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flissp tries to read people other than Diana Wynne Jones

75 Books Challenge for 2011

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Edited: Jan 4, 2012, 11:26am Top

Time for thread 2 I think, here're my plans to date:

Here's the ticker (arbitrary goal of 125 again):

Reviews for 2011 (LT Early Reviewers also listed):
The Last Dragon Slayer - Jasper Fforde
Jane Austen, Selected Letters (edited by R. W. Chapman)
Ghost of a Chance - Rhiannon Lassister (ER)
Naming the Bones - Louise Welsh (ER)
Evil Genius - Patricia Rice (ER)
Sebastian and the Afterlife - William J. Barry (ER)

...and I'm going to keep track of how many books I buy this year too (see msg 4) - with the aim of buying no more than an average of 1 per week. Not doing too well on this one.:

...and my list of goals for this years reading:

Goal 1: Non Fiction - same as 2010 - to read 10 non fiction books (excluding travel guides):
i) Galileo's Daughter: Dava Sobel (March TIOLI) - Thread 1, Msg203
ii) The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh
iii) Last Chance to See: Douglas Adams
iv) An Angel at My Table: Janet Frame
v) In Cold Blood: Truman Capote
vi) My Childhood: Maxim Gorky
vii) Allotments - Jane Eastoe (January TIOLI) - Thread 1, Msg114
viii Jane Austen Selected Letters - selected by R. W. Chapman - Thread 1, Msg247
ix) On The Road - Jack Kerouak - Thread 2, Msg96 (I know it's sort of fiction too, but I think it counts)
x) A Brit Different - Keith Didcock - Thread 2, Msg169

Goal 2: Group Reads (book links are to the group read spoiler thread):
i) Austenathon
- Sense & Sensibility (15Jan11) - Thread 1, Msg86
- Pride & Prejudice (15Mar11) - (March TIOLI) Thread 1, Msg227
- Mansfield Park (15May11) - Thread 2, Msg96
- Emma (15Jul11) - Thread 2, Msg133
- Northanger Abbey (15Sep11)
- Persuasion (15Nov11)
ii) Beowulf - Seamus Heaney - Thread 1, Msg60

Goal 3: Books to read: (I think I may switch a couple of these)
i) Oscar and Lucinda: Peter Carey - Thread 2, Msg133
ii) Catch 22: Joseph Heller (because it's my sister's book of the moment)
iii) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles: Haruki Murakami
iv) Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe
v) Something I haven't read by Kazuo Ishiguro
vi) The Double: Fyodor Dostoevsky
vii) Moon Palace: Paul Auster
viii Schindler's Arc: Thomas Keneally
ix) Troubles: J. G. Farrell (February TIOLI) - Thread 1, Msg161
x) Mr Norris Changes Trains - Christopher Isherwood - Thread 2, Msg46
xi) Sylvia's Lovers/Ruth: Elizabeth Gaskell
xii) The Children's Book: A. S. Byatt

Goal 4: Unfinished 2010 fiction Goals & Christmas Reading:
i) Les Miserables: Victor Hugo (Reading)
ii) I, Claudius: Robert Graves
iii) The Magic Mountain: Thomas Mann
iv) L'etranger: Albert Camus (in French)
v) War and Peace: Tolstoy
vi) Wuthering Heights: Emily Brontë
vii) Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck
viii) Vilnius Poker: Ričardas Gavelis
ix) The Master and Margarita: Mikhail Bulgakov - Thread 1, Msg60

Goal 5: Re-reads (because why not!):
i) All the novels of Jane Austen (see above) & The Watsons (JA + another - I've only ever read Jane Austen's fragment, never one of the finished off versions) (4/7)
ii) The Princess Bride - William Goldman (because I had pangs for it all last year)
iii) The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
iv) (Goal 6) All the novels of Diana Wynne Jones in publication author (see Msg3)

I shall update this map with each author's origin as I read:

8 states (3.55%)

...and here are links to my previous threads:
Thread for 2011 pt1
Thread for 2010 pt4
Thread for 2010 pt3
Thread for 2010 pt2
Thread for 2010 pt1
Thread for 2009 pt2
Thread for 2009 pt1
Thread for 2008

Best New Read of the Month:
Case Histories - Kate Atkinson
February: The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok - Richard Matheson
March: Puss in Boots - Diana Wynne Jones
April: Jane Austen Selected Letters
May: A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
June: Scott Pilgrim vs The World - Brian Lee O'Malley (but I didn't read very much in June)
July: The Tiger's Wife - Tèa Obreht
August: Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey
September: The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
October: Zorro - Isabel Allende
November: A Sense of Ending - Julian Barnes
December: Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto

May 4, 2011, 6:53pm Top

Hilarious. I love the title of your thread. Starred.

Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 5:09pm Top

I've added an additional Goal 6 this year, following the death of one of my all time favourite authors, Diana Wynne Jones - to read all her fiction in publication order (just because):

I'm excluding The Skiver's Guide and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (although I probably will read the latter at some point in the not too distant future) as non-fiction and as I've already read the former not long ago. Also excluded are Hidden Turnings and "Fantasy Stories" as collections of short stories that she's edited as there's only 1 of her stories in each - in both cases, they're both in other collections.

I've got a thread over on the DWJ fan group where I'm listing all of these together.

Changeover (1970) DWJ thread, Msg2
Wilkins' Tooth (1973) (aka Witch's Business) DWJ thread, Msg2
The Ogre Downstairs (1974) DWJ thread, Msg2
Eight Days of Luke (1975) DWJ thread, Msg2
Cart and Cwidder (1975) DWJ thread, Msg2
Dogsbody (1975) DWJ thread, Msg12
Power of Three (1976) DWJ thread, Msg12
Drowned Ammet (1977) DWJ thread, Msg16
Charmed Life (1977) DWJ thread, Msg16
Who Got Rid of Angus Flint (1978) (in Stopping for a Spell) DWJ thread, Msg16
Spellcoats (1979) DWJ thread, Msg25
The Four Grannies (1980) (in Stopping for a Spell) DWJ thread, Msg26
Time of the Ghost (1981) DWJ thread, Msg27
The Homeward Bounders (1981) DWJ thread, Msg28
Witch Week (1982) - comments pending
Archer's Goon (1984) - comments pending
Warlock at the Wheel (1984) (short story collection) - comments pending
Fire and Hemlock (1985) - comments pending
Howl's Moving Castle (1986) - comments pending
A Tale of Time City (1987) - comments pending
The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988)
Chair Person (1988) (in Stopping for a Spell)
Wild Robert (1989)
Castle in the Air (1990)
Black Maria (1991) (aka Aunt Maria)
A Sudden Wild Magic (1992)
Yes, Dear (1992)
The Crown of Dalemark (1993)
Hexwood (1993)
Everard's Ride (1995) (in Unexpected Magic)
Minor Arcana (1996) (short story collection)
Deep Secret (1997)
The Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998)
Puss in Boots (1999)
Mixed Magics (2000) (short story collection)
Year of the Griffin (2000)
The Merlin Conspiracy (2003)
(Unexpected Magic (2004))
Conrad's Fate (2005)
The Pinhoe Egg (2006)
The Game (2007)
House of Many Ways (2008)
Enchanted Glass (2010)
Earwig and the Witch (2011)

May 4, 2011, 6:54pm Top

#2 only to be followed by a list of DWJ books to read ;o)

Edited: Jul 27, 2011, 2:01pm Top

My TIOLI challenge books:

TIOLI Books from July, August & September 2010
TIOLI Books from October, November & December 2010
TIOLI Books from January, February, March & April 2011

MAY 2011: (1/5)
1) Book with a 5 word title (& 1 word from previous book):

Not sure I'm going to be able to do this one after all, having searched through my unread books - will keep track of the posts though.
6) Top left hand corner challenge:
This is problematic - it's "Ara 13" who is on my wishlist and not someone I actually own...
7) Book by a Beat author:
On the Road - Jack Kerouac (I've been meaning to read this for ages) (finished in June)
8) Graphic Novel/Comic:
Moomin: The Complete Comic Strip - Book Two - Tove Jansson
13) Repeating vowels:
Mansfield Park - Jane Austen (finished in June)

I decided to skip TIOLI for June and July as I was just too busy, but have signed up to the Orange July group (although haven't contributed much, for similar reasons) and Darryl's Booker Prize group (which I will try to contribute to a bit more hopefully!)

For my own reference, some links:
First page of the May TIOLI Wiki

Edited: Jul 27, 2011, 2:15pm Top

Books bought/received in 2011:
Gifts won't be added to my list, but ARCs, (being under my control to some extent), will! Let's see how many of them I actually get round to reading this year too...

Christmas haul (Cambridge):
Allotments - Jane Eastoe
Birds: The Art of Ornithology -Jonathan Elphick
Andrew Duncan's Favourite London Walks
The Big Bang: Christmas Crackers 2000-2009 - John Julius Norwich
National Geographic Simply Beautiful Photographs - Annie Griffiths
05-Jan-11 (South Bank, London):
1) The Humbling - Philip Roth
2) One Thousand and One Ghosts - Alexandre Dumas
3) Memoirs of the Life of Monsieur De Voltaire: Written by Himself - Voltaire
4) The Double - F.M. Dostoevsky
12-Jan-11 (Cambridge)
5) Must Love Hellhounds - Charlaine Harris etc
14-Jan-11 (Cambridge)
6) The Last Dragonslayer - Jasper Fforde
22-Jan-11 (Cambridge - bookmooch)
7) The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Patricia McKillip
24-Jan-11 (Cambridge)
8) Kean - Satre
25-Jan-11 (Cambridge - bookmooch)
9) Renfield - Barbara Hambly
29-Jan-11 (Cambridge)
10) Even the Dogs - Jon McGregor
03-Feb-11 (Cambridge)
11) Ghost of a Chance - Rhiannon Lassiter (ER ARC)
02-Feb-2011 (Cambridge)
12) Yes, Dear - Diana Wynne Jones (given to my niece)
12-Feb-2011 (Norwich)
13) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
14) Claudius the God - Robert Graves
15) The World in the Evening - Christopher Isherwood
16) Utopia - Thomas More
17) Trouble With Lichen - John Wyndham (duplicate - nice penguin copy)
15-Feb-2011 (Cambridge - Bookmooch)
18) The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole
18-Feb-2011 (Cambridge)
Faulks on Fiction - Sebastian Faulks (this was a present from my Dad, so it doesn't go on the counter ;o))
22-Feb-2011 (Cambridge)
19) Firebirds Rising
20) The Skiver's Guide - Diana Wynne Jones
27-Feb-2011 (Anglesey Abbey)
21) The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea - Yukio Mishima
05-Mar-2011 (Budapest)
22) Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
23) Embers - Sandor Marai
07-Mar-2011 (Cambridge)
24) Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life - Bryan Lee O'Malley
30-Mar-2011 (ebook)
25) Evil Genius - Patricia Rice (ER ARC)
31-Mar-2011 (Cambridge)
26) Puss In Boots - Diana Wynne Jones
01-Apr-2011 (Cambridge)
27) AA 50 Cycles to Country Pubs - Martin Knowlden
04-Apr-2011 (Cambridge)
Yes, Dear - Diana Wynne Jones (replacement for the one I gave my neice, so I'm not going to count it)
09-Apr-2011 (Cambridge)
28) Naming the Bones - Louise Welsh (ER ARC)
29-Apr-2011 (Cambridge)
29) Grace Williams Says it Loud - Emma Henderson
30) A Visit From the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
31) The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault - Angela Carter
32) The Seas - Samantha Hunt
09-May-2011 (Cambridge)
33) A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
12-May-2011 (Cambridge)
34) Under the Frog - Tibor Fischer
14-May-2011 (Cambridge)
35) Last Evenings on Earth - Roberto Bolano
36) The Rough Guide to Scandinavia
37) Good Beer Guide 2011
38)The Rough Guide to the Lake District
20-May-2011 (Helsinki)
39) Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Book: Bk. 2
40) Invisible - Paul Auster
28-May-2011 (Hay-on-Wye)
41) Jacob's Hands - Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood
42) A Model World and Other Stories - Michael Chabon
43) Threepenny Novel - Bertolt Brecht
44) My Name is Mina - David Almond
45) Rider on a White Horse - Rosemary Sutcliffe (I can't find this in LT at all)
29-May-2011 (Cambridge)
46) The Spook's Destiny - Joseph Delaney
02-Jun-2011 (Cambridge)
47) Magic Slays - Ilona Andrews
07-Jun-2011 (Kendal)
48) When Will There Be Good News - Kate Atkinson
09-Jun-2011 (Cambridge
49) Earwig and the Witch - Diana Wynne Jones

Edited: May 25, 2011, 7:29am Top

To update:

40) Naming the Bones - Louise Welsh (ARC)
(Apr 2011, Cambridge)

Murray Watson, university lecturer on sabatical, is planning to write a book on a poet, Archie Lunan, whose single work he fell in love with as an undergraduate. Lunan, following his untimely death in a yaghting accident in the 70's has started to disappear into obscurity and Murray wants to revive interest in his hero.

Finding out about Lunan's mysterious life and death, however, proves much harder than Murray anticipated. Why is it so hard to find anyone who remembers him that will talk?

A very enjoyable thriller, with a suitably depressed and haunted lead character (I would expect nothing less - but then I don't read very many thrillers!). I found this a gripping read and thought that Welsh dealt particularly well with the difficulties of unreliable sources - we're as much in the dark as Murray is as he struggles with the different versions of the truth presented to him, whilst dealing with the same thing, to a lesser extent in his own life and relationships.

I will say that I found the book become less plausible as it progressed towards the end, to the point that I wasn't completely satisfied with the denoument, however, it certainly doesn't end badly and it was a good swift read.

41) Power of Three - Diana Wynne Jones
(1990, Cambs)

One of my favourites.

Gair is the middle son of the heroic Gest and wise Adara. His elder sister and younger brother both have remarkable gifts and he feels himself to be the only one in his family to be boring and normal.

But the moor on which his people live is under threat - and not just from the terrifying Giants and slippery Dorig with whom they unwillingly share it, but from a death curse, the result of a foolish and unforgivable act of his unpleasant uncle Orban when he was also a child. Gair seems to be the only one who can see that something needs to be done.

One of the many things I liked about DWJ was her talent for writing truly likable characters and an ability to pull you emotionally into the story with them. She can also make a point subtly - so that you don't even realise it's being made. In this case, it's that people aren't always what they seem and we shouldn't judge them before we understand them. I know I didn't notice this point being made when I read this first as a child, but I'm sure that it seeped in undercover of a wonderful read, nonetheless...

May 5, 2011, 6:29am Top

Yay! New thread! About time :D

May 6, 2011, 12:16pm Top

I laughed at your thread title, too! :)

May 6, 2011, 1:31pm Top

Ditto re thread title -- LOL! I do look forward to seeing what you read that isn't DWJ... *grin*

May 6, 2011, 2:48pm Top

#8 - 10 ;o) Hallo all!

Suzanne, I know ;o) - I'm pausing on the DWJ at the moment as I'm finishing up a (truly not good) ER ARC and I've got an interesting Paul Auster from the library that keeps waving at me from my bed side table. I never thought I'd say that she wrote too many books, but I'm a little bit worried I'll read nothing else this year otherwise! I've had very few books truly excite me so far this year, so I've been falling back on easy reads a little too often I think!

May 6, 2011, 5:22pm Top

I know what you mean -- I'm so thrilled when I stumble over a book that is wonderful AND wonderful to read, like those by Joseph Boyden. I started on Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, but can't immerse myself in it for some reason. I'm sure it's brilliant, but it's not yet speaking to me, and I hate it when I confront that combination. There are definitely times when I prefer a thumping good read that is just very satisfying...

May 6, 2011, 5:44pm Top

Hi, Fliss! Yours is the best named thread of the year, I think.

May 6, 2011, 7:39pm Top

I love the idea of reading through all DWJ's books in order. The Chrestomanci books were some of my childhood favourites, but there are still so many of her books that I haven't read at all.

Edited: May 7, 2011, 12:41pm Top

#14 I love the Chrestomanci books (and The Lives of Christopher Chant is on my favourites list as is Magicians of Caprona), but a lot of my favourites are stand alones. Am very jealous of anyone who has new DWJ to discover!

#13 Yay! Thank you Darryl! How's stuff? Started catching up on your thread yesterday, but not there yet ;o) Glad the tornados didn't get to you - sounds like the distruction was terrible. Poor people.

#12 Exactly that! I've found it very hard to pull myself out of my Christmas book slump so far this year, hence receding into even more YA fiction than usual (and I'm currently very excited, because Patrick Ness' latest, A Monster Calls showed up on my doorstep today.

I'm not allowed to read that last until I've finshed writing an abstract that's already overdue however. So obviously, I've cleaned all the windows of my flat (which are many) and the bathroom and am now catching up on all those comments I meant to post last week ;o) Oh dear. MUST get this thing done. I'm going to a mate's gig tonight too...

It's been quite hard getting properly back into the flow at work this week, what with all those wonderfully hot bank holidays (yay for 3/4 day weeks and 4 day weekends!). I don't really know why as, unlike most of my lab, I did go in to work in between. Actually, possibly that's exactly why - it's a lot easier to concentrate in an open plan office when there's almost noone else there!

It really was lovely to have all that time off though, I was definitely in need of a break. So there was lots of familying, a fair bit of cycling; visiting of my last-mates-in-Cambridge-without-a-baby's new baby and loads of allotmenting. I've not bored you all with my allotment pictures yet this year, so here're some before and after pics (mwah ha ha!):



Also cycled from Wicken Fen to Ely and back on the 2nd bank holiday Monday. My Dad and I are cycling the short route of the Suffolk Coast Bike Ride again this year (only 35 miles - I'm determined to do the long one next year though) and my Dad not having been on a bike in years until very recently, and being very unfit myself, I thought it'd be nice to go out together a few times before hand. And, such a beautiful (if annoyingly windy) day, it was too. Until I took a gate too fast, misdjudging the bend and, putting my foot down to right myself, put it right through a cattle grid, anyway. Woo. I'm not usually so kak-handed on my bike, but I'm certainly good at inelegant postures and this was a beautiful example! My leg is no longer quite the size of an elephant's, but it's all sorts of beautiful colours ;o) Anyway, here's a pic (you can just about see Ely Cathedral in the distance:

Ah me, I'm very good at procrastiantion, aren't I?! Right. I need to post a review of my other ARC (the one I mentioned) above, but then I really should get some work done today (booooo)....

Edited: May 25, 2011, 7:29am Top

So. A new post for the book stuff. Forgot to mention above that I've updated my comments on Power of Three and Naming the Bones (rubbish title) up in Msg 7.

42) Evil Genius - Patricia Rice (ARC)
(Apr 2011, ebook)

Not impressed by this at all.

Dysfunctional families, murder, intrigue, politics and …textbooks?!

Ana(stasia) works, as the world's best virtual assistant, from a basement flat in Atlanta. Avoiding most contact with the outside world and definitely trying to escape her flamboyant globetrotting mother and her many, many remarkable half brothers and sisters for whom she was endlessly responsible as she was growing up and for whom she behaves like a dormat. She is happy there in her anonymity, avoiding real life, just trying to be a bit normal. That is until her precocious, 9 year old youngest sister, EG (Elisabeth Georgina, aka Evil Genius) turns up on her doorstep, with another brother (Ana's favourite), Nick not far behind her.

EG's father, a politician living in Washington DC, has been arrested for the murder of a government aide and EG is determined to go there to prove him innocent. Ana grudgingly ups sticks and, with her brother and sister, relocates to DC with the vague memory of her Grandfather and his wonderful home in mind as a base. But when they get there, they discover that their Grandfather died a couple of months ago, his new lawyer has run off with all his money and a mysterious and unfriendly man is living on the third floor of their mansion, having paid cash for it (via the unscrupulous lawyer).

So maybe this isn't my usual kind of thing. This said, I'm usually very happy to expand my horizons with different genres, even if I don't do it often enough. Honestly, if this hasn't been an Early Reviewers book, I would have barely made it to the 50 page rule.

Ana tells the majority of the story (with a couple of almost inexplicable and certainly jarring sections from EG's point of view) and she does so with that strange kind of voice of bravado that you usually find in badly written teen fiction. This is a 30 year old woman, who behaves like a teenager and tells us that she knows herself to be normal if insecure, comfortable with anonymity and uninterested in showing herself off. In very nearly the same breath, she makes a point of being next to a Buffy knock-off with her kick-ass moves and apparently fascinated with describing how she looks and what she wears (I can think of no other reason she would spend quite so much of the book describing herself). But Ana is by no means the least convincing character in this book full of cringeworthy stereotypes, confused bar-room politics and convoluted plot.

Now this is turning in to a bit of a rant, for which I hope you'll forgive me, but there are enough glowing reviews out there for me to know that I won't put too many people off. I make the point about the glowing reviews because clearly, this book is generally fairly popular, so perhaps I'm missing something and certainly, there is something particular in the tone in which it's written that presses the wrong buttons for me. It's a fairly light hearted book and if you can look beyond the stereotypes and constant clothing descriptions, it may be just what you're after for a quick beach read - because one thing it does not lack is pace.

May 7, 2011, 2:00pm Top

Nice allotment! What are you going to grow? I've got one myself, and I'm being so lazy with it this year.

May 7, 2011, 2:38pm Top

#17 Thank you! Unfortunately, I'm bounded by plots owned by people who aren't very good at doing anything at all.

I've got quite a lot in already in fact. Broad beans, onion and shallot sets went in last year, plus some early peas that aren't doing very well. Then this year I've put in potatos, beetroot, leeks, spinach, parsnips and a rather hopefull attempt at growing runner beans and courgetts straight out (it's been such nice weather and I don't have any windowsills at home to grow up seedlings on).

It's quite hard work at this time of the year though, so I don't blame you being slow off the mark - I was very glad that I'd dug and covered a whole patch before it snowed last year when I came to that bit last weekend. Actually, it's only in the last few weeks that I've got anything done myself - it was horribly weedy before hand...

May 7, 2011, 6:52pm Top

#8 Bente, I've lost your thread - where have you got to?!

May 7, 2011, 8:29pm Top

Courgettes should be reasonably straightforward, no? I admire your ambitions, though! I should do something with the backyard, but here it goes from rainy & dismal to hot/superhumid and dismal so rapidly, a lot never gets done. I once got heatstroke working out there, a few years ago, so have been wary about it every since...!

May 8, 2011, 8:16pm Top

Caught up at last. Your mention of cycling in the Fens reminded me of an occasion when I cycled from Cambridge to Wicken Fen and back many many years ago. I was keen to visit there having read about it years before that in Marguerite Henry's King of the Wind.

May 9, 2011, 2:18am Top

Hi fliss!. Love the title of your new thread. Your allotment is looking very nice this year.
Is the new Patrick Ness book part of the Chaos Walking series?
I hope you got your abstract finished on time. Glad to know I'm not the only one who suddenly needs to clean or straighten closets/cupboards whenever I have to complete a project for work or school. LOL.
Good luck with the Suffolk Coast Bike Ride. Is your father in training? 35 miles seems a lot for someone who just started riding again.

May 9, 2011, 3:51am Top

Hello, Fliss! I think I missed your last thread entirely, so hopefully I can keep up with this one :)

May 9, 2011, 8:34am Top

#19 I can see you found me :) I'v been so bad at updating my reading, so I'm hiding all the way back there out of shame!! Haha, well...the sun is shining and the weather is warm and nice...they have promised rain tomorrow so I'll try to work on the reviews then.

Don't you think spinach is an underestimated vegetable? For a long time I didn't try it because I thought it tasted bad, but it is really good in salads. Thumbs up for spinach!

May 9, 2011, 8:39am Top

Genny...King of the Wind is a Newbery book and since I continue on my quest to read them all, I'll try to read this one next.

May 9, 2011, 2:48pm Top

You must be definitely envying me then, with my vast amount of DWJ I have yet to discover. Sadly, I don't think I have found the book that completely 'clicks' with me by her. The ones I have read:

The Ogre Downstairs
Charmed Life
The Lives of Christopher Chant (I think)
Howl's Moving Castle (my favourite so far)
House of Many Ways
Fire and Hemlock
The Spellcoats (I don't remember it being this title but it was definitely prehistoric so I assume this is the one. I recognise it more than the other Dalemark titles.)

I've liked them all, but not loved any, so I can't help but think that maybe they aren't quite for me.

May 10, 2011, 12:59pm Top

#6 Ooh, are your acquired books crossed off when you've read them? You're doing much better than I am. I just nipped over to my thread thinking I would do the same and realised that I can't cross off any of the books I bought last month...

#15 I have been procrastinating all day today...

And I still haven't read the Chaos Walking trilogy.

May 13, 2011, 8:47am Top

#20 Yep, they should be Suzanne, as should the runners, but if another frost comes along (which it still might, although it looks unlikely at the moment), it'll probably kill them all off. I'm sure they'll be fine though - I've also put in some aubergine seeds under a bell - it's always worth a shot!

Heatstroke from gardening! Actually, I can see that happening if you're out all day in the direct sunlight.

#21 Genny, I've never cycled from Cambridge to Wicken Fen, although I've thought about it - I'd be interested in the route you took - do you not end up having to cycle down the A10 for a large part of the way?

#22 Thank you VB! Nope, A Monster Calls is a new book - I don't think Patrick Ness is planning to write any more for the Chaos Walking series. I've been very good and held myself off from reading it - I'm really looking forward to burrowing myself away with it this weekend...

"lad to know I'm not the only one who suddenly needs to clean or straighten closets/cupboards whenever I have to complete a project for work or school" - I also did some late night dusting, which is something I'm usually extremely bad at (the dusting, not the late night ;op)

Ended up writing the abstract at 11pm on Sunday night! Now for the revisions (sigh) - although actually, I always find it much easier to alter something that's already there than to start from scratch. It's only for a conference poster anyway...

Re my Dad and the cycling, actually, 35 miles is just about OK if you haven't done too much training (although I wouldn't do any more than that), particularly as it's mostly flat and it's a leisurely ride rather than a race. The Wicken Fen - Ely - Wicken Fen cycle we did (we turned straight around at Ely) was about 18 miles and he had no trouble with that, so I think we'll be OK. It is the plan for us to go out and do more though, not least because we could both do with the exercise.

#23 Hallo Stasia! There is no way you can be worse than me at keeping up with other people's threads - every time I catch up, I lose track again.

#24 I did indeed - I was just being blind! I completely agree on the spinach front ;o) Home grown is so much nicer too - I'm not a fan of the big leaves, but small leaves, with a bit of oil and lemon are yummy.

#25 Hi Linda! I've completely lost track of your thread, I must drop by. How are you doing with your Newbery list?

#26 Oh yes! Hmmm. Well, I suppose not every author is for everyone and it looks like you've tried a few different strands there. I think that you might like Dogsbody though? How are you doing with the Patrick Ness?

#27 Yep! But notice the portion that haven't been read too and about 30% of my shelves are unread... I do recommend the Chaos Walking trilogy to you - I've yet to come across anyone who didn't enjoy it (although that's tempting fate of course...)

Books. I need to comment on Drowned Ammet, which I finished rereading a couple of nights ago - I'll probably do so at the weekend when I've finished Grace Williams Says It Loud, which I'm reading (and enjoying very much) at the moment.

I'm off to Helsinki for most of next week for a conference. Flying out from Heathrow early in the morning - woo. The first day's program is 12 hrs long too, with not many breaks - double woo. Should be interesting though, if I can stay awake! The advantage of flying out early in the morning is that I'll be able to take a look around Helsinki too as I'll have most of a day free (the conference starts too early in the morning to fly in on the day it begins), which I'm very pleased about as I've never been there. I'm not going to know very many people there (and none of the rest of my lab are going), so I'll be packing lots of books ;o)

May 13, 2011, 8:49am Top

Have a great trip, Fliss!

May 13, 2011, 10:23am Top

The allotment looks great!

Hope you manage to get some time to explore Helsinki, and that your multi-coloured leg is returning to normal.

May 13, 2011, 9:33pm Top

Have fun in Helsinki! I'm curious as to whether it's just a shadow of St. Petersburg and other Baltic cities, or has some identity of its own... And let us know how you get on with the Finns! Apparently they are very dour, with the world's second most impossible language (the first being Hungarian...!)

May 14, 2011, 7:05am Top

Hope you enjoy Helsinki - please post some photos when you're back!

May 14, 2011, 7:29am Top

Have a safe and enjoyable visit, Fliss!

May 16, 2011, 8:20pm Top

#28 Sorry, not at all sure of the route after nearly 30 years!! (I must have done this some time between 1982 and 1985 when I was an undergrad). I do also remember cycling one evening from Cambridge to Ely for a concert in the cathedral, only it took much longer than we'd planned, so we had no time to eat before the concert, and after getting some late fish and chips before cycling back, we found the college gates locked and no way of getting in when we finally got back very late. Thankfully someone was letting out a late guest so we did manage to get in in the end.

May 18, 2011, 2:44pm Top

Hi Fliss. Hope things are going well in Helsinki. Is this a diabetes conference?
A Monster Calls is not yet available here. I'll have to add it to the wish list.
When is the Bike Ride?

May 18, 2011, 2:52pm Top

Just found your new thread, Fliss. You moved while I was on the road and not following threads very well. Love your title--leapt right out at me when I was browsing the group--and the allotment pictures. I have to get some garden pics up on my thread soon. If you want company reading some of the DWJ books, let me know (I so don't already have a million books on my plate, but she is familiar, beloved, and quick).

May 19, 2011, 6:58am Top

Found you after a long, long time!

May 19, 2011, 8:13pm Top

I'm very anxious to hear of your Helsinki trip. I hope you are having a great time.

May 20, 2011, 6:15pm Top

Hi, Fliss!

How are you and how was Helsinki? Hope you had a great time:)

May 22, 2011, 9:04am Top

Hallo people! Been a little while since I last dropped by...

#29-39 Helsinki was, well, largely work, with what felt like very early starts - they're 2hrs ahead, so it felt like three 5am starts on the trot. I'm not a morning person. But, when the conference wasn't happening, there was beautiful weather and I had the chance to do a little bit of exploring, although I had a streaming cold most of the week, so was a little pathetic about doing it properly. To be honest though, there's not a huge amount to see - it's one of those places where you need a little bit longer, so you can spend the time travelling to the interesting places on the outskirts/ on boat trips and I didn't really have enough time to do that, so I walked round the center a bit and visited the national and modern art galleries (both of which were rather good), but not a lot else.

#29 Thanks Stasia!

#30 Thanks Caty - leg nearly back to normal, if still lumpy (bit disappointing - I was rather enjoying the colours!)

#31 I think that there is quite a Soviet influence Suzanne. I've not really got a lot to compare it to though - although one of my eventual travel plans was to ferry between Finland and Russia - I'd love to see St Petersburg.

I'll verify the 2nd most impossible language, but everyone seemed very friendly :o)

#32 Heather, I didn't take very many photos, but here are a few:

(A few more here)

#33 Hi Darryl - thanks!

#34 I tried to cycle out to Ely along the river once - it didn't really work though - I got as far as Waterbeach, but had to give up as there were just too many styles and too much overgrowth! I think that there is a proper cycle path somewhere besides the A10, but I've yet to figure it out properly.

Was the concert worth it? ;o)

#35 Hi VB - Nope, the conference was for "A Global View of Disease Genomics" - it was held in honour of our last head of department who died from bone cancer last year (she was Finnish and still held a lot of posts there). I didn't really know her very well, but had a lot of respect for her - there aren't enough women at that level in science.

The bike ride isn't until the end of July, so not for a while yet.

#36 Thanks Roni! Please feel free to join in with any of the DWJs - I'm just about to start The Spellcoats - although, as you say, they're very speedy to read, so I tene to finish them in a day! I'm pulling all my comments together on one thread (here)

#37 Hi PC! I've got you starred, but I've got a lot to catch up on!

#38 Hi Linda - thanks!

#39 Hi Bente - back again now!

Right, lots of books to update on:

May 22, 2011, 9:26am Top

Great photos, Fliss! Thanks for sharing them!

Edited: May 25, 2011, 7:29am Top

43) Drowned Ammet - Diana Wynne Jones (1977)
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

(?2008, Cambridge)

Second in the Dalemark series. When he's small, Mitt's parents, unable to keep up with rising taxes, have to give up their farm and move to Holand, the capital of South Dalemark. His father moved there a year earlier to get work and has become involved with a group of freedom fighters angry with a despotic ruler, but is killed not long after his family join them. Mitt grows up more or less on the streets, supporting his feckless mother, old before his time and determined to revenge his father. Becoming involved with the same freedom fighters as his father, he and his mother plot their revenge.

Hildy and her brother grow up in very much more privilaged circumstances, but equally unable to control their own future. Chance brings the tree together.

It's quite hard to sum up this book without giving away the story and I'm not doing a very good job, so I'll leave it there. This is my least favourite of the quartet as it's a little bit slow moving, but once it does, it's quite a thoughtful book, all the central characters having to examine their perception of the world in which they live and the people that they know.

44) Grace Williams Says It Loud - Emma Henderson
(April 2011, Cambridge)

Grace Williams, born with mental disabilities that appear far worse than they are due to her lack of speech and a deformed body made worse by Polio at a young age, is put into a home at the age of 11 when her family is convinced by doctors that they can no longer cope with her. There she meets Daniel - an epileptic boy with no arms and unlikely friendship develops. A friendship that makes a huge difference to both of these children, stuck in an institute '60s where most of the staff regard them as animals and abuse is a part of everyday life. But there are kind people too and there are things to look forward to.

Told by Grace, in a surprisingly upbeat manner, this is a book that should be a lot more upsetting than it is. Grace's outlook stops this from happening. Yes, you see glimpses of her anger at how she is treated, but she gets on with life and appreciates what she has. It wasn't the sad things that made me cry, but the moment when she comes into contact with a cello and her little sister realises that she's not an imbecile.

I've a feeling that this must be about the author's own sister (the author being the younger sister) - does anyone know?

45) Man in the Dark - Paul Auster
(April 2011, Rock Road Library)

An aging man lies in bed unable to sleep, alternately thinking about his family and their past and, at the same time, imagining a dream, alternative America - one in which there were no Sept-11th bombings, but there is civil war. In which a man wakes in a hole in the ground, assigned a strange mission - to assassinate the dreamer of the world he finds himself in. A sad household, the dreamer lives with his daughter and granddaughter, all of them morning the loss of love.

I don’t know if it’s just the books I’ve picked, but I’m starting to see a pattern of melancholy, the confusion of reality and the surreal in ever diminishing circles in all Paul Auster’s work. That and the feeling that I’m missing some subtle point being made. Nonetheless, as ever, this was a fascinating, sometimes horrifying, yet maybe, at the end of the day, a bit more upbeat than his other books that I’ve read. Honestly, I preferred the “real life” passages - an old man pondering his past, his present and his family. Fortunately, these predominated - the descriptions of analysing films with his granddaughter were particularly emotive and their relationship very believable and touching.

May 22, 2011, 10:56am Top

Re: Grace Williams Says It Loud, it is indeed based on the author's sister. There is an article about it from BBC News here:


Edited: May 25, 2011, 7:30am Top

#41 Thanks Stasia!

...next few:

46) Mr Norris Changes Trains - Christopher Isherwood
Goal 3: Books to read
(something I've yet to read by Isherwood)
(July 2002, Cambridge)

There's a very interesting Wikipedia commentary on this book that's worth taking a look at if you're at all interested in Christopher Isherwood.

William Bradshaw meets the shady Mr Norris on a train, returning to Berlin. Not knowing many other English people living there, he quickly strikes up a friendship with this unusual man.

This is a companion piece to Goodbye To Berlin - also semi autobiographical (despite the name change - in fact his middle names), Isherwood ended up disliking this book - saying that it words to the effect that it trivialises reality. Certainly, while I enjoyed it, I did so less than I've enjoyed his other books that I've read - it doesn't really match up to Goodbye To Berlin (which is great and I'm definitely due for a reread).

47) A Visit From the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
(April 2011, Cambridge)

Another from the Orange Prize longlist. Each chapter told from the perspective of a different character, spanning from the 1980's to some time in the future. The lives of many different messed up people, all of whom are very believable. The only part I had trouble with was the final chapter in the future, which I thought was weak and very unlikely. People will always want to talk to each other in person, despite an increase in impersonal technology. Witness the LT meet ups - this from a community who basically only konw each other online ;o). An enjoyable quick read, but I can see why it didn't make the shortlist.

May 22, 2011, 12:09pm Top

I do hope my local library gets a copy of Grace Williams Says It Loud eventually!

Edited: May 25, 2011, 7:38am Top

#43 Ooh, thanks for that link Jenny - I'll go and check that out in a minute...

48) Charmed Life - 1977
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

(1987, Herts)

My memory was fooling me when I said I first read this when I was 7 - I must have been 9. Still, quite a long time ago now and the first I read. My school teacher was reading to us from a book called I Like This Story (a collection of extracts from various children's books) and I fell in love with this one and had to read what happened next. It was probably the perfect age at which to stumble on to DWJ.

Cat Chant and his sister Gwendolin have been orphaned in a tragic boating accident. Gwendolin didn't drown, because she is a witch. Cat didn't drown, because he was clinging to Gwendolin - something he continues to do. They go to live with their neighbour Mrs Sharp, but Gwendolin has ambitions and manages to convince the mysterious and important Chrestomanci to adopt them as part of her plan.

If I struggle to be balanced about DWJ at the best of times, I'm never going to manage it with Charmed Life, which, while not in my top 5 DWJ list, has many extremely fond memories attached to it. I love her gentle humour - she was such a wonderful storyteller. There is though, one thing about Charmed Life that never sat very well with me - and that is Gwendolin. I can handle the blacker than black villans DWJ writes, even though most of the time I prefer a few more shades of grey. However, I just don't like that Gwendolin can treat her own brother the way she does - it never sits comfortably. Neither does Janet's decision regarding her future at the end of the book. Both easy enough to wash over with my love of the rest of the story however...

Oh dear, I've got recordings of "Later with Jools Holland..." on TV in the background and Brian Wilson just came on - he's unbelievably leaden and vacant looking. It's rather sad - I don't remember him being this depressing when I saw him at Glastonbury - infact it was a highlight - but then we were quite a way from the stage...

49) Invisible - Paul Auster
(May 2011, Helsinki)

I didn't bring enough books with me to Helsinki! This was an airport purchase of desperation (usually, I probably would have left a bigger gap between Paul Auster books). A very good purchase it was too!

Adam Walker meets Rudolph Born and his girlfriend Margot at a party while he's at university in the 60's. The apparently innocuous meeting alters the course of his life irrevocably. Told in four parts, in four different tenses.

I think this is probably my favourite of his to date. Possibly because, although it's an unlikely story, the characters felt a lot less at a distance then his usually do. Read in four hours - finished at passport control in Heathrow ;o)

50) Moomin: The Complete Comic Strip - volume 2 - Tove Jansson
May TIOLI: Graphic novel/ comic

(May 2011, Helsinki)

When I was in Helsinki, I looked around for one of her novels in the Academic book shop (which has a large English language section), but unfortunately couldn't find any. On the other hand, I've been meaning to buy the next volume of the complete Moomin comic strip anyway ;o)

I love these. I never read or watched them when I was little, so when my sister gave me the first volume a couple of Christmas's ago, I didn't know what to expect. They're so much less sugar coated than I expected them to be - with a wicked and slightly surreal sense of humour that suits me down to the ground. While I was a little sad not to see the "poor relations" again (who are hilarious), this was again, an extremely enjoyable read.

51) A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness (based on an idea from Siobhan Dowd)
(May 2011, Cambridge)

What a beautiful book this is! The art work is wonderfully atmospheric. An emotionally heart wrenching story too. A monster comes to visit Conor, a boy who's mother is struggling with what is probably cancer (it's never specified). He tells him three stories - the forth, Conor will have to tell the monster himself. The story of a boy struggling to cope, the characters are completely convincing. This was increadibly absorbing and (a familiar phrase with Patrick Ness, I couldn't put the book down once I started it. A lovely book.

52a) Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? - 1978 (contained in Stopping for a Spell)
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

The unpleasant Angus Flint comes to stay with Candida and her family and won't go away. Drastic measures must be taken!

A silly but fun little children's story.

May 22, 2011, 12:27pm Top

#45 I think you'll enjoy it Stasia!

May 22, 2011, 1:02pm Top


I very much like the look of A Monster Calls, and Moomin. Onto the wishlist!

Just so you know, I've requested The Knife of Never Letting Go from the library again, so I should be able to get the trilogy done :) I feel I definitely need a recap of the first. I tried to read it just after The Hunger Games but it was too soon for another YA dystopic fiction and couldn't concentrate.

The only thing is - knowing the end of TKONLG, it's difficult to get fully committed to the beginning. I don't mind people being killed in books, but..........well, don't want to say too much in case of spoilers, but I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. I hated that bit and so kept shielding myself when I tried to read it again.

May 22, 2011, 1:35pm Top

A Monster Calls looks very good! I will have to give that one a go, if I ever get my hands on a copy.

May 22, 2011, 1:37pm Top


Thanks for posting your photos of Helsinki!

Jenny, The Knife of Never Letting Go is a great book!

May 22, 2011, 4:45pm Top


Yeah, I have read it before, and I loved it........until a certain event. I had forgotten how much it annoyed me until I tried to read it again! I must do though, as Fliss kindly lent me the other two in the trilogy and I want to fully enjoy them. *sigh* if only I wasn't such a sensitive soul in some ways.

May 22, 2011, 6:22pm Top

Glad you got to do some sightseeing in Helsinki although sorry to hear you were ill.

I just finished Drowned Ammet and I think I preferred it to Cart and Cwidder although I haven't read the others in the Dalemark quartet yet. I also found Grace Williams less upsetting than it felt like it should be and agree about the scene with the cello.

May 22, 2011, 9:28pm Top

Thanks for the link to your DWJ reading! I'm impacted at the moment, bookwise, but I would like to reread the Dalemark quartet soon. I think The Spellcoats is the first DWJ I ever read, but Charmed Life and Dogstar made me fall in love with her.

May 22, 2011, 10:39pm Top

Interesting how we have such different favourites - for me it's Charmed Life, perhaps partly because it was my first, and The Ogre Downstairs because it was about having a difficult stepdad, and any stories about real step parents (rather than fairy tales like Snow White which weren't really applicable to me) were welcome.

May 23, 2011, 9:36am Top

Whereas Charmed Life was the only DWJ I read as a child, and I didn't like it very much, I'm afraid - I'm not sure why, but I think the character of Gwendolin may have had something to do with it, as that rings a bell. I'm gradually reading some others of hers now since so many of you speak so highly of her.

I did read lots of Moomintroll books as a child, and loved them. Not at all sugary, indeed: surreal and somewhat wistful and sad, I recall. I'd love to re-read them. I don't think I read them in comic strip form though.

May 23, 2011, 10:48pm Top

Can't wait to read A Monster Calls. Love your pics of Helsinki, been a long time since I was there. I remember the babies all wearing really cute woollen hats and I wanted the knitting pattern so I could make one for my son. I must add some pics from my holiday to my thread.
I've got Tove Jansson's short story collection Travelling Light on my tbr pile, an impulse buy from last year.

May 24, 2011, 2:37pm Top

#48 No hurry Jenny - I know the bit you're talking about and I might struggle to reread that too! Just try to whisk through it ;o)

#49 Ooh yes, do Stasia!

#50 Hallo Linda! Not very many, so no swamping this time ;o)

#52 Ah I wasn't that bad Heather, but I'm rubbish at early starts at the best of times, so it didn't help very much. I'd like to go back to Helsinki, just to get on a boat tour I think, but I'd probably use it as a starting point rather than a base another time.

Re the Dalemark Quartet - interesting. Well, I hope you enjoy Spellcoats and The Crown of Dalemark - honestly, I prefer these two to the first couple.

#53 Spellcoats was an early one for me too Roni (I read it before any of the rest of the quartet), but Charmed Life was the first and I fell in love very quickly ;o)

#54 Oh, I do love Charmed Life Luci and if you'd asked me when I was 10 or 11, it would still have been a favourite - it's still got a very special place in my heart, but other books came along which I reread much more often.

The Ogre Downstairs, I'm pretty sure I read fairly early too, but I didn't really remember it when I actually got round to buying my own copy in the not too distant past. That's an interesting point though - I never had the step-Dad issue, so I probably didn't identify with it as much as I did with others... One of the (many) reasons why I like Deep Secret so much is that it feels as though DWJ has tracked me around the UK a little bit!

#55 What a shame Genny - but I can see why Gwendolin in particular would be offputting. She has written quite diverse stuff though, so always worth another shot ;o) If you want any recommendations, you know who to ask!

Re the Moomins - I hadn't really registered that they were books as well as comics! Do you know which came first? Wistful is definitely the right adjective I think.

#56 Hallo Kerry! I didn't see many woolen hats - but then the weather was actually rather beautiful (except on the longest day of the conference, so it wasn't a big loss). Oooh, I'll look forward to seeing your holiday pics too - I'm slowly catching up on everyone's threads...

I'll also look forward to your thoughts on Tove Jansson's short stories...

May 24, 2011, 3:02pm Top

#57 Re Moomins, well I didn't realise there were comics as well as books. I don't know if the comics are a later addition - I was reading the books in the 1970s but they are older than that. According to the series page for Moomintrolls, The Moomins and the Great Flood is the first book. The first one I read was Finn Family Moomintroll.

May 24, 2011, 4:35pm Top

#58 I wonder how much/if they overlap?

Jun 1, 2011, 7:46pm Top

I can't believe it's already June!

So, hmmm. Busy couple of weeks... A couple of excellent gigs (The Wave Pictures/ Pony Collaboration last Monday and Eliza Carthy last Wednesday - completely different animals, but both great fun), then (the result of a whim earlier in the year), Hay-on-Wye for the Literary Festival at the weekend. I've always meant to go there and I saw that one of my favourite actors, Simon Russell Beale was talking with Rowan Williams about Shakespeare on the Friday and I just couldn't resist getting a ticket... Very good spur of the moment purchase I say, it was a lovely weekend! Even a cock-up with the online B&B booking website turned out rather well (I stayed the first night in the pub I booked in to, which was cheerful and friendly, but the B&B I ended up in the following night was even better - and cheaper).

Had a lovely (if slow) drive over, singing along to lots of cheesy songs and the talk was fascinating - I wish they'd been my English Lit teachers ;o) I stayed in a little village about 45mins of beautiful but convoluted roads North of Hay-on-Wye, which is a slightly twee, but lovely town in the middle of a very pretty area. Spent Saturday perusing some of the many bookshops (I was very restrained and only came away with 7 books) and bumped in to FlossieT/Rachael and son before Patrick Ness vs David Almond (we seem to be making a habit of this!)...

Lots of good food, beautiful weather and gentle ambling, if surprisingly little actual reading... A couple of pictures:

(more here and onwards in same folder

I'm off to the Lakes with some university mates this weekend too - I feel a bit guilty - what with all the bank holidays etc, I haven't had a full length week actually at work in quite some time. That said, I've been working pretty hard in between, so I don't feel that guilty... Looking forward to it!

So... What have I actually been reading? Weeeell, mostly, I'm in the middle of stuff at the moment - On the Road and Mansfield Park in particular (neither of which have I finished in time to complete the TIOLI - I may also have to skip June, we'll see - I've never been very good at commenting on the thread anyway...)

Beyond that, the only book I've actually finished I think is another DWJ reread - Spellcoats. Now I come to it, I think I'll comment on this tomorrow as it's nearly 1am now (got waylaid earlier on in writing this post...).

Sleep well/enjoy your day all and see you tomorrow!

Jun 1, 2011, 7:49pm Top

Envious of your hearing the Simon Russell Beale/Rowan Williams talk - that must have been fascinating. Sounds like a lovely weekend altogether!

Jun 1, 2011, 8:41pm Top

I do love Hay -- set in gorgeous countryside. I admit I look at the castle with new eyes after reading Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine...

Jun 1, 2011, 10:11pm Top

I must admit my own brief visit to Hay a couple of years ago was coloured by my reading of Lady of Hay as well.

Jun 1, 2011, 11:32pm Top

Sounds absolutely delightful, Fliss!

Jun 2, 2011, 10:40am Top

The Hay festival sounds great and the talks you went to were the ones that caught my eye when I looked through the program. I would love to go to the festival and my only excuse for not going is poor organisation..!

Could you pm me the details of the B&B or pub you stayed in when you have a minute? Cheap, cheerful and friendly sounds spot on.

And only 7 book purchases is very restrained :-)

Hope you have good weather for your weekend at the Lakes.

Jun 2, 2011, 4:35pm Top

I certainly want to go to Hay-on-Wye but I don't think going during the festival would be my thing. Somehow, authors talking about books and writing etc never quite captivate me. I'd rather simply buy books and read!

Jun 2, 2011, 9:14pm Top

I envy you your trip to Hay-on-Wye, Fliss! It is probably just as well that I have never been there - I might never go home!

Jun 3, 2011, 10:26am Top

Very curious about your take on On the Road; so eagerly awaiting your finish of that one and your comments.

Jun 3, 2011, 2:39pm Top

Hi fliss! Nice pics. Wales is so very green. I've wanted to go to Hay-0n-Wye since I read Six-pence House a few years ago. One day... Sounds like you had a great time. I hear Eliza Carthy is great live. I've only heard her on CD.
A Monster Calls will not be released in the US until Sept. Oh well, I will wait impatiently.

Jun 9, 2011, 8:18pm Top

Hallo people!

OK, so I still owe The Spellcoats comments. ...and The Spook's Destiny ...and The Magicians of Caprona (obviously, I have been on a bit of a kids book kick)

...am also still half way through On The Road and Mansfield Park (holidays with university mates and their children aren't really condusive to proper concentration!).

Back home now and back swamped at work (*sarcastic woo*), so may be a little while before I post properly about all these (along with the inevitable photos, of course - some here on facebook in the interim...! NB, spot the Enid Blyton reference)

I now have so many books lined up that I want to read now that I feel a little intimidated (not least of these is Earwig and the Witch, which arrived today in the post and I should really reserve for the end of my DWJ-fest, but I'm not sure I can...)

#61 Genny, it really was (on both counts). The talk really made me think and I also really needed a reality break (and being a bit of a random booking in the middle of a busy work period, it absolutely was). I spent half the time feeling strangely surreal (in a good way!) and had a wonderful time.

#62 Lady of Hay. Right, that needs to go on the wishlist then ;o)

I've never been to Hay before Suzanne, although I've been to the edge of the Brecon Beacons (and know odd parts of Powys quite well as my grandparents lived most of the year half the way up a mountain in the middle of nowhere, but not too far from Macynelleth).

In a way, it's very strange going back to that part of Wales without my family - but I have done so twice in the last year and it really is a very beautiful region. There's also something about going to sleep with sheep bleating outside and the smell of damp grass and countryside that's very soothing to me, despite not the best family associations (my mum's step mother was a little bit of a fairy tale step mother). I'm going to have to make the journey a bit more often I think - and see if I can work out how to get to my grandparents house (now it belongs to my uncle), unsignposted, on my own/with mates/ without a 4 wheel drive...

#63 Definitely putting it on the wishlist...

Hallo Kerry! I'm soooooo behind on everyone else's threads, but I will stop by soon...

#64 Absolutely was Roni!

#65 Hi Heather. It really was very spur of the moment - I never really perused the program properly as I'm not much of a literary festival goer if I'm honest. I saw Simon Russell Beale advertised as one of the advance purchase tickets and (absolutely honestly here) asked fb people if I should buy a ticket - someone said yes, so I needed no other excuse ;o) (again, if I'm honest, work-wise, it really wasn't the best timing, but sometimes you just have to not be sensible).

Re the places to stay, sorry, I missed that in my embarrassment about my lack of LT appance. Yes, shall do so tomorrow at some point (if I don't, be sure to send me a pointed msg ;o)). I was staying in a place called Knucklas though, which is about an hour's drive North of Hay (if only ~30miles...) - Hay was horrendously expensive and very booked up fairly early on and as I wasn't planning on spending my whole time there, that didn't matter to me. It mightn't be that great if you were planning on spending a lot of time at the festival though as, for example, if you're a nervous driver, even the main road route (which takes about the same length of time as the direct route) has it's fair share of windy roads and definitely won't be lit at night. That said, there really is loads of festival parking a short walk outside of town, very near the festival site. Also, absolutely no phone or wi-fi (this was acutally a good thing, even if I'd planned on an LT catch up).

Re weather at the Lakes, we were extremely lucky, despite forecasts and a mildly wet and very windy walk to Seathwaite Tarn. Must have been the LT wellwishes ;o)

#66 It's a great atmosphere during the festival though Jenny... That said, I had originally only planned to go outside of the festival, it was all a bit of a whim.

Honestly, I'm not much of a Literary Festival person either, although I wish I was. I'm just not au fait enough with the literary world (although more so since I've been on LT) to know who's worth going to see. I've also always just read what I've read and am always behind on the new and interesting (this is why LT is great - I've actually read Booker and Orange prize nominees before the prizes were announced, the year they've been announced, deliberately the last couple of years, introducing me to all sorts of interesting people I might have taken years to find otherwise). This said, also over the last few years, I've gone to a lot more book events than I ever would have done previously.

What I've realised is that, if you love an author, most of the time, you'll be interested even if they don't interview that well, but also that there are some people who will always be great to see speaking, even if you don't much care about what they do - in much the same way as there are bands who are always fantastic live (OK, I see I've lost you there - but how about there are always people who come across as people that you'd like to know? ;o)).

I shall continue to try to go to more, although I will also continue to need recommendations ;o)

...I say all this in the knowledge that the Edinburgh Literary Festival programme should be visible very soon (received my Fringe programme in the post yesterday *squeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!*).

I've a sneaking suspicion Neil Gaiman will be there again this year (although I don't know what for as it's mostly been screenplays recently - boo) - as I know that Amanda Palmer is going to be there for most of the festival (btw, the link is to a new favourite - it's not the best recording ever, but listen to the lyrics...). I may even go and see her again ;o)

#67 Stasia, I think that this is true. You would be lost to us forever (there being very little internet) ;o) !

#68 Sorry BDB, I'm being very slow with comments for this one. It'll probably be the next book I finish though, so comments shortly to arrive...

Currently, I have very mixed feelings. I can't quite surmount the feeling that most of "Sal's" mates are the kind of poseur I would find extremely annoying in real life. I'm not not enjoying it, but it's not really carrying me away with it as much as I expected it to (this may be the fault of a very old school friend who I am now out of touch with, who declared it to be her favourite book when we were 18...). It may also be the fault of reading it at the wrong moments (lots of in between type times).

This said, the parts where they're actually on the road have this manic activity to them that really does carry me away and probably has a lot to do with my slightly surreal feeling over the last 2 couple of weeks (and all the driving they have encompassed). The parts that really have captured my imagination have been his descriptions of the music.

I will have more to say ;o)

#69 Hallo VB! Oh yes, green is definitely the right word to descibe Wales - even when it hasn't been raining as much as usual! Actually, to be sentimental for a moment, that would extend (although not quite so much) to most of the UK and is the thing I love most about coming home again after my travels - much as I love exploring new places, this is one of the reasons I know I'll aways want to come home in the end. There's something about a blue-black-green sky above fields of corn/rape surrounded by green grass and trees that never fails to excite me.

Six Pence House sounds like another one I should look out for?

Re Eliza Carthy - she was yet another of those "let's see how they sound live" random purchases... ...and a very good one.

It was an odd gig - at the Junction (my local and Cambridge's middle sized venue), but (despite being the main stage area), everyone was seated (never been to a seated there at that stage at all) - there were even little tables with candles (yay! ...although I got there too late to sit at one). I've seldom seen the venue so empty - but I've also seldom seen a venue with such a small audience so enthralled. She really was very good. Lots of stage presence. I'll definitely go to see her again, even though I don't know much of her stuff and what I do know is hit and miss.

(There you go - another instance of sometimes it's all about the live show).

I really must actually buy one or two of her CDs!

Re A Monster Calls, I'd almost say it's worth ordering it from the UK, if you can find reasonable shipping... I definitely would if the US edition looks any different (although I don't think it will - it would be very foolish if they did do that) - it's a very beautiful book. The story I continue to think about, but more than that, the artwork is just so right. I keep feeling the need to stroke it - even the cover beneath the external cover (I've lost the real word for that for the moment) is lovely. ...and of couse made even better by the "To Fliss - who said nice things!" (partly because I normally become a monsyllabic blob when I talk to people I don't know and admire, but for some reason I don't (completely) with Patrick Ness - also, he remembered me and Rachael again) ;o)

Ho hum. A bit of an epic there. I really do need to learn how to be succinct... ...and to actually write comments to the books I've read (although I've a suspicion that mostly people will be more interested in the ones I'm half way through/pending anyway). May be a few days yet though as have another busy weekend ahead (Erasure (don't laugh) in a forest in Kent on Saturday and Queens Club tennis (ATP Tour - I can't quite bring myself to say the Aegean Championships yet - it's been the Stella Artois too long) with my mum on Sunday (my mum and I have been going to this tournament since I was about 14/15 and it was a much smaller event - and before that, she used to go with her father (who was a member of Queens Real Tennis Club).

I can't quite believe that this has all come round so quickly this year - it'll be Wimbledon in a couple of weeks!

Jun 9, 2011, 8:24pm Top

I'm very behind on the threads and hope to be more diligent now that summer has arrived.

I'm stopping by to say hello.

Jun 9, 2011, 8:43pm Top

Hallo Linda! You are not alone in that respect ;o)

Jun 9, 2011, 9:00pm Top

Very much enjoyed the long, newsy account above, Fliss! I'm so jealous.

Jun 10, 2011, 2:19am Top

What Roni said!

Jun 10, 2011, 7:23am Top

I love Eliza Carthy. When I went to see her live at the first Wychwood festival, she introduced her friends, a band who were singing in Finnish (I think) - but it was a great show and we ended up buying a Varttina album then and another later.

Jun 10, 2011, 9:08am Top

I like Eliza Carthy too. My only disappointing experience hearing her live was when she turned up with a very bad cold and sore throat to a gig in Colchester. She was performing with others, so they did all the singing, and she just played the fiddle - which was also great but I missed her vocal performance.

Jun 10, 2011, 12:55pm Top

Hay does have some affordable B&B options out of season, if I recall correctly. The last time I went, I stayed in a place that was right next door to one of the childrens' bookstores. Before that, stayed in an old pub, which was fine but noisy.

Isn't that a prospective "tome home" site??

Jun 10, 2011, 7:39pm Top

#77: Isn't that a prospective "tome home" site??

I think so, although I do not know how much time people would spend at home with all those tomes around!

Edited: Jun 11, 2011, 8:56am Top

You may be right on the money with your diagnosis about what's holding you back a bit with On the Road. Though it's not one of my all-time favorites or anything, I enjoyed it quite a bit. But when I read it, I read it through and fairly quickly, which I think the book sort of needs. It's like some of the stream of conscience books you'll read where you lose yourself more in the language and tone and atmosphere than the story or characters. Frankly, the characters kinda annoyed me, too. My other interest in your thoughts was because I wanted to see how someone from another country and culture would connect with the book.

Jun 14, 2011, 4:34pm Top

Thanks for the comment about places to stay. Personally I love driving along winding, country roads so that sounds ideal. Maybe next year I can get organised and go!

Re Patrick Ness, I managed to get a copy of Monsters of Men from bookmooch (I know, I nearly fainted) so I will probably buy the first two in the trilogy as well as some DWJ books next month. :-) I will probably wait for the paperback of A Monster Calls though. Amazon uk says October - that seems quite soon?

Jun 30, 2011, 8:37pm Top

Hi fliss! I hope you're enjoying your summer. You're probably watching Wimbledon.
#70- Wales and Ireland vie for the greenest country I've ever visited. I love the green-ness of the UK. I'm esp fond of fields with hedgerows. I wish there were hedgerows here in the US.
Based on pictures of the cover on Amazon, A Monster Calls appears to have the same art work in the UK and US editions. I will check it out when it's released. If it's different then I can order it from the UK Amazon. That will give me an excuse to order the Poul Anderson books I have on my wish list.
It's so cool that Patrick Ness autographed your copy and remembered you.

Jul 1, 2011, 5:04pm Top

Hope all is well with you!

Jul 8, 2011, 1:35pm Top

Hallo lovely people!

#82 Hi Roni - it is indeed, just rather busy!

#81 Hi VB - I certainly was - although a lot less than I usually do as I've been out and about rather a lot...
Wales vs Ireland for greenest country - it's definitely a tough one - must be all that rain ;o) Do you know, I'd never really registered the lack of hedgerows in the US (or much of the rest of the world in fact) - it's true!
Re A Monster Calls - I imagine that the US edition will have the same artwork as it really is part of the book, as you say. I wonder how they're going to go about putting it into paperback though. It would be such a shame to loose it.
Re Patrick Ness - ;o) - I overlap with him at the Edinburgh Literary Festival this year too, but I've decided not to go along this time - I'm a bit worried that he'll start to think I'm stalking him!!

#80 Hi Heather - Me too re the winding, country roads (as long as I'm not in a rush anyway). Maybe we should have a Hay-on-Wye LT meet up next year!
Re Monsters of Men - you jammy get! ;o) I never manage to get my highest wishlisted stuff through Bookmooch! Woo for lots of Patrick Ness and Diana Wynne Jones purchases!
Re A Monster Calls, I'd seriously consider getting it in hardback rather than paperback - it really is such a lovely thing - I can't imagine how it will work in paperback somehow...

#79 Hi BDB - I think that you may be right. Some books should just be read in one fell swoop (certainly, the longer I sat reading it, the more I would get into it) and I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to do that while I was reading On the Road - this said, it fitted in very well with all my travels at that point...
Re my being from another country and culture, I actually felt that the biggest cultural difference was more to do with the timeframe. Attitudes and places have changed such a lot.
I really must write some proper comments though and I don't think it's going to be now. I'll make a place hold - I've got rather a lot of reading to catch up on (although a lot of it very trivial)...

#77 Hi Suzanne - Yes, I imagine it does - Wales is generally a lot cheaper than round here anyway. I got the distinct impression that prices sky-rocketed at Hay Festival time of year. Even the camp site was expensive! I do love staying in pubs - so if you have any recommendations for another visit ;o)

#77 & 78 (Hi Stasia!) "tome home site"?!

#76 Hi Genny - boooo to bad colds! I think there just are some people who have great stage presence and some who don't. I've no idea why that is, but it really does make a difference...

#75 Hi Luci - so, you and Genny between you - is there any particular Eliza Carthy album that you'd recommend? I'm less into the folk and more into the sort of '20's sounding stuff...

#73/74 Thanks people!

Jul 8, 2011, 9:44pm Top

Hey, Fliss!

The tome home was an idea bandied about last year - a permanent place where LTers could come and go to visit each other or just relax. There was a thread about it: http://www.librarything.com/topic/100376

Jul 8, 2011, 9:52pm Top

Or that we could all live in year-around! (speaking personally....)

The place I stayed at was the Black Lion in Hay, which now appears to be known as the Famous Old Black Lion (one adjective apparently inadequate...) (*eyes rolling*)

It was affordable, and had good pub grub.

Jul 9, 2011, 1:50am Top

#85: I don't know, Suz. Maybe the adjective is to distinguish it from the Infamous Old Black Lion. . .

Edited: Jul 10, 2011, 10:08am Top

#84 Ah yes - I remember that (I also remember requesting branches in different cities ;o))! Hadn't realised it had it's own special thread though ;o)

#85 All year round sounds good to me too!

#85/86 The (in)famous Black Lion eh?! Hmmm. I remember phoning up one pub that looked like a nice place to stay in, only to discover that it had been booked up a year in advance - bah. As was pretty much everywhere else I tried (well not necessarily a year in advance, but all booked up) I think that the festival may be growing...

OK. So what have I been doing/reading since my last update? Argh - it was the 9th June! Hmmm....

Life-wise, after getting back from the Lakes, I had another running around the place weekend (although shorter distances) - going to see Erasure (*smirk*) in a "Pinetum"(?!) in Kent somewhere with some mates - where we were very lucky that the rain held off, then Queens Club Tennis (Aegon Championships) where we were very unlucky - it poured down all day and there was no play, so no tennis for me this year :0(

I've been to see Peter Grimes with my parents at Covent Garden (I love Peter Grimes - you can hear the Suffolk Coast in the music, particularly the storms - nothing will ever quite live up to seeing it at Glyndebourne quite a few years ago now, but it was still a great evening).

I've been to Oxford for work:

...been to see Arcade Fire supported by Mumford and Sons and Beirut (among others> in Hyde Park (I'm afraid I remain unconvinced by Arcade Fire live - I know that this is heresay, but they're never quite as good as I expect them to be).

...picnic-ed by the river with various mates, my sister and cousin and all their various offspring for my birthday, followed by going to see Pulp also in Hyde Park with a different set of mates the next day:

...then this week seen all sorts of mates I haven't seen, followed by going to see Richard III at Hampstead Theatre with my sister & brother in law yesterday. It was a Propeller production - they're an excellent all male theatre troop who mostly put on Shakespeare and one of my sister (& B-I-L)'s best mates is part of the company. It was rather a grusome production (in a slasher-flick type way that fitted Richard III quite well!) and was really very good.

Today, I planned to spend some time allotmenting (I've been around so little recently, I've not managed to get there much at all over the last couple of months - the plot is probably overrun with weeds), but I faffed the morning away finishing a book and now it's raining. Hopefully it will brighten up soon...

Right. The books. Hmmm. Well, I've been reading a lot of silly nonsense lately (I tend to slip to that kind of thing when I'm particularly busy), but one or two that weren't just in one ear and out the other. I probably shan't comment properly on these last just now, but will come back to update them later.

...and I've just realised that the most up to date version of the spreadsheet I note down everything I've been reading in is at work and the copy I have with me is stuck in April, so the book update is going to have to wait again as I know I'll miss some out otherwise... Bah. I may go over to my DWJ thread and update those though as the advantage of reading everything in order is that I know which I've reread!

Jul 10, 2011, 12:15pm Top

Gosh, you have been busy! Sorry you didn't get to see any tennis in the end though.

A Monster Calls in hardback, check. I have a 10% off voucher for the bookdepository so I may get it sooner rather than later as there is already a nice discount on the hardback price.

Jul 10, 2011, 12:57pm Top

Hey, Fliss, sounds like you have been living THE life! But good to have you back. When you get pictures of your allotment this summer, we have a new garden, porch, deck picture thread at http://www.librarything.com/topic/120345

Jul 10, 2011, 4:43pm Top

That's a lot to have packed into the last month! Looking forward to the bookish half of the update...

Jul 10, 2011, 5:09pm Top

Hi Fliss - re Eliza Carthy, I have tracks from several of her albums, two which are mostly her interpretation of traditional English folk songs - 'Anglicana' and 'Rough Music' - which maybe not your sort of thing - and one of her own compositions, in a style I don't really know how to describe - in Dreams of Breathing Underwater. Here's a live performance of one of the more unusual tracks from that album: Mr Magnifico.

Jul 11, 2011, 7:04am Top

I had never heard of Eliza Carthy before. Thanks for posting the video, Genny. I enjoyed it.

Jul 14, 2011, 7:55am Top

And I forgot to say Yes! to a LT meet up at Hay-on-Wye next year :-)

Jul 14, 2011, 7:56am Top

Oh, yes, I should say yes to that too :).

Jul 26, 2011, 7:35am Top

I really am being particularly rubbish at keeping up to date this year... I have a long list of books to comment on, which I'll try to do today (although it may be a bit gappy)...

#88 Heather. Yes I was sorry not to see the tennis too! My mum and I go every year and I had to leave early last year too, so I feel rather sad not to have seen anything at all this year.

Did you get get A Monster Calls yet?

#89 Roni. Oooooh a gardens thread! I'd be ashamed to put current picutres up there I think. I really need to take a day off to tackle my allotment I think, it is not a happy sight at the moment and I haven't been able to get to it much at all lately...

#90 Pending Caty, I promise (although probably not a particularly interesting one!)

#91 Genny. Thank you for the recommendations - actually, they played Mr Magnifico at the gig - I remember it as being one of the ones that stood out. Probably the album I'm most familiar with is Dreams of Breathing Underwater - I shall have to buy it I think, but in the mean time, I shall go in search of "Anglicana" and "Rough Music" and let you know what I think!

#92 Yay for spreading the music love!

#93/94 Ooooh let's do it!!

More work and play busy-ness, hence the lack of an update since the start of July - among other things, I went to the Saturday of Ben & Jerry's Summer Sundae on Clapham Common at the weekend. Free ice cream and eclectic music (in this case Fun Lovin Criminals and Ash were my main interest) - woo! Followed by a Tube party at a mate's in the arse end of S. London (it took nearly 4 hrs to get back on Sunday) - I went as Blackfriars...

Anyway, "ON WITH THE BOOKS!" I hear you cry, so:

Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 5:15pm Top

Ah, so many things to update - I'm not going to comment just now, but in the interest of even vaguely keeping track, here's what I've been reading, with some gaps for me to come back to ;o)

53) Spellcoats - Diana Wynne Jones (1978)
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

(1987, Cambs)

Comments already posted over on my DWJ thread:

Third in the Dalemark Quartet, although chronologically the first - and my favourite.

Tanaqui and her family have lived their lives by the River - outsiders due to their blonde hair and different religious beliefs. When war arrives, in the shape of a King expecting the service of all able bodied men and swiftly followed by a fever killing many of those not killed fighting, the village starts to turn on them. Tanaquai and her siblings escape down the river by boat, not knowing where they will end up. They soon become emeshed in a power struggle for the spirit of the River himself.

Imperfect central characters - I think that this is one of the best features of DWJ's books. I don't want my leads to be perfect. Real people make mistakes and do and say foolish things. Spellcoats is told in the first person - Tanaqui weaves two rugs telling her tale and you see her petty squabbles with her siblings and the silly things that she says, mistakes she makes and this just makes her more believable and one of my favourite DWJ heroines.

54) Spook's Destiny - Joseph Delaney
(2011, Cambridge)

Next in this rather enjoyable children's fantasy series.

55) The Magician's of Caprona - Diana Wynne Jones (1980)
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

(1987, Herts)

This is one of my favourites. The Montana and Petrocchi families - famed throughout Caprona and the rest of Italy for the quality of their spells - have been fighting for decades. But recently, even their spells have lost their edge, something the visiting Chrestomanci thinks is due to a malevolent enemy enchanter. At the same time, Tonino Montana and Angelica Petrocchi, the youngest of each family, go missing - lured away somewhere by the same enchanted book.

This is now marketed as one of the Chrestomanci series, although, as in Witch Week, he has a fairly small roll. It’s really Tonino’s story - the youngest Montana, a voracious reader who thinks he’s boring and normal, unlike the rest of his brilliant family. It’s a simple story, owing a nod of the head to Romeo and Juliet, but it’s well told with lots of lovely characters.

52b) The Four Grannies - Diana Wynne Jones (1980)
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

Second shortish story in Stopping For a Spell, hence the "52b" numbering.

To be updated

56) On The Road - Jack Kerouac
Goal 1: Non fiction
(well it pretty much is anyway)
(1995, Cambs)

Jack Kerouac is one of the most well known of the Beat Generation, mostly because of this book, which apparently, he churned out in three weeks, typing continuously onto a 120-foot roll of teletype paper. It loosely fictionalises several road trips across the US that he took over several years, mostly with Neal Cassady.

I enjoyed this, but was never truly carried away - I know it shouldn’t matter that pretty much everyone described, even the incidental characters/people all sound like arrogant assholes, but if I’m honest, it really did. I just had no time for most of these people and if I hadn’t been fascinated by the description of a time long gone now (I think!) and some wonderful descriptions (particularly of jazz crowds), maybe tied in with the fact that it’s been on my TBR pile since I was 18, I might not have persevered. Glad I did, though.

(Also see my comments to BDB above)

57) Death Masks - Jim Butcher
59) Blood Rites - Jim Butcher
61) Dead Beat - Jim Butcher
63) Proven Guilty - Jim Butcher
67) White Night - Jim Butcher

(Jun - Jul 2011, Rock Road Library)

Lumped together as they're obviously all part of the same, extremely silly, but increasingly fun series. I seem to be doing with the Dresden Files what I did with the Sharpe novels the year before last...

...and the above were read in between:

58) Scott Pilgrim vs The World - Bryan Lee O'Malley
(Jun 2011, Cambridge)

Next, rather wonderful installment in the life of Scott Pilgrim, tasked to fight all the evil ex-boyfriends of his new girlfriend...

60) Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Goal2: Group Read

(? 1995, Cambs/ Jul ?1992, Cambs)

I've commented on this re-read over in the group read thread here and here.

This is only the 3rd time I've read Mansfield Park as, in the past, it has been my least favourite. But, as with the last time I read it, it's again improved on me quite a bit. I still find Fanny the least satisfying heroine, but I do love the Crawfords!

62) Pnin - Vladimir Nobokov
(Jun 2011, Rock Road Library)

Ah, I wish I’d commented on this when it was much fresher in my mind, because I really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure how much detail I can go into about it now.

This is the story of Timofey Pnin, a Russian born immigrant living in the US, who never really fits in. The book is really more of a character sketch over time than anything else - we start with an image of Pnin as a naive fuddy duddy, but it ended up (to me, anyway) as a very affectionate portrayal of a man who just can’t (and probably, deep down, doesn’t want to) assimilate. I found it very moving and I really will have to give Lolita a go now.

64) Magic Slays - Ilona Andrews

Next installment in the extremely silly, cliched, but fun Kate Daniels saga. Good for mindless fluff anyway, although they seem to be getting more and more gruesome as they go along. They're starting to bring in a bit of the wife half of the writing duo's Russian influences now, which I enjoyed.

65) The Time of the Ghost - Diana Wynne Jones (1981)
Goal 6: DWJ in Publication order

(1987, Herts)

A ghost finds herself walking down a familiar road. Something is wrong, but she doesn’t know what it is. Who is she? Why does she think that something terrible has happened?

One of her spookier stories, partly because it’s more or less set in the real world, unlike most of them. Also, perhaps geared towards a slightly older audience than usual. An unusual ghost story with some very satisfying twists and turns. The family of girls that it centres on are all very extreme characters and I’ve always wondered, given what I’ve read about her, how much of their childhood is informed by DWJ’s own.

66) Living in the Maniototo - Janet Frame
(Jul 2011, Rock Road Library)

Janet Frame continues to intrigue me. I enjoyed this less than either of the other things I've read by her to date, but one thing you can say is that her writing is individual. She has a very flowing, dream-like style, that in this case, skipped all over the place in content, but was still intriguing. At the core, a "twice widowed" author from Blenheim (in NZ) goes to house sit in California, trying to write her third book, but nothing happens as it should. The story line is really only a thin thread through the book though, which is more about the writer's inner thoughts and those of the people she meets.

I'm now reading both The Homeward Bounders (DWJ - and one of my favourites) and Tèa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife - which I think is wonderful. I'll probably finish this before the end of the week and will update properly then.

OK, so lots of gaps, which I'll try to fill in soon!

Jul 26, 2011, 7:39am Top

...and, because I think it's a lovely one, a new photo of my niece:

Jul 27, 2011, 1:06am Top

#96: I am glad to see that you enjoyed Pnin, Fliss. I did too.

#97: Love the new pic of Isla Rose!

Jul 27, 2011, 1:03pm Top

>97 flissp: LOL One has to wonder what on earth is going through her mind at a moment like this.

Jul 27, 2011, 1:43pm Top

#98 I think it's your comments that made me pick it up when I spotted it in the library Stasia - prior to that, I always felt I should read Lolita first, which somehow I never quite get round to.

#99 I know - she does an excellent line in looking astonished (in fact I'm not sure I've ever not looking astonished)! She's definitely fascinated by the world...

Jul 27, 2011, 1:44pm Top

Argh - I've just remembered that I have an ER e-book I'd completely forgotten about - must read that!

Jul 27, 2011, 5:35pm Top

Hi fliss! Catching up. I see the DWJ marathon continues.
#97 - great photo. Can she stay under water long?

Jul 28, 2011, 2:35am Top

#100: I know Lolita is supposed to be Nabokov's masterpiece, but I have no desire whatsoever to read it.

Jul 30, 2011, 10:27am Top

I, for one, highly recommend Lolita.....but it is not for everyone.

Jul 30, 2011, 9:01pm Top

So, maybe we should look at booking a local farmhouse for next year's Hay festival!

Exactly what Roni said -- what are they DOING to me??? Can I have a do-over? would be my first guess...

Jul 31, 2011, 7:19am Top

I need to read Pnin, Lolita, and Nabokov's biography Speak, Memory, which have been languishing on my shelves for years. I should make 2012 my year to read Russian literature, as I have at least a couple of dozen books by Russian authors (Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov, Pasternak, etc.) that I want to read.

The current and past photos of your niece are hilariously cute! Given my quirky imagination, I would guess that she is thinking that she is back in the womb, but that it's much larger than it was before.

Aug 1, 2011, 12:26am Top

I second Mac's recommendation for Lolita despite the subject matter.

Aug 1, 2011, 1:14am Top

Ooh a Russian lit reading fest... that would be fun! A bunch of us could sign up and do a group read of an iconic novel per month! Erm, as long as the Tolstoy is one of his shorter works...

And yes, I've heard from everyone who has read it that Lolita has much more to do with broader themes than the basic plotline. Can't comment as I've yet to read it.

Edited: Sep 2, 2011, 9:21am Top

Hi all!

#102 Not sure VB - I've always thought that baby swimming lessons must be great fun though - they always look so happy - I suppose it must be womb memories...

Re the DWJ, oddly, I've stalled a little bit with Homeward Bounders - odd because it's one of my favourites, but I suppose that means that I don't want to read it when I'm in the wrong frame of mind, so I've been getting on with other things...

#103/104/107/108 Re Lolita, like Suzanne, I've also heard that there's a lot more to Lolita than the paedophilia, but it's still one of those things that I'll definitely have to be in the right frame of mind to read - plus, it never helps having seen the film before reading the book.

Thanks for the recommendation though peeps, am definitely going to bump it up the pile.

Stasia, I feel the same way about The Virgin Suicides - I really enjoyed Middlesex, but I am never going to read that book.

#105 Re Hay, YES ;o)

#106/7 Suzanne, Darryl, re The Pea, she seems to look permanently surprised, so I don't think it's entirely the being under water thing! ;o) ...although it does make for some very amusing photos. She's very smiley too at the moment which is rather adorable.

#106 Darryl, I'll join you on that Russain kick - I seem to get on very well with Russian authors, older and modern. I've got many on my shelves that I've not yet got around to - top of the list being War and Peace.

#108 Suzanne, excellent idea! ...although perhaps every two months for some of those?! I'm easily on track to taking a year over Les Miserables, I've a feeling War and Peace may be the same!

A couple more books to add to the list of updates I need to add...:

68) The Tiger's Wife - Téa Obreht
(Jul 2011, Cambridge)

I loved this - Téa Obreht has a true talent for telling a story, I was amazed to realise how young she was when she wrote it. The blurb on the cover describes it as lyrical, but I'm not sure that that's quite it. When I think "lyrical", it's because I'm reading something that reads like poetry and I wouldn't say that about this, but she's definitely a born storyteller.

69) Small Favour - Jim Butcher
(Jul 2011, Rock Road Library)

Another Dresden File - am still enjoying these silly brain fluff books. I particularly enjoy the surreptitious references ("Bucky" the insane toy clown in one a couple of books ago amused me particularly). In this one, a character asks if Dresden is aware that superglue was invented as a quick hold-me-together for wounds in the army. "Yes," I thought, "I did - they mention it in one of my favourite bits in 'Dogsoldiers'" (Dogsoldiers is an, admittedly rather violent, but very funny indie werewolf Brit-flick that has a bit of a cult following, but was never very big) - turning the page, the character says something along the lines of "not sure if it's true, I saw it in some werewolf film". It amused me that he's seen it anyway and picked up on the same things as me. I know, small things...

Am currently in the middle of quite a number of things for some reason:

- Homeward Bounders: Diana Wynne Jones - postponed a bit, as mentioned above.
- Last Chase to See: Douglas Adams & Mark Carwadine - my work lunch-time reading - Douglas Adams was a funny, funny man.
- Turn of the Screw: Henry James - I started this on a night when I just couldn't sleep (very unusual for me - I just couldn't stop my brain wibbling around on 60million things). Absorbing so far, but it wasn't the best thing to read in the middle of the night, even for someone who doesn't scare easily. It's a very short story though, so I'll probably finish it off soon.
- Oscar and Lucinda: Peter Carey - I took this to London with me last weekend and, predictably enough, didn't get very far (a cousinly wedding, overnight with my sister & family, then Glyndebourne with them and my parents the next day - a great, but exhausting weekend). Definitely looking promising so far though. I'm going to pick this up again next.
- Emma: Jane Austen - I realised that I was behind on the Austenathon, so paused Oscar and Lucinda to come back to this. I have to laugh at myself a little as every Austen I've read this year has been better than even I remembered and shifted my Austen-pecking order again. Persuasion shall always be at no. 1 with Pride & Prejudice a close no. 2, but the rest continuously jostle for position, even reading them so closely together. I particularly notice it with Emma though. Am loving it even more this time round - Emma is so unperceptive and impetuous, Mr Elton so absurd. I've yet to meet Miss Bates again properly, but she's always one of the more interesting parts of the book. Emma's wonderfully cringemaking treatment of her at Box Hill is so well done and her perception of the difference between the two (supposing Emma weren't to marry) is so well described. It's important to remember that there, but for Pride and Prejudice would be Jane Austen and she was certainly aware of it. I must go over to the Emma thread and comment...

In the meantime, a couple of photos from last weekend:

This has been my first full day of doing nothing in ages and I've really enjoyed doing nothing, although my allotment is calling out to me. I've an early start tomorrow morning though - I'm doing the Suffolk Coast Bike Ride with my Dad. It's only 35 miles, so usually I wouldn't be particularly worried about that, but I've had a dodgy knee (and been pretty busy, as you might have noticed), so have barely been out on my bike at all over the last few months. Usually, I'd like to have a bit of a warm up first for anything over 20 miles, particularly if there are hills involved (even if they aren't very big ones, we really don't have many in Cambridge!), but I just haven't this time, so I'm a teeny bit worried. Plus it's supposed to rain. A lot. Still, it's a very beautiful route, so I am (cautiously) looking forward to it!

Aug 6, 2011, 5:11pm Top

Oh and I forgot to mention the ER e-book I'm also reading, "Necroscopy in e-minor" - currently my thoughts are along the lines of "pretentious, confused drivel", although I'll add that I've not got beyond the first few pages (but then it's an under-100 page book). Other reviewers seem to be a bit more generous (although not much), so (given the short length), I'll give it a re-read before I comment properly.

Edited: Aug 6, 2011, 6:27pm Top

Good luck with your bike ride. I also loved The Tiger's Wife and got the chance to hear Tea Obrecht as her first ever festival outing was in Auckland in May. She's lovely and passionate about writing. Her agent had to prise the final draft from her as she just wanted to keep on polishing each and every sentence! I came away with an image of her surrounded by stacks of paper, each one a scene from the book and demanding more of her attention. She was also forced by the current media attention to defend the writing workshops that she's a product of.

I've got Oscar and Lucinda down for reading this month, it's well overdue for a read and I'll be reading Year of the Griffin as I enjoyed the first Derkholm book so much.

Love the photos of your niece.

Aug 7, 2011, 2:22am Top

I have seen mixed reviews of The Tiger's Wife. I am just going to have to breakdown and read it for myself one of these days!

Love the pictures of Isla Rose. I cannot believe how big she is getting!

Aug 7, 2011, 9:33am Top

#95 A Monster Calls is on its way to me courtesy of the bookdepository and a 10% off voucher I had. :-)

#96 I think I'm going to order some DWJ books next month and The Spellcoats is top of the list.

Glad to hear the Dresden books are increasingly fun. I find them very moreish when I read them even though I don't think they're particularly good (if that makes sense).

#97 Awww!

Aug 7, 2011, 6:46pm Top

Such a gorgeous kid! And Kerry loaned me her copy of The Tiger's Wife which I'm lining up for September reading, your review has just made me anticipate teh read a whole lot more.

Aug 7, 2011, 8:44pm Top

Douglas Adams was a funny, funny man. He was, indeed, and clever! Have you read The Salmon of Doubt? - I liked that collection of essays and miscellaneous bits and pieces.

Aug 8, 2011, 3:53am Top

#115 Genny, I have - and not long after he died. It had me very close to tears on a number of occassions (for more reasons than one). I particularly enjoy the essay on tea (and have printed it out for my Granny, who is also a tea lover) ;o)

#114 Thank you! I do hope you enjoy The Tiger's Wife now, if it's had mixed reviews!

#113 Yay for A Monster Calls! I do hope you enjoy it. ...also yay for DWJ! ...and ditto!

Re the Dresden Files books - "moreish" - yes, that's exactly the right word - and I know exactly what you mean and will agree (although I'll say that I think they're better written than Robert Jordan's WoT series, which I find equally moreish when I'm reading them - mind you, that's not hard).

#112 Me either Stasia - I can't believe that she'll be 7 months old tomorrow either! I love her indestructible quiff, it amuses me quite a bit.

I do recommend The Tiger's Wife, I think you'll enjoy it. I always worry a little bit about recommending something when there've been mixed reviews - but maybe that's because there are so many of them? I shall have to go and take a look at some of the bad reviews to see what I think about what they say...

#111 Thanks Kerry - I'm very pleased to discover that, although I slept very well last night, I'm not even remotely stiff this morning (although my bottom dictates that I won't be getting on a bike again for a few days!). The lack of recent practice definitely took it's toll - was flagging through the last 10 miles as my thighs weren't ready for the rest of the hills and I made better time last year (although my Dad does cycle more slowly than I do). It's not a particularly long ride, so I shall definitely have to work on getting myself fitter.

Re Tea Obreht, now I really want to see her speaking! I don't think she's doing the Edinburgh Literary Festival (or if she is, it's when I'm not there), but I'll double check (I need to do that anyway, following lots of very helpful recommendations from Rachael/FlossieT).

Re Year of the Griffin. Hmmm. Actually, this is probably one of my less favourite DWJ books - but then, The Dark Lord of Derkholm isn't in my top 10 either, so you'll probably enjoy it more than me. I should add that I'm not saying I disliked it (you'll never catch me saying that about anything I've read by DWJ!), but I was a little disappointed. I hope you enjoy it though!

Right, better get up for work...

Aug 8, 2011, 1:48pm Top

#113 I have been told that the Dresden files is one of the unique ones which get better as the series progresses and the person who has recommended them to me insists that I shouldn't give them up after just reading the first couple of ones if I happen to don't like them much.

Aug 8, 2011, 4:59pm Top

Argh, the news is depressing at the moment.

#117 PC, I heard the same, which is why I came back to them after not being at all impressed by the first one. Definitely improving - it's still all very silly - definitely fluff, but good for switching off your brain to if you like this kind of thing.

Aug 8, 2011, 10:49pm Top

#118: That is depressing! I hope you are far away from the madness, Fliss.

Aug 9, 2011, 1:12am Top

Depressing indeed, hope you are alright Fliss.

Aug 9, 2011, 2:56am Top

Thanks people - I'm fine (doubt that the looting and fires will spread to Cambridge to be honest), but my sister lives right in the mix - they're fine though, stayed in all evening and the break-ins didn't reach their end.

What I can't stand is how mindless this all is. These people are just destroying things for the pure hell of it (and to get themselves a new TV). It makes me so sad.

Edited: Aug 9, 2011, 1:27pm Top

Aug 9, 2011, 3:03pm Top

I called and checked in on a few of my London based friends, they seem to be doing okay for now. What is most disheartening to see is the fact that most of the rioters are teenagers.

Aug 12, 2011, 9:42am Top

#123 glad to hear it and yes indeed - very disheartening. Seems to have calmed down now (the news now seems to be keeping track of all the people arrested and charged - frightening numbers), but there's something wrong if even a small subset of people can think that this is acceptable behavour.

Ho hum.

Still currently in the middle of the same books mentioned in #109, but will probably finish off one or two this weekend...

Only a week to go until I head up to Edinburgh - yay! I need to have a think about what books I'm going to take with me ;o)

Aug 12, 2011, 3:36pm Top

Hey, Fliss, just passing through to say hi!

Aug 12, 2011, 6:48pm Top

Fliss, I have just discovered Marcia Willet and am wondering nosily how old you are and whether your mother was a fan......Nope. That can't be the source because the Chadwick books started in '99. I just never knew a Fliss before. On the other hand, I'm thrilled to learn that you're heading up to Edinburgh!

Aug 12, 2011, 6:56pm Top

Hi fliss! How did you and your father do at the bike ride?
I'm glad the UK riots are calming down. Local news here spent maybe 30 seconds a night on the riots. I checked out the link you posted on the riot figures - scary and sad. Mindless destruction and attacking innocent shop owners. I love how anyone with real power was on holiday and not planning to return. That's nice. Glad to hear that your family is safe.
Have fun at Fringe. Any good authors there this year?

Aug 13, 2011, 12:26am Top

Have a wonderful trip to Edinburg, Fliss! I cannot wait to see what books you decided to take.

I am glad to hear that you and yours are safe.

Aug 28, 2011, 11:59am Top

Hope you're enjoying Edinburgh Fliss.

Sep 1, 2011, 7:52am Top

#129 Echoing good wishes for Edinburgh - is it over yet? I hope you did not get too wet dodging between venues!

Sep 1, 2011, 7:56am Top

Fliss was in Cambridge on Tuesday, according to Darryl's posts!

Hi Fliss, I'm sorry I missed meeting you. Maybe next time D is in England?

Sep 2, 2011, 9:17am Top

Hi all! Sorry, I've been off the grid rather a lot lately, haven't I?!


#125 Hallo roni!

#126 Hi Lizzie, nope - the reason my parents called me Felicity was "I was such a happy baby" (although I don't know how they could have known that when I was named! I suspect there was some emotional projection going on...) I've always loved that my name means happiness.

I was born in July 1977, so my parents were teased that I should have been called Virginia (after Virgina Wade, the English tennis player who won Wimbledon that year) - thank goodness my parents have more sense!

#127 Hi VB! We had a lovely day thanks - perfect weather (it rained either side, but not during) and it really is a lovely route. We were slower than last year (my Dad's bike only has 3 gears) and I have to admit that my thighs were cramping a little bit near the end as I hadn't been out on my bike at all since we cycled to Ely earlier on in the year, but it was still good fun and my Dad has made plans with my various cousins to do the same thing again next year!

A photo of my Dad ringing my Mum at the half way point on Dunwich beach:

Re the Fringe, I didn't get to much of the literary festival this year - mostly because I didn't peruse the program enough in advance - my main reason for being there is for the theatre really, so I spent more time planning for that and by the time I looked, a lot of stuff was sold out. I did, however, get to see Neil Gaiman speaking again as he did an extra session for the Guardian Book Club - you can find the podcast here. It was very good - the audience asked much more interesting questions than they often do.

#128 Thanks Stasia! Once again, I took waaaaay too many books and, because I drove up rather than taking the train, did't read nearly as many as I have done in previous years. I took about 4 times as many as I actually read! I'll summarise in the next post...

#129 - 30 Thanks Heather & Genny! Had a fantastic time and, as always, am now suffering major withdrawal symptoms (quite aside from still being on Festival time, so my body clock is all out ;o)).

Actually Genny, the weather was mostly very good while I was up there - it did rain, but mostly only overnight, or when I was at a show - I really do have very good luck with Edinburgh weather!

#131 Luci, I was indeed - sorry to miss you too, but there was some chat about possibly meeting up again before Darryl heads home (not sure whether it'll actually happen or not, but you never know...).

Edited: Sep 6, 2011, 2:26pm Top

So, to catch up!

Books finished up before heading up North:

70) Emma - Jane Austen
Goal 2: Group Read

Third time of reading and I enjoyed it much more again than I did the second time around for some reason. I still find it a little uncomfortable that Mr Knightley has been in love with Emma since she was 13 and this is supposed to be romantic, but it didn't make me cringe as much as last time.

I shall have more to add on this - this is going to be yet another post with lots of gaps that I intend to fill in later (hopefully this Sunday - along with the missing comments in #95, but we'll see - I haven't been very good to my word on this this year).

to be updated

71) Turn Coat - Jim Butcher
(Aug 2011, Rock Road Library)

Next in the Dresden files - I think this is the one I've enjoyed most to date.

72) Last Chance to See - Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine
Goal1: non-fiction
(Cambs, ?1991)

More of a travellogue than anything else, this was written to accompany a BBC radio series, in which Douglas Adams joined Mark Carwardine (a Zoologist) chasing down various endangered species.

I don't think I'll surprise anyone by saying that I've always found Douglas Adams to be extremely readable (one of the reasons he's on my "non-fiction" list in fact!), this was a very enjoyable, and interesting read. ...and, as I said above, he was a funny, funny man.

Books actually finished while I was on holiday:

73) Changes - Jim Butcher
(Aug 2011, Rock Road Library)

Last Dresden Files in paperback at the moment (I've got the next on order from the library). Didn't enjoy this one as much as the last...

74) Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey
Goal 3: Books to read list
(Cambridge, ??)

Something that's been on my TBR pile for ages, hence being on my list of books to read this year.


...again, I will have more to say... to be updated

75) One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson
(Cambridge, ?2010)

I've been looking forward to reading this for ages - since I finished Case Histories in fact, but, as it is actually set during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I felt it should wait until I was there!

Given that I'm not much of a crime fiction reader, Kate Atkinson has been a great discovery for me. While Case Histories made a bigger impact on me, this was also a speedy enjoyable read, with well developed characters (if, mostly, not very likable ones, and, in one or two cases again, not completely believable ones). Twists and turns abound - yes, you can see some of them coming, but not all and this didn't detract.

76) When Will There Be Good News? - Kate Atkinson
(Kendal, Jun 2011)

...so, of course, I fell on the next one, which was already lined up. Also very enjoyable twisty, turny stuff!

...So. Not much reading while I was in Edinburgh (I wanted to take my time over Oscar and Lucinda besides anything else), but lots of shows - herewith my traditional Festival summary!:

Thursday/Friday - driving up North, via the Yorkshire Moors (lovely), to stay with mates before heading in to Edinburgh on the Saturday.

Saturday 20th:
Clockheart Boy - this had very good reviews in Three Weeks, but didn't quite live up to it's promise for me (although it was still fun). Fairytale-like, but not the same as the book of the same name.
Ink - a woman falls in love with a man she's writing to on Death Row. The story line seemed a bit tired, but it was very well acted, so didn't feel trite at all.

Sunday 21st:
Neil Gaiman: Guardian Book Club - I mentioned this in my last post.
Pinocchio: A Fantasy of Pleasures - a cabaret Pinocchio for grown ups - not quite as good as it sounds, but mostly enjoyable in a bizarre way!
Evelyn Evelyn - a compressed (and hence, in fact, tighter) version of Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley's album/cabaret/show that I saw last year (can't remember if I put a photo or two up, but they're were lots on facebook) - excellent. I'd go in to more detail, but Edinburgh is pretty much the end of the run, I don't think they'll tour it again.
The Stand Late Show - I love The Stand - it's a great (all year round) comedy venue - a cosy underground bar, which usually has good people. Last year was disappointing, this one looked like it was going to be too, but got much better as it went on: Bruce Devlin (compere); Margaret Cho; Matt Kirshen; Sarah Millican & Carl Donnelly

Monday 22nd:
Shakespeare For Breakfast - A Fringe staple that has been going downhill a bit over the last couple of years, although it was a bit better again yet. Using Macbeth in a high school as their theme.
Best of Fest (Cabaret) - looking at the reviews on the edfringe site, looks like I picked a good day! A cross section of the comedy/cabaret acts showing at the Fringe this year - some better than others: Dusty Limits (meh); Michael Winslow; Benet Brandreth (good); Sharron Matthews (great); Dr Brown (hmmm) & Sammy J & Randy (great).
Morgan and West: Crime Solving Magicians - what it says on the tin - very funny!
Dave Gorman's Powerpoint Presentation - I probably wouldn't have gone to this if one of my mates hadn't wanted to, but it was very funny (better than "googlewhack", less good than "dave gorman").

Tuesday 23rd:
If Walls Could Talk - a collections of students telling random stories - sounds dreadful, but was actually rather touching.
Bane - I saw this and part 2 last year too - excellent - they were also showing "Bane 3" this year, so of course, I had to go to them all again ;o) . Basically a one man film noir piss-take/homage (accompanied by a rather good blues guitarist, who was more in evidence last year).
Randy is Sober - I went to this off the back of "Best of Fest" (being the only one at a time I could actually go to) - funny, but a little disappointing - I think one of their other shows might have been a bit better.
The One Man Show - I really don't know how to describe this, except to say that it was bizarre. The girl sitting next to me was in hysterics the whole way through. I'd say that it was good in bits, but mostly I was noneplussed. ...but then this is what the Fringe is for - seeing odd shows you never would have gone to otherwise.

Wednesday 24th:
Waiting for Alice - Wonderland before Alice arrives - fun, but not fully realised or developed - I think this could have been much better than it actually was.
Bane 2 - see above! Even funnier...
Roar - I hadn't registered when I booked the ticket, but this was by the same company who did "Clockheart Boy" - I enjoyed this more, although it had the same kind of dark ending that didn't quite work.

Thursday 25th:
Bane 3 - the new installment!

I spent the rest of Thursday picking up my car from my Kirkcaldy (where I'd left it after staying with my mates overnight on the Friday/Saturday) and trundling around a rather lovely coastal village, followed by (having got back to Edinburgh) my traditional amble up Calton Hill for wonderful views of Edinburgh.

The plan was to spend all of the Friday driving home, stopping here and there for a little amble in interesting places. However. The rain finally caught up with me, so, beyond a rather pretty drive through rain-sodden Northumberland along a bit of Hadrian's Wall, I spent most of the day in the car, driving extremely slowly due to lack of vision instead. Woo.

Fantastic holiday though. Followed up by Fela at Sadler's Wells in London on the Saturday (unfortunately not accompanied by Darryl as originally planned as he'd had to delay his flight) and the Reading Festival on the Sunday...

Photos will follow at some point, but I haven't loaded them to Flickr yet.

Phew - that's a long post!!

Sep 2, 2011, 4:29pm Top

Looks like congrats are in order. Is that number 75 I see?

Sep 2, 2011, 6:39pm Top

Wow, you have been busy. I'll have to follow that link and listen to the Neil Gaiman interview. I recently enjoyed the audiobook of Anansi Boys as read by Lenny Henry so have increased my fandom by many more percentage points.

Sep 2, 2011, 8:50pm Top

Congratulations on reaching the 75 books mark, Fliss! I enjoyed your summary of the events at Edinburgh, and I look forward to your review of Oscar and Lucinda, in particular.

BTW, I'm all for another meet up in Cambridge before I leave on Sep 18.

Sep 2, 2011, 11:23pm Top

Congratulations on passing the 75 book mark for the year!!

Sep 3, 2011, 2:00am Top

Sep 3, 2011, 2:09am Top

75 books -- rah, rah, rah!!!

That's quite a lot for your Edinburgh sojurn -- but what fun! I used to do the same thing at the Toronto Film Festival, still the best I know with hundreds of offerings -- go to four or five movies a day. Of course, after a week of this, your eyes are crossed and you never want to see any more popcorn in your life...

I confess I was one of those who didn't much relish The Tiger's Wife. I found it, for want of a better phrase, over-thought -- a book where imagination and structure and polish overwhelmed character and emotion. I could admire what she was doing, but very dispassionately; was never engaged in it. Given the ambition of the project, that disappointed me. Swamplandia was another much-buzzed-about book to which I had a similar reaction, although in that case I felt the author was leaning on "look how exotic the story is" to carry the narrative; that never works for me.

I don't think that the writer's workshop cult/MFA cult produces better or worse novelists. I worry a bit that unless someone has been through one of these, they aren't taken seriously as "real writers", which would close off paths for a # of novelists. (It's as if journalism jobs were unobtainable unless you'd been to J school -- IMO, J school may be helpful, but really it's a credential and real experience/ability is vastly more important.)

Sep 3, 2011, 6:37am Top

... wandering through, catching up, waving hello ...

Love the family photos. There's some great reading there too.

Sep 3, 2011, 11:02am Top

Congrats on book #75 and glad you had such a good time at the Edinburgh festival.

You're way ahead of me on both the Dresden Files series and the Jackson Brodie series although I'm hoping to read One Good Turn this month.

Sep 3, 2011, 11:03am Top

Sounds as if you had a great time at Edinburgh - I love that randomness of festivals where you never quite know what you are going to see and whether it will be any good, and some things are real duds but some are gems.

Sep 6, 2011, 2:05pm Top

#134 So I am - I honestly didn't notice!

There are worse books to be no. 75...

#135 Good good, glad to hear it! I'll have to give it another listen too. I enjoyed it at the time partly because the questions asked by the audience were mostly good. My problem with Neil Gaiman is that I follow him perhaps a little bit too much (although not as obsessively as some people I think!), so you get to be able to predict some of his answers and stories and I don't remember this being the case particularly for this.

#136 Thanks Darryl. Given my current track record with comments & reviews, I'm not sure how soon I'll actually get round to commenting about Oscar and Lucinda, but my rather manic real life of the summer has started to calm down a bit recently, so you never know...

Re another Cambridge meet before Sept 18th, we shall all have to consult again! I'll be seeing you on Saturday for "The Kitchen" anyway, yes? I think I mentioned that I'm meeting my sister (+ family) at the BFI cafe before hand (probably also for food) - do come along and join us before the show. We'll be there a while I think, so whenever suits you (show starts at 7.30pm and it's in the Olivier, so not too much of a dash, hopefully).

I must come by your thread to catch up on your travel comments - I can't remember when you said you'd be in Paris...

#137&8 Thanks Roni & Stasia!

#139 rah! ;o)

Hi Suzanne, yes, I was a bit manic this Edinburgh although, I can't say that that's particularly unusual - I still never seem to see half the shows I wanted to see though. Actually, that's partly because the Fringe is so big these days, that there will always be stuff you miss just because you don't even know it's on (and I always spend a lot of time perusing the program before going)

Hmmmm, Toronto Film Festival eh? I may have to visit that some day - I really like Toronto, so it'd be a good excuse to go back...

There's quite a good (but small) Film Festival in Cambridge every year too just coming up this month (in case anyone is interested) - it seems particularly sparse this year though, although I haven't browsed the program much yet.

Re The Tiger's Wife, that's intersting - I can see where you're coming from definitely - I'd agree on the characterisation (except, perhaps, for the granfather?).

The thing is that, I'm a bit of a contradiction of myself when it comes to this - the majority of the time, good characterisation is one of the things I particularly appreciate in good fiction and it's something that will definitely turn a book for me.

On the other hand, I've also always loved fairytales. Mostly, in fairytales, the characters themselves aren't really that important (except in their actions) - they're largely black and white and paper thin - what is important is the story itself and what it makes me think about. For me, The Tiger's Wife had a very fairytale quality and maybe this is why I accepted that more than I might usually. After all, the strand of the story I enjoyed the most was the story of the Deathless man. I don't know why I love it when reality and fantasy are meshed like this (probably something to do with escapism), but I really do and I thought that he was a really intersting idea (although I do realise that he's not a novel invention).

This is one of those times when I wish I was better at analysing my thoughts!

Re writers workshops/cults (;o)) - that's intersting. I certainly agree that courses don't necessarily make a better writer, although I think that they probably help some people to be better than they would have been. Why I say that it's interesting that you say this, is that (speaking as someone who has very little to do with publishing), I've never really noticed who's been on courses and who hasn't - it really doesn't come on my radar (I only found out that Téa Obreht had been on one of these courses after I'd read the book, from the LT thread in fact) - my knee-jerk response, in fact, would be that the "real writers" are the ones who don't need to go on a course (yes, this is also probably wrong!). I suppose that the long and the short of it is, as you say more or less, that like any course, there will be things that are useful to some people and not to others and really it's just a different experience of learning to write well.

#140 Hallo Caty! Thank you. ...not as much "great reading" as I should like really. I've read a lot of fluff this year (actually, I think that was the case last year too) - still, I've enjoyed it, so who cares! Now I'm slightly less busy, I intend to try to be a bit more expansive though.

#141 Thanks Heather!

I have a very bad failing that once I've hit on a series of books, I find it very hard not to read the lot in one go. I may have a slightly obsessive character ;o) The library is forcing me to pause with the only other Dresden Files book currently published. This is probably a good thing!

#142 Hi Genny! Absolutely - and that's one of the reasons I love the Edinburgh Festival/Fringe - I always go to see so many things I'd probably never get round to otherwise. Over the last few years though, I've got a lot better at detecting what is going to be truly dreadful, so I haven't been to anything really bad in a long time (ah, now I think about it, bar one very bad recommendation the year before last), but I have been to some very strange things...!

OK, so, a photo montage ;o)

On the way to Edinburgh (Helmsley - Rievaulx Terrace & Kirkcaldy to stay with mates):

Once in Edinburgh:

...on the way home (Culross & Northumberland):

...and since then (Reading Festival, LTers in Cambridge (sorry not a more beautiful location!) & Amanda Palmer at Heaven (in London, I should point out!), last Friday) :

I've also been to see Ian McKellen in The Syndicate actually in Cambridge (for a change!), which, honestly, was a bit disappoiting (for anyone who was thinking about going to see it at some point on the rest of the tour). Plus, Darryl and I are going to see The Kitchen this weekend, so lots of theatre all round...

Books. Hmm. I've finished Angela Carter's adaptation of Charles Perrault's fairy tales and another couple of DWJ's (Homeward Bounders and Witch Week) - both of which are favourites, so I shall probably ponder commenting on them for ages and then not come out with anything satisfactory... This also means that I'm now on to Archer's Goon ;o)

...and am back on the job with Les Miserables, but have also got The Sisters Brothers lined up (I'll probably start it this weekend).

Comments on the above books to follow shortly (I hope)!

Sep 7, 2011, 4:59am Top

Nice commentary and photos, Fliss! I'll have to catch up fully later today.

Yes, I'm definitely on for this coming Saturday, and I'll plan to meet you with your sister & her family at the BFI cafe beforehand.

I've been a bit of a slug the past few days, and haven't done much touring or museum hopping. I also haven't made formal plans for Paris, but I'm thinking about taking one or two day trips there next week, as I've already paid for my current hotel in London. So, my schedule for next week is wide open at the moment, and I could come to Cambridge anytime that's convenient for you, Jenny, Rachael(? - I know she'll be quite busy for the next couple of weeks), Luci(?), and anyone else who might like to join us.

I went to the NT on Monday, and no same day tickets are yet available for "One Man, Two Guvnors". I think I'll get a standing room only ticket if one is available for tonight's performance, or watch the Sep 15 performance in a local theatre.

Sep 7, 2011, 7:51am Top

Great photos, thanks for sharing them!

Sep 8, 2011, 1:20pm Top

Hi, Fliss! Congrats on reaching 75!!

I see I have been away for a while. Love your pictures:)

I might need some help from you...I think I can recall you saying you enjoyed reading Emma, by the beloved Jane. But I have to admit I am struggling. It seems a little bit boring, and 100 pages in, there is not much happening. Please tell me it will be better :)

I just finished Never Let Me Go and really liked it. I remember you going to see Kazuo Ishiguro earlier this year (or was it last?). Was it interesting? I remember avoiding reading your posts about, since I had not read the book yet.

Hope all is well and that peace is restored over there :)

Sep 8, 2011, 11:09pm Top

Just a quick note to say that I LOVE your Northumberland pics, in particular... Very atmospheric & compelling...

Sep 9, 2011, 3:46am Top

#146 With Emma, there is only one thing you can either love or hate or more occasionally do both, and that is the character of Emma herself. Admittedly, I didn't find Emma interesting on my first read, for me it got better with the passage of time and now, I love to hate (pardon the exaggeration) her!

Sep 15, 2011, 11:28pm Top

Hey fliss! Looks like you've had a very busy summer. Congrats on reading 75 books so far. Great pictures as usual. Love the one of Kirkcaldy beach (interesting sand formation).

Sep 20, 2011, 12:33pm Top

#149 VB Certainly has been! You may notice that I've not put any Allotment photos up in a long time - there's a reason for that ;o) Thanks re Kirkcaldy beach - I liked that one too, although it looks better when it's a bit larger!

#148 PC I think you're mostly right, but I'm not sure I actually do either hate or love Emma herself (although, almost certainly, if I actually knew her, there are things I'd find very irritating about her) - she's interesting to me because she's a flawed heroine.

My opinion of Emma the book seems to swing around a lot more than it does for JA's other stuff. I think it probably is one of the best written, but it doesn't have the emotional pull of Persuasion, or quite the same level of humour as Pride and Prejudice or Northanger Abbey.

Anyway, I really must update some comments at some point, so I'll try to do Emma soon...

#147 Thanks Suzanne! Actually most of the "Northumberland" pictures are, in fact Culross, which is a very well preserved fishing village/small town on the Firth of the Forth in Fife (Scotland), the only one actually of Northumberland (due to torrential rain), is the rather gloomy one on the top right. It was also rather beautiful though and I think I'll probably go via Northumberland either on my way up or back down again next year...

#146 Thanks Bente!

Sorry for the belated response re Emma - for me the best parts are the bit characters, so people like Miss Bates and Mr Elton - and their appearances do increase as you get further in. I hope you're enjoying it more by now? I think, perhaps, it is a book that you have to be in the right frame of mind for - I know that the last time I read it (before this particular reread), I enjoyed it a lot less than I had previously...

Re Never Let Me Go, yes, the interview was very interesting and it gave me a better perspective on the book. Let me see if I can find the post I talked about it in (rather than reiterrating myself) and I'll point you to it...

All is great thanks, still quite busy, but then I like that! How about you over there?!

#145 Thanks Genny!

#144 Thanks Darryl! Did you get to Paris in the end, given how grotty you were feeling that following week? Ditto the "One Man, Two Govenors" screening?

I've had another thought about "The Kitchen" - I think that the main problem with it was that I felt that the writer was trying to put a message across with the play, but somehow, whether due to the production, or just the play itself, that message didn't quite come across and this is why it was ultimately a little unsatisfying. What do you think?

Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 5:21pm Top

77) The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault - Angela Carter
(?, Cambridge)

Basically, Angela Carter's translation/retelling of Charles Perrault's fairy tales (as you may have guessed!). Fairly gentle fairy tales, with morals at the end. I prefer the Grimm versions to be honest - they were easy enough to read, but I was a little disappointed, given how much I enjoyed The Bloody Chamber - I had expected more interpretation and less translation I think.

78) The Homeward Bounders - Diana Wynne Jones
Goal 6: DWJ in Publication order
(?, Cambridge)

Jaimie stumbles, or should I say trespasses, into the grounds of a mysterious house in his home town in which men in hooded cloaks appear to be playing some sort of strange game on a table - one that causes the world around him to lurch. When discovered, they cast him out of ‘the game’ and he becomes a homeward bounder, travelling between parallel universes, with the unlikely to be realised promise that if he can ever find his way back to his home, he will be allowed to reenter the game.

To say why I enjoy this particular story so much would unfortunately be to give a hint towards the ending, so I won’t. However, I will say that it’s a clever plot, with all DWJ’s trademark oddball characters. I’ve always liked that she’s unafraid to have her lead characters do silly things and make stupid mistakes - after all, we all do in real life.

79) Witch Week - Diana Wynne Jones
Goal 6: DWJ in Publication order
(?, Cambs)


To be updated

80) The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt
(Aug 2011, Cambridge)

Eli and Charlie Sisters work for the Commodore as hired killers. They have a reputation that travels before them, although Eli is not quite as happy in his career as Charlie. On their most recent mission, which takes them to Gold Rush era San Francisco, Eli starts to think about and question the Commodore's orders and his elder brother.

This was a very swift and enjoyable read, told well from Eli's point of view. Somehow, despite his gruesome job, Patrick deWitt manages to make me sympathise with the downtrodden Eli. However, I have to admit, I'm rather surprised that this was picked as a Booker nominee. While it was an absorbing read, I wouldn't say it is one that will stick with me and make me think particularly, which is what I would expect from something on that list...

81) Archer's Goon - Diana Wynne Jones
Goal 6: DWJ in Publication order
(?, Herts)

Another favourite and another one to be updated soon...

To be updated

82) Ghost Story - Jim Butcher
(Sep 2011, Rock Road Library)

The most recent in the Dresden Files series and possibly my favourite to date. Unfortunately, describing the premise would completely give away a fairly major plot twist in the previous book of the series, so I'll leave it there!

Currently reading Notes From the Underground (Dostoevsky), The Castle of Otranto (Walpole) and (still), Les Miserables...

Sep 20, 2011, 2:58pm Top

Looking forward to the DWJ comments :-)

I finished the Dalemark series off recently with The Crown of Dalemark and I'm still trying to figure out the ending. Will be interested in hearing your thoughts whenever you get to that one.

Sep 21, 2011, 2:25am Top

#151 I am currently reading Book 3 of the Dresden Files, I did hear that this series is an unusual one in as much as it gets better with each book.

Sep 21, 2011, 11:34am Top

#153 Yep, I think I'd agree with that on the whole (although there is the odd less good one later on in the series too). They're fluff, but they're fun anyway.

#152 Working on it, honest!

Hmmm, it's been a while since I last read The Crown of Dalemark and I've only read it a couple of times as I only recently got my own copy. I don't remember any particular ambiguity in the ending that isn't more or less explained by the earlier books in the series (I think, from memory, it harks back to Spellcoats more than the others?), but that may be because I'm used to the way DWJ thinks ;o)

...ah, but I see that ed.pendragon (who's been commenting on my DWJ thread) also found the ending a little confusing - he's reviewed it here...

We'll see how I feel when I return to it! I certainly have found in the past that I've picked up more on second readings of some of her books (Fire and Hemlock, which will be up on my list shortly being a very good case in point).

Edited: Sep 21, 2011, 4:31pm Top

>150 flissp: No, I didn't make it to Paris, as I wasn't up for a full day of walking, going to museums, etc. I'll almost certainly come back to London in the spring, and I'll plan to go there then. I also missed the screening of "One Man, Two Guvnors", and didn't feel up to standing for the Saturday matinee performance.

I completely agree with your assessment of "The Kitchen". As you had said, the first half was superb (and I'm still amazed that no digits or limbs were lost during the choreographed sequences with sharpened kitchen knives flying about), but the second half was compromised by the change in tone of the play, and the apparent message(s) that the writer was trying to convey to the audience, which was lost on both of us. If I can use a sports analogy, it reminded me of a baseball pitcher throwing a batter a steady diet of fastballs, and then throwing a beach ball or an Easter egg toward home plate.

I like, and agree with, your comment about The Sisters Brothers. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't a book I would have selected for the longlist.

Sep 22, 2011, 1:29pm Top

Thought I'd post the link to all 5 of this year's Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4 as the ones I've heard have been very interesting. The title of the series being "Securing Freedom", the first 2 were given by Aung San Suu Kyi ("Liberty", "Dissent") and the last 3 by Eliza Manningham-Buller (ex-Director General of MI5: "Terror", "Security", "Freedom"). I don't think that these are time limited, so the link should stay up.

#155 What a shame Darryl, but there's always next spring for Paris, as you say. ...and actually, I think Paris will be more pleasant in the spring anyway - fewer tourists, so less busy. I suspect "One Man, Two Guvnors" may return again, having been so popular too.

Yep, the baseball analogy a little lost on me, but I get the drift!

#150 Bente, I've found my comments on the film version of Never Let Me Go and the Q&A with Kazuo Ishiguro afterwards - I didn't say too much, but if you're interested, what I did is here

Sep 22, 2011, 1:33pm Top

>156 flissp: Yep, the baseball analogy a little lost on me, but I get the drift!

I assumed that you were an expert on baseball, since you attended at least one game when you went to Chicago last year. ;-)

Sep 22, 2011, 1:35pm Top

#157 ;o) Well, if I stated that my description of baseball would be that it's like rounders with bigger bats and more stats, you might revise that!

Sep 28, 2011, 11:58am Top

#156 Thanks for the REith Lecture link. I heard bits of Aung San Suu Kyi's when they were broadcast, but I should go back and listed to the whole lot some time. I enjoy the Lectures - it's good to hear an extended argument for a change. I love many Radio 4 programmes, but the format of most of them does not trust the listener to concentrate for very long on one voice without interruptions or discussions (and outside of Radio 4, not much intelligent talk radio at all).

Oct 26, 2011, 12:38am Top

Just dropping in to say hello....and tiptoeing quietly out...

Oct 26, 2011, 12:39am Top

Same here. Hope all is going well with you, Fliss!

Nov 14, 2011, 2:04pm Top

Hallo people - I know, I know, I've been truly rubbish this year... I keep meaning to come back and do a massive update, or even just lots of little ones, but it never seems to happen... Hope everyone's happy anyway?!

Here's a list of what I need to update on anyway...:

83) Notes From the Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky (hmmmm)
84) A Guide to the Birds of East Africa - Nicholas Drayson (fun)
85) The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern (wonderful)
86) Warlock at the Wheel - Diana Wynne Jones (reread. DWJ short story collection)
87) Fire and Hemlock - Diana Wynne Jones (reread. DWJ's take on Tam Lin)
88) Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones (reread. The one the film was based on)
89) Catch-22 - Joseph Heller (wondered if the Monty Python team had read it - probably have)
90) Pandaemonium - Christopher Brookmyre (his usual fun fluff, unusually with a fantasy edge)
91) The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole (fun but mildly annoying)
92) Zorro - Isabel Allende (swashbuckly fun)
93) Annabel - Kathleen Winter (Orange shortlist, enjoyed at the time, but surprisingly forgettable)
94) Mildred Pierce - James M. Cain (next month's book club - arrived at the library earlier than expected. Interesting but frustrating)
95) The Stranger's Child - Alan Hollinghurst (Booker shortlist, last month's book club, speedy, interesting read, but I not stellar)
96) A Tale of Time City - Diana Wynne Jones (reread. One of hers I don't read very often)
97) Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen (reread, for Austenathon. Undervalued, I think)
98) A Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes (Booker winner - deservedly so I think, given those I've read, although not the one I enjoyed the most).
99) The Tiny Wife - Andrew Kaufman (another fun modern fairy tale, not quite as touching as All My Friends Are Superheroes)

Currently reading:
The Lives of Christopher Chant - Diana Wynne Jones (one of my top 5)
A Brit Different - Emma Wood & Keith Didcock (the pics are the best part of it - based on this website)
Les Miserables (still...)

Edited: Nov 14, 2011, 2:09pm Top

Hello, nice to hear from you again. You are not the only one behind on updates, don't worry! I like your brief one word/one sentence reviews - a good strategy when you're catching up; I've been trying something similar myself when I have a backlog, which is most of the time.

Of the ones you've been reading, I've only read two - Fire and Hemlock, which was also a re-read for me, and Northanger which I read years ago but didn't manage to re-read yet for the Austenathon.

Hope life is ok in general as well as filled with lots of DWJ and other books!

Nov 14, 2011, 2:18pm Top

Thanks Genny - good to hear it! I do want to come back and leave slightly more lengthy comments on some of those at some point though, so will set myself a Christmas project of doing so if I don't manage to before!

How well do you remember Northanger/did you like it? I'm a big advocate of it - probably partly because people are often quite dismissive of it. It's true, it doesn't have as much finesse as most of her others, but it's also one of the wittier of her novels I think....

Life is good, if a tad busy ;o)

Nov 14, 2011, 2:27pm Top

Great to see you posting again, and at least you've been reading. Several of us are starting a group read of The Night Circus today so I've been waiting to start it and finally can!
Looking at all your DWJ rereads, wow, you are getting through them.

Nov 14, 2011, 3:35pm Top

HEy, Fliss, good to see you dropping in! Looks like the reading is going well, at least there are SOME books in there other than DWJ! ;-)

Nov 14, 2011, 3:40pm Top

#164 I also tend to promise myself that I'll go back and do fuller reviews of books. I rarely keep the promise, but my intentions are good!

I don't have strong feelings about Northanger from my first read. It must have been 20 years or more since I read it. I'd only read all the novels once until about 18 months ago when I re-read Emma (which I disliked strongly first time simply because I didn't like the character of Emma and wasn't mature enough myself to separate dislike of a character from dislike of the book - this time round I appreciated the book much more and even grew a little fond of Emma!). I've re-read P&P & S&S this year during the Austenathon - feels like I've read them more often but it's just all the film/TV versions. I wanted but failed to re-read Mansfield Park, which I remember liking a lot more than most people do first time I read it... That's another one people tend to dismiss, because they don't like Fanny, but I remember feeling a lot of sympathy for her.

Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 4:43pm Top

#165 Hi Kerry! Oooh, I hope you enjoy The Night Circus as much as I did - is there a link for the group read? I'd be interested to see what people think (and I'm more likely to keep up to date with a new thread!!)

#166 Hi Roni! Some ;o)

...I'm way behind on my reading goals for the year as usual... Hey ho!

#167 Hi Genny! Good to know it's not just me... I may not get to all of them (I suspect it's too late for Troubles for instance), but I'll give it a go!

Emma is probably the Austen I swing most up and down with; Mansfield Park has wonderful bits, but really, for me, what I enjoy the most is the Crawfords - I'm not that interested in Fanny for herself I'm afraid.

I'm really looking forward to my reread of Persuasion next though, it being my absolute favourite. I'm saving it for the weekend ;o)

I've recently set up a librarything page for my niece, to keep track of the books I buy her (I want to be book giving auntie!). If anyone is interested (although I probably won't post reviews unless I'm feeling particularly excited), she is here.

I'm getting her lots of picture books for Christmas and her birthday (Jan 9th). Obviously, she's a little too young to read most of these for the moment, but I want to get going early: ;o)

Fox in Socks
The Loon's Necklace
The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Where's My Cow?
Blueberry Girl

However, I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations for picutre books for 1 year olds?

Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 5:03pm Top

100) A Brit Different - Emma Wood & Keith Didcock
Goal 1: Non fiction
(Oct 2011, Cambridge)

I don't know if anyone remembers me going to The World Conker Championships last year (sadly they've been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions this year)?

I properly discovered it via this website here, in which Emma Wood, a photographer, has been taking pictures of unusal events and festivals and recording them in her blog for several years now. Having another browse earlier this year (I shall be going to Brighton's Burning the Clocks Parade in December), I noticed that she'd recently published a book based on the blog.

It's good fun, with lots of "come visit me" photos - and there are definitely a coupld I have my eye on (how did I not know that the The World Tiddlywinks Championships take place in Cambridge?!), although I think, perhaps, it would have been better if she had written the text herself - the writer just tries a little too hard to be funny and it doesn't quite work. A fairly minor niggle in a book like this however...

Nov 16, 2011, 5:30pm Top

Nov 16, 2011, 9:30pm Top

Picturebooks: I suggest Emily Gravett's books such as Orange Pear Apple Bear but you'd need to read a few as some are more for older children, but all are extremely good. John Burningham's Hushabye is a beautiful go-to-sleep read. I'll add some more later.

Night Circus read is here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/126382

Nov 16, 2011, 9:42pm Top

Does she have Dear Zoo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar? If yes to the latter, Eric Carle's also produced lots of other lovely books, The Very Quiet Cricket is fun. Conor was obsessed with the VHC at 1 and destroyed lots of copies.

Jan Fearnley deserves to be better known, nearly all of her books are fun to read aloud but I particularly like A Very Proper Fox and The Baby Dragon Tamer

The Book People have lots of offers on now: a set of 6 Meg and Mog books £8 (key preparation for liking books about witches like those by DWJ later), 10 Kipper books £10, 10 Julia Donaldson titles including the essential The Gruffalo - I'm also fond of Tyrannosaurus Drip and the kids especially like The Smartest Giant in Town and One Mole Digging a Hole or in Danny's version One Hole Digging a Mole. Owl Babies, There's An Ouch in My Pouch, Who's in the Loo?, Silly Suzy Goose. I ended up sending my nephew a copy of Penguin by Polly Dunbar for his 1st birthday.

Edited: Nov 23, 2011, 1:25pm Top

Hi Fliss! Congratulations on reaching the century mark. Is that a good "hmm" or a bad one about Notes From the Underground? I'm glad that you enjoyed The Sense of an Ending, but which longlisted book did you enjoy the most? I enjoyed your comments about Pnin, which I'll almost certainly read soon. 2012 will be my Nabokov year, as I want to read Lolita, Speak, Memory, and Pale Fire, along with Pnin.

BTW, I recently found out that "One Man, Two Guvnors" will be coming to Broadway this coming spring, so I'll definitely see it there. Did you see a live performance at the NT or a taped one in a local theatre?

Edited: Nov 22, 2011, 11:53am Top

Hi Fliss!

#162 That is a lot of books :-)

#168 "However, I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations for picutre books for 1 year olds?"

Based on my recent visit to some friends who have an 11m old I'd say sturdy books rather than paperbacks! My friend has already had to stick a beautiful pop-up butterfly book back together so I think I'm going to stick with giving him board books for a while.

My potential presents to give to him for Christmas are obvious old favourites from the 1001 children's books list rather than anything new and exciting:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which I can see you've already added to her library)
Where's Spot by Eric Hill
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise
Each Peach Pear Plum by the Ahlbergs
The Baby's Catalogue by the Ahlbergs

His current favourite is Tickle, Tickle by Helen Oxenbury which I think they got through Bookstart so your niece might already have a copy

Nov 23, 2011, 1:34am Top

Hi Fliss! Nice to see your thread pop up again!! When you say that the Barnes novel/novella wasn't the book that you enjoyed the most, did you mean from amongst Barnes' novels or from amongst the Booker nominees? I'm curious as to what it was, in either case!

Nov 23, 2011, 1:16pm Top

Hi Fliss! Good to see you posting again. You've read some good books. Congrats on reaching 100 books.

Nov 25, 2011, 8:51am Top

#176 Hi VB! Good to see you too (and thank you) - I'm still being a little bit slack, but I'll try to come by your thread to say hi and catch up this weekend (I'm actually not doing anything at all - the novelty!) ;o)

#175 Hi Suzanne! ...and to see you too (see above comment to VB!)

Re the Barnes book, I was referring to the Booker nominees that I've read (not very many, but more than usual) - that wasn't to say that I didn't enjoy it (I did), but it's precarious ground for me - I really don't much like reading about suicide. Darryl asked me about this too, so see below! As far as Julian Barnes himself goes, the only other book I've read by thim is A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, which, to be honest, I struggled with a bit, so nope, The Sense of an Ending is currently my favourite of a very short list of his books!

#174 Hi Heather! Thanks for the recommendations. I think you're quite right about cardboard vs paper books, but I just have so many favourites that I want to give her, that I can't help but get carried away in getting them for her now, I don't really mind if they get a bit torn (surprisingly, the ones I've already given don't seem to have done yet).

I'm a little disappointed with the version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar I've got for her - I hadn't realised, but it seems to have been very much abreviated - although it does have a finger puppet going all the way through it and she enjoys touchy-feely books, so I think it'll do as a temporary caterpillar ;o)

She's already got Where's Spot (and most of the That's Not my... type books), but I shall investigate your other suggestions, particularly with an eye out for Tickle, Tickle.

#173 Hi Darryl! Thank you!

Re Notes From the Underground, that's an undecided "hmm". It didn't rock my world anyway, but I couldn't help feeling I was missing something, despite reading the intro. It's one of the ones I wish I'd written down my thoughts on at the time as I'm going to find it very hard to write about now.

Re The Booker longlist, funnily enough, although I don't think it was the best written, so far, of those I've read, I enjoyed The Sisters Brothers best of the list - mostly for the story. The Sense of an Ending will be second on that list, mostly because I thought it was well thought out and written, but I couldn't enjoy the read quite as much.

Hope you enjoy Pnin as much as I did - it took a little bit to get going, but once it had, I thought it was lovely. I'll look forward to your Nabokov comments next year! I noticed the other day that my local library has a copy of Pale Fire, so I'll probably read that next (yes, despite owning Lolita...)

I've not yet seen "One Man, Two Guvnors", but, as I suspected it might (given it's success), they've extended the run and moved it to the Adelphi Theatre (also in London) - I'm going with one of my great university mates who I don't see nearly often enough in January, so I'm very much looking forward to it. Funnily enough, my brother in law took my sister to see it for her birthday last Friday - they enjoyed it a lot, but found it to be very different to what they were expecting from the reviews. Apparently, at heart it's very much a restoration type comedy?

#171 & 172 Hi Kerry and Luci - I knew I could rely on you two for suggestions - thank you! Shall investigate.

Kerry, thank you for the link to The Night Circus group read - I must head over and check it out this weekend!

Luci, do you know, I've been umming and ahhhing over the Meg & Mog books - I also saw the collected Book People thing - and I know that we read them when we were little (I've got vague memories going to see a play based on one at the Unicorn Theatre in London when we were really quite small), but I don't remember at all what I thought of them at the time - you've swayed me though, so I shall have to get them too ;o)

Right, I've been working from home all morning (and obviously, letting myself get distracted), because I've been waiting for a delivery, but this has now turned up, so I'm going to head into work. I shall be back later!

Nov 28, 2011, 12:46pm Top

I have three more books to add, but only 1 review for the moment:

101) The Lives of Christopher Chant - Diana Wynne Jones (one of my favourites)
102) Persuasion - Jane Austen (absolutely my favourite!)

103) Sebastian and the Afterlife - William J. Barry (ARC)
(Aug 2011, e-book)

This is the problem with e-books for me - I always forget that I have them. So, a very belated review of an ER ARC that I received at the end of August (and a guilt complex about the fact that I'd forgotten all about both it and another, that I did start, Necroscopy in E Minor - I must read that this weekend)...

Sebastian awakes, lying on his back in a wood, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, his senses strangely amplified. He quickly comes to realise that he has died - a fact that is verified by the presence of a tall skeletal figure in a dark cloak, holding a scythe, who is pointing him towards an archway. The Grim Reaper. Sebastian doesn’t make it through the arch however - he is one of those that has something unresolved in their life to fix before they can go on to the Afterlife and thus, he finds himself in an high school like place geared towards helping others his age to find resolution.

This is a fun, swiftly moving story, geared at mid teens (and possibly, given the character archetypes, hoping to catch the post-Harry Potter crowd). I won’t say that it’s a hugely complex story (you can pretty much guess where it’s going fairly early on), or that he characters are particularly well drawn (we principally discover what we’re expected to think of them through what we’re told about them by other characters, not by their own words and actions and even so, most of them are a bit paper thin). The book also feels a little bit as though it was written with film in mind (of the teen rom-com/self discovery/fantasy type variety) and clearly to be part of a series. However, as a quick fluffy read, it’s good fun, I was never bored and I’ll be interested to see what happens next.

Nov 29, 2011, 5:11am Top

John Sulston (Human Genome Project) was interviewed on The Life Scientific on Radio 4 this morning. It's not currently available on "listen again", but should be after it's repeated this evening. The sequencing of the human genome revolutionised genetics - thought people might be interested...

Nov 29, 2011, 12:22pm Top

Looks like some good reading. I just finished Persuasion as well, bringing the Austenathon to a close.

Dec 5, 2011, 4:32pm Top

Persuasion rocks, no doubt about it.

Dec 13, 2011, 2:09pm Top

#180-1 Well, it's my favourite Austen definitely (although P&P isn't far off), but I can sympathise with your comments (on the group read?) Roni. It's definitely not perfect, but it is the one that makes me all squishy ;0)

104) The Watsons - Jane Austen & "Another"
Goal 5: re-reads
(Jun 1999, Bristol)

What can I say? I'd finished the Austenathon and I've been meaning to read this continuation of The Watsons since I picked up the book in a 2nd hand bookshop at university. This is listed as one of my re-reads, but is only such in that I've read Jane Austen's bit (the first couple of chapters) before. These are her usual set the ball rolling type chapters, although even this early you can tell that this was an early work and you can see why she left it (and that snippets get transferred into her other novels). You can tell very easily when "Another" takes over though and the transition is painful - the outcome is as Austen had planned, but everything else - the means of getting there, the anachonistic characters, the language... Words fail. I probably should have read it at a greater distance from any actual Austen, because this year's reading only managed to amplify just how litte "Another" really understood her writing style.

Ho hum. Onto the "books to recycle" pile it goes and thus a positive side is produced!

105) Nocturnes - Kazuo Ishiguro
Goal 3: Books to Read
(borrowed from Parents)

This qualifies for my Goal 3 as I wanted to read something new by Ishiguro this year and I borrowed it from my parents a while back. It's taken a while to get to as I've heard very mixed reviews, but all in all, I tend to enjoy short stories a lot more than most people, so I thought it worth a shot.

It's an odd one. These are 5 short stories with a musical theme - and also a common thread of fractured relationships. His characterisation is one of the reasons why The Remains of the Day has made it onto my top 10 books of all time list and there are some interesting characters here - but in some cases, I felt, the short story format failed to do them justice. Nonetheless, I zipped through and, mostly, enjoyed a collection of rather sad stories about broken people.

Dec 13, 2011, 2:28pm Top

...oh, I forgot to mention that I went to see an adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle at the Southwark Playhouse at the weekend. I'm still not quite sure what I thought about it.

The play itself bore possibly even less relationship to the book than Miyazaki's film adaptation - and, honestly, I found neither the acting, nor the dialogue particularly remarkable (ie it wasn't bad at all, just missed DWJ's gentle humour, even in the silly jokes mostly put in for the kids in the audience).

However - visually, it really was the most beautiful production. The set was a giant origami castle and they incorporated film into both the story and the scene changes. I think I'd recommend it to anyone living in London on that basis alone.

...a VERY blurry pic of the set before hand:

Dec 15, 2011, 4:15pm Top

That sounds amazing, Howls Moving Castle is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Dec 19, 2011, 5:11pm Top

#182 The Watsons continuation sounds disappointing and perhaps one for me to avoid.

Also a shame that the Howl's Moving Castle production wasn't more true to the book but that set looks amazing!

Dec 23, 2011, 8:12pm Top

Merry Christmas, Fliss!

Dec 23, 2011, 11:24pm Top

Merry Christmas!!

Agree that Nocturnes isn't Ishiguro at his best; I wonder how much of that is due to the short story format vs the novel? Some of them certainly were better than others.

Dec 24, 2011, 8:36am Top

Merry Christmas Fliss!

Dec 24, 2011, 12:04pm Top

Happy Holidays Fliss!

Dec 24, 2011, 2:37pm Top

mistletoe smooches!

Dec 24, 2011, 4:28pm Top

Merry Christmas Fliss!

Dec 24, 2011, 7:46pm Top

Merry Christmas, Fliss! I enjoyed seeing you again this year, and I look forward to see more NT plays with you in 2012.

Dec 24, 2011, 8:30pm Top

Happy Christmas, Fliss!

Jan 2, 2012, 8:59am Top

Very belatedly, thank you for all the Christmas well wishes and HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!

I do intend to write a catch up on my reading to the end of the year, but I think I'll probably wipe the slate clean and start again for the new year as far as most of the reviews/comments go (although there are a couple I'll probably come back to).

#184 KiwiNyx, I'd be interested to see what you thought of the book - despite having a very altered storyline, I also enjoyed the film, but his version of Howl did grate quite a lot. The Witch of the Waste is also completely different, but in a completely brilliant way ;o)

#185 Heather, re HMC, I agree, but then I think that it would probably be quite hard to fit the whole book into a short play, so I can see why they lost as much as they did (basically, they just had Howl, Sophie & the Witch of the Waste). That said, I probably would have retained different bits (and at least some of DWJ's own dialogue). The set was truly amazing though...

Yep, definitely avoid any finished off version of The Watsons

#186 Love the book tree Roni!

#187 Suzanne, I wondered about that too - I can't decide. On the one hand, I think that his characterisation is as great as ever, but on the other, maybe the thing that is so brilliant about Remains of the Day is how slowly everything unfolds. I don't know. I'm going to have to reread that at some point to try to pin down just why I found it so wonderful.

#187-193 and to you all - I hope everyone had wonderful holidays!

#192 Darryl, absolutely!

Now, I have a list of books to update on and a 2012 thread to create, but I shall come back to that this evening - I really think I should go out and enjoy the sunshine while it's here!

Jan 2, 2012, 10:04am Top

OK, so I couldn't resist setting up my first thread for 2012. I am off to enjoy the sunshine now though...

Jan 2, 2012, 6:52pm Top

106) A Meeting By the River - Christopher Isherwood
(Aug 2011, Swiss Cottage)

Not his best. Two brothers work out their differences in India, where the younger is about to take his final vows as a swami. It has it's moments, but I think its biggest problem is that Isherwood has used a letter format (diary entries from the younger brother, letters from the elder to his mother, his wife and his boyfriend). It's a format that's very difficult to carry off well (the wonderful exception to this being Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and in this case, it mostly seems over contrived. It feels like Isherwood had THINGS TO SAY and these were so important that he got too tense to relax when writing.

107) Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto
(Nov 2011, Cambridge)

One from my wishlist that recently (and abnormally) turned up on Bookmooch. Much better than N. P., which was my introduction to Banana Yoshimoto. A novella and a short story, both dealing with loss and recovery from that loss. Dreamily and sadly hopeful.

52c) Chair Person - Diana Wynne Jones 1988 (contained in Stopping for a Spell)
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

Another young children's story in which a battered old armchair turns into a person. The last of the stories in this collection. It's fun, but these are aimed at a younger audience, so don't have a lot of depth or bear rereading quite as much as her others do, although her humour shines through as ever.

108) Wild Robert - Diana Wynne Jones 1989
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

Heather lives with her parents in a stately home open to the public - trying to escape all the tourists, she finds the mound in the garden under which Wild Robert, a witch, was burried many years ago. When she accidentally calls him up, he unleashes chaos. Great fun.

109) Castle In the Air - Diana Wynne Jones 1990
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

The sequel to Howl's Moving Castle (although it can be read as a stand alone) centres around Abdullah, a daydreaming carpet seller in the market of Zanzib who buys a magic carpet from a mysterious salesman and suddenly finds all his daydreams coming true.

I was a bit disappointed the first time I read this - after all, Howl's Moving Castle is one of her best, but I've enjoyed it more with each reread - it's maybe a little whimsicle, but there's a lot of humour there and it's good to see Howl again!

110) Black Maria - Diana Wynne Jones 1990
Goal 6: DWJ in publication order

Yes, I have been on a bit of a DWJ binge ;o)

Mig and her family go to stay with their father's Aunt Maria, when he dies in a car accident, but there's something funny going on in the town of Cranberry on Sea - all the men act like zombies, the only children act like clones and live in an orphanage and the town seems to be run by a group of women, led by Aunt Maria herself.

One of the interesting things about reading these in succession is seeing her common themes develop through the books - in this case, people not being what they seem to be and unusual families. There are inklings of A Tale of Time City and Hexwood in this one. It's one of her books aimed at younger readers, but unlike the stories in Stopping For a Spell, there's a lot going on. Something I don't think I'd spotted before is that her protagonists are almost always very practical doers - one of Mig's comments: "But it's no good thinking happy endings just happen". It seems like a good rule of thumb to me!

Jan 4, 2012, 11:41am Top

Just realised that I had forgotten that I read:

111) Death Comes to Pemberley - P. D. James
(borrowed from Parents)

Hmmm. Better than The Watsons anyway. I suspect most people have moved on from 2011 threads, so if you're interested in my thoughts, I've actually left them on Suzanne/Chatterbox's new thread here

Sum up of 2011:

Top 5 for the year (unusually for me, more or less in order):
Jane Austen Selected Letters
A Monster Calls: Patrick Ness
The Night Circus: Erin Morgenstern
Oscar and Lucinda: Peter Carey
Case Histories - Kate Atkinson tied with The Master and Margarita: Mikhail Bulgakov

111 books read (a nice total for 2011!), shamefully, as ever, the vast majority of authors were from the UK (53%) and US (30%).

46% were written since Jan 2000; 41% 1950-1999; 5% 1900-1949; 8% pre 1900.

Unsurprisingly, 95% were non fiction.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2011

897 members

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