Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This blog is moving!

Groupon had an offer on a WordPress training course recently, which I decided to buy.

Blogger/Blogspot is fine, but I can't really get it to look the way I would like, and despite what my family seems to think, just because I work with a particular software package doesn't mean I am particularly tech savvy.

So I have decided to do the course and work on a new WordPress blog.

You can reach it here: https://biblioaddicted.wordpress.com/

Monday, November 24, 2014

How do you choose yours?

A recent comments exchange on the lovely H’s blog post got me to thinking about how to choose my next book.  The TBR pile is growing, not diminishing, and there’s almost too much choice now.  Never too many books (no such thing!) but such a variety of choice that selecting the next book presents a little bit of a quandary.

Now it’s quite possible that I've been inspired by my role as the organiser of this years Secret Santa, but I have decided to write out the names of books on slips of paper, fold them and place them in a hat/box/tub of some sort, and pick my next book randomly.  I picked my current read this way, and hope to have a review for you soon on The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson.

I have no idea if this will work long term as a strategy, but it might mean that some of those books that have been on the TBR pile for a while (2-3 years in some cases!) actually get picked.

How do you choose your next book?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christmas treats for myself

I have been saving hard this month thinking I had seriously overspent, but apparently I’ve done better than I thought, so I decided to celebrate by buying some books I have had my eye on for a little while.  I picked two books each from two booksellers, fairly restrained of me I thought!

From the Folio Society Christmas catalogue I bought one of my favourite ghostly childhood reads, and an intriguing sounding crime novel.  The current Folio offer is a free 2015 diary, toward which I have blog related intentions.


I also bought the first offerings from new Publisher on the block Fox, Finch and Tepper. This is the new publishing company established by Mr B’s, bookseller extraordinaire.  You can read more about the launch and the naming of the company here.


It’s not quite their first foray into publishing, they've had a hand in a couple of special editions of favoured books before, one of which is The Howling Miller by Aarto Paasilinna read and reviewed by me in early 2013.  However, it is their first release completely under their own steam.  To launch the new publishing house they've chosen the two books whose covers you can see below.  I usually love their recommendations, and if they think these two new books are good enough to launch their new publishing house, then how can I possibly resist?  I did recently finish a spa recommendation - Tim Gautreaux’s The Missing, which was fantastic, so I’m fairly eager to read more of his work.  I also love reading about Australia, it brings back wonderful memories.

As I’m not spending Christmas at home, but I will have my own tree in the build-up, I thought I’d wrap these books up and put them under the tree as my Christmas treat to myself.

As for the excellent progress I was making through my TBR shelves?  There’s always next year!

Still on my wishlist – from the Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue:  The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman.  A reimagined Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Where in the literary world are you today?

I am in 1920's America, working the steamboats along the Mississippi river while searching for a kidnapped little girl and the folks who killed my family.

What more can I say without wading knee deep into spoiler-country.  So far so excellent!

The Missing - Tim Gautreaux

Monday, November 10, 2014

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

My new book club had this book assigned for discussion in October, and if this (and the Book Thief) planned for next month is anything to go by, I'm going to enjoy this every bit as much as my last group.

And The Mountains Echoed has been reviewed to death by now, so I won’t go into details on the plot, suffice to say a family is broken apart and through pure chance encounters manages to find its way back together, but not quickly and not without significant impact on all the family members.  No real spoilers as I think this is fairly obvious from the start.

I’d not read anything by Hosseini before, extensive hyperbole tends to put me off a book, rather than encourage me.  I did some reading about Hosseini, and his writing, and understand that this is not even considered his best work, so I’m now very tempted to move those copies of his earlier works up from where they’d been languishing at the bottom of the TBR pile.

The story scope is expansive.  It ranges backwards and forwards over several decades and continents.  The style is episodic, with each section having a different narrator, and their own distinct voice.  Each narrator goes back to a point that their part in the overall story arc started, even if they didn’t know it, and the story follows through until their part is completed.  Gradually the reader puts the pieces together, to form the whole.

All narrators have a piece of the story (except the neighbour-brother who lived in America, which wasn’t clear to me at all).  They had a direct impact on events, or were necessary to pass on a message.  The trick while reading is to not get distracted and try to remember all the threads so that you can sew it all together in your mind as the book moves on.

I have to admit that I was affected on many levels.  The writing is wonderful, the slow drip feed of the story was enough to give the characters, time and place real depth, but still keep me reading.  I ached for Pari and her brother, and felt each emotion keenly.  As I mentioned before I felt that each character had their own voice, and for those in the Western world in particular, they seemed pretty authentic to me.  My knowledge of Afghanistan is limited to news bulletins so I can honestly admit that I don’t know it is like to be a normal person in Afghanistan, which neatly brings me to my second point.

The Book Thief forced me to think about what life was like for ordinary Germans during WW2, and in the same way this forced me to be more aware of life in Afghanistan.  To my relief it wasn’t a soapbox for a rant about the war, though the war is not avoided.  The impact of the war is made clear.  What is not lost in a rant is that this is a story about the intersecting lives of one family and the people they come into contact with over a number of generations.  I’m a Sociologist by education, and for me it was utterly fascinating to perceive the change in culture and attitudes over time, and though I do not claim to be an expert in these matters, it seems to me that regardless of geography and religious beliefs we are all essentially the same.  The overwhelming impression I now have is that below the so-called civilised surface of society we all have a commonality of existence.  We all go through the same range of emotions, we all face life and death, have friendships and fall in love.

And yes, I did have a tear or two in my eyes while reading this.  If this is regarded by many as not his best work, then I do really need to read the rest.  I think this is really really good.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

The lovely Mrs F, from Fennell Books, who I’m lucky enough to call friend, posted a well timed blog entry this morning about a ghost story from Susan Hill, the writer of The Woman In Black.

The book, Printer’s Devil Court, sounds interesting, so I decided to order it on Kindle and read tonight, just because you should be a little bit scared on Halloween.  But when I went to Amazon to order it, I found a different one that I liked the sound of.

So tonight I will be scaring myself with The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill.  It’s set in Cambridge, and on the college walls of an old Professors' rooms hangs a picture.  On a cold winter’s night the Professor tells the tale of the picture, which you should never ever stare into.

I've got the chills already.

Challenge ahoy!

Last year I was going to set myself some reading challenges, but because of everything happening at the time, I pretty much abandoned the blog and the challenges.  Reading was pretty fundamental to my emotional recovery, but the burden of a commitment to a challenge felt like it was too much to bear.  As life has started to settle I've been more active with the blog again, and beginning to feel like I’m ready to challenge myself.

For a long time now I've wanted to start studying English again.  It’s been nearly 25 years since I sat my GCSE’s, which was the last time I studied English, but I have often wished that I’d had more confidence to pursue it further.  How I ended up studying Sociology is a lesson in how-not-to-follow-your-dreams. 

I had hoped that moving to a city focused almost singularly on education I would be able to finally get back to studying again.  Would you credit it – I have not found a single part time GCSE or A-Level English course anywhere in the area, and I think I've checked every 6th Form or college in a 30 mile radius.  I've obviously got to be a little creative, hence my new November challenge!

Oxford University (I’m such a traitor), have posted lots of podcast lectures on iTunes University, along with a whole host of other universities across the globe.  There are numerous courses on works by Shakespeare and so on, and I will get to those eventually, but I thought I’d start with one lecture series based on a favourite book – The Hobbit.  I downloaded it quite a long time ago and unfortunately can't find it online again, but as soon as I do I will edit and post the link.

My November Challenge is to read The Hobbit again while listening to the lecture series.  The way it seems to work is that I’d read a few chapters and then listen to the associated lecture.  I might want to then re-read those before reading the next chapters.

I think that is probably achievable in a month, providing I don’t get too distracted.

Bonus – The courses I've looked at are all free of charge!  Imagine that, university classes from the top universities across the world for free, and I don’t have to sit an exam or write a dissertation.  Magic.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Club - A Free Read month

My new book club was due to read The Book Thief this month for discussion in early November, but following the mishaps of the last meeting where the book was not distributed to group members from our local library it was decided that The Book Thief would be delayed til next month for discussion in December.  Instead this month would be a ‘Free Read’.  That is to say we read whatever we want and then talk about our chosen books with the group when we meet.

Unfortunately I can't make it to the next meeting and I'm quite disappointed.  I was looking forward to talking about the books I've been reading, Not to mention as well that although I have been a member of the book club for three months, I have yet to actually attend a club meeting!

The concept of a free reading month for a book club had never occurred to me, but on reflection seems quite obvious.  I think it’s going to be a really interesting month, and I'm quite upset to not be able to go.  Though it is the WI book group, I think based on their list of selections so far they’re not just reading Catherine Cookson and Maeve Binchy.

Here's what I was going to talk about as my October reading (and why)...

The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Down The Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos

The astute among you who have also read my recent posts, will realise that at least two of these were read a little while ago.  Sneaky I know, but what I hoped to understand by this little bit of canny maneuvering was how far I can push the boundaries when selecting books.  Would they be open to a little experimentation in reading?  The latter two are both quite controversial, and both absolutely excellent!

Maybe another time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Is it too early to plan your Christmas book list?

I’m a sucker for books, everyone I know gets it.  If you're here reading, maybe you are too.  As a child I always got book tokens, and would happily receive them this year too, if anyone were so inclined.  Yet those who buy for me don’t often buy me book related items for birthdays and Christmas, even when I have a wish list full of books.  Last year I had to say 'Buy me books!'.

A friend of mine runs Christmas UK website and last night/this morning he posted lots of photos on facebook and his website of Selfridges Christmas displays, it's one of his that I've included above.  I love that they’re using books this year in so many of their displays, and that is really my inspiration for my dream Christmas present…

I should like to receive a hamper containing a good bottle of wine/champagne, some chocolates and whole hoard of good books.  I'm working on deciding what books to have on my list right now.

Have you got a Christmas book list yet?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Author Event - Juan Pablo Villalobos

Recently I posted a review of Down The Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos (JP), and I promised an article about the Author Event that Mr B's hosted.  It's been more than a year, and I'm afraid I've been a terrible procrastinator what with all the upheaval in my life in the last year or so.  But at last here it is...

A little over a year ago I went to Mr B's for my second reading spa (if you ever go to Bath you should arrange one - They're FANTASTIC!! Or if you're short of cash as I usually am, you can pop in for a lovely chat). As it happened I had selected a day where they had scheduled an Author Event for Juan Pablo Villalobos who had released a new book.  So I thought 'why not?' and booked myself a place, and prepared to spend a day at the bookshop.

The event was split into two halves, the first half being a discussion around Down The Rabbit Hole, and the second about his new book 'Quesadillas'.  I should have written notes soon after, as I've now forgotten much of what was said, but I do remember my impression of JP was of a highly intelligent man who loves reading and writing.  He writes honestly about the violence and corruption in Mexico, and I am eagerly anticipating his third novel.

I'm afraid that I should have taken notes, but here are some of the Random Things I Remember:

He has themes for all the names of characters in his books.  The names of characters in Down The Rabbit Hole are all based on animals.  In Quesadillas the names are from Greek mythology, and if I remember rightly the next book the names have something to do with France (but don't rely on my memory).

He has degrees in literature, and though he is from Mexico he has lived in Spain and now lives in Brazil.

He rewrote/edited both Down The Rabbit Hole and Quesadillas seven times (I'm fairly sure).

He was very funny.  Quite charming too.

He said we could call him JP.  Maybe to save himself the torture of us trying to pronounce Villalobos :-)

I have yet to read Quesadillas, but will definitely be looking out for his books in the future.

Monday, October 20, 2014

When in the Literary World are you?

Today I am in Kent visiting with a larger than life family in an idyllic post-war 1950's summer.   We're eating ice-cream and crisps, strawberries and cream, and enjoying life immensely.  The oldest daughter of Ma and Pa is pregnant and has a bit of a thing for the Tax inspector, who is in need of a little distraction from his investigations...

The Darling Buds of May - H.E.Bates

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pauses in reading

Moving to a new home, at least 90 miles in any direction from all friends and family has meant that I have had plenty of time for reading the last few months.  I am pretty busy at weekends, usually off visiting folks, but with my daily commute, evenings and lunchbreaks free I've managed to get through a fair bit.

This weekend my sister visited me, and brought my niece with her.  It was really very nice to be on the receiving end of a visit for a change, and I loved having them with me.  It was their first visit, both to my new home, and to Cambridge, and I miss them very much already.

Having said that, I never get any reading time with visitors around, we spend too much time chatting, exploring the area and cooking.  All lovely activities of course, but the one benefit of being alone again is I get back my precious reading time.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review: Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Last summer I had booked a spa day at Mr B's, and it just so happened that on the same day they were hosting an Author Event, so I decided to book both, and read the author's first book Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos (JP) in preparation.  Mostly so I would have some clue as to what he's talking about... I figured if I didn't enjoy it I could always cancel going to the author event.  I thought it was great and got really excited about attending the session.  So anyway, here's a bit more about the book.  Article about the event to follow.

I thought it was a brilliant little book, a novella rather than a novel, but a great read.  I've borrowed the blurb from Goodreads, as I couldn't possibly have described it better:
Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants and the odd corrupt politician or two.
I've never read anything that left me feeling so uncomfortable, but which I think is so completely excellent. It is a masterpiece of writing that can entertain (there's a lot of black humour) and deeply disturb you at the same time. I am not a writer, as you can plainly tell reading this, so I'm afraid I don't have the right words to express what this book made me feel.

The black humour serves as a device to drive home the point that Tochtli's world is vile and corrupt. His innocence, and acceptance of terrible violence as normal serves to highlight the horror of the world he lives in, and JP achieves this spectacularly well.
“It's like a competition: the one who wears the crown is the one who's made the most corpses.” 
Corpses are so commonplace and normal to Tochtli that you feel these words are delivered in the same way that people might say 'Dead bodies are just so last week'.  Corpses are just no big deal. Fodder for pet lions and nothing more.

Tochtli's exposure to the world is extremely limited.  He reads dictionaries and while he uses the terms literally his favourite words are awful.

The book is sensational in my opinion, and leaves a mark. I don't think I will ever forget reading it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What to do, what to do?

The Folio Society have just emailed details of their Christmas collection and in it is one of my favourite books from childhood - The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively.  The artwork looks wonderful and a new introduction by it's author all makes for a tempting proposition.

It's been years since I last saw my own copy of this book, heaven only knows what has happened to it.  So, of course I am in dire need of a new copy...

Funds are limited, and it's not cheap, so...............

Oh heck, who am I kidding?  I don't need to go out next week... I could be sat inside reading a ghost story in the cold and dark.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Death and the Penguin - Andrey Kurkov

At my third book spa a few months ago I was presented with Death and the Penguin.  I had previously rejected it (wasn't in the mood for bleak Russian drama), but I figured if it had been selected in two out of my three book spa’s then I may as well have done with it and give it a try.  Despite what turned out to be a fairly accurate description I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book.

It’s set in Kiev, Ukraine, and tells the story of how Viktor and his pet King Penguin Misha become caught up in the middle of a mafia war.  A frustrated writer Viktor finds a job at a newspaper writing obituary articles for the famous and infamous of Kiev who haven’t died yet.  At first able to pick and choose who he writes about nobody seems to be dying, after a while the first death happens, and the Editor starts sending lists and bio’s for people he wants articles for.  Viktor’s life becomes increasingly complicated and dangerous until the rather surprising (to me) ending.  Throughout there is a tone of melancholy.  Viktor is a man to whom life happens.  He doesn't ever seem to feel he has a choice, or control over events.  He also has a strong sense of not being able to form good relationships with people, or Misha, and he and the story are a little frustrating at times.  I just wanted to grab him and shake some life into him.  In actuality Viktor is the personification of the general feeling of decline of Kiev described in the book.  Powerless people just trying to earn what little money when and where they can and stay alive. 

It sounds bleak and terrible, and yet it’s not.  The book has comedic moments, and you do just have to keep reading.  I had to keep reading to see if Viktor realised what his articles were being used for, and why.  I had to see what happened to him, Misha the Penguin, and the few people that Viktor acquires along the way.  I will definitely be reading ‘Penguin Lost’, the sequel.

When I was reading up about the book I found this article onThe Guardian website, where it appears that the story was rather prophetic.  First published in Russian in 1996, it was around the time of it’s publication in English in 2001 that real life events appeared to be imitating the book.  For an audience like me, who is not all that aware of what life in the Ukraine is really like it set things in a whole new uncomfortable light.

Well worth a read in my opinion.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is book two in the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy, and having thoroughly enjoyed book one I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this instalment. 

In summary, Excellent storytelling (Rothfuss could make the phonebook a pleasure to read), and so many good and wonderful things about it, and only one little annoyance.

I’ve mentioned in another review for a book in a totally different genre, that having a main protagonist who is miraculously good at everything is not a good thing.  Kvothe barely pauses before finding the right way of dealing with any given challenge.  Escape from Pirates?  Discover a murder plot?  Cure a fatal illness?  Create life-saving charms and gadgets?  Woo a lady for a pseudo-King?  Learn a few new languages? Dispatch multiple bandits, kidnappers and rapists?  No problem!  All in an afternoon’s work for our Kvothe!

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book immensely!  As I alluded earlier Rothfuss knows how to write, he really does.  This is epic storytelling, but on an intimate scale, what I mean by that is that the scope is large, and the story roams all over, but it is recalled in minute detail.  For me this meant that I had the feeling of living the story myself.  No detail seems too small or too insignificant, and it makes Kvothe’s world so rich and real that you could be walking the Archives, playing the lute, or running across rooftops right along with him.  The other side of this is that the books have to be suitably large to be able to cram all this in!  Purportedly 390,000 words over 994 pages for just the second book in the series!  By the end of the trilogy I’ll have read over 1 million words (not including the two novellas).

Didn’t like:  Perfect Kvothe, all hail Kvothe!  There are a few plot threads that seem to go nowhere.  I’m prepared to forgive Rothfuss because his writing is so enthralling, and I just hope that those plot threads tie up in book three.

Did like:  Everything else!

PS:  Though Kvothe manages to get through an awful lot in this book, there are events that have to be sacrificed.  I think I would have loved to see what happened when Kvothe sailed to Severen.  If it had meant a Quadrilogy instead of a Trilogy I’d be happy with that.  Or maybe I sense another Novella to come…

PPS – In my review of The Name Of The Wind I said I would share my theories of Chronicler… so here they are.


May be more than who and what he claims to be.  Something in the back of mind is telling me this has to be the case, especiallly given Rothfuss’ inclination towards complicated plots.
May be one of the Amyr, recording the story only to alter/cover up their continued existence (by the end of this book their existence is theoretical, no spoilers here).
May be one of the Chandrian, reluctant to engage Kvothe in Battle but needing to assess his next move/intentions.  Doubtful as I think by the end of book three the Chandrian will probably be no more.  Also, I don't think they are inclined to hold off on an attack.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Where in the literary world are you today?

Actually, I am kind of in the literary underworld today.

I am thirteen years old, and have found myself on an adventure in Fairyland Below cleaning up the mess I made on my last visit.  I am trying to restore all the stolen shadows of the creatures of Fairyland Above.  Shadows have discovered freedom and voices and so far they don’t like the idea of going back.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There  by Catherynne M Valente

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Spiffing, What Ho!

To follow up on yesterday's post about the play I saw last night, Perfect Nonsense, I did in fact go.  Earlier in the day I had considered cancelling, but decided not to waste the ticket.

And am I glad I did?  I am indeed my fine friends.  It was very very good.  I have not laughed so much in ages, and I'm not even talking about when the backdrop was being lowered and caught on the stage furniture (twice!).   Even between laugh-out-loud funny moments I am sure I sat there with a grin on my face.  I'm grinning even now just typing this out.  It was the perfect tonic after a stressful day at work.  For once I don't even mind that I got home quite late and didn't get enough sleep.

I have even considered booking to go and see it again!  In a few weeks the show moves down to Reading, and I am highly tempted to see it then and drag along a friend or two.  Helen?

Essentially it's a three man play, with James Lance playing Bertie Wooster.  Wooster has decided to put on a play to retell recent events when his Aunt Dahlia sent him on a mission.  John Gordon Sinclair (primary role of Jeeves) and Robert Goodale (primary role of Seppings) in humouring Wooster take on the parts of the other characters as well.

The staging is simple but brilliant, the comedy is sublime.  A real treat!  Perfect Nonsense indeed!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Perfectly Perfect Nonsense!

A year or two (or three?) ago my Book Club read Very Good Jeeves by PG Wodehouse, and as a rule loved it.  I certainly did anyway.

As I read through it I heard Jeeves and Wooster's voices clearly as those of Fry and Laurie, as it was adapted for Television, even though I'd never really watched it for more than a few minutes here and there.

I haven't gotten around to reading any more, though really I should.  So when my local online social group in Cambridge posted an event to see Perfect Nonsense on it's UK Tour I jumped at the chance.  I did look for a PG Wodehouse novel called Perfect Nonsense, but there isn't one, but trusty Wikipedia advises that it is based on 'The Code of The Woosters' from 1938.

I'm a big fan of Matthew McFadyen, ever since Spooks, and I must admit to a little disappointment that he wasn't on the cast list for the tour, but nevertheless decided to see it anyway.


It's pouring down outside, work is stressful, and my workload seems impossible to complete in the short time allotted, so I can't imagine anything better timed or suited to lift my spirits than a bit of Jeeves and Wooster induced laughter.

Click the link above 'Perfect Nonsense on it's UK Tour' for alternative dates/locations.

Review: Dark Witch by Nora Roberts

When I heard that Nora Roberts was releasing a new Supernatural trilogy I couldn't wait.  But I did, I forced myself to wait for months.  I bought Dark Witch, and then Shadow Spell, and by the end of this month Blood Magick will be out.  Normally when a series is announced I pre-order each book as soon as I can, and start reading it the moment I unwrap the package.  Then I wait and wait and wait for the next one.

This time I decided that I would save them up, so I didn't have that torturous wait between instalments,  As the final book in the trilogy will be out shortly I decided that it was safe to start book one.

I try to only write reviews about books I really like... But this was on my mind, and I felt like I had to write this.  I'm sorry to say that this one left me a little cold.  I gave it three out of five stars on Goodreads.  It's OK, but it's not up to normal standard.

It started out well, and then disintegrated. Here's why:

  • I loved Sorcha, she had power, strength of character, deep feelings and was fairly rounded out character for all that she's only in it a short while.
  • I kind of like the characters, at least what you see of them, they're pretty one-dimensional.
  • Iona (the female romantic lead) has no internal thoughts. Every little thing gets blurted out, and every other sentence contains 'Sorry'.  Seriously, it was verging on the ridiculousness of Fifty Shades.
  • Boyle (the mail romantic lead) has no personality. Whatsoever. Iona's horse has more personality!

And finally... The turn of phrase used by ALL characters is EXACTLY the same. This REALLY got on my nerves.  It doesn't seem to matter if you're a 13th Century Irish witch, her young children, an early 21st Century American in Ireland, or her two Irish born and bred cousins or their friends. Even gender and age don't change the way they speak.  Everybody gets the same voice.  Even so far as I felt like I was reading one of the 'In Death' books.  It made me wonder if Ms Roberts jumped straight from writing for Eve Dallas,  mid-21st century New York City cop to writing for Sorcha, 13th century Irish witch, without as much as stopping for a cup of tea (or coffee).

It would have been nice if each character had more of a distinct voice, especially where geography and cultural upbringing vary so wildly.  My sister and I are reasonably close in age, grew up in the same house, with the same parents, went to the same schools, and yet we have totally different voices.  It would have been nice to see some variation in characterisation.

I am now part way through book two in the series (Shadow Spell) and it's the same, though on a positive note there is some better characterisation of the leads in this one.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Club Option 1: A retrospective

On Thursday I had my first taste of the new book club.  I raced around at home making dinner, and doing a little more to prepare for my imminent housewarming party.  Why is there just never enough time in the evenings?

The book club was due to start at 7:30, but at that time I was finishing a slightly undercooked dinner, and I got to the meeting at about 7:40.  There were only two others present (A and S).

My Kindle tells me that I had read about 85% of the book, but S had only got 50% of the way through, and didn't want to hear any spoilers.  Which neatly put paid to any discussion between the three of us.  Ranty-moment warning:  It may just be my opinion but if you turn up to a book club having not finished the book you should not prevent others from talking about it.  That is after all the point of a book club, isn't it?

As we'd basically been gagged about 'And the Mountains Echoed' by Khaled Hosseini, I asked about previous books they'd read and we chatted for a bit before giving up waiting for anyone else at about 8pm.  Neither A or S were responsible for bringing copies of the next book from the library, so we didn't even know which book was assigned.

So unfortunately book club was a bit of a bust, after all that anticipation.  Sad face.

Lurking in my inbox this morning was an email advising that the next book is The Book Thief.  One of my favourite books of all time.  So I might give it one more month.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind is a debut novel from Patrick Rothfuss, and is the first instalment of The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy.  It begins in the Inn belonging to a man called Kote who by means of killing a spider with razor sharp feet establishes himself as a worthy fighter.  A Chronicler recognises Kote as Kvothe, a character of legendary proportions and proceeds to take down his story.  Each day that it takes to record Kvothe’s life story is to be one book in the trilogy.

Kvothe has a rough start in life.  He’s born into an apparently idyllic life as the son of a travelling troupe leader, and is remarkably clever and talented.  Early in life he meets an arcanist (like a magician) who inspires him to attend the University and learn the secrets of magic, such as the true names of all things, particularly the wind.  Then one night his family and fellow troupers are brutally slain and Kvothe is lucky to be alive.  He struggles to survive a callous world and eventually manages through perseverance and sheer luck to make his way to the University, this time to discover the identity of the men who killed his family so he can take his revenge.

For a genius Kvothe is also a bit of a bumbling idiot, stumbling his way through life, hanging on by the skin of his teeth.  Once he reaches the University he usually ends up making his own troubles, and has to struggle to keep going, and this forms the bulk of book one.  I couldn’t wait to turn the page to find out how Kvothe’s enemies might challenge him, or see him retaliate only to end up in a worse situation than ever.  Some of his exploits had me laughing out loud, and it was pretty compelling reading.  This was the books charm and Kvothe makes quite an endearing character in spite of his numerous serious flaws.  I ended up really liking him and rooting for him.

I seriously have a contender now to challenge Scott Lynch and Locke Lamora for the position of favourite fantasy novel.  I highly recommend The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  It’s a monster of a book, but the time flies by so fast.  The writing is engaging and I couldn’t bear to put it down.

I hope you try it, and I hope you love it as much as I did.

PS – I have a few theories about Chronicler… will share them in the upcoming review of Book 2: The Wise Man’s Fear.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Where in the literary world are you today?

Today I am Pari, a young Afghan woman living in Paris.  My mother died recently, my father some years ago.  I have always had a feeling that something is missing in my life, but have no idea what this is.

I have been several people in the past week or so while reading And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.

The first book to be read for my new book club this Thursday.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book-a-Day 30: Would save if my house burned down

As I sit here pondering the answer to this I can see my overloaded bookshelves and I can’t think of a single book I wouldn’t be prepared to sacrifice if it was a choice between me or them.  But at the same time it’s like trying to choose which of your children you save.  They all have a piece of my heart.

For sentimental reasons I would probably want Jane Eyre, because of what reading it signified to me.  Or maybe Rabbiting On, as a rediscovered childhood favourite.  For financial reasons it would probably be either my first edition of The Bone Season, my Folio editions, my signed first editions of The Southern Reach trilogy, or my signed Nora Roberts books.

Though to be honest my apartment is so small that if I had enough time to sort through books to find the one I'd save, I could probably have enough time to put the fire out.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book-a-Day 29: The one I have re-read most often

I don’t tend to re-read to be honest.  There are far too many books in this world to go back and read one I already know the ending to, though I have re-read most of the Harry Potter books.  The earlier books I have re-read a few times.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book-a-Day 28: Bought at my favourite independent bookshop

So many… but in particular I am really enjoying the book that I'm reading right now.  I bought it in the second book spa from Mr B’s, and can’t believe I waited so long to start it.  It’s one of those wonderful all too rare books that you can’t bear to put down.  When you are forced to put it down you can’t stop thinking about it, and you pretty much itch until the next time you can sit and read it.

I am waxing on about  The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  It’s book one of a trilogy called The Kingkiller Chronicle, though there appear to be a few novella’s and apparently a further series in the planning for the same universe though different characters.  Book two is also available, but book three is tantalisingly not even listed on Amazon UK as far as I can tell… how frustrating.

EDIT:  Review to appear here later this week.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book-a-Day 27: Want to be one of the characters

Hmmm, this is a difficult one as rather than imagine myself as one of the characters I tend to imagine what would happen if I, Lorraine, were inserted into the book as me.  

What if I was with Jane when Rochester nearly knocked her over on his horse… 
what if I was a student at the University with Kvothe?  
What if Karou had two friends, Zuzanna and me?  

I’m afraid this is the one day that I just cannot give you a book.  In all honesty for the good books I read, I imagine myself into every scene.  Sometimes a silent observer, sometimes an active participant in events.

Even if the book is written in the first person I (Lorraine) imagine that I (the narrator) see me (Lorraine) standing nearby.  Do you do this?  I find it surprisingly easy, given that I as the narrator am not myself.  

Return tomorrow for the next instalment of Crazy Book Lady presents.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book-a-Day 26: Should have sold more copies

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  

I’m sure this sold plenty, and certainly enough to get the attention of Hollywood, as it’s being turned into a film (insert prayer to the God of book to movie adaptations).  

But I think everyone should have a copy of this, and as I know many people don’t, it logically follows that it should have sold more.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book-a-Day 25: Never finished it

How do you decide that you’ve never finished a book?  

I have started many and consider them not finished yet.  That doesn’t mean I won’t, just that I haven’t got around to it yet.  Instead I can only say that there are a few books I know I will never finish.  

The one that springs out at me I found to be truly awful (imho).  I am 100% certain that I will never finish Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka.  Dreadful, so bad I'm not even going to post a photo...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book-a-Day 24: Hooked me into reading

I count my reading history in two distinct phases, so I have two books for today.  The first was bought for me for Christmas by my late Uncle Stephen, and is probably the first book I enjoyed reading that wasn't forced upon me by my school.  I was 5 or 6, and the ladybird books that the school had weren't much of a challenge or particularly interesting.  Five Fall Into Adventure by Enid Blyton.  I don't know why he started on book 9, but it was enough to get me hooked.

Last week I was in Corfe, near the castle and they have an Enid Blyton shop.  I found some 1950's editions, for a fairly reasonable £10, but sadly no first editions :-(

The second book I bought nearly 30 years after the first.  Between the ages of about 11 and 32 I read mostly romance and chick-lit.  At 32 and living in Australia I had to change my reading habits.  Thanks to the bookstore across the road (Angus and Robertson) having a Top 100 list I was able to pick books pretty much guaranteed to be good.  Books are very expensive in Australia and you feel like you have to treat each one as an investment, especially if, like me, you don’t have much disposable income.  A book you could buy for £8 in the UK would be at that time about £20 in Australia!  A new release could be more like £35!  

I decided to try a classic, for one thing they were slightly cheaper (maybe £16), plus for a book over 150 years old to make a modern top 100 list I figured it had to be worth a try.  I picked Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  I loved it, and ever since I've focussed on reading anything but chick-lit

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book-a-Day 23: Made to read at school

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  The only book to make it onto the list twice in any significant way.  Hated it then, but love it now.  Let me be clear, it’s always been a fabulous book of course, and had I read it as a choice of my own I would have loved it then.  

But I hated school and by extension all school enforced activities, ergo I hated it because I had no choice but to read it.

I finally got around to reading it a year or two ago (time flies!) and it's pure magic.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book-a-Day 22: Out of print

This one flummoxed me I'm afraid.  With the advent of eReaders and the fact that I tend to buy new books, rather than secondhand, I don't know if I have any that are out of print.

The closest I think I can get to that is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson.  It was originally published in the 1930's, and out of print for a long while, until 2000, when Persephone Books re-printed.  I for one am very glad they did.  It's fabulous and gave a single 40 year old (me) hope for the future.

EDIT:  I was looking for a copy of Rabbiting On from day 7 on Amazon (mine is old and battered and the cover is barely hanging on, and I’ve written on the inside my name and class number at school).  Anyway, I figure it has to be out of print now (originally published 1978), as only one new copy is available, priced at just short of £2500!!!  Used copies are priced from 1p.

Sadly mine is in such poor condition it probably isn't worth more than 1p at best.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book-a-Day 21: Summer read

IF you want a fun, light, entertaining read with action, humour and fantastical flights of fancy in forgotten fairytale lands, you can’t go far wrong with a tale about magic, witches, romance and royal murders... 

Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book-a-Day 20: Favourite cover

I gave this answer to a question posed some time ago by the lovely Helen at Fennell Books, I’ve still got the same answer… It’s got to be The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw.  

I have the hardback copy, and not only is it a pretty cover but it is edged in silver, and it’s just beautiful.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book-a-Day 19: Still cant stop talking about it

Anyone who has followed this blog at all in the past can probably take a good guess at what my selection for today is.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  I could have used this book on about half of this book a day list I think, but have tried to hold back so as not to totally bore everyone silly.

Not only was it a Book Spa recommended book by my favourite bookseller in Bath, recently I was in Heffers, the biggest bookshop in Cambridge and two of Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards books published so far are Top Staff Picks… Lies and the third book Republic of Thieves.  In case you needed any more convincing.

A TIP:  For those who read it for the first time, Lynch spends a good deal of time building Locke's world.  Stick with the first 150 pages and it will be worth it!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book-a-Day 18: Bought on a recommendation

Ever since I lived in Australia in 2006 and first found Angus and Robertson’s Top 100 list nearly every book I have bought has been the result of a recommendation of one kind or another.  

One of the most surprising was Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  A book for book lovers, and an intriguing mystery too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book-a-Day 17: Future classic

New out this year – The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.  Starting with book 1 - Annihilation.  This is the first book in a trilogy all to be published in 2014.

I am reading my way through book 2 (Authority), and am very confused and perplexed.  I have no idea what's going on, except that it's Very. Strange. Indeed.

Book 1 is set in Area X, where a team of unnamed professionals have been sent on an expedition to investigate.  It is a strange place that nature has reclaimed, and drastically affects anyone who dares to enter.  

Book 2 is set at the Southern Reach HQ, following the new Director, after the last one went into Area X and never came out.

It is a very dark series, and I have just seen on Wikipedia that it is a SciFi Horror.  I suppose that's why it makes me feel quite uncomfortable to read.  It's unsettling, yet compelling.  I really want to get to the bottom of things.

These books are so highly anticipated the film rights were apparently bought before the first in the series was even published.  So there you are, a future classic if ever there was!  I certainly hope so, I managed to order myself some signed first editions from Mr B's that I picked up at the weekend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Book Club Dilemma

Having moved recently I'm no longer an official member of my old book club (whom I REALLY miss!!), and am now trying to choose between two new clubs here in Cambridgeshire.

Book Club One meets every first Thursday of the month at 7:30 in a hotel bar a few minutes walk from my house.  There are about 7 or 8 members, and they're reading really interesting books.  One at least co-ordinates book loans from the local library and another is involved with the Cambridge Literary Festival.

Book Club Two also meets every first Thursday of the month at 7:30, but centrally at a pub in Cambridge.  The inaugral meeting is next month, the first book looks really good, and this club is aimed at people who are new to Cambridge, though not too local to home.

Which would you choose?

Book-a-Day 16: Can’t believe more people haven’t read

Well, I have to say here The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente.  I LOVED this book.  The characters, the setting, the writing, and especially Lye’s House of Soap.

When I originally read it I published a review, which you can read by clicking HERE if you want to see exactly what I loved about it and why.

I'm sure plenty of people have read it, but unless everyone has read it, well I'm afraid it's just not enough.  There should be a copy in every house, and whenever you feel down, just read the passages set in the House of Soap.  I defy anyone not to be lifted up by it.