• LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

Ellie finally breaks into second...

This is a continuation of the topic Ellie's raring to go for 2012!.

This topic was continued by Ellie stumbles into a late-summer third.

75 Books Challenge for 2012

Join LibraryThing to post.

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 2:26pm Top

Hooray, I'm finally moving LibraryThing house! It's about time. Three months is quite long enough for one thread, thank you very much - much better to start afresh... I blame that reading slump in January, and my scary attachment to DVD box sets so far in 2012... :)

So, here we go for round 2. As always, you can also catch up on a load of reviews, memes, general chatter and bookshop news over my blog, Musings of a Bookshop Girl... I'm doing a couple of challenges over there this year, which will hopefully yield better results than last year! Over here on LT, I'll be taking my second shot at a category challenge success with the 12 in 12, as well as keeping track of how I'm getting on paring down my pre-2012 TBR pile with the Books Off The Shelf Challenge. Wish me luck!

My previous thread can be found here.

Some of my favourites of the year so far:
Loaded - Christos Tsiolkas
The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt
King Solomon's Mines - H. Rider Haggard
Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey - Chuck Palahniuk
Dearly, Departed - Lia Habel
V for Vendetta - Alan Moore and David Lloyd
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Sworn to Silence - Linda Castillo

And finally, here's this year's ticker:

Edited: Aug 23, 2012, 3:27pm Top

I've added the message number of each review on this thread for quick reference.


Thread 1:
1) Virals - Kathy Reichs
2) Seizure - Kathy Reichs
3) The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith
4) How to Leave Twitter: My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop - Grace Dent
5) Loaded - Christos Tsiolkas
6) Desert Angel - Charlie Price
7) The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
8) Wonder - R.J. Palacio - no TS, so click on author instead!
9) The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt
10) The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells
11) Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender - Nick Krieger
12) Kiss, Date, Love, Hate - Luisa Plaja
13) Before I Go To Sleep - S.J. Watson
14) The Man in the Picture - Susan Hill

This thread:
15) Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops - Jen Campbell (message 3)
16) Moon Pie - Simon Mason (message 19)
17) The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman (message 21)
18) Skin Privilege - Karin Slaughter (message 57)
19) Annexed - Sharon Dogar (message 79)
20) The Silent Land - Graham Joyce (message 91)
21) Human.4 (or 0.4) - Mike Lancaster (message 104)
22) King Solomon's Mines - H. Rider Haggard (message 113)
23) Struck - Jennifer Bosworth (message 118)
24) Heart-Shaped Bruise - Tanya Byrne (message 129)
25) The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists - Gideon Defoe (message 138)
26) Stevenson Under the Palm Trees - Alberto Manguel (message 147)
27) Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey - Chuck Palahniuk (message 165)
28) Vegan Virgin Valentine - Carolyn Mackler (message 173)
29) Dearly, Departed - Lia Habel (message 178)
30) V for Vendetta - Alan Moore and David Lloyd (message 192)
31) There Is No Dog - Meg Rosoff (message 197)
32) The World of Karl Pilkington - Ricky Gervais et al (message 203)
33) In Cold Blood - Truman Capote (message 204)
34) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson (message 233)
35) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (message 235)
36) Sworn to Silence - Linda Castillo (message 237)
37) To Be a Cat - Matt Haig (message 239)
38) Fallen in Love - Lauren Kate (message 246)

Edited: Apr 1, 2012, 8:09am Top

15) Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell (4.5*)

This is a brilliant new collection of strange requests and customer gaffes from the world of bookselling. Split into three sections, Jen has covered her time at the Edinburgh Bookshop and Ripping Yarns in London (where she currently works), as well as collecting crackers from other booksellers all over the world for the third section, 'Weird Things Customers Say in Other Bookshops'. And yes, our humble little Derbyshire bookshop is in there, with one of my favourite pearlers from last summer!

I've already read my copy cover to cover, and it is simultaneously hilarious and a little bit tragic. The illustrations, by The Brothers McLeod, are the icing on the cake. You definitely don't need to be a bookseller to appreciate the humour - just a love of books, I think! A couple of my favourite gems from the book, just to give you a flavour:

~ CUSTOMER: Do you have any books by Jane Eyre?


~ CUSTOMER: Doesn't it bother you, being surrounded by books all day? I think I'd be paranoid they were all going to jump off the shelves and kill me.


~ CUSTOMER: Do you stock Nigella Lawson under 'Sex' or 'Cookery'?


~ CHILD: Mum, look, it's the book of A Hundred and One Dalmatians. Can I get a hundred and one puppies?
CHILD'S MOTHER: No, dear, you've already got a hamster. That's quite enough.


Are you smiling already? Well, good! Go buy a copy! And remember - be nice to your friendly local bookseller. You never know who's listening... ;)

Apr 1, 2012, 10:56am Top

Just trying to keep up with you :)


Apr 1, 2012, 12:42pm Top

Yay! *Waves* and *Hugs*

Apr 1, 2012, 2:45pm Top

Oooh, am I the only one who's simply dying to know what the story from your bookshop is?
Good couple of reviews at the bottom of your last thread. Both sound intriguing in their different ways. That one with the lady who has amnesia sounds an awful lot like the movie Memento though.

Apr 1, 2012, 2:48pm Top

That book sounds perfect for you, Ellie! Nice new digs here.

Apr 1, 2012, 10:36pm Top

Ooooh I can't wait to read Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops!!! I remembering seeing her post about it quite some time ago, then forgot about it. I need a copy!!! I wish I'd written down the stuff I heard when I worked in a bookshop years ago. There were some real doozies.

Apr 2, 2012, 7:49am Top

Love the bookshop quotes, Ellie. What traumatic experience in the early life of that customer made him/her paranoid that books were about to kill him I wonder?

Apr 2, 2012, 7:50am Top

The book does sound a hoot :)

Apr 2, 2012, 7:59am Top

Our quote WAS one that I'd already posted on the blog a while back, so I don't mind reposting it here for y'all:

LITTLE BOY: "Mummy, can I have this joke book?"
MUM: "Go and ask your dad if he'll buy it for you."
LITTLE BOY (runs past the desk yelling): "Daddy! Mummy says if you don't buy me this book you can't sleep in her bed tonight!"

Ahhhhh, kids... Who'd have 'em? :)

Now, guess who's been BOOK SHOPPING today? Aaaaand, guess who got CRUCIFIED for going book shopping today? Yes, I was only meant to be returning some library books and popping into the supermarket, so my mother gave me 'the look', informed me that she was 'very disappointed' and pointed out that 'we're moving soon'... even though we've barely had any interest in the house yet and it could be another 18 months... Yeah, let's just say once she backed off from the carrier bag I wasn't too worried. :)

So yes, I went to the Derbyshire Air Ambulance shop first, which is fantastic for shiny new fiction and DVDs and quite often has some good YA too. I only went a week or two ago so there wasn't much different, but I bought:
Lost in Translation DVD (£1.95)
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (95p)
Yes, I already have High Fidelity, but this edition was shiny and new and had rock posters on the front and it's so much PRETTIER than mine. And did I mention it was 95p?

Then I hit Age UK, which is normally so-so for books but this week not only had some marvellous titles but was also having an ALL PAPERBACKS 49 PENCE SALE!!! Get in! So for a measly 49p apiece I bought:
Snowdrops by A.D. Miller (one of the Man Booker shortlist, practically unread)
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (couldn't even find this one at the library!)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (looks pretty much unread)
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (nearly bought this new SO MANY TIMES)
All Balls and Glitter by Craig Revel Horwood (because he's fab-u-lous, dahling)

THEN, my friends, I went on to the Mind shop, where once again I hit gold.
Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield (£2.50)
Black Vinyl, White Powder by Simon Napier-Bell (£2)
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (£1)
I'm especially excited about the Napier-Bell, which is a history of British popular music and would have been an expensive one new! And how long have I been chuckling over the Delafield?! Marvellous.

I also found a slightly battered copy of Jemima J by Jane Green (which Jess recc'd AGES ago) for 50p on the local rotary club stall on the market, and got Truman Capote's In Cold Blood from the library. I was looking for The Forest of Hands and Teeth but they didn't have it where it was supposed to be, and I nearly got The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, just because it was actually THERE and I doubt it'll stick around long... but it was bloody HUGE and I'd already got quite enough!

Worth getting told off, really, wasn't it? ;)

Apr 2, 2012, 3:24pm Top

and how! Great haul. Now all you need is the time to read it all.

Apr 3, 2012, 4:14am Top

Yeah... I'll work on that... :)

It's my day off today and I was awake at 6:15am, so I made a cup of tea and sat in bed with Moon Pie for a while. It's cute - a little younger than I would normally read, but they sent it for review and it's simultaneously quite sad and absolutely hilarious. There's a cute five year-old little brother in it and Simon Mason absolutely has him DOWN, it's so funny! I tried to drift off for a while but everyone was getting up by then so I've had a pile of toast, a big mug of coffee and an episode of Gilmore Girls, stopped by my blog, decided I couldn't be bothered yet and... well, here I am! 9:15am and I'm already bored. Maybe I should get dressed, make more coffee and keep reading. Possibly downstairs, where I'm less likely to just get back in bed! :D

Apr 3, 2012, 9:26pm Top

I admit that I have no idea how much a pence is worth, but you got some great books for whatever the price was!

Apr 4, 2012, 7:14am Top

Ummm, okay... *hits Google*... as far as I can see 49p is about 78 cents? So I got the five books at Age UK for less than $4 total. :)

Having an unexpected snow day today, woohoo! Last week we were sitting outside in shorts and vest tops, sunbathing and reading and generally lazing around. Today we woke up to several inches of snow, and it hasn't stopped yet! It's quite windy too so it's just gusting round, Millie is absolutely fascinated. She's been sitting in the window watching it, miaowing at the biggest snowflakes! The power keeps shutting off for a few seconds at a time too. I think the roads are okay but Bakewell's probably dead as a dodo - unprepared tourists here with warm-weather clothes, and kids off school anyway - so we haven't bothered negotiating the perilously hilly descent towards the clear main road. Instead I'm back in my cosy cardigan, lying on my bed reading The Imperfectionists and wondering whether it's time to go make another cup of tea! :D

Apr 4, 2012, 8:17am Top

I saw the news about the bookshop book a while ago. Suspect that I'll need to order it now that it's out - sounds just my cup of tea :-D

Apr 4, 2012, 7:59pm Top

11: Ahhh, I so missed posts like that. Glad to have you back, Ellie. :D

Apr 5, 2012, 5:30am Top

>16 archerygirl: - Indeed. Though I wouldn't recommend reading it WITH a cup of tea, just in case you choke yourself. :)

>17 Ape: - That's because I've been relatively GOOD recently and haven't had too many 'Oh dear, I seem to have bought another 15 books' moments... Don't worry, it never lasts! ;)

Review of Moon Pie on the way today, hopefully, if I can keep this icky nauseating headache at bay and it doesn't get TOO busy here after our little blizzard yesterday... *fingers crossed*

Apr 5, 2012, 9:18am Top

16) Moon Pie by Simon Mason (4.5*)

This book was a little 'younger' than I would normally venture into with my reading, but actually I'm really glad I did because it was fantastic! It is a sweet story about eleven year-old Martha, who looks after her house and her little brother Tug every day because her dad is never at home. Meanwhile HE is becoming more and more 'strange', doing reckless things and being silly all the time, to the point where even Tug is unimpressed. As it turns out, he has been steadily descending into alcoholism since their mother died - and things are about to reach crisis point...

It's certainly a serious subject, but as in Jacqueline Wilson's books, it is woven together with cheerier subplots (mostly about filmmaking - the children make their own movies with their friends), and it is handled with a lightness of touch that saves it ever getting too much for a young reader to handle. Things DO get bad - their lives are turned upside down by their father's illness - and there are some terribly poignant moments, but the novel shows the whole family working through their issues and ultimately reaching a happy ending. There is a truckload of wonderful humour to temper even the darkest of moments, and I have to say, the children are a delight: Mason nails their voices and little quirks so precisely, it's a joy to read. I particularly liked little Tug (who is always hungry, especially for pies) and Martha's flamboyant diva friend Marcus! And Martha is such a wonderful character to root for. She's like all my favourite young literary heroines rolled into one - a little Matilda, a little Anne Shirley, a little Jo March, a little Sara Crewe...

I think this would be a great book for older children and tweenage readers, and while I was reading it I was also struck by how good it would be for reading aloud in the classroom. There's plenty to discuss in terms of the more mature themes, but also plenty of giggle-out-loud crowd-pleasing moments as well (Tug is one of the funniest characters I've come across in AGES!). All in all, I'd highly recommend it - though parents might want to read it first to be sure their kids will be able to comprehend and handle the more graphic elements of the alcoholism storyline.

Apr 5, 2012, 11:21am Top

Just stopping in to say hello! :)

Apr 7, 2012, 10:56am Top

Hi Katie! *waves furiously* :)

Well, it's Easter weekend, and I've survived day 1 and half of day 2. Yesterday - Good Friday - was quiet in the middle, but flanked at the beginning and end by Damien's long-lost siblings, so that I was just glad when it was all over. My sister's got a horrible cold so she's at home wearing a fetching dressing gown/hat combo and eating cookies. Tomorrow and Monday we'll be working Sunday hours for the Bank Holiday, which is a small mercy.

And on Tuesday Hannah and I will HOPEFULLY be going to see The Hunger Games and breaking our diets spectacularly with a double whammy of popcorn and hot chocolate (hello, cinema food!) and a McDonalds for lunch. Yay! I'm so sick of the diet this week, I don't know if it's hormones or I'm getting Hannah's cold or what, but I just want to EAT! I'm daydreaming about the bacon, mushroom and mozzarella paninis across the road, and about a big fry-up with hash browns and fried eggs and bacon, and about Easter eggs (of course, they practically thwack you round the head every time you walk into a food shop right now)... Mmmmmm. Maybe I should have a week off and start again once I've got all these cravings out of my system! ;)

Today's been fairly quiet so far - the weather's not that awesome and Mum reckons everyone's probably at the supermarkets panic-shopping because they'll be closed for ten minutes for Easter Sunday - but I'm not taking any chances - I've started a crime thriller that I can hopefully get SO ABSORBED in that I can just pop out of it long enough to serve customers, and ignore them the rest of the time... :D

17) The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (3*)

Rachman's debut novel has been lauded as a funny, intelligent and quirky look at the inner workings of a failing international newspaper, so I picked it up hoping for great things. Sadly, I didn't find them. It is certainly an ambitious book, but for me Rachman just didn't live up to expectations.

Each chapter in the book is heralded by a headline from the newspaper, and dedicated to one of its contributing characters, including the financial officer, the Paris correspondent and the editor-in-chief. In between these chapters are short italicised segments tracing the history of the paper - how it was founded in Rome by successful businessman Cyril Ott, and the rise and fall of his creation through the decades, as editors come and go and the world changes. It's a really interesting format, and I enjoyed those parts. However, the main chapters themselves fell very flat for me. Clearly Rachman succeeds in his intention to peek into his characters' lives and motivations, slowly building up an interconnected web of people with the news office at its centre. But lordy, they're an odd bunch. I don't think there was even ONE character I really liked or related to, and the theme of 'endings' - the end of lives, relationships, eras, attitudes, and ultimately, the paper itself - meant that every vignette seemed to fixate on the most sad, unpleasant or strange elements of humanity.

There WERE some funny moments - the aspiring Cairo stringer's dreadful flight of description in his first piece was a particular highlight - and even occasional glimpses of optimism, but these were quickly dampened back down again by the big black cloud seemingly hanging over the entire novel. I certainly wouldn't have called it a humorous book - even a darkly humorous one - despite reading several reviews describing it that way. These characters are damaged, every last one of them. Whether they're achingly lonely or pathological hoarders or just despise their work, calling any of them 'average' seems horribly pessimistic. So... no. Maybe it was the depressing tone of the book, maybe it's because I've never worked in a newspaper office myself (some of the best reviews came from journalists who would know that environment inside out), maybe it was the vignette format that never allowed me to get attached to any of the characters. Whatever it was, I'm quite glad I gave it a try, but it just didn't do it for me!

Notable Quotables:

"Arthur's cubicle used to be near the watercooler, but the bosses tired of having to chat with him each time they got thirsty. So the watercooler stayed and he was moved. Now his desk is in a distant corner, as far from the locus of power as possible but nearer the cupboard of pens, which is a consolation."

"The loss of one's life is not the greatest loss. It is no loss at all. To others, perhaps, but not to oneself. From one's own perspective, experience simply halts. From one's own perspective, there is no loss. You see? Yet maybe this is a game of words, too, because it doesn't make it any less frightening, does it."

"Here is a fact: nothing in all civilization has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshipped by man."

Apr 7, 2012, 11:56am Top

That was an excellent haul at the bookshops - well worth getting told off for :-)

I'll be interested to see what you think of A Visit From The Goon Squad. I read it recently and thought it was great, but opinions seem to be mixed. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is lovely. I had never heard of it, but saw it referred to on LT and found a copy at the library.

Sorry to hear about your snow! It is cold in London, but fortunately not snowing.

Apr 7, 2012, 3:34pm Top

Ellie, I totally agree with your review of The Imperfectionists. I could never really make myself care about any of the characters, who were indeed a depressing bunch of people. And just so you know, I did work in a series of newspapers for 18 years, and while some of those bits were dead on, overall the whole thing was a bit of a "meh" for me.

Apr 7, 2012, 9:48pm Top

Hello Ellie!! Your thread make me hungry. Off to forage in the fridge. Enjoy the snow and the books!

Apr 8, 2012, 4:35am Top

Hi Ellie,
I totally lost you there for a while. Not sure what happened, but here I am again so saying hi and promising to catch up soon!

Apr 8, 2012, 5:06pm Top

Somehow I haven't managed to post on the new thread yet. Hope you like Hunger Games when you see it. :)

Apr 8, 2012, 6:23pm Top

Hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend!

Apr 9, 2012, 10:58am Top

Susan - Yes, I've seen the mixed reviews and HAD wondered whether to bother, but for 49p I wasn't passing up the opportunity to try it for myself! Besides, it sounds like just my sort of thing, so hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised and be able to add a glowing review to the heap. Oh, and the snow melted away again the next day, so we had a glorious snow day followed by a glorious sunny day with no horrible slushy transitional period, hooray!

Julia - Oh, good, it's not just me! Haha, and it could have been such a FUN quirky novel too, rather than a 'should I just get drunk now and be done with it?' quirky novel...

Berly - Enjoy it! I succumbed yesterday and had half a chicken pizza (which was actually disgusting, because my sister had cooked something super-fatty in the oven the day before and it permeated EVERYTHING), three scoops of my stepdad's first ever batch of homemade vanilla ice cream (with sprinkles) AND a pile of cookies to go with it. I kinda regretted it afterwards - but isn't that half the fun of a foodie splurge?!

Hi Megan! Good grief girl, don't worry about not being caught up. The only threads I'm currently up-to-date with are Rachel's and my own, there just aren't enough hours in the day right now! :)

Micky - How are you liking my new digs? I thought sunshine yellow paint and a careful selection of bonsai trees were suitably springlike...

Chelle - Ugh, it's been rubbish! I've worked all four days! Today we expected it to be a little quieter because of all the rain, so I let my guard down, relaxed, brought leftovers for lunch... and it's been absolutely crazy in here! Not too many horrible children, fortunately, but a LOT of people - including one guy who kept giving me really dirty looks every time I discreetly tried to take a nibble of my lunch... Happily we're off tomorrow so as long as I haven't caught my sister's cold and I don't wake up with a headache, or anything else that could happen to wreck it, it should be a nice day of relaxing! We might go see The Hunger Games and hit McDonalds, or maybe just watch a movie at home with popcorn and then get fish and chips. It might be Hannah's last day at home this Easter, depending when she goes back to uni (she's had a bad cold and keeps feeling all faint, not good), so she just wants to make the most of it I think!

Apr 9, 2012, 1:07pm Top

The new digs are very splashy. :D I saw The Hunger Games last week and I look forward to seeing your thoughts if you do go and see it.

Apr 9, 2012, 1:38pm Top

I thoroughly enjoyed the Hunger Games, although I like the book even more. We were very silly and went to the midnight showing the first night. Peeta isn't how I pictured him, but they did a great job IMHO with everyone else. I just finished the third book and thought the series was very good! Have fun.

Apr 11, 2012, 5:24am Top

Sadly we didn't get to go and see it in the end... My sister's had a bad cold that's set her IBS off (no, I'm not sure how that works either) and she had a funny turn on Monday night, feeling sick and faint and winding up lying in bed in tears. The next morning she felt better but her ears were all blocked up... AND we thought my stepdad had a stomach bug, or maybe food poisoning, but he's currently vomiting spectacularly every 12 hours or so and in his stomach hurts more and more as The Time Approaches for his next trip to the bathroom. Soooooo, long story short, we didn't have a great day off yesterday.

My sister's going back to uni in a day or two, so while Mum and my grandma cleaned windows and checked on Graham, I looked after her instead. We watched Little Miss Sunshine with popcorn, then The Princess Bride with fish and chips, so I think I just about made it up to her... :(

Then today my stepdad's managed to get a doctor's appointment, so Mum's had to drop me at work, drive home to take him there, I've opened up the shop alone (aaaargh!) and now I'm waiting to hear how it goes. If she ends up having to take him over to the hospital for tests or rehydration or whatever, I'm stuck here by myself all day. In the Easter holidays. With a Paperblanks rep arriving at lunchtime and someone bringing a load of photography books this afternoon, because today's the only day they could do it. Suffice to say, I may have been very reassuring and calm and businesslike to my mum before she left, but I am ABSOLUTELY BRICKING IT thinking about doing a whole vacation day here by myself!

Oh, and I hate my grandparents. They're mean and selfish and unpleasant and I'm thinking of divorcing them.

Soooooo, anybody got happy tidings for me?! Maybe you could send across a case of imaginary cider or a box of chocolates or something, via the powers of Interweb Magic? I'll be the one sitting here at the desk hoping no one comes in, reading a thriller and hiding behind a large mug of coffee... *sighs deeply*

Apr 11, 2012, 7:20am Top

Sending you calming vibes across the sea...

Apr 11, 2012, 7:35am Top

Here you go Ellie - virtual cider and chocolate

Hope it helps:)

Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 7:57am Top

What Morphy said. I have no doubt that you will handle it all beautifully..
Hope your stepdad is feeling much better very soon :(. It sounds awful for him.

Hope your coffee is fab and someone you know stops by and brings
you something nice to go with.

Hang in there and let us know how things turn out!

Apr 11, 2012, 7:49am Top

Hi elliepotten, just had a look at your thread and then being the nosy soul i am had a look at your profile, whereabouts is your bookshop, my wife and i love secondhand bookshops as well as the charity shops ( and seeing your earlier posts you are a girl after my own heart ) and we love to visit the peak district and the dales and north york moors etc etc and would like to call in sometime on our travels. Also you said you studied in york, was that york uni or Ripon and york st.john's, if the latter i studied there for two years 2000 - 2002 doing teacher training but due to ill health did not complete. Hope the weather's nice near you and have a nice day, bye for now.

Apr 11, 2012, 7:56am Top

{{{hugs}}} Sending good, chocolatey vibes to you that things will turn out better than they currently look.

Apr 11, 2012, 10:00am Top

Morphy - *feels suddenly strangely relaxed*

Calm - OMG I LUVZ U! *tucks in with great gusto* Cider and Dairy Milk: the quick way to a VERY HAPPY bookseller... ;)

Kath - Thank you! The doctor was pretty clueless as to what was going on, so he's given Graham paracetamol and indigestion tablets, taken some blood samples for colitis and pancreatitis, and told him to come back on Friday if he's no better. I feel sorry for Mum, really - he's been so violently ill, she hasn't dared to venture back into their en suite bathroom to find out quite how much technicolour redecorating he's been doing over the last couple of days... The words "I wiped down the wall a little bit with a shower sponge" haven't exactly filled her with anticipation and delight! :(

John - Our shop's in Bakewell, right by the old bridge. You're right - I'm a sucker for ANYWHERE that sells books. Whether it's an indie bookshop or Waterstones or a second-hand bookshop or a car boot sale or a market stall or a charity shop... well, I'm there. I get a total kick out of it, whether it's snapping up a bundle of books for £5 at the Air Ambulance shop or splashing out £50 on some shiny new lovely books across town! I was studying at York University - I lived in Fulford for a couple of years once I was out of uni accommodation - though I, too, never finished due to ill health. But hey, if I hadn't left when I did and gone through the stuff I went through, I wouldn't have ended up here with my own bookshop! Life works in funny ways... :D

AG - The day's not panning out TOO badly... Mum was back at work by about quarter past 11, so I wasn't here alone for TOO long. Our rep meeting was quite quick and the photography book acquisition was mercilessly pain-free (no haggling/gasps of indignation/mutterings about other bookshops etc etc). And it's been raining for a while, so the customer numbers have gone DOWN and I've been able to sit and read another chunk of my 'getting through Easter' book, Karin Slaughter's Skin Privilege. Compared to the shit going down at home, it's almost been... peaceful?

Additional awesomeness: Ooooooooh, ooh, oohh! A lady just arrived with two hardbacks for sale and I totally overpaid her because I WANTZ ONE! P.D. James's Death Comes to Pemberley is TOTALLY being smuggled home in my bag tonight.

Apr 11, 2012, 10:52am Top

Ellie - life does work in mysterious ways, glad you're doing something you really like just a shame that the evil book selling daleks ( tesco,asda sainsbury's, morrison's and amazon) want to take our pleasure away from us. The browsing around a good bookshop be it one that sells new books or one like yours, being able to chat to friendly owners and staff is an added bonus to the main event, the books themselves, the daleks can't match this they are soulless. Rant over, can't wait to come and have a look around next time we come to Bakewell and the surrounding area.
P.S just picked up the latest James Patterson - Toys, another to add to the patterson pile in my love/hate relationship with him.

Apr 11, 2012, 2:25pm Top

Glad the day got better for you, Ellie! Princess Bride is always a good choice for when you're sick. I heartily approve. :)

Apr 11, 2012, 4:08pm Top

>38 johnsimpson: I have that love/hate relationship with James Patterson as well. I feel like I should like the Alex Cross series more than I do, but I never got past the sixth book or so. It's another one of those series where I like the characters but find the plots/writing annoying. I haven't read any of his other series to know if they are any better.

Apr 11, 2012, 4:56pm Top

>40 rosalita: my love/hate relationship is more about the amount of books he puts out each year and trying to keep up, with so many other authors i like to read and being introduced to others, i have too many books to read.

Apr 11, 2012, 7:43pm Top

I've read the first four of Patterson's Maximum Ride series. . . enjoyed 1-3, hated 4--bought 4 and 5 at the same time and haven't had the drive to read it after that disappointment. There are at least 2 more after it too. :/ But I thought Daniel X was okay, though maybe too young for me. *shrug

Apr 11, 2012, 8:05pm Top

Patterson's Maximum Ride series. . . enjoyed 1-3, me too.. didn't read the others..

Apr 11, 2012, 8:59pm Top

I think my beef with Patterson's writing is that he does too much 'telling' and not enough 'showing'. He spends page after page detailing Alex Cross' every last thought and feeling, where I would prefer that he show us, through Alex's actions and spoken words, how he's feeling and what he thinks. That's probably just me, though.

My other two Patterson peeves: 1) Every woman Alex falls in love with is the most beautiful, intelligent woman on earth, and every woman Alex falls in love with is destined to meet a terrible end. 2) How many serial killers can Alex catch and then lose and have to re-catch all over again? Once, OK. Twice, hmmm. Three times, gimme a break.

Whew! I guess I was wanting to get that off my chest. Sorry for spewing it all over your thread, Ellie!

Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 9:21pm Top

#44: haha, yeah, I never said it was good writing. I prefer the 'showing' as well, but don't mind the occasional teller. Most books could probably 'show' better anyhow. Those are times I'm grateful for my overactive imagination. . . sometimes I don't even notice the telling if I'm not paying attention (definitely not these last few months though, having to critique and focus on it for class several times a week o_0)

Apr 12, 2012, 6:16am Top

Haha, little detour going on since yesterday, I see! I haven't read ANY James Patterson yet so I can't weigh in, but I've hidden the first Alex Cross novel under the counter (on the recommendation of one of my customers) and I have the first Maximum Ride novel at home after I found it in a charity shop for £1 last year!

Good news: Graham managed not to throw up at all overnight. Good sign?
Bad news: He's now convinced he's magically better and is getting a bit over-confident already.
Good news: He did at least go back to bed to listen to the radio this morning instead of getting up and doing too much.
Bad news: My sister's left to go back to uni this morning. :(
Good news: Now we can tidy her bedroom. :)

REALLY GOOD NEWS: It may be sunny right now but it's given heavy rain/hail/thunder by lunchtime. And then there's only two days left of the Easter holidays! That means a brief respite before the summer, yesssss. And on our day off on Tuesday, despite having to go view a house at lunchtime (dammit), Mum needs to drop into town as well to pick a couple of things up so I might use it as a grand excuse to 'drop into' the library and/or Waterstones AND finally get that Maccy D's I've been craving and didn't get because of the thwarted cinema trip THIS Tuesday.... *gasps for breath*

Have I missed anything?! ;)

Apr 12, 2012, 7:44am Top

Nope.. sounds like a good catch up....glad there is good news in there!

re: Patterson
I think that the first two Maximum Ride books were good.. I think the third was
too much of a stretch to keep it going. I wasn't reading to critique... just for the fun of it,
as usual for me. I really liked the first two. I don't typically read Patterson, but just because the
other things he writes have not called out to me.

I like Dan Brown's books and as things stand now, I would read anything he writes. I think I have read
all of his books to this point. I know it isn't cool to like him but there ya go :P His books are good fun and I like books that are good fun.

The series I'm reading now is pure fluffy fun .. I plan to finish it this week.. ( cheap for kindle )
and then move o to more serious stuff. .. I have to read Truth Like the Sun for review and I need to do it this week if I can.

Edited: Apr 12, 2012, 8:52am Top

Hi Kath! I LOVED The Da Vinci Code when I read it a few years ago (during Dan Brown Fever), and I enjoyed Angels and Demons right up until the ending. It was like he couldn't pick just the one, so he tacked another four on for good measure. I still liked it though, and I'm quite looking forward to reading his other books! We all need a little brain candy, no need to be embarrassed about it! :)

I'm reading the Karin Slaughter book right now - getting closer to the big climax, eeek - then I'm following Jess's advice and making a tentative mixed-up reading list for the rest of April/May. So far my ideas include: On the Road (movie comes out in September); Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (movie comes out NOW!); Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, Book of Summers by Emylia Hall and Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne (all review books); Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, The Silent Land by Graham Joyce and Annexed by Sharon Dogar (all library books)... Plenty to go at! :D

Apr 12, 2012, 2:49pm Top

I read a novel that James Patterson co-wrote and wasn't very impressed. Not my kind of brain candy, I guess.

I'll be crossing some appendages you get some Rotten Ronnie's to fulfill that craving. :)

Apr 12, 2012, 4:32pm Top

Hi ellie, which Max ride book have you got because he says the new Max ride books are not the same as when he first wrote about Bird kids in "When the wind blows" and "The lake house". I would recommend these to read first then the so called new Maximum Ride books and then you can decide what you think.

Apr 12, 2012, 5:52pm Top

We all need a little brain candy! I havent heard that before, it rings true.

Apr 13, 2012, 7:48am Top

Chiming in as another Dan Brown fan - why does everyone get their panties in a twist about authors like him? It's good clean fun, and what's wrong with that?

Apr 13, 2012, 9:28am Top

Hi Ellie. Sorry your holiday was so complicated! At least you got a good book out of it! I have not read PD James yet but I keep seeing good reviews here!

RE: James Patterson, I refuse to read any of his books that have a co-author. They are too predictable and some are just cheesy. I loved his Alex Cross and The Women's Murder Club books though

Apr 13, 2012, 11:29am Top

Hi all! Just finished Karin Slaughter's Skin Privilege and I've written a first draft of my review on the blog - I'll go over it and post it here tomorrow for y'all... Verdict: Steady, complex, with an ending that absolutely jolted me to the core and nearly made me cry in the shop. Fortunately there were no customers around. :)

ONLY TWO DAYS TO GO THEN THE EASTER HOLIDAYS ARE OOOOOVVVVVVEEEEERRRRR! *puts champagne in the fridge to chill and checks supplies of party poppers*

Apr 13, 2012, 1:08pm Top

Hello Dear, trying to catch up once again. (When am I ever NOT trying to catch up?!?) Glad things are looking up in your corner of the world. I'm another Dan Brown fan, and enjoy the odd Patterson Womens Murder club book now and again - like everyone else says, you need some brain candy sometimes!

Apr 13, 2012, 4:01pm Top

Hi Laura! *waves* I was thinking of trying to finish that review now, but actually I just noticed it's 9pm and I Can't Be Arsed. So INSTEAD, I'm going to go get a choc chip muffin and a mug of coffee (yeah, the diet's gone off the rails a bit this week, oops), watch another episode of Gilmore Girls, then maybe read a bit more of Annexed before bed. It's good so far, though it's worrying that the drawing of Peter's 'bedroom' in the annexe (y'know, tiny, cramped, horrendous) actually makes it look really lovely. A bit like a bed tucked into a corner at Shakespeare & Co. or something. Lots of bookshelves, little desk and chair, low bed snuggled in between the wall and the staircase. I don't think that was the effect Dogar was after, but hey... :)

Apr 14, 2012, 9:55am Top

18) Skin Privilege by Karin Slaughter (4*)

Also published as Beyond Reach, this is the sixth of Slaughter's Sara Linton novels - though it's the first I've ever read. Happily, I didn't find that my lack of Slaughter experience hindered my enjoyment of the book in the slightest! It is a fantastic piece of storytelling that weaves a complex and all-too-believable plot around a compelling group of flawed, feisty but very likeable characters.

When Jeffrey Tolliver, Chief of Police in Granta County, gets a phone call to say that his detective Lena Adams has been arrested at a crime scene in her home town, on suspicion of arson and murder, he and his coroner wife Sara immediately drive out to Reece to investigate. There they uncover a terrifying web of meth trafficking and corruption, with rival neo-Nazi gangs keeping the townspeople in fear, greedy eyes on everyone and everything. With this claustrophobic atmosphere slowing their progress, will they manage to piece together what really happened the night Lena was arrested? Can they find out who was condemned to die in the burning car? And as the body count rises, will they be the next target?

Skin Privilege didn't pull me in headfirst, dragging me breathlessly through the pages; instead it builds slowly, layering up our knowledge of the characters, the town, the background, playing around with little details that may or may not be important. Slaughter doesn't shy away from the realities of Sara's work in the mortuary, or from the more graphic elements of her victims' fates, but it never feels gratuitous and like Sara, we are encouraged to detach a little and read with interest rather than revulsion. I also appreciated how she explores the endless ways - both good and bad - that people can be tied to each other, whether they are friends, family, colleagues, partners, neighbours or even complete strangers. There were a few sections that seemed a bit slow, and a couple of slightly confusing moments where I felt like I'd missed something along the way, but there were other parts that had me glued to the page, including one big shock where I least expected it that nearly had me weeping on the shop counter! All in all, a very enjoyable first foray into Karin Slaughter's writing - and I'll be keeping an eye out for more of the Sara Linton titles!

Edited: Apr 14, 2012, 12:16pm Top

Ooooh, oooh, I forgot, I went out LIBERRYING again today! I took back four books (one finished, three I just wasn't going to have time to read before the Final Deadline) and got out:

1. V for Vendetta - Alan Moore (finally!)
2. Hospital Babylon - Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous
3. Moonwalking with Einstein - Joshua Foer
4. Rant - Chuck Palahniuk
5. Look at the Birdie - Kurt Vonnegut
6. Tomorrow, When the War Began - John Marsden

And I also sneaked along to the Bakewell Bookshop to look at their very awesome Beats/Bob Dylan/Sixties/Counterculture section. It's basically a narrow bookcase tucked in a corner, crammed with all sorts of cool stuff. I bought a bunch of books off there after my birthday last year - The Sixties, I'm With the Band, Ham on Rye, On the Road, Notes of a Dirty Old Man - so I went back for another look. There were three bios by Barry Miles there - of William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bukowski - and The Pleasures of the Damned, a huge book of Bukowski's poetry for a very reasonable £15, but I didn't buy any of those this time. Maybe after my birthday, as a little treat, since everyone's donating to charity in my name this year instead of doing the whole present thing. ANYWAY, I was just about to walk away (shock!) when I noticed a cute little pocket edition of Naked Lunch for only £5, so I bought that instead. And the best thing about it? It was the perfect size to slip into the back pocket of my jeans, under my coat, so that when Mum 'frisked me' (ie. rifled through my bag) when I got back, I came up squeaky clean and smelling of roses! Haha, sometimes I scare myself with my own evil genius. :D

Apr 14, 2012, 8:19pm Top

Nice review of the Slaughter book, Ellie. The last thing I need right now is another series to read, but I've nonetheless put the first book on reserve at the library. Sometimes I wonder if you LT people know what you are doing to me ... :-)

Apr 15, 2012, 10:23am Top

Of course we do! Because we, in turn, are getting exactly the same treatment from everyone ELSE on LT, haha! *runs screaming away from the threads and hides in a cupboard*

Apr 15, 2012, 11:08am Top

hmmm ...Like that will help. There are probably books in there and they will tempt you to
read further into a series, or another book by same author. Then you will come here and taunt
others and the beat goes on....

Edited: Apr 18, 2012, 8:10am Top

Kath - Ha, yes! People think books are so benign, but they're just as capable of creating a vicious circle as alcohol, say. Or sharks. :P

Well well, my good folks, guess who's been a-liberrying again? (Mum told me off for keep calling it a liberry - I told her to blame Richard! It sounds so much TASTIER than 'library', doesn't it?) I had to make some tough decisions about what to keep and what to take back, but it had to be done because Chesterfield library is an absolute treasure trove compared to the little Bakewell one and I don't get over there that often! I took back two that I only just took out, and a couple of others, but since most of them came from Bakewell anyway I reckoned I could just pick them back up again at this end when I take my next couple back! I haz a PLAN, peoplez!

Soooo, my current complete library haul of 16 now stands like this:
1. Hell's Angels - Hunter S. Thompson
2. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists - Gideon Defoe
3. Annexed - Sharon Dogar
4. Allen Ginsberg: Beat Poet - Barry Miles
5. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test - Tom Wolfe
6. The Silent Land - Graham Joyce
7. Half Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan
8. Rant - Chuck Palahniuk
9. A big Penguin volume of the Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg
10. Tattoos and Tequila - Vince Neil
11. Hospital Babylon - Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anon.
12. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
13. There Is No Dog - Meg Rosoff
14. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
15. V for Vendetta - Alan Moore
16. Tomorrow, When the War Began - John Marsden

I was well chuffed because I think I'm the first person to get the shiny new copy of Hell's Angels (a cute little Penguin Essentials edition, I LOVE IT!), and only the second to get hold of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Lucky, lucky girl, I bet they won't see the library shelves very much. I also *cough* sneaked to Waterstones *cough* (What? Mum wasn't ready yet and I had LOADS of time!) and bought Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (because I took the other one back to the library already, to make room for MORE BOOKS!) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (because that's what I was looking for at the other bookshop last week!). And I found St. Elmo's Fire in a charity shop en route back to the car park for a miniscule £1.99, so I came home happy! Especially because I bought cookies from the petrol station too.

Sooooo, I finished Annexed BEFORE we went to the library yesterday morning, but when I'd finally stopped sobbing I realised I couldn't possibly do the book justice without having it in front of me when I reviewed it, so I kept it for now. That'll be COMING SOON. And I started The Silent Land when we got home from shopping/house viewing and to my surprise, was actually halfway through it by the time I went to bed. I'm glad it survived the Library Book Massacre yesterday morning, because it's been a really absorbing read so far!

I might get that review of Annexed done today, since it's basically given rain, rain and more rain, with a side helping of hail, thunderbolts and lightning (very very frightening, Galileo) - though part of me thinks it would the PERFECT time to get stuck into my book while there's no one around. Someone brought a load of books already, though since she was very friendly we didn't mind the Lack Of A Book Bringing Appointment too much. PLUS Mum left me to it so I managed to squirrel away The Last of the Mohicans and The Bonfire of the Vanities under the counter already. It's a sickness, it really is.

OK, onwards and upwards! I am on a ROLL! :D

Apr 18, 2012, 7:49am Top

Ooooh, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of my all-time favorites! The 'watermark' bit is one of the best pieces of rhetoric ever written. Hell's Angels is excellent, too.

Edited: Apr 18, 2012, 8:23am Top

I'm very excited about those two. The liberry evidently only got a copy of Hell's Angels in March-ish (what they hell were they playing at?!), so not only do I finally get to read it, but I get to read it FIRST! And I've been THAT CLOSE *mimes a tiny tiny amount* to giving up and buying Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas from Amazon, so I was well chuffed that Waterstones had a copy at last. See, this is why I can't walk past a bookshop/book stall/charity shop/car boot sale without at least having a sneaky peek - because YOU NEVER KNOW when you're going to get lucky!

I was a bit disappointed by The Works though. Yes, I wandered up there too! Their website had all sorts of great stuff listed under their '£1.99 each/3-for-£5' offer, and you can normally find at least a few of them in-store as well. They had Mira Grant's Feed, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Rosebush by Michele Jaffe, one of the new Sherlock TV tie-in editions, Mary McCarthy's The Group... but did the shop have any of them? NO THEY DIDN'T! Or anything else good, in fact. Last time I went they had a few website/store crossover titles and loads more really good books in the same offer, so I was DISAPPOINTED by their general crapness yesterday. Oh well. Anyone would think I didn't come home with any books or something... ;)

Apr 18, 2012, 8:25am Top

So happy to see that for you, life is good and getting better all the time :)
I look forward to more happy posts in the days to come :)

Apr 18, 2012, 10:31am Top

Hurray for 'liberrying!' Although I confess to being one of the few people in my country who actually pronounces it as it is spelled. I tend to think those who say 'liberry' have never actually been in one, although I totally get the decadent 'bad for you' appeal of saying it. :P

Apr 18, 2012, 11:00am Top

"Liberry" hurts my ears. People have commented that I speak like a dictionary at times--totally dependent on the situation. However, I always pronounce my T's. . . i.e. Mountain. It's weird that people say it "moun'n" Also, caramel does not have a silent A, just sayin'. . . Carmel is a city. Oh, I could go on forever about this, lol.

Apr 18, 2012, 11:59am Top

Hi ellie, just can't resist books can you and hiding them from mum, oh well i am the same, just popped into my local hospice shop for a browse and came out with six books.

Straight by Dick Francis 15p
Here lies our sovereign lord by Jean Plaidy 15p
K is for killer by Sue Grafton 15p
A sparrow falls by Wilbur Smith 15p
The other half lives by Sophie Hannah 30p
Before i go to sleep by SJ Watson 30p

The last two look as if they have hardly been read and i have popped them in the loft so the better half doesn't know, ha ha.

Apr 18, 2012, 9:35pm Top

Straight is one of my all-time favorite Dick Francis books, and I've read them all. What a great bargain! Well done.

Apr 19, 2012, 8:49am Top

Katie: I totally say moun'n. I don't pronounce Gs in -ing endings either, so I pronounce mountain and mounting the same. If I were climbing a mountain I'd be moun'n the moun'n...

Apr 19, 2012, 9:14am Top

I usually do say the -ing ending all the way, there are just a some phrases and/or situations that I don't--like "I'm not sayin', but I'm just sayin'"--but it's probably due to the fact that my last name ends in -ing *shrug

Apr 19, 2012, 9:14pm Top

*waving* at Ellie

Apr 20, 2012, 6:44pm Top

68: Wow at £1.80 for books - most of my local charity shops charge £2+ for one - at a cheaper one those would set you back £6-£7.

Apr 20, 2012, 10:35pm Top

Very impressive haul, Ellie. I do say library, but that's because I'm a librarian, and being referred to as a liberrian is... irritating.

Apr 21, 2012, 8:25am Top

Haha, I say 'library' because I'm English (try it and see). 'Liberry' is just because Richard's been passing on his bad habits and it sounds yummy. Like you could make a pie or a nice ice cream sauce with it. :D

John - Nice! Before I Go to Sleep for 30p?! That IS a coup! Even our cheapest charity shops here are 95p for a paperback! Not that I mind in the slightest. If I want a book I'll cough up for it, no problem - I'm a bookseller, I know exactly where that £8 goes and it has to stretch a LONG way - but there's still something delicious about a second-hand bargain from a charity shop or car boot sale (or a second-hand bookshop, naturally!)...

Well, I haven't been doing all that great over the last couple of days - hence me STILL not having finished my review of Annexed. I haven't been near it for a couple of days. My poor stomach has had another one of its lovely unexpected flare-ups so I've spent the last two days sitting in the office under a fleece jacket, cuddling a hot water bottle, sipping Ovaltine and wanting to die. In fact, Mum was so fed up by the end of yesterday that we shut an hour early and went home. It really sucks having to work when you feel so bad - especially when I know I'm not doing myself any favours because I hardly dared eat/drink a single thing while we were at the shop - but at least I was there as an extra pair of hands if Mum had to make lunch or the phone rang or whatever.

I don't feel QUITE so much like death today - I'm sitting here carefully eating a bag of crisps, one at a time, and I'm on the desk instead of in the office - but my stomach feels very... tired, somehow... my back and sides feel like they need a good massage and I could quite happily dive back into bed and just sleep for a few hours! I'm whiling away the hours by doing a fun meme on the blog, reading and playing on Tumblr. I found two great Tumblr sites - one called TEXTS FROM DOG which is hilarious and a bit naughty (http://textsfromdog.tumblr.com/) and one called FICTIONAL CHARACTERS READING BOOKS which pretty much does what it says on the tin (http://fictionalcharactersreadingbooks.tumblr.com)!

Onwards! People! Customers! (Time to retreat into my book and ignore everybody!) :)

Apr 21, 2012, 4:33pm Top

Hi Ellie, it was acoup but i think the hospice shop were trying to clear their current stock of books on the shelves as all adult books, paperback and hardback were priced up at 30p and all in pretty good condition.

Apr 21, 2012, 7:05pm Top

Richard is a bad influence on all of us, that's for sure. :P

Glad you are feeling at least a littlebetter. I think we can blame Richard for the stomach issues too...

Edited: Apr 22, 2012, 8:15am Top

John - Oh, I LOVE it when charity shops have clearance sales! Like they're not cheap enough already! It's a great excuse to take a chance on a few new titles though, as well as stocking up on books you wanted anyway!

Stephen - Haha, while the cat's away... we shall blame him for all manner of world ills. I like it. *Puts down 'How to Avoid Blame for Dummies' and joins the mob* *Changes mind and runs off to Richard for a hug instead* Oh shut up, I get very girlie when I'm sick... :)

I've at least finished my first draft of the Annexed review today, which is a start. Not enough of one, however, since I finished The Silent Land last night so I'm now owing TWO reviews. Next up: Human.4 by Mike Lancaster (which is actually 0.4, but LT just won't recognise it that way) and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists by Gideon Defoe (which Chris Addison said was funny, and that's good enough for me)... I've got a review book, Tanya Byrne's Heart-Shaped Bruise, to read after that, and if I can squeeze it in before it has to go back to the library, Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan. The reading never stops!

Shame I couldn't take part in Dewey's read-a-thon really! Well, I guess I COULD have done, but I'd have been working through most of it, and not having been too well I was in bed early enough last night to have lost at least 1-2 reading hours there too. Ah well. I DID finish a book, so that's good, right?

In other news: I'm definitely feeling better today! I managed a normal breakfast (coffee, choc chip muffin and an episode of Gilmore Girls, perfect... TEAM JESS!) and I'm going to be eating SOMETHING for lunch as soon as these customers cut me a break. I'm even considering taking my stepdad up on his offer of a 'kill or cure' fry-up tonight... hash browns, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans, fried mushrooms... Seriously yummy. Sooo, aside from my back still hurting like a biatch, things are lookin' up! Woohoo! :D

Apr 23, 2012, 9:08am Top

19) Annexed by Sharon Dogar (4*)

"Will we be imaginary one day? Will we be just like one of Anne's stories? Or worse, will the story that survives be the Nazi one - that we were only ever good enough to be wiped out. How? How could anybody do this?"

I didn't know quite what to expect from this novel. The Diary of a Young Girl is one of my favourite books of all time, so the idea of a novelisation of the same events was simultaneously exciting and just a little bit worrying. Happily - and to my great relief - I found that for the most part, Dogar's endeavour manages to walk the fine line between 'respectful tribute' and 'artistic license' quite successfully!

The book is written from the point of view of Peter van Pels, the teenage son of the family in hiding with the Franks. It begins with Peter watching his (entirely fictional) girlfriend Liese and her family being rounded up and driven away. He can only stand in the road in despair. He makes his way reluctantly to the warehouse to join the Frank family - and his first impressions don't exactly fill him with joy... But slowly he adapts to life in the annexe, finds a new strength he didn't know he had, and begins an odd flirtation with livewire Anne.

This romantic element seems to be the main issue for many of the novel's detractors, but actually I found it quite subtle and entirely plausible. In such a confined space, with hormones raging and very little to engage their attention elsewhere, I found it completely believable that precocious young Anne could set her sights on Peter - and that he might feel extremely conflicted about it, but also tempted by her quick wit and cheerful charm. I occasionally found Peter's narrative a little self-conscious and slow, even manipulative at times, and it didn't have all the little details about daily life that made Anne's journal really come alive, but I still enjoyed it! I thought Dogar's depiction of the various characters living in the annexe was spot-on, and she captured the experience of a frustrated teenage boy rather well.

Unlike Anne's iconic diary, which obviously ended just before the annexe's occupants were found and taken away, Dogar extends her novel right through to Auschwitz and beyond - and this is where I thought she really excelled. Peter's whole narrative is precipitated by his flood of memories as he lies in the sick bay at Mauthausen, deliriously waiting for the call to wake up and start another day in hell. Between chapters there are occasional interjections from the dying boy to remind the reader that this is not going to end well. After they are captured Peter describes the horrendous train journey out of Amsterdam, the separation from his mother and the Frank women, how he learned to survive in the camps, and how he lost his father to the gas chambers. I could barely read the last twenty pages or so, I was crying so hard.

At the end of the day, it may be uncomfortable reading but I don't think we can ever remind ourselves too often of the evil that humanity has perpetuated in the past, especially when hatred and ignorance are still used as excuses to inflict pain on minority groups today. It really is well worth a read, whether you're already familiar with The Diary of a Young Girl or not, and I think it would make fantastic supplementary material for a high school project, for example. Dogar includes a brief epilogue at the end of the book explaining where and how each of the characters died, as well as a short bibliography which includes seminal works of Holocaust literature like Primo Levi's If This is a Man and Elie Wiesel's Night. Recommended.

Notable Quotables:

"I'm in the attic. The sun shines and I sit in it and read. The book makes time change. Stops it hanging. Somewhere I can hear the breeze in the tree behind me. I can feel the sun on my back and the pages turn and I forget. There are only the people on the page and what will happen next. What will happen to the people in the book, not what will happen to me... I forget everything."

"It's been snowing. I stand in the attic, waiting for Anne, and stare at the branches of the chestnut tree all covered in white. There are stars behind it. The night is a clear, strange blue. I know I could paint all my life. But I could never make a blue that dark. That deep. That beautiful. I could never make stars like little holes of light in the night. Even van Gogh couldn't do it."

"Sometimes, in the camp, her words came to me. Appeared in my head out of nowhere. They came like a taunt. A curse. A dream from another world that has no meaning here. They made me hope she died quickly. Quickly. That she walked into the chambers full of love, courage and hope - and went out like a light. A bright light. Not like this. This living death."

"'I want people to know, Peter. I want them to feel what we feel. What it's like to be scared. What it's like to look out of the window and see your own people led away whilst you're safe in your bed. What it's like to eat whilst they starve. If they know, if they feel it too, then they can never do this again, can they?' Her eyes are alight. Blazing. Burning."

"'They're fighting for us,' I say, and it feels like a miracle again, that there are people from all over the world, fighting. Fighting to allow the differences between us. Living for us. Dying for us."

"In those first minutes the seconds fell like hours. We sat shaved and uniformed and numbered. Häftlinge now, unable to wake to the shock of that final parting we didn't even know had happened, yet sensed within us - a severing from our women, from ourselves - the first of many to come as we are kicked, or beaten or hanged or shot, or taken into the showers that turn water into gas. There are so many ways to part with life."

Apr 23, 2012, 3:25pm Top

Hi Ellie, i see you are doing reasonably well with your challenge target, i've just finished book number 15 on my way to my 50 book target, hope you had a good weekend and didn't do too much reading ha ha.

Apr 24, 2012, 9:55am Top

*sticks head round the door and waves hello*

Yay for libraries and fortuitous clearance sale acquisitions! :)

Apr 24, 2012, 3:17pm Top

It's nearly the end of my day off and I've had reasonable success with my Mini Day-Off Post-Dewey World Book Night Not-Quite-a-Readathon (With Sleeping), so I'm pretty happy! I've managed to watch a handful of episodes of Gilmore Girls (hey, it's bookish!), including the Dance Marathon episode, which is one of my favourites - possibly because Lorelai's hair is amazing and I love her dress. I've eaten an entire pizza (don't I always?) and, bizarrely, some vanilla and chocolate fudge that I found in the box under my bed. I listened to an interesting and quite moving radio programme about the effects of LAST year's WBN on the givers and receivers of the free books. I've spent a decent amount of time snuggling with a pudgy, purring black and white cat (shout-out to Domino, woohoo!). I've helped stack up our big delivery of logs this afternoon, which covered me with bits, made my arms ache and filled my eyes and nose and hair with wood dust, which is always nice. I've showered most of it away but my eyes are still stinging a bit, it's making me sleepy! It's now 8:15pm and I've finished a book! Human.4 (or 0.4, as it's actually called outside of LT's mysterious touchstones) by Mike Lancaster is now awaiting review, along with my last read, The Silent Land by Graham Joyce. So now I just have to make myself another drink and decide what to read next! I'll try and make a fair start before bed so I can dive back in headfirst at work tomorrow! :D

Apr 24, 2012, 10:59pm Top

Sounds like a lovely day off, Ellie. That's one of my favourite episodes of GG too! I also really enjoy the Donna Reed one and the episode with Rory's debutante ball. Must be a sucker for fancy dress episodes I guess. :) Looking forward to your review of 0.4.

Apr 25, 2012, 6:31am Top

I do quite like the Donna Reed one - partially because it has a KITTEN in it and it's SO TINY! And the GG's voiceover of the Donna Reed show is hilarious... "I just had an impure thought about your father, Alex. Funny - I don’t know why I had it. It isn't the 2nd Saturday of the month..." Genius.

Any episode with Jess reading a book is obviously wonderful. And any episode where he looks a little bit like James Dean. Or gets wet. I don't know what it is, but some of the episodes just seem that little sharper and faster and funnier than others, I love them! I'm trying to persuade my mum to watch a few episodes, get her hooked too!

I'm sitting here in an empty shop with the wind lashing the torrential rain against the windows, wondering what to do next. The postman says it's a ghost town out there (shock!) and it's only given to get heavier - and thundery - so we might close early, who knows. Anyone who's decided to pop into Bakewell at all today - let alone buy PAPER products - is an idiot! So, do I finally review Silent Land? Hmmm. Or 0.4. Hmmm. Or do I sit and read King Solomon's Mines, drink hot chocolate and maybe watch something on iPlayer? Yeah, that one I think.... :)

Apr 25, 2012, 7:34am Top

So did you close early and go home to be cozy and dry?
Graham Joyce sounded familiar, and yes! I have read some of his work..
apparently didn't like Requiem very well. I don't remember them...

Requiem 200 copies, 4 reviews
Dark Sister 185 copies, 3 reviews
Dreamside 161 copies, 3 reviews

Apr 26, 2012, 6:55am Top

Hi Ellie! We're getting a good dose of rain right now too, at least it held off until after my birthday. :P

I've read Requiem too. In fact, I believe I read it shortly after I began posting on the forums and you (Kath) read it shortly after me, as I remember exclaiming excitedly that I recognized a (lesser known) book that I had read in the forums... *ahem* You see, I can remember such things because I have no social life in person... :P

Apr 26, 2012, 3:11pm Top

>84 elliepotten: Yeah, the episodes where Jess gets wet aren't half bad. ;) Hope you're snug and dry today.

Apr 26, 2012, 5:31pm Top

Love your recent liberry haul...a case of kid-in-a-candy-store methinks!? hehe, its hard not to grab them all isnt it.

Edited: Apr 27, 2012, 7:40am Top

We didn't go home THAT early, in the end. I think a few crazy people drifted in later on, so we only shut a few minutes early - though I DID get half the cleaning-down done BEFORE we closed, so it didn't take long once we'd locked up! It's still raining and overnight the river has become a raging torrent again, oops. We're a bit sad today because for WEEKS we've been watching the coots building a nest by the weir. Every year she builds there, and sits on her eggs while Mr Coot struggles against the flow of the water to bring her more twigs to arrange around her, it's so sweet. The eggs were due to hatch any day - and during the night the whole nest has been swept away. Made me feel a bit weepy, actually. All that work, and all those almost-hatched eggs, and she's lost it all. :'(

It's also a tad worrying because there's a flood warning in place again - and the rain's still coming down! Might be time to finally get those sandbags we keep talking about, eek....

Anyway, in other news, I'm currently (finally) writing my review of The Silent Land, which I really liked despite a few flaws, and reading King Solomon's Mines. I just fancied a classic this time around, and sometimes I need something a bit more literary to get me in the mood for more classics, literary fiction and challenging novels in the weeks ahead. This one is not only a rollicking African adventure story but ALSO counts towards my League of Extraordinary Gentlemen challenge over on the blog, where we're attempting to read our way around all of the characters' original novels in 2012. So far that's Allan Quatermain and The Invisible Man tackled... :)

TONIGHT, there shall be garlic pizza bread and leftover popcorn, and me and the flat black and white cat shall do SNUGGLING and see if we can finish the adventure together. It's a great incentive to read, really: I get comfy on my bed, put my dressing gown (which Domino adores) across my knee, and she comes and paddles and purrs and finally flops out like a huge blancmange, right across my lap, and I can't move for at least an hour. As long as my book's within reach (and she doesn't catch sight of the tassel on the bookmark), I'm good! :D

Apr 27, 2012, 7:47am Top

>All that work, and all those almost-hatched eggs, and she's lost it all.

Awwww. Makes me feel pouty face too.

I have a lap pet, too, but mine is canine. Thankfully she is only 10 pounds.

Apr 27, 2012, 7:59am Top

20) The Silent Land by Graham Joyce (3.5*)

I had originally intended to read The Silent Land over the winter - it being set amidst the snowy peaks of a ski resort and all - but I'm glad I got to it in the end nevertheless! It's hard to explain what this book is about. It opens with a young married couple, Zoe and Jake, out skiing in the early morning. They are anticipating enjoying the peace and beautiful scenery before the rest of the resort empties onto the slopes for the day - but instead end up getting swept up in an avalanche...

When she comes to, Zoe manages to fight her way out from under the snow and is reunited with Jake, and the two stumble back down to the village to get help and warn the other skiiers. But when they reach their hotel - the closest to the slopes - there is no one there, and it appears that everyone has left in quite a hurry. Figuring that perhaps the hotel has been evacuated, they walk into town, only to find it likewise deserted. At first the couple find this situation quite a romantic novelty, cooking dinner in the hotel kitchen and enjoying the spa and the empty slopes, but then strange things start to happen. Zoe begins to hallucinate, time seems to speed up and slow down at will, and when they try to leave the village, no matter what they do the roads always bring them back to where they started. Has the town really been evacuated? Or has everyone died in the avalanche? Have THEY died in the avalanche? And why does it feel like the village itself is trying to manipulate them in some way?

It's a fascinating novel, which really keeps you puzzling and trying to figure out exactly what is going on. I started to work it all out as the chapters flew by, but even so I wasn't quite sure until all the pieces came together at the end. Occasionally it got a bit TOO puzzling, and I think I missed a step on a couple of occasions, but that might have been me rather than the book. I did find that as the situation got more sinister, things started to get a little bit repetitive and once or twice I found myself getting frustrated as a result. The sex scenes were horrendously clinical, I have to say, and I found some of the coarser moments of dialogue between the couple very jarring, and completely at odds with the thoughtful, almost poetic nature of the themes and setting. But when push came to shove, it WAS an interesting premise, with some beautifully surreal moments, some genuinely frightening scenes, and a moving message about the nature of life and the power of love which had me tearing up nicely. Cautiously recommended.

Notable Quotables:

"But it's like life, isn't it? We know death is coming. And yet we always see our loved ones as taken away from us, instead of given to us for whatever time we have."

"Two people in love don't make a hive mind. Neither should they want to be a hive mind, to think the same, to know the same. It's about being separate and still loving each other, being distinct from each other. One is the violin string, one is the bow.

Apr 27, 2012, 8:04am Top

Hi Morphy! Yes, we're very sad that she lost her babies so close to hatching... Her nest got partially washed away last year too, but it was after her babies had hatched so she just built a little temporary one nearby and bundled them all onto that while she rebuilt her main nest again. They're a very hardworking pair! Maybe they've got time to try again before the water subsides?

We have little Millie as well, the other cat, and she's tiny and light and gorgeous - but she prefers my mum's company downstairs. She likes to snuggle on the sofa and watch nature programmes (especially David Attenborough - she has good taste!). Domino's just huge and pudgy and a bit temperamental, and she likes sitting in the sink and standing on me. And the dressing gown... oh, she loves the dressing gown! She paddles on it and miaows at it and purrs at it and sticks her nose in it and dribbles on it... then flops and squashes it (and me!). :D

Apr 27, 2012, 8:09am Top

I will put that one on my list. 3.5 is a good solid read in my world.. and
I do like that author... thanks for the wonderful review.

Apr 27, 2012, 8:17am Top

I just wish our dog, Maia, wouldn't circle so many times before laying down on me. While only 10 pounds, she has tiny feet and it can sometimes get painful while she circles, circles, circles, looking for just the PERFECT spot to lay down on me.

Edited: Apr 27, 2012, 9:20am Top

Kath - Is it okay? It's been a few days since I finished the book, and I'm behind on my reviews too, so I wasn't sure it would 'come out right', as it were... Whether it said everything I wanted it to and read right... Oh, and if it's any help, it was closer to 4 stars than 3! :)

Morphy - Domino paddles like that! She gets right on a bone or a tickly spot sometimes and just goes for it, and all you can do is wail and try to rearrange her a bit! And god forbid the moments when she decides to use you as a launchpad to jump onto something else (or OFF something else)... yikes! We always joke that while Millie CATCHES mice, Domino just jumps off the wall and squashes them flat. :D

Apr 27, 2012, 10:14am Top

My Kate cat has tiny feet and she does the painfully marching around and up and down thing all the time before she settles on a spot to snuggle and paddle. We call her Pointy Foot Cat :-)

Apr 27, 2012, 12:54pm Top

ellie dear, you write beautifully. Reviews, Blog posts, thread posts...all
are just wonderful in my opinion. I had forgotten that author and liked the books
that I had read, and rated them the same 3.5, I think.. but closer to 4 :)
So, it has gone on my list!

Apr 28, 2012, 5:13am Top

AG - Pointy Foot Cat?! Well, doesn't that just roll off the tongue... :)

I love how pet nicknames come to be, they're always so odd! Millie is also known as Milliebean, Baby One, Baby Lion, Littlest, Millie Vanilli and (by Mum) Angel, because she's tiny and cute and walks like a lioness. Domino, on the other hand, is also known as Spud, Pudding, Baby Heffalump, and Buttercup, because she's huge and pudgy and runs like a cow galloping across a field, with her legs kicking up behind her in a very unladylike manner. Both cats, like so many things in my life, are also regularly addressed as 'Muffin'... :D

Kath - You're an angel, thank you! It's always nice to know that what you write has an appreciative audience out there somewhere, especially because my blog is so small - and very quiet traffic-wise - compared to many of the others I've seen (especially the mega-popular YA and paranormal ones, eek, no competing with THEM!). I'm off to check out some of his other books now, on YOUR recommendation, see what I fancy! :)

Apr 28, 2012, 6:02am Top

Morning, Ellie. Love the cats' names! My very large greyhound is often called Doglet by me in a sort of 'Little John' inversion.

Apr 28, 2012, 4:20pm Top

Hi Ellie, really sad about the coot family, how're things now with them. Loved your latest reviews, keep up the good work. Have a nice weekend.

Apr 28, 2012, 8:40pm Top

Great review, Ellie. I've added it to the TBR list. :)

Apr 28, 2012, 8:56pm Top

Ellie... Both of your blogs are wonderful.. and they stopped telling me when you posted.. I
have to sort that out :?

Apr 30, 2012, 8:51am Top

Genny - Awww, doglet! I sometimes call the cats 'Gatita' - Spanish for 'little cat' (or 'kitten', I guess!). It fits one but definitely not the other - but I've called our last four cats that so it just sorta rolls off the tongue now!

John - No sign of rebuilding at the moment, sadly, but I DID spot six ducklings down by the weir this morning with their mum.

Micky - Woohoo! Review of Human.4 coming up in a sec btw...

Kath - I haven't been posting on LiNaDR much, it's more of a log of important events at the moment because I just haven't got the motivation to do anything by way of instructional posts right now... (Too much reading!) You could always subscribe again by email to 'Musings' though - right hand sidebar. Google's made a few changes to Blogger over the last few months so maybe something's happened to your original subscription?

Edited: Apr 30, 2012, 9:47am Top

21) Human.4 (actually 0.4 but it won't recognise the touchstone that way!), by Mike Lancaster (4*)

'They're gone,' he said. 'Changed. All of them. You hear me? I... I SEE THEM!'
His words sent a physical chill down my spine.
'See what?' I demanded. 'What can you see?'

This is one of those unassuming books that actually far exceeded my expectations. Rather overlooked in the current wave of YA paranormal and dystopian fiction, this is the kind of novel that can be enjoyed by the full sweep of the YA target audience, and is a proper little page-turner to boot.

The whole novel is centred around the mysterious event which takes place - unlikely though it may seem - during the local talent show in the little English village of Millgrove. As part of the show, Kyle and Lilly, along with two adults, Mr Peterson and Mrs O'Donnell, agree to get up on stage and be hypnotised by their madcap friend Danny. To their horror, when they 'awaken' a few minutes later, everyone in the village is frozen in place where they sit, shocked expressions on their faces. When they begin to move again, it's clear that something has changed. Now these four must try to work out what happened - and why - before it's too late...

Lancaster has been especially clever in that the structure of the novel, and even the paper-book format, tie in intrinsically with the plot. The chapters are written in a normal narrative style, but are divided into tape sides - this is supposed to be a kind of transcript of the testimony of Kyle Straker, which has been recorded onto old audio tapes and discovered later. Lancaster takes on the role of 'editor' and there are occasional futuristic notes inserted into the text to explain popular culture references and some of our more unusual idioms.

I found it a quick but hard-hitting read, with some deliciously creepy moments along the way, fusing the quiet menace of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers with the thought-provoking ideas of The Matrix into one exciting premise. The pithy, amusing and occasionally revelatory text notes are a nice touch. Between the testimony and the 'editorial input', everything starts to come together, but until the big reveal I still wasn't quite sure what had happened! One for boys AND girls to enjoy, and I'd say it was suitable for younger YA readers as well, though they might not pick up on some of the references and humour that an older reader would. Recommended!

Apr 30, 2012, 9:52am Top

In other news, today our streak of rude Monday market shoppers was mercifully broken by a lady who breezed purposefully into the shop to give me my first ever World Book Night book... Not only was this AWESOME, but it turns out that she'd been on holiday here before and loved our shop so much that she'd saved her last copy of A Tale of Two Cities and brought it all the way from South Wales because she wanted me to have it! How lovely is that?

Now Mum and I will both be able to read it (it was on my wishlist anyway and it's AGES since I've read any Dickens), and we'll add a comment to its Bookcrossing-esque journey on the website, and every time I see a copy of it from now on I'll think of the lovely lady who remembered me. :D

Apr 30, 2012, 10:20am Top

0.4 looks mighty interesting! Keeping my eyes open for that one :)

Yay for nice customers!

Apr 30, 2012, 12:04pm Top

Human 0.4 looks very interesting. It's gone onto the wishlist. Poor, groaning wishlist.

On cat names, my girls both get called doodle a great deal and their names with "My love" added to the end. It just rolls off the tongue. Annie-my-love. Kate-my-love.

Kate is regularly either Kate-Cat or the aforementioned Pointy Foot Cat.

Annie gets to be Fluff (short for fluff for brains), sweetie and pretty girla. She's gorgeous and she knows it :-D

Apr 30, 2012, 1:31pm Top

Oh, what a lovely customer - that had to make you feel good!

Human 0.4 goes right onto the wishlist - sounds great!

May 1, 2012, 9:39am Top

Grrr, I don't need to be adding books to Mount TBR.


May 1, 2012, 11:28pm Top

YAY! So glad you liked 0.4! I was a big fan of it too. And I hope you like A Tale of Two Cities. It's my favourite Dickens.

Edited: May 2, 2012, 10:57am Top

I ALSO found out (after Mike Lancaster retweeted my review yesterday) that Human.4 - which WAS its original title, it seems, judging by the hardcover jacket - now has a sequel, 1.4. Of course I just HAD to order it... ;)

AG - The worst thing is, knowing how many nicknames our cats have, I just KNOW that if and when I ever have children they'll suffer the same fate. They'll have twenty different interchangeable nicknames that they won't QUITE be able to shake until they're AT LEAST in their mid-thirties, by which point they'll have been in therapy for fifteen years for the embarrassing childhood trauma of that time when their Mum accidentally called them 'Gummy Bear' at Parent's Evening and EVERYONE HEARD... :D

Just in the middle of writing a looooong enthusiastically rambling post about King Solomon's Mines, aka The Biggest Pleasant Bookish Surprise I Think I've Ever Had. It's not going to be the kind of 'proper' review I can post on the book's page or Amazon or anything like that - it's so hard to review a book you adored and let's face it, in the case of the classics it's been done already, many times - but instead it's a meandering collection of thoughts and impressions to be posted on Le Blog and here on the 75-ers thread for your boredom enjoyment... Stay tuned!

May 3, 2012, 12:17am Top

Oooh, thanks for the head's up on 1.4. We'll definitely be requesting that my library order it.

Edited: May 4, 2012, 9:14am Top

Soooo, here's that long bookish rambling non-review I promised for my last read! Copied from the blog:

22) King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (5*)

** There may be teeny tiny SPOILERS ahead here - it's hard to throw together all my thoughts about the book without revealing any details! But I'll try to keep them very mild and not reveal any major plot points and big moments, okay? Read on! **

I borrowed this book off my sister's shelves to satisfy the Allan Quatermain segment of my 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Challenge' on the blog. I was expecting a light, dated and slightly rubbish adventure story, something I could read fairly quickly, tick off my list, and stick back on the shelf without any fuss. I am happy to report that I couldn't have been more wrong! I LOVE it when this happens - when I'm not expecting much from a book and it turns out to be awesome. Makes the pleasure that much more satisfying, don't you think? Actually King Solomon's Mines completely blew me away, and by the end, to my surprise, it had even managed to topple Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child off the top spot as my favourite book of 2012 so far.

In a nutshell, this is a proper old-fashioned adventure yarn. It is narrated by the now-iconic Allan Quatermain, an English hunter making his living shooting game in South Africa. He is on a boat returning to his home in Durban when he meets Sir Henry Curtis and his friend, naval officer Captain John Good. Sir Henry is attempting to find his brother, last seen heading out on a suicidal mission across the desert in search of King Solomon's legendary diamond mines. He enlists Quatermain's (rather reluctant) help and the three set out for the mountains, aided by a crudely-drawn map left to Quatermain by the last fool to attempt the journey.

What follows is a real Indiana Jones story that had me completely absorbed from start to finish. First the desert must be navigated, then there are mountains to cross, only for the exhausted trio to find themselves embroiled in a bitter tribal war on the other side. It could have been so dull, but Quatermain's plentiful dry humour and beautiful flights of description proved irresistable. The excitement and suspense is genuinely riveting - there are a couple of deliciously gruesome moments that sent me mentally diving behind my sofa cushion - and when I reached the last page I felt utterly bereft. Having been so completely immersed in the trio's African exploits, I wasn't quite sure what I could read next that could POSSIBLY compare (always the sign of a great book!).

I think two things really made it for me: the characters and the big set-piece moments. The characters are exquisite creations, each and every one of them. Sir Henry, the great fair Viking with his deep integrity and ferocious strength as a warrior. Captain Good, with his eye glass, impressive swearing abilities (never rendered here, by the way!) and determination to dress like a gentleman despite the harsh conditions. Even foul old Gagool, the ancient and evil Kukuana witch doctress, was so brilliantly drawn that I felt a wave of revulsion every time she graced the page with her presence.

One thing that pleasantly surprised me was the respect Haggard shows towards other races - I had expected a more 'savages vs whites' mentality. In some ways it is still very much of its time, of course - for example, the idea that it wouldn't be 'proper' for a black person and a white person to be together, and the implication that the local tribes are inferior in status and intelligence - but in others it seems quite progressive. Quatermain and his companions show great affection and respect for the Kukuana tribespeople across the mountains, joining their civil war and becoming close friends with several of their leaders. These leaders are portrayed as impressive, if brutal, warriors, and honest men. The Kukuana language is wonderful too, 'translated' by Quatermain in all of its grand, sweeping and eloquent beauty.

The biggest thing I'll take away from the book, the element that will stick with me the most, is the incredible set-piece imagery, some of which wouldn't seem out of place in a Lord of the Rings film. I think certain 'snapshots' from the book are forever imprinted on my memory, they're so unforgettable. The great twin mountain peaks at sunrise. A wounded bull elephant charging through the trees (there are scenes of elephant hunting in the book, by the way, but as with the outdated race issues it would be unfair to judge Haggard too harshly for it). Key moments from the tribal war. The moment when the trio first enter the Kukuana Place of Death (that was perhaps the most memorable scene of all for me). I mean... wow. I'm actually glad that no decent film adaptation of the book has ever been made, because now I'm not tempted to watch it. It'd take a damn fine movie to match up to the pictures in my mind! Perhaps I should write to Peter Jackson...

Notable Quotables:

"There is no journey upon this earth that a man may not make if he sets his heart to it. There is nothing, Umbopa, that he cannot do, there are no mountains he may not climb, there are no deserts he cannot cross... if love leads him and he holds his life in his hand counting it as nothing, ready to keep it or lose it as Heaven may order."

"On, on we went, till at last the east began to blush like the cheek of a girl. Then there came faint rays of primrose light, that changed presently to gold bars, through which the dawn glided out across the desert. The stars grew pale and paler still till at last they vanished; the golden moon waxed wan, and her mountain ridges stood out against her sickly face like the bones on the cheek of a dying man. Then came spear upon spear of light flashing far away across the boundless wilderness, piercing and firing the veils of mist, till the desert was draped in a tremulous golden glow, and it was day." - Isn't that just gorgeous?

"My mind's eye singled out those who were sealed to slaughter, and there rushed in upon my heart a great sense of the mystery of human life, and an overwhelming sorrow at its futility and sadness... Only the old moon would shine on serenely, the night wind would stir the grasses, and the wide earth would take its rest, even as it did æons before we were, and will do æons after we have been forgotten."

"Reader, you may have lain awake at night and thought the silence oppressive, but I say with confidence that you can have no idea what a vivid, tangible thing is perfect silence. On the surface of the earth there is always some sound or motion, and though it may in itself be imperceptible, yet it deadens the sharp edge of absolute silence. But here there was none."

"Truly wealth, which men spend their lives in acquiring, is a valueless thing at the last." - Wise words indeed!

Soooooo.... I loved it. I'm actually really sad that this particular copy isn't mine, because now I have to put it back. And if I buy a new copy for myself, it won't be THIS one, the one that blew me away, the one that I didn't ever want to end, the one that now has a little reading wear that's all MINE (my sister hasn't read it yet). Is that silly? Probably. Anyway, this is my second book ticked off the LXG challenge (the first was The Invisible Man) which I'm pleased about, AND it's my new favourite book of the year so far, AND it's really got me in the mood for more classics and literary fiction, which is always a good thing.

I'm now reading Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, a new semi-dystopian YA novel about a girl with a lightning addiction living in LA in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake, torn between two warring cults who believe that the apocalypse is coming... I'm fascinated by lightning anyway, and so far I'm really enjoying Mia's story. After that I'll FINALLY be reading Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne, and then I'm free to go back to my stack of library books!

May 5, 2012, 4:29am Top

Wow, King Solomon's Mines sounds awesome. Who would of thunk. 0.4 too. Two more for the teetering tbr pile. Great review btw ellie. It must take ages to find the quotes and type them out, or do you have a nifty system? Either way the end result is very impressive.

May 5, 2012, 5:22am Top

I've been reading some 'Ripping Yarns' lately, particularly John Buchan, but your review inspired me to get the audio version of King Solomon's Mines from the library. It's read by Toby Stephens, which is another plus point.

May 5, 2012, 10:11am Top

Note to self - be careful where you call your eldest son (now 5) Danosaur!

May 5, 2012, 10:56am Top

>114 HanGerg: - No nifty system - I just stick a piece of paper in the book if I hit a quote I really love, then go back, see what still resonates and type 'em up with the rest of my review at the end. :)

> 115 - 'Ripping Yarn' is a great way to describe John Buchan! Try to focus on the STORY though, okay - no drifting off into Toby Stephens fantasies along the way! ;)

Struck review, coming up... Then I'm (finally) on to Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne. It's supposed to be a bit Girl, Interrupted, a bit Heathers, and it's set in a psychiatric ward, so I'm sure I'll feel right at home. :D

May 5, 2012, 11:04am Top

23) Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

As soon as I saw the cover for this book I wanted to read it. I have a borderline-unhealthy love/hate relationship with lightning, for a start. I'm terrified of it but I just find it fascinating, particularly how every strike victim is affected differently (something Bosworth addresses very early on), and the beautiful Lichtenberg figures (or 'lightning trees') that bloom across the skin afterwards. It's also one of the most powerful covers I've seen yet in 2012 and definitely one of my favourite YA covers of recent years.

Gorgeous cover aside, this is a thrilling addition to the seemingly unstoppable wave of new dystopian fiction. Mia is a lightning addict. She's been struck so many times that she has a positive charge all her own, and doesn't feel truly alive until a storm brews overhead, setting her skin tingling and her energy reaching out to draw the lightning down. For now, however, she has quite enough on her plate trying to keep her family together in the aftermath of the great earthquake that shook LA a month ago. Thousands are homeless and starving, her mother is wracked with anxiety after her near-death experience, and now she and her brother must go back to school in order to qualify for food rations. But things aren't going to go back to normal for Mia anytime soon. Two warring cults are rising, both proclaiming that the end of the world is coming, that a great storm will herald the beginning of the apocalypse - and that Mia is the key. Throw Jeremy into the mix - a beautiful tormented boy who sees visions of the future and warns Mia away from both the darkly mysterious Seekers and the super-religious Followers - and the scene is set for a cracking good read (no pun intended)!

This is a fantastic, complex novel that proved to be quite thought-provoking even as it was roaring towards the gripping climax. I think a lot of this complexity stems from the way Mia has to navigate her way between the two cults that dominate the story. This IS a fantasy novel, and the spiritual Seekers with their blood-red cloaks and tarot readings definitely sway more in that direction, but the Followers and their leader, Rance Ridley Prophet, really gave me pause for thought. Stripping away the fantastical elements, what we're left with is a televangelist who is clearly exploiting the fear and desperation of the people of LA to preach his message of fire and brimstone. That part didn't seem so far-fetched! Nor did the general post-earthquake setting, which felt brutally realistic as I was reading. I thought that staging this apocalyptic battle against such a bleak but entirely plausible backdrop really helped keep the book grounded (or should that be earthed? Pun definitely intended this time!).

I really enjoyed Bosworth's debut, and I'm looking forward to reading more from her in the future. She gave me everything I wanted from a dystopian novel - evocative writing, characters I could root for, mysteries I could puzzle over, messages about society to reflect on, a sizzling romance (thank you, I'm here all week) to savour, and a film-worthy climax to race towards - and, of course, a little lightning fix of my own!

Notable Quotables:

~ "My name is Mia Price, and I am a lightning addict. There. Now you know the truth. I want the lightning to find me. I crave it like lungs crave oxygen. There's nothing that makes you feel more alive than being struck. Unless, of course, it kills you."

~ "Up ahead, what remained of the Santa Monica Pier tilted like a ramp into the ocean. The longest of the wooden pilings that supported the pier had bent and broken during the quake, pouring hundreds of tourists and a dozen or so chintzy restaurants into the Pacific. A section of the famous Santa Monica Ferris wheel still protruded from the water, like the spine of some Lovecraftian sea beast emerging from the depths."

~ "The heat collected inside me, concentrated in the center of my chest. It smouldered in my heart, an ember that would burst into flame and consume me from the inside out. At least, that's what it felt like. I tasted metal. There was a scent coming off me, like burning wires and ozone. Like the moment before a storm cracks the sky wide open."

May 5, 2012, 11:13am Top

I'm getting Struck left and right with book bullets lately.

May 5, 2012, 12:20pm Top

Oh Morphy..... me too!

May 5, 2012, 3:10pm Top

Morphy/Caro - Oh dear me... Should I add you to my Lightning Pun Support Group, or do you think you can handle this by yourselves? ;)

May 5, 2012, 4:02pm Top

The cover IS very nice-looking. You got a thumb from me, and I'm very intrigued by your description. Hmmmm, if I had the energy I'd try to come up with a lightning pun that doubles as a naughty flasher joke... :P

May 5, 2012, 5:30pm Top

I'm a sucker for covers. . . It really wouldn't have mattered what you said in the review, but I'm very glad it's a good'n.

May 5, 2012, 8:01pm Top

got me kiddo... and thumbed you anyway... how can I not ?
Great reviews...

May 6, 2012, 5:46am Top

Awww, Kath, you're always such a sweetheart! :D

Katie/Stefano - It IS a good cover, isn't it? Like something from a big new movie. You can't see it, but she's got tiny red threads all down her arms too, a kind of odd version of a Lichtenberg scar. I'm just far too fascinated by these things - it got me with The Ice Queen, it got me with Struck, and I've still got Out of the Blue: A History of Lightning and A Match to the Heart to read, wheeee!

May 8, 2012, 8:53am Top

Ellie m'dear just gotta tell you I bought Weird Things Customers say in Bookshops today and I chuckled my way through the whole thing. I loved your contribution and I may also have bragged a little to the guy serving me in Waterstones that my friend had an entry in the book :P Man it makes me wish that I could earwig on customers in bookshops all day!
Ditto on the cover for Struck, tis vair dramatic and cool.

May 9, 2012, 8:26am Top

Haha, it WAS a good quote, wasn't it? We get this stuff ALL THE TIME - I don't know if Bakewell's just more bonkers than everywhere else or what, but it's EVERY DAY! :D

I have to say, having just read two review books back to back, I expected Struck to be a bit meh, and Heart-Shaped Bruise to be excellent, but it's turned out to be the other way round! I haven't started my review yet - bloody headache again, grrrr - but it's not going to be a rave, much to my surprise.

I'm now trying to decide what to move onto next. I SHOULD be reading Half Blood Blues, which needs to go back to the library, but it wasn't really hitting the right spot when I started it last night/this morning so I put it back down again. So as of right now, my choices are:
- The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists by Gideon Defoe (highly recommended by Chris Addison and my friend Hanna)
- Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
- I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela des Barres
- Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

Oh, and miracles do happen! Yesterday I popped to the local retail village with Mum, not expecting to spend more than, say, £10. I came back nearly £100 lighter - and with five new books in tow... Not only did I persuade Mum to let me take advantage of The Works' 3-for-£5 sale, but she ALSO let me buy another two. I don't think this will ever happen again, so I'm quite happy I got in there while I had the chance! ;)

So, aside from the completely unnecessary (but very cute) new bag, and the slightly necessary (but very jazzy) new shoes, I also bought two different types of fudge, a bag of nostalgic pick 'n' mix (Fizzy Peaches! Rainbow Buttons! Gummy Worms!) AND these books:
- Rosebush by Michele Jaffe (3 for £5)
- The Group by Mary McCarthy (£3 for £5, and an absolute coup because it's a £9 book!)
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (3 for £5, I may already have it but this is the tie-in so I get to stare at Benedict Cumberbatch between stories!)
- My Appetite for Destruction: Sex, Drugs and Guns N' Roses by Steven Adler (£2.99 for a £20 hardback...)
- Narrowboat Dreams: A Journey North by England's Waterways by Steve Haywood (£2.99, it's been on my wishlist ever since we went on our first narrowboat holiday)

All that for £11 - you really can't go wrong in a remainder store, can you?! :)

May 10, 2012, 9:14am Top

Oh dear, there goes my work ethic. I've just discovered KITTENCAM!

Hannah was watching until 2am. Mum (with baby Millie) were watching together until 11am - apparently Millie was FASCINATED by all the on-screen babies and wanted to make friends with them all. And I've been ignoring my reviewing responsibilities because THE KITTIES ARE AWAKE! :D

May 11, 2012, 1:59am Top

24) Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne (3.5*)

Heart-Shaped Bruise has already received plenty of rave reviews across the blogosphere, so I had pretty high expectations when I started reading. With so much talk about how it was addictive and nigh on impossible to put down, perhaps my expectations were too high - but I just didn't fall for it in quite the same breathless way. I think some of my highest hopes stemmed from the frequent comparisons to Girl, Interrupted and Heathers, two of my favourite films of all time. In actual fact, a couple of characters and a few little moments are a bit TOO similar to Girl, Interrupted, which I found offputting, and the book didn't have the same level of black humour that made both movies so appealing.

Comparisons aside, what is the book actually about? It takes the form of a notebook, found in the now-defunct psychiatric ward of a young offender's institution. Inside it is the journal-style testimony of Emily Koll, an eighteen year-old girl in psychotherapy there. We don't know what she did, or how she did it, but we know that it must have been something terrible - and that it involved revenge against a girl called Juliet, who was instrumental in the exposure of Emily's father as a London gangster. Beyond this the entire book becomes a jigsaw, as the reader tries to put together the pieces and work out how Emily arrived at this deeply unhappy point in her life. The 'journal' details Emily's sessions with her therapist, Dr Gilyard, as well as offering her own take on her past and anecdotes about daily life on the ward. The title themes of bruising and the heart run throughout the book: the importance of family, the pain of teenage love, the horror of betrayal and the sheer intensity of youthful emotions.

There were definitely things that worked in the novel, but there were other aspects that just didn't hit the spot for me. Some of the teens' exploits were fun to read, but very idealistic and a bit clichéd - going to all the coolest gigs, wanting to take time out in Paris and busk on street corners, sitting on the floor in the poetry section of the local bookshop drinking green tea... It was all a little too perfect, particularly given the dark premise. The plot wasn't as complex as I had expected, and I found the obvious nods to Girl, Interrupted quite distracting at times (I expected humour and insight that didn't appear, and somewhere in the back of my mind I continually thought of Emily's fellow inmate Naomi as 'Lisa'). The whole thing just felt a little self-conscious, like I was hearing Tanya Byrne rather than Emily Koll, and it lacked a certain spark that could have really brought it to life.

On the other hand, there's also a lot of good in the book. I found the first thirty pages or so quite dull and confusing, but the further I got into the novel, the more intriguing it became. The layers of Emily's history - and of her character - started to build up, and I found myself liking her more and more. I found her motives completely plausible and she was a wonderfully complex and feisty, albeit damaged, character behind the brassy wall she'd erected to protect herself. It was quite thought-provoking, watching Emily's 'evil' persona - the persona she feared the world would always remember - being gradually created by the media, and seeing the person underneath being swallowed by her own myth. I'd just about figured out Emily's big crime by the end, but when it came it was still swift and shocking. There was no neat conclusion, which left the way clear for me to think through the different possibilities for myself and wonder how everything worked out in the end. My verdict? Well, it's a promising debut novel that will probably benefit from walking the fine line between the YA and adult markets, and it definitely got more and more compelling as the pages went by - but to my disappointment, in the end it just didn't live up to the hype...

Notable Quotables:

"That's all normal is, you know, a habit I have to relearn. Crazy is a habit I have to break."

"I don't know if that's ever happened to you, if you've loved someone, loved who they are, then found out they're not that person after all. It doesn't just break your heart, does it? It breaks you. Then you're not who you thought you were, either."

"It happened so quietly, her and Sid. It wasn't one of those stories they'd tell their children. There was no rain, no chance encounter. Sid didn't pull her out of the way before she stumbled into the path of a bus. But I felt the classroom hum with it. The floor shivered. Pens rolled off desks. Books fluttered off shelves like broken birds."

"I wasn't as pretty as the girls at St Jude's, as rich, as thin, as clever. They had boyfriends and were on the hockey team and had short stories published but still managed to get straight As while I struggled to read all the books on my reading lists. But Rose didn't need to pass any exams. She didn't need a boyfriend or a place at university. It was strangely liberating, not having to try to be someone."

"'They say home isn't where you live,' I said, 'but where you're understood.'"

"You know how, sometimes, something can hurt so bad that after a while it starts to feel kind of nice? Like pressing a bruise with your finger. This was the opposite; this felt so good it hurt. It hurt so much I thought I was dying."

"I need you to pass on a message to my father. His name is Harry Koll. Do you know him?... Of course you do! Everyone knows Dad. There's the Devil, then Hitler and Dad's somewhere between cancer and famine."

"He looked at her sometimes like he didn't know how to stop. Walls fell, the ceiling peeled off, furniture blew away like dead leaves until all that was left was her, and he'd look at her like she was the only thing he could see for miles."

May 11, 2012, 7:45am Top

>128 elliepotten: OMG You are EVIL! Talk about a time sucker.

May 11, 2012, 3:12pm Top

The Group sounds like an excellent buy at that price.

May 14, 2012, 11:15am Top

Morphy - Mwah. Ha. Ha. With a side helping of AWWWWW! :)

Luci - Most definitely! The reviews seem kinda hit and miss but that's the joy of remaindered books - you can afford to take a chance and find out for yourself!

A quick heads up for any interested parties - I'm currently taking part in the Bout of Books Seven-Day Read-a-Thon which started TODAY, so I might not be around LT much this week, BUT there will be some fun stuff happening over on the blog, and I'll be Tweeting my progress as well. Come cheer me on if you get a minute (or can *cough* tear yourself away from Miranda's Kittens *cough*)... :)

May 14, 2012, 8:15pm Top

Hi Ellie - I was catching up on your blog and noticed your mention of hoarders - I recently read Dirty little Secrets on the recommendation of Luxx and dk_phoenix - it's a YA about the daughter of a hoarder and really quite riveting.

May 15, 2012, 1:32pm Top

Hi Ellie, just thought i'd drop you a post to see how you are. The reading seems to be going fine for you and i seem to be moving along nicely. Any more news on the Duck and Coot front? Also we are going to be in your neck of the woods on Friday as we have decided to have a day out for ourselves plus the fact that it is my beloved wife's birthday so we will be visiting your bookshop and hopefully i will be leaving with a selection of books.

May 16, 2012, 6:31am Top

>133 avatiakh: - Consider it added to my wishlist! *facepalm* ;)

John - Reading's going well - though considering I'm mid-readathon I should probably be aiming for MORE reading and LESS internet time, oops! No more duck and coot babies yet, though we think one of the coot nests further up our end of the river might be hatching/newly hatched right now. Can't quite see, it's just under the bridge - we'll have to wait for the babies to start swimming... I hope the weather's good for you on Friday then, Bakewell's so beautiful in the sunshine! :)

May 16, 2012, 7:36am Top

Awww. The kitties are asleep.

Whew... thankfully I don't watch them sleep.


Edited: May 17, 2012, 5:06am Top

Me neither. Well... occasionally if there's a cute kitten pile near the camera, or if one of them is clearly about to fall out of the Enterprise bottom-first! ;)

Day 4 of the Bout of Books read-a-thon today. It's slow going because I'm at work six days out of the seven, but I'm about halfway through the AMAZING V for Vendetta (anyone who warned me off it for being 'a bit weird' - I guess weird works for me!)... and speaking of weird, I'm also very much enjoying the bizarre genius of Palahniuk's Rant as well. Hoping for a good reading day today - it's given rain here and I'm not doing the challenge for the day either, so it's all about the books!

P.S. Ohhh Morphy, have you seen the video underneath the main feed? The one called 'Ambush'? Mum just showed it me - SO CUTE! Any kitty lovers out there, the link's in message 128! ;)

May 17, 2012, 7:07am Top

25) The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists by Gideon Defoe (4*)

Oh, how I loved this book! I heard Chris Addison talking about the series on My Life in Books, and the extract he read out had me (and him!) in stitches, so when I saw this one at the library I snapped it up. It's actually the third book in the series, but it didn't matter in the slightest that I didn't start with An Adventure with Scientists. It's still brilliant!

It's a hilarious, lively, tongue-in-cheek and completely addictive little book in which the Pirate Captain (Terror of the High Seas), his number two (the pirate with a scarf) and his motley band of rogues team up with Marx and Engels to find out who is attempting to discredit the communist movement across Europe. It's a real romp - but if you want to find out how statuesque blonde ladies, opera, French schoolchildren, waxworks, bears and a volcano fit into the story... well, you'll just have to read it for yourself!

The humour is sly, ridiculous and occasionally a little bit naughty, and with the genuinely informative but pithy footnotes scattered through the pages, I can see why previous reviewers have often drawn comparisons with Terry Pratchett. A set of these books would make a great gift idea I think, whether the recipient is a keen reader or not, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the rest of the series for more chaos and chuckles in the near future!

Notable Quotables:

"His nose was hairy. His forehead was hairy. Even his hands were hairy. And his beard was a great bushy black number, which looked like he had sellotaped a bunch of cats to the bottom of his face and then frightened them with a loud noise."

"'And you'll notice that I'm not drinking from my favourite mug,' the Pirate Captain went on, indicating his mug. The Pirate Captain's favourite mug was one he'd got from a garden centre. It had a picture of a flea on the side that only appeared when it had a hot drink in it. This one just had 'Monkey World' emblazoned across the handle and was about his fifth favourite."

"I think of it like this - there are only two certainties in life. One is the inevitability of death, and the other is uncertainty itself. So when everything seems to be going badly, it's probably meant to be. Or perhaps it's fate. Either way, it's something we'll never really know, and it doesn't pay to waste too much time thinking about it. Eat a chop instead."

"During his long career and many adventures, the Pirate Captain had often found himself saying, 'Quickly! Through this door!' In the past, saying, 'Quickly! Through this door!' had variously led to: a room full of scorpions; a nest of killer African bees; the ceremonial chamber of a sinister cabal of Satanists; and a pit of stinging nettles. Saying, 'Quickly! Through this door!' had never yet led to: a stable full of fast horses; a useful cupboard of muskets; a pile of ham; or the shower room of a young women's tennis club."

One final note: I couldn't actually write out these 'Notable Quotables' without giggling again. It's that good. Arrrrrrr! :)

May 17, 2012, 9:18am Top

#138: Hmmm, a pirate book! I have a 12 in 12 category for pirates, which I intended to fill with 80s bodice-rippers. But maybe I now have a backup if I can't find 12 pirate romances.

May 18, 2012, 8:22am Top

Ambush is adorable.


Edited: May 18, 2012, 11:55am Top

>139 susanj67: - Perfect! If you get sick of heaving bosoms, you can get stuck into some Pirate Adventures instead! ;)

>140 Morphidae: - I went back on and watched it three times in a row this morning - that little but-wiggle-and-spring NEVER gets old... :D

The week-long read-a-thon's going... okay. Bit slow going on the reading front, between work (Mum decided we were going to do over/reshuffle/blitz EVERY SINGLE FICTION SHELF this week), plus my stepbrother arriving home from his round-the-world jaunt and a cracker of a hayfever headache yesterday. But I'm still cracking on, and hopefully going to make a good evening of it tonight... Laters, all!

P.S. Hi John! Everybody, say hi to John, he was in the shop today! :D

May 18, 2012, 3:51pm Top

Hi Ellie, it was so good to meet you after posting comments to you over the last couple of months, thank you for welcoming us to your little kingdom ( so jealous). It is nice to be able to meet fellow LT ers. My daughter was also a little bit jealous of you as she could imagine being in your position. After spending a bit more time in Bakewell we travelled to Buxton and i purchased a book from Age UK and then we went to Scriveners and between the three of us came out with six books, mine and daughter Amy's were 4 Sci-fi/ Fantasy books to complete trilogies etc. I really need to read rather than buy. Next time we come to Bakewell or nearby we will call again and tell all our friends to pay a visit, keep up the good work and find time to read your book mountain ( look who's talking ha ha). Bye for now.
P.S thank you for your message >141 elliepotten:.

May 18, 2012, 11:54pm Top

Never hear of The Pirates series--onto the wishlist they go!

May 20, 2012, 8:43am Top

That book sounds hilarious.. I have to look into that series :)

Visitors! but, no pics? Sad :(

May 20, 2012, 9:32am Top

Hi Ellie, great thread, interesting range of books and excellent reviews (I may nick some of your ideas for my own thread), but best of all it's good find somebody else still in the mid 20's (books read, not years old that is) - it's amazing how many people have done the full 75 already

May 20, 2012, 9:50am Top

Yikes! I've added a book (Struck) and a series (The Pirates!) to my read-it-sooner-rather-than-later list. Thanks for the recommendations! Your thread is always a breath of fresh air!

Karen O. (wow, there are a lot of !!!s in my post!)

May 24, 2012, 6:50am Top

> Roni - Do it! Do it! Do it! *waves skull and crossbones*

> Kath - Arrrrr, not pictures, lassy... It was only a flying visit really!

>145 feca67: - Thank you! Thieve away... Yes, I'm in the mid-20s in BOTH respects. There's no way I could have toppled 75 already! Maybe if I wasn't working, but even then I'd be hard pressed to keep up with some of these robo-readers... *aims a discreet but pointed cough in a couple of directions*

> Karen - Woohoo! I love it when my book bullets hit where they can do some TBR-pile damage... ;)

26) Stevenson Under the Palm Trees by Alberto Manguel (3*)

Alberto Manguel is probably best known for his books about books, which include A History of Reading and The Library at Night. Despite my love of anything bookish, I haven't read him before, so I decided to start small with this slim little novella about the final months of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Set around Stevenson's home in the village of Vailima, on the Samoan island of Upolu, it relies upon the same concept of duality that Stevenson himself utilises in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In the book, Stevenson meets a Scottish missionary, a rather odious man called Mr Baker, on the beach and finds himself caught up in a religious and ideological battle against Baker's Puritanical sensibilities. But all is not quite as it seems, and the reader is left to figure out who is wreaking havoc upon the Samoan islanders - Stevenson or Baker?

It was interesting to learn about the end of Stevenson's life, and how the local villagers welcomed him into their community. The vibrancy of the culture is vividly evoked in spare, finely honed prose; the flowers, the music, the sensuality of Samoan life come alive under Manguel's pen through careful snapshots of imagery and description. There are some interesting moments as Stevenson and Baker argue about dreams, reality and the nature of religion, though I found them a little obtuse at times. Sometimes it just felt a little too pretentious - like Manguel was writing with future literature students in mind, rather than readers - and I was left frustrated by the rapid and inconclusive ending.

Perhaps a reader more familiar with Stevenson's life and works would gain more satisfaction from Manguel's tribute than I did, I don't know. At the very least, I can say that this was a quick and intriguing little read, and that it's inspired me to pick up more of Stevenson's books and to delve a little deeper into his life and travels. A gateway to bigger and better things, perhaps?!

Notable Quotables:

"In the midst of a large group of people, joyful or angry, mourning or seeking merriment, he felt naked, and he had tried, often, to overcome that feeling, which for want of a keener word he called shyness, but which his father had once branded cowardice, an accusation he had not forgotten."

"I will not deny myself a good glass and a dish. And I would not deny it to another fellow human. Love of life is a strong passion, and I have always followed its pull, even in trivial things such as food and drink."

"Our civilisation is a hollow fraud. All the fun of life is lost by it. All it gains is that a larger number of persons can continue to be contemporaneously unhappy on the surface of the globe. But there are so many moments of utter joy, glimpses of paradise, and for those I live."

"I know my time will come soon enough, but I will not dwell on it. What is the purpose? We might as well dwell on the work of our teeth or on the mechanics of our walk. It is there, it will always be there, and I don't intend to spend my glorious hours looking over my shoulder to see death's icy face."

May 24, 2012, 2:19pm Top

I really love Manguel's writing style. The Library at Night is amazing! So I might pick this one up. After I read A History of Reading though. :)

May 25, 2012, 5:28am Top

Micky - I'm glad you've said that! I was wondering whether to take the plunge with The Library at Night but its quite pricy over here so I wasn't sure... Consider it added to that poor creaking wishlist of mine! ;)

May 25, 2012, 1:14pm Top

Hi Ellie, can't believe its been a week since we visited you at the shop, time does seem to be flying by too quickly. Hope you have had a good week and haven't been working too hard. I presume you've got wall to wall sunshine down your way and how beautiful that will make Bakewell. Hope you can get some time in the sun with a good book or two or three. Have a nice weekend.

May 26, 2012, 5:29am Top

Hi John! Time always seems to fly when it gets to this time of year. Though I think today might be a tad more... taxing. We're doing some more reshuffling, but it's already too busy to finish it so we've got piles of books everywhere, grrr! Definitely wall to wall sunshine, Bakewell is looking BEAUTIFUL - shame we don't get to see any of it really. It's a stone north-facing building so mostly it's just cold in here. I keep setting up an old chair out in the tiny entrance yard to keep nipping out when the shop's empty, soak up a bit of Vitamin D before the sun disappears over the rooftops in the afternoon!

Hoping to get some nice evenings of sunshine in before it all goes cool again right in time for my birthday (and my day off) on Tuesday... Reading V for Vendetta and In Cold Blood, so I've got plenty intrigue to get stuck into! :D

May 26, 2012, 5:44pm Top

Hi Ellie, had a lovely day in the sun doing the cricket tea. Not had much time to read the last two days but aiming to catch up tomorrow. Glad your able to catch some sun. Have a nice birthday and day off on Tuesday, oh to be 21 again. Might be getting withdrawal symptoms, haven't bought a book for a week,lol.

May 27, 2012, 8:17am Top

I don't feel like I've been reading enough either! I'm hoping today will be better. I've given up on reviewing Rant for a bit longer so I can just enjoy my book instead. Everyone's very frustrated with me because I'm not really much of a birthday person, and even though I'm turning 25 I don't really want to do anything particular! A nice piece of chocolate cake, a good book and some peace and quiet is all I need to have a lovely day! :)

May 28, 2012, 9:03am Top

I thought In Cold Blood was very well done. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

May 29, 2012, 8:23am Top

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELLIEKINS!! *throws confetti*
I hope you're having a fabulous day (away from those pesky customers) and have cake :D
I won't say what my cousin said about turning 25 earlier this year as it is both depressing and morbidly humourous :P

Chillax, read and don't let the people want a big birthday hoo-hah get on your nerves *huggles*

May 29, 2012, 8:26am Top

Happy Birthday to you Ellie :)

Ditto what Violet said about relaxing :)

May 29, 2012, 9:16am Top

Happy Birthday! Have some cake:

May 29, 2012, 9:19am Top

Ooh, birthday time!!! Eat cake, read a book, put your feet up. :)

May 29, 2012, 9:29am Top

Happy Birthday


May 29, 2012, 2:48pm Top

>154 Morphidae: - It's getting good, I'm really enjoying it! I'm having a teensy birthday break and reading Vegan Virgin Valentine, but I'll be back to it within a day or two...

>155 LadyViolet: - Awww, thank you Rachel! I've had a nice day reading, sunning myself, *cough*snoozing*cough* and we've been out for a quiet pub dinner. Now I'm just waiting for my chips to go down a bit so I can have some of the super-chocolatey fudge cake and ice cream waiting for me downstairs... :)

>156 mckait: - Thanks Kath! Plenty of relaxing today, it's been quite nice! I needed it - next week we're working through and having Wednesday off instead of Tuesday because it's a DOUBLE BANK HOLIDAY for the Jubilee, arrrrgh! Lots of giddy folks off work and tourist who are fascinated by our Royal Family, no doubt. Could be a mad one, so I wanted a peaceful day today really!

>157 katelisim: - Wow, Katie. Awesome cake, scarily apt sentiment. ;)

>158 dk_phoenix: - Cheers Faith! Done, done, and DONE. :D

>159 calm: - Aaaah, thank you! What nice birthday messages everyone's left this year, I'm well chuffed! :)

May 29, 2012, 4:01pm Top

I have birthday cake envy - love that Where the Wilds Things Are cake. Happy belated birthday Ellie! I have no literary themed cake to offer you, but I'm sending telepathic chocolate cake vibes your way - hopefully you will be able to pick them out of the ether and respond appropriately : )

May 29, 2012, 4:18pm Top

Hey Ellie! Hope your birthday was pleasant. Celebratory relaxation is my own preference, so hurray for that. :)

May 29, 2012, 4:47pm Top

Happy Birthday Ellie, hope you've had a fab day, you deserve it and don't work too hard over the bank holiday weekend.

May 29, 2012, 8:19pm Top

Hope you've had a great birthday, Ellie! Best wishes!

Edited: May 30, 2012, 9:04am Top

Thanks again all! I had the hugest piece of chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream and mini marshmallows last night - I got so full I had to put the last bit in the fridge and ate it before breakfast this morning, haha!

I'm just trying to eat some lunch now. Mum's had to go home and clean up then take a house viewing this morning, so I've been stuck here fielding idiots for the last two hours. I'm starving and I've only just managed to make another drink - and I've got an old lady in here right now who's flatly refusing to pay more than 50p for anything. I've firmly told her to either look on the bargain shelf or to go to a charity shop because she's not getting anything off our main fiction shelves for that little. Grrrr. :(

Now, a review, FINALLY!

27) Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk (4.5*)

I've never read Palahniuk before, and although everyone raves about Fight Club, in particular, I wasn't really sure his famously oddball style would be 'my kind of thing'. Happily, Rant turned out to be EXACTLY my kind of thing, which is why this review has taken so long to write. It's always hardest to review the books we've loved most, isn't it?

I won't say too much about the plot, partly because there isn't one per se, and partly because I think this is really one those books that needs to be read WITHOUT knowing everything about it. That way the reader can work things out for themselves and be swept along by the narrative without any preconceptions and erroneous ideas ruining the fun. On the surface this is just what the name suggests: a fictional oral biography of a strange young man called Rant Casey, who has odd abilities, bizarre habits, and dangerous vices that include 'Party Crashing' - driving around at night in a kind of giant crazy game of dodgems - and being bitten by all kinds of venomous and diseased creatures.

But although Rant is at the centre of the novel, and everything ultimately returns to him, this is an incredibly reductive view of Palahniuk's vision. It is also very much about the way society works and about the people in Rant's life over the years. It is only as the book unfolds that you come to realise that Rant's America isn't the same as ours; it's a futuristic place with advanced media technology, and a society segregated into Daytimers and Nighttimers in an attempt to deal with overpopulation and road congestion. As these things are explained by the various 'contributors' to Rant's biography, the book becomes almost like a fascinating non-fiction at times, kept manageable and well-paced by the broken-up oral-biography format.

This really is an incredible book. It has the energy of a Baz Lurhmann movie and the no-nonsense brutality of Quentin Tarantino's finest, all rolled into one. I don't think I've ever read a book that feels so immediate and ALIVE. It bristles with energy, like electricity sparking off the page. As I turned the pages, I felt like I was in the hands of an expert manipulator; the building clues about Rant, about the new society, were all there, but I felt like I was working things out and getting little light-bulb moments EXACTLY when Palahniuk wanted me to. Whatever he wanted me to feel - nauseated, tender, intrigued, repulsed - I did. Even when I wasn't sure what was happening or where things were going, I felt 'safe' enough to accept it and carry on. Like the Nighttimers' Party Crashing culture, I just held on tight and went along for the ride - and what a ride it was!

Rant definitely isn't going to be for everyone - there are some pretty extreme and unsettling moments thrown in along the way - but if you dare to dive in and go with it, you will find a novel that is simultaneously philosophical, amusing, disgusting, exciting, thoughtful, sensual, perplexing, shocking, stimulating and utterly brilliant. Palahniuk throws out a continuous stream of ideas and observations, skewed through the different characters that make up the 'biography' and through the vaguely dystopian perspective. I'm still thinking about it now, a couple of weeks later, asking questions and trying to work it out in my mind all over again. Needless to say, I won't hesitate to read more Palahniuk now I've started.

Notable Quotables:

"The way Rant Casey used to say it: Folks build a reputation by attacking you while you're alive - or praising you after you ain't." - Wallace Boyer

"In the first forty-three seconds you meet a stranger, experts in human behaviour say that, just by looking at them, you decide their income, their age, their brains, and if you're going to respect them." - Wallace Boyer

"How weird is that? A sexually conflicted thirteen-year-old rattlesnake-venom junkie with rabies - well, it's safe to say that's every father's worst nightmare." - Shot Dunyan

"It doesn't matter for crap that you've got three years of sobriety or that you finally look good in a two-piece bathing suit or you've met that perfect someone and you've fallen deeply, wildly, passionately in love. Today, as you pick up your dry cleaning, fax those reports, fold your laundry, or wash the dinner dishes, something you'd never expect is already stalking you... That bullet or drunk driver or tumor with your name on it, the way I tolerate that fact is by Party Crashing. Here's one night when I control the chaos. I participate with the doom I can't control. I'm dancing with the inevitable, and I survive. My regular little dress rehearsal." - Shot Dunyan

"There's worse ways to be dead than dying." - Shot Dunyan

"Every high school has its Romeo and Juliet, one tragic couple. So does every generation." - Toni Wiedlin

"You could argue that we constantly change the past... I close my eyes, and the Rant Casey I picture isn't the real person. The Rant I tell you about is filtered and colored and distorted through me." - Shot Dunyan

"Ask yourself: What did I eat for breakfast today? What did I eat for dinner last night? You see how fast reality fades away?" - Neddy Nelson

Edited: May 31, 2012, 2:18pm Top

Oooh, you do make Rant sound really appealing! I have deliberately steered clear of Palahniuk until now because I have heard some of it is very dark and disturbing (not specifically this book - there's a book of short stories whose name escapes me that is meant to be particularly bad I think) , but now I may have to have a re-think. I have a pretty high threshold for disturbing stuff compared to the average reader, I would say, but things that do get under my skin tend to stay there and keep coming back to haunt me. American Psycho, for example, was a book I finished, as I really wanted a sense of closure, and then immediately wished I could un-read. Yuck.

Jun 1, 2012, 2:07pm Top

Oh drat! I missed your birthday. Belated well-wishes from me.

Jun 1, 2012, 4:05pm Top

Belated Happy Birthday, hope you had a good one.

Jun 1, 2012, 4:13pm Top

>166 HanGerg: - Oh no, don't worry, I didn't even make it through American Psycho because I thought I'd lose my lunch a few times along the way. Rant has its shocking moments, and its slightly 'eeewww!' ones, but nothing anywhere near as bad as American Psycho, as far as I'm concerned. And everything makes sense in the end, so without those moments it would have lost something along the way, I think. I'll be keeping an eye out for Palahniuk at the library and in shops from now on and snapping them up as I find them!

>167 MickyFine: - Thanks Micky! :D

>168 PiyushC: - Thanks to you too, Piyush! I had a lovely day! :)

I've finished Vegan Virgin Valentine, a surprisingly good YA novel by Carolyn Mackler, so hopefully I'll work on the review over the Jubilee weekend. I'm working the whole shebang - Saturday to Tuesday - so I'll need something to keep me occupied when it's too busy to read. I don't know what it is about Bank Holidays, but the tiny tourist towns of England just go bat shit crazy! So anything I can read/browse/get stuck into will be very welcome over the next four days! ;)

Jun 2, 2012, 8:27pm Top

Happy Belated Birthday!! Hope it was great!

Jun 2, 2012, 8:39pm Top

Fantastic review.. and sorry about the idiots in the shop!

Jun 6, 2012, 12:02pm Top

Happy Belated Birthday, Ellie! Glad it was a nice one, and I hope you've survived the double Bank Holiday! Eat some more cake, it'll help sustain you! :)

Jun 7, 2012, 8:37am Top

I survived... just. A couple of small children almost didn't, but I managed to restrain myself for another week! :)

Now, a review! It's taken me a while, partially because our internet at home has gone well and truly on the blink over the last week or two, but hey - more reading time, right?!

28) Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler (4*)

I picked this up in a book sale and didn't really expect much beyond a fluffy light read. What I actually discovered is that this is a fresh, breezy and relatable YA novel that I will be happily keeping on my shelf for next time I need something fun to cheer me up!

Mara Valentine is perfect. She has the perfect grades, the perfect extra-curriculars, the perfect future, and the perfect plan to get there. In between organising student events and liaising with her teachers, she is planning a fast-track summer of college courses so that she can enter Yale as a second year. Then, to her horror, her wild, pot-smoking 15 year-old niece V arrives and turns her life upside down - and as if this wasn't enough to contend with, she also realises that she is falling for her handsome older boss James. The novel explores how these two completely different girls' lives converge. V can teach Mara a thing or two about living life to the full - and about how there's more to life than what grades you get. Meanwhile Mara and her parents slowly begin to instil in V a sense of stability, pride and family loyalty, encouraging her to pursue her talents and study more. If only they could stop treating each other like alien enemies, life in the Valentine house might even become pleasant again...

I really enjoyed Mara and V's journey! I think that anyone who has ever felt the weight of expectation hanging over them during their academic years can relate to Mara - particularly if things haven't always quite gone to plan. I was cheering for her every step of the way! I think that the moral of the story is very sound: that academics are important, but that you can't be good at everything, you can't do it all, and there are other important things in life that can't be graded, like love, friendship, great books, great movies, exciting trips, and taking time to enjoy the world around you. Parents and teachers aren't always right, and ultimately you'll have to make your own decisions.

It's worth mentioning that there are a couple of scenes of mild drug use, and Mara is old enough to go off to university so there's a bit of sexy spiciness between her and James. For that reason alone, I'd be cautious about recommending it to the youngest end of the YA spectrum, but it's a fantastic little read for the older teen market. I'll be keeping Vegan Virgin Valentine on my shelves, and picking up Guyaholic, the second V Valentine novel, at some point too!

Jun 7, 2012, 9:06am Top

You got me with Vegan Virgin Valentine - I even immediately bought it for my Kindle. I'm in need of something a bit lighter and hopefully cheering after some darker reads and that sounds just right.

Like I needed distractions :-)

Jun 17, 2012, 2:56pm Top

Hi Ellie, hope everything is well with you and everything is rosy in beautiful Bakewell. Not heard much from you, have you been busy in the shop and hopefully it wasn't too hectic over the Diamond Jubilee weekend. Is there any more news from the riverbank to tell?

Edited: Jun 22, 2012, 3:54am Top

>174 archerygirl: - Hooray for distractions! Vegan Virgin Valentine was nice as a little light cheery read, I hope you enjoy it! :)

>175 johnsimpson: - Hi John! It was a bit crazy over the Jubilee weekend, though not nearly as bad as it could have been. The rain kept things a bit more sedate, so we weren't overwhelmed, but the people who DID come in didn't want to go back out in it again so they bought well! There are finally some new babies on the river again, after all the rain washed the last nests away en masse - there's a mother duck with seven older ducklings and a moorhen family with EIGHT little pompoms over on the offshoot of the river, and yesterday we were gobsmacked to see a mother duck with two tiny babies waddling purposefully past the shop into town! No idea where she was going, but I hope she's safe!

Mostly life has just been getting in the way recently. We've seen a house we really want, so we've dropped the price of ours and are now renewing our decluttering efforts (and our new-house dreaming via Pinterest!) with fresh enthusiasm. Oh, this house... It's up a little country bridleway leading to a park, with beautiful views across open farmland, with a glorious waving wheat field at the back. It has cosy rooms and a beautiful wooden conservatory (not white plastic, hoorah!). It has multiple outbuildings in the garden (chicken sheds, workshops, greenhouses), mostly wired and plumbed, that COULD be turned some form of 'tiny house' for me to live in. It has beautiful beds out front with hordes of tulips, fruit bushes and vegetables. Out back there are grapevines growing across the roof of the biggest greenhouse, a magnolia tree, a lemon tree, and an orchard with apples, pears, plums, hazelnuts and even an apricot tree! It also has stables and a paddock across the lane to let out to horsey families, and an unspoilt wooded area at the bottom of the garden. It's basically our current house/land but smaller, more compact and easier to maintain. It's just... glorious. Unfortunately the lady already has one interested cash buyer and two other offers which she won't accept until their houses sell. The GOOD news is that she used to work with Mum at the hospital, so if we can sneak ourselves in there we might stand a chance of winning favour! *keeps everything tightly crossed*

I've barely read a thing recently, actually. I've finished Dearly, Departed and V for Vendetta though, so I'll review those as soon as I can. Then it's the last of my library books - finishing In Cold Blood, and reading There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff and The Junior Officers' Reading Club by Patrick Hennessey. In the meantime I'm also attacking everything in my possession with renewed vigour: everything from books and clothes to my overflowing email inbox. Things need paring down before we move, particularly if I'm to have a chance at a tiny house or even a well-fitted semi-bedsit in the main house... I'm determined to get there in the end! :)

Jun 22, 2012, 6:37am Top

Wow, Ellie, that place sounds beautiful judging by your descriptions. Granted you have a way with words that allows you to make just about everything sound beautiful, but I can tell by your enthusiasm that it's a great place. I hope things turn out in your favor! :)

Looking forward to your thoughts on V for Vendetta. I just read Watchmen and enjoyed it, and my library has that one too, so I might give it a try sometime.

Edited: Jun 22, 2012, 11:55am Top

29) Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel (4.5*)

This book is what would happen if Doctor Who, Gone With The Wind and the complete novels of Charles Dickens were all blitzed together in a blender and served up with a hot zombie on the front. Seriously. After a fairly slow start, it gradually picked up pace until by the end, I couldn't have stopped reading if I'd tried...

The first in Habel's Gone With The Respiration series, Dearly, Departed is about the kidnap of Nora Dearly, a young lady in a post-apocalyptic New Victorian society. Still reeling from the death of her father a year ago, Miss Dearly is attacked in her home by a band of zombies - only to be rescued from her own rooftop by another. Before she knows it she is having to come to terms with life in a zombie army camp, and finds herself caught up in a war that is fast becoming far more personal than she could ever have dreamed. As the icing on this new and bizarre cake, she might just be falling for the handsome Bram, the young (dead) captain of the 'Z-Comp'...

There is much to recommend Habel's debut novel. There are some wonderful characters at the centre of the story: Bram and Nora are deeply appealing, and the supporting cast are, without exception, utterly engaging. I particularly liked Bram's witty friend Chas (who reminded me very much of Arriane in Lauren Kate's Fallen series) and one of the zombie doctors, Doctor Samedi (great name!) who both lit up the page every time they appeared! The slow-burning romance, with its emphasis on genuine old-fashioned courting and mutual understanding, is a far cry from the much-maligned insta-attraction of some modern YA and paranormal novels.

The political backdrop tying the characters and plot threads together is satisfyingly complicated, with wars erupting between the living and the dead, between the Punk and New Victorian societies, and between 'good' zombies and 'bad' zombies. This paves the way for the exploration of plenty of ethical and moral grey areas, led by complex characters with both glorious virtues and horrendous flaws. There are some gory moments, but equally there is always a dose of humour to lighten the most intense chapters. The zombie-creating 'Lazarus' virus is well thought out (and again, wonderfully named!), and the 'coping mechanisms' Habel has created for her zombie army are quite fascinating. The multiple narrative works well, allowing several important subplots to play out side by side in the build-up to the explosive climax.

There were, however, a few things I didn't like so much. Occasionally I felt like I'd missed a step and had to go back and read a section again to untangle a dodgy paragraph or unclear plot point. The book had a very slow start that I initially found ominously offputting, taking far too long to establish the New Victorian technology and attitudes. The 'teen angst' during this opening section didn't really sit well with the rest of the novel either. The futuristic Victorian-based society definitely allows Habel her creative freedom, but occasionally felt like an excuse for accidental slips of language and modern idiom. A few bad typos didn't help matters ('pouring' over a map?) and got quite jarring at times.

Happily, despite these small (and easily fixable) issues, I found myself utterly immersed in Habel's world, with its horrors and delights, romances and friendships, political unrest and old-fashioned manners. It was quite an addictive read in the end, and I found myself turning the pages faster and faster, rooting for Bram and Nora and the triumph of the good guys over the bad guys. Habel left the book on a bit of a cliffhanger ready for the next in the series, so I'm now chomping at the bit waiting for Dearly, Beloved to hit our shelves! Highly recommended!

Notable Quotables:

"There are symbols of me everywhere around you. I am in everything I have ever touched. I am in every memory you may have of me. I am in every utterance of my name. I am in every atom of your blood.' He looked deeply into the camera. He was crying... 'It is impossible for human beings to truly die. We leave too much behind.'"

"It is the ability to carry on with life that will see us triumphant in the end."

"I stared at the doors until they stopped moving. I stood there until I was fairly sure I was composed. She really needed to not do things like that, because the Laz was thrilled at the idea of chasing her, and priming my muscles for the task."

"I had nothing to give her. I couldn't exactly arrange for a skating party or a trip into the city, or anything. I really sucked at this whole 'I am very attracted to you and would like to demonstrate this to you via attention and creative uses of my disposable income' thing... I finally had to fully acknowledge it. I liked her. I liked her a lot."

"I looked at Bram. I looked at all of them in turn. It was like I was caught up in a carnival freakshow, or one of the lowest levels of hell. In my panic, I felt like they were looming over me - creatures full of holes, their flesh missing, their skin stitched together like horrifying rag dolls, watching me with eyes like mirrors reflecting a sickly moon."

"This time, I let myself fully enjoy it - the fact that I had already come to care for her, and that she obviously cared for me. The fact that I could touch her, and she wouldn't rebuff it. The fact that she sought me out. It was the simplest, purest thing I've ever experienced."

Jun 22, 2012, 12:55pm Top

Hi Stephen! The place WAS beautiful! Lots of work to be done, but in an 'Oh, the possibilities!' way, not a 'Jesus, what a dump' way. I think I may have skipped at one point as we were exploring the garden. May the odds be ever in our favour indeed! :)

V for Vendetta was... awesome. Exciting and emotional and gripping and enchanting and terrifying, all at the same time. I borrowed it from the library originally but by the time I was halfway through I was *cough* miraculously *cough cough* reading my own copy... ;)

Jun 22, 2012, 2:01pm Top

That one looks interesting! *drops onto tbr*

Jun 22, 2012, 3:20pm Top

Hi Ellie, glad to hear about the Ducks and the Moorhens, keep me updated on their progress. Glad that you have found a potential property, it sounds really good and your description gives rise to a number of possibilities, Library comes to mind ( is that me or LT speak ). So rain does have its positive points, good that people stayed longer and bought more whilst in the shop, makes working while others are off worthwhile. Keep up the reading and your review posts, i seem to be on a roll at the moment, just finished Penguins stopped play by Harry Thompson last night and am going to start Fifty shades of grey now that my beloved has finished it, reading in bed the other night i turned to look at her and her eyes were like saucers and then yesterdayafternoon whilst our gorgeous granddaughter Hannah was asleep she finished it off and for the last hour of reading it she had a big silly grin on her face, i wonder what expressions i will show when reading it, will keep you informed as long as i am able lol. Bye for now, have a great weekend whatever the weather.

*Keeping everything tightly crossed for you*

Jun 22, 2012, 9:04pm Top

This book is what would happen if Doctor Who, Gone With The Wind and the complete novels of Charles Dickens were all blitzed together in a blender and served up with a hot zombie on the front. Seriously.


Good grief, what a literary concoction and obviously one with addicting properties if by the end you couldn't have stopped reading if you tried. I am still trying to visualize that combination..... I may need to track down a copy to investigate for myself.

Jun 28, 2012, 9:25am Top

Yello all! Still here... just tidying and clearing and book-pile bashing (pictures on the blog) and getting all hayfevery and headachy because it's SO HUMID IT'S LIKE A SAUNA! Grrr. It's thundered a bit today so hopefully tomorrow will feel less icky.

The Olympic torch comes past the shop tomorrow afternoon (*yawn*), followed by some kind of rubbish noisy pageant by the river, so I'm actually quite looking forward to the weekend when it'll all be OVER.

I'm trying very hard to write about V for Vendetta right now, but it's a bit of a mishmash of points and ideas so I might just direct you all over to the blog when I'm done, rather than trying to condense it into a 'real' review over here! I'm not far off the end of In Cold Blood either - but I might end up taking a blogger break again sometime soon and leaving the reviews for a bit. I did it last summer and it worked wonders, letting me take time out to enjoy my reading but also get other things done without worrying about writing posts three times a week... Might be just what the blogger doctor ordered, in fact!

*runs off like a headless chicken to fetch coffee, then tumbles into her desk chair in a heap*

Edited: Jun 28, 2012, 11:13am Top

Oh no! Our local owl man (you may remember him from all the gushing I've done before) just dropped by to tell us - in person - that SIX of his birds were killed last week. They were out in the field getting their daily 'weathering' (a bit of sun time, basically, independent of their flying and training). Some TOTAL SHIT stopped his car and decided to let his large dog in to go for a run round on the (private, walled) land, presumably to use it as a toilet, and it tore all six of them apart.

I just can't believe it. One of his new Harris' hawk brothers is gone - they fly as a pair so one is now orphaned, pretty much - and little Geoffrey, our 'shop owl'. Frank, the beautiful big Milky Eagle owl, part of a rare breeding pair, was killed, and little Miki as well, plus two other birds. Apparently the assistant who was working was in hysterics, James burst into tears when he got home, his son Tom was devastated - and the dog owner got in his car and got clean away with it.

I have to say, living around here it quickly becomes apparent how many dog owners are just criminally irresponsible. If it isn't great piles of dog dirt on the footpaths, it's dogs being let loose to chase ducklings on the river, or dogs being let loose in fields of cattle or sheep, or dogs the owners can barely restrain snapping and barking at young children. I don't know if it's town and city folk who come here thinking it's their personal playground, or if it's country folk who should know better - but there's one more dog owner out there right now who deserves to be bloody shot.

Not only is there the fact that six beautiful birds were savaged to death - I can only hope that a couple of the bigger birds managed to at least inflict a few scratches before they died - but what about James and his business? It could have been destroyed in one fell swoop! Frank alone would cost around £6-8000 to replace - they're so unusual that having a breeding pair was pretty important. Several of his current flying and display birds have been killed (they are used in rotation so they have chance to rest, moult etc), which means he's severely limited with all the educational and flying engagements he has. Losing one of a Harris' hawk cast means they can't be flown as a working pair any more. I think he'd have burst into tears if he'd talked about it much longer, actually - and if he had, we all would, so we all tried to keep a lid on it. What a way to go. Our lovely goose Sid was killed this way by a fox, and it was like a scene out of a horror movie. Horrible, horrible thing.

Anyway, I just wanted to get all that out, because I'm sad and furious and shell-shocked all at the same time. Obviously it's not something we can really talk about openly because there's always someone ready to jump on something like this with captive birds, even though it was nothing to do with James. His whole life has been dedicated to the care, training and enjoyment of his animals, and he's devastated by the loss as much as anyone would be losing a part of the family. The only thing I can say from my point of view, is that at least my beautiful Gilbert is safe, and James still has many of the birds we've grown to love over the last three years! Poor little Geoff... :'(

Jun 28, 2012, 1:02pm Top

I'm so sorry to hear that, Ellie, how horrible! :(

Edited: Jun 28, 2012, 1:05pm Top

That is just awful Ellie, some people shouldn't be allowed to have animals.

Much sympathy to James and {{{hugs}}} for you.

Jun 28, 2012, 1:40pm Top

#184 Ellie, that's horrible and must be devastating for James. I'm so sorry.

Jun 28, 2012, 2:49pm Top

Awww, thank you for the nice messages! It just makes me sad that for every good, responsible animal owner out there, there's another who just shouldn't be in charge of anything more sentient than a jar of tadpoles. And the fact that he just whistled his dog, got back in the car and drove off? Now they'll never find out who did it, and James has lost thousands of pounds (not to mention at least four of his favourite birds) with no recourse whatsoever. Poor guy, I've never seen him so completely dejected... :(

Jun 28, 2012, 4:23pm Top

Hi Ellie, that is awful news, there are some really stupid people about who don't give a monkeys as long as they get to do as they please. I can't believe someone would be so moronic. I feel so sorry for James, all that time, effort and love put in for some t**t to ruin it in a few seconds. Don't know what else to say, really angry.
How are you my dear, hope you are bearing up with all this and the damn torch thing, have a nice weekend.

Jun 28, 2012, 8:14pm Top

Poor birdies. . . poor James. I think it's more like for each responsible pet owner, there are at least 3 irresponsible ones. I hear horror stories from a friend about the poor bunnies that are adopted around Easter by people who only want them for the week, sometimes the day. Anyway, I hope James is able to move forward without too many obstacles.

Jun 29, 2012, 4:42pm Top

Oh God Ellie that is terrible! There ought to be a special circle in hell for savage dogs and their idiot owners who don't keep them under control. I am so sorry for James, I can't imagine how devasted he must be right now :(
*hugs for everyone*

Jul 1, 2012, 9:57am Top

Thanks everyone. I feel so sorry for James - apparently he rushed home, got out the car and burst into tears on the spot. Him and his assistant just stood there for ages staring and crying, I think they were both in shock. It's just such an awful way for such beautiful birds to go, it's been preying on my mind a bit every since. :(

Now, in rather better news, I've FINALLY managed to finish putting together my thoughts on V for Vendetta. It's been a long time coming, because there was so much to say, and like my post on King Solomon's Mines it's ended up being a bit different from a normal review, so I won't copy and paste it here...

30) V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (4.5*)

For my double review of V for Vendetta - the book AND the movie - as well as a selection of 'notable quotables' and the film trailer, you can hop across to Musings of a Bookshop Girl by clicking HERE! :)

Jul 2, 2012, 5:42pm Top

I've only seen the film but one of these days I'll pick up the book, I promise. :)

Jul 3, 2012, 3:28pm Top

#192 Must read the graphic novel, absolutely must!

Jul 4, 2012, 12:31am Top

So sorry to hear about the birds--that is truly tragic!

Jul 5, 2012, 8:24am Top

>193 MickyFine: - Oh yes, do! I loved the movie, I'm so glad I finally found a copy!

>194 PiyushC:- YES YOU MUST! :D

>195 ronincats: - I know... To lose so many at once too. Normally if one dies of old age or illness it's sad, but to lose six in such nasty circumstances came as a bit of a shock. And poor James actually dropped into the shop to tell us in person, the daft sod, which was lovely of him but even more sad!

Jul 13, 2012, 10:30am Top

31) There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff (4*)

This book has such a fantastic concept that I couldn't resist picking it up. First, imagine that there is a God (if you're already a believer, bear with me). Now imagine that God isn't a bearded, wise blend of Gandalf and Santa, but a horny, arrogant, lazy and all-round typical teenage boy. If your reaction is 'OMG, Meg Rosoff is going to HELL. So is everyone who reads her filth, the blasphemous heathens!' then this isn't going to be the book for you. If your reaction is 'OMG, Meg Rosoff is clearly a genius, tell me more!' then read on!

On the surface of things, this is a novel about a boy called Bob. Bob is the God of Earth - and he's rubbish at it. He spends more time sleeping and fantasizing about naked women than he does caring about his creations. That job falls to his manager, Mr B, who has spent the last few millennia trying and failing to persuade Bob to accept some responsibility while he wades through paperwork and prayers from dawn until dusk. Meanwhile Bob's errant mother Mona has gambled away his pet Eck, Eck is contemplating death as he faces being cooked and served up with peppercorn sauce by his new owner, and Bob is falling madly in love with an assistant zookeeper called Lucy. His ardent desire for her could be the end of the world as we know it - but will he come to his senses in time to undo the chaos he has unleashed?

Although the book started off a bit slowly, by the end I was really glad I'd persevered. I think the lack of a really relatable and likeable leading character made things harder - every single character is deeply flawed and Bob, in particular, makes me feel glad I never had a teenage brother to put up with! At the same time, it is exactly this flawed cast of characters that makes their individual moments of brilliance, compassion and strength so compelling. I really liked Bernard, the local vicar, who reminded me a lot of Tom Hollander's Rev, with his generous heart but decidedly earthy personality. The long-suffering Eck was a delight too! I thought There Is No Dog did a great job of prompting reflection - not necessarily about religion, but about life, love, responsibility and the world - in a gentle way, whilst also poking fun at the earnest feelings and obsessive interests of teenage life. Cautiously recommended to older teens and upwards!

Notable Quotables:

"When Mr B manages to open his eyes once more, the expression on God's face makes his heart sink. It is twelve parts moony love, eighty-three parts sexual desire, and ten and a half million parts blind determination. Oh, please, Mr B thinks, not a human. Not another human."

"Bob had created the world and then simply lost interest. Since his second week of employment, he'd passed the time sleeping and playing with his wangle, while managing to ignore the existence of his creations entirely."

"Once upon a time it had been all burning bushes, plagues of frogs and partings of the seas, scaring the living daylights out of his creations by booming down in scary voices and handing stone tablets out of the sky. Now he was barely allowed to make a parking space become suddenly available."

"The noise that emerged from Bob's mouth shattered every window in the room. Bob tore at his hair and rent the hem of his garment. He was God, the Almighty, the All-powerful Everlasting Father, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. With the Mother of all Mothers."

"Perhaps the way to proceed is to think of life on Earth as a colossal joke, a creation of such immense stupidity that the only way to live is to laugh until you think your heart will break."

Jul 13, 2012, 10:46am Top

Ha! That sounds quite funny. I read What I Was by Meg Rosoff last year (I think) and really liked it. In fact, I liked it so much I gave it 3 stars for not being long enough. I should look into whether or not my library has any more of her work.

Thumbs ups! :)

Jul 13, 2012, 10:20pm Top

There is No Dog does sound like fun! Adding it to my reading list when I am in the mood for some offbeat escapism.

Jul 13, 2012, 10:44pm Top

That's a great review, I enjoyed There is No Dog too and really liked her Just in Case.

Jul 14, 2012, 11:42am Top

I have Just in Case on my wishlist and How I Live Now on my bookshelves, so there's more Rosoff in my future yet! I've also finished The World of Karl Pilkington which I'll write a mini-review for, and In Cold Blood which is a 5-star masterpiece as far as I'm concerned! Now I'm reading Diana by Sarah Bradford (TS is on the author, it wouldn't work for the title) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and warming up for three read-a-thons in a row AND my sister's graduation on Tuesday AND the start of the summer holidays... *heads off for a little lie down at the mere thought*

Jul 14, 2012, 12:37pm Top

Hi Ellie! Glad you're doing so well, and good luck keeping up with all of your 'thons and real life adventures! *smooch*

Jul 15, 2012, 6:52am Top

32) The World of Karl Pilkington by Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant (4*)

Basically, if you're already a fan of Karl Pilkington's offbeat musings, you'll like this book. If you're a fan of The Ricky Gervais Show, you'll like this book. It's mostly made up of scripts from the Ricky Gervais podcasts/TV series, in which Gervais and the wonderful Steve Merchant chat, philosophise and explore the wonderful world that exists inside Karl's little round head. In true Pilkington style, the book is rounded out with some of Karl's musings, an excerpt from his famous diary, and plenty of his original and quirky drawings. Read, marvel, laugh, enjoy!

Jul 15, 2012, 1:28pm Top

33) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (5*)

Wow, this is an incredible book - and so much more accessible than I was expecting! In fact, I'd go as far as to call it compulsively readable... In Cold Blood is surely Truman Capote's masterpiece (Holly Golightly might be cute as a button, but she just doesn't compare) and knocks modern true crime into the dust. It takes the murder of a Kansas family on their ranch and turns it into a jigsaw puzzle of brilliant storytelling and evocative journalism.

One mid-November night in 1959, four members of the wealthy Clutter family were tied up, shot and killed in their home. Herb Clutter, a successful rancher, along with his wife and two children Nancy and Kenyon, were found dead the next morning when friends arrived to catch a lift to church. The book explores how this horrific crime affected the surrounding community, and how the authorities locally and across the US worked tirelessly to catch the culprits. Alongside events in Kansas, Capote simultaneously offers us the story of the murderers themselves. Perry Smith and Dick Hickock both had charismatic personalities and complicated back stories, and after the Clutter murders managed to evade the law for over a month and a half before they were finally captured, jailed and taken to trial for their crimes. They were hanged in April 1965.

So far, so Crimewatch. What really makes this book special is how much heart and soul Capote pours into it. His eye for a good story and his focus on people rather than process render In Cold Blood as gripping and enjoyable as a novel. The amount of painstaking work he must have put into bringing this sweeping story together is genuinely awe-inspiring. For me, there was also the intriguing fact that Capote was known to have become close to Perry Smith during his research - how much did that skew how he was portrayed? It was certainly fun to wonder as I was reading.

Smith and Hickock sit right at the heart of the book, and it is their humanity that provided the most disturbing and thought-provoking aspect of my reading experience. I found myself reflecting on the complexities of law and order, and the validity of the death penalty. I began to consider the murderers more closely, to ponder whether one was more guilty than the other and what made them so - their mental health, their level of participation, their attitude? There were moments where Hickock melted into a normal American boy, and many times where I felt genuine sympathy for Perry and quite liked him - until some little word or gesture reminded me exactly what I was reading and what he had done.

In short, In Cold Blood has everything I want from a book: intriguing characters, an exciting narrative, thought-provoking themes and superb writing. The fact that the entire book is a work of true crime only adds to its brilliance, because every detail, movement and conversation had to have been so meticulously researched and slotted together to create this perfect piece of storytelling. I now have the 1967 film adaptation to watch and two more Capote/Hickock/Smith movies to track down (Capote and Infamous) - and In Cold Blood is taking its place as one of my favourite reads of 2012! Highly recommended.

Notable Quotables:

"In a way, that's the worst part of the crime. What a terrible thing when neighbours can't look at each other without kind of wondering! Yes, it's a hard fact to live with, but if they ever do find out who done it, I'm sure it'll be a bigger surprise than the murders themselves."

"Imagination... can open any door - turn the key and let terror walk right in. Tuesday, at dawn, a carload of pheasant hunters from Colorado - strangers, ignorant of the local disaster - were startled by what they saw as they crossed the prairies and passed through Holcomb: windows ablaze, almost every window in almost every house, and, in the brightly lit rooms, fully clothed people, even entire families, who had sat the whole night wide awake, watchful, listening."

"'What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is a breath of a buffalo in the winterime. It is as the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.' - Said by Chief Crowfoot, Blackfoot Indian Chief."

Edited: Jul 15, 2012, 11:57pm Top

Hi Ellie, since you haven't come to visit me this year, I thought I'd come to leave you a birthday gift:

With kindest regards,



Jul 16, 2012, 4:49am Top

Awww Richard, sweetpea, I haven't forgotten you I promise! I've stalked you a bit on Pinterest! I just haven't been around much outside of my own thread here, I've been horribly neglecting everyone, I know... *throws herself at Richard's feet and showers him with tiny cakes in the hope that he'll forgive her*

Jul 16, 2012, 3:30pm Top

>204 elliepotten: I agree, that's such a great book! You mentioned the movie Capote which, if I remember correctly, explores his relationship with Perry Smith in more detail.

Jul 16, 2012, 5:06pm Top

De-lurking to comment that I love your review of In Cold Blood, Ellie.

Jul 16, 2012, 6:45pm Top

Yes, it's an excellent review of In Cold Blood. I enjoyed that book this year, too. :)

Jul 16, 2012, 8:30pm Top


Maybe. Just MAYbe I can find it in my shriveled, lonely, Ellie-starved heart to forgive you.


Jul 16, 2012, 9:39pm Top

Don't let him fool you, Ellie, his heart is definitely not lonely and your abandonment isn't what caused it to be shriveled.

Jul 17, 2012, 7:42pm Top

De-lurking as well to say that I loved your review of In Cold Blood.

Jul 18, 2012, 7:22am Top

>210 richardderus: Yay! :)
>211 Ape: Ummmm... :P

Cheers all... it's always hard to write reviews of AWESOME BOOKS so I really appreciate the comments! :)

Now, for any of y'all who have been following the last few years of agoraphobia and recovery, I just wanted to tell you all that I MADE IT! Throughout my recovery my biggest fear was that I wouldn't be ready for my sister's graduation. I would have been devastated to have missed it - or to have panicked and ruined it anyway! But after my trip to Alton Towers and my overnight stay in Liverpool in January, it seem the groundwork was set and yesterday she graduated!

I had so many feelings floating around, it was quite overwhelming - I was so proud that she was graduating, I was overjoyed to be there to watch, I was relieved that everything was okay, I was sad that I never got my chance to have my own moment on that stage... it was a pretty exhausting day, all things considered!

We were all there - my mum and stepdad, my dad and me - and I must have cried for about half the day. The ceremony was fairly spectacular (and the honorary graduate made us ALL cry), we took loads of photos before and after the ceremony, and then went for a gorgeous Italian meal at one of Hannah's favourite restaurants down by the Liverpool docks. Unfortunately today I feel awful - sleepy, headachy and with a hell of a cricked neck from the car on the way home! - but it was worth it!

*wells up again and wanders off to clutch her head and groan a bit more*

Jul 18, 2012, 7:54am Top

# 213 That's lovely, Ellie. What a pretty pair you are!

Jul 18, 2012, 10:20am Top

That's so awesome, Ellie. I couldn't be happier for you! I wish I had more time to follow your blogs, but I'm very glad to see you have been doing well and that you have been so successful with the anxiety. Woohoo! And all while looking as wondeful as ever, of course. :)

Jul 18, 2012, 11:54am Top

Oh Ellie...so thrilled for you...*smoochiesmoochsmooch*

It is always lovely and inspiring to hear success stories. I love it that this one is so deeply personally important to all of us because you've been so forthcoming about the struggles.


Jul 18, 2012, 12:53pm Top

What a lovely event, and how beautiful you both look! Congratulations to you on overcoming your anxiety!

I follow your threads here on LT faithfully, and I've gotten so many good book leads from you! I believe it was you who read The Pirates: Band of Misfits and got me on that series (just love them!)

Hope you're feeling better, and soon!

Karen O.

Jul 18, 2012, 12:58pm Top

That's so great Ellie! Congrats on making it to the grad. Your picture looks lovely

Jul 18, 2012, 3:48pm Top

Congrats to you, Ellie, for how far you've come. And to your sister, for graduating. And don't say you've missed your chance at that, because it is never too late. I should know; after a 20-plus years journalism career, I went back to college and graduated at the ripe old age of 43!

Jul 18, 2012, 4:02pm Top

Hi Ellie, what a lovely picture of you and your sister at her graduation, both so pretty. I had not realised you had been suffering from agoraphobia for such a long time, your steps to recovery and the end result are something to be proud of and you had a goal to acheive which you have done. Hope you are ok and the neck is ok and presumably you will be back in the shop soon.

Jul 18, 2012, 7:23pm Top

Ellie, that's fabulous! I'm so happy and so proud of you for how far you've come. Well done, my dear! And you and your sister are both beautiful!!!

Jul 19, 2012, 7:13am Top

That is so wonderful, Ellie, and I'm so pleased that you got to do this.

Jul 19, 2012, 8:24am Top

Not caught up... but I did see the photo of you and your sister :) What a lovely pair
of young ladies :) I am glad you were able to attend the ceremony and have a nice time :)
good for you... now, onward! Maybe a nice overnight somewhere with your sister?

Jul 19, 2012, 11:53pm Top

Congrats to your sister for completing her degree and yay for you for being there to at her ceremony!

Jul 20, 2012, 5:23am Top

Well done Ellie - a lovely picture, so pleased you could make your sister's graduation.

Jul 20, 2012, 11:37am Top

*smooch* for the absentee landlordess

Edited: Jul 21, 2012, 6:53am Top

Awwww, look, I come back to all these lovely messages! I love you guys... *hugs all around*

All is better now... my head feels like it's the right way round again, and life has continued. The summer holidays starts today, which isn't so brilliant (you all know how much I LOVE kids and rude people) but hey, I have a book in one hand and a soya caramel mocha in the other, so I'm ready to ignore 'em all! Oooh, and there is light at the end of the tunnel - my sister and I just booked a week's holiday in September to a quiet little resort we know in Fuerteventura. We're shutting up shop and taking our mum with us too, and there'll be good food, pools, sunloungers, pampering, a big stack of books and lots of R&R. Sounds perfect. :)

I've got a review of the manically brilliant Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to catch up on at some point, and I've moved on to the wonderful The Perks of Being a Wallflower now. Oh my goodness, I'm in love, why I have I never read this book before?! I want Sam to be my new best friend, Patrick to be my new gay best friend and I'll just marry Charlie and make it a hat trick. Such a gorgeous book, I'm underlining things left right and centre and I'm already dying for the movie to hit the cinemas. 2013! I have to wait until 2013!

Jul 21, 2012, 2:13pm Top

You'll make it, I promise...2013 is only four and a half months away.


Well Miss Eleanor Potten...I come bearing a suggestion: THE LIFEBOAT. What a delicious, compact story!

Edited: Jul 22, 2012, 7:37am Top

>228 richardderus: Five and a half.

Jul 22, 2012, 8:14am Top

#227: I have had The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the BlackHole forever. I may have to get my own copy rather than borrowing the library's if highlighting is necessary though!

Jul 22, 2012, 5:04pm Top

A holiday in the Canary Islands sounds idyllic. I couldn't get into The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I'll have to have another try.

Jul 23, 2012, 8:28am Top

Ricardo - Already wishlisted! Might wait for the paperback though, I'm not sure my poor shelves can handle any more hardcovers at the moment! ;)

Morphy - Ssssssh, I was enjoying the false hope! :(

Stasia - Definitely necessary for me (and this is new for me, I'm usually a total freak about neat books but this is one of those that just screams for you to really engage with it). Charlie is the most loveable character in the world, I want to love him and pat him on the head and then marry him when he grows up. :)

Kerry - WHAT?! Get off my thread this instant! OFF! Nah, just kidding, you can stay. If you sit in the naughty corner for ten minutes and show me you can behave yourself... ;)

Also, YES! I'll be on holiday and there'll be pools and sexy people in swimwear and nice food and cool rooms and coffee with alcohol in it and maybe baby kittens like last time that I can steal to sit on my sun lounger! *six more weeks six more weeks six more weeks*

Jul 23, 2012, 9:00am Top

34) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (4*)

I was a little intimidated at the thought of starting this book, and yet again I was overjoyed to find that I am, in fact, a grown up after all and can handle a cult classic with the best of 'em. I don't know why it's such a surprise really, because so often when I've been daunted by a book I've found my fears to be completely unfounded.

Anyway. This book is mad. Funny, chaotic and mad. I can see why it made such a good film, and why Johnny Depp fit the lead role so perfectly. Not that I've seen the film, but I've ordered a copy and from the trailer (at the bottom of the post, if you've been living under a rock like me) it looks pretty close to the original, certainly in spirit! Basically, Fear and Loathing is a semi-journalistic, semi-fictional, semi-situations-have-been-altered-for-artistic-reasons journey through the heart of early-seventies Las Vegas, set against the shifting drug culture and the dissipation of the hippie idealism of the sixties.

This is a time when the American Dream is falling apart. When money talks, the power of the masses is seeping away, 'consciousness expanding' drugs are disappearing from fashionable circles, and flower power is transforming into something darker, dirtier and a whole lot more seedy. At the heart of the book, Raoul Duke (Thompson's persona), his attorney and a very nice Red Shark convertible loaded with a medley of dangerous substances coast through conventions and rallies, bars and casinos, seeking the remnants of the American Dream and getting amazingly loaded along the way. Part 1 is about their 'coverage' (I use the term loosely) of the Mint 400 race in the Nevada desert, and Part 2 documents their return to Las Vegas to gatecrash the National District Attorneys' Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (there might be samples!).

It's always difficult to describe and review such a crazy book, so instead I'll just say that it's pretty damn brilliant. It made me chortle aloud plenty of times, yet also had some quite poignant and downright repulsive moments that brought home the futility of their search for meaning, and the decidedly less-than-glamorous world a junkie inhabits. Mostly though, it was the best kind of farcical comedy - funny, ridiculous, outrageous, gutsy and I never quite knew what was going to happen next!

P.S. My Harper Perennial copy also has a handy section at the back with a short biography of Hunter Thompson, a little about the book and film, and some notes on Gonzo journalism. Very helpful! :)

Notable Quotables:

"Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas."

"Who are these people? These faces! Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used-car dealers from Dallas. But they're real. And, sweet Jesus, there are a hell of a lot of them - still screaming around these desert-city crap tables at four-thirty on a Sunday morning. Still humping the American dream, that vision of the Big Winner somehow emerging from the last-minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino."

"History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time - and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened."

"It was treacherous, stupid and demented in every way - but there was no avoiding the stench of twisted humor that hovered around the idea of a gonzo journalist in the grip of a potentially terminal drug episode being invited to cover the Nation District Attorneys' Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs."

"I was so far beyond simple fatigue that I was beginning to feel nicely adjusted to the idea of permanent hysteria. I felt like the slightest misunderstanding with the stewardess would cause me to either cry or go mad..."

Jul 25, 2012, 8:28am Top

Nothing much to say but Hello!

Hope life is being kind today :)

Aug 6, 2012, 3:29pm Top

35) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (4.5*)

"He's a wallflower... You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand."

I've never met a single person - friend, blogger, librarian or bookseller - who has read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and not fallen in love. That's quite a reputation for a humble book to live up to! Perhaps it also helps explain why, knowing little to nothing about it, I left it sitting on my shelves for so long. It was actually the fervent whispers about the film, the growing buzz, and finally the fantastically exuberant trailer, which lured me back to my bookcase and persuaded me to pluck it down at long last. And as always, I am kicking myself for letting it go unread for so long...

This is such a wonderful book, and it's perfect summer reading too. It's the coming-of-age story of a fifteen year-old boy called Charlie, told entirely in epistolary form via letters to an unnamed friend-of-a-friend. Quiet, introspective and naive, Charlie is surely one of the most loveable and achingly sweet characters I've ever come across in my reading life. It is his freshman year, and to his surprise his largely solitary existence is turned upside down when he is 'adopted' by worldly older stepsiblings Patrick and Sam. At the same time his English teacher, Bill, begins to draw him out of his academic shell with some well-timed encouragement. Slowly, his new friends nudge Charlie out into the big wide world, into a bountiful land of music and books, love and longing, parties and The Rocky Horror Picture Show - and stand beside him through the hardships that teenage life and his own past conspire to throw his way.

This is definitely going to be one of my favourite books of the year. I adored Charlie and found myself underlining things on almost every page as his thoughtful exploration of the world around him prompted me to stop and reflect. I also noted down dozens of movie, book and music references to check out later, which was a bit of an unexpected bonus! Through his letters we can see Charlie's style mature as he does, and our involvement becomes deeply personal because it feels like he's writing just for us. Chbosky's characters are complex and painfully real, and no one is all good or all bad, even Charlie himself. I think Patrick was my favourite, because he was all heart even when he wasn't necessarily doing the right thing! I loved Bill too - I think every student should have a Bill to see their strengths and provide a shining light of knowledge and hope during the difficult school years. Some really serious teen issues are discussed throughout the book - rape, drugs, gay identity, abuse - without ever feeling too heavy or gratuitous, and I can well understand the reputation it has gained as a positive, even life-saving cult classic for young readers.

The only thing I didn't like - and the reason for the half-star drop - were those occasional moments when I felt like my heart would break because SURELY no one could be so naive at fifteen? The book becomes quite difficult to read at times as Charlie's naivety is stripped away - this is the true meaning of the word 'bittersweet'! But it really is an unmissable novel. Charlie is such an intuitive character, and the writing is beautiful; he thinks outside the box and it's a pleasure to read! He is inspiring and generous, and accepts everything with a high level of tolerance and emotional intelligence, even if he is very childlike in other ways. There is something for everyone here, whether you are 15 or 50 - and I can't WAIT until 2013 when Chbosky's adaptation finally hits the big screens. I'll be first in line to laugh and cry all over again... :)

Notable Quotables:

"I have finished To Kill a Mockingbird. It is now my favorite book of all time, but then again, I always think that until I read another book."

"... things change. And friends leave. And life doesn't stop for anybody."

"There's nothing like the deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons. It was that great."

"I love my mom so much. I don't care if that's corny to say. I think on my next birthday, I'm going to buy her a present. I think that should be the tradition. The kid gets gifts from everybody, and he buys one present for his mom since she was there, too. I think that would be nice."

"She wasn't bitter. She was sad, though. But it was a hopeful kind of sad. The kind of sad that just takes time."

"I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there."

Aug 7, 2012, 6:50am Top

#235: Yep, I need to read that one!

Aug 9, 2012, 6:33am Top

Hi Stasia! Yep, you really do... IT'S SO LOVELY! :)

36) Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo (4.5*)

This series was recommended to me after I mentioned enjoying a television documentary here in the UK about Amish teenagers and Amish life. Although the Amish don't feature as highly in this novel as I have a feeling they will later in the series, I'm still glad I paid attention and found a copy, because it was fantastic! It was gripping, shocking, tense and fascinating - in short, everything a crime novel should be!

The first in Castillo's Kate Burkholder series, Sworn to Silence is serial killer lit at its finest. The series' heroine, Kate, grew up in the Amish community in Painter's Mill, Ohio, left at eighteen and is now back, sassier and a lot more worldly, as the town's Chief of Police. It is a peaceful job - until the night a body is discovered in a local field. The naked woman has been drained of blood, and a cryptic symbol is carved into her navel. Could the Slaughterhouse Killer that haunted Painter's Mill - and Kate's nightmares - sixteen years earlier have returned? As the body count rises, Kate finds herself battling not only the prejudices and misconceptions of the town council, but also the demons of her own troubled past. Can the murderer be stopped before it's Kate's turn to die?

I found this book to be an absolute page-turner, keeping me enthralled through a few busy days at work and a couple of lazy evenings too. I thought Kate was a unique and deeply relatable protagonist, despite her unconventional upbringing, and she has the same sympathetically human qualities that I like so much in Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander. The tension between the Amish and English communities, and between Kate's past and present lives, add another dimension to the plot and extra conflict and suspense to an already taut premise. The crime scenes are compulsively grisly, and although I guessed the identity of the killer quite early on, it didn't spoil the rest of the book - rather, it was delicious watching events unfold and being proved right! Oh, and there's also a small dose of very satisfying romance to temper the bloodshed... My only (very minor) gripe was the fact that when the third-person viewpoint switched characters, the tenses often did too. It took me a few minutes to adjust each time, and as a device it felt fairly redundant in this case.

This was a tiny flaw, however, and all in all I found this to be a brilliant and promising start to the series. It would be the perfect read for a crime aficionado who likes their heroines feisty, doesn't mind if their crime scenes are on the bloody 'n' bizarre side, and who fancies reading a novel with a more unusual community dynamic than is perhaps the norm. I loved it, and needless to say, the second book, Pray for Silence, is already on my wishlist!

Notable Quotables:

"She knows there's more coming; I see it in her eyes. Some people have a sixth sense when it comes to impending tragedy. She has that look. The mental brace. The ancient eyes. And I know she has received her share of blows."

"The sarcastic sneer in his voice pisses me off. I've known a lot of cops like him over the years. Veterans, usually. Older. They have experience, but they lack the humanity that would otherwise define them as good cops. The more they see, the less they feel. The less they care. They become cynical and bitter and apathetic. They give all cops a bad rap."

"He's not a handsome man. Not in the traditional sense. But the package as a whole is appealing in a dangerous and unconventional way. I could take any one facet of his face and call it ordinary. But when you put all of them together, there's nothing ordinary about him. He's all dark and shadows and sharp angles and secrets as taboo as my own."

Aug 9, 2012, 6:53am Top

I'm glad to see this one is good - it's today's Kindle deal of the day.

Edited: Aug 12, 2012, 8:36am Top

Haha, good timing on my part then! :)

37) To Be A Cat by Matt Haig (4*)

Barney Willow is a normal twelve year-old boy. He is average height, he has a best friend called Rissa and his favourite book is The Water Babies. But life has been getting Barney down of late. His parents are divorced, his dad has mysteriously disappeared, the school bully has made Barney his favourite target, and his vile headmistress seems determined to send his education down the drain. So when Barney sees a cat lounging outside his house, he can't help but wish that he was one too. A lazy, pampered, cosy cat. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Unfortunately, he's about to find out that you should be very careful what you wish for - and that life as a cat is a whole lot more dangerous than he could ever have imagined...

At first, I must admit, I wasn't sure if I was going to like the book or not. It is amusing and rapid-fire from the beginning, but until I got used to the style I found it a little manic and confusing. Then again, that same quality would make it a really good book to read aloud to younger children! As I settled into its rhythm it got better and better, and the general pace really picked up once Barney wasn't stuck in the helpless "Alas! Alack! No one knows it is I!" phase of his adventure. The plot became more coherent and lost its helter-skelter feel, and I was able to appreciate Haig's clever touch from a grown-up perspective even as I recognised how much a child would love the story too.

There was so much to admire here, so many flashes of genius! The characters are superb, from completely average-and-utterly-relatable Barney to the evil Miss Whipmire, whose revolting brand of all-consuming villainy reminded me of Roald Dahl's nastiest characters. The names Haig employs, on the other hand, were more Pratchett-esque, the most striking example being Mr Waffle, Barney's boring English teacher. The kitty word-play was clever too - calling someone a 'flea-brained cretin' or having an idea 'so good that it shone in her mind like an oil-sleek sardine in a can'. It really made me smile! There were some obviously educational moments - like Rissa's interest in astronomy and Barney The Cat's trip to the library - but these never felt too heavy or out of place. I also enjoyed Haig's smart-alec interjections on the role of an author and the process of writing - they reminded me of William Goldman's The Princess Bride - though they sometimes felt a little self-conscious and I thought they'd probably fly way over a child's head.

The final verdict? Despite a slightly shaky start and a few tiny misfires, this was a clever and very warm story that would be perfect for children ages 9-12 or so, and could be read aloud to slightly younger children too. To me as an adult, it was pretty much a modern children's version of books like Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess and Kafka's Metamorphosis (the latter of which is actually referenced at one point, to my delight). I think it'll be a real crowd-pleaser and a great book for kids (and their parents) to read over the school holidays - and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into Haig's adult novel The Radleys in the next few months!

Notable Quotables:

"... school meant Miss Whipmire, the head teacher from hell. He didn't know if that was her exact address, but it definitely shared the same postcode."

"... people ask animals things all the time. Like if a dog decides to go to the toilet on a carpet you might ask, 'What is the matter with you?' Or if a goldfish is lying upside down on the top of the water its owner might enquire, 'Are you dead?'"

"The little girl was now crying and screaming, throwing books all over the place... Her mother - a blonde lady wearing a lot of make-up - was crouching over her, hands hovering nervously, as though her daughter was a very dangerous and complicated bomb."

"Looking out of her porthole at night and seeing the moonlight reflected on the surface of the river was enough to make you believe life was full of a million unfathomable wonders. It was the same feeling Rissa had when looking through her telescope at stars that had died millions of years ago even though their light lives on."

"Life wasn't ever one ingredient. It was several. And some flavours were bad and some were good, but love was the strongest of all."

Aug 12, 2012, 9:03am Top

Both books look really good! Thank you for the wonderful reviews :)
What's happening in Ellie land?

Aug 12, 2012, 12:54pm Top

Hi Ellie, just passing by, hope you are ok my dear.

Aug 12, 2012, 5:02pm Top

Ellie, I missed your thread from mid-July on while I was traveling, but am caught up now. I am thrilled at your participation in your sister's graduation--congratulations!! And some really great reviews here. Anent To Be a Cat, have you ever read Paul Gallico's Abandoned (more commonly known as Jennie)?

Aug 14, 2012, 5:19pm Top

*smooch* because *I* still remember who *you* are

Aug 21, 2012, 4:39am Top

Ellie, have a wonderful time on your vacation. You deserve it not only for all the things you've gone through, but for the hours of pleasure you've given us through your great reviews.

Aug 21, 2012, 10:29pm Top

Another belated congrats on making the graduation!!! (I lost you there for a while---sorry. But I am all caught up now!) Wallflower sounds great. I will keep an eye out for it. : )

Edited: Aug 23, 2012, 11:43am Top

Hi everyone! I'll start a new thread after this and reply properly/catch everyone up then, but HELLO AND I LOVE YOU ALL! :)

38) Fallen in Love by Lauren Kate (2.5*)

Oh deary me. Billed as a romantic collection of love stories from Kate's Fallen universe (slotting in neatly between Passion and Rapture), for me this was the Valentine that didn't deliver. The date that brings you hazelnut chocolates even though you have allergies. The one who gives you a book of cuddly dog pictures even though you're a cat person. The one that tries, but somehow manages to completely and repeatedly miss the mark.

The lovely-as-ever cover pretty much sums up the premise with the tagline, 'A Fallen Novel in Stories'. The book is made up of four interlinking Valentine's Day tales, two of which were good, and two of which weren't so good (hence the 2.5 star rating - half good, half bad!). The first, that of Shelby and Miles, was pretty good. They're such loveable and amusing characters already, and the story takes the spark we saw in Passion and gently fans it into a sweetly romantic flame. The second, Roland's story, was a duff one for me. He's such a cool and confident character, it was a bit of a disappointment to see him turning into a fawning stalker over a girl from his past. Arriane's unexpected angel-demon lesbian love story was a pleasant surprise at first, until I realised that three pages in she, too, lost 90% of her humour and energy, and became some kind of melodramatic Wuthering Heights-esque wench instead. Finally we returned to Luce and Daniel, where the book picked up again with their familiar brand of true love, eternal longing, and grand romantic gestures (and the return of the deliciously acerbic gargoyle Bill). At least we started and ended on a high note, right?

Ultimately I think Kate made the same mistake here that she did in Passion - she tried to tell too many stories in one book, and it ended up falling flat. I also can't understand divesting her most brilliant characters - the ones who offer light relief to counterbalance the intense romance of Daniel and Luce - of so much of their strength, humour and charm. Instead they get dragged down into heartbreak and overly dramatic confrontation, their tales becoming a jumbled torrent of clunky philosophy and highly-strung emotions. Not exactly a happy book for Valentine's Day! Oh, and one more thing - this quote bothered me: "Why, I was younger than Lucinda when I was a mother made... Seek happy nights to happy days..." Is it just me, or is that Shakespeare's Lady Capulet, then the Nurse, quoted pretty much word for word? This Romeo and Juliet fan was not amused.

I guess in the end, this is probably one of those books that you're better off reading for yourself. Personally, I was very disappointed, and would have been even more so had I splashed out on a hardback copy for some romantic Valentine's Day reading. I think it's more of an add-on to the series than a vital part of it (though I haven't read Rapture yet, so please correct me if I'm wrong!) - perhaps it's one for die-hard fans only? Despite all this, I'm still really looking forward to Luce and Daniel's grand finale, where I've heard Kate is finally back on the top form she displayed in Fallen and Torment. Fingers (and wings) crossed!

Notable Quotables:

"Unbothered by city lights, the sky was a glittering landscape of galaxies, the kind of sky that made Shelby want to lie awake a long time and stare."

"Mortals could rarely recognize their true feelings before those true feelings hit them in the face."

"They'd shared something rare and beautiful, and he'd learned that women felt deeply when it came to love. They felt love in ways Roland could never understand, as if their hearts had extra chambers, vast infinites where love could stay and never leave."

"Solitude was one thing, but it warped into ugly, wretched loneliness after the soul had tasted love."

"Instinctively, Luce wished Daniel were there. This was the kind of beauty that didn't seem real until you shared it with someone you loved."

"Flames from the candles positioned all around the Faire flickered against the dark sky, and the entire world seemed to hold its breath. Luce stared into Daniel's eyes, and all the movement and colors around him faded away. She had found him."

Aug 23, 2012, 12:45pm Top

"Solitude was one thing, but it warped into ugly, wretched loneliness after the soul had tasted love."

Well, isn't *that* a cheery little notion? Whoopee whee yahoo, falling in love means never ever again being able to be happy!

Aug 23, 2012, 2:46pm Top

It's not a very cheerful book, all things considered - especially for one released for Valentine's Day! But I DO get what she means, sort of. It's hard not to miss being in love when you've had it once, and it can make lonely moments harder when you know what you're missing. But then again, I'm a pretty solitary individual and those lonely moments are few and far between - the rest of the time I very much enjoy being able to do whatever the hell I like without worrying about someone else! ;)

This topic was continued by Ellie stumbles into a late-summer third.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2012

987 members

229,572 messages


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.




You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,320,318 books! | Top bar: Always visible