Not Enough Women

Amelia always watches in fascination as I read, and then gets angry when she can’t turn the thick cardboard pages of her own books.  This got me thinking that much of the literature I read is by male authors, and in the future, I will be wanting to introduce Amelia to a good blend of both men and women.

Winter reading with Amelia, she made sure I was pronouncing all the words correctly.

As most of my readers are of the female variety, this is where your expertise would be greatly appreciated.  I would love some recommendations for good authors, especially beyond the women who wrote the classics.  I have a bit of list of books gathered already but would love to add to it and have a richer reading list.

I am already a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, Irène Némirovsky as well as the recently read Marguerite Yournecar, and Daphne Du Maurier, and plan to read some more Barbara Kingsolver, Dava Sobel, Eowyn Ivey, and Enid Blyton. Continue reading “Not Enough Women”

The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

Whisked away from his comfortable, uncomfortable life in his hobbit-hole in Bag End by Gandalf the wizard and a company of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon.  Although quite reluctant to take part in this quest, Bilbo surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar!

By now, I am assuming that The Hobbit is well known to pretty much everyone, so I won’t go too in-depth into the book. After the terrible film adaptations, it was always going to be a bit of time before coming back to this story. Now, with the memory of the stretched-out trilogy dulled enough to appreciate the prose again, the road well-travelled, was once again traversed.

The tale is rich in detail and full of adventure. Middle Earth is full of song – interestingly most are Dwarfish – and feels ancient, it’s impressive for a world to be established so quickly in the reader’s mind.  As the journey continues on through the seasons, and months are counted off, it feels appreciatively real, and the characters’ weariness becomes a lot more believable.  For a short book, it really does a stand-up job of an exhausting, if pleasurable trek.

The best part for this reader were the tantalising hints at things happening in distant locations, those were stories I wanted to hear, as well.  The world felt vast and lived in, and this is enhanced with the addition of maps.   I’ve always hankered for those stories Tolkien never wrote about, the ones suggested by places mentioned on his maps.  This sense of mystery always keeps the world pleasingly incomplete and open to my imagination’s wondering. Continue reading “The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien”

The Magic of Reality – Richard Dawkins

Magic takes many forms. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting that the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality – science.

Packed with inspiring explanations of space, time and evolution, laced with humour and clever thought experiments, The Magic of Reality explores a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena. What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? What causes tsunamis? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning, inspirational detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist too.

Richard Dawkins elucidates the wonders of the natural world to all ages with his inimitable clarity and exuberance in a text that will enlighten and inform for generations to come.

The copy that currently occupies shelf space next to St Augustine’s Confessions – as I confess I get a kick out of putting unlikely titles next to each other –  is the hardback edition, and it is a lavish, weighty, and fully illustrated, which is preferable to the paperback edition.

Dave McKean (one of the artists involved with Neil Gaiman’s magnificent The Sandman series, amongst other projects) is behind the varied and in many cases gorgeous illustrations.  There is plenty here to thrill the eye as well as to inform, and it will appeal to children as much as it will adults.  The intention is to attract all to the wonderful world of science, which it does.

Dawkins has departed from his usual style of writing in favour of something simpler, and I didn’t find the book particularly challenging, it was however very insightful and anybody with a love of exploring science and revelling in the knowledge we have accumulated over the millenia will enjoy the book. Continue reading “The Magic of Reality – Richard Dawkins”

Treasure Hunting

Throughout the last week I’ve been on a quest following rabbit trails like an intrepid adventurer.  Trawling through sources, hunting for names and locations, it was an unexpectedly exhilarating romp through a wealth of riches.

Recently, I unearthed my much-prized DVD boxset of The Mysterious Cities of Gold (based on Scott O’Dell‘s novel, The King’s Fifth), which happens to be my favourite ever cartoon.  The blend of history, adventure, and an atmospheric soundtrack have stayed with me since first watching in the mid 80’s, as does the beautifully realised scenery which never fails to make me happy and in a creative mood.

Originally, the BBC cut out the mini documentaries at the end – presumably for the bits of mild nudity – which is a shame as we children watching could have been further inspired by the real history of the Conquistadors and the native peoples of South and Mesoamerica, their myths, beliefs, and culture.

Watching this again brought back many memories.  The first, the excitement of picking up the DVDs in my mid-to-late 20’s and wondering if it would be as I remembered (it was and so much more).  The surprise discovery and fascination of seeing those documentaries for the first time, which although looking very outdated, struck a chord and further encouraged me to fill out my knowledge of the subjects mentioned. Continue reading “Treasure Hunting”

Smugglers’ Cove – Pat Coleman

Seb, Mike, Peter, and Fiona are a successful team for exploring.  But will they succeed in tackling a problem which seems too big for them – How to help Peter escape from his past and find a new future.

I picked this book up purely for the nostalgia trip.  I remember owning a pristine copy decades ago, and looking again front cover before reading commenced, there was a faint recollection of a child on a swing.

After more study of the front cover, appreciating the details my young eyes studied so long ago, I have to ask, is anyone bothered by the placement of the apostrophe?

This is a flimsy book at only 96 pages, which was somewhat surprising but as memory is not what it used to be, not altogether shocking.  The appeal of the book, as I recall, was more to do with the idea of secrets and smuggling.

Finishing this in one sitting, there is little in the way of illicit goods and the secrets are fairly standard, in fact the whole story doesn’t have much impact at all, which is a shame as the setting has plenty of scope for adventure and mystery. Continue reading “Smugglers’ Cove – Pat Coleman”

Gloaming Thoughts

The family snooze away in bed, and I write late into the night.  A beer on the go, and a nocturnal cool settles subtly on my bare arms.

Books are, of course, my chosen subject to write about, a topic that has so many facets, often hidden in plain sight, and so much scope.

Yet as I catch up with the notes on my recent reads, the memories of books long given away take over.

In this late and gently expiring hour, the recollections come thick and fast.  The night always makes one introspective, especially for the past.

On this particular night my eye – and hand – run down the imaginary bookshelf of recall, mixed with different eras of my collecting, the covers vivid and smooth.

An old Famous Five cover from a nearly complete set purchased years ago, the variously tactile cover of the hardback edition of Endymion Spring…

An exploration of architecture in Egyptian temples, and the stark bleakness of outer space, adventuring astronauts lost to everything but themselves.

It’s these times I value.  The unique wanderings in a labyrinthine world of words, reminding me of literary corridors I will, perhaps, walk down again…

Whether in contemplation or purposely.

Reminders of books moved on, in necessity or wrongly thought of as outgrown, treasures lost to me in haste.

Always these ghosts come at night, I like it that way, I am forever grounded in their literary shadow.  Elusive yet bound to my heart.

 

*Image found at Pixabay

Catching the Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

Thomas is aboard no ordinary boat in ‘Catching the Wind’. After hoisting the Spinnaker, a flying parachute, and running before the strongest of the four winds, the magic sail lifts the boat towards the sky and moves it to a different time and place. Thomas is hurtled through the sky, past a magnificent array of colours. He must start a new adventure in the North Pole…

‘Laura’ loved her school. Her teacher introduced her to an ancient Greek writer known by the name of Homer. He lived far away from her midnight land and Laura wondered if he had heard stories about her land, dominated by summer light and winter darkness…

It is sixty-five meters long and half a metre wide. It is an embroidery of woollen thread, red, yellow, two shades of green and three shades of blue, on a grey linen backing. ‘A Living Tapestry’ follows Pani’s escapades to the Tapestry Museum in Bordeaux, Normandy. Standing in front of a very old masterpiece, Pani considers the history behind the design…

These three beautifully crafted but very different stories will delight imaginative children everywhere.

An unexpected but most welcome addition to the Wind series,  once again Jørgensen has crafted an excellent and imaginative selection of stories which are satisfying, inspiring, and gently instructive for those with an adventurous spirit.

In this latest collection the reader is heartily welcomed to the delights and magic of the aurora borealis, introduced to Homer’s The Odyssey, through the eyes of a child, and a study of the details of the bayeux tapestry.  These jaunts into history and culture are fantastic jump off points for the excavation of the human journey. Continue reading “Catching the Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen”