Ellie's raring to go for 2012!
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Welcome everyone! Before you run for the buffet table, please grab a glass of champagne/mug of tea, and let's toast to a wonderful year of reading in 2012!
Now, in case you don't already know me, you can read my intro post here.
These were a few of my favourite books in 2011:
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Holes by Louis Sachar
To Touch a Wild Dolphin by Rachel Smolker
The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way we Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Atonement by Ian McEwan
And, as always, you can also catch up on a load of reviews, memes, general chatter and bookshop news over my blog, Musings of a Bookshop Girl... I'm doing a couple of challenges over there this year, which will hopefully yield better results than last year! Over here on LT, I'll be taking my second shot at a category challenge success with the 12 in 12, as well as keeping track of how I'm getting on paring down my pre-2012 TBR pile with the Books Off The Shelf Challenge (I'll add a link once I've made a new thread). Wish me luck!
And finally, here's this year's ticker:
I've added the message number of each review on this thread for quick reference.
BOOKS READ 2012
1) Virals - Kathy Reichs (message 82)
2) Seizure - Kathy Reichs (message 140)
3) The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith (message 157)
4) How to Leave Twitter: My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop - Grace Dent (message 174)
5) Loaded - Christos Tsiolkas (message 180)
6) Desert Angel - Charlie Price (message 181)
7) The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey (message 196)
8) Wonder - R.J. Palacio - no TS, so click on author instead! (message 200)
9) The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt (message 204)
10) The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells (message 216)
11) Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender - Nick Krieger (message 224)
12) Kiss, Date, Love, Hate - Luisa Plaja (message 226)
13) Before I Go To Sleep - S.J. Watson (message 237)
14) The Man in the Picture - Susan Hill (message 245)
The Secret Diary of a Call Girl - Belle de Jour (currently reading)
The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman (currently reading)
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops - Jen Campbell (currently reading)
Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto - Chuck Klosterman (currently reading)
Hi there Ellie! Hoping for lots of good books in 2012! You know I'll be following you all along the way. :)
Yup, 'following me'... you make it sound so innocent! *catches the glint of binoculars out the corner of her eye and hastily draws the curtains*
Welcome back for 2012 sweetie pie! :)
Hi Ellie, thanks for visiting my new thread! I like the sound of your Books Off The Shelf Challenge - I might have to do the Kindle version of that. I'm thinking of a Stop! Don't Touch that Button Challenge, where I list all the stuff I was tempted by but didn't actually get :-)
Glad you're back, Ellie!
Enjoy those books in 2012...I'm off to check out the blog and 12in12 thread!
Susan - The Books off the Shelf challenge is definitely quite handy! Makes me think about what I'm reading and directs my attention back to my poor shelves and away from the latest pile of shiny things! I've managed over 30 this year, at least, which isn't a bad percentage of my total really.
Cheli - How could I not, with all you lot around to make me smile? Hope you like the blog - it's a little quiet at the moment for the festive season, but I have a lot of fun over there!
4: I don't know what you are talking about. These binoculars are for bird watching. *Plucks sticker off Ellie's behind* Oh hey, look, it seems like you sat on a stick of a blue jay. Huh, weird... :P
I have you starred! Looking forward to all the books you'll inspire me to read in 2012 :-)
Ellie! I'm here. And we will definitely have to find you a guard moose of your own to stand between you and "birdwatching" Stephen. I'll check with Mo to see if he knows anyone. :)
*smacks Stephen's hand away and confiscates his binoculars*
Hello, all you lovely non-perves! Stay away from the red-faced young man in the corner and you should be safe!
AG - Oh yes, I'm already loading my book-bullet pistol ready to see whose wishlists I can hit in 2012! *cackles*
I will try and stay away from Stephen, but somehow he always finds me :)
Hi ellie. This seems like as good time a time as any to delurk and say hello, after lurking (not at all menacingly, mind you) around your thread a little last year. Looking forward to more bookshop adventures from you in 2012!
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Hi Ellie .. hopefully I'll do a better job this year keeping up with your thread and others than I did in 2011.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year, Ellie! I am putting the finishing touches on my entry for your Mixing It Up challenge. I keep getting distracted when I start looking up possible books for each category!
Hi everyone, newbies and old friends alike - and Happy New Year!
Rosalita - Woohoo, another challengee! I know what you mean, I had a lovely time wandering through my LT library thinking about what I might want to read!
Now, my first bookshop rant of 2012 - and brace yourself, it's a biggie. I've copied this from the blog so apologies if you've read it there already...
I heard news recently that one of the bookshops in town might be closing down and moving to online-only sales. During an idle search for more information online, I stumbled upon The Book Guide, an online directory of second-hand and antiquarian bookshops in the UK.
I was quite surprised to find our bookshop on there anyway, given that I've never stumbled upon this particular website before. But I was even more surprised to find this in the comments:
It's not very big (as yet, anyway, though there would be room to fit in a lot more shelving than exists at present) and the contents, to be frank, weren't all that marvellous (superior charity shop, I would say) when I went in a few weeks ago - Henry Middleton 19.08.10
Well, thank you, Mr Middleton, for that charming assessment of our little shop, particularly given that this is one of the only negative comments on any of the bookshops listed for our county. It got worse, however, in the second comment, and suddenly I knew exactly who this gentleman was:
The stock has improved slightly. There is a sign on the counter which reads "We don't offer trade discount or haggle - so just don't ask" and another on the wall saying "Be nice or leave". Enter at your peril! - Henry Middleton 31.10.11
Yes, our illustrious Mr Middleton returned for another dig a year later! These are the only two comments about us, which doesn't exactly paint us in a great light. It might just be because I'm tired and I've got a cold and therefore not feeling spectacular anyway, but I'm absolutely shaking with anger and feeling just a little bit like I might burst into tears. Which isn't good since I'm sitting on the shop counter right now.
If this gentleman is who I think he is, I'd actually marked him out at the time. He and his wife never once looked at me or spoke to me, but complained quite loudly about everything right by the desk nonetheless. As they left I remember thinking, "But why didn't they just say something?!" If someone has a concern we can normally explain, help, point them in the right direction, or whatever. But apparently I was invisible, even as I tried to catch their eye and initiate a conversation so I could show them I wasn't as horrible or stupid or unpleasant as they seemed to be implying.
I've left two (very short - there's a 40-word limit) responses but there's no function to leave a reply or owner response, so perhaps they won't even be accepted, I don't know. But in a nutshell, and since I can't say it anywhere else:
1. Actually, there is very little room for more shelving in the shop. It is a very oddly-shaped premises with curved walls which makes life more difficult, and we have to bear in mind that it can get very busy in here during tourist season. We also get a lot of pushchairs and wheelchairs in here, so obviously there needs to be room to maneouvre up and down the shop and around the shelves.
2. We are not a specialist bookshop, we are a general second-hand bookshop. Our customers are mainly tourists wanting books for their holidays, and we try to stock a bit of everything so that there's something for everyone here. We can't cater to everyone's in-depth special interests, but there are all kinds of weird and wonderful odds and ends tucked away with the more common titles. Our stock turns over constantly so sometimes people find something, sometimes they don't.
3. The sign thing really made me cross. When a shop has a colourful retro 'Be Nice or Leave' sign tucked away behind the counter in a friendly environment with a smiling girl on the till, is it not obvious that it is a novelty item? Most of our customers smile, point it out to their friends, and idly wonder if they should buy one for their house. They don't walk out in a huff having taken grave offense.
4. The other sign actually said 'We don't offer trade discount or haggle so please don't ask' - note the 'please' which Mr Middleton has conveniently left out. It was actually a temporary sign on the counter edge during a book fair. Last year we had some extremely aggressive book dealers in the shop during that weekend, and it got very intimidating and quite upsetting for me having to keeping saying 'No' and trying to stay polite under that kind of embarrassing onslaught. The sign is now gone.
I sometimes wonder, you know? We price our books fairly and can't afford to haggle - does that warrant a negative review? We smile and greet every customer (those that deign to look at us, that is), and bend over backwards to help them with recommendations, with names they can't remember and authors on the tip of their tongue, with books for hard-to-please grandchildren and special orders of long-lost favourites. We chat about books and talk about what we've read and loved recently. We have sweets on the counter and a board full of my book reviews, recently-read book covers and book lists, and I always offer people a glass of water if they're not feeling well or have a tickly cough. We have customers who come back week after week, month after month, and bring us Christmas cards and shortbread and remember when we've reached our shop anniversary. Does that sound like the kind of shop that deserves an 'Enter at your peril!'? We've made this place as friendly and lovely as we possibly can - and yet this man felt the need to provide not one, but TWO bad comments which are our only ones on this website. I wouldn't visit here after reading that!
It's a good job I have somewhere to go and vent some of this stuff these days, I know I shouldn't be upset but if you're already having a bad day you do tend to just think "Well, screw you then, I'm going home!" Except you can't. *sighs*
Anyway, I think I'll go back to my reading now, that always cheers me up! I hate Bank Holidays...
P.S. In happier news, this morning after I read these comments, a very nice lady and her husband exclaimed what a beautiful shop we have here and how nicely it's all done out; I helped a shy little girl find a music book as she's just learning the piano and keyboard, and another customer spotted our 'Be Nice or Leave' sign, pointed it out to her husband and had a good chortle over it. So that was reassuring. :)
Waving across the Atlantic and shouting 'Happy New Year, Ellie".
I'd lost your thread last year but that was a long time ago so hope to keep up to date this year.
LOL, I want a 'Be Nice or Leave" sign over my front door!
I hope your year improves and your reviewers get nicer! Surely the site should allow a response by the shop owner.
I wonder if they do "Be Nice or Leave" as a banner I could hang over my office door...
See! THAT'S what you're supposed to say - not 'Hmmph, that's not very welcoming, is it?' Which, as I seem to recall, was what the gentlemen in question said when he pointed it out to his wife. Why is it always the unpleasant people with zero sense of humour who take to these websites to share their opinions? :(
Nasty reviewer, especially has he made no effort to actually engage you and learn about the shop. Not a nice way to start the year.
We, on the other hand, are always nice, never leave, and think highly of you and your shop. Just stick with us, kid - we're all for you.
Hey Elliekins! Just nabbing my spot in the corner for the New Year shenangins!
I've not got my thread up yet and I need to finish off things in last year's thread (I haven't come through on those lists yet :P)
See you sooooon!
Thank you! Yes, LibraryThing is a blessing and a relief compared to some of the folks around here. Though everyone seems to have been nice today (touch wood) - perhaps I've been subconsciously compensating for what he wrote by being extra sparkly!
Ellie, I think your bookshop sounds like heaven.
Unfortuantely these kind of grumpy nay-say-wellers lurk in every walk of life. Best you can do is smile sweetly at them, and become even more exageratedly polite (failing that, kick them in the shins and blow them a raspberry). It is annoying that he gets to be the only voice reviewing your shop though - couldn't you ask some of your nice, regular customers to put his moaning in perspective with a positive review? I have visited loads of places in recent times that have little notices saying things like "If you enjoyed your visit, why not rate us on...(insert name of review site here)". We even ate in a restaurant in Croatia once where the very theatrical proprietor boasted about what his rating was on trip advisor, and about how he was always charming and entertaining to his customers to make sure he maintained his high rating! (to be fair, it was because of the rating that we went there, so I guess he had a point!) So, how about another nice sign for your shop pointing customers in the direction of this site. I'm sure the positive reviews will soon be streaming in...
Happy New Year, Ellie! I hope I can stop by more often this year and see what you are up to. Sorry to hear about the idiot up above! What a jerk. Try to get over it, he's not worth it.
What Judy and everyone else said! Point me in the right direction and I will write about my experiences with your store, assuming that they will take info from customers who have only bought online.
I have visited many 2nd hand book shops here in the States. I would never think of haggling over a book. Even without asking I have gotten a little discount because I might have bought a certain number of books. Which is a pleasant surprise.
Hi Ellie! Try not to let that jerk bother you. Some people are just negative.
I've been to amazing resorts that I couldn't find a thing wrong with, but had horrible reviews online about the smallest things. There are just some people that don't want to be happy.
PS I want your sign for my back door! :)
Unfortunately, it seems like it is always the righteous, negative, judgmental types who take it upon themselves to write these reviews. I encourage all those LTers who have had the privilege to visit Ellie's shop to go to this site and write up their own reviews!
It is unfortunate that this gentleman chooses to post only negative comments about your bookshop, Ellie. But I hope visitors to the website will take note that he's the only one to have done so, and perhaps they will realize that he may not be a voice to take to heart.
I second Roni's suggestion and hope our LTers who've visited Ellie's shop to post their reviews and drown out the negativity of one mean old man.
Who has visited? There's Jess, Rachel, Fliss (who confessed afterwards that she didn't dare say hello!) and Michaela, I think. And my friend Lindsey on the blogosphere, but she's busy with her new baby at the moment...
Thanks for the support everyone, it really does mean such a lot on a bad day. Not that it's been an all-bad day, but having a very rough night last night feeling icky didn't get me off to the best start and I found the comments barely an hour into the day, so it did cloud everything in a bit! I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. My jaw literally fell open. I just wasn't expecting it, I guess. Even Mum looked gobsmacked, and she doesn't normally react to stuff like that.
Stasia - I think they would, depending what slant you use in your wording. I might take you up on that yet! :)
I think it might be time to crawl into bed with my book and try to get an early night. Tomorrow Mum and Graham are going to view a house in Bakewell, so I'll be on postman watch (my DVD of the first series of SHERLOCK should be arriving, wheeeee! Benedict Cumberbatch's sexy voice for four and a half hours! Plus a new laptop cord where Domino chewed through mine...), reading furiously, and eating pizza and chewy cookies. Possibly in bed. Oh yeaaaaaaaaaah. :)
I just ordered the first season of Sherlock as well, Ellie. If you're a commentary junkie like me, I believe Benedict does commentary as well. Huzzah!
I loved the first series of "Sherlock", too. It inspired me to read some actual Sherlock stories, but without Mr. Cumberbatch's ... something? ... they are falling a little flat. :)
I'd love to put up one of those 'Be nice or leave' signs in my church, Ellie. There is sadly a proportion of the population who don't seem to know how to be anything other than negative, carping, critical and unpleasant. And if you are anything like me, you will take one negative comment to heart much more readily than 20 positive encounters. I think the suggestions to get regular (satisfied) customer and/or LT friends who have visited to post their affirming comments are worth pursuing.
I'm looking forward to watching the second series of Sherlock...
Hooray for the Sherlock fans! And a WHOLE EXTRA CUMBERBATCH COMMENTARY? Marvellous. I'll just make a cup of tea and listen with my eyes closed. Sadly the DVD didn't arrive in the post this morning (DAMN YOU, ROYAL MAIL! You were quicker than this BEFORE Christmas!)... However, Casablanca is on this afternoon and I've never seen it before, so that might be on the cards instead.
Genny - YES! I do that. I think we all do, really, take the bad stuff to heart and forget the good. Like I said, it was just a nasty surprise, and being the only comments there, there was nothing nice to temper it for us OR for anyone else reading the website. I don't feel quite so badly about it this morning, so I'll just wait to see what the website manager has to say, and whether my/anyone else's comments appear during the day today. I think they have to be moderated first so I'm guessing they wouldn't have been sorted over yesterday's Bank Holiday. If needs be we'll just pull the lot - we appear in plenty of other places without that kind of aggressive unpleasantness, so it's no skin off our nose to lose one listing!
Got you starred for 2012! Sorry about the nasty comments. I'll go spit on him!
Ummmm... okay. Could you maybe make it look like it was a passing whim and nothing to do with me though?
I got an email back from the dude at the website who has moderated and posted my comments back (run together so they sound a bit harsher than anticipated - it's hard NOT to sound a bit arsey in 40 words per comment, but oh well, it was hardly unprovoked!) and two new lovely ones.
One from a mystery Emma Brown, and one from Jess (thanks Jess!)... I feel much better now that I've called him out (with a polite response and a suggestion that he speaks to us if he has any concerns - I didn't add "Instead of complaining about what's on the desk, behind the desk and near the desk without ever making eye contact with the person ON the desk") and there are some balancing comments to perhaps persuade readers that we're not going to kill anyone who crosses the threshold.
So that's nice. :)
Now, having wasted about six hours on LT today (how on earth did it become 2pm already?) perhaps I should go read an actual book now... *sighs happily*
#30> I saw your blog post and couldn't believe someone would be that petty! Much as I love my favourite second hand bookshop, it is so incredibly crammed with stuff that getting around it with a wheelchair or pushchair would be impossible. It's not that easy when you're on a walking cane. I appreciate shops that think that kind of thing through when they're designing it and your shop always sounds so lovely. Wonder whether I can work in a Bakewell trip when I'm in England next?
Hope 2012 improves and you get some fairer reviews on that site!
Hi Ellie, delurking to say hiss and boo to the cranky customer who posted nasty things about your bookshop. I would never in a million years stoop to something like that, but it does make me want to follow through with my good intentions to publicly compliment good service and pleasant surroundings in the retail world. I have a favorite used bookstore in town that has a website. I think I'll go over there right now and post about why I feel so welcome there.
Well, I just wanted to chime in with everyone else in saying that I hope anyone who's bought from your shop online can leave a comment and begin to balance things out... people who are unhappy are always quicker to complain than happy people are to leave praise, which is all the pity. If I ever get to England and manage to trek to your neck of the woods, I promise to stop in, buy something, and leave a lovely review. :D
Ellie, maybe you need to get Bernard Black to go 'round and have a word with this chap.
It sounds like your shop is a lovely place and I wish I could visit. I ran my own new and used bookshop for ten years and the pleasant exchanges I had with customers far outnumbered the unpleasant. Still, the world of retail bookselling seems to invite these occasional cranks and there's nothing much you can do about that. The question that always used to drive me up a wall was, "Is this the best you can do on this?" To which I always wanted to reply (and, I confess, actually did on one or two occasions), "No, I could take it to a book fair at double the price and I'm reasonably sure it would go, but I'm willing to sell it to you today for what I've got on it." Having said that, I do think a policy of some uniform discount to the trade is a good idea. I know I always appreciated it when I would visit other stores and was happy to extend it to other dealers when they would take the time to browse my shelves. 10% was the minimum back in my day (1980's) and many dealers would offer as high as 20%. I found it was also a nice way of breaking the ice and helped with networking, too. It's often good fun chatting with other booksellers and, every now and again, I'd learn something really useful.
Ha, yes, that's exactly right about the "Is that the best you can do on this?" question. It's one of my least favourite things to hear coming out of a customer's mouth (behind 'Fire!', 'I've never read a book', 'Didn't this used to be a charity shop?' and belching). I kinda think, well, do you think I'm getting rich off the back of this £2.00 paperback? Perhaps you reckon I throw a dart at a board to pick my prices so we can always go up or down a bit to suit customer whims? Morons. If I ever catch the TV lifestyle gurus who tell people to ask this question in every shop, I'll definitely be going all Bernard Black on their asses!
My problem with people asking for 'trade discount' is that they barely ever offer any kind of convincing evidence that they are actually in the book trade (besides insufferable condescension, that is - which isn't exactly conducive to getting money off). In fact, some of them are so unlikely that I occasionally even wonder if it's another trick they've learned off the telly. Perhaps I'm biased because I wouldn't do it in another store. I'd probably chat about my bookshop, sure, but I wouldn't expect to be entitled to money off because of it. They've got to make a living too, and I love browsing bookshops and buying books anyway. If they said, "Oh, we'll give you a trade discount" I'd be delighted, of course, but I would die of embarrassment if I had to ask and put them in an awkward position.
I DO discount, but on a more discretionary basis. The guy that came in and chatted for ages about his job as a buyer at another local bookshop got a discount, because he was pleasant. Our most regular customers, who are often quite elderly or very young, often get a little knocked off here and there. If someone has donated books in the past I'll often slip one of their books in without charging them for it. If someone's scrabbling for change and doesn't have quite enough, I'll usually let it go. But the old-skool 'I'm in the trade' types who look down their nose, make assumptions because there's a young woman behind the counter, rudely interrupt other customers at the desk (it happens!), complain about everything and then have the nerve to demand special treatment regardless - well, they usually get short shrift I'm afraid... ;)
Ooops, sorry. Pet subject. :P
Anyways, what I ACTUALLY came here to say was that I've reviewed one of last year's remaining two books at last! It's over at my last thread, here, and on the product page for Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery...
I am shocked, shocked that you have not seen Casablanca! *shakes finger at Ellie*
Ooops, just seen more comments up there:
AG - Exactly! We deliberately keep wheelchair and pushchair access in mind when we're deciding where to place new stock and displays, and when it's busy even that's not enough space really. And people with walking sticks and crutches really appreciate a decent, unobstructed aisle.
Donna - Oh yes, do! An unexpected vicious comment is so destructive, but an unexpected nice comment can make someone's day! Particularly in things like retail where nobody usually bothers to notice. :)
Faith - Oh, absolutely. You just KNOW that there are people out there who delight in working themselves into a bad mood, going out, mentally noting everything they don't like about a place, then coming back and finding somewhere on the internet where they can WRITE about it. In the old days they'd have to complain to the store if they felt strongly about something, but now they can do it so easily from behind a screen. I doubt he considered the possibility that we'd find it. His wife probably didn't help - y'know, lady of a certain age, she hadn't seen any of the things he was chuntering about, but was absolutely outraged when he told her about them on the way out of the door...
Come on LT-ers, restore my faith in the book-buying community and get your little butts over to England, pronto! :)
Micky - I, er, didn't end up watching it. *ducks* I still want to, honest, I was just caught up writing a review and eating pizza and, er, playing on Twitter. I'm meant to be reading a review book right now and where I am? Here again. ;)
#59> I haven't seen Casablanca either, don't fret. It's one of those ones that I keep thinking I *should* watch and then...sort of...don't.
I've never understood the logic of people in the trade who come into stores and ask for trade discounts. After all, they're likely to be buying for their own stores and therefore selling for some sort of a profit, right? So if that's the case, why should they be entitled to pay less than the ticketed amount, when they're going to sell it for as much as they think they can get at their store .. which will be higher than what they paid for anyway? This sort of entitlement makes no sense to me.... but then I'm not in the trade so what do I know, eh?
>59, 60, 61 Shame, shame, shame. I can only imagine how sad your lives are without having encountered Rick and Ilsa.
Miss Eleanor Potten! You MAY NOT breathe another Casablanca-less breath! It's too perfect a story, too much a romantic paradigm of missed opportunities and hard choices and adult sacrifices and, over it all, a bittersweet and melancholy certainty that love does *not* conquer all! *sigh*
Ah, Casablanca. I watched it many a time on my grandfather's Laserdisc player. Ellie, I'm joining Micky and Richard in saying that you must watch. Go, walk into that famous Gin joint and watch the classic story unfold :)
I love Casablanca! I am a huge Humphrey Bogart fan and in that movie, he is to die for!
Get thee hither and watch it!
Hi Ellie! Haven't written anything on this thread yet, so just de-lurking to let you know I am here. ; ) Mean, ol', crabby man writing mean things about Ellie and her bookshop...for shame!
Re: "I'll go spit on him."
This is a silly thing my husband and I say when someone has done something wrong to the other person. It's said in a little kid voice and not to be taken seriously. :)
What a meanie - I'm sure you have a wonderful shop and kudos to you for thinking about accessibility. I hope you just have charming and delightful customers today.
(Perhaps this is not the time to admit that I've never seen Casablanca either?)
On another topic, I wish you many pleasant customers today, Ellie!
Since Berly came clean about lurking here, I've come forward as well! Sorry to hear about that complainer, Ellie. Why some people get pleasure out of being nasty I'll never understand!
>70 Mary, you're forgiven, since you're like, what, twelve or something? ELLIE is old enough to have made it into the Old Movie Boneyard to pick up a classic or two.
>73 LOL I'm 12 huh? I don't even know how to respond to that. :)
Not to sidetrack Ellie's thread or anything, but Richard, did I ever tell you that the day I brought wine to your birthday party was the first (and only) time I haven't been carded? I bought it at a local shop at about 9AM, the lady who rang it up didn't blink, and ended the transaction with, "Have a nice day! And why wouldn't you?"
>62 Caro YES! The buyer at the other local bookshop - the nice one I mentioned who chatted for ages about his work and all kinds of different books - was clearly buying books for himself, and obviously loved reading, so I was quite happy to give him a discount. But some of the aggressive old-skool dealers who come sniffing around for stuff to sell on - at our loss - remind me more of the cheeky sods at car boot sales who start rummaging through the back of your car for bargains before you've even got your table out, looking for things to sell on at their own stall.
Knowing that Mum and I are booksellers in a difficult bookish AND economic climate, paying sky-high rents and rates and bills, making a teeny tiny profit that pays us far under minimum wage - why would I then walk into someone else's shop, in the same business and the same economic climate, and assume that THEY could afford to give me a discount 'just because'?
>68 Morphy - Um, yeah, I knew that! *quickly hides spittoon under the sink*
All Casablanca fans - I'll go wishlist it now, so I don't forget that I've been commanded to watch it... :)
All de-lurkers - AAAARGH! Don't all emerge from the darkness with your ninja swords at once, you could scare a girl witless! Just kidding... I think...
I just posted my LAST REVIEW OF 2011 (thank heavens) over at Ye Olde Thread. Click here or onto the book's page if you wanna read it - it's for Direct Red: A Surgeon's Story, which was beautiful and gruesome and heartbreaking and made me a little bit less scared at the prospect of ever having an operation. Which is good.
I was a "late bloomer" for watching Casablanca, too. I saw it last year for the first time. It was surprisingly enjoyable. It aged well.
I haven't really watched many movies since I moved back into the main house for winter - I'm always convinced someone's going to wander in at a rude bit/just as I burst into tears and ruin it for me.
I DID watch 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry' the other night, and LOVED it. Very amusing, very pointed, unexpectedly sweet at heart, and it's the first film ever where I've quite fancied a bit of Adam Sandler...
Now, scuse me, the second Virals novel came out today and I haven't REVIEWED the first one or FINISHED the second one, so I'd better get readin'... I would probably have done more yesterday but we got an unexpected call at 11am to say that someone wanted a house viewing at 2pm, so we had to spend three hours doing an intense clean-and-tidy-round of the whole house. Mum didn't have time to eat until after they'd left (she hadn't eaten breakfast either), and I had a banging headache by the end of it. AND their young daughter (strange, sweet or annoying? Not sure) thought she was on holiday and latched onto me, peering at me from behind my bed, lying on my bedroom floor, and grabbing my hand in excitement when Millie arrived, miaowing, from outside in the rain. Hmmmmm. Back to work today!
Hi Ellie--It has always been my experience that when showing our house, we have to clear out, go wander the streets etc, until an appointed time or we get an all-clear call. Very disruptive. Course there has always been a real estate agent representing us. Hope you get some nibbles (offers) on your house. If I had to keep my house clean right now, it being filled with messy teenagers, it would be quite a task!! Shudder.
I just watched 'Chuck and Larry not too long ago and liked it as wel. Can't say it made me fancy Adam Sandler though... :P I also just watched Punch Drunk Love...well, I didn't fancy him in that one either but I did relate with the character, of course. :D
But Stephen, did you fancy Jessica Biel instead? I'm not normally a huge fan but I quite liked her in this one. And the moment when Adam Sandler punched the godfreaky protester... I may have hissed 'YESSSSSS!' at that part. Maybe punched the air a little bit, even. :)
Berly - We've always showed the house ourselves in the past - and we only just put the house on the market again so this was a bit of an unexpected visit. But now we've got the shop (and my stepdad would be worse than useless if it was left to him, eeek) Mum's called the estate agent to come on Tuesday and look round, so SHE can handle viewings in future. We'll either be at work anyway, or we can ship out to the local retail outlet for a wander round and a coffee or something. I'm not 100% sure about it, just because of the cats at home, and because you can guarantee one of them would go in the litter tray or bring in a mouse or something just as we left, PLUS that little girl would probably have had a whale of a time in my room if I hadn't been there... *sighs* It's been such a long time since we've had people looking round our house, it just feels weird!
Now, got a review to write... back soon!
Hi Ellie- Yes, please watch Casablanca! It's easily one the great films. Richard's description is perfect! Have a good weekend!
Hi Mark! It's on my wishlist as we speak... Working as always this weekend, and wondering how busy it's going to be. Now the post-festivity Bank Holidays are over it's pretty quiet around here, but we're never quite sure what to expect come Saturday!
Hooray, a review! I've written two since 2012 began but they've both been from last year's reading so they're over on my 2011 thread, oops. Now I'm caught up, here's my REAL first review of the year:
1) Virals by Kathy Reichs (4*)
I've never read Kathy Reichs before, but I was intrigued by the premise of this new series for young adults. It is about four science-geek teenagers living on Morris Island, a tiny community in the middle of nowhere. Their parents work for the local university's research institute on nearby Loggerhead Island. The teens are brilliantly drawn characters - funny science buff Hiram, mousy Shelton, tall, dark and silent Ben, and the lone girl, Tory Brennan. The solid relationships and playful humour between these four is a joy to read, and provides a firm base for the rest of the story.
As you would expect from Kathy Reichs, forensics are at the forefront of the plot (Reichs readers will recognise Tory's surname - forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is her aunt). When the teens find an old military dog tag in the woods on Loggerhead Island, their curiosity is piqued and they are determined to return it to its rightful owner. When they break into the Institute to use the scientific equipment to clean the tag, they also end up rescuing a wolfdog puppy from an illegal experimental lab (as you do), and in doing so contract a new strain of parvovirus that wires canine DNA into their own. Before they know it, they are having to learn about their new capabilities, find out who's behind the illegal experiment, work out the connection between the dog tag and a long-cold missing person case, AND evade the dangerous armed men now hot on their heels.
It's not as complicated as it sounds, honest. It's certainly a complex and involved novel, as you would expect from a mistress of crime thriller writing, but as all the threads come together everything makes perfect sense... Reichs kept me guessing to the last - though I had a few suspicions, of course - and I was thoroughly absorbed in the teenagers' search for the truth even as they struggled with their new wolfy traits. The sharpness and humour of the dialogue and Tory's narrative voice kept everything grounded, but there were still some genuinely shocking moments too. An intelligent and gripping start to the series - I'm reading the second novel, Seizure, right now and it's looking to be just as good, if not better!
#82: Nice review, Ellie. I did not realize that there was a second book out. I will have to check and see if my local library has a copy yet.
Nice review Ellie! I enjoyed that one and I have Seizure waiting to be read sometime soon
If you like those you should try her Temperance Brennan series, I quite like it!
Hi Stasia! It only came out yesterday here in England, but I'm guessing it's been out a while over there... The second one has PIRATE HISTORY in it which is pretty cool. The teens are trying to find the rumoured treasure of feisty lady pirate Anne Bonny... *gets visions of Jack Sparrow standing at a ship's wheel singing 'Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me'*
Chelle - I only twigged yesterday that the Temperance Brennan the book/cover mentions so significantly is actually the forensics expert in Reichs' adult crime novels... Ooooops. I'm already planning to check 'em out, hooray!
Nice review! I was debating that one when I saw it in HPB. Guess I made the wrong decision to put it back on the shelf *le sigh
Hi Katie! I really liked it... Some people not so much I think, and a few poor souls seem to have picked it up for the Reichs name and not actually read the blurb at all, oops. I'm thinking they were probably a bit surprised when the kids got powers! :)
#85: I found out that my local library does indeed have the book, so I have already put it on hold. Thanks again for the heads up, Ellie.
80: Hmmm, I don't really know...I mean, I don't exactly fancy celebrity women often. Too much makeup and facial annihilation (I mean plastic surgery and botox) for me. Now if they play a nerdy character in a movie then maybe I'll like them for that 90 minutes or so. :D
*Thumbed* your first review of the year, Ellie! :)
Three li'l words, Stasia: Mwa. Ha. Ha. :P
Stephen - Does her sweetheart of a lawyer not count as a nerdy character, then? And muchas gracias for the thumb (*wiggles her own to demonstrate*), it's always nice to start the year off well!
Just had to send the review to Random House with a grovelling email apologising for the fact that I'm just now reviewing it even though they sent it me in 2010... Tried to slant it in the direction that I'm stirring up interest in the series amongst newcomers, AND then moving straight onto book 2 to whet the appetite of existing VIRALS converts. Hope they buy it. ;)
Sadly, the Kathy Reichs' books are not available as e-books at the library, so it's on to the wishlist for Virals.
#87> I read the blurb so I knew what I was getting into, but for some reason just didn't enjoy it :-( I vastly prefer her Temperance Brennan books and I think that I might have been reading Virals with an overly-critical brain or something. I probably won't be reading Seizure, although I am glad to find that there are plenty of people out there who are enjoying the books!
92: Well, she was cute when she had glasses on... *Sigh* I know, I'm such a putz. :P
>94 - Ah, well, not every book will strike a hit with every reader! I'll definitely be trying the Temperance Brennan novels though, I'll go wishlist the first one so I don't forget...
>95 - Tee hee, I knew it! That you'd like her, not that you were a putz - we've known that for ages. :P
I'd anticipated getting a chunk of Seizure read this afternoon - I've been taking inspiration from the book prize judges who can successfully read about 150 books in a few short months (put your hand down, Stasia, we already know you can read loads more than that!) - but I'd forgotten that the more challenges you join on LT and the blogosphere, the more places you have to go post about each book when you're done! Added Virals to my Books Off The Shelf and my 12 in 12 threads now, so I can actually read for a bit!
I will not be reading 150 books any time soon, Ellie. I start school Wednesday.
Oh, yes, I'd forgotten about that! (*makes mental note to try to use this time to catch up a bit*) What are you going to be doing?
Oooooh... Does this mean you'll be able to glare at Stephen over your glasses even more convincingly than before? Good luck with orientation! :)
>74 LOLOL That's PRICELESS!
Well, love, you look very young to an oldster like me...I found myself referring to Alexander Skarsgard, 35 this year, as a "nice young man."
Ellie, I posted the links to your birth songs in my thread. That's originally what I came to tell you. xo
Oh sure... It wasn't just that you felt like leaving little old me a nice shirtless man to look at, then? Though seriously, Ricardo, of all the photos of AS splashed around the Interwebs, you chose the one that makes him look like a lager lout on a Saturday night down the pub?!
Just stopping in to say hello...
I would hate having to have strangers in my house.. necessary evil though.
When Amy was showing her house, she had to toss her two largish dogs in the car and drive around..
awful! I hope it all gets sorted soon..
>102 But snookiepie sweetiedarling, I suspect the man IS a lager lout...you see the stories about him.
>104 Oh yeaaaahhhh!
I was intrigued by your review of Virals, so I looked it up in my library catalogue and it said it was in stock. Amazingly, I found it on the shelf in the right place (unusual for my library) so I snaffled it. So there you are, you are converting newcomers :-) I think I'm ready for a break from my Dickens novel, and it certainly seems different enough!
Hi Kath! Maybe that was us in at the deep end, and we'll have more couples and/or well-behaved older children in next time. This one was just a tad... inquisitive. >:(
Chelle - Behave yourself!
Richard - Behave yourself!
Susan - It's a sweet miracle when you actually find a book in the right place on your library shelf, right when you want to read it. Same reason I snaffled Pigeon English and The Sisters' Brothers last time I went to the library - I couldn't believe they were actually there! And yes, very different from Dickens, which is probably exactly what you want from a break. :)
Hmmm, Pigeon English was also supposed to be there tonight, but there was no sign of it. At my library, for a book by Stephen Kelman, you would have to search STE, KEL and PIG at the very minimum. But I now realise I should probably have looked in the non-fiction, under birds. I'm going to another branch tomorrow, which tends not to be such a jumble sale, so I have my fingers crossed that I'll find it there!
>101 Wow.... He looks young to me (though, for the record, he is not younger than me).
Well, unlike Chelle, I'm just gonna come right out and say, "I won't."
Susan - Oh dear! Jumble sale sounds about right! I usually give up after a while and just buy the book. I bought The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy because they were never on the library shelves where they were meant to be! Hope you have better luck next time...
Richard/Stasia/Chelle - *sigh* Well, I can't say I didn't try! Shall I repost what I left over Micky's thread, since we're evidently all in a lustful mood anyway? I was vowing to finally get to Downton Abbey sometime soon:
Partially because Maggie Smith is cool beans. Partially because the delectable Dan Stevens (of The Line of Beauty/Sense and Sensibility/occasional guest hosting of Have I Got News For You fame) is also one of the Man Booker 2012 judges, which is fairly awesome. Yes, he is a Very Posh Literary Bloke Who Went to Cambridge AND he looks like this:
Why are there not more bookish men like this around England? Like, say, in the Bakewell area?
*Starts singing... "where have all the good men gone?"*
I'd really hoped at least a couple might have tripped through our door since we opened the bookshop, but no such luck! All the younger ones are either married or travelling from, say, Australia - and everyone else is a little out of my target age, to say the least!
I think I will just hang on to my guy. He is just right for me. . .
And his are very, very blue. I know, when I watched The Line of Beauty ALL THOSE YEARS AGO it was the first thing I noticed. :)
Ooh, I've always fancied him and didn't ever bother to look up his name. (Craziness, I know!) Thanks for the info and the pic, Ellie! Makes having to leave for work a little easier with that lovely image in my head. And who would've thought he was such a literary guy too? Even better.
Hope you are having a good Saturday at the shop, m'dear!
I just read The Line of Beauty, and I didn't know there was a movie/TV version. I wonder if it's available here in the U.S.?
Dan Stevens a MAN Booker judge?! That's like having James Franco on the National Book Awards panel!
He *WRITES* books and is getting his PhD in English Lit. *swoon*
Holy cow that is one fantabulous picture of Dan Stevens! *wipes drool off face* Ellie if you don't watch Downton soon I will be very displeased, Jess is starting on it soon and I think Matthew Crawley is someone every female needs to meet :P
P.S my thread is finally up!
I'll order Downton Abbey next time I need anything from Amazon, I swearz! Which might be soon, because I'm feeling this compulsive need to get myself copies of any of 2011's biggest books that I missed, and the rest of the Man Booker shortlist, AND a few new titles that are finally out in paperback... *sighs in resignation* Better get reading, Mum'll KILL me if I don't have a few books to return this time! >:(
Wow, you got all the LT ladies riled up with those pictures, Ellie. Ummmm, I'm starting to wonder if it's safe for me to post around here... I don't suppose there's somewhere I can hide...just in case!? :o
Stephen - There, there, sweetie... *subtly moves to conceal the horde of LT ladies slowly advancing in Stephen's direction*... There's nothing to worry about...
#126 - I don't know about the others - as far as I know The Line of Beauty is the only one that's been filmed so far. The details are here. I've not read that one yet, but I adored The Swimming-Pool Library when I read it a few years ago.
And now, to Sherlock. The racy new A Scandal in Belgravia was last week's installment (and yes, I did rewatch it on BBC3 last night) and tonight it's the turn of The Hounds of Baskerville. I love it! That voice! That hair! That dazzling intellect! Oh yes... *fangirling*
And did I mentioned he was WEARING A SHEET?!
Watson: Are you wearing any pants?
This is where my mum would say, "Ellie - you need a boyfriend."
Happy Sunday everyone! ;)
For us it's best that you don't have one. He would eat at your LT-time ;)
I am old guard when it comes to Sherlock Holmes. I cannot like the new tv series putting Sherlock in modern times .. i just can't wrap my head about that one.
But I will give a rousing Hooray for Dan Stevens! What a delicious morsel he is. I had forgotten he was in Sense & Sensibility till you reminded me, Ellie. *melting sigh* My husband had just walked into the room when I was gazing at the picture you posted of Dan Stevens and asked if he grew out his hair so it flopped at the sides, if I'd gaze meltingly at him too. He does already have the blue eyes and half the beard (not having shaved for 2 days). I managed to murmur something appropriate because he just smiled and walked away, munching on a brownie.
#129 - Yup! Plus he probably wouldn't like me lusting over quite so many other men...
#130 Stephen - Yes, I am! Finally! I got it out of the library last year too but never got chance to read it, and no one's taken it out in the intervening year. I figured it was time to show it some love. :(
#131 Caro - I thought I'd feel the same way, but I don't. It's done with so much intelligence and affection, and it doesn't really trample on the toes of the originals either. On the subject of S&S, I definitely liked Dan the Man's Edward Ferrars - much more jovial and lovely than Hugh Grant's! For the first time that adaptation made me torn between Brandon and Edward... :)
no one's taken it out in the intervening year. I figured it was time to show it some love.
I wish this logic applied to people! :P
#132 I totally agree with you on the Sherlock series. And I'm in love with Watson. (Don't tell Jim).
hi there! i'm doing the 75 challenge for the first time this year (i've done others in past years), and i thought i'd drop in an say i was following your thread. i think we might have similar reading tastes (and it's already interesting hearing your bookseller stories), so it should be fun. happy reading!
Oh, so glad I popped in for a looksie!! Nice review, nice man pictures...a very satisfying visit. Keep it up!
Skimming all the Sherlock stuff, Ellie as I'm trying to stay spoiler free until I actually get a chance to watch them. But I'm glad to see it's good things. :)
>133 - There, there... *pat pat* You know you'd only have a heart attack if anyone tried... :P
>134 - "Jim! JIIIIIIIMMMMM!!!! You'll never guess what!" Just kidding...
>135 - Welcome to the 75-ers Leah! It's always fun to find someone with similar reading tastes so you can stalk their threads for more recommendations... :)
>136 - Hi Berly! I was going to try to find a good pic of Matthew Rhys to add to the collection, after I was reminded of how much I like HIM during Edwin Drood last night... but I can't find one that really does him justice... Must. Try. Harder.
>137 - Come on, just a teeny peek at the half-naked man... one teeny, tiny peek... *gives up* Damnit woman, you're too hard to crack! You'll just have to come back AFTER you've watched it, k?
Just trying to write a review right now, and it ain't happening. I finished Seizure last night but there's just so much to DO! A book journal to get organized! New books to catalogue! New blog challengees to visit! A review to write! A review book to read! The estate agent coming for a look round this afternoon! My grandmother arriving! A movie to catch up on!
Yesterday I didn't get much done either, because I had my dreaded dentist appointment in the middle of the day, then we went to view a house in the afternoon, then I got swept up online and wasted a few more hours. Again. *sighs* Better get cracking, I suppose!
Just catching up.. sort of.. as some of the books and men are mysteries to me.. :)
Ah, but you can still look, right?
Now, my review! The estate agent has just finished looking round, I've wasted a LOT of time on YouTube (oops) and my dad's dropped off a load of books from his friend, but the review (however short) is finally DONE!
2) Seizure by Kathy Reichs (4*)
I think Virals is rapidly shaping up to be one of my favourite YA series to date. This second installment - which takes place about four months after the first - takes the firm foundation Reichs laid down in Virals and builds a wonderfully exciting new adventure smack on top of it.
The Viral pack - Tory, Shelton, Hi, Ben and their wolfdog Coop - are still attempting to figure out their new abilities when they get shocking news. Their beloved Loggerhead Island, home of the LIRI institute and a beautiful nature reserve, is to be sold off as the university budget is squeezed. Faced with the prospect of her friends being split apart and moved across the continent, Tory clutches wildly at the local legend of Anne Bonny. A fearsome flame-haired lady pirate, Bonny is rumoured to have buried her treasure somewhere in the area. Would it be enough to save Loggerhead? Can she persuade the pack that this isn't just a wild goose chase? And can they solve the mystery in time to stop the sale of the island - and before anyone else finds out what they're up to?
I loved this book. I found the relationships between the four human Virals absolutely spot-on for a group of teenagers - the idle banter, Hi's teasing wit, the slight attraction between Tory and Ben that simmers away gently - and enjoyed the continued exploration of the new pack bond that cements them together. It's great to have four such distinct and resourceful characters to root for, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and quirky idiosyncracies. The plot has a real Indiana Jones/Pirates of the Caribbean feel to it this time, with riddles to solve, a trail to follow, and a genuinely nail-biting underground set-piece that had me glued breathlessly to the pages for well over an hour. Like last time, there are dangerous people hot on the pack's heels, and in true crime thriller style Reichs throws out plenty of red herrings to stop the reader working everything out too quickly. I sincerely hope there's more still to come for the Virals - roll on book three!
Wow, this place is a tomb... Sorry guys, I can't believe it's been TEN DAYS since I last checked in!
I haven't actually been reading at all for the last week or so, which doesn't help. I got partway through a review book and a library book and just... stalled. I've been spending my days sorting emails, watching Queer as Folk on DVD (the UK version, thank you very much) and scoping out loads of new music on YouTube for my next iTunes binge. Which needs to happen SOON so I've got some decent car music, because...
I'm going to Liverpool! Only for one night, but I'm going! We'll drive across on Tuesday afternoon, pick my sister up from uni, have dinner out somewhere, then we have a family room booked at a hotel so we can all stay together. The next day we'll do a little sightseeing/shopping then come home again after lunch. Scary but kinda cool! Plus I'm looking into finally getting those driving lessons I've needed for so long, so that I can get some independence again. AND I'm starting to think 'saving up for a flat somewhere nearer a city one day, in the next ten years, and please let there be under-60s there, k thx'.
AND I'm waiting to find out if Adam Lambert's going on tour again because I've seen some of his Glam Nation Live tour online, and DAMN he's good! It'll mean travelling at least a couple of hours or so, or even down to London, so I need to get myself a bit more comfortable now. His voice is amazing, and, well, his guitarist is just gorgeous...
Pretty, isn't he? ;)
So, that's what I've been doing! Sorry it's not more bookish or generally interesting, but hey, it's January, what can you do? :)
Are you kidding? it is very interesting!
Liverpool! so great! Hope you have a wonderful time...
take pictures and make people take pics of you.. then post them.. 'kay?
Ditto what Kath said, Ellie.
Definitely want pics. And who knows, maybe you'll find some interesting books while you're there to buy for the shop. :-)
Have fun, Ellie! Pics are a must, definitely.
Hurray for driving lessons too. Ah, how nice it was when I first got my license...of course, not having a social life, I didn't really take advantage of it, but it was still really nice.
Now I just bicker about gas prices all the time... :P
Ellie enjoy your thread and just wanted to say so. Your posting has fallen off in the last few weeks...a case of life getting in the way I guess.
I hope you went through with the Liverpool trip and had/are having a great time, Ellie! *Smooch*
Hi everyone! Yes, I went to Liverpool - there's a couple of photos over at the blog but I've got loads more still on my camera! I had my first Nando's, and we walked around town, and watched America's Sweethearts together that night (I love Billy Crystal!), then the next day we went shopping (not a single book in sight, all clothes and jewellery and cute house stuff for when we move) and had a fried breakfast and had tea and scones at a cafe, then came home by teatime! And it was a revelation, because I enjoyed every minute of it. No frightening moments, no being overwhelmed by the people and the huge buildings, no being afraid to eat out, nothing. It made me even more determined to start getting back into cities more often, because beautiful though Bakewell might be, it's just not a good place to be 25. It's time to start looking forward again - once we've worked the next three years of our lease at the shop, who knows what I could do after that?
Anyway, today I finally finished a book! I sat down this morning and just READ, for the first time in about three weeks, and finished The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Review to come! I've also been listening to all my new music, watching telly, stalking Twitter (lots of political stuff going on at the moment)... Maybe finishing a book will ease me back out of my reading slump (though I'm a little hesitant to call it that this time, actually, because it's less a case of 'wanting to read but can't', more a case of 'lots of other things I'd rather be doing'...). Watch This Space!
Hurray! I'm super excited for you, Ellie, you're an inspiration. *Heads off in a whirlwind towards the blog(s)*
Fantastic news about your Liverpool trip! How good to know you enjoyed the whole experience without any problems - and if you can do it once, you can do it again... The future is yours!
Well done on finishing a book too - I guess if there are other things that you'd rather be doing, then that's fine, just do the things you want to be doing. When that includes reading a book, here's the place to tell us all about it.
That is so exciting, Ellie! I'm so glad that you had such a wonderful time and didn't have any problems with anxiety or being overwhelmed. It's wonderful when you are finally able to start enjoying things like that without worries or 'what ifs' going through your head :-D
Stephen - Whoah, steady there, you don't want to be crashing into anything! Though there IS a photo of me in a hat, which is unusual. :)
Hi Genny! It was fantastic, it really was - and it just proved to me how far I've come, and that I don't need to keep pushing quite so much now because I'm not sliding backwards... It feels good to have finished a book at last! I don't think it would bother me in the slightest if it wasn't for the blog and the review books I've been sent. Before I had the blog, if I wanted to sit and watch a DVD box set every evening or turn my music up and play online for hours at a time, it didn't matter, but now I start feeling guilty if I'm not reading 'enough'. It's good to remind myself sometimes that all of these feelings and deadlines are self-imposed, and that the world won't come to an end because I haven't been reading that week! :)
AG - Absolutely! It's a bit like waking up one morning after a days-long headache and not having one. You feel so pleased, then you completely forget about it, and at some point later in the day you suddenly stop and think 'Huh! I haven't had to worry about it once!' Okay, that's a bad analogy - it's just good to feel normal and free again!
Yesss...I sawww the piiicture... I think I'm st-st-still suffering the side-effects. *Slowly walks out of Ellie's thread in a slight daze with a pleasant smile on his face*
Glad you had fun in Liverpool, Ellie. And I look forward to your review of Statistical Probability. It's already hanging out on the TBR list after I read a review over on Forever Young Adult (and have I pimped FYA to you before? I can't remember. I think you'd like it. Although I'm sure you have tons of blogs you follow already...) but I'll be interested to see what you think. Hope your week is going well!
Hi Ellie! off to visit your wonderful blog! I somehow stopped getting notices when you post :(
I kind of got stuck up there at message 101. I just couldn't take my eyes off that picture. Thanks for sharing richard!!
Some interesting things happening in here as usual. Happy reading!!
3) The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (4*)
The concept behind this sweet little novel was pretty irresistable. It is about one American girl, one English boy, and the coincidences that throw them together at a New York airport, changing both their lives. Hadley is four minutes late for the plane that was due to take her to London to watch her father marry a woman she has never met. But when she meets Oliver - who is waiting for the next plane to London for a family gathering of his own - she realises that this day might not be so awful after all.
This is a really lovely little debut - the kind of concentrated whirlwind of activity that would make a great movie, in fact. Neither Oliver nor Hadley have a massive amount of depth - as you might expect from a novel with a 24-hour time frame, I suppose - but they are both witty and sparky characters and the the culture clash and gentle teasing between them is quite amusing. Their romance is the stuff daydreams are made of, but happily it never veers into cliche and Smith keeps her plot firmly on the right side of plausible.
One of the most interesting and surprising aspects of the novel, for me at least, is how much it focusses on Hadley's family issues. This isn't just a whimsical story about finding your soulmate in an unlikely place; it is also a very insightful look at what happens to a child when a family breaks down. How does it feel when that child finds out that their parents are splitting up? How does it feel the day one parent moves out of the home, taking their familiar belongings and their physical presence away? How does it feel as those parents move on with their lives? And what happens when issues of any kind go unresolved between a parent and child for too long? It was surprisingly moving to read, and emotionally spot-on.
All in all, I really liked this book. It is a quick and easy read, but one that delves quite firmly into the mechanics of family life and relationships, as well as a supplying a screen-worthy romance that made me sigh happily as I finished the last page. I'll be keeping an eye out for Smith's next novel, out next year!
Thumbed your review, Ellie. That one's already on the list, otherwise I'd add it. :)
Glad to see a good review of Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. I was already intrigued by it, plus I just found the author went to my college, so I definitely want to read it sometime soon. :)
Ellie! How odd I read SPoLaFS on the train home last weekend after Jess basically forced me to buy it, but it left me with such a sappy grin on my face :P Lovely cute story that made me think I should spend more time in airports ;-)
Also yay for Liverpool trips of awesome! Maybe later this year you, me & Jess can roadtrip somewheres?
Yes yes yes Ellie says yes to the roadtrip!!!!! Oh, ummm, okay fine, maybe Ellie should answer for herself, but I certainly think it's a good idea. :D
Dropping in to leave a *smooch* for our travelin' lassie.
So so pleased for you, my dear Ellie. It wasn't an easy road. But you're way far towards the golden ring...being the fearless quarter centenarian that you are.
Berly - I don't think I've had any more good ones recently! It's been pretty quiet around here, what with snow and ice and the fact that it hasn't gotten above freezing in days... *shivers quietly*
There was ONE particularly good one the other day which I don't think made it onto the blog yet. A bolshy customer - the kind who doesn't want to look for anything herself - reluctantly went off to look for children's books down the corridor. The next moment I heard a very rude "Pfffft! Funny selection of children's books you've got in here!"
She was looking at the 'Poetry and Drama' shelf. :(
Anyway, in other news, I did it again! Two cities in two weeks! This time it was Birmingham, for the HUMUNGOUS Spring Fair International trade gift show. It's about an hour and a half away, plus a shuttle service to the venue, and it's basically like an airport inside. Huge, bustling, and necessary to spend large amounts of time looking for clues as to where you are and poring over the map in your hand trying to work out where you're supposed to be. And you know what? Not a flicker of nerves. Not once. Not before we got in the car, not when we reached the shuttle, not when we walked into the chaos, not when we crammed into the cafe to eat lunch or queued for the loos or got lost in the middle of one of the halls. Isn't that amazing?!
Now I just need to get some reading done, oops. I suddenly realised the other day that I had FOUR REVIEW BOOKS that were hitting the shelves on Thursday, and I haven't read or reviewed any of them. I just can't keep up at the moment! I don't want to keep pushing myself back to the books when there are other things going on - I'm 24, it's not homework - but at the same time I feel a sense of responsibility to get them read. Then there are the library books still stacked in my windowsill, only one of which has had to be returned so far... I do feel more like reading now, but there's still a lot going on - Half Term next week, for a start - so I don't think I'm going to be finishing swathes of books anytime soon!
Proud of you! A new look.. bouncy short hair..
And now it looks like you are well on your way to a new life..
one that includes all manner of adventures. This is a good thing!
Hi Kath! It's definitely nice to be going on adventures again. :)
Where to next, I wonder?
!?!?! *Scampers under the house* Eeeek! My vote is for the road trip. That sounds much less....ummmmm...traumatizing. :P
Ridiculously happy to hear the great news, Ellie. And here I was happy to have went shopping with my sisters yesterday, pffft. *Bows to Ellie's superiority*
Birmingham and Liverpool! And a big trade show that sounds potentially very overwhelming for anyone, but wasn't for you!
Where next indeed?!
Good luck with the reviews, when you feel ready to write them.
Congratulations! I'm thrilled you surfed the trade show with authority!
Ah, there you are. Well, no wonder you haven't posting as much. Galavanting around town, half terms coming up...You are BUSY!! Glad to see you in fine spirits. : )
Oh yes, galavanting and high spirits abounding here at the moment! Hi Stephen! *peers under house and waves to the pale little figure shivering in the dark* Ask me again halfway through half term and see if I'm still quite so bouncy... ;)
I'm still reading Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas, slowly but surely, and enjoying it. It's what I wanted from The Catcher in the Rye, but less annoying - angry and passionate and intelligent and filthy. And I'm reading Nick Krieger's trans-memoir Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender, which is fascinating and taking me far beyond what I already knew about the transgender experience. So hopefully there WILL be reviews coming up soon!
My sister's home for the weekend - she should be on the train across RIGHT NOW - so that'll take away some reading time, and I'm not sure whether we're having our normal days off this week because of half term (depends on the weather, I guess - I've only had a couple of sales today, everyone's staying off the icy pavements!). Hopefully we'll get at least one, possibly both, days off after all, since this'll be the first week we've been able to just stay in and enjoy it in a while! I can get some reading done and eat pizza and maybe watch a movie and generally be a lazy wench. Now I think about it, I think I have a physio appointment first thing Tuesday, which is a good reason to have the rest of the day off, right? ;)
4) How to Leave Twitter: My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop by Grace Dent (4.5*)
I'm not sure some of the other reviewers on Amazon have been reading the same book as me. Two and a half stars as an average customer rating? Shocking! Hopefully I'll tip the balance a little bit in Dent's favour because I LOVED IT!
For me she absolutely nailed the Twitter experience on the head. At the very beginning, she writes about how you join Twitter: the vehement hatred and outright denial of the pre-Twitter individual, and how their curiosity eventually gets the better of them and they become hooked, just like everyone else. I DID THAT. She explores the kinds of people who inhabit the Twitter universe, the online personas, the different breeds of celebrity and how they interact with the masses, how people use it in everyday life, the conversations, the viral videos and links, and Twitter cliques. There is a glance at the social politics of following and unfollowing, and the etiquette of messaging other people without looking like an eejit. The good, the bad and the downright ugly, it's all here - and as far as my own Twitter wanderings go, it's absolutely spot-on.
Perhaps I enjoyed this book so much because I (unlike some of the other reviewers, it seems) adore Dent's snarky, pithy, perceptive and relentlessly barbed brand of humour. Sooooo, here's the deal: if you love writers/comedians/funny people like Caitlin Moran, Charlie Brooker, Chris Addison and Marcus Brigstocke, and are an actual bona-fide Twitter user, this might the book for you. If you despise social media or prefer your humour a little softer and more cuddly, you might want to give this one a miss. Hey, you can't win 'em all!
Great review! I am good with snarky humor, but ince I don't Twitter, one to be avoided thus far, LOL.
Yay, finished another book! HOWEVER, since it's Sunday afternoon and the shop's pretty busy, and I'm well sleepy anyway, I think I'll save writing my review of Loaded until tomorrow... :)
I'm not a Twitterer but I like your review, Ellie.
Enjoy your weekend with your sister. Does your store get overrun by energized kids during the half-term hols?
Kath - GET YE BEHIND ME SATAN! I'm supposed to be on a diet so I'm mainly drinking lots of coffee and eating clementines... :)
AG - Nope, the correct response is YAY!
Caro - She's on the train back to Liverpool as we speak, I think. It's always nice having her around for a bit, even if we don't see her much when we're working (and her and Mum have been having long giddy conversations in her room every night while I'm trying to sleep, grrr!). And yes, after a relatively mature weekend we're suddenly being overrun with kids today. Mondays, see - grandma can go on the market, Mum and Dad can shop, and the kids can come along too, it's Family Outing Day! *straps herself in and waits for the waves of murderous rage to hit* ;)
Now, that review I was owing...
5) Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas (3.5*)
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this little book, having read such mixed reviews of Tsiolkas's better-known novel The Slap. But this one - his first, and pretty short at 151 pages - sounded right up my street, so I thought I'd give it a go!
I was actually very pleasantly surprised. It is an almost stream-of-consciousness narrative from the fascinating mind of Ari, a nineteen year-old gay Greek boy living in Melbourne. Ari is simultaneously an aggressively confident young man, and completely conflicted about everything, veering between vehement certainty and utter helplessness. He isn't entirely at ease with his sexuality, his friends come and go around him, he despises the confinement of traditional Greek life, and he has absolutely no sense of where he's going - despite his occasional protestations to the contrary. All he really knows is that he loves movies and music, sex and drugs, and that being loaded keeps him calm, quiet and almost content. The novel drags the reader along for a 24-hour ride inside his head as he snorts, shags, drinks and meanders his way through another day.
A few times as I was reading I found myself thinking, "Wow, THIS is what I wanted when I read Catcher in the Rye!" I didn't identify with Salinger's whiny Holden Caulfield at all, but I rather liked Ari. His voice is angry, passionate, intelligent and provocative, and even when I didn't agree with him I couldn't help but feel a admiring respect for his brutal arguments and perceptive observations. I think as a character, he is so interesting because he can so readily see the beauty of other people and places and situations, yet seems to be incapable of translating that beauty into his own life and future. I really felt for him!
Despite all this, I didn't give Loaded a higher rating, because although I was completely absorbed in Ari's world, it was quite slow going (perhaps surprisingly, given that Ari is sky high for half of it) and I don't think it will ultimately be a particularly memorable read. There were one or two moments that really made me cringe, particularly the scenes in various clubs around Melbourne which invariably contain awful descriptions of dancing - frequent mentions of 'jumping around', and what moves Ari's 'working in' from his dance repertoire. I found these parts incredibly jarring - though perhaps Tsiolkas intended them to be that way, to reflect the way Ari's drugged mind made some unnaturally slow and conscious decisions about even the most mundane of things? Who knows - all I know is, I didn't like it much.
At any rate, Ari was a wonderful guide to the seedier underbelly of Melbourne life - the dark alleys for fumbling liaisons, the tangled, insular existence of the many different ethnicities on the outskirts of 'skip' society - and I liked the novel enough to give The Slap a try at some point. I also ordered the screen adaptation, Head On, which I'm rather looking forward to. Recommended for those who don't mind their literature buzzing, explicit and occasionally a little uncomfortable, even as it forces them to stop and think about the world from a new perspective.
6) Desert Angel by Charlie Price (2.5*)
Oh dear me. I had such high hopes for this one! I was looking forward to a tense thriller with plenty of suspense, a dastardly villain, an exciting hunt, and a young heroine I could really root for. A little like Belinda Bauer's Blacklands, with an added dose of Katniss Everdeen's worldliness and sheer will to survive.
Sadly, the novel turned out to be a big disappointment. The 'cat-and-mouse game' promised on the cover never really materialised, and Angel, the fourteen year-old protagonist, on the run from the abusive and dangerous man who has just killed her mother, isn't the most likeable of characters. Taking off across the Californian desert, she must depend on everything she's learned about the evil Scotty, and the kindness of the families nearby, to keep her safe. But with Scotty's shady contacts watching the area, and his finely-honed prowess as a hunter, how is she ever going to be free of him - and at what cost?
Unfortunately, Angel very quickly veered from being a sympathetic girl who had just lost her mother, to being plain irritating. Her manic ups and downs and her constant desire to flee from everything were never really explained as side-effects of grief or of her upbringing, so that got confusing. She came across as a deeply self-absorbed character incapable of considering the people around her, knowingly ignoring adult advice and putting whole families in danger just so she could 'go it alone'. I wasn't stirred to feel any sense of sadness or pity towards her plight, because she seemed so distant as a character.
Perhaps because of that, a lot of the other important facets of the novel didn't click either. The suspense didn't really have a chance to build, because either too much or too little was always told. The best parts were the fleeting and unexpected moments where Angel missed a sign that Scotty had been watching her, or he committed an act of casual brutality in her wake, which were quite chilling. I thought perhaps the suspense would have been higher had Scotty had a 'voice' in the novel - maybe a few sections in between Angel's narrative where Price could drop hints as to what was happening, how close Scotty might be, and explore how his mind worked to give a real sense of danger. The big climax was a damp squib, and there were certain patches of the novel that suddenly veered horribly towards dullness - for example, the overdescription of the bleak landscape, which ironically meant I had a harder time picturing it for myself.
All in all, it was a reasonable enough way to kill a few hours on my day off, but I won't be holding my breath for more of Price's novels. Then again, many of the other reviews I've read have been very positive, so perhaps you just need to read it for yourself and see whether it hits the spot a little more satisfyingly than it did for me?
Boo about the dud, Ellie. Hope the next read is more to your fancy. :)
Sorry Desert Angel didn't do anything for you, Ellie, but I love both your reviews. So I'm definitely keeping away from Desert Angel but I'll keep an eye on Loaded until I've read The Slap which is currently in my TBR Tower and on the list of books I intend to read this year.
Hope the half-term monsters don't trash your store and you aren't hauled off for manslaughter before term starts again.
>180 I'm supposed to be reading The Slap for bookclub this round, but am thinking of doing my first ever refusal. Ive just got too many other great books on my radar! (shame on me I know)
Sounds like you're doing great getting out and about. Good on you. So you are going to see Adam Lambert in concert?
Nice reviews there, Ellie. And I LOVE Adam Lambert. If you get to see him in concert I will be so jealous!
Hi Ellie. Just popping by to say "well done" on recent adventures, and also, I saw The Slap on sale (well sort of. £1 from the shelf of randomly collected books in my local pub), remembered the name from your recent review of his other book, and thought I'd give it a whirl. It looks very different, being about modern family life and such, and a friend who was with me warned me he'd heard it had really split public and critical opinion, but that just made it seem all the more intriguing, so onto the TBR pile it goes.
Yello all! I haven't bought The Slap yet, but Jess sent me a 10% Book Depository voucher the other day so it's in the running for a book order by the end of the month! I might buy the TV series as well, which got rave reviews over here...
No news on the AL musical tour-de-force yet, but I'm listening out for any news! Last thing I heard the entire band were taken ill in Stockholm for 24 hours then made it home to the US for more single/pre-album promotion work... Loving the new video for 'Better Than I Know Myself' too, though probably for different reasons - I thought it EXACTLY captured my experience with bipolar disorder as a teenager and I found it fascinating! And a damn catchy song, of course... :)
I've managed to survive half term - just - and collected some of the best horror stories from the last couple of days over at the blog:
It's been a pretty dire week, really - great sales, but I've come home exhausted and with a cracking headache every day from Wednesday to Saturday! We had Tuesday off but had to get up early for my physio appointment - the GOOD news is that despite the fact that I'm still limping a bit, my general hip rotator strength is up and she's discharged me with instructions to keep going with my current exercises and see how I get on through the summer. And yesterday James was here with a beautiful new young Harris' hawk, it was very busy but mercifully low on child-related activity, and I managed to get home without the headache, hooray! Last half hour today and then I'm home free for a hot shower, a quick round of laundry, a grocery delivery then TWO DAYS OFF!
I'll hopefully be watching lots of Brothers and Sisters on DVD, plus maybe Head On, which is the screen adaptation of Loaded that I mentioned before. PLUS I'll be trying to finish the beautiful, heartbreaking The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, I might read The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (a YA fantasy about a sea witch, beautiful sea women and enchanted fisherman) and maybe carry on with Nina Here Nor There as well. And I COULD treat myself to something delicious - my diet's going well but I might give myself a day off to eat meals without meticulously working out my calories (yawn). Or not. It feels rather early in the day to be falling off the wagon, a mere two weeks in! ;)
Ah! So that's where you have been doing all your postings. I have missed all your funny shop stories. : )
Hi Berly! I hang around Twitter a fair bit these days too - my poor long-suffering followers often get the gory details of customer stupidity, sometimes actually as it's occurring, before the people have even left the shop... I'm a quick typist. ;)
Plus I've been reading a bit again recently, which has taken up some time, AND I've been watching Brothers and Sisters on DVD after work, and I've been hanging around the Boots Diet forums so I don't have to bore everyone else with how much I want a bag of crisps or how I've not lost enough this week... I don't want to be that person, my auntie does it on Facebook and it's so dull! :)
I'm about halfway through The Snow Child right now - it's going to be a weepy one, I can tell - and it's a bit slow going. Not 'Jeez, hurry up already' slow going, just the kind where you don't want to rush it or hop through it too fast because it deserves better than that... I'm hoping for good things by the end, I need it after the dud book that was Desert Angel. After this I think I might tackle ONE MORE review book, a YA one, then I'm going back to my library books for a bit. I think all but one of my reads so far this year have been review copies, it's starting to feel a bit too much like homework every time I go to my shelf to decide what to read next...
GOOD NEWS! I've finished The Snow Child and it's my first five-star book of the year! Hooray!
BAD NEWS! I can't be bothered to review it this minute, because it's 3:45pm on what is basically my Friday, and I haven't slept that well the last couple of nights so I'm kinda tired. It definitely deserves better than a 'tired' review, I think... I might start putting a few reviewy ideas together over my 'weekend' but otherwise you'll probably have to wait until Thursday! :)
MORE GOOD NEWS! I'm actually fancying reading again right now, in a big way, so I'm hoping to have maybe finished another book or two by the end of Wednesday. Though Mum and Graham are planning to go out on Tuesday so I might take advantage of it for a little movie or music time while I've got the house to myself... Anyway, AND now I've got Jess's awesome 'make yourself a mixed pile of books to read this month' idea, I should stop feeling guilty about everything else on my shelves/review pile/library pile and just get on with it! Hooray again!
Yay for 5-star books! I hit a bit of a reading groove myself recently. I can't imagine why, surely it can't be because I'm reading a paperback zombie novel... :P
I'm looking forward to your review!
Yay for good books! Hope you enjoy your 'weekend' thoroughly, Ellie! :)
>189 my poor long-suffering followers often get the gory details of customer stupidity, sometimes actually as it's occurring, before the people have even left the shop
I LOVE it. What you want to say to people, but aren't allowed to, so say it to the world instead via twitter :)
5 star book, and its only Feb, nice one!
Yaaaaay! I'm now reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio (that author TS actually goes to the book - it was the only way the new system would find it, oops) which has had LOADS of amazing reviews and hype about it, so I'm expecting good things. It's about a ten-year old boy born with severe facial abnormalities, going to 'real school' for the first time, and so far it's pretty good. Watch this space...
In the meantime I'm trying to avoid having to go round to my neighbour's house with a book she wanted (I hate her dog, her eighty year-old husband once came to answer the door in tighty whiteys, and as far as I know a personal delivery service isn't a normal part of bookselling - and it's raining), and hoping very much that Mum and my stepdad are going to go for lunch and a loooong walk as planned so I can have my much-cherished 'there's no one in the house so I can sing along now' music time...
Update: Okay, they're not going for lunch now, and Dad's coming with some books for us. I hope it doesn't turn into another two-hour discussion/argument like it did last time. *weeps* Better go get this book delivery sorted now then... :(
7) The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (5*)
I couldn't wait to read this book after all the amazing reviews and early hype spilling across the pond towards the end of last year. Happily the buzz was entirely justified and it's turned out to be my first five-star book of 2012!
Ivey's stunning debut novel is set in Alaska in the 1920s, where middle-aged couple Jack and Mabel are struggling to survive on their new homestead. While Jack is breaking his back every day trying to clear enough land to establish a farm, Mabel is quietly wilting under the winter sun and grieving for the stillborn baby that has prevented her ever having a child of her own. The only solace in this lonely existence is the rowdy Benson family on the next homestead - jovial George, his earthy wife Esther and their three sons.
Then one night, during the first snow of the winter and in a moment of giddy high spirits, Jack and Mabel build a little girl out of snow outside their cabin. The next morning, to their dismay, the girl has been knocked down and Mabel's scarf and mittens are gone. Soon afterwards they catch a glimpse of a small girl flitting through the forest with a red fox in tow, and they are mystified. Is this the girl they created together, come alive through their shared longing for a child? Or is she just a little girl in need, trying to survive in the wilderness by herself? And so Faina comes into their lives, changing their world forever...
It is an absolutely beautiful book, and well on track to be one of my favourites of this year. It's not a fast-paced story, but one that I wanted to savour and enjoy, page by page. Ivey's descriptions made me feel like I was there in the cabin and walking through the woods with her characters; I could feel the chill in the air, smell the spruce trees and taste the snow on the breeze. I think one of the things I liked best about the book was its tenderness and humanity. There were moments that made me smile, moments that made me sigh, and moments that made me well up. Every character pulled me in so that I was utterly invested in their happiness and wellbeing, and every conversation and interaction is rooted in such deep emotional awareness that it felt pitch-perfect and utterly real.
Alongside this, of course, was the magical presence of Faina herself. She is such an ethereally beautiful character, yet also strong and brutally capable, so that the reader, like Jack and Mabel, never knows quite what to make of her. I like that this magical element - based on a Russian fairytale - is written with a very gentle touch, so that it never feels implausible and the reader is left to come to their own conclusions. Highly recommended to readers who like their books to be firmly rooted in human relationships, who appreciate being able to a get a real sense of place as they read, and who enjoy authors like Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen who interweave their novels with a thread of magic and wonder. Read it!
• "Through the window, the night air appeared dense, each snowflake slowed in its long, tumbling fall through the black. It was the kind of snow that brought children running out their doors, made them stick out their tongues, turn their faces skyward, and spin in circles with their arms outstretched."
• "When she turned to pull the door closed, she noticed a glimpse of blue in the snow-laden spruce trees beyond the barn. She strained her eyes and no longer saw blue, but instead red fur. Blue fabric. Red fur. A child, slight and quick in a blue coat, passing through the trees. A blink, and the little coat was gone and there was slinking fur, and it was like the flipping black-and-white pictures she saw when she had peered into a coin-operated, lit-up box in New York City. Appearing and disappearing motion, child and woodland creature each a passing flicker."
Thank you! I adored the book and it's always hardest to review books like that, so it's always nice to know I've done something right! :)
I've got another review to write tomorrow now too, for Wonder by R.J. Palacio (again, the author link is actually the book - it wouldn't find the right TS by title for some reason). Another lovely book, hooray! Now, I think it might be time to go find something yummy to eat and maybe watch something to round off the day... It's been pretty busy at the shop, I've found another two hornets lurking at home (another warm-ish day, oops) and I've finished my review book, so I think I deserve a bit of a break before bed! Nighty night all... xx
And here's another review for you! After this I'm reading The Sisters Brothers, which I've been looking forward to for AGES. Not only was it one of the Man Booker shortlist, but the TV Book Club this year unanimously raved about it and labelled it one of their favourite books on the show EVER. High hopes people, high hopes...
Now, here's today's review - and can I just say that this would be the PERFECT gift for any kid or young adult in your life. If everyone read this book I think the world would be a better place. :)
8) Wonder by R.J. Palacio - no TS, so click on the author instead to go to the book page! (4*)
"I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go."
Oh, what a treat of a book! In August Pullman, Palacio has created one of the most loveable and memorable characters in modern children's literature. August is ten years old, and is a completely normal little boy in every way but one - he was born with severe facial disfigurement. The book opens as his mother tries to persuade him that it might be time to go to 'real school' for the first time. August has always been loved, protected - and taught - by his family, but during his year in the fifth grade of Beecher Prep, life is going to be very different.
Auggie's story is pretty irresistable reading. Switching between various viewpoints as the book progresses, including Auggie himself, his sister Via and his friends Jack and Summer, the author deftly explores the effects of Auggie's disfigurement on his life and the lives of everyone around him. It's a clever device that allows the reader to not only get inside Auggie's head as he faces the trials and tribulations of school life, but also to get the wider picture of how other people are coping, what people are saying, and how his new friends react to the pressure being placed on them by the less savoury characters at school.
It should come as no surprise that while Palacio offers much to smile, laugh and chortle over in this novel - it is lightly written, quite amusing and her children's voices are spot-on - there were also parts that made me frown, parts that made my eyes open wide with horror, and parts that made me tear up with indignation. It's a sad fact of life that a lot of kids (and a lot of parents) are relentlessly cruel to people who are perceived to be 'different' - and that's exactly what makes this book so important. I'd go as far as to say that it should be required reading for every child.
From start to finish the emphasis is on kindness and courage. Palacio doesn't steer away from moral gray areas - her characters make mistakes along the way and things aren't always as they seem - but ultimately she shows very clearly how bullying and insensitive behaviour can have a harmful ripple effect on people's lives, and how strength, friendship, compassion and good humour are always the better choices. I finished the book with tears in my eyes, a smile on my face - and a little place in my heart reserved for Auggie. Highly recommended!
• "I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks." - Auggie
• "... waking up to a snow day is just about my favorite thing in the world. I love that feeling when you first open your eyes in the morning and you don't even know why everything seems different than usual. Then it hits you: Everything is quiet. No cars honking. No buses going down the street. Then you run over to the window, and outside everything is covered in white: the sidewalks, the trees, the cars on the street, your windowpanes. And when that happens on a school day and you find out your school is closed, well, I don't care how old I get: I'm always going to think that that's the best feeling in the world. And I'm never going to be one of those grown-ups that use an umbrella when it's snowing - ever." - Jack
• "It's like people you see sometimes, and you can't imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it's somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can't talk. Only, I know that I'm that person to other people... To me, though, I'm just me. An ordinary kid." - Auggie
Both these books sound great.
The Snow Child reminds me of a great, bizarre film I've seen by notable, crazy Czech director Jan Švankmajer. The film is called "Little Otik", and the storyline is so similar I think they must be based on the same folk tale. In this one, a childless couple who are desperate for a baby create one from a tree stump they dig up from the garden. Worth a look if you like your films on the strange side.
Awww, Little Otik does sound sort-of-similar. There seem to be quite a lot of tales based around a lonely couple creating a child out of SOMETHING - all I know is that this one was based on the Russian folk tale of the Snow Maiden, and it's so ethereal and lovely!
Thanks for the thumbs too! I'm just writing a review of The Sisters Brothers right now, so stand by for that one as soon as all these horrible children depart and I can hear myself think again... :)
9) The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (4*)
'You have never thought about quitting?'
'Every man that has ever held a position has thought about quitting.'
Okay, first up let me say that I would never normally have picked this novel up. Then I saw the folks on the TV Book Club gushing over it, proclaiming that it was perhaps their favourite book from their entire run and that it was a complete surprise - so I picked it up anyway. And I'm SO glad I did, because they were right - it WAS a complete surprise. Who would have thought that a western noir about a pair of assassins would have buried its way under my skin so completely?
The book follows the fortunes of the notorious Sisters brothers, Eli and Charlie, as they set out on their latest job - to kill a man called Hermann Kermit Warm, on the orders of their boss, known only as The Commodore. Set against the California Gold Rush of the mid-19th century, their mission takes them from Oregon City to San Francisco and beyond, in search of the elusive Warm and his claim. Along the way they drink, flirt and fight with all kinds of weird and wonderful folks, from prospectors to prostitutes. It's quite a ride, for the brothers and the reader alike!
The most important thing about the novel, and its main draw, is that it is entirely narrated by Eli Sisters - and what a narrator he is! I've never come across a cold-blooded killer I could really get behind in a book, but Eli was endearing, even loveable, from start to finish! His narration is spare, thoughtful, poetic, uncompromising, yet strangely innocent, almost childlike at times, and very amusing. That was one of the biggest surprises about the book - that it is so funny! The author has really given us a supremely human story in the most unlikely of settings - underneath the casual brutality this is a book about two brothers making their way in the world together, laughing, teasing, arguing and reconciling as they go. On this journey Eli is also questioning everything about his life: Will he ever be loved? What has been he missing while he's been under the Commodore's command? How is he different from Charlie? Does he want to be an assassin any more or is there a better future out there for him? He is no faceless killer, he is a man, with morals and a soft spot for his horse and a deep thread of kindness and generosity. A intriguing protagonist, indeed.
Aside from his wonderful cast of characters, de Witt also offers us a fascinating insight into life in the American West during the Gold Rush. It is a brutal and lawless place, and he dunks his readers straight in there headfirst so we can almost taste the dirt, smell the cold metal of the brothers' pistols, hear the raucous laughter coming from the saloons... It was a time when men let their guns do the talking, gold fever swept across America, and San Francisco regularly burnt to the ground and had to be rebuilt as it struggled to cope with the influx of people hoping to make their fortunes from the nearby rivers. Through Eli, deWitt shows us 19th century California in all her terrible glory, and it is hard to tear yourself away from the pages once you've immersed yourself.
I'd absolutely recommend this book, to men and women alike. There were moments that made me laugh, moments that made me well up, moments that made my heart sink and moments that made my eyes go wide... and I loved every last one of them. Eli might end up being one of my favourite characters of 2012 - he's such an unlikely and unusual hero - and his journey was exciting, compelling and pretty darn unforgettable. Put aside your feelings about westerns, about violence, about historical fiction, about Man Booker nominees, whatever's stopping you picking this book up, and just read it already!
• "I sat on the bank and watched him splashing and singing; he had not had anything to drink the night before and there had been no other people around to upset his volatile nature, and I found myself becoming sentimental by this rare show of innocent happiness. Charlie had often been glad and singing as a younger man, before we took up with the Commodore, when he became guarded and hard, so it was sad in a way to watch him frolic in that shimmering river, with the tall snowy mountains walling us in."
• "'Each job is different. Some I have seen as singular escapades. Others have been like a hell.' I shrugged. 'You put a wage behind something, it gives the act a sort of respectability. In a way, I suppose it feels significant to have something as large as a man's life entrusted to me.' 'A man's death', she corrected."
• "'All you will get from me is Death.' Charlie's words, spoken just as casual as a man describing the weather, brought the hair on my neck up and my hands began to pulse and throb. He is wonderful in situations like this, clear minded and without a trace of fear. He had always been this way, and though I had seen it many times, every time I did I felt an admiration for him."
• "I was thinking that a man like myself, after suffering such a blow as you men have struck on this day, has two distinct paths he might travel in his life. He might walk out into the world with a wounded heart, intent on sharing his mad hatred with every person he passes; or, he might start out anew with an empty heart, and he should take care to fill it up with only proud things from then on, so as to nourish his desolate mind-set and cultivate something positive anew."
Thank you for what? Not that I'm complaining... I'm wonderful, in fact! *Gets very confused* Okay, maybe this insomnia thing is affecting me more than I thought. Third night in a row, peeps, and now it's Saturday and there's all these customers here and I'm sleeeeeeeepy. I'm going to sit and read The Invisible Man and try to get ENGAGED. Literarily speaking. Okay. :D
Thank you for the wonderful and entertaining reviews of course!
yeah.. I have been having some trouble with getting engaged myself..
not the books all me :PPP
Read the first paragraph of your The Sisters Brothers review and am now more determined than ever to read it, I have it our from the library and was pondering taking it back unread (*gasp*).
DO NOT TAKE IT BACK UNREAD! I even garnered a library fee for taking it back late because I was determined that THEY WOULDN'T TAKE IT FROM ME until I was finished! Seriously, you've never met a nicer not-quite-villain than Eli Sisters, he's the kind of murderer you just want to pet and take home because you KNOW he'd be a good guy if he just had someone to put his slippers in front of the fire and tell him off and occasionally make him a cake or something. You'll understand when you've read it. :)
I've seen The Sisters Brothers recommended all over LT. With your review, I've finally added to Mount TBR.
Glad you liked The Sisters Brothers. It was one of my very favorites in 2011. I have been recommending it to all my friends. All the toothbrush talk really made it for me. And you are absolutely right about wanting to pet Eli and take him home!
Ellie! Wonderful reviews and I really like your Notable Quotes at the end--they give a real feel for the book. So glad you have found your book groove again!
Thanks all! And yeah, the toothbrush stuff really made me giggle, so funny seeing an assassin delightedly showing it off to everyone like a kid with a new toy! :)
I've got another two reviews to write now, after a few nights of insomnia and a reading-fuelled day off, but I can't be bothered right now! In fact... *whispers*... I haven't even changed out of my PJs, and it's lunchtime already. I'm feeling very slug-like today. Soooo, you'll have to wait for my take on The Invisible Man (who knew Wells was so funny?) and Nina Here Nor There (Nick Krieger may be the coolest author I've come across in a while...).
I think it might be time for a movie or something, actually. Last night I watched Reservoir Dogs before bed, and I think today I might take advantage of the daylight and watch The Omen. I've never seen it before, but I found it on DVD at a charity shop on Monday and reckoned it was time to stop being a baby! I also found some shiny new books, including a pristine hardcover copy of The House of Silk (the new Sherlock novel), a cultural history of LA, a copy of If I Stay by Gayle Foreman, and a few others. More amazingly, thanks to my grandma being at the shop that day as well, I somehow managed to get this bagful of contraband back to the office and all the way home right under Mum's nose without her even THINKING to ask what was in there. Miracle! :D
>214 I look forward to your eventual review of The House of Silk, Ellie, as it'll give me a good idea of whether I want to give it a try or not. Hope you're enjoying your pajama day! :D
Hi Micky! I'm looking forward to it... not sure I'm going to GET to it for a while, but it's the thought that counts, right? ;)
I did enjoy my days off - I finished The Invisible Man and Nina Here Nor There, watched Reservoir Dogs and The Omen, did a fair amount of kitten snuggling AND listened to music. Think it's going to be a busy week: the shop's fairly steady while the weather stays good and I want to move back into the flat within a week or so. Much to be done at work AND at home!
In the meantime, here's the first of the two reviews I'm currently owing:
10) The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (3.5*)
I always thought my first foray into H.G. Wells would be The War of the Worlds - but actually this made a fantastic starting point! A quick read, The Invisible Man is accessible, vivid and packs quite a punch along the way, and I really enjoyed it.
It's about... well, an Invisible Man. Except when he first arrives in the little town of Iping, no one KNOWS he's an Invisible Man. Swathed in bandages, wearing gloves and heavy clothes, and with a hat and goggle-like glasses hiding his features, everyone assumes he's had a terrible accident. It's only when odd things begin to happen and the increasingly volatile gentleman is provoked into revealing his secret that all hell breaks loose. Is he a sympathetic victim or a murderous madman? Will he find someone to help him? How on earth did he reach this point in his life? How DOES a man render himself invisible anyway?
What really surprised me, at least earlier on in the book, is how funny it is. The small-town characters are so amusing - Mr Marvel, the tramp, has some particularly good one-liners that made me chuckle - and some of their brilliantly observed little foibles are ones we all recognise even if we'd rather not admit to them! Nearer the end of the book the humour gives way largely to the Invisible Man's eloquently-told story and the melodramatic thrill of the chase, which was interesting but for me, not as enjoyable as the quick wit of the first half. Nevertheless, I'm very glad to have finally read this classic of science fiction writing - and I'm still looking forward to The War of the Worlds!
Nice review Ellie. I loved TIM when I read it years ago. As I remember, the Invisible Man was not my favorite character....
>209 uh-oh, your warning has reached me too late!
I took The Sisters Brothers back today :(
But only as I knew I wouldnt have time to finish it as was already half way through the loan period and hadnt started it yet.
But, fear not, I intend to get it out again and actually read it this time!!
Berly - Nope, Marvel was definitely my favourite! :)
Micky - Definitely! It's a short read anyway so it's not really worth NOT trying, if you see what I mean... I want to read The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The Island of Doctor Moreau at some point, and I think we have a whole set of Wells hardbacks at the shop (this one was a library p'back) so I should be spoilt for choice!
Megan - Noooooooo! Get back to the library THIS MINUTE and retrieve that book! Assassins with toothbrush obsessions, a one-eyed horse, mad prospectors and more scarlet women than you could shake... er, something at, what could possibly go wrong? :D
I think I'm a bit giddy today. I'm on a diet right now and I've lost another 2.2lb this week, which means I'm now about ten pounds down on what I was a couple of months ago (and feeling MUCH better for it). AND I'm taking a huge step today and getting new passport photos taken for a new passport application. Mine expired a few years ago and with the agoraphobia and all, getting it renewed didn't seem a great way to spend £80. But now I'm ready and I'd really like to have one again, so I think it's a very optimistic step! *wheeeee!*
De-lurking to say:
I read The Invisible Man a few years back and enjoyed it very much, along with War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. I think you'll like his other stuff, too.
And congrats on the weight loss - good on you!! Good luck with the passport - I'll be cheering you on!
Congrats on the weight loss. It's such a struggle and so thrilling to see those numbers go down!
Hi Amber! Thanks, and thanks! I definitely feel much better a few pounds down - and about the same again still to lose to reach my target, I'm feelin' awesome - and happily, my passport photos (from what I can see) came out OKAY. Okay in terms of being, y'know, 'this woman isn't a terrorist', and okay because I don't look too much like a criminal mastermind. :)
And hi Morphy! It's definitely taken a while to get used to it, and some fairly hungry days waiting for the cravings to subside, but I'm getting into a routine of meals and snacks and thwacking great treats now (all within my calorie limit, of course) so I'm getting some goodies but still losing the weight, hooray! It's not always fun but it feels so bloody GOOD seeing my waist getting smaller again!
Anyway, I've spent today very carefully writing this review, which I'm still not sure about, but here goes nothing. It's for Nina Here Nor There, a transgender memoir by a very cool genderfluid (and pretty hot) guy who happens to be on Twitter and therefore may actually see this on my blog. So I'm hoping I haven't made any horrible gaffes or anything because I really liked it! Read on...
11) Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender by Nick Krieger (4*)
I picked this one up on a whim, partially because it's one of the shortlisted titles for the Indie Lit Awards this year, in the GLBTQ category. It is a refreshing new take on the transgender memoir by travel writer Nick Krieger, about his journey from Nina to Nick. This isn't a standard 'I was a woman, now I'm a man' tale, however - which is what makes it really stand apart from other books in the genre.
When Nick's transformation began - I saw it as a transformation rather than a transition, because it feels more triumphantly beautiful than the latter term implies - he was still Nina Krieger, a sporty lesbian surrounded by strong, feminine women she called her 'A-gays'. But when she moved to San Francisco's Castro neighbourhood, she was unexpectedly drawn into a whole new community. Here there were people who wore binders and 'packed', people who had surgery but didn't take hormones, people who took hormones but didn't have surgery: a surging, diversely queer group that took the traditional concepts of 'male' and 'female' and completely broke them down into a fluid and highly individual concern. In these new surroundings Nina finally found the means - and the confidence - to explore her own relationship to her body and her gender, in particular her complete detachment from her breasts and her preference for a male image.
While this may sound like a typical transition story, it really isn't. By the end of the book, Nina has become Nick, 'she' has taken on the pronoun 'he', and he has taken the huge (and long awaited) step of having top surgery to remove his breasts. Since then he has also taken testosterone to accentuate his male features. But Nick Krieger is not a man, nor does he want to be. As a genderfluid or gender variant individual, he is happiest at a personally determined point between male and female. And that, I think, is what makes this book so interesting. Krieger's exploration of his own body, values, relationships, assumptions and experiences invites the reader to do the same thing, regardless of who they are. There is no sense of 'It was terrible being this person, so I changed myself' - instead he writes with great positivity about his journey towards a full understanding and full expression of himself.
I really enjoyed it - and I think I might enjoy a reread even more, now that I have a better idea of who's who and know a little more about the author. It made me think about myself from a different perspective, and I found Krieger's honesty inspiring. He doesn't make sweeping statements about the transgender experience, but instead keeps his focus personal and subjective. It is a book about self-discovery and identity that I think everyone can learn from, and I like the fact that he charts this self-discovery one stage at a time. He never apologises for choosing to do something or not, for taking things slowly and perhaps making decisions later that he wouldn't have thought possible before. That, after all, is how people evolve. The book is often drily amusing, often quite moving, and always fascinating, and I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in gender, sexual identity and LGBTQ literature.
- "As part of our ongoing personal investigations, we'd fallen into a knowledge-share. I'd tell her about transgender history, pathology, and theory from my self-assigned reading list; she'd tell me about binding, packing, and gender bending as it was practiced. She readjusted her bulge again. I stared, embarrassed by my transparency, my eagerness to discover what was beyond my books and absorb what Jess must have learned directly from the sources."
- "I pleaded with him to stop, telling him that if he continued, I wouldn't be able to talk to him anymore. Only upon hearing my own desperation did I realize I'd been hoping for an apology... But he perceived my begging as a threat, and we fell into the worn grooves of our arguments, the same tired fight where he tried to use the power of fatherhood to control me, and I shut down, trying to hold tough, except now I was too old to sing the "Somewhere over the rainbow" refrain in my head until he was done forcing his opinion, stance, argument, and rhetoric, disguised as questions, down on me."
- "I stood alone for a few minutes, thinking back to the first time I'd walked through the doors, how different I was, how different we all must have been when we'd entered this place, before we understood that queers received nine adolescences like cats received nine lives, and the permutations of gender were infinite, the complexities a challenge to explain in a language only built to hold this or that, when many of us were other, something we could see here long before we could speak it."
- "I use words to express myself and yet they do not define me, cannot crystallize a life that is in constant flux. Words are tools for communication like gender is a system for organization. And even as I play into the system by choosing a bathroom, a pronoun, a box on a form, I see it was a framework built upon faults, an institution that oppresses us all with some victims suffering more than others, a juggernaut. Some people see it as a binary, a spectrum, a continuum, or a rainbow. But when I envision my own gender, it is with my eye to the lens of a kaleidoscope that I spin and spin and spin."
Woohoo, another weekend down, another book finished! My review for Kiss, Date, Love, Hate by Luisa Plaja will be up tomorrow, hopefully. It was a bit young for me, TBH, but it proved a fun diversion over the last couple of days and it was a review copy, so what the heck. Next up I'll be treating myself to Before I Go To Sleep, partially because it's all new and shiny and MINE (not a review book or a library book, hooray!), partially because I pre-ordered it then never read it when it arrived in January, and partially so I've read at least two of the ten current TV Book Club titles before the voting deadline to pick my favourite. So far I've only read The Sisters Brothers so it'd be nice to have another one to compare it with before I enter. With £100 of Amazon vouchers up for grabs I'm not going to NOT vote, put it that way! ;)
Spent the last two nights watching old John Wayne movies - Hondo first, then the hilarious McLintock! last night - but today I've had a headache and been dosed up on painkillers since 7am, so I'm in no fit state to do anything much right now! Bedtime and starting that new book, methinks. Back tomorrow! :)
12) Kiss, Date, Love, Hate by Luisa Plaja (3.5*)
I think the target market for this book is probably a bit younger than I would normally go for - aged 13-14, perhaps - but nevertheless it was a fun little read. Lex is what she calls 'an Improver'. She is always being called to see Mr Trench in his office, and now he has a novel form of punishment for her: she and her fellow Improver Drew must take his half-term film course, along with their more studious school friends who have already signed up by choice (shock horror).
At the same time, Lex and her friend George are helping test a Sims-esque computer game for his father. Things get interesting when they realise that the changes they're making to their avatar settings in the game - in Life, Looks and Love - are miraculously coming true, and they decide that this is their chance to do a little sneaky matchmaking. But does Lex want to be with her perfect ex Matt, or with rebellious Drew? Can George handle all the attention he's suddenly getting from the ladies? And more importantly - how on earth will they deal with the fall-out when the game expires at the end of the week?
Although I'm not a huge fan of 'high school' fiction - I've done it once, I don't want to relive it now - I actually rather enjoyed this one. The quirky premise drew me in, and I liked the fact that the sparkling humour - which occasionally felt a little forced - was mostly spot on and really made me chuckle! It's also a British novel, which makes a nice change when it comes to the pop culture references, in particular. A smart, fluffy read that proved to be a great diversion during a busy weekend at work - though I'd probably recommend that on this occasion, you buy it for the teenage girl in your life rather than for yourself...
That one sounds pretty cute, Ellie. I actually just read a very British YA novel, sci-fi in this case, which was super awesome (0.4 by Mike Lancaster). I was super proud of myself for getting almost all of the references. Yay for being a colonial. ;)
Oooh, I got 0.4 for Christmas! *mentally boosts up Mount TBR* Go you for knowing your Brit references! :D
I sort-of moved back into the flat last night and now I'm wishing I hadn't bothered. In fact, I might just use this as a good excuse to sort some more of my crap out then move back into the house again!
For the HOUSE:
- Having a small room is manageable, cosy and a hell of a lot less cleaning.
- My daybed is all snuggly and warm.
- There are two cats to keep me company at any time of the day or night.
- There's never a chance of me oversleeping because everyone else is up and about at the same time.
- I'm also more likely to go to bed on time (much better for me!) because everyone else does too.
- It's warmer and not got this horrible damp feeling.
- My clothes aren't going to start moldering and smelling funny like they do in the flat.
- There's a hot power shower instead of a dribbly attachment.
- The oven takes two minutes to get to temperature, not twenty.
- People to chat to and, y'know, interact with...
- I can bring books and DVDs down as I want them and not get overwhelmed by all the choice!
- There's a dishwasher!
- I sometimes get cooked for, like when Graham makes hash browns and fried eggs at the weekend.
- I could, actually, come up to the flat anytime for a little music or a movie anyway.
- I don't need to lug washing or shopping up and down between houses because I'M ALREADY HERE!
For the FLAT:
- Domino can't wake me up scratching at my door at stupid o'clock.
- There are no hornets falling out of the roof and crawling into my bedroom.
- It's better when my sister's home. I can still listen to music, watch stuff on my laptop and set my alarm clock without disturbing her in the next room, and she can chat to Mum at night without disturbing ME.
- Big telly for DVD watching
- It's my space, so I'm not going to be disturbed if I'm, say, watching a weepy movie or something
- I have my music system up here and I can turn the volume up and sing along and dance around!
- I don't get cat fur in everything.
- My bedding up here doesn't need to be brutally ironed, unlike the WHITE brushed waffle stuff in the house.
Ummmm... *eyes up huge list of house pros*... I guess I'll just start sorting out what I want to ship back down into my little room then, shall I?
Yay for Pro-Con lists. Rory would approve. :) Hope the organizational project goes well.
Hey Ellie! Gah, so behind I am, because I'm obviously such a bad horrible person. I hope you are well, of course, and I love to see you back in the reading groove. Woohoo! I can help with the list! Like, ummmm, "people to chat to" should definitely be a con, obviously... :P
Micky - Ha, yes, wouldn't she just? I actually just started at season 1 again that (one) night in the flat, and I watched a couple more episodes when I had an all-day headache yesterday. LOVE IT!
Stephen, jeez, where've you been dude? And if YOU'RE a bad horrible person for being behind, then what does that make me? I don't think I've looked at any other threads in months! NO TIME! NO TIIIIIMMMMEEE! What with being back in ma readin' groove and all... ;)
People to chat to can indeed be a con, as long as you add 'when you get to a really good bit of your book' and 'when you're trying to watch a movie in peace'. Yesterday I finally managed to doze off after a bunch of painkillers for my headache, and got woken up unceremoniously fifteen minutes later when Mum banged a cupboard door shut then turned the hoover on right outside my room. I needed scraping off the ceiling, it was horrible! Hehe.
Then THIS morning it's Mum's birthday, and everything's gone wrong! The cat may or may not have thrown up somewhere (as yet unknown), the car went wrong this morning (the most tremendous smell of burning rubber from the brakes, oops), two shelves in the office had collapsed and sent books everywhere, I left my bag in the car on the opposite side of town, and some strange refunds have appeared in our bank account and Mum can't work out where they've come from. On the bright side, it's a beautiful sunny day, the birds are singing, the door's open (though I'm getting very cold now!) and Mum's lost another pound on her diet, which is GOOD. And I bought her a yummy mocha from over the road. Swings and roundabouts, people, swings and roundabouts... :)
I'm honestly not sure how many times I've watched GG. It's probably a disgusting number.
Here's hoping your mum's birthday gets vastly better. Just tell her that the year can only improve. *knock wood* ;)
Hi Ellie! Glad to see that you're back in a reading mood again - and some excellent reviews up there, I might add!
I've just started watching Season 4 of GG, and I love it! I'll be getting season 5 on Tuesday from my friend, so I guess that means I'll "have to" GG overdose in the next few days to watch the remaining 4 disks. *sigh* Happiness is...
Of course, I also just received my French & Saunders: Back with a Vengeance DVD and that's begging to be watched too, so....
I'm starting at the beginning (again) - there's something so CHEERY about the Gilmore Girls that's perfect for sunny springlike days. I watched another episode this morning before work, while I had breakfast. I think the whole of Derbyshire should have done the same, actually, because even though the sun's shining and it's warm and there's new lambikins in the fields and everything's lovely, people are so GRUMPY today! All mumbles and grunts and snappiness. Clearly they didn't get the spring memo... :(
Oooh, I lovelovelove Gilmore Girls! In fact, I've just recently finished another complete re-watch!
And if YOU'RE a bad horrible person for being behind, then what does that make me?
Ummmm, an amazing wonderful person obviously superior to us lesser beings! *Bows*
13) Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson (3.5*)
I definitely liked this book - but not as much as I expected to when I eagerly pre-ordered it in January. I think this was mostly because of the word 'thriller' emblazoned across it; for me that conjures expectations of a taut, suspenseful page-turner, when in fact it was more of a slow-burning literary novel that just happened to have a crime driving it forwards. It was a great book, just not in the way I expected when I started reading, and I think that dented my overall enjoyment somewhat.
It opens as Christine wakes up. She has no idea where she is or who is lying beside her. Fumbling her way to the bathroom, she is horrified to find a fifty-something woman staring back at her in the mirror. Around her reflection are photos that she has no recollection of posing for, and the man in her bed introduces himself as her husband Ben. Before he goes to work he explains that she had an accident and now has amnesia, waking up every morning unable to remember where she is, sometimes feeling like a twenty-something woman, sometimes even feeling like she is still a child. A little while later Christine gets a call from her doctor, who meets her for coffee and hands her a journal that she has been writing for the past few weeks. Back home she opens it and is confronted by a scrawl across the front page: 'Do not trust Ben.' She reads on, determined to piece together her history... Who is telling her the truth, and who is lying - and why?
Much of the book is made up of this journal, which is simultaneously a great device and a slightly irritating one. It contributes quite heavily towards the slower pace of the novel, because Christine repeats herself so much, particularly earlier on. You could argue that this is made necessary by the subject matter - she has amnesia, after all - but as a reader I admit I found it a little dull at times. At the same time, it did mean that as each piece of the puzzle fell into place, it had quite an impact. Like Christine, I had to read between the lines as the daily entries built up, trying to work out how her returning memories fit together, who she could trust and what might really have happened to her. It was a good mental workout!
I'd certainly say that this is a thought-provoking novel. It really makes you think about how an individual's identity and sense of self is tied to memory, to a personal history filled with experiences and people and places, and how bewildering it would be to have to start afresh every day. There are little moments scattered through the book that really hammer home how carefully Watson must have had to consider each and every page, and how impossible a linear narrative would have been without the journal. Christine doesn't know about 9/11 and the war on terror, for example. She's never seen a mobile phone before, has no knowledge of her own middle-aged body, and has no real feeling of love for Ben because to all intents and purposes, she's meeting him for the first time each morning. This would be a great novel for a book club, because there's just so much potential for discussion - in fact, there are a set of questions at the end of the book for that purpose. I'd definitely recommend it - just don't make the mistake of expecting a fast and frenetic read like I did!
• "I realise I do not have ambition. I cannot. All I want is to feel normal. To live like everybody else, with experience building on experience, each day shaping the next. I want to grow, to learn things, and from things... I can't imagine how I will cope, when I discover that my life is behind me, has already happened, and I have nothing to show for it. No treasure house of recollection, no wealth of experience, no accumulated wisdom to pass on. What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?"
Great review, Ellie! This is an excellent example of why I've taken to not reading book descriptions in a lot of cases. Less expectations and every plot point is a surprise.
Absolutely! I'm writing a blog post about it at the moment. I think the moment we start to pay attention is the moment books - like classics, or things marketed as 'literary' - can start to scare us, for a start. No one ever picked up a book as a kid and thought 'Whoah, this book is meant to be, like, REALLY difficult... I'd better not read it.' We just started reading and decided for ourselves!
And some of my favourite books of recent years have been books I've started reading without knowing much about them - Running with Scissors and This Book Will Save Your Life were both picked up as the final book in 3-for-2 deals at Waterstones, Gold and The Ice Queen were picked up on a whim from the library, The Secret History was a book club choice years ago... I went into them blind and LOVED each journey, because they were mine to make!
Note to self: Use this in said blog post, when you can finally be arsed to write it. That was a good line! Also, stop writing blog posts in the wrong place. Blogger is THAT way. *points across tabs* Okay, carry on... :)
P.S. You might have to wait a little longer for my review of The Man in the Picture. It's only a novella, it shouldn't exactly take long, but I feel a bit rubbish today so I'm thinking I might just sit and read for a bit, sip coffee, ignore people, that kind of thing... Bear with me, I might be back by the end of the day! :D
Summaries totally ruin books, I avoid them at all costs. I pick my books based on tags here on LT, or based on cover art alone, because the details of the story itself are mostly unnecessary. Thrillers are the worst, they'll spoil plot points from the MIDDLE of a book.
If I have it spoiled by the summary I'm reading the book constantly expecting for the event to happen, and then when it does it is completely unexciting and ruins the whole thing because I was expecting it. If I 'accidentally' read a summary (it does happen) and if it seems like something like that has happened, the book goes back on the shelf and never gets read/bought/checked out.
I read summaries for key points only--just so I have an idea of what's in it. Otherwise I would be hopelessly lost when trying to decide what to read. But I ignore any judgements--like what genre it supposedly fits and how well an author does such and such. I -might- believe something like that if it is in a little blurb by an author I love, but usually I still take it with a grain of salt.
Lots of books end up on my TBR list because I've read reviews of them here on LT or on book blogs that I read, but I find the summaries in those places are far less spoiler-ish than what ends up on the jacket. Plus, the time between adding the book to my list and actually reading it is usually big enough that the summary is more fuzzy in my memory. :)
241: I hope by that you don't mean when Stephen King blurbs about how EVERY FREAKING HORROR BOOK EVER is amazing. :P
I'm a bit of the opposite, however. I pick books based on genre alone. I'd rather read a book that says it's a "sci-fi cowboy steampbunk novel" over one that says "a police officer must solve a mystery and their child get kidnapped on page 184." Ack! Infuriating! :(
#243: Nope. Tried King in middle school and was bored by it. Have been told to try a better one at some point, which I may or may not. Mostly just a "is this positive for a reason, or very general (in which case it probably isn't fully meant/deserved praise, if that makes sense)" type situation.
I think I do like to get a FEEL for the book, a little hint that it's something I'd like. Gold had a rather vague, intriguing blurb and sounded quirky. This Book Will Save Your Life sounded sunny, somehow, and had donuts on the cover. The Ice Queen just sounded really different and a bit magical. Running With Scissors sounded really quirky and a bit mad. So I got a kind of feel for each book, without finding out about the plot or whether other readers had issues with certain things, or anything like that.
When I was little my mum picked out The Chase by Louisa May Alcott and a P.G. Wodehouse novel for me to borrow from the library, and I had no idea what I was reading like I would now. I wasn't thinking of Alcott as a classic author, or of Wodehouse as a legendary humourist, I was just reading and enjoying and making my own sense of each book! It's a lovely thing...
14) The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill (4*)
When I heard that this novella was loosely inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, possibly my favourite book of all time, I was eager to give it a try! It's my first Susan Hill, but knowing her reputation for chilling writing I reckoned I'd be in safe hands. Happily, I wasn't disappointed, and found The Man in the Picture a thoroughly absorbing little read.
It is really a story within a story within a story. The first narrator is Oliver, a Cambridge alumnus visiting his old professor Theo in his college digs. One cold night, sitting by a roaring fire, whisky in hand, Theo tells Oliver how he came to own one of the art works in his collection, a macabre painting depicting a crowded Venetian carnival scene. Within his story, in turn, is the bizarre experience of the Countess who owned the painting before him. Between these three Hill conjures a tale of menace and vengeance, peeking into the sinister corners of Venice and the history of a terrifying picture with a life of its own, the entire novella suffused with the theatricality of the Carnivale and the scent of oil paint.
This is a quick read, but a wonderfully atmospheric one that I think pays an interesting kind of homage to The Picture of Dorian Gray without trampling all over it. Hill handles her Russian doll trio of narrators beautifully, so that each is distinct from the others and I never got confused - which could easily have happened given that everything hinges on one work of art. I wouldn't say it is a surprising novella, because I could see where it was all leading, but it was still delicious to just sink into it for a day and immerse myself in the spooky story and the darker side of the masked celebrations whirling through the streets of Venice. Recommended!
~ "Someone must just have returned. In a couple of weeks term would have begun and then lights would be on all round - undergraduates do not turn in early. I stood for a moment looking round, remembering the good years I had spent within these walls, the conversations late into the night, the japes, the hours spent sweating over an essay... I would never want to be like Theo, spending all my years here, however comfortable the college life might be, but I had a pang on longing for the freedoms and the friendships."
~ "I have read that everyone who visits Venice falls in love with that city, that Venice puts everyone under her spell. Perhaps I was never going to be happy there, because of the painting and of what I had seen, but I was taken aback by how much I disliked it from the moment we arrived. I marvelled at the buildings, the canals, and the lagoon astonished me. And yet I hated it. I feared it. It seemed to be a city of corruption and excess, an artificial place, full of darkness and foul odours. I looked over my shoulder. I saw everything as sinister and threatening."
~ "I knew only too well the fierce power of jealousy which fuels a passion to be avenged. It does not happen very often but when it does and a person has their love rejected and all their future hopes betrayed for another, rage, pride and jealousy are terrible forces and can do immeasurable harm."
I'm glad you liked The Man in the Picture! I thought it was great too, when I read it as a Halloween read. :)
Faith: It's not like one of these cheap knock-offs we are seeing so much of nowadays, it's just vaguely similar, in the sense that it's a literary 'haunting' story with a painting as the centerpiece.
Nice review of Before I Go to Sleep, Ellie! I liked it, too. I've heard others comment on how it got hyped too much when it came out. It was different from what I expected, too, along the lines of your thriller expectation. But it was a good, solid read, and thought-provoking, as you say, especially on the significance of memory in our lives.
The Man in the Picture sounds intriguing, too.
Faith - I had the same qualms, but it's completely different from TPoDG while still managing to give a hearty nod in its direction, if you see what I mean...
Stephen - Yup, it was read on your recommendation, actually! It went on my wishlist after you read it for Hallowe'en. :)
Joe - Yup, the hype definitely worked against it. Not in the usual sense, because I did buy it and read it within a couple of months (rather than buying it and reading it three years later, oops!), but because everything I'd read and heard about it pointed towards it being a THRILLER. And to me a thriller is an 'I can't put this down, things are happening, OH MY GOD WHAT'S NEXT?' kind of book. This was almost more of a psychological mystery. Having read it, I would have shelved it under regular fiction, not crime, in our shop... Thank heavens it WAS a good, solid read, or its rating might really have fallen! And how ironic, that it would have been because of the wealth of gushing comments on the cover...
P.S. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the 250-message unwritten rule - message away here for now, should you get the urge to do so - and I'll start a new thread tomorrow. I can't be bothered to move everything over and write my little intro blurb tonight, I'm too sleepy! *yawns indulgently*
>249 I'll be 250, Ellie!
This was almost more of a psychological mystery. Having read it, I would have shelved it under regular fiction, not crime, in our shop. Well put. I completely agree. Wonder how the hype got off in the wrong direction? It's a good book, but not a thriller.
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