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Book Thirty Three - The Mersey Sound – compilation of poetry by Adrian Henri, Brian Patten and Roger McGough

Poetry, 10 /10

I really enjoyed this collection of poems. It was divided into three sections, with each section covering a different poet. These are more modern poems than others I have read so far this year, so I wasn’t sure if I would like them as much, but they were truly great. I think I enjoyed Adrian Henri’s poems the most. A lot of the poems (in the whole volume, not just his poems) were about love – love and the bitterness of it, and the emotion in the poems really came across well. They reminded me a bit of the styles of Betjemen and Auden rather than people like Hughes and Plath, which was good, as I prefer the former to the latter! There were also one or two excellent poems about war – which I will try and find and post later. Highly recommended.

Book Thirty Four - The Plague by Albert Camus

1001, Nobel, 9 / 10

This book tells the story of a town in France in which a plague epidemic develops. It describes it from the first signs, rats dying in the street, through the time when more and more people develop the disease and die of it, through a period of isolation and the closing of the town to people going in and out (I think theres a word for that but can’t think of it!), and then the recovery and opening up of the town again. The story focuses on a doctor in the town, and various of his friends and neighbours. I found this book far easier to read that I expected, and very good as it dealt with the emotions which people were feeling, and the different stages of coping with the disease and their situation (for example at first they wanted their relatives to come to the town, but then realised it would be horrible for them to be shut up in it). It was only when I was half way through that I read the back and it said that it was an allegory (my vocabulary is terrible this morning – I think that’s the word!) – or maybe its metaphor?? Anyway, whatever it is, it symbolises the occupation of France by the Nazis, and once I knew that I could kind of think of it in that way, which made it a more interesting read. Recommended, better than I thought it would be.

Book Thirty Five - The Demon Headmaster / The Prime Minister’s Brain by Gillian Cross

Children's, 8 / 10

Ah these books are great! I remember watching the children’s TV series when I was younger, and as I was reading the books I could imagine the series. The Demon Headmaster tells the story of a school in which all the pupils seem extraordinarily well behaved, and very clever. It is only a small group of children who seem to be “different” from all the other children. The story focuses on Lloyd and his brother, and Dinah, a foster child who comes to live with them. She is very clever anyway, but tries to play this down. Through her they work out what the headmaster is doing – he is hypnotising the whole school and making them learn whilst hypnotised! Lloyd, his brother and a few other children can’t be hypnotised, so that is why they have lessons separately. At the end the Prime Minister tries to hypnotise the whole country through a children’s quiz show which his school win…luckily the day is saved and he doesn’t manage it! In The Prime Minister’s Brain, the cleverest children are brought together at a strange building in London to try and guess the password for the Prime Minister’s computer – so the Demon Headmaster can try again to hypnotise the whole country. Again Lloyd and the other children who can’t be hypnotised manage to save the day by breaking into the building and stopping the Demon Headmaster at the last minute. These are great books, really inventive, and have a nice message about how not everyone is the same and not everyone fits in the same mould!

Books Thirty Six to Thirty Nine - Mennyms in the Wilderness / Mennyms Under Siege / Mennyms Alone and Mennyms Alive

Children's, 10 / 10

I did try and ration this series of books out – one a month or one a week – but I just couldn’t do it and had to read them all at once! This continues the series about the Mennym family, rag dolls which come to life. In ..Wilderness they have to leave their home while the street is under threat of demolition. Helped by a man, Albert Pond, who has seen their creator’s ghost, they move to another house in the middle of nowhere, and Soobie gets kidnapped by some boys – a fact which is helpful to know for the later books! In ..Under Siege, the Mennyms are back in their old house, and feel that their secret is in danger due to nosy neighbours and people who have begun to get suspicious that they still live in the house after so many years. In …Alone, something disasterous happens and the Mennyns suddenly lose all their life. They have been preparing for this moment, so after they have been in this state for a few months, a member of their creators distant family receives instructions to go through the house and dispose of its contents. This story continues into …Alive, where they have been bought by a antique show owner and come alive again…she knows they are alive but doesn’t want to believe it. They also meet again one of the boys who stole Soobie! This is such a great series, I love it. All the characters have such good, erm, characters, and the way they cope with being rag dolls in a human world is done very well.

Book Forty - The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Children's, Nobel, 6 / 10

Surprisingly, I had never read this book before, although I’ve seen the Disney film loads of times. The film doesn’t quite follow all the stories in this book, but the book has separate stories with Mowgli’s interactions with each kind of animal. It starts with Mowgli being brought up by wolves, and how Shere Khan casts his shadow over the jungle. The stories introduce all the well known characters, such as Baloo, Baghera, Kaa, and the monkeys. No Liverpudlian vultures though, haha! The stories were good, but there was something a bit jarring about the writing which meant it didn’t flow as well as it could have done, I’m not sure what it was about it though. This book was ok, but not as good as I expected.

Book Forty One - Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne

8 / 10

This book was very interesting, especially for someone who likes Winnie-The-Pooh as much as I do! Christopher Milne is AA Milne’s son (and, of course, the Christopher Robin of the books), and here he’s written a book about his childhood, and how his father translated the adventures he himself had into the stories in the Winnie-The-Pooh books, and then the second part of the book was about AA Milne himself, his character and a bit about his life. It was interesting to find out where the stories came from, and the character of AA Milne and how he interacted with his son. It was also interesting to note that Christopher Milne actually didn’t like being “Christopher Robin”, and in part wrote the book so that people would stop asking him about it! It was very honest in that way, it wasn’t a gushing book about how wonderful it all was at all. I enjoyed it, and recommend it for anyone who likes Winnie-The-Pooh and AA Milne’s other books.

Book Forty Two - The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins

1001, 7 / 10

This book tells the story of a mysterious “woman in white” that drawing master Walter Hartwright meets on his way to London. He is on his way to teach some young ladies, and when he meets them he explains about who he met, and they try to discover who it is. The novel goes from his point of view, to the point of view of Marian, one of the ladies he was teaching drawing, and then there are sections written by all the other characters in the book. The story continues that the man who is due to marry the younger of the ladies, Laura, just wants to get her money, and he constructs an elaborate plot which involves this “woman in white” to get it. I won’t say much more as I don’t want to ruin the story (as really that was its one main redeeming feature, that I couldn’t work out what was going to happen!). One thing which I found extremely irritating was how the female characters were written – like they were all oh so weak and delicate, and how they couldn’t possibly cope with all this terrible knowledge being imparted to them *puts hand to forehead*, argh it was just so annoying! Even when the book was written from the point of view of Marian, it still continued in this kind of way, talking about how she was so shocked she had to go and have a lie down and things. Obviously I know it was written in the Victorian era when those kind of ideas were more prevalent generally in society, but this book just seemed to do it so much! More than other books which I have read. So, overall, it was ok but a bit disappointing.

Book Forty Three - Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

8 / 10

This is the first of the books I got for Christmas! It told the story of a young man, in the 1930s, who was travelling through France, haunted by the death of his brother in the First World War. He skids and crashes on an icy mountain path, and makes his way to a nearby village. While in the village hotel he is invited to a celebration which is being held that evening. As his clothes are dirty and torn, he is given clothes to wear, a kind of fancy dress costume, and goes to the celebration. While he is there he meets a beautiful woman, and escapes with her through a secret tunnel when the evening turns into a fight with the arrival of some people dressed as knights. He wonders why he has not seen any of the people who were at the hotel, but assumes this is because it was so crowded there he just did not catch sight of them. So, he and the woman escape down this tunnel and come across a series of caves, which they, and a group of others, hide in. I won’t say anymore – but if you’ve read any other of Kate Mosse’s recent books (I haven’t read any before Labyrinth, but would like to), you will have an idea of how the story goes (and the “Ghosts” part of the title kind of gives it away!). I did enjoy this book, and it was pleasant read, but it was quite predictable towards the end as it followed the kind of style of her other books. It wouldn’t put me off any more of her books though, as I do like her style of writing and the way she blends historical fact, historical fiction, and present day fiction. Recommended as a good popular novel.

I have also read a few more books, bringing my total up to 47 this year so far! - Howards End by EM Forster, Danny The Champion of the World / James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, and Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier, but I have just discovered the Project Gutenburg website (why have I never looked at it before!) so am just off to download some books!! :)
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Ruth

September 2011

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