Classics Challenge 2016 #2 -February

Book 2, February’s book, for the 2016 Classics Challenge (join 400+ other people reading a classic each month of 2016!) is …..


“The crime was a psychological accident, virtually an impersonal act; the victims might as well have been killed by lightning.”

Written in 1966, Truman Capote called In Cold Blood the first “non-fiction novel”. Based on the true life murder of the Clutter family which took place in Holcomb, USA in November 1959, the book goes into huge detail about the investigation, capture, trial and finally the execution of the killers. The reconstruction of the murder is chilling and detailed – Capote was said to have made approximately 8,000 pages of research notes. Not only do you feel as if you knew the neighbours and friends of the victims, but you have a huge insight into the lives of the Clutter family and indeed the killers themselves.

In Cold Blood took me a long time to read. At times its pace was fast and captivating so that you wanted to go on reading to find out more. At other times it was slow and meandering and, it seemed to me, a little irrelevant in places.

With a “traditional” work of non-fiction you are presented with facts and allowed to make your own opinions about the subjects in that book. In this book Capote plays with your emotions. His clever imagery leads you to care for the family, despite their somewhat complicated life, and you are even left with some feelings of empathy for one of the killers.

In reading the book it is sometimes hard to remember that it is a true life story, not a work of fiction. It’s lack of sensationalism puts modern day journalism to shame. Presentation of the facts is key. Capote tries to get to the heart of the matter, to understand why the killers did what they did, in a cool, calm and detailed manner with no screaming headlines. It’s a book which seems to talk to you on a “normal” level rather than trying to grip you with hype and fabrication as we have come to expect from modern tabloid journalism.

It’s not a nice book. I can’t say I liked it. But there is something about it. Capote’s NEED to find out the details, to try to understand, to follow it from the very beginning to the very end is captivating. I’ve never read anything like it in the past and I’m not completely convinced that I’d like to in the future.



The Book of Bedtime Stories – Book Review!

I’ve been sent a VERY nice childrens book to review from Mumsnet (eeek, responsibility…me!! Can you tell they don’t know me?!).  It’s called The Book of Bedtime Stories (as you may have guessed from my title!) and it’s extra special as it contains 10 prize winning stories from members of Mumsnet and Gransnet (how clever are they?!).

Mumsnet and Gransnet are excellent websites giving advice by parent/grandparent to parents/grandparents. The emphasis is on sharing ideas, stories, hints and tips as well as helping out with each others problems in a safe and comfortable environment. Both sites are fascinating and contain endless brilliant information – taking a look is highly recommended!

IMG_4910Back to the book; former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen was given the exceptionally hard task of chosing 10 stories from 20, which had been shortlisted from over FOUR HUNDRED entries!  The challenge was to find bedtime stories by undiscovered writers and, following that process 10 new, young artists were commissioned to illustrate a story each.

The results of this long process was published last month and is absolutely beautiful!  The stories are delightfully different from each other; there are stories of varying lengths to keep children with longer or shorter attention spans happy and using different artists for each story has made the book completely captivating. BUT, don’t take my word for it!!  I was actually the second person in our house to read the book. My teenage daughter had the package opened and the book spirited away before I could even look in the front cover! Here’s a picture of her sat reading (it was so peaceful!). IMG_4904She said that her favourite story was “When Polly Jumped Over The Moon” because, as well as being an enjoyable story, from the point of view of someone a bit older, it made her feel like anything was possible. I was quite surprised – pleasantly so – by her observation!!

Next I popped down to see my mum with the book. Fortunately she was looking after my nephew on that morning (I didn’t pick that morning on purpose honestly….ahem!) and the pair of them had a good look through the book. Sharing books was a very important part of our childhood. Mum used to read to my sister and I at bedtime and encouraged us both to read for ourselves by tantilisingly leaving the story in THE most exciting place so we wanted to continue reading by ourselves! Both mum and my nephew really enjoyed the book.  He doesn’t usually sit still for long at all, but on this occasion he sat through two stories one after another – formerly unheard of!  He enjoyed the pictures too – there are plenty of animals featured in the stories too meaning you can encourage little-ies to make the appropriate noises, which always ensures captured attention (and encouraged even Grandpa to join in!!).

So, our whole family would recommend The Book of Bedtime Stories as a wonderful addition to your reading collection.  We hope you would like a copy too or, if your children are too old (not that we think you’re ever too old!!) it would make a brilliant present, especially with Christmas coming up (sorry!). It’s available from Walker Books….here

Thank you very much to Mumsnet and Gransnet for letting me review the book for them and a HUGE well done to everyone who contributed!