Back to School book blogger challenge – inspiring children


Parajunkee is having a “Back to School Book Blogger Challenge“, and has some prompts between now and August 28th for people to join in!

Challenge #4:

If you are a parent, or have advice for parents….What would you do (or think would work) to foster a love of reading in your kids?

I dont have children of my own, but understand that children copy from those around them so I suggest the following:

  • read age appropriate stories to children from an early age
  • buy books for each child and keep the books within easy access
  • let children see adults reading (it doesnt matter what) – if they see it’s something the big people do too
  • listen to a child read back to you, be it from one of their own books, or something they’ve written themselves
  • let them read books in different formats – picture books, plain narratives, comics (whatever works best for them)

Anything else I’ve missed off?

Book Review: Little Joe by Michael E. Glasscock III

littlejoeLittle Joe by Michael E. Glasscock III

When Little Joe Stout survives the car accident that took his parents’ lives, he is sent to live with his maternal grandparents in the small town of Round Rock, Tennessee. Orphaned and missing his Texas home, Little Joe is reluctant to adapt. But his grandparents, especially his grandmother, are up to the challenge of raising him despite their own struggles. Soon, childhood friendships are forged in the oddball duo of Sugar and Bobby, and—with the help of a new canine companion—Little Joe begins to see that his new home offers the comfort and love he thought was lost forever.

Set against the drama of World War II and the first sparks of the civil rights movement, Little Joe’s new home is a microcosm of America in the 1940s. A frightening incident with a Chinese motorist traveling on the wrong side of town, the migration of troops across the countryside, and a frank discussion of Jim Crow laws are just a few of the local events mirroring the radio broadcasts that bring the news of the day into his grandmother’s kitchen.

Received in ebook format from netgalley

This is a book of a more innocent time, with an orphaned child from Texas being sent to live with his grandparents in Tennessee. It’s a new way of life for him. so he not only has to cone to terms with surviving the car crash that killed his parents, but with living on a farm instead of the city, with people who he doesnt know that well. There are some hard lessons to learn: dont name the chickens as it’s hard to kill and eat something you see as a friend. Pigs are bred to be killed and eaten. There are bullies at school and you have to learn to deal with them  There are other lessons that Joe learns, often without realising: what family and friends are about. how to look after others and that other people can feel sorrow. That there is still bigotry, even after the civil war that freed the slaves.

This is a story about a 10 year old, and easily read by a 10 year old. There is no deep or meaningful exposition or character development. Lessons are taught even outside the schoolroom by both grandparents, even if Little Joe doesn’t realise it at the time.  The language is plain, simple and uncomplicated. It’ll be interesting to see if the next book in the series is written the same way or differently. Not everyone will take pleasure in the writing style – it is quite plain and simple, and it’s not deep on characterisation, which some people dislike.

Not having read the “Little House” stories, I dont know whether other people’s comparisons stand up – I have read similar stories such as “Anne of Green Gables” and whilst this is not as gleaming positive in it’s style of writing, the reading level is about the same.




Back to School Book Blogger Challenge – Intros


Parajunkee is having a “Back to School Book Blogger Challenge“, and has some prompts over the next week or so for people to join in!

Challenge #1:


It’s time to stand up in  front of the class and share with the rest of us a little bit about you!


I picked up my nickname “Nordie” in college in the late 1980s, after a character in Dr Who (Nord the Galactic Vandal Biker) due to some fundraising that was done for the BBC’s Children in Need.

I cant remember learning to read and know that I have been reading all my life. I am now trying to pass this love of reading onto my nieces and nephews.

I have been blogging in one way or another for about 6 years, and started my book blog in earnest about 2.5 years ago, as a way of showing off my book reviews.

I pulled the reviews from other places where I have written them, and realised that some are appalling – this blog is another way of making me try and write better reviews.


Book Review: A Plague on Both Your Houses by Susanna Gregory


A Plague on Both Your Houses by Susanna Gregory

A Plague on Both Your Houses introduces physician Matthew Bartholomew, whose unorthodox but effective treatment of his patients frequently draws accusations of heresy from his more traditional colleagues. Besides his practice, Bartholomew teaches medicine at Michaelhouse, part of the fledgling University of Cambridge. In 1348, the inhabitants of Cambridge live under the shadow of a terrible pestilence that has ravaged Europe and is travelling relentlessly towards England. Bartholomew, however, is distracted by the sudden and inexplicable death of the Master of Michaelhouse, a death University authorities do not want investigated. His pursuit of the truth leads him into a complex tangle of lies and intrigue that forces him to question the innocence of his closest friends, even his family. And then the Black Death finally arrives.

I am in two minds about this book – I do like a decent Mystery book, and have read much of my fair share of books set in the 13th – 15th centuries. The detail of the plague, and the fear of disease paralysing whole communities was good, and a novel tale on the story of this era, where people dont know about the spreading of germs and overall hygiene.

However, there seemed to be a cast of thousands, making if difficult to remember who has what relation to whom.   In some ways it had quite a modern feel about it = o cant give any examples as to what I mean……..

There are plenty of deaths, some as a result of the plague, but there’s one or more people around, who take their opportunity to murder members of the colleges. Matthew is confronted with the deaths and doesnt know who he can trust – can he even trust his sister, nephew or brother in law. There’s another thread running through the story about Matt’s girlfriend and her brother, a case of mistaken identity and money.



Book Review: The Cinderella Debutante by Elizabeth Hanbury


Lucy Sinclair’s London Season was cut short by tragedy. Now, five years later, she is returning but only in the shadow of her lovely step-sister. Belinda is determined to catch a titled husband and Alex, Lord Devlyn fits the bill perfectly.

Lucy finds Alex devastatingly attractive yet knows he will be dazzled by Belinda’s ravishing beauty. Her one chance of love seems lost forever until an unlikely fairy godmother makes Lucy the belle of the ball.

This is a Cinderella story set in Regency times, where Lucy feels outshone by her selfish stepmother and stepsister Belinda. Lucy’s season was cut short by the death of her father, but now she is back in town 5 years later for Belinda’s season. Belinda has plans to be married by the end of the season, and tries to play Devlyn off against the rake Lord Sneyd. However, Belinda and her mother have misread the situation with Alex, who is really in love with Lucy.

The characters of Belinda and her mother are grotesque, and rather exaggerated, but that’s rather the point of a Cinderella stepfamily. There is a “fairy godmother” in Lucy’s grandmother who offers both Lucy an escape from her stepmother, and ultimately sets off the meeting between Alex and Lucy.

It does go slow in parts – it takes ages for Alex and Lucy to show their hands (which annoys some readers, but is appropriate for Regency period, where everyone has to play by quite rigid rules).  It’s nice to have POV from both main characters, rather than just from Lucy.


Book Review: The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith


The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith

Weedon Grossmith’s 1892 book presents the details of English suburban life through the anxious and accident-prone character of Charles Porter. Porter’s diary chronicles his daily routine, which includes small parties, minor embarrassments, home improvements, and his relationship with a troublesome son. The small minded but essentially decent suburban world he inhabits is both hilarious and painfully familiar. This edition features Weedon Grossmith’s illustrations and an introduction which discusses the story’s social context.

An amusing read – possibly funnier at the time it was published – this is the diary of Charles Pooter telling stories of himself, his friends and family.

He’s a middle class banker with little ambition, who is constantly being insulted and taken advantage of by the servants and tradesmen, and does not understand his son. He attempts to show his sense of humour frequently fail as many people dont find the same things funny. The man is un-self-aware and doesnt understand other people. Other people are acting normally, but he misinterprets what they are doing and ends up insulting them, at which point they insult him and he is the one that ends up aggrieved. He is, essentially, the man you always try to avoid at office social events, because you’ll get frustrated and bored by him

Short little read, amusing enough, not entirely sure I understood the ending (but then it was early in the morning).


Book Review: Love In a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford


Love In a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

One of Nancy Mitford’s most beloved novels, Love in a Cold Climate is a sparkling romantic comedy that vividly evokes the lost glamour of aristocratic life in England between the wars.

Polly Hampton has long been groomed for the perfect marriage by her mother, the fearsome and ambitious Lady Montdore. But Polly, with her stunning good looks and impeccable connections, is bored by the monotony of her glittering debut season in London. Having just come from India, where her father served as Viceroy, she claims to have hoped that society in a colder climate would be less obsessed with love affairs. The apparently aloof and indifferent Polly has a long-held secret, however, one that leads to the shattering of her mother’s dreams and her own disinheritance. When a callow potential heir curries favour with her parents, nothing goes as expected, but in the end all find happiness in their own unconventional ways

Told by Fanny, the childhood friend of Polly, who comes back into the family’s sphere after their return from India. The first part of the book is setting up the story around the Montdores, Polly’s first season in London, and all the parties and guests that come in and out of their lives. It finishes with Fanny married, Polly causing a disgrace with a highly unsuitable attachment and disinheritance.

Part 2 comes with Fanny getting used to being the wife of a near penniless Don in Oxford and how life isnt how she was led to think it was.  Cedric, who the Montdore’s estate is now entailed to, arrives from Nova Scotia via Paris, and is certainly not what anyone expected him to be. However, he soon distracts Lady Montdore and all of her set, turning her into a different being – in looks if not personality.

Set in between the wars, some of the characters are outrageous – in their attitudes or behaviour or both. This is stiff upper lip country, where behaviour is tolerated rather than confronted and ostracised. Mitford manages to get their story out, with something that passes as happiness in the end, with a level of humour that can make you laugh out loud in parts.  Some of the attitudes towards Cedric and the Lecherous Lecturer are a little close to the bone, but she somehow gets away with it.


Book Review: Reign: The Chronicles of Queen Jezebel by Ginger Garrett


From the moment her marriage to prince Ahab thrusts her into the intrigues of palace life, Jezebel’s exotic beauty opens doors and her will breaks down walls. Torn from her homeland and wed to power in a strange country, Jezebel vows to create a legacy and power all her own. Some might call her a manipulative schemer, bent on having her way. But they don’t know the whole story, and she was much, much worse. As she moves through the halls of power, her heart struggles between devotion to the gods she worships, the prince who loves her, and her thirst for revenge. She sparks a battle between her strangely powerless gods and the God of palace administrator Obadiah — a God who confronts her with surprising might. She will fight, though victory may cost her everything.

Given to me in ebook format via

Slight downside with this ebook edition in that the text was very small and with no easy and reliable way, whilst reading on a kobo at least, to increase the text size or spacing to anything more comfortable. This made it a slower and more painful to read than I would have liked. It was easier to read on a laptop using ADE’s magnifier, but since this is not available on a kobo – and the book not available to upload to an ipad with magnification – it sort of negates the practicality of an ebook. If you have any kind of vision issues, this book *in this current format* is not appropriate for you.  As to the story itself:

The focus of the story changes between Jezebel, Obadiah the Chief administrator of Israel, and Ahab the prince of Israel and Jezebel’s betrothed.

Jezebel is the unwanted child of a pair of twins born to the high priest of Phoenicia and is brought up knowing that she is unloved by both humans and gods alike. The book starts with her sacrificing her sister – the family favourite – to the gods at the direction of her father.

Ahab is the uncouth son of a mercenary, the latter having fought his way to become King of Israel. 17 years old, Ahab has been a fighter as long as he can remember, and has killed more men than he cares to count. He is to marry Jezebel in order to consolidate the union between Israel and the Phoneticians

Obadiah is the son of a prostitute and a drunk, but is more finely bred than Ahab, better dressed and rather more sensitive.

The differences between Phoenicia and the much younger and poorer Israel are well described – Jezebel has grown up in a much more prosperous country, whether she realises it or not, and is shocked and disappointed when she is sent to a country still at war where all the palaces she lives in are built for defense rather than comfort and affluence.

Other differences soon come to light – Jezebel worships her gods, which means regular child sacrifices to keep them appeased. Obidiah worships Yahweh. Elijah the prophet has warned Ahab not to bring Jezebel to Israel, and when he does, Yahweh condemns Israel to several years of famine. Once Yahweh releases Israel from famine and drought, Ahab – previously ambivalent as to which god to worship – follows Yahweh much to Jezebel’s disdain.

Over the next years, Israel becomes stronger under Yahweh and Ahab. Jezebel attempts to consolidate power and a dynasty for her and her sons, but never realises that she could be happy. She becomes more maternal towards her third child than she did to her previous two, and doesn’t realise that she loved Ahab in the end.

Whilst I did like the book, I feel that in being such a high level story, it did tend to be a little shallow in parts. I know that Garrett is trying stay within the realms of the narrative presented in the Old Testament (which doesnt allow much leeway for much digression from the story presented to us), but I came away feeling that I could have had just a little bit more….

For those that are not of a religious bent this can be read without fear of being preached at or sermonised to. Those who are seeking a little reassurance within their faith will also be able to take some comfort from this book.


Book Review: The Courage Consort by Michel Faber


With his elegant prose and perceptive imagination, the bestselling author of The Crimson Petal and the White creates a unique, self-contained world, where the perennial human drama plays out in all its passion and ambiguity. In these acclaimed novellas, Michel Faber takes on the interior world of inventively crafted characters. “The Courage Consort” tells of an a capella vocal ensemble sequestered in a Belgian chateau to rehearse a monstrously complicated new piece. But competing artistic temperaments and sexual needs create as much discordance as the avant-garde music.

This is a short, tight, novella, with nary a spare word used.

It is the story of a 5 piece acapella group, who have agreed to try out a new piece written by a very rich (and somewhat “otherworldy” mentally) German and get two weeks in a Belgian Château to practise. The novella starts with Catherine – married to the group’s founder Roger Courage  – coming out the other side of psychological problems, which include depression and a hinted-at suicide attempt the year before.

Catherine sat at the kitchen bench, staring abstractedly into Ben’s porridge bowl. It was so clean and shiny it might have been licked, though she imagined she would have noticed if that were the case. She herself tended to half-eat food and then forget about it. Roger didn’t like that for some reason, so, back home in London, she’d taken to hiding her food as soon as she lost her appetite for it, in whatever nook or receptacle was closest to hand. I’ll finish this later, she’d tell herself, but then the world would turn, turn, turn. Days, weeks later, ossified bagels would fall out of coat pockets, furry yoghurts would peep out of the jewellery drawer, liquefying bananas would lie like corpses inside the coffins of her shoes.

They meet up at the Château and there are soon tensions (both mental and sexual) underlying the daily practising. Dagmar – the other female in the group, who has brought her baby son Axel with her – loves biking and mountaineering, and soon begins an unlikely friendship with Catherine simply by going out biking daily and inviting Catherine to come with her. Daily exercise, with someone who doesnt seem to judge her or put her under pressure (plus no longer taking the anti depressants) goes much to changing Catherine during the book, to the point where casual acquaintances dont recognise her at first.

Catherine’s insomnia makes her thing she hears human like cries in the woods at night  Dagmar says she doesnt hear them. Catherine goes out walking one night, spending all night in the wood and comes back the following morning in a dream like state; what happened over night and whether the screams were real are never revealed, which some readers find frustrating, but if the novella is read as a traditional Gothic novel (The Mysteries of Udolpho, or Jane Austen’s wind up of “Northanger Abbey”) then these situations rarely are.

Catherine is the most rounded of the characters in the book, with the others being a bit one dimensional, but that is in part because Catherine has spent so long in her own world she hasnt been interested in anyone else, so only knows what she knows. She grows the most, since that at the beginning she doesnt even know what time of day it is, at the end she is making decisions for the group and is able to put her foot down to her husband

A question I ask when reading short stories and novellas: Could the story still stand if it was longer? This one I dont know, maybe adding in a little character development of the other 4 singers, expanding on the sexual tension outside of Roger and Catherine, but there is little more that I would add.


Book Review: Black Plumes By Margeret Allingham


The slashing of a valuable painting at the renowned Ivory Gallery in London, followed by the murder of the proprietor’s son-in-law, Robert, sets the stage for another finely tuned Allingham mystery. The proprietor’s mother, 90-year-old Gabrielle Ivory, holds the key to the web of intrigue and danger that permeates the gallery.

Downloaded from Audible, read by Francis Matthews.

This is the first non Campion book I’ve read/listened to. For once it’s told from the point of view of one of the witnesses, which allows for noone to know what the police know, and we are not included in much of what goes on in the investigation itself.

In 1930s London, there are two adjacent houses, one house is the private residence of the Ivory family; their painting gallery business is housed next door. The story starts with Frances standing in front of her formidable grandmother Gabrielle, with the complaint that her brother-in-law, Roger (who is married to her rather unstable half sister Phillida), wants her to marry his unspeakable business partner. Lucar seems to have some unknown hold over Roger after a trip to Tibet which went horribly wrong, and which Lucar and Roger were the only survivors.

In the absence of her father, who’s out in China on a long business trip, Frances fears she will be forced to marry Lucar. Getting no help from her grandmother – who is as imperious but as dotty as possible,  Frances confides her fears to David Field, who immediately proposes a fake engagement so that Roger and Lucar will stop pestering her. Then Roger disappears, to be found murdered a week later.  At the funeral, the third person on the Tibetan trip – whom everyone thought dead – reappears. Lucar – on his way to the US and therefore a prime candidate for the death of Roger, rapidly returns, attempts to blackmail all in the house – only to turn up dead too minutes later

There are plenty of herrings littered about the place – red or otherwise – which makes you suspect most of the characters at some point or another.  Frances – who realises that she is in fact in love with David (who painted her portrait when she was 14) – has to face the fact that he might be a killer.

So secret passages, international travel (China to England by plane taking “only” about a week!), blackmail, murder, romance, mysteries….what more could you want?



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