Category Archives: Features

Children’s Classics Quiz: The Answers

As promised, here are the answers to the Children’s Classics quiz I posted last weekend. Well done to everyone who participated!

children-reading-1

1. The primroses were over.
Watership Down by Richard Adams

2. Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

3. I myself had two separate encounters with witches before I was eight years old.
The Witches by Roald Dahl

4. Roger, aged seven, and no longer the youngest of the family, ran in wide zigzags, to and fro, across the steep field that sloped up from the lake to Holly Howe, the farm where they were staying for part of the summer holidays.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

5. If you want to find Cherry Tree Lane all you have to do is ask a policeman at the crossroads.
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

6. It began with the day when it was almost the Fifth of November, and a doubt arose in some breast – Robert’s, I fancy – as to the quality of the fireworks laid in for the Guy Fawkes celebration.
The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit

7. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

8. It was seven o’clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father Wolf woke up from his day’s rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of the sleepy feeling in their tips.
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

9. A sudden snow shower put an end to hockey practice.
Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle

10. The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

11. The little old town of Mayenfeld is charmingly situated.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri

12. This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child.
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

13. Harriet was trying to explain to Sport how to play Town.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

14. The tempest had raged for six days, and on the seventh seemed to increase.
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

15. When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

16. The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

17. “Mother, have you heard about our summer holidays yet?” said Julian, at the breakfast-table.
Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

18. A tall, slim girl, “half-past sixteen,” with serious gray eyes and hair which her friends called auburn, had sat down on the broad red sandstone doorstep of a Prince Edward Island farmhouse one ripe afternoon in August, firmly resolved to construe so many lines of Virgil.
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

19. The Fossil sisters lived in the Cromwell Road.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

20. When Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse.
Stuart Little by E. B. White

A Quiz for Easter: Children’s Classics

children-reading-1 I was expecting to be posting my third monthly War and Peace readalong update this weekend, but as I’ve found myself behind with this month’s reading I’ve decided to do something different instead. I know ‘first lines’ quizzes are not exactly very original, but I haven’t seen any book bloggers post one recently so I thought this might be something fun for the Easter weekend.

I’ve listed below twenty first lines from children’s classics, all of which I remember reading when I was younger. There’s probably a slight British bias here, but I’ve tried to include some that I would expect most people to be able to guess as well as some that are much more obscure. I’ll be impressed if anybody knows all of them.

Have fun and feel free to share your answers in the comments!

***

1. The primroses were over.

2. Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.

3. I myself had two separate encounters with witches before I was eight years old.

4. Roger, aged seven, and no longer the youngest of the family, ran in wide zigzags, to and fro, across the steep field that sloped up from the lake to Holly Howe, the farm where they were staying for part of the summer holidays.

5. If you want to find Cherry Tree Lane all you have to do is ask a policeman at the crossroads.

6. It began with the day when it was almost the Fifth of November, and a doubt arose in some breast – Robert’s, I fancy – as to the quality of the fireworks laid in for the Guy Fawkes celebration.

7. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

8. It was seven o’clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father Wolf woke up from his day’s rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of the sleepy feeling in their tips.

9. A sudden snow shower put an end to hockey practice.

10. The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.

11. The little old town of Mayenfeld is charmingly situated.

12. This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child.

13. Harriet was trying to explain to Sport how to play Town.

14. The tempest had raged for six days, and on the seventh seemed to increase.

15. When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.

16. The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.

17. “Mother, have you heard about our summer holidays yet?” said Julian, at the breakfast-table.

18. A tall, slim girl, “half-past sixteen,” with serious gray eyes and hair which her friends called auburn, had sat down on the broad red sandstone doorstep of a Prince Edward Island farmhouse one ripe afternoon in August, firmly resolved to construe so many lines of Virgil.

19. The Fossil sisters lived in the Cromwell Road.

20. When Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse.

book-clipart-3

I’ll post the answers next week.

Good luck!

Truth is the daughter of time…

Richard III
I couldn’t let today pass without mentioning the exciting news that was announced this morning: A skeleton discovered by archaeologists in Leicester has been identified as Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

As followers of my blog will probably know, Richard III is one of my favourite historical figures and the Wars of the Roses is one of the periods of history I’m most interested in, so I’ve been anxiously awaiting this announcement for months! For those of you in the UK there’s a documentary on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm, The King in the Car Park, which will reveal the details of the archaeological dig and the scientific tests that were carried out on the skeleton. And in honour of today’s news, I have put together a list of the books (both fiction and non-fiction) that I’ve read over the last few years on the subject of Richard III or the Wars of the Roses in general.

The Sunne in Splendour

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman

This is one of my favourite historical fiction novels and the best book I’ve read on Richard III. Don’t let the length put you off! Penman does a great job of making a complicated period of history easy to understand as she tells the story of Richard’s life from childhood to his tragic death.

The Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Published in the 1950s, this is the story of Inspector Alan Grant who in hospital with a broken leg and decides to investigate Richard III and his alleged crimes from his hospital bed. Reading everything he can find about Richard and the disappearances of the Princes in the Tower, Grant begins to discover that historical sources can’t always be trusted and that history is written by the victors.

Treason

Treason by Meredith Whitford

Like The Sunne in Splendour, this novel also covers Richard III’s life but from the perspective of his cousin Martin Robsart, a fictitious character. I loved this book – it was well-researched, the characters were believable and I could even follow the battle scenes!

The Adventures of Alianore Audley

The Adventures of Alianore Audley by Brian Wainwright

A parody of the historical novel, this book takes a humorous look at the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of 15th century ‘damosel’, spy and knight’s lady Alianore Audley. Some familiarity with the period is needed to fully understand all the jokes and get the most out of this book.

Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory

I wasn’t a fan of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor court novels but have been following her Cousins’ War series from the beginning because I find this period of history so much more interesting. There are four books in the series so far and each one focuses on a different female historical figure: The White Queen (Elizabeth Woodville), The Red Queen (Margaret Beaufort), The Lady of the Rivers (Jacquetta of Luxembourg) and The Kingmaker’s Daughter (Anne Neville).

The Women of the Cousins War

The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother

A non-fiction companion book to the Cousins’ War series mentioned above. The book contains three essays – one by Philippa Gregory on Jacquetta of Luxembourg, another by David Baldwin on Elizabeth Woodville and the final one by Michael Jones on Margaret Beaufort.

Blood Sisters

Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood

I read this book in January and will be posting my review soon. Like The Women of the Cousins’ War this is another non-fiction book that looks at the period from a female perspective.

A Secret Alchemy

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

A present day historian, Una Pryor, researches the lives of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV, and her brother Anthony, and begins to investigate the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. No review link for this one as I found it difficult to get into and didn’t finish reading it.

This is far from being a comprehensive list as this is a relatively new interest of mine and I have only featured here the titles I’ve read or have attempted to read – there are a lot of other books on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III that I’m looking forward to reading.

Please feel free to recommend your favourites!

A Classics Challenge – January: Charlotte Brontë

This year I am taking part in a Classics Challenge hosted by Katherine of November’s Autumn. The goal is to read seven classics in 2012 and on the 4th day of every month, Katherine will be posting a prompt to help us discuss the book we are reading.

The first book I’ve chosen to read for the challenge is The Professor by Charlotte Brontë. I’m almost halfway through the book and have been enjoying it so far. I’ll be posting my thoughts about the book itself after I’ve finished reading it, but for this month’s prompt, Katherine is asking us to focus on the author – in this case, Charlotte Brontë.

There are three different levels of participation this month depending on how far into the book we are, and I feel I’ve read enough of The Professor to answer the questions for all three levels.

Level 1
Who is the author? What do they look like? When were they born? Where did they live? What does their handwriting look like? What are some of the other novels they’ve written? What is an interesting and random fact about their life?

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte was born in Thornton, Yorkshire on April 21, 1816, the third of the six children of Reverend Patrick Brontë and his wife Maria Branwell Brontë.

The Brontë Parsonage Museum

The Brontë family lived at Haworth Parsonage, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum.

Charlotte Brontë is the author of four novels: Jane Eyre, one of my favourite classics, Villette, which I read last year, The Professor, and Shirley. I am reading The Professor now and will hopefully have time for Shirley too before the end of the year.

Charlotte Brontë's signature

Here’s an interesting piece of trivia about Charlotte: A tiny manuscript of an unpublished Charlotte Brontë story was sold at auction in 2011 to a French museum. The story was written in 1830 when she was fourteen years old and each page measures only 1.4 x 2.4 inches.

Level 2
What do you think of their writing style? What do you like about it? or what would have made you more inclined to like it? Is there a particular quote that has stood out to you?

I find it hard to explain exactly what I like about Charlotte Brontë’s writing style, but I obviously like it enough to want to read all four of her books! I love the way she expresses the feelings and emotions of her characters; she chooses exactly the right words and phrases to convey their sadness, loneliness and suffering as well as their moments of happiness and love.

However, there are a few aspects of her writing that I don’t like so much. Two problems I’m having with The Professor are the overwhelming number of references to physiognomy (judging a person’s character from their appearance) and also a tendency to include a lot of French dialogue which is not translated, making it difficult for a non-French speaker to follow what’s being said. Overall, though, I do like the way she writes and am looking forward to reading the rest of this book.

Level 3
Why do you think they wrote this novel? How did their contemporaries view both the author and their novel?

The Professor was Charlotte Brontë’s first novel, although it remained unpublished until after her death. The main character, William Crimsworth, is a teacher at a school in Belgium. As Charlotte herself (like her sister Emily) had spent some time studying and teaching in Brussels, she was able to draw on her own experiences when writing this novel. It seems that The Professor wasn’t very highly regarded during Charlotte’s lifetime and she was unable to find a publisher for it, even after she began to have success with her other novels.

Have you read any of Charlotte Brontë’s novels? What do you think of her work?

Don’t forget to visit Katherine’s blog post where you can find links to other participants’ responses. We are all reading different books so a variety of different authors are being highlighted this month.

Guest Post: Alison Pick – author of Far to Go

Something slightly different today: a guest post from author Alison Pick! You may remember that I recently posted my review of Alison’s new novel, Far to Go. Alison is visiting She Reads Novels today as part of her UK blog tour and here she tells us what inspired her to write Far to Go.

Growing up, there was a secret in my family. We went to Church, and celebrated Christmas, but we weren’t really Christians. We were hiding something. I didn’t know what.

I got older. There were clues. My great-grandparents had died in Europe. It had something to do with a camp, and with my grandmother’s pearls that she’d smuggled into Canada in a jar of cold cream.

I understood the truth in stages. My great grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz. Why? Because they were Jewish. Which meant their children, my grandparents, were Jewish too. Which meant, of course, that my father was the same.

I both knew this, and did not know it.

The reason for my psychic ambivalence was a moratorium on discussion. My grandmother forbid any and all questions about her parents, their deaths, or their backgrounds. In retrospect this makes perfect sense. Granny was a young woman when she arrived in Canada. Although culturally Jewish, she’d never practiced. Her own parents, who she had been very close to, were supposed to meet her in Canada, but they never made it out of Europe. It was out of a horrific lifelong grief that our family’s silence was sewn.

When my grandmother passed away in the year 2000 I was bereft. I wrote poems about her life following the Holocaust. Although she probably wouldn’t have liked the poems, they were my tribute to her.

Still, they weren’t enough. I grew as a writer, and the desire to write something bigger to honour my history grew too. Finally, in 2007, I began work on the novel that would become FAR TO GO. Paradoxically, I knew that the book would not tell my grandparents story in a literal sense. I wanted to write a gripping novel, one that would keep the reader turning the pages, and I didn’t want the constraint of “what really happened” to get in my way.

In other words, I wanted to forsake their particular story to tell one that was more universal.

Well, it’s done. FAR TO GO sold in five countries, won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction, and has been optioned for film. More importantly, it has given me incredible pleasure to write something for the family I never knew, and for my grandmother, who I did know and who I miss terribly. I’m not sure what she would have thought. Secrets die hard, especially ones like hers. I have a hunch, though, that she would have been proud.

As Jews around the world say on the anniversary of a loved one’s death: May her memory be for a blessing.

~

Thanks for visiting us today, Alison!

See what Alison said yesterday at Catherine, Caffeinated and don’t forget to visit Get On With It tomorrow to hear more from her!

For a full list of tour stops please see the blog tour button in my sidebar.

Remember These? Books beginning with D and E

Remember These? is a series of posts looking at some of the books I recorded in my old pre-blogging reading diary. The diary spanned my teens to my early twenties, and although I’ve included my original ratings, these ratings do not necessarily reflect what I would feel about the books if I read them again today!

Here are some of the books that appeared on the ‘D’ and ‘E’ pages of my notebook.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (5/5)

If there’s any author who really seems to divide opinion, it’s Diana Gabaldon. I personally love her books and have read the whole Outlander/Cross Stitch series several times (there are currently seven books in the series with at least one more to come). Dragonfly in Amber is probably my favourite – I loved the Paris setting and the black magic aspect, and it’s also the most emotional of the seven books, in my opinion.

The Dark Half by Stephen King (5/5)

Between the ages of about fifteen and twenty I read a lot of Stephen King books but haven’t read any since then. I seem to remember this being one of my favourites. It’s about an author, Thad Beaumont, who writes under the name George Stark. But when Thad decides to ‘kill off’ his pseudonym, he discovers that George doesn’t want to die…

Dragonfly by John Farris (4/5)

Synopsis: “Abby Abelard is the hottest-selling romance writer in America. Dr. Joe Bryce, a dedicated physician, has spent the last three years in war-torn Africa. But he has sins on his conscience and a frightening past he can never outrun, even with Abby’s help.”
I have no memories of this book at all, so can’t tell you what it was that I liked about it. Have any of you read it?

Elidor by Alan Garner (3/5)

I first read this at school and later bought my own copy of it. It’s about four children who find themselves drawn into a mystical land called Elidor where evil forces are at work. The book is quite scary in places but I would highly recommend it for older children and young teenagers.

The Dark Cliffs by F.E. Smith (3/5)

This is obviously a very obscure one! I’ve been unable to find any information online at all, although LibraryThing tells me it’s been tagged as gothic suspense. I’d love to hear from anyone who remembers reading this book.

Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock (3/5)

I only came across Michael Moorcock’s books because my dad liked them and passed his collection on to me. I’ve never been very interested in fantasy, but I loved these books. The Elric series (particularly this one, Stormbringer and The Stealer of Souls) were my favourites.

Double Vision by Annie Ross (2/5)

Synopsis: “When an American heiress is murdered, the police charge her British husband with murder. But, when a second murder occurs, there is no solution. UK TV director, Bel Campbell, learns of a third mysterious death, and finds the key to the identity of the murderer.”
Yet another one I don’t have any memories of reading!

The Drowning People by Richard Mason (2/5)

This is a murder mystery with a difference – we are told the identity of the murderer on the first page and the rest of the book attempts to show us why he did it.

Have you read any of these books?

E-readers: The good and the bad

I’ve had my Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300 for over six months now and thought it would be interesting to put together my thoughts on it and how it has affected my reading. I had resisted buying an e-reader for a long time because I felt guilty about doing anything that might contribute to the decline of the physical book. However, I certainly don’t seem to have acquired or read less ‘real’ books since I got my e-reader. I see it as another way to read books in addition to reading physical books, rather than instead of.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of owning an e-reader. Can you think of any more?

Advantages

* They help you to save space on your bookshelves. You can store hundreds of books on an e-reader. Imagine how much shelf space they would take up!

* You can carry an ereader around with you very easily. They’re small (particularly the pocket version that I have) and weigh very little. This makes them perfect to take to work or on holiday or just in case an unexpected opportunity to read arises (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ended up sitting in the car waiting for somebody, for example, and wishing I’d brought a book with me. Now I just take my reader with me when I go out in the car). And with hundreds of books stored on your reader you’ll always have plenty of choice.

* There are literally thousands of free classics and out of print books available to download online from sites such as Project Gutenberg and Girlebooks. This was one of the main reasons I originally wanted an e-reader. Having an e-reader suddenly opens up a whole world of obscure and hard to find books and the choice is overwhelming. I actually haven’t downloaded as many free classics as I thought I would simply because there’s so much choice, if that makes any sense!

* You can use Netgalley to request review copies from publishers in ebook format. I haven’t used this very often as I’m very selective about requesting books for review. It’s nice to know the option is there though, and I’ve enjoyed the few books that I have read though Netgalley.

* My local library has started offering ebooks for download. I’d be interested to know what librarians think about this service. Are we facing a future where everyone sits at home downloading library books and never actually visits the library in person? I can see good and bad points about this system, but so far it seems to be a very popular service. You have to keep the book on loan for a fixed period (you can choose either 7, 14, 21 or 28 days). After the loan period is up, the book automatically expires and can no longer be read. This is good in one way as it means you’ll never ‘forget to take the book back to the library’ and accrue an overdue fine, but it also means that you can’t return the book any sooner if you don’t like it or finish it earlier than expected.

* Most ereaders have some extra features. Mine doesn’t have many (it wasn’t really something that concerned me when I was choosing my reader as I just wanted something basic and easy to use). It is useful sometimes to be able to change the text size, though, and I like being able to bookmark pages with memorable quotes on them.

* Having an e-reader gives you instant access to books, without even having to wait for delivery. Find a book that you want online and you can start reading it in just a few minutes.

Disadvantages

* Although e-readers themselves have come down in price recently and are much more affordable now, in general the prices of ebooks are still usually more expensive than paper books. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth paying more for the same book or not.

* I find it hard to tell how long the ebook is going to be. Yes, it tells you how many pages there are, but the page count is usually different to the physical book and I find it difficult to visualise just from a page number how thick the book would be.

* You can’t flip back and forth in the book easily. Sometimes I like to be able to skip back a few pages, to remind myself of who a character is, for example, or to skip forwards to see how many more pages there are in the chapter. Then there are the books that have family trees or maps at the beginning or a glossary at the end. It is possible to move backwards and forwards through the book with my Sony Reader but it’s not very convenient and you really need to know the page number you’re looking for. Maybe this is easier with a different type of e-reader?

* The battery needs to be recharged regularly and once or twice the whole thing has frozen and I had to press the reset button. At least with a paper book there’s no chance of malfunctions, battery running down etc.

* Finally, in my opinion nothing beats reading and owning a real, physical book. With the e-reader you don’t get the beautiful front covers and spines to display on your shelves. You don’t get the feel of the book in your hands. And you don’t get the memories. I’m sure most of us have a favourite torn, battered old book that reminds us of our childhood!

Do you have an e-reader? What do you like and dislike about it? If you don’t have one, would you ever consider buying one?

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