Monday, 28 April 2008

Babywearing Competition

There is currently a babywearing competition at Along for the Ride. The prize is an Ergo, with is a baby carrier that I would just love to have! But really I have a couple of wraps and mei tais, so I think I had best not buy one. And enter any competition I can find were an Ergo is a prize!

So this is the link to the competition:

Win a Free Ergo Baby Carrier from Along for the Ride

Good luck to anyone that enters. I have heard nothing but great things about the Ergo from mums and dads alike. And some dads are fairly particular about baby carriers. The Ergo is not girly at all!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

The First Casualty

The First Casualty by Ben Elton

I just finished reading this book recently. It is one of my husbands books, and one of the only ones of his I have even thought of reading! We have very different tastes in books - he likes The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. And Ben Elton. So I had it in the back of my mind for a while to read it, and it fit all the "breastfeeding reading" criteria I mentioned in a previous post.

We know Ben Elton quite well from his work on TV, writing for various series such as Blackadder, so he is known for his comedic abilities. I was interested to see how he would handle a book centered on World War I. Apart from Blackadder, there isn't much comedy in that! The story involves a senior police detective who is gaoled as a conscientious objector to the war. Through the trial is his vilified, and brings shame onto his family. Meanwhile in France, a well known British officer is shot while in a military hospital for treating victims of shellshock. It is put out that he is killed in action, but those in the know refute that and claim it is murder, and blame is placed in the hands of a fellow patient. So, our gaoled police detective is sent to France to investigate - via a false death in prison. So this man, who was dead set against the war, finds himself at the Front, and in the process of his investigations, taking part in raids and trench battles. As he ironically observes, he was against the unnecessary killing of war, and in the process of his investigation, to save the life of the man facing court martial for a murder he proves he did not commit, he murders a number of Germans.

Some of the dialogue spoke through with almost a sound of Ben Elton, particularly the toffee-nosed officer type. I could just hear the voices of Hugh Laurie et al in Blackadder - what what!! I also came away interested in shellshock. WWI was the first time such an entity was diagnosed, and it was still controverisal in military circles. Victims could be struck dumb, have violent shaking episodes, and be in such as stupor as to be unable to care for themselves. BUt the military view was to treat any phyiscal wounds and get the men back to the fighting as soon as possible. Not to mention those that might have ran from fear at the thought of battle, only to face being shot by a superior officer for insubordination. Not the British military at its best.

A number of interesting characters are included; there is a suffragette nurse, a couple of homosexual military men, and a real scoundrel of an officer with an abysmal attitude about women.

The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham.

This book was on my "to be read" (TBR) pile for a long time. I bought it a while ago after seeing so many good reviews about it from reviewers that I have similar tastes too. I hadn't read anything about the Edward II period before, and I think this is why I waited for so long to read it. I have now discovered a whole new period to be interested in! I have such admiration for Susan in choosing to write about such a complex time in English history. Family connections and politics were so interwoven and complex. But Susan breathes life into the time through the eyes of Eleanor Despenser, the wife of Hugh Despenser, a favourite (an intimate favourite at that) of Edward II. Eleanor would be a character that would flit about the edges of most books about the period, but stepping forward into the limelight in this book gives an interesting perspective. She made me feel more intimately involved in the story. She is also someone that is easy to relate to in our times. She was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, not to mention the niece of the King. All these facets of her life make it easy to step into her shoes, and see things through her eyes.

The period is clearly well understood by the author, and I admire the way she has presented a story that was so obviously well researched. There are a lot of insightful details in the narrative, about the way that the noble people lived in the time, and the values they had in regards to their families, their religion and their political views. It shows great depth of knowledge, and it makes me think what a shocking time authors must have in planning and editing their books! In no way am I saying that this book was too long, or too detailed or anything like that. But it made me think that it must be very hard to decided where in time to start and finish, and out of all the details that have been gleaned from research, which to include and which must relucantly be left out. I guess I am thinking about it from the point of view of someone who dreams of maybe oneday writing a historical fiction novel myself, and thinking of how to approach choosing a period, and characters and the like. Reading this book really made me think about the craft of writing, because it was so well handled.

I really like the approach of having the central character as someone almost a step removed from the action so to speak. Like I said earlier, Eleanor may have made a brief mention in other works of the time. But making her story is interesting on its own. She was the treasured niece of the King, the sister in law of his first favorite, and her husband went on to become the second favorite. With the fall of the Despenser family, Eleanor's life takes a dramatic change, and we get to see the strength of character that Eleanor must of had. To endure such a change in life, to go from noblewoman, to a prisoner in the Tower of London, with children to care and provide for, a son imprisoned elsewhere, and then her subsequent marital woes, was really a story that was begging to be told. I hope that many more authors will find characters and story such as these lurking in the shadows of time, pick them up, dust them off, and buff them up to shine such as Eleanor does at the hands of Susan.

Time to start afresh!

I can't believe it has been over a year since I started this blog! Things kind of fell by the wayside, and I spent more time reading, than even thinking about writing reviews or beading! Anyway I would like to make a fresh start on things.

In the last year, we have had a new addition to the family. Joel was born in December. And after a worrying start, things are going very well. He is a very good baby, and his big brother Luke loves him to bits! 

I haven't touched beads for a while now, but with Mother's Day coming up, I think I might get them out this week and make some goodies for presents. I had some ideas for my mum and mother in law ages ago, but no doubt I will make something totally different when the time comes. But that is the fun of it!

So, I was going to restart my reviews with the next book that I finished, but I thought I could not miss writing a review for the book that I finished recently (see the next post). I am currently reading two books at once, which is something I have made a rule of not doing for many years. But I have one book that I read in bed, or wherever, and one is in Joel's room for breastfeeding time. I've got to make the most of those quiet moments! Anyway, the breastfeeding book has some selection criteria attached.
It must be:

1. Easy to hold. So not too thick, or most hardcovers would be out unless they are slim.

2. Print must not be too small. Given that I am reading in the middle of the night by the bedside light, and with the book on the other the side of the baby, it has to be easy to read.

3. Something that is easy to pick up and put down reading wise. So something with short chapters or breaks in the chapters.

So currently, I am reading "The Time Traveller's Wife", which fits these criteria admirably.

So cheers to the "relaunch" in a way, of my blogging! We will see if I can be more regular with posting this time!