26 Books in 2017 Books 9, 10 and 11

Gone With the Wind, The Ladder of Years, and the latest Rebus…

I know three posts for the price of one! Those of you who know me/follow me elsewhere will know I’ve recently moved house. Therefore there’s been a bit of slippage in the 26 Books in 52 Weeks posting. So it’s a bit of a catch-up today.

Book number 9 had to be a book that was made into a film. Lots to choose from here, but it was Gone with the Wind, set during the American Civil War, that came to mind first – so I’m going with that. This is the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Margaret Mitchell first published in 1936, and made into a film in 1939. I was given it as a Christmas present in the 1970s and at around a thousand pages long it was the longest book I’d ever read. I didn’t see the film until after I’d read the book. I loved both. I was a teenage girl and it was one exciting and epic romance. Nowadays the book’s portrayal of slavery and of African Americans is controversial. As an adult, I can see why that is, but I can’t deny that as a naive teenager it had me gripped.

Back Cover Blurb:Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives. In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.


Book number 10 had to be a book published in the twentieth century. Again lots to choose from, and again I’ve gone for the one that sprang to mind first. Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler was published in 1995. It’s the book that confirmed for me that I’d like to have a go at writing a novel. It’s the kind of novel I aspire to write and it’s the kind of novel I love reading. It’s a wonderful example of contemporary fiction that is not only literary, but also tells a good story.

Back Cover Blurb: One warm summer’s day at the beach, forty-year-old Cordelia Grinstead, dressed only in a swimsuit and beach robe, walks away from her family and just keeps on going. After hitching a ride with a stranger to a new town where she knows no one, she reinvents herself as a single woman with no ties and begins living a new life altogether. But how long can she keep this up before her real life finds her?


And book number 11 had to be book set in my home town or region. No contest here. I love Ian Rankin’s crime fiction and I love his (now retired) police detective, John Rebus. So I’ve gone for the latest, the twenty-first in the Rebus series – Rather Be The Devil. Like all the books in the series, the novel is set in the city of Edinburgh where I was born and grew up and lived and worked in for many years. Rebus is a superb creation and Rankin’s writing is just fab. His portrayal of Edinburgh is one I recognise – somewhere between Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Alexander McCall Smith’s The Sunday Philosophy Club.

Back Cover Blurb: Some cases never leave you. For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind. Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria’s killer has never been found. Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs. A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position. Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?

What would your choices for these three categories be?



Using Down Time Wisely


Relax (Photo credit: Orethorn)

I work full time – *pauses for laughter* – yes, yes, very funny – I’ve heard it all before – teachers don’t work full time – go on laugh – better now? Good – right where was I?

I work full time as a primary school teacher of children with special needs. I enjoy my job but it can be exhausting at times. It can also be stressful. But I’m very lucky to have the best stress busting hobby. I write. Nowadays it’s more than a hobby. It’s an obsession. I write novels, short stories, a regular column in a writers’ magazine and of course I blog. I write for both children and adults. I go in for lots of writing competitions.

But doing all that, as well as working and being the Home Secretary – i.e. boss of my household –  and maintaining my roles of mum and grandma – and keeping up a feeble, barely breathing social life –means that – as for many of us – time is tight.

I’m a fairly good manager of time and I’ve learned to be ruthless about anything that threatens to waste it. It’s amazing how a brush with mortality makes you appreciate every second. It was a cancer diagnosis that focussed my mind on seizing the day. It was because of that diagnosis that I took up writing seriously. It was a now or never moment.

Nowadays writing is a way of life. I put my writing times in my diary and treat them as important appointments – i.e. I show up and do what I came to do.

relax (Photo credit: twicepix)

But I’m not superwoman and I do have some down time. I like watching some TV, enjoy going to the cinema and love reading. However, I’m very picky when it comes to all three.

TV Corner - After
TV Corner – After (Photo credit: Horrortaxi)

I don’t watch a lot of television but I Sky+ the stuff I do like and watch it when it suits me. At the moment I have a top three on the TV.

I’m into ‘Borgen’ – Saturday evenings BBC4 – two back to back episodes are transmitted each week. ‘Borgen’ is another of those fabulous Scandinavian dramas. It’s a Danish production and is a sort of Scandi ‘West Wing’ – telling the story of a fictitious female Danish Prime Minister. It’s superbly written and acted and, subtitles or not, it outstrips most home-grown BBC fare-  in my humble opinion.

I also enjoy Stella on Sky 1 with the very talented Ruth Jones in the title role. It’s the sort of thing the BBC used to do so well – a funny, poignant, contemporary drama.

And I have to admit to a penchant for one of the USA’s NCIS stable of programmes – namely NCIS Los Angeles. Perhaps it’s the wee lady boss played by Linda Hunt that’s the attraction. She makes me – at my towering 4ft 10 and a half inches – feel tall – and she is just the best character – with all the best lines. And again it’s sharply written and played.

Cinema… (Photo credit: m4tik)

As far as my cinema going goes, I do manage to go reasonably regularly in spite of living on a small Hebridean island. We have a small community cinema here and it went digital in December. So now we no longer have to wait for the 35mm versions to be released and get the blockbuster films at the same time as the mainland. The three films I’ve seen most recently are ‘Brave’, ‘Skyfall’ and ‘The Hobbit’ .

‘Brave’ I enjoyed more than I expected to. The animation was superb. The story was entertaining and just the right side of twee and I was absorbed the whole time.

‘Skyfall’ – was amazing! And not just because of Daniel Craig and his gorgeous – ahem – acting. I just sat with a big, silly grin on my face throughout. I loved Adele’s theme song, I loved the opening titles, I loved the long opening action sequence, I loved the story. Brilliant!

‘The Hobbit’ – no – not for me. I was bored. It took Bilbo an hour and a half to get out of the Shires and then another two hours to do b****r all. A disappointing waste of time. How they’re going to make two more episodes beats me.

bookshop (Photo credit: beckvalleybooks)

And so to reading. Over Christmas I read Ian Rankin’s the ‘Impossible Dead’. If you like crime fiction with a Scottish flavour – and more than a bit of originality – then this is for you. I found it very entertaining. Last week I finished a novel aimed at young teenagers ‘Kimi’s Fear’ by John Hudspith. This is the second in the Kimi series and is in the fantasy genre. It’s a mad, magical, monstrous read and I’m sure it will be enjoyed by Kimi’s many fans. Currently I’m reading ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson. It’s so highly original, it’s difficult to describe. It’s wacky, funny, intriguing, shocking – a page turner.

So there you have it. We all need to replenish the well from time to time and should never feel guilty about doing so.

Coral Beach 02.05.11 011

And remember sometimes it’s necessary – vital – essential – to just stop and stare…