A Ginger Tom, Spending the children’s inheritance and Hearts definitely not made of stone

Earlier this year I did register on the social media website Good Reads but have not been that prolific at putting book reviews on the site, partly because I have only a small handful of ‘friends’ who are also on Good Reads.  However, when I first began writing blogs last February, after a spell of down time from the world of work, I did post reviews of books.

So what have I been reading lately. Well a wide range of literature. A neighbour left a copy of a Street Cat Named Bob out for me and told me to pass it on when I have finished which I will do in the form of a Christmas card to a friend who has two cats and who adores my own ginger female, Marmalade. Streetcat documents the story of the incredible bond between man and feline whereby James wakes up one morning in his social housing – he is on a Methadone programme – to find a dishevelled cat with several health problems waiting outside his front entrance. He takes the cat in and tends his wounds but the cat makes it clear that he wants to go wherever James goes. James is busking at the time but once Bob is on the scene, his takings in his upturned hat treble. James is a street survivor having lived on the streets for several years before getting his flat. He makes use of the free time available on the internet at the local library and he also knows where he can obtain free medical help for Bob which he does. The cat begins to travel with him wrapped around his shoulders but after meeting up and reconciling himself with his mother in Australia James decides the time has come to get a proper job. He becomes a Big Issue seller and is amused by the attention he and Bob receive and the number of times he is videoed or photographed. One day he hears some Japanese tourists calling to Bob by name and referring to him as The Big Issue Cat. A trip to the library confirms that there is a plethora of pictures and videos on the internet via UTube. One day he is approached by a literary agent who offers him help to write his story about the relationship between himself and the ginger Tom. She finds him a ghost writer and they work together to bring the book to print. You will be unable to read to the end without shedding the occasional tear.

After that I read Blowing It by Judy Astley, a book I have had gathering dust on my bookshelf. I am rescuing the occasional paperback that has patiently awaited its debut. This was an enjoyable and, I think, Chick Lit novel. I am not sure of what defines a book as being in the chick lit category other than it could be a romantic novel. A couple plan to sell their house and travel round on a gap year of their own seeing various festivals on their travels. Their three children who are all in relationships, are not at all pleased with this turn of events. The youngest is planning a gap year but wants everything the same as she left it on her return. The children's relationships begin to wither as the book progresses and amusingly all have returned home after broken romances so their parents find them not only back home but back with the grandchildren. After a predictable – we are told our plots should not be predictable aren't we – brush with death which their father experiences, all arrangements are put on hold but the couple don't give up the idea entirely but plan a move to a nearby house which is less 'tired' and smaller. The Gap year will take place next year, partners are reunited and everyone lives happy ever after.

I then found Hearts of Stone by Audrey Pembroke on a library shelf. Audrey is a fellow member of Swanage Writers’ group and one or two members have read the book. I was very impressed, not only with the main plot and strong characters but with the sub plots which were cleverly interwoven throughout. Perhaps again a slightly predictable ending but this didn’t spoil the story as the manner in which the young heroine made her mark on the people at the big house, maintained her dignity and attracted the attentions of the widowed Sir Alan was fast-paced and the sub plots left as a surprise til the end. What a pity that this book has gone out of print. There are 10 copies available on Amazon being sold at the princely sum of one penny plus postage but, living in Swanage, as does Audrey, I was able to borrow the library copy without requesting it. A good read and not to be missed.

At one stage during the reading of the books above I picked up a Jenny Colgan book from the shelves of Swanage Library. Its title – Diamonds are a girl’s best friend – only became clear on the last two pages so this was a complete surprise. It charts the life of a Very Rich Girl who is waited on by servants – she has never even made herself a cup of tea – until one tragic night when her father dies suddenly. A clause in his will states that she must live independently for six months before she can claim her inheritance. She is resolute in her task striving to find herself accommodation despite having no money and being asked to clean up after three lads and a dog in lieu of rent. Eventually the worst happens when she discovers that her stepmother has sold the house as her father has left debts and failing investments rather than the millions she had expected. The Diamonds seem to escape her clutches but they do reappear in time for a happy ending. The characterisations in this book are excellent and despite her spoilt nature, we can sympathise with Sophie and be willing her to make a success of her life.

Having enjoyed White Tiger by Aravind Adiga I expected to find his Between Assassinations equally compelling but at one quarter of the way through the novel I am fairly confused by all the different characters he is introducing in each chapter. I shall plod on regardless as his writing style is quite captivating.

There are some other books awaiting my attention – one is After the Feast is Finished – which I seem to remember I bought after hearing it reviewed. It is about the aftermath of a bereavement.

Having taken a few lessons out of the Dorling Kindersley Cut the Clutter by Cynthia Townley Ewer I have pulled several pop-psychology books off the shelf and taken them to our local Oxfam Bookshop. Titles such as The Road Less Travelled and Men are from Mars Women are from Venus have been sitting there for years. I have dipped in and out of them periodically but have now come to the age when I think I am past redemption and I cannot recall the last time I looked at them. Others were I’m OK, You’re Ok and Berne’s The Games People Play which I was encouraged to read when I took my teacher training course nearly thirty years ago.

One reason my book shelves are so full of unread books is that my youngest daughter was for many years leading up to motherhood in the publishing world so was able to rescue books from the pulp shelf and, therefore, birthday and Christmases would see a carrier bag o books handed over. Cut The Clutter is a DK book so I believe this may have arrived a year ago when she worked at the publisher for a brief period.

I did offer some of my books to the local library, particularly those concerning reading, spelling and how to cope with dyslexia but I was told that they do not take books in if they are more than five years old. What a shame as the books I have are true classics in the field of Special Needs and are still required reading on the many in-service training courses. I have tried advertising the books locally with no result. I did sell a good many of my teaching books via an ex colleague and also via local networks so I am thinking of re-connecting and seeing if some of these books can find a use with someone else who is still active in the field.

My Christmas email landed in the inbox of an ex colleague who replied asking what I was doing. Not teaching was my answer. I have really come to the end of the road there now that technology seems to have outstripped my capabilities and the brain cells are forever slowing down. Writing is what I do now and I don’t seem to have lost the ability to be prolific. So there is another book I have been reading The Writers’ Handbook 2009. I know I should have an up-to-date one but for many outlets little changes. Having had a spending spree in the summer, I have to say that the best resolution from the book was to go on the Don’t Buy It Diet’ It is amazing how little you need when you keep this affirmation clearly in your head.

A Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to all my readers.

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