H G Wells Complete Works

Cover imageAnother in the Delphi Classics series, representing an inexpensive way of accumulating a library of classic books. Once again the formatting of this digital edition is first class.

I headed straight for The Island of Doctor Moreau. I first read this as an eleven-year-old and found it terrifying. Many years later I have re-read it and it’s still disturbing. This is so unlike Wells’ usual science fiction. It is not just horrifying, it is intensely thought-provoking in ways that I’m sure passed me by as a youngster. Now I’m moving on to another Wells classic, The Time Machine.

Although the Delphi website says that this collection is available from Amazon, I couldn’t find it, so I bought it directly from the publisher.

The Tent, the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy.

Cover imageI enjoyed many camping holidays through the 1970s and I thought this would be a gentle reminder of the pleasures and pains of those trips. The book would have been more acceptable if described as a comic novel, but it is supposed to be a true account of family holidays: frankly, I don’t believe it. The first chapter sets the standard. The family car has starter motor problems. When Father gets to his mother’s house he refuses to stop the car so aged Granny has to dive into a moving vehicle. Really? If he’s having problems with the starter motor a driver would naturally be reluctant to stop the engine, but that doesn’t mean he can’t stop the car – they have clutches for just that purpose. When they get to the campsite they pitch the tent on a slope so steep that when Father and Grandmother fall over in the mud they slide down the hill and narrowly avoid going over the cliff. Father then breaks into an unoccupied caravan so they can shelter from the storm, but their movement dislodges the caravan from its mounts. They jump out and watch the caravan roll down the hill, END OVER END, and into the sea. Hmmm! Apart from such outlandish events, the book relies for its humour on endless pee and poo incidents and the fact that Mother swears like a trooper.
Emma Kennedy has an impressive writing pedigree. She has written for radio, television and the theatre and has the Wilma Tenderfoot series of children’s books to her name. She is also the current travel writer for The Guardian. How strange, then, that she should be so far off the mark with this one – and how baffling that there are so many 5* reviews on Amazon.

The book is available from Amazon The Tent, the Bucket and Me


The Time Hunters by Carl Ashmore

Cover imageI’ve no idea why it’s taken me two years to get around to reading this book. From all the comment about it I knew I’d enjoy it – and I did. I took the author’s word for it that this is a book ‘for children of all ages’, set aside any grown-up inhibitions and simply went along for the ride with the unquestioning enthusiasm of a ten-year-old. This has all the ingredients for a great children’s book – heroes, villains and a pacy plot with lots of twists and turns. The children, 13 and 11, are beautifully captured (I wonder if they are to age as the series develops), the heroes heroic and the villains highly villainous. This isn’t just an action adventure; the author clearly has an impish sense of humour that shines through, but more than that, serious issues are tackled – such as the loss of a parent, with a child’s desperation to return life to how it was. I bought the Kindle edition, but thank goodness it’s available from all good bookshops as a paperback for gifting to grandchildren The Time Hunters (The Time Hunters Saga Book 1)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Cover imageJudging by the sales figures I must be the last book reader in the country to tackle this book. I really wish I hadn’t bothered. I kept struggling through it, driven on by the thought that it must suddenly get better – but it didn’t. A long, tedious churning through of a family history (difficult for a reader to distinguish between so many characters sharing a surname); a totally unconvincing central character and an absurd plot – which of those features made this book such a commercial success? I also suspect that it lost something in translation as phrases appeared that seemed totally inappropriate. The marketing department did a good job with this one.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon when it was on special offer. It is available in print format from bookshops everywhere. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium series Book 1)

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Cover imageAm I the last person in Britain to find the work of Jasper Ffforde? It may be belated, but the discovery has been a joy. Reading some of the other reviews the word ‘romp’ is used frequently – and very appropriately. This book is an undisciplined, original, good-humoured romp. I suspect that those who have given negative reviews have tried to apply the normal standards of literary review, but this book defies such analysis. Go with it, don’t over-analyse and most will find it a breath of fresh air that is a lot fun. This the first in a series of books featuring Tuesday Next, an investigator living a curious version of our world where, for example, the Crimean War rumbles on. Literary crimes are afoot. Not only do we have time travel but also literary travel. The arch-villain enters the text of classic novels and kidnaps the characters.

Some reviewers have described the books as pretentious, but that wasn’t my impression. I found it a good-humoured work that should be especially enjoyed by book-lovers.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon, but it should also be available in print format from all good bookshops. The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next)

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Cover imageA short story that thoroughly deserves the classic status it has acquired. Based on the author’s own experiences it is convincingly told and deals with a woman’s descent into madness, with a significant contributing factor being the well-meant treatment by her medical practitioner husband of what we would now call post-natal depression. Numerous editions are available including free one shown. It is also available in a collection of the author’s work.

I obtained an anotated edition for Kindle from Amazon, but a lot of other editions are available. The Yellow Wall-Paper (Little Black Classics)

The Complete What Ukelele Players Really Want to Know by Barry Maz

Cover imageBarry Maz, usually known as Baz Maz, is a well-known ukelele player who runs a website for beginners. The website is regularly updated with content that is aimed at those who are new to the instrument. Along the way he published three books in which he collected together key information. He has now combined all three books into this one volume – hence the title. The current boom in folk music in the UK means that thousands of would-be musicians are buying the cheaper instruments – and string instruments don’t come much cheaper than bottom of the range ukeleles. Which must mean that there are a lot of people out there who will find this invaluable. It deals with the basics in a very accessible way – and it’s so cheap that it has to worth having. As far as I was concerned, it immediately paid for itself with the guidance given on fitting new strings.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon where it is also available in print format. The Complete What Ukulele Players Really Want To Know

The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith.

Cover imageI don’t think this book has ever been out of print since it was first published 120 years ago. A number of the editions are now available as free Kindle downloads.
George Grossmith was a very talented man – actor, singer, pianist, author, journalist, stand-up comedian. Jointly with his brother, Weedon, he wrote a series of humorous articles for Punch. These were expanded and published as the novel.
If you haven’t read it I recommend that you treat yourself to this delightfully funny, warm and charming tale of socially insecure Charles Pooter who believes that his diary will be recognised as a work of literary and historical merit.
It is possible that the reader needs to have adult children to fully appreciate the relationship that Pooter has with his son, but even without that extra insight I’m sure you’ll enjoy this classic.

I obtained it as a free download for Kindle from Amazon. The Diary of a Nobody

A Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson

Cover imageI suspect that I’m revealing too much of my feminine side when I say that I really enjoyed this book. It isn’t my usual read; it’s a gentle-paced, family saga that describes the growing to maturity of a young girl in a remote farming community in 19th century New Zealand. The descriptions of the local fauna and flora are just sufficient to create realism, although I was briefly confused by the mention of a rifleman in the undergrowth – until I realised that a rifleman is a small bird and not a sniper.
Occasionally, in the early chapters, I asked myself why I was reading it, but the book sucked me in and I couldn’t stop. For me it was a page-turner, not because it was action-packed and I was desperate to find what happened next, but because the writing is so smooth that it simply carried me along. The characters are lovingly drawn. The formatting is flawless and I didn’t spot a single typo – which is depressingly unusual in a self-published ebook.
Now it’s on to the next one in the series.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon. Sentence of Marriage (Promises to Keep Book 1)

Room by Emma Donahue

Cover imageThis book is clearly based on the Fritzl case that shocked us all. There is a basic ethical question here as to whether it is acceptable for an author to use the horrifying real-life experiences of someone else as the basis for a money-making novel. But I bought the book and I may as well review it, although I’m probably the last person in the country to read it and with over 800 reviews already another one is hardly going to matter.
The original twist of making the narrator a 5-year-old worked for me. If the narrator had been the mother I’m sure it would have had less impact. As it was I found myself constantly forced into considering the experiences of a child living his entire life confined to a single room with only his mother (who must have been living in a perpetual state of anguish) and a television guiding his development.
The contrast between Jack’s life and the love-filled, joyful, stimulation-packed existence of my granddaughter (same age) kept bringing tears to my eyes.
In the unlikely event that there might be someone reading this who hasn’t aleady read the book, I’ll avoid giving away the storyline. I’ll just say that the tension mounted as I read on and I was really rooting for Jack and Ma.
I read it in a single session and two months later it’s still fresh in my mind.

I bought it for Kindle from Amazon but it’s available in print format from all good bookshops.