Tag Archives: reading

Now for the test readers

Phil: Progress report. The book is ready for our carefully selected* group of test readers.

Over a long evening, I formatted the pages and uploaded them to Lulu.com. Then an order for a couple of copies was placed.

A few days later, the books arrived. Flicking through in the pub, I notced I could do to carry out a little more formatting in a couple of places, there is at least one chapter that starts half way down a page for a start, but it will be fine the task in hand. Having a paper-back looking thing is certainly easier for the our literary guinea pigs than endless A4 pages, and even at 9 quid a copy (including postage), quite a lot cheaper than Prontaprint.

We await results.

*selected because they understand that their job is to read and (hopefully) enjoy the story, not care about the grammar. I don’t care how good we are with prepositions and semi-colons, if the story is rubbish then our time has been wasted. Grammar will be fixed separately as we are also looking for a copy editor.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Reading is good for your child – FACT

Phil: I’m special.

You’d probably guessed that, but it’s true. Deciding to put in an appearance a few days before I was due to be born, I became part of a massive survey which has, and will continue to, influenced how you and your children live.

The 1970 “cohort” was a survey of all children born in an April week. Since birth we’ve been survey and interviewed every so often and the results have helped to shape science and government policy.

I didn’t know much about this, other than that I and my best mate Bod at middle school were part of all this. We got to sit tests every so often that asked things about how we felt and how often we went to the toilet. They told us it was science and everything sounded sensible, especially the bit about skiving off the odd lesson to be “special”.

Now, thanks to Helen Pearson’s book The Life Project, I know what was going on. We weren’t quite as special as we thought, cohort surveys have taken place in 1946, 1958, 1970, 1991 and 2000. Many thousands of children have been part of these and the results are fascinating.

Towards the end of this complex but very readable book, a story of the way life in Britain has changed emerges. Looking at these results over long periods allows trends to be spotted such as the link between mothers smoking and low birth weight. Even if, as was often the case, no-one isn’t sure why it seems to be a good idea to ask the questions at the time, later on looking at how various factors affect children’s development pays dividends.

You might think that this would be enough to sell the idea of running these to politicians, but the story of the cohort surveys is of dedicated scientists constantly having to fight for funding and support. Many real characters emerge, without whom much of this information would never have come to light.

One constant result seems to be that if you are born into poverty or a broken home, you’ll find life much harder than those with a more fortunate start in life.

However, the 1970 cohort, my lot, showed that children who read for pleasure tended to advance further in vocabulary, spelling and maths between ages 10 and 16. This mattered more than having a parent with a university degree.

So, don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington, send her down the library!

1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

A Purrfect Love Story

Candice: In the last two weeks I have finished two books. That sounds like a lot but the first one took about six weeks to read and the other around five days. What does that say about the books ?

One was ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ a book in a series around the Jason Bourne character, though not written by the original author but someone writing in their style. It’s the first Bourne book I have read, though I have seen a few of the films which I did enjoy. They were a less stylish version of Bond with all the thrills and spills, plus lots of near death situations where the protagonist manages to escape. Why do the book take so long to read? Well there were so many plots and sub plots, led by characters with long and confusing names I totally lost track of who was who and what they were trying to do in the end. It doesn’t help when you only read a chapter a night but even when I managed a few hours on it I was still lost. Cut out a few sub plots and it might have made more sense.

That brings me to the other book I read. The other half had bought me ‘ A Street Cat called Bob’ for Christmas. I’d heard of the story but they had also made it in to a film last year that I had hoped to see and didn’t get there. The story is around a recovering drug addict who is befriended by a ginger tom. After finding that this cat seems to be homeless he takes him on as a pet and the story revolves around how, by having Bob around, he decides to really turn his life around, get off the methodone and try to find a proper job. Life isn’t easy on the way, Bob gets ill and other street sellers take offence when the cat becomes such a star in Convent Garden, stealing their tips as they see it.

I really enjoyed this book, though written more like a collection of blogs than a book the story touched a cord, especially as I am a cat lover too and can see how having one in your life could make a difference. Before my daughter came along my cat was my baby !  I romped through each chapter wanting to know what happened to Bob, not his carer. The book finishes quite abruptly leaving me having to buy the next to find out how they moved from street stars to big screen stars.

Learning…less is more.  Keep the story with some twists and turns but not too complicated or you will turn the reader off.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

captureCandice: Phil lent me a book a while ago by an author that I like – David Baldacci.  I’ve read a few of his books and Phil found this on in the dark recces of a charity shop.  He picked it up because it had the mention of a train, I said I’d wait to read it because of the mention of Christmas.

So I picked it up last week.  December was almost here and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to crack it open.  To be honest I’d already had the Christmas tunes on for the little person.  She’s learning some songs for her Christmas play at nursery so we both needed some practice in remembering the words to ‘Away in a Manger’.

To start I wasn’t sure.  The book is about a chap taking a train from east to west coast America to spend Christmas with his sweet heart. Train travel isn’t that popular in the States, everyone flies or drives, but he’s been banned from flying due to an air rage incident so decides to follow the footsteps of his distant relative Mark Twain and take two trains that criss cross the country.

The book was written over 10 years ago and you can tell with some of the technology that is described, it initially distracts from the book, but then the plot gets going.

So, Tom was once a war reporter.  His long time girlfriend up and left him after one to many close escapes and he hasn’t heard from her since.  Who is on the train?  Eleanor, the once girlfriend. In the great tradition of all stories love does not run smooth and she hates him on sight as he still hasn’t worked out why she left him. Just as they are starting to come  together then his girlfriend arrives and friction pushes them to the limit.  Will they or won’t they get together?

There are other fun things happening on the train too.  A young couple have run away from their families to get married, a thief is stealing valuable items and a retired train engineer is watching the skies as he predicts a bad storm is coming. So just as things are calming down an avalanche hits the train and they all get stuck running out fuel and water.

Love conquers all as Tom saves his woman and the train but then the twist appears.  The girlfriend, the marriage are all a sham, set up by the film director employer of Eleanor who knows she is still pining for Tom and wants her to finally get her man.

Initially the book is much too detailed about trains, and I was thinking this was more Phil’s bag than mine.  But once we got over that it’s actually good fun and you want to know what happens.  Some of the characters are larger than life and it gives the story a nice Christmassy feel.  What doesn’t get resolved is the Mark Twain element which is a shame but all in all it gave me a nice introduction to the Christmas season.

1 Comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

History repeats itself

librarybooks

Phil: Life is funny isn’t it?

Many years ago, I used to be an obsessive visitor to my little local library. I’d head straight into the children’s section and delight in picking interesting looking books from the shelves. My default choice would be stories of the Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I read each book more than once. The Kirrin Island one never seemed popular with other borrowers so I know it cam home with me many times in lieu of anything better.

Decades later, I’m back.

This time the reading is rather more adult. Candice introduced me to David Baldacci and I find that there are several of his books on the shelf. I know I’m going to work my way through all these.

But I can. That’s what’s so wonderful about a library. And that hasn’t changed in years.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Phil

Nearly ready for Books Showoff tonight!

talkcheckingPhil: Last Friday was the final meeting ahead of our appearance tonight at Books Showoff tonight.

Sitting down in an artisan bakery, Candice started to tell me about potty training, so I quickly changed the subject to the slides prepared for the evening entertainment. As anyone who has friends with small children knows, the obsess about the topic and there are some things that can put you right off your hot chocolate.

All words have been expunged from the slides. It was just left to sort out what we are going to say. The audience needs entertaining, not just a selection of pictures to look at.

Doing a two-hander talk is a bit of a challenge. We don’t want to talk over each other, but there must be banter. That’s easy when you are sitting opposite each other and stuffing some delicious sandwiches and cake in your gob. I’ll shut up when I’m eating for a start, but you can’t rely on that on stage.

So, we have a sort of script. Not a strict one as that would be rubbish, but an idea what we’ll be filling our alloted 9 minutes with.

Now, if you excuse me, I need to write a rant to accompany a certain photo. Come along to see if I manage it.

Books Showoff, London 28th Sept at 7pm

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Books Show Off – 28th September

bookshowoffheader

 

Phil: Team NolanParker are on the road again. This time you can catch us at the Tottenham Court branch of Waterstones at the Book Show Off event.

We’ll be amusing everyone with tales of how we came to be great authors and then drinking cocktails. There will be book signings too.

Should be a good night. Get your tickets here.

The event is run by the Science Showoff team, who have a YouTube channel with both science and books.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing