Friday, 29 February 2008

Febuary Reading

Hot off the presses and actually on time this month! Drumroll please... <insert your own sound effect here please> ...and here's what I've read this month!

  • Inkspell – Cornelia Funke. I didn't enjoy the sequel as much as I liked Inkheart last month however it was an enjoyable fantasy novel and must keep in mind that it was aimed at teenagers not muttersomethingsomethingsmutter.
  • Matter - Iain M Banks. It took me ages to finish off this one - see post here. I didn't go to see him speak in the end as it was not last night as thought but Wednesday. Doh. Luckily I checked the ticket yesterday before turning up as that could have been a bit embarrassing!
  • My Lover's Lover - Maggie O'Farrell. On normblog, Angela Young recently wrote an excellent piece about “After You’d Gone” that says so eloquently everything I wish I could about Maggie O’Farrell’s writing style. I read “After You’d Gone” last year (that is a must-read book) and deliberately delayed reading another of her books as I wanted to eke them out rather than gorge myself. When I allowed myself the treat of starting My Lover’s Lover last Sunday afternoon, my good intentions crumbled and I ended up gulping the book down in one sitting. I just had to keep turning the pages…
  • Facing the Light - Adele Geras. This is my inaugural POTM read* and at £3.50 from amazon it's a blooming bargain. The plot revolves around an extended family gathering to celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday of its formidable matriarch, Leonora. She is the daughter of the famous Edwardian painter Ethan Walsh, whose paintings are kept at the family home, Willow Court in Wiltshire. Facing the Light is an unputdownable (a word? I doubt it) family saga/mystery book filled with finely nuanced characters and vivid descriptions - the paintings in particular are beautifully portrayed. Luckily, Adele Geras has written other books for adults and I shall be buying them all.
  • A Dark-Adapted Eye - Barbara Vine. Firstly I had better mention my factoid of the day - I did not know that Barbara Vine was PD James until now... Swiftly drawing a veil over my ignorance, I found this to be a well executed and very emotionally precise book that very skillfully moves the reader towards the inevitable tragic conclusion (as you find out that a character is hanged for murder in the first chapter) . I am told that the tv adaptation briefly features my father-in-law sitting in a train carriage with Helena Bonham-Carter so that gives me an added incentive to watch it.
  • A Lost Lady - Willa Cather. A short, and deceptively simple, story about a vivacious married woman living in a small backwater town that's told through the eyes of a boy as he comes of age. The edition I read was from the Virago Modern Classics collection with an introduction by AS Byatt – I bought it as part of a ten books for just £9.99 deal at the book people which is great value.
  • V for Vendetta - Alan Moore & David Lloyd. "Good evening, London. It's nine o'clock and this is the voice of fate broadcasting on 275 and 285 in the medium wave... It is the fifth of the eleventh nineteen-ninety-seven." Set in a dystopian England following a devastating war that changed the face of the planet, an anarchist masked revolutionary begins an elaborate, violent and theatrical campaign to bring down the government. I bought this graphic novel as I loved the film and knew that Alan Moore was unhappy with the adaption but that David Lloyd was pleased. I think David is right to be pleased as to my mind it's pretty close to the original material. Craft project: make your own origami V mask.
  • The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro. This is only the second Ishiguro book I've read (the other was the beautifully disturbing "Never Let Me Go") and it's clear that he's a very versatile and talented author. The repressed emotional tension, the meticulous attention to period detail and stark vulnerability of the two lead characters made this book a heartbreaking delight to read. I've not seen the film, but I can imagine Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson to be as near to perfect casting as you can get.
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury. “Fahrenheit 451: The temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns”. In this disconcerting vision of the not too distant future, firemen don't put out fires - they start them in order to burn books which are now forbidden. Although this was written fifty years ago, it's perhaps even more fitting now in this age of reality tv and dumbed down news reporting. A short book that I suspect will linger in my thoughts for longer than it took me to read. I leave you with the book’s start quote from Juan Ramon Jimenez “If they give you ruled paper, write the other way”.
I really wish I had posted about these books as I actually read them as I just can't do them all justice in this format... Must try harder in March!

* This is a purely honorary award bestowed after careful deliberation by the distinguished Bookling panel (me) for being my Pick of the Month read. The books are rigorously tested against a range of purely subjective measures that may or may not change from month to month.

Some Things...

Some more things that have caught my eye over the past few days.

From The Telegraph"After a debate that left senior members of the Telegraph's literary staff with pulled hair, black eyes and, in one case, an infected bite, we this week present our list of the 50 great crime writers of all time."

Another list of must reads from io9 but this time it's twenty science fiction novels that will "change your life". Some great books there but (even better from my point of view) there are several I've not read yet and have added to my list.

Emma from Snow Books posted the cover she made in one day for George Mann's The Affinity Bridge and I think it is so gorgeous that I am happy to buy the book later this year for no reason other then to own a copy of the picture (although luckily the book does sound like my cup of coffee*!) So jealous and here's the link.

Robert from Fantasy Book Critic issued his monthly Spotlight for Febuary and (as usual) it's a great resource that contains some excellent release, book and author information. I have no idea why I forgot to mention it on my last "some things" post but better late than never!

I discovered this month that the cover of Hanif Kureishi's new novel, Something to Tell You, is a bit rude. I lost count very quickly...

Simon from Stuck in a Book kicked off some fun by posting some eight word book synopses. I was going to join in but got an attack of the shys.

Boing Boing posted a piece inspired by the book "Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure" and the comments grew and grew.

Oh - and who knew that Geoffrey Chaucer hath a blog? "My gentil rederes alle, what merveilous werkes we see yn thys tyme... ich am astonyed with the wonderful werkynges of the Internette. Trewely, yt beth a thyng of grete wisdam and power." What fun and one for the blogroll.

I think that'll do for now! Must post in shorter bursts...

* I hate tea.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008


The lovely Alex from Shedworking (who I have mentioned on my other blog) has another blog over here that's all about bookshelves.

All I need to do now is to choose the perfect shed to put bookshelves in!
Edit: Looks like Alex has already solved my shed dilemma - check out this book house!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Matter - Iain M Banks

So. I was going to write a review on Matter...

Well. I wrote it, played with it, rephrased bits of it and then went out into the Interweb to see what other people thought and if I agreed.

Chris the Book Swede thought this.
SF Signal thought this.
io9 thought this and published an interview with Iain M Banks here.

After all those other words (which I pretty much agreed with), I felt a bit redundant so decided not post my review after all. I might video his reading/Q&A session that I have a ticket for on Thursday and in which case I shall edit that and link to it here. Depends how vigilant the Waterstones staff are!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A staircase of books

Now this could be the book storage solution I've been looking for! Although I'll need to do a loft conversion too so it might not be cheap... I'm not sure that all my books would fit in the staircase but I am sure the loft conversion could have bookcases too. More photos here.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Some Things...

I am slightly surprised that it is now the 16th February and I am still only on Book Two of the month. This has to be a "worst-ever" record and, although I am enjoying Matter, I am hankering after something that's not set in space.

To attempt to disguise the total lack of book reviews this month, here's a few things that have caught my eye in the last weekish:

An email dropped into my inbox a couple of days ago from Sade Adeniran to tell me (and everyone else on her mailing list, I am quite sure) the fabulous news that her self-published book, Imagine This, has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize in the Best First Book for Africa category (link). She writes "Thanks to all those who are continuing to spread the word. Now my next dream has to be selling more than 1000 copies. :-) I have to admit, I feel like I’ve been nominated for an Oscar. I wish her lots of luck as it's a great book and don't just take my word for it - Sade has been strongly championed by Me and My Big Mouth. If you buy a copy from her website instead of amazon she'll even autograph it for you.

If you've not already seen it, stop by "Spread the Word" and vote for a book to talk about. I've had Candy Miller's Salt and Honey on my to read pile for a while now and I am quite sure that I could find a space for several of the other books on the shortlist. I'm not so sure when I'll get the time to read them though!

I've read a few posts about Georgette Heyer recently and I hold Emma from Vulpes Libris responsible for a certain eBay bid I have at the moment... I know I used to have a secret stash of Heyer's but I can only assume that they are in the attic as I can't find them. At least it looks as if I can come clean about liking her now!

Speaking of guilty pleasures - Firefly! My Own Kind of Freedom by Steve Brust has been released under a creative commons license. That means that you can download it here for free! To quote io9 "Squee!"

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

No posts!

I have been very negligent of this poor blog recently and I thought I'd pop on a quick post to apologise. I am still reading Matter by Iain M Banks and will write about that when I'm finished. If you're after a quick spot of Culture in the meantime there's a handy post from i09 here.

I've not been reading much recently as the weather has been just too nice so we've been taking the dogs out on adventures. Last week we went to Snakeshill Wood where I saw some Snowdrops! Artistic effect added to my photo as it was slightly out of focus and this way you can't tell :)

Monday, 4 February 2008

January Reading

Oh dear - a few days late but here's my list of books I finished reading in January. A very mixed bag and everything on it comes from the books-I-or-my-neice-got-for-Christmas pile. On which I have still not really made an impression. I don't suppose it helps that I've added a few more books too... Oh well. The first half of the month definitely reflects my need for easy reads - I had flu - and I think it might be time for some contemporary fiction!

  • Maggot Pie – Michael Lawrence. This was lent to me by my niece who thought I would enjoy it and she was right. I will be lend Killer Underpants as soon as she has finished reading it.
  • Jane Blonde: Sensational Spylet – Jill Marshall. This was also lent to me by my niece as she loves Jane Blonde. There are three more in the series and I look forward to seeing what Jane does next.
  • Deathstalker, Deathstalker Rebellion, Deathstalker War – Simon R Green. I got the Deathstalker books for Christmas and, as I had flu for the first two weeks of this year, a bit of space opera was just the ticket. Although I'd not finished the first part of the series at this point, I was forced to pause as I'm unable to trace a reasonably priced copy of Deathstalker Honour.
  • The Pure in Heart & The Risk of Darkness – Susan Hill. More Christmas books - I wanted to catch up on the rest of the Simon Serrailler books as I enjoyed reading the first one last year. I also enjoyed these! A nice change of pace from Space too.
  • Deryni Rising, Deryni Checkmate and High Deryni - Kathrine Kurtz. I bought these secondhand after reading about her on Pat's blog last year.
  • Deathstalker Destiny – Simon R Green. I finally gave up on finding a copy of Deathstalker Honour.
  • Inkheart – Cornelia Funke. See my write up below!

An odd month's reading. It'll be interesting to see what February brings.