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SusanJ's 75 Books Challenge

This topic was continued by SusanJ's 75 Books Challenge - Thread 2.

75 Books Challenge for 2012

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Edited: Jan 15, 2012, 3:04pm Top

Welcome to my 2012 thread. This is my second year in the 75-ers. Looking back on my 2010 thread from the 50-ers, and particularly my favourites from that year, I'm sad to say that 2011 didn't match it. There were many books fighting for top place in 2010, but fewer that really grabbed me in 2011.

However, my top ten were:


Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

The Rules of Gentility by Janet Mullany

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland


West End Girls by Barbara Tate

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

White Gold by Giles Milton

Nathaniel's Nutmeg by Giles Milton

Death and the Virgin by Chris Skidmore

All of these were excellent reads, but they fell quite easily into the top ten. I didn't have lots of others competing for places.

I particularly liked how different the fiction books were - from the Trollope to the delicious Rules of Gentility - a Regency romance romp like nothing I've read before, and which still makes me giggle when I think about it.

A lot of last year's books were romances, and this year I would like to read fewer romances and try some different types of books instead. As it's the Dickens bicentenary in 2012, there is a lot going on here in the UK in terms of articles and events, so I'm aiming for one Dickens novel a month, and to go to some Dickens events, or at the very least the exhibition at the Museum of London. I'm pretty poorly read when it comes to the classics, so I'm going to make an effort with at least one author.

I'm also going to try and Stop Buying Stuff, particularly for the Kindle. I don't have that many hard copy books, but that one-click download button is a real temptation. I'm aiming to finish what I already have, and then think about some new things. (No-one quote this back at me!) So far I have resisted the 12 Days of Kindle sale for three whole days, which I just need to continue for another nine :-)

Dec 27, 2011, 8:12am Top

Checking in for 2012! I had the same problem with my Kindle - I was convinced I'd only buy books when I wanted to read them, but with so many price promotions I ended up with far too many, most of which I'd never even heard of before!

Looking forward to seeing what you're reading for 2012 - and I know what you mean about reading more classics. I have so many wonderful-sounding titles on my shelves, yet I always get lazy and pass over them for other books. I'd love to get stuck into more Dickens this year, I've only read Oliver Twist so far so I have plenty to choose from!

Dec 27, 2011, 9:18am Top

Hi, Susan, welcome back!

There is a group reading Great Expectations in February (running through the 12in12 Challenge group - but we allow anyone to join in) so maybe you can read that Dickens along with everyone else!

Happy reading in 2012!

Dec 27, 2011, 10:06am Top

Welcome back!

Dec 27, 2011, 10:54pm Top

dropped a star!

Dec 29, 2011, 5:11pm Top

Hey, Susan! Glad to see you back for 2012!

Jan 1, 2012, 7:22am Top

Hi everyone! Thanks for the hellos.

I've spent part of the morning reading my first book of 2011 - Blade of Fortriu by Juliet Marillier, which is the second in a trilogy I started just before Christmas. I liked this author's Sevenwaters trilogy a few years ago, and I'm enjoying this one too, although I'm only 150 pages into this book. It's about a Pictish king, and there's magic in it, so it counts as fantasy, but there aren't any dragons :-) I don't read a lot of fantasy but I thought I'd try some this year, not least because a friend at work is really into it and always suggesting things (usually 13-volume series, which I don't think I'm quite ready for). I got this one from the library and I have the third one reserved, so I hope it comes in soon because there are a lot of characters to remember.

Jan 1, 2012, 7:54am Top

I have only read one of Marillier's books to this point. I will be interested in seeing what you think of the trilogy as a whole when you are done with it, Susan.

Jan 1, 2012, 7:55pm Top

Happy New Year!

Jan 2, 2012, 12:26am Top

Found you at last Susan. Thread starred so I don't misplace it!

Jan 2, 2012, 1:05am Top

Happy New Year, Susan!

Jan 2, 2012, 7:31am Top

Thanks everyone! It's a lovely day in London today, and I have finished my first book. I'm trying to teach myself how to do cool things with my thread, so I'm going to put in the cover:

1. Blade of Fortriu by Juliet Marillier

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: Because it's the second one in the Bridei Chronicles, about a Pictish king in the 500s.

I liked this a lot, and particularly the way it built on the characters from the first book, The Dark Mirror. Also, it wasn't too "fantastical" (if that's a word in the sense I'm using it). Mostly it was a historical novel, with fantasy elements, I would say. Of course, I don't read a lot of fantasy, so I'm probably not the best judge, but I do want to try some more this year. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!

Well, according to the preview, the cover picture is showing up. Woo-hoo! I've done some bold on my 12 in 12 thread, so there's no stopping me now :-)

Jan 2, 2012, 8:10am Top

#12: As much as I would like to read the Bridei Chronicles, it does not look like it will happen any time soon. My local library has The Dark Mirror, but not the other two books in the series. Unfortunate, that.

As far as fantasy suggestions, check out Roni's thread. She reads heavily in that direction. Some that I can recommend would be Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion trilogy and Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed as well as Patricia C. Wrede's Sorcery and Cecilia and her Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Jan 2, 2012, 8:20am Top

Thanks Stasia, I'll have a look at those.

That's sad about the Bridei Chronicles. My library is also pretty vague with series of things, but we can reserve across a wider collection of libraries, fortunately.

Jan 2, 2012, 8:39am Top

The Wrede books are more YA fantasy, but the Bujold is definitely not. I do not know how much that matters to you.

Jan 2, 2012, 12:21pm Top

Seconding the Bujold recommendation. You could also try her Sharing Knife series. I love her science fiction Vorkosigan Saga beyond reason, but it's long, so you might try her fantasy first to see how you like her writing style and characterization.

Other fantasy recs:

Jacqueline Carey (start with Kushiel's Dart)

Naomi Novik (start with His Majesty's Dragon)

Jo Walton (my fave is Tooth and Claw)

Jan 2, 2012, 2:11pm Top

Thanks Susanna. I read Kushiel's Dart a few years ago and didn't love it enough to continue with the series, but the others sound interesting.

Here is my next book:

2. The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser

Where I got it: Ebook
Why I read it: Because I love romance, and this one was a debut by a new author, for Carina Press, which I think at that time was a pretty new imprint. It has been languishing in Mount TBR because it is longer than the books I usually read on my laptop on the weekends, but today is a public holiday here so I had more time.

This is a romance set during the Peninsular War, and I can't believe I let it sit there for so long without reading it, because I loved it. The hero and heroine are perfect for one another (I have read a few romances recently where I felt the heroine could have done better, which is never a great way to finish a book), and there is a great sense of time and place and none of the out of place modern language that so often drives me crackers in historical romances. Susanna, I can't wait to download your second one, and I'm looking forward to the third!

I just previewed this post and once again the picture is there! I must be operating at the very height of my technological powers today. Tomorrow, italics.

Jan 2, 2012, 3:59pm Top

Thanks, Susan! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Jan 2, 2012, 7:29pm Top

#17: That one looks pretty good! I will have to see if my local library has a copy. Thanks for the review and recommendation, Susan.

Jan 2, 2012, 11:54pm Top

What a great start to the year so far Susan. I want to recommend some good fantasy as it is a genre I delve into rarely as well but all I keep coming up with is Game of Thrones (series isn't finished yet so may be frustrating although will take you a couple of years to read what is published so far), The Bartimaeus Trilogy ( I just love these books) and try Patrick Rothfuss, he has a trilogy where he is currently writing the third book but the first two are outstanding, book one is The Name of the Wind. All these books are rather large so I will try to think of some books under 500 pages as well!

Jan 3, 2012, 5:45am Top

Happy New Year Susan! I have not been managing to resist the 12 days of kindle sale but so far most of my purchases happened before 31 December so it's ok!

I'm excited to see that you're going to be reading some Dickens :-)

Jan 3, 2012, 12:05pm Top

#20: Thanks Leonie! I'm waiting for the Game of Thrones series to be finished, but I've reserved the first one in The Bartimaeus Trilogy from the library today, as it's quite new and they had some in the catalogue. They've just changed the online catalogue so it's virtually unusable, but I fought my way through it.

#21: Heather, I've started Nicholas Nickleby, so I'm on my way! One of the guys at work got a Kindle for Christmas. I sent him a few links to the amazon Daily Deal, 12 Days of Kindle, UK freebies list...I have to live vicariously, although I have just bought the hard copy of Clarissa, so I have had a tiny book-buying lapse. Actually at £15.10, not that tiny!

Jan 3, 2012, 12:22pm Top

# 17 Ooo, Peninsular War & romance. I might have to find that one, too. Is it very smutty? Sometimes all those throbbing/breathless/whatever scenes in romances just make me giggle (35 going on 8 here!).

Did you get your Clarissa? Should we start a group read thread?

Jan 3, 2012, 12:35pm Top

I just got the email from amazon to say Clarissa (honestly, every time I put that in as a touchstone, up comes yet another book called Clarissa, none of them the right one yet) has despatched and should arrive on Thursday (I'm too cheap to pay postage, so it's coming super-saver :-) ) There is another 75-er, Deern (Nathalie) also planning to read it, so that makes three of us. I'm not sure how to start a group read thread unless we just do it, but there seems to be a thread with group reads in it - I will investigate.

Definitely look for The Sergeant's Lady - it's from Carina Press, the ebook division of Harlequin, but it's available in all e formats as far as I can see (or at least non-Kindle from the Carina website and others, and Kindle from amazon). In terms of the heat factor, they don't disappear behind the bedroom door, but I thought those scenes were well done and right for the characters. Sometimes I have read scenes where it seemed that the author was trying to tick things off a list, which is where I think it tends to get a bit ridiculous.

Edited: Jan 3, 2012, 12:48pm Top

Thanks! I am new here, so I have no idea how to do things! And yay for more participants! I have a pretty good grasp of the 18th century but it is a spectacularly long book. I need someone standing by with oxygen. :)

I totally agree about the overdone sex scenes. Like there must be all these 'erotic' cliches crammed in or else! At that point I'm looking around hoping no one on the train is reading over my shoulder and seeing some (previously virginal) Regency lady getting freaky, in a really formulaic way.

Jan 3, 2012, 1:37pm Top

Hearing all this talk about Clarissa around the threads has me seriously considering biting the bullet and joining in (although I would also need to splash out on a copy).

Regarding group reads, anyone can start a thread and then just list the thread on the group wiki (under the group reads section here). If you title the thread something like "Group read - Clarissa by Samuel Richardson" then everyone will know what it is and if you wanted to get other people interested then you could just do a quick post on Message Board thread and perhaps the What we are reading - Classics thread.

Sorry if that's way too much information - just tell me to butt out :-)

#25 And welcome to the group Charlotte!

Jan 3, 2012, 2:18pm Top

Thanks Heather! That was the perfect amount of information, which has enabled me to start a thread and put it in the Wiki (thank goodness for the preview button there!). I mentioned it in the Classics thread this afternoon but I'll go back and add a link now there is a thread.

Jan 3, 2012, 9:44pm Top

Hi Susan, as promised, I've come by and placed my star!

Jan 4, 2012, 12:48am Top

Ooh, The Sergeant's Lady sounds really good. I must... resist... urge... to buy immediately. I can already tell this Reading More Books than I Buy challenge is going to kill me!

Jan 4, 2012, 4:29am Top

Yes, LT is pretty fatal to that sort of challenge, I think!

I am 11% of the way through Nicholas Nickleby, which is going faster than I thought it would. But my commute is very short, and made even shorter by Transport for London's wondrous new invention - the live bus tracker. No more waiting at chilly bus stops now they've put GPS trackers on all the buses - you can find out *exactly* when the next bus is due, and leave the house two minutes beforehand. It cuts down the waiting, but I use the time at home to fold laundry and do the ironing, instead of reading. Last night I decided to stay up later so I could read...forgetting that it was the new season of - ahem - 90210. The fates are conspiring against me!

Jan 4, 2012, 9:27am Top

No more waiting at chilly bus stops now they've put GPS trackers on all the buses - you can find out *exactly* when the next bus is due, and leave the house two minutes beforehand.


Jan 4, 2012, 9:44am Top

Yes, it is such a good idea, and saves so much time. I found out about a beta version of the website a while ago, and started sending the address round people at work who live near me (we are all plagued with one particularly unreliable bus route which we once managed to get into the top ten most-complained-about bus routes in London and the competition is stiff). People were coming up to me saying "It's changed my life!", much to the bemusement of their friends (particularly when they found out what we were talking about). The downside is that I have lost the half-hour of reading I sometimes used to get while waiting on a bad day. The upside is I don't have pneumonia :-)

Now up to 13% of Nicholas Nickleby after a session at lunchtime. I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would, but there's still a lot to go.

Jan 5, 2012, 10:56am Top

Oh happy day! My library has changed its online catalogue so that it is virtually impenetrable but, perhaps hoping that people would be put off reserving things as a result, it appears to have *removed the five item reserve limit*. I have seven things listed already and am in serious danger of going completely crazy and adding more. One thing is in transit, while the others are merely "active". Not that active, but then I can't read seven books at once.

In other news, I'm 25% of the way through Nicholas Nickleby, which is definitely growing on me. Dickens has a style that takes a bit of getting used to. One of our weekend papers does a quick quiz with famous people that involves choices between two things of the same kind and I've seen "Dickens or Trollope?" in one politician's questions. I'd have to say Trollope, as things currently stand anyway.

Jan 5, 2012, 5:13pm Top

I'm enjoying reading about your progress with the Dickens, I have only read A Christmas Carol so have much Dickens to catch up on although it always looked too daunting, but then what classic isn't?

Jan 5, 2012, 8:10pm Top

My local library has a 5 book reserve limit too. I wish they would get rid of it. They instituted it last year when someone - and no, it was not me - put 99 books on hold.

Jan 5, 2012, 8:45pm Top

A 5-book reserve limit? Wow. I no longer feel quite so grumpy about our library's cutting back from 50 to 25.

Edited: Jan 5, 2012, 11:30pm Top

My local library has a 5 book reserve limit too.

**collapses in chair stunned**

I didn't know such low reserve limits existed before now. I currently have 23 active holds in place - we can selectively suspend holds - and that was the tally after I picked up 7 holds this evening that were ready for checkout. Since I had no idea what reserve limit the library may have I decided to investigate.... apparently they allow up to 60 holds per card.

I don't know how you can survive with a 5-book reserve limit. I am still stunned by that piece of information..... having difficulty comprehending the logic behind such a policy....

ETA - The information I have posted here relates to reserve limits for physical books. The e-book system has a 5 book reserve limit for e-books.

Jan 5, 2012, 11:28pm Top

Yeah, I think my library hold limit is 10, plus they charge you 25 cents a hold.

Jan 5, 2012, 11:31pm Top

> 37 - There is a charge for a hold?????? Really??? You guys are really starting to scare me now.......

Jan 6, 2012, 12:06am Top

That's scaring me, too! I don't want our library system getting any ideas. I've already almost stopped using interlibrary loan, since a few years ago it changed from free to $5 per request. I used to use it for my more obscure research needs, but now I try the University of Washington library first (which I can access through work). If they don't have it, unless it's super-expensive I just buy it outright.

Jan 6, 2012, 4:53am Top

#34: Leonie, I've reached 39% now! The story seems to be a little bit all over the place, but I'm trying to remember that it was originally published in instalments, a few chapters at a time, so I suppose something exciting always had to happen in each instalment, to keep people reading. It gives the book a different type of story arc (if that's the right expression) to something designed to be read all at once. That's taking a bit of getting used to.

#35: 99 books?! LOL! A shame they had to spoil it for other people, though.

I now have nine things on reserve (I added Tigana and the first one of the Lois McMaster Bujold series), but I wonder what will happen if I try and go over ten. I probably won't unless I'm in a long queue for something, and want other things in the meantime. I don't dare ask in case they realise what they've done and reinstate the five item limit! I'm fortunate in that my borough is a member of the London Libraries Consortium, which means we can reserve (free) anything in the combined catalogue, which is about four million books. I've never tried to get anything from further afield than that. It used to cost 70p per reserve, but they dropped that at some point, possibly because it's difficult to administer with an online system.

Jan 6, 2012, 4:59am Top

#41: The person who put the books on hold was a teacher and wanted the books to use in his/her classroom. I guess they just did not want to have to pull them all by themselves and consequently just put them all on hold so that the librarians would have to do it. Unfortunately for the rest of us, that made the library institute the 5 book rule.

Jan 6, 2012, 9:10am Top

If the school libraries are so poor that teachers need to use the public library for classroom bookshelves, the local library needs to come up with a classroom collection policy rather than ruining book holds for the rest of the population.

Jan 6, 2012, 10:14am Top

#43: I do not see that happening any time soon, Lori, so for now I just suffer along with all the other readers in the area.

Jan 6, 2012, 12:07pm Top

I'm still at nine reserves, but two of them are now "in transit". That can take days, though. But my Clarissa arrived today (eek!) so I'm not exactly short of things to read . I'm going to read the introduction over the weekend.

I will have acres of time tomorrow because my firm is shutting down all the IT systems to disaster-test them, which means no BlackBerry all day. No emails, no internet unless I go to all the trouble of logging on to my own computer at home instead of BlackBerrying from the sofa - it's positively medieval :-) It will be strange to be able to read and not feel obliged to check the little screen every five minutes. Fortunately it's a quiet time of year and I'm not anticipating work email. I hope those aren't famous last words.

Jan 7, 2012, 2:14pm Top

3. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I'd read about this when the Booker shortlist came out last year, and it fits nicely into the London section of my 12 in 12 challenge.

I loved this novel about an 11-year-old boy living in an iffy part of London, and trying to get used to life in England after coming over from Ghana. There were many funny bits in it as he misunderstood things in the way that kids everywhere do - you mis-hear something when you're a child and go along merrily on your way until the truth dawns months or years later :-) but as the main subject of the book was the extreme violence that affects so many young people here, overall it was very sad. There were some good secondary characters, my favourite being Takeaway Terry with his dog, Asbo (for non-UK readers, an ASBO is an anti-social behaviour order, handed down by the courts to try and keep people in line) but the other family members were also well-drawn.

I'm having a break from Nicholas Nickleby for the weekend. I looked up the chapter numbers for the original periodical instalments and read to the end of the ninth one, but it's a bit relentless. I can see why - he had to keep up people's interest over many months, and draw them back to read what happened next, but it's difficult from the point of view of someone sitting with the whole novel in front of them. You just want to say "OK, you've got me!" and have it all calm down a bit.

Jan 7, 2012, 4:49pm Top

Hmmm, I'm now up to 11 reserves on the library site, and it hasn't objected yet. Must...not...see if I can go over 20. Particularly as five things are now in transit. Eeek! Must read faster! I've just started Kathy Reichs' Virals, which is a great change from the sorts of books I usually read. So far so good, though.

Jan 7, 2012, 7:52pm Top

five things are now in transit. Eeek! Must read faster!

Yup... that is one of the downsides to being able to place a large number of holds... they have a nasty habit of becomes available en mass! ;-)

Jan 7, 2012, 8:06pm Top

I have that problem, too! Sometimes if I place a really popular book on hold it can take months to arrive, which is fine... but then they tend to arrive all at once.

Reading comments here makes me extremely grateful for our wonderful library system here. I don't know that there are limits on reserves, and ILLs are free -- there's a Prospector partnership among several library systems, including the public library systems and university library systems. I've had books come from Wyoming:)

LOVE the GPS tracker system for city buses. What a great idea!

Jan 8, 2012, 3:37am Top

Good luck on reading faster, Susan!

Edited: Jan 8, 2012, 2:14pm Top

Today I have made pretty good progress with the reading faster, or at least reading more.

4. Virals by Kathy Reichs

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I saw this reviewed on Ellie's thread and it looked like a good YA novel to try. YA is one of my 12 in 12 categories.

This is totally different to the sort of thing I normally read, and I really enjoyed the change. It's a YA novel about the group of friends living near a University research facility, and what happens when they become involved in certain mysterious happenings. The story is told mostly in the first person, by a teenage girl, but there are occasional excursions into the points of view of other people, which I didn't think worked (although did communicate necessary information, so I suppose they worked from that point of view). Reading about the teens made me feel very old, but I'm definitely going to look for the next one in the series, Seizure.

5. Lemon Sherbet and Dolly Blue by Lynn Knight

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: Because (1) it was brand new and clean and (2) it fits into the social history category of my 12 in 12 challenge...but mostly (1).

The lemon sherbet and dolly blue in the title refer to goods sold in the shop owned by the author's great-grandmother, but this book is subtitled "The Story of an Accidental Family" and it looks at how three generations of the family were adopted into it, hence the "accidental" part. It was interesting to read about how the law changed - or more accurately how there was no adoption law until 1926, so that earlier arrangements were often informal, and could be reversed, and the various steps taken to try and put the system on a more formal footing. It's also a charming memoir of life in a village near Chesterfield from the early 1900s until the 1950s, and how the family dealt with events like the World Wars. This was a completely random library book that I picked up yesterday but I'm so glad I found it.

Jan 8, 2012, 4:31pm Top

#51: Lemon Sherbet and Dolly Blue looks like one I would enjoy. I have already read Virals, so that BB does not get me!

Jan 9, 2012, 11:42am Top

If you like social history then it's an interesting read. The title is a bit odd, though. At first I thought it might have something to do with famous race-horses, but fortunately picked it up to have a closer look :-)

I now have six books coming in to the library and have shuffled the other four back onto my wishlist for later, as they hadn't changed their status. At least three of the six are "chunksters" (to quote a word I have just learned on LT) which is a little worrying. One is ready to pick up tomorrow, so that's lunchtime taken care of. It's good exercise, though, and fortunately the cold weather still hasn't hit London.

Tomorrow is also the start of the Clarissa group read, so I must remember that.

Jan 10, 2012, 4:11pm Top

Hi Susan

Going way back to the library holds conversation, I don't think I've ever checked to see whether there's an upper limit on holds but I don't tend to go above 5 anyway. Both county library systems that I use charge for holds/requesting things from other branches although nowhere near as much as the charge for ILL.

#43 "The story seems to be a little bit all over the place" I struggled a bit with Nicholas Nickleby at times when I read it last year. The introduction to my edition seemed to imply that because Dickens was inspired by the 18th century picaresque novels (like Tom Jones) it was supposed to be rambling. That was one of the things that made me decide to try and read some 18th century books this year because I really don't feel like I understand that at the moment.

#47 "five things are now in transit. Eeek! Must read faster!" - Yep, been there. That's why I try and restrict myself now :-)

Jan 10, 2012, 4:23pm Top

Good luck with all your reading that you've got going on. Your accidental random book sounds like a treat.

Jan 11, 2012, 7:47am Top

I've picked up one reserved book, which I will finish tonight. It's The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, and it's excellent. Definitely a new author to read more of! There's another one ready now, which I'll collect tomorrow, and that's about 900 pages, so might keep me going through the weekend, although I mentioned it to a friend and he said he's one chapter into it and isn't impressed, so then again it might not! That one's Shantaram. The others are still wending their way library-wards.

There's always Nicholas Nickleby if nothing else arrives :-)

Jan 11, 2012, 3:03pm Top

#51 I quite like the sound of Lemon Sherbet and Dolly Blue too, think I will add it to my wish list and see if they have it at my local library.

Jan 11, 2012, 4:01pm Top

#57: Georgia, mine had a sticker on it to say that it had been read on Radio 4, so it seems like it might be quite popular, and the sort of thing libraries would buy. I hope you like it if you find it!

I have just finished a fabulous sixth book:

6. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I saw this author (and book) recommended on someone's thread a few days ago, and I really wish I could remember who it was, because I want to say thank you for giving me such a great new author to read.

This is one of those story-within-a-story plots, about a modern novelist writing a historical novel about the Jacobite uprising of 1708, and finding herself writing all sorts of things that she then learns are actually historical fact. But how has this happened, and what will happen next to her heroine, Sophia? Sophia's story runs alongside the novelist's own romantic story, and I liked the fact that both sets of characters were convincing and, frankly, lovely. I read a couple of novels last year that used a similar plot device and found that, while the historical story worked well, the modern characters were just irritating. But this time everything worked together, and I raced through this novel in a couple of evenings (and a bus ride) because I just couldn't put it down. Now I just have to stop myself from gobbling up this author's entire back-catalogue in the next month.

Jan 11, 2012, 10:18pm Top

Ooh, that looks fascinating! I just downloaded a sample for my Kindle.

Jan 12, 2012, 6:08pm Top

Great review there, sounds like my cup of tea. My husband read Shantaram a couple of years ago and he rates it very highly. I haven't read it yet but definitely plan to so will be interested in your views if you do get to it.

Jan 13, 2012, 5:57am Top

#60: I started Shantaram last night and read three chapters (about 80 pages) but then I put it down and had no desire to pick it up again, so it's going back to the library. I thought my friend and her husband had read it, but it turns out just to be her husband (who loves it) so maybe it's more of a boy thing. Not sure, but it didn't work for me.

However, three more reserves are ready today, so I'll go and pick those up. They are Tigana, which everyone says is amazing, a YA novel called Uglies and Louisa Young's book My Dear I Wanted To Tell You which I keep seeing mentioned. It's supposed to be cold over the weekend, so good reading weather, although I must admit I've never encountered *bad* reading weather!

Edited: Jan 14, 2012, 2:51pm Top

7. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I saw it recommended on Eris's thread, and it fits into the YA category in my 12 in 12 challenge.

I saw a website recently where readers could rate a story "WIN", "OMG", "LOL" or "FAIL" and that rather appealed to me for book ratings :-) This is definitely a WIN - I thought it was incredibly well done, with a really clever storyline set about three hundred years in the future, I think, and an attention to detail that made it seem very real. This is my second YA of the year, after Virals, and if I can find more books as good as this one I'm going to start reading more YA. Highly recommended, and I already have the next one reserved.

Jan 15, 2012, 6:59am Top

8. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Where I got it: Library ebook
Why I read it: I keep seeing this series referred to in other people's threads and they all seem to love it, so I thought I would give it a try. Also, my library has all five of the ebooks in the series, which is some sort of miracle. Usually they have 1, 3 and 4, or maybe 2 and 5, but this time all of them appear (I'm assuming there are only five) so it seemed like a sign.

This was lots of fun, and I'm glad I finally got to it. I felt that I could perhaps have known more about the Greek gods before I started, but everything was explained, and some of the modern incarnations of the gods were very funny. I can see why this series is so popular and I hope to continue with it at some point, just as soon as I stop grabbing all the bright shiny things I see recommended on other threads.

Edited: Jan 15, 2012, 2:52pm Top

9. Song to Wake to by J D Field

Where I got it: Kindle ebook
Why I read it: I saw this book mentioned in the comments section under a UK newspaper article on self-publishing. The commenter said she loved it, and also that she wasn't the author...and it was only 77p so I decided I could risk it :-)

This is a YA story, about a teenage girl who has to move from London to Glastonbury and start a new school. So far, so normal, and she's a sweet character, and I giggled several times at the boy-related angst. But, of course, things are not quite what they seem...and that's all I'm saying, because otherwise I'll give away what happens. I can say, however, that there are no vampires in this book, which is quite refreshing. But there are plenty of other interesting people. And the location is not a coincidence.

It's the first in a trilogy, and I'm just about to download part 2. Part 3 is released at some point this month, according to the author's blog. I'm pretty surprised that this didn't find a home with a traditional publisher (unless the author didn't want it to), because it's a really good read. It's perhaps a bit slow to get started, but it's only short, and there does need to be some set-up. I'm glad I found this, and I'm looking forward to the next two.

Jan 16, 2012, 5:37pm Top

Glad you enjoyed Uglies, Susan. I read the whole trilogy last year and thought the first book was the best in the series. However, Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy is brilliant and is brilliant throughout all three books. You know, if you ever run out of things to read. ;)

Jan 16, 2012, 7:02pm Top

Haven't read Westerfeld's Uglies but wanted to chime in and second that Leviathan is a great trilogy - fast reading too so don't let the size of the books daunt you!

Jan 17, 2012, 11:29am Top

That's good to hear about the Leviathan trilogy! I have once again reserved too many things at the library, but once I've finished the Uglies sequels I'll move onto them.

Edited: Jan 19, 2012, 9:57am Top

10. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I'd seen references to it a few times, although surprisingly I hadn't seen it on anyone's LT thread.

The title of this book is the first few words of a postcard that soldiers wounded in WWI could send to their loved ones as they were being transferred to hospital, and before their families received an official telegram. The story is about the lives of five characters during the war, one of whom is wounded, another of whom ends up looking after him, and what happens afterwards. It's beautifully written, and partly set at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, where Harold Gillies, the NZ-born surgeon, pioneered many plastic surgery techniques to help injured soldiers. The reviews here on LT seem to be a bit indifferent, but I would recommend this for anyone interested in the period, or who had a family member in the war. My grandfather fought in it, and I have often wondered where, and for how long. He survived uninjured, but as one of the other characters in this story demonstrates, physical injuries were just one of the ways in which the war damaged people. It's a very thought-provoking book.

I do feel like something a bit lighter now - I wonder whether it's time to start the giant Tigana, which is next in my stack of books. As it's a library book, I probably should.

Jan 20, 2012, 6:30am Top

#51 I'm interested in geneology and I've found several examples of these informal adoptions in my own family. My aunt (born before the First World War) was brought up by her aunt and uncle, who were childless, rather than by my grandparents. In another case a very young child went to stay with relatives for the birth of a younger sibling and stayed with them till she grew up. In both cases, the children kept contact with their original families and everyone knew their real parentage, so in that respect the arrangements might be more like what's seen today, rather than when adopted children lost all contact with their birth families.

#58 I don't usually read much historical fiction but I do read one occasionally and The Winter Sea sounds like one I might like so its gone on the Wishlist.

#63 I must read the Percy Jackson books - my son loves them and is now devouring the second series.

Edited: Jan 21, 2012, 11:41am Top

#69: Yes, do try The Winter Sea! I borrowed another one by the same author from the library last week, despite all the other things I'm supposed to be reading.

11. A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill

Where I got it: Amazon freebie
Why I read it: I needed something short and sweet

Felled by an appalling headache on Thursday, a rare day off (humph), I was looking through my Kindle for something easy to read, and this was perfect. It's the story of the author's first service dog, Slugger, a yellow Labrador, and how they were paired up and worked together. I've always been impressed by these dogs, and how well-behaved they are when they're on duty, but it comes after a lot of training, and there was a funny episode in here about a stray meatball on the floor of a pizza restaurant, which proved quite a test :-)

I'm reading Tigana now that the headache has receded a bit. It is huge and complicated and more than I could handle a couple of days ago, but so far so good, and I'm going to keep going with it. Lined up after that I have Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley (that resolution not to hoover up her whole back catalogue isn't working out so well), and then a Debbie Macomber Cedar Cove novel, and then Martyr, by Rory Clements, which is a historical crime novel. I saw it recommended on here (of course).

Jan 21, 2012, 10:44pm Top

I love books about animals, even though they almost always make me cry! I am avoiding going to the movie "War Horse" just so I don't embarrass myself with all the sobbing and nose-blowing I would probably be doing. Will have to wait and rent that one.

But I will be adding A Dog named Slugger to my wishlist.

Edited: Jan 22, 2012, 12:03pm Top

#71: I hope you enjoy it - it's a quick read but it is definitely sad in one part, so don't read it on the bus!

12. 1022 Evergreen Place by Debbie Macomber

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: This is the tenth book in the Cedar Cove series, which I was making my way through last year.

I'm addicted to these novels, which follow the lives of people in the small town of Cedar Cove, which is an eighty-minute drive from Seattle. The library system only seemed to have one copy of this one, so it took ages to arrive, although it's brand new, so maybe demand made them buy more. Although I'm trying to read more fantasy this year, it occurred to me as I was reading this that it is just as much fantasy to me as anything with a dragon or a wizard in it. The small town life with families living close together and popping in and out of one another's houses is a life I have never had, and never will have. Maybe that's why I like reading about it. There was a particularly lovely scene in this book where one of the characters made soup for her daughter, and took it over still in the crockpot, which was just plugged in again at the daughter's house to heat it up :-)

I also learned something I didn't know from this book - that there was rationing of certain foodstuffs and household goods in the US during World War II. I had thought American people sent food parcels over here to the UK, where there was very strict rationing, but maybe that was earlier in the war. I didn't realise things like sugar, meats and cheese were rationed in the US (from 1942/43). Even typewriters and chicken wire were rationed. (Yes, I found a website!)

There are only two more books in this series, so I have reserved the next one, but once again there seems to be one copy for around two million people, so it might be a while.

I'm going back to Tigana now. It's very gruesome, which isn't turning me into a fan. However, it came highly recommended by a number of LTers, so I'm going to finish it.

Jan 22, 2012, 1:56pm Top

Will not be swayed by the good review for series...... will not be swayed by the good review.... darn it all, I'm interested.

Double darn.... just checked and my local library system has stacks of Macomber books, in hardcopy, audio and e-book format.

***exits to place hold on e-book for first in series***

Jan 22, 2012, 2:05pm Top

#73: Lori, I am a Bad Influence, it seems! These books are what I would describe as "warm and cosy" and I like the continuation of the characters through the series. So often when I finish a book I'd like to know more about what happens to the characters, and with these books I get that. You're lucky that your library has them all in multiple formats. Mine has a few in e, but most in print, so I have had to reserve them. Then there was the one that was only available as an audiobook, so I borrowed that despite the fact I hate audiobooks. For HOURS I sat listening to the narrator drone on (it was the one I didn't enjoy, because the voices were all wrong) only to discover, about half an hour from the end, that you can speed them up. I nearly cried :-)

Jan 25, 2012, 1:09pm Top

13. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Where I got it: Library ebook
Why I read it: I've seen this recommended in a number of places

I loved this, although I know opinions are mixed, and I can see why people might not love it. Each chapter is about someone different, although previous people keep reappearing, and it skips backwards and forwards in time, which makes it an intriguing read. I'd agree with the review that recommends reading it without too many breaks, as there are a lot of people in it. I would also caution against reading the ebook on a 17-inch laptop, as one of the chapters is a PowerPoint presentation, and comes out sideways (and if there's a way to change that, I couldn't find it). But otherwise it was a great read, and I'm glad I reserved it a few weeks ago now. It came more quickly that I expected, so I have to catch up on my hard copy books.

Jan 25, 2012, 2:58pm Top

Glad you liked Goon Squad. I was definitely a fan of it last year. :)

Edited: Jan 28, 2012, 10:57am Top

#76: Yes, I think I'm a bit late to it. Usually award-winning books are way above my head, so I don't read that many!

14. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Where I got it: Library book
Why I read it: It was recommended by several people here when I was looking for fantasy recommendations

I didn't like this, and only kept going with it as so many people said they loved it and I wanted to give it a proper chance. The main thing I didn't like was all the brutal torture and death carried out by the warring tyrants - Too Much Information there. Male writers tend to do this more than women (in my experience, anyway), which might be why I usually read women. It would be easy enough to take out the enemy with a bow and arrow. I don't want exhaustive details about all the other stuff they choose instead. So I don't think this is an author for me. The book had some interesting elements but they were outweighed by the "yuck" factor.

And none of it was helped by how awful I've been feeling this week, with new and unwelcome dizziness added to my neck and shoulder pain. Fortunately I was OK as long as I stayed upright and didn't bend my head, but I was finally forced to go to the doctor for a specialist referral to see what is causing the neck pain. And I just happened to mention the headaches that follow from the muscles cramping up, and the doctor flipped out and said I had to see a neurologist immediately (even though I've been suffering for about six years). I think what I actually need is someone who specialises in work-related upper-limb pain, because it's brought on by movement (hand writing, needlework, twenty years hunched over a computer, typing and mousing) and I'm pretty sure that's not neurological, but she'd stopped listening by that point. I hope Wednesday is "immediate" enough, because even living in London you can't just magic up specialist appointments at the drop of a hat. Fortunately things have settled down and I'm hoping that I can have a few days pain free before it starts again.

Now I have four other library books to read, including a couple which I picked up today. Amazingly, the librarian at the cute little branch I go to after abandonding the one near work started an actual *conversation* about the books, instead of looking at me like I was a weirdo for wanting them at all (which the people at the other branch do). One of them is Shards of Honour which, even by the library's iffy standards of age and decrepitude in its books, is quite something. So we had a laugh about that, and then she asked about Seizure, the new Kathy Reichs novel, and said she was going to look out for the first one. First, though, I have Season of Storms, which I am going to start this evening.

Jan 28, 2012, 12:21pm Top

Hope all goes well with the neurologist. I have no medical training, but it sounds to me as though you *might* have a pinched nerve in your neck. I was diagnosed with one myself last year, but only after a bit of a saga, since mine caused shoulder and arm pain and hand numbness. At first my doctor focused on the latter symptom (which WAS the scariest one--I'm used to the odd ache and pain, but for awhile there my left hand was so numb I couldn't even distinguish heat from cold). I nearly ended up having carpal tunnel surgery, but it bothered me that no one was addressing my shoulder and upper arm issues, so I asked for second and third opinions and finally got the pinched nerve diagnosis. It wasn't severe enough for surgery, so I've been treating it with physical therapy, massage, and improved ergonomics and posture. I'm still not 100% back to normal, but I'm 80% improved over where I was last year, I can write and do my keyboard-intensive day job consistently again, and when I do have bad flare-ups I recover in a day or two. Your symptoms don't exactly match mine, but they sound similar enough that I wouldn't be surprised if that's what you have, just a vertebra or two higher than mine.

Jan 28, 2012, 12:36pm Top

Sorry to here about your troubles with neck and shoulder pain, Susan. It might be that the dizziness is completely unconnected - occaisionally I get labyrinthitis which gives me a feeling of dizziness - basically like being quite drunk. Hope your doctor's appointment goes OK.

Tigana was on my TBR list but after your comments above I'm not too sure. I'm not very good at readng anything too gruesome - it's put me off a lot of books where I was actually enjoying the story.

Jan 28, 2012, 4:57pm Top

Susan, it sounds like you've been having a hard time, and I am so sorry to hear that. I hope everything goes well at the doctor's office, and that you can get some answers and some relief!

I enjoyed your comments on A Visit from the Goon Squad. I've heard great things about it, and even gave it to my brother last year (he loved it). Now I need to read it!

Jan 29, 2012, 12:28am Top

Getting caught up here and hope you find a solution for the neck and shoulder pain.

Jan 29, 2012, 12:49am Top

What lkernagh said!

Edited: Jan 29, 2012, 12:10pm Top

Thanks ladies - it is so nice of you all to visit and sympathise. Susanna, I suspect that it is something "mechanical" like that - if not a pinched nerve then a slipped disc or something - my family goes through replacement knees and hips at the rate of knots and I'm worried it might be arthritis setting in and causing some sort of disc degeneration, which is putting pressure on the wrong places. I suppose an MRI will tell me, but today I feel fine (of course I do, with a doctor's appointment on Wednesday!). But I have stayed inside and read a book instead of doing anything strenuous (any excuse will do) and have read book 15.

15. Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I love this new (to me) author. This one happened to be on the shelf, so saved me having to reserve it.

Like The Winter Sea, this story also goes back and forth in time, although not to the same extent. The historical part of it is just a few pages, set in the 1920s, telling the story of a young English actress and the Italian writer who fell in love with her. The modern part of the story is about a young English actress about to star in a play written by the writer for his lover, but which was never performed due to her mysterious disappearance. It was a great read for a chilly weekend day, tucked up on the sofa.

Feb 1, 2012, 1:51am Top

Shamelessly late in returning your visit to my thread! I was looking over my thread so far and saw your post earlier in the year, and have searched you down in the threadbook :)
I intend to read 2 Dickens novels this year, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, its part of my quest to become more well read in the classics. Im going for ten in total...am kind of nervy about it as I prefer modern literature.

Want to try Goon Squad too one day...looks like youre going great guns on your reading goals for this year!

Feb 2, 2012, 2:48pm Top

Hi Susan, I've just caught up on all your great reviews and especially liked your comment that you keep being attracted to the bright shiny reviews on other peoples thread - I understand that oh so well.

Just on your comment about not knowing where you Grandad fought during WW2, my Dad has an extensive library of WW2 books, some very rare, and he knows a lot about it. Do you know what regiment, battalion etc your Grandad was in?

Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 7:21am Top

#84: Thanks for visiting, Megan! I have to confess that my Dickens reading isn't going that well - I keep getting distracted from Nicholas Nickleby but I really must get back to it. I think I'm about 75% of the way through it. I hope you enjoy the two you have chosen. I think I'll read them as part of my year as well, if I can pay attention!

#85: Ah, Leonie, bright and shiny will be the end of me. I am too easily led astray! My Grandfather was in WWI, and never talked about it much, apparently (he died before I was born). I think he might have been a bit shell-shocked, from things my father has said, although I doubt anyone got out of the war without it affecting them somehow.

I have spent the morning at the big new Westfield mall near me, which opened last year. It's the one next to the Olympic stadium, so I am making the most of it before the Games start and it is chaos out there. Today I found a Twinings tea bar, where you can buy tea by the bag, which is a genius idea for the small household, as a box of 50 teabags is a lot of the same sort of tea. I bought some Blossom Earl Grey, which I am drinking at the moment, and which is lovely, some Jasmine Earl Grey and some White Tea with a hint of pomegranate. I'll definitely make it a regular stop when I'm out there, which is - ahem - most Saturday mornings, although I haven't been for a few weeks. There is a much better Marks & Spencer food hall there than the one near work, so that's my excuse.

On the tube, I finished book 16:

16. Martyr by Rory Clements

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I saw this series recommended on the historical fiction thread, and the first one was right there on the shelf at the library, so I thought I'd give it a try.

This was another gruesome read, and unnecessarily so, in my opinion. Yes, life was brutal in Elizabethan times, and there was all the torturing going on, but I see no need to spell it all out. This was a story about John Shakespeare, the fictional brother of William, who worked for Sir Frances Walsingham, and who had to investigate the (gory, naturally) murder of a young woman from a Catholic family. There was lots of blood and guts and gore, and the writing wasn't brilliant, although the plot worked well. Not recommended for the squeamish. I wouldn't mind seeing what happens in the next one, which has something to do with the Roanoke colony, but there are so many other things out there clamouring for attention that I'm doubtful I'll get to it.

Next up is Seizure, which is a brand new hardback from the library, and beautifully clean :-) I'm going to spend the afternoon on it, and however long I have to stay up tonight to see the SNOW which is supposed to come even to London. So exciting! So far it's been brilliantly clear and sunny, although freezing cold, but apparently we could have four inches of snow overnight, which would be extraordinary.

Feb 4, 2012, 12:01pm Top

Well, there's no snow yet, although it is only 5pm. But it has clouded over and seems to be even colder, so maybe soon.

I've been catching up some recorded TV programmes, and going through the newspaper supplements that have been piling up, pulling out the book reviews and adding things to my library list. And I've discovered the library's reserve limit - 12 books, it seems. I'll have to hope all those don't come in at once :-) I've just subscribed to The Times online, so I won't have any more newspapers cluttering up the house, which is a plus.

Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 2:48pm Top

A Twinings Tea Bar sounds a great idea - I didn't realise they did them - my husband is a real tea addict. If you're near the Olympic Park did you end up getting any tickets or are you ignoring it all and hope it'll all go away soon?

We're waiting for snow north of London too - nothing so far.

Edited to say - snow just started - great excitement from my son.

Feb 4, 2012, 2:42pm Top

Echoing the above comment, love the idea of a tea bar. I take it you can sit down and drink a cup while there? On a cushion next to a low table? With dim lighting and soft music?

Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 4:14pm Top

#88: The snow has also started here! I have about 1cm on the table on my balcony. The BBC weather forecast says it's supposed to be heavy by now, but I can still see quite a way, so it's not heavy yet. On the subject of the Olympics, I am firmly in the "wish it was all over" category. The VIP traffic lanes are going to bring London to a standstill, and my area will be very badly affected, with one bus service being stopped altogether and the other having a shortened route. Our tube station is inaccessible to anyone other than the very fittest (due to very steep stairs) and even then we are being told not to use the tube because it will be so busy. Hmmmmm...

#89: It's not really a sit-down place, but they had various teas to try, and a good selection to buy. They have lots of little stands out in the middle of the concourse with things like make-up and nail bars and cupcakes, and it's one of those. I saw a Royal Wedding commemorative tea, which I wish I'd found last year (although the tea-towels I sent to NZ did go down well!) so I'm hoping they do one for the Diamond Jubilee too.

While I waited for the snow, I read book 17:

17. Seizure by Kathy Reichs

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It's the second in the Virals series, which I started last month.

This was a fun YA adventure romp, with a definite Famous Five feel to it, although brought right up to date and set in Charleston. This time the group was searching for the treasure buried by the pirate Anne Bonny, and the action sequences were really well done. The pages flew by, and I finished it faster than I thought I would.

My next book is going to be Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold, but I'll wait until tomorrow to start that. It is so ancient that the RRP on the back is a tiny £2.99.

Feb 5, 2012, 4:21am Top

Well! All pretty exciting. The snow got heavier at about 9.30 last night, and I would guess we had about three or four inches, judging by the north side of the building. It's melting now, though, at least on the river side. Here are some pictures taken at 8am on 5 February (with huge thanks to Roni for the very clear instructions on Leonie's thread). I hope the sizing is OK. If not, someone please say!

This is looking south, and is a picture of the snow on my balcony table. I took this one to compare it with Anne's. Anne wins :-) There was snow along the top of the balcony railing last night, but it has melted away now.

This is looking south-east, onto the balcony outside the kitchen. The snow has stayed on the top of the wall a little bit. In the distance, through the fog, you can see Canary Wharf. By tomorrow morning (if not lunchtime today) it will look as though no snow fell out there because they put so much effort into clearing it. Canary Wharf Group should take over running Heathrow airport.

This one is looking north, where the snow hasn't melted as much. There is no sign of grit on the road, but the buses are running. Fortunately I don't have to go anywhere today so I can enjoy looking at it. I don't think there is any more snow forecast, so this is probably it for the winter now.

Edited: Feb 5, 2012, 1:09pm Top

18. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: LT recommendation from several people

This was mostly just confusing, and I didn't enjoy it. There were elements of the story that were sweet, but there was a major "yuck" event in the middle of it, and I started wondering whether I would ever pick up a book again that didn't contain something gross. I was hoing to like this one as I know there are a lot in the series and I do love a series, but it didn't work for me. I can see now why I've (re)-grown so fond of category romance over the past few years - nothing really bad happens, and it all ends happily. Every single time.

Amazingly, I have now finished all my library books, and there are none waiting for me or even in transit, according to the library website. This means I should get right on and finish Nicholas Nickleby. What it actually means is that I'm going to start Ella Minnow Pea, which I downloaded for my Kindle last week.

Feb 5, 2012, 5:24pm Top

I really want to read some of the Kathy Reichs mysteries. Maybe I'll get around to one of them soon! I keep hearing good things about them.

Feb 5, 2012, 6:01pm Top

Susan, that's a lot of snow for a place that doesn't get very much. Looks enough, anyway, to make a mess and slow down the traffic, which I imagine is already pretty bad. How fun!

Feb 5, 2012, 8:44pm Top

wow, talk about winter! I remember posting snow photos of our place in July....today its 20deg C here and lovely.
Hope you can get out and about OK tomorrow in the snow!

Edited: Feb 6, 2012, 3:01pm Top

#93: Lori, I wonder whether the other series might be a bit gory for me, but I'm going to look for one at the library and skim it to see if there is lots of horribleness.

#94: Everyone was talking about the snow at work this morning - so funny considering how little we had. I showed a couple of buddies the photos on your thread and they couldn't believe anywhere could get that much snow and still function!

#95: This is only our second snow of the winter, and the first lot just blew over for a few minutes and didn't settle (but of course we were all at the window, looking at it). The forecasters are saying the rest of the month is going to be cold, but they haven't said whether London will get more snow.

I've just finished a great book, and thanks to Anne for the recommendation!

19. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Where I got it: Kindle
Why I read it: I saw lots of favourable comments on Anne's thread.

I LOVED this! It's such a clever idea, and there are so many things to think about in it, from the town council's certainty that they alone knew what the falling letters meant, to the population's initial lack of concern because the first letter was "only z" and they could do without z. I recommended it to a friend at lunchtime, who went straight onto amazon and bought it, and I have some other people in mind for tomorrow. I think it's the sort of book that will stay with me. I particularly liked the part when they were allowed to write phonetically, which I found surprisingly easy to read, having started reading (in the olden days) using the Initial Teaching Alphabet. But I could really feel Ella's desperation at having her ability to communicate so constrained. It should be required reading for the txt msg generation, so they can see what they're losing by their own choice, never mind through the Government!

Feb 7, 2012, 6:52pm Top

If there is too much gore, I won't like it.

Feb 8, 2012, 12:21am Top

Hooray -- so glad you enjoyed Ella Minnow Pea! I thought it was so clever, but had never thought of it in the context of the texting generation. It might make a high school course very interesting!

Edited: Feb 8, 2012, 6:09am Top

#97: No, I'm definitely not a gore fan!

#98: Yes, I think it might make students (well, not just students) think. Already people who send text messages seem to miss the "g" off everything - comin, goin, I'm seen Jack tonight etc - it's like fingernails down a blackboard, particularly when they carry it over onto platforms where there is no character limit (although personally I don't think there is ever an excuse!)

20. The Sudbury School Murders by Ashley Gardner. Or Jennifer Ashley, according to the touchstone. It's the same author :-)

Where I got it: Kindle
Why I read it: This is book 4 in the Captain Lacey mysteries, about a former army captain who keeps finding himself involved in intrigues in early 1800s London.

I like this series, which has enough recurring characters to satisfy my love of a series, and enough new ones to make each book new and different. In this story, Captain Lacey has gone to work at a school in Berkshire, where someone is murdered by having his throat cut. And that's all we're told, and all we need to be told (gory writers, take note!). Then more people die, again with the minimum of detail. I liked the book for this aspect alone. It is always quite funny reading these books set before blood tests and DNA, as they would all be novellas (or maybe short stories) if set today. I mustn't leave it too long before starting the next one in the series, which is ready on my Kindle.

Feb 8, 2012, 9:30pm Top

I don't think I've read any of that series, but I may investigate it since the first in the series is only 99 cents on the Kindle.

Feb 9, 2012, 8:33am Top

Yes, the author has self-published the series after getting the rights back, I believe. They originally came out a few years ago. Even the subsequent ones are cheap by comparison with traditionally-published books. I was so pleased to find them on amazon UK that I bought them all once I'd finished the first one, but there have been a couple more since then. I think there are seven now, and a couple of novellas.

I'm currently reading The Wine of Angels by Phil Rickman, which is excellent. I don't know why I've never heard of this series before, although it is in the crime section, and I don't generally read crime. So far only one person has died, though, and there was almost no description of it. So unless the body count increases greatly and gruesomely, this might be a crime writer I like!

Edited: Feb 11, 2012, 10:31am Top

21. The Wine of Angels by Phil Rickman

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I saw this series recommended on Diana Gabaldon's blog, which meant I had to try it.

This is book 1 in the Merrily Watkins series, about a vicar (or, as she calls herself, priest-in-charge) taking up a position in a small village in Herefordshire. It reminded me a bit of the set-up in Midsomer Murders - the eccentric locals, the stuck-up older families, the prejudice against "incomers", and so on. I skimmed the reviews on LT (avoiding spoilers) and a couple said that they thought it was a bit slow, because it was setting up the series, but it didn't seem that slow to me. I've read a few things recently which have just been a jumble of characters and references to backstory that confused me, so the slower pace of this one suited me. It's funny - I've written earlier in the thread about how I love the small-town US setting of the Debbie Macomber books, but the village in this series is the sort of place I would HATE to live. One of my friends lives somewhere a bit like this, and the pettiness and gossiping is astonishing. I'm definitely going to continue with the series, to see what happens to Merrily and her daugher, Jane. I didn't think the mother/daughter relationship was entirely convincing, but the character of Merrily is intriguing.

Feb 11, 2012, 11:45pm Top

I'm sorry you didn't like Shards of Honor, Susan! I first read the Vorkosigan series a little over a year ago, after delaying for years despite having read and loved all of Bujold's fantasy because I rarely read science fiction. I loved them so much that I push them at all my reading friends, give them to my LT Secret Santees if they don't already have them, etc. I haven't quite taken to standing on street corners and asking strangers if they've accepted Miles Vorkosigan as their personal Vor-lord and savior yet, but the temptation is there.

So with the caveat that I'm not quite rational on this series, I wonder if you'd like the rest of the series better, maybe starting with The Warrior's Apprentice. While I enjoy Shards of Honor because I love Aral so much as a character, I don't think Bujold's writing is as strong as it later becomes, and while none of the series are completely violence-free, I'd say the rest don't contain the same level of "yuck" events. Though I should probably add a further caveat that I have a fairly high tolerance for violence and yuckiness as long as it all comes out OK in the end.

Edited: Feb 12, 2012, 12:10pm Top

Susanna, I know what it's like to recommend something and have the recommendee be less than thrilled with it! I'm glad I tried something different, as that is one of my goals for this year, and Aral was a great character. During the "yuck" bit I was asking myself whether it was any worse than the dangerous bits of those old-skool pirate novels, where the heroine inevitably gets captured by a baddie, but somehow it was. I suppose in a romance novel I always know it's not going to happen.

And now a drumroll (and maybe some trumpets) for my most recent finish:

22. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Where I got it: Kindle freebie. I just put that Penguin cover in to try and hide the fact that I'm so cheap.
Why I read it: Because this year is the Dickens bicentenary, and I'm trying to make up for only ever having read Oliver Twist before.

This was quite a slog. I tried reading it in instalments, like it was published, but that just gave me an excuse to leave it for days at a time and read other things, and then I was even less keen to go back to it. I can only have been reading it for about 40 days, as I didn't start it before the New Year, but somehow it feels like longer, and overall I thought there was just too much in it - too many characters that didn't seem to add anything to the story, and it went on and on and on. And the female characters were horribly sappy and limp. I wonder if all Dickens' female characters are like that, because it's really going to annoy me.

I think I'll reward myself with something romancey for the rest of today. I'm part-way through a non-fiction book that I have to read for work, and I've been alternating it with the Dickens today, to try and make some progress with both of them, but it's time for something fun.

Feb 12, 2012, 12:35pm Top

Re: Dickens and female characters, are you familiar with the Hark! A Vagrant webcomic? Scroll down to the third on this page for her take on Dickens and his heroines.

Feb 12, 2012, 12:39pm Top

Oh, that's excellent! And I suspect true. There is an excellent novel called Girl in a Blue Dress which is a fictionalised account of his relationship with his wife (and others) and he didn't seem to be a big champion of the ladies.

Feb 12, 2012, 3:25pm Top

Hi Susan, I had to giggle about your Kindle freebie, and your use of a Penguin cover - I'm doing the same. Downloaded the free Dickens and stealing the nicest cover picture I can find.

My hat is off to you for slogging through Nicholas Nickleby, I just finished Great Expectations and plan on tackling David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities later in the year.

Regarding his female characters, I find he's good at creating older women that have some spark and sizzle, but his younger ones are totally meek and bland.

Feb 13, 2012, 8:29am Top

Hi Judy - glad I'm not alone in my cover-purloining!

I saw Great Expectations as a graphic novel in the library at lunchtime, which got me to wondering whether I could count that...

But I came away empty-handed. That's partly because I have - ahem - 12 things reserved at the moment, and two are on their way, partly because I have so much stuff on the Kindle and can't seem to stop buying more (darned Valentine's romance sale) but mostly because the book I went in for was so disgustingly dirty and smelly that I decided to Kindle it instead. At a future time. When I have tackled Mount TBR. Etc.

I'm currently reading what I think is a romance novella. Well, I know it's a romance, but at just 1,600 Kindle locations it's shorter than even a category romance (usually about 2,600) so I think it's only about 30,000 words. I have decided that I'm still going to count it, as it will offset some of the chunksters I've read this year so far. Then I have Tana French's In The Woods, which I read about on another thread, and by then my reserves should have arrived.

Edited: Feb 20, 2012, 3:56am Top

23. Double Dare by Rhonda Nelson

Where I got it: Kindle freebie
Why I read it: Rhonda Nelson is a Harlequin Blaze author, and I've read and enjoyed some of her Blaze novels.

This is an earlier novel, written for the Kensington Precious Gems line, and now self-published by Ms Nelson. It's a sweet read, very short and without a huge amount of conflict needing resolution, but the characters were well done and it ended happily :-) I wanted something short after the long books I've been reading recently, and there is definitely something satisfying about watching those Kindle locations flash past.

Feb 15, 2012, 4:16am Top

I started In The Woods this morning on the bus, and it seems like just my kind of writing so far. However, I'm only about half a chapter in, thanks to no traffic snarl-ups.

Last night I got the results of my MRI (brain and c-spine), which were totally clear. That surprised even the neurologist, who said he was expecting some sort of neck problem, but he went through the scan with me and it all looks fine (it's definitely weird seeing that cross-section that involves your eyeballs, though). Obviously that's fantastic news from a nothing-truly-nasty point of view, but it doesn't explain all the pain. Next I'm having an EMG, which is some sort of nerve test and if that doesn't show up anything then I think I go into the pile marked "neurotic middle-aged ladies". The dizziness I experienced a couple of weeks ago was unrelated, and in fact easily fixed on the spot if you happen to be in your neurologist's office when it happens, apparently. Sadly I wasn't, and by the time I saw him it had gone away, but it's nothing to worry about, so if it happens again at least I won't be worrying.

It is a balmy 11C here in London today - that's virtually tropical after last week. It would be a perfect day for a walk to the library at lunchtime, if my reserves would show up.

Feb 15, 2012, 11:05am Top

Susan, that's good news/bad news. It's nice to know that you don't have a serious issue with your neck, but you're no closer to figuring out why you're having pain. I'm so sorry. Hope you get some answers soon, and some relief from the pain.

Enjoy your nice weather! It's snowing again here, but I don;t think we're supposed to get much.

Yet Another Neurotic Middle-Aged Lady

(you're in good company!)

Feb 15, 2012, 3:34pm Top

So jealous of the 11C. We've been getting near 0C or above for the past week, but it's been on the breezier side so then windchill comes into effect. Oh, Canada. ;)

Feb 15, 2012, 9:01pm Top

I'm trying to make up for only ever having read Oliver Twist before. lol, i could say the same myself!

12 things reserved at the library!? he he. That would cost me $24...that's why I have my long list an just check what's where when the mood takes me. I get to them eventually.

Great news on the clear MRI...but not on the unexplained issues.

Oh, and we are at 19 deg C at present. Lovely. So lovely I broke out the maxi dress and bare feet (which Ill pay for later, the bare feet I mean, I get sore feet when they are unsupported).

Edited: Feb 20, 2012, 3:56am Top

Thanks for visiting, everyone!

Anne, I hope you don't get deluged with snow. I think we've had the last of ours now.

Micky, isn't 0C shorts weather in Canada? :-) (I'm sure I saw someone joke about that somewhere). I don't know how you all survive the cold there!

Megan, 19C sounds lovely. I hope your feet aren't punishing you.

Today I had an electromyography and nerve conduction test, which looked at nerves and muscles in my hand and arm. The nerves were all fine, but some of the muscles were misbehaving. The test lady thinks it's a muscle spasm problem, which narrows the channels the nerves run through, causing the pain. A lot of it was beyond me, but she's doing a report for the neurologist. I think I need some sort of physical therapy to fix it, and she mentioned an osteopath who does a lot of work on the bit that she thinks is causing me the problems, which is the top of my neck. Apparently pain in one place can turn into pain in other places as other muscles try and compensate, and it just becomes a cycle of pain. She basically described exactly what I have. I've had physio before, with no real improvement, but perhaps they were looking at the wrong part, or I wasn't doing the exercises right. So there's no quick fix, but maybe I will be able to get a bit of improvement. All I want is to sit and do my needlework and maybe hand-write in meetings - it's not as if I want to get fit enough to climb Mt Everest, or go sky-diving. I think that's what's most annoying about all the pain - it's not as if I'm doing anything so very strenuous to cause it. A person should be able to sit on her sofa, stitching samplers and watching box-sets without all this aggravation.

I had hoped to get a bit of reading in while I waited to see the doctor, but she took me early, so In The Woods is going pretty slowly.

Feb 16, 2012, 2:15pm Top

>114 susanj67: Ha! Yes, there are some nuts in the spring who will pull out shorts when it gets to 0C and above. I usually hold until 15C before I'll think about pulling them out. Glad the doc's appointment went well. Hopefully they can get things straightened out so you're not in so much pain. :)

Edited: Feb 23, 2012, 5:33am Top

24. In The Woods by Tana French

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I saw a review on AnneDC's thread and thought it sounded good.

I really enjoyed this crime novel, set in Ireland, and involving a police officer from the murder squad who finds himself investigating the murder of a young girl in the area in which he grew up, and in which two of his own friends went missing when they were children. He was found in the woods in which they had all been playing, but had no memory of what had happened to them. I loved the writing, and if book 2 in the series is on the shelf at my library I'm going to get it later.

25. Book I Cannot Name

I've stolen this idea from Susanna, as I want to count this book as one of my reads for 2012, but can't say what it is as it's about one of my clients. At least it was a lovely new paperback, so I could read it in bed.

Feb 22, 2012, 5:03pm Top

Hi Susan, catching up and I am pleased to hear there is some progress on diagnosing the neck pain. Your recent reviews have been plentiful and great, keep it up!

Edited: Feb 25, 2012, 8:51am Top

Hi Leonie! Thanks for visiting. I had blood tests yesterday - so many little vials that I had to close my eyes. And I've got medication to try for a month, so I'll see how that goes. The neurologist said it would knock me out at night, which is true! Still, I don't sleep that well, so it is not a bad side effect to have.

26. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: LT recommendation. There are some people's threads that I have open, with the library catalogue in the next tab...

This is the first of a crime quartet set in the Shetland Islands. I liked it well enough, but the whodunnit was very rushed and even now I can't see any clues to it in the earlier part of the story. It's an interesting setting, though, and the Shetland Islands are bigger than I thought they were (I may be confusing them with the Faroe Islands) with a number of towns and quite a few people. I'll have to get out a map. I was thinking that I wouldn't rush to reserve the next one, but it appears to be on the shelf in the library near me right now, so I'll probably get it.

First, though, I have the second Merrily Watkins novel, Midwinter of the Spirit and then The Likeness by Tana French, which is the sequel to In The Woods. I seem to have a bit of a crime wave going on here :-)

In other news, I went to the Dickens exhibition at the Museum of London on the weekend. It's pretty thin ("Here is some china found on the banks of the Thames at the time of Dickens", "Here are some theatre paintings. Dickens loved the theatre" etc), particularly for £8 (although that is not an outrageous entry fee for London, by any means). But I did come away wishing I'd put the money towards the Claire Tomalin biography instead. The best thing was the desk and chair from his study, in which he wrote all sorts of famous things, and there were some proofs of a few of the novels, but I felt slightly cheated at the end of it. Of course, I'm not sure what I was expecting. I think I just went because everyone is going. Although it is timed ticketing, I walked up just after 10 on Saturday morning and got straight in, so that's a good time to go if you don't want to book ahead.

Feb 23, 2012, 9:18pm Top

Hi Susan, getting caught up here and sorry to learn about your neck pain and the various testing you have been getting done..... hope they discover soon what it is! In the meantime, I see you have been reading some great books lately and I hope to start the Tana French series of books/trilogy soon.

Feb 24, 2012, 5:45am Top

Hi Susan, glad you see to making some progress at last with your pain issues. It can be so frustrating when you haven't even got a name for what's causing the problem. I suppose it shouldn't really make a difference but somehow I think symptoms always seem more difficult to deal with if you don't know what the underlying cause is.

I'd seen Raven Black recommended somewhere as well and although I don't normally read much crime fiction I was thinking of looking out for it. I'm trying to broaden my reading this year. I do like stories with a good sense of place and the Shetland Islands is somewhere I've always wanted to go. We've been to the Orkney Islands twice and really liked it there, and we've thought about going to the Shetland Islands but then I always start wondering what we would do there if it rained for a week.... . I think whether the place works can really make or break a book for me. I tried reading the Wallander books when we went to that area of Sweden on holiday but the sun was blazing down on the cornfields and the beaches were full of happy holiday makers and it didn't rain at all and so I just couldn't conjure up the right atmosphere of doom and gloom.

Edited: Feb 26, 2012, 7:48am Top

#119 Hi Lori! The good news is that I might finally stop feeling sorry for myself - the new medication seems to be working so far (although I'm sure it's too early, so I might be imagining it, but no pain is no pain!). I hadn't heard of the Tana French books before LT (I'm sure we all write that so often that there should be a keyboard shortcut for it, only requiring the name of the author or series to be inserted) but I'm really impressed. I hope you enjoy them too.

#120 Hi Rhian - I definitely agree with you about the lack of a diagnosis. On the one hand I know I need to be grateful that it isn't anything terrible, but having nothing at all show up on the tests is pretty frustrating. I'm also trying to broaden my reading this year, and crime isn't usually my thing either. I'd pick the Tana French books or the series below by Phil Rickman before the Ann Cleeves though, personally. Weirdly, the first story I read on the BBC website this morning was about the "black fish" case involving the fishing quota fraud, and one of the firms involved was in the Shetland Islands. It's so rare to get any news from up there, or maybe I just hadn't noticed before.

Today has been a beautiful day in London, fine and sunny and warm enough to have lunch out on the balcony and finish my book out there before the sun went around the corner. I hope tomorrow is the same, and I might go out there earlier. Goodness, I could even break out the SPF100. But would that be overkill for February, I wonder?

27. Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It's book 2 in the Merrily Watkins series, about a female vicar, who in this book has become the Diocesan Exorcist. Or "Deliverance Consultant", to adopt the name given to the post by the right-on Bishop.

The story this time moves beyond Ledwardine and into Hereford itself, and the cathedral, where there are various odd goings-on, and something strange happening with the former exorcist. The set-up from the first book means that this one has a faster pace, and presumably the church-related information is accurate, but I know so little about how it all works that I can't be sure. This only took me a couple of days to read, as it's pretty unputdownable once you start, and I'm looking forward to book 3. As with the first book, there are some great "guest" characters who I don't think will recur, as well as the central cast.

Edited: Feb 26, 2012, 12:55pm Top

28. The UnTied Kingdom by Kate Johnson

Where I got it: Kindle
Why I read it: This book is on the shortlist for the Romantic Novelists' Association awards for this year, in the Contemporary Romantic Novel category, and I liked the sound of the concept.

The first sentence of this book is: "Eve Carpenter was having a bad enough day, even before she fell through the hole in the world", and that sets it up nicely. Eve, a former member of a band called Grrl Power, has fallen from grace after a run-in with the tax department, and has been reduced to taking part in awful reality TV programmes in order to earn money. Hang-gliding along the Thames one day, she falls into the river and into a parallel universe in which Britain is not (and never has been) a world super-power, France rules most of the globe and much modern technology is unheard of. She is rescued by a pretty lovely army Major, and imprisoned as a spy before he takes her on a mission to obtain a computer held by the other side in the civil war being fought by the English at the time. Then it gets all romancey (which is not a criticism, as anyone familiar with my threads will know) and the end is very well done indeed. What didn't work for me was the parallel universe, which didn't really make sense. For example, King Charles was on the throne (i.e. Charles III, the current Prince of Wales), but if the history of Britain was so very different it is unlikely that we would have the same royal family that we do now. No-one had heard of Shakespeare, but they knew about Bram Stoker's Dracula. And the classical music was much the same as we actually have. There seemed to be no reason why some of these things would be the same but others different. One thing I did appreciate was a perfect e copy of this book, with none of the formatting and typographical problems that even established publishers seem to struggle with. It will be interesting to see how this one does in the competition, and what's next from this author. This book had a large cast of characters and quite a bit of action (military action, that is...) which must be hard to manage well.

Feb 26, 2012, 12:31pm Top

Wow, that concept sounds SO fascinating, and yet I'm afraid the world-building issues would throw me out of the story too much. I tend to think that in a world that diverges from our timeline more than, say, 100 years before the story starts, you shouldn't recognize ANYBODY--that even small changes in who lives and who dies, who succeeds and who fails, etc. are going to have huge ripple effects down the timeline.

That said, I'm not totally consistent. I still enjoy Naomi Novik's books despite the fact that if you think too closely about it, it doesn't make sense that in a world that has and has always had dragons, you'd still have people like Napoleon, Nelson, and Wellington running around in almost the identical roles they filled in real life.

Feb 26, 2012, 3:42pm Top

Hi, Susan! It's look like you've had some great reads (and some not so great ones, too) since the last time I was here! I'm so sorry you didn't like Tigana and Shards of Honor, as I'm one of the people raving about both of them. I'm glad you loved Ella Minnow Pea, it's one of my favorites.

Earlier in the thread I remember you talking about the Kathy Reichs mystery series, and I want to say, having read the first one, it's definitely very gory.

Anywho, I've added quite a few books to my TBR pile, including Martyr, which even though you didn't like it sounds like something I would enjoy. I'm pretty intrigued by The UnTied Kingdom, too, although I don't know if I can overlook the worlbuilding problems in order to get into the romance and action.

Sorry to hear about your neck pain. As someone who has had a lot of neck and head pain, I def sympathize with you. I hope your pills continue to help and you are soon pain-free!

Feb 26, 2012, 5:08pm Top

The Untied Kingdom sounds fun. I love any sort of alternative universe / history type stories and I'm usually quite good at suspending disbelief about the details so I've added that one to the Wishlist.

Feb 27, 2012, 5:18am Top

#123: Susanna, I've just looked up Naomi Novik, and the first one in that series is only £1.99 for Kindle. Must...not...click...Could download a sample later, maybe :-) It sounds really good!

#124: Marcia, I was reading the Kathy Reichs YA series, "Virals", which is gore-less (pretty much). I was thinking of trying the first one in her other series, but now I think maybe not! Martyr is worth a try. I think once I dislike something about a book (i.e. the gore, in that case) I'm ultra-picky about the rest of it. The idea was interesting, and there are others in the series, so plenty of people like it. My most-loathed book of last year frequently appears with rave reviews on LT and elsewhere, and yet I wanted to bury it in a deep hole.

#125: Rhian, The UnTied Kingdom is a really great concept, and I thought much of it was good. I've seen it criticised for being too romancey and chick-lit-y, but that's what it is, so I was a bit confused with some of those reviews. Also, I love romance. Major Harker is a babe, and Eve is a sweet heroine, and refreshingly not helpless and silly like some heroines in similar books.

I've nearly finished Rock Anthem, (so new that it doesn't have a touchstone yet), the second in the self-published "Levels" trilogy I started above, and then it's on to another crime novel. Two of my library reserves are apparently nearly available, but one of them has been like that for a fortnight.

Feb 29, 2012, 4:39am Top

29. Rock Anthem by J D Field

Where I got it: Kindle
Why I read it: It's the second book in the "Levels" series, which I started above.

This is so new that it doesn't even have a cover on LT, so I can't put in a picture. I also seem to be the only person who has it. This is a self-published YA series, and apart from the proof-reading falling completely apart about 80% into this book, it was a good follow-on from the first book. Once again, I'm not going to give away what the series is about, because half the fun of the first one is not knowing, and discovering the truth at the same time as the main character. There is a lot of running around in this one, and international travel, and great danger, and obsessing about boys...The third one was supposed to be published this month but there's no sign of it yet, which is a bit annoying. Authors shouldn't promise and then not deliver. Far better to say "April" and delight all your fans with an early release, I would have thought. I will get number 3 when it comes out though, because I want to see how it all works out.

I started The Likeness on the bus this morning but didn't get very far. I need to speed up, though, because five reserves are "in transit" at the library. Oops. The worst thing is that all I can think about is what I'll move off my wishlist and into the reserve list next.

Mar 3, 2012, 1:05pm Top

I'm not doing too well with The Likeness, although it's very good. I'm just not really in a big reading mood, even with all those reserves on the way. Mostly I'm fretting over work, which is taking up my attention. I am doing much better on the meds, though - virtually pain-free now. I have a bit of stiffness through my neck and shoulders, but it's not turning into the appalling headaches, and it's probably to be expected when I do so much screen work. I can't believe I've been headache-free for ten days now. Yay! I can even hand-write again, which I couldn't do for more than about half a page for ages and ages.

My goal for the rest of the day is going to be reading Clarissa up to date, and 350 pages of The Likeness (currently at about p 170) and then I'll call it a day, I think. There - I've written it down, so now I will have to do it :-)

Mar 3, 2012, 1:57pm Top

Yay for being headache free for 10 days!

Mar 3, 2012, 3:45pm Top

I understand about periods of time when the mood to read isn't all that great. Happy to learn that the medication is working and that you have been headache free for a number of days now. That is good news!

Mar 4, 2012, 2:22am Top

Oh, Susan, I'm glad to hear you've had some relief! Hope you enjoy some more pain-free days!

Mar 5, 2012, 10:48pm Top

What a strange idea for a novel....woops, better be more specific! Im talking about The UnTied Kingdom. I am imagining that it could either go really good, or really bad. Sounds like it was just OK for you, if I was more into romance, I might give it a shot but might leave it for now.

Mar 5, 2012, 10:52pm Top

Also glad to hear you've had some relief from the headaches!

Mar 9, 2012, 4:16am Top

Hi ladies! Thanks for visiting. I've finally managed to finish another book, but work is crazy and I'm behind on my Clarissa reading and it's only the beginning of March...

30. The Likeness by Tana French

Where I got it: Library book
Why I read it: It's book 2 in the Dublin Murder Squad series

This was another great read, and I love the author's writing style. This book is about Cassie Maddox, one of the characters in the first book, who is pulled back into doing undercover work when a young woman is murdered. I'm definitely going to get the next one, but maybe not for a while as my library reserve list has attacked, and here's what I have waiting to collect tomorrow:

Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Still Life by Louise Penny
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
Naked in Death by J D Robb

Oh, and I have to work all weekend. Hmmmm...I'll go and get them and stack them on my desk, to look at enviously as I churn through mountains of documents, and do a lot of photocopying.

Mar 9, 2012, 11:43am Top

Susan, how are you feeling? Probably not as well as you would if you could actually enjoy your weekend -- sorry you have to work!

Mar 9, 2012, 2:06pm Top

Hi Anne - I managed two weeks without a headache (woo-hoo!) and then my shoulder seized up yesterday and I'm still suffering from the referred pain, but it's not as bad as in the past, and I'm hoping it won't go on for as long. It wasn't helped today by having to take long, fast handwritten notes of a meeting - aaargh! But the neurologist said the medication would take two or three weeks to start working properly, so I've been very lucky only to have had one headache. Until yesterday I've felt amazingly well - no pain, and none of the "pain will be here shortly" feeling that used to hang over me. So I'm hoping it's a blip. I hope the last performances of Peter Pan were fun!

Mar 11, 2012, 8:46am Top

31. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: This is a very popular series in romancelandia, and I'd meant to try it for a while.

This was my first foray into steampunk, and the author did an amazing job with the alternative world - startlingly imaginative and consistent. I did think, when I started it, that I had accidentally got the second book in the series, because it jumped right in to a whole lot of terminology that wasn't explained, but I looked up the author's website to reassure myself, and I stuck with it. One of the things I liked was that it was partly set near where I live, and it was fun seeing the area described in such a different time. The hero (who was suitably hot, and a former pirate to boot) had a big estate on the Isle of Dogs, and there was another scene in Narrow Street, which is mostly all old warehouses (converted into flats) even now, so I liked that. It's definitely a romance, and I see one LT review complaining about all the, um, canoodling, but that's just what it is. There is perhaps a little too much canoodling, but I read a lot of romance so I didn't think it was that excessive on the romance scale :-)

Mar 11, 2012, 12:38pm Top

I've just been going through the Orange prize longlist, (available in pictures here ) and adding things to my library list. Amazingly, I've read one of the 20 finalists! (Stella Tillyard's Tides of War). And I saw another one at the library yesterday but made myself put it down because I already had five things. There are some great-looking books on it.

I've started Louise Penny's Still Life this afternoon, probably the last person on LT to have read it. It's going well so far. I am working this weekend, but today I just have to respond to incoming emails, so I have set the BlackBerry to play a tune when they come in, and that way I'm not welded to it. I must just remember to reset it before I get on the bus tomorrow...

Mar 17, 2012, 1:59pm Top

32. Still Life by Louise Penny

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: Because everyone on LT seems to have read it!

Although it had some very clever lines in it, overall this didn't grab me. I love a series, and I love things set in small towns, but I didn't warm to any of the characters, and I was glad to finish it and start something else.

The something else is The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley, which is excellent. I should finish it later, and then I have to rush to read a couple of others to take them back to the library before I go to New York (!). It's a business trip, but still. I have never been to New York before. I once transited through LA and went and stood outside the terminal when the connecting plane was delayed and they let us go through immigration while we waited, but that was many years ago, before the much tighter security. But I filled out my ESTA form the other day, so I've completed the first step. I wonder how long it takes to get through immigration at JFK these days, because I've read some horror stories about hours in queues. Then again I've read that about Heathrow, and last time I was on the tube 20 minutes after the plane landed, so I suppose you only ever hear the worst stories.

I bought a new suitcase today, and it came in a big box, without so much as a hand hole to pick it up with. I asked the lady if she could string it to make a handle, and I got The Look. The "Oh. You People. And your endless demands" look, so beloved of the London shop assistant. But she did it, so I could carry it in front of me and still see where I was going. That always helps. I am going to take my Kindle with me, and see if I can make some headway with the - ahem - 25 free romances I have downloaded to the Kindle over the last few days. There is a romance thread on one of the ebook forums and those ladies are really good at spotting them! It used to be the case that the US freebies were seldom replicated in the UK, but increasingly they seem to be the same on both sites.

Mar 17, 2012, 4:06pm Top

33. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I love this new (to me) author

This is a time-travelling romance, and very well done. The heroine, Eva, goes to visit Cornwall, where she had happy holidays as a child, and finds herself slipping back in time to 1715, where she falls in love with the (then) owner of the house she is staying in. Unlike Outlander, (which I do tend to see as the gold standard of time travelling romance), Eva travels back and forth frequently, but, while time passes in 1715 while she's gone, it doesn't in modern times. The characters were lovely, and there is a great twist at the end.

Mar 17, 2012, 5:37pm Top

Enjoy your New York trip. I keep seeing Susanna Kearsley's name pop up - might have to try one.

Mar 18, 2012, 10:40am Top

I'm very envious of your trip to New York. It used to be a place that didn't really appeal but over the last few years I've got more interested in visiting and a couple of weeks ago we had friends to stay who'd just been and had had a really great time so I'm now thinking of it more as a possible destination. I've been through JFK but only in transit en route to Washington and my main memories were a suprising lack of shops (at least in the part where we were) and slight panic when I saw the size of the plane that was going to fly us to Washington. I'm a nervous flyer and I need to psych myself up for small planes and I just hadn't been expecting it at all. Didn't have any problems with immigration though - this was in the late 1990's before current security issues and we were flying from Bermuda rather than the U.K. (I was working there at the time) and I have a feeling that the flight was treated as an internal one for some strange reason.

My last ever business trip abroad ended in disaster. I had a week in Tokyo and was looking forward to spending some time sightseeing on the Saturday before flying back on Sunday morning when I slipped and broke my arm on the Friday morning. I ended up having to bring the flight forward by a day and was wheeled back through Heathrow in a wheelchair - very embarrasssing. It had the one advantage that my arm hurt so much I completely forgot to be frightened about the flight.

I've got The Rose Garden on my wishlist already. I like the idea that she moves back and forth between 1715 and the present day. It's funny but when I read Outlander I really didn't like the idea that she didn't ever get to go back to the 1940's. I kept expecting some sort of showdown between husband number 1 and husband number 2 and when it didn't materialise I felt quite disappointed.

Mar 18, 2012, 1:05pm Top

Hi Susan -- have a wonderful time in New York! Hopefully you can mix a little fun in with your work. I enjoyed your comments about Still Life and The Rose Garden. I have read all of the Three Pines books, and while I enjoy them and I'm caught up in the story, they're a bit overwritten. I have Susanna Kearsley on my radar as well. The Winter Sea has been very highly recommended. Have you read that one?

Mar 18, 2012, 4:35pm Top

#141: Hi Heather - Susanna Kearsley is definitely worth trying, and is one of those authors I can't believe I haven't found before.

#142: Rhian, I've always wanted to visit New York, but have been put off by not having anyone to go with. But this time I will have work people, so if it all goes OK I might be braver next time, and go on my own. Your poor arm in Tokyo! That must have been awful. Do try The Rose Garden!

#143: Anne, I think it will be airport to hotel to office and then the reverse, but I'm looking forward to seeing some American TV. I want to see Good Morning America, and the ad breaks (well, we get nearly everything else here!). I loved The Winter Sea - one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

34. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It's the second in the "Uglies" series.

I really liked the first one in this series, and the sequel moves the story along, but there isn't quite the sense of clever world-building that worked so well in the first one. Tally is a sympathetic character, though, and there is a lot of menace in the Special Circumstances agents, from whom she is always trying to escape.

Mar 24, 2012, 7:08am Top

Just checking in to see how the trip to New York went (is going)?

Mar 24, 2012, 11:07am Top

Hi Rhian, I'm going on Wednesday, but I got some dollars today, and some little bottles of shampoo and toothpaste, so I have nearly done everything I need to. Now I just have a stack of work to do before I go, but I managed to finish my outstanding library books (at least until I collected another lot this morning).

35. Naked in Death by J D Robb

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: Because people in romancelandia rave about this series, and the hero, Roarke, is supposed to be a total hottie.

This is a futuristic romance set in 2058, featuring a young police officer, Eve Dallas, and a squillionaire, Roarke. Roarke annoyed me by just having one name. Who is the guy, Madonna? It was also fairly gruesome, and there was too much canoodling, too soon. I suppose they had to get together to fulfil the romance part of it, but there are something like 35 books in the series now, and I have to wonder what's left for them. I might read book 2 to see how things develop, but I can't see myself becoming a big fan.

Mar 24, 2012, 6:54pm Top

phew, luckily for me there are no books to add to my overloaded WL today. The genres are out of my comfort zone :/

Mar 25, 2012, 4:32am Top

Hi Megan! I evidently have some way to go to convert you all to romancelandia, don't I? Well, never say never, that's my motto :-)

Here is one that I think may have broader appeal.

36. Alys, Always by Harriet Lane

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: Book review

The main character in this novel is Frances Thorpe, who works in the books section of a Sunday newspaper, and who appears, to the people around her, to be a rather drab drone of a person. But driving home from visiting her parents one Sunday, she comes across a car that has run off the road, and hears the last words of the driver, the "Alys" in the title. Alys is the wife of a famous novelist, who lives in a gorgeous house in Highgate and has a country house in Suffolk. The family want to meet Frances, to hear about Alys's last moments, and when Frances goes to see them she realises that perhaps they could be of use to her...

This is a fabulously well-written book, and it's the author's first novel as well, which is extraordinary. In addition to Alys's family, there are some scenes with Frances's own parents, which one amazon reviewer describes as "like Larkin in prose", which I think captures it perfectly. Those are some of my favourite parts of the book, but it is all totally captivating, and I stayed up late last night reading it until I got to the end, which is rare for me. Usually I have no trouble in putting a book down, but the author really pulled me into the story. Very highly recommended.

Mar 25, 2012, 2:16pm Top

37. The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: LT recommendation

This is a short sci-fi novel about an alien spaceship that lands in England in 1345, and what happens when a village full of English people kill all but one of the crew, and get on the ship to set off for France, en route to the Crusades. There was a bit too much battling for me, but parts of it were very funny, and the narrator, a monk called Brother Parvus, was very droll. This was part of my horizon-broadening exercise for the year, to try new genres.

Edited: Apr 1, 2012, 1:33pm Top

38. Antiques Maul by Barbara Allan

Where I got it: Kindle Freebie
Why I read it: It's the second in the Trash'n' Treasures series, which I like despite the indifferent reviews on LT

I read most of this on the plane to New York, and it was a fun read although I did have to revisit a few pages due to napping. I wanted to read more, but I had work to do first. And then I had to gawp out of the window like a tourist as we flew down the coast and then over the city to the airport. I have no idea where we were (interesting things on flightpaths should, I think, have names painted on the roof, like London buses so the police helicopters can find them if there's trouble). Anyway, it was a lovely clear day and the view was fantastic, even if I had no idea what I was looking at. The queue at JFK was a shocker - I don't know why Heathrow gets such bad press. But my immigration lady was nice, and the luggage came quickly (although we had been in the queue for so long that I suppose that wasn't surprising). And the drive in from the airport was also good, particularly the bit where you see Manhattan for the first time.

New York things I saw:

The Rockefeller Center ice rink
The south end of Central Park
The windows of Bergdorf Goodman
An enormous cockroach running across the foyer of our five-star hotel (the dinner reservation was quickly cancelled)
Good Morning America (on the day of all the Mega Millions excitement - very funny, as were all the ads for things that can't be advertised here, like prescription medicine, political parties and class action lawsuits)

Things I didn't see:

Steam coming from manhole covers

Things I saw but didn't expect to see:

A Pret A Manger on Sixth Avenue - apparently it's really trendy in the US but here there is one on every corner, virtually, and I know the menu backwards. I wanted to go in and have a look at how different it was, but couldn't.

I was only there for a couple of days, and most of that time was meetings, but it was fun to finally see New York, even if it was just a little bit. I loved the grid system of the streets, because it was so easy to find things, and I liked the way that the pedestrian sign came on regularly without any need to press buttons. It seemed to be much quicker to walk places than it is here, where the traffic cycles are often very long. I didn't love the incessant honking of car horns. Wouldn't the people in front get out of the way if they could? No-one wants to be stuck in traffic. It's a breach of the Highway Code here, and thank goodness.

I'm currently reading a thriller, which I hope to finish in the next day or two, as it's very good.

Apr 3, 2012, 4:28am Top

39. The Expats by Chris Pavone

Where I got it: Kindle Daily Deal
Why I read it: I read an interview with the author and thought it sounded good

A word of advice - do NOT read the LT page for this book if you want to be surprised by all the twists and turns. The reviewers give too much away. This is a thriller, featuring an expat American family living in Luxembourg, and that's all you really need to know. When I saw the interview with the author, he was talking mostly about the expat lifestyle, and how you find yourself thrown together with people you would never otherwise meet, and who could have all sorts of deep and dakr secrets. That's what made me interested in the book, and it doesn't disappoint. I'm not usually a thriller reader, but really enjoyed this, and the I hope the author goes on to write more.

I started The End on the bus this morning, and it's excellent so far. I think it will be better-known in the US, as it was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Apr 3, 2012, 4:53pm Top

Hi Susan -- thanks for your NYC update! I agree that interesting things on flightpaths should be labeled! I haven't been to NYC in ages, but your comments made me want to go back. I really want to go to London, though, if prescription medicine and especially political parties cannot be advertised -- wow! Maybe I can just hunker down there until the election is over.

Apr 4, 2012, 6:16am Top

#150 I used to work in the City until about 3 years ago and the thing that I really miss is Pret A Manger sushi which I used to have at least once a week - and Itsu sushi which was even better thinking about it. I just don't trust the stuff you get in the supermarkets because you know it won't be freshly made that day.

Cockroaches are a nightmare! I once spent four months working in Bermuda where they are endemic and overnight I changed from a very environmentally friendly person who wouldn't use any sort of insectide to a crazed bug killer searching out the most lethal insecticide known to man. I just couldn't cope with them at all. I don't remember even seeing one before I went there and I just hadn't realised that they grew so big.

The office where I worked in Bermuda had to be treated with insecticide every three months to keep the cockroaches under control. I was first in the next morning and came across a massive dying cockroach lying in the middle of the corridor waving its legs in the air. I couldn't even walk past it - which for someone with a degree in Zoology is just so wimpish - but there's just something about them that really gets to me.

Apr 4, 2012, 8:48am Top

#152: Anne, I'd also like to go back, and a friend is going in August so we might meet up there if I can get out of the country in the Olympics gridlock we are being promised. There is no political advertising here, other than party political broadcast just before elections, which are usually five-minute slots at the end of the news programmes, before the soaps start. They're easy to avoid. But in NY I saw ads encouraging people to support the governor's budget, and something about energy, and I think one other one. Presciption drug advertising is also banned here - we get ads for over the counter pain relief and similar, but that's it. No "ask your doctor for..." ads, probably because the NHS budget couldn't stand it!!

#153: Rhian, I'm more a fan of the Itsu chicken potsu than the sushi, but there is one downstairs from me and it is very popular. I am more of a soup fan, and was so pleased to see Sausage Hot Pot back on the Pret menu after it disappeared for a while that I had it at every opportunity :-) I couldn't be doing with cockroaches as a way of life, I don't think. My father said he was up in Vanuatu once and they were so big that he could hear their feet on the pavement, and I'm not sure he was exaggerating. That reminds me, did you see that brilliant article on the BBC yesterday about the "snake" which turned out to be a draught excluder? It's here, for anyone who wants a good laugh. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-17596214

Apr 7, 2012, 11:35am Top

40. The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I've read all of this author's books, and this is the latest one

This is a novel about a woman married to a soldier, and the military world is not one that I know anything about at all, so there was lots in it that was interesting. Also a nice dog and cute twins :-) I picked it up this morning and read it in a few hours, in between letters in Clarissa, which I am rather behind in reading. I gave up on The End because, after a very strong first chapter, it got a bit hard, and I have neither the time nor the inclination for something hard. So I took it back this morning and got this one and The Submission by Amy Waldman, which is on the Orange long list. But really my focus should be Clarissa. I want to keep up with the group read.

It is cooooold here in London today - disappointing for Easter. I am trying to advise a friend from NZ what to pack for her trip over next week, and I wish I knew whether it was going to warm up or not.

Apr 8, 2012, 11:29am Top

41. A Marriage of Convenience by Doreen Owens Malek

Where I got it: Kindle freebie
Why I read it: I've got to start reading more freebie romances than I download

There is a romance thread on the mobileread.com forums, where people post all the day's amazon (and other) freebies. It's a dangerous place! This one was first published in 1989, and it's a reunion story, about a heroine who has to marry her stepbrother in order to inherit half of the ranch that their parents owned together. The stepbrother will inherit the other half. And, as her lawyer tells her, in a (rare) nod to reality in romancelandia, while that sort of clause in a will wouldn't stand up in court, court proceedings will take a long time and cost a lot of money. Far better just to marry the guy, get the will into probate and then get divorced. But of course it doesn't quite work out like that :-) Although 1989 really doesn't seem like that long ago (or perhaps I'm just kidding myself) it is interesting to see how things have changed in romance. This hero smokes! And he has a terrible temper, which doesn't mean he hits the heroine, but he sweeps her papers off a table and hits other people, which is Not A Good Sign these days. And the heroine, suspecting she might be expecting a happy event, buys a bottle of wine to celebrate. But I enjoyed it, and it was just what I needed after five thousand pages of Clarissa.

Apr 9, 2012, 9:39am Top

42. The Sultan's Choice by Abby Green

Where I got it: Library ebook
Why I read it: Abby Green is one of my favourite Mills & Boon authors, but I have fallen behind with her recent releases

I can't believe it's April and I've only just read my first Sheikh book of the year :-) But I read another five thousand pages of Clarissa this morning and then I got an email from the library saying that this was available to download. Yay! These are quick reads, and this was a marriage of convenience story, with the Sultan hero pleased to have found a well-behaved, unscandalous wife who was no great beauty and who wouldn't make him feel anything in the way of love or other pesky emotions. Or so he thought...

Back to Clarissa now.

Apr 21, 2012, 12:24pm Top

43. The Submission by Amy Waldman

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It's an Orange long-list title and the library copy was new and clean

This took me forever to read, partly because I have been head-spinningly busy at the office, and working all hours, and partly because I just didn't like it that much. It is set in 2003, and the story is about a competition to design a memorial for the 9/11 victims, which is won by a Muslim architect with a design for a garden. Immediately the fighting starts among the members of the committee choosing the design (entrants were anonymous in the early stages), and fanning out into the community. None of the characters was that sympathetic to me, although I'm sure my experience wasn't helped by reading it in little bits. It might have worked better if I had read it over a couple of afternoons.

I'm way behind on my Clarissa reading again, after nearly catching up over Easter, but today I have a library ebook to read that has come in on reserve, so I need to get to that first.

It is freeeeeezing cold in London (not in comparison to really cold places, but cold for London) so Gap has a shorts sale on, and there isn't a piece of knitwear to be found anywhere. Tomorrow is the marathon, so east London is gearing up for that, which means crowd barriers along the pavements, and cones everywhere. I'm not a sports fan, but I do watch the marathon (on TV - no need to get carried away :-) ) as it is such a great day for London. I did go out once and watch it when a friend's husband was running in it, and that was fun, but the crowds are insane. Last year my tiny tube station was closed due to fear of overcrowding, which caused a lot of complaining, so this year it is going to be open, which is just as well as I have to get to a meeting over the other side of town, and we are locked in to my little area on marathon day, with all the roads closed.

Apr 21, 2012, 12:39pm Top

It is freeeeeezing cold in London (not in comparison to really cold places, but cold for London) so Gap has a shorts sale on, and there isn't a piece of knitwear to be found anywhere.

I thought exactly the same thing yesterday. Every year I completely fail to get the seasons with clothes wrong. I don't usually even start thinking about summer clothes until July when I'm about to go on holiday and by that stage all the shops are starting to get their winter coats in.

Apr 26, 2012, 4:29pm Top

44. 1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber

Where I got it: Library ebook
Why I read it: It's the next one in the Cedar Cove series, which I have been reading for a while now

There are so many characters in this series now that unfortunately most of this book was an info-dump of backstory, and very little new action to progress things. I do like catching up with the previous stories, but it's getting a bit unwieldy, I think. Maybe that's why there's only one more book in the series before it's brought to a close. The library now seems to have the whole series as ebooks instead of just odd volumes - maybe they're finally realising how annoying that is!

Next up is The Well of Shades, which is the third in a trilogy that I started at the end of last year. It's taken ages to come in on reserve so I hope it's good.

It is so cold and rainy here that my friend visiting from NZ says that she's going to write to Visit Britain and ask for her money back :-) I got soaked today walking outside for ten minutes, and that was with an umbrella and a coat. I have the day off tomorrow so I'm hoping it cheers up a bit.

Apr 28, 2012, 3:11am Top

It's still raining, so I'm going to stay in all day, which will mean reading interspersed with tidying up and filing paperwork (aaargh). The Well of Shades is going well - I'm about a third of the way through and I'm aiming to finish it tomorrow. I also have to catch up on nearly 200 pages of Clarissa, which I won't be able to do by tomorrow, but I'm going to try for 50 pages over the weekend, perhaps.

Apr 28, 2012, 11:52am Top

Delurking to say Hi and hope you get in more reading than tidying and paperwork today!

Apr 28, 2012, 1:11pm Top

Hi Lori! The tidying is going well. The paperwork...not. But The Well of Shades is coming along, and I've just downloaded the final Cedar Cove novel for a change of pace this evening. I should really do a bit of Clarissa, but goodness it's very long, and nothing much has happened so far.

Apr 28, 2012, 3:47pm Top

45. 1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber

Where I got it: Library ebook
Why I read it: It's the final one in the Cedar Cove series

This was better than 1105 Yakima Street, which I finished a couple of days ago. That one was a bit of a disappointment, but this shorter, final novel in the series had a good new story in it, plus more about the characters who have featured in the previous novels, and a sweet Christmas feel, involving a basket of abandoned Labrador puppies which all found loving new homes. As always, the food in these novels intrigues me. One of the characters made a Christmas cake that included green tomato mince, and another family had a breakfast casserole on Christmas morning. I've never heard of a breakfast casserole, but I've just looked up some recipes and they seem to be a pretty popular American thing.

Maybe it's time for some Clarissa now. Certainly it's time for the touchstone to bring up the famous Clarissa when I have corrected it a dozen times in this thread!

Edited: Apr 29, 2012, 10:28am Top

46. The Well of Shades by Juliet Marillier

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It's the third and final book in the author's Bridei Chronicles

I've really enjoyed this series about a sixth-century Pictish king. This final book centred around one of his bodyguards who had a journey of his own to make, and what happened on his return to the court. I like the familiar recurring characters and the just-enough-magic to make this a fantasy novel without going overboard on the dragons (in fact, there are are no dragons). I would recommend the series to anyone interested in historical fiction with a fantasy element.

In other news, I can see a tiny little bit of blue sky after days of rain. Yay! No sun, though. I can also see Clarissa looking at me, and it seems that something has finally happened nearly 400 pages into it, so I had better go and read what it is. Not only is this the longest novel in the English language (I think) - it also feels like it is.

May 4, 2012, 1:36pm Top

I'm finally up to date with Clarissa - yippeee! And I'm making progress with an interesting new non-fiction book called The Gentry by Adam Nicolson, which doesn't seem to be in the touchstones yet.

I've spent much of the day running around London like a tourist with a friend who is over from NZ and we had a great time. We went to Greenwich, to the Old Royal Naval College, with its beautiful painted ceiling and the gorgeous chapel, and then to the Queen's House, which is an art gallery, and had some amazing paintings. We had lunch overlooking the river and the navy ship that has docked there as part of the (controversial) security preparations for the Olympics, and which I suspect will feature on the local news in a minute. Last night they had the missile launchers that they are proposing to site on the top of apartment buildings in the area, to shoot down errant planes. One school of thought says it's sabre-rattling to put off any miscreants from even trying anything, but other people are convinced that it's all for real and the skies will be raining bits of small planes and goodness knows what. How glad we will all be when the Games are over.

May 5, 2012, 4:11pm Top

What a fun day, Susan. I'm sure you will be glad when the Games are over. It's exciting to watch -- from afar. I imagine it will be a major disruption for you this summer.

Edited: May 6, 2012, 11:12am Top

Yes, it was a fun day, and we've had two more. On Saturday we went to Tate Britain and then walked along the river past the Houses of Parliament to Trafalgar Square where we had lunch (stopping at the Jewel Tower to get out of the rain, and because we'd never been there. Sadly, there are no jewels in it now). Then we walked along the Embankment to the monument to the Great Fire of London, and climbed to the top of it (there is a spiral staircase). I did it years ago with my sister-in-law, so I knew that you come down and feel pretty wobbly, but it was quite a climb. And we were both pasted against the wall of the viewing platform at the top, too scared to go near the edge. We had to go to McDonald's for a McFlurry, just to recover.

Today we went to the V&A, to the excellent new exhibition on British Design from 1948 - 2012, and then we went through the Britain rooms, looking at all the gorgeous stitchery and pottery but not, sadly, the Great Bed of Ware, which was on loan. After lunch we went to see the Raphael Cartoons and the Ardabil carpet, because no visit to the V&A is complete without a visit to the carpet. And then through Hyde Park and up to Paddington, where my friend was staying. So we got in lots of art and museumy things and quite a bit of walking, and some climbing. And the entire time it has been cold and wet, and not at all welcoming for visitors, not that it seems to have stopped them.

I've managed quite a bit of reading on the way to and from home, and I've snuck in an 80s pirate romance, which has been sitting on my Kindle for a little while.

47. Across a Moonlit Sea by Marsha Canham

Where I got it: Kindle
Why I read it: Nostalgia. I'm sure I read this one back when it came out, but I love the old pirate bodice-rippers.

In fact there was no bodice-ripping in this one, as the heroine, Isabeau Spence, was the helmsman of her father's ship, so dressed in a shirt and breeches. But quite a few shirts made the ultimate sacrifice. Set in the late 1500s, it was the story of Simon Dante, Comte de Tourville, left for dead by a baddie, whose ship was rescued by the heroine's father, throwing the Comte and heroine together. There was a lot of swashbuckling, Spanish treasure and an encounter with Sir Francis Drake. Needless to say, I really want the sequel now :-)

May 12, 2012, 10:44am Top

48. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Where I got it: Library, just sitting there all new and unexpected on the New Books shelf this morning
Why I read it: I love Sophie Kinsella's books, and I'd been wanting to get this one since I saw it had been published

This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Poppy Wyatt can't imagine anything much worse than losing the family heirloom engagement ring given to her by fiance Magnus, but then has her mobile phone stolen, and has no way of contacting the people who are looking for it. Then she spots a mobile phone in the rubbish bin at a hotel, and decides to borrow it for a while, so she has a new number to hand out. But the phone belonged to the PA of a businessman, Sam Roxton, and he wants it back...

This story is very cleverly done, and neatly captures the modern obsession with text messages and emails, as well as Poppy's discomfort at having to share her phone with Sam's emails. Unable to resist opening them up and having a read before she forwards them on, she quickly learns far too much about his life, and sets about making him a kinder, more communicative boss, much to his horror. But there's more to the story than that, and it races along right to the end. Parts were giggle-out-loud funny, and it definitely cheered up my day.

May 13, 2012, 10:24am Top

49. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It’s on the Orange long-list and I read a great review of it

I’ve never heard of this author before, but now want to read everything she’s written because this was just so good. It’s set in Dublin, and is about an affair between two married people, neither of whom are particularly sympathetic as characters, but the writing is really excellent, and I didn’t want to put it down. Fortunately it’s fairly short, so I didn’t have to.

50. The Gentry: Stories of the English by Adam Nicolson

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It fits the social history category of my 12 in 12 challenge, but mostly because it was new and clean and I liked the cover. Call me shallow :-)

The book looks at a number of “gentry” families in England over the ages, and at what connects them in terms of way of life, social obligations and so on, and I finished it today after reading it for a couple of weeks. The gentry is a shrinking class, according to the author, who tries to work out why. I enjoyed the various stories of the families, but I don’t think he succeeded in showing how they were the same, because really they weren’t, and they only made it into the book because a lot of written history of them had survived in the way of letters, account books and court papers. That seems to be about all they had in common. It was well written, and I loved some of the anecdotes, like the one about the man who was so stingy that his family had to pay for bed and board whenever they went to stay with him. Well, I suppose you don’t make money by wasting it on freeloading relatives :-)

There was an interesting section at the end of the book which said that, although the gentry as a class is getting smaller, there has been a return to the gentry in UK government, with the coalition government mostly led by the Tories, whose “Big Society” idea of devolving responsibility down to the community level is an attempt at a return to the gentry type of model, when rich landowners were responsible for the poorer people around them. The author doesn’t think that the “Big Society” idea will work because it overlooks the fact that the old system wasn’t the sort of warm-hearted philanthropic thing envisaged today, but arose from a struggle for power which went on through the generations, and rewarded the people who fought the hardest to advance themselves.

51. Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey

Where I got it: Kindle Daily Deal
Why I read it: At some point I saw a newspaper review of this, and then noticed the amazingly good reviews on the amazon page when it was their UK daily deal a little while ago

On its face, this doesn’t look like my sort of thing at all, but it’s a fascinating read that I couldn’t put down, and I’m so glad to have found it. If anyone else is sitting on this on their Kindle, read it now!

The book is about the Co-Operative Correspondence Club, a private magazine started when a lonely housewife wrote to a magazine for suggestions about what she could do with her spare time. Someone suggested that she might like penfriends, and a group of women started writing to one another by means of a bi-monthly magazine, which was posted around the group, and for which everyone had to write an article about what was going on in their life at that time. The magazine started in the 1930s and lasted until 1990, so it covers a huge period period of time, and all sorts of experiences of the women, who had differing degrees of education and circumstances. The only thing they had in common was that they all had children, as they voted to exclude anyone without them. But the extracts republished in this book are about far more than their children. Members could comment on the articles as the magazine was circulated, and the comments have also been reproduced. The magazines were donated by one of the last surviving members to a university archive, which is where the author found them and set about tracking down the surviving members, or their children.

One of the most interesting things for me was that the women were born from about the 1890s to the 1910s, making them the same age as my grandmothers. Both of my grandmothers were quite old by the time I was born, so I never knew them as the young women who went through all the things that the women in this book experienced. By the time I talked to them about life in the 40s/50s/whenever, they knew what had happened and how it had all turned out, whereas the letters in this book showed how uncertain things were at various stages, particularly during the war.

Now that everything is on the internet, we will lose treasures like this archive, and, while there are similar sorts of resources online now (in the UK the main site for advice for mothers is Mumsnet, which is either feted or vilified depending on your point of view) there are, I suspect, fewer long, considered pieces like the letters these women wrote, because no-one has time to read them, or maybe the time to write them. Everything seems to be a couple of sentences of txt spk, followed by a big argument.

I would recommend this for anyone interested in social history, whether they have children or not. There are good footnotes for readers who are not familiar with British terms or history.

Edited: May 13, 2012, 11:21am Top

I nearly bought The Forgotten Waltz on Saturday but resisted. I'm sure I'll succumb some time soon. I've seen good reviews of Can Any Mother Help Me too - I've added it to the wishlist.

Edited: May 17, 2012, 4:32am Top

I hope you enjoy them, Rhian.

52. Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook

Where I got it: Kindle freebie
Why I read it: I decided to actually read one of my freebie downloads, instead of just collecting them.

I loved this book, which apparently was also a film, although I never saw that. I particularly liked the author's voice, and the cast of characters in the book, ranging from the main character's mad family, through her pre-school class, to the various men that she reluctantly tried to date after her divorce. And there was a Saint Bernard puppy called Mother Teresa, who was also written really well.

I started the new Anita Shreve this morning on the bus, which looks excellent. I was disappointed with the last one, but this seems to be a return to form.

May 18, 2012, 1:31pm Top

53. Rescue by Anita Shreve

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: Because I've read everything by this author

This was definitely better than A Change in Altitude but for me it wasn't as good as Anita Shreve's earlier books. Set in Vermont, it is the story of a single father and why his wife left, what it means for their daughter as she gets older, and what happens when a crisis strikes.

I really like this author's style of writing, and I'll continue reading everything she writes, but I can still remember some of the earlier books whereas I don't think this one will stick with me.

Next up is either The Necropolis Railway or A Faithful Place, but I think this evening might be just right for a romance novel :-)

May 18, 2012, 2:33pm Top

What's your favourite Anita Shreve? I haven't read anything to beat The Weight of Water.

May 18, 2012, 3:04pm Top

I like the ones set in the same house - Fortune's Rocks, The Pilot's Wife, Sea Glass - those are the ones that really stick with me. But I also remember Eden Close and Strange Fits of Passion - along with Anne Tyler she is one of my favourite American authors and I have read everything of hers.

Goodness, my new upstairs neighbours have started demolishing their flat again. I suppose it makes a change from 2am this morning, but it sounds like they're taking it apart plank by plank. I keep hoping builders will show up and do the job during the day, but I think I'm out of luck.

Edited: May 19, 2012, 5:00pm Top

54. Wanted! by Vicky Lewis Thompson
55. Ambushed! by Vicki Lewis Thompson
56. Claimed! by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Where I got them: Harlequin ebooks
Why I read them: I read this author's Three Cowboys and a Baby series last year and loved them, so I decided to try some more. A Harlequin coupon code arrived at just the right time, so I got this trilogy and the second set of three which I still have to read.

Please excuse the shirtless cowboys if they're not your thing, but I do actually have these US editions, and the UK covers are now so awful that I can't bear to use them. This is a cute series about the three Chance brothers, who run the Last Chance ranch in Wyoming, breeding paint horses (I now know what those are), for cutting competitions (ditto). It's like a whole new world :-) I loved the setting, on a ranch outside of a small town called Shoshone, which I looked up to see if it was a real place, and discovered Shoshoni, which now seems to be almost a ghost town, so it seems that the author has picked somewhere nearly real, but not real enough to offend anyone living there. Blaze novels have a lot of canoodling, and all three of these had pretty rushed endings, but I still enjoyed them, and I'm not going to let the next three languish on Mount TBR for as long as these did. There is a third trilogy starting this summer, and the characters recur, which is always fun.

May 26, 2012, 2:46am Top

Goodness, I haven't made much progress this week. I am going to finish an Edwardian crime novel today (there - I have written it down so now I have to do it) and start the new Jojo Moyes book, Me Before You, which has come highly recommended. Finally we have had a bit of sun, but sadly I was most excited over the last couple of days about the thought of all the laundry I would get dry. You know you're getting old when you look at the sunny day and think "perfect drying weather". Today there is a bit of a breeze, so it really is perfect, although not that great for sitting outside.

May 26, 2012, 3:12am Top

It's just so nice to have some warmer weather. The constant rain was really starting to get to me.

Edited: May 26, 2012, 10:17am Top

Yes, it's definitely time things cheered up. It's been a bit blowy down here today so I had to come inside, but the sky is blue, and I got more washing dry :-)

I heard bells ringing before. There is a church across the river, but it usually only has them on a Sunday morning. And they were much louder than normal. I went outside and saw a barge going down the river with a set of bells on it, ringing away (or presumably being rung). There are bells in next weekend's Diamond Jubilee river pageant, so they must have been practising. I hope it stays fine for then, but it will certainly be calmer on the river than it is today, as they are closing the Thames Barrier for the day, to slow the current right down.

57. The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I was online reserving this author's newest book, Underground Overground, about the Tube, when I saw that he had written a series of mysteries set in the early 1900s and set on the railways.

I liked the main character in this novel, and all the facts about the railway and 1903 London, but the plot got a bit convoluted. Interestingly, it features a real railway company that ran a line from Waterloo station to a cemetery in Surrey until 1941, with the mourners getting on at Waterloo with the coffin, and then going down to the cemetery, which had several platforms for the various types of religions. I think I'll try the next one, as the author is an expert on trains, and used to write an excellent column for the Evening Standard which I always read. I'm really looking forward to Underground, Overground too.

58. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Where I got it: Library, where it appeared quite unexpectedly on the new books shelf. I'd have thought there would be lots of reserves for it.
Why I read it: It was recommended by a friend from work, whose friends were all raving about it.

Hmmm. There is virtually nothing I can say about this book without it being a spoiler. I have studied the cover copy for things I could possibly mention, but none of the salient points of the story appear there, although they do appear on the LT review page. I was quite glad I didn't know anything about it, because I think it would have taken away some of the impact of what happened. It's not an easy read (in terms of subject-matter), but it's very well-written, and highly topical (at least in the UK).

Edited: May 26, 2012, 3:57pm Top

59. Hot Island Nights by Sarah Mayberry

60. Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry

Where I got them: Kindle
Why I read them: The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author romance blogs both had great reviews of Her Best Worst Mistake, which is the companion story to Hot Island Nights so I decided I had to read both of them.

Hot Island Nights was published as a Harlequin Blaze novel, and they're not my favourite line. There is too much canoodling for the sake of it, and I thought the plot of this one was implausible. OK, they're all implausible, but in some cases it's easier to suspend your disbelief :-)

Her Best Worst Mistake takes place at the same time as the story in Hot Island Nights, but on the other side of the world. The heroine is the best friend of the Hot Island Nights heroine but, more interestingly, the hero is the jilted fiance from Hot Island Nights. It is a convention in Romancelandia that the discarded man is weak and unlovable compared to the hero who eventually gets the girl, so it was a bit unusual to see him get his own Happy Ever After in Her Best Worst Mistake. However, I liked this one a lot more than the first, as it sounded more authentic. I felt that the first one was trying to conform to the requirements of the Blaze line and the second one read more naturally. Also it was set in London, which I always like :-) There were a couple of niggles that a London-based proof-reader (or whatever they call someone who knows how the locals refer to things) would have straightened out, but I can see why the reviews were so positive.

May 27, 2012, 1:57pm Top

I have just seen on another thread that there is a Kindle Jubilee sale on the UK site - yippee! So far I've picked up A Crown of Lights, which is the third in Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series, She Wolves, about queens of medieval England, and The Library Book. I'm particularly pleased about A Crown of Lights as my library's copy seems to have been read by about 5,000 chain-smokers and there's no way it's coming home with me. Other things I would have bought if I hadn't already read them include A Company of Liars and Girl in a Blue Dress, a fictional account of the life of Mrs Charles Dickens, which I loved when I read it a couple of years ago.

Today I have started Kate Atkinson's Case Histories, which has been on Mount TBR for a while. I'm about half way through and I love it. I have the third book, so I must reserve the second one.

May 27, 2012, 5:20pm Top

#I've had The Necropolis Railway sitting on the TBR shelf for ever. I don't really read much crime/detective fiction but that one appealed more than most and I thought i'd give it a go. It's funny, I really like a crime thriller on the TV as long as it's not too gruesome, but I lose interest with the same story in a book.

I've found the Kindle Sale as well and also bought The Library Book. I didn't notice The Company of Liars - I might get that - I read it a few years ago but left the book somewhere and it's one I might want to re-read at some stage. Have you read the sequel?

May 27, 2012, 10:51pm Top

Hi Susan, getting caught up with your thread and have added The Necropolis Railway to my To Read Later list. Here is hoping spring/summer is in full swing in your part of the world!

May 28, 2012, 2:14am Top

#182: Rhian, I'm not a big crime reader either, but the main character in The Necropolis Railway is a sweetie and I'm going to try another one. As well as the crime element, it's interesting to read about what was going on in London generally at that time. I've read all three of the Karen Maitland books and thought they were all excellent. There's something so atmospheric about the way she writes - I really felt like I was there (although of course who knows what it was really like in rural medieval England. But I could believe in what was in the books, which I suppose is what counts).

#183: Hi Lori - yes, we finally have some sun (although I think I saw thunderstorms forecast for later). I took the bold step yesterday of washing my down-filled coat ready to put it away for the summer. I love it, but I have to face the fact that it is June at the end of the week!

May 28, 2012, 4:45pm Top

Hi Susan, I'm catching up here as well. The Necropolis Railway has caught my attention, as well as Me Before You. I have read Jojo Moyes before and quite liked her storytelling.

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 4:48pm Top

Hi Judy - definitely look out for Me Before You. I've read some other books by Jojo Moyes too (The Ship of Brides was very good) but then I read one that didn't grab me, and I stopped. I think I'll go back to the latest ones and try again.

61. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Where I got it: Book collection at work
Why I read it: Someone gave me book 3 in the series, but I have to read things in order and I'd seen lots of praise for the series on LT

I can see why everyone loves this series. Kate Atkinson's writing is wonderful, and I could remember, as I started this one, how much I'd enjoyed Behind the Scenes At The Museum when it came out years and years ago. I wish I'd seen the TV series now, to see how Jason Isaacs lived up to the Jackson Brodie I imagined when I read this. The second one is apparently on the shelf at my library so I will try and pick it up later in the week. I liked the interlocking stories and thought the ending was well done, but I'm interested to see how that leads into the later books.

May 29, 2012, 1:54pm Top

I think I know why I always have so many library reserves on the go - it saves me from making choices about what to read. I have nothing coming in at present, and I can't decide what to pick from Mount TBR or the Kindle Hillock (actually Hillock is the wrong term now - it is far higher than the Mount). I think I am going to lose the evening in indecision, and yesterday was bad enough with the final two episodes of Gossip Girl to watch :-)

Jun 1, 2012, 2:10pm Top

62. The Forbidden Ferrara by Sarah Morgan

Where I got it: Kindle
Why I read it: Sarah is an auto-buy for me, and this downloaded overnight onto my Kindle.

I always interrupt what I'm reading for a new book by Sarah Morgan, and I started this one this morning at the bus stop. It's not often that I'm pleased to learn the bus is nine minutes away. This is a secret baby story - not usually one of my favourite tropes, but there was no lengthy hiding of the baby in this case, which is usually what winds me up. This book hasn't had brilliant reviews, but I can't agree with the criticisms. Reviewers seem to have focused on the hero's control-freakery, but that's the typical hero of this line. It bugs me when people compare one line with another, and say that stories like this aren't realistic, because they're not supposed to be. That's the whole point of the Modern/Presents line. I've heard it described as romantic fantasy, and that's exactly what it is - squillionaire heroes, exotic locations - of course it's not real. I've included the cheesy US cover above, because I like them so much more than the awful new UK covers, where the people look too real. I much prefer the "every-hero" and "every-heroine" look of the US covers, where it's clear that the book is a romance, but otherwise they all look much the same :-)

This evening I'll return to Silent in the Grave, which is from Mount TBR and going well. I should finish it tomorrow, I think, in between watching bits of the Jubilee weekend on TV. Sadly the heatwave is over and it's supposed to rain hard on Sunday, which is the Thames flotilla, and the largest gathering of boats on the river for 350 years.

Jun 2, 2012, 8:35am Top

63. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Where I got it: Harlequin freebie
Why I read it: I ran out of library books and decided to try and whittle down Mount TBR a bit further.

I got this as a freebie ages ago, and it was one of the many books that I meant to get around to. I saw the series listed on Mamie's thread when I was trying to decide what to read next, and decided to give it a try.

Set in 1886 London, this was a bit of a different sort of romance - not so much a romance in this book as a mystery novel, but I thought it worked well. I'll look out for the rest of the series, but I think I will have to reserve book 2 as neither of the libraries close to me has it in stock.

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 8:44am Top

Today is cold here in London, and it started drizzly, which is such a shame for the Jubilee weekend. Tomorrow there is the river pageant, and a lot of the boats have been making their way up the river to Putney, ready for the start of the event at Battersea tomorrow at 2.30. I saw a tall ship on the news, leaving West India Quay, so I waited for it to come past and took this picture. It will form part of the "Avenue of Sail" near Tower Bridge, which is for ships that are too big to go under the bridge. I think I need to learn how to zoom in on the BlackBerry camera...

Jun 2, 2012, 2:21pm Top

64. The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

Where I got it: Harlequin freebie, I think. Or maybe it was a cheapie
Why I read it: The never-ending Mount TBR challenge...

I liked Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series, and kept meaning to get to the Blossom Street series as I had this first one waiting for me. It's the story of a woman who opens a yarn shop, and the customers who come into her life. LT reviews seem to say it's twee and predictable, but I enjoyed it. As with the Cedar Cove books, there is lots of lovely food in it, and Coke with peanuts. I'm trying to remember now where I've read about Coke with peanuts (in the Coke, that is) - perhaps the Cedar Cove novels, but I wonder if that's a typical American thing. I don't think we put peanuts in Coke over here, although I don't drink Coke, so perhaps I'm missing something. I'll definitely read the rest of this series, but perhaps once I've made some more progress with Mount TBR. I'm down to 26 books on my laptop now, which is pretty good, especially as some of them are freebie romances from lines that I don't usually read and probably won't get to. Next up is Kristan Higgins' Too Good To Be True, I think. And then maybe some more shirtless cowboys :-)

Jun 2, 2012, 5:20pm Top

Hi Susan! I had to laugh at your description of the Vicki Lewis Thompsen books -- Wyoming could be another world. Hope the weather clears up for the Jubilee -- how exciting! My book club made special Buckingham Palace tea (special ordered from Ottawa) to commemorate the occasion.

Jun 3, 2012, 3:27am Top

Hi Anne - thanks for visiting :-) The weather is worse than yesterday at present - I can barely see across the river, so it's going to be a cold and miserable day for the people watching things outside, and the people on the boats. It's such a shame after the blazing hot weekend we had last weekend. We saw some footage of people in the US talking about the Jubilee, and I was quite surprised that it was getting any coverage over there. Your tea sounds great - Twinings are doing a special Jubilee blend here, so I have been sending tins of that to people who like tea, but we have mountains of Jubilee merchandise available - china, tea towels, biscuits - far more than I remember for the Golden Jubilee. Although the weather was better then :-)

I am going to spend the day reading with the TV on in the background so I can keep an eye on river pageant news and maybe I'll get on to my second Wyoming trilogy!

Jun 3, 2012, 7:55am Top

65. Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins

Where I got it: Harlequin freebie or cheapie - it's been on Mount TBR for ages
Why I read it: I'm continuing to read the things on my laptop

This has to be the funniest book I have read in ages, and I loved it. It's a sweet contemporary romance with everything I love - the small town setting, the madcap extended family, a cute Westie called Angus, and so on. The heroine, Grace, is a history teacher who was dumped by her fiance, who fell in love with her sister instead. Wishing that her family would stop feeling sorry for her, Grace invents the perfect boyfriend...but then a mysterious new man moves in next door. I want to read everything else this author has written now, and she's going on my auto-buy list for the future. Highly recommended for the romance fan, or for anyone who needs cheering up.

Edited: Jun 3, 2012, 2:21pm Top

I've interrupted my reading this afternoon to watch the pageant, but sadly by the time it came past me the rain was pouring down. The Queen stopped at Tower Bridge to review the rest of the boats, and looks very cold. She has a beautiful white outfit on, with a pashmina shawl, but she needs a puffa coat with a hood. And the Duchess of Cambridge must be completely freezing. We are waiting for a helicopter fly-past, but I doubt it will be clear enough to see them. Here is a picture of the first of the boats (the rowed ones), coming down the river from the west:

Jun 3, 2012, 1:49pm Top

The weather was really so horrible today wasn't it? We took Daisy out for a walk in a brief respite in the rain, but after three-quarters of an hour she was soaked and shivering. The car temperature said 10.5 degrees on the way home. And it's supposed to be June!

Jun 3, 2012, 2:28pm Top

Yes, it's shocking. One journalist said even Glastonbury isn't as wet and cold as this. And the poor singers on the final London Philharmonic boat, standing out in the rain for all that time. I would have thought someone could rustle up a canopy, as the forecast has been bad for a few days. I hope the Queen is OK after all that standing around in the cold. It was a long, wet day for someone that age, and she couldn't even change her mind and decide to stay at home and watch it on the TV :-) Channel 4 is just reporting some cases of hypothermia on the boats. That's awful. In the end they cancelled the fly-past, which I suppose made sense as no-one would have been able to see it, and possibly the helicopters wouldn't have been able to see one another. Living under that flightpath, I'm quite glad!

Jun 3, 2012, 6:26pm Top

Oh yes, lots of coverage here -- I think Americans still love all things royal -- or at least your royals. Too Good to be True sounds like a fun read.

Jun 4, 2012, 5:14am Top

Anne, you should get the highlights of the pageant, in that case, and tonight there is a concert at Buckingham Palace, but I'm not sure if the Queen is going to appear at that. I hope she gets a day off. Tomorrow there is a carriage parade through central London after a lunch somewhere. The National Children's Orchestra is playing for the lunch, and one of my friends' daughters is in it so they're pretty excited. I have just seen a peep of blue sky, but I think it is still cold enough to stay inside without feeling like I'm wasting the day. I was going to read a library book but I've just discovered "Best Selling Power Ballads of the Noughties" on one of the music video channels, so I think I'll stick with romancelandia. At least it's not the Eighties collection, or I wouldn't be able to move from the sofa until it was over.

Jun 4, 2012, 2:51pm Top

66. Should've Been a Cowboy by Vicki Lewis Thompson
67. Cowboy Up by Vicki Lewis Thompson
68. Cowboys Like Us by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Where I got them: Harlequin ebooks
Why I read them: They're the second trilogy in the Sons of Chance series, and they're part of my Bank Holiday weekend Mount TBR challenge, which is going pretty well. It would be going even better if the third ebook hadn't turned out to contain one of this author's early Blaze novels as a bonus book, meaning it has to stay on the shelf a while longer.

I still think that the Blaze line involves the characters getting together unrealistically fast, and deciding on their futures together within a couple of days. But that aside, I liked this continuation of the series, which also involved the couples from the previous books from time to time, and other people from the ranch. It seems that Shoshone, Wyoming, has an extraordinary number of charming young women and hot cowboys for an average town :-) As with the previous covers, these heroes are having trouble keeping their shirts buttoned. Maybe it's hot in Wyoming.

I am watching the Jubilee concert, which is awful. I do pity the royals having to show up to all these concerts and pretend to look entertained. None of these "singers" can sing in real life! They just had will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, who wouldn't have lasted through a verse on whatever silly show he judges. And the poor Duke of Edinburgh is hospital with a bladder infection, although after yesterday and all that time out in the cold it's a wonder he doesn't have pneumonia.

Jun 5, 2012, 3:17am Top

69. Already Home by Vicki Lewis Thompson and Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey

Where I got them: Ebooks. These are novellas, so I'm combining the word count and counting them as one book
Why I read them: Already Home is part of the Sons of Chance series, and Slow Summer Kisses is the latest release from Shannon Stacey, whose Kowalski series I love. I'm impatiently waiting for the next set of three in that series, but they don't come out until later in the year.

Interestingly, both of these stories had the same premise - the hero and heroine had known one another as kids, and meet up again when they're grown up, but their circumstances are such that there doesn't appear to be a long-term future for them. In the first book, both characters are visiting their parents in Wyoming, from their own jobs on opposite coasts, and in the second the heroine goes to stay at her grandparents' camp at a lake in New England (I think) where the hero now lives full-time. I preferred the Shannon Stacey book, mostly because of the humour, but also because of the very grouchy hero, who has some great lines.

But now I have to stop with the romance, and I'm making a promise to myself right here and now to read ten other books before I start any more romances, with an exception for the new Sarah Morgan which comes out on 15 June. And any library reserves which might come in.

Jun 6, 2012, 2:27am Top

70. The Library Book by various authors

Where I got it: Kindle sale
Why I read it: I'm staying off the romance for nine more books

This is a collection of essays about the authors' experiences with libraries, and it was put together in support of The Reading Agency, which works to support libraries.

There were some really good essays in this book (plus a couple of fiction pieces from China Mieville and Kate Mosse) but I do think that the authors are hankering for the return of a golden age of libraries that no longer exists. There is a lot of nostalgia for inspirational librarians, and amazing collections of books, but my experience over the past few years in the borough where I live and work is of uninterested and often rude staff, patchy collections poorly shelved and every inch of flat empty space being taken over by computers. They've even renamed the libraries to remove the word "library" from most of them. Authors like Zadie Smith write about studying in their local libraries, but I don't think there are any tables for that in the two that I go to - or at least tables without computers on them. Nor is there any requirement for quiet any more, so I don't know how studying is supposed to work with noise all around - people on their phones, teenagers playing music, and nobody tells them to stop.

I no longer go to the branch nearest me because the staff are so awful, and will happily sit around shrieking at one another behind the desk while customers queue up for the self-service machines, because apparently the library staff aren't there to issue books any more. The shelves are a mess, and they avoid reshelving by endless displays of supposedly "new" and recently returned books.

I've started to go to a much smaller branch further away, which is still called a library and where the staff are either trained or at least interested in books, and it's a better experience, but still there are no tables for people to sit at if they're not on the computers. There is nowhere for children from overcrowded homes to sit quietly and study. Once your time on the computer is up, you're out.

I'm a lifelong library user, and grew up with excellent libraries in New Zealand, with great staff. I used to work part-time at the local library when I was a teenager and I can still remember the ladies there, who really were engaged and inspiring, so I was lucky. And I'm certainly not of the view that libraries should be closed down and the stock sold off. But I do wonder whether today's young people (well, people of all ages, really) are benefiting in the same way that I did, and in the same way that the authors in this book did. There is a lot of criticism that the politicians making the decisions to close libraries are posh and rich and have never been inside a public library, so they don't know what they're missing. I'm not sure that's right, but, even if it's true, I don't think they're missing what these authors seem to think they're missing.

Jun 6, 2012, 5:37am Top

71. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: I loved this author's earlier book Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight, but also because this one was brand new and clean

Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight was one of my top reads from recent years. It's a memoir of the author's childhood in (mostly) Rhodesia (as it was then). This book looks at the lives of the author's parents, and how they ended up in Africa, which is the sort of thing that interests me as one branch of my own family emigrated from the UK at about the same time as the author's great-grandparents, although to New Zealand in my case. I've always wondered what made people choose one place over another when there seemed to be opportunities all over the world at that time.

The book is certainly interesting in terms of the events going on at the time, and the reasons why the Fuller family travelled around Africa rather than settling in one place, but the author's mother comes across as one of those larger-than-life drama-queen characters who are pretty hard work in real life and I didn't warm to her, although her frequent references to the author's Awful Book were funny.

I did love the writing style, and I want to read The Legend of Colton H Bryant now, which is set in the author's adopted home state of Wyoming. A bit of a change from the cowboys, I suspect...

Jun 6, 2012, 8:07am Top

Re: The Library Book - It's not on sale for Kindle anymore, but at least the price wasn't bad. I downloaded it. Its essay nature may make it a perfect read during my library conference next week.

Jun 6, 2012, 5:07pm Top

There are certainly some interesting chapters, Lori. I particularly like the one by Caitlin Moran, who is a columnist with The Times here.

72. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It's the second one in the Jackson Brodie series

The plot of this book was more convoluted than Case Histories, and I'm still thinking about the way it ended, but the characterisation was delicious, and there are some great lines in it. Set in Edinburgh during the annual Edinburgh arts festival, all sorts of coincidences bring the characters together, and are slowly explained. The third book in the series is sitting in my office, which is a bit annoying because this week I am *not* sitting in my office, so I'll have to wait a few days to get it.

Meanwhile, I am going to start The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, which I have had for ages and not got around to despite having read nearly everything else written about the family. This afternoon I was watching a programme about Chatsworth, which features the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, and that made me think of it. I love the little symbols at the beginning of each letter, to remind readers which sister is which :-)

Jun 6, 2012, 5:46pm Top

#202 I have a love / hate relationship with libraries. I really like the idea of them but in practice I'm not very good at using them. I've had some truly horrendous library fines in my time from forgetting to take my books back. To be fair I think my local library in Hertfordshire is better than you describe - at least in the adults' section they've got a decent selection of books and the staff are quite helpful. But I think I do feel nostalgia for an old-fashioned library as well. In my case it is the Library of the British Institute in Florence, on the banks of the Arno, of which I was a member for six months a long long time ago. If ever I start working again in central London I'm determined to join the London Library.

#203 I enjoyed Don't let's Go to the Dogs Tonight as well. I remember wanting to shake the mother at various points, until she stopped blaming everyone else for her misfortunes and started taking better care of her children. I hadn't realised she'd written a follow-up.

Jun 7, 2012, 6:38am Top

Rhian, you should check whether your library sends out email or text message alerts when your books are nearing their due dates. Mine offers both, I think, and if you can reserve things online they should have it. I have read such amazing things about the London Library, but I think I'd be intimidated by all the famous people. (Or worse, I wouldn't recognise them).

I didn't know about the new Alexandra Fuller book either. I just saw it on the new books shelf at the library and nabbed it. Maybe there are some advantages to not shelving things :-)

I went into the City this morning and visited the bargain bookshop on Moorgate on my way to Marks & Spencer. (I still don't understand why there is a bargain bookshop in the middle of the City, unless the lease is very cheap for some reason). I picked up Un Lun Dun and Wait for Me by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, so I was pleased with those. It seemed pretty quiet up there, but I suppose a lot of people are away with it being half term. I didn't dare go out to Westfield in Stratford, because last time I went during the school holidays it was completely mobbed, and today is bad transport-wise in east London because of flooding on the Central Line closing a section of it (and just 50 days till the Olympics!).

Jun 7, 2012, 10:00am Top

Susan - found and starred your thread, but I haven't had time to read through it yet. Back in a bit after I have caught up!

Jun 7, 2012, 5:59pm Top

#207 You should check whether your library sends out email or text message alerts

They have quite a primitive system that seems to ignore modern technology as much as possible. Even if you reserve something on line they still notify you be letter when it is available.

I hope you enjoy Un Lun Dun - I went to a China Mieville event last night so am about to start reading his new book Railsea. He seems equally as opposed to the Olympics by the way - his view was that there would be no lasting legacy for the people in the area and without that the cost and disruption were in no way justified.

Jun 10, 2012, 3:02pm Top

#209: I'm hoping to get to Un Lun Dun after a couple of other things, so I will report back and let you know. I agree about the lack of a lasting Olympic legacy - it has cost a fortune, disrupted so many local businesses and if the reports of people being thrown out of their flats so the landlords can let them for the Olympics are actually true, that is even worse. I'm really surprised the flame is getting so much attention as it goes around the country, to be honest. But then those people don't have to live with it.

Living in a concrete jungle as I do, there is little to mark the seasons, although I suppose at the moment we have the spring showers, monsoon-style. But there is one thing that says "summer" to me - the first cruise ship of the season. We only get the little ones this far up the river, and here is the Silver Cloud, just passing on her way to moor up at Tower Bridge. I just hope the passengers have good umbrellas...

Jun 10, 2012, 5:22pm Top

How cool to be able to watch cruise ships pass by. We used to have them in San Diego all summer but now that the troubles in Mexico are so bad we only get ones passing by when "repositioning". I miss them.

Jun 16, 2012, 12:19pm Top

Yes, it is fun to see them come past, although a friend used to live opposite the berth just below Tower Bridge and he got pretty tired of the noise of the PA systems at all hours. We don't get that many any more, as there are now passenger terminals at Tilbury and down at Greenwich now, I think, but it must be exciting to come right into the middle of London on a ship. There is a German liner being moored next to Canary Wharf for the Olympics as a hotel, so I will try and post that when it arrives.

73. The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

Where I got it: Library book
Why I read it: I've read everything by Anne Tyler, and this is her newest book. I didn't even know there was a new one, but when I saw it sitting there, all brand new, I had to snaffle it.

I loved this from the first line: "The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead was how other people reacted." It's the story of Aaron Woolcott coming to terms with the freak death of his wife, Dorothy, and the reactions of the various people around him. It's classic Tyler, but quite a bit shorter than some of her other books. However, I thought it was perfect, and it's my new number 1 read of the year. A must-read for her fans.

Jun 16, 2012, 12:24pm Top

Okay, so I have never read any Anne Tyler before - is this a good one to start with, or should I start somewhere else?

Jun 16, 2012, 12:45pm Top

#213: Mamie, I think this would be a good one to start with. It's short, but it's lovely. She usually writes about slightly quirky characters, but the older I get the less quirky they seem, and more like just individuals, all with their own foibles. I don't know what that says about me!

Jun 16, 2012, 12:52pm Top

That you're charming and well adjusted?! Thanks, Susan.

Edited: Jun 17, 2012, 6:21am Top

LOL Mamie! No, I don't think that's it :-) ButI think age brings the realisation that no-one is perfect, and we all have our oddities. Or Maybe Anne Tyler's charactes aren't quite as quirky as they used to be.

74. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Where I got it: Library ebook
Why I read it: I saw it on quite a few people's threads, with good reviews

Interestingly, the LibraryThingometer predicted that I would not like this book (probability: very high) and it was absolutely right. This makes me possibly the only person not to like it, as the reviews on its page are all excellent, but I thought it was far too long and it read like it was translated from a foreign language.

75. Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

Where I got it: Library audiobook download
Why I read it: I saw a good review on Anne's thread

This was a really sweet book, and short enough that I listened to the whole thing this morning without falling asleep, which is always a risk with audiobooks. It's the story of a 12-year-old boy who gets an old ride-on lawnmower for a birthday present, and becomes a titan of capitalism :-) It's funny but would also be educational for the age group that it's aimed at, with its explanation of how markets work.

Jun 17, 2012, 7:08pm Top

Oh, sorry you didn't like The Goose Girl, Susan. I guess it just goes to show how different our book tastes can be at tmes.

This topic was continued by SusanJ's 75 Books Challenge - Thread 2.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2012

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