Friday, 12 April 2013

The perfect reread

There's a fine art to rereading; real rereading not the 'so good I have to read it again straight away'  or 'psyching myself up for the next one in the series' or  'discovering a book on your shelves you forgot you had but kind of remember liking' type. I mean the regular rediscovery of old favourites.
But not too regular. Read them again too soon they lose their charm, leave too long a time and they become as new again.
Rereads for me are the comfort reads, the slippers, hot bath and glass of good wine books. In a five
Read it LOVE it
year cycle I usually reread I Capture the Castle, all of Jane Austen, my entire collection of Noel Streatfield, LM Montgomery's Anne books plus The Blue Castle (buy it, read it, LOVE it. I promise you joy), all of Diana Wynne Jones, Georgette Heyer's regency and Georgian romances and the entire Chalet School even the crazy last ones although I have to come up with an alternative ending where Len break off her engagement to creepy Reg Entwhistle, Margot escapes the convent, Con gets a personality of her own and one Old Girl manages to combine a career with marriage. 
My cover, clothes are all wrong
but I like the dreaminess of it
Today I realised I was adding a new author to the list. Many years ago I was staying with a friend and, in a conversation about books, we confessed our guilty pleasures. I owned up to Georgette (I am brazen about that now but at uni  I kept my love of any genre fiction hidden) and she told me about a book she and her sisters adored. Eva Ibbotson's 'A Countess below Stairs'. I gulped it in one sitting. It was perfect. White Russians, post WW1 country houses, an emotionally wounded hero and Anna. Anna Grazinsky, Countess and house maid, strong, passionate and utterly adorable. A book peopled with so many brilliantly drawn secondary characters it feels three times as long as it is. It's since been reissued as 'the Secret Countess' and is available everywhere but I had to track it down in a second hand book shop, just as I did most of Antonia Forest's Marlow books and my battered copy of I Capture the Castle. 
I haven't been to Vienna but I have managed Austria,
conjured up so lovingly by  Ibbotson
Last night I finished Countess for the fifth time. I have just reread the same author's Madensky Square, a bitter sweet book set in Ibbotson's native Vienna, whose older, sadder, emotionally scarred heroine stays with you long after the book is finished and Magic Flutes, also set in Vienna. I found myself eyeing up the Morning Gift and wondering why I don't possess a Company of Swans. Gorging myself on Ibbotson's sharp humour and perfect sense of time, place and character.
Eva Ibbotson was also the brilliant author of children's classics including The Great Ghost Rescue,  The Beasts of Clawstone Castle and her multi award winning Journey to the River Sea. Everyone of these books is a joy and you should read them, love them and hand them to a child forthwith but start off with Anna, start off with the Countess and I'll see you back here in five years for the next reread. Now where did I put that copy of the Morning Gift?

Monday, 8 April 2013

Returning the favour

In the last couple of month I have been tagged in a few blogger posts which is very sweet of the people concerned *beams at Pam, Tracey and Lindsay* but then *hangs head in shame* I spent so long thinking up answers I totally forgot to actually, you know, blog. I do the same with birthdays - get the perfect card and then forget to send them. 
Rubbish friend, rubbish blogger!
So. Today I will reply to all three tags - unless the garage phones with bad news about my car which is currently undergoing its MOT/Service, always a stressful time for me and my bank balance- in which case I will no doubt forget to post this...

Back in January the DOUBLE RITA NOMINEE (sorry about the caps but in this case totally justified. Two nominations for two books in totally different genres in two names. Some achievement) Pamela Hartshorne aka Jessica Hart tagged me in this: 
Go to either page 7 or 77 of your manuscript. Go down 7 lines and then copy the next 7 lines into your status. After that, tag 7 authors to play along.' 

I was (am) a bit shy about this as Pam  tagged some amazing writers in her post and I felt a little daunted by such illustrious company. But here, in the interests of openess and transparity is my own modest offering...

‘Pregnancy?’ He looked up in shock. ‘I didn't know Suzy was expecting.’
        ‘I expect she was keeping it a secret from you knowing your less than enlightened views on working mothers,’ Fliss said drily.
         ‘I have no view on working mothers, or on working fathers for that matter, I just expect my employees to pull their weight at work not be at home with their feet up. Damn! This is the most critical time, we'll never get anyone to take over at this short notice. Fliss, you're just going to have to do it.’

Okay then, moving swiftly on. Next the lovely Lindsay Pryor tagged me in the *cough* Inspiring Blogger award. Lindsey's eagerly awaited second novel Blood Roses (runner up in New Voices 2010) is released at the end of this month but her debut Blood Shadows is available now and if you like paranormal romance then you are in for a treat. This award requires me to display the following symbol and tell you seven things about myself.  Lindsey's facts were brilliant and really entertaining. Oh dear, this is going to be tough!

1. I once worked in a shop on Scarborough seafront and part of my duties included selling rock from under a sign that said 'Cheapest on the Front'. I also had to put the pictures onto the bestselling strip mugs; pictures of attractive 70s looking models whose clothes allegedly faded as the mug was filled with hot water. 
2. I was mistaken for Maria McKee in a Glasgow nightclub. This was some time ago.
3. In my late teens my going out outfit of choice included ripped fishnets over purple tights and a bowler hat. I am not entirely sure why.
4. My family allegedly has Russian blood, royal of course. My grandmother always claimed to have felt the spirits of her ancestors as she stood on a bridge on the Neva in St Petersburg. I too hoped to feel this connection but all I could feel was torrential rain and we never did work out where to buy an umbrella. 
5. I am half Irish and quarter German. This is in addition to my drop of royal Russian blood. 
6. I got married on stage in the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough.
7. I am MUCH better tempered when I am near the sea. Sadly for my family the sea is a good hour away...

The final tag was handed to me just today so for once I am timely!  Tracey Rogers, whose debut novel Daring to Love is soon to be published by Beachwalk Press has tagged me in this. I have to thank her (thank you!), display another banner (I am getting the hang of this) and then answer a few happy, sunshiny questions. Here we go...

Favourite Number My daughter was born on the 3rd so if I had to choose one it would be 3.
Favourite non-alcoholic drink Gin! Oh, hang on. Non alcoholic? Erm. Well I drink at least five cups of tea a day...
Facebook or Twitter Oh Twitter. Always. Facebook can be a bit cutsey and smug for my taste but Twitter always makes me laugh.
Your passion Reading although that probably goes without saying. I got a replacement Kindle last Easter and there are 150 books in the read file. Plus the thirty or so I read in actual book format. Not bad for a year's haul. My favourite thing at the moment though is walking my dog. He is just 8 months old, a mini schnauzer/spaniel cross and full of character (ie naughty). I have walked him through snow, fog, much drizzle, on grey freezing days and I love it. Imagine how much more I'll love it when we get our two days of summer. 
Giving or Getting Presents I get a bit embarrassed when people buy me presents so giving every time. The pup was a surprise for my daughter's birthday, we told her we were going on a day out to a National Trust propery. Her face when she saw the tiny, wriggly bundle of fluff...
Favourite Day Friday. That's my day off work aka writing day.
Favourite Flower the first snowdrops of spring. 

Now I have to tag people *evil chuckle*. If the three people who tagged me haven't already done any of these then I choose them. Otherwise I tag my lovely CP's Jane O Reilly whose debut Once a Bad Girl is out NOW so buy it (please), Julia Broadbooks and Alexa Fiennes. x