me, even while I was floundering and being seduced by the idea of a Media Studies degree (pah ha ha!). I studied journalism ‘vocationally’ (at HND level) and then, disillusioned with mass market periodicals, I turned back to education and stuck my head firmly back into a *lot* more books in the shape of a four year literature degree which I loved and which I will never regret despite it doing absolutely sod all to show me which way to face as the subject of career choice once again loomed large. For me, delving into literature was like lifting a dark curtain on the rich cultural fabric of life.

At this point, I’ll throw my hands up and admit it – I’ve been a bit lazy OK? I could have done more with my life career-wise. I happen to believe that I’m as good a writer as plenty of people out there who get paid handsomely for the privilege of wearing ‘writer’ as their no.1 hat. The difference is in the drive but I still see ‘writer’ as my true vocation in life as defined in the dictionary thusly:
“an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified”. If you want (or are able or inclined) to earn money from this occupation then great, but if you don’t, why should that make it any less a part of who you are and for that matter, who you claim to be?

Because I was timid, crippled by self-doubt and woefully lacking in useful contacts as a very young woman, then lost in the detritus of everyday life, I never thought too long and hard about ‘making it happen’. Since that time I have been overtaken by munchkins intent on gathering up my rolling marbles, lost through a combination of childbirth and enforced custody in the padded cells of soft play, and they’ve been demanding a ransom of Peppa Pig ice lollies and Actimels in order to return them.

But finally some kind of fog is clearing. Reading and engaging with others who are pushing themselves forwards into a brave new world in which they embody their true vocation – well its opening my eyes to the possibilities.

And despite everything I have said about being a bit lazy and lacking a bit of drive, I know I can achieve great things – after all I completed a 20,000 word post-graduate dissertation on the subject of Information Overload (!) so just imagine what I could do with a subject I was truly engaged in…

 

Mama and Mored

Love the Little Things 29th August 2014

Read

A landing on the Sun

This week, after recently finishing ‘One Step Too Far’ I decided to steer away from more properly ‘light’ summer reading (the summer is after all, more or less over) and I clicked into another book I downloaded on my Kindle several months ago: A Landing on the Sun by Michael Frayn. Frayn wrote one of my favourite books, ‘Headlong’ so I knew I would like his style of writing which tends to take you right along on a journey with the main character, as if you are inside their mind and a fly on the wall to their thoughts and discoveries. I was introduced to this book after reading The Happiness Project back in February and it was one of the books on the recommended reading list so, despite the fact that it is set within the walls of Whitehall and deep inside the grey civil service there is an element of mystery and intrigue and I’m fascinated to know what the secret ‘strategy unit’ project is and how it relates to happiness.

Watched

GBBO

After tonight (Thursday!) I’m hoping that I will have had a chance to catch up on this week’s GBBO. I love that show and I also love puddings so this is right up my street!!

Heard

I’ve quite enjoyed listening to Scott Mills and his partner in crime Chris Stark filling in on the R1 Breakfast show this week. They have the potential to be genuinely funny.

We’ve also been treated to several new words from EJ whose language skills are finally picking up!

Wore

Fave winter boots

I rediscovered my current fave winter boots this week which is a bit of a sad thought – August isn’t even over yet! I also wore my raincoat quite a bit during the first part of the week when we were treated to a brief reminder of last winter’s floods.

Made

Epic fail on this front! It’s been one of those weeks where it’s either non-stop children or work and not much in between.

And lastly…

Cousins!

We finally got a chance to catch up with my sister in law and nephews this week. T is ten so quite a bit older than my two but O is just a couple of months apart from EJ and it was lovely to see them play together and make friends (for the most part!). We took them swimming on the rainy bank holiday which was fun and then were treated to lunch by my mother and father in law. They are moving back to the UK from Germany this week and waiting for their new house in Wiltshire to be ready to move into so we had the opportunity to share two days in their company before I had to return to work.

I have been finishing off my last purchases for JJ’s upcoming pirate party and need to make sure I have everything in hand during the coming days.

The most exciting delivery of the week however, was my new iPhone which is the first Apple device I’ve ever owned believe it or not! I’m still trying to get to grips with it at the moment but I love the look and feel of it and I’m so excited that I will finally be able to properly use apps and set up an Instagram profile! Get me – dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century!

Happy Weekend Little Loves

 

butwhymummywhy

Love the Little Things Week #8

READ

Still deep in summer reading mode! I’ve started reading One Step too Far by Tina Selkis – I thought I’d better give myself an Emily Barr break! This is the third of three that my Kindle recommended to me when I’d finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the first being The Husband’s Secret by Lianne Moriarty (bit pants) and the second being Emily Barr’s Sleeper – neither of which were in the same league as Gone Girl in my opinion. It’ll be interesting to see how I feel about this one – apparently it has a serious twist to it!

Blogging-wise I really enjoyed Emma’s Who Decides What a Successful Blog is Anyway?, Lucy’s Jolly Good Sport and thought Sian’s Bully was really brave and honest.

WATCHED

I started watching my latest offering from LoveFilm – Now You See Me:

Now you see me

This essentially seems to be an American, big screen version of Hustle. I always enjoyed a bit of Hustle – total ‘check your brain at the door’ lighthearted entertainment so I’m looking forward to the rest of this!

WORE

At the weekend I was out with the JJ (see Sunday’s coming Ordinary Moment!) and just happened to notice this unusual top from Phase Eight as we were leaving John Lewis:

(I think I might be slightly more ‘curvy’ than the model!!). With a sizeable reduction in the sales I thought there was no harm in trying it on and ended up buying it. It’s great with leggings and I always love an unusual piece of clothing – asymmetrical skirts or something with a little novelty to it so this was right up my street!

HEARD

After mentioning the fact that I’ve been loving Mr Probz Waves as a total feel summery song this year I started thinking about my own summer anthems of past years and I’ve had a little nostalgia fest! Who didn’t love Ace of Base All That She Wants?!! Any song that talks about lying on the beach and having fun is alright in my book (but I definitely don’t want another baby 😉 ). Then there was Lola’s Theme by the Shapeshifters, Summer Breeze by the Isley Brothers and, for me, there was this little spate of fab tunes from 2000 which remind me of my ‘big’ wedding (the first one!) – the best bit of which was dancing the night away with my besties (which probably says something about the fact that the marriage was doomed!!) – Woman Trouble by Artful Dodger, Don’t Call Me Baby by Madison Avenue and Lady Hear me Tonight by Mojo. Here are some of my all time Summer faves for a bit of a blast from the past:

MADE

I went a bit mad this week in my spare time and decided to try my hand at three new things – firstly, due to my current avoidance of wheat and craving for cake I knocked up these banana oat muffins:

Wheat free Banana Oat Muffins

I wasn’t expecting the children to be interested, but they confounded me by nicking a couple off the cooking rack – a sure fire sign of success!

Secondly I wanted to try out some ‘overnight oats’ – a new discovery for me – and attempted this ‘apple pie’ version (I added some strawberries):

Apple pie overnight oats

This has oats, greek yogurt, almond milk, apple and pinch of cinnamon. I enjoyed it but for my sweet tooth it could have used a little honey. The next day I made the same base but added some honey and then in the morning mixed in some banana and pecans and it was so yummy and filling!

Lastly I wanted to continue my pursuit of healthy eating and I remembered a good tip from The Fat Tummy Club book which really advocates soups as the way forward. I know soup is often thought of as a winter food, but the Fat Tummy Club has a lovely recipe for a Portuguese chicken, mint and lemon soup which receives rave review and ticks that summer food box too.

portuguese lemon and mint chicken soup

I halved the ingredients as I only wanted two portions for my work lunches but this came out (for me anyway!) basically a risotto, not a soup! I was worried that it might be a bit overpoweringly lemony for my tastes but actually I did quite enjoy it and it was great to be able to jar it up for work – really very easy!

AND LASTLY…

My boys have been bonding this week – when I got up for work this morning I could hear EJ calling to his brother from the cot which was cute. JJ slept right through it! I can see them having the same kind of relationship as my nieces used to, with the youngest always wanting the eldest to be there as a playmate and the eldest sometimes wanting a bit of space!

JJ had his transition to school sessions at big school this week. It didn’t start off too well to be honest – at nearly 5 he was clinging on to my leg and crying whilst 3 year olds gleefully ran past him without a single look back at their mums! Once I left I knew he was going to be OK because I had a sneaky look through to the playground and he was smiling and riding a bike!

I was very happy to finally have got my act (slightly) together and sent out invitations (OK, created Events on FaceBook I admit it!) for both kids’ birthday parties! Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to need for each (and EJ’s is only three week’s away – eek!).

On Tuesday I had an impromptu meet up with one of my good friends and her boys after JJ asked if we could invite ourselves round to their house when I picked him up from pre-school. It turned out she was going into town to take the kids for a sneaky ‘child friendly’ tea and so we all met up and the kids ate together and ran around like loons whilst we had a lovely catch up.

I had marinaded a lamb steak earlier in the day with olive oil, dried oregano, crushed garlic and fresh lemon juice. I’ve never done this before and I wasn’t convinced that something with such simple and few ingredients would be anything to write home about but I have to say it blew my socks off! I grilled it on my George Foreman and it tasted absolutely amazing – just like the taste of Greece – the taste of summer. I can’t rave highly enough about this although I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who will be well aware of the awesomeness of this classic combination.

I’ll leave you with this little quote my lovely sister put up on Facebook last night – and frankly, I’ll be happy if I only ever use quotes by the Cookie Monster from this day forward:

Cookie monster mindfulness

Happy Friday Little Loves!

 

butwhymummywhy

I read some chick lit by accident!

I really can blame Amazon for this one as I chose to buy ‘The Husband’s Secret’ purely based on the recommendation that popped up on my Kindle as I finished reading ‘Gone Girl’ (by Gillian Flynn) – a tricksy psychological thriller which plays a clever game with the reader’s expectations. Amazon reliably informed me that based on this book, ‘The Husband’s Secret’ might be something I would also enjoy. As such I started reading the book with high hopes but it soon became apparent that I would have trouble getting motivated to keep returning to this story.

It revolves around three central characters – the elderly mother of a teenage girl who was murdered many years before (the crime unsolved); the domestic goddess wife of a well respected and goodlooking man; and another career woman who has grown up with an abnormally close relationship to her overweight cousin only for this cousin to lose lots of weight and attempt to start an affair with her husband. I kept hoping that there would be a clever twist or a spectacular plot development but, to be honest, the ‘secret’ is something you can guess almost immediately (you may have guessed already simply by reading my incredibly potted summary!), I found the characters and story extremely contrived and the denoument somewhat too neat and tidy. There was no emotional depth to the characters and the author has not attempted any clever word play or deeper insight into the human condition. There is no room for the reader to come to their own conclusions. I realise that that’s what chick lit is much of the time – a little bit of escapist nonsense with no real pretentions to high art – but compared to some of my favourite ‘lad lit’ from Nick Hornby, John O’Farrell and Tony Parsons this volume pales significantly in comparison.

Take O’Farrell’s “The Best a Man Can Get”. Now admittedly I read this book a long time ago but a good feeling about a book stays with you. The story centres around a young man who attempts to lead a double life – on the one hand he is living like a lazy student bum in a house-share with a load of mates doing whatever pleases him and having mammoth 14 hour sleep-filled nights. On the other, he is a married man with a family (including new baby) and thereby he has found the perfect way to duck out of any kind of responsibility when it comes to supporting his poor partner.

I read this book when I was young free and single myself and remember being thoroughly entertained – this is a book with laugh out loud moments – the main character is hyper-real – and come to think of it definitely has similarities with the protagonist in Hornby’s ‘About a Boy’. I am all set to re-read this as I’m fascinated to know whether it will still entertain me now I am a mother myself, and, knowing what I know about male-female relationships even when there are no honesty issues (see my ‘Before Midnight’ review) the very idea of a man doing this – well, its would be worse and less forgiveable than finding out your partner was having an affair to be honest.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not against ‘switch your brain off at the door’ type fiction, but what I do need is a hook which has to be a bit stronger than just taking a stereotype (‘the domestic goddess’, ‘the emotionally retarded’, ‘the wronged wife’) and throwing in a few plot developments for them to deal with in their own less than perfect way. Or maybe all this says about me is that I like to be given the opportunity to laugh out loud…

The Mirror Stage

001

Anyone who’s ever seen a baby progress through their first year of life will be aware that, at some point, they become aware of mirrors and the fact that there is another little person on the other side. When my eldest first went through this phase I was reminded of something I learned when I was at university studying literature. Part of the course involved getting to grips with literary theory – a lot of which crosses over with psychology and philosophy. There is one particular theory by a French academic, Jaques Lacan, called ‘The Mirror Stage’. He suggests that babies between the ages of 6 months and 18 months discover themselves in mirrors for the first time and it gives them a sense of (false) power and control (as they can force movements in their reflection by moving themselves). It’s false because of course the reflection is not a real person any more than is a shadow.

You might wonder how this plays into literature. As I recall through my studies of the works of Henry James, the mirror stage comes into play through his ghost stories. He has two particular tales, more famously The Turn of the Screw in which a governess goes to work in a large country house to look after two children. Whilst there she becomes convinced that there is a ghost stalking the children and she becomes absolutely paranoid about their safety. She believes the ghost to be a former employee who is thought to have molested the children and imagines that the children can see the ghost too. In the final scene she speaks with the young boy and explains that he is no longer controlled by the ghost, however the boy dies in her arms. In another tale by James called The Jolly Corner, a man returns to his former childhood home after spending 30 years abroad. Seeing the house again reminds him of the choice he made years ago to forsake a career for a more leisurely life and soon a ghost appears in the house which represents the man he would have been if he’d taken a different path in life. The ghost stalks and haunts him at night.

Essentially these ghosts are projections from the fevered imaginations of the protagonists – the opposite of what happens in the mirror stage really because they are the parts of the psyche that cannot be controlled and this is the human condition beyond the age of 18 months when we first become aware that the person in the mirror is just a trick of the light.

With EJ just turned 19 months I am now fully aware that he has hit Lacan’s ‘turning point’ – the point at which we first develop our ego – the first little bit of self-knowledge. Its hardly the end of innocence but at the same time it’s a major developmental leap and kind of explains why the ‘Terrible Twos’ suddenly begin to come into play at this point. The understanding that they have both the ability to demand control but also lack control leads to unrealistic demands and massive frustrations.

I guess the best we can do as parents is try and give them the illusion of as many choices as possible (the strawberry yogurt or the apricot yogurt?) and hope that they never manage to knock themselves out in a fit of pique!

Linking up to The Prompt over at Mumturnedmom whose prompt this week was the word “Reflection”

mumturnedmom

The Happiness Project: A Review

Happiness ProjectAs I’ve mentioned before, I became aware of this book back in January and the idea of it was so appealing that I felt compelled to buy a copy at the first opportunity, duly gravitating toward the self help section of Waterstones.

The idea apparently came to the author, Gretchen Rubin, whilst sitting on a bus one day and for no particular reason. She makes no secret of the fact that she and her family are comfortably off New York City dwellers. She has two daughters – one of about 7 and a one-year-old (at the time of the book was written), a good career as a writer (having previously trained and worked in the legal profession), a loving husband, good family ties, and no major health issues or illnesses to contend with (other than her husband’s Hepatitis C which is more of a future worry than a present concern).

On the face of it, it seems odd, perhaps a little self indulgent, to launch such a project when she appears to have no great need and no real obstacles to overcome, other than her own nature, but she addresses this criticism early on, explaining that it was really an exercise in being more grateful, being less snappy with loved ones, more contented with what she has in life, and she argues that “contemporary research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likeable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in others, friendlier and healthier. Happy people make better friends, colleagues and citizens”.

From this perhaps I would re-name the book “The Self-Improvement Project”, but packaging under the heading ‘happiness’ certainly hooks you in as a potential devotee because, lets face it, who doesn’t strive for happiness throughout their life? There’s certainly nothing new about that, as Rubin is well aware, quoting everyone from Aristotle to Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Johnson.

Rubin is one of those very earnest, highly educated, intellectual Americans – a high achiever, a resolution maker and at the same time full of self doubt and constantly evaluating and criticising her own nature (which I guess is justified in the context of this book). You get the feeling that she found it harder to lighten up and get silly with her children than to plough through several ‘memoirs of catastrophe’ – by that meaning biographies written by people diagnosed with terminal cancer and the like (an exercise in learning to view life with serenity and appreciate the joy of being alive and healthy).

I’m still not convinced that everything she does in the way of prostrating herself – for example her week of ‘extreme nice’ during which she allows her husband to get away with leaving all the hard work to her and never complaining – are not just an exercise in door-mattery (I admit I just made that word up but you get my meaning!).

But despite this criticism and taking on board the author’s earnest tone and the fact that several of her ‘revelations’ are things which struck me years ago and just common sense really (for example really listening to other peoples stories, humouring, not interrupting, encouraging and affirming are as much of a gift to others as any material offering, and the fact that giving of yourself, both time, money and spiritual support, will make you as happy as the person you are helping) I did take away a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas from this book. I am very mindful right now of her mantra ‘the days are long but the years are short’ with regards enjoying and appreciating my own adorable small children, and I am looking forward to de-cluttering my life somewhat and to reading “A Landing on the Sun” by Michael Frayn which is apparently a must-read on the subject of happiness (and anyway I love Frayn!).

I also took her advice on ‘spending out’ last week when I bought my new camera – sometimes, if you buy exactly the right thing, money can buy happiness and in the case of my camera, I know this will allow me to capture many happy memories, particularly while my children are so small, and it is also the potential start of a new hobby.

Trying new hobbies, joining social groups, identifying and owning the things which interest and intrigue you (the author herself starts up a Children’s Literature Reading Group despite agonising over the seeming lack of intellectual cast to the pursuit), all these things, as well as making resolutions and sticking with them, are goals and aspirations which I will take away with me from reading this book.

I may be a very different person to Rubin but she herself acknowledges that no two people will have the same happiness project, and, despite her desire to be unique she has to acknowledge that she has tapped into, not only the zeitgeist, but the zeitgeist of every generation in seizing upon the fundamental human desire for happiness.

I’ll leave you with two of my favourite TED talks on aspects of happiness and how to achieve it.

How to Buy Happiness
Mindfulness

Indecision and Procrastination….

…are my two big enemies in life. Take books for example. I love reading and I’m always striving for that ‘perfect’ read – a book which I can come away from at the end feeling uplifted, enriched, inspired and entertained. I’ll happily take a word of mouth (or blog!) recommendation not really knowing much else about a particular volume, but I often find myself compelled to pop on to Amazon and have a quick shuffle through the reviews. Inevitably I read some great reviews and my finger hovers over the ‘Buy now’ button, then in creeps a decidedly underwhelming three star rating and I’m all turned off again.

Procrastinating

Before having children I used to be a member of a book group and that was a great way of discovering some interesting and thought provoking reads without the need or indeed the reason, to vet the book chosen beforehand.

Of course this need to vet is also the case with products – even more so in fact. Anything electronic, any gadget and I’m desperate for the low down but nothing is ever good enough if even one person has rated it substandard (even if it is to their needs and in their opinion). *sigh*

I’m currently planning on buying a camera but I won’t tell you the make and model as I’m worried you will come back with further advice that will just confuse and confound me! As it is it took me the best part of three years to finally settle on a bicycle I was happy with and even now I have it I’m still a bit unsure if it has the right specifications…

Reading this recent post by Caroline at Becoming a Stay at Home Mum I am reminded of the chapter on procrastination from Time Management for Manic Mums. The author summarised a range of different types of procrastination and I now know that I’m the type who (unlike Caroline) puts projects off for fear that they will go wrong, or worse, be left started but unfinished due to either lack of time or motivation.

So, in the spirit of self improvement I have decided to use my blog as my motivation and tackle at least one thing from my To Do list every week. This week I will be paying for our TV licence renewal, my yearly road tax and finally buying that camera!

My Fictional World…

magic book

Here it is: yet another post inspired by the prolific super-mum and super-blogger Jocelyn over at The Reading Residence!

This one is all about my relationship with books and takes the form of a little indulgent Q&A:

What were your favourite reads from your childhood?

I loved The Great Ghost Rescue by Eva Ibbotsen, Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh, The Magic Woodland trilogy by Beverley Nichols (including the Tree that Sat Down, The Stream that Stood Still and The Mountain of Magic) plus Gobbolino the Witches Cat by Ursula Moray Williams. The Hundred and one Dalmations and The Starlight Barking by Dodie Smith were also fab. And Charlotte’s Web… and The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler, Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf, Mrs Pepperpot, My Naughty Little Sister, anything by Roald Dahl – oh god I can’t stop!

There are always those books that defined your teen reads and stay with you – what were yours?

Everything written by Judy Blume, Roald Dahl’s adult stuff like The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Tales of the Unexpected, the Sweet Valley High Series, all the Nancy Drew mysteries, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, several books by Paul Zindel especially The Undertaker’s Gone Bananas a really great teen thriller akin to Hitchcock’s Rear Window in plot.I also discovered Donald E. Westlake in my teens and I adore his crime capers and also his comedy A New York Dance – probably out of print now – I found a nostalgia copy in a New York bookstore (American title ‘Dancing Aztecs’) in 1994. Goodness knows what’s become of it now!

Who are your favourite authors currently?

I love most of the stuff written by Kate Atkinson and I’m desperate to get my hands on her latest (which won the Costa Novel Award recently) Life after Life. Have loved most of the books of Christopher Brookmyre and Nick Hornby. I like a lot of Deborah Moggach’s stuff (she of Tulip Fever fame) and if I’m in really easy reading mode then I love a good James Patterson thriller. Oh and I also love everything by Sarah Waters.

Which 3 genres do you gravitate towards most often?

I’m more into literary fiction than proper genre stuff but I do love crime/mystery/thrillers. I don’t do romance or chick lit. I like psychological thrillers like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Can you choose your top titles from each of those genres?

For literary fiction, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Headlong by Michael Frayn and Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold; For crime thriller: The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubinfeld, The American Boy by Andrew Taylor and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters; and from psychological thrillers, as above Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes and Before I go to Sleep by S J Watson.

And your least favourite genres?

As I mentioned above I don’t do Romance, I’ve never read any fantasy (other than Terry Pratchett) and I don’t like the ‘chick lit’ label (although I will happily read something like Bridget Jones’ Diary which would probably be put in this category).

Of the many, many fictional and fantastical worlds, where would you most like to visit?

I haven’t read Lord of the Rings but I like the look of The Shire. And because I own the best pair of Dorothy shoes ever I guess the realm of Oz would be pretty cool!

Everyone loves a villain, right?! Who would make your favourites list?

Its got to be Moriarty and Voldemort.

Share the books that have had you sobbing?

After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold…I’m having real trouble with this one and I’ve come to the conclusion that I avoid weepy subject matter on the whole and am much more likely to gravitate towards something that would make me laugh…

And let’s end on a high! Which books leave a smile on your face, and maybe elicit a few laughs?!

As I mentioned above – Donald E.Westlake’s wonderfully gentle crime capers – try “Nobody’s Perfect”, “Good Behavior” or “Why Me?”; Ben Elton’s Stark used to be my favourite book and was definitely laugh out loud funny – I love his style. Christopher Brookmyre is another very funny writer – try “A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away” or “All Fun and Games and Somebody Loses an Eye”. “Vernon God Little” by D.B. Pierre, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. I have to admit that I am also a sucker for a bit of funny travel literature like “Round Ireland with a Fridge” by Tony Hawks and anything by Bill Bryson. The Young Visitors which was written by Daisy Ashford in 1890 when she was nine has become a comedy classic and well worth a read.

 

The Reading Residence