Friday, 31 December 2010

A Failure

A year ago I signed up to the 100+ Reading Challenge promoted here, pledging to try to read 100 books in a year. I fell sadly short at only 71, but looking at the lists February and September were the months that let me down. In February my maternity leave ended and I went back to work full time, and in September I began at a new school. Not excuses, but explanations as to why my reading patterns changed so much in those months!

1. Messiah by Boris Starling
2. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday
3. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
4. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6. The Reader by Bernard Schlink
7. No Second Chance by Harlan Coben
8. Dead Tomorrow by Peter James

9. Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka
10. Suite Francais by Irene Nemirovsky
11. Raise the Red Lantern by Su Tong
12. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

13. The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan
14. Over by Margaret Forster
15. Dubliners by James Joyce
16. Beyond the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
17. The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
18. Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

19. My Life Closed Twice by Nigel Williams
20. Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani
21. Innocence by Ian McEwan
22. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
23. Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones
24. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
25. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

26. Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor
27. In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan
28. The intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour

29. Possession by Peter James
30. Identity by Milan Kundera
31. DNA by Dennis Kelly
32. Martyn Pig by Kevin Brooks
33. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
34. Heroes by Robert Cormier
35. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
36. The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams

37. Bloodline by Mark Billingham
38. The White Tiger by Aravind Aviga
39. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
40. Solar by Ian McEwan
41. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

42. The Wrong Boy by Willy Russell
43. The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville
44. Expresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith
45. England, England by Julian Barnes
46. Once in a House on Fire by Andrea Ashworth
47. Poetry Please editied by Charles Causley
48. The Snow Door by Charles Ashton
49. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

50. The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
51. A Scavenger's Tale by Rachel Anderson

52. The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh
53. The Warden by Antony Trollope
54. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith
55. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
56. Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo
57. Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa

58. Tales of Beedle the Bard by J K Rowling
59. Tribes by Catherine McPhail
60. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
61. Snobs by Julian Fellowes
62. The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett
63. The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Absolom
64. Murder in the Museum by Simon Brett

65. The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
66. Body Surfing by Anita Shreve
67. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
68. The Day After, Barefoot Gen Volume II by Keiji Nakazawa
69. Dead Like You by Peter James
70. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
71. Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson

A quick scan of the titles shows a high proportion of crime fiction. Peter James and Simon Brett I enjoy because they are local. The stand-out read was The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, which I found to be a real thriller, a sinister, genuine 'page turner' that left me not wanting to be alone at night and which I felt to be far superior to Steig Larsson, to whom he is regularly compared. The other one I thoroughly enjoyed was Messiah by Boris Starling, but since he promised to read and give me some advice on my own crime novel over a year ago, and hasn't, I'm feeling less charitable towards this writer than I was!

I also noticed how many of the classics I seem to return to. Some of this is as a result of my job; I always re-read any book that I happen to be teaching. There was a disproportionately large number of titles by Ian McEwan, one of my favourite writers, though this year's novel Solar, that I was so excited about, didn't live up to my expectations.

My other favourite books of the year would be The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell. I enjoyed the structure of this dual narrative, and the way that you were kept guessing about how the two stories were intertwined until the final pages. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson was also memorable: A twist on my usual crime fiction fare, with a whole host of characters to whom I felt some sympathy. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was engaging and unsettling and I am delighted to see it on the GCSE syllabus this year. Two Caravans was probably the funniest thing I read, and Lucia, Lucia the most heart-warming. Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a book that I return to again and again, so it was a tragic pleasure to read once more in preparation for my A-level literature group.

I hate not meeting a challenge and will definitely make 100 in 2011!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Dear Father Christmas

This was dictated to me by number one daughter yesterday:

Dear Father Christmas,

I really have been a very good girl. For ages. I have tried not to be naughty. I haven't done any snatching from Jenna or Emily at nursery, and definitely no biting or scratching. I have used the new grown-up toothpaste that Mummy told me too, even though it makes my tongue hurt. I haven't got my clothes dirty. I have gone to bed when I'm told and I haven't got up in the night. I haven't had any accidents for absolutely ages. I eat up all the things that I am told too, and even when I really, really don't like them I will have three mouthfuls.

Because I have been such a good girl, I really hope that you will bring me a space hopper and a scooter and a Hello-Kitty-cat and a clock for my room. Maybe some toy food as Kempton chewed some of it. Toy milk, please. She chewed that up.

I think that my brother, Gilby, would like a football, a tambourine and cars and a tractor. He has been a good boy too and hardly ever cries now.

With lots of love, and I'm very excited,

(Self signed, with nine kisses)

Luckily, Santa already knew about the scooter and the space-hopper. And I am touched that she thought to ask on behalf of her brother.

I have no idea what a Hello-Kitty-Cat is and I can't think why a three year old would want a clock, except that there was one on the wall in the kitchen when she was trying to think about what to ask for. I notice there is no mention of Peppa Pig, so Santa may have misjudged her (rapidly waning, it seems) affections for old Peppa.

And toy milk? I think that this is the last year we will get away so lightly...

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Leaning Tower of Gilby

Yesterday, Gertie learned how to write her name. Now, admittedly, I am probably the only person who is actually able to decipher the letters, given her unique style, but it was an exciting moment nevertheless.

This was overshadowed, however, by Gilby suffering his first nose-bleed. I say 'nose-bleed' as though that were the incident in itself, though it was in fact brought on by a tumble. Well, actually, forwards out of the bath on account of his disproportionately large head making him top-heavy.

It happened whilst he was leaning out of the bath trying to reach a toy that he had dropped, and being wet with bath-water he was simply too slippery to catch.

So that was it. Blood everywhere. And not a pretty sight in the aftermath when the crusted dry blood around his nostrils was taken in to account alongside the refusing-to-be-treated impetigo and the just-appeared-oh-god-do-we-have-any-drops-left-from-last-time-conjunctivitus.

Poor Gilbert. Not looking at his most handsome. Lucky his sister's so clever.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Walking in a Winter-Floppy-Land

Gertie's assessment of the wintry world this morning?

"Look Mum, it's gone all floppy!"

"Do you mean, the trees?

"Everything. And look, all the branches have dinosaur mouths!"

Oh to be three-and-a-half.

But I can kind of see what she means...