Monday, 27 December 2010

Xmas Bounty - More Books (Pt 2) - Jo's Prezzies

In my Blog earlier today, I listed the books that I had received for Xmas presents this year. Since I've got a little while before Jeopardy and we've been having a lazy day at home today, I thought I'd go through the presents that my wife, Jo, received.

From Me -

One of Jo's favourite authors is Bill Bryson, an American humorist, who has lived most of his adult life in the UK. He has written a number of travel books, a short history of the nearly everything and other successful books. One of Jo's favourites is Notes from a Small Island in which Bill details his travels around the UK, including anecdotes and historical information about the areas he visited.

His latest seemed quite interesting. At Home is a walk around his home, a Victorian parsonage in the UK. One day he considered how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as found in his home.

He basically came up with the idea of journeying through his home, room by room, and writing a history of the world without leaving his home (personally, I think he was just too lazy to travel around the world. *wink*). In each room, he talks about aspects of history; in the bathroom, the history of hygiene; in the bedroom, the history of sex, death and sleep.

Based on how much Jo enjoyed the other Bryson books, I'm sure that he won't disappoint with this latest. I have rarely heard Jo laugh out loud while reading a book, but any of Bryson's books have had that effect upon her, so I'm hoping this will be the same.

For those of you who may have read Jo's Blog, you'll know about her interest in home design and things of that ilk. Each Christmas I try to find her a new book on the topic.

This year I saw a book that combined her interest in design with our love of books. What could be better?

Living With Books was written by Dominique Dupuis and Roland Beaufre.

The various chapters in the book provide an idea of the subject matter within:
- Collectors and their books (Obsessive and Discreet)
- Designers and their books (Functional and Architectural)
- Interior Designers and their books (Comfortable and Decorative)
- Writers and their books (Charming and Exuberant)
- Fashion Designers and their books (Stylish and Glamorous)
- Artists and their books (Unusual and Inspiring)
- Journalists and their books (International and Up-to-date)
Grand Houses and their books (Imposing and Authoritative)

There is nothing better in my mind than a home filled with books. To look at other peoples' ways of keeping their books is always interesting. (I think I might even read through this book at times.)

A few months ago, Jo and I were having a conversation about children's books and she mentioned that as a child one of her favourite series was the Moomin family books.

The books were written by Tove Jansson, a Swedish speaking Finnish writer. She is best known for her Moomin family stories.

The Moomins are a family of trolls who are white and round with big snouts and look somewhat like hippos. Jo gave me a list of the 8 stories that she had read as a child. Over the past two months I searched for the books and found them on the Indigo book website.

The eight books are -

Comet in Moominland, which Jo says is like Armageddon, in which a comet is heading towards Earth. (Jo said the story was quite scary to her as a child.)
Finn Family Moomintroll - a shiny top hat is found which can turn anything and anyone to something else.
Moominpappa's Memoirs - Moominpappa shares stories of his youthful adventures and intrigues.
Moominsummer Madness - the Moomins are flooded from their home and live in a floating cave like house.
Tales from Moominvalley - 9 funny stories about other residents of Moominvalley.
Moominland Winter - Moomintroll wakes up early from winter hibernation.
Moominpapa at Sea - The Moomins spend the summer in a lighthouse on a tiny island for a change of scenery.
Moominvalley in November - the Moomins get a visit from Snufkin, Fillyjonk, the Hemulen, Grandpa Grumble and Toft, but where are the Moomins?

(Maybe I'll read the stories to Jo at night to help her sleep)

A Book from Sue and Rob

Jo's sister, Sue and her hubby Rob, always send interesting books as gifts. Michael Caine's autobiography, The Elephant to Hollywood, looks like no exception.

Born Maurice Mickelwhite, the story describes his journey from London's poverty stricken Elephant & Castle where he was born with rickets, to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

He has had a celebrated acting career spanning over 5 decades, with roles that have earned him two Oscars and a knighthood.

In the book he tells of life in Hollywood, recalls his many films, the stars of Hollywood and many off-screen moments.

In my mind he's a great actor, but one who doesn't mind getting down and dirty with a role and also a fellow who doesn't mind the odd bit of fluff to go with his detailed resume. Consider 1987 where he starred in George Axelrod's The Fourth Protocol, The Whistle Blower and Surrender, but also found the time to act in Jaws, The Revenge ( a classic.. just kidding of course). Mind you, the money he made for that paid for a new home for his mom. :0)

At any rate, with such a long career as his, the book must be filled with great stories about his life and should be an excellent read.

From Jenn and Eric -

Jo got two books from Jenn and Eric, both quite different from the other. The Tipping Point was originally published in 2000, written by Washington Post reporter, Malcolm Gladwell.

What I understand the book to be, from reading the blurb on the cover, talking about with Jo and also with Jenn is that it deals with that moment in business or social behaviour when an idea or trend crosses some threshold and becomes a raging inferno; as Jo said, for example, when a restaurant moves from being just a restaurant to being the place you have to be at. Why does one restaurant in an area basically just survive when another for whatever reason is a popular hangout for everyone? It's the tipping point!

As the blurb states, 'just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.

As I talked about the book with Jo, it brought back remembrances of courses she took at university, so I'm sure she will enjoy checking it out.

As a final book Jo also received one that I know she will enjoy tremendously. We've heard quite a bit lately about the new movie starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech. So it was a nice surprise for Jo to find the book under the tree Christmas Morning.

The book is based on the diaries of Speech Therapist, Lionel Logue, who worked with King George VI to help him cope with and correct his haunting fear of speaking in public.

The book is written by the grandson of Lionel Logue, Mark Logue, a film maker and custodian of the Logue archives.

The story 'offers an astonishing insight into a private world. Logue's diaries also reveal, for the first time, the torment the future King suffered at the hands of his father, George V, because of his stammer. Rarely has there been such an intimate portrait of the British monarchy - at a time of crisis - seen through the eyes of an Australian commoner who was proud to serve and save, his King.

The question for Jo is not when to read the book, but rather if she should read the book first or watch the movie first. Both have received such excellent reviews.


Besides books, Jo and I also received some DVDs from Sue and Rob and we're looking forward to watching them.

We always enjoy a good period piece and have enjoyed watching Cranford and Lark Rise to Candleford. We had heard about a series produced for Masterpiece that also interested us. Written by Julian Fellowes, who won and Academy Award for the excellent Gosford Park, is Downton Abbey.

Set in England in the years before WWI, it tells the story of a complicated community. The house has been home to the Crawley Family for generations but it is also where their servants live, plan and dream. Some are loyal to the family and committed to Downton as a way of life. Others are moving through, on the lookout for adventure or a better life.

The difference is that they know many secrets of the family but the family know very few about them. While it seems to be a serene, secure world, there are clouds of conflict gathering that will change everything. Starring Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, amongst many other great British actors, it looks like one we'll enjoy immensely.

The other DVD is a murder mystery series that also looks very interesting. Whitechapel stars Rupert Penry-Jones as cop on the rise, DI Chandler and Phil Davis as his hard bitten partner, DS Miles. Also joining their group is an amateur expert on murder, Steve Pemberton as Edward Buchan.

The two series deal with violent crimes in the Whitechapel area of London.

The first has a murderer stalking the streets, picking off vulnerable women and leaving them brutally butchered; a copy cat killer in the mold of Jack the Ripper. The second series has a series of murders, maimings that seem to replicate those of the infamous Kray Twins of the 1960's. This is a series that I've heard nothing about before, but reading the write up on the back of the DVD packages, it looks like an excellent crime series, one of many that have come out of the UK.

As I mentioned in my earlier Blog, great Christmas presents for both Jo and I.

Merry Xmas to you all!


  1. I've seen a lot of buzz recently about The King's Speech movie...I may just have to pick that book up myself.

    I'm also very curious about the Downton Abbey miniseries...I'm planning on watching it when it airs on PBS in the coming weeks :)

  2. We may end up watching Downton Abbey on PBS as well, if we don't get around to watching the dvd's. We do enjoy the Masterpiece series.

  3. Hi Bill! Happy New Year!! How have your Christmas and New Years celebrations been? Do you still have snow over there? I see you both have a lot of good books to read in 2011! I also always love a good period piece. Did you see the Cranford episode when they took the train for the first time? So funny! I didn’t get any books this Christmas, but then again I forgot about myself and was so busy thinking of what books I wanted for my son. He got 5 books - but of course baby books!
    The Moomin series - or Mummi as we call them over here are popular among a lot of kids, and some grown ups that grew up with them. My favourite children’s books are all the Astrid Lindgren books, like Pippi longstockings and Emil. They still have the movies and TV series made in the 70`s on TV over here. Both Emil and Pippi are so funny. You should definitely see an Emil film if you have the opportunity to see a dubbed or texted one!



    I also enjoy browsing flick`r or blogs to see how other keeps their books on display! There are so many smart and decorative solutions! That book you gave Jo looked like something I would love.

    Si hi to Jo!

  4. Happy New Year to you as well, Siri. Our Xmas and New Years celebrations were fairly quiet but very nice. It was nice to have two weeks off to spend with Jo.

    We enjoy the Cranford series very much; also Lark Rise to Candelford. We've been watching Season 3 of that online the past few days. Tonight Downton Abbey starts on one of the Public Broadcast Stations (PBS) on their Masterpiece series.

    I know I've watched Pippi Longstocking before, not sure about Emil. I was trying to think of children's books I read as a child; maybe The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, I guess.

    I will indeed say hi to Jo. :0)

  5. I also grew up reading The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew! And another favourite as a child was Laura Lee Hope`s series about the Bobbsey twins. I think those and Nancy Drew was the introduction into my love for a good mystery!

    (Actually, I just googled The Bobbsey Children and found out that Laura Lee Hope was a pseudonym for numerous writers under Stratemeyer Syndicate including Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930) himself, his daughter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams (1892-1982), Howard Roger Garis (1873–1962), and his wife Lilian McNamara Garis (d.1954).)

  6. You'll find the same if you google the authors of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys I think. In fact just googling the Hardy Boys and I see they were also created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, as was Nancy Drew. I guess they knew a good thing.

  7. Yes, I just saw that now! Huh! I never knew!!!


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