Thursday, 29 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's BTT:

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading?

I'm going to keep it short and sweet this week - which I am sure will make a nice change. I define the act of reading as anything written down! Newspapers, magazines, comics, graphic novels, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, letters, etc, etc, etc!

I don't count audiobooks or radio plays as reading. Not sure why. I only listen to these on the beach or when driving. I'd much rather read the words myself than listen to someone else and I am always worried I'll fall asleep if I listened in bed and lose my place!

I've not tried a "proper" e-reader but I do have several free books saved onto my computer in a pdf or word format and I've never managed to muster up the energy to read even one of them. I'm not sure if that says something about whether I prefer to enjoy the act of reading in a paper format or just that I've not given the alternative a chance. I have no objection to reading articles/newspapers/short stories online so maybe it's the latter. Although, on reflection, I can't imagine snuggling up in bed with an e-reader in the same way that I would with a book!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


...for the unannounced interruption in service. I was in Newcastle visiting my brother and his girlfriend for a very long weekend. It was very windy but the sun shone and, as it rained and rained and rained back in Norwich, I can't complain too much about the weather! Some very long drives there and back were enlivened by the Adam and Joe podcast collection. I can thoroughly recommend the recent STEPHEN! episode. Even though it nearly caused us to crash as Mr B was laughing so hard.

Whilst there, we went to a pub, watched a bit of Eurovision, went to a garden centre, had a swim, saw Indiana Jones IV in a very nice cinema, went to another pub, experienced lots of live music for a mere £3 and, as a final treat, dragged my husband and brother around Ikea auditioning bookshelves. Not all in one day!

Couple of things to mention that I've noticed in my google reader catchup:
  • I enjoyed a spot of memory lane courtesy of Joe Abercrombie and Part 1 of his "History of Gaming". If only we still had the wood-effect original Pong console!
  • You can buy sets of matching books by the foot or yard to fill your library with! Link.
  • I found The Republic of Pemberley (via here) which, as you might expect, is a collection of all things Austen. They have a great shoppe section which is filled with things I want but don't need. I leave you with an example!

Friday, 23 May 2008

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Every year I mean to make it down to the Chelsea Flower Show and every year I fail. Although, thanks to extensive coverage on the BBC, I probably get a better feel for the show than I would if I went in person! The Summer Solstice garden is my favourite this year - perhaps because it's just what I'd like to have myself. One day, one day!

In the meantime, here are some pictures from my own garden that I took yesterday - for some reason it won't load in blogger as a decent sized image but it does if you click on it. Could be user error though!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's BTT is:

"Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?"

Firstly, I'm not sure that what I want from a book and what I want from a film is that much different. Both are escapism of a form and a (hopefully) entertaining way to pass the time. Both can be challenging learning experiences or meaningless fluff - depending on your inclination. You tend to commit more time to a book than you have to for a film but that's not necessarily a point in the favour of either.

You can discuss events as they unfold on a film and start a dialogue whilst still in the moment and whilst what you want to talk about is still very fresh. Assuming that you're watching it in your own home, of course! Mr B just loves my habit of saying "press pause" and then doing just this. Hem hem. A book tends to be a more solitary experience although if you can find someone who has also read it recently then this does not have to be the case. All hail the internet!

I used to really resent it when a film changed the story in a book (as an extreme example, so that Juliet does not die) but I'm no longer as black and white about this as I was and I can live with films being "inspired by" the book in the same way that they are loosely "inspired by" a true story. My attention to detail also depends on how long it's been since I read the book. I watched Vanity Fair a few weeks ago and, as I last read the book when I was in my teens, I'd forgotten half the plot anyway so was quite happy to assume that the stories remained similar. In general, I can accept that they are two different mediums, that a story in a film has to be told very quickly and that bits have to be cut to pare a story down enough to make a film that does not last hours and hours.

Having just said how tolerant I am now, casting can be an issue for me but I am going to spare you my thoughts on the various Elizabeth Bennets who have been Not Quite Right.

Thinking about some specific examples where I've read and watched it's not fair to make a sweeping judgement about Book v. Film. Some films have been of significantly higher quality than the books on which they are based and The Bourne franchise springs to mind here and I enjoyed the film of Everything is Illuminated far more than the book (which I'd tried to read first). Period films in general seem to be pretty faithful adaptions with Merchant Ivory productions leading the way and it's hard to go wrong when paying close attention to detail with franchises like Lord of the Rings or the Narnia series. Films based on Shakespeare's plays are as varied as the stage productions - and so they should be. I loved Much Ado About Nothing, which I saw after studying it as an A-Level set text and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet opened the play up to a much wider audience than a more traditional interpretation could have.

I realise that I'm thinking about this solely from the viewpoint of someone who always reads the book before watching the film and am trying to think of an instance where it's happened the other way around. Actually, four spring to mind - Dangerous Liaisons, The Colour Purple and (more recently) V for Vendetta and Howl's Moving Castle. I loved all of those films and actively sought out the books to read after allowing a period of time to elapse so that they could retain some freshness for me when I eventually read them. At some point this year, I'll read the Constant Gardener and Children of Men as well as I enjoyed both films last year but I want to read them without too many pre-conceptions from the films remaining.

Oh dear - I seem to have gone seriously off topic and I am not sure that I actually answered the question. I'd better post this before I veer even further!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008



This week, BookRabbit came out of beta testing and launched to the masses but I am not quite sure I get it - although it is a very nice looking website.

As far as I can gather, you take a photo of your bookshelf, upload it and then tag the books using their database. You can then find out who shares similar books with you and have a look at their shelves to get inspiration/get chatting/something else I am sure... They also sell books and claim that they are "cheaper than Amazon" on their top 100,000 titles - that's some boast. The site features author interviews and user-generated book list suggestions which look interesting but no different to other sites I've seen. I'm not too sure how I'd actually get photos of all my bookshelves on the site though, as I seem to have significantly more books than anyone else I have seen there. The Guardian has an interview with MD Kieron Smith here and that explains what they aim to do with more clarity than I have achieved.

Oh - I see someone appears to have a picture of the contents of one of my booksheves... Maybe I start to get the attraction of this site. I can peer into people's lives via their book collections and make sweeping assumptions about them. "This one is showing off and has clearly removed all the lowbrow content", "this person has included pictures of their very ugly children on their shelf", "that person should have dusted before taking their photo" and "this person has every book by Terry Pratchett but does not appear to have ever bought/read another author. They should." Perhaps the last statement is the point of the site - a chance to meet other people who share a passion for a favourite author and swap reading tips.

Hrmmm - It says here that the site is aimed at the "heavy" book buyer. Apparently that's someone who buys more than four books a year. I must be a seriously obese book buyer then...

I think I'll join. It can't hurt and I'll make sure to arrange a careful selection of books for my photo that demonstrate just how intellectual I am. :D

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Beautiful Books

Into my sticky and avaricious paws have come beautiful copies of Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. They've been "borrowed" from my father but I like to think that they've come here to stay forever. They're 1992 Folio Society editions and they're so pretty that I thought I'd share. The illustrations are by Roland Pym.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Some Things...

A general round-up of things that I meant to mention at the time but didn't.
  • Let's start with a bit of fun and head over to Stuck-in-a-book's Devouring Books challenge where he asked for submissions of books with food in their title. He sums up the best entries here (I might just mention that one was mine!) and it was fun scouring my shelves and reading other entries. Especially the ones that I have read but forgot about! It strikes me, after reading the list, that the most prolific food-in-title author could well be Joanne Harris.
  • Scott Pack is running a "best of the rest" Booker contest to run alongside the official Best of the Booker contest which is between Pat Barker, Peter Carey, JM Coetzee, JG Farrell, Nadine Gordimer and Salman Rushdie. Scott has pulled together a very esteemed panel who have each submitted their favourite book that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize but failed to win. You can cast your vote for the Best of the Rest book here! I voted for Cloud Atlas but confess that I've not read them all.
  • Last week's Thursday soapbox from Vulpes Libris was by Catherine Jones and called "Pride in the Face of Prejudice". Catherine is Chair of the Romantic Novelists' Association and writes a great guest post. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that writing a book requires no skill and no talent whatsoever..." I thoroughly enjoyed this article and Catherine makes some great points..
  • Just One More Book dropped me a line to tell me about the thrice-weekly podcast they record about the children's books they love and why they love them. "Our goals are to link children with great books and to help create happy memories for children and the adults that read to them…and to have fun! "
I think that's it for now...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's BTT is:

"Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?
  • Do you ever read manuals?
  • How-to books?
  • Self-help guides?
  • Anything at all?"
Firstly, I never, ever read the bumpf that comes with new gadget purchases and this has been known to cause some domestic tension! I prefer to learn by playing about when it comes to kit like new camera and most new stuff is set up like the old one (think DVD player, washing machines, speakers, kettle, etc!) In very special instances I might turn to the "book of words" but generally that's only after at least 30 mins of swearing at a new shiny toy! I think I don't read the instructions because 1) I often, wrongly, believe I am cleverer than the machine and 2) they are generally awfully boring and go on and on in far too much depth about things like how to insert a plug into a socket. I pity the poor people who have to write these documents day in and day out.

I never read manuals. This is because neither Mr B or I are of any use when it comes to practical projects and I have a very useful brother-in-law and the numbers of a few good professionals should anything clever need doing!

I have a few how-to books (sewing, gardening, diy, software help) but generally will have a quick flick through at point of receipt, mentally note several projects that I will never embark upon and then place them on a bookshelf for reference purposes. I will then use the internet to look up how to actually do anything should I need to.

I don't think I own, or have read, any self-help guides. I did stop smoking after hypnosis and used a follow up CD to reinforce the message and I suppose that sort of counts. I still wish I'd done it years before though! Kids - it's never cool to smoke.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Plainsong - Kent Haruf

Picture this. Me. It's yesterday morning. I've just finished back-to-back reading the Age of Unreason series by Greg Keyes which had itself followed on from Karen Miller's Mage duology. I need a Change of Pace. A break from SFF. I also need to make inroads on the TBRs as all the above don't count as they were library books. I picked up Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Hrm. Not sure. Could be a bit worthy. What the hell - Scot Pack liked it when he read it recently so I'll give it a bash. Can't hurt... Stay up in bed reading it until finished. Blimey. That was good.

I just can not believe that I let it sit untouched on my TBR pile for five months. This is a serious contender for May's Bookling POTM and it'll have to be a pretty special book that knocks it off the top spot.

In Plainsong, "The story weaves together several characters: pregnant 17-year-old Victoria Roubideaux; the McPherons, an elderly pair of cattle rancher brothers who take Victoria in; Tom Guthrie with his two young sons 'Ike and Bobby, who've been abandoned by their depressed mother; and a high school teacher who knows them all, Maggie Jones."

An aside: Interesting that I used speech marks for the quote I lifted, as Haruf's own approach to punctuation disregards their use entirely. This is not as irritating as it sounds.

Plainsong is a deceptively simple, spare telling of these characters day to day lives and their intersection with each other in the rural community of Holt. Nothing unexpected happens, you can see what's going to happen to the characters and the plot itself almost non-existent. But it's all so beautifully written. All of the people, and the situations they find themselves in, are so very real and it was heartbreaking to watch them do or say things that you know will bring them unnecessary pain. This is such a beautifully written book and I shall be making people read it. Possibly while I watch.

Kent Haruf is an absolute master storyteller and I see that he revisits some of these characters in Eventide so I'll have to tell Mr B to add "just one more book" to the birthday demands list. Or perhaps two if I also include Tie That Binds...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Today I feel warm and funny inside...

...and in honour of that nice feeling, I have added two new authors to the bookling blog roll. The lovely Angela Young and the equally lovely Adele Geras have been added because they both emailed me today and that was nice. Actually, I meant to add both of them ages ago and am relieved to see that I was nice about them. That could have been awful!

I did tell them (and it's absolutely true) that they both feature on my incredibly subtle "these are the books I want you to buy and wrap up for me please" birthday list that I issued to Mr B last week. I should add that my birthday's not for ages but I like to ensure he has plenty of time to scout down copies. You see, due to a complex domestic agreement, I am not allowed to purchase new books myself until the TBR fits back onto one shelf of the bookcase. I did count the TBRs today and it's just under 70 so progress is being made. I wonder if buying lots of new bookshelves would help me to disguise the pile size. Hrmmmm.....

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Oh What a Night!

Last night, Mr B was out filming and so I had sole charge of the viewing schedule. What fun!

The evening kicked off with the final of BBC4's The Book Quiz. This is a programme I only stumbled on last night by chance and it's very disappointing to realise it was the last in the series as I certainly enjoyed myself shouting out the answers and discovering several shameful knowledge gaps. To provide a flavour for my contribution to the quiz (and do keep in mind it was just the dogs and I on the sofa and they were not of much use) an example follows. Please do feel free to insert your own groans as the much cleverer panel shout out ten titles I am familiar with but have not remembered at regular intervals...

Q: List as many of Hardy's 14 novels as you can in one minute.
Me: Tess of the D'Urbervilles...umm... Jude the Obscure and Oh! Oh! The one with Bathsheba in it that I read at school when I was 15 and is on the tip of my...bother...what was it again? Out of time.

This moves me nicely on to a ramble where I confess that I think that Far from the Madding Crowd is the only Hardy novel I have actually read and that was under educational supervision. I have a feeling I might have read The Mayor of Casterbridge but as I am not entirely sure then I doubt it counts. I have no idea why I have developed an aversion to reading Hardy, given I greatly enjoy almost any contemporary you can name, and shall invest in a couple of books to find out why I have been avoiding him. I might even have some but they are bound to be in the attic along with 75% of my book stash.

I digress. Back to last night's viewing. I spent the rest of the night in the company of two of my favourite ladies - Miss Elinor Dashwood and Miss Emma Woodhouse. What a charming pair they are and I very much enjoyed myself admiring Emma Thompson's brilliance and Jeremy Northam as Mr Knightley *swoon*. I need to track down a decent version of Nothanger Abbey next...

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Love Your Library

I meant to write about a trip I made to my local library a few days ago. Check out my new tote bag that I ended up buying there. For a bargain £1.20 too - although my £10 note did cause chaos... I needed it as I "accidentally" borrowed six books on a visit that was supposed to be only to look up a mushroom field guide. We've got some mushrooms sprouting in bark chippings that I am pretty sure are morel mushrooms but I want to be quite, quite sure not just pretty sure! Oh dear - I now realise that I forgot to look that up but as they have all collapsed in the heat that's OK.

The council are running a Love Your Library campaign and it must be doing something as Norwich has the busiest public library in the country. Go us.

Aaaaanyway - back to my library trip. In an unheard of event, I managed to borrow two full series of books* from the SFF section. This never happens as usually they're all there except the first book in a trilogy or the middle volume has a status of On Shelf every time I check but is nowhere to be found. I do love how I can check what's in, reserve copies and renew my books online. I've no idea if other libraries networks have this service but I am very glad that mine does!

*Innocent Mage & Awakened Mage by Karen Miller and the Age of Unreason series by Greg Keyes.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Enjoying the Weather

So. I set up a nice, cosy spot in the sunshine to sprawl out and read my current book. Within seconds it was occupied. I didn't have the heart to move her or, as was inevitable, my other dog when he joined the fun but there is something not entirely comfortable about lying in the sun with two very hot dogs pressing against you.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday

It's BTT again.

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

Don't read them but do own a handful - although in the age of the internet I doubt that I'd ever buy more as I don't think I've looked at my real life dictionary/thesaurus in years. I do have a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves (a gift) but I've never read it as life always seems too short and my reading list too long. I believe somewhere in my shelves should be an illustrated children's book of grammar that I bought when doing my A-Level English course as somehow, when much younger, I managed to miss all the lessons in English that explained what all the terms actually mean (verb, adverb, etc)

I'm happy knowing that a sentence is structured in a certain way "because it is" though and I think my prolific reading as a child probably covered my knowledge gaps. My Grandmother was an English teacher and would correct our use of words if we were using them out of context and woe betide any grandchild who incorrectly applied a ' (your/you're, its'/it's). A classic conversational example, that I am sure any member of my extended family could quote, would be:

Me: "Granny, can we go for a swim?"
Her: "I don't know - can you?"
Me: *sigh*
Me: "Granny, MAY we go for a swim?"
Her: "Yes."

So in answer, (as I seem to be dangerously veering off-topic) I don't use the books I have and only have a faint grasp of the actual "laws" behind grammar and punctuation but as I seem to have absorbed rules via osmosis I get along OK.

Hrmmm. Re-reading this post, it's clear that I don't often use the few punctuation rules I do know when writing this blog but I think I'll live. :D

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Cripes - that time of the week already and (somehow) we're now into the fifth month of the year... Where on earth does the time go? I digress.

"Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??"

My response depends on the length of time I am stuck and how urgent the family emergency is. I'm going to assume a crisis but not likely to be a fatal one. I am also going to pretend that I have not grabbed my ipod (with all my audiobooks!) or my mobile (with lots of games!). Perhaps I am reading too much into this...

I see I have a wallet to go with my passport so no need to go scouting bins for newspapers, which was my first plan! Second non-book plan was to hope I had my mobile with me as I could then play games on it. Surely this is an excellent excuse to pop into an airport shop and buy a nice new book (or if a good BOGOF then books)?

The only problem with airport shops is that unless they have a branch of a "proper" bookshop then it tends to be picking out the best of a bad bunch from a display next to the magazines. When we were in Detroit recently on a plane changeover Mr B bought Heart Shaped Box which was by far the best of a very poor selection, and enjoyed it. I was also pleased as it was on my "to buy" list and him buying it saved me some pennies. I am sure I could find something to read, even if it was a skim-read book that was only designed to get me through the wait at the airport and the journey. Of course, this is also the perfect time to pick up a trashy novel that you'd not normally be seen dead reading and blame it on the airport selection!!

If the choice was really, really dire then I'd also pick up a couple of newsy magazines I don't normally read (New Scientist type thing), maybe a small format newspaper and use it as an excuse to buy some Tech magazines too.

April Reading List

  • Sarum - Edward Rutherford. A novel following the same five families living in the Salisbury area from pre-history to the modern time. Lent to me by my father-in-law as a suitable holiday read (as in it's a brick!) and an interesting overview of English history.
  • Renegades of Pern - Anne McCaffrey. I bought a hardback edition of this at a library sale on Big Pine Key (Florida) for the princely sum of $2, mainly because I liked the retro cover. This was over Mr B's protests about luggage weight and that I already had enough to read and he funded the purchase in eventual good grace. The book itself was a rehash of several story threads I'd already read in another of the Pern books but from the viewpoint of different characters so that was a disappointment. Book still looks funky though and it's an easy beach read.
  • Heart Shaped Box - Joe Hill. This was the book we bought at Detroit airport when Mr B had finished his book on the previous plane. It was added to my "must buy" list when Neil Gaiman mentioned enjoying the book last year and I'd not realised it was a big release over in the USA. Mind you, I'd also forgotten he was Stephen King's son but now I know again that may help to explain it. Although I should make it clear that this book was easily good enough to be popular without the parents. Heart Shaped Box was a real page turner and not the horror I expected. I look forward to the film version which should be a challenge to make.
  • Chronicles of Amber - Roger Zelazny. Fantasy Masterworks editions always tempt me as they are such a bargain way of reading SFF classics. This one collects the first five Amber books into one volume so qualified as one of my holiday reads as it was 1) a way of secretly packing five books and 2) it's a big book. In case you don't know, Amber is the one real world that casts infinite reflections of itself (shadow worlds) that can be manipulated by those of royal Amberite blood. The Amber throne looks as if it's up for grabs and the Amber princes and princesses vie for control.
  • A Piano in the Pyrenees - Tony Hawkes. No. Not the skateboarding dude - the Brit Comedian one. You know the fellow. He went around Ireland with a fridge. Yes him! Anyway. He's now bought a house in the Pyrenees and, having read this enjoyable book, I want one as well. Seen a couple that take my fancy however need to brush up my GSCE French first!
  • Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson. This is my POTM read for April and I now really regret that I didn't review it properly as I was reading. I've already mentioned that it was a whopping book but I'm finding it hard to explain why it was such a damn good read. The story alternates between WW2 and the present and follows the fortunes of a handful of characters linked by code-breaking and some of them/their descendants in the present time. That explaination really does not do the huge themes that run through this book any justice whatsoever (or the incredible attention to detail) and I find it hard to explain how this makes a brilliant novel but it is. Just read it and find out for yourself! I can't wait to read Stephenson's Baroque Cycle though.
  • The Season of the Witch - Natasha Mostert. I'm really not sure what I expected from this novel but I finished it very pleased that I'd read it. A Gothic novel set in a modern context with interesting characters, lashings of mysticism and a gripping plot. Dovegreyreader puts it so much better than I could in her dgr post from last year.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda - Anthony Hope. One of my five NCBC purchases as it's a classic I've never read and was a mere £3.50. Of course, then I see how much it is on amazon but hey ho. Perhaps that's why I don't really go into bookshops any more. :(

Free Books

Wow - if you are fan of Fantasy then pop over to Pat's Fantasy Hotlist and check out this giveaway! There are thirty books being given away and I am seriously impressed. Books include full sets of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Recluce Saga, Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's The Deathgate Cycle & Stephen R. Donaldson's first two Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Wow.

"A few weeks back, I posted a list of novels/series which I believe should be more widely read, especially by the new generation of SFF fans....I got on the horn and contacted a few editors to see if they would be interested in giving away these "older" titles. I was pleasantly surprised that most were indeed interested and ran along with the idea!

I normally encourage everyone to participate, but this time around I would like that only those who have yet to discover these SFF series register for these giveaways."

I remember reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series just before I went to uni and I could not put the books down. It was my first introduction to SFF (well - an author that was not Tolkein or a book not designed for children) and my copies are battered with the strain of re-reading. Years ago I read the Thomas Covenant Chronicles too and they might be due for a re-read as I see that there is another book on the horizon.

I've not read the Deathgate Cycle so fingers crossed!