The Enchanted Wood - Enid Blyton
The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
the Folk Of The Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
Love Match: Nelson vs. Navratilova - Sandra Faulkner with Judy Nelson
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time - Mark Haddon
J Is For Judgment - Sue Grafton
Adventures of The Wishing Chair - Enid Blyton
The Wishing Chair Again - Enid Blyton
More Wishing Chair Stories - Enid Blyton
K Is For Killer - Sue Grafton
At The Heart Of The Dales - Gervase Phinn
No Man's Island - Susan Sallis
TOTAL NUMBER OF BOOKS READ THUS FAR in 2008: 84
08 were books I'd read before
04 were a first time reads
I decided to re-read The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton following the 'Top 100 Book Meme' as it was one of the books on the list. The books tell the story of three siblings, Joe, Bessie and Frannie who move, with their parents, to the country and discover a wood in which there is a wonderful tree. This is The Faraway Tree, which is magical, has all kinds of non-human people living in it, and has a cloud at the top that leads up into the multitude of magical lands. The lands come one at a time, stay for a time and then move on.
The children meet lots of the tree inhabitants and their particular friends are Moon Face, Silky and Saucepan Man (whom they actually rescue early on from one of the lands). They are wonderful, magical stories, told very much in Blyton's own indomitable way. These children aren't wealthy, in fact their mother has to take in washing, but like most of the children in her books they are well behaved, have good manners and are a pleasure to be around - but they also aren't perfect, they do end up in scrapes too. They are nice, easy, gentle fun reads.
The Wishing Chair books are about a brother and sister (Peter and Mollie) who one day find, in an antique shop, a wonderful chair. The chair can grow wings and thus takes them wherever they wish to go. They go on many exciting trips, not all good, and early on they rescue a little pixie called Chinky who then shares most of their adventures with them. As with The Faraway Tree books, they visit many magical lands (indeed at one point they fly over the wood in which the Faraway Tree lives.
When I was a child I remember I only had two Wishing Chair books and reading the third book gives me reason to believe that actually the stories within were originally published as short stories between the first book and the second. The reasons I think this are because in the second book the wishing chair ends up with new wings and they are a different colour, whereas in the third book they are back to the original colour. Also the stories in the third book don't follow on from one another in the way they do in the first two books. Again nice, easy, gentle, fun reads.
Love Match. During Wimbledon I always read at least one tennis book, and this year I chose to read the story of the break-up between Martina Navratilova and her lover Judy Nelson. The early part of the book deals with how they met, how Judy finally left her husband and sons and began to travel with Martina, how they went through a 'marriage' ceremony together, how in love they were, how happy they were and how they'd planned their future together. And then things fell apart and turned very nasty.
The couple signed a legal document agreeing that any monies made by either of them during their time together would be split equally between them. When it came to the break-up Martina claims that, although she signed the paper, she thought it had said something else. The case goes to trial, which given it was held in Texas a place, certainly at that time, whereby lesbianism was not acknowledged and the rights of women were not good, did not bode well for Judy.
No one (outside of Judy and Martina) will ever know what truly happened and although the book was clearly written partly by Judy herself it isn't as one-sided as you might think. It's quite a poignant read about one of the greatest female tennis players ever and her off-court life. Unlike a lot of tennis books this one does not focus greatly on the tennis and giving page after page of statistics, but on the two women. I enjoyed it; it's not a re-read for me, most of these types of books aren't, but I did enjoy it.
The Alphabet series. Kinsey continues to solve cases, get into scrapes, learn things about herself - most significantly that she does in fact have a family alive and well and living fairly near by. She meets two of her cousins, but is still trying to decide if she wants to meet the matriarch and indeed wants to even acknowledge a family who disowned her mother and had never tried to find out how she was. The supporting characters are still around and we get development with them too. I'm still enjoying my re-read of the series very much indeed.
At The Heart Of The Dales is the most recent book in the series about a Schools' Inspector in Yorkshire. As with the other books they contain a mixture of humour, poignancy, wryness, almost disbelief and proof that 'out of the mouths of babes' is so very true indeed. It's fascinating to see school life in Yorkshire in the 70s and compare it to one's own schooling. The core characters, who have been there since books 1 and 2 are still around and we touch on each of them to some extent. They are fairly light reads, very gentle and enjoyable. I'd recommend them to anyone.
No Man's Island. I haven't read anything by Susan Sallis before, but J's mother was reading it when she was last here and left it saying I might like it (she didn't particularly). It's set in Cornwall and is a mixture of a romance and a mystery all rolled into one. Binnie, the main character, learns that her ex-husband has died and that she has been left his island; for various reasons she decides to go there immediately to see if she can start a new life. But she leaves behind her a mysterious man who turned up, seems to have at least partial if not complete amnesia but also is certain he knows the area. If one can ignore the rather dreadful major factual error (i.e. there is no body, thus no proof of death, but hey Binnie can go ahead and claim the island and her ex-husbands second ex-wife is about to sell the house he left to her) then I found it a fairly good read.
I've just read the reviews on Amazon, that really do dish it. But then I've never tended to judge books on other people (especially perfect strangers) views. Yes it was trite and convenient in places, but overall I found it a good, fairly riveting read. Oddly enough it was a book that I did nearly give up on as by the end of chapter two I wasn't sure about it. It wasn't enough to stop reading but more a 'can I be bothered'. I was glad to persevered. I won't be re-reading it, but I have ordered another couple of her books just to see.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time was another book that appeared on the above-mentioned 'Top 100 Book Meme'. It was a book I had, but had yet to read. Several people on my flist recommended it highly, so I decided now was the time to read it. It tells the story of Christopher, a fifteen year old boy who has Asperger's Syndrome. Christopher is a brilliant mathematician, in fact he is about to sit his Maths 'A' level and he and his father have plans in a year or so to move to a town with a University so that Christopher can go, but live at home. One night Christopher discovers his neighbour's dog one night, it's been killed and so he decides to find out who did it. His investigation forms part of the book, but it also leads to a rather shocking discovery and his whole life is turned upside down, but it also leads to him achieving something no one, especially himself, would ever dreamt he could do.
Throughout the book we get snippets of how bright he is and just how good his brain is - a couple of the things he talked about/explained lost me (I'm no mathematician) but that didn't matter; in fact it added to the whole awesomeness of his ability. For all his problems one thing stands out above all others - his logic in many ways is faultless and whilst it's not the way we automatically think about things, heck if you stop and think; he's spot on.
As I said he goes to a Special School and he's not allowed to call his fellow pupils 'thick' (even though, in his eyes they are). He has to say they have 'learning difficulties' and 'special needs'. Fine, but as Christopher reasons that's daft because everyone has 'learning difficulties' because certain subjects (he quotes the theory of relativity and French) are difficult to learn, and everyone will struggle to learn/find it difficult to learn at least one subject. And he's right! He also objects to the term 'special needs' because, as he again reasons a lot of people have those too; e.g. wearing glasses to be able to see, having sugar substitute instead of sugar so as not to put on weight, using a stick, etc. etc.) The beauty of his logic, to my mind, is that, although of course we know how the terms are meant to be used, Christopher really is correct. The vast majority of us, if not all of us (using his logic) do have 'learning difficulties and a lot of us (again using his logic) have 'special needs'.
I don't know a huge amount about Asperger's Syndrome, but I do know that (like so many things) it differs in severity between different people and I am aware of some of the main characteristics. Christopher, despite being very bright, attends a Special Needs School, I assume because of various other problems he has - his aversion to people touching him is severe, indeed at one point he hits a Policeman.
It's a book that touches virtually every emotion; I laughed, I was upset, I felt sorrow and sympathy, there were a couple of parts of the book that sickened me and I was really disgusted (and sad to say they are the parts that will stay with me *sigh* I'm not sure they were necessary to be included, but there you go). I was happy for Christopher, concerned for him and so many other things.
It's a book I would recommend highly to anyone; I'm not sure I enjoyed it; I'm not sure I will re-read it. However, I am glad I did read it and it really is well worth reading.