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“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Monday, 31 December 2012

BookElf Reads 2012

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In the tradition of the last few years...
Not PUBLISHED this year, READ this year, savvy?

Oh God this list has caused me some heartache! What a cracking year for reading this has been for me! I know that the LeedsBookClub itself has had some wonderful discoveries over the past twelve months, but these are what I personally have awarded, I did it in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and I'm doing it all again today, M'Ok?

Discovery of the Year
The Garden of Evening Mists
Tan Twan Eng-The Garden of Evening Mists, The Gift of Rain
See, this is why I don't get those there book bloggers doing their 'lists of the year' at the beginning of December-you never know what's going to happen in the last month of the year and this is a case in point. I got The Garden of Evening Mists in the post (thank you, more please) at the beginning of December and spent a long week seeped in its beauty. His second novel, set in Malaya from the Second World War onwards this is just such a beautifully written book, its just such a shame it wasn't written twelve years ago or so when everything was set in Asia as it would have been a massive best seller. The story of a Chinese woman living in Penang, captured by the Japanese and held in a concentration camp throughout the war at terrible cost to herself and her family, who decades later returns to the mountain province and the garden Yugiri, where she stayed for years during the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s, in her  South African friend's tea plantation, this book is big, complicated and multi cultural. You think you in a multi cultural society, you ain't got jack on 1940s Malaya, the setting also of his first book, The Gift of Rain, which I am currently ploughing through. The writing is exquisite and the plots fascinating. The amount of detail poured into the books shows just how clever and committed a writer Tan Twan Eng is and with his first longlisted and his second short listed for the Booker, I have massive hopes for his third novel. Fans of metaphor ridden prose and history should wake up and get into these books. Its a teeny tiny publisher as well, which is always nice.

Series of the Year
The Eye in the Door
The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker
I had to review Pat Barker's latest novel Toby's Room this summer, so thought it might actually be a good idea to read one of the five of her novels cluttering my shelves first and boy am I glad I did. This kick-started a good three month period where I apparently read nothing but books set in the First World War, always a treat, and I was so happy with the massively positive response I got off people who loved these books as much as I do. The second one, The Eye In The Door, is just spectacular and was robbed of glory by the weaker third book The Ghost Road which somehow managed to claim all the prises. With the anniversary of the beginning of the war in a couple of years, you need to get into Pat Barker, her detailed descriptions and psychological analysis of the soldiers who fought and the people back home are extraordinary.

Up All Night Award
The Song of Achilles
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Oh this book, this beautiful beautiful book. My favourite by far of the Orange Prize (or whatever its called now) winners, this re-telling of the Iliad is sexy and sublime, you need to speed read it because you literally will not be able to put it down. Myself and a whole load of other people cannot wait for her next one. Also, do a big of background reading on Madeline Miller herself, as she is pretty damn ace.

Best Debut
Rules of Civility
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
I've read this book twice this year, recommended it to pretty much every reader I know, gone on and on and on about it on the Twitters and Facebook and pretty much every other place I can, wept over it, sighed over it and lamented frequently that Katey Kontent isn't real, and I can't actually get twatted on gin with her. This is literally the saddest of thoughts as I have never loved a fictional character as much as I love Katey Kontent and that includes the otherwise LOML Ralph Leary from Ralph's Party.
Set in 1938 New York, if you have any sense whatsoever you will buy yourself two copies of this book because the first will be saturated with tears. If you are twenty seven, you owe it to your future self to read this book NOW. If you are younger than twenty seven, buy it and put it in storage, if you are older, buy it, read it and feel whimsical. I will blattos be re-reading in the new year, if it wasn't completely socially unacceptable I'd blow off my party and re-read this book tonight. This book is my new Persuasion and you KNOWS I don't say things like that lightly.

The I-Know-I-Know-Its-Brilliant-But Award
Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
I know, I'm a failure as a human being and an utter utter thickie. I couldn't get past about 300 pages. I was bored, and I'm sorry. I will try again next year.

Best Recommended Read
Frenchman's CreekMoon Tiger (Penguin Modern Classics)
SHARED between Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier and Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
Both of these books are @sianushka's fault, and it would be impossible and wrong of me to pick from between the two. Again, this goes to show how December reading can make or break your year. From the moment I read Frenchman's Creek back in the spring I had this on the list, but Moon Tiger, which I read in four hours on the 20 December figuring if the Apocalypse was to come the next day at least I'd spend my last night doing something magical as opposed to Management Theory Homework, was such an experience I needed it on the list.
Frenchman's Creek has already had my splurge treatment, but I haven't been able to do the same with Moon Tiger so I'm going to do so now, and apologies for the twenty or so people on Twitter who were following by reading of the book and are subsequently buying it already.
Read it. Read it now.
Winner of the 1987 Booker again this book would have completely passed me by had it nt been for a recommendation. I was reading The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell (and how the hell it took me so long to get round to that I'll never know) and @sianushka suggested that I follow it with Moon Tiger as a lovely companion read. What an understatement. I'm not going to say exactly what reading this book reminded me of but let's say I started the evening with questioning worrying doubt, then experienced true love and complete euphoria, followed seamlessly by an hour of relaxing into acceptance of a life well lived. Bloody hell this is a well written book. The structure of it, it's tighter than Donna Tartt's A Secret History. The main character is a posher cleverer version of me, which always helps in relating to a history, and the way it portrays a life as lived by a particular kind of person at a particular time is spot on. I've read a lot of books set during various wars and this one gets the grief part right. I was weeping so much by the end of this book and it was by far my favourite pre-Apocalypse evening I've ever spent. If you are a speed reader, you need to experience this in a night, it is worth it, but take tea breaks because it does get a bit heavy at times.

Worst Book of the Year
Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend
Nine Uses For An Ex-Boyfriend by Sarra Manning
This pissed me off because I really like Sarra Manning's writing, she used to write for J17 and now writes YA chick-lit, some of which is really really good. I've read other stuff she's done for ForBooksSake and the Graun and she's a witty funny clever woman. This book however is a exercise in patience as the most neurotic and boring narrator navigates her way through what is obviously a horrible long term relationship and evil friendship with an annoying bint. Surprise surprise bint and boyf end up shagging, but instead of having some sort of St Paul revaluation and dumping his ass Hope tries to patch things up for another 300 pages. The actual hero is crap, her parents are Comedy Sidekicks from Hell and the whole thing is just a big mess. You wouldn't get pissed with Hope in real life and it therefore fails in the fundamental law of chick lit-you have to like your protagonist, not just want to shake her. Shame as the cover is beautiful.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Hobbit (book) - Guest Review

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THE HOBBIT

J.R.R. TOLKIEN

* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
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One of our regular book clubbers has very kindly agreed to put (virtual) pen to (virtual) page and write us a superb review of this excellent book. 

Please join me in saying WELL DONE and THANKS to Helen who tweets at @isfromupnorth and blogs at Hello from me to you! I didn't actually know that Helen blogged until tonight and have really enjoyed the few posts I've scanned tonight! Huzzah!


BLURB (from Waterstones)
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey 'there and back again'. 

They have a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon...The prelude to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit has sold many millions of copies since its publication in 1937, establishing itself as one of the most beloved and influential books of the twentieth century.

About the Author (from Amazon)
J.R.R. Tolkien was born on 3rd January 1892 in Bloemfontein. After serving in the First World War, he embarked upon a distinguished academic career and was recognised as one of the finest philologists in the world. He is, however, best known for his extraordinary works of fiction The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. He died on 2nd September 1973 at the age of 81.


I decided to jump on the bandwagon and see the film but had to read the book first, I always prefer it that way but it can sometimes mean ruining a good book. I remember first picking it up about 12 years ago when I was staying at my Aunt and Uncle’s. 

My Uncle had a lovely hardback of the book and I tried reading a chapter but it didn’t grip me. I now wish I had made more of an effort as I had more time then to read it then I do now. To me it wasn’t a quick read, but I think it’s just down to the time of year and not finding it a quick easy read.

I have to say for such a small book there’s quite a lot packed into it. The chapters have so much detail in it from descriptions of places to characters and the atmosphere, making you feel like you’re actually there watching the conversation between Bilbo and
Gollum for example. At times I got really lost in this book and loved the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. In my copy they are by David Wyatt, each one setting the scene for the chapter ahead. Magical!

So the story begins. I love the first paragraph:


‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty,dirty,wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sitdown on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.’

This opening gave me the impression that we were about to meet a creature who was proud and perhaps a little posh. And then we meet Bilbo. 

I love all the background story that Tolkien uses to build up the picture of what Bilbo is like. I wonder if he based Bilbo on someone he knew, as he has very human qualities.

I’m sure everyone by now has heard about The Hobbit and what it’s about. I thought I did until I read it. It starts with being introduced to Bilbo Baggins the hobbit who appears to have certain standards and a quiet life and doesn’t want to do anything out of his comfort zone i.e. fast, exciting, and possibly dangerous adventures, until one moment changes everything and he ends up caught in a long adventure that changes
him forever. It’s also about how people perceive each other. The Dwarves don’t think much of Gandalf the Wizards choice in bringing the hobbit along on a dangerous journey to capture the treasure from a dangerous dragon Smaug, but in the end due to several turn of events they become to believe in him and accept him as part of the clan/gang. It kind of reminds me of today’s society, mainly schools, and how sometimes we have to prove ourselves to be accepted in certain groups.

I did love this book. I would recommend it to everyone, I just think you need to give it a lot of your time and just lose yourself in it. As it’s not just a book about adventures and
magical creatures such as dwarves and elves and goblins but about personal journeys about how we are all meant to do certain things in life and when we step out of the comfort zone all because of one moment, one decision that then changes the path you were meant to take and without realising it your character/person who you once were.

There’s also a lot of poetry or riddles in this which are a major part in the story, whether to get Bilbo out of a fix or to rally up team spirit and everyone joining in the singing, showing the importance of being together. Yes it’s a children book and this seems all very deep but sometimes we just need to read a children’s book to gain perspective again. Our lives are made too complicated these days and its books like these that we need to escape from the real world.

Score 
10/10

YouTube Trailer for the film


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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christmas Gift for YOU from Chris Nickson

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MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL!

Tis the season to be jolly and once again the amazing Chris Nickson has provided us with a very special surprise - an exclusive short story!!!

As regular readers will know, Chris is the author of the intriguing Richard Nottingham series. In this story, he moves away from crime and instead focuses on a moment in time - inspired by a painting.

Once again, we are indebted to Chris - whose generosity knows no bounds. 
This is a wonderful tale, inspired by a beautiful picture and I hope that you'll let Chris know your feedback on twitter - @ChrisNickson2


Annabelle Atkinson and Mr. Grimshaw

Inspired by the painting Reflections on the Aire: On Strike, Leeds 1879


By Atkinson Grimshaw

On both sides of the river rows of factory chimneys stood straight and tall and silent, bricks blackened to the colour of night. Smoke was only rising from a few today, but the smell of soot was everywhere, on the breath and on the clothes. It was the shank of an October afternoon and the gas lamps were already lit, dusk gathering in the shadows.

He stood and looked at the water. Where barges should be crowded against the warehouses like puppies around a teat there was nothing. Just a single boat moored in the middle of the Aire, no sails set, its masts spindly and bare as a prison hulk.

He coughed a little, took the handkerchief from his pocket and spat delicately into it.

This was the time of year when it always began, when men and women found their lungs tender, when the foul air caught and clemmed in the chest and the odour from the gasworks cut through everything so that even the bitter winter snow tasted of it.

What sun there was hung low in the west, half-hidden by clouds. A few more minutes and he’d be finished then walk home to Knostrop, leave the stink and stench of Leeds for trees and grass and the sweet smell of fresher air. First, though, he needed to complete the sketch, to capture these moments.

Tomorrow he’d start in the studio, finding the mood that overwhelmed him now, Leeds in the still of the warehousemen’s strike, no lading, no voices shouting, no press of people and trade along the river.

“What tha’ doing?”

He turned. He hadn’t heard her come along the towpath. But there she was, peering over his shoulder at the lines on the pad, the shadings and simple strokes that were his shorthand.

“Tha’ drawing?”

“Sketching,” he answered with a smile. Slipping the charcoal into his jacket pocket.

“Aye, that in’t bad,” she told him with approval, reaching out a finger with the nail bitten short and rimmed with dirt. “I like that,” she said, pointing at the way he’d highlight the buildings as they vanished towards the bridge, hinting at the cuts and alleys and what lay beyond.

“Thank you.”

He studied her properly, little more than a girl in an old dress whose pattern had faded, then hem damp and discoloured where she’d walked across the wet grass. She wore her small, tattered hat pinned into her hair.

She was no more than twenty, he judged. As she opened her mouth to speak he could see that half her teeth were missing, the others yellowed, and her face wore the lines of a woman twice her age, cheeks sunk from hunger, the bones of her wrists like twigs. But her eyes were clear and full of mischief. She carried a bundle in her left hand. At first he thought she was a ragpicker, done for the day; then he noticed how she cradled it close and understood it was what little she owned in the world.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Anabelle Atkinson, sir,” she replied with the faintest of smiles. “Me mam said she wanted summat nice around her.”

He nodded, watching the water and the sky again. In a minute the sky would part, leaving the sun pale as lemon reflecting on the river. Perhaps the last sun of the year, except for a few days when the sun would sparkle on the snow around his home. He groped for the charcoal again, holding his breath for the moment, ready to work quickly.

“My name’s Atkinson, too,” he said distracted by the light, committing it to memory.

“Happen as we’re related, then.” He could feel her eyes on him. “But mebbe not.”

“It’s my middle name,” he told her quietly, “bit I prefer it to my Christian name.”

“Why’s that, then?”

Very quickly he fumbled in his pocket, drawing out coloured pencils and adding to the sketch, the reflections on the river, the gold of a fading sun mingling with the browns and greens of the dirty water, smudging with the edge of his hand, thinking, putting it all away in his memory for tomorrow when he’d sit in the studio with his paints.

“It suits me better,” he answered her finally, squinting at his work, then at the scene before adding some more touches.

“That’s reet,” she said slowly, as he was about to add more umber to the water.

“That’s it.” There was awe in her voice, as if she couldn’t believe nature could be captured that way. “It looks alive.”

“It’s just preparation,” he explained. “I’ll paint it soon.”

“That what you are, then? An artist?”

“I am.”

He was a successful one, too. Whatever he put on canvas sold, almost before it had dried. For the last nineteen years it had been his living, since he broke away from the tedium of being a railway clerk, the job he thought might crush his heart. With no training and only the support of his wife, he’d known that painting could make his soul sing. These days he was a wealthy man, one who’d made art pay. Now, in 1879, they knew him all around the country; in London any man would deign to receive him.

“Tha’ must make a bob or two.”

“I get by.”

“You’ve got them good clothes and you talk posh.”

He chuckled.

“I grew up in Wortley. Not as posh as you’d think. My father worked on the railways. What about you, Annabelle Atkinson? Where do you live?”

“Me mam’s in one of them house up on the Bank.”

He knew them, squalid back-to-backs with no grass or green, no good air, and the children ragged as tinkers’ brats.

“How many of you?”

“Ten. I’m not there no more, though. Had a job as a maid in one of them big houses out past Headingley.”

“Had?” He eyed her sharply.

She smiled and rubbed her belly. For the first time he noticed that it was rounded, pushing hard against the old dress.

“See? And me mam won’t have me back. No room, not if I’m not bringing in a wage.”

“What about the man?” he asked.

“Played me for a fool. Gone down to the sea by now. Maybe over it.”

“What are you going to do?”

She shrugged.

“I’ll find summat. There’s work for them as is willing to graft.”

He thought of the life in her and his own children, six alive and the ten who’d died.

Of his wife, twenty-two years married, with her stern face and the eternal look of weariness.

“Where are you going to sleep?”

“There’s rooms. At least when they turned me out they paid what they owed. I’ll not go short for a while.”

He looked down at the sketch. It caught everything well, and it would be a good painting, one to bring in a good ten pounds or more. But it was a landscape unpeopled.

“Annabelle Atkinson, can you do something for me?”

“What?” she asked warily, too familiar with the ways of men.

“Just stand about ten yards down the path, that’s all.”

“Why?”

He tapped the drawing with a fingernail.

“I want to put you in this, that’s all?”

“Me?” She laughed. “Go on, you don’t want me in that.”

“I do. Please.”

She shook her head.

“You’re daft, you are.” But she still moved along the path, looking back over her shoulder. “Here?”

“Yes. Look out over the river. That’s it. Stay there.”

He was deft, seeing how she held the bundle, her bare arms, the hem of the dress high enough to show bare ankles, and a sense of longing in the way she held herself.

“I’m done,” he told her after a minute and she came back to him.

“That’s me?” she asked.

“It is.”

“Do I really look like that?”

“That’s how I see you,” he said with a smile. She kept staring at the paper.

“You’ll put that in your painting?”

“With more detail, yes.”

“What?”

“The pattern of the dress, things like that.”

Self-consciously she smoothed down the old material, her face suddenly proud, looking younger and less careworn. He dug into his trouser pocket, pulling out two guineas.

“This is for you.”

“What? All this?”

“I’m an artist. I pay my models.”

“But I din’t do owt. I just stood over there,” she protested.

“I sketched you, and you’ll be in the painting. That makes you my model. Here, take it.”

Almost guiltily she plucked the money from his hand, tucking it away in the pocket of her dress.

“Thank you, sir,” she said quietly. “You’ve made my day, you have.”

“As you’ve made mine, Annabelle Atkinson.” He closed the sketch pad and put away the pencils and charcoal, then tipped his hat to her before walking away.

“So what is your name, then?” she asked.

“Atkinson Grimshaw.” He handed her his card. “I wish you and your baby well.”

“Me in a painting. There’s no one as’ll believe that.” She began to laugh, letting it rise into a full-throated roar, and he smiled with her.


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Chris Nickson

Richard Nottingham - Book 1 - The Broken Token Review
Richard Nottingham - Book 2 - Cold Cruel Winter Review

Richard Nottingham - Exclusive - Short Story - Home
Richard Nottingham - Exclusive - December

Chris Nickson - Interview

Follow Chris on Twitter - @ChrisNickson2
Best Book of 2001 - Library Journal Award

Sweet Tooth - Mary Nottingham's Lemon Meringue Pie

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Chris Nickson Table of Contents
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Monday, 10 December 2012

Huge Thanks

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This year has been a roller coaster for Leeds Book Club and me personally.
I'd like to take a moment to thank a few people who've gone above and beyond in their support, help and/or friendship.
Naturally, I know that the moment I post this, I'll instantly think of 10 people I should have included as is always the way with these things! Apologies in advance if you are excluded on the page - I'm ever so grateful in my heart *bats eye lids*.

First and foremost, I have to give huge props to my two partners in crime @Gazpachodragon (aka Booky O'Hare or the Kirstlicious one) and Book Elf Leeds. Without you, I'm sure I'd have crumbled into little dusty pieces months ago!
T'Elf, longtime blogger at the Travelling Suitcase Library has recently created her own personal blog HERE where you can keep up with her adventures and book reviews!
All of my Guest Stars are absolute superstars. To share their time and voices isn't always an easy task - we're all delighted to have fresh perspectives on different things. Huzzah for y'all!

Though each person has been spectacularly awesome, I shall single out (and possibly embarrass) @WoodsieGirl who powered through the Man Booker Shortlist like a trooper for us! Massive props!

Ditto to those actors and authors that have been gracious enough to allow us an interview! Looking forward to hearing an update from y'all soon!
Singled out for particular praise must be Chris Nickson who has been so generous with our little book club - providing us with exclusives and meet and greets and all sorts of goodies! Thanks so much! Can't wait to finally get stuck into the latest book - if you've actually done what I think you might have, you'll hear the squeals in Nottingham!


My best bud @Lainibop has been working her way through her 130 To Be Read pile and has been kind enough to keep us appraised of her progress.
She's recently created her own blog Fizzy Elephants and I recommend it to all! Not because she's my bestie and I'm slightly scared of her...because its the best blog on fizzy elephants you'll ever find! *Nods emphatically*

Obviously, Leeds Book Club would be nothing without its venues - each providing its own spirit and vibe (that's right, man, I said vibe). So, as always a huge holla holla to our LBC Mothership Arcadia Bar and to Cafe 164, Giraffe Restaurant and Bar, Medusa Bar and the White Swan pub. We'd be nowt without you!


We're so fortunate to be part of a broader network of bloggers in this city, Leeds does often feel like a giant community on twitter. Sites like Culture Vultures, Leeds Guide, My Life in Leeds, Leeds Online, Leeds - live it, love it and Culture Leeds (who also help us {read SAVE OUR LIVES}out with our write ups). The community have taken us under their wings and advised us, dragged us kicking and screaming into the 21st century!

We've become fast friends with @LeedsLibraries, who've bent over backwards to help us with book availability and kept us posted on talks and signings - some very exciting projects in the offing! Do join us and support this invaluable resource by signing up for membership if you aren't one already!

The West Yorkshire Playhouse have been brilliant at keeping us up to date with their literary productions and we'll hopefully be working together a bit more n the year so double huzzah and hugs and overexcited squealing for that!

On the booky front once more, there are two places I can't help but visit every chance I get.
Leeds Waterstones - who have arranged the Leeds Book Club card for us and put up a shelf for book clubbers (eagle eye members - this should be returning in January!).

OK Comics is, of course, my other must visit spot. Jared and Ollie, the childlings, gun-running A and Sam - ye've kept me sane this last year - no easy task - and provided me with a much needed sanctuary from the real world! Whether I'm in for 30 minutes or 3, I'm always made feel part of the family. Thanks so much!

It's so much fun joining in with projects like Beyond Guardian Leeds and the BBC Radio Leeds - becoming part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Thanks so much for the opportunity and looking forward to chatting away with ye again!

Last, but by no means least, it's been fantastic watching Leeds Playlist grow - not least as it is run by book clubber and general cool dude @Wandapops. We've enjoyed listening to a variety of selections and sharing our literary ones. Can't wait to see what you've in store for us next year!!

We've laughed, we've learned and we're looking forward to doing it all over again in 2013!



Christmas Read-a-Long - Week 8

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The Wind in the Willows
KENNETH GRAHAME



BLURB from Amazon
When Kenneth Grahame first entertained his son with letters about a petulant character named Toad, he had no way of knowing that his creation—together with his friends Mole, Rat, and Badger—would delight children for nearly 100 years. 
Here they are once more, pursuing adventure in gypsy caravans, stolen sportscars, and prison, but always returning to their beloved Wildwood. And although Grahame’s characters are unmistakably animals, they remain endearingly human in their eccentricity, folly, and friendship.

FREE eBooks!
Amazon:               THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
iTunes:               THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Project Gutenberg:    THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

FREE Audiobooks!
LibriVox:             THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Books Should Be Free: THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

I'll be sending out regular updates regarding what chapters and when, but for those of you who like to be organised in advance - 

THIS WEEK!
10/12/2012 - Chapter 12 - The return of Ulysses


Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Wind in the Willows Review

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Every year the West Yorkshire Playhouse puts on a family friendly production over the Christmas season. And each year, the aim seems to be to create such a warm, sumptuous and lavish performance as to terrify the next person to take on the task! 


Credit to photographer Keith Pattison

For Ian Brown - the director of this years Wind in the Willows - this task was hopefully more of a labour of love than worry, returning to a theater that he carefully steered for over a decade and only departed earlier this year. 

Alan Bennett's 22 year old adaptation is rightly hailed as a modern classic (The Independent). His dialogue is faithful to the original and zippy; never losing sight of its goal - to delight and enthrall whole families. This story hearkens back to idyllic glory days, with a whimsy and humour that allows it to transcend the boundaries of age and tine period with ease. 
Additionally, the play is tied together by music. From songs to haunting refrains; it is a wonderful device to have all musical pieces appear to be produced from the stage and creatures depicted, really allowing you to feel part of the process. (UPDATE Every single note was LIVE according to Movement Director Lucy Hind on twitter. I'm even more impressed!!)      


Credit to photographer Keith Pattison
Throughout the production, there is a wonderful sense of movement, from each character to the gloriously and deceptively simple set. From what appears to be a mere grassy mound emerges a vibrant landscape where caravans, motor cars and even trains are to be expected. 
Lucy Hind - the Movement Director - ensures that each character has a motion or habit that is unique to the animal that each portrays. This becomes most obvious in the scene-stealing perennially put-upon Dobbin (Tom Jude) and that model of perpetual motion and confidence Otter (Leon Scott).

For those familiar with the story, I can assure you that all the essential elements are present and correct - though I personally would have LOVED to have seen this casts take on my favourite chapter - The Piper At The Gates of Dawn. 


Credit to photographer Keith Pattison
Though this is undoubtedly Toad's show - and he is wonderfully brought to life by veteran actor Paul Kemp - Toad would be nothing without his bosom companions. It rests upon the amiable Ratty, friendly Mole and sensible Badger to make this tale believable. Jack Lord, Joe Alessi and Tony Jayawardena are more than up to the task. Indeed, I would have happily followed each down a story of their individual lives, had it been available. 


Credit to photographer Keith Pattison
Faithful Ratty remains my favourite character. As a child, I missed the sub-text, of him being in the mould of a retired Navy officer (though my recent re-read for the Christmas Read-a-long did make that more obvious). Here, though initially thrown by his posh accent, he remains as warm, caring and trusting as I ever believed him to be. A wonderful friend for anyone, young or old. 

For that reason, among many others, I heartily recommend this play. Take your loved ones, laugh and celebrate the end of the year 2012, it's the best way to head into 2013!


Credit to photographer Keith Pattison
A West Yorkshire Playhouse production


24 November – 19 January 2013

To book tickets call Box Office: 0113 213 7700 or visit www.wyp.org.uk

WIW 01 (L-R) Jack Lord (Ratty), Joe Alessi (Mole)
WIW 02 Paul Kemp (Toad)
WIW 03 Paul Kemp (Toad)
WIW 04 Joe Alessi (Mole), Paul Kemp (Toad), Jack Lord (Ratty)
WIW 05 The Wind In The Willows company


Friday, 7 December 2012

Leeds Libraries is hosting a Tolkien event!

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A talk will be held at Leeds Libraries to celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien's life and work in Leeds. 

Venue: Central Library
Date:  14th of December 2012
Time:  12:30pm - 2:30pm

For details, call (0113) 247 6016

Please note: This is a ticketed event - £4.00 (£3.00 concessions) 

Fancy seeing The Hobbit? - UPDATE

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Proposed Venue: Vue cinema at Kirkstall free parking available 
Proposed Date:  16th of December 2013
Proposed Time:  15:50

We seem to have agreed a time!! Huzzah!

I'm booking immediately to avoid disappointment. 
Also, I want one of the luxury seats. 

I've been waiting for this film for a very long time!



If you've met me since I turned 10, you might have an inkling about my enthusiasm for this film. 
It's entirely possible I let something slip. 

Finally - the wait is over. Tomorrow The Hobbit - Part 1 - has its international release.




SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE 

Though I have some reservations (3 films? Seriously? But the LOTR only had 3 and that's a bazillion times longer), my heart belongs in Middle Earth and I trust Peter Jackson, so I want to see it as quickly as humanly possible. 
Heck, I'm not ashamed to admit I became a little misty eyed when I heard those first familiar strains of music on the trailer earlier this year. 

So - I was hoping that some LeedsBookClub members (and any readers lurking out there!) might fancy joining me on a trip to the mooovies next month?





If you fancy joining in, let me know either by email, on facebook, twitter or in the comments below and I'll keep you posted on the plan!

First Trailer


Second Trailer





Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Podcast Interview with Ruth F Long

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LeedsBookClub are delighted to be joined by Ruth F Long - author of Tales of the Holtlands, The Scroll Thief and - her most recent novel - The Treachery of Beautiful Things for our most recent podcast. 

Ruth and I were chatting over skype and though it sounded fine at the time, our conversation is sadly a little fuzzy in spots. 

We chat about books, writing, publishing, some films and tv and we'd have happily gone on for hours if real life hadn't intervened!

If you'd like to chat with Ruth in more detail - and trust me, you should - you'll find her on twitter @RFLong.

Quelle surprise, we managed to behave so I think I can skip our usual language and spoilers warnings. Huzzah for us!

To listen from a mobile device, please click HERE
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Our Podcast Page 
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Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas Read-a-Long - Week 7

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The Wind in the Willows
KENNETH GRAHAME


BLURB from Amazon
When Kenneth Grahame first entertained his son with letters about a petulant character named Toad, he had no way of knowing that his creation—together with his friends Mole, Rat, and Badger—would delight children for nearly 100 years. 
Here they are once more, pursuing adventure in gypsy caravans, stolen sportscars, and prison, but always returning to their beloved Wildwood. And although Grahame’s characters are unmistakably animals, they remain endearingly human in their eccentricity, folly, and friendship.

FREE eBooks!
Amazon:               THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
iTunes:               THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Project Gutenberg:    THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

FREE Audiobooks!
LibriVox:             THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Books Should Be Free: THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

I'll be sending out regular updates regarding what chapters and when, but for those of you who like to be organised in advance - 

THIS WEEK!
03/12/2012 - Chapter 11 - 'Like summer tempests came his tears'


 

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