Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Have you voted for your top ten books for World Book Night 2012?

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Today I had an email from World Book Night, thanking me for voting for my top ten books.  It also suggests to forward the email on to anyone who might still wish to vote ... so instead I've copied the text of the email into this post below.  But be quick - there are only 2 days left to vote ...

Thousands of people have nominated almost 7000 different titles so far but we want as many people as possible to tell us their favourite books, so if there's anyone you know who you think might like to share their favourite books and be a small part of World Book Night then please forward them this email.

Submitting books is easy (though we know how hard it is to actually pick your favourites - sorry!)

1. Go to www.worldbooknight.org
2. Register or sign in (and you can also sign in with your Facebook profile if you'd rather)
3. Search for your favourite books and add them to your list (you don't have to choose 10, you can just choose a few)

We'll be releasing the top 100 at the beginning of September and they'll be informing the choice of our editorial selection committee, chaired by bestselling novelist Tracy Chevalier, who will be picking the books next week. We'll be announcing the WBN 2012 titles in mid October and opening the giver application process.

Spriteby asked me what books I chose, so I am listing these below.  If you have read any of my posts on choosing my forty books, you probably won't find any surprises.  These are in no particular order.

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams
"Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier
"The Secret History" by Donna Tartt
"The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde
"The Things they Carried" by Tim O'Brien
"Ulysses" by James Joyce
"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte
"The English Patient" by Michael Ondaatje
"The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova
"Our Man in Havana" by Graham Greene

If I could convince you all just to read one of these books, it would be Tim O'Brien's "The Things they Carried" - it's a collection of short stories focusing on the Vietnam War.  I don't normally like war novels or films, but this is an incredible book.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

"Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud," by Andrew Lane

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

I was loaned this book by a friend (Hi Bill!), who we were meeting for lunch today, because he knows that I enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories.  I thought that I would write a quick post about it, as meeting Bill today has had me thinking about my response to the book.

Andrew Lane's hero is the teenage Sherlock Holmes.  In true Enid Blyton style, the young Holmes is at boarding school but stumbles into a mystery during school holidays.  He has been unable to go home, as his mother is unwell and his father has been stationed in India, so his brother, Mycroft, picks him up from school and takes the unwilling Sherlock to stay with his uncle and aunt.  A loner at school, he makes a rare friend of a street ruffian, Matty Arnatt.  Matty has seen a mysterious cloud leaving the scene where a dead body is found and, shortly after, Sherlock himself discovers a disfigured dead body.  Amyus Crowe, who has been hired by Mycroft as Sherlock's tutor for the holiday, aids in solving the mystery surrounding the dead bodies while also teaching Sherlock how to think.

In my post on "Oscar Wilde and the Nest of Vipers," I wrote that the author, Gyles Brandreth, was reverse engineering elements from the Sherlock Holmes canon.  Andrew Lane is doing something very similar in taking the eccentricities of Conan Doyle's character and giving Holmes a teenage back-story that could create the emotionally distant, rational adult (dysfunctional family, oppressive boarding school).  This novel is written for a teenage audience, and the straightforward language reflects this, but there are elements here that the adult Holmes fan will also enjoy (for example, Holmes uncle is called Sherrinford, which I believe was one of the names that Conan Doyle considered for his creation).  The mystery is well-paced and, in a nice touch, the bad guy is called Baron Maupertuis (the Conan Doyle canon is littered with mysteries mentioned but not explained and, in "The Reigate Squires," Watson refers to the "colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis").  I also enjoyed this novel because, in Baron Maupertuis, Andrew Lane has created a memorable, grotesque villain with an entertaining line in barking mad vendettas.

I'm not sure that I feel a pressing urge to seek out Andrew Lane's further Young Sherlock Holmes mysteries - I already have a huge pile of books waiting to be read - but this was a fun way to spend a few hours.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

And thank you, Annalisa, for my Liebster Award!

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

In my recent post accepting my Stylish Blogger Award from Gill, I passed the award on to Annalisa Crawford, who has a great blog about her writing called "Wake up, eat, write, sleep." By an odd coincidence, Annalisa visited my blog on the same day to give me a Liebster Award.  I think prior to this weekend the only award that I had was for having the shortest legs in 6th form (I think I still have the certificate somewhere), and now I get two awards in one weekend.

Annalisa quoted the following rules for the acceptance of the Liebster Award:

The Liebster Award (meaning “friend” in German) is meant to connect us even more and spotlight new bloggers who have less than 200 followers – but hopefully not for long. The rules are:

1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet – other writers.
5. And best of all – have fun and spread the karma!

I do have 5 people in mind

For my first Liebster Award, I'd like to be a bit nepotistic and suggest my husband, Mark Cockram, who writes a blog,"Nerdology." His specialist subjects are Doctor Who, films (he writes often about Laurel and Hardy, and has a project to watch and write on all of the American Film Institute top 100 movies), gadgets and games.  I'm not sure what to write to big him up, as he is so great that no words would do him justice.

For my second nomination, I'd like to suggest Gill Fraser-Lee.  Gill and I found each other through Twitter due to our mutual admiration of the peerless Jeremy Northam.  Gill has an excellent and recently revamped blog about Jeremy, as well as other blogs with different emphases at "Queen of Lukewarm" and "These Foolish Things." Gill is an intelligent, engaging and funny writer who has been very supportive of my blog, and her blogs are well worth checking.  Especially if you like Jeremy Northam.  But many of you probably knew that already....

For my third and fourth nominations I am going to suggest a couple of blogs by people I don't know well personally, but whose blogs I enjoy.  One of my favourite genres to read is crime fiction, and both of these blogs are well written and by people far more knowledgeable than me in this area.

My third nomination is Spriteby, who writes a book blog called "Spriteby's Bokhylle."  I considered nominating Spriteby for the Stylish Blogger Award but, as he/she writes anonymously, I did not think that he/she would welcome being asked to provide the autobiographical information required by the challenge.  I regularly check Spriteby's blog for reviews and for recommendation to advance my own reading in the area, and Spriteby is particularly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Scandinavian crime fiction.

My fourth choice is Margot Kinberg, who writes a blog at "Confessions of a Mystery Novelist." Like Spriteby, her blog is well-written and shows a wealth of knowledge of her subject.  Margot writes regular "In the spotlight" posts about specific authors and novels, modern and classic, as well as writing posts on themes across crime fiction writing and writers.

My final choice is a friend of mine, Mina Searle, who has written a couple of posts on a blog that she has started called "I would rather be cross stitching."  Mina is a blogging novice who has only written a couple of posts so far, so I would like to offer Mina a Liebster Award as recognition of how much I have enjoyed her couple of posts so far and encouragement to keep on writing.  I enjoy cross stitching to relax also, but I have nowhere near the number of kits to do that Mina has. This is just as well, as I have been doing the same large kit for years (but part of my new relaxation regime is to do 10-15 minutes a day of stitching as "me time").

These awards are with the qualification that, as some bloggers do not include their follower statistics on their blog, I am not sure if Gill, Margot or Spriteby have over 200 followers.  Quite possibly they do - if they don't, they should have - in which case I apologise for unknowingly contravening one of the tenets of the Liebster Awards.  But that doesn't change the fact that I think they are all entertaining writers and worth looking up.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Thank you, Gill, for my Stylish Blogger Award!

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Gill Fraser-Lee, who has a number of excellent blogs, has very deservedly won a Stylish Blogger Award which she accepted in her blog here. Gill has been very kind and supportive about my blog and was nice enough to nominate me for a Stylish Blogger Award as well.  Thank you Gill!  I am honoured to be nominated for this alongside other talented writers of entertaining blogs such as Lady Byron. I haven't checked out the other writers that Gill mentions, but I will be sure to do so (Janelle Dvorak and Sue Vorenberg). In honour of this award and to prove my stylish credentials I am writing this while wearing an evening dress, black elbow length evening gloves, silk stockings and I have my hair in a sophisticated chignon.

To accept this award I apparently have to admit to 10 things that you don't already know, and to nominate other stylish bloggers.  It is difficult to admit to 10 things that you don't know about me, because I have no shame and I tend to compulsively admit to embarrassing things on Twitter and on Facebook if I think that they might make people laugh.  I've even written a trivia page on my blog already, on which I have admitted to many things that any reasonable person would try not to mention.  I feel it would be cheating to re-use some of these, so I need to try to think of some more....

  • I totally lied above.  I'm actually being a slob and lazing around in an old, baggy T-shirt.  Still think I'm stylish now, Gill?
  • I have OCD tendencies.  I have different coloured pegs for hanging out washing, and I like to make sure that I don't mix colours on an item.  If I use more than one peg on something, then they need to be the same colour.
  • The one thing that I can't do, but wish I could, is sing.  I have a horrible voice and can never seem to catch the right pitch.  I have a real mental block in singing publicly, probably because I don't like to cause suffering.  On my hen night I was challenged by one friend to sing something from the Sound of Music, and challenged by another friend to run naked around the cottage we had rented for the weekend.  The idea of the latter scared me less (although I didn't do it).
  • I have flashed before, but I have never mooned anyone.  I don't think it is my best side.
  • As part of a late teenage rebellion (about 10 years late) I got a tattoo.  It's the Chinese symbol for love - at least, as I don't speak Chinese, I really hope it is - on my right hip.  It 's a horrendous cliche, I know, but I still like it.  When I told Dad that I had got a tattoo he did the silent disapproval thing.

How many have I done now?  Five.  Ok. 
  •  Whenever I get stressed, I buy camomile tea, thinking it is good for me but ignoring the fact that I hate the taste of the stuff.  I use about 2 teabags, get even more stressed forcing myself to drink something horrible, and then don't use the rest.  I bought some today thinking it might be different (it has honey and vanilla in it as well).  It will probably be just the same.
  • At various times of my life I have been told I look like: Gillian Anderson, Kate Winslet, the young Tatum O' Neal, Kirsty MacColl (I'd tried doing my hair in rags and I ended up with Big Hair) and Sophie Aldred.  I don't think I look like any of them.
  • I would still love to write a book, but I feel rather embarrassed about the idea of writing a sex scene because I would be worried that my parents might read it.
  • I think that my first crush was Noel Edmonds.  That might be the most embarrassing thing that I have ever admitted to.
  • There are 2 entries for this list that I wrote and then deleted because I didn't think that I should admit to them.

I am not as well connected as Gill, so I did find it a bit harder to think of my nominations for the Stylish Blogger Award.  But I have decided to go for......
  •  My lovely husband Mark Cockram, who has a blog at "Nerdology".  He writes on films, gadgets and TV, and I think his blog is a lot more stylish than mine because he has more of the geek expertise needed to layout a blog and add gadgets and photos.  And I would like to see if he can surprise me with any of his 10 things...
  • Annalisa Crawford, who has a very interesting blog about her writing at "Wake up, eat, write sleep".  I was at 6th form with Annalisa and lost touch for a while, and it is good to have got back in touch through Facebook.