Two Classics Set on the French Riviera

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I recently went to an old fortress off the coast of Marseille called Chateau d’If. I’ve been wanting to go for eons because it features heavily in the book, Count of Monte Cristo (it’s where Edmond Danté was falsely imprisoned). I wanted to put myself in Dantès’ shoes, although I confess that I still haven’t read it; it’s 15 million pages long and in French, it’s proving a little difficult to get through (and I can’t give up and read the damn thing in English!). But then it occurred to me that the French Riviera, where I live, is full of literary settings and references.Continue Reading

The Hobbit; still wonderfully brilliant

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My rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

the-hobbitI first read The Hobbit at school and was so enamoured that I wrote 3 of my own books about a mythical world with dragons and small creatures on great quests (complete with maps). I’m not much into dragons these days and don’t have much time for myths and legends but having just re-read it with my nine-year-old daughter, it’s still wonderfully brilliant. The writing is exceptional, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread” and wouldn’t everyone love to be described “like summer”. And what an opening line: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit”. It’s actually a supremely political book; along with the hard-hitting sequels of Lord of the Rings, it’s an allegory for World War One. And without any help from me, my daughter has become obsessed with her own maps, carefully carving out old-fashioned quests of her own, with mountains, dwarves, and small creatures. A must read.


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The Girls; superb teen angst with a splash of murder

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My rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

the girlsI first came across author Emma Cline in the Paris Review of Books in summer 2013 when I found her story Marion. The opening had me hooked;

“Cars the color of melons and tangerines sizzled in cul-de-sac driveways. Dogs lay belly-up and heaving in the shade. It was cooler in the hills, where Marion’s family lived. Everyone who stayed at their ranch was some relative, Marion said, blood or otherwise, and she called everyone brother or sister.”

I presume this is the short story that got her the writing contract for The Girls, because it’s based on the same premise – at the end of the 60s, teenager Evie Boyd becomes drawn into a gang of girls and towards their cult leader in LA. It obviously has the backdrop of the Manson murders in mind, highly fashionable at the moment (anyone seen The Invitation? It was a quiet, unsettling movie from 2015 that also has sinister LA cult behaviour as a backdrop).

The Girls is really wonderfully written. It didn’t feel like it had quite the same artistic punch as the short story, but it was pretty spectacularly done all the same. Highly recommended, if you want to be taken back to how agonisingly awful if was to be a teenager (Cline really nails it) amidst some very chilling characters indeed.


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Goodreads challenge 2017

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Having set myself a target last year on Goodreads to read 27 million books – and clearly failing when real life kicked in – I’m setting a much lower target this year, namely 0. That way, I won’t be disappointed when I can’t keep on top of everything and will be pleasantly surprised when I overachieve. If you too want to set yourself a similarly spectacular aim, click here.


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When Breath Becomes Air; over-hyped and way too sentimental

My rating: 2 stars (out of 5)

when breath becomes airI had been wanting to read Paul Kalanithi’s memoir for a while, having read a rave review in the New York Times; he was an esteemed neurosurgeon, diagnosed with terminal cancer in his 30s, who wrote this memoir before his death. The reviews said it provided interesting answers to the question, “what makes a life worth living”. It’s well-written and clearly, Kalanithi was very talented as both a surgeon and a writer, but I found the book way too worthy and over the top (possibly because it’s geared towards US audiences when us Brits tend to be a little less sentimental in our tastes, even about death…) and it just left me with more questions than answers.


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When are you reading? 2017 challenge

when-are-you-reading-2017-finalIf you fancy reading more across different time periods, this might be the challenge for you. When Are You Reading? is hosted by Sam at Taking On A World of Words where the year-long goal is to read 12 books set or written in previous eras (e.g. pre 1500, 1500-1599 and so on) to the present day. It’s a great way to discover new writing/authors and also maybe just the impetus we need to get to those books that we’ve been meaning to read for ages. Er, the classics, anyone?


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The 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

rhc_cover_pinterestHappy New Year! It’s that time again when we make all our bookish resolutions, to read more, to read well, and to read those books we’ve always meant to read but never had the time. If you fancy a reading challenge, this is the third year of the annual Book Riot challenge; the aim is to read 24 books in a year, i.e. 2 per month, categorised under different themes. There’s a GoodReads reading group to find friends to keep you on track and you can download a pdf of the goals on their site. Continue Reading