Words…and other magical creatures

alphabetThroughout history we have always been fascinated with words. We in the English language have 26 letters with which to enrich our life, enhance our conversation and embellish our vocabulary. The vast array of words available is so exciting to me. I have always been a `wordy girl`, reveling in the glory of verbose vernacular (see, i told you!).

One of my favourite websites is, which apart from being in my opinion the best free dictionary online, is startlingly interesting. For instance, they have a word of the day feature. YES! Today`s word of the day is :


Pronunciation: /əˈprəʊbrɪəs/
Definition of opprobrious


(of language) expressing scorn or criticism: opprobrious remarks
YES! It`s amazing.
They also have featured authors and word games and a whole host of fun things for the wordy among you.
While we are on the subjects of dictionaries, I have two other much loved and less conventional dictionaries to recommend.
The first is the Penguin rhyming dictionary.
For anyone who is a writer, or a poet, or just wants to be facetious, a rhyming dictionary is a must. Who would not thrill to the sound of  `coddle, doddle, model, noddle, broddle, toddle, waddle, swaddle, twaddle, remodel, mollycoddle, niddle-noddle`.
The other is `The Bibliophile`s Dictionary`by Miles Westley.
It has whole sections devoted to subjects such as: Personality traits, The lowly and corrupt, Knowledge language and philosophy, Greek and roman myths, and so on and so on.
It contains delightful gems such as Afflatus:a sudden rush of creative impulse. Another terrific example is Virago:A quarrelsome, domineering or shrewish woman.
Yes, quite.
Old dictionaries hold many treats. I once picked up a tiny leather number, no more than the size of a matchbook which apart from the usual bounty of words had a section in the back on how to address in Letters everyone from your basic merchant right up to the King or queen. And believe me, knowing how to compose my correspondence to a monarch has changed my life 😉
Another love of mine is the deft hand of a Wordsmith. Shakespeare, The Bronte`s, Fitzgerald, even modern authors like Colm Toibin all intrigue me with their handwriting. There is something about seeing the writer`s written hand, the curve of the script, the revisions and evidence of short temper or dissatisfaction. It is like peering into the authors mind, and seeing what his thoughts were as he recorded them.
To lasting joy, many ancient and classic writers have been preserved in their own hand. The British Library is a tremendous place to view many such examples if your fancy runs to it. Dickens, Austen, Woolf, Dylan Thomas, McCartney and even Shakespeare are all available to gawk at.
In my experience, anything that encourages people to read is a good thing, whether that be classical literature or a graphic novel. So my advice is to find an element of writing that you love, be it the words, the education, the entertainment or even the sheer joy of holding a book in your hands and inhaling the scent of ink and paper.
Take that joy and make it your own.
Enjoy the read.

Posted by on June 6, 2013 in dictionaries, handwriting


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Armchair Adventure


As i embark on may long weekend camping, i was considering what type of adventurer i am.

Anyone who knows me is profoundly aware of my aversion (slight understatement there…) to moths. If i’m being truly honest i don’t like insects much at all. So, you may imagine raging through the amazon or exploring the jungles of cambodia may not be in my comfort zone. But do you know what is in my comfort zone? My couch. Yes, it’s lovely and comfy!

Fortunately, there are plenty of Dr Jones’ out there to explore and explain on my behalf. You see, having an armchair adventure is one of life’s most delicious pleasures. Whether you are crippled by irrational (yet very real!) fear of moths, or are suffering from an under nourished bank account, or simply have too many things holding you at home, your armchair has all your favourite places waiting.

The genre of travel writing has swiftly become one of my joys. You can travel with the most accomplished companions, see the most incredible sights and take in all the special secrets that only a book can offer. Its is equally fascinating when you are a literal stranger as well as a seasoned visitor to your chosen spot. I continue to buy and devour books on Paris and Dublin despite being to both cities more than once. I continue to learn, to understand and to travel to these places by means of this marvelous gift of literature. It makes for a truly rich experience walking the streets you have read about, relating the authors anecdotes to your own.

We haven’t even touched on the fact that you can go back in time. WAIT! Time traveling armchair? Yes indeed. Reading a book written about a place many years ago can give you the rare chance of seeing into the past, to how people lived and loved. To visit you favourite time in history, to meet your favourite people, how exquisite and personal a travel book can become!

But even if you never ‘physically’ travel to these places, a book can give you the memories of a thousand steps. Go climb a mountain! Go run with the bulls! Go grab a book for goodness sake!

Now, here are the last 2 travel books i read and loved.



John Baxter is a journalist and author who is fenangled into hosting some walking tours in Paris for a friend. What was supposed to be a favor turns into a discovery of his ‘own favourite walk’ and a expressive journey of Paris now and then for the reader.

Like all great walks, the author meanders through streets and stops to tell a story, often including his much loved Hemingway and other such 20’s expats. It is a modern tale, a rich and layered voyage with history and humour and all that french flair.





This journal was written in 1956, 2 men with a desire to travel, to explore, in a certain sese to conquer.

They travel overland to istanbul, which is primarily where their adventure begins. They meet nomads and crooked police and dodge bullets and all the while trying to uphold Her Majesty’s honor and pride. True English gentlemen trying to capture the spirit of time gone by, while battling the modern conventions that are changing the landscapes they love.

If you have ever wished to travel to Afghanistan or the himalayas this is the sort of time period where there is peace enough to go there. To get to live with its peoples and see it’s landscapes unhindered by war and geopolitical upheaval.


Eric Newby has a knack for description and wit. He is seeing this place anew with fresh eyes and ignorance of language, but with hope and joy and very sore feet.

Next up for me is IRISH JOURNAL by Heinrich Boll


…this clear, cold light does not penetrate the sea: it merely clings to its surface, as water clings to glass, gives the beach a soft rust color, lies on the bog like mildew…

sound promising….

And now to camp! Ahoy and away and get comfy.

Enjoy the read.

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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Uncategorized


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The Great Gatsby

Unless you live in a hole, you will be aware that there is a terrific event coming up.

Baz Luhrman is releasing “The Great Gatsby”. I could not be happier.

If you are not aware of the prestigious talents of mr Luhrman (yes, you live in a hole) then allow me to enlighten you. He has directed some of my favourite films. Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet and of course…..MOULIN ROUGE! Ah, Ewan….excuse me, back to the subject at hand.

Mr Luhrman is a supreme talent at the visual extravaganza, and when it comes  to the glittering swinging heart breaking classic that is “The Great Gatsby” he could choose no better to assault my senses.

Gatsby is one of the best written characters of all time. This is incredible, because when reading the book, you know very little about him. He is fascinating and charismatic and yet aloof and mysterious. Fitzgerald managed artfully to completely absorb you with the minutest of detail . Yet the richness of imagery makes his character so full, you hardly notice (or care) that he is a stranger on the page.

My favourite list places “The Great Gatsby” at number 2 out of 100. I wholeheartedly agree with this placement. I know that many will disagree with me and that’s okay. I know many will say Fitzgerald was overrated and wrote the same book over and over. But none can deny that he perfected his talent on the whole in Gatsby.

So, in honor of one of my favourite books being made into a movie by one of my favourite directors, here is my fave covers of “The Great Gatsby”.

Enjoy the read!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage


Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Film


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Book Lists

For many of us politely termed “book crazies”, suggestion is a drug!

Oh! The many times i have been intoxicated by an author and readily thrown myself at anything they suggest. It is the hopeful and trustful response of an addict.

I am the sort that revels in order, so when I am offered the seductive scent of an official book list, it is for me liken to being drowsed in a field of poppies. There is something so indulgent and rich in casting your eyes down the many choices, knowing all you have to do is decide. To pick at your leisure or to frantically read one after the other are both delicious and taxing, relaxing and strenuous, the hallmark of any good narcotic.

In fact, when it comes to book lists, I struggle to remain a “recreational user”. The temptation to avoid all others and focus on one list is powerfully strong. For example, I have for many years had a favourite list put out by The Modern Library. It’s  full title is ‘The 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century’. It is AMAZING. But here is the pressing question: No matter how ‘good’ a certain list is, can I consider myself a true booklover/aficionado if I only follow the suggestions of one list?


And worst still, what happens when I read everything on the list?????

Clearly, the only reasonable answer is to discover a new and more thrilling list. (For those of you freaking out that 100 books are not enough for your robust mine to consider, may I suggest 1001 books you must read before you die, edited by Peter Boxall!)

My incredible enabler (or husband) just made my head spin! He just asked me the most frustrating/amazing question. “Is there a list of the best book lists?” You evil genius you!

Well, now I have much to consider. In the meantime, here is the full listing of the Modern Library’s top 100. I don’t hold with every selection (I go against popular opinion by saying ‘the sound and the fury’ is one of the worst books ever), but for the most part it’s my go to fix.

Enjoy the read,


  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
  9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
  10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
  13. 1984 by George Orwell
  14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
  17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
  21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
  23. U.S.A.(trilogy) by John Dos Passos
  24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
  25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
  26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
  27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
  28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
  30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
  31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
  33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
  34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
  35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  36. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
  37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
  38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
  39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
  40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
  41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
  43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
  44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
  45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
  47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
  48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
  49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
  50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
  52. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
  53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
  54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
  57. PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford
  58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
  59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
  60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
  63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
  64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
  69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
  70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
  71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
  72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
  73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
  74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
  77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
  78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
  79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
  80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
  83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
  84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
  85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
  86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
  87. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett
  88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  89. LOVING by Henry Green
  90. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
  91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
  92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
  93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
  95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
  96. SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron
  97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
  100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington



Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Ah come on, read me!

So, i have at long last and after much gentle persuasion decided to write a blog.

I thought i’d take this opportunity to let you know what it’s all about.

This is basically a place for me and my like minded friends to talk about books we’ve read, want to read and so on. There will be two main sections. The first will be a blog on whatever is rattling around in my book head at that moment, mostly general but familiar. The second part is a book review section, on the one side a full review which you will only want to read if you HAVE actually read the said book, and on the other a non spoiler review of the book if you haven’t read it.

I make a solemn promise that i will only review books i have read, although i am happy to receive tips and suggestions on new books to read. This is because i am awesome 🙂

Its going to be fun and serious and by turns wacky and classic.

I hope you enjoy the read.

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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Uncategorized


This is the beginning!

Just trying to navigate this stuff, thought i would keep a grin on my face!

Just trying to navigate this stuff, thought i would keep a grin on my face!

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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Uncategorized