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#secretread – Espionage and spies

October 8, 2014

Emigma – Robert Harris –  Code breaking to win a war – the highest of stakes.  The real life staff of Bletchley Park keep their secret work a secret for decades.   Later a personal secret & maybe the Secret Service’s fear that he would disclose the Enigma secret led to the dead of Alan Turing.

Enigma - photograph taken by Sue Applegate


Espionage and spies

In a post war macho world James Bond is the classic Secret agent – slaying SMERSH, triumphing over megalomaniacs  despite the vast number of women  falling at his feet.  Long after Ian Fleming’s death, other authors keep the Bond character alive.

Single Spies – Alan Bennett –  two plays which take a sideways looks at the lives of 2 Cambridge Spies after their spying was over.   The short comings of the Comrades in dentistry and tailoring contrast with the surveyor of the queen’s pictures’ discussing fakes.

The real world out did fiction – who knew what was true, who the 4th & 5th man were, as – Peter Wright’s Spy Catcher is outlawed.  The Cambridge Spies have fascinated novelists and biographers ever since.

The Profumo Affair was a big secret in 1963.  An English affair : sex, class and power in the age of Profumo  – national secrets at risk due to private secrets?

John Le Carre – the Circus ring master of tradecraft, Moles and lamplighters in a Cold War

George Smiley – the old Spy who unravels the the trail of the Mole in Tinker tailor soldier spy

The man from Uncle – a Russian and an American work together to battle the forces of THRUSH a series whose pedigree included ideas from Ian Fleming and  a nod to Sherlock Holmes.

For kids Secret Squirrel – was the master of 1960s spying gadgetry

Books are full of secrets: almost every novel – from the lightest romance to the Book Prize nominee contains a secret. Your #secretread task is to find that secret along with the main character.

The secret lover – William Trevor – Love and summer

The secret that society makes you hide – John Irving – In one person

The family secret – Secrets and Lies – Mike Leigh

A secret that affect later generations – Barbara Vine – the Blood doctor

Concealing a secret has a comic fallout – Tom Sharpe – Wilt

Donna Tartt explored a group who share a secret – in Secret History  and a single person’s secret in The Goldfinch.

Last word to the Crime and thrillers. The killer has one BIG secret. The suspects are just like the rest of us, but find their personal secrets uncovered from St Mary Mead to Nordic Noir

Sue Applegate – Surrey Library Service @SurreyLibraries

Find out what was discussed on Tuesday for the #classicread discussion for #rwpchat

October 2, 2014

If you missed our discussion on Tuesday you can catch up with the tweets about #classicread on Storify.  It included horror, crime, romance, Harry Potter, graphic novels, the Lego movie and much more.

Follow Read Watch Play’s board #classicread on Pinterest.

the #rwpchat theme for October is #secretread

October 1, 2014
via The Commons on flickr from the Mennonite Church USA Archives

via The Commons on flickr from the Mennonite Church USA Archives


Join the discussion this month about #secretread.  We will be focusing on all things secret in this discussion (and it will be great to see what ideas people include).  You will have to share some secrets. Do you have a secret read too share?

Secrets can be hard to keep, and sometimes it s good to share a secret with others, like those of your secret reads- those books no-one knows you are reading! Do you have secret reads? Share them with others, as there should be no shame or embarrassment  in whatever anyone chooses to read. Its all reading- but if you do want to keep your reading secret,  there’s always audio-books and e-readers!

This is the month to read about secret societies, secret codes, secrets revealed and secret identities, there are many secret reads to uncover…

 Do you remember reading Nancy Drew, the Hardy boys and Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series- with the secret societies solving mysteries and revealing secrets. These are just a few of the classic children’s series that introduce us to secret reads.  Harry Potter and his friends had lots of secrets too.

We all know mild mannered reporter Clark Kent has a super secret. Revisit Superman and your other  favourite superheroes in graphic novels and film as they continue to save the world while successfully concealing their  identities. Here are ten superheroes and their secret identities by  talented illustrator Coran “Kizer” Stone.

Feeling rebellious? Read some banned books- Books that have been challenged and banned for all sorts of reasons including to protect children, due to religious, racial or political content or because of what are deemed to be inappropriate themes. Don’t you want to read these books simply to find out what all the fuss is about? Its no secret that Goodreads has Banned Books lists available, to help you uncover some new reads.

This is the month to read a crime novel. Always full of secrets waiting to be unearthed, even the true identity of secret writers revealed, as in the case of The cuckoo’s calling by Robert Galbraith.

You may enjoy the challenge of unravelling the secrets hidden within a story. It may be a mystery, with clues,  perhaps a  red herring or two-read some Agatha Christie,  Margery Allingham, or for a contemporary, chilling , suspenseful story full of secrets, try Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Don’t forget  about  skeletons in the closet – read about family history, where you may find some well kept secrets.  Read some fiction about families (they always have secrets),  these books will keep you turning the pages, in an agony of suspense, waiting to discover whether the secrets to be revealed cause delight, heartache, or both. Try  something from the Goodreads list of Popular Family Secrets books.

Then there are the stories featuring spies, codes and ciphers. Try astute detective Sherlock Holmes, who uses logical reasoning to solve mysteries, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, Dan Brown’s The lost symbol, Agent 21: Codebreaker by Chris Ryan and Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly.

Sometimes you find yourself reading a book where the secrets hidden  within the pages of a book are revealed unexpectedly. These storylines are best kept secret- revealing spoilers may ruin these for someone else. Please don’t read any reviews before reading  Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro!

Discover the secret lives of celebrities, get to know the real person hidden behind the public persona, find out their secrets to success, even just “get the dirt” in an unauthorised biography.

Protect yourself from online identity theft, scams and find out about cyber safety at Cybersmart.

Read some true crime, about frauds and con people, in magazines newspapers and books, online and in print.

Explore a secret world! Once Britian’s best kept secret, Bletchley Park- home of the Code Breakers,  is open to visitors.

Find out the secret to success- this  was revealed in the self help book,  “The secret” by Rhonda Byrne- a best seller in 2006.

Finally, what about Wikileaks? Read online secret information, news leaks, and classified media published  from anonymous sources.

While you are reading, playing or watching your #secretread, you might like to tweet about it using #secretread #rwpchat so that other people can have a conversation with you about your #secretread.  You can add to the discussion on Pinterest too. You might like to post your photographs to Instagram or Flickr and use #secretread #rwpchat so others can share in your reading, watching and playing.

There will be a twitter discussion on 28 October starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Summer Time.   9.00pm New Zealand  Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Time, 9am – 11am; 2pm – 4pm; 6pm – 8pm GMT.  Note this is a staggered discussion.

Use the tags #secretread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of secretread, so others can join in the conversation too.

join the #classicread discussion on twitter today #rwpchat

September 30, 2014


Vintage Cars - Flikr Creative Commons

A classic for me is not necessarily a classic for you, so we’ll have a great discussion about the nature of a classic. What makes a modern classic? Is the Harry Potter series a classic because it has been so widely read, or are there other criteria  that are more important? What modern books would you call classics?

There will be a twitter discussion, today, on 30 September starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.   9.00pm New Zealand  Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 9am – 11am; 2pm – 4pm; 6pm – 8pm BST.  Note this is a staggered discussion.

Public Domain Jam: #ClassicRead Games

September 25, 2014
Mr Good and Evil (Dex / Flickr. cc 2.0 license )

Mr Good and Evil (Dex / Flickr. cc 2.0 license )

A game jam is a competition that encourages game developers to create a game around a theme within a certain timescale. A recent competition, Public Domain Jam, asked people to create a game within a week based around stories that are in the public domain. This jam linked to the Project Gutenberg e-book site to highlight the wealth of inspiration from classic reads that is freely available. The Project Gutenberg site includes out of copyright classic books that are now in the public domain.

As the introduction on the game jam page pointed out:

“There are SO MANY other stories and characters out there that are also free to use: Robin Hood, Zorro, Dracula, John Carter, Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Alice in Wonderland, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Hercules, Paul Bunyan… The list goes on forever, and these are all stories that are free to be remixed and remade by anyone.”

When the competition finished 61 games had been submitted, including ones based on familiar books and stories, such as Dracula, Macbeth, Treasure Island and fairy tales, as well as less familiar works, such as The Yellow Wallpaper.

Runners-up used classic books Alice in Wonderland, War of the Worlds and Oliver Twist for inspiration, but the winning game itself, Paper Jekyll (a platformer with a twist – literally), was loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and My Hyde, a #classicread about a man releasing and subsequently trying to control the monster inside him.

A number of games took the format of the book, text, and turned parts of the story into works of interactive fiction (Jekyll and Hyde: The Battle for Sanity; The Yellow Wallpaper; Die Sieben Raben), whilst others were turned into action games.

They didn’t all necessarily follow the narrative of the story they were based on. Some just used characters and the theme of the story to base a game around, but it highlights that people can still find inspiration in a classic tale and can interpret and present the ideas in those tales in new ways.

Many of the games are free to play via the Public Domain Jam page. Why not give some of them a try and see how the game makers have put their own spin on these classic reads.

Gary Green (Surrey Libraries)

Classic reads and their literary web series

September 24, 2014

Classic novels that are adapted into 21st century web stories are a great way to experience old favourites or to introduce someone to a story they have not yet read as well as lead their viewers to the original text, making comments or to writing fanfictions and creating fanart. Last year, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries went on to win numerous awards inspired a number of other creators to write and produce their own favourites. Some of these series are from production studios and others are high school and undergrad student productions showcasing how awesome and creative teens can be! Web series highlights that productions are possible on a spectrum of budgets and ultimately, it is great writing that is at the core of all good stories.

  1. Nothing Much To Do is a New Zealand adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Beatrice and Bennedick spar wittily in this high school love story told across a number of personal vlogs and character interactions in the comments section. As a New Zealand production, it is refreshing to hear antipodean accents. Fans are filling Tumblr and and fanfiction sites with Bea and Ben fics while eagerly waiting for youtube updates.

  1. The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy – J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan now takes place in Neverland, Ohio where Wendy is an online counsellor and her best friend Peter works for the Darling family paper and possibly the best ever Michael Darling. There is a hint of “Costume Theatre”, which fans adored in The Lizze Bennet Diaries, and it blends well with the theme of the boy who never grows up and the embracing of adultescence. Irreverent, irresponsible, irrepressible and lots of fun viewing.

  1. A Tell Tale Vlog – This short series of videos on Edgar Allan Poe are fun and dark at the same time. Poe has a ghost and she is not happy. This series has made me revisit much of Poe’s poetry and to read it with a renewed zeal.

  1. The Autobiography of Jane Eyre was compelling and dark and reflecting well on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. And it still had a modern wife locked in the attic! (This was handled so surprisingly well). Though some of the actors in minor roles in this series were a bit awkward on the screen, the leads of Jane and Rochester and young Adele were brilliantly played.

  1. Green Gables Fables – Anne With an E. This series adaptation of L M Montgomery’s much loved Anne of Green Gables is text heavy with most of the action happening in the Twitter world with (for the most part) weekly Youtube episodes and lots of Tumblr story writing. Gilbert on Twitter is heartfully sweet in the way he keeps tweeting to Anne and she keeps ignoring him. And Mandy Harmon’s Anne is deliciously Anne Shirley – just like Megan Follows. Green Gables Fables also stands out in that there is a rare adult character  on camera (over 50, silver-haired, shy Matthew) which gives this webseries a lovely sense of family.

  1. Kate the Cursed is a Canadian production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Kate Minola is a bit of a naysayer but she is also perceptive and outspoken. This series is fun and snarky. Now, toward the end of the series, we are seeing a more relaxed happier Kate and I think all the fans are keen for more scenes between her and James.


  1. Frankenstein MD – Victoria Frankenstein is a pre-med student who is pushing the boundaries of medical ethics. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is given new life with Victoria being a tad creepy in this series which is both dramatic and weirdly educational.

  1. Jules and Monty – Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a story of broken communication leading to tragedy and in this modern version we see that even in our uber connected society communication breakdown is still possible. Jules and Monty are university students and their two warring fraternities cause friction for the young lovers. I love how the poignancy of this modern retelling and though the awkwardness of the half modern/half Shakespearean English language usage is a bit peculiar, it does not detract from the quality of the story.


Vassiliki Veros




Anna Campbell and Romancing the Classics

September 12, 2014

ClassicsHello, my name is Anna Campbell, and I’m a reading addict.

I’ll read anything, even, in the absence of other candidates, the back of the milk carton. Often the times I have amazed my friends into catatonia with something I read on a label.

My preferred method of intake is books. I’ve always loved books, right from the moment my parents read to me from the beautiful Oxford fairy tales editions when I was a mere toddler. An addiction to the glories of extravagant historical costume might have started then too, but that’s another story. I read all sorts of books from anywhere – books on my shelves, books belonging to other people, library books (Cleveland library was an early enabler).

Among those books were a large number that are considered classics. Many of those stories have stayed with me, subject to multiple re-reads. I believe one of the definitions of a classic is that it can stand up to return visits and show you something new each time.

These days I write romance for a living, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my favourite classics involve a heartfelt love story or two, even if a happy ending isn’t guaranteed (although I think it’s noteworthy that the greats of the past weren’t at all afraid of happy endings!). So I thought I might share a few of my favourite 19th century novels that double as great romances.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

It’s really sad that W&P has this awful reputation as an unreadable behemoth when it’s a string of fabulous stories in one luscious whole. Even the bits of book where Tolstoy tells you his theories of history and war are interesting – although perhaps not quite as interesting as Natasha and Prince Andrei at her first ball or the wonderful ride through the snow with Masha and Nikolai. The characters in this epic tale are unforgettable, and so real, you can imagine that the Russian aristocracy might turn up for a picnic in the park across the road. I made the mistake of reading the death of Prince Andrei on a bus and made a complete fool of myself by dissolving into floods of tears. It’s just so perfectly written and it cuts straight to the heart. One of the many lovely things about War and Peace is that while it’s about great historical events, Tolstoy never loses sight of the effect these events have on the human level. Don’t be frightened off by the length – there are some wonderful romances, happy and sad, in this book. And Prince Andrei has to be one of the great romantic heroes!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This one wears its heart on its sleeve. There are stages in my life when I think it’s my favourite book in the world. I’ve read it more times than I can count. If you’re looking for a ripsnorter of a romance novel, this one has it all – intrepid heroine doing it hard; Cinderella plotline; brooding, mysterious, aristocratic hero; a huge character arc for the hero and heroine so they’re more fulfilled, better people after all the drama; more gothic madness than you can poke a stick at; and a wonderful happy ending (I remember how much I loved “Reader, I married him” the first time I read it!).

Middlemarch by George Eliot

What does a dedicated reader study at university? English literature of course! Imagine a place where they actually want you to plough through several thousand pages a week – my idea of Nirvana. One of the wonderful things about someone else setting the reading list is discovering things that you probably wouldn’t have picked up off your own bat. Middlemarch is just such a book. This portrait of a small 19th century town is as epic in its own way as War and Peace. There is a cast of thousands and most of them pair up either happily or unhappily, so there are romances galore to gladden or sadden the heart. The heroine Dorothea Brooke is a gloriously ardent creation – intelligent and generous and so misguided. I love it when a character has a lot to learn before they get their happy ending. Most of the critics feel that the romance between Dorothea and Will Ladislaw is a bit of a fizzer, but when I read this book, I remember my powerful reaction when they finally got together. Guess that’s why I’m a romance writer and not a literary critic. Just as an aside, one of the most brilliantly written characters in this book is Dorothea’s repressive first husband, the Reverend Edward Casaubon, a man who gives vampires a run in terms of blood sucking. The first husband of my heroine Grace in Untouched was written as a homage to him in all his awfulness.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I’m currently re-reading all the Austens (although I have a feeling Mansfield Park might wait a while). Northanger Abbey is the next one off the cab rank. Like most people, I adore Pride and Prejudice. The whole world loves watching Darcy and Lizzie struggle through the errors of their first impressions (First Impressions was Austen’s original title for the novel) and find love. But if I had to pick a favourite, I think I’d go for Persuasion which is much quieter but so heartfelt. The reunion romance is a staple of the romance genre and this one’s a corker. The heroine, quiet, gallant, perceptive Anne Elliot, knows she’s missed her chance when as a young, easily persuaded girl, she rejects the dashing Frederick Wentworth. What a bitter pill she has to swallow when Wentworth returns years later as a captain, a hero and, even more significantly, rich, to find a wife in the neighbourhood. He hasn’t forgiven Anne for turning her back on their love—but gradually her qualities win him back again from much flashier candidates. The scene toward the end when she proclaims the steadfastness of her love and he writes her a letter expressing his feelings always makes me cry. Definitely a lovely romance!

So there you have it – four great classics with wonderful love stories. Perfect for the romantic in all of us!

What a duke dares by Anna CampbellAbout the author:

Anna Campbell is a Sunshine Coast writer who writes Regency-era historical romances for Grand Central Forever (USA), Harlequin Mills and Boon (UK) and HarperCollins Australia. Her latest release is WHAT A DUKE DARES (August 2014) and her website is


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