flissp 2: The New Batch
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My first thread is here
...and here's my progress ticker:
...some books that I definitely want to read this year (from the previous thread):
- War and Peace: Leo Tolstoy (because my Dad gave me a lovely copy for Christmas last year and I've still not got around to reading it)
- My Childhood: Maxim Gorky (another present)
- The Master and Margarita: Mikhail Bugakov (another one I've started, but because I wasn't in the right mood, I didn't get very far with)
- Middlesex: Jeffrey Eugenides - favourite book of a mate, who gave this to me.
- Possession: A. S. Byatt - I began this last summer, but was distracted by other books and drifted off course.
- The Little Friend: Donna Tartt - another unfinished book, although I've read much more of this one - I think I just tried to read it too soon after reading The Secret History.
- L'etranger: Camus (the French version - I began this last year, but was waylaid as it needs time)
Recommendations/future reads are now in my Wishlist (a work in progress), or in my Unread Collection
I'm also doing the 999 challenge (thread here, although I'm not very good at updating it...):
with the following categories:
1) Non fiction (not biography etc) (2/9)
2) Unfinished books (1/9)
3) Books on the TBR pile (4/9)
4) Authors I've never read (9/9)
5) Classics I've never read (3/9)
6) Biography/Autobiography/Letters etc (1/9)
7) Prize Winners (5/9)
8) Plays (2/9)
9) Recommended books (4/9)
If anyone's interested, pictures of my progress on my allotment are here"!
...and just for my interest, here's what I've read so far this year:
1) The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling (999: 5)
2) The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler (999: 4)
3) The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett (999: 3)
4) Songbook - Nick Hornby (999: 1) - Reviewed
5) The Trial - Franz Kafka (999: 2)
6) The Tooth Fairy - Graham Joyce (999: 4)
7) Candide or Optimism - Voltaire (999: 5)
8) The Sea - John Banville (999: 7) - Reviewed
9) The Blue - Maggie Gee (999: 4)
10) N.P. - Banana Yoshimoto (999: 4)
11) The Black Swan - Mercedes Lackey (999: 9)
12) A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett (not 999; reread)
13) Sharpe's Tiger - Bernard Cornwell (999: 4)
14) Towards Another Summer - Janet Frame (not 999)
15) The Road - Cormac McCarthy (999: 7) - Reviewed
16) 84, Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff (999: 3)
17) Playing Beatie Bow - Ruth Park (not 999; reread)
18) North Child - Edith Pattou (999: 9)
19) Duma Key - Stephen King (not 999)
20) InterWorld - Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves (not 999)
21) Changeover - Dianna Wynne Jones (999: 3) - Reviewed
22) Sharpe's Triumph - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
23) Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving (999: 4)
24) Inkheart - Cornelia Funke (999: 9)
25) An Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde (999: 8)
26) Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorise Autobiography - Lemony Snicket (not 999)
27) Sharpe's Fortress - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
28) The Tales of Beedle The Bard - J. K. Rowling (not 999)
29) Skellig - David Almond (999: 7)
30) Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens (999: 5)
31) Sharpe's Trafalgar - Bernard Cornwell
32) The Ground Beneath Her Feet - Salman Rushdie (999: 4) - Reviewed
33) The Universe Against Her - James H. Schmitz (not 999)
34) Sharpe's Prey - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
35) Sharpe's Rifles - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
36) Sharpe's Eagle - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
37) Bozo and the Storyteller - Tom Glaister (999: 4) ARC - Reviewed
38) Coraline - Neil Gaiman (not 999; reread)
39) How to Become Extinct - Will Cuppy (999: 1)
40) Sharpe's Gold - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
41) Inkspell - Cornelia Funke (999: 7)
42) An Elegy for Easterly - Petina Gappah (999:4) ARC - Reviewed (kind of)
43) Prater Violet - Christopher Isherwood (not 999) - Reviewed
44) The Wonderful O - James Thurber (not 999)
45) Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome (999: 3)
46) Sharpe's Havoc - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
47) Sharpe's Escape - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
48) Fourty Years On - Alan Bennett (999: 8)
49) A Traveller In Time - Alison Uttley (not 999)
50) Inkdeath - Cornelia Funke (not 999)
51) Tam Lin - Pamela Dean (999: 9)
52) Fire and Hemlock - Diana Wynne Jones (not 999)
53) Magic Strikes - Ilona Andrews (not 999)
54) Sharpe's Prey - Bernard Cornwell (not 999)
55) The Spook's Sacrifice - Joseph Delaney (not 999)
56) To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (999: 7)
...and short books/comics I've not counted:
a) The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch - Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli
b) The Adventuress - Audrey Niffenegger
c) 365 Penguins - Jean-Luc Fromental
Edited because I noticed some of the touchstones were wrong (and to note which I've made an attempt to review properly)
Glad you got to To Kill a Mockingbird Even though it took you till late in life, I've found that somewhat rewarding. Many of the classics I've come to in reading through my 100 best lists have probably resonated more with a mature me than they would have with a younger me.
Admittedly, To Kill a Mockingbird was on the list of options to read one year at school - and I normally ended up reading the entire list, so I do feel duly shameful that I haven't read it sooner. I think it may have been the year I discovered Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett (who had already written 12 or 13 Discworld books plus by that point...)
You're quite right though, I've particularly noticed this in rereading Jane Austen (who I first read when I was about 10). With Jane Austen I've reread all the novels numerous times (some more than others) and still get something new out of them each time, but the difference between reading, for example Pride and Prejudice (the first I read) when I was 10 and rereading it yet again last year, was astronomical - I really didn't get Mr Collins the first time round at all!
thank you ;)
Belated birthday wishes.Hope it was a good one.
From your previous thread: # 228 re your allotment -- that looks like a good start. It's more of a garden than I'll ever have here in NY. I have only 4 potted plants.
Too bad about the fringe festival. At least with Gaiman he travels alot to promote his books so there are always more chances to see him.
#229 Thanks for the review of Tam Lin. (touchstones keeps coming up as I, Robot. ??) I've got that one on the list for later in the year.
#12 VB, 4 potted plants is a start - pre-allotment, all I had was houseplants and a pot of runner beans outside the back door! I have to admit, it's great being able to have some outdoors though...
You're quite right about Gaiman - and it's not as though I haven't seen him speak before - it still grates though - to miss him and Amanda Palmer (and, in fact, Andrew Bird, who's playing the day after Amanda Palmer...) Ho hum, there will be other opportunities!
Hope I didn't put you off Tam Lin - I did enjoy it, just not as much as I'd hoped. I'll be interested in your thoughts though...
actually, have just been out for lunch with fellow july birthday-ers - me on the 1st, another on the 3rd, another on the 4th, another on the 15th - and, in spirit, a mate who now lives in the us on the 2nd! not to mention a 4th and a 25th jun... it's a popular time of year!
for some reason (well, it probably has something to do with heat and waking up at 5am) i'm absolutely exhausted today though, so i'm now going to sit in a deckchair in the shade on the gravel outside my flat reading...
...note to self to update on The Winter Queen...
57) The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin
999 Category 9 - recommendation from avitiakh's thread (5/9)
A detective/spy/thriller type thing set in late C19th Russia. A student apparently commits suicide in Moscow's Alexander Garden's in the middle of the afternoon, Erast Fandorin, a young detective intrigued by the case discovers that all is not what it seems, uncovering a global conspiracy en route etc etc.
I'm not usually much of a detective novel reader, but was very intrigued by avitiakh's description, so thought I'd give it a go.
People have compared Erast Fandorin to James Bond and, while I've never actually read any of Ian Fleming's Bond novels (something I shall correct some day), I can definitely see why the comparison has been made. The aspect I enjoyed the most, however, was the fact that he is, in many ways, the reverse of James Bond - high time we had the story from the other side, even if it is set 100 years earlier! Anyway, this was a very enjoyable, quick read, even if it did get just a little silly on occasion and there were certain parts of the plot that I could see coming a mile away...
58) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J. K. Rowling
I've been thinking about re-reading all the Harry Potter's before seeing the next film, so as I was absolutely shattered most of Sunday for some reason, this was the perfect book to read, whilst curling up in a ball with a big mug of tea by my side.
I first read it in a hostel in Chicago, towards the end of my travels after university. I'd had a very long, cold, slightly fruitless day that ended up in a bookshop (to cheer myself up). Despite the fact that it had been out for nearly 3 years by that point, I'd never heard of it (and didn't notice the hype until about 6 months later when the 4th one came out - I'm so on the ball). However, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, I like to read favourite children's books when I'm busy/stressed/down, so it was fanatstic finding a new author who ticked all the boxes - hero who battles through against the odds, a hidden magic world etc etc. Here was someone other than Diana Wynne Jones (who will always remain my best really) or Rosemary Sutcliff (without the magic), who was very good at pressing all the right buttons for escapist reading - and I hadn't read all her books yet!
...so, you can see, that every time I read the first Harry Potter (and, to a lesser extent the next two, which I went straight out to buy), I have all sorts of cosy "well that's alright now" associations that come swooping back - it's great!
Beyond these, I've begun the next Sharpe book and the next Harry Potter book, am still reading "Seeing" and am still feeling guilty about not having got around to Vilnius Poker or The Moon and The Sun... Oh and I owe comments on To Kill a Mockingbird, but REALLY should be working right now...
curious as to whether you meant to put the whole post in italics?? Hopefully I've turned it off lol
I have never heard Amanda Palmer's music.
#16 I love the Harry Potter books. Great comfort reading.
Amanda Palmer is ex Dresden Dolls and one of my current favourites - she's always fantastic live (which is one of my key needs in a band/singer). She has quite a cabaret style about her.
If you're interested, keeping on a literary theme, here's a YouTube video of her singing "I Google You" (lyrics by Neil Gaiman) live at a signing event somewhere: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUOgGNaNOxc
..and her myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/whokilledamandapalmer
Re HP, yes, I seem to be in a comfort reading streak at the moment, I should probably try to challenge myself a bit more the rest of the month!
Finished 59) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J. K. Rowling in my (no doubt foolhardy) plan to reread all the Harry Potters before seeing the next film. This is probably my least favourite, but still good fun.
Currently reading Seeing, Sharpe's Battle, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and White by Marie Darrieussecq (an odd book I randomly came across in the library). Lined up (also from the library) are The Double by José Saramago and The Flood by Maggie Gee (whose collection of short stories ("The Blue"), I loved earlier on in the year. Quite on top of some more second hand books I found at the weekend and everything else lined up on my "TBR" pile...
Not quite sure when I'm going to be reading though, because I'm off to a Conference early on Wednesday morning (this is the one in Rome), so I doubt I'll have much free time, beyond the flights, but fingers crossed I don't have to be too sociable ;o) Am also off to a festival the day after I get back from Rome and I know I won't have any time to read then... So, I'll probably only be logging in fairly sporadically between now and the 28th...
Have fun in Rome and at the Fringe festival.
...and thank you, am very much looking forward to Rome (assuming I've packed by the time I have to leave... why do I leave these things to the last minute?)
Re HP, I'll see how I do... ;) Plan was to go with my family, so I was waiting anyway (it's a tradition thing), but we couldn't find a date we could all do and now they've all seen it - bah!
Right, I'll try to do an update at some point today, but am currently busy faffing around and washing clothes etc as I'm off to Camp Bestival festival this evening (yes, I will be exhausted on Monday...)
Hope everyone is shiney!
How was the festival?
finished reading Vanity Fair and..didn't enjoy it as I hoped..mainly because I was irritated at Becky...
Lunacat, given the Cambridgeshire weather at the moment, I'm guessing, you're probably not that shiny!
applebook1, I think, from Rachel/FlossieT's comments, it's probably better to watch all the previous films than to read the books again (if you don't want to get irritated by plot inconsistencies anyway!) I just felt like a re-read anyway really...
Sorry you didn't like Becky - she's not a very nice person, but remains one of my favourite characters I've read, partly because of that!
dk_phoenix, glad to hear it!
Anyway, to follow at some stage (if I can get my PC at home to work again), comments/reviews on the following:
60) Sharpe's Battle - Bernard Cornwell
61) White - Marie Darrieussecq
62) The Flood - Maggie Gee
63) After the Quake - Haruki Murakami
64) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
65) Seeing - José Saramago
...and I'm feeling guiltier than ever about the two ARC's I received but haven't read and reviewed yet (since Early Reviewers actually sent me a reminder!), so will get cracking with those at the weekend I think (if I can find a way to access the pdf one!)...
oops, forgot to add 66) 2 x Rome guide books (they count don't they? I read them cover to cover!)
(I tried to edit, but there are still quite a lot...)
I dropped by my allotment on the way home last night, for the first time since getting back from Conference/Rome/festival and it's gone from looking like this:
...which, I think we can agree is reasonably neat - to something like this:
!!!!! ...with lots of these:
IN TWO WEEKS!!!!
Sigh. I know what I'm going to be doing this weekend, anyway...
Thanks for the picture comments people - yes, I had a wonderful time - and even managed to avoid melting in the heat ;)
...oh yes, book updates to follow, I promise!
I know, I know, simple things...
...I'm not in the UK, but I watch a lot of British programming so I still find it hilarious... I must pass this on...!
#39 Cait86, wow, yes it was! It must have been in the vicinity of 40°C nearly every day - I noticed one outdoor thermometer reading 28ºC at 8pm in the evening one day - that would be a hot midday for the UK! I did go prewarned though - one of my work colleagues who was also there for the conference actually comes from Rome (handy for tips!) - apparently, at that time of year, anyone actually from Rome leaves the city... Yep, I reckon you'll definitely have to go back (as will I!) ;)
OK, so let's make a start on these books I've been reading then...:
60) Sharpe's Battle - Bernard Cornwell
No comments really, more of the same - all good fun, but nothing truly remarkable. I'm starting to be able to guess which books were written before the others now though!
61) Time Out Shortlist Rome and Rome (DK Eyewitness Pocket Map & Guide)
999 Category 1: non-fiction (3/9)
I'm counting these as one read as they're both quite short (particularly the second). I'd bought the former myself as, while I'm a great champion of Rough Guide travel books in general, the Time Out guides are very good for food and drink etc and as I only had a couple of days of actual holiday, I wanted something little. The second, my mother bought for me for watering their garden while they were away on holiday...
Well, the thing you miss with these pocket guides is all the background information and history you get with the bigger versions, so, although I wasn't really expecting much along this line, I would have liked a bit more - so maybe next time, I'll just go ahead and get the more comprehensive version.
This said, I principally used the Time Out book and it was very useful for its size. The "handy" summary map at the back of the book was a bit rubbish, but each area covered by the book had really quite good mini maps, some very good food recommendations and quite a few handy hints (it was definitely worth while knowing that you can cut out a lot of queuing for the Colosseum/Foro Romano/Palantino by coming in through the entrance to Palantino for example). I also liked the 3 suggested walking tour routes (Pope, short stay Rome and Film Rome). I'd definitely recommend it for a short visit if, like me, you're only taking hand luggage (for 8 days - I was quite impressed with myself!) and need to leave room for other books ;) The only two flaws I would find are the lack of history information and the lack of map coverage for the areas in between those described - neither of which I would have expected from a guide this size anyway. Oh, and the map of the Palentine at the back was useless - a bus/metro map would have been more useful.
One proviso - I can't comment on the accommodation section as, for the major part of the stay, I was in the Eur district for the conference (mostly business area, not really covered by the guide book - for a good reason) and then I used Rough Guide online before I went to search out somewhere to stay - Time Out aren't particularly good at budget accommodation and Rome is expensive. Incidently, I'd highly recommend the hostel I stayed in - Alessandro Palace (http://www.hostelsalessandro.com) - very clean, friendly and central and economical!
The eyewitness guide I used a lot less (I mostly brought it along as it was a present!) - it really does just focus on each tourist attraction, so not much help for things like food and accommodation - although the little dictionary section at the back was better than the Time Out one (which mostly focuses on food!). It also had a better basic map - including a bus map, which would have been very helpful if I'd remembered to take both books along with me each day!
(not 999 - well, actually, it fits in the "unread authors" category, but I've already passed 9 in that one...)
This was a random selection from the library. Mostly what drew me to it was the Antarctica connection as it's a place I've always wanted to visit (but probably never shall - being pretty much the last wilderness left in the world, I don't want it ever to become a proper tourist destination).
Edmée and Peter, both socially alienated, seeking escape from the world in the nothingness of the South Pole, meet and bond on a scientific base in the Antarctic, where they are both new recruits - Edmée a radio operator, Peter a heating engineer. Starting at opposite sides of the world, the ghosts of the Antarctic narrate the irrevocable process of their paths towards each other, culminating in an inevitable coming together. The telling is very bleak, the language quite sparse, for all it's dream like quality - I found this quite an odd book and am still a little undecided how I feel about it.
Edited to insert a link as the touchstone won't work
(again, not 999)
I'm starting to really enjoy Maggie Gee - I read a collection of her short stories (The Blue) earlier on in the year, a lot of which have stuck with me and this novel definitely encourages me to look out more. I wouldn't say that the stories I've read to date are particularly life altering, but they are gripping to read, always amusing and, above all, her characters are deeply sympathetic - even the not very likable ones. I like the way everything and everyone cycles back on itself (even if the characters do appear to have rather a small sphere of acquaintance as a result) - in this respect, she reminds me quite a little of David Mitchell.
The premise of the book is quite simple - The City (recognisably London, with a few name twists) is slowly flooding in the incessant rain. President Bliss is ignoring the problem, focused on war and for the privileged classes, living on higher ground, life in this apocalyptic world goes on as normal - they have no idea what life is like for the poorer population. But this can't go on forever.
Ah, always good to find a new author to discover...
64) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
Again, not much to say about this, as it's a re-read. Always enjoyable.
65) after the quake - Haruki Murakami
999 Category 9 - Recommendations (someone at work) (6/9)
A collection of short stories following Japan's 1995 Kobe earthquake - by which the characters in every story are affected (in some cases quite lightly). I'm sure that's bad grammar, but it's the end of the day and my brain isn't functioning properly!. Surreal, but oddly realistic, you are shown only a very brief, but somehow telling glimpse into the life of each central character - all of whom seem to have some great sadness, or emptiness.
I have to say, I was glad the book finished with the story "Honey Pie", which was quite a bit more upbeat than the others, or I may have been forced to go and read something VERY SILLY just to cheer myself up, before progressing on to my next book (Les Liaisons Dangereuses - I've seen the film, I know how it ends!)
Well, I didn't start Vilnius Poker over the weekend after all (what a surprise) - I'm clearly going to have to take the weighty thing with me to Edinburgh, or I'll never read it...
Instead, I've been doing very productive about-the-house type stuff and finished off 66) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Also, a book I've been waiting for a very long time to arrive, finally did on Saturday:
67) Who Killed Amanda Palmer - Neil Gaiman/Amanda Palmer (not 999)
As you might guess (given my comments above), this is an album tie in (started off as artwork/notes for the album). Basically, the peculiar lady that is Amanda Palmer has been taking photos of herself dead in strange situations for a large portion of her life (yes, I agree that this is a tad morbid), a selection of these have been pulled together in this book, accompanied by lyrics to songs on the album and short stories and poems by Neil Gaiman. It's an odd one. But witty too. I raced through it on Saturday, so shall probably have to have a slower peruse again to take it in properly, but first impressions are mostly good (there are one or two photos that are just a little bit too gruesome for me).
Anyway, I've also begun reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses as I've been meaning to for ages and RebeccaAnn has pointed out a group read that's recently begun (let's see if I manage to keep to this one). I've only got as far as the introduction, so, while it's been very interesting (and, unusually for me, I've pencil-highlighted some bits) I can't really comment yet!
Allotment is currently looking like a jungle following my 2 (well, effectively 3) weeks absence...
My truly heroic mum, who retired fairly recently and is really not good at doing nothing, has very kindly gone in to Cambridge a couple of times to attack the worst of the weeds while I've been at work. I was amazed at the difference she made in just a couple of days. It's still a jungle though. Loads of rain and intermittent sun while I was away - perfect growing conditions... Shall have to have a blitz this Sunday (am at my Granny's on Saturday - she was 102 yesterday!) - Watch this space!!
On other matters, I seem to have been doing lots of catching up with household stuff recently, so not much time for reading - I'm half way through about 9 books at the moment I think... I've finally made enough of a start on the Moon and the Sun ARC to realise it's really not my thing. The heroine is just painful. Oh well, it's not unreadable I suppose and I feel that, as an ARC, I should do my best to finish it...
...I just can't wait till next week when I'm off to the Edinburgh Festival and I can spend all day reading, watching plays/music and drinking tea. Fantastic.
999 Category 7: prize winners (1997 Nebula Award) (6/9) - ARC
OK, so I've finally got round to reading this (note to self, don't request pdf ARCs), but I'm a bit nervous of reviewing it. Basically, this style of book is just not my cup of tea (clearly a case of me not reading the blurb on the ER page properly) and I'll probably more damning of the book than it deserves. It may not appeal to me, but I can imagine it's also the kind of thing that appeals to a lot of people who drink different sorts of tea. Or beverage of their choice. After all, it did win a Nebula.
Set in an alternate C17th France, Yves de la Croix has captured two sea monsters, one dead, one alive, which he has brought back to the Court of King Louis of France. There is a rumour that the sea monsters possess an organ that makes them immortal and the king is growing old.
Yves' sister, the beautiful, naive and extraordinarily talented Marie-Josèphe, heroine of this story, has been lady-in-waiting to King Louis' niece during his absence, but on her brothers arrival home, her duties become divided as she helps him in his dissection of the dead sea monster and the care of its still living mate. Whilst attempting to train the monster, she slowly comes to the realisation that she is in fact a sentient being. Struggles to convince her brother, the King and his Court and even the Pope that the female sea monster is not an animal ensue. Mixed in, is a fairly hefty portion of Court intrigue and romance.
I will state again, for the record, at this point that I'm really not one for historical romances - or at least not those taking place in royal settings. This is just me. I will happily read other completely ridiculous stories - and have a particularly soft spot for silly fantasy (probably why I selected this book in the first place), that I'm sure plenty of lovers of historical romances would find as clichéd and silly as I found this book. It was not to my taste, but I have read (and, occasionally given up on) far worse and to do it credit, the middle third of the book genuinely had me gripped. The fact that in normal circumstances (ie not an ER book), I probably wouldn't have made it to the middle third is maybe an argument for persevering with books we don't like. Or not. There are thousands of books out there that I would enjoy more, but will never read.
So, as I say, I can cope with a silly story whose ending is predictable from chapter two. My main problem really comes from the fact that the book is presented as more than it is. This is not really Vonda N. McIntyre's fault.
Marie-Josèphe, we are told, is a feminist role model. Brought up in the colonies, learning with her brother, she has no concept of how a woman should be seen and not heard. When she is sent to live in a convent, on her parents death, she finds the restrictions placed on her by the nuns, (who repress her scientific and artistic talents as unseemly), completely horrific (these events happen before the start of the book).
So far, no problem. Yes, she's not your normal meek and mild romantic victim. Quite. However, she is completely impossible to believe in. Beautiful, innocent and virtuous, devoted sister and friend, a wonderful artist and musician, she is also a dedicated natural scientist who corresponds with Isaac Newton and plays around with calculus in her spare time. Oh and apparently, she needs no sleep. There is, seemingly, no flaw in her character except extreme naivety. This person does not exist. She is an eight-year-old's image of a heroine. To be fair to Marie-Josèphe, she is not alone in this - I didn't really find any of the characters particularly convincing (the "rake" character is an especially cardboard stereotype and, for the second half of the book, the brother seems only to be rolled on in order to be confused and contradictory) she is just a particularly good example. This is Vonda N. McIntyre's fault.
Something else I found a little disturbing was that, although the poverty of the general populous was mentioned at the beginning of the book, it was largely swept aside for the majority. I understand that in the Court of Versailles, normal, everyday people did not usually come into view and that the degradation and penury of most of the country would have been hidden, or ignored. What I don't understand is why we have these occasional glimpses of the poor, when they don't seem to have any consequence in the plot, or even particularly in setting the scene. If a point is being made, it doesn't come across.
I am being unfairly harsh as I suspected I might be. Cardboard characters, loose ends and clichéd romance story aside, read simply as a bit of fluff for fun, I think that lovers of court based romances would probably enjoy this (the fantasy element, beyond the characterization, is fairly incidental). Even I (despite my comments) enjoyed the novel in parts - the writing style is readable and while I could have given you almost the complete story plan very near the beginning, once I'd got a few chapters in, I still wanted to find out if I was right or not. Just don't expect too much.
Belated Happy Birthday! I hope your day was as special as you are!
Your retired mother helped in your allotment? Ever since my mother retired she has endless jobs for me and my sisters to do --painting, ripping up the carpets, random back yard projects. So far she has completely redecorated the bedroom and the living room. Half the house yet to go.
Have fun in Edinburgh!!
#54 Thank you Whisper, you're very kind!
#55 Ronincats, I think it may be a re-release of some sort - I've had a couple of "ARCs" that already seem to be out now... Glad to see I'm not alone though - so many people seem to have loved it. You encourage me to give her another go at some point (although probably not just yet)...
#56 VB I know - and she's still pretty lucid most of the time too. She was on very good form when I saw her at the weekend - full of stories.
Re my mum, yes, she's got many, many projects on the boil too, but I think she still feels a bit at a loose end despite this (they live in a village and I think at heart, she's a city person), so it's been a bit of an excuse to get out the house as she enjoys gardening. I still feel a bit guilty though!
I had a good go at the allotment myself on Sunday, so the part that's actually growing stuff is now completely weed free and looking a lot better (I forgot to take a photo). I intended to do more (the half I haven't cultivated yet still looks like a jungle - it's going to take quite a lot of work), but a good mate came to stay at the last minute, so I got less done than I would have liked, but had good food and conversation instead!
I seem to be going through a bit of a reading slump since Rome, so not much to update, except that I finished reading:
69) Seeing - José Saramago
999 Category 3 - TBR (5/9)
This is sort of a sequel to Blindness - the same unnamed country, some of the same protagonists (in the last third anyway). Set four years after the events of the previous book (in which a mysterious plague causes the entire population but one woman to go blind), the capital city holds an election in which 83% cast blank votes. The story focuses on the attempts of the government to root out the cause of this (peaceful) rebellion.
I've briefly commented on this book previously, as it's taken me a while to read (msg216 in my last thread) - mostly because of the writing style (little punctuation, few paragraphs, no speech marks). I don't have a problem with this, in fact I find him very readable, but it does require concentration as there are lots of conversations to follow (no speech marks/paragraphs mean you need to be on the ball!).
For the majority of the book, this seemed a lot more light hearted than Blindness and I enjoyed the gentle absurdity. The problem that I have had with both, however, is that I just really don't believe in Saramago's world view. I don't believe that all (or even most) humans are inherently destructive and malevolent towards each other. This has meant that in both cases, while I enjoyed the storytelling, ultimately, I remain a little ambivalent. Blindness was, ultimately, a more gripping and atmospheric story, whereas Seeing bumbles along a little bit and, while I never wanted to give up reading, I never really felt the urgency to know what would happen in the end. Indeed the end (beyond a brief moment that genuinely made me cry in a happy way), was, in a way, oddly abrupt and unsatisfying.
Edited to correct links
Definitely on the list though are The Time Traveller's Wife (I cave under the recommendations!); Les Liaisons Dangereuses and a couple of novellas I just picked up from the library (went there to renew The Double by José Saramago as I need a gap between his books and came back with 5 new ones...)
Speaking of the novellas from the library:
70) The Visitor - Maeve Brennan
A young woman, Anastasia King returns to Dublin to live with her grandmother in the house she grew up in, following her mother's death. She and her mother have been living in Paris for the last six years after her parents messy separation, seemingly a result of her cold grandmother's manipulations to get her only son to herself. Her grandmother cannot forgive her for going to live with her mother when she left her father.
This story is all about lonliness, self imposed isolation and the destructive power of anger and revenge. I found the introduction and Editor's notes very illuminating as I'd never heard of Maeve Brennan before, but I found I didn't entirely agree with the suggestion that the grandmother was the root of everything going wrong. It seemed to me that, in her own way, this lady was just as lonely as Anastasia and her mother's friend Norah and that Anastasia was, equally responsible for the way things turn out. I confess, I had very little sympathy for the apathetic, self-obsessed Anastasia. Nonetheless, this made an interesting short read.
I'll probably be mostly offline now until next week, so happy weekend everyone!
...and, for anyone interested, here's how I'm leaving my allotment, after a lot of TLC (so I have a reference, for when I come back and it's all overgrown again...):
The allotment is looking good. Your tomato plants are doing well.
#61 VB I shall! I'm in a bit of a rut about it - I've been coming here every year for the festival for over 10 years now and I still love it. Edinburgh's a wonderful city. I admire your book restraint though! I know I'll do exactly the same (I even came back from my brief stay in Rome with a book) and I've still got 6 with me (despite only staying 3 full days)! The tomatoes are surprisingly tasty too!
#Whisper and alcottacre, thank you! Not sure about the green thumb, mostly, it's bringing itself up at the moment - the slugs are certainly enjoying it though! ;)
Right, I'm off to amble down the Royal Mile, to have flyers thrust in my face (get some ideas...)
Edited to correct my right/left issues
71) The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros
(not 999 - well, as with no. 70, the author is new to me, but I've already filled up that category...)
Another short novel - snapshots from the life of a misfit, Esperanza Cordero, as she grows up in a down-at-heel neighbourhood in the US. I enjoyed this very much. Very visual.
72) Sharpe's Company - Bernard Cornwell
Next in the series, good sleepy-long-train-journey reading!
73) The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
999 Category 9 - recommended by, well, pretty much everyone. (7/9)
I won't describe this, as I'm sure half the world already has done so better than I am able.
You were all right, yes, I did enjoy this very much (a fact, which I suppose I could have guessed, given my thoughts on The Adventuress which I read much earlier in the year).
I do have a problem with the concept of time travel though - basically I just don't believe in destiny/fate. I don't believe that there is only one outcome of any given situation and that our lives are predestined. Maybe this is partly because I find the very idea of no free will absolutely horrifying. This would make time travel pretty difficult - if you can go back into the past, then surely you must be able to go into the future too, but if life isn't preordained... This is just me nit-picking and actually, it didn't trouble me toooo much while I was reading.
Anyway, while the book didn't rock my world, it was a very gripping read and if, at times, I felt that she did over-egg the tragedy a bit, this didn't detract majorly - as I implied in my previous post, I found it very hard to put down once I'd got into it.
In fact, towards the end, I didn't know quite what to do with myself as I was reading in a cafe (I have broken down into tears reading in public before, but I prefer not to!) - lots of fidgeting and looking out the window ensued. ;) So, I was quite amused while waiting to see a show the following day to see someone clearly going through the same dilemma - I could tell which bit he had got to just watching the squirming and his expression...
74) The Ninth Circle - Alex Bell
(not 999, although again, an author new to me)
A random Edinburgh purchase (I did very well this year and only came back with one new book).
A man comes to, alone, in a pool of blood on the floor of a flat in Budapest. He has no memory of who he is, what he's doing there, or where the huge box of money on the table came from. As he slowly pieces back together his past, struggling to figure out the truth from the lies, he becomes embroiled in a shadow world of demons and angels.
Well, this is one of those fun-to-read-but-I'll-probably-never-read-it-again type books. The unraveling of the man's past was intriguing to follow, even if it didn't always go in directions I was particularly convinced by (and there were one or two holes in the plot). I don't know, I did enjoy this, but there was something ultimately unsatisfying about it. I will still give his newer book a go.
Above all, however, the book made me want to visit Budapest - clearly the author is very much in love with the city and the enthusiasm is infectious.
I'm also finally chomping my way through Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which I am loving - update to follow, probably at the weekend...
I've had TTW on the pile for years now. I just never feel like reading it. I may go see the movie first.
#69 BDB: She's an absorbing writer! I don't think I'll read it again though, so I've added it to my recycling pile (I came back from Edinburgh to realise I had piles of books EVERYWHERE and I really need to find them homes...)
#70 VB: Well, I've been unusually lucky most years - in at least 12 years of going to the Fringe, I've only had one complete washout which, given it's Scotland, is pretty fortunate! ...and the sun did shine some of the time (notably the afternoon I left - pah)!
Hmmm, good festival things - well, I went to a lot more comedy and saw a lot fewer plays than I usually do. I definitely warmed up as I went though - I really should have booked an extra day like last year.
VB, I reckon you're probably right to see the film first if the plot is as cut down as BDB says - that way you can still read it afterwards! Having read the book, I no longer really want to see the film...
OK, for anyone interested (but mostly for my own record!), here's an attempt at one sentence summaries for my Edinburgh Fringe/Festival (assume lots of general ambling around soaking up atmosphere, watching streetshows and drinking tea in cafes in between). I'm highlighting the shows I particularly enjoyed, in case anyone's up there:
Metamorphosis (performed by Cambridge University ADC a bit randomly): Disturbing all-in-one black body suits that were just a tad distracting, but otherwise an interesting adaptation of Kafka's short story.
The Noise Next Door: Otherworld: A very funny, energetic scratch improv show - different each night, but our show is summarised here!
Austen's Women: A one woman play discussing women in love, all the dialogue of which was from Jane Austen's work (I recognised everything, even the juvenilia, I'm slightly proud/embarassed to admit). She was very good, but it didn't really float my boat....
The Reduced Fringe Improv Show: Another scratch improv show, based around the Fringe program - I've got into the habit of going every year as they're very quick on their feet, but it felt a bit lacklustre this year.
The Stand Late Show: The Stand is a comedy club that operates all year round - it's an underground pub with a stage - my kind of place! They usually have a good selection of comics and indeed did again this year (bar the last one who just seemed to be listing stereotypes).
Shakespeare For Breakfast: A Midsummer Night's Scream: Another group of actors I've got into the habit of seeing every year - they mess around with Shakespeare and are usually very funny - well, you can guess which one this was from the title!
Petina Gappah and Brian Chikwava at the Literary festival - with Rachel/FlossieT who very kindly provided the comp ticket - very interesting!
Willard White: at the International festival - a wonderful bass-baritone, if you haven't heard of him - I enjoyed the 2nd half the most - lots of English/Scottish/American folk songs, sitting in my lonely vantage point in the organ stalls (I now know why noone really books these tickets - but it did mean I had a bow all to myself!)
PleasanceLive 25: Some more comedy, in honour of 25 years of Pleasance shows, I had Lily Porter and Simon Amstel and two others (also funny) that I hadn't heard of.
Lilly Through The Dark: A very well produced and set, wonderfully performed, nightmarish puppet show - Lilly (yes, they did spell it that way) crosses the Styx to search for her dead father.
The Shape Of Things: An interesting play - I've just ordered a copy to read, I'll summarise it properly then.
Zeitgeist: It was a toss up between going to see this and Die Roten Punkte - they both had fantastic reviews. I wish I'd gone to the latter, but I thought I should challenge my boundaries with some physical theatre. More fool me. I probably would have enjoyed it more if there'd been more acrobatics (I've seen their offshoot, The Danger Ensemble, before and very much enjoyed them). Ho hum - there always have to be one dud.
Circus vs Sideshow: This was a one off I discovered from Amanda Palmer's Twitter thread (thank you FlossieT for pointing out the uses of Twitter - I wouldn't have known about this, or the signing otherwise...). Basically, circus/acrobatic acts taking turns with street performers vying for who's better than who. This was great fun - amazing acrobatics (3 people standing on each others shoulders anyone?) and some truly disturbing sideshow performances (car battery lifted by someone's nipples? argh!)
75) Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Laclos
999 Category 5: Classics I haven't read yet (4/9)
RebeccaAnn pointed out a group read for this on the "1001 Books to Read Before You Die" group. I've been meaning to read it for ages, but kept putting it off (I'm wary of epistolary novels - I was worried it would be incredibly dry and I love the Stephen Frears film). I've been very bad at actually reading the books I've signed up to for group reads, but thought I'd give it a shot anyway.
I am very glad I did - I enjoyed this hugely and the discussion on the group read threads (late as I joined them) were very interestging.
The studiously virtuous and master of manipulation, Marquise de Merteuil sees a chance for revenge on a previous lover (Gercourt) who left her for another, unamed woman some time ago. Gercourt is arranging a marriage with Cécile de Volanges, a young convent educated girl (he has a predeliction for "untouched" girls). Cécile herself is in love with with the Chevalier Danceny a young, enthusiastic man, nearly as naive as she is. Merteuil attempts to enlist the help of her friend and ex-lover - the only person to truly know her, the Vicomte de Valmont (who was spurned by the unamed woman for Gercourt) in the corruption of Cécile in revenge. Initially, he refuses to help as he is attempting to seduce the truly virtuous Madame de Tourvel and she is proving hard to conquer - a far more exciting target. However, when Valmont discovers that Cécile's mother has written to Madame de Tourvel to warn her of his reputation, he decides to help out after all. ...and it only gets more complex.
This was written bfore the big French Revolution in the C18th and is a fairly damning, but very amusing, subtle commentry on the society of the time, and indeed of the role of women. Very few of the characters are truly innocent and most of them contribute to the ultimate consequenses (can't say more without giving away the plot). Inevitably, by far the most entertaining letters are between Merteuil and Valmont, as you would expect from two morally corrupt people able to charm the rest of society into admiring them. I did start to find the letters between Valmont and Tourvel a little tedious after a while, but these were really my only low point - and necessary to the plot - really more an issue of the letter format. For further comments, I think I'll direct anyone interested to the group read so as not to reiterrate myself and as I found the differing opinions very interesting. Highly recommended!
76b) The Doll's House - both by Neil Gaiman
I've been meaning to reread the Sandman comics for a while now, so, as I've promised them to lunacat, I thought I'd read them en route to her! They're a reread, so I'm going to count them all as one book as I did last year...
I'm not really sure how to review these, so I'm going to leave it to better reviewers than I. I'll admit that I'd forgotten how gruesome they can be on occasion (even Neil Gaiman himself admits to finding "24 Hours", issue 6 of Preludes and Nocturnes disturbing in retrospect). On the other hand, it's also a truly absorbing, original story, which can be very touching at times (eg "The Sound of Her Wings", the final issue of Preludes and Nocturnes, which is where you really start to see Gaiman start to hit his flow. Oh, I love them - and I only started reading them because I ran out of his short stories and novels (this was pre American Gods!
It sounds as though the Edinburgh Festival was a blast. How long does it last? Is it still taking place?
Kidzdoc, I've not worked out the dancing smiley face thing yet - thankfully, I have alcottacre, to fulfill these needs! ;)
Edinburgh Festival was and always is fantastic - I look forward to it every year. It's lots of bits really:
There's the main International Festival, which this year is from 14th Aug - 6th Sept - this tends to be better, internationally known opera/music/dance/theatre companies, as you might expect.
Then there's the Fringe Festival, which is the bit I usually spend most of my time at - lots of amateur and less amateur stuff with pretty much every form of performance art under the sun, of very varying talent - I've seen some amazing stuff, and some truly terrible stuff (although I'm getting better at detecting that over the years!). This takes place in all sorts of venues all over the city. Part of the fringe is the Comedy Festival, which gets a very broad spectrum of comedians and is a traditional stomping ground for people to get known. Both of these basically go on throughout the whole of August.
There's also the International Book Festival, which is where, I think, Rachel/FlossieT spent most of her time (bizarrely, although I always mean to go, this was the first year I have).
Then, there's also the Military Tattoo and the Art Festival, both of which also go on for most of August. There used to be a Film Festival in August too, but that's now shifted to June...
...you can see why a long weekend really isn't long enough! The problem is that (particularly if you travel alone like I do), the accommodation sky-rockets at that time of year, particularly if you don't want to be too far out (and you'd be very lucky to rely on hostels). Fortunately some of my mates are moving back there next year....
I like your descriptions!
And, congratulations on reaching the 75 challenge goal!
It is an insane and wonderful time. Although I have to admit I love the city even more "off-season". The Fringe programme in particular is crazy - the last time I "did" the festivals was in 1988 when I was really quite little, and the Fringe was still definitely a fringe.
Still, I'm very envious of you having mates to stay with. Finding an accommodation solution so we can stay longer next year is going to be my ongoing pet project for the next year, I think.
CONGRATULATIONS on your 75!
Yep, the Fringe has grown immensely since I first started going (the first time was probably around the same time as you Rachel, although I didn't start going regularly until I was at university, so some time in the late 90's). I've still got most of the Fringe programs and the venue map at the back of the program has grown exponentially - it used to be just the centre, but now it's a pretty good Edinburgh map in it's own right!
I love, love, love Edinburgh whatever time of year, but there's a sort of buzz during festival season - it must be a bit of a pain if you live centrally though...
...and yes, I'm very excited about next year - what's more, the mates in question are particularly good people to stay with - very easy going. I shall probably only inflict myself on them part of the time though. Up until now though, I've always booked my accommodation way in advance - some time around Easter, in order to get somewhere good - it seems ridiculously far thinking, but actually, all the best places get booked out so quickly...
(and thank you for the congrats!)
Just wanted to show everyone the produce of my allotment from the weekend (minus a few courgettes) as it looks so pretty ;)
(I know, I know, but I'm still in the excited phase!)
What are courgettes?
I think courgettes are usually called zucchini in the US? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courgette). They make good soup. Or, when they're small like that, they're really tasty grilled with a bit of gruyere cheese and salt.
Congratulations on your wonderful garden. I agree, I like zucchini grilled.
...and before I go home for the day, anyone who likes Mitchell and Webb may enjoy this. Made me chortle anyway - particularly the coffee/tea bit (being a non-coffee drinker who loves the smell of freshly ground beans myself).
Off to read your Mitchell & Webb link, which I have first shared with the husband who LOVES M&W.
Me too *sigh*. If you ever need a plant killer, I'm available for a small fee. A book will do ;)
#91 thanks alcottacre. Me too up until this point. I'm seriously surprised that it's working to be honest...
#92 um. Thank you Jenny, but I may have to turn down that offer ;) ...although I do have some mint outside my flat that refuses to die, however often I think I've dug it up...
#93 thanks avitkah, ah spring - sounds like a lovely weekend!
...so, on with the books:
76c) Dream Country - Neil Gaiman
(not 999, reread)
The next Sandman installment. This takes time out from the main story arc and is really a small collection of short stories - an author imprisons the muse Calliope for inspiration; a cat travels the world telling the story of when it wasn't run by humans; William Shakespeare presents his new play, A Midsummer Night's Dream to an unusual audience (this won a World Fantasy Award for short fiction in 1991); a retired superhero longs for Death. I'll be honest - while I do like this one, it's probably one of my least favourite of the series, despite the award.
77) Thursbitch - Alan Garner
Here's the blurb: Here John Turner Was Cast Away In A Heavy Snow Storm In The Night In Or About The Year 1755 The Print Of A Woman's Shoe Was Found By His Side In The Snow Where He Lay Dead This enigmatic memorial stone, high on the bank of a prehistoric Pennine track in Cheshire, is a mystery that lives on in the hill farms today. John Turner was a packman. With his train of horses he carried salt and silk, travelling distances incomprehensible to his ancient community. In this visionary tale, John brings ideas as well as gifts, which have come, from market town to market town, from places as distant as the campfires of the Silk Road. John Turner's death in the eighteenth century leaves an emotional charge which, in the twenty-first century, Ian and Sal find affects their relationship, challenging the perceptions they have of themselves and of each other. Thursbitch is rooted in a verifiable place. It is an evocation of the lives and the language of all people who are called to the valley of Thursbitch.
This sounded so promising, but I really struggled with it. Admittedly, this was mostly due to finding the C18th dialogue very difficult to follow (and I don't usually have a problem with this kind of thing). I did have the odd moment of clarity and the story of Ian and Sal was very affecting, but I confess, I got to the end and wasn't much clearer. I got the gist of what was going on, but am sure I missed something. I'm probably being a bit dense and I did feel that if I read it through from the beginning again (it is, after all, a circular tale), I'd get more from it, but I just don't have the patience to do that, when there are so many other books out there that I want to read.
78) The Merry Wives of Windsor - William Shakespeare
999 Category 8: Plays (3/9)
This is on as part of the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival at the moment and some mates and I went to see it last week. The acting wasn't the most amazing I've seen and the company always do tend to ham up the comedy, but really, that's not the point of the festival. The point is to sit in college gardens that you don't normally see, and enjoy the atmosphere with your picnic supper. Anyway, the reason for going to this one was that I don't know it at all (in fact the only things I could have told you about it was that Falstaff is in it, with some merry wives and that it's been made into an opera), so I thought I'd read it through afterward.
Well, I think that there's a reason why this one is performed less frequently than the more famous plays. That said, I did enjoy much of it hugely - Falstaff is a wonderfully ridiculous character and the scenes in which Mistress Page and Mistress Ford tease and manipulate him had me giggling away. Anyway, it's all very silly, but good fun.
Here's the love letter Falstaff writes to Mistress Page and also to Mistress Ford (separately):
'Ask me no reason why I love you; for though
Love use Reason for his physician, he admits him
not for his counsellor. You are not young, no more
am I; go to then, there's sympathy: you are merry,
so am I; ha, ha! then there's more sympathy: you
love sack, and so do I; would you desire better
sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page,--at
the least, if the love of soldier can suffice,--
that I love thee. I will not say, pity me; 'tis
not a soldier-like phrase: but I say, love me. By me,
Thine own true knight,
By day or night,
Or any kind of light,
With all his might
For thee to fight, JOHN FALSTAFF'
I went to see the NT adaptation of Hanif Kureishi's The Black Album with my sister last night. While I did enjoy it, it didn't blow me away and I was left with a nagging feeling that he'd altered the story in some way (which could be why the message of the play felt a bit confused). At any rate, I think I'm going to have to reread the book some time soon as I read it a long time ago and my memory of it is fairly hazy. I do remember thinking that it wasn't as good as The Buddah of Suburbia though...
Ho hum, nearly bank holiday weekend - woo!
Edited to switch off boldface
Congratulations on reaching 75 (+) books !!
#87 Veggies + cheese -- always = yum.
#94 Dream Country is my favorite volume of The Sandman. Mostly because of the Midsummer Nights Dream section, but also because I remember it as one of the less gorey collections.
Merry Wives of Windsor..I should try it when I have enough time to read it..
can't believe fall semester is coming..
lunacat, once the mint crops up again, I'll be sure to call on you!
alcottacre, perhaps you could send mental anti-mint-waves across the ocean? not sure my budget will stretch to a special England mission flight! ;)
VB, Willard White is principally an opera singer, but he's very good at those old folk songs. #94, hmmm, yes, the gore in Sandman is one of the things I like least about it... I do like Dream Country, but I think my main feeling when reading it is that I want to get on with the main story and, being short stories, there's less going on in them - the cat one in particular, while I enjoyed it the first time, doesn't bear re-reading so well (well, for me). But then every time I re-read the Sandman comics, I change my mind about what I like!
#98 yep, it's already starting to feel like autumn over here - and it's only just September!
Thanks for the congrats everyone!
79) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
80) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
81) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling
OK, so obviously, I've been having an intellectually challenging weekend (also currently reading Sharpe's Sword...). I don't really have a lot to say about these as they're all re-reads. Maybe one day I'll review the series properly, but really, I just read them for good escapist silliness.
One of the things I do like about the series is the way that the books grow up with Harry - I imagine that if you were growing up with them, this would have been particularly appealing (as finding YA and "adult" Diana Wynne Jones books was for me). However, this does mean that you have to go through a certain amount of teenage hormones etc, which can get a little boring - The Order of the Phoenix, for instance, feels like it would be a lot more enjoyable if it were just 100 - 200 pages shorter. There's so much going on in the story though that I'm not sure where they'd cut it. I also like that some of the adult and "unlikable" characters start to become more three dimensional in these later books - as of course, they would in real life. I still think the final chapter of Deathly Hallows is cringeworthy though and I'm not completely convinced by the ending in general (this is my first re-read of this one), but all good fun and I feel a little bereft all over again, having finished the series.
What were the last three books you bought?
Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One
The Rehearsal - Eleanor Catton (through Bookmooch, via avatiakh!)
...and a whole bunch of books at the second hand book stalls on the South Bank:
Animal Farm - George Orwell (so I have my own copy)
The Kraken Wakes - John Wyndham (again, so that I have my own copy)
I, Claudius - Robert Graves
Life The Universe and Everything - Douglas Adams (the first edition I read - I couldn't resist it, even though I've already got a copy)
A Thurber Carnival - James Thurber
Free Fall - William Golding
Not 3, but then I rarely buy books singly, particularly not in second hand shops!
What are the next three books you want to buy?
I'll probably be much more random than this as I'm a fairly spontaneous book-buyer, but at the moment:
Half-Minute Horrors (because I just got an author tracker email about it and it sounds like fun.
Forever Peace - Joe Haldeman (because I've just realised that I've been on the waiting list at the library for this for months)
Grow Your Own Veg (Rhs) - because I've been borrowing this from a mate and it's been very useful.
Which book would you most like as a gift from someone?
Depends on the buyer. Most people, preferably something random from my wishlist - I like to pick my own! But my sister, anything she thinks I'll like - we have very overlapping tastes. My parents are also fairly good at second guessing me.
Which book would you most like to give someone as a present?
Something that they wouldn't have thought of themselves, but that I think they'll enjoy - it really depends on the person. I suppose if I were to go for a book that would suit most people, I might pick The Double Helix by James Watson, his (biased, but very enjoyable) account of the discovery of the structure of DNA. Or possibly The Princess Bride by William Goldman.
Who are your 3 favourite authors?
I chop and change a lot and 3 is a small number, but people who are consistently at the top are:
Diana Wynne Jones
Sorry. I can't do 3.
Which three books will you buy as soon as they are published?
The next Neil Gaiman
Enchanted Glass - Diana Wynne Jones
Off the top of my head, that's it for the time being...
Who are your 3 favourite characters in books?
This is a very difficult one! Recently, I loved Dustfinger from Cornelia Funke's Inkheart trilogy. From books I read first a long time ago, I'd say Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Becky Sharpe from Vanity Fair and Moll Flanders but I'm sure I'll come up with a completely different selection after I've thought about this for a bit!
Which three books did you inherit (not necessarily physically, but as recommendations from parents)?
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
The Blessing - Nancy Mitford
and loads of wonderful (and silly) children's books that she read when she was growing up.
The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger
Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan
The Bluebird of Happiness
Which three books would you love to pass down to your children?
I think it would depend on the child. I don't know, maybe:
The Princess Bride
The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy
and anything by Diana Wynne Jones
They're not necessarily my all time favourite books (although they're on the list), but I enjoyed all of these very much when I was growing up. I think I'd be constantly recommending books - I already am for the (not yet 2 year old) daughter of my cousin...
Which three books do you most often recommend?
Not sure, but probably:
The Double Helix - James Watson
Jane Austen generally
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
If you were going into hospital, which three books would you take with you?
Depends what I was in there for! Probably a Jane Austen and/or a Diana Wynne Jones or two (comfort reading) and something(s) I hadn't read before that didn't look too challenging.
If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you want to find there?
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas - I love this, but never get round to re-reading it, because it's so lengthy.
Complete works of Jane Austen - Comfort reading.
Complete works of Shakespeare - I could really concentrate on reading the things I don't know.
Your house is burning down and you can only rescue three books, which would you grab?
Argh! I would really hope I'd have the restraint not to go back into a burning house. However, if I had the time, I'd probably rescue the particularly nice editions/gifts rather than particular books, so my Wuthering Heights/Jane Eyre box set (even though they're not favourite books story-wise, they were a really thoughtful present and are actually quite valuable), my Jane Austen folio collection (another present) and Traditional Nursery Rhymes and Children's Verse (a book I've had for my entire life - it's falling to pieces and scribbled on, but I still love it). I'd then probably collapse under the weight on the way out.
Which book would you like your children to look at and immediately remember you by?
No idea! Maybe The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Which book would you like to be buried with?
I think that would be a terrible waste! I'd rather pass them on to someone I love.
What are you reading right now?
Sharpe's Sword - Bernard Cornwall
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Selected Non-Fictional Prose - G. K. Chesterton
Season of Mists - Neil Gaiman
The copy I read was very old (Peter and Wendy as opposed to Peter Pan type era), so it could have been renamed/gone out of print and I have no idea who wrote it. It's at my Granny's - I'll have to see if I can find it next time I'm there.
It was a sort of fairy tale, of the Neverending Story or Water Babies ilk. Does anyone else know the book I mean?
I've a feeling that the story was the same as the play The Blue Bird (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Bird_(play)), as I remember Mytyl and Tyltyl, but it definitely wasn't a play!
I can see I'm going to have to go on a special book-hunt to Sevenoaks!
Yes, it could be quite a mission - my Granny has many books, some of which have wandered to other family households over the years ;)
This is just WRONG!!!!!
(mutter, mutter, mutter...)
#109 I'm slightly jealous!
Glad you've got a copy of The Rehearsal on its way to you too. And I like the look of the Half-Minute Horrors too, even though horror isn't usually my kind of thing. The read-inside widget gives you quite a lot of material, including the Snicket contribution...
I'm looking forward to all the H2G2 reissues, if still reserving judgment on Book 6. The Bookseller had a little piece describing what was going to be in them and they looked lovely... even if buying another copy of books I own already is likely to make me very unpopular at home...
Yes, I'm looking forward to receiving The Rehearsal now!
Me too for the H2G2 reissues - even if I've already got 2 copies of most of them! But it just seems wrong for the 6th one to be written by someone else, even if it is at Douglas Adams' wife's request. They were all dead at the end of the last one! I've been umming and erring about the stuff going on at the South Bank centre...
#114 Prop, yes, I saw that and that does seem to be the story I'm thinking of - in fact it's been filmed quite a number of times, but the copy I read was definitely not a play. I think you're right, it must have been reprinted...
I should probably take a break from Sharpe for a bit - Bernard Cornwell's habit of ending each book with its title is really starting to annoy me...
83) Eunoia - Christian Bok (A member giveaway ARC that I need to review)
84) The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (Borrowed from Rachel/FlossieT - wow...)
85) The Invention of Morel - Adolfo Bioy Casares (random library book)
I promise to update soon!
I just really, REALLY hate giving talks (we're talking major nausia here) and I'm not very confident in what I'm talking about as it's a joint project in a new area of research for me...
I used to get incredibly nervous giving talks, even just simple updates for the others in the lab. I used to go into ostrich mode, and wait until the last minute to prepare for my talks. Needless to say, they were horrible (my immediate boss, a PhD in the lab, pulled no punches). After a few months, I used my panic to my benefit, and started working on my talks 1-2 weeks in advance. I was still sweating bullets during the talks for a while, but gained more confidence during the talk, as the others didn't look at me in utter bafflement, and my boss didn't have to interrupt me every five minutes to explain what I was unable to.
I still get panicky 1-2 weeks before the lectures I give at the medical school every spring, even though I've done it for several years, have Power Point presentations and know the material pretty well. So, I usually still go over the talks several days in advance, so that I'm as well prepared as possible. I was very nonchalant about one of the talks I gave 3-4 years ago, didn't prepare, and gave a lousy talk as a result (which the students blasted me for on my lecturer evaluation!).
Good luck on your talk...and your preparation for it.
Edited to insert an additional comment.
I could never give a talk like that either. Public speaking (and the lack of) is a big reason I gave up my previous job teaching people to ride and now just focus on the care side. I would still get SO terrified about it.
Thankfully I don't have to do any public speaking now. Phew.
I also find it helps me to think about how important the topic is to many people and how I will be helping spread information. Your topic sounds interesting and important! Many people will eventually be better-off because of the sharing of your research. Good luck!
Works like a charm! Good Luck!
...I really don't know why I get so pathetic about these talks, it used not to be a problem for me, but... You're all quite right about the preparation of course. Ugh. (says to self "calm, relax, calm, relax")
#125 kidzdoc, FTO is a gene that has been associated with increased BMI, but it's relatively undescribed functionally, so we're interested in the mechanism etc.
Wishing you lots and lots of luck with your presentation. I always used to find it helpful to think of it as a communication - I needed to tell Them some interesting stuff I knew which obviously they'd be excited to hear. 99.99% of people hate public speaking, so you're not alone, and a good proportion of the audience will share your experience.
On the other hand: scientists are not the most empathetic of creatures, and may express themselves rather more aggresively, so I think the second useful piece of advice is: remember that in most cases (unless your group suffers from severe internal-politics problems), when you're dealing with challenging questions, the questioner is usually genuinely interested in finding out the answer - in which case (a) you can buy yourself time to think with empty phrases like, "that's a really interesting question, thank you" (b) if you don't know the answer straight away, an answer approximating, "I'm afraid I don't have that information at my fingertips, but let me get your email afterwards and I'll send you some data", is usually OK too.
Lots and lots and lots of luck.
(ETA: will look forward to your thoughts on Eunoia - I won a gorgeous copy of this from Canongate in a giveaway a few months ago but have somehow not got round to reading it....)
#132 Flossie that's really good advice. I'm writing those down.
Sorry, getting carried away now, you could end up with a massive reading list if I'm not careful!
#132 & 133 - thanks for your comments, both! Ah, isn't this a lovely supportive group :)
#132 Rachel, my copy was also a Canongate giveaway - it's very pretty, isn't it! I'm not sure how good I'll be at reviewing it though - I requested it as the author (I think) was briefly interviewed on Radio 4 some time ago, and I thought it sounded very interesting, but I'm not usually a poetry person, so may not be very capable of a constructive review! Basically, though, my thoughts were that it's very clever, but tries a bit too hard. I liked the rhythm though...
Yes, I absolutely loved it, read it in a day, ordered the next one as soon as I got to work on Monday (avoiding buying it physically, otherwise I'll be reading it instead of working this week)... and then realised that the third one ISN'T GOING TO BE PUBLISHED UNTIL NEXT YEAR! (You probably mentioned this at the time, but I have an extremely bad memory).
Anyway, thank you very much for the loan! I'll drop the book back this weekend at some point.
83) Eunoia - Christian Bok
999 Category 7 - Prize winners (Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize 2002) (7/9)
I first heard of this book through a radio program and it intrigued me. Eunoia (meaning "beautiful thinking") is the shortest English word containing all five vowels and each of the five main chapters of this book are restricted to just one. There are additional rules:
i) Each of the chapters must refer to the art of writing.
ii) Each chapter must describe a culinary banquet, a prurient debauch, a pastoral tableau and a nautical voyage.
iii) All the sentences have to have an, "accent internal rhyme through the use of syntactical parallelism." (I have to confess, I don't know what syntactical parallelism is).
iv) The text has to include as many possible words in it as it can.
v) The text must avoid repeating words as much as possible.
vi) The letter "Y" is to be avoided.
So you can see that, irrespective of my thoughts, or those of anyone else, this book is a pretty impressive feat.
Additional chapters (grouped in "Oiseau" (bird; the shortest word in the French language to contain all five vowels) include "And Sometimes", a list of all words in the English language containing no vowels; "Vowels", a series of poems in which all the words are anagrams of the words in the first line; and "Emended Excess", a poem which using the words containing just the letter E, not used in Chapter E.
It's very clever and the rhythms that emerge from the single vowel chapters had very distinct sounds - something I enjoyed. However... I suspect that this book would probably be appreciated far more by someone who really enjoys analysing poetry. For me, (and here I confess that I do not read a lot of poetry - an important aside), it was just trying a little too hard - it was too calculated. I couldn't help but feel that if all the additional rules (or at least the first two in combination) weren't there, the text would flow so much better. For example, in nearly every chapter, it felt disjointed to skip from talking about writing, to the "story" part.
So, while my imagination was caught by the idea of the exercise, I didn't really get beyond this. Almost certainly a book for someone who likes to pull apart their poetry and admire the technique however.
Oh, and I enjoyed the discovery of a great new word (Eunoia)!
84) The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
999 Category 9 - recommended by FlossieT (8/9)
Rachel wrote such a fantastic review of this, I really don't feel I can compete. So I'm not going to - go and check out her thread... But I enjoyed it immensely - incredibly gripping. I did very little apart from read this book last Saturday. As you may just be able to tell, from msg136, I'm now getting just a little hyperactive about the fact that the 3rd book in the trilogy isn't out yet - and I've not read the 2nd one yet...
85) The Invention of Morel - Adolfo Bioy Casares
999 Category 7 - Prize winners (First Municipal Prize for Literature of the City of Buenos Aires 1941) (8/9)
A man, hiding from Venezuelan law on an unknown island, finds his privacy disturbed by a group of tourists. Partly assuming a plot to chase him down, partly just fearing discovery, he avoids them by hiding in the (probably) disease ridden, marshy lower land. Over time, however, he falls in love with one of them, but she apparently ignores his approaches. The group of tourists vanish and reappear - is he hallucinating due to lack of food or the disease supposed to inflict anyone who lands on the island, or is there something more sinister going on?
This is an odd little science fiction-y story, pondering immortality and loneliness. I enjoyed very much.
1) Non Fiction: 3/9
i) Songbook - Nick Hornby
ii) How To Become Extinct - Will Cuppy
iii) Time Out Shortlist Rome
Ongoing: G.K. Chesterton prose selection
Lined up: A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
2) Unfinished books: 1/9
i) The Trial - Franz Kafka
Ongoing: Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Lined up: Possession - A. S. Byatt
3) TBR: 5/9
i) The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
ii) 84 Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff
iii) Changeover - Diana Wynne Jones
iv) Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
v) Seeing - José Saramago
Lined up: Vilnius Poker - Ricardas Gavelis
4) Unread authors: 9/9
i) The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler
ii) The Tooth Fairy - Graham Joyce
iii) The Blue - Maggie Gee
iv) N.P. - Banana Yoshimoto
v) Sharpe's Tiger - Bernard Cornwell
vi) Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving
vii) The Ground Beneath Her Feet - Salman Rushdie
viii) Bozo and the Storyteller - Tom Glaister (ARC)
ix) An Elegy for Easterly - Petina Gappah (ARC. Not a very good review - I should really rewrite it.)
...and lots more...
5) Unread classics: 4/9
i) The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
ii) Candide or Optimism - Voltaire
iii) Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens
iv) Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Laclos
Lined up: Dubliners - James Joyce
6) Biography: 1/9
i) Prater Violet - Christopher Isherwood
Lined up: "Galileo's Daughter" - Dava Sobel & "The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh"
7) Prize winners: 8/9
i) The Sea - John Banville (Man Booker 2005)
ii) The Road - Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer 2007)
iii) Skellig - David Almond (Whitbread Children's Novel of the Year Award & Carnegie Medal 1998)
iv Inkspell - Cornelia Funke (Book Sense Book of the Year Children's Literature Winner 2006)
v) To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 1961)
vi) The Moon and the Sun - Vonda McIntyre
vii) Eunoia - Christian Bok (ARC)
viii) The Invention of Morel - Adolfo Bioy Casares
Lined up: Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
8) Plays: 3/9
i) An Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde
ii) Forty Years On - Alan Bennet
iii) The Merry Wives of Windsor - Shakespeare
Lined up: "The Shape of Things" and "Mother Courage"
9) Recommendations: 8/9
i) The Black Swan - Mercedes Lackey (suslyn)
ii) North Child - Edith Pattou (applebook)
iii) Inkheart - Cornelia Funke (FlossieT)
iv) Tam Lin - Pamela Dean (suslyn)
v) The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin (avatiakh)
vi) after the quake - Haruki Murakami (work collegue)
vii) The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (everyone)
viii) The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Hmmm. Finally over half-way, but not doing to well with this - it's the non-fiction that's the problem! Ah, it's just a guideline...
Edited to finish off boldface
I've seen this on various threads now (answer the questions only with the titles of books you've read this year), so of course, I had to have a go!:
Candide or Optimism (Voltaire)
How do you feel:
I so want to put "The Wonderful O" (James Thurber) here, even if it's not true! The Blue (Maggie Gee)
Describe where you currently live:
Dream Country (Neil Gaiman)
If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
InterWorld (Neil Gaiman)
Your favorite form of transportation:
The Sea (John Banville)
Your best friend is:
The Visitor (Maeve Brennan)
You and your friends are:
The Merry Wives of Windsor (Shakespeare)
What’s the weather like:
a long way from "Towards Another Summer" (Janet Frame)
The Tooth Fairy (Graham Joyce)
What is the best advice you have to give:
"The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennet) is "The Adventuress" (Audrey Niffenegger) (that took some thought!)
Thought for the day:
argh - can I have the same as above?!
How I would like to die:
Seeing (Jose Saramago)
My soul’s present condition:
The Trial (Franz Kafka) (but it'll be much better by Tuesday evening!)
I love your answer to 'You Fear'.......very funny.
Do NOT love your picture. Very disturbing, indeed.
That photo is just WRONG.
ETA: re >136 flissp:, it's part of the Festival of Ideas. Sad Fan Girl here emailed him to ask if he was doing any more book events this year as he was at Edinburgh two days after I went home and I was Seriously Displeased.
See the post on his website and the Cambridge Festival of Ideas website. Am a bit cross that I signed up for both their mailing list AND their Facebook group and they haven't proactively sent me the information that booking is open. Shame on them. I only noticed because I looked it up to give you the links!!!
Can I just point out that I was ACTUALLY that close (no zooming of camera involved). I may have been scarred for life!
#147/ #141 Rachel/Jenny - if you like, I could post it straight on with the DWJ books (I'm afraid I haven't had a chance to send them yet)?
Glad everyone's enjoying the picture so much - mwah ha ha ha ha!
Rachel, nowt wrong with being a Sad Fan Girl! (of course, I say this, because I blatantly am one myslef...)
Speaking of which, I feel better about missing the Amanda Palmer gig in Edinburgh now as I saw her at Union Church in Islington last night. Due to stupid tube works and delayed buses, it took me OVER AN HOUR to get from Kings X to Highbury and Islington (?!?!), so I was late instead of nicely early and missed the support (retrospectively, I have NO IDEA why it didn't occur to me to just walk up from Angel. Sigh.) Anyway, point is it was a fantastic gig in an amazing venue, and we had a rather lovely rendition of the "Jump" from Neil Gaiman, (oh dear), which almost made up for missing him in Edinburgh...
...back to this ****** talk now...
Rachel, re Patrick Ness on the 24th - absolutely! ...Provided I can work out how to book - I can't find a working link! Will investigate properly later...
76d) Season of Mists - Neil Gaiman (feels a bit clunkier now I've read it a couple of times, but this is really the point at which the main story arc for the series starts to kick in) and
86) Archer's Goon - Diana Wynne Jones (one of my absolute favourites - and I think a lot of LT will back me up with that one...)
I have promised myself that I can begin The Ask and the Answer on Tuesday evening...
Edited to correct numbering
Sounds good to me but of course it is Rachael's book so I will allow her to answer conclusively :)
#152 Definitely recommended (and WOW, yes, just took a look and that's an ENORMOUS wishlist!).
Another quick post, more comfort reading (although, should really be classed as "avoidance tactic" reading...). Well, I have the excuse that it fits one of my very unfulfilled 999 Challenge categories!:
87) Un Lun Dun - China Miéville
999 Category 2 - Unfinished books (2/9)
Strange things are happening around Zanna. She is the Shwazzy, whatever that may be. When she and her mate Deeba somehow find themselves in an alternative London - UnLondon, they discover that the Shwazzy is prophesied to rescue UnLondon from the terrible Smog, which is threatening to engulf the whole city.
This was just what I needed to read. A light hearted young adult fantasy story that doesn't quite follow the rules. Not a particularly complex storyline, but an original one (even if it did, inevitably, have me thinking of Neverwhere, just from the very nature of the book). There are a couple of clunky feeling moral moments and, at times, Miéville seemed to be channeling Terry Pratchett, but they're only brief and are easily made up for by the wonderfully imaginative characters and descriptions.
My main gripe would be that it seems to assume a very short attention span - lots of short paragraphs leaving you on very small cliffhangers, immediately followed by another short paragraph with the resolution. It got irritating. This aside, it was a very enjoyable read and left me with lots of happy thoughts that translated into some of the most interesting dreams I've had in ages. It's amazing how cheered you can feel after a night of exciting dreams!
My favourite bit: the Binja - animate ninja dustbins ;)
...and to top my day, I got home to find that my Bookmooched copy of The Rehearsal had arrived (curtesy of avitiakh) - it was all I could do to stop myself beginning it there and then (I got home quite late) - looking forward to tucking in to it tonight!
#148/9 Rachel, OK, so I have now actually looked at the Festival of Ideas program properly and realised that the reason I couldn't book a ticket is that it's a free event and no booking is needed - so definitely see you there! It's a very broad spectrum of stuff, isn't it! I didn't know where to begin to look...
I read the NEJM editorial article on the FTO gene, and skimmed through the Science article; I was impressed by the number of articles that cited the Science article! Did your group contribute to that article?
If I understand correctly, fasting leads to decreased expression of the FTO gene product, and presumably increased caloric intake leads to increased expression...which then leads to further increases in caloric intake (decreased satiety)? Or am I completely off base? I guess it's too early to postulate what the ultimate effect will be once the mechanism of action of FTO is determined, i.e., will it serve as a predictor of obesity, diabetes etc., or can therapies be designed to decrease expression of the gene product.
#163 Thank you! They made me laugh - they're so out of proportion - must be the late planting.
#164 Thanks kidzdoc - and you've picked my favourite sunflower ;)
Re the Science article, well, the lead author is a collaborator (and we contributed quite a bit of genotyping) - but then, these days, most of the Type 2 Diabetes world collaborates with each other, particularly in the UK! It's the only way to get decent sample sizes and enough funding really...
Re FTO, the problem with associations such as that of FTO with obesity is that we don't have a causal variant. The variant is located in non-coding DNA (ie DNA that doesn't get turned into protein) - it also represents itself and another 42 variants (possibly more) - any or none of these could be the cause of the association with disease. The variant(s) are probably affecting translation of the gene into protein, but it's not necessarily FTO, it could be another nearby gene (this is one of the things we hope to determine)... This is why functional studies (such as those we're performing) are necessary, but it's a very long-winded process.
If the gene in question is FTO, we really don't know what the mechanism would be at all, currently, (although we have inklings). Certainly, to date, the vast majority of known mutations resulting in acute monogenic obesity (the really severe, early onset type, where it can be pinned down to disruption of one gene) have been in genes related to satiety pathways in the hypothalamus.
However, by large, common obesity is not monogenic - it will be the result of the disruption of lots of genes and, of course, also due to environmental factors. When it comes down to it, obesity is always a result of an imbalance between energy intake vs expenditure - an individual's genetic profile is not an excuse for their obesity, although it may make them more likely to become obese. As an example, the FTO mutation described is present in homozygous form (ie inherited from both mother & father) in 16% of the European population measured and these individuals are, on average, only about 3kg heavier than the rest of the population.
This is a long-winded way of saying that this FTO variant (and any others found for common obesity) won't be much good as a predictor of obesity - all they ever mean is that you have an increased risk of becoming obese. HOWEVER, as you say, hopefully, research like this will help with the design of therapies - not so much by repressing a particular gene, but as a means of understanding the mechanisms and pathways of obesity (as a larger target). It also helps us to understand the biology of metabolism in general.
In science, it seems you can never say anything for sure ;)
Just realised that that was turning into a bit of an essay there, sorry!
Onto other things. I've been reading very inconsistently recently, so don't have much to report:
88) Sharpe's Skirmish - Bernard Cornwell
A short story really, written at the same time as Sharpe's Fortress, but set just after Sharpe's Sword. Unusual in that it doesn't have the usual description of how the Baker rifle works ;)
I'm also going to summarise the gardening books I've been reading throughout the course of the year now. I've been using them mostly as reference books, so am going to list them all as one book:
89) Grow Your Own Veg - Carol Klein
Grow Your Own Veg Journal - Carol Klein
Organic Gardening - Pauline Pears
Hamlyn All Colour: 200 Veg Growing Basics - Hamlyn
999 Category 1 - non fiction (4/9)
Well, as I may have mentioned a few times (hem), I've been lucky enough to gain part of an allotment this year - mostly to gain some green space. I'm fairly new to this (although my parents have always had a vege plot) and have a talent for killing plants, so I've been trying to read around as much as possible. I can safely say that easily the most helpful of the books that I've been using is Grow Your Own Veg, which I borrowed from a work collegue. Above all, it has a well presented, very easy to use layout, chapters on garden preparation and common problems along with chapters concentrating on the different types of veg, with a page or two on a wide range. This is the part I have found most useful and has given me the most ideas (it never occurred to me to grow garlic before). Each vegetable has a description of the best growing conditions, tips on how to get the best results, paragraphs on cultivating and harvesting and on common pests and diseases and some suggested varieties. A lot of this information is present in other books that I've looked at, but just not presented as clearly. It also has a lot broader selection of vegetables discussed. The other books I've browsed have also been helpful, but I've dipped in to them much less frequently.
I bought the Grow Your Own Veg Journal as I'll have to give Grow Your Own Veg back eventually (I may have to invest...), and I happened to see it on sale for only £4. It's an odd one. Obviously, it's not as comprehensive as the other, but it does have some of the more useful general information and a helpful "jobs for the month" feature along with spaces for your own notes. What I thought was less well thought out was the rather random selection of vegetable pages. Off the top of my head right now, I can't remember exactly which veg it lists, but it didn't include some that I really expected to see. There are a few recipie pages and personally, I would rather these pages had been replaced by further veg pages as I have pleanty of recipie books already. Anyway, I've been using the blank pages (where you're supposed to record what you do each week) to make notes from the more comprehensive book...
The Royal Horticultural Society's Organic Gardening, I borrowed from my parents when I first got my allotment. It focuses mainly on ground preparation, organic methods and garden design, less on the growing of actual veg and as such, although it was initially useful, I haven't used it much since. I think I will probably be coming back to it more over the autumn as I make my plans for next year - this year, I've mostly been clearing the plot and making use of what I clear, so haven't thought about things like composting properly.
The Hamlyn All Colour: 200 Veg Growing Basics book was a present from a good mate, so I want to like it more than I do. Well, basically, it does what it says on the tin - just gives you the basics. This is fine as a quick reference, but I do find myself putting it down and referring back to the other books whenever I pick it up...
Currently still ongoing books:
- G. K. Chesterton's A Selection From his Non Fictional Prose is still ongoing (although I'm getting close to the finish line now!). It makes good lunch time reading and I have been enjoying it very much, but it really is best in small doses. He was an opinionated man!
- I'm also re-attempting Wuthering Heights for about the 6th time and it's not looking promising. It's not that I don't like it, it's that I never seem to get going with it. I think I may just have to set aside a weekend to read it at some point (along with Vilnius Poker...)
- Club of Queer Trades is a small collection of short stories, again by G. K. Chesterton. More on this when I've finished it (which shouldn't take long).
- The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton - I'm only about 1/5 of the way through this, but I currently have mixed feelings. Again, I'll wait to comment until it's done.
You deserve and should receive lots of sunshine and happiness. Take good Care,
Grow Your Own Veg sounds good. The book I just finished stated that if something were to happen to stop the mass production of food most of the world would starve. People have forgotten how to grow enough food to feed themselves. You're learning a valuable survival skill.
At work yesterday I was looking at all the trees that are turning. They were doing it against a brilliant blue sky though :) And the blackberries are out in force.
A sign for me of autumn coming is the horses coats growing. We have some fluffy beasts now, which sadly means that they will soon be clipped, and then have to live in. Which means lots more work for me! Ah well, spring will be here soon, right??
#168 Yep, as Jenny says, leaves already starting to turn - it's definitely starting to feel like autumn... Re the growing-your-own, I'd be a bit stumped over winter though - I've got nowhere cool to store anything... I take it you're working towards being self sustaining? ;)
#169 Looks like it's going to be the same today - I love this season. Particularly the pervading bonfire smell, mmmmm.... Poor fluffy-soon-to-be-clipped horses! Boo to extra work for lunacat!
Indeed, boo to actually having to do some hard work! My reading speed will drop off dramatically as there are no 10 mins at work in which to grab a few pages, and I'm often exhausted so cannot read for long in the evenings *sigh*
#171 Ah, I love spring too - everything's so fresh! Are you North Island or South Island?
Congratulations to your son! Does he have a particular focus?
See you there for Patrick Ness... am shamefully betraying my father-in-law who's on at the same time!! Think the whole 'Festival of Ideas' is a genius marketing idea - "hell, let's put what we like in it - everything's an 'idea'."
Sorry you're not won over by The Rehearsal - guess if you like the style that's a lot of the battle (which it was for me).
It's a city with a lot of outdoor opportunities - based as it is between two oceans, our gulf islands etc.
My son plays and teaches guitar (classical, modern and jazz) and likes playing samba fusion jazz. Presently he is doing voice training with an opera teacher who says he has promise! What I love is when he records at home with his friend, a sax player, sure beats when he used to do the sound recording for death metal bands, we had to shut every door and window and could still hear the 'singing'. He strung out getting his degree for a couple of extra years which made it such a relief for me to know he is finally through with it all.
I can see that The Rehearsal mightn't be for everyone too, but it did impress me very much.
I'm jealous that you're going to a Patrick Ness event.
Re The Rehearsal, in fact, my problem wasn't really with her writing style (I liked the theatrical feel), it was mostly the characters. I frequently found the saxophone teacher hard to believe in and, in some ways, the reaction of the school students towards sex, particularly at the beginning, seemed far too young for their age. The group interactions on the other hand (particularly those of the drama students), I found very convincing. Stanley's entrance was the point at which I started to get caught up. Anyway, once I got in to it, I enjoyed it much more - to the extent that I stayed up until 4.30am on Friday to finish the book. I'm going to have to go back to the beginning and read it all over again at some point I think - there was lots of reiteration in the dialogue... Anyway, after I've written this post, I shall read your interview - I've been postponing it until I finished - it'll be interesting to see what she had to say!
#177 argh 49 volcanoes!
Again, re The Rehearsal, I never disliked it, but it just didn't catch me in the same way that it seemed to catch the rest of you. Ah, this is always the way of things ;)
#178 Hi Susan!
So, despite zipping around all over Kent this weekend, I did manage to do a little bit of catching up. Partly, it is true, due to the ridiculously late night on Friday.
90) The Rehearsal - Eleanor Catton
999 Category 9 - Recommendations (FlossieT) (9/9)
Hmmm, I seem to have put most of my thoughts about this in my comment to Rachel above!
The discovery of an affair between a school student and one of her teachers causes ructions within the school and the general community. The girls and their parents feel betrayed, but for different reasons. Meanwhile, first years at the nearby drama school decide to use the story as a basis for their end of year production. Half of the book takes place in the studio of the sax teacher who teaches some of the schoolgirls, the other half is from the perspective of Stanley, a first year student at the drama school.
To be cliched:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
Jaques, from "As You Like It" - Shakespeare
91) The Club of Queer Trades - G. K. Chesterton
999 Category 5 - Classics I've not read yet (5/9)
A collection of 6 short stories in which an ex-Judge, Basil Grant, solves various mysteries, all involving a member of "The Club of Queer Trades" - a very exclusive club...
Chesterton can be very witty and there were one or two laugh out loud punchlines, however, I wouldn't say that this was the best thing I've read by him. Among other things, Basil Grant is supernaturally perceptive. Also, as I have discovered reading some of his essays, Chesterton was a very opinionated man and while, in some respects, he was actually quite far-seeing, in others, he was very much a product of his age and more than anything else I've read by him, there were definitely moments that made me squirm during this book.
92) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby
999 Category 6 - Biography/Autobiography/Letters (2/9)
I've been casting around for books to fill this 999 category - I've got a few lined up, but I'm not much of a biography reader, so anything that's had as many good reviews as this one has was worth checking out.
Bauby was Editor of Elle magazine until, in his early 40's he had a stroke that left him almost completely unable to move, but with normal cognitive activity (Locked-in Syndrome). I find it hard to imagine a more terrifying and frustrating condition. With the aid of Clause Mendibil (to whom he dedicates the book, along with his children), Bauby dictated his thoughts and memories of life before the stroke (clearly a bon viveur), using the the French language frequency-ordered alphabet. This involved blinking his left eyelid as each appropriate letter of the alphabet was reached, until words could be formed. Their dedication and his desire to make himself understood must have been phenomenal. It should be an extremely distressing book and yet, despite the moments of bleakness, I really didn't find it so.
I haven't read all the Sandman comics and thought I'd read the series through from start to finish, though I'm still waiting for the Vol 1 from my library as it's a popular item.
I'm a little stalled on my 999 challenge, all the books I'm currently reading for it are a little 'slow' so I've been picking up lots of YA fiction instead. I might just alter some of my lists to include books I've already read rather than keep trying to be good and sticking to my original choices.
Maybe I was just really, really, really unlucky...
Also, I found the teenage reactions to sex also rang very true, given their environment - quite a sheltered girls' school, not a lot of them had boyfriends. And even then, there's something different about an affair with a teacher - again, this is just me drawing on personal experience, but a girl I was at school with had an 'entanglement' with one of the teachers (never quite clear how much was true and how much fantasised, but it was enough to cause big problems with his wife), which a lot of us reacted to in many of the same ways as you see going on in The Rehearsal, even though we were older than Isolde and her friends at the time; there's something about that crossing of a boundary that goes beyond mere sex, and I thought one thing she did really well was to portray that primary girl instinct to feel betrayed and left out of the secret.
By contrast, I found the drama school students much less interesting, because they were so self-conscious/self-obsessed/self-aware: there's a lot about the 'torture' of turning yourself into someone else, which at times just made me want to yell, "You're DRAMA STUDENTS, for God's sake!! GET OVER YOURSELVES."
So in other words: the bits we liked in the book were almost completely polarised. Go figure :)
Personally, I had four sweet-as-pie private music teachers (OK, so I didn't get on with the piano teacher, but that was she treated me like a 4 year old when I was 15 - an unforgivable sin at that age!). The other three were a succession of violin teachers, so perhaps there is something different about violin teachers! Actually, I must state here and now that one of my best mates teaches music and, through her, I know quite a lot of others, so I'm inclined to like them ;) Your singing teacher sounds like an absolute nightmare!
Also, I went to an all girls secondary school and, while there were a few students that did lead fairly sheltered lives, I can safely say that that was not at all true for the majority... I didn't find everything about the schoolgirls unbelievable (certainly, the feeling of betrayal you mention rang true to me - and, even more so, the group scenes), I just thought they seemed quite naive for this day and age. It's interesting what you say about the girl/teacher 'entanglement' - I've no similar experience to compare it to.
Re the drama students, your reaction to them was exactly how I felt about them, but that's what made me enjoy them more - I've definitely known a few people like that - it made me chortle.
The funny thing I found was that the the thing I ended up enjoying most about the book - the theatrical feel of everything - the way that every scene feels staged, was one of the things I struggled with initially...
Anyway, an interesting book - I'll almost certainly have to read it again to formulate my ideas about it properly. Ooh and I enjoyed your interview with Eleanor Catton very much!
Re the 999 Challenge thing, me too. I've had no problem more than filling certain categories, but the non-fiction, unfinished and biography categories are going very slowly. I'm just not good at reading non-fiction - and there's usually a reason why I've left a book unfinished (my idea was that I'll give each unfinished book I try one last go before getting rid of it)... But then, I suppose that's the whole point - to challenge yourself! I seem to be locked into a bit of a YA/Sharpe phase this year. We shall see... Non-work reading should always be a pleasure, in my opinion!
However, I have been told he was nowhere near the norm for a music teacher, being quiet and unassuming.
At least that means I can be sure he wasn't sleeping with any of his pupils ;)
#187 What did your Dad teach Jenny? Maybe it's all in the instrument! The great mate I mentioned previously is also the daughter of two music teachers, and she has fairly scathing things to say about certain sections of the orchestra... ;)
Edited to note that I don't believe a word she says on this matter!
He taught music at a High School, but was proficient in piano, clarinet (I think), organ, guitar......and could turn his hand at most things. Piano and Organ were his talents though.
So, over the weekend, I finished off
93) The White Castle - Orhan Pamuk
999 Category 7 - Prizewinners (1990 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, UK) (9/9)
A Venetian scholar is enslaved while travelling between countries. Taken back to Istanbul, he is eventually bought by a man with strikingly similar looks who wants to learn everything the scholar has to tell him. Slowly their identities start to confuse.
This was my first reading of Orhan Pamuk (I own My Name is Red, but never seem to get round to it) and I found the book extremely absorbing.
94) Dear Fatty - Dawn French
999 Category 6 - Biography/autobiography/letters (3/9)
Another fairly random library pick, in an attempt to chase down the elusive 999 biography category. I very rarely read biographies, particularly not those of people currently alive (the last was Bill Bryson, an author I know and trust) - it feels morbid and unfinished...
Not quite sure why I picked it, as I'm not a huge French & Saunders fan - I mean, they can certainly be amusing, but there are other comedians I find far funnier. I think that maybe it was the format Dawn French wrote this in (letters to people she knows and has known) and I do have quite a lot of respect for her.
To be honest, it was a bit mixed. There were some very funny bits (a description of her aunts performing a dance medley at the 100th birthday party for her granny, who had died a few days earlier), deeply affecting bits (the letter to her dad when she talks about his suicide when she was 19) and other bits I identified with (the discovery of Rigby and Peller!), but, due to it's format, there was also a lot of "do you remember...?", which, while it was sometimes fascinating, was also a bit like any other person's "do you remember" - and sometimes wasn't... I was far more interested in the photos at these moments... Really, the bits that stood out were those where she talked about people she loves - Lenny Henry, her Dad, her brother, her Mum.
An enjoyable enough non-taxing read anyway.
95) Eight Days of Luke - Diana Wynne Jones
I saw this on lunacat/Jenny's thread recently and realised that it was one of the few I don't own, so the last time I read it, must have been about 20 years ago. Naturally, I then had to buy it and read it again!
Ah, lovely cosy evening with my DWJ, big mug of tea and a chilly night...
...in between these, I also tried to finally read a library book I got out a while ago - A Town by the Sea by Chris Paling. I'm afraid, right from the get-go I found the tone of the writing just incredibly pompous, so when I realised that I would have to renew the book to finish it, I thought I might as well give up. I don't like doing that very much, but, sometimes...
96) G. K. Chesterton - Selections from his non-fictional prose
999 Category 1 - non-fiction (5/9)
I've been reading this in small installments for most of this year... First, a quote from one of the essays. It says quite a lot about G. K. Chesterton and this book:
"The modern habit of saying, 'This is my opinion, but I may be wrong,' is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that it is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying, 'Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me; the habit of saying this is mere weakmindedness."
He was certainly an opinionated man himself. To say the least. But he writes fluently, enthusiastically and absorbingly, even if he doesn't always stick to the point. I did not agree with all his arguments - there were even occasions when I couldn't quite believe what I was reading (and I would have to remind myself of when it was written), however, I always wanted to finish the essay.
This collection, selected by W. H. Auden, covers quite a broad range of topics - ranging across literature, politics and religion (and frequently overlapping). I was particularly amused that an essay on why we should use more sexually based swear words was preceded by an essay on why there should be censureship (in film, in particular). To my mind, however, he is the most interesting in his literary discussions. I do not read a great deal of poetry and, if I've read and Browning, it is a very small amount. However, the enthusiasm with which Chesterton discusses him is infectious - and yet infectious in a manner that doesn't underestimate Browning's faults. I'll definitely be investigating further at a later date anyway. The aspect I had the most trouble with was his introduction of his religious beliefs into discussions where personally, I felt they were irrelevant and, in fact, his judgemental attitude in this aspect annoyed me on several occasions. That said, I would have expected nothing less from someone with such strongly held beliefs. Oh and his very brief essay-let on Darwinism was completely missing the point, but hey...
Fundamentally, this was a fascinating read - and full of things to disagree with. I would recommend it, but with the caveat that it's definitely not going to be for everyone!
If you can't find the book (my copy is my Dad's, I'm not sure if it's still in print), a lot of his essays (and other stuff) are online here. It's worth looking for it though as W. H. Auden's introduction is also very interesting.
G.K. Chesterton another one I have yet to try. Although I can see from your description why my husband might like his work.
#199 To be honest, I'm glad I read some of his fiction first, or I might have been a bit put off by his opinions (although I probably wouldn't have read the essays anyway, if I hadn't read The Man Who Was Thursday and Basil Howe), but I do think he's a very entertaining writer.
What you say about your husband is amusing - I was thinking that I can see why this appealed to my university-aged-Dad when I was reading it too...
97) The Good Soul of Szechwan - Bertolt Brecht
999 Category 8 - Plays (4/9)
I'm going to see Mother Courage again soon, at the National Theatre, so it seemed like a good time to give this a go too (there is logic there, if you search)...
Three Gods are searching the world, looking for just one good person, to vindicate their existence. They're having a hard time finding one, but when they do and give her a little help, the rest of the world seems to be determined to take advantage of her.
Brecht is such a cheerful playwright always, is he not? Hmmm... I know that you're not supposed to identify with the characters and that the whole point is to make you think about the message of the play rather than the story, but...
Actually, I did enjoy this. The theme (is it possible to be "good" in a thoroughly "not good" world?) is depressing, even the humour is quite black, but he is humourous and it does make you think (even if, in my case, it was to think that, actually, I don't believe in the bleak picture of humanity that Brecht presents us with).
The translation was quite modernised I think (the edition was tied in to a production at the Young Vic that I think my parents must have been to see last year as it's their copy), but it's quite a timeless play, so I didn't think this really mattered. I'd be interested to see it performed.
98) Sharpe's Enemy - Bernard Cornwell
Officially 2/3 the way through the Sharpe back-catalogue now (sigh to my obsessive tendencies). This was another of the older ones. The evil Obidiah Hakeswill is back from being almost killed by tigers, elephants, snakes and the noose, to trouble Richard Sharpe again. This time with a bunch of deserters, in a battle that never happened. Will he survive the encounter?! ;)
#204 Ah Eliza, you should give him a go, honest - but maybe go to see something (like Mother Courage) performed rather than reading it...
#205 I particularly recommend Mother Courage, but maybe that's just because I've seen a wonderful performance of it a year or two ago. Am a bit nervous about going to see it again so soon actually, but this production has had very good reviews - I'll keep you posted!
Well, I think I enjoyed this more than Rachel and less than Roni...
Football arrives at the Unseen University (much to the bemusement of the wizards); high (Dwarfish) fashion hits the streets of Ankh-Morpork and Mr Nutt, a candle dribbler at the University, is keeping a secret that even he doesn't know about.
Terry Pratchett is always good escapism for me, but in recent years, I've found fewer belly laughs in the Discworld books than I did previously. That's not to say there aren't a few very funny moments (having worked for Cambridge University in the past, there were certain parts that made me chuckle quite a bit), but there just aren't as many as in, for example, Mort, Reaper Man, or (my absolute favourite) Pyramids. That said, I had a smile on my face the whole way through.
An irritation for me, as I mentioned on Rachel's thread, was that again, in another book rotating around the Unseen University, Esk (the central character in Equal Rites - the female wizard) seems to have been forgotten. It just bugs me that she's apparently vanished from history...
Also, there are many threads to the story, but I felt that one of the main ones (the arrival of the fashion industry) didn't quite gel with the rest of the plot. I could see what he was trying to do, but, to me at least, it seemed just a little awkward. The ending could have done with fewer "they think it's all over"'s too (I giggled the first time, but...) - elongated endings annoy me.
However... He's good at larger-than-life characters and there are some good new ones here (even if Glenda did remind me a little of Agnes Nitt) as well as a fair-sized roll-call of old favourites. ...and he always keeps me guessing - there is never a guarantee that things are going to turn out as you expect and, frequently they don't (and I've read all of them).
Good fun. It doesn't quite reach him at his best, but it's not his worst either.
#208 Linda, do you know where you'll start? The Discworld books do have the advantage that it doesn't really matter if you read out of order, but I have to say that, particularly with the later books, you do get more out of them if you have. My problem with that is that, for me, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (the first two) aren't the best and you may be put off. That said, there are others who do like them the most, so... My absolute favourite Discworld novel is Pyramids, which is one of the few stand-alone books in the series.
#VB, That'll be Where's My Cow? - it's a bit of an in joke, because Sam Vimes (one of the Discworld characters - leader of the Watch (police)) reads it to his son in one of the more recent books.
Good Omens is definitely in my top 5 Terry Pratchett books (and how I discovered Neil Gaiman), so it's a good starting point. I can see how the number of books could be daunting, but the advantage is that if you don't particularly like one theme, you may like another (see my comments to Linda). Here's a little break down of the books for you, I hope it helps a bit (my top 5 in boldface):
My favourite non-Discworld:
The Dark Side of the Sun
The Carpet People
There are some more children's books too (The Broomiliad Trilogy, The Johnny Maxwell Books...)
The main Discworld groups:
(there are other books and there is some overlapping, but this may be a starting point)
1) Rincewind the wizard (a take on quest fantasy stories):
The Colour of Magic
The Light Fantastic
The Last Hero
2) The Witches (I love these):
Equal Rites (which I mentioned above)
Lords and Ladies
3) Death (again, a big favourite - not just with me):
Thief of Time
3) Unseen University (wizard university):
(Lords & Ladies)
(argh, these, in particular, overlap with a lot of the other groups, actually, so do those involving the witches...)
4) The City Watch (fantasy/detective):
Men at Arms
Feet of Clay
The Fifth Elephant
5) Tiffany Aching/ Nac Mac Feegle (these are more children's fiction, but are amongst his better recent ones. They overlap with the Witches a lot):
The Wee Free Men
A Hat Full of Sky
...and there are lots more that overlap lots of the groups, but you get the point. Oh and another special mention for Pyramids, which doesn't fit any of the categories... Don't know if that'll be any help?
#211, I'm not sure if I'd necessarily class him gentle reading, but it's quite a quick read... This is the only Brecht I've actually read rather than seen though and certainly seeing a play makes all the difference. I've got The Life of Galileo lined up now - I saw a truly fantastic production, with Simon Russell Beal in last year at the NT...
Re Equal Rites and Esk, I'm afraid she never does pop up again (I should note that I've read all of the Discworld novels). Grrr. Ah well, maybe one day...
Edited to make things a little clearer - and to get the touchstones back, but it's not working...
The Pamuk book looks very worthwhile. I must get around to some of Pratchett's stuff - I just never seem to be in the mood for fantasy these days.
Rachael, I'm still confused at the Eleanor Catton issue too, but it's not like I need more books to read!
Fliss, I saw your note on Tad's thread about your penguin experience. Wow. Very jealous - sounds like an amazing moment!
#214 Kiwidoc - thank you - I've been thinking that my reading this year has been a bit less varied than normal (lots of YA, lots of Sharpe)! Re Dear Fatty, yes, I suppose it is more family based than anything else. I did enjoy it, but it won't be on my "best of 2009" list, for sure.
The funny thing about fantasy is that I used to read very little at all (bar Diana Wynne Jones I suppose). Then I found Douglas Adams... and, through him (via my school librarian), Terry Prattchett... and through him Neil Gaiman... I'm discovering that as I get older, I read more and more.
#215 Tad, I'm not sure if that diagram makes it better or worse!! (better than my list, which skips lots of books though...)
#216 Kiwidoc, me too. ...and once I've started a series, I find it very difficult to stop reading until I've finished it. Hence my issues with the Sharpe novels this year (and my major beef with Robert Jordan)... It's a sickness.
#218 Yep, I reckon the Witches are probably quite a good place to start - they also introduce quite a lot of other threads...
#219 Oh it was. Still sends shivers down my spine. I'd been to the Penguin Parade on Philip Island a few weeks earlier and that was pretty amazing too, but there were sooo many people (it's a big tourist attraction). What was so special about seeing the penguins on Bicheno beach after dark was that, although there weren't nearly as many penguins, I was the only person there. One of my all time memorable moments.
Sigh. I have to get saving for more travels...
However, I don't think I can justify that many re-reads when I have 200 tbr books here and probably the same number at my mums!!
Us OCD people appreciate it. Of course, the mere fact that you both pulled this together indicates you are a member of the OCD club as well.
#222 Can't think what gives you that idea! ;)
There's currently yet another adaptation of Emma showing on the BBC, which I'm enjoying, despite (amongst other things) the modernisation of the dialogue (why would you do that with Austen of all people?), making Jane Fairfax less saintly and some subtle attempts to excuse Emma her behaviour. However, I thought it was high time for a re-read. This is not my favourite of her novels (having been demoted to joint 4/5th with Northanger Abbey after a re-read of the latter, if you're interested), so I know it less well than Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice in particular. I will add here that a not-favourite Jane Austen still rates pretty highly in my scheme of things.
I find it very difficult to review Jane Austen as I find it impossible to be impartial (for me, she's like a comfort blanket), so I'm not going to try. I will say that Miss Bates, Mrs Elton and Emma herself are just wonderful characters. I will also say that, as ever, there are some beautifully witty bits (and I meant to quote Mr Knightly at this point, but I forgot to bring the book with me, so can't remember what I was going to quote).
I may have to tackle Mansfield Park again next (bottom of the list, mostly because it's the most dated and Fanny is such a drip)...
Persuasion however, is, and probably always will be, my favourite. I do hope you enjoy it. I've never tried to list my top 10 books, but it would certainly be in there pretty near the top...
My favourite Austen is Persuasion, then P&P, then Emma. My least favourite is Northanger Abbey - just too much gothic presence for my taste.
For me, novels only, it's 1) Persuasion, 2) Pride and Prejudice, 3) Sense and Sensibility, 4) Emma joint with Northanger Abbey and 5) Mansfield Park... I actually enjoyed the gothic piss-take in Northanger Abbey much more the second time around (having read things like Evelina in the meantime).
Argh, I'm getting very frustrated with Bookmooch. The last 5 or 6 books I've looked for that have been available have all been in the US and the owners have been very polite, but won't send to the UK. Bah.
Seem to be reading about 16 books at once at the moment, so I'm going to postpone Wuthering Heights yet again (I will read it this year, I will...) - I don't know what it is about this book...
*understatement of the year
I like paperbackswap.com, but that is limited only to US book owners. Now THEY have a much better classification method that I think the peeps at Bookmooch out to take leaf out of.
One tactic I take now, is to refuse to send books to people who would not reciprocate. If their page says 'Only my country' or 'Ask me', then I politely decline to send the book. I don't think they should get books worldwide if they don't send worldwide?
I find more books I want to read on ReadItSwapIt, but almost invariably the people on there don't want to read my books - and I find it a much less friendly, much more difficult to use site than BM.
Pride and Prejudice will always be my fav Jane Austen, because it was not only my first Austen, but my first real "Classic" too, when I was 14 or 15. Persuasion is my #2, followed by Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. Emma and Mansfield Park are on my list for next year. I also really love Lady Susan, which I read for a Romantics class in uni.
I use my local auction website to source a lot of my reading and also sell my books there.
I've read Jane Austen's books several times over but not for a long while and get a bit mixed up over which book is which. Probably time for a reread. I did read Wuthering Heights for the first time last year, and also enjoyed another read of Jane Eyre.
In general, I like Bookmooch, but I do find myself spending a small fortune on postage (kiwidoc, I'm afraid I'm one of those who says "please ask" - but I've only declined to send once and that was because I was very strapped for cash at the time - there is a note to that effect on my page). For some reason, the people who want the books I list always seem to be ex-UK... The Bookmooch membership in the UK isn't so bad really, they just never seem to have what I want! I always feel sorry for the people in unusual places - and they're always the ones who agree to send to you...
ReadItSwapIt. Must investigate.
Actually, my rediscovery of my local library a couple of years ago has been the big thing...
#238 avatiakh, it's always time for a Jane Austen reread! ;)
I'm not such a Bronte fan. I enjoyed both Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey (yes, I know they're different Brontes), but the style of all three of them (yes, I will finish Wuthering Heights one of these days) is a little too OTT for me - they'll never be favourites (sorry Linda and cameling! I did love To Kill a Mockingbird though and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a very special place in my heart...)
999 Category 5 - Unread classics (6/9)
Set in the 1930's, dealing with the break up of the marriage of Tony and Brenda Last, as ever, this is really a satire on the society of the time.
I've always enjoyed reading Evelyn Waugh, but you don't want to read too many in quick succession - he seems to have had a very bleak outlook on human nature, which makes it quite difficult to identify or sympathise with any of the characters, however amusing they are. The fate of Tony Last is hysterical - I wish I could share it, without giving the plot away, but I can't, so I won't!
102) Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
999 Category 2 - Unfinished books (3/9)
This has been hanging around on various threads this month and as I'm not doing very well in filling up my "started but not finished" book 999 category, I thought it was time...
I initially tried to read it when I was at school - I'd just finished and loved Dracula, so it was (for some reason) the next obvious choice, but I just couldn't get in to it. In retrospect, I have no idea why this was the case. This time round, I was instantly swept up by Walton's journey to the North Pole, during which he just happens to bump into the mysterious Victor Frankenstein somewhere mid ice-field.
However... Once we started with the story of Frankenstein and his daemon himself, I don't know, I just started to lose concentration. It's not that I was bored - and there are some interesting themes, it's just that I kept waiting for it to get a move on (and it's a very short book). I think the trouble was that I have very little patience with the kind of flowery, over-romantic dialogue Shelley uses (as I commented above, this is really my problem with the Bronte's too...), and I didn't believe in any of the characters. Not that that was particularly necessary with this book. I don't know, maybe I was missing something, but I think it'll rate an "average" from me. Glad I finally read it though!
Currently reading several things, including the next Sharpe. He seems to have shrunk 2 inches.
Had a very satisfying weekend actually - lots of music, lots of books.
Friday was an extremely enjoyable local gig (Frank Turner, if anyone's heard of him, - always great live, particularly on this occasion).
Saturday I went to see Patrick Ness talk with Rachael/FlossieT (appologies for spelling your name wrong all this time Rachael!), which was very interesting - and he seems like such a nice bloke... Then I went to see Smokey Robinson (yes, that is SMOKEY ROBINSON) at the Roundhouse in London, which was quite special, if a tad cheesy - although it did finish ridiculously early (9.45pm for a gig to end?!?) - I actually regressed to my early gig-going roots and got hold of the set list. Well, how often do you see Motown legends performing at great venues (ie not arenas) in the UK?
Nicely topped up by an extra hour in bed to read, when the clocks changed on Sunday, followed by some gardening on a beautiful day.
Now it's Monday. Sigh.
999 Category 1 - Non fiction (6/9)
Well, the title says it all really. To be honest though, this wasn't particularly helpful - it would have been good if my main aim was to learn about different types of cloud, but really what I was after was tips for photographing things like sunsets, snowy weather and storms. There are some, just not enough.
104) Sharpe's Honour - Bernard Cornwell
Next in the series, much the same as ever, if a bit gruesome occasionally...
Edited to finish off boldface
999 Category 6 - Biography/ Autobiography/ Letters etc (4/9)
A collection of travel tales from a wide variety of people - and hence of very varying interest/ quality... Didn't whisk me off my feet (or, which is surprising, particularly make me want to visit 2 million new places), but readable enough and there were one or two that stood out.
Misfit Suzannah Simon moves from New York to Carmel, California to join her mother, who has just remarried, and her new family. She has all the usual worries about fitting in and then some, because Suze isn't a normal 16 year old, she's a Mediator - someone who helps stranded ghosts to move on.
This is a children's book that caught my eye over on Linda's thread, so, when it turned up on Bookmooch, I thought I'd give it a go. Got it through the post yesterday and as it's quite short, I read it last night. Basically, it's Buffy the Vampire Slayer for ghosts, straight down the line, but it was a fun quick read - I won't hang on to it, but I'll probably look out the next in the series at some point.
999 Category 6 - Biography/ Autobiography/ Letters etc (5/9)
This was recommended to me right at the start of the year by many people (to fit into my biography category), so I feel a little shame-faced that I've only just got around to it, given the fantastic reviews it's had.
I won't try to review it - again, many members of this group have done this much better than I ever could. However, I will say that I raced through it, despite an initial dislike of her writing style (it just felt a bit "I did this. Then I did this. Then I did this too." - don't know how you'd describe this) and the feeling that she had remarkably clear memories for a three year old. I got over myself though and found the terribly sad, sometimes amusing story of Jeannette Walls' unconventional family and childhood very gripping. It's amazing just how sympathetically she manages to portray her father (her mother gets shorter shrift - one senses that this is because she sympathised with her less), despite everything. Poor Maureen...
108) Six Characters in Search of an Author - Luigi Pirandello
999 Category 8 - Plays (5/9)
Last week, I saw a very striking adaptation of this in Cambridge (touring after a West End run). There were one or two rather slow moments, particularly in the first half, but overall, I enjoyed it very much. A play within a play within a play. It certainly made me think anyway. The mates I went with didn't like it so much... I only realised after seeing it that it was a new adaptation of a play first performed in 1921 - something that surprised me as it seemed very modern. So, of course, I had to go and root it out, to see just how many changes were made.
A satirical tragicomedy, the play opens on a rehearsal scene - The Director is producing another of Pirandello's plays. Not long into this rehearsal, six strangers (Father, Mother, Son, Step-Daughter, Boy and Girl) are shown onto the stage. They are characters from a tragedy, but their author has left their story unfinished and they are looking for someone to write it for them. They are stuck in time forever, always in the moment of the tragedy, more real than the actors.
I find it very difficult, so soon after seeing the play, to dissociate what I read from what I saw, so will probably have to reread this some time as actually, although the central plot and dialogue were the same, they felt very different - and the production I saw, far more sinister. The blurring of reality and fiction and the concept of what is truly real was fascinating to me.
999 Challenge Update:
1) General Non-fiction: 6/9
2) Unfinished Books: 3/9 (Wuthering Heights ongoing)
3) TBR: 5/9 (Vilnius Poker pending)
4) Unread Authors: 9+/9
5) Unread Classics: 6/9
6) Biography/Autobiography/Letters: 5/9
7) Prize Winners: 9/9
8) Plays: 5/9 (Life of Galileo lined up)
9) Recommended Books: 9/9
Doing better than I was, although I doubt I'll complete it - ho hum. I've already read a lot more non-fiction than I would normally, so that's good. I'm quite surprised how few classics I've read this year.
It's one of those plays that I've always wanted to see (and read): I remember it being mentioned when I was doing my English A-level, and recording a TV production of it that I then never got round to actually watching. I think my mum STILL has the tape all these years later so may well look it out next time I'm visiting.
Isn't it one of those plays where there are several different versions of the text too, so the "canonical" version is in dispute?
edit for inevitable typo. Sigh.
You're welcome to borrow my copy if you like - it's only little, so you'll be able to get through it very quickly. It also has a bit of background and discussion preceding the play itself.
Re the several different versions, I'm not sure about the actual dialogue, but Pirondello definitely expanded on the play directions following a performance that he didn't approve of - my version has quite specific descriptions - not sure what he'd think of the version I saw! Apparently, while he did believe that plays should be adapted to fit to the times, he didn't like people messing around with the text too much...
Anyway, I'm officially on holiday now (following fireworks - woo!), so will probably lose track of everyone's posts I'd just managed to catch up on over the next 5 days ;)
Copenhagen - woo!
#251 amwmsw04 - thank you and did do!
#252 arubabookwoman - yup. sigh.
#254 VB - did have thanks. Was soggy and dark most of the time:
...bar a wonderful day that happily coincided with the my one trip into the countryside:
...and I had a lovely time anyway and found my new (2nd) favourite tea shop/cafe:
(the 1st favourite will always be the Park Street Boston Tea Party in Bristol)
Anyway, VB & Jenny, while I haven't read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (clearly another one to add to the wishlist), I agree with cameling that you shouldn't give up on The Glass Castle - while I suspect it had a bigger impact on other members of this group than it did on me, I'm still very glad I read it...
I'll try The Glass Castle again. Books with any type of substance abuse can be a chore to read with my book club. A couple of menbers have histories of substance abuse and take certain things very personally.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a wonderful book.
#261 Got that one right! Yep, it was a BBC TV series - and, inevitably, I did watch it... I seem to that it wasn't always terribly accurate where it referenced the book, but I do remember enjoying it - suitably silly!
#262 Thanks VB - there were certainly a lot of moody skies!
Agreed on the lack of books issue. It was the single down-side of the cafe... Unfortunately, the only bookshop/cafe I got to while I was there was a little disappointing...
Definitely should take note of the Boston Tea Party. There's also a great book cafe here in Cambridge called CB2, which is only just next down my tea-shop list (basically because, while it has all the books, does tasty food and (apparently) good coffee, it's less good on the tea bit and I'm not a coffee drinker)... Also recommended!
I can see why you would be put off by reading The Glass Castle with your book club. I think that it can sometimes be very difficult to be objective if you find yourself identifying strongly with trauma/bad experiences in a book, which I imagine makes for difficult discussions!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn clearly needs to be added to my wishlist...
#265 How odd - I went back to check the code and I can't see what's wrong... But yes, I did mean CB2.
I used to live very nearby, so went there all the time - I have a very soft spot for it. The books are mostly upstairs, so they're easy to miss, it's true - particularly if you're just there for tea. I confess that I usually have my own book with me, so I don't always take a look, but I definitely have done and they've got quite a nice selection - although usually not particularly cheap. I found a first edition of Good Omens there the other day (didn't buy it)... and they do a mean Malteser Sundae! ;)
...book update on it's way at some point, I promise!
999 Category 1 - non fiction (7/9)
I love Rough Guides, they're always reliable, frequently suggest things that other guide books don't point out and usually have well written and researched, amusing dialogue. My copy of this is the previous edition, so I spent a good while updating the more changable stuff with the current edition from the library (meant I read it pretty thoroughly though!). Whoever wrote the main text for this one was less entertaining than guides I've read in the past (anyone, going to Egypt, that one had me chortling away much of my trip...), but still as useful as ever.
110) The End of Mr Y - Scarlett Thomas
"The End of Mr Y" is a book shrouded in mystery. Written by Thomas Lumas (the subject of Ariel Manto's PhD) who died not long after it's publication, the book has a reputation for being cursed and it is thought that no copies survive. So Ariel can't believe her eyes when she discovers a copy in a £50 box of books at a second hand book shop. Even though it uses up nearly all of the rest of her grant for the month, she has to buy it. The story centres around Mr Y's dicovery of the "Troposphere" a place from which you can enter other people's minds. But a page is missing. Soon Ariel finds her life spiralling out of control.
If I say that I wanted to enjoy this more than I did, it sounds as though I didn't like it, which is truly not the case. Definitely a page turner with some very original ideas from all over the place. Nonetheless, I frequently found the characters difficult to believe in and some aspects of the story just a little clunky - including the ending. I know that a lot of people have found this book thought provoking, but I'm afraid I didn't particularly - or no more than any other anyway. It was, however, a very entertaining holiday read.
111) On the Beach - Nevil Shute
999 Category 3 - TBR (6/9)
What can I say about this book?
I borrowed it from my Mum at the start of the year (I was browsing their bookshelves and I loved A Town Like Alice when I read it years ago), but have only just got around to reading it. The story follows five central characters - a massive nuclear war has taken place, destroying the Northern hemisphere. The radioactive fallout from the war will soon wipe out the rest of humanity in the Southern hemisphere.
A cheery book to read on holiday yes? But strangely, despite the hugely upsetting nature of the story, I actually found this to be quite a positive read. So many apocalyptic novels show the crumble of society into destructive confusion, the worst flaws of humanity taking over. There's certainly some of that here, but it's in the background - mostly the characters try to get on with their lives as best they can, making the best of a terrible situation, despite their inevitable fate. Which, of course, makes it all the more heart-breaking...
112) Hamlet - Shakespeare
999 Category - Plays (6/9)
The that all the quotes come from, where everyone dies in the end ;o)
Going to Denmark, of course, I had to read this, particularly as, despite having seen it performed several times, I've never read it...
(Actually, in case you haven't spotted it, the castle in post #258 is Helsingor/Elsenore - where all the action is set)
113) Sharpe's Regiment - Bernard Cornwell
114) Sharpe's Christmas/Ransome
The problem with all these Sharpe books is that they start to run into each other in my memory a tad (was the same with the TV adaptations as well). Sharpe's Regiment is one of the ones that I remembered though as Sharpe is back in England this time (chasing up his missing 2nd regiment). One of the better ones, even if it does introduce my least favourite of his love interests (Bernard Cornwell really should avoid writing women.
Sharpe's Christmas and Sharpe's Ransome are two short Christmas stories written for The Daily Mail, but don't hold that against them...
Right, I think that's me up to date... Currently slowly working my way through Possession by A. S. Byatt.
115) Sharpe's Siege - Bernard Cornwell
More of the same (I will finish the series before the end of the year, so it doesn't have to plague me next year, I will!)
78f) Fables and Reflections - Neil Gaiman
Continuing in my Sandman re-read - like Dream Country, this is actually a collection of short stories mostly separate from the main story arc - although several of them are relevant - I like it much better than Dream Country though...
#275 I've heard the same re Rainbow Café, although I've never eaten there - probably should be a vege's first port of call, but you should definitely check out CB2 if you have time too (although, the other two recommendations are better placed for sight-seeing - a large part of why I'm so fond of CB2 is that I used to live very close by). Will it just be a day-trip?
#276 Thank you!
Still, in the meantime, my lunch-time book was:
116) Topics About Which I Know Nothing - Patrick Ness
Whisked away from the library on Rachael's heals... A highly entertaining collection of off the wall short stories. Resisting The Ask and the Answer until the 3rd book in the series comes out is becoming harder and harder...
I also read/listened to Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead, which had me chortling away, even if the music is fairly derivative (not necessarily a bad thing).
Anyway, onwards and upwards with Possession! I will get through the letters soon!
I'm also reading The Last Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire, which I just received through the Members Giveaway...
#278 flissp - It would probably be a day trip. I like to stay in London and head out from there. Since I have trouble finding vegetarian food in London in non-touristy spots a couple of meals in Cambridge sounds good.
#279 I'm also holding out on reading The Ask and the Answer until the third book is published. I'm pretending they don't exist , that way I won't even buy them yet.
#281 If you're looking for restaurant recommendations in London, these sites may be useful (you can select for vege places):
I've used all 3 successfully on various occasions...
Re The Ask and the Answer, I do actually own it, which is why it's so hard to resist - I only succeeded in resisting it following The Knife of Never Letting Go, because I had to wait for it in the post and then suddenly got extremely busy. I'm trying to take advantage of that natural break, but I'll probably cave in and read it at Christmas...
I'm interesting in knowing your impressions of The Last Queen of Heaven Is this a follow up in the Wicked series, or something different?
For some reason, LT won't yet let me add the book to my library (probably because it's not available very widely), but they do have a page here. And the original Concord Free Press page is here.
The deal is that I read the book, donate any amount to my chosen charity (which will be the Red Cross - I must remember to do that...) and then give it away to someone else, who should do the same etc. If you like, I can send it on to you when I'm done?
Please post your home address on my LT page.
I'm probably going to buy the first vol of Sandman - I requested the libraries' sole copy a few months ago, but now after much waiting for my turn, it has spent five weeks lost in transit while on its way to my library. I can't wait any longer!!
#286 Sounds like we're having similar Possession experiences... It's not that I'm not enjoying it overall, it's just not grabbing me as much as I thought it would. I'm determined to finish it before Christmas though - I've got plans to read War and Peace then and I suspect that that could take the whole holiday!
Re Sandman, if you're a big Neil Gaiman fan, Sandman is definitely worth investing in (and graphic novels are always a bit of an investment - why are they always so much more expensive than a regular hardback? I will say that I came to them in a bit of a Gaiman frenzy, having run out of anything else (I get like that with authors sometimes), so I was probably more willing to enjoy them than if I'd come to them at another time. I say this because I find some parts quite gruesome and I also definitely enjoyed them more the further through the series I got - as the big picture starts to come into focus.
Incidentally, on Member Giveaways: has anyone figured out how you keep track of what's in them?? I'm sure I'm missing out on loads because I haven't worked out how to stay on top of what's being posted....
>281 VioletBramble: VB, fab veggie place in London (but admittedly in touristy location) is Food for Thought on Neal St in Covent Garden. Gets VERY busy at lunchtime as it's small, but it's fantastic.
edit to add q about Member Giveaways
Re the Member Giveaways - nope, 'fraid not - there may well be a way of keeping track, but my "method" has mostly been to remember it's an option (usually when I've missed out on an ER book) and dip in fairly randomly...
Re Food for Thought on Neal St - again, I've also heard good things about it, but never been there - most importantly, Covent Garden/Neal Street should be an obligatory stop on any holiday in London (despite the crowds)!
#286 & #287 : you are not alone. I had a hard time with Possession as well and I tried it twice. I stopped midway the first time around and then I thought perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood so I picked it up again a year later ... nope.. it still didn't do anything to keep me interested.
Good to know I'm not alone with Possession. I'm not going to give up on it just yet though - we'll see how it goes this weekend - it's definitely a book that you need to settle down to read (and I haven't been doing much settling down lately!)...
Yet to read:
1) Un-biography Non Fiction: 2 (1 ongoing)
2) Unfinished Books: 6 (1 ongoing, 1 stalled)
3) TBR: 3 (1 stalled)
4) Unread Authors: 0
5) Unread Classics: 3
6) Biography/Letters etc: 4
7) Prize Winners: 0
8) Plays: 3
9) Recommendations: 0
Clearly not going to complete it, which is irking me somewhat... Pah! Different goals next year I think!
I like the markets at Covent Garden, esp on crafts day.
I tried Byatt- Posession and The Biographer's Tale but didn't like them much and didn't finish. I have to admit that my vocabulary is just not at the level Byatt writes.
#295 No probs - hope you find somewhere new and good!
Covent Garden may be ridiculously busy, but I still, after all this time, love the atmosphere there at night... Also, for a brief burst of clothes shopping for someone who hates it, like me, it's infinitely preferable to Oxford St etc.
I think I will reread Dracula though. Seems like a perfect Christmas read, no? ;-)
(not 999; Members Giveaway)
Leontina Scales, mother of three trying teenagers, is knocked unconscious by a falling statue of the Virgin Mary in the kitchen of a rival church, whilst stealing some milk.
Her mouthy daughter Tabitha, not the brightest spark and generally regarded locally as off the rails, tries, with some help from younger brothers and two rival priests (but no fathers), to take care of a mother discharged from hospital still showing some fairly major behavioural changes (which the hospital refuse to recognise), whilst pining after her boyfriend Caleb, who seems to have gone awol when she could most do with the support.
Jeremy Carr, music director at the Catholic church where Leontina came by her accident, looks for a place with a piano to practice with two friends (both HIV +ve, one dying) for a competition in New York. He hopes that this will be his chance to start again away from the love of his life and his far too understanding wife.
The impending doom of Y2K looms on the horizon...
While I wouldn't say that this is a life changing book, it was an entertaining read. One thing Gregory Maguire is good at, after all, is showing the other side of the story - he shows you some of the inner workings of even the least likable characters, making them much harder to dismiss, even if you don't completely sympathise. The story reads like a farce at times, with several laugh out loud ridiculous scenes (the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass leaps to mind). There are also some very sad moments, although somehow, I didn't find myself as moved by them as I might have expected to be.
This book was free through Concord Free Press (http://www.concordfreepress.com/). The deal is that, in exchange for a free book, you agree to give away money (amount at your discretion) to a local charity, someone who needs it, or a stranger on the street and, when you've finished the novel, pass it on to someone else, who will do the same.
This is a hard bit - I find it very difficult to release books, particularly limited editions... ;o) However. Linda, this should be winging it's way to you shortly (I need to go to a post office tomorrow at some point) - I hope you enjoy it! I've registered it on www.bookcrossing.com too as I thought it'd be interesting to track it's progress.
999 Category 8 - Plays (7/9)
I saw this performed in August at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and it stuck in my thoughts (unfortunately, to say why would give away the plot), so bought it when I got home. I didn't get very much more from reading it that I did from seeing it, but still interesting.
119) Warlock at the Wheel - Diana Wynne Jones
A collection of her short stories that I last read when I had just started secondary school (as it was a library copy and not my own) - I was browsing a second hand bookshop on Saturday and a 1st Edition caught my eye, so I had to buy it as I don't own a copy. Diana Wynne Jones's short stories do vary quite a lot in quality, but generally, they get better as the book goes on - the penultimate one in particular (Dragon Reserve, Home Eight) I particularly remembered from my last read as being one that I would have liked her to write more about (but then there are so many of those). I had to go and have a flip through Mixed Magics when I'd finished too... It may be time to re-read The Lives of Christopher Chant (one of my staples).
120) Magyk - Angie Sage
I was still in a fantasy children's book frame of mind when I finished the Diana Wynne Jones and this book (which I originally spied) on ronincats thread had just arrived through the post, so filled the gap nicely. Another magical children battle against an evil black magican type of book, but, as far as I'm concerned, as long as they're well told, with likable characters, I could read this kind of thing 'till the cows come home. The characters were likable. It was well told. Great fun - I've just ordered the first sequel.
I'll get back to Possession tonight!
#301 I'm Fliss (although Rachael's FlossieT and we both live in Cambridge, so I can see the confusion!) :o)
Looking forward to the next one, although I'm going to try not to race through tooooo quickly - I read that there are going to be seven of them, so I don't want to have too long a wait for the last two!
Re The Lloyd Alexander series next year, that sounds intriguing - I'm all up for discovering more good fantasy, but I've never heard of him (is this shameful?) - what's the premise?
#308 & #309 Clearly these are books I shouldn't admit to never having heard of! ;o)
121) The Misanthrope - Molière
999 Category 8 - Plays (8/9)
I've never read or seen anything by Molière before, so this was new for me - I suspect it's one of those plays that is better seen performed, but it was still an amusing read - and, in fact, an entertaining follow up to Les Liaisons Dangereuses in many ways. I was borrowing a 1960's edition, so the translation made me smirk quite a bit too (lots of "Egad!"s...)
I've never been a fan of Molière's, it's like he uses the same formula in each of his plays. He wrote tragedy as well, though I never read any of it. I haven't read "le misanthrope" yet, but how is it a follow-up to les liaisons dangereuses?
Interesting that you say you find his plays very similar - I have nothing to compare to, although I'm planning to read Tartuffe at some point.
#312 Oooh! I hadn't realised it was on in the West End - just looked it up - I'm not a big fan of Keira Knightly, but Damien Lewis is a fantastic actor - I'll have to see if there are any tickets left (given the line-up, I'm guessing not, but you never know...). What did your mum think of it?
Not sure that "Le bourgeois gentilhomme" is in the edition of plays by Molière that I have, but I'll check when I get home.
#315 Hmmm. Over clever. Ah well, it's all booked now (I got carried away yesterday) - we shall see! I think Damien Lewis is very well cast as Alceste anyway, let's just hope Keira Knightly is less plank-like than usual...
#319 Hi Cauterize and thank you! Agreed about the abruptness of the ending of The End of Mr Y...
999 Category 3 - TBR (7/9)
I think I spotted this on lunacat's thread earlier in the year. It's one of the earliest films I remember seeing (along with E.T. and Bambi) and it made a big impression - until this year, I had no idea that it was based on a book, but I had to read it.
It's a lovely, sad fairy-tale like story and I'm so glad I found it. I shall have to investigate Peter Beagle further - he seems to have been very prolific.
123) The Drowned and the Saved - Primo Levi
999 Category 3 - TBR (8/9)
I don't think I can comment on this.
I keep forgetting to mention a short Paul Auster story I found whilst Christmas shopping last week - Auggie Wren's Christmas Story. Very Paul Auster... ;)
1) Possession - A. S. Byatt
2) Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë (I will finish it, I will!)
3) L'etranger - Camus (in French)
1) War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
2) A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
3) Lady Susan - Jane Austen (re-read)
4) Maus - Art Spiegelman
5) The last 3 Sharpe books (for the sake of my compulsive sanity)
...anything unfinished will go on the list for next year (here)
We read A Christmas Carol at school and of course it's one of those that you see adapted all the time, but it occurred to me recently that I haven't actually read it since I was about 13, so I thought it would be suitably Christmassy...
Please finish Wuthering Heights! It is one of my top 5 favourite books, and even if you don't like it, I'm sure we can have some great discussion around it!
#331 Hi Cait! I'm so glad someone else agrees with me about Jeanette Walls's writing style - I thought I might be alone...
Re Jane Austen's earlier work, mostly, I'd say that it lacks the depth of her bigger novels, but then I don't know them nearly as well - and they're still great fun to read. I particularly like Love and Friendship - it's very silly...
Re Wuthering Heights - I promise I will this holiday, honest! :o)
#332 Hi! *waves*
So, this is the only book I finished (still got quite a few ongoing)...:
124) Flyte - Angie Sage
Next on from Magyk in the Septimus Heap series, continuing in much the same vein, although I didn't think it was quite up to the first. Still a fun read and I shall continue with the series.
One of the books I'm still reading is Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen. Fay Weldon continues to irritate and interest at the same time...
...and lastly, here's my last allotment(!) picture of the year:
(yes, it was about 3am when when we made this...)
(also I love your snowman.)
#338 Stasia, we will call him your Eyore. People shall come from, miles around to see him and say "this is Stasia's Eyore, even though he doesn't know it"...
#339 cameling, you're right - clearly, I need to go back there to rectify this for him before Christmas... (and thank you!)
#340 Rachael, RIP snowman indeed. Sigh. Maybe his ghost will return next year.
It's The Empress (on Thoday Street, off Mill Road). It used to be one of my favourites when I had a mate living round the corner - time to re-introduce it to the top 5... Apparently, since the last change of management, they also now have a pig. I am yet to meet this pig, but I shall continue to search.
Thank you. We were very proud of the snowman. :)
#341/2 Thank you Linda and Eliza. In fact, this was Snowman no. 6 - we went on a building spree after getting home from a gig - we were a bit wet, cold and bedraggled by the time we rolled back to the flat in the small hours!
Next in the series and a good one, even if Sharpe's wife has a bit of an unconvincing volte face... Two more to go!
999 Category 1 - Non Fiction (8/9)
Aunt Fay is writing letters to her (fictional) niece Alice, who is about to start a degree in English Literature. Alice doesn't want to read Jane Austen, and, it appears from Aunt Fay's letters, that she doesn't read much at all (why on earth is she doing an English Literature course then?!) - what she does want to do is write her own novel. Aunt Fay preaches to encourage Alice to give Jane Austen a go (and if I were Alice, I would have found those early letters very patronizing), giving her a bit of historical background and a few tantalising glimpses of the novels themselves.
Aunt Fay also gives her thoughts on writing itself and on the life of a novelist (from her perspective). To my mind, this is where she is most interesting, although her clever metaphor (the City of Invention) for the relationship between books, their authors and their readers does get hackneyed very quickly (I notice that other reviewers particularly liked this - this is just a personal opinion).
The historical perspective on what life would have been like for Jane Austen and others of the era, (in particular, women) was fascinating. However, I found the lack of references or evidence for facts stated disconcerting. I would think that Fay Weldon researched her book very thoroughly - I imagine that most of what she reports is fairly reliable, however, I don't know this. She could just be reciting facts from memory (and however good one's memory, there will always be gaps and mistakes) - she certainly interprets the facts to support her own arguments. If nothing else, it would be interesting to have a bibliography somewhere.
My real issue with the book, however, was all the suppositions - in particular Fay Weldon frequently appears to credit Jane Austen with her own thoughts. I mention earlier that she interprets history to support her own beliefs on Jane's life, well she does this with very little presentation of contrary arguments - one example being Jane Austen's reasons for remaining unmarried - there is a lot of debate about this! She even notices that she has done this herself in one letter and states that she hates it when other people make sweeping assumptions (or words to that effect) - well why do it then? Maybe the reason I found this particularly irritating was that my interpretations are frequently different from hers. Nonetheless it had me grumbling every single time.
There were a couple of things that kept me reading amidst all these gripes. Firstly, I do love Jane Austen's work and know lamentably little about her life - this was interesting and I shall have to read more. In addition, Fay Weldon's comments on authorship are inevitably illuminating and her style very readable. I could not honestly say I particularly enjoyed this book, but it was certainly engrossing to read.
#348 Stasia, to do Fay Weldon justice, most of the reviews I've read of this have been very positive...
127) Sharpe's Waterloo - Bernard Cornwell
Not one of the better ones - but that's probably because the aspect of the Sharpe novels I least enjoy are the battle scenes (yes, you might well ask why I'm reading them then - to be honest, at this point, I've no idea!) and Waterloo was a particularly gruesome one...
128) Alanna: The First Adventure - Tamora Pierce
I read about this series on someone's thread very recently and yet, I still don't seem to remember whose it was - I'm sure it'll come back to me. Good holiday reading at any rate!
129) Dearest Father - Franz Kafka
999 Category 6 - Biography/Memoir etc (7/9)
...whereas this was not... Hmmm. What to say. This is a letter Franz Kafka wrote to his father - edited, revised, typed out, shown to his mother, but never actually sent to his father. It was amongst the manuscripts and papers (including The Trial) that he left with Max Brod when he died, with the direction to burn them all. Of course, Max Brod did no such thing - in fact he published the whole lot - but then if he truly wanted them burnt, why did he not do it himself (etc etc...)? There are also extracts from one or two diary entries and letters to others concerning his father.
I don't know - it seems to me that this should never have been published. It may well be that he meant for others to see it, given the manuscript's un-letter-like qualities and the fact that it never did go to his father. Nonetheless, it's an incredibly personal, resentful and bitter letter. Clearly Franz Kafka's father was a difficult man and Franz had a hard childhood, but I couldn't help feeling a certain amount of disgust as I read it - I didn't feel it should have been for my eyes (but it's short and I don't like giving up on things). It reads like a passive-aggressive attempt to name and shame his father - to say to the world "look what this man did to me - I'm all messed up and it's all his fault" - even though on many occasions he writes that it isn't all his father's fault and he probably would have turned out that way anyway, it doesn't feel like he means it. I suppose it does shed some light on the psyche of the author, which probably helps to elucidate his fiction, but I can't help feeling that I'd rather not know. I can't give a rating to this book (I did, but I'm going to de-select it now...)
You hit my feelings right on the button..and you pushed it! I have such very little sympathy for people who way into their adult lives bitterly blame their parents. Ah, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say I don't know anyone who has had a 100% perfect childhood. And, I don't know anyone who is a 100% perfect parent.
I know a lot of folk (including me) had narcissistic, neglectful parents. Somehow, we move along, work it through and try to understand it all without bitterness, without blame and without a pity poor me attitude.
A quick rundown of my pre-New Year reading (have stopped in briefly at the library before I drive off into about as middle of nowhere as you can get in London for a New Year's party):
130) Sharpe's Devil - Bernard Cornwell
See, I said I'd finish the series by the end of the year! Not a bad note to leave things on post the not very good Sharpe's Waterloo...
131) Possession - A. S. Byatt
999 Category 2 - Unfinished books (4/9)
I got a bit stuck about 1/3 of the way through this (too many not very interesting letters), but re-attacked it following Christmas and I'm glad I did - even if it took until the last 1/5 of the book for me to get truly carried away. I'll comment more on it at a later date, when I have a bit more time...
132) On the Edge - Ilona Andrews
Completely ridiculous nonsense, whose lead characters are almost identical to the lead characters in the Magic Bites etc series. Still enjoyed it in a guilty pleasure type of way...
133) Tartuffe - Moliere
999 Category 8 - Plays (9/9)
In some senses, I enjoyed this more than The Misanthrope, but the ending did make me cringe (partly because in the edition I have, the play is preceded by Moliere's original prefice and three petitions to the King).
134) Lizzie Leigh/A Dark Night's Work - Elizabeth Gaskell
999 Category 5 - Unread classics (7/9)
I've loved those novels of Mrs Gaskell I've read, but I've found her short stories/novellas a bit of a mixed bunch. Again, I'll comment on this properly soon (I have to come back to summarise the year after all!)
also read The Little Black Book of Set Lists an amusing little book given to me by a mate, which appeals to my inner nerd (Rachael, I'm afraid it came from the Borders clear out!)
Anyway, I'm off now, but in the meantime HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!
I'm so enjoyed your comments throughout our challenge group.
#356 RebeccaAnn - very much enjoyed it - am looking forward to the rest of the series - thank you!
#357 and to you too Linda! and mutual enjoyment ;)
#358 ...and also to you Stasia!
Further comments and sum up still to follow (possibly not till I get back to work...) - there are just sooo many posts to catch up on!!
Total read 2009: 134 (50 more than last year), of which:
Re-reads: 17 (2 more than 2008)
YA/Children's: 22 (2 more than 2008)
999 Challenge: 68/81 (ah well...)
Still low on the non-fiction, but I only read 4 non-fiction books in 2008, so it's an improvement - mostly due to the 999 Challenge. More reviews than the previous year too (although some are definitely better than others!)
Quick summary of the 999 Challenge while I'm at it:
1) Non Fiction (not Biography): 8/9
2) Unfinished Books: 4/9
3) To Be Read: 8/9
4) Authors I've Never Read: 9/9
5) Classics I've Never Read: 7/9
6) Biography: 5/9
7) Prize Winners: 9/9
8) Plays: 9/9
9) Recommended Books: 9/9
It irks me a little that I didn't complete this, but it did start to feel a little irrelevant after a while as a lot of the books that I read could easily have fitted into several of my categories... I'm not at all surprised I never completed the "Unfinished Books" category either! I did think I'd have no problems finishing the "Unread Classics" category though, so I'm quite surprised I didn't complete that.
Written in the 00's: 60 (of which, 8 were written in 2009 and 7 in 2008)
Written 1950 - 1999: 50
Written 1900 - 1949: 10
Written pre 1900: 14
As with last year, I'd say that this is pretty representative - I've always read a lot of modern fiction - I've read less immediately contemporary stuff than usual this year however.
Author country of origin:
Japan : 2
Again, mostly English speaking, but a little broader than last year.
I've also read the entire Sharpe series this year, which was, perhaps, a little extreme... ;o)
...and finally, my top 5 new reads of 2009 (in the order I read them in):
1) Candide or Optimism - Voltaire
2) To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
3) Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Laclos
4) The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
5) On the Beach - Nevil Shute