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

The Book Monster

Book Monster

About 12 years 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 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. 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!

One of the things I aspire to do with this blog is to get back into children’s literature and fiction at some point, incorporate reviews and recommendations and see where it goes from there. Another blog I’ve discovered which does similar things is by another Mummy blogger which is doing great stuff in the Tots100 ratings.

As I currently have a baby in my life and a pre-schooler I don’t yet feel I have time to achieve these goals just yet but just to set out the stall!

In the meantime, I have posted some illustrations from some of my favourite children’s picture books. I think this stands up as some brilliant artistic talent (and some is just cutes and I love it). I visited an exhibition of illustration’s from children’s books a few years back at the British Library and I think it was one of my favourite ever.