Books, Blogs & Page Turners - Issue 1

BBPT is a monthly meme hosted by Turn The Page where we rehash all our favorites from the month... books, blogs, and all things bookish! 

Books, Blogs & Page Turners - The books reviewed this month:
The Breathing Series ~  by Rebecca Donovan. We gave it 5 stars! I absolutely loved these books and cannot wait for "Out of Breathe," the third and final in the series. 
This Morning I Woke Up Dead ~ by Mindy Larson. I gave it 4 stars! 
Silently Screaming ~ by Dawn L. Husted. I gave it 4 stars! 
The Torturer's Daughter ~ by Zoe Cannon. I gave it 4 stars!
Not Today, But Someday ~ by Lori. L. Otto. I gave it 5 stars! Loved...loved...loved it!

Books, Blogs & Page Turners - Manic Monday Winners:
While this was the first Manic Monday feature, it surely won't be the last....
Manic Monday ~ Week #1: Lori L. Otto, Not Today, But Someday

Books, Blogs & Page Turners - The blogs we crushed on this month:
Between The Lines ~ Hosted by Trish. What we love and can't help but crush on are her constantly witty TTT posts. I'm a list lover too and I always look forward to seeing what the Tuesday topic is and read her lists. Also, this month her post "memes, merits, & moans was a fun read that gave this book blogger the good swift kick in the butt to jump on the meme bandwagon. After reading her merits and moans I thought I would try to come up with some fun, quirky memes of my own... hope I made you proud Trish! 

Falling For YA ~ Hosted by Emily. I stumbled upon this blog through a directory and fell in love with Emily's beautiful layout and was sure to tell her so. Other reasons I crushed on Falling For YA this month was her stacking the shelves meme... totally love this and when I saw Forever by Judy Blume, well... she had me at Forever! Judy Blume was my go to author all through elementary school and junior high. I have every one of her books and my #1 favorite is "Just As Long As We're Together" 

Paper Fantasies ~ Hosted by Kelly. I love her new blog facelift... her button and oh can't forget her twitter bird. Looked for that little guy everywhere on the net because I was crushing so hard! Never found him... so I just stop by her page a few times a week to ogle hers. Another reason I crushed on her blog, her YA epidemic meme... As a YA author I get some fantastic feedback both from Kelly and all of her trustworthy followers. Being far removed from the young adult pool it's not always easy to know what to steer clear of or add more of... so thanks Kelly!! 

Books, Blogs & Page Turners- Books up for review in May:

Books, Blogs & Pager Turners - Other bookish news and recaps:
We Love Giveaways: The Emi Lost & Found Series by Lori L. Otto is up for grabs until May 13th. Be sure to enter for your chance to win the 3-book series on your Kindle, Nook or through Smashwords.  

Happy One Month Anniversary Turn The Page Book Blog!! 
And in other bookish news I am proud to announce I will be taking on another book reviewer... a best friend and co-worker, Angela Maine. I will let her do her own introducing to you all very soon and we hope that two will be better than one! 

We are always looking for more indie/self-published authors we can connect with and offer reviews to, do cover reveals.... If this is you, give us a shout out at

TTP got another layout change and we think we like this one the best so far... it's classic and simple. Maybe down the road we will invest in getting one of those super cool blog designers to give us a  unique TTP facelift!!

And finally, we are still in need of more great followers to share all our amazing reviews and fun memes with so if anyone has any suggestions, feedback or great followers for us... bring it on! 

We hope you enjoyed our first issue of Books, Blogs & Page Turners... Go ahead and leave us a comment, tell us your thoughts, share your favorites from the month of April and help spring us into May!! 

WE LOVE GIVEAWAYS: Emi Lost & Found Series

Author: Lori L. Otto
Title: Emi Lost & Found Series 
Genre: Young Adult > Romance
Publication Date(s): April 2011
Giveaway Dates: Monday April 29, 2013-Sunday May 13, 2013 The winner will be announced in our weekly Manic Monday Feature. 
Prize: 2 Winners will receive the Series Bundle of Emi Lost & Found Series (3 book -eBook series- Kindle, Nook, Smashwords)
Link to my review: Not Today, But Someday - Book Review
Link to the Auhtor's Website: Lori L. Otto, Author of Emi Lost & Found


Manic Monday Indie/Self-Published Author Feature 
Week #1

In December of 1994, when she was a junior in high school, Emi Hennigan discovered her father's infidelity. Forced to transfer schools mid-year, she wasn't trying to make new friends. In that same month, sophomore Nate Wilson's girlfriend broke up with him. Searching for someone to fill the void left by his first love, he meets Emi in his art class. Nate knows he wants Emi from the moment he sees her. Emi knows she needs Nate after one night together. A life-long friendship is born, and a pact is made to ensure that nothing will come between them. This novella is the prequel to the Emi Lost & Found series.

Author: Lori L. Otto
Title: Not Today, But Someday
Genre: Young Adult >Romance
Publication Date: September 2012
Links to Purchase: AmazonB&N
Reviewer: Megan

My Review: 5 out of 5 stars I Absolutely Loved It!! 

Not Today, But Someday... is NOT what you should be saying if you haven't read Not Today, But Someday!!

As the true YA book whore I am, I must say I am IN LOVE with Emi and Nate!! I read this book in one sitting... started it in the morning over coffee and finished it before closing my eyes last night... and I worked 9 hours in between there as well..  it was a fast, engaging, enthralling read. I loved the relationship between Nate and Emi, I loved them individually, I loved their banter and their quirkiness. 

I loath spoilers so I don't want to say too much about the story in general, because it's one where you can easily spoil the fun without trying. SO what I will say is the issues within the story are real, with real consequences that so many families today face. Divorce and infidelity are on the rise and it's often the children who pay the highest price... this is a lesson Emi knows all too well. I think Lori created special characters and an engaging plot. Her gift of storytelling is exceptional and left me turning page after page without realizing I had nearly reached the end within hours...  I went to bed last night elated that there were 3 more books in this series, this being the prequel... which meant, I had just begun getting to know Nate and Emi. This morning, my coffee hadn't even finished brewing and I was already buying the series....

I can hardly wait to dive in and read the next 3 books... I have seen tidbits from the descriptions of each of the books in the series and was excited when I realized this story follows Emi into her adult life.... Eek, cue the giddy, squeaky adolescent in me! 

I highly highly recommend Not Today, But Someday by Lori L. Otto - YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!! 

Manic Monday #2

Manic Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Turn The Page Book Blog, where we get to decide who the next Indie/Self Published author feature will be! 

It's Monday again and we all know what that means... Blah. And of course, the weather here in Northeast Ohio clearly hasn't gotten the memo that it's spring, almost May to be exact. While the weather is warming up, the sky outside my window is as dreary as a winter day! 

Lets see if we can't brighten things up in here a bit, shall we?

The chosen Indie/Self Published author for 
Manic Monday Week #1 is:

Lori L. Otto - Not Today, But Someday

Congratulations Lori. 

Before I give you the next 3 titles, I wanted to share some really fantastic stuff with you all...
Lori L. Otto has agreed to let me host a Giveaway of the Emi Lost & Found Series - This is the series that follows Not Today, But Someday!  

SO, stay tuned for all the details of how you can win the 3 Book Kindle version of Emi Lost & Found, by Lori L. Otto

Monday April 29, 2013 Manic Monday Picks
(All Found on Smashwords)

1. The Accidental Siren - Jake Vander Ark
2. What I Didn't Say - Keary Taylor
3. Simply Mine - M.L. Gardner 

* If you've read it, tell us what you thought and tell me which book should be chosen as our Manic Monday Indie/Self-Published Author Feature for Week #3

Also, Tell me if you've found outstanding Indie books (for FREE or PAID) that you think deserve a spotlight in our Manic Monday. 

Please leave your choice in the comment section by Sunday and I will announce the Manic Monday Winner next Monday with the new list!


When her best friend Heather calls in the middle of the night, Becca assumes it's the usual drama. Wrong. Heather's parents have been arrested as dissidents - and Becca's mother, the dystopian regime's most infamous torturer, has already executed them for their crimes against the state.

To stop Heather from getting herself killed trying to prove her parents' innocence, Becca hunts for proof of their guilt. She doesn't expect to find evidence that leaves her questioning everything she thought she knew about the dissidents... and about her mother.

When she risks her life to save a dissident, she learns her mother isn't the only one with secrets - and the plot she uncovers will threaten the lives of the people she loves most. For Becca, it's no longer just a choice between risking execution and ignoring the regime's crimes; she has to decide whose life to save and whose to sacrifice.

It's easy to be a hero when you can save the world, but what about when all you can do is choose how you live in it? THE TORTURER'S DAUGHTER is a story about ordinary teenage life amidst the realities of living under an oppressive regime... and the extraordinary courage it takes to do what's right in a world gone wrong.

Author: Zoe Cannon
Title: The Torturer's Daughter
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction>Dystopian 
Publication Date: October 2012
Links to Purchase: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Reviewer: Megan

My Review: 4 out of 5 stars- I Liked It! 

I'd be a dissident, what about you??

I want to start off by saying I am becoming a huge fan of YA dystopian books and "The Torturer's Daughter" is amongst the list of books that has brought me to this new found love of dystopian.  I loved the characters, the plot, the concept!!

Becca is faced with some difficult decisions and she goes about it in such a way that, as the reader, you can't help but find yourself wondering how you would answer these questions... or at least you should. When I did, I realized I would be a dissident, ALL THE WAY!! 

I loved Becca's willingness to question everything- including her own mother. I am the same type of person, so I found Becca relatable. Sometimes, it can get me into trouble, just like it did Becca.  I also liked that Becca wasn't willing to submit to some notion of blind allegiance. When the facts were laid at her feet she began to look at the bigger picture and see her world for what it could actually be, as opposed to what she was told to be believe. 

I think the way Becca handled the process of figuring out who she was and where she fit into her world, how she acknowledged her relationships were changing, as well as how she was changing as a person was very well written. The author, Zoe Cannon writes very beautifully, making every word believable-understandable. You feel the torment, the anguish, and you want to know what Becca will choose. 

I liked that she fought for what she believed in and followed through in her convictions- this is not always easy when faced with life and death situations. The natural inclination, in my opinion would be to follow in Heather's footsteps. This unfortunately is human instinct. 

Here is why The Torturers's Daughter was 4 stars and not 5. The last 25% of the book were the best for me. It began moving fast and there was the suspense I had been waiting for. The first 75%, while entertaining was a little slow, but well written. As a new found lover of YA Dystopian I was hoping for more back story about the society that Becca and her friends lived in. Other than the knowledge that it was a society run on blind allegiance to "Internal" with those who spoke out against the government being "dissidents," there wasn't any explanation about their society- what it was like, what drove them to this point... As a result, I felt like questions were left unanswered. I loved the story, but wanted more!! 

Finally, I think one of the things that kept turning over in my head was the fact that because I didn't have this background information on their society, the issues felt very realistic to me and not as dystopian as I would have preferred. We all make tough choices in our lives- sometimes we must choose between ourselves and those we care deeply for. And sometimes those choices drive us away from certain people in our lives. The question of values, faith, and standing by your word is something familiar to us all, especially today. So again, while I loved the story, the characters, and all the potential that was wrapped up in it... even Jake (I hoped for more here as well), it just didn't come as I so desperately had hoped. Maybe I just read too much contemporary YA, but I felt like this story wasn't over. I have no idea if there is a sequel.... BUT, I would LOVE a PREQUEL!! 

I highly recommend The Torturer's Daughter to anyone who enjoys YA dystopian. It was a fast, easy read, with likable characters! 

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review! 
Congratulations on your novel and I look forward to reading more of your work in the future! 

Another Old (Book) Friend

          Does anybody else have this book? Has anyone ever heard of
it? 'Kallee and Other Stories' by F. G. Turnbull, and illustrated rather beautifully by Lunt Roberts. (An unfortunate name, but beautiful drawings.)
          I ask because I've just found this old friend during the great turning out of my parents' house before selling it. I seized it with a cry of rage at having found it in a box intended to be given away to charity, and carried it away to the safety of my own overcrowded bookcases.
          'Kallee' was a great favourite of my Dad's, became a favourite of mine almost in infancy, and yet I've never seen it mentioned anywhere, or heard of the writer in any other context.
          I searched on Google, and found out nothing.
          The publisher is given as 'London, Sampson Low, Marston & Co, Ltd.' I've just a Google search on this firm, and came on this rather interesting site.
          The book itself can be found on sale online, for £14 or $21, used, but not a word about the author, or any reviews.
          My copy doesn't give much away. The copyright page is blank, except for this: 'This book is produced in complete conformity with the Authorised Economy Standards. Made and printed in Great Britain by Purnell and Sons, Ltd., Paulton (Somerset) and London.'
          My Dad loved it because all the stories are about animals and birds, and he loved them. He began reading me the stories when I was quite small - certainly not much older than seven. He used to read me a story and then put the book away in the bookcase. I would sneak it out, feeling I was doing something very daring in filching one of my Dad's books, and read it for myself. (And I can hear a yodelling from Switzerland as I write this. If you're curious as to why, here's a blog I made earlier, that will explain.

           This is how the title story, KALLEE, begins:
          I will never shoot a partridge again; that is a vow I have sworn. I still hope to use my gun through many years to come; but when the coveys rise before me in root or stubble field hereafter, I will keep my weapon at 'trail' and let them go. My spaniel, Roy, will gaze at me, with wonder in his dear old eyes, but he will soon understand that the brown birds are not our game - now that we have known Kallee, that great cock partridge.
          They're not really children's stories, as you can see; and yet, over several years, I read them all, returning to the book again and again. Looking through them now, I wonder how I coped with the Scots dialect of the keepers, and with phrases such as, 'As the stoat continued to haunt the field day after day...' Did I think the story meant the ghost of a stoat?
          I know I used to guess at the meaning of a lot of words, and also that, if completely defeated, I used to trail off to the nearest of my parents and ask them, 'What does this mean?' Once they'd explained, I'd take the book away again and continue reading. (Calm down, Switzerland!)
          You can tell that I loved the book, because inside the front cover I've drawn this. The '77' in the shield refers to the number of
our house. It says: 'Susan Lucy Price By Claim' - so I was laying claim to this book, even though it belonged to my Dad. And if I find out who put it in that charity bag... 

          My Dad often read me the story 'Grumphie' which is about three boys entering their pet pig into a competition. Grumphie has a straight tail, and therefore has no chance of winning - but as they're trying to spruce him up, he eats the cake of perfumed soap they're washing him with - and his tail curls! So now they know how to win. 'Wullie; bolt oot an' get a cake o' scented soap.' All the stories are set in Scotland: I wonder if that has anything to do with my tendency to head north whenever possible?
          Dad was probably trying to find the lighter, funnier stories, as being more suitable to my age - but when I started reading them for myself, the harsher stories quickly became my favourites. I particularly loved 'Crossed Trails'. This tells of a fox and a stag. The fox, as a cub, is charged and trampled by the stag, and his hind-leg shattered. The story tells how the lame fox grows up and struggles to survive in a hard Highland winter. During a blizzard, the fox and stag find themselves on the same trail, struggling through heavy snow and strong winds. The fox cringes away whenever he glimpses the stag - what he doesn't realise is that the stag is terrified of the fox on his trail. The stag  races away in panic, falls into a
crevasse and is killed. Shortly afterwards, the snow-blinded fox falls into the same hole - and finds himself lying on top of all the food he'll need to survive the winter.
          Another great favourite was 'The Rebel of Glenlee.' This tells of, as Monty Python might have put it, 'that most dangerous of all things, an intelligent, rebellious sheep.' She's a trial to her owners, is Birkie, the black-faced ewe. She was a spoilt, pet lamb, but felt herself thrown out of paradise when she was demoted to a mere sheep, and from that day hated all men and collies. She charges the dogs, refuses to return quietly to the home meadows, and leads the other sheep astray.
          But she redeems herself one terrible winter, when the flock is lost in the deep snow. Birkie is harried by a fox, but deals with it as she does with collies. Then, as she struggles in deep snow, ravens blind her. In such dire trouble, Birkie starts to hanker for the safety of home, and makes tracks for it, regardless of any obstacles in her way. She happens on the rest of the flock, and they follow her. She guides them all home - and becomes the farmer's pet once again.

          How I loved this book! I'm going to enjoy reading it again. My guess is that the stories originally appeared in a newspaper or magazine, as they're all the same length. But I really know nothing about F G Turnbull at all. Do the initials, perhaps, disguise a woman writer?
          Does anybody out there know anything more, about writer or artist? 

          May 9th 2013. I'm adding a line, and a link, to this blog, at Carole's request (see comments below.) I recommend her blog to book lovers! Here's the link.

          And for those of you wondering where Blott has wandered off to...

Manic Monday #1

In true blogger fashion, I wanted to create a meme that was fitting to my blog. Since my main focus are Indie/self-published authors and since I am such a manic, maniac, maniacal reader, I have therfore decided to host "Manic Monday." 

Okay, so Mondays are always such a blah day after I've enjoyed my weekend of relaxing and no doubt reading... I thought I would start posting a list of new Indie books I find (FOR FREE) that I am interested in reading. I will post three books each week on the list and then this is where you will come in:

1. If you've read it, tell us what you thought.
2. I will let you decide which book I read of the three and the other two will be put back in the pile to potentially come back around on another Manic Monday list. 
3. Tell me if you've found outstanding Indie books (for FREE or PAID) that you think deserve a spotlight in our Manic Monday. 

Please leave your choice in the comment section by Sunday of that week and I will announce the Manic Monday Winner Each Monday with the new list!

Monday April 22 Manic Monday Picks
(All found on Smashwords)

1. Not Today, But Someday - Lori L. Otto
2. Invisible - Cecily Anne Patterson
3. Falling - Amber Jaeger

A Post Funereal

          A friend of mine was recently at a funeral. Fortunately, he
'Overheard In A Graveyard'
wasn't one of the bereaved. He was kindly giving a lift to some neighbours of his who had been friends of the deceased. The opinion of most present, my friend said, reported, was that the whole funeral had been something of an insult to all concerned, alive and dead.

          There was an expensive coffin, a hearse and several funeral cars. There were floral tributes, and a chapel had been hired. There was a service which, my friend said, was embarrassing. The priest obviously had no idea who the person in the coffin had been, and spoke in the most general platitudes. The only thing of interest was the race between the priest and the organist, to see who get through the thing fastest. The speed with which they took corners was quite exhilarating.
          It would have been much more satisfying all round, said my  friend - a Christian, as it happens - if they hadn't bothered with a funeral at all but, instead, everyone had gone down the local pub, (a great favourite of the deceased), had eaten a meal together, had a few drinks, and just talked.
          This account pretty much describes every funeral I've ever attended. I'm always left wondering, 'Why did we bother with that?' Whatever it is we hope to get from a funeral, none of them, in my experience, actually provide it - and yet they are very expensive. The money could be better spent.
          Why pay for the coffin, the hearse, the cars, the flowers, the chapel, the service, take days off work, find baby-sitters and so on, when it leaves most of the attendees feeling cheated?
          Well, people feel it's expected of them. They fear they'll be accused of being monetary, and that neighbours and in-laws will think they didn't care for the dead person unless they hold a funeral. 
          Personally, at family funerals, I've felt almost the opposite - that this meaningless nod to convention didn't begin to express what I felt about the person who'd died - that it was an irrelevance, a distraction, even an interruption to my grieving.
          I have this idea - which I will get around to doing something about one day, honest - that I will arrange and pay for my own funeral while I'm still here. I will say to the undertaker, "All I want you to do is collect the beef from wherever it is, cart it to the nearest crem, and dispose of it legally. No coffin, no hearse, no service, no chapel, no urn, no flowers, no nothing that isn't legally required, or absolutely necessary to move the corpse from one place to another." If anyone surviving me wants to mark my leaving, they can get together down the pub, or at one of their homes, have a meal and a few drinks, and talk. The bill will be much smaller than that for the average funeral, and the experience much more satisfying.
          I apologise to any of my close relatives who may be reading, and may think otherwise, but I honestly wish that's what we'd done when my parents died. Neither of them had ever hankered after 'a good send off.' Indeed, my mother often told us, "Send me flowers when I'm alive and can enjoy them. When I die, put me in a black plastic bin-bag and chuck me in the cut."
          I wish we'd obeyed her - or, as near as the law would have allowed. And then have gathered together somewhere, with a few drinks, and told stories of them, and retold the stories they told us. That would have celebrated my parents and marked their passing in a way that would have gone far beyond the empty ritual that we did endure. I didn't say so, because I didn't think it was the time to have that discussion - my father had just lost his wife, and my sibs had lost their father.

          Of course, my family were, and are, all godless atheists, and might be expected to say things like that - but my friend is a Christian, and he feels just the same about funerals.
          I know this is a sensitive area, and I am not suggesting, at all, that everyone should think as I do. I'm only saying that 'the funeral' is such a strong convention that people are a little shy of defying it, and perhaps people should feel less bound by the idea that they have to go along with it, even when they find the whole performance hollow, even annoying.
          I'd be interested to know what others think. Do you find the conventional funeral comforting or helpful? 


It's the spring semester of their senior year at Centerville High and a place away from their current situations are what Nikki and Caroline desperately want. Senior year was supposed to be filled with excitement and careless fun, instead Caroline is pregnant and Nikki's dealing with her mom's reckless drug habit plus the shady associates unfortunately attached. Throughout their lives, the two friends always stuck by one another, however the year continues to produce unforeseen problems, leaving each of them to decide what kind of paths lay ahead.

...a challenging, gripping and heroin tale of two teenage girls forced to make adult choices creating a butterfly effect catapulting their lives forward.

Author: D.L. Husted
Title: Silently Screaming
Publication Date: November 15, 2012
Links to Purchase: Amazon
Reviewer: Megan

My Review:  I Liked It!!

So, let me first start off by saying that while I read A LOT, I have read only one novella and that was by Dean Koontz and was the prequel leading into one of his newest novels. With that said, I wasn't really sure how a book dealing with such major issues was going to be able to tell a story in such a short amount of space... 67 pages to be exact. The set up of the novella was interesting; each chapter was from the point of view of either Nikki  or Caroline, but you saw the same scene from each of their viewpoints before you moved forward. 

I enjoyed D.L. Husted's "Silently Screaming" and I enjoyed the characters quite a bit, Nikki more so than anyone and this could be because I could relate to her on so many levels. I grew up in a similar environment as Nikki, and while my situation was never so blatant and in your face, it was what it was, nonetheless.  There was a part where Nikki is coming out of her room and she is fearful of what she might find, and I found myself holding my breath, knowing all too well exactly how that felt. The constant need for self preservation, the need to work rather than a desire for spending cash, and the longing to break free of a life you are determined not to live is Nikki's world and I was reminded of how far I have come from those very days in my own life.

Caroline, while not as relatable for me is a relatable character and finds herself in a situation that I am sure a lot of young girls today can identify with. Both girls have plans for their futures, but suddenly find that life has other plans as they are forced down different paths than they planned. 

Nikki's main goal throughout the novella was getting to graduation, walking across that podium and knowing she had done it... she was free. I again could relate to this feeling. It's never easy when you know people are judging you because of the kind of family and/or background you come from, and that desire to succeed, to show everyone that you are stronger and more capable than they have given you credit for, well it is a driving force that is fierce and strong and this was evident in Nikki. 

As I said above, the chapters are from each girls view and you would see the same scene twice, but first from Nikki's view and then from Caroline's. There were times throughout the novella where the author mixes up the characters within their chapters and this led to some confusion as I found myself going back a line or paragraph to double check who she was actually talking about. In addition, I feel there were areas more detail could have been included and I desperately wanted it. Sometimes she would mention something, such as  when Nikki is holding her breath as she walks through the house, but she never explains why. It is simply this one sentence and then she moves on and I longed for more... more detail, more information, something that would invoke more emotions, but they rarely came. 

While there were a few things that fell short for me, which is why I gave it a 4 stars I LIKED IT, I did really enjoy Silently Screaming. I read it in one sitting and felt a real connection to the characters and wanted to find out what was going to happen to them, and when it ended I still wanted more. I kept thinking this was just the beginning of Nikki and Caroline's story. I can only hope that the author feels the same way and that we will soon be following Nikki and Caroline as they navigate down the paths their lives have led them down. 

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I recommend Silently Screaming to anyone who enjoys short stories dealing with tough choices and real life obstacles. 

PERIOD PIECE by Gwen Raverat

          I've been sorting out my book-shelves recently and - horror -
'Period Piece, Gwen Raverat
throwing some away. Part of this job, of course, is sitting down on the floor with a book you've just rediscovered, and reading it for three hours, while others step over you.
          One rediscovered book, which distracted me for more than three hours, was PERIOD PIECE: A CAMBRIDGE CHILDHOOD, by Gwen Raverat, my copy of which is an old Faber paperback from the 1960s, pale pink, with a black stripe down the opening edge.   Its original price was '6s 6d, net.'

Gwen Raverat
            Now Gwen Raverat was one of Charles Darwin's granddaughters, (though he died before she was born.) The eccentric Darwin family certainly gave her plenty of material, but it's not the Darwin gossip, nor even the vivid, child's-eye view of life in a wealthy family of the late nineteeth and early twentieth centuries that make this book a treasure.  The book's immense charm, which doesn't diminish with re-reading (even when sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of a bookcase), is entirely due to the personality of its writer.  Reading the book is like visiting a much-loved friend, and listening to her tell stories of her childhood with warmth, affection, perception, great humour, and even, yes, wisdom.  And just as, if you're lucky enough to have a friend like that, you go back again and again, so you return to this book.

Gwen Raverat: self-portrait
           As Raverat says herself, in her preface, ' does not matter which chapter is read first or last.'  Some chapter titles are: Theories, Propriety, Aunt Etty, Ghosts and Horrors, Religion...I find it hard to choose a favourite.

            'Theories' is not about anything like the Theory of Evolution, but her mother's theories about how children should be raised : 'Iwas...born into the trying position of being the eldest of the family, so that the full force of my mother's theories about education were brought to bear upon me; and it fell to me to blaze a path to freedom for my juniors, through the forest of her good intentions.' As an eldest child - though from quite a different kind of family - I can identify with that.

             For those who may have theories and children of their own, Raverat has these soothing words: 'Dear Reader, you may take it from me, that however hard you try – or don't try; whatever you do – or don't do; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; every way and every day:


So it is no good bothering about it.  When the little pests grow up they will certainly tell you exactly what you did wrong in their case.  But never mind; they will be just as wrong themselves in their turn.  So take things easily; and above all, eschew good intentions.'
Illustration: Gwen Raverat

            In 'Propriety' she dissects the odd notions of good behaviour which held sway during her childhood, and which she seems to have found odd even then; and tells us of some things which actually did shock her.  '...I once saw, through the banisters at Down, one of my Darwin uncles give a friendly conjugal kiss to... his wife.  I rushed away in absolute horror from this unprecedented orgy...  And then there was 'Charley's Aunt'.  This was the first real play we ever saw.  It did not seem to me at all funny, only tremendous and exciting and, at one point, most dangerously improper...  [One] of the young men dressed up as Charley's Aunt, and ran across the stage, lifting up his petticoats, and showing his trousers underneath.  Nothing since then has ever shocked me so much.'

            The chapter on Aunt Etty was, I think, worth the 6s 6d alone, and Aunt Etty in full cry after the stinkhorns has made me laugh out loud, as has the short, illustrated passage on 'The Habitat of the British Tiger', and its sad suffering from 'canopy cramp'.  (The tiger is shown lurking on top of a bed's tiny canopy, the better to eat the child within the bed.) The tiger comes in another chapter, Ghosts and Horrors, some of which is genuinely disturbing.

            'Religion' opens, 'The first religious experience I can remember is getting under the nursery table to pray that the dancing class mistress might be dead before we got to Dancing Class.'  A little later she describes God for us: '[He] had a smooth oval face, with no hair and no beard and no ears.  I imagine that He was not descended, as most Gods are, from Father Christmas, but rather from the Sun Insurance Office sign.  Even now this hairless, earless, eggshaped face... gives me a sort of holy feeling in my stomach.'

            It's a hard book to sum up.  It's a lively, vivid memoir of a particular time and place, and a wonderful recreation of the way a child sees and thinks about the world.  Since Raverat ends the book as a young woman, it could be called 'a coming of age story.'  She closes the book with the words: 'When I look back on those years when I was neither fish nor flesh, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two, I remember them as an uncomfortable time, and sometimes a very unhappy one.  Now I have certainly attained the status of Good Red Herring, I may at last be allowed to say: Oh dear, how horrid it was being young, and how nice it is being old and not having to mind what people think.'

            However it might be classified, it's a book I would never willingly part with, and I value it for its humour, its charm, its perception and wisdom - all expressed with great elegance.

Another example of Gwen Raverat's work. She was one of the first women to be trained at the Slade. 

          I thought 'Period Piece' would be available on Kindle, but it isn't. However, here is the copy that I own, and here is a newer edition, with many rave reviews.