Monday, December 25, 2006

44. The Trellis and the Seed by Jan Karon

ISBN 0-670-89289-0 - Penguin Group, 2003

A parable about how patience and quiet confidence can help achieve great things.

43. Shepherd's Abiding by Jan Karon

ISBN 0-670-03120-8 - Penguin Group, 2003
Father Timothy Kavanagh, of Mitford, North Carolina, discovers an antique Nativity scene that, with patience and care, could be restored to a thing of beauty. He secretly spends much of his free time at Oxford Antiques researching, cleaning, repairing and painting so that he can suprise his wife with a wonderful gift on Christmas Day.
Folk in the town of Mitford are preparing for the holidays in their varied ways. A host of familiar characters from the series are as delightfully heartwarming as in the previous seven books.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

42. Tara Road by Maeve Binchy

ISBN 0-7528-1447-8 Audiobook - Orion, 1998
Set in Dublin and suburban Connecticut, this novel follows the interwoven lives of two women: Irish Ria Lynch, whose philandering husband has left her and her two children for a pregnant 22 year old waif and American Marilyn Vine who cannot come to grips with the tragic death of her teenage son. By a quirk of fate he two women, who had never met, exchange homes for two months that summer and their lives will never be the same.
It was made into a film, released in 2005, starring Olivia Williams and Andie MacDowell as Ria and Marilyn respectively.

41. The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read

ISBN 0 14 00.4178 8 - Penguin, 1973

Charming tale of a mother and daughter, both widowed, and two young grandaughters over the Christmas season. On Christmas Eve, Mrs Berry deals with two startling visiterswith kindness and old fashioned common sense: a vagrant field mouse and a young boy, with mouselike features, who has run away from his foster home.

Friday, December 22, 2006

40. Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder

ISBN 0-87113-717-8 Audio Book - Random House, 1998

Compelling yarn about the 1980s recovery of the cargo of the SS Central America , often referred to as the "Ship of Gold" by Tommy Thompson and the Columbus-America Discovery Group . "In September 1857, the SS Central America, a side-wheel steamer carrying nearly six hundred passengers returning from the California Gold Rush, foundered in a hurricane and sank two hundred miles off the Carolina coast. Over four hundred lives and twenty-one tons of California gold were lost. It was the worst peacetime disaster at sea in American history, a tragedy that remained lost in legend for over a century."
The value of the recovered treasure is inestimable - the gold alone being worth over $200 million US. The artifacts which include personal papers and belongings of the passengers and crew are priceless when one considers their historical significance.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

39. Village Christmas by Miss Read

ISBN 0 14 007047 8 - Penguin, 1966
Elderly spinster sisters, Mary and Margaret Waters don't quite know what to make of their new neighbours the Emerys. The young mother of three girls and "one on the way", causes a stir in the village with her ebullient and friendly ways. It takes an emergency on Christmas Day to get the Fairacre villagers to rally round and finally welcome and appreciate the newcomers.

Miss Read - Dora Jessie Saint (b. 17 April 1913), best known by the pen name Miss Read, is an English novelist, by profession a schoolmistress. She wrote a series of novels from 1956 to 1996. Her work centred on two fictional English villages, Fairacre and Thrush Green. The principal character in the Fairacre books, "Miss Read", is an unmarried schoolteacher in a small village school, an acerbic and yet compassionate observer of village life. Miss Read's novels are wry regional social comedies, laced with gentle humour and subtle social commentary. Miss Read is also a keen observer of nature and the changing seasons. Source:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

38. Tied up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh

ISBN 0 00 613215 4 - Fontana/Collins 1972
Hilary Bill-Tasman has hired staff for his English country mansion straight out of some of Britain's most notorious prisons - Wormwood Scrubs, Broadmoor and the (fictional?) Vale. Each man served time for a single murder/manslaughter and has adapted to a life in service to varying degrees. Superintendant Roderick Alleyn's wife Troy is at Halberd's Manor to paint Hilary's portrait over the Christmas Holiday and so is on the scene when Moult, visiting Colonel Forrester's much maligned manservant goes missing.
From Marsh, Dame Ngaio (nī'ō) , 1899–1982, New Zealand detective story writer. She was an art student, actress, and theatrical producer before her first novel, A Man Lay Dead, was published in 1934. Her many mystery novels, acute in characterization and literate in style, reflect her knowledge of the art studio and the theater. They include Artists in Crime (1938), Died in the Wool (1945), False Scent (1959), Killer Dolphin (1966), Last Ditch (1978), Photo Finish (1980), and her last book, Light Thickens, published posthumously (1982). She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1966.

Monday, December 11, 2006

37. Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

ISBN 0140124470 - A & C Black, 1909
You'd have to know a lot about the technical aspects of cricket to get the full shilling out of this typical Wodehouse yarn set at Sedleigh, a boys' school.
"Mike (1909) (originally published as two separate serials, Jackson Junior, set at Wrykyn school and not featuring Psmith, and The Lost Lambs, set at Sedleigh and introducing Psmith. The Lost Lambs was later republished as Enter Psmith (1935) and Mike and Psmith (1953).) " Source:
Wodehouse wrote three other comic novels that feature Psmith and Mike:
Psmith in the City (1910), Psmith, Journalist (1915), &Leave it to Psmith (1923) . They both feature in the Blandings series of novels as Mike Jackson married Phyliss Keeble, daughter of Joseph Keeble and step-daughter of his second wife Lady Constance Keeble - Lord Emsworth's bossiest sister and chatelaine at the castle.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

36. Michael Faraday: Man of Simplicity by James Kendall

Faber and Faber, 1955
A biography of Michael Faraday that attempts to strike a balance between his personal and public lives. Much is made of the early influence of Sir Humphry Davy and Faraday's work at the Royal Institution. Interesting to read about his associations with other eminent scientists of his day which include: Ampère, Volta & Schönbein.
Faraday was a Sandemanian and his Christian values shaped his work ethic and social interactions. " This sect was named after Robert Sandeman, son-in-law and successor to John Glas, who was deposed by the Presbyterianan Courts in 1728 because he taught that the Church should be subject to no league or covenant, but be governed only by the doctrines of Christ and His Apostles. The Bible alone contained all that was necessary for salvation. Several tiny congregations were formed in Scotland and in England. Shortly after Faraday's death, [that] the London membership did not exceed twenty families, mostly quite poor." pp 170. "He (Faraday) held the position of elder, however, only for three years and a half. Trouble struck him in a most extraordinary way, as Thompson relates, ' One Sunday he was absent from church. When it was discovered that his absence was due to his having been "commanded' to dine with the Queen at Windsor, and that so far from expressing penitence, he was prepared to defend his action, his office became vacant. He was even cut off from ordinary membership. Nevertheless, he continued for years to attend meetings just as before." pp 172

Thursday, November 30, 2006

35. A Proper Woman by Lillian Beckwith

ISBN 0-7126-9538-9 - Century Hutchinson, 1968
Life on a Hebredean Croft in the mid-Twentieth Century is characterized by endless work and few comforts. Anna Matheson is forced, by circumstance, into marriage with Black Fergus McFee, a man she grows to despise for his callous and immoral ways. When vengeful Fergus buys a mare named Solas(gaelic for Solace) he has no idea she and her foal will lead to his undoing.
Written in true Beckwith style, it is the characters as much as the plot that are engaging in "A Proper Woman".

34. Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

ISBN 0385660189 - Random House, 2005
A compelling insight into life in the city of Harrar, Ethiopia in the 1970s and the plight of Ethiopian refugees in Thatcherite London. The protagonist, Lilly is the daughter of bohemian British parents who are murdered in North Africa leaving her to be raised as a Muslim by the "Great Abdal".
"As is so often the case, true love is doomed. Lilly's suitor, a soulful doctor-turned-political agitator, disappears in the killing madness that swept Ethiopia after Haile Selassie's overthrow in 1974. Triply exiled-from love, from family, and from community-Lilly retreats to the country of her birth, where she recovers all three in the unlikely setting of a London low-income-housing project." View source.
As often is the case, I wish the author had included a glossary of terms and more detailed maps.
"Khat (Catha edulis, family Celastraceae) pronounced "cot" and also known as qat, gat, chat, and miraa, is a flowering plant native to tropical East Africa. Believed to originate in Ethiopia, it is a shrub or small tree growing to 5–8 m tall, with evergreen leaves 5–10 cm long and 1–4 cm broad. Khat has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There, chewing khat predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context. Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, in order to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation." Source .
Thank you, Marieanna, for lending it to me.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

33. Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot by Peter Brimacombe

ISBN 1-84165-161-3 - Pitkin Guides, Jarrold Publishing, 2005

This colourfully illustrated and informative guide probes into the failed attempt to blow up the British king and parliament in 1605. It provides biographical data on Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators and gives a step-by-step recount of the plot.

32. Lewes Bonfire Night by Jim Etherington

ISBN 1-85770-050-3 - S.B. Publications, 1993 (revised 2001)

This book provides excellent historical background to the November Fifth Celebrations and is written by an insider. Etherington, born in Lewes in 1947, was "brought up in bonfire" & served on the Cliffe society's committee for over twenty years. He traces the evolution of Lewes bonfire from its roots in the Gunpowder Plot through the centuries to present day controversy. In the last chapter, Etherington ponders the intriguing question - Why is Bonfire so big in Lewes when it has all but died out elsewhere in the country?

Monday, November 20, 2006

31. Streets of Fire: A Hymn to Lewes and the Bonfire Celebration by Andy Thomas

ISBN 1-85770-193-3 - S.B.Publications, 1999

I had the pleasure of meeting author Andy Thomas in the Rocket FM studio when he has interviewed along with Rocket Director General, also Andy Thomas by my husband Rupert Lloyd Thomas, pictured here.
Streets of Fire chronologically relates Lewes Bonfire of 1998 as the author's experience unfolds. I read this book both before and after my first Bonfire this year and can draw many parallels. Thomas, like myself, was raised a Catholic in Lewes and attended St. Pancras. We have both, in his words, "moved on". In the early years, anti-Catholic sentiments prevailed throughout Fifth of November commemorations of the Gunpowder Plot. Today, the only remnants of this are the "No Popery" banners and exploding effigy of Pope Paul V perpetuated by the Cliffe Bonfire Society.
Thomas reminisces about feasting on, "Jacket Potatoes, sausages and grated cheese ... the traditional Bonfire fare", (page 24) before bundling up to watch the Grand Procession march down the High Street. Thanks to the hospitality of my sister Helen, I was similarly fortified on the night.
If Lewes on Bonfire Night is the world's biggest party, the morning after is the world's biggest hang-over. You can scarcely believe that the surreal ecounters you had just hours before actually happened. "Returning to Lewes the morning after Bonfire is like trying to piece together the fragments of a lost dream", page 57.
In this book, Andy Thomas attempts the unobtainable - capturing the aura and magic of the celebration. Although he insightfully & creatively reconstructs the atmosphere in text and illustrations, the only way to get a real feel for Lewes Bonfire Celebrations is to experience it first hand.

Friday, November 17, 2006

30. Journey of Tapiola by Robert Nathan

Alfred A Knopf, 1938
Tapiola, a yorkshire terrier, and his friend Richard, a canary, embark on a journey to become heroes. They inadvertantly end up on a garbage barge in New York's harbour. "we are at sea; we are embarked upon an ocean voyage. At this moment we are passing a large lady holding a candle: she seems to be waiting for someone to come home, just as I have often seen Mrs. Sweeney waiting for Mr. Sweeney". They meet Jeremiah, a preacher rat, a kind white cat and other animals as they ultimately decide they would be better off at home.

Friday, November 03, 2006

29. Spinsters in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh

ISBN 0-00-616530-3 - Fontana, 1954
This Roderick Alleyn mystery takes place in post World War II France where in infamous team of Mr Oberon and Dr Baradi use a cult as a front for a heroin factory and distribution network. Their own perverse egos are fed by recruiting young women into the fold.
While still in London, Alleyn's wife Agatha Troy receives strange letters form a distant relative - P. E. Garbel who lives near the Chateau de la Chevre d'Argent where Oberon leads his cult. As the plot unravels, Alleyn employes the aid of Raoul Milano who helps bring things to an intense climax during a bizarre ritual.

Friday, October 27, 2006

28. Across Sussex With Belloc: In the Footsteps of The Four Men by Bob Copper

ISBN 0-7509-0603-0 - Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, 1994
"Hilaire Belloc's The Four Men, published in 1912, tells the story of Grizzlebeard, the Sailor, the Poet and Myself walking across the Sussex countryside from Robertsbridge to South Harting. Belloc himself made the jounery in 1902. He foresaw vast changes and was convinced that a day would come when Sussex would never more be what it was. Bob Copper has retraced his steps and here recounts the journey."
"Bob Copper was born in Sussex where he still lives...He is a folk-singer of repute and has recorded numerous English traditional songs and made many appearances on radio, television and in live performances."

27. The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey

ISBN 0 14 00.4560 0 - Peter Davies, 1953

A classic whodunit that will keep you guessing until the last chapter. Set in post World War II London, a man is murdered while standing in the queue at the theatre. Various suspects emerge and Inspector Grant goes undercover as a fishing enthusiast in Scotland in search of the truth.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

26. The End by Lemony Snicket

ISBN -13: 978-0-06-441016-8 - HarperCollins, 2006


If you read the Series of Unfortunate Events, like I have twice, you had many questions that you thought would be answered in The End. For the most part, they weren't. I will need to reread the Beatrice Letters & The Unauthorized Autobiography for some help.
What of the Quagmires? What of Captain Widdershins, Fiona and Fernald? What of the man with a beard and no hair and the woman with hair and no beard? Dewey Denouement? Ishmael and the islanders?
Did Bertrand and Beatrice Baudelaire assassinate Count Olaf's parents at the opera with blow darts? Who was J.S.? What is in the sugar bowl and were is it?
With the death of Count Olaf the evil doesn't stop. Too many of his associates are still at large.
The World is Quiet Here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

25. The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket

ISBN: 0064410153 - HarperCollins, 2005
Plot notes
- The water tower, seen in the picture before the first chapter and the picture after the last chapter, is also seen in the picture after the last chapter of Book the First, The Bad Beginning.
- It is suggested, towards the end of the book, that Dewey Denouement is the father of Kit Snicket's baby. It is unknown whether they were married, but it is established that he loved her. There are also several hints in the middle of the book supporting this.
- Justice Strauss's fate is unknown. She may have died, since she was left at the top of a burning building, but other characters have survived worse.
- Count Olaf's parents were killed by poison darts. It is hinted that the Baudelaires' parents may have been connected with the incident.
-The woman on the right of the cover has an eye like the V.F.D. insignia on the feather in her hat.
- Sunny's ability to speak has developed greatly since The Grim Grotto. In The Penultimate Peril, she says many complex sentences, such as "What else can we do?" and "The last safe place is safe no more."
- It was never revealed whether Mr. Poe was a volunteer or a villain.
- Esmé Squalor and Count Olaf break up.
- The first name of the Baudelaire's father is revealed as Bertrand.
- We still do not know what V.F.D. means, although Volunteer Fire Department remains the most likely option.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

24. The Grim Grotto By Lemony Snicket

ISBN 0 06 441014 5 - HarperCollins, 2004
When the schism occurred in the VFD, members alligned themselves on either the side of good (putting out fires) or evil (setting fires). In the Grim Grotto we see that things are not quite that simple.
"People aren't either wicked or noble," the hook-handed man [Fernald] said. "They're like chef's salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict." He turned to the two elder Buadelaires and pointed at them with his hooks. "Look at yourselves, Baudelaires. Do you really think we are so different?...The only difference between us is the portraits on our uniforms". pp 223

On Fernald's uniform is a portait of poet Edward Guest, who's work Snicket calls over sentimental and mundane.
"You ought to be true for the sake of the folks who think you are true.
You never should stoop to a deed that your folks think you would not do.
If you are false to yourself, be the blemish but small,
you have injured your folks; you have been false to them all. "
by Edward Guest

The Baudelaires have a portrait of Moby-Dick author Herman Melville on their uniforms.
Captain Widdershins' submarine takes it's name from a Moby-Dick character. Queequeg, a harpooner who hails from a fictional southsea island, can be alternately savage and civilized.

Monday, October 09, 2006

23. The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 0 439 69837 5 - HarperCollins, 2003
With the release of Book the Thirteenth titled "The End" less than a week away, it is time to consider what will be revealed in the final chapter of the Series of Unfortunate Events.
It has been suggested that someone survived one of the VFD fires. The Baudelaires hope that it is one of their parents. Then they meet Quigley, the triplet believed to have perished when the Quagmire family home was razed. Is Quigley the one?
We know that Beatrice got a sugar bowl from Esme and that something of significant value is hidden in it but what? And who will find it first?
In The Slippery Slope, we first meet the man with a beard and no hair and the woman with hair and no beard who are so sinister that even Count Olaf cowers in their presence. Who are they?
I also wonder what caused the VFD schism.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

22. Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 0 439 55488 8 - HarperCollins, 2002
The Baudelaires go under cover as freaks in Madame Lulu's Caligari Carnival. Violet and Klaus become the two headed Beverly and Eliot. I wonder if this is derived from Beverly and Elliot Mantle the identical twin doctors in the book & film Dead Ringers.
"The Mantle brothers, Elliot and Beverly (both brilliantly played by Jeremy Irons) have a thriving private practice in which they play fertility gods, working virtual miracles in enabling previously infertile women to conceive. Cronenberg has chosen their names carefully: the second definition of "mantle" in The American Heritage Dictionary, "Anything that covers, envelops or conceals", suggests the deep tensions that exist underneath the brothers' competent facade. As their first names (and an old drawing in the title sequence) indicate, the two respectively embody the masculine and feminine sides of the human personality, with Elliot being a socially adept Casanova who does the public presentations and writes the scholarly articles, while his retiring brother Beverly grinds out the difficult research and deals with the personal anxieties of their most problematic patients. They enjoy an apparently satisfying symbiotic relationship, in which they share both professional and sexual triumphs, posing as each other when convenient."
I have not been able to determine the significance of the name Chabo the Wolf Baby that Sunny is disguised as.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

21. The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 0060288914 - HarperCollins, 2001
This is a pivotal book in the Series of Unfortunate Events. For starters, it begins exactly when and where the previous volume, The Vile Village, leaves off. The subsequent books do the same and you are left with a "cliff hanger" at the end of each one.
Count Olaf is heard but not seen as the voice of "Mattathias" over the hospital's intercom. He appears in the final scene but not in disguise. In previous books he takes great pains to obscure his distinguishing features - single eyebrow, shiny eyes, tattoo of an eye on his ankle. From here on, he no longer takes on false identities.
Mr. Poe does not appear in The Hostile Hospital and the Baudelaires have no official guardian.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

20. The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 0-439-38601-2 - HarperCollins, 2001

Building on the adage, "It takes a village to raise a child" the V.F.D. (Village of Fowl Devotees) adopt the Baudelaire orphans. Unfortunately, the villager's motivation is to have Violet, Klaus and Sunny do the village's chores while under the guidance of Hector the handyman.
We are introduced to Jacques Snicket, the author's brother, who swiftly meets his demise.
The good news is that Duncan & Isadora Quigley are rescued and whisked away to safety - we hope.
Sunny takes her first few steps in the closing scene of this Book the Seventh as the children cross the desolate plains to their next adventure.

Monday, October 02, 2006

19. The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket

In this Book the Sixth, the Baudelaire children move to 667 Dark avenue with guardians Esmé and Jerome Squalor. "Esmé's name is derived from the title of one of J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories, "For Esmé with Love and Squalor," and her husband takes his name from Salinger's full first name."
The good news is that Ducan & Isadora Quigley are alive and well. The bad news is that Count Olaf moves them before the Baudelaires can help them escape.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

18. The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 043936552X - HarperCollins, 2000

At Prufrock Academy, a private boarding school, the Baudelaire orphans meet: Vice Prinicpal Nero who plays the violin horribly; "rude, violent & filthy" student Carmelita Spats; two of the Quagmire triplets - Isadora & Duncan (at this point their brother Quigley is presumed dead).
Isadora Duncan was a Dancer / Choreographer born on 26 May 1877 in San Francisco, California.
"Duncan was a pioneer of 20th-century American dance. She is often credited with moving dance away from strict formal structures and toward more free-flowing forms of personal expression. She wore Grecian-style gowns, often performed barefoot, and startled audiences by employing such everyday human movements as skipping and running. Duncan is also remembered as an early feminist; among other things, she did not believe in marriage and bore two children out of wedlock by two different men. She was killed in a freak 1927 accident when her scarf became tangled in the rear axle of her automobile." Souce:

17. The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 0439272637 - HarperCollins, 2000

In this fourth volume in the Series of Unfortunate Events, Klaus and Violet change roles. Klaus has been hypnotized by Dr. Georgina Orwell and Violet has to read a book called Advanced Ocular Science to save him. She uses several interesting strategies to help her read this difficult text and a great reading lesson can be built around them. Klaus needs to create an invention to stop a log sawing machine. This experience helps the siblings to appreciate each other's talents and abilities.
Count Olaf is disguised as Shirley, Dr Orwell's receptionist. One of his evil henchmen, the bald man with the long nose, is disguised as Foreman Flacutono (an anagram for Count Olaf).

Monday, September 25, 2006

16. The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 0439272629 - HarperCollins, 2000

This third volume in The Series of Unfortunate Events begins with the Baudelaire children standing on Damocles Dock. Suspended above them, dangling dangerously, is a sword. The Sword of Damocles symbolizes "impending disaster". "This expression alludes to the legend of Damocles, a servile courtier to King Dionysius I of Syracuse. The king, weary of Damocles' obsequious flattery, invited him to a banquet and seated him under a sword hung by a single hair, so as to point out to him the precariousness of his position. The idiom was first recorded in 1747. The same story gave rise to the expression hang by a thread." Source:
This passage about stealing is a fine example of Snicket's "grown-up" humour.
"Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do. But like most impolite things, it is excusable under certain circumstances. Stealing is not excusable if, for instance, you are in a museum and you decide that a certain painting would look better in your house, and you simply grab the painting and take it there. But if you were very, very hungry, and had no way of obtaining money, it might be excusable to grab the painting, take it to your house, and eat it."pp 136- 137, The Wide Window.
This volume features Aunt Josephine, the Lachrymose Leeches and Captain Sham.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

15. The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 043920648 - HarperCollins, 1999

One of the reasons for the popularity of the Series of Unfortunate Events is that Lemony Snicket includes humour for grown-ups. As with tv programs like the Simpsons, and the Flintstones before them, parents enjoy watching because the "get" the satire, parodies and allusions. Here's an example from page 126 of The Reptile Room. "Ackroid!" Sunny said, which probably meant something like "Roger!"
Children will not understand why this is amusing. Mystery buffs will know it is a reference to a classic whodunit. "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (published in 1926) is a detective novel by Agatha Christie. It features Hercule Poirot as the lead detective. It is one of Christie's most well-known and most controversial novels, its innovative twist ending having a significant impact on the genre." Source:
The Baudelaire orphans are happier than they have been since the death of their parents living with noted herpetologist Montgomery Montgomery,whom they call Uncle Monty. As they prepare for a trip to Peru, Uncle Monty's new assistant Stephano arrives. It doesn't take long before his true identity is discovered.
Book the Second features the Incredibly Deadly Viper, the hook-handed man and Lousy Lane.

14. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 049206472 - HarperCollins, 1999

A Series of Unfortunate Events will reach it's conclusion with the Friday October 13th, 2006 release of Book the Thirteenth simply titled The End. The fate of the Baudelaire Orphans - Violet, Klaus & Sunny will be revealed.
My plan is to re-read the series in order, finishing with Book the Twelfth -The Penultimate Peril on October 12th.
In The Bad Beginning, the Baudelaire children are met on Briny Beach by Mr Poe, banker and family friend, who has the unpleasant task of telling them that their parents have perished in a fire that has destroyed their mansion home and its contents. In accordance with their parents' wills, the children are to be raised by a relative. Mr Poe unwittingly delivers the trio into the clutches of the dastardly Count Olaf who has evil designs on the Baudelaire fortune. By using their skills (Violet is resourceful and invents helpful items, Klaus is a voracious reader & Sunny uses her four sharp teeth to bite things), Olaf is thwarted and Mr Poe finds another relative for them to live with.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

13. Continual Feast by Jan Karon

ISBN 0143036564 - Penguin, 2005

A collection of quotes about faith,wisdom, books and dogs kept by Episcopalian Father Tim Cavanaugh, central character of Jan Charon's Mitford series of novels. Uniquely printed, the book is composed of: hand written notes; what appear to be typed pages taped into the journal; relevant pencil sketches; the occasional personal "memo to self" and sticky note. The content includes scriptural references and quotes from Oswald Chamber's My Utmost For His Highest, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (BCP), Chesterton, C.S.Lewis, and even Dolly Parton.
Patches of Godlight is a companion volume.

Monday, September 18, 2006

12. A Thirties Melodrama: The Dionne Years by Pierre Burton

ISBN 0-14-013952-4 - Penguin Books, 1977

With the recent advent of fertility drugs and better post-natal care, quintuplets and sextuplets are not unknown - but these are fraternal siblings developing from five or six fertilized eggs. When Elzire Dionne gave birth to five baby girls on 28 May 1934 at Corbeil, near Callendar, Ontario it captured the world's attention. The Dionne Quintuplets - Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie, & Marie - were identical quints from a single egg that split. The odds of giving birth to identical quintuplets are 54 million to one. No other set of surviving identical quintuplets has ever been recorded.

"The custody of the babies was withdrawn from their parents by the Ontario government of Mitchell Hepburn in 1935. The girls were made the wards of the province and they were put under the guidance of Dr. Dafoe and three other guardians. Ontario housed them in Quintland, a theme park located just across from the parents' home. The sisters could be viewed for free by visitors and tourists through a one-way mirror. Approximately 6,000 people per day visited the park to observe the cute celebrities at play. In 1934, the quintuplets brought in around $1 million, and they attracted in total about $51 million of tourist revenue to Ontario. The park became Ontario's biggest tourist attraction of the era. " - source: Wikipedia

One would hope that in today's world this sort of exploitation would not occur. I was, however, amazed to see a "freak show" trailer parked at a recent community event (Polish Festival on Roncesvalles in Toronto). A taped barker attempted to lure the curious with tales about the Elephant Man and shrunken heads. I was smugly pleased that there were very few takers.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

11. Freddy the Detective by Walter R. Brooks

ISBN 0-14-131234-3 - Puffin Books, 2001 (reprinted) - first published 1932
Freddy the Pig, a voracious reader, models his detective work on that of his literary hero Sherlock Holmes. Success and fame bring a steady stream of clients to Bean's farm and Freddy recruits farmyard friends to help out.
"Freddy the Pig and his fellow animals...were the subject of 26 books by Walter R. Brooks, a New York advertising man and a staff writer for the New Yorker, that appeared between 1927 and Brooks's death in 1958, One of Brooks's many triumphs of tone was that his human characters were surprised, but only mildly surprised, that the animals talked. Mr. Bean, whose farm they lived on, barely said a word, so he appeared the unusual one. "

Friday, September 08, 2006

10. The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart

ISBN 0771086547 - McClelland & Stewart, 1997

Artist Austin Fraser reflects on his life and the people whose lives have impacted it including: George a china painter & collector; Augusta a nurse who returned home from the First World War with shell-shock; and Sara his model and lover.
Austin develops a painting technique that mirrors the way he deals with emotion.
"It was a critic who came up with the term 'erasure' when I first exhibited the series. There is nothing, you understand, like an obscured subject to give the critic something to talk about. Even those who had been either indifferent or hostile to my work in the past wrote long, reflective essays about the hidden subject matter that, under the circumstances, they were forced mostly to imagine. " pp 183-184

Monday, September 04, 2006

9. The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket

ISBN 10:0-06-058658-3 - HarperCollins,2006

Lemony Snicket dedicates each volume of his Series of Unfortunate Events to Beatrice.In The Bad Beginning: To Beatrice -- darling, dearest, dead. In The Ersatz Elevator: To Beatrice -- When we met, my life began. Soon afterward, yours ended. In The Penultimate Peril -- To Beatrice -- No one could extinguish my love, or your house.
As usual with Snicket's writing, things are not what they seem in The Beatrice Letters.
It is a beautifully crafted portfolio that includes a double sided wall poster, by series illustrator Brett Helquist, and a book of letters written to and from Beatrice. It offers many clues and some red herrings towards what the final book of the series - simply titled The End - will reveal about the VFD, Count Olaf and the Baudelaire family.

Monday, August 28, 2006

8. The Hills Is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith

ISBN 0099066203 - Arrow Books ,1959
When Lillian Beckwith arrives in the Hebrides she initially feels she's made a big mistake travelling there for a rest-cure. She quickly becomes enamoured with the island, its inhabitants and their way of life.
This is the first in a series of semi-autobiographical books that are chock full of eccentric scots, comical anecdotes and vignettes of the crofter's traditional way of life.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

7. Canadian Pacific Posters 1883-1963 by Marc H. Choko & David L. Jones

ISBN 0929058151 - SIAP (Societe d'information et d'affaires publiques), 1999
I bought this book in the gift shop of EXPORAIL, a world class railway museum in Delson/St. Constant, a suburb of Montreal.
This book is broken down in to chapters that highlight the role played by the Canadian Pacific and illustrated in its poster art through: immigration (largely from Europe); settlement of the Canadian west; luxury cruises in the 1920s and 30s on the Empress and Duchess ships; the war years - moving troops and more ; and post war travel by air, sea and rail.
The gorgeous art work of the early posters has stood the test of time.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

6.The Ghost of the Stanley Cup by Roy MacGregor

ISBN 07710 5622-2 - McClelland & Stewart, 2000

An enjoyable yarn that weaves the legends of the Ottawa Rebels, Tom Thompson, "Bad" Joe Hall and Lord Stanley with a hockey tournament that the fictional Screech Owls attend in the nation's capital.
I greatly enjoyed meeting sports writer & columnist Roy MacGregor with my grade 5 class at a local public library where he gave a book talk. He graciously signed each of the drawings that they had made in class that they created while a read the first book of the Screech Owl series, Mystery at Lake Placid, aloud.

5. In the Crease: Goaltenders Look at Life in the NHL by Dick Irvin

ISBN 07710 4361-9 McClelland & Stewart , 1995

Noted hockey writer and broadcaster, Dick Irvin, interviewed NHL goaltending legends from the past and present to gain their perspectives of the game from in the crease. I enjoyed the way that Irvin allows the likes of Glen Hall, Gump Worsley, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur to talk about why they became goalies, who their heroes are and to share anecdotes about life on and off the ice for an NHL netminder. It seems that the reputation they have as being "different" and superstitious has some basis.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

ISBN 044022814X - Doubleday, 1961

A classic story of the loyalty and courage of dogs infused with Christian values and the power of prayer. Billy Coleman is obsessed with owning redbone hounds for coon hunting. He works for two years to save enough to buy puppies he names Little Ann and Old Dan. The pair have an unsual relationship and uncanny knack for treeing wiley racoons. Billy's resourseful stubborness gets him out of several dangerous situations but tragedy strikes and results in the death of a young boy and Billy's beloved dogs.

3. Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene

ISBN 0140185011 - The Bodley Head, 1969

Henry Pulling, a retired banker and dahlia fancier, gets a shock at his mother's funeral. His Aunt Augusta reveals that the woman Henry was raised by was not his biological mother. Henry is brought out of his mundane existance by his very colourful aunt who has a chequered past. Journeys to Istanbul by train and to Paraguay by ship, intrigue, time in jail and a murder follow.
Described by Graham Greene as, "the only book I have written just for the fun of it." It was made into a film in 1972 and starred Maggie Smith as Aunt Augusta, Louis Gossett Jr as her companion Wordsworth and Alec McCowen as Henry.

Monday, July 10, 2006

2. The Ark's Anniversary by Gerald Durrell

ISBN 0002154986 - William Collins and Sons, 1990

Written after the Jersey Wildlife Trust's 25th anniversary in 1984, this book follows the format of The Stationary Ark. In fact, many of the same anecdotes, from the early years are retold.
A new section detailing the Trust's work to release captive bred endangered species is eye opening. It outlines the difficulties of getting third generation captive bred animals to successfully adapt to their "natural habitat" - assuming it still exists in a viable form.
It also talks about Wildlife Preservation Canada and its American counterpart Wildlife Trust.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

1. The Stationary Ark by Gerald Durrell

ISBN 0671228781 - Simon and Schuster, 1979

Gerald Durrell founded the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (posthumously renamed Durrell Wildlife) and opened the zoo in Jersey, Channel Islands in 1959. In The Stationary Ark, one of Durrell's 37 best selling books, he that argues the need for zoos and their crucial role in wildlife conservation.

The objects of the trust were:

1. To promote interest in wildlife conservation throughout the world.
2. To build up under controlled conditions breeding colonies of varous species of animals that were threatened with extinction in the wild state.
3. To organize special expeditions to rescue serously threatened species.
4. By studying the biology of those species, to amass and correltate data which would help toward protecting those endangered animals in the wild state.
pp 22-23

The Stationary Ark is not, however, a dry academic book. It is chock full of amusing and heart- rending anecdotes about the care of creatures from the obscure West African pouched rat to the magnificent Sumatran orangutans. Durrell's ebullient personality and commitment to conservation shines though.