Book 10 – Another Hard work this one

This week I choose a book that I bought from the reduced shelf at the local supermarket … it cost the grand total of 25p!

I choose ‘Wasted ’ by Mark Johnson . (340 pages paperback)


This book was an autobiography looking at the life of the author, Mark Johnson, and how his life descended into crime; drugs and at one point he even thought he had killed someone. He described his terrible childhood with his father who never showed any kindness let alone love.  His father is totally controlling and jealous of anyone his wife (Mark’s mother) may talk to; regularly beating up both his wife and the children.  To escape his father Mark spent as much of his time out of the house as possible. This then meant he had no food to eat so he would steal food. Mark also wanted to be liked by the ‘big’ children  on the estate so would so anything they asked. He tried cigarettes while still at Primary school.

When the ‘big’ boys start smoking cannabis he tries it and from there things just progressed downwards. Every time he was given an opportunity to escape – whether it was by doing an Art course or when he trained as a tree surgeon – he seemed to take what he saw as the easy option and return to drugs as soon as he hit a problem.

You could tell that he would get more involved in drugs … he soon starts to supply so he can afford his own habit. He kept trying to convince himself that he wasn’t really addict because he didn’t do whatever the next stage was. By the time he faced up to the fact he was an addict he was in London living on the streets having lost his job with no obvious friends. He seems to think nothing of stealing CDs and selling them on to pay for his habit. He implies that the shops were stupid for not catching him. He seems to think himself cleverer than the average person in the street because he has to ‘earn’ so much more money than them just to keep himself in drugs.

He reaches rock bottom when neither mainlining heroin or chewing crack have any real effect on him any longer. At various times he is given a chance to go through rehab but he uses while still in the actual buildings.

He does finally come clean with a great struggle. You get the impression that he has used a great deal of people in his life and come across as being very selfish and emotionally immature.

I found the book interesting to start with when describing his childhood but it became very repetitive when he was writing about how he found his next hit and where he stored the drugs etc.

I am pleased for him that he managed to finally reclaim his life; that he is developing a relationship with his 2 sons and that he is using his experience to work with the Prince’s Trust trying to educate those in power and help those in a similar position to him when he was living  homeless on the streets controlled by drugs.

It took me almost 10 days  to finish this book, I had a break in the middle and did not read for a couple of nights as it was such hard going.  If I had not been taking part in this challenge I’m not sure I would have bothered to pick it up again. It was not so much the style but more the subject matter.It is not often I find a book I struggle to finish but I have found another one this week.

So my current totals for my Reading Challenges are:

52 Books in 52 Weeks ……. 10 books ……… 42 Left

Read It Again, Sam ……………. 5 book ……….. 11 Left

Dusty Mini Challenge …………. 6 books ………….. 2 Left until my next award

Chunky Mini Challenge ……… 2 Books ………… 2 Left until my next award


Book 9 – Another Re-Read and a ‘chunky’ one at that.

I choose my next book by looking to see what I fancied. It is a book that I have  read before and has been sitting in my bookcase for  a while.

I choose ‘Out of the Hitler Time’ by Judith Kerr . (623 pages paperback)

This book is actually 3 books in 1.  The main character in all the books is Anna and the stories are based on Judith Kerr’s own experiences of leaving Berlin as a child in 1933 to go to first Switzerland then Paris and finally London.

The first story called  ‘When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit’  tells how much Anna’s family life changes from being quite well-off in Berlin, with a maid and a cook, to  the life of a poor refugee in Paris where she knew no french.  In Berlin when the story starts Anna is 9 years old and is basically unaware that she is Jewish as it has little affect on her life at that time. However her father is a prominent  famous writer who publishes anti- Hitler articles and ends up on a blacklist. He is aware that if Hitler came to power that this could make all their lives difficult.  Her father travels to Switzerland 2 weeks prior to the elections and Anna and her mother and older brother join him not long after and they life in a guest house.  When money gets tight they decide to move to Paris where they live in a tiny flat and Anna’s mother ties, for the first time in her life, to cook and keep the flat without any help.  Anna and her brother speak no french initially but once they go to school their french improves dramatically.   When money gets even tighter they decide to move to London where Anna’s mother has some family. The story finishes as the family arrive in London. 

The title for this first story comes from Anna having to choose a single toy to take with her and she leaves her old favourite toy behind (Pink Rabbit).  When her father learns that their Berlin house has been confiscated Anna’s mother cries out that Hitler has stolen their house and from that Anna assumes that Hitler has stolen Pink Rabbit too and has a nightmare of Hitler playing with HER toy.

The second story is called ‘Bombs on Aunt Dainty’ and tells the story of Anna’s life during the second world war. It starts when she is 15 years old living in a house with the family of an (american) school friend while her brother is up at Cambridge and her parents are living in a hotel for refugees in Bloomsbury, London.  When war is declared the american family leave and Anna has to move back to the refugee hotel. The story tells of Anna’s first job and how she goes to Art evening classes.  It finishes with the end of the War.

The title for this second story comes from Anna’s maternal Aunt who had been a very dainty child and  despite being a well built middle aged woman was still known by this nickname. There are some very descriptive passages about how the bombing of London affected the family both where they lived and their general well being.

The third story is called ‘A Small Person Far Away’ and finds Anna is now a newlywed woman working for the BBC.  Her father has died and her mother is in Germany working as a translator for the Americans.  It covers only 1 week in time but early in this week she receives a telegram from her mother’s boyfriend saying her mother is seriously ill and asked Anna  to come. It is decided that Anna better travel to Berlin to see her mother.

The title of this story refers to how Anna feels in Berlin when she visits the places she used to go to as a child.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as a whole  – I enjoyed the descriptions of London during the blitz and how despite what was happening life carried on for Anna. It was much more important to her that that she managed to met up with someone or had an argument with her mother than the bombs.

52 Books in 52 Weeks ……….. 9 books ……… 43 Left

Read It Again, Sam ……………. 5 book ……….. 11 Left

Dusty Mini Challenge …………6 books ………. my second award

So I hereby award myself : A  Dean Martin Award for reading   4 Dusty Books 😀

Another Mini-Challenge to add to my quest list: Chunky Mini Challenge -books with more than 500 pages.

The Classifications for Chunky Books are:
Chunky Books – Let’s rock and roll
 Short Fat Fannie  – 2 books

Lawdy Ms. Clawdy – 4 books

Long Tall Sally  – 6 books

Good Golly Miss Molly – 8 books

Blueberry Hill – 10 books

Have Mercy Baby – 12 books or more

So this is my actually my 2nd Chunky Book as my very first book (‘The House of Hades’ by Rick Riordan) had 608 pages.

So I hereby award myself : A ‘Short Fat Fanny’ Award for reading   2 Chunky  Books.

Book 8 – Another Re-Read

I choose my next book as it caught my eye as I put my last book (The Red Towers of Granada)  back on its shelf. It is a book that I have  read before and has been sitting in my bookcase for  a while.

I choose ‘Paid Servant’ by E. R. Braithwaite . (188 pages paperback)

This was not really the book I was looking for … I was hoping to find its prequel (To Sir, With Love) but that seems to have disappeared at the moment 😦 .  To Sir, with Love is a book about Mr Braithwaite’s struggle to get a job as a school teacher; how despite his qualifications he is turned down as soon as they realise he is not white and how in the end he is given a chance to teach in the East End of London.

Paid Servant is an auto-biographical book describing Mr Braithwaite’s life in  late 1950’s  when he was seconded to ‘London County Council Department of Child Welfare’ department from ‘ London County Council Department of Education’.

In the book he talks about how difficult it is to find a family to foster any  child let alone one that had a racial label attached to it. He talks about how important these ‘labels’ appear to be to his colleagues and how they seem to be based purely on skin colour such as half -African  rather than half-white or even half-Irish or half-French.

He describes the heart break of children living in a home waiting for a ‘Mummy and Daddy’ to go home with. He also talks about the general day to day prejudice that existed where a job card advertised at the Labour Exchange (the job centre) could have the initials ‘NC’  written on it meaning ‘No Coloureds’

I enjoy the way this book is written and how much we have, hopefully, moved forward in the following 50/60 years .

I will carry on hunting in the house for ‘To Sir, With Love’ his earlier work and if it has disappeared I will have to replace it as it too is an excellent book.

My current totals for my Reading Challenges are:

52 Books in 52 Weeks ……….. 8 books ……… 44 Left

Read It Again, Sam ……………. 4 book ……….. 12 Left

Dusty Mini Challenge …………5 books ………. 1 Left until my next award

Book 7 – A very very old ‘dusty’ friend

I choose my next book as it caught my eye as I put the Dick Francis’s Proof back on its shelf. It is a book that I have  read many times before and has been sitting in my bookcase for decades.

I choose ‘The Red Towers of Granada’ by Geoffrey Trease . (188 pages paperback)


This edition was published in 1972 and I suspect I bought it from a school book fair in about 1974 or 1975. I can remember the luxury of being allowed to wander round the book fair with all the books on display. It was at a book fair like that that I also bought Anne Frank’s Diary  and ‘For the Love of Ann’ a true tale of an autistic girl’s life in the 1950s.

The Red Towers of Granada is based around 1290 when the Jews were expelled from England.  It is the story of a young lad, Robin, who is declared dead as his local priest believes he has leprosy. Robin is forced to leave his village on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest and as he walks through the forest he rescues an elderly Jewish man who is being attacked by thugs. The man turns out to be a doctor, by the name of Solomon, who examines Robin’s hands and tells him that he is not a leper .  Solomon not only cures Rodin’s rash but gives Robin the chance of a new life.

The story follows Solomon and his family, along with Robin, as they leave England travelling into Spain all the time searching for a special medicine  for the Queen, Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward l.

Through this book I learnt a lot about various subjects:  the life of a 13th century english scholar; the Expulsion of the Jews in 1290;  how the various communities (Christian; Jewish and Moors) interacted in Spain at that time.

Geoffrey Trease wrote a very interesting fast paced book which even now  almost 40 years later I still enjoy. I just wish he had written a sequel so I could find out what happened to Robin in his later life and whether he ever managed to meet up with any  of his Jewish friends again.

I would highly recommend The Red Towers of Granada to anyone who is interested in historical stories.  I know I will certainly be reading this book again.

My current totals for my Reading Challenges are:

52 Books in 52 Weeks ……….. 7 books ……… 45 Left                           (making me up-to-date again for 1 book a week)

Read It Again, Sam ……………. 3 book ……….. 13 Left

Dusty Mini Challenge ………… 4 books ……. my first award

So I hereby award myself : A  Bing  Crosby Award for reading   4 Dusty Books 😀

Quick note … I’m delighted to add my youngest son who will be 15 years old in March has decided this evening to start  reading  ‘The Red Towers of Granada’ for the first time.  He has finished the first 2 chapters and is loving it.  

Book 6 – An old ‘Dusty’ friend this time.

This week I choose a book that I have  read many times before and has been sitting in my bookcase for a while (with many others by the same author.)

I choose ‘Proof’ by Dick Francis . (269 pages paperback)

Dick Francis

Proof was first published in 1984 and this particular edition was published in 1985 by Pan . It would have been brought brand new and was probably given to me either for my birthday or  in my Christmas stocking.  It was the family joke that I would give my father the latest Dick Francis hardback for his birthday and then the following year I would be given the paperback in return.

 I was introduced to Dick Francis by my father who was extremely ‘horsesy’ – he used to hunt and steeplechase as well as ride point-to-points. He even played polo given half a chance. 

I am not sure how old I was when I read my first Dick Francis book; certainly still a school child.  I have some of his books that have my maiden name and class written in them for when they were taken to school.

Dick Francis’s books were always based within the horsey world in some way. Whether, as in Proof, it was someone connected at the fringes or, as in, Risk where the main character is a jockey in the thick of it.

I choose to read Proof again as I heard a 10 minute clip of a dramatisation on Radio 4 Extra while in the car  a couple of weeks back . Although I immediately recognised the story there seemed to be some inconsistencies in the tale which made  me want to read the original story again.

It was an easy enjoyable read and Dick Francis certainly remains on my list of favourite authors and I have a whole shelf dedicated to his books. I have, I believe, all of Dick Francis’s books but may be missing one or two. I must check and obtain any that are missing. 

My current totals for my Reading Challenges are:

52 Books in 52 Weeks ……. 6 books ……… 46 Left

Read It Again, Sam ……………. 2 book ……….. 14 Left

Dusty Mini Challenge ………… 3 books …………   1 Left to my first award

Book 5 – Hard work this one

This week I choose a book that I have never read but has been sitting in my bookcase for a while.

I choose ‘The Outward Urge’ by John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes . (186 pages paperback)

The Outward Urge

This book was written in 1959 which was 10 years before the lunar landings. This fact is very relevant as  the story – or should I say stories – is based on what John Wyndham thought would happen in the future with space exploration. This book is basically 5 stories in one all tied together by the Troon family over a 200 year period from 1994 – 2194.

The ‘outward urge’ of the title was the compulsion felt by members of the Troon family to explore further and further into Space.

I was looking forward to reading this book, another one by John Wyndham, however I found it very heavy going. Whether because it contradicted history with first the space stations and then the lunar missile sites I’m not sure. I have ready plenty of books in the past where they have ‘played a round’ with history. Maybe because it the time period that I personally have lived through … but again I’ve ready plenty of contemporary based stories.

It took me almost 2 weeks to finish the book. If I had not been taking part in this challenge I’m not sure I would have bothered. It is not often I find a book I struggle to finish. 

I suspect I’m a book down as a result. I’m sure I’ll catch up by the end of the year.  😉

So my current totals for my Reading Challenges are:

52 Books in 52 Weeks ……. 5 books ……… 47 Left

Read It Again, Sam ……………. 1 book ……….. 15 Left

Dusty Mini Challenge ………… 2 books …………   2 Left to my first award

Book 4 – A ‘Dusty’ book for a change

This week I choose a book that used to belong to my father and has been sitting in my bookcase for a while.

I choose ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche’  A guidebook to all that is Truly Masculine by Bruce Feirstein . (96 pages paperback)

real men true brit ed.1

It is the ‘special forthright True Brit edition and cost the grand total of £1.50 when new. It was given to him as either a birthday or Christmas gift in 1982 .

My father was definitely a ‘Real Man’ as an ex-soldier, even though he sometimes ate quiche.  I say ‘was’ as my father died in February 2009 having been admitted to hospital for some pre-booked tests. He went in on the Tuesday and within 24 hours he had died which was a dreadful shock all round.  However  deep down I know that it was better that it was quick like that then hanging on in agony as the Doctors told me that my father’s fears were correct … he was riddled with cancer and there would have been very little they could have done to help him except prescribe pain killers.

The book itself  was fun to read if you read it in the manner in which it was written.  For as it says on the back … ‘Are You A Real Man?’ and then lists what you must do to be one. It constantly mocked both the ‘quiche eater’ AND the ‘REAL MEN’.  I was laughing aloud at times as I recognised both extreme stereotypes so easily.  I managed to read it one evening  which was just as well as I have various terrible forms that need completing by the weekend.

So my current totals for my Reading Challenges are:

52 Books in 52 Weeks ……….. 4books ….….. 48 Left

Read It Again, Sam ……………. 1 book ……….. 15 Left (still)

Just realised this book meets the criteria for one of 52 Books in 52  Weeks  mini challenges:

Dusty Mini Challenge: Limit buying new books for 1 – 4 months and read 4 to 12 or more books gathering dust on your shelves prior to 2013. 

Just found the classifications in the Dusty Book Challenge :

Dusty Books – Croon for me
 Bing Crosby –  4 books
Dean Martin – 6 books
Frank Sinatra – 8 books
Nat King Cole  – 10 Books
Bobby Darin – 12 Books or more

So this is my 1st Dusty book towards this challenge …. 3 to my first award