Monday, 30 June 2008

Mister Pip & The Highest Tide

Hrm - that post header looks like it's a real, and slightly intriguing, book title but actually this is a lazy post that finishes off my June reads by combining two books in one post!

First up is Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide. Set in Washington's Puget Sound, thirteen year old Miles O'Malley goes out in search of shellfish only to discover a washed up giant squid. He becomes a local celebrity as increasingly wild theories are developed to explain how the squid got there. Miles has a real passion for the sea, can quote books by Rachel Carson (who I had not heard of before this book) and is an acute chronicaller of minute changes taking place in the bay. Against this backdrop, his parents marriage seems to be falling apart, he has a crush on the girl next door and his best friend, an old lady called Florence is growing increasingly dependent on him in a bid to avoid being put in a home.

This is a charming "coming of age" book but for me the star was the Puget Sound and the wildlife that inhabits it. Jim Lynch, who lives locally, describes it with obvious affection and his observations are based on a close familiarity with it. As the Sunday Telegraph said in their blurb quote "Even the most hard-hearted readers will finish this book wishing they had their own bay to explore." I know I do!

If you want to read more, Bookslut has a great, very personal, view on the book here and there's an official website here.

The last book of the month was Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. I'll admit to being primarily seduced by Petra Borner's gorgeous cover illustration and not that it won the 2007 Commonwealth Writer's Prize or that it was shortlisted for last year's Man Booker or that everyone I know who has read it says I should too. I feel awfully shallow after writing that sentence... What a great book to end the month on though! It's a short book that really doesn't feel like it when you've finished.

Matilda is a young girl living on Bougainville, a remote tropical island in the South Pacific that's just erupted into civil war. Mr Watts is the self-appointed teacher of her school, and the island's sole white man, who teaches from just one book - Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

I'm really not sure what I was expecting before I started reading this book. Certainly not what it turned out to be. It's a story in several distinct parts as events engulf Matilda. It's about love and friendship, about loyalty and sacrifice. It's about what people will do when their world is falling apart and above all it's about courage, imagination and perseverence.

Much to my shame, I didn't realise until researching this post that Bougainville is a real island and that the civil war is also quite, quite real. That certainly puts a very unsettling tint of reality on what I hoped was pure fiction. Lloyd Jones has written eight books so far and they seem to be slowly being brought out in the UK (with equally lovely Petra Borner covers!) and I'm looking forward to exploring more of his work.

Friday, 27 June 2008

1001 Books: You Must Read Before You Die.

I was reading about this "1001 Books" book on a forum and decided to do a "ticking off" exercise rather than something more productive with my afternoon! The list has been edited by Peter Boxall assisted by, or so the blurb says, a "superb international team of writers and critics" so that's OK then.

Without trying to be too picky, I'm not sure I entirely agree with all the entries and there are altogether too many repeat appearances by some authors and some very odd omission of others. It's an interesting time waster all the same!

There's a great spreadsheet to download here on Arukiyomi's excellent site so you can track your own progress. Should you be mad enough to want to do this! I've read that there are two versions of the book as the first one was a bit euro-centric but no idea which edition this list is based on.

Much to my surprise I've read 157 books on the list (or 15.68% according to the lovely spreadsheet) and, much to my shame, I own at least another 25-30 of them but probably more! Most of them are in the attic but at least this exercise should shame me into reading some of the accessible ones!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The Woman in the Fifth - Douglas Kennedy

I chose to read this hot on the heels of Sepulchre as it is also set in France so The Woman in the Fifth seemed like a sensible match!

Harry Ricks has fled his wife, job and daughter following a romantic mistake with one of the pupils at the small American college he taught at. He's arrived in Paris with very little money, he's ill and he has no work permit.

Just when Harry begins to think that he has hit rock bottom, romance enters his life. Her name is Margit - an elegant, cultivated Hungarian emigre, long resident in Paris - widowed and, like Harry, alone.But though Harry is soon smitten with her, Margit keeps her distance. Harry's frustrations with her reticence are soon overshadowed by a ever-growing preoccupation that a dark force is at work in his life - as punishment begins to be meted out to anyone who has recently done him wrong. Before he knows it, he finds himself of increasing interest to the police and waking up in a nightmare from which there is no easy escape.

Douglas Kennedy is an accomplished writer and he succeeds in bring a very seedy Paris to life. I don't want to write too much for fear of spoiling some (based on amazon reviews anyway!) very unpopular plot twists but I say kudos to Kennedy for moving away from his more traditional style of work with this one. This is the fifth of his books I've read and I don't think it's fair to expect "more of the same" from an author and get annoyed if you don't get it. That's my tuppence posted anyway! :)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Sepulchre - Kate Mosse

Sepulchre has more than a whiff of the gothic about it and it reminded me, of course, of Kate Mosse's other popular book Labyrinth but also of The Historian. Although that might be because I read that around the same time as I read The Labyrinth!

1891. Seventeen-year-old Leonie Vernier and her brother abandon Paris for the sanctuary of their aunt's isolated country house near Carcassonne, the Domaine de la Cade. But in the nearby woods, Leonie stumbles across a ruined sepulchre - and a timeless mystery whose traces are written in blood. 2007. Meredith Martin arrives at the Domaine de la Cade as part of her research for a biography she's writing. But Meredith is also seeking the key to her own complex legacy and soon becomes immersed in the story of a tragic love, a missing girl, a unique deck of tarot cards, an unquiet soul and the strange events of one cataclysmic night more than a century ago...

This is a book that feels as if it's been carefully planned to be a success in a similar vein to Labyrinth. Although sometimes the book seems to ramble a bit, the plot has some interesting elements and (as long as you don't take it too seriously) moves along at a decent pace. Overall, an entertaining read that's clearly been carefully researched.

There's a really detailed Sepulchre website that comprehensively covers the book, the author and locations usef. The edition I had also has reading group notes and photos of the locations that feature in the book. This reminds me when Mr B took me to Carcassonne just after I'd read Labyrinth (a coincidence!) and suddenly all the scenes set in and around the medieval Cité came to life for me.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The First Law Trilogy - Joe Abercrombie

The First Law trilogy is the debut SFF series from Joe Abercrombie. I'd read a lot about the books and how well it's been received and it was very hard to maintain the willpower required to to apply my "wait until they're all published" rule to this one but I managed it. Just. Although I am still slightly niggled that my set does not match as the last one is a large format paperback but I shall live. If you want more, there are some interviews with Joe, as I shall call him, here and here and an article he's written about his influences here.

I'm absolutely delighted that the buzz (note that I've not used the word hype) was accurate. This is a really enjoyable, solid, character-driven debut trilogy and I'm looking forward to his next book already! The series is dark, bloody and full of deliciously twisted humour. It's packed with vivid characters that you shouldn't like or cheer on but somehow end up rooting for. Nothing is black and white - the world is generally painted in dark shades of grey and as for happy endings... To keep the plot moving along, there's loads of warfare, battles, violence, blood and gore. There's swearing and double crossing and triple crossing and murder and lies and torture and yet more blood and warfare. There's even a little bit of I-hesitate-to-call-it-this romance but don't worry - there'll be more fighting, blood and dark humour along again soon.

What really makes the trilogy for me are the morally ambigious, wonderfully portratyed main characters. The hero, I think, is the notorious Logan Ninefingers who is a proper, old school barbarian with a very loose grasp of morals or manners. Logan's never lost a fight, due to his unfortunate habit of going berserk when in battle, and his gang is an oddly likable and diverse collection of nutters that he's bested in single combat.

Other main characters include the severely crippled Inquisitor Glotka who was an admired Union war hero before being captured and tortured in the last war. He now uses those techniques, at the direction of the Council, to torture others for the sake of stability in the Union. There's also the spoilt aristocratic army captain, Jezal dan Luther, who spends his days drinking, flirting and gambling with his friends in between being trained for a prestigious fencing competition. Add to the mix a mysterious magi and an unpredictable part-demon and you have the traditional ingredients for a fantasy book.

Except, I don't this this really is traditional fantasy in the normal sense - more a series of bloody battles involving great characters with a slight whiff of magic. To quote Joe, this is "a fantasy with all the grit, and cruelty, and humour of real life. Where good and evil are a matter of where you stand, just like in the real world."

To quote Pa Larkin, "Perfick".

Thursday, 19 June 2008

What Fun!

I've been reading Joe Abercrombie's fabulous trilogy this week - starting with The Blade Itself on Saturday night and I am now on the last book which is Last Argument of Kings. Hrmmm - I clearly know how to live my life to the full... staying in to read a book on Saturday night! It's been great fun but I'm going to wait until I finish the last book in the trilogy before I post about it. Hopefully that'll be soon. Actually, hopefully not as then I'd have finished them all and his next book won't be out for aaaaaaaaaaages.

In the meantime, here's a link to SFX magazine's top 100 Sci-Fi authors where the top ten looks like this:

10. Robert Rankin
9. HG Wells
8. Philip K. Dick
7. Iain M. Banks
6. Isaac Asimov
5. George RR Martin
4. Douglas Adams
3. Neil Gaiman
2. JRR Tolkien
1. Terry Pratchett

There's lots of discussion about the list over at the Westeros forum and that's probably understandable as the list is skewed towards British authors given it's been voted in by a British magazine. I really need to read more work by some of the "classic" authors on this list but I am glad to see Neil Gaiman and Iain M Banks that high.

As I am kind of posting about him, I should mention that Joe Abercrombie made the list at number 81 and was typically modest about that on his blog today.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Update: The Forgotten Garden

So many books and so little time! I'm doing my best to plough through my Birthday Books shelf and having great fun in the process. If only there was a job where you could just curl up and read enjoyable books. Must be somewhere... Anyone?

I finished Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden yesterday which means I must have been reading it pretty damn fast...

"1913: A little girl is found abandoned after a gruelling ocean voyage from England to Australia. All she can remember of the journey is that a mysterious woman she calls the Authoress had promised to look after her but vanished without trace.

1975: Now grown up, Nell travels to England to discover the truth about her parentage. Her quest leads her to Cornwall, and to a beautiful estate called Blackhurst Manor which had been owned by the Mountrachet family.

1995: On Nell's death her grand-daughter, Cassandra, comes into a surprise inheritance - Cliff Cottage, in the grounds of Blackhurst Manor. It is at Cliff Cottage, abandoned for years, and in its forgotten garden, that Casssandra will uncover the truth about the family and why little Nell was abandoned all those decades before."

The book is set in Cornwall and Brisbane, across the three main time frames and focuses alternatively on The Authoress, Nell and Cassandra. It whips between past and present at a rate of knots so there's plenty to keep you busy and lots of "clues" to look out for. An enjoyable novel that's perfect for lazing around with.

Now onto Joe Abercrombie - starting with The Blade Itself. I'm looking forward to this series so fingers crossed!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Hearts and Minds - Rosy Thornton

Another free book disclaimer as I received my copy of Hearts and Minds this week after the author, Rosy Thornton, offered copies via a BookRabbit forum.

Hearts and Minds is set in the fictional St Radegund's College, Cambridge where James Rycarte has just been controversially appointed as the new "Mistress" of an all female college. Dr Martha Pearce is the St Rad's Senior Tutor who is juggling the needs of her administrative and lecturing duties with a daughter who has just given up her A-levels and a husband who is ostensibly working on writing a collection of poems written in Italian. In spite of her reservations about his appointment, Martha provides James with advice and support as he battles to prove his ability to a resistant staff and student body.

Wearing her other hat, Rosy Thornton is a lecturer and Fellow in Law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. This could well explain why some of the scenes, and the polarising debate about the final choice of curtain fabric for the common room springs to mind here, are an all too accurate observation of the internal politics of college life both from the perspective of the staff and the students.

I've saved the best bit, although this could be fairly subjective, about the book for last. It's got a (sadly minor) character called Peta in it! This is the first time I've seen my name featured in a work of fiction since my Maths GCSE exam, and that was an awfully long time ago, so this makes it a very special book indeed.

More seriously, Hearts and Minds was not the book I expected to be reading judging by the cover. It's not what I'd term "chick lit" at all - and no offence is meant by using that term - which is the kind of book that I expected to be reading having spied the pastels and dove-with-a-heart on the cover. Rosy Thornton has created some very diverse, and delightful, characters to inhabit her Cambridge college and the concerns they face are realistic and sympathetically portrayed. I don't think I've seen such an acute observation of "behind scenes" university life since reading Robertson Davies years ago.

I enjoyed this clever and amusing book very much and I'd love to see her to return to St Radegund's in the future.

Want More?
First up, visit Rosy's website then over on Normblog Rosy writes about Gaskell's North and South and on Vulpes Libris is her entertaining soapbox rant entitled Books Should be Books about bookshop classifications and their review of Hearts and Minds.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The Painter of Shanghai - Jennifer Cody Epstein

In keeping with my new-found determination to post about what I am reading with more regularity I present The Painter of Shanghai; a debut fictionalisation (although I believe the term these days is re-imagining) of the life of the Chinese artist Pan Yuliang by Jennifer Cody Epstein. In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to declare that I was sent a copy of this by a very nice lady at Penguin.

Pan Yuliang (1895-1977) was sold to a brothel at the age of 14 by her uncle and I'd suspect this is why the copy I have has a sticker on the front saying "If you liked Memoirs of a Geisha, you'll love this". Although that's a Japanese based book and this is a Chinese one... Probably all the same to Western audiences or something.

Aaanyway - back to this book! In 1916 her contract is bought out by the local tax inspector, Pan Zanhua, who later makes her his concubine. He sets her up with a house Shanghai and she, pretty incredibly for a female in that time, gains admission to the Shanghai Art Academy and later on a scholarship to study in France. She painted a lot of female nudes and Epstein uses her background to explore how painting nudes could have been a way of accepting what happened to her during her time working at the Hall. China is going through some pretty turbulent times during Pan Yuliang's lifetime and it's interesting to see the impact this has on her ability to paint what, and how, she chooses.

When I finished the book this morning, I just had to see some of Pan Yuliang's work and found this selection here and another here. There's also a selection on the author's website here. I can see why she caused such a stir in Shanghai if paintings like the self portrait below were exhibited there in that era!

The ex-historian in me gets a bit anxious about fiction mixing with real lives as I like to know just how much is true and what's been imagined but I have used my Good Friend Google to do a spot of research and feel much better now. It helps that it's clear throughout the book that Epstein's really done her homework and she describes people and places very vividly.

I did, however, have to do some research to remind myself of the political scene in China during the early/mid 20th century which helps to make sense of some of the activist groups and individuals mentioned in the book. I'd love Penguin to add a potted
Chinese 20th century time line/history to later editions of the book in the "explore more" way that HarperCollins does so well! It also seems such a shame that the book cover isn't one of her paintings as well but that's probably me just being picky!

Monday, 9 June 2008

June - the reading list so far!

Having learnt my lesson last month, I'm going to try to post about the books I am reading on a more regular basis! This month has been quite book-filled already - partly because I have so many to tempt me but also because I've been working on a large cine film transfer project so have had lots of time to read whilst I keep an eye on the reel quality. It must be rare to do a job where more work leads directly to more time to read so I feel quite lucky at the moment!

First up we have Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence which I "found" whilst tidying one of my bookshelves and realised I'd never read. The book is set in the strictly socially regimented world of New York's elite in the 1870s. At the outset of the novel, Newland Archer, a member of one of the city's best families, is eagerly anticipating his marriage to society beauty May Welland when May's cousin, the beautiful and exotic Countess Ellen Olenska, arrives on the scene from Europe having fled her husband. What follows is a story of conflict between desire and social acceptability and Wharton's acute character observations, which are never over-drawn, are a delight. Penelope Lively, who wrote the forward for the Virago edition I read, describes it as "One of Edith Wharton's finest novels - a rich and powerful description of a vanished world" and, given it also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921, who am I to argue with that recommendation? I really must re-read The House of Mirth...

Slam by Nick Hornby was on a "two for £7" offer in Tesco so was allowed into the house as a pre-birthday treat. My idea, obviously. Slam is about a very likeable sixteen year old boy called Sam who lives with his Mum and is a skater (he goes to great pains to explain that this does not mean ice-skating). I warmed to Sam and enjoyed his take on life as it takes an unplanned path for him. For me, Nick Hornby is at his best when writing about teenagers (or men who have not really grown up yet!) so this was a return to form.

I read about Garden Spells a while back over here on Cornflower's blog and agree with her comment that it's "a delightful novel of froth and whimsy". I was writing a carefully crafted synopsis to explain what the book was about when I found the American description which I prefer to the UK version so will abbreviate here!

Bascom, North Carolina is a town where everyone is known for their family's characteristics, passed down through generations. The Waverleys are known for their magic touch: Claire, who came to town when she was six and never wants to leave, can turn the plants in her garden into delicious food and drink with spectacular effects on those who consume it. When her sister, Sydney, returns to Bascom with her little girl, in flight from an abusive marriage, she proves a catalyst for change."

It's a really delightful read that left me wanting my own, slightly less grumpy, apple tree. Which won't make sense unless you've read the book... This was Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel and she's added lots of books extras to her website that include some of the recipes.

Lastly, we come to Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. It was the first of his books that I've read but I shall have to read some of his others as I loved his accomplished writing style. He vividly draws a realistic picture of what life must be like for talented artist Rachel Kelly, who has bi-polar disorder, her husband and four children. Each chapter starts with the gallery information notes for an object or painting from her posthumous exhibition and then follows the viewpoint of Rachel, or one of her family, to allow the reader to gradually build up the full story of her life. It's a very clever book and, even though you sort of know where it's going to take you and what it's building up to, I couldn't put it down. For more, visit his website here.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

I clearly should have been a...


When I lived at home, and my collection of books was significantly smaller than it is these days, they were always neatly categorised by genre and then sorted alphabetically. I have a secret ambition to do this as a grown up but we're clearly going to need a bigger house! I'd forgotten that there were a couple of additional steps I'd taken towards freakish organisation... This is where it gets a bit embarrassing.I've no idea how old I was when I made my own library cards for the books and I'd actually forgotten totally that I had. Given that the book is Enid Blyton's The Land of Far Beyond and that the handwriting is a bit on the careful side, I'd guess I was fairly young. I hope I was anyway! My mother and sister "kindly" provided the evidence which I have photographed for your viewing pleasure. Seeing this reminded me that I made borrowing envelopes for my family members and if anyone wanted to read one of my books then the card was assigned to their slot. Dear, dear me. I clearly had trust issues.
Seeing this book again triggered the memory that when I was in my teens I set up a card carousel with an index card for each author, again sorted alphabetically, with all the books I owned by them neatly listed. The picture above is not of mine but if I find it, I will be sure to share! I have absolutely no idea what possessed me to do this as I knew exactly what books by each author I had in my collection but I suspect I was very taken by the library's card file index. I wonder if other libraries still have those.

I was laughing again at my book issuing cards (why on earth did I use a biro to mark the lines on paper that's already lined??) but have just realised that I'm not actually cured of this obsession. You see, I recently asked Mr B if it was a bit odd that I wanted a barcode scanner so I could properly catalogue my collection. He felt it had shades of OCD but then what does he know?

Dear me - there's clearly no hope!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Birthday Stash

Birthdays are rather lovely things, even if I was in a grumps about being ancient! My husband took me to see The Zutons play at Thetford Forest on my birthday itself so that I could feel young and go to a "gig". They were great live and I really enjoyed Noah and the Whale who were one of their support acts.

I also have a lovely family! Despite their groans of "Oh no - not more books", my birthday book "haul" ended up at 23 which should keep me quiet for a few weeks. I feel like a dragon snoozing on treasure. :D

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's BTT:

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

There are a few phases in my reading life that I should define and I suspect that, as usual, I am going to take this question a little too seriously!

As a child, I was famed for reading literally anything I could get my hands on. We lived in Tanzania until I was eleven so it was sometimes hard to get hold of books to read and my mother used to buy a stash of second hand books to ration out to me on a regular basis. Birthdays and Christmas gifts were always books - heaps and heaps of them - and even now that I am a proper grown-up, my whole family sigh as they discover all that I really want are more books!

In my teens I had a small degree of financial security, in the form of my quarterly allowance, so could buy my own books. This meant that I read a lot of (groan) Mills and Boon type books which I bought in bulk from a second hand book stall on the market. I also bought plenty of historical novels by Jean Plaidy, Roberta Gellis, Georgette Heyer, Catherine Cookson, etc. I remember that I adored Emma Drummond, Jilly Cooper, MM Kaye and Janet Dailey (again all second hand) so I clearly was a reader of discriminating tastes. The other type of book I bought when I was in my teens (and at least this genre has proved of benefit in later life!) was piles and piles of the "classics" as you could buy them new for £1 each after the launch of the Wordsworth Classics! I didn't read modern fiction at all unless it was something that I borrowed from friends or my parents as I just couldn't afford the investment. I also didn't really know where to start.

Thankfully I then went to university and started to mix with people who read - gasp! - modern books and I got introduced to SFF (Sci-Fi and Fantasy). That's probably when I started to revert to my childhood habit of reading pretty much anything that took my fancy and I could happily read Michael Moorcock and Jane Austen back to back. I also developed a habit of going into bookshops and whimsically deciding that I was going to buy, for example, six books with brown covers or books with flowers in their title. A great way of finding new authors though and I "discovered" some really interesting reads in this way.

These days what I buy is nearly always based on seeing something interesting I've seen on a blog or because I want to read more by an author I have enjoyed in the past. I don't mind what genre a book belongs to and I don't really mind when it was written or what it's about. I'll happily read fiction or non-fiction and I like a book that makes me think! Which, having refreshed my memory of my teenage reading habits, is a clear change for the better!!

EDIT: I just spoke to my mother and asked why she didn't take control of my awful reading tastes in my teens. She says 1) she didn't feel it was right to censor my choice of books and 2) she thought if I read enough trash I'd over-indulge myself and move onto "better" books in later years. She was so right!

Laws of nature #13

From Harold's Planet - "There's no such thing as too many books..."

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Love Is...

As it's my third wedding anniversary today, it seems only appropriate to post one of our wedding readings. It's by Adrian Henri and I "cut" the fourth verse as I felt it was a tad risqué for older relatives...

Love is...
Love is feeling cold in the back of vans

Love is a fanclub with only two fans
Love is walking holding paintstained hands
Love is.
Love is fish and chips on winter nights
Love is blankets full of strange delights

Love is when you don't put out the light

Love is.

Love is the presents in Christmas shops

Love is when you're feeling Top of the Pops

Love is what happens when the music stops

Love is.
Love is white panties lying all forlorn
Love is pink nightdresses still slightly warm
Love is when you have to leave at dawn
Love is.
Love is you and love is me
Love is prison and love is free
Love's what's there when you are away from me
Love is...

Monday, 2 June 2008

Favourite Author Meme

Oxford Reader has tagged me so here's my response!

1. Who’s your all-time favourite author, and why?
My stock answer to this one is Jane Austen and I see no reason to change that choice! Why? That's more difficult. Because I love her style, her stories, her observations, her phrasing and I can read and read and read her books over and over and over again. More on that shortly.

2. Who was your first favourite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favourites?
My first favourite author. Hrmmm. The first book I remember reading to myself was by Johnny Morris and it was set in a zoo. I can't remember the title but I know it was hardback, brown and had a map if that helps! The author whose work I devoured was Enid Blyton and I read almost every series she wrote. My niece, who is nine, and I were discussing her works yesterday and we agreed, after some in-depth analysis, that The Faraway Tree series was very good indeed although still have a soft spot for the Naughtiest Girl and the Five Find-Outers books too. I would not consider her to be one of my favourite authors now though - I'm a bit old!

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favourite authors, and why?
The most recent addition would be Kent Hanuf (see post here!) but this year I've also "discovered" Adele Geras, Maggie O'Farrell and Neal Stephenson. All of whom I hope to read more by! No pressure on Mr B but fingers crossed for the "birthday book pile"...

4. If someone asked you who your favourite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?
Right now! Crumbs. Ummm... Jane Austen, Vikram Seth (as A Suitable Boy is one of my favourite books), Sebastian Faulks, Anothony Trollope, Iain M Banks, Neil Gaiman, Kazuo Ishiguro, Robert Graves, Douglas Adams, John Irving... This list could go on for a bit so I'll stop now!! There are several more authors that I could add, but I am excluding ones who I have only read one or two books by.

Obligatory tags go to:
Table Talk
B&b ex libris and

No pressure, but feel free to join in the fun!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

May Reading List

May was a month that started off with a glut of fantasy, courtesy of my local library, then moved to something quite brilliantly different then on to a very odd mixture indeed.

I'm really going to have to change the way that I write up my reading list as it's labour intensive, takes ages and I find that I can't quite remember the books from the start of the month well enough to do them justice! If only I could work out how to add a column to the right of this blog then I could just list my reads there... A project for June!
  • Newton's Cannon, A Calculus of Angels, Empire of Unreason & The Shadows of God - Greg Keyes. The Age of Unreason Quartet is an enjoyable alternative history series set in the age of Isaac Newton starring Benjamin Franklin. Fantasy Book Critic has a very well timed interview with Greg Keyes here and I'm looking forward to getting around to reading his Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series.
  • Plainsong - Kent Haruf. A clear winner for my prestigious BOTM award and you can read more about what I thought when I blogged about it here.
  • Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones. The 1995 Studi Ghibli film version is fantastic and I'd not realised that it was based on a children's book until fairly recently. I bought this book on impulse and I'm glad I did as it's a really charming book.
  • Blaming - Elizabeth Taylor. No. Not that Elizabeth Taylor. This one! Amy's husband dies suddenly whilst they are on holiday in Istanbul and she is helped by Martha, an American Novelist who maintains their friendship on their return to England. A very tightly controlled novel about the nature of grief that I later discovered was written whilst she was dying of cancer.
  • Then We Came To The End - Joshua Ferris. I gather, based on the amazon reviews, that this is a love it/hate it read! I found this surprising as there's much to enjoy about this book based in the office of an advertising company. Although it's nominally about office politics and the group mentality that can develop, it's not as simplistic as that and I genuinely cared about what happened to the characters as the business started to fail, staff were mad redundant and lives started to unravel. Here's a link to an interview with Joshua Ferris.
  • How to Lose Friends and Alienate People - Toby Young. I've been meaning to read this for ages as there's a film with Simon Pegg playing Toby Young coming out shortly and, given Mr B adores Simon Pegg, I suspect I'll be watching it. It's the story of Toby Young's disastrous five years in the New York media scene and his utter inability to, as far as I could make out, preserve his career by simply being polite - hence the title. An entertaining read and I'm glad I watched a couple of episodes of Ugly Better so I could visualise life in the Vanity Fair office. *shudder*.
  • Me and Mr Darcy - Alexandra Potter. I'm not usually mean about a book but all I can say about this one is... Don't. Spare yourself. Please. I mean it. I really, really mean it.
  • Castle in the Air - Diana Wynne Jones. This is the follow up to Howl's Moving Carpet. Reminded me slightly of Noel Langley's wonderful classic The Land of Green Ginger but I'll have to dig it out and re-read that to see if I am right. I didn't find it as delightful as Howl's Moving Castle but it's still a sweet story.