Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan

Rating: 2.5 Stars ★★☆☆☆

I still have all my childhood books.

About

When Lucy Mangan was little, stories were everything. They opened up new worlds and cast light on all the complexities she encountered in this one.

She was whisked away to Narnia – and Kirrin Island – and Wonderland. She ventured down rabbit holes and womble burrows into midnight gardens and chocolate factories. She wandered the countryside with Milly-Molly-Mandy, and played by the tracks with the Railway Children. With Charlotte’s Web she discovered Death and with Judy Blume it was Boys. No wonder she only left the house for her weekly trip to the library or to spend her pocket money on amassing her own at home.

In Bookworm, Lucy revisits her childhood reading with wit, love and gratitude. She relives our best-beloved books, their extraordinary creators, and looks at the thousand subtle ways they shape our lives. She also disinters a few forgotten treasures to inspire the next generation of bookworms and set them on their way.

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Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body by Sara Pascoe

Sara Pascoe Animal: Autobiography of a Female Body

Rating: 4 Stars★★★★☆

Writing a book is an arrogant thing to do.

About

Take a funny and illuminating tour of the female body with award-winning comedian Sara Pascoe.

Women have so much going on, what with boobs and jealousy and menstruating and broodiness and sex and infidelity and pubes and wombs and jobs and memories and emotions and the past and the future and themselves and each other.

Here’s a book that deals with all of it.

Sara Pascoe has joked about feminity and sexuality on stage and screen but now she has a book to talk about it all for a bit longer. Animal combines autobiography and evolutionary history to create a funny, fascinating insight into the forces that mould and affect modern women.

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The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman

Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

In 1670, at the glittering court of Louis XIV, the beautiful twenty-six-year-old princess Henrietta, duchesse d’Orléans, sips from a cup of chicory water, clutches her side and cries out, “I am poisoned!”

About

The story of poison is the story of power. For centuries, royal families have feared the gut-roiling, vomit-inducing agony of a little something added to their food or wine by an enemy. To avoid poison, they depended on tasters, unicorn horns, and antidotes tested on condemned prisoners. Servants licked the royal family’s spoons, tried on their underpants and tested their chamber pots.

Ironically, royals terrified of poison were unknowingly poisoning themselves daily with their cosmetics, medications, and filthy living conditions. Women wore makeup made with mercury and lead. Men rubbed turds on their bald spots. Physicians prescribed mercury enemas, arsenic skin cream, drinks of lead filings, and potions of human fat and skull, fresh from the executioner. The most gorgeous palaces were little better than filthy latrines. Gazing at gorgeous portraits of centuries past, we don’t see what lies beneath the royal robes and the stench of unwashed bodies; the lice feasting on private parts; and worms nesting in the intestines.

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King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

King Solomons Mines H Rider Haggard

Rating: 2.5 Stars ★★★☆☆

It is a curious thing that at my age – fifty-five last birthday – I should find myself taking up a pen to try to write a history.

Plot

King Solomon’s Mines tells of a search of an unexplored region of Africa by a group of adventurers led by Allan Quatermain for the missing brother of one of the party. It is the first English adventure novel set in Africa, and is considered to be the genesis of the Lost World literary genre.

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Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Rating: 2.5 Stars★★★☆☆

Verily I say unto you, the era of the sword and axe is nigh, the era of the wolf’s blizzard.

Plot

For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world – for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all – and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Rating: 3.5 Stars ★★★☆☆

In this narrative of mine I have departed from my usual practice of relating only those incidents and scenes at which I myself was present.

Plot

There’s a serial killer on the loose, bent on working his way through the alphabet. And as a macabre calling card he leaves beside each victim’s corpse the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place. Having begun with Andover, Bexhill and then Churston, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught – until he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans…

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The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Rating: 2 Stars★★☆☆☆

Centuries ago there lived – “A king!” my little readers will say immediately.

Plot

Once upon a time, there was a talking, walking, dancing piece of wood. His name was Pinocchio, the marionette created from an enchanted log by Tuscan woodcarver Geppetto.

The miraculous puppet dreams of being a real boy, but he has a mischievous streak. Pinocchio fights, kicks, lies, and runs away before Geppetto can teach him the lessons of life.

Challenged by an escalating series of misadventures, Pinocchio must learn to be selfless, respectful, and honest in order to fulfill his wishes and lose his strings

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