More fool me? …

tbr-dare-2014It’s April 1 – and the end of the TBR dare, so time for an update.

If you consider only the books I’ve reviewed for this blog, I only cheated fully once and partially twice!

The full cheat was the pair of Quick Reads titles I squeezed in on convenient train journeys.
The partial cheats were: The Helios Disaster by Linda Bostrum Knausgard – which I had originally planned to review for Shiny New Books, but found too weird and my thoughts too bitty to write a coherent full-length piece for Shiny, and Lurid & Cute by Adam Thirlwell – another Shiny read which I disliked so much I couldn’t finish it!

Including those above, I have read 34 books so far this year, of which 16 were on my TBR before Jan 1st and 14 are Shiny Reviews for issues 4 in January and issue 5 coming next week and were excluded from the TBR Dare accordingly.  I hope that James, TBR Dare host, will forgive me for my partial participation this year. As ever, my intentions were good – but I am fooling myself if I didn’t realise I had so many reviews to read/write for Shiny!

Needless to say, I have read some cracking books for Issue 5 of Shiny including several wonderful debuts, a couple of non-fiction titles, a much-loved re-read and that new novel by ‘Ish’…

Back to normal soon.


A Dance to the Music of Time 3: The Acceptance World

Dancing Powell

The Acceptance World

Dance 3 Acceptance World
We come to the third volume in Anthony Powell’s series – the last of the ‘Spring’ books. (If you’d like to catch up with volumes one and two, click accordingly.)

The Acceptance World begins with Nick Jenkins meeting his Uncle Giles at a hotel for tea. There he is introduced to Mrs Erdleigh who tells their fortunes, saying to Nick that she’ll meet him again in a year – strange company for his Uncle Giles!

At work, Jenkins is publishing a book on a noted painter of political portraits and businessmen and has approached St.John Clarke (apparently based upon John Galsworthy) to write the introduction. One of his old college contemporaries had been Clarke’s secretary, but Jenkins finds he has been replaced by on Quiggin – who has, it appears, steered Clarke in a different political direction.  Jenkins discusses Clarke’s situation being under the thumb of his new secretary with his friend Barnby:

‘I don’t think St.John Clark is interested in either sex,’ said Barnby. ‘He fell in love with himself at first sight and it is a passion to which he has always remained faithful.’

Some time later, Jenkins meets his old school-friend Peter Templer again and is invited to join them for a weekend.

That we had ceased to meet fairly regularly was due no doubt to some extent to Templer’s chronic inability – as our housemaster Le Bas would have said – to ‘keep up’ a friendship. He moved entirely within the orbit of events of the moment, looking neither forward nor backward. If we happened to run across each other, we arranged to do something together; not otherwise.

The particular excitement of this reuniting for Jenkins is that he finds out that Jean, Peter’s sister, appears to be separated from her husband DuPort. Jenkins had had a youthful passion for Jean, and this is reignited and they rekindle their affair.  In between all this there is a lot of complicated discussion about who’s seeing whom, who’s divorced whom and such shenanigans!

Jenkins is reunited with his old schoolfriends at his old housemaster’s dinner for old boys at the Ritz. Stringham is drunk and Widmerpool makes a very long and involved and very boring speech – during which Le Bas has a stroke! I shouldn’t cheer at other people’s misfortunes, but it was a great penultimate scene to bring Widmerpool back into play. He had been mentioned earlier, but hadn’t appeared until then.  It is Widmerpool who is moving from industry into the city and joining the ‘Acceptance World’.  I can hear you asking what that is – here is how Templer describes it to Nick:

‘If you have goods you want to sell to a firm in Bolivia, you probably do not touch your money in the ordinary way until the stuff arrives there. Certain houses, therefore, are prepared to ‘accept’ the debt. They will advance you the money on the strength of your reputation. It is all right when the going is good, but sooner or later you are tempted to plunge. Then there is an alteration in the value of the Bolivian exchange, or a revolution, or perhaps the firm just goes bust – and you find yourself stung. That is, if you guess wrong.’

Any clearer?  I assume they refer to the futures and/or bond markets…

There are other forms of acceptance at work in this novel too. Nick, who does have to work for a living, is becoming accepted in all the walks of society in which he moves. He seems more mature than most of his friends, and while not immune to love affairs, is not the type to swap partners that way most of the others seem to do with monotonous regularity.  For his capricious upper class  friends, marriage and divorce don’t seem to mean a lot.  Nick, as Widmerpool has too, has resisted marriage – how long can they last as bachelors?  What will happen to Peter and Jean?

Widmerpool’s appearance aside, volume three was a lot more serious than the first two, and I missed the comedy he brings with him. I know I have a Widmerpool-fest to come in the next novel – the first of the ‘Summer’ books.  I’m looking forward to April’s Powell episode. (7.5/10)

* * * * *

Source: Own Copy.
To explore further on Amazon UK (affiliate link), please click below:
The Acceptance World: Vol 3 (Dance to the Music of Time 03) by Anthony Powell (1955), approx 224 pages.

A Dance to the Music of Time 2: A Buyer’s Market

Dancing Powell

A Buyer’s Market

So we come to the second volume of Anthony Powell’s sequence of twelve novels. If you’d like to catch up with my summary of the first part follow the link to A Question of Upbringing.

It’s now the late 1920s and Jenkins is living and working in London for a publisher of art books. As the novel begins he reminisces in his narration about Mr Deacon, an ageing artist of middling reputation he had met in Paris:

Mr Deacon was grown-up still: I myself, on the other hand, had changed. There was still distance to travel, but I was on the way to drawing level with Mr Deacon, as a fellow grown-up, himself no longer a figment of memory from childhood, but visible proof that life had existed in much the same way before I had begun to any extent to take part; and would, without doubt, continue to prevail long after he and I had ceased to participate.

powell 2
The ensuing story is inspired by Jenkins’ memory of seeing a painting (just as Vol 1 began), this time an indifferent picture by Deacon, hung inconspicuously in the house of the Walpole-Wilsons, Jenkins’ hosts for a house-party. Jenkins is always a little in love with someone – this time, it’s Barbara Walpole-Wilson – but hidebound as he is by the rules of society, she is probably unattainable whereas her sister Eleanor would be. Powell, however, in a rare example of only using a few words instead of a hundred, has Barbara mordently describe her thus :

Barbara used to say: ‘Eleanor should never have been removed from the country. It is cruelty to animals.’

I’m sure that in time Nick will find the right girl for him. Having concentrated upon the old boys’ network in the first novel and making useful contacts to get one’s career kick-started, volume two is largely concerned with establishing oneself in society and finding a mate. Nick sounds out one of his dinner companions, Lady Anne Stepney, about her sister Peggy, whom his old school-friend Stringham had had a thing for:

‘As a matter of fact, Peggy hasn’t spoken of Charles Stringham for ages,’ she said.
She did not actually toss her head – as girls are sometimes said to do in books – but that would have been the gesture appropriate to the tone in which she made this comment.

Jenkins is so easily distracted by the fairer sex!

One seeming obstacle to his progress is his continued association with Widmerpool, who crops up all over the place like an eternal gooseberry, often getting in the way and making Jenkins wonder how he comes to be invited to these dos, and:

It suddenly struck me that after all these years of knowing him I still had no idea of Widmerpool’s Christian name.

Widmerpool will be subjected to several humiliations throughout the novel and laughed at by his companions; Nick to his credit, although ever the observer, doesn’t join in. Widmerpool seems (at this stage anyway) doomed to fail in the romance stakes but we will find out that he is not without desires. He is, however, obviously useful in the business and government circles in which he works and is acquiring a solid reputation therein. Again, Widmerpool is the most intriguing character in the novel.

Many of the others from A Question of Upbringing pop in and out of the narrative from time to time. Sillery turns up at a decadent party; Uncle Giles gets a mention or two – including his abhorence of ‘champagne, beards and tiaras’, and Nick’s first love Jean will make an eventful reappearance – sparking in Nick a ‘sudden burst of sexual jealousy’.

In their twenties, life is one long social whirl for these Bright Young Things moving in the higher echelons of society – it really is a buyer’s market. Just imagine if the Tinder app had been around for this lot!

Again written in four long chapters echoing the seasons, A Buyer’s Market ends back with Mr Deacon bringing the year full circle, and finally – Jenkins finds out Widmerpool’s forename.

This time, knowing Powell’s style with it’s long convoluted sentences full of sub-clauses, I was able to jump into the text and enjoy it fully finding much more humour in particular. Having introduced us to the main characters at length in volume one, the narrative takes off launching us fully into their lives. I really enjoyed it – although the title of volume three, The Acceptance World, infers a seriousness to come – or is it just an initial settling down?  Back next month!  (9/10)

* * * * *
Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below (affiliate link – thank you):

A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01)
A Buyer’s Market: Vol 2 (Dance to the Music of Time 02)


A Dance to the Music of Time 1: A Question of Upbringing

Dancing Powell

A Question of Upbringing 

Looking out of his window at some workmen around a brazier, Nicholas Jenkins is reminded of the four seasons on Poussin’s celebrated painting (detail above), and the passing of time in his life.

The image of Time brought thoughts of mortality: of human beings, facing outward like the Seasons, moving had in hand in intricate measure: stepping slowly, methodically, sometimes a trifle awkwardly, in evolutions that take recognisable shape: or breaking into seemingly meaningless gyrations, while partners disappear only to reappear again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle: unable to control the melody, unable, perhaps, to control the stesp of the dance. Classical associations made me think, too, or days at school, where so many forces, hiterto unfamiliar, had become in due course uncompromisingly clear.

Powell 1Immediately we are introduced to one of the key characters in the series – Kenneth Widmerpool, going for a run on a foggy winter’s day. Widmerpool is a bit of an enigma, he ‘himself had proved indigestible to the community.’ Outsider he may be, but even later in this first volume, we will come to see his strength of character, and sense that he will endure.

Our narrator Jenkins, now enters the school boarding house and we meet his slightly older roommates – Stringham and Templer. On first glance, Stringham seems a good sort and Templer more mischievous, but after Jenkins’s Uncle Giles comes to visit and nearly gets them expelled by lighting a cigarette, it is Stringham that plays a particularly evil practical joke on housemaster Le Bas after noticing his resemblance to a wanted criminal. Stringham gets away with it too.

It is the boys’ last year at school; Stringham leaves early to stay in Kenya for a while. Jenkins spends some time with Templer’s family in London, falling madly in love with his sister Jean and experiencing the Templer brand of practical joke on a poor chap residing with them called Sunny Farebrother. Then in the summer he goes off to an educational establishment in France where he falls in love with someone else – and encounters Widmerpool again before going up to university where he begins to see how the old boys network really works when he is adopted by one of the professors, (think Slughorn ‘collecting’ Harry Potter for an analogy).

These four sections of school, London, France and university form the four long chapters of the novel – its own seasons if you will.

We find out very little about Jenkins himself – he doesn’t give much away, just observes and absorbs rather than doing much himself. Is he just a hanger on? I guess we’ll see, but he certainly seemed like that in this first volume. In a way he reminded me of Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, another accepted outsider narrator.

Stringham and Templer and their well-heeled families were straight out of the bright young things of the 1920s. Uncle Giles however, who crops up several times, is a sort of failed Army officer who’s slightly on his uppers and needing a new opportunity in life – I hope we’ll hear more of him. The one character I long for more of though is Widmerpool – he is so intriguing, and seems bound to make something of himself despite what others may think.

Powell’s language is rich and dense and took some getting used to. I’m glad he started us off with Jenkins’s schooldays, as the scenario is familiar enough to give one time to get into the habit of reading his typically long sentences, which meant I was able to cope with this 70 word one by page 149!

The curious thing was that, although quite aware that a sentiment of attraction towards Suzette was merely part of an instinct that had occasioned Peter’s ‘unfortunate incident’ – towards which I was conscious of no sense of disapproval – my absorption in the emotional disturbance caused by Jean and Suzette seemed hardly at all connected with the taking of what had been, even in Templer’s case, a fairly violent decision.

So to summarise, volume one is really a scene-setting introduction – enjoyable in its way, but promising many more riches to come. I shall definitely proceed onto number two - A Buyer’s Market. (8/10)

* * * * *

Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
A Question Of Upbringing (Dance to the Music of Time 01) by Anthony Powell, Arrow paperback 240 pages. Other editions available.

2014 in First Lines

I did this meme the previous two years too. A bit of fun for pre-Christmas. It originated at The Indextrious Reader.

The “rules” are simple: Take the first line of each month’s first post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year. Links go back to the original posts. Here goes:

troublesthrillesblogphotoJanuary: ‘I was amazed to find that this thriller from 1975 was Gerald Seymour’s début novel.’ (from my review of Harry’s Game.)

February: ‘You know how it is, you’re reading a book when something – often just a single word or phrase – spooks you.’ (from my opinion piece Anachronism or not? And a potted history of plastics.

March: ‘It’s the start of March. Last year, when James launched this year’s TBR Dare, I gaily signed up again.’ from my report on my progress in The TBR Triple Dog Dare.

frog musicApril: ‘I haven’t read Donoghue’s famous, or even infamous novel Room. I own a copy, but its dark subject matter requires a certain frame of mind to read and we haven’t coincided yet.’ from my blog post on her novel Frog Music.

May: ‘Last night I went to see the live screening of Sam Mendes’ production of King Lear beamed live from the National Theatre to a cinema near you – Didcot in my case.’ (from my write-up of said film.

June: ‘I blame Simon for this! :D’ from my post shamelessly copying his ask me anything idea.

UK cover

UK cover

July: ‘Some readers may already be familiar with David Downing; the six books of his ‘Station’ series of spy thrillers set in WWII Berlin are highly regarded.’ from my review of Jack of Spies by David Downing.

August: ‘Although I only studied it up to O-level, possibly my favourite subject at school was Latin. I continue to surprise myself by the amount of Latin I’ve retained over the years, but I do try to use it whenever I can.’ from my post on the Latin translations available of children’s novels.

September: ‘This remarkable novel about young German soldiers in WWI was our book group’s read for August; I had pushed strongly for a WWI-related choice for the month of the 100th anniversary of the war’s start.’ from my review of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.

pursuit of love 2October: ‘Last week you may have seen my post about ephemera reporting my finding of some marginalia in an old book – well it made me want to read said book instantly – so I did!’ from my review of The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.

November: ‘I wanted to write a post about my reactions to a film I saw on TV the other night. It’s not one I would have chosen to see in the cinema, or buy the DVD of – it was just ‘on’…’ from my reactions on seeing the film Drive.

December: ‘A while ago, I was approached by a publicist from the USA who was trying to get some exposure for her client’s book in the UK/Europe – it’s a debut novel, but by an author with an awesome pedigree in the TV world.’ from my review of These Things Happen by Richard Kramer.

As always, it does sort of represent what I’ve written about – 6 book reviews, 2 memes, 2 film/theatre reviews and 2 opinion/misc book pieces.  Feel free to do it yourself.

I’m taking the TBR Double Dog Dare…

For the past few years I’ve signed up to take part in James’s TBR Dare.

tbr-dare-2014Hosted by James of James Reads Books and featuring his beloved pooch Dakota in the graphic, the TBR Dare is very simple –

Read only from your TBR from Jan 1 until April 1.

You can make your own exceptions for book groups, scheduled reviews etc. reserved books at the library etc.

You don’t even have to stop acquiring books – you’re just not allowed to read books that come into your house from Jan 1st until the dare is up. You could go out on December 31st and have a splurge on new books which would be valid to read during the dare.

You don’t even have to do the full three months – just set a target and enjoy revisiting your TBR piles, or in my case, mountains.  James doesn’t like calling it a challenge – and I’m all for that – I nearly always fail in those – so it’s a dare.

This year I’m having to make a different exception because of my involvement with Shiny New Books which, by its nature, will require me to read some new books. However, as they will appear on a different website, I feel justified in saying that here at Annabel’s House of Books I am aiming to go the full three months reading only from my TBR (except for Book Group choices).

If you want to join in, head over to James’s TBR Dare page and sign up. Your TBR piles will love you for it.

My Fantasy Book Group

Eric over at Lonesome Reader recently posted his fantasy book group – “people who aren’t authors themselves but individuals in the media who are known to have a serious intellectual side to them.”  Several of Eric’s choice have written books, but aren’t necessarily best known for that – so there’s flexibility there.  I couldn’t resist thinking about which five living celebs I would invite to join my own fantasy book group … Feel free to join in this one, and do let Eric know.

Annabel’s Fantasy Book Group

George-Clooney-headshotGeorge Clooney

I can hear you all going ‘how predictable!’ but although he is the best-looking man on the planet, he does have serious intellectual chops. He has been nominated for an Oscar in six different categories in front and behind the camera and won two of them. He is politically active and does much humanitarian work. Combine that with his sense of humour, and he’d be an ideal member – as long as he reads too.

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

I did have to make a decision over whether in invite Em or Ken to my book group. Although Ken is one of my heroes, I need more balance in my group.  ET is an inspirational woman, and I would have her play me in the film of my life.

There is no doubting that ET is a serious reader, given the subjects she’s also written about. I think I could rely on her to have an opinion on anything we’d discuss, and we’d have such fun with her sense of humour.


Michael Mosleymosley_1810279c

Mosley is a doctor by profession, turned science TV presenter, and is author of books accompanying his series, plus the 5:2 diet book which he pioneered on the box.

A self-deprecating self-experimenter, he has swallowed cameras to film inside his guts, given himself a tape-worm or three, done all kinds of things in the name of science.  His programmes are always fascinating and provide much food for thought. Another good sense of humour (can you sense a trend here?).  I’m pretty sure he’ll be a reader…

Claudia Winkleman

She’s so much more than being the long-fringed, kohl-eyed co-host of Strictly Come Dancing. Our Claud has also hosted BBC2’s Film Programme for several years, taking over from Jonathan Ross, and now hosts The Great Sewing Bee.

She’s the daughter of legendary Fleet Street editor Eve Pollard and went to Cambridge to study History of Art. She is obviously more fun than Tess Daly. Kooky and a GSOH, she can be serious too and I’ve heard her recommend books on some programme or other – so in she goes.

Michael Palinss-hme-007

I wanted to include a Python in my book group – they have been so influential to me over the years. But which one?  I love them all in one way or another. In the end it had to be Palin … He edged it because of this: Palin’s Travels: A Traveller’s Reading List. – a list of all the reading he does around his programmes and while travelling. The nicest man in Britain is, of course, also very funny.

* * * * *

So that’s the five celebrities I’d invite to my fantasy book group. There were plenty who didn’t make the cut, apart from Ken Branagh and the other Pythons. Although well known in the media, Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Clive James are just too writerly. Mick Jagger is well-read, but I don’t think he’d sit still. I nearly chose Dr Alice Roberts as my scientist, but have a soft spot for Mosley so he won the vote – and made it (if you include me) three men, three women.  I hope we’d all get along famously!

Who would you choose?

Top Ten Authors Whose Books I Own…

I don’t usually take part in the Top Ten weekly meme, but occasionally they and/or other regular memes will pick a topic that piques my interest. A couple of weeks ago the Top Ten topic was ‘The Top Ten Authors Whose Books I Own’. I’m glad they made the distinction between own and read! Thanks to Librarything this was easy as I could sort my catalogue accordingly. I wasn’t really surprised by the results (except one), but it was fun. So here they are:

beryl bIain Banks BanksReadLeading the charge with 24 books on the shelves each are two of the three authors I am most passionate about. So much so that they have their own pages up at the top of this blog. Of course it’s the late-lamented Beryl and Iain. Have a look above to see more about both of them.

I really must make time to continue my plans to (re)read everything they’ve ever written.

ackroydFollowing close on their heels with 23 books is Peter Ackroyd. I find his books are a little hit and miss with me, but his best are wonderful, and the others are always interesting. Amazingly prolific, I’ve only managed to read/review one of his (The Death of King Arthur) since starting this blog. Others I’ve enjoyed include Hawksmoor, English Music and Dan Leno & The Limehouse Golem.

Then come four authors with twenty books apiece.

Paul auster sh #1:4Top of the list alphabetically is Paul Auster, who happens to be the third of my favourite authors. Again he is definitely overdue another read. See here and here for posts on him and his books.

Don’t you think he has the most compelling eyes?  Married to Siri Hustvedt, he’s a New Yorker, and is the king of meta-fiction. Some people don’t like that, but I do!

Auster shares twenty books with Lawrence Block, John Le Carre and Michael Connelly. Two crime writers and one spy novelist.

liam-neeson-as matt scudderI see that Block’s tenth Matt Scudder novel A Walk Among The Tombstones will be on the big screen soon starring Liam Neeson as the ex-cop, alcoholic but now TT private eye. Again I say to the adapters – why do you always start in the middle of a series?  Actually I’ve read up to about number twelve, so am ahead so to speak, and I really recommend them.

More spies and crime next.  At sixteen comes Ian Fleming – I have a complete set of James Bond naturally, and he keeps company with Elmore Leonard, who is probably the crime writer that makes me laugh the most – his dialogue-driven novels are usually hilarious as well as violent!

Having told you about nine authors, I can’t have a top ten – it’ll have to be a top twelve as three tie on fourteen books each. They are the incomparable Graham Greene, the prolific Stephen King, and the intriguingly named L Du Garde Peach.

l du Garde PeachPictures of Du Garde Peach are few and far between, so you’ll have to make do with this painting by Thomas Cantrell Dugdale (not dated but Dugdale died in 1952, Du Garde Peach in 1974).

LDGP was the author of many plays for radio and stage, having a long association with the Sheffield Playhouse. He also wrote film scripts including the Boris Karloff film The Ghoul (1933).

Nelson ladybirdBut how would I own fourteen books by him?

Well, he wrote thirty titles for the Ladybird Adventures from History series, and I still have a pile of them from my childhood – much treasured (and all bearing my homemade library stickers).

If you want to find out more about old Ladybird books, visit The Wee Web which has them all!

So that’s my top twelve authors whose books I own.  Which authors feature at the top of your lists? 


Women in Translation month

WITmonth3 + text1Women in Translation month (#WITMonth) is being hosted by Biblibio. She has set up an enviable optional schedule of different posts and themes for the whole month over on her blog – do go and visit. I do intend to read a couple of fitting novels this month if I can, but I will also enjoy seeing all the posts around the blogosphere.

However, I thought at the outset that I should do a quick totting up of all the women in translation I’ve read since starting this blog nearly six yrs ago (shamelessly copying the idea from David’s own such list). Don’t worry – or rather should I say, sadly – the list doesn’t go on for very long, (the links go back to my original reviews) …

Just 17 in nearly six years, and all European except for Yoko Ogawa. Something to remedy a little this month. I thought there would be more crime in my list, but I didnt’ include the husband and wife team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, or one Icelandic crime novel I didn’t finish. I was glad to be able to include one children’s novel (Funke) in the list – but it remains the only book I’ve read of hers.  Nationalities-wise, French authors just pip German to the post for quantity.

My plans are to read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, and its sequel if I have time, plus The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino which has been sitting beside my bed for several months now.

Are you joining in at all?

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

It was lovely to log in this morning and to find out that the lovely Susan of the lovely blog A Life In Books has nominated me for a lovely Very Inspiring Bloggers Award. Thank you Susan, it’s much appreciated, coming from someone who has such a finger on the pulse of what’s good in the world of books. I must add that we’re delighted to have you on board as one of our reviewers over at Shiny New Books too and next time I come to Bath for a day out, I’d love to meet you in person…

The award has the following rules:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated
  • Optional: display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you

Here are my 7 facts:
1. I was born in leafy Surrey in the much-maligned Purley, which is just south of Croydon proper, and my immediate family all still live there. I’m the one that got away!
2. I’m a single mum to a teenaged daughter with gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite tresses, (strawberry blonde or light auburn depending on the light).
3. I’m lucky enough to have two indie bookshops on my doorstep in Abingdon. Mostly Books and The Bookstore. I am spoilt for choice and try to support them both.
4. I’m going to have a break from compiling and hosting the Abingdon Mostly Bookbrains literary quiz next spring. After doing five, I’d like to have a go at actually competing. Fingers crossed that one of the MB Book Groups will take it on…
5. These days I work as a science technician/TA in a local prep school for boys – which is actually fun (apart from washing up test-tubes – yes I do have a dishwasher, but you can’t mix chemicals in the machine – they must be rinsed first). Although the pay doesn’t match up to a teacher’s salary, I do get to do pond-dipping, flame-testing for fireworks colours, all sorts of activities with the Junior Science Club, growing crystals… and hopefully help to enthuse some future scientists.
6. My musical claim to fame is having played (second) violin in an orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle, before he hit the big time. It was in 1979 or 1980 (bit hazy), and having led the Croydon Youth Orchestra for a while, now at uni, I was invited by CYO conductor Ian Butterworth to join the Salomon Orchestra – a London-based non-professional symphony orchestra, for a series of concerts at St John Smith Square amongst other venues. We played Mahler 5 (I think) as the main piece. I only did one season though.
7. My personality type tends to be ‘extrovert introvert’ – I’m rather shy until I get to know you. But I love extrovert colours – driving an metallic apple green car, wearing a lot of bright red.

That’s enough about me… here are ten other wonderful bloggers that I’d like to nominate to receive this award (15 is too many).

1. Tales from the Reading Room. As co-founder of Shiny New Books, I’d be remiss not to put Victoria at the top my list. Apart from that, her blog is inspirational in the sheer quality of her writing about books and her life, and she’s a lovely person too.
2. Stuck in a Book. Simon’s blog is one of the first I discovered when I dipped my toe into the blogosphere. We rarely read the same kind of books, but I really want to know about all the mid 20th century novels I don’t have time for – he is for me, the go-to expert at middlebrow fiction, (and another Shiny colleague and friend).
3. Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. I always thought I was a fan of books-Russian (although you wouldn’t know it from my blog), but Karen is a real expert and writes so interestingly about many Russian and Eastern-European authors and poets, she makes Russian literature fascinating.
4. Thinking in Fragments. Alex reads a big variety of novels, crime in particular, but underlying it all is a love and understanding of Shakespeare and an academic passion for the art of storytelling. A theatre fan, she can often be found in Stratford.
5. Tolstoy Therapy. A relatively new to me blog that I plan to visit more frequently, Lucy has a unique angle on literature as bibliotherapy and is interested in the mood-enhancing powers of a good read.
6. Harriet Devine’s Blog. I have to include my other Shiny New Books Editor. Like Simon and Victoria, Harriet has been blogging for years, and I respect her opinions a lot. She’s a big crime fan and lives in France, so that’s already two ticks – but also manages to find wonderful pictures and artworks of women reading each week.
7. Reading The End. Jenny’s blog is such fun! She’s young and opinionated and has the most hilarious tags I’ve ever seen.
8. His Futile Preoccupations. Guy has two reading passions – translated classic European fiction and noir. I must admit I gloss over the first category, but I adore his noir reviews. He is also one of my most frequent commenters – Thank you Guy!
9. Lonesome Reader. Another new to me blog, Eric writes some great reviews on a wide range of books, and we’ve recruited him to Shiny!
10. Savidge Reads. I couldn’t leave out the other Simon. If Simon was a Mr Man, I’d call him Mr Project as he always has so many sidelines on the go – but his passion for books always comes through on his blog.