Norwich City top of the league?

30 12 2011

The dangers of fantasy football

The bargain of FIFA 12 for iPad proved irresistible as a Christmas gift to self (at 69p) and has delivered top drawer entertainment over the festive period. Using the easy setting have now got into the following, rather unbelievable, league position:


And, having failed to let that lead slip, the final result was a first for the Canaries:

Well, it might happen one day. Just hope it’s not tempting fate.


29 12 2011

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

‘Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,’ says Thomas More, ‘and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.’ England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages. From one of our finest living writers, ‘Wolf Hall’ is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion, suffering and courage.

Terrific stuff. a hugely enjoyable historical novel and Cromwell is an outstanding portrayal. One of the best books have read this year (and OK should have got to it before now). Anyway, highly recommended.

Thieving honorably

22 12 2011

The Sacred Art of Stealing by Christopher Brookmyre

Their eyes met across a crowded room. She was just a poor servant girl and he was the son of a rich industrialist. Er, no, this is a Christopher Brookmyre novel, although the eyes meeting across a crowded room part is true. Where it differs from the fairy tales is that the room in question was crowded with hostages and armed bank-robbers, and his eyes were the only part of him she could see behind the mask. He is an art-thief par excellence and she is a connoisseur of crooks. Her job is to hunt him to extinction; his is to avoid being caught and he also has a secret agenda more valuable than anything he might steal. There are risks he can take without jeopardising his plans. He can afford to play cat-and-mouse with the female cop who’s on his tail; it might even arguably be necessary. What he can’t afford is to let her get too close: he could could end up in jail or, even more scary, he could end up in love

Brookmyre is a pretty impressive writer and I must admit I really enjoy his intelligent and pacy thrillers. This one is no exception and is certainly one of his better ones. I suspect he is particularly pleased with the endorsements from two leading literary journals:

‘If you enjoy intelligently written crime thrillers with a healthy dollop of satire, then this will be the answer to your prayers.’ MORNING STAR


‘An entertaining read.’ NEW WOMAN

Festive indulgence

4 12 2011

Festive indulgence for all the family

A top notch nativity scene has been acquired

Plus essential accessories:

At last, Christmas has arrived.

French fancies

1 12 2011

Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola



The first major work of the father of French Naturalism, “Thérèse Raquin” is the shocking initial success of Zola’s impressive writing career. Published in 1867, the plot revolves around a young woman, Thérèse, who is unhappily married to her cousin Camille, largely due to her domineering, if well-intentioned, aunt, Madame Raquin. After moving the little family to Paris, the selfish Camille meets up with an old friend, Laurent, who quickly becomes Thérèse’s lover. The terrible lengths the two of them go to be together eventually become their undoing, proving them to be the ‘human beasts’ that Zola scientifically observed for temperament in his grisly experimental novel. A sinister story of adultery and murder in lower class Parisian society, “Thérèse Raquin” is a dreadfully realistic novel that remains one of Zola’s most masterful works.

Just outstanding and can’t believe I’ve never read before. Excellent portrayal of the dark underside of Paris and of human nature. Grim and thoroughly gripping right to the very end.

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