The Week Before Christmas by Freda C Bond is the second of four books about the Carol family, which I mentioned briefly here. The cover and black & white drawings are by Mays, who illustrated Noel Streatfeild’s Curtain Up and many of the Jennings books.

The four Carol children live with their parents in a smart London flat, with ‘Posset’ as they call her, coming in every day to do the work. How agreeable. At the start of the Christmas holidays the younger children, Squibs and Tony, fear that things will be dull until Christmas. Instead, in the week of the title they find themselves hunting for their mother’s stolen ring, tracking a missing child, getting on the trail of turkey rustlers and befriending a nice refugee family. Tony’s life is busy as he has a good singing voice and is very involved with the local church choir. He takes religion seriously as does older sister Susan, who goes to a boarding school run by Anglican nuns. You can tell what sort of girl she is when she takes a liking to a girl they meet, thinking, ‘I bet she’d make a wizard prefect.’ Lawrence is also at boarding school and turning into a languid, arrogant public schoolboy. At home with his family he becomes quite human and as keen on adventures and planning a Christmas charade as the rest of them.

From the jacket blurb: What we especially like about Freda Bond’s books is that they are happy stories about real-life people, who manage to have adventures in their everyday comings and goings. Her children and grown-ups alike are lovable and natural – the sort of folk who might live next door to you. If your neighbour happened to be a famous actress, that is. As far as I’m concerned, the Carols need never have any adventures at all; I like just to read about their daily lives in post-war London.
Angela Thirkell and more )


Not me, I hope, but the characters in two Christmas mysteries I’ve just read back to back. Mystery in White I bought in a charity shop a while ago and saved for Christmas. Until I read the introduction to the book, I hadn’t realised that J Jefferson was the brother of the more famous Eleanor. When I posted a review of another BLCC book on Amazon, saying it was the worst I’d read, someone commented on the lines of, ‘You think that’s bad! Try Mystery in White and read my review.’ I didn’t bother with his review but I have to agree that the book was disappointing. When a train becomes stuck in snow, a group of travellers make a break for it and find an apparently welcoming house, with fires blazing and tea laid. But there’s no one at home. The ill-assorted characters decide they have no alternative but to trespass and make themselves comfortable. One of their number is a psychical researcher and immediately detects ‘horror’ in the house. What that is, you have to read the book to find out. There are two solutions, one found by the stranded ones and the other by the police. Which is correct?
two more )


I’ve read nearly everything Jacqueline Wilson has written and, as I’ve said before, I prefer the books she writes about modern children with modern problems to her Victorian series. Clover Moon is set in vague ‘Victorian times’. Clover lives in Hoxton with her father, sister, stepmother and a horde of half-brothers and sisters. Even though her father is in work, the family is desperately poor and the children looked down on as ‘street children’: dirty, ragged and always playing in the alley. They don’t go to school. Stepmother Mildred treats Clover like a skivvy and childminder and beats her so badly that the neighbours notice. In spite of this, Clover remains feisty and optimistic, dreaming of a better future. She has a friend, a hunchbacked old doll maker who teaches her to read and write or, as Mildred would have it, ‘get above her station’. It’s the sauce factory for Clover as soon as she’s old enough to work there.

How she escapes this fate by running away and finding a better life makes for an engrossing read, if an unlikely story. It’s interesting to compare this book with Victorian morality tales like those by Mrs O F Walton which also deal with ‘poor children’ and how they can be rescued. In Mrs Walton’s world, religion plays a great part in the redemption of her characters, an option Wilson would reject. Part of the problem I had with this book is the first person narrative. It reads as though a nine year old girl had been told the story and asked to put it in her own words. That’s how anachronisms like ‘she disrespects me all the time’ creep in. It irritates me, but perhaps not the children the book is intended for.

At the end of the book there is a section about the history of child protection laws in Britain and advice on how to contact Childline if necessary. Very good. Not good is a page called ‘About the Victorians’. This is historically inaccurate, appallingly simplistic and didactically imposes on children opinions about things they can know nothing about.
Another triumph for Jacqueline Wilson, because of course the book is compulsively readable and will be an instant bestseller. But I stick by my reservations and wish that Dame Jacky would write more books like Double Act, one of my favourites.

I read this courtesy of NetGalley.

Lots of other Jacqueline Wilson reviews here.


‘A funny and frank superhero story set in the world of Othergirl.
Joseph ‘Wilco’ Wilkes is one of life’s losers – he’s picked on, pushed around, and bullied by the rugby boys at the posh private school he attends on a scholarship. But his life is about to change: Wilco learns he can move things with his mind. Will this be his chance to play the hero, get the girl and finally stand up for himself? Or are things just going to come crashing down around his head? Becoming a proper hero will be quite the leap of faith...’

Poor Wilco has his nickname because he ‘will comply’, i.e. will do people’s homework for them and almost anything else for a quiet life. He has one friend and many enemies amongst the ‘rugger boys’, who despise everyone. The book gets off to a good start when Wilco first senses that he may have special powers. It’s pretty weird to find that by concentrating on an object you can move it at will. He hopes that this will change his life, help his hardworking mum (who can barely afford his school uniform) and perhaps even turn him into a Vigil. These Vigils are people with superpowers who are believed to help the government, save lives and generally whiz about to do good. Alas for Wilco. Nothing is that simple and using his powers leads to nothing but trouble.

I found the book went off the boil for a while until Wilco accidentally manages to do something really useful (and unlikely). There’s no dramatic improvement in his life at Gatford House (which sounds a horrible school) but the future looks more hopeful. I didn’t find Wilco a well realised character and couldn’t help thinking of Molesworth (whom one believes in totally) and the way he copes with ‘swots, bulies, cissies, milksops, greedy guts and oiks’. It’s a sad truth that bullying is rife in schools (and in the workplace) and that victims will not develop superpowers in order to cope with it.

So I’m underwhelmed by Wonderboy. It’s not quite fantasy yet not helpful about coping with what life throws at you when you happen to be a weedy teenager. I’m at a loss to know why this book is described as ‘frank’. Frank about what? The fact that quite young boys and girls fancy each other? That’s news. I’d have enjoyed this book more if I were a ten year old boy, I think.

Wonderboy is out early next month and I read it courtesy of NetGalley.


Why? This is what I ask myself when modern authors take it upon themselves to give a modern twist to classic children’s novels. Would you re-write The House at Pooh Corner so that it ends with Christopher Robin giving away Pooh to a jumble sale? Or have Mole and Ratty eaten by predators and Badger gassed in his cosy home in the middle of the Wild Wood? Sequels need not be bad books. Hilary McKay’s Wishing for Tomorrow, a sequel to A Little Princess and Five Children on the Western Front, in which Kate Saunders takes the Psammead into the First World War are both rather good. These writers, as well as Holly Webb, author of Return to the Secret Garden, probably see their work as homage because they genuinely love the originals.

Return to the Secret Garden is set in 1939 and 1940. Modern writers just can’t keep away from World Wars, it seems. Emmie lives in the Craven (Ho!) home for orphans in London when the children are evacuated to the north of England. Evacuated to, of course, Misselthwaite Manor. Emmie is rather like Mary Lennox: thin, sallow, cross. She’s broken hearted because she has to leave behind a stray cat she’s adopted. At first she finds the vast house and the endless moor around it frightening after London. Then she discovers the gardens, one gardener in particular, a robin, and the garden, now tended and full of roses. She loves it and is allowed to help look after it. But the house has its mysteries. Why does Jack, the young son of the house, seem to hate the new inmates? Who cries in the night? Who wrote the diaries which she finds in a drawer in her room? By the end of the book she has learned the true identities of Mr and Mrs Craven and Miss and Mr Sowerby and linked them to the children of the past. There is one real tragedy and a nearly happy ending. The book is a good read but, I ask again, why write it? It’s true that the children of The Secret Garden are the right age to have lived through two World Wars but couldn’t we just leave them in the past?
Katy )


I’m not buying many ‘real’ books at the moment, due to lack of space but when Green Grow the Rushes was on offer, I couldn’t resist. I’m so glad I didn’t! Elinor Lyon is an author I discovered for myself, before Girlsown and Folly provided so many excellent recommendations. She’s best known for the Ian and Sovra series, set in Scotland but she also wrote several excellent standalones. At the market one day I was rummaging through a box of comparatively recent children’s books when I spotted one which took my fancy. I think it was The Floodmakers and after reading a few pages, I bought it. I discovered much later that it’s a second generation Ian and Sovra book, that is, one about the adventures of their children.

Green Grow the Rushes (1964) is one of the standalones and it’s the best book I’ve read this month. The story is about a group of children in Wales searching for and uncovering an old Roman road but of course there’s much more to it than that. The three Meredith children live in Castle Cottage (Castra, geddit?) and are allowed to run pretty wild. They’re annoyed by The Tyrant, as they’ve named the owner of a house nearer the sea, because of warning notices stopping them reaching a nice sandy beach. The people who work for her are called The Assassins.

The Tyrant is of course nothing of the sort but a highly intelligent woman in poor health. She invites Jenny, the daughter of her favourite former music pupil to stay, with great niece Viola for company. Jenny lives in London with her mother, where they struggle to get by on what Mother earns from giving piano lessons. Viola, a gushing Little Miss Sunshine, is the spoiled daughter of rich parents. Jenny becomes friendly with the Merediths but nobody likes Viola. When she discovers the secrets they have been keeping from her, events get out of hand and nearly become fatal.

It’s a good story but it’s the writing which makes it special. The dustwrapper blurb calls Elinor Lyon ‘this fine writer’ and the publishers were right. At times I was reminded of William Mayne’s style; high praise from me.


more books and things you won’t believe )


I’m sure many people who visit here are already familiar with the Greyladies imprint. Titles printed so far include adult novels by authors better known for their children’s books, like Josephine Elder and Lorna Hill, novels Noel Streatfeild published as Susan Scarlett and previously unpublished work by D E Stevenson. I needn’t go on as you can see the books for yourself on the website. There are brief reviews of some I’ve read here.

Now Shirley Neilson has a new venture: ‘A Retrospective Literary Review’, known as The Scribbler. I thought I’d buy the first issue before deciding whether or not to take out a subscription and I may be hooked. People still lamenting the demise of Folly magazine will find much to please them here, including articles by some familiar contributors. This first issue includes a short story by D E Stevenson, reviews of novels set in girls’ schools, crime and scandal in girls’ schools and a Literary Trail of the Scottish Borders which will have you searching your shelves for the books mentioned, so that you can read them again. All this and charming period illustrations, too.

If you share my interest in children’s and middlebrow books, The Scribbler could be for you.


What is it that makes seven such a magical age for reading? I’ve been wondering about this because my current bedtime read (as a break from the daytime books I have on the go) is What Katy Did. I’m pretty sure I was seven when I first read it and looking at it now I’m surprised. The language is old fashioned. It’s full of references I couldn’t possibly have got. Yet it’s so entertaining that I read it over and over again and still enjoy it today.



One day my mother came back from shopping in Croydon with a surprise for me: a Puffin copy of The Secret Garden; the very one shown above. It became my favourite childhood book.

I may have mentioned this before and if so, sorry to bore you. From the age of six until I was twelve I had to have an annual check up with X-rays at one of the big London hospitals. It was always winter. There were bus changes with long, cold waits for the bus. Then long, dull waits in bleak corridors at the hospital. In order to sweeten this pill for me, my mother bought me every year for that day a shiny, new, hardback book, which she could ill afford. Why she picked Jennings’ Diary for the year I was seven I don’t know (perhaps I’d heard the stories on Children’s Hour?) but it started a life-long love affair. I now have a complete collection of Jennings books but the first I read remains my favourite. Even now, I just have to think, ‘Mr Wilkins missing link’ to laugh out loud.



I could add Heidi and An Old-Fashioned Girl to the short list but that will do for now. Can you remember your reading from that far back? Are there books read at seven that have stayed with you all your life? I’d be really interested to know.


Chris in Command, Irene Mossop (1930)
Hazel, Head Girl, Nancy Breary (1952)
Margery Merton’s Girlhood, Alice Corkran (1888)
The Exciting Journey, Norman Dale (1947)
Boys of the Valley School, R A H Goodyear (1925)

I’ve read several old children’s books this month, so here’s a little chat about them.

When I read Lois in Charge followed by Chris in Command and Hazel, Head Girl, I was going to say, ‘What a bossy lot!’ It turned out though that Hazel wasn’t bossy at all: in fact, not bossy enough. I must here fess up and say that I don’t much care for Nancy Breary, or find her books hilariously funny. She’s one of several authors about whom I disagree with Sims & Clare, much as I admire their book, kept permanently by my desk. In Hazel, Head Girl, Breary makes use of the well worn plotline of two schools merging, with resultant feuds and jealousies. Mill House and Dewpoint combine to form Hessington. The girls are determined to hate each other and stick to the habits (and uniform) of their old schools. Hazel, from Dewpoint, has been appointed head girl before term starts. Some people think this is because she’s a heroine. (She took over the controls of a plane after the pilot had a heart attack and landed it safely!) Unfortunately for her, Vice Captain Lydia (from Mill House), is determined to oust her and become head girl herself. Hazel doesn’t take a firm enough line over this rebellion and nasty Lydia nearly gets her way. The juniors are fiercely partisan and a bunch of silly little idiots. As so often in school stories, the girls seem to run everything, with teachers and lessons completely ignored. Hazel bravely struggles on, trying to persuade the girls to give their loyalty to their new school and become Hessington girls.
the rest )
fivechildrenwesternfront

Five Children and It, E Nesbit
Funny Girl, Nick Hornby
Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
Five Children on the Western Front, Kate Saunders
To All Appearance, Dead, Liz Filleul
The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot , Rebecca Mead
Middlemarch, George Eliot
Dandy Gilver and the Reek of Red Herrings, Catriona McPherson
Man at the Helm, Nina Stibbe
Silver, Andrew Motion
The State We’re In, Adele Parks
Several Sherlock Holmes stories on Kindle
The Curse of the Pharaohs, Elizabeth Peters
The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café, Alexander McCall Smith
thoughts, quite long )
lastbunkle

I’ve written before about the long series of Bunkle books, which I enjoy so much. Bunkle Brings it Off is the very last book, first published in 1961 and almost impossible to find except in the Fidra reprint. I missed buying it last year but was able to get it this month in the Fidra Christmas sale, so that was a win. In the penultimate book, Bunkle is seventeen, his sister married and his brother in the army but for this last hurrah he’s ten years old again.

Bunkle is bored because Mrs de Salis needs to look after her sister for a while and has taken the children with her to what Billy considers a very dull place. Naturally, no place can stay dull for long with Bunkle around. He buys a goat (as you do), and the adventure follows on from that. An empty old house with a neglected garden and no apparent way in; a missing heir; a mysterious Greek sailor who sometimes speaks perfect English and a couple of obvious villains on the loose are just part of it. By the time Daddy (Colonel de Salis) arrives, Bunkle has a theory which fits surprisingly with some research the colonel has been doing, so the whole family is involved in solving the mystery (while avoiding being shot).

It’s quite a slight story but I enjoyed it and obviously I want all the Bunkle books: only two to go now! I still prefer the early ones.

I have a spare copy of Bunkle Began It which I’ll send to someone in the UK. A wartime story, 1944 reprint, reasonable condition, no dustwrapper, illustrated by Julie Neild.
pic )
glasspeacock

After spending nearly a week reading a book which really wasn’t worth the effort, I turned to seasonal reading and read very quickly: No Holly for Miss Quinn, Miss Read; The Christmas Child by Hesba Stretton and The Christmas Village. I’ve nearly finished Trisha Ashley’s Twelve Days of Christmas, which is so full of delicious food that it’s almost (but not quite) reconciled me to cooking Christmas dinner for the forty second time. These were all re-reads and this post is not about them but about children’s gift books.

When I was very young I had the run of the gift books which my mother had been given as a child. There was the Bessie Pease Alice, the Harry Theakston Water Babies and best of all, the Odhams treasury books. These had various titles: The Golden Wonder Book, The Children’s Wonder Book, The Favourite Wonder Book etc. They were packed with stories and pictures by famous authors and artists. These 1930s books were lavishly produced. They had an onlaid picture on the front cover, dramatic full colour endpapers and lots of plates. I have one with colour plates by Anne Anderson.

How I must have pored over those books. The Affair at Noah’s Ark! Miss Prune and Miss Prism at Veryneat Villa! The illustrations to those stories and many others are burned into my brain. One story I liked particularly was The Glass Peacock, which I’ve used for the header picture. It’s very short and tells of poor children in London at Christmas time. The heroine is Anna-Mariar, who has a little brother called Willyum. We know nothing about their parents, nor why they are so poor. Anna-Mariar is an unselfish little thing and the friend of all; you ought to hate her but you can’t.
what happens )
jpt2ponies

Josephine Pullein-Thompson, one of the three Pullein-Thompson sisters, has died aged ninety. She was a redoubtable woman. There’s an obituary here.

Pictured, first edition of I Had Two Ponies, 1947, illustrated by Anne Bullen. The sisters wrote so many pony books; Josephine’s are my favourites, although I haven't kept many.
hardymentransome

I saw this book lying around in the library and snagged it immediately. Christina Hardyment is already well known for her book Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint’s Trunk. The World of Arthur Ransome is not a full biography; for that you need Hugh Brogan’s 1984 book The Life of Arthur Ransome. Instead, it’s an attempt to place the writing of his books in the context of his very full life. It’s a short book, quickly read, lavishly illustrated with photographs of locations and characters which inspired the Swallows & Amazons series and of some very rare dustwrappers. This post is not a review; it’s more in the nature of a query.

I’ve visited quite a few writers’ houses and have always been interested and sometimes moved. Ransome moved house so often that no one place is particularly associated with him; there’s no Dove Cottage or Batemans. If you want to follow the Ransome trail, you should be setting off for the Lakes or the Norfolk Broads, as many fans do. Although I enjoyed reading The World of Arthur Ransome, it hasn’t made me want to visit these important locations, but to read the books again. I admire Ransome so much. I find he’s an author one can enjoy even more as an adult than as an eager child reader. I except from this Peter Duck and Missee Lee, the two I seldom bother with on a re-read. Missee Lee is the book for people who ‘don’t like Ransome’.

So I wondered how other people feel about literary pilgrimages? Inspiring or merely mildly interesting? I’ve found that however interesting the place is, it has no effect at all on my reading of the author’s books. For me, the text is everything.
binnyforshort

I’m a huge admirer of Hilary McKay’s work. I love the dysfunctional Cassons, the bolshie Exiles and the children in the Dog Friday trilogy. McKay even pulled off the seemingly impossible and wrote a convincing (and radical) sequel to A Little Princess.

Binny for Short is another stand alone. I read it straight after finishing the 580th page of the misinterpretation of tara jupp and I can tell you that while Binny is a short book for children, there is more sadness, humour and genuine feeling in it than in most novels for adults. Binny is one of three children who once had a happy, comfortable family life but for whom everything changed when their father died. For Binny, the worst change was the loss of her dog, Max. After an unpleasant time moving from one horrid flat to another, the family, and Binny in particular, is left a small house by Aunty Violet, Binny’s enemy, whom she blames for the loss of Max. Life improves but still Binny grieves.

Hilary McKay is so good at the psychology of children. The self-contained, determined, hard working ‘I will conquer’ attitude (Clare). The terrible fears and panics which can’t be explained to anyone (Binny). The skewed logic which makes incomprehensibly barmy behaviour seem the norm (James). The children’s hard-working and long-suffering mother holds down a job, sleeps on the sofa because the house is so small and has to cope with the often irrational doings of Binny and James. She does all this with patience, humour and good sense and is the real heroine of the book, IMO.

This is a children’s book, so there is a happy ending but there are times when you wonder how there can be. Absolutely brilliant stuff.
goldfinch

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Restoring Grace, Katie Fforde
The Far Cry, Emma Smith. Not.
The Bleiberg Project , David Khara
The Outcast Dead , Elly Griffiths
Last Friends , Jane Gardam
Treachery in Bordeaux, Jean-Pierre Alaux & Nöel Balen
My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You, Louisa Young
Barbara’s Heroes, H Louisa Bedford
Death of a Dean, Hazel Holt
How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff
Ponies on the Heather, Frances Murray
The Forbidden Library , Django Wexler
Old Filth, Jane Gardam
thoughts )
forbiddenlibrary

A heroine called Alice, talking cats, library shelves which move around to trap you in a labyrinth, fabulous creatures out to do you harm. Are we in Wonderland? Nope, The Forbidden Library.

Like her famous namesake, Alice Creighton is an intelligent, sensible girl. A motherless, only child, one day she sees her father arguing with a fairy (as you do) and her life changes forever. Her father disappears and is presumed dead; she is sent to stay with her ‘uncle’ Geryon, who turns out to be a wizard, And, wouldn’t you know it, Alice has powers she never dreamed of and Geryon has had his eye on her for years. As is well known, I’m not big on fantasy, particularly when it involves ‘chosen ones’ (predestined for a hard life, poor things), and special gifts. This time, my usual objections didn’t bother me. Alice’s personal quest is to track down the ‘fairy’ and find out what has happened to her father. That’s private, though. What matters for her survival is how she copes with the scary household she finds herself in and struggles with a series of dangerous tests.

What makes this book so original is the idea of the library, which is both an actual building and another world. We all know the expression ‘lost in a book’. I might think, ‘this is all very stressful, I’ll hide in Mansfield Park for a while.’ In the forbidden library, losing yourself in a book literally happens; Alice can actually enter a book and the world it contains, which is often a frightening one. Poor Alice is in a new life where she can trust no one, not even Ashes the cat, who seems to be her friend. I found this a very visual book, which is why I think it will appeal to children. It would make a great animated film; I can picture it myself. You may spot a few Potterisms: a tree very like the Whomping Willow, for example, and books which it is dangerous to open, but Alice has fewer options than Harry to help her overcome her enemies, who are many. The ending leaves scope for a sequel, which must surely follow.

I read this book courtesy of NetGalley. To be published 3rd April by Random House.
carringtons

So far, I haven’t read any of the books I put aside for Christmas reading. The way things are going, I won’t believe in Christmas at all until I hear the carols from King’s on Christmas Eve. Here are two books I’ve been reading thanks to NetGalley: Christmas at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brown and Ten Lords A-Leaping by C C Benison.

Did anyone else watch the Channel 4 series Liberty of London? Rather disappointing, I felt; not as good as last year’s BBC 2 documentary Inside Claridges. Carrington’s, the family-owned department store in Mulberry-on-Sea, is also the subject of a reality TV show, one that is carefully planned and scripted by the producer. Georgie Hart, in charge of women’s accessories, finds herself for a giddying time a media celebrity enjoying fame and freebies. This is the third book about Carrington’s and I’m not the target readership for it. If you use expressions like ‘totes’ and ‘well jelz’, if you hyperventilate at the thought of a high end handbag and refer to the goods you sell as ‘merch’, if you think of nothing but gorgeous (preferably rich) men, this is just the book for you. I am being a little unfair because after all, I did finish the book, did find parts of it entertaining and enjoyed being behind the scenes in a department store. It is a fun Christmas read with a happy ending. There’s a lot of guilt-free cake gorging and even cake recipes! It really needed better editing. I can’t be doing with a ‘wedge of tissues’ instead of a ‘wodge’, ‘bollicking’ for 'bollocking’ or ‘Wedgewood blue’ for ‘Wedgwood’.

tenlords

Ten Lords A-Leaping is C C Benison’s third Father Christmas mystery. Father Tom doesn’t care for that title and asks people to call him ‘Tom’ or ‘Mr Christmas’. This book opens exactly as the title suggests, with the Leaping Lords, ten Peers who enjoy skydiving, jumping in formation to help raise money for Tom’s church. On this occasion, Tom and the PCC are also jumping, Tom landing with a badly sprained ankle. As a result, he is forced to stay at Eggescombe Hall, the grand home of Hector, Lord Fairhaven, who is one of the Leaping Lords. This introduces Tom to an incomprehensible tangle of family relationships; a family tree would have been very helpful. Soon afterwards he discovers the murdered corpse of another Leaping Lord in the Labyrinth. The victim was a thoroughly obnoxious character, so the list of suspects includes just about everyone in the house. As a priest, Tom finds people confiding in him and has to decide exactly what to tell the police. When there’s a second murder, things hot up and I really only got gripped by the book about 70% of the way through (I was reading it on the Kindle). Yet more complications are introduced, with mysteries and murders going back years and I found it all rather muddling. I wasn’t sure I really liked Tom very much; the nicest thing about him is his devotion to his ten-year-old daughter, Miranda. Her friendship with young Max, Hector’s extrovert sprog, provides the book’s only comic relief. The end of the book sets things up for the next one, which will obviously be called Nine Ladies Dancing. As a priestly detective, I preferred James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers. Ten Lords A-Leaping could have done with a little Britpicking, too.

homecorner

I picked Ruth Thomas's book up at the library because I liked the cover; as good a reason as any. Luisa McKenzie has failed her Highers, so instead of going to university as planned, she’s living at home and working as a teaching assistant. She doesn’t like the job much, nor is she any good at it. Hardly surprising, as the girl is dripping wet, so much so as to strain one’s patience. I started feeling like her poor, puzzled mother and kept looking out for the mental breakdown. By the end of the book it’s clear that this year in Luisa’s life is just a growing up interlude, and I looked back on the rest with a kindlier eye.
and now for something more Christmassy )
ribbonslaces

Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers, Alexander McCall Smith
The Hollow Hills , Mary Stewart
A Mystery for Ninepence, Phyllis Gegan
Turned Out Nice Again , Richard Mabey
Hidden Lives A Family Memoir, Margaret Forster
The Perfect Present, Karen Swan
Manna from Hades (Cornish Mystery 1) ,Carola Dunn
This Rough Magic, Mary Stewart
Ribbons and Laces, Ruby M Ayres
thoughts )

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