Five times Five equals Five

Happy Birthday to Me!

This week marks my fifth blog birthday. Good grief! Thanks to everyone who’s joined me along the way, and a special thanks to those of you who’ve stuck with me from the very first year – your company is always greatly appreciated.

I usually do a big round-up of bloggy statistics for my birthday post, but this year I’ve decided to do something a little different. So just a few stats first, covering the full five years…


(always makes me laugh, since only around forty or fifty people actually visit me on any kind of regular basis, but it’s still always fun to see that “followers” figure grow)

Rafa still hasn’t followed me…

1131 posts

(I’m so sorry! *faints*)

George hasn’t read any of them…


(at least half of them from kids looking to cheat on their homework, I suspect)

Tom hasn’t viewed a single post…


(My favourite stat! Thanks for being such a chatty bunch – that’s the real reason I blog! C’mon – help me get it up to a round 50,000…)

Aragorn has never left a single comment…

400 5-star reviews

(that’s the book or story that got 5-stars, obviously, not the review…)

But Darcy always gets 5-star reviews…


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The access to new releases via NetGalley and publishers is one of the major perks of book blogging, of course. But I do find it has a small downside, in that I never seem to find time to follow up on authors with extensive back catalogues. I end so many reviews with “I’m looking forward to reading more of his/her books in the future”, and then I never do. So, since I’ve discovered that setting myself a little challenge concentrates my mind, that seems like a good way to celebrate my fifth anniversary.

The Five times Five Challenge

I’ve selected five authors, each of whom I’ve given at least one 5-star review and then failed to follow up on. And for each author, I’ve selected five books I’d like to read. I’m not setting myself any dates or deadlines – this is just for a bit of fun and to keep them in the forefront of my mind when I’m splurging on books to top up my TBR.

Philip Roth

Philip Roth
(Photo: Jenny Anderson/Getty Images)

I’ve read Roth’s American Trilogy (American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and The Human Stain) before, many years ago, and recently re-read American Pastoral, giving it not just 5 stars but the title of The Great American Novel. So I’d like to re-read the other two and read a few of his others that have achieved critical acclaim.

I Married a Communist

The Human Stain

The Plot Against America


Sabbath’s Theatre

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Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison
Photo: Reuters

Toni Morrison’s Beloved was the second book to earn the title of The Great American Novel, and shamefully I still haven’t got around to reading anything else by her. Some of these have been recommended to me – others I’ve picked more or less at random.

The Bluest Eye

Song of Solomon


A Mercy


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John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck

I had mixed feelings about The Grapes of Wrath – profound and stunningly written but I really object to the way he sets out to emotionally manipulate the reader, sometimes blurring the line between pathos and bathos. So while I want to read more, I’ve tried to include some lighter ones too.

Cannery Row

East of Eden

A Russian Journal

The Pearl

The Wayward Bus

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William McIlvanney

William McIlvanney
Photo: Chris Watt for The Telegraph

I’ve loved everything I’ve read of McIlvanney’s – the three books in his Laidlaw trilogy and Docherty – and really want to explore his work more thoroughly. I’ve pretty much picked these as the ones most easily available, often a sign that they’re considered the best.

The Kiln

The Big Man

A Gift from Nessus

Remedy Is None

Walking Wounded

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Robert Harris

Robert Harris

Harris seems to be pretty prolific and I’ve managed to keep up with his new releases over the last few years, but have still barely scratched his back catalogue. I actually already own two of these, so really ought to get around to reading them!


Imperium (Cicero Trilogy 1)

Lustrum (Cicero Trilogy 2)

Dictator (Cicero Trilogy 3)


I’ve deliberately omitted crime fiction since my existing Murder, Mystery, Mayhem challenge is enough to be going on with, I feel. And I was also forced to omit several other authors I’d have loved to include – Daphne du Maurier, Ernest Hemingway, Hilary Mantel, H Rider Haggard, to name but a few.

So what do you think of my list? Do any of them appeal to you? Which writers would you like to find time to explore a bit more?

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Thanks for your company in year 5 – hope you’ll stick around for year 6.
It should be full of books and chocolate!
(And maybe some more pics from my Heroes’ Gallery if you’re good…)

You never know – maybe one day Robert will visit…

Surprise party!!!

A castle somewhere in Scotland…


sofa 1

Right, everyone – he’s on his way! Get behind the sofa! Shhhhh! Manly-Man, this is no time to be disco-dancing! Fats Henry, please breathe in. Schwarzy, my sweetie pumpkin pie, you know I think your loon impersonations are cute and adorable but…NOT NOW!! Shhhhh! Here he comes. Ready…?





Come on in, Prof. Grab yourself a glass of punch and some cashews, and relax while your friends give you birthday greetings with their…


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From Susan P at The Portugal Years


Are you ready, kids? AYE AYE, PROFESSOR
Who lives in a pickle under the sea?
Professor VJ!
Sly and slippery and clever is he
Professor VJ!
If Punchy Land nonsense you would see
Professor VJ!
Then climb up to the nearest tree
Professor VJ!
PROFESSOR VJ !!!!!!!!!

Happy birthday, Professor! Many happy returns of the day.

Susan P

(Apologies to Sponge Bob)


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From Debbie at Musings by an ND Domer’s Mom


Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from


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From John W. Howell at Fiction Favorites


The Professor Duke

by John W. Howell © 2015

Born another time,
Creating life for goodness…
Punchy Lands for laughs.


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From The Lite Rider


Lite Rider


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From PorterGirl at Secret Diary of PorterGirl


When I heard about the Professor’s birthday party, I was mightily excited. This is an important occasion, I thought to myself, and no doubt I will be needing some new shoes in honour of it. In fact, new shoes seemed essential. Whilst shopping for the new shoes it occurred to me that I should really think of a suitable gift to present to the Professor on this auspicious day. Now, what does the Professor like? I thought to myself. He likes eating things, I concluded and immediately set about baking him a cherry cake. But I am sad to say that the cherry cake smelled so good that I could not stop myself from eating it. Feeling rather contrite, I resolved to replace the cherry cake with a sausage sandwich. He would be sure to like a sausage sandwich. But disaster struck a second time and Terry ate the sausage sandwich. Which is why I stand here before you today, Professor, with only my very best wishes and a winning smile with which to offer you for your birthday. Also this…

*performs an elaborate and unusual dance*.

Happy birthday, P.VJ!


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From Walt Walker at waltbox


bannerfans_15120449 (1)


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From Audrey Dawn at Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister


Happy Birthday, Duke
Duke, the name that suits you
You, yes, you, the one I’m writing to
To wish, the happiest of birthdays.
Birthdays only come once a year
Year: the time it took me
Me, to wish you a Happy Birthday.
Birthday Boy, Duketh, is who you are
Are you wishing for anything at all?
All we need to determine, you see,
See, once we know, we’ll exhaust trying
Trying to attempt the perfect gift.
Gift, your wish, seems simple enough
Enough time with you we’ll never have
Have you felt how much you’re loved?
Loved by many and bits and bits more
More of you is all we wait to see
See how easily we reconvene.
Reconvene to the same familiar blog
Blog birthday parties are tops
Tops is who you have proven to be
Be another dadblame year older.
Older is what comes with waking up
Up for whatever, you’ve proven lots.
Lots of admiration on your special day
Day and night pals stopping by to say
Say to you, professor, Happy Birthday.


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More punch, Prof? And perhaps a slice of pie?

cherry pie


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From sonmi at Sonmi’s Cloud


The Professor is a man of many facets, abounding with enthusiasm, curiosity, exclamation marks and questions!!?? He has been a regular visitor here on the Cloud for a good while now and at no point have I actually had to release the hounds. He likes to wax lyrical on the subject of his impressive mighty weapon and waggles it about willy nilly at the drop of a hat when any ladies are within a radius of twenty feet, and only recently was a winner in the prestigious award ceremony ‘The Cloudies’, winning the award for the blogger…….

‘Most likely to be a serial killer on the sly, but you’d still take a chance and invite them round for afternoon tea award’.

He was presented with a Hannibal lecter mask made entirely out of dried pasta and a patchwork sheath for his laptop embroidered with the words “You don’t have to be a serial killer to work here, but I clearly am anyway”.
What more can I say? Lots actually but Fictionfan is about to open a trapdoor beneath my feet on the stage, so I’ll just say…

Happy Birthday Professor!! Have a marvellous, wild, wacky and wonderful day in and out of The Punchy Lands – best regards from sonmi and the Cloud.


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From L. Marie at El Space


l marie's pic


Happy birthday, Professor. A little poem pour vous:

A little wish from me to
Say happy birthday to you.
May you have lots of joy and
A year so awesomely grand.

I’m so glad to have discovered the Punchy Lands! Thanks for the many laughs you’ve provided me.

L. Marie


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From Desert Dweller at S S Hicks


There is an old Professor, who is actually quite young, ruling the Punchy Lands with dadblameittry, punchinnytry, humdingatry and overall ri-do-diculoutry. He is a fierce and ruthless warrior, a sword carrying wordsmith of punchy speaks, chumming around with the likes of Schwarz, Fats Henry and the tireless flirt, Amelia, who has bugs for eyelashes and makes FF delirious with jealousy (somewhere she is flouncing about). It is not a great secret that our Professor is a skilled and talented musician, dueling his guitar with the only worthy opponent – himself – but he is also a master contrarian, sweet and generous and kind. However, this would sicken him and I’m getting off script, because he prefers his edges to remain rough, as any good skilled warrior will tell you. He lifts crooked dumbbells, you see, and reads books full of garbledook. But this mysterious and reluctant ladies man is turning 85 (in PL years, of course). Schwarz will no doubt give him three rats and a heifer, Amelia will try and steal a kiss, the Salami clan will attempt to throw him from a cliff, but I, the Desert Dweller (DD), send a million wishes, or maybe just 5, for the happiest birthday to the most esteemed Professor alive! Chickit.

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The Eternal Triangle


“So, Prof,” says FF, “now that the party pieces are over, perhaps you and I…”

“Hi, sweetie!” A piercing squeak breaks into the conversation, so high-pitched that bats for miles around raise their ears in astonished gardooblement.

“Oh…uuh…umm,” the Professor mumbles, his eyelid twitching involuntarily, “Hi, Amelia!”


FF spins round so fast Einstein has to redo his calculations, and there, helping herself to punch from the buffet table, slinks a vile creature in a skintight venom-green mini-dress, fluttering her eyelashes so violently that PorterGirl (who’s only little) is blown clean across the room.

Artist's impression of Amelia
Artist’s impression of Amelia

FF flounces over, tartan ballgown swishing. “And what, madam, are you doing here? You weren’t invited!”

“I’ve come to give my Dukey-baby a great big birthday kiss!” Amelia simpers, giggling as she waggles her talons at the Professor. He glances down, perhaps regretting after all that he has chosen to wear his pulchritudinous pants…

FF growls ferociously. “Dadblameit! YOU…SHALL…NOT…PASS!! L. Marie, would you be so good as to hand me that dessert?” And, with all the skill of a Red Sox pitcher, FF splats the blancmange straight at the man-eating little minx. A direct hit!


Amelia gasps and stumbles backwards, tipping over the buffet table. As she slides inelegantly to the floor, the punchbowl empties its contents neatly over her Medusa-like hairdo.


Gazing at the bedraggled heap at her feet, FF chuckles. “Now that’s what I call Punchy!”

And tripping lightly across the room (and accidentally across Amelia), FF takes the Professor’s arm, smiling sweetly. “As I was about to say, my dear C-W-W, shall we dance…?”

Artist's impression of the Prof and FF
Artist’s impression of the Prof and FF

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NB If anyone missed the pre-party shenanigans, you’ll find them over at Portergirl’s…

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