Saturday, 30 July 2011

Dear Vampa - Ross Collins

Dear Vampa
Is a three minute read worth the aquisition of this book?  OH YES!   What a wonderful little book - beautifully illustrated by its author, Ross Collins. This graphic novel for children is only a few pages long. But those pages are a delight at every turn. The Pires, who live in a large gothic mansion, sleep through daylight hours, in coffins, and are curious, pleased and excited when their new neighbours the Wolfsons move next door. But as Bram, the youngest Pire, writes to his Vampa, back in Transilvania, they love sunshine, they don't understand why the Pires have late- night parties, and they are just so totally different. The Pires themselves are illustrated in black and white with a touch of red (of course), whilst the rest of the illustrations are in full colour - very clever. And whilst it can be read in less than 3 minutes cover to cover, go back, look again, read the words again - there are little jokes everywhere. A book to make everyone smile and a great present for a grown-up  - who can then read it to a child (any excuse!!).

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Queen of the Tambourine - Jane Gardam

First published in 1991 - how did this little gem slip past me?

Never read any of Jane Gardam's novels before, but will be looking out for more since I enjoyed this so much.  The first 20 or so pages made me laugh out loud, the next fifty or so made me sad, and the whole of the second half of the book was  like reading a complicated whodunnit (without a body, thank goodness!).  Eliza is a complex woman, married to a former British diplomat, used to being the kingpin where ever in the world she and the old man pitched up.  But once he is stationed permanently in London, he becomes very withdrawn, and she cannot think why.  Eliza has been writing to Joan, a woman who left the house opposite in a great hurry, leaving her husband, children and dog at the mercy of themselves, and she decides to offer the hand of friendship to the family.  I found this a fascinating little (227 pages) read, and like many other readers, was near the half way mark when I started to wonder whether Eliza was everything she seemed.

This is a fine example of the examination of mental illness, but not in a depressing or bad way.  We can see that Eliza has problems, but not at first, when it is the husband who seems the bad'un, when he leaves her to live with another man.  As she struggles to know where Joan is, and why there is no reply to the letters she writes, she struggles too with the way her neighbours treat her, and how she is going to put her own life back together.  The glue that holds her together in fact, is visiting the local hospice, because there, she has a grip on life and does not feel that her problems are insurmountable judged against the dying.  If this sounds too heavy for you, it is not, it just may be a little strange - but its a beautiful little mystery story, and all is revealed before the final sentence.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Day lilies - are they worth it?

Each flower only lasts a day, so why grow them?  Well ........... this is Hemerocallis "Artic Snow", which is cream with a green mark, and the flowers are huge.I got three all in one day, and there are at least 18 buds to go so yes, they are worth it.  I like a garden that has lots of things going on all year round, so I don't buy bedding plants (although I do have some nasturtiums from seed struggling along!)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Treasure from trash in a few hours

Here's a bathroom stool that has been hanging around since its purchase second hand  18 years ago.  Other things have been started and finished, so I wonder why this was never looked at poor thing?  When we had the bathroom painted earlier this year, I thought it was time to deal with it, and at last I had a convenient day or 3!  The old cork seat was removed, and the whole thing sanded down so it looked like this:
And then it got two coats of emulsion in the grey, and two coats of eggshell for the cream top.  Finally, a couple of coats of mat varnish and its ready for use and matches the bathroom!



Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake - Jenny Wingfield

 
Product Details
Set in Arkansas in the 1950s, most of the story takes place within a few acres on the farmland of Calla and John Moses, and starts with the annual family reunion of the Moses clan. One of the family, Willadee Lake, married to Samuel, a methodist preacher, is there with her children Swan, Noble and Bienville whilst Samuel is at the Methodist Annual Conference, waiting to hear where the church will send him this year. The children love their times on their grandparents farm, and this year was to have been no different - but life takes an odd turn. Samuel isn't given a church, and although the Conference does not give him a reason, might it be because he thinks the poor and the drunk are worth saving just as much as the clean and jobworthy? For a man who loves God and wants everyone else to do the same, this is a savage blow for Samuel, as with no money, the family will have to remain on the farm. This summer will be a summer never to be forgotten, with friendships forged, deceits practiced, forgiveness asked and forgiven, cruelty avenged. There are some very dark passages.Some of these involve Blade, a boy from the Ballenger family, the Moses' nearest neighbour. The head of the family, Ras Ballenger, is a horsebreaker and bully, and it is because he treats one particular horse so badly that Blade gets Swan involved in his life. From the slow beginning, I loved this story. The characters are well drawn, you know them, you know how you feel about them and you are rooting for the good ones, and gritting your teeth against the bad ones.

I was reminded of "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe" - another book I didn't want to put down. I have seen comparisons to Fanny Flagg's books also, and although that may well be right, this story is rather darker, although there are occasions when I could not help but smile - especially when Swan spoke her mind - as children often do.

Jenny Wingfield is a successful scriptwriter, but this is her first novel. She has a lovely style, flowing and desciptive, urging you to read 'just another chapter'. I do hope that she will have more than one book in her, and I look forward to more.

(copy of my Amazon review