Monthly Archives: October 2014

‘Dear Bainbridge’ – Chapter One – by Georgina Ramsey

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Bainbridge cover

Pleased to meet you. I’m Bainbridge. Yes, I know it’s a stupid name for a cat, but I didn’t actually choose it. It was bestowed upon me in a weird naming ceremony by my family, who muttered something about its significance, and it even brought a tear to the eye of the mother. At the time, Bainbridge had rather a grand ring to it and I remember smiling to myself about how I’d landed on my padded paws. Now, I see my name for what it truly is. It’s nothing more than a collection of vowels and consonants. It has a hoity-toity air to it, that’s true, but it has no real significance any more. Not now. But, back then, my owners seemed to think that it suited my social standing and I was ever proud to have it on my silver tag.

All that’s changed and I can’t help but sigh. Now, here I am, sat amongst the Tiggers and Mr Fluffykins of the world, in the animal cemetery, and I’m sure they’re judging me. Most of the time, the other cats just ignore me or walk past, arching their backs with their fur pricked up, and they hiss and spit in my direction. The dogs snarl and bare their teeth, warning me to stay back. I do. I just bow my head and look to the ground and pretend that I am invisible. I wish I was. It’s stupid of me to say such a thing, and I shouldn’t let them get to me, but they do. I feel so isolated and alone in this God-forsaken, wretched place, but there is a glimmer of hope that keeps me going. There is somebody special. Oh, she is so very special.

On a night, it’s really quiet here. Sometimes I like the silence because it gives me a chance to dream, like I did in abundance before, but that all changes at dawn, when the birds wake me up by rustling in the leaves, taking their dust baths. I get the impression that they’re mocking me. I can hear the chatter of their beaks as they swoop down, pecking at the soil, squawking in that shrill manner of theirs, and knowing fine well that they’re out of my reach. “It’s payback, Bainbridge,” they call out in their droves.

This lonely place is not at all like home. I belong to a girl called Betsy… Damn it! I have to stop saying that. You see, she’s probably in her seventies now, so hardly what you would call a girl any more – and that’s if she’s still alive. Oh, I do hope that she is, and that she’s surrounded by a loving family who adore her, just as much as I did. We were best friends, Betsy and I, all those years ago. We did everything together and she would tell me all of her secrets. I would like to think that I was a good listener. I certainly tried for her sake.

Betsy had a face full of freckles and beautiful red curls in her hair, which I used to paw at. As I tapped at her face, the curls would spring up and down and she would giggle before lifting me up into her arms for a kiss. She and I lived in a big house with her parents. Her father was a retired army major, so he and her mum were forever travelling to formal events up and down the country in their new car. Her father loved that machine; it was his pride and joy. When they went on their outings, they didn’t like to take Betsy with them because it was too disruptive for her schooling, they said, so they decided that I would be her constant companion. I think I was their replacement, in a way.

It was Major Williams who was the one who chose me. He plucked me from the warmth of my mother one winter’s day. I remember being in a light sleep one minute, listening to mother’s heartbeat thumping against my ear and nuzzling into her fur, when a rather plummy voice started to bounce around the room. I sat bolt upright, pricked up my ears, at which point he directed his finger towards me, and asked if I was healthy. Then with a nod, I was selected for duty. I’m glad he trusted me. If only I could turn back time. I wish I hadn’t let the family down.

The house I lived in as a kitten for the first few weeks of my life was considerably smaller and dirtier than Betsy’s. The day that Major Williams plonked me down on Betsy’s bed I can honestly say was the happiest day of my life. She was covered in some weird looking spots, smeared in white cream and drinking warm milk. She smelt funny too, but it was a nice smell. I heard Betsy’s nanny mention something about chicken pots, but I never saw any sign of them around the house. I gave up looking after a few weeks.

Oh, they were such happy days! Betsy and I were going to grow up together. We had such plans and adventures mapped out. In the big house, there was a huge fireplace that I could stretch out in front of when the mood took me, which it often did, and I could dream of our future. I would lay there for hours, rolling around on the rug, looking out of the windows, which went all the way from the floor to the ceiling and let in so much sun that it was like living in what humans call Paradise. On a night, Betsy would lie in her bed, reading aloud to me, and I’d fall asleep by her side on her duvet, curled up in a tight ball, purring happily to myself. It was the life!

When Betsy slept soundly, I would stretch and waken my limbs, before prowling the corridors of the great house, keeping an eye out for any signs of trouble and looking for mice. I was on patrol, but can probably count on one paw the number of rodents I caught. They always seemed to evade me.

It was rather a lazy existence and I suppose that I took it for granted. But one day, seven years after arriving at the great house, and while Betsy was at school, I escaped. It felt rather exciting, to be honest. You see, the maid had turned her back for one minute and left the kitchen door wide open. I took my chance and bolted. I’d never run so fast in all of my life. The wind was blowing through my fur and my ears were pinned back. I could taste freedom and didn’t know which way to go. All that was going through my mind, at that moment, was to avoid being captured as Nora – that’s the maid – was hot on my tail. She had a sweeping brush outstretched, beating the ground as she went. She was far too slow, though, and never would have caught up with me. Although I wish that she had now because the only punishment I would have received would have been a telling off and a quick tap on the nose. I could have coped with that. Anyway, even after she had given up the chase, I continued to run, and could hear her voice trailing off into the distance.

I thought I’d only be out for a short while. It was just meant to be a little adventure, you see – me, out on my lonesome, in the big bad world. It was going to be a one off experience, never to be repeated again. I always intended on going home, I promise. I wouldn’t have left poor Betsy, not in a million years. But that day, I didn’t quite make it home. I just never saw the car coming.

The driver got out, with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, and kicked my body to the side of the road like it was a piece of dirty rubbish. I tried to cry out to him, but I couldn’t make a noise. Then there was one almighty scream, and a woman got out of the car too. She had a headscarf wrapped tightly around her jet black hair and the brightest red lips I have ever seen. She was like an angel and reminded me a little of Betsy’s mum. I watched her, through one eye, come straight over to me and crouch down. I remember how soft and gentle her hand felt as she ran it along the side of my body. It still hurt, though, but she wasn’t to know that. She shouted a lot at the man. In fact, she swore a lot, and I wanted to cover my ears! The next thing I remember was being cradled in her arms, wrapped up in the very headscarf that she had been wearing, but the pain was getting worse. Soon after that, the lights went out for me.

It was strange, watching her carrying me in that headscarf, knowing that I wasn’t inside that shell of a body any more. She eventually took me to the pet cemetery. As she lay me down in the grave that she had dug with her own bare hands, she removed the headscarf from around me, and it was then that I caught full sight of my body. It looked nothing like the one I would see in the gilt mirrors of the great house. My beautiful cream fur was bloodied, my left ear was torn, and my jaw was dislocated badly. I looked a mess.

They say that cats have a good sense of direction and that we can always find our way home, but I haven’t managed it yet. I don’t know where that big house is any more. I can’t smell, see, or feel it. I miss those days, snuggled in Betsy’s arms. I miss being her beautiful Bainbridge.

Chapter 2 will be available to read from 30th November 2014

A review of Amanda Prowse’s ‘Christmas For One’ by the Book Gremlin

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Christmas For Cover cover pic

I love this time of year when Christmas is just around the corner and the nights are getting darker. When it’s like this, the weather is just that little bit more unpredictable, isn’t it? And it’s the perfect excuse I need to ignore the housework, pick up a book crammed full of seasonal delights, wrap myself up in a blanket, grab a cup of tea, let the cats curl up by my feet, and relax. Pure bliss!

Well, that’s the ideal. Unfortunately, when I started reading ‘Christmas For One,’ the snow wasn’t falling like sweet angels’ kisses. No, it was a wet and windy Sunday afternoon, I’d run out of teabags, I was sat slobbing out on the sofa in my threadbare jogging bottoms, and the cat was beautifully perfecting his flatulence! My reality didn’t quite match the ideal on this occasion. However, all that changed as I soon drifted off into imagined seasonal magic with Amanda Prowse’s words.

‘Christmas For One’ is truly delightful, and Amanda Prowse’s ability to transport you away into another world is perfection. The personalities of the characters blend perfectly together and their quirks and eccentricities are just adorable. The lead character in this book is Meg, and her son, Lucas, is just the sweetest little kid with a major obsession for pirates and sea life. You just want to wrap him up in your arms and cuddle him tightly, yet the reader knows that this little boy is not short of love. His childhood is blessed, unlike his mother’s. The reader is given a glimpse into Meg’s early years in the opening prologue. There is a scattering of lovely warm memories for her, but these are sliced through with touches of sadness, and I couldn’t help but feel immense sympathy for poor Meg. By the end of chapter one, I was in dire need of a caffeine fix, and just so very thankful for my own happy early years. So, I put the book down to compose myself, at this point, and trundled off to the shops.

Returning, minutes later, to chapter two was a big mistake. I was drooling! The description of food and cakes at Plum’s Patisserie was pure torture for me – a career dieter, with no biscuits in the cupboard! I wanted to dive right in and chew the damn pages! A sweet, sweet world of elegance and sugar is beautifully painted, but all of the description does not, in any way, take away from the emotion that is building up throughout the story.

Then Edd, the brazen New Yorker, appears. Meg bumps into him in a sandwich bar, while away on business, and he kind of slaps you in the face with his forthright attitude, but, strangely, he leaves you wanting more and by the end of the book, yes, I admit, I had fallen for him. I’ve never been to New York, and probably never will, but reading this, I felt like I actually had… in fact, I felt like I was there. All the best Hollywood romantic comedies are combined in Amanda Prowse’s description of Meg’s jaunts around the city and she meets some fab people along the way.

Throughout the book, there were lovely chuckles to be had, but I was fearful of putting it down because I had this ominous feeling that things were possibly running along a bit too perfectly for Meg, and it was all about to come crashing down around her. I won’t give away any spoilers, though, because I know just how annoying that can be, but believe me, you should read this one.

I read the book over several days because I always like to take my time with a good read. I finished ‘Christmas For One’ in a caravan, in Yorkshire, and in true British style, it was blowing a bloody gale outside. As the caravan kept rocking to-and-fro, my husband kept looking up at me and laughing as tears streamed down my face. ‘If it upsets you that much, put the damn book down!’ he said. Was he crazy? There was no way I could have put the book down if the caravan was on fire!

‘Christmas For One’ is a romantic comedy that has it all and I’d highly recommend it, but make sure you have plenty of tissues to hand, some chocolate, and a very large glass of wine!

‘My ideal book’ by the Book Gremlet (the Book Gremlin’s child, Age 11 ¼)

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This is the first time I’ve ever blogged. I’m not really sure what I’m going to say, but The Book Gremlin is sat in the office upstairs, drinking tea, and working on her next masterpiece (so she says!), and has asked me to write the next blog post on what a kid, like me, looks for in a book. This is definitely child labour. But if I don’t agree, she might not feed me tonight… and a gremlet needs food!

Why should you listen to me when I’m only eleven-and-a-bit-years-old? Well, I may only be a gremlet, but I’ve always been told that my opinion matters and I love reading. You see, The Book Gremlin asked me to sit and think about what it is exactly that I love about reading and books – she likes to analyse everything! At first, I thought this would be an easy task, but it wasn’t.

I buy most of my books from either supermarkets or online (well, The Book Gremlin buys them when I flutter my furry lashes at her!) and the first thing I obviously notice about a book is the cover. The ones that usually catch my attention have cartoons on them and the images are really colourful. I like covers that use the primary colours (red, yellow, blue) and the secondary colours too (green, purple, orange). When I look at my bookshelf at home, nearly all of my favourite books use these on their covers.

I’ve just started senior school for gremlets. One of my favourite lessons is Art. In this, we’ve just been learning about complementary colours , and now I understand why these make amazing book covers. It’s because they are so eye-catching when they are combined together. Colours that complement each other are green and red, orange and blue, and purple and yellow. My art teacher explained how when they are put next to one another, they make each other brighter, so I think this is why I like them – brightness is good for me.

Colin the colour caterpillar

There are some books that I would never have picked up, had they not been recommended to me, such as The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. This is because the cover didn’t really grab my attention, but now I love them. I know that some writers might not have the number of fans that this writer does, so maybe they are the ones that need to make their covers stand out – then more people will pick them up, read them, and recommend them. The girls in my class are a whole different bunch to us boys, though. They seem to like covers with pale pastel colours, such as pale yellow, pinks and lilac, and glitter and stars too. I think they’re all living in a fairy world!

Every night, before I go to sleep, I snuggle down with my cats and read because it helps me relax. The perfect length of a book for me is about 200-300 pages, and 30-40 chapters. At the moment, during the week, I’m only managing to read one or two chapters of a book each night because school is so tiring and I need to make sure that I get plenty of sleep, otherwise The Book Gremlin says I’m grouchy. On a weekend, I read a lot more.

I don’t like books that drag on forever, but if I enjoy a book, I want it to last a while. It’s like enjoying a film for a couple of weeks, instead of just a couple of hours. I like reading books about kids my own age, who are different to me and always getting into trouble – and that’s because my gremlet’s halo is always sparkling! I don’t like books that are predictable as I get bored with them. I like to try and work out what might happen, even if it doesn’t always work out that way. The main characters in the stories I choose seem to be boys, although sometimes they are girls. I don’t think there is anything wrong with reading a story about a girl, but because I’m not one, it’s harder to really understand how they think – my dad says we boys should never try to figure out how a woman’s mind works! For some reason, most of the main characters I prefer all seem to have a little brother or sister who is annoying, but I’m the only gremlet in my house.

My favourite type of book is funny adventure, and my favourite authors at the moment are James Patterson, Jonathan Meres, David Walliams, Anthony McGowan and Jeff Kinney, who are all men. I didn’t realise, until The Book Gremlin asked me to look through my books, that I don’t really have many by female writers, but I do like Liz Pichon. Her covers are amazing and her stories so funny. She also has a boy as the main character, so that’s probably why I like hers so much.

When I was younger, I didn’t like reading books in the third person. I didn’t even know what that meant at the time, just that I didn’t want to know what ‘Norman’ did and where he went. I preferred books that kept it simple and used ‘I,’ so that I could believe it was me in the story. Now I’m that bit older, I actually really like third person because I understand life is about other people too and it’s good to be able to look in on their lives. Plus, not everything is about me all the time. Although, it should be!

I just have a few more things I want to say. I actually prefer books that are paperback because staring at a screen isn’t the same as real paper. I’ve heard other people say this too, and I think paper books have a certain smell (one of mine smells of chips!), plus I like to hold them in my hand. They also make nice presents for friends – if only they’d read them!

I think it’s sad that at school not many of my friends seem to enjoy reading. They’d all rather play on computer games until really late at night. The Book Gremlin won’t let me do this because she says it slows down my brain growth and will make me growl the next day. I’m glad in a way, though. I never get bored reading a good book and they do seem to help my brain develop. I may only be 11 ¼ and people say I’m a bit of a geek and old-fashioned, but I know that reading is good for you, and I wish more children would see this too.

A review of Kerry Fisher’s ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’ by the Book Gremlin

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I write romantic comedies myself (or at least I’d like to think I do), but I often find myself struggling to connect with many of the chick-lit books on the market because I’m not really what you’d call a girly girl. I’m a bit coarse, I suppose, and don’t want to read about love sprinkled with fairy dust and dipped in chocolate. I want to see it hairy warts, verrucae and all. That’s because no bloody relationship is perfect, so give me a book that shows just that.

If I start a book that is too much like hard work, or too idealistic and fluffy, I give up with it pretty quickly because I’m a lazy reader. If my imagination isn’t captivated early on, I slam it shut up. And if I don’t fall in love with the characters, I don’t waste a moment longer on them. Why should I? It’s my money, my time, my precious brain cell’s energy that it’s wasting (yes, that’s singular). When I downloaded this book, I’d hit a bit of a reader’s wall, was bored of the genre (dare I even say that?), and had honestly almost given up on it, but I’m so glad I gave it another chance. Kerry Fisher pulled it back for me, and did so spectacularly.

‘The School Gate Survival Guide’ was actually previously published as ‘The Class Ceiling’ and that’s the version I read, but I can’t get over the fact that it’s still being sold at such a low price when it’s been updated (although I struggle to see how it could be improved upon any more). It’s an absolute gem of a read, please believe me, and I was gutted when I finished it. I’m not a quick reader. I like to digest every word, imagine every scene, and nod off dreaming of the characters. I was completely taken away into a fantasy world with this book, and it blended the sweet harmony of love with the reality of everyday life – it was a lovely sugar-coated fungal infection.

You see, Maia, the lead character, is adorable, her kids have oodles of character, but her partner, Colin, is a true arse! You instantly connect with the family dynamics of these people because Kerry Fisher sets it up so damn well. One of the taglines for this book is, ‘The story of a modern day My Fair Lady,’ and it really does sum it up perfectly. It’s littered with British humour, so all I can say is, ‘Thank God for TENA lady!’ I’m a real nosy bitch at heart, and loved the ‘behind closed doors’ element of this book and the depth of the characters. You truly understand why they all are the way they are – she makes them all seem human – but Colin is still an arse in my eyes! Ms Fisher is an incredibly skilled writer who manages to trigger your empathy button with this novel, and she skilfully weaves you in an out of the different pockets of society like a good author should. It’s a book about trying to climb the social class ladder, but not for selfish reasons – for the love of your children. I think this is why the story meant so much to me. I’m a mother and only want the very best for my son. I’d do anything for him, just as Maia would do anything for her little terrors, Bronte and Harley.

You’ll soon realise, when you begin to read, that Maia hasn’t exactly been lucky in love, but she is one clever lady, and this really shines through from the start. I think that’s another reason why I liked her. She’s a strong woman, who is managing to raise a family and hold down a job, and she has balls… of epic proportion! At the beginning of the book, Maia is given some life-changing news when one of the ladies, a wealthy professor, that she cleans for dies, leaving her an opportunity in a million. Maia’s partner, Colin, the arse (as I have christened him), is a real slob, and I pictured Maia as a real exotic beauty (inside and out) who could do so much better than him, but is trapped in a sham relationship. Her children have cracking personalities and you are instantly drawn into their world. Kerry Fisher’s description of life on a run-down British housing estate is excellent, and the way she captures the reality of postcode division is bloody genius. This book is an easy read, all about social identity and a mother who adores her children. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and when I finished, I was left with a strange empty feeling – the type you get when your favourite TV series comes to an end.

What would I read next? Well, I’ve not come across many in this genre so good, so I guess I will have to bide my time for Kerry Fisher’s next release. The working title of this is currently, ‘The Divorce Domino,’ but this may change. Nevertheless, it’s out on the 21st May, 2015, and it just can’t come quick enough for me.

To date, this book is my all-time favourite romantic comedy, but I’m eager to see whether Kerry Fisher’s next one will manage to steal my top spot (from her current one) when it’s released.

The School Gate Survival Guide