Let’s explore diabetes with owls




I’m not going to say it. Oh ok then I will. This book was an absolute hoot! Oh dear, I said it. But it was. These essays and monologues are full of quizzical observation, great comedy, surreal experiences and quick, sharp, brilliantly witty writing.

In one excerpt he recalls competing with pop-kid Donny Osmond for his father’s approval, other parts recall him keeping sea turtles in his bedroom and buying stuffed owls for his boyfriend. His writing offers us humour and at turns, knowing frailty. The humour being of the kind that makes you snort coffee out your nose/ people move away from you on the train.

I loved the piece on modern  children; “Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator or anywhere near it because my parents recognised it for what it was, crap. They did not live in a child’s house, we lived in theirs.”

I also loved his description of how Americans dress when they’re travelling; “It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw his sponge down saying fuck this, I’m going to Los Angeles!”

Really funny, clever and interesting writing. I would definitely read more of his material. Thanks to my husband for putting me onto him. Great taste!


Notes on the author – David Sedaris:

  • Has written 7 other books
  • Regular contributor to The New Yorker and Radio 4
  • Now lives in England

This one is mine




Perhaps I shouldn’t have read this after Hemingway. Perhaps it is just unbelievable that this was written by the author of the best-selling, prize-winning masterpiece Where’d you go Bernadette?

This is Maria Semple’s debut and a true disappointment for me. As I said, I loved Bernadette. That was a clever, highly original, brilliantly funny and engaging story. In comparison this is really trashy. I’m so glad I read Bernadette first!

This One Is Mine is the story of Violet Parry and her beautiful Hollywood home, perfect baby and successful band manager husband, David. It’s also the story of her sexual obsession with former addict, Teddy Reyes. As Violet pursues him, her life spirals out of control and the effects of her behaviour run deep through the family. It’s about the absurd LA lifestyle, social climbing and adultery. Unfortunately, it read for me as shallow as that probably all sounds to you.

The characters – Violet, David, Sally and Teddy are not just flawed, they’re so awful and self-obsessed that I found that I couldn’t care less what happened to them. Continue reading

A Moveable Feast




“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

A Moveable Feast was written during the last years of Hemingway’s life. In it he reflects back on his days as a young, unknown writer living in Paris between 1921-1926. His recollections of that time are really brought to life in this excellent memoir. It is a short book but a fine example of his brilliant writing.

I devoured the entire book in one sitting (home ill on the sofa!) and felt totally immersed in Parisian, literary, 1920s life. Hemingway with his cafes, bookshops and booze conjured up romantic imagery of the daily routine of a writer. He may have been poor and hungry (after quitting journalism and having a wife and young baby to support) but he was happy writing in coffee shops and sharing his Paris life with some of the greatest writers, poets and painters in history – James Joyce, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso to name just a few.

His anecdotes on Ford Madox Ford interrupting his writing and another about his road trip with Scott Fitzgerald to fetch an abandoned car are particularly entertaining to read.

I adored every word on every page and just wish there had been a hundred pages more.


So this is permanence



so this is permancenc

This is a superbly presented book containing the personal writings of one of the most influential songwriters and performers of the late 20th Century – Joy Division’s Ian Curtis.

So this is permanence is a collection put together by Jon Savage and Deborah Curtis from Ian’s surviving lyrics, notes, fan mail, fanzines and book covers from his personal library. As a huge Joy Division fan and an admirer of great lyricists, I could not wait to get my hands on it.

In the late 1970s, Manchester was an industrial city in decline. During this time, Ian Curtis isolated himself with his books and his writing. His songs were groundbreaking and his band became the iconic sound of that time. All the product of the scribbled on office paper he used to carry around in a plastic bag.


In my opinion, his lyrics presented here don’t just reflect his personal struggles with depression, epilepsy and stage-fright, but are also proof of how influenced he was by literature. He read widely from Holocaust fiction to Oscar Wilde.

“The words are untouchable, unreachable, perfect, unsettling, unique, beautiful. They are poetry but I want to claim them for rock.” (Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers)

“When Ian found his direction, the notebooks, the scraps of paper, the plastic carrier bag became and extension of his body…his lyrics tell much more than a conversation with him ever could.”                  (Deborah Curtis, wife) Continue reading

Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory



Wonka book

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory remains one of our best-loved children’s books fifty years after its publication and this book is a glorious full colour treasure that every Charlie fan must own! Lifelong Dahl fanatic, Lucy Mangan, explores the book’s influence on readers, films, theatre, music and of course on chocolate. I loved how she calls it “a whipple-scrumptious fudgemallow delight to do” as that is exactly what it was to read. Especially on a cold, wet January duvet day!

The book opens with an exquisite foreword by Roald’s daughter Sophie Dahl. Her stories of her father feature fairies, bacon with marmalade, and the red tupperware box full of chocolate bars that would only be opened if she’d been good. Lovely memories.

“I am not overly fond of chocolate flavoured foods such as chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. I prefer my chocolate straight.” (Roald Dahl)

Writing Charlie was initially a difficult process for Dahl, working on it during a tragic time for his family. But through early drafts and manuscripts published here we can see the enthralling storyteller and maverick emerge. Charlie has since become so popular that it has inspired everything from episodes of The Simpsons to Marilyn Manson music videos to Heston Blumenthals’ wacky food creations! It’s characters and catchphrases have permeated popular culture with spin-off merchandise including figurines, lunchboxes and those all important Wonka bars.

Wonka figurine Continue reading

Funny girl



Nick Hornby is my favourite British contemporary author. His novel High Fidelity is my favourite book. So it follows that a newly published work of fiction by the great man is a cause for much excitement from me. I’m happy to say that Funny Girl did not disappoint.

I positively tore through this book. I tried to hold back, savour it, delay the pleasure and all that but the story was too good and the characters too warm to leave them lying around waiting on my bedside table.

Funny Girl is set in the swinging 1960s. It’s about popular culture, work, sex,  fame, the class system, friendship and partnership. If I had to rank it among his other fiction I’d put it at number four between How To Be Good and A Long Way Down. Continue reading

The Wavewatcher’s Companion




Sadly, I didn’t find this as accessible and witty as his best-selling ‘The Cloudspotter’s Guide.’ Parts were fascinating, but I felt slightly mislead by the book’s title in relation to it’s actual content. I was hoping for clear explanations I could consult as I sat by the sea looking out at the waves lapping at the shore. Instead it had the feel of the dreaded old school physics text book for me. Headings, colour illustrations and more of his trademark easy touch would’ve made for a more pleasing read. Continue reading





Flappers compiles the fascinating stories of 6 women who spectacularly came of age in the roaring 1920s. Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Limpicka transcended class and background to become the new women of the world. Dance writer Judith Mackrell is an engaging storyteller who pushes the cliches of this era aside to show us how these ‘Flappers’ did a lot more than just dance the Charleston.

The exceptional young girls, some from privileged families, others from poor, were talented artists, dancers and actresses who blazed a trail for women to choose their own lifestyles – from haircuts to sexual relationships – for the first time with varying consequences. They decided on their own sexual conquests (often many and of either sex), they earned their own livings, shortened their hairstyles and their skirts and let loose smoking, drinking, flirting and cussing in public. The “narrow-hipped, flat-chested flapper silhouette” became the desired look of the time though most admirers could only have dared dream about emulating their raucous behaviour as well as their style.

Marriages, affairs, lovers lost at war, drink, drugs, art, acting and dancing…oh and lots and lots of sex! Then there’s the jazz, art deco, Coco Chanel, the Left Bank cafe culture and monied luxury. These audacious women were on the fringes of society, equally at home in a palace or the gutter and throughout this book their stories seem to flutter as such. Rags to riches, riches to rags and back again.

The locations are exotic –  London, New York, Paris, Monte Carlo – and their lifestyles are lavish and the opulence extreme making this a fantastic piece of escapist reading. The Flappers took risks, political and sexual, that leave you breathless at their daring.

When the Jazz era is swallowed up by depression, political and racial shifts and another war, the Flappers’ days of homosexuality, nudity and drunken dancing are numbered….

Continue reading

And no reason to talk about the books I read but still, I do*

Welcome to 2015! Yes, I am still talking about the books I read and I hope you can follow me for another 12 months of great reads.

I have taken on the challenge of reading 40 books this year. I only just missed out on that target last year (I blame reading and re-reading the excellent and very funny  Richard Burton’s Diaries!).

So here goes….


(* Morrissey lyric from “Sister, I’m a Poet”)