Psutto 1212

This topic was continued by Psutto 1212.

TalkThe 12 in 12 Category Challenge

Join LibraryThing to post.

Psutto 1212

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

Aug 17, 2011, 3:47 am

Starting the thread, categories to follow....

Edited: Sep 19, 2011, 10:08 am

1 - The 12 days of Christmas - books bought for me for Xmas and my birthday (which happens to fall before 12th night) obviously I don't know how many books will be in this category
2 - Life, the Universe and Everything - having reached that age which is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything I thought I'd read books asking the big questions
3 - It's in the cards - there are 12 face cards in a deck of cards - books about games, chance, fate, prediction
4 -12 Angry Men - courtroom dramas, noir, books of the film, crime
5 - 12 hours on a clock, 12 months in a year - books about time, time travel and the future
6 - 12 stars in the flag of Europe - books by European authors & not from the UK (which likes to pretend it's not part of Europe)
7 - 12 Olympian gods - mythology, mysticism and fantasy
8 - 12 Caesers - ancient world, history, biographies
9 - 12 signs of the zodiac - books about astronomy, space and the solar system
10 - 1912 - 1912 saw the race for the South Pole ( and Scott's death), the end of the Meiji era in Japan, the sinking of the Titanic, the death of Bram Stoker, the birth of A E Van Vogt, Tarzan of the apes, the lost world, the book of wonder and a princess of Mars are all published - books with a 1912 theme
11 - Doomsday clock - the closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the world is to disaster, as of January 2010 the Doomsday clock stands at 6 minutes to midnight - books about global disaster, apocalypse, the atomic age & nuclear war
12 - Baker's dozen - books that really can't be placed in the other 11 categories but I have to read them because they're shiny as well as short stories, novellas articles and essays and graphic novels

Edited: Mar 9, 2012, 8:48 am

The 12 days of Christmas (unknown number)

of men and monsters William Tenn -READ
we Yevgeny Zamyatin - READ
The city of words Alberto Manguel -READ
Planet word J.P. davidson-READ
Carter beats the devil Glen David Gold-READ
rivers of London Ben Aaronovitch - READ
Farenheit 451 Ray Bradbury - READ
a history of reading Alberto Manguel - READ
big bang Simon Singh - READ
The Psychopath test Jon Ronson-READ
The Devil In The White City Erik Larson - READ
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer-Reading

got a rather fantastic "reading year" present which means I'll get a brand new book chosen by my favourite bookshop every month so this category is expanding...

the Slynx Tatyana Tolstaya - READ
Gould's book of fish Richard Flanagan - READ

Edited: Mar 12, 2012, 9:20 am

Life, the Universe and Everything


since its a Douglas Adams themed category I'll re-read dirk gently and the long dark tea time of the soul
mind myths Segio Della Sala
humanity 2.0 Steve fuller
the earth has a soul Carl Jung
the origin of our species Chris Stringer
life: a user's manual Georges Perec
42 the answer to life, the universe and everything Mol Smith
beyond chaos: the underlying theory behing life, the universe and everything Mark Ward
42: Deep thought on life, the universe and everything Mark Vernon
the things that nobody knows: 501 mysteries of life, the universe and everything William Hartston
42: Douglas Adams amazingly accurate answer to life, the universe and everything Peter Gill


The salmon of doubt Douglas Adams

Edited: Jan 10, 2012, 10:16 am

It's in the cards


the new games book by the new games foundation

Edited: Feb 29, 2012, 5:10 pm

12 Angry men


the simple art of murder Raymond Chandler
the high window Raymond Chandler (as well as all his other books!)
the killer inside me Jim Thompson
my dark places James Ellroy
the black dahlia James Ellroy (as well as all his other books!)
the choirboys Jason Wambaugh
if he hollers let him go Chester Himes (plus a few other Himes books)
devil in a blue dress Walter Mosley
the maltese falcon Dashiell Hammett (as well as all his other books!)
the riddle of the sands Erskine Childers
some clouds Paco Ignacio Taibo
inspector imanishi investigates Seicho Matsumoto
quite ugly one morning Christopher Brookmyre
epitaph for a spy Eric Ambler
gun with occasional music Johnathon Lethem
death of a red heroine Qiu Xiaolong
death in midsummer Yukio Mishima
the chinatown death cloud peril Paul Malmont
the woodcutter Reginald Hill (actually this one is one of last years Xmas gifts (from my mum))

so will have to whittle this list down somehow!


The high window Raymond Chandler
the price Joseph Garraty
The Mourner Richard Stark
If he hollers let him go Chester Himes

Edited: Feb 21, 2012, 10:46 am

12 Hours on a clock, 12 months in a year


an experiment with time J. W. Dunne
breaking the time barrier: the race to build the first time machine Jenny Randles
the end of time Damian Thompson (also fits doomsday clock category)
a brief history of time Stephen Hawking

Edited: Feb 28, 2012, 11:38 am

12 stars in the flag of Europe


the prince Machiavelli
purge Sofi Oksanen
suite francaise Irene Nemirovsky
harbor John Ajvide Lindqvist
54 Wu Ming
Q Luther Blissett
The baron in the trees & the castle of crossed destinies Italo Calvino


Harbor John Ajvide Lindqvist
Bruges-la-morte Georges Rodenbach
The Rebels Sandor Marai
Bartleby & Co Enrique Vila-Matas

Edited: Jan 25, 2012, 12:54 pm

12 Olympian gods


the gormenghast trilogy Mervyn Peake
the riddle-master's game patricia a McKillip
in the night garden Catherynne M. Valente
in the cities of coin and spice Catherynne M. Valente
the labyrinth Catherynne M. Valente
dreams of Inan Andy Boot
Legend David Gemmel


In the night garden Catherynne M. Valente
Babylon Steel Gaie Sebold
in the cities of coin and spice Catherynne M. Valente

Edited: Nov 22, 2011, 7:30 am

12 Caesers


siren rising James R Blandford
cider with rosie Laurie Lee
the surgeon of crowthorne Simon Winchester
Lymond chronicles by Dorothy Dunnet (I've read the first one in 11/11 challenge)
She H. Rider Haggard

Edited: Jan 13, 2012, 11:49 am

12 signs of the Zodiac


Red moon rising Peter Moore

Edited: Mar 12, 2012, 6:39 am


Candidates (dont actually have many of these though):

Titanic: A passenger's guide by John Blake
any of Heinrich Harrer's books (born in 1912) - although not 7 years in tibet which I read last year
alexandria quartet Lawrence Durrel (born in 1912)
death in venice Thomas Mann (published in 1912)
the lost world Arthur Conan Doyle (published in 1912)
manalive G.K. Chesterton (published in 1912)
the night land William Hope Hodgson (published in 1912)
Journals:Captain Scott's Last Expedition (Oxford World's Classics) Robert Falcon Scott
a princess of mars Edgar Rice Burroughs (published in 1912)
scarlet plague Jack London (published in 1912) - also fits the Doomsday clock category


Titanic: A passenger's guide by John Blake
The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski
Scott's last expedition by Robert Falcom Scott

Edited: Jan 30, 2012, 11:20 am

Doomsday clock


in the country of last things Paul Auster
the last man Mary Shelley
oryx and crake Margaret Atwood
the year of the flood Margaret Atwood
2013 Marie D Jones


Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood
2013 Marie D Jones

Edited: Mar 14, 2012, 9:31 am

Baker's dozen


the great god pan Arthur Machen (novella)
Oriental ghost stories - Lafcadio Hearn
my goat ate its own legs - Alex Burrett
Zoo - Otsuichi
Cosmicomics Italo Calvino
January Dancer by Michael Flynn


The Sisters brothers Patrick deWitt (didn't fit another category)
January Dancer by Michael Flynn
Nelson by Rob Davies and Woodrow Phoenix
Walking Dead 15 by Charlie Adlard & Robert Kirkman
Hector Umbra by Uli Oesterle
Cultural Paradox, fun in mathematics Jeffrey Zilahy
Pure Andrew Miller
It rains in February Leila Summers
Alan's war Emmanuel Guibert
Blankets Craig Thompson
Astro city book 1 Kurt Busiek
unwritten volume 1 Mike Carey
unwritten volume 2 Mike Carey
unwritten volume 3 Mike Carey

Aug 17, 2011, 4:38 am

Now all I need to do is work out how many books in each category I'm going to read, won't be 12 for every category but I thought would be numbers that 12 is divisible by so 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 12.

Aug 17, 2011, 8:06 am

Nice and eclectic. Can't wait to see your books!

Aug 17, 2011, 10:29 am

Love the incorporation of "12" into your category names!

Aug 17, 2011, 11:11 am

@16 & 17 - thanks :-)

Aug 17, 2011, 1:09 pm

Me too me too!! I am turning 42 in a few days...

Aug 17, 2011, 3:48 pm

Interesting categories and I like the theme of 12!

Aug 18, 2011, 9:29 am

great theme -- I had thought about a 12 theme too, great minds and all that..

Aug 18, 2011, 1:36 pm

I love the 12 theme, some really interesting categories, your 1912 category is really intriguing.

Aug 21, 2011, 6:33 am

Great categories, I'll be interested to see how you fill them.

Aug 22, 2011, 5:07 am

19 Happy Birthday!

@20-23 - thanks am hoping that they're not too restrictive this year (a mistake I made in the 1010)

Aug 22, 2011, 5:14 am

I was having trouble deciding on numbers of books per category but Claire (clfisha) came up with a great idea - I am going to read up to 12 books in each category and can only stop reading a category when I've reached a number that 12 is divisible by - so if I've read 3 books and can't find any more to fill the category then I can stop but if I've read 5 I can't - if I read 6 and don't stop then I'll have to go to 12 in that category...

I think the only category I won't do that in is the 12 days of Xmas one as the number of books will be random in that one..

Also in previous years I've not included graphic novels (for no readily apparent reason) so for the 1212 they will go on the Baker's dozen....

Aug 22, 2011, 3:51 pm

Looks like good categories! I love the 12, and divisible by 12 idea. Numerology. ;)

Aug 22, 2011, 4:04 pm

@ 25 I thought that was clever as well. Kind of like playing blackjack isn't it? "Do I stop now or keep going and ask for another card?" Also good that you're committing to reading all your christmas books in the year to come! You're obviously a good person to give gifts. (Me, I can let books linger for years and years on my shelves, even though they are very likely to be my cup of tea. Too many unread books...)

Aug 22, 2011, 6:49 pm

I'll echo the appreciation for the "divisible by 12" concept...and I just may be stealing it. :) Also, your categories are very clever.

Aug 23, 2011, 2:05 am

I'm another fan of the divisible by 12 idea, that might solve the problem I'm having deciding on numbers quite nicely!

Aug 23, 2011, 5:23 am

all the thanks for divisible by 12 go to clfisha :-)

having still got books from last Christmas and last birthday on the TBR I thought a good way to avoid that this year was to have a category for it...

Aug 23, 2011, 6:32 pm

Excellent categories, and looking forward to stalking following you once again!

Aug 26, 2011, 10:09 am

so I asked clfisha for recommendations on my 12 Angry men category and now have a pile of possibles for that...

Aug 26, 2011, 11:59 am

I have more possibilities.. have another crime category!

Aug 26, 2011, 2:04 pm

33 there's always 2013....

Aug 26, 2011, 4:27 pm

Neat candidates beginning to show up here. I hope you enjoy Purge too, and the Gormenghast books are great - especially the first two!

Aug 26, 2011, 5:30 pm

So many good themes popping up this year and yours is no exception. Looking forward to following your reading again for another year. It's good to see a Brookmyre title appearing in your candidates.

Aug 26, 2011, 11:47 pm

What an interesting range of categories! I will be curious to see what you read for the 'It's in the cards' and '12 signs of the zodiac' categories.

Aug 27, 2011, 5:17 am

The candidates are all off the shelf books...

Am raring to go, is it December yet?

Aug 27, 2011, 10:53 pm

Start early! Start early! Start early!

Aug 28, 2011, 5:00 am

@39 tempting

Sep 4, 2011, 10:11 am

I'm going to slightly alter my rating system for the 12/12

Books will be rated:

Unfinished - self explanatory really, it was so bad I couldn't finish it

Poor - I finished it but it wasn't very good

Average - an OK book but one I wouldn't really recommend it

Very good - a good example of the genre, one I'd recommend

Brilliant- books that everyone should read, really outstanding and memorable

Sep 6, 2011, 8:37 pm

I picked up Red Mars today at the library :) Thanks for the recc!

Sep 8, 2011, 4:38 am

42 - no problem - hope you enjoy it!

Sep 23, 2011, 1:47 pm

Your theme of "Twelve" is brilliant! I look forward to following your reading this year.

Sep 26, 2011, 6:11 pm

Ooh, I eagerly await your thoughts on the "courtroom dramas"!

Sep 28, 2011, 9:41 am

45 - that category is looking very Noir full at the moment which are not very courtroom drama I guess - still not decided on candidates...

Sep 28, 2011, 9:41 am

44 - Thanks!

Sep 28, 2011, 7:35 pm

@46 Yes, very Noir. The courtroom dramas I can think of aren't very dramatic - Rumpole and Snow Falling on Cedars.

Oct 6, 2011, 8:20 am

@48 - always toyed with reading snow falling on cedars perhaps 2012 is the year I finally get round to it?

Oct 6, 2011, 6:14 pm

It's kind of a nice, leisurely-paced romance.

Oct 17, 2011, 11:31 pm

I've been meaning to get to Snow Falling on Cedars for so long, I can't remember how long I've had that book anymore!

I like your categories. Fun theme, and I'm especially curious about your 1912 category. I'm presently fascinated with fiction taking place in the much broader period between the Edwardian Era and post-WWI into the Great Depression.

Oct 18, 2011, 10:51 am

51 - yep I'm interested mainly in reading Scott's diary after reading the wonderful worst journey in the world and will probably re-read the princess of mars (something I read over 20 years ago) apart from that I'm going to browse for interesting books of the period :-)

Oct 19, 2011, 12:51 pm

since I'm reading the game of kings having started on international Dorothy Dunnett day I'll post the review to my 11/11 and as I'm enjoying it will probably add the others to the 12/12...

Oct 28, 2011, 7:15 am

Such cool categories! Carrying the 12 theme through is genius. Good luck reaching your goal!!

Oct 30, 2011, 4:57 pm

@54 thanks!

Nov 18, 2011, 3:55 am

Am basically still loitering around in the 11/11 although have finished that challenge. I think I'll start on 12/12/11 and aim to finish on 12/12/12. Coincidently, all being well, I'll be off on holiday on 11/12 so should be able to have a running start at this challenge :-)

Nov 18, 2011, 11:15 pm

They say great minds think alike and I wouldn't claim a great mind for myself but it is pleasantly surprising that we managed to come up with several of the same category headings independently. Will star your thread and compare notes along the way. Happy reading!

Edited: Nov 28, 2011, 7:27 pm

good stuff here! Looking forward to your challenge. I especially like the starting on 12/12/11 and finishing on 12/12/12.... finish that challenge right before the world ends eh?

Nov 29, 2011, 1:10 pm

That's the plan ;-)

Dec 6, 2011, 9:01 am

snagged three messages and a warning on ER and The Price by Joseph Garraty from Member Giveaways so they're going to be added to the 12/12

Dec 6, 2011, 10:48 am

For your 1912 South Pole topic, I loved The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford. It contrasts Scott and Amundsen's approaches to getting to the south pole. It's a great read, though definitely favors Amundsen.

Dec 7, 2011, 6:01 am

@61 OK will keep an eye out for it - am definitely planning to read Scott's diaries....

Dec 7, 2011, 8:37 am

Great categories, and a nifty 12 theme! You should have an interesting thread full of reading here. Your "divisible" rule is unusual -- don't think I've seen anyone else do that.

Edited: Dec 7, 2011, 9:17 pm

your 1912 category has lots of great possibilities beyond just exploring the South Pole (as I'm sure you're aware)... the launching and sinking of the Titanic, and the subsequent trials and survivor stories; the founding of both the Boy Scouts AND the Girl Scouts; the opening of Tiger Stadium and Fenway Park; the Regina Cyclone in Regina Saskatchewan; a 190 kg meteorite exploding over Holbrook Arizona; etc

I've no idea if books can be found about these events (outside of the Titanic stuff of course), but it sounds like interesting reading if you can find some.

Dec 8, 2011, 6:00 am

@63 - thanks am looking forward to a good reading year :-)

@64 - I think that's one of my most fun categories as it involves a good bit of research both of the year and books related to the year :-)

Dec 12, 2011, 1:53 pm

And the first book of the challenge, which I started today, is

the high window by Raymond Chandler

Dec 12, 2011, 6:34 pm

Ohh, Raymond Chandler - very nice start!

Dec 12, 2011, 7:12 pm

What else could I have started my noir with?

Dec 14, 2011, 8:17 am

Finished the high window last night expect a review soon

Started in the night garden today

Edited: Dec 14, 2011, 1:19 pm

ooo I have a serialized story by her to read Silently and Very Fast published in three parts in Clarkesworld... look forward to your review.

Dec 15, 2011, 6:48 am

70 really enjoying it so far

Dec 16, 2011, 1:49 pm

Stopping by to say hi! I'm a newbie to this group and I'm looking forward to see what you have to share. One title I see that I am planning on reading this year is the Year of the Flood. It's been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years so it's about time!

Edited: Jan 6, 2012, 8:55 am

72 Hi, I expect I'll get round to that in January as that's when I'm going to read oryx and crake ....

Damn already fallen waaay behind on reading everyone's posts!

Finished in the night garden, the sisters brothers, bruges-la-morte and harbour so reviews pending

Dec 26, 2011, 9:40 am

Unwrapped Carter beats the Devil yesterday and started it today...

Dec 26, 2011, 12:05 pm

@74, will be interested to know what you think of that one as it has been on my tbr shelves for quite a while.

Dec 26, 2011, 6:05 pm

Mine too!

Dec 26, 2011, 7:11 pm

I'll be interested in seeing what you think of The Sisters Brothers. I put it on hold at the library, but when it came in I was hip deep in work and didn't get a chance. Sad, but I'm thinking that may be a sign that it isn't for me.

Dec 26, 2011, 10:32 pm

Everyone seems to be reading The Sisters Brothers.

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Dec 27, 2011, 6:38 am

The Sisters Brothers was a bit Meh to be honest so I must get round to doing some proper reviews soon!

Dec 27, 2011, 9:55 am

Hello psutto, I like your categories especially 12 Angry Men.

Dec 28, 2011, 9:47 am

I'm enjoying seeing what you are filling up your categories with, I'll be following your Douglas Adams and your 12 Angry Men categories especially closely! Looks like you got a good Christmas haul ;)

Dec 31, 2011, 11:33 am

Thanks, yep good Xmas haul and potentially a better one for my birthday in a couple of days :-)

Finished Carter beats the devil which was rather splendid as well as walking dead 15, Nelson by Rob Davies and Woodrow Phoenix and Hector Umbra 3 graphic novels to add to the Bakers dozen category

Will do some reviews next year ;-)

Just started Babylon Steel and just in the world building stage of the story....

Dec 31, 2011, 11:46 am

9 reviews behind tsk

Dec 31, 2011, 11:56 am

Glad you enjoyed the Glen David Gold. Will look forward to seeing your review for it.

Edited: Dec 31, 2011, 5:25 pm

I too have Carter Beats the Devil on Mt. TBR - it's getting pushed further up the top.

(formerly bookoholic13)

Jan 1, 2012, 5:33 am

I bumped Carter beats the devil from both my 1010 and my 11 in 11 - too many bricks! - and haven't even pondered it for the 12 in 12. Will be looking forward to read your review - perhaps it's possible to cram it in yet? Happy new year and happy birthday!

Jan 1, 2012, 3:28 pm

Thanks! As I've now managed to do my 11/11 summary I may be able to get round to some reviews...

Jan 2, 2012, 11:57 pm

I read Carter Beats The Devil a few years back and I enjoyed it very much. I'm looking forward to reading your review.

Edited: Jan 5, 2012, 12:47 pm

Reviews to come soon, hopefully today/tomorrow

Finished Babylon Steel which was very enjoyable and started Oryx and Crake more books added to Xmas/bday list above and "accidentally" increased the TBR with a trip to London and another to Bath, those shelves are really groaning now!

Jan 5, 2012, 11:55 pm

Groaning book shelves are the only kind to have :-)

Jan 6, 2012, 8:48 am

We've just bought some more to cope with the extra load!

Jan 7, 2012, 7:28 am

finally got round to doing some reviews - may even try to catch up today with the rest

Jan 7, 2012, 7:28 am

high window Raymond Chandler


A rare coin goes missing and Phillip Marlowe is hired to look for it. Filled with Chandler's trademark hard boiled descriptions and dialogue another brilliant example of the noir genre. if you've read Chandler you'll know what your getting, if you haven't read Chandler why the he'll not? He is the master of noir.

Overall a brilliant quick and easy read

Jan 7, 2012, 7:30 am

In the night garden Catherynne M Valente


Using a similar mechanism to the 1001 nights Valente creates a fascinating fairytale like world through tales that are nested and inter-related. Almost every character has a tale and whilst we follow one they meet others who then also tell their tale. This could be annoying as each tale is told in a series of digressions but in Valente's hands it all works brilliantly and contributes to the overall feel of the book. The world is vividly imagined and explored in the tales and I can't wait to read the next one (although it will have to wait for the group reads in January). The world is so rich no summary could do it justice, there are transformations (a bit of a theme that) and talking animals, stars as gods, princes on quests (slyly and entertainingly parodied) , witches and orphans, necromancers and wizards. If you are a fan of fantasy or new weird get yourself a copy as soon as you can.

Overall - a richly woven story tapestry

Jan 7, 2012, 7:31 am

The Sisters Brothers Patrick deWitt


The Sisters Brothers are hired killers working for the Commodore who wants a man tracked down and killed, the man is an inventor who is in San Francisco for the gold rush. Charlie is the faster, harder and a the major drinker of the two and is lead man. Eli is slower, has a heart of gold and falls in love at the drop of a hat and is the narrator of the story. I confess to being mystified at all the glowing reviews for this one. It didn't bring the Wild West to life for me, it's not amusing (as some others have reported) and the story is not that original. It's not a bad read it just never caught my imagination and in the end forgettable

Overal - Meh, read something more interesting instead

Jan 7, 2012, 7:34 am

Harbor John Alvidje Lindqvist (hmm touchstone doesn't appear unless you spell Harbour without the u)

Very Good

Set on an insular Swedish island where Summer visitors are not fully trusted or liked by the islanders. A young couple have their daughter disappear on a trip to the lighthouse; she did not fall through the ice, there is no-one around to take her, she just disappears. The story then follows the father, Anders as he tries to put his broken life back together. The book felt as if it were a little too long but is well written and the supernatural element is well done if not so creepy.

Overall - a good mystery with a supernatural twist

Jan 7, 2012, 7:34 am

Bruges-La-Morte Georges Rodenbach


A gothic novella set in the Belguim town of Bruges. Hugues is a widower who lives his life in mourning keeping a veritable shrine to his dead wife including a lock of her hair and her clothes as well as many portraits. When he glimpses a woman in the streets that resembles his dead wife perfectly there starts a story of doomed obsession. There is a version with photographs (one of the first I believe) and that would be much better.

Overall -Competently written, an average example of the gothic genre

Jan 7, 2012, 8:59 am

I really must get around to reading more Valente! Nice little review of Harbor, which I really liked when I read it a few years back. That disappearance is really every parent's worst nightmare.

Jan 7, 2012, 9:04 am

98 thanks, I really like his writing although so far nothing beats let the right one in

Jan 7, 2012, 9:06 am

I agree. I'll read Lilla Stjärna (Little star) for this challenge, so we'll see how that compares!

Jan 7, 2012, 9:12 am

Will await your review with interest

Jan 7, 2012, 11:03 am

In the Night Garden looks good. Thank you for the review.

Jan 7, 2012, 12:49 pm

I hadn't heard of Catherynne Valente until a few months ago but all of a sudden I'm seeing her name everywhere, it seems. I'll have to take a look at In the Night Garden.

Jan 7, 2012, 3:27 pm

Good run of reviews posted! I cannot remember if Claire already hit me last year with the book bullet for In the night garden but it is a given that anything by Valente is going to catch my interest. Average was pretty much my take on The Sisters Brothers but I do know it has been highly popular with a number of other readers. As for Bruges-La_Morte, I seem to be fixating on any mention of gothic right night - must be the damp, dark wintery weather we are experiencing right now - and was intrigued by your review for this one as well.

Jan 7, 2012, 7:32 pm

I have a Catherynne M Valente book on my wishlist already but I guess I can make it an either/or for a first look at her work. The Sisters Brothers is also there but now you've made me think twice about its place. I'll get to Raymond Chandler one of these too.

Edited: Jan 8, 2012, 6:31 am

The only thing I'd say about in the night garden is that it ends abruptly and you do need to read in the cities of coin and spice soon after

Edited: Jan 8, 2012, 1:39 pm

Hooray more enticing of people to read Catherynne M Valente

Jan 8, 2012, 5:38 pm

I too have Palimpsest on the wishlist, bulleted from you and Claire via Anders - we do weave some quite tangled webs here at LT... :) I liked Harbor as well, except the ending was a bit "huh?" for me.

Jan 9, 2012, 4:52 am

Know what your saying about the ending although it didn't detract from the book for me

Jan 9, 2012, 4:54 am

Carter beats the Devil Glen David Gold

A fictionalised biography of a 1920's stage magician


Carter the great was a real magician, a contempory of Houdini (who has a cameo part in the novel) working during the height of interest in magic shows in the early 20th century. The story blends fact and fiction with a mystery surrounding president Harding's death after he attends Carter's show and takes part in the thrid act when Carter "beats the Devil" . Carter asks the audience not to reveal any details of the third act as it would spoil the enjoyment of those who have yet to see it. Along the way we get a full biography of Carter, an exploration of his friendship with "Borax" Smith, the early days of the US Secret Service, Asian pirates, rivalry, tragedy and theatre. The book has its faults, including being a little too lengthy where some sections, although interesting, could have been cut with no harm to the overall book but many sections are gripping having me turning the pages and unable to put it down so on balance I'll give it a Brilliant as its going to stick in my mind for a while. If I were still doing stars it would get 4 and half

Overall - Recommended to those interested in stage magic, vaudeville or 1920's San Francisco oh and good suspenseful plots...

Jan 9, 2012, 4:55 am

Nelson by Rob Davies & Woodrow Phoenix

Very Good

This is a collaboration between 54 British comic artists which through the tight editorial control of Davies and Phoenix forms a fully cohesive life story. Each collaborator shows us a single day in the life of the main character. These days are then chronologically arranged by year from 1968 to the present day. A great concept that works surprisingly well although there is a great mix of styles and art.

Overall - well worth reading, recommended as a showcase for British talent

Jan 9, 2012, 4:57 am

Walking Dead 15 Charlie Adlard & Robert Kirkman

This series explores post zombie apocalypse America following ex-sherrif Rick

The story continues to surprise and this trade feels like a plot builder with a little lull in the action. Recommended to all zombie lovers, Adlard's art is still amazing and the post-apocalyptic world still interesting. Also much better than the TV adaptation. Read the entire series though, you cant jump in late on and expect to follow it.

Jan 9, 2012, 4:59 am

Hector Umbra Uli Oesterle


One of Hector's friends is a DJ who disappears during a triumphant set, when Hector starts painting strange pictures he decides to play detective to find his friend. With some help from a mad homeless lady and a dead man Hector finds out the surreal truth about madness. The pictures were very good and the story had promise but overall this graphic novel didn't enthral me.

Overall - flawed and didn't live up to the story premise

Jan 9, 2012, 5:00 am

Babylon Steel Gaie Sebold

Plane hopping fantasy

Very Good

Babylon Steel is an ex sword-for-hire who runs the Red Lantern, a high class brothel in Scalentine, city of many portals. When she has a few problems balancing the accounts and having enough ready cash to pay her taxes she takes on a missing person case from the mysterious Darask Fain against her better judgment. Along the way she runs into trouble from the prudish Vessels of Purity religion and the past she's tried to leave behind finally catches up with her. Its a fine rollicking adventure tale with an interesting female lead and a collection of colourful characters as Scalentine, having many portals, is a melting pot of people from many planes. There is a good dollop of mystery, some magic (its a multiverse where you can hop from world to world using portals and there are some "glamour" style spells but no-one throwing fireballs) and an interesting world(s). I was generally ahead of the main character which can spoil a mystery for me but it was a very enjoyable debut and I look forward to seeing what Sebold does next. Recommended to all lovers of fantasy.

Overall - A fine rollicking adventure tale

Jan 9, 2012, 8:09 am

Good to (finally!) see the review for Carter Beats the Devil. I think it's the length that has so far put me off reading it as it's been in my tbr pile for over 2 years now. Will have to move it up the list and actually get to it one of these days.

Do the Walking Dead books spoil the tv series much? I know there are major differences between the two but does the show follow the basic plotline of the books or are they completely different?

I've not heard of Babylon Steel before now. No reviews on the book page but I'd thumb yours if it was there as it sparks an interest for me.

Edited: Jan 9, 2012, 8:45 am

I think Carter felt a little long but it's worth the time to read

Not sure about the TV series I stopped watching it but I seem to remember that it differs from episode 1 and more happens in the comics, I'd say you could enjoy both certainly I know people who do so, 1 friend started reading it due to loving the series and he didn't think either is spoiled by doing so

When I'm at a proper computer I'll stick that review on!

Jan 9, 2012, 9:22 am

Thanks for the feedback.

Jan 9, 2012, 9:57 am

Thanks for a bunch of enticing reviews! Carter beats the Devil was, as I think I've said earlier, a contender for my 1010, but it still lingers on my TBR. Got enough clunksters for this year, I think, but hope to get to it 2013! Babylon Steel is news for me too, but sounds interesting. And I really must get around to reading The walking dead one of these days! A roaring start of the year for you!

Edited: Jan 9, 2012, 11:08 pm

I am not going to visit your thread anymore if you are going to continue hitting me with book bullets ;-(

This visit you hit me with the collaboration Carter Beats the Devil (because you mentioned "good suspenseful plots"), Nelson, (Hum, can't find touchstone -does that make it a half book bullet?!?) and of course Babylon Steel because one can never have too many books for pure escapism purposes.

Jan 10, 2012, 3:36 am

@119 if I wanted to avoid book bullets I'd have to not visit LT at all :-o

Claire (clfisha) managed to add Nelson to her library so check it out there?

Jan 10, 2012, 3:42 am

I have to agree with Lori, you've written so many enticing reviews. I have Nelson on my tbr list already, not sure from where but it was recently brought to my notice on one of the threads. Carter beats the devil sounds interesting.

I'll be interested in how you find The Psychopath test, I listened to a podcast interview with the author a while back and the book sounded very interesting.

Jan 10, 2012, 4:44 am

Jan 10, 2012, 5:11 am

122 Thanks!

121 I've read a couple of Ronson's other books and have seen him do readings a couple of times (for Them and one of his collected essay books - so looking forward to it

Jan 10, 2012, 8:49 pm

I need to read another Catherynne M Valente. Her books are like drinking pure cream tho. I need some time between them.

Jan 11, 2012, 4:13 am

@124 I agree although in the night garden is less creamy than palimpsest I feel

Jan 11, 2012, 10:11 am

Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood

Dystopian novel set in an ultra-commercialised world

Very Good

We follow the narrator (is he reliable?) Snowman who starts the story living in a tree wrapped in a sheet looking after strange demi-humans called “Crakers” and through a series of flashbacks find out why the world he lives in is the way it is. Atwood takes certain trends in our world – commodification, reality TV, GM crops & animals etc and a vast gap between rich and poor and exaggerates them. Atwood can certainly write and her dystopian view is certainly bleak but I wasn’t overly enamoured of the characters – Snowman is intentionally dumb – he has to be for the plot to work, Crake is emotionally retarded and Oryx is merely a cipher. Jimmy’s mum is a potentially sympathetic character but since we only see things from Snowman’s perspective we can only guess at her thoughts, feelings and motivations. Some of the exaggeration didn’t feel quite right – the wolvogs didn’t seem to be something that anyone in their right mind would develop (maybe that’s the point?) and the world itself seems simplified - are there countries still?. However despite these faults I did enjoy the book and Atwood can certainly write and I was always interested in finding out what was going on.

Overall – Like any good speculative fiction it makes you think (I’m not convinced that “it could happen” though) good discussion novel & great choice for a group read…

Jan 11, 2012, 10:55 am

Titanic: A passenger’s guide John Blake (hmm no touchstone)

Mocked up passenger guide


This is a brief (I read it in a couple of hours on a couple of bus journeys) but well packaged book, a small hardback pocketbook style. Its conceit is that it is a handbook that could have been handed to passengers as they embarked on the Titanic. Using extracts of the available promotional material with a mix of photographs and illustrations the book is divided into 3. The first is a guide to the construction (lots of juicy engineer geek info such as how many rivets it took to make, comparison of size with other transatlantic ships & famous buildings like Empire state and the pyramids etc.). The second is information for passengers including menus for first, second and third class (what is boiled Hominy? Its on the first class breakfast menu) and information on what to expect from the various berths. The final section is on the operation and safety of the vessel and is rather poignant due to knowing what happened to the Titanic in 1912. The jingoistic nature of the promotional material read by the modern reader comes across oddly:

“the firm, (the shipbuilders) by their work, exercised a potent influence upon the strengthening process which is knitting the British Empire more closely together, and by this same forging of new commercial links they have done much to bring into a closer band of union the great Anglo-Saxon race”

This book has been lovingly produced and is recommended for anyone at all interested in the story of the Titanic. I got it as I am going to try and track down a good history of the ship and probably a survivors story (some of which were published the same year she sank) and think it will be a great little guide to dip back into for visualisation purposes.

Overall – Small but well formed with excellent content

Jan 11, 2012, 11:43 am

The January Dancer Michael Flynn

Space opera about the discovery of an alien artefact which we track across the known universe

Very Good

I picked this up for the TIOLI "2012 has twelve months" due to it having January in the title, the plot sounded vaguely interesting and it had a few good reviews. I’m so glad I did as its introduced me to an author I’d like to read more from. In a bar on a major trade route a female harper listens to an old man spin a tale about the Dancer, an alien artefact that was discovered by a certain Captain January and changed hands many times in a trip across the universe. Flynn’s tale is well told with a cast of almost mythic characters and an always interesting story interspersed with the wordplay between harper and old man. There are difficulties here that make the book a bit chewy and require a bit of effort from the reader. The universe is well imagined but you could spend lots of time flicking to the map at the front of the book (after a few times I decided to ignore it) since the book really does span the universe. Also I’m not a fan of characters speaking phonetically (and in one case in Pidgin a lot of the time, wol wontok indeed) which my inner ear sometimes had difficulty with (each character seems to have a different phonetic accent) – Irish and Scottish I can do (luckily most of the main characters), Scandinavian yes, but some I just didn’t get at all however and it went from an annoyance at the beginning of the book to being mostly background by the end. It’s pretty much all show and not tell about the universe as well which I expect is explored in some of his other books? – and it is an interesting place to explore so I will be gathering his other books as and when I can. Another 4 and half star book this.

Overall – Very enjoyable space opera set in an interesting universe that needs further exploration. (apparently there is a sequel which I will be getting to once I’m able)

Jan 11, 2012, 12:26 pm

>127 psutto: I thought A Night to Remember was a very interesting account of the Titanic's demise and the events leading to the death or survival of the passengers.

Jan 11, 2012, 1:12 pm

@129 thanks for the tip!

Jan 11, 2012, 5:11 pm

Your Titanic book reminds me of when I went to the museum to see the display of artifacts from the Titanic. As we entered the display, we were handed a brocheure which matched us with the identity of a passenger from that fated trip. The last room of the display was a list of the survivors and at that time you found whether your match made it. If you were lucky enough to have survived, you also were able to read about their life after the Titanic. A neat way to give the whole display a personal touch.

Edited: Jan 11, 2012, 5:49 pm

I will definitely have to check out The January Dancer. Great review! Many ages ago I loved Flynn's In the Country of the Blind - I highly recommend it.

ETA: January Dancer is the first in a trilogy. The second, published in 2010, is Up Jim River and the third, scheduled for publication in 2012, is In the Lion's Mouth.

Jan 12, 2012, 1:47 am

I've had a fascination with the Titanic since I was a kid, so I'll try and see if I can find a copy of A Passenger's Guide. I used to have a book by Robert Ballard, who rediscovered the Titanic, it was a older child's/young adult book which covered construction, life on boad and some passenger and the sinking, and I read it over and over again. I've got his The Discovery Of The Titanic on my wishlist.

Jan 12, 2012, 5:28 am

131 - where is the museum? the book has a list of passengers (but not a list of survivors - since obviously the passenger guide does not assume the ship will sink)

132 - thanks for the info I'll definitely read the trilogy, may be some time until I can justify buying any new books though after a bit of a glut over Xmas

@133 - I'm sure you'll love it

Edited: Jan 13, 2012, 4:27 am

1st month summary:

# books read 14
# fiction 13
# non-fiction 1
# male writers 11
# female writers 3
# Unfinished 0
# Poor 0
# Average 3
# Very Good 5
# Brilliant 5

1 uncategorized (walking dead as its part of a long series)

categories so far

12 days of christmas = 1
12 Angry men = 2
12 stars in the flag of Europe = 2
12 Olympian gods = 1
1912 = 1
Baker's Dozen = 5

I'm fairly sure I'll finish the price tonight too & if I do I'll adjust the stats accordingly

Edited: Jan 12, 2012, 4:08 pm

RE 131 - This was the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

The Titanic Display was, however, a travelling display that, as far as I know, criss-crossed North America. This was about five years ago. In fact, I just saw on the news a couple of nights ago where they are in the process of auctioning off some of the artifacts brought up from the Titanic, apparently the public isn't as interested as they were. The report did say that anyone who purchases an artifact has to sign a form saying they would be willing to put their artifact up on display if requested.

Jan 12, 2012, 5:18 pm

That's quite sad, I would have thought that there'd be a 100 years on special exhibit...

Jan 12, 2012, 5:24 pm

I would have thought so to, especially as they took so much trouble to bring some things to the surface. At the very least, I wish they would store the display and then in a few years send it out on the rounds again!

Jan 13, 2012, 4:24 am

well theres an online museum

and a permanent titanic museum in Branson Missouri...

Jan 13, 2012, 4:27 am

I did finish the price last night (review to follow soon) so have amended the stats accordingly

Edited: Jan 13, 2012, 5:38 am

the Price Joseph Garraty

Urban fantasy mixing the mob with magic


I used to be a nice guy, believe it or not. These days, your average nice guy wouldn’t be seen in the same county with me, but it wasn’t always that way. It just sort of crept up on me, and one day I looked around to discover that I’d become a hardened killer. By then I didn’t much care anymore—that’s what not being a nice guy means.
I didn’t put paid to my inner nice guy all at once, because that’s not how it works. I did, however, make a hell of a down payment the day I met Benedict and Lazzaro.

So starts The Price a book about a kid from a poor neighbourhood in Boston who is able to talk to inanimate objects and convince them to do things, like talk to a lock and get it to open. He’s recruited into the mob by Benedict who is a Wizard and so begins his slow slide into not being a nice guy. I got this book via a member giveaway based on the premise of the mob using wizards. I devoured it in two sittings and loved it. This is urban fantasy that’s been kicked down the stairs and woken up with a horse’s head in its bed. Jimmy is a great character and utterly believable – the key is that line above that says that becoming a hardened killer happens incrementally and it turns out using magic also has a “price”. There is violence, sometimes extreme violence, and a lot of cussing but its about the mob so you have to expect that. I see that Garraty has another book called Voice which sounds intriguing and also gets some good reviews so going to track that one down.

Overall – highly recommended gritty darkly humorous urban fantasy.

Edited: Jan 13, 2012, 6:29 am

Since The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories is almost 1200 pages long and just chock full of stories a review of the entire book will probably not do it justice (although I will attempt to summarise upon completion) - therefore I've decided to review the stories as I finish them - and since I'll have to average 100 pages a month to finish by the end of the year I'm going to be reading this in between the reast of my 12/12 books

This is supposedly the definitive collection of weird stories (although they admit to not being able to get a few in there due to publishing issues which they list in the introduction) and theres an immense amount here in chronological order over 100 years of the best english and non-english (some new translations were commissioned for the book too) short weird fiction

you need strong wrists to read this book ;-)

Jan 13, 2012, 2:27 pm

->142 psutto:

I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want.

Jan 13, 2012, 2:31 pm

#142 - Oh my! That would be a good ebook candidate, otherwise I think you need a podium to read it.

Jan 13, 2012, 4:20 pm

I'm with Eva on that one but also wouldn't mind The Price either by the sounds of things.

Jan 13, 2012, 5:24 pm

The weird is rather special :-)

Jan 14, 2012, 6:41 am

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories's size makes it a candidate for the e-reader maybe... but I wouldn't want to miss that cover!

Jan 15, 2012, 10:29 am

Also started Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier since we received the film recently and I'd like to read g book before watching it, I'll then read i the cities of coin and spice which I've been wanting o get to for a while

Jan 15, 2012, 1:42 pm

I just got It's Only the Sister by Angela du Maurier and plan to read it in Feb. I am trying to decide if I should read Rebecca before or after I read some of her autobiographies.

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Jan 15, 2012, 5:29 pm

#142 I like your idea for reading a large book of stories. I recevied The Shadow of Dracula for Christmas. It's only 410 pages, but it's a quarto size book and the print is in two columns so it will take a while to read. I only wanted it for The Vampyre by Polidori and The Family of the Vourdalak by Tolstoy and thought about just reading and reviewing those stories. Your idea of reading and reviewing a story at a time through the course of the year is great. Thanks!

Jan 15, 2012, 6:49 pm

I loved Rebecca, both the film and movie. I hope you also enjoy both. Will be interested in hearing what you think of them.

Edited: Jan 16, 2012, 2:50 am

@150 thanks! yep The Weird is also large size and printed double column, I have Polidori's Vampye awaiting to be read will be interested to see what you think

@151 I'm really enjoying the book so far, about half way through and will probably finish it tonight so the review will be soon

Jan 16, 2012, 5:40 am

@149 - shockingly I've never read anything else by her, which I plan to remedy!

Jan 17, 2012, 5:15 am

finished Rebecca last night - will start in the cities of coin and spice tonight

Jan 17, 2012, 5:21 am

Mini Review - the other side extract in The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories I'd give this a "Poor" rating due to the reason set out below.

The first "story" in the collection is actually half a book. I'm not a big fan of extracts and this is the second half of the book which if you hadn't read it may be a little confusing. Characters that have been introduced in the first half are mentioned, as if you know them, in the second half. The impact of the ending I feel was mostly lost due to not having the build up. Luckily I have read the book fairly recently (sometime in the last 5 years) but if you haven't I would skip this and get the full book. Seems a strange decision - I guess the editors really really wanted it but couldn't justify the length.

Jan 17, 2012, 5:28 am

Mini-review - the screaming skull F. Marion Crawford in The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories - Brilliant

The second story in the collection is a masterpiece of gothic storytelling. Told in an almost stream of consciousness monologue of a retired sea captain to a guest in his house about the skull of the title. Although the basics of the story are a little hokey in this day and age the writing is so good at creating the fevered brooding atmosphere that you simply dont care. I've never read any Crawford and if this story is anything to go by that's something I need to remedy.

Edited: Jan 17, 2012, 5:57 am

The Screaming Skull is available for $.99 for the kindle... sadly none of the anthologies that it is collected in seem to be available yet...

weird... you can also pay $5.99 for what appears to be the same story, but with a 2010 copyright (I can't imagine that formatting is that big of an issue in a 32 page short story)

one more edit.. ok I bought it... $.99 is less than a cup of coffee after all...

Jan 17, 2012, 6:19 am

I really hope you like it - nervous now!

Jan 17, 2012, 2:03 pm

Just checked and it's 16 pages long in the collection, as mentioned pages are double columned. Means the book is actually 2000+ "normal" pages long!

Jan 18, 2012, 8:52 am

Rebecca Daphne du Maurier

supposedly a gothic romance but is so much more


Opening with one of the most iconic first lines in literature “last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again” this is a masterpiece of writing by du Maurier. The plot summary will do it no justice but suffice to say it is an exploration on the role of a woman in a man’s life and vice versa. Written in the 1930’s it vividly portrays the polite society of England between the wars with a young naïve ladies companion who is taken from her life by a rich widower and thrust into being the lady of a great house under the shadow of the dead first wife. Du Maurier manages to make the great house of Manderlay one of the main character’s of this utterly captivating and suspenseful tale.

Overall - This is a classic and a must read. It is poetical and dark, suspenseful and mysterious and totally compelling.

Jan 18, 2012, 9:12 am

I'm glad you enjoyed Rebecca so much. I totally agree with your review.

Jan 18, 2012, 9:34 am

Oh dear this thread is dangerous. I think I need a medic as I've just been hit by another book bullet.

Jan 18, 2012, 9:48 am

Nice review of Rebecca, another book I have yet to read.

Edited: Jan 18, 2012, 12:32 pm

@162 + 163 I thoroughly recommend it

Oh and Wolfy I think your thread is going to be just as dangerous...

Edited: Jan 18, 2012, 12:48 pm


the willows Algernon Blackwood - Very Good - two men canoeing the Danube attempt to wait out a flood in the delta on a small island covered by small Willow bushes, weirdness ensues. H. P. Lovecraft called this Blackwood's best and was a big fan but it lacked a certain something for me although very enjoyable

Sredni Vashtar Saki - Very Good - a young boy has but two friends a hen and a polecat-ferret hidden in a disused tool shed. When the boy starts to worship the ferret who he names Sredni Vashtar As a god the tale turns creepy

Casting the runes M.R. James - Very Good - When an expert on the history of Alchemy delivers a bad book review of a certain Mr. Karswell's book on Alchemy he discovers that a previous book reviewer of a book by Karswell on witchcraft came to a mysterious and gruesome end. Fearing for his own safety he decides to investigate.

Having to average 100 pages a month on this book to finish it I note that I need to read another 5 stories to achieve that goal, but first I'm going to read in the cities of coin and spice

Jan 18, 2012, 3:31 pm

Glad to see that Rebecca has made another fan. One of my top reads of all time.

Jan 19, 2012, 12:01 am

Rebecca is sliding to the top of my TBR pile very quickly all of a sudden. In addition to everyone's reviews of it recently, I saw an interview of Sarah Waters the other day in which she mentions Daphne du Maurier and Rebecca specifically that made it sound really enticing. I must get to that one soon!

Jan 19, 2012, 4:08 am

Great review of Rebecca, I need to pick it up sooner rather than later. Her books (that I've read) have so much atmosphere, and such evocative settings.

Jan 19, 2012, 11:37 am

Must read Rebecca. Must. And am anticipating to be severly tempted by your upcoming review of In the citites of coin and spice.

Jan 19, 2012, 11:55 am

Thanks for all the comments on Rebecca it may well be read of the year already...

169 so far so good on Valente...

Jan 19, 2012, 6:13 pm

I just got Rule Britannia and was wondering if I should start with some of the previous books that she wrote like Rebecca or maybe even start with the autobiography or bio?

Have any Rebecca fans read anything else by or on her? And if so did it increase your appreciation of Rebecca?

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Jan 19, 2012, 7:24 pm

I'm another one who has Ms. du Maurier on Mt. TBR. I have no idea why I haven't gotten to her books yet, since every sign seems to say I'll love them.

Edited: Jan 19, 2012, 10:33 pm

I loved Rebecca, too. Read it years ago, but still quite memorable.

I think I have The Willows on my e-reader; I should give it a look.

Jan 20, 2012, 4:49 am

Hmm the only other one I have read is Jamaica Inn, which I adored as a kid but I reckon its more of a rollicking YA adventure with smugglers on the wild moors and an orphaned girl :)

Jan 20, 2012, 4:52 am

I've sadly not read any other of her books but am definitely going to remedy that...

Jan 20, 2012, 8:52 am

>174 clfisha: I added Jamaica Inn to my list for this year because of my Jamaican Me Crazy category. It sounds interesting for sure!

Jan 20, 2012, 10:15 am

Edited: Jan 20, 2012, 1:37 pm

It's not on the US list. :( The US list is pretty good, but the UK/Ireland list is much better (a purely personal opinion).

ETA: Definitely not complaining since I think WBN is one of the greatest ideas ever!

Jan 20, 2012, 1:36 pm

I've read Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and Frenchman's Creek and enjoyed each one, and I have My Cousin Rachel and Hungry Hill on my TBR shelves. I personally think that Rebecca stands in a class of its own.

Jan 21, 2012, 11:41 am

@ 171 -- DS, I've read My Cousin Rachel and Frenchman's Creek in addition to Rebecca, and I really enjoyed all three of them!

Jan 23, 2012, 6:21 am

Finished in the cities of coin and spice will get round to a review soon, started planet word and am no kicking myself for missing he series, will have to track that down online....

Jan 25, 2012, 2:30 pm


How Nuth would have practised his arts upon the Gnoles - lord Dunsany - Very Good

I've been meaning to read some Dunsany and this story may bump him up the list a bit. Nuth is a thief who sets off to steal giant emeralds from the Gnoles. In this very short story Dunsany manages to create a very peculiar atmosphere

The man in the bottle - Gustav Meyhrink - Average

At a masquerade ball there is a play where a man is put inside a giant bottle, a short twisted tale.

The dissection - Georg Hym - Average

Very creepy short about a man being cut open

the spider - Hans Heinz Ewers - Very Good

flawed story where you know whats coming but then again so does the narrator as he notes in his diary - 3 men hang themselves in a boarding house room and our narrtor sets out to work out why

The hungry stones - Rabindranath Tagore - Average

Haunted house story with a difference with quite flowery writing.

The vegetable man - Luigi Ugolini - Average

A botanist discovers a new plant in the Amazon and brings it back to civilization where strange things happen

Jan 26, 2012, 9:14 am

in the cities of coin and spice Catherynne M. Valente


Second book of The Orphans tales (see review of In the night garden message 94

Following straight on from the first book (I get the impression that they were meant to be just 1 book) we again get lost in Valente’s phantasmagorical world which takes the tropes of fairy tales, myths and other fantasy and throws them into a blender. The same structure as the first book and again characters that appeared in earlier stories, including those in the first book, make cameos or have their tales explored. The first tale mostly takes place in the lands of the dead and thus misses a lot of the wonderful world that makes the books so good, still enjoyable but the weakest of the tales in both books I think. More is explored of the narrator and her audience and the world of the garden.

Overall – fantastic conclusion to the labyrinthine tales

Jan 26, 2012, 9:15 am

Planet word J. P. Davidson


Accompanies the BBC series exploring all things Language

Split into 5 sections the book explores the origins of language starting by asking “why is it we can talk but animals can’t?” and exploring how different languages are born, and die, its uses and abuses (including swearing), writing and what language can achieve. It’s a summary of all the many different disciplines: obviously linguistics, semiotics and other language studies but also anthropology, philosophy and psychology. It’s written clearly, in a very engaging style and full of very interesting facts and I read the whole 400+ pages in two days. Highly recommended if you have a love of language.

Overall – Great overview of how language evolved and the many things we use it for

Jan 26, 2012, 9:15 am

The city of words Alberto Manguel

Very Good

A series of essays exploring the stories we tell and what they say about identity

Manguel explores the idea that stories can change the world and that stories can give us identity or help us to define “the other” and what that means for a post-nationalist globalised world. The book is split into 5 essays which are a bit mixed. I found some of his arguments, although backed up with examples from the history of literature, thin. He was at his best exploring the concept of Spain using Don Quixote (which one day I may get round to reading – and his essay made it sound much more interesting than I remember it being before I abandoned it many years ago) and the Jews and Moors who were expelled in the Reconquest. Its clear that Manguel is vastly more well read than me and perhaps that explains the somewhat difficult nature of some of the essays?

Overall – 3 and a half stars mixed bag of musings

Jan 26, 2012, 9:16 am

Cultural Paradox, fun in mathematics Jeffrey Zilahy

Very Good

Using short introductions to mathematical ideas whilst minimising the jargon Zilahy tries to make Maths fun

Zilahy seems to be on a mission to convince maths ignoramuses that maths can actually be fun in a series of short well explained chapters written in plain English with a minimum of jargon. Some chapters are barely half a page long and some potentially interesting ideas are skimmed over. I dipped into this over a period of a few weeks whilst I had those odd 5 minutes of having to wait for something and its very easy to do so. I’m not sure who the audience is for this book, I downloaded it due to the blurb is ideal for students who need a little push to get motivated, and also great for scientists and those in the math community that like to be in-the-know on relevant and current topics. but I’d say its best aimed at younger students and not for scientists or the “math community” (if there is such a thing) at all.

Overall – very short but cleverly simplified introduction to some interesting maths

Jan 26, 2012, 9:18 am

Of men and monsters William Tenn

Very Good

Classic SF tale about humans living in an Earth conquered by giant aliens

Mankind consisted of 128 people. The sheer population pressure of so vast a horde had long ago filled over a dozen burrows.

So starts William Tenn’s only novel full of satire of a future where man has been relegated to being vermin living like mice, rats or cockroaches in the vast homes of gigantic aliens who have taken over Earth. Like vermin they steal food and other items from the “monsters” hoping to avoid the traps laid for them. We follow Eric the Only as he approaches his manhood test in a hunter gatherer style society in which he must prove his manhood by performing a Theft. Eric is about to discover that what he thinks he knows about the world is perhaps not how things actually are. Tenn is a satirist and the society he has built is utterly sexist and in the middle of the book there is a toe curlingly bad scene but I can't tell if he's satirising sexism or is a sexist himself.

Overall – enjoyable tongue in cheek SF adventure

Jan 26, 2012, 9:34 am

I have Alberto Manguel's fantastic Dictionary of Imaginary Places and cannot recommend it highly enough. I'll be looking for The City of Words...

Jan 26, 2012, 11:15 am

I also have dictionary of imaginary places which is great, I've previously read the library at night which I'd highly recommend too and have A history of reading on the shelf...

Edited: Jan 26, 2012, 12:41 pm

I do hope BBC America gets Planet Word. I have emailed them about it, but I doubt that'll matter, unfortunately, so the book goes on the wishlist. :)

Jan 26, 2012, 9:59 pm

Great string of reviews!

Jan 27, 2012, 2:25 am

You're on a great streak with your reading. I've added Planet Word to my WL as well.

Jan 27, 2012, 7:34 am

So far so good, I just finished the mourner which I enjoyed and 2013 which I didn't enjoy so much, reviews soon. Just started Pure which won the 2011 Costa novel award

Jan 30, 2012, 5:09 am

OK really have to write some reviews today - finished Pure and Fahrenheit 451 at the weekend and started on Rivers of London....

Jan 30, 2012, 8:22 am

The psychopath test Jon Ronson

The tagline is “A journey through the madness industry”

Very Good

If you’ve read Them then you will know what sort of thing your getting in this deceptively light but entertaining book about madness. Ronson has a bit of a contrivance for starting to research psychopaths due to being asked to solve a mystery to do with a strange book that seems to be linked with Douglas Hofstadter and touches on this a few times during the book. I felt this strand of the book could easily have been dropped without losing anything and perhaps should have been developed separately. Ronson spends time with scientologists who are vehemently opposed to psychiatry and through them is introduced to “Tony”. Tony says he faked mental illness to get off his sentence for GBH and was committed to Broadmoor and has been trying to prove his sanity ever since. Tony’s story is the other major strand of the book that Ronson returns to throughout and uses to highlight his own journey in understanding the madness industry. As with all of Ronson’s books you get a great deal of him and his anxieties in it and although he does have some important points its all conveyed with an absurdist humour. The important points? The psychopath test (which you can see here is an example of the checklists used by the psychiatric community to decide on a person’s sanity. In the DSM ( are many other checklists and Ronson makes a convincing argument that the checklist approach has been responsible for making more and more behaviour “close to the norm” become medicalised as indicative of mental illness. This is the real reason for an explosion of Autism (a change in the goalposts of categorization and not an increase in the number of autistic children) and the fact that many children are now routinely being labelled Bipolar. This is a very important insight and it’s a bit of shame that its buried here rather than being thoroughly publicised. Ronson takes a course to be able to use the test (as designed by Robert Hare - and contends that it is a dangerous weapon to put in someone’s hands. Hare wrote snakes in suits and inspired by this Ronson does interview a CEO with the express purpose of finding out if he’s a psychopath.

Overall – Lots of thought provoking stuff in here disguised by Ronson’s humorous prose

Jan 30, 2012, 9:12 am

The mourner Richard Stark

Parker is a thief and he’s employed/blackmailed into acquiring “The mourner” a rare 14th century statuette

Very Good

The book opens explosively in the middle of a fight which hooks you straight in. The book reads like noir but when near the beginning of the book Parker tortures a woman for information (the details left to the imagination) you know he’s not trying to do whats right in a dirty world, he’s definitely part of that dirty world. Throw in a femme fatale, a heist, communists and the mob and you have all the ingredients for a great story. As another reviewer points out – it’d make a great Jason Statham film. Parker has few redeeming features and in fact none of the characters are sympathetic but somehow it works and if not exactly rooting for him you do follow along wondering how he’s going to pull it off.

Overall – lightning fast crime thriller

Jan 30, 2012, 9:18 am

Might have to give The Mourner a try. Thanks for the review!

Jan 30, 2012, 9:30 am

@197 - theres a whole series (20+ books) but I think you can read them out of turn (as I did)

Jan 30, 2012, 9:47 am

Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury

Classic Dystopia where owning a book is a crime

Very Good

Although written in the 1950’s this book has aged very well although of course some dating is inevitable (imagine the horror of driving over 100 miles an hour!!). Guy Montag is a fireman whose opening lines “It was a pleasure to burn” show that he’s not a fireman as we’d understand. In fact all houses are now fireproof (although the contents are not) and firemen set fires in those houses in which books are found, it being a crime to own a book. When Montag has a series of conversations with a 17 year old neighbour he starts to doubt and when asked the seemingly simple question “Are you happy?” it forces him to assess his life. As obviously chilling as it is for us book lovers Bradbury’s created a monstrous society in many ways. The entertainment is via “the family” (interactive TV) on 3 walls and Montag and his wife discuss whether it would be better if there was a fourth wall (meaning it literally although of course we, as readers, will take the allegorical meaning as well). Bradbury wrote it as a 25,000 word story which he had problems selling, eventually it was picked up by playboy, and expanded it to book form later doubling the word count. The 2008 edition has both a foreword and an afterword by Bradbury which were interesting and worth getting that edition for.

Overall – Very thought provoking dystopian vision, well worth a read

Jan 30, 2012, 11:08 am

2013: The End of Days or a New Beginning? Envisioning the World After the Events of 2012 Marie D. Jones

Examines all of the popular myths, prophecies, and predictions circulating about 2012


Jones sets out to explore what the meaning behind the end of the Mayan calendar could be in this very mixed book. She does a poor job of explaining the calendar (in my view) in the first chapter but then goes on to explain that scholars disagree about the end date, is it another date in 2012 or is it not even 2012 at all? However she goes with the consensus and uses December 21st 2012 as the possible date when “things happen” she then speculates on what those “things” could be. She does this by firstly talking about “Mayan teachings of time acceleration and global awakening on a consciousness level” using some new agey woolly thinking books as “research” (when someone says that emotions have an energy level and that someone who has reached the energy level of love can offset the negative energy of x thousand people who have only reached the energy level of grief and this is held up as “research” you know your on shaky ground). Happily though after this nonsense she examines the potential apocalypses – first those that would destroy us – sunspots, supervolcanoes, asteroids etc etc and those that could account for a paradigm shift (or “global awakening on a consciousness level” if you like) such as nanotechnology, quantum computing, AI singularities etc. The last part of the book is a series of essays by other authors (mostly of new age books) asked to speculate on what 2012 will mean. I must confess that I just skipped through the essays which mostly exhibited a certain style of wishful thinking.

Overall – if you ignore the “we’re going to all become spiritually mature and we’ll all see that just by being nice to each other we can fix all the worlds problems” stuff it’s a good summary of what could cause our potential doom or the next huge paradigm shift

Jan 30, 2012, 11:10 am

Pure Andrew Miller

A young engineer is charged with the task of overseeing the destruction of the cemetery and church of Les Innocents in Paris in 1785.

Very Good

Jean-Baptiste Barratte comes to Paris to make his name as an engineer and is set the task of removing the bodies from the cemetery of Les Innocents and demolishing the church to make the land “pure”. It seems that the cemetery is so full that the surrounding land reeks with corruption, cellar walls collapse under a flood of corpses and it even infects the breath of the inhabitants of Les Halles. Barratte takes a room overlooking the cemetery and church and hires a group of mostly Flemish miners to undertake the work.

The work did actually happen and the bones can be seen in the Paris catacombs
which are well worth a visit.

Paris just prior to the French revolution is a very evocative setting that Miller uses to his advantage (hence Dr. Guillotin is a minor but important character in the novel and there are lots of foreshadowing of the revolution). Although I enjoyed the book I was left a little dissatisfied at the end, I felt that it should have been better. It felt like a longer book that had been hacked down as the build up seemed long and the denouement rushed, I wonder if there was an editor making cuts in the background? Note though that I’m still giving it a 4 star rating so it’s a minor quibble but one that prevents it being a 5 star book.

I read another review (by Clare Clarke – full review here that a short excerpt may explain my dissatisfaction (although she loved it):

The characters are often opaque. The narrative lacks dramatic structure, unfolding in the present tense much as life does, without clear shape or climax.

Overall – Brilliant premise slightly let down by the writing

Jan 30, 2012, 11:25 am

apparently the first book in my fantastic reading year present is on its way - very excited about that :-)

Jan 30, 2012, 2:11 pm

Darn, thought I was going to make it through you thread without being hit and then I come across your review for Pure. Total book bullet!

Jan 30, 2012, 2:19 pm

I got hit with the Pure bullet too, although "deceptively light but entertaining book about madness" really makes me want to have a look at The Psychopath Test.

Feb 1, 2012, 5:05 am

January may be over but I'm counting from 12th of the month so round up in 12 days...

Ive finished rivers of London and almost finished portrait of the gulf stream

Pure did win the Costa award and most people love it, I did like it but not sure it quite matches the hype but still very enjoyable

@204 - have you read any of his other books? or seen the film "The men who stare at goats"? as he wrote the book the men who stare at goats - I've read the book but not seen the film so don't know how it compares.

Feb 1, 2012, 11:48 am

Rivers of London Ben Aaronovitch

First in an urban fantasy series about a wizard in the police force

Very Good

Peter Grant is a probationary constable in the Met who, when guarding a murder scene, meets a ghost who tells him things about the murder. He is then recruited by the only wizard to work for the Met who saves him from a career of doing paperwork “so that real coppers don’t have to”. Together with a fellow probationary constable (and possible love interest) and a river of London (river spirit) they investigate a series of supernatural happenings linked to the murder. Grant is an entertaining narrator with some good humorous turns of phrase throughout and the story itself is competent. However I feel the book lost its way a little in the last 3rd and I’m not 100% convinced that some of the later twists and turns made sense based on what had gone before (although only a re-read would tell I guess). There are touches of greatness here, Aaronovitch has certainly done his research on the history of London and the lost rivers of London (like the Fleet and the Tyburn) and there are a lot of possibilities with the world. However like many urban fantasies I got the impression that any and all supernatural enemies could exist (he’s already introduced wizards and magic, vampires, ghosts and spirits of place for example) with no hint, as yet, of any underlying structure. There’s also not much explanation of how things like magic, ghosts and vampires can exist without everyone knowing they exist (although there are some nods to a cover up). I just hope it doesn’t go the way of the Dresden files and introduce an awful mish mash of all possible supernatural creatures (something hinted at early in the book). Anyway interested enough to read the next in the series.

Overall – entertaining new series and a good example of urban fantasy

Edited: Feb 1, 2012, 11:58 am

Oh, I hadn't made the connection between the two. I have the movie at home, but haven't gotten around to watching it - I must try to get to it this weekend.

Feb 1, 2012, 2:47 pm

A lot of good books here. Somehow I've managed to miss Alberto Manguel... hard to decide which of his to look at first.

Feb 1, 2012, 3:58 pm

Found The Rivers of London to be pretty good myself. So much so that I read the 2nd in the series immediately after. Waiting until the end of the year for the third one now (paperback edition).

Feb 1, 2012, 6:09 pm

Lots of action here in the last few days! The psychopath test sounds very interesting, as does Pure. This place is, as many have said before me, one of the dangerous zones of LT...

Feb 2, 2012, 4:30 am

@207 - I've not seen it although I have read the book, let me know what you think

@208 - try the library at night which is the best of his I've read so far although I do have A history of reading on the shelf to get to this year

@209 - good to know the sequel stands up, will track that down when I'm allowed to buy some more books (must reduce the TBR a bit first)

210 - I would have thought The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories would be right up your street too and were you tempted by In the cities of coin and spice ?

Feb 2, 2012, 5:55 am

>211 psutto: Has it been that long since I commented? Yes, absolutely, I'll read everything by Valente at some point. As for The Weird: I'm a little bit wary of 1200 page books, regardless of what street they're up. And here's a dirty little secret: Whispering: I dont really enjoy HP Lovecraft that much... MInd you, I've not read much. Ah, who am I kidding, I'll probably pick this collection up at some point, especially with it's claim to completeness.

Feb 2, 2012, 6:01 am

I've enjoyed the majority of the stories so far and not got to Lovecraft yet ;-)

got to admit I'm more interested in the later part of the book thats more "new weird" related but have been impressed with the gothic weird stories at the beginning

Feb 2, 2012, 6:40 am

Ah, so it goes all the way to the present as well? Hm, now I'm officially intrigued!

Feb 2, 2012, 8:42 am

As I've worked out I've got to read an average of 100 pages a month this year to finish it in time for the end of the challenge and that I'm going to review each story you'll see if its worth it by the end of the year!

Feb 2, 2012, 8:58 am

Portrait of the Gulf stream Erik Orsenna


The author sets out to find out as much as possible about the gulf stream and answer the question – is it responsible for Northern Europe’s pleasant climate?

Orsenna is one of the 40 “immortals” of the Academie Francaise where he holds the seat formerly held by Jaques Cousteau and, he explains, “collects” currents being a keen sailor. This book is a real delight blending science, travelogue and history. In a book only 180 pages long you get meteorology, oceanography, glaciology and an explanation of the Coriolis force including a short biography of Gaspard Gustave Coriolis. It’s an investigation into climate change and the movements of nuclear submarines, it’s a discussion on Greek and Hindu mythology, it’s a travelogue of when he visits Norway to see the Maelstrom and Scotland to visit the Corryvreckan, it’s being distracted by Orwell’s 1984 (Orwell wrote the book on the isle of Jura which is next to the Corryvreckan), it’s an explanation on the lifecycle of eels and how to cook pibales, how iodine was made before modern chemistry and antiseptics made it mostly obsolete and so much more for you to discover. It’s a fascinating, often poetic and all too brief book but one that deals with its subjects with just the right amount of brevity – enough to spark the imagination but not too much to bore.

from the epilogue – What is an Oceanographer? Speaking of his friend Arago, Alexander von Humboldt said that he had “a natural disposition for considering, in their mutual connections , a great number of things at once” Orsenna obviously shares that disposition.

Overall – scientific, informative and poetic, part travelogue part paen to the great ocean currents

Edited: Feb 3, 2012, 4:37 am

Got my Reading year first book

what a great present - my favourite bookshop gets to choose me a book a month for the rest of the year

Feb 3, 2012, 4:28 am

I got the slynx which I've started reading

Feb 3, 2012, 12:06 pm

What a cool idea! Christmas throughout the year.

Edited: Feb 3, 2012, 1:43 pm

Now that would be a great gift!!

Just catching up on the threads now! Jealous that you are reading your way through THe Walking Dead, how are you liking the series? I keep wavering between ordering a compilation and slapping my hand and telling me to finish reading some of mount TBR first :P

Also, great review of 2013, that made me laugh. New-agey stuff passed off as 'science' never fails to get my goat up.

Anyway, starred this thread so I can follow it more closely now! :)

Edited: Feb 3, 2012, 2:30 pm

That's brilliant. I know a few places has a similar idea, but this is the first one I've seen that actually individually selects the books for each recipient. Nice!

ETA: And the wrapping is gorgeous!

Feb 3, 2012, 2:33 pm

What a lovely gift, and I agree with Eva, the wrapping is gorgeous!

Edited: Feb 3, 2012, 2:54 pm

220 walking dead has its ups and downs but is always interesting, I have a lot of faith in the creators. Well worth reading the whole series.

I'm very lucky to get such a cool present :-) I had to fill in a questionnaire in order for them to gather what my reading likes and dislikes are, and some of he questions re a bit left field e.g. "if you were to write an autobiography what would the title be?"

Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 4:50 am

I've finished The Slynx and need to reflect on it for a few days, its a bit of an intense read....

Feb 3, 2012, 6:28 pm

I loved The slynx! I thought it was a clever and different dystopia, with some intesting twists visavi the genre. Usually in dystopias, knowledge is always agood thing. Here it is a little more ambivalent, isn't it?

Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 1:54 am

->207 -Eva-:

Wow. Well, it doesn't look like the book and film have too much in common other than the overall idea, but the film is bizarre and odd and absolutely hilarious!! Loads of "what the ... just happened?!"-moments.

Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 4:59 am

@225 I was going to recommend it to you as well but you've dodged that by reading it already :-) it works on many levels I think, I really enjoyed it and it really makes you think! I agree that knowledge is ambivalent in the book

@226 I think I'll stick it on the list at Lovefilm then

Edited: Feb 7, 2012, 5:55 pm

Mini reviews from the weird: A compendium of strange and dark stories

the people of the pit - A. Merritt - Average - the most Lovecraftian of the tales so far, explorers in the far North of the American continent come across a man who has escaped from "the people of the pit"

The Hell screen - Ryunosuke Akutagawa -Very Good - using he trope of an artist painting a picture of something horrific, very chilling denouement

Unseen-Unfeared - Francis Stevens -Very Good- victorian feeling short mystery tale about weird photography

in the penal colony - Franz Kafka -Very Good - A traveller visits a penal colony and is present as justice is carried out on "a remarkable apparatus"

Not read much Kafka and always wonder if I should read The trial and The castle may get round to them one day, enjoyed this more than The metamorphosis so maybe...

Feb 7, 2012, 3:08 pm

Kafka has been super important to me so I'm all for reading him. There are tons of good short stories, if the novels don't appeal.

Edited: Feb 7, 2012, 5:54 pm

I'll put him on the 13/13 then :-)

Feb 7, 2012, 8:29 pm

If you haven't seen this video yet, you really should: Kafka International Airport.

Feb 8, 2012, 5:20 am

thanks for that made me smile :-)

Feb 8, 2012, 5:22 am

spotted that there is a complete short stories and a complete novels of Kafka so I could glut, still it will be a 2013 glut though...

Feb 8, 2012, 7:43 am

The Slynx Tatyana Tolstaya


Dystopian novel set after “the Blast” where Moscow has been turned into a village

he knew that a book is a delicate friend, a white bird, an exquisite being, afraid of water. Darling things! Afraid of water, of fire, they shiver in the wind. Clumsy, crude human fingers leave bruises on them that will never fade! Never! Some people touch books without washing their hands! Some underline things in ink! Some even tear pages out...

From the first paragraph where the narrator mentions the rabbits flitting from tree top to tree top we know that the world of the book is very different to our own. Hundreds of years ago was “the blast” and from that everyone has “consequences” maybe extra fingers, cockscombs or extra ears. One of the most interesting is that “Oldeners” from the time of the Blast have the consequence of never growing older. There is a great leader - Fyodor Kuzmich, Glorybe and Saniturions who guard against “freethinking”, the economy is built around mice (as is the diet) and in the wilderness is the legendary Slynx.

I’ve never read anything quite like this book before and it had a certain style that took a little getting used to, but once you’re used to it the writing is hypnotic. Lots of food for thought here too – the ambiguous nature of knowledge, the exercise of power, interpretive beauty and the role of discrimination in society to name a few.

Overall – A weighty but not overlong dystopic vision

Feb 8, 2012, 7:44 am

We Yevgeny Zamyatin

Classic dystopian novel

Humity is a virtue, pride a vice; WE comes from God, I from the Devil

D-503 is the builder of the INTEGRAL a spaceship that will take the word of the OneState to the other planets and he is writing a journal to place within addressed to the Venusians and Uranians who he thinks will read it, this is the book we have in our hands. In the 200 years war all but 0.2% of the world population is wiped out, what is left build OneState. This is built around mathematical laws and “Taylor exercises” (a reference to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s “Time and motion studies”) and is a communal society where We is much more important than I. D-503 meets I-330, a woman like no other he’s met before and has the usual existensial crisis we see in many dystopian novels. Many of the classic dystopian tropes are contained within but We is cited as being probably the progenitor of the genre. Orwell wrote 1984 a few months after reading and reviewing We and there are a lot of parallels –the benefactor is a big brother like character, everyone is a number etc although 1984 I feel is better it obviously owes a debt to Zamyatin. It’s a very quick (200ish pages) read and well written although slightly dated.

Overall – well worth reading as its influence can be seen in most dystopian novels that have followed.

Feb 8, 2012, 7:45 am

The devil in the white city Erik Larson

Very Good

The history of the Chicago world’s fair and the life of H.H. Holmes one of America’s first serial killers

The Chicago world fair (or Columbian Exposition) of 1893 coincided with the 200th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery. The people of Chicago were determined to make it bigger and better than the Paris world fair which had as its highlight a new wonder of engineering - a tower created by a Mr Eiffel. Having a limited amount of time the architects of the Chicago fair need to turn an unappealing piece of waste ground into a marvel of the age. Linked to this story is a parallel story of H.H. Holmes who created a hotel for the world’s fair which had some unusual features – gas chamber rooms, a crematorium, secret passageways etc. Larson does a fine job of creating an intertwining narrative from the history. I would have liked to have seen more photographs in the book and Homes’s exploits after leaving Chicago were seen through the eyes of a detective and therefore different to the early part of the book so it felt a bit jarring.

Overall – fascinating history brought to life

Feb 8, 2012, 7:45 am

It rains in February Leila Summers (TIOLI 2012 has 12 months)

Very Good

One woman’s memoir of her husband’s spiral into mental illness and suicide

Robyn and Stuart are, happily married (she thinks) with two children so when he says he is in love with another woman her life falls apart. Worse though is the fact that Stuart leaves his family but the woman he loves doesn’t join him and Stuart becomes suicidal. Robyn tries everything she can possibly think of to try to save him from self destruction as she still loves him and she still wants him in the children’s life. One tactic was to create a woman, Leila Summers, to try and connect to Stuart through a joint love of music and literature. This memoir is written in the form of a letter to Stuart after he is gone and includes a number of letters and e-mails. Knowing that this is a true story makes it a powerful one but although a lot is revealed you are left with many questions. The main question being that why, if Stuart is so incredibly and nastily selfish (albeit with obvious mental health issues), does Robyn continue to love him so much and refuse to be angry with him? A short novel I read in one sitting with excellent prose. Robyn states at the end that everyone may have their opinion about what she should have done but this is a memoir of what she actually did.

Overall – poignant memoir of love, loss and recovery

Feb 8, 2012, 5:19 pm

I've had We on the list for a while but I suppose that The Slynx will have to join it as well. Good reviews.

Feb 8, 2012, 11:24 pm

Great review of We and The Slynx.. both Russian I believe? We is on mount TBR and The Slynx has been on my wishlist.... I think I am going to renew my searches through local used bookstores now that I have read your review, you have piqued my interest!

ps- Great Kafka airport video, made me laugh :P I and enjoyed The Metamorphosis and should add more to my wishlist. :)

Feb 9, 2012, 3:38 am

Yep both Russian, hope you find them

Feb 9, 2012, 7:37 am

Mr. B's Reading Year sounds like a wonderful present! What a great idea.

Feb 9, 2012, 10:17 am

history of reading Alberto Manguel

Very Good

Collection of essays on the history of reading and therefore books

Manguel covers the history of writing of course but mainly this collection of essays are meditations on “the reader”. He covers reading out loud, interpretation, translation, the author as reader and much more. Manguel is, as ever, frighteningly well read and erudite. There are interesting facts from history and some great illustrations and photographs. Always interesting but sometimes repetitive and occasional re-use of ideas from his other works. Manguel was employed by Borges when Borges went blind to read to him and the part of the book where he covers this was very interesting as reading out loud and getting comments from Borges changed and expanded his view on the texts. His chapter on translation was also very good.

Overall – Manguel loves reading and thoroughly explores the act of reading through the ages.

Feb 9, 2012, 10:18 am

The Rebels Sandor Marai


Coming of age tale set in the time of WW1

I bought this on the strength of loving Embers and was sadly disappointed. This tale covers a gang of 4 school friends coming up to graduation who are the rebels of the title, the brother of one of the school friends who is back from the front having lost an arm and a much older actor. The school friends start stealing as an act of rebellion, mainly from their own families but as a method of getting back at “the enemy”, the enemy being adults in general. The tale is set during WW1 and it’s a given that once graduated the school friends will go to the front. This was headed for an even worse review as up to the middle of the book the plot is just turgid, although with beautifully crafted sentences. However the last couple of chapters did pick it up and the denouement was interesting enough to add a star and throw a new light on what has gone before.

Overall – nowhere near as good as Embers not recommended

Feb 9, 2012, 10:35 am

#242 - History of Reading sounds interesting. I'm somewhat familiar with the history of books and writing, but not so much reading.

Feb 9, 2012, 10:51 am

I agree, A History of Reading is something I will have to keep my eyes open for now, thank you!

What are you reading now?

Feb 9, 2012, 11:49 am

currently reading alan's war but will probably finish is tonight

Feb 10, 2012, 7:22 am

thought I'd share the fact that Alan Moore has done a piece for the BBC on V for Vendetta here

Feb 10, 2012, 1:34 pm

236> I didn't like Devil In the White City, I found that it lacked substance, that the reason that there were two stories in the book was becouase he didn't have enough to make either one stand on it's own. But of course I always want more. . .

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Feb 11, 2012, 12:22 pm

Getting caught up here. Sorry to see The Rebels wasn't as good as Embers.... I thought Embers was a great story so I will pass on The Rebels.

Edited: Feb 13, 2012, 5:40 am

monthly round up (going from 12th to 12th) & rolling total

# books read 35
# fiction 23
# non-fiction 13
# male writers 27
# female writers 8
# Unfinished 0
# Poor 0
# Average 5
# Very Good 18
# Brilliant 11

1 uncategorized (walking dead as its part of a long series)

categories so far

12 days of christmas = 11
12 Angry men = 3
12 stars in the flag of Europe = 3
12 Olympian gods = 3
Doomsday clock = 2
1912 = 1
Baker's Dozen = 9

for some reason my categories dont match the number of books I've read so have failed to catalogue some, ah well...

Feb 14, 2012, 6:17 am

Alan’s war Emmanuel Guibert

Very Good

The story of one man’s experiences in WW2

Beautifully drawn in black and white Guibert tells the story of Alan Cope who he met and formed a friendship with and who span his tales of WW2. Cope is an engaging narrator whose experiences in the war are almost peripheral but nethertheless compelling reading. Cope is a regular American soldier who recounts his experiences, friendships and personal development through joining up and being demobbed. Guibert’s art is sometimes drawn from reference photographs and there are some photographs in the back of the book which add depth to what you have read. Its not a war story in the sense of adventurous combat but rather a biography set at the same time as the war and the post war years.

Overall – Highly recommended to lovers of graphic novels

Feb 14, 2012, 6:18 am

Big Bang Simon Singh

Very Good

Cosmology book – the tagline reads “The most important scientific discovery of all time and why you need to know about it”

Simon Singh covers the history of cosmology from the earliest myths, through the Greek philosophers who measured the circumference of the Earth, the early astronomers such as Copernicus and Galileo and on to the ever improving telescopes and advances in science that led to the Big Bang theory. Blending mini biographies with succinct readable clearly explained science Singh has created a thoroughly interesting book. I have a couple of minor gripes though, the “why you need to know about it” part of the tagline wasn’t really explored all that thoroughly. Also the WMAP and COBE satellite maps were produced in black and white which made it difficult to envisage exactly what they were showing and finally there was very little discussion of the controversy of dark matter and dark energy however as Singh states in the “PS” section the book was originally over 1000 pages long and he cut it down to a little over 400 so obviously something had to give.

Overall – very enjoyable popularisation of cosomology

Edited: Feb 14, 2012, 6:49 am

Angelmaker Nick Harkaway


Harkaways second book is a mix of SF, steampunk and crime caper

"Destiny" is the state of perfect mechanical causation in which everything is the consequence of everything else

Joe has a famous criminal as a father and a grandfather who repaired clocks, he prefers to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. However when he is commissioned to repair a strange device by an old lady he is drawn into an adventure which is mixed up with his family history. Harkaway doesn’t disappoint with this book which is no mean feat after setting such expectations with the gone away world which was one of the reading highlights of my 11/11. The history bit has some great steampunk bits including a steam locomotive called the Ada Lovelace and a religious order based on the teachings of John Ruskin. It’s a blend again of different genres in a magical London which will no doubt draw comparisons to Gaiman’s Neverwhere (although Harkaway is by no means derivative), Joe is even pursued by a pair of government agents with some similarities to Croup and Vandermar (although as China Mieville says this is a very British trope – two overly polite but sinister gentlemen goes back even to Rosencratz and Gildenstein). This is yet another brilliant mixed genre book from Mr. Harkaway who has jumped into “one of my favourite authors” category and I will be reading everything else he writes, including his forthcoming non-fiction Blind giant

Overall – Brilliant adventure novel, get a copy if you can.

Feb 14, 2012, 9:18 am

I'll be waiting until Angelmaker comes out in paperback to pick up my copy. Glad to hear it's another good one by Nick Harkaway though.

Feb 14, 2012, 7:00 pm

I see both you and Claire loved Angelmaker and it's going on my wishlist. I hope to get to The Gone-Away World for this year's challenge.

Feb 15, 2012, 4:59 am

the gone away world does get some negative reviews but I think mostly by people that didn't finish it - its one you have to stick with I think to "get it" - hope you enjoy it, and even if you dont angelmaker is a very different book and I'd still recommend it even if you dont like the gone-away world

Feb 15, 2012, 11:23 am

Twelve book bullets - I'm dying here.... ;-)

Feb 15, 2012, 10:08 pm

After seeing your comment on Big Bang in my thread, I had to come over here to see the detailed review. It sounds like a book that I would enjoy very much. I'll definitely have to keep this one in mind for the near future.

Also, Angelmaker sounds very good. My local bookstore has recently started a steampunk book club, so I've been exploring the genre.

Feb 16, 2012, 4:43 am

Although it has steampunk elements iwoulnt say it was a steampunk book, although you should read it anyway :-)

Feb 16, 2012, 7:57 am

I, too, enjoyed Devil in the White City. Frankly, I've enjoyed everything I've read by Erik Larson.

Pure sounds rather interesting.

Great reviews here!

Feb 16, 2012, 8:26 pm

> 257 - Twelve book bullets - I'm dying here.... ;-)

Medic!..... we need a medic here!

Pete's thread can be dangerous to visit.... I think we should all be issued flak jackets.... just a thought ......;-P

Feb 17, 2012, 11:27 am

So, there should be a health warning on this thread then...Don protective gear before entering!

Feb 17, 2012, 11:33 am

And to all other very worthy threads here where I get shot at regularly - I will admit that I came in and read 250 posts at once to collect my twelve shots!

Feb 17, 2012, 3:13 pm

Okay, that book bullet splattered me against the wall. A religious cult based on John Ruskin's writings??? There's some odd John Ruskin-based SF&F out there, including a book about a house that the builder just kept sticking things into it - like walls made of bottle caps etc. Paper Grail? That, and I've also read a biographical account of Ruskin's annulled marriage. He was an odd duck, & I'm sure if I knew more about him I'd think him even odder.

Feb 18, 2012, 7:42 am

Thanks guys! I was wondering about 12 BBs although obviously 12 fits his years theme :-)

I was intrigued enough to search out some of Ruskins writings, not got round to reading what I downloaded yet

Had a very busy non-reading week last week and am only about half way through the company of the dead but hope to finish it in the next couple of days

Feb 18, 2012, 7:16 pm

Hi Pete! Catching up ten days worth of posts here- stepping right into the hail of bullets like most everyone else. Really it's like a drive-by shooting this, except the driver-by is the one taking the hits!

That Kafka airport video was great! My favorite was the security form - pause there and read it! "We believe that you have lied to us. Does it matter whether you have truly lied to us? Y/N" :D

The name Nick Harkaway has been shot into my chest in lead calligraphy enough times for me to have gotten the message by now. That bullet still smarted though!

Feb 20, 2012, 11:25 am

@266 I will definitely be reading his next book which comes out in May even though it's non-fiction...

I just realised that the book I'm reading, company of the dead, has a publication date of March 2012 guess the shop I got it from got an advance copy, although its about alternative history and time travel so perhaps it fell through a wormhole? Hope to finish it tonight anyway, feels like I've been reading it a long time not helped by chunky nature and lack of reading time last week...

Feb 21, 2012, 10:54 am

The company of the dead David Kowalski

Very Good

Time travelling, alternative history adventure yarn

This is a first book by this author. This fits my 1912 category as the time travel part revolves around the sinking of the Titanic. Kowalski hits the alternative history buttons in a slightly different way –the first world war has been won by the Germans and the Americans were not involved, instead the States had a second civil war and is split into confederate and union. Playing Russia to Germany’s “USA” is Japan who are the other superpower and have occupied the Union (Samurai in New York). A whole bunch of stuff hasn’t been invented and so we get to see biplanes and airships as well as “Stratolites” (giant dirigible cities). So instead of the usual “what if the other side won the civil war” or “what if Hitler won WW2” we get an earlier divergence. Why is the Titanic a key to the alternative history? Well you’ll just have to read the book to find out. On the plus side the setting is very well thought out, the adventure yarn has some interesting twists and turns and there are some great set pieces. On the down side its 750 pages long and feels like around 200 pages could have been dropped without harming either the atmosphere or the story – a good editor required I reckon. Additionally it took me a long time to care about the characters who seemed quite flat.

Overall – Good adventure tale recommended to those who like alt history

Feb 21, 2012, 11:06 am

#268 - Nice review. I'm not sure if alternate history is my thing. I read The Years of Rice and Salt last year and, while I thought it was really well done, I found it sort of exhausting, plus there were so many characters that I felt like I didn't know any of them very well. Another 700-plus page book.

Feb 21, 2012, 11:33 am

It had a rather complex plot and list of characters but that was also one of its strengths oddly

Feb 21, 2012, 1:47 pm

I'm going to add The Company of the Dead to the wishlist and give it a try. Alternative History can go either way with me, I guess it depends on the author's vision and how he gets his point across.

Feb 21, 2012, 7:22 pm

I also just went and added it to my wishlist... looks very interesting!

Feb 27, 2012, 11:30 am

busy busy busy but have finished blankets and bartleby & co will do reviews tomorrow most likely

also need to review some shorts from the weird compendium...

Feb 27, 2012, 3:11 pm

I'm very interested in what you thought of Blankets as I am just starting it today.

Feb 27, 2012, 5:41 pm

I liked it, more thoughts tomorrow

Feb 28, 2012, 11:36 am

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Very Good

Coming of age tale in graphic format

Well drawn and frank portrayal of growing up in rural Wisconsin in a very intense religious atmosphere, including bible camp and all the rest of it. All the usual growing up themes are there – the intensity of first love, what to do when leaving school/college, how relationships with friends and families change etc. Some of the experiences are familiar some not so much but I’m not sure if it says anything particularly new.

Overall – Enjoyable story with nice art

Feb 28, 2012, 11:39 am

Bartleby & Co Enrique Vila-Matas


A writer who has problems writing researches other writers that have stopped writing

The narrator that cannot write any more writes a series of footnotes to an imaginary text exploring other writers that have stopped writing. Using both real and fictitious writers and referencing lots of literary history Vila-Matas has some great turns of imagination and has obviously done a lot of the research that his narrator would have done. There are glimpses of a biographical story of the narrator who seems to have been unlucky in love and have a physical deformity (a hump). What lets the book down is that it abandons narrative for the footnote style and obviously his imagined text is not accessible. This could have been a great novel and one I really looked forward to but having no flow failed to grab me at all.

Overall - Interesting metafiction premise sadly let down by the implementation

Feb 28, 2012, 11:39 am

The Salmon of doubt Douglas Adams

Very Good

Collection of Adams articles, essays and shorts as well as his last unfinished novel

Douglas Adams sadly died at the age of 49 and when he died was working on another novel tentatively titled “The salmon of doubt”. His editor was given his hard drive and with a number of the authors friends and family chose their favourite short writings to go into a collection to include the unfinished novel. I didn’t read the unfinished novel part of this book (which is about 50% of the page count) as its not something I thought I would enjoy – I’d prefer not to know really. I read it for the articles from the letter a 12 year old Douglas Adams sent to Eagle comic (his first published work) to interviews with the American Atheist society to articles on Apple computers to speeches on the four ages of sand (telescopes, microscopes, silicon chips & the internet). Douglas Adams had a sideways perspective on the world and spoke intelligently on many different topics and as expected this eclectic collection is a joy to read, Joy tinged with sadness that he died at such a young age. Douglas Adams was one of those writers that can spark your imagination and filled his work with a combination of wit and deep philosophy that was unique. Adams is, of course, best known for the Hitchhikers series but this is best enjoyed in the original radio format and Adams was a very reluctant novelist but that does not mean that he was by any means a bad writer as this collection (and the long dark teatime of the soul his most polished novel) shows. The collection also includes a brilliant introduction by Stephen Fry and a sad afterword by Richard Dawkins both of whom added a different perspective. Really looking forward to a re-read of long dark teatime for the group read now & probably going to add last chance to see to my 42 category.

Overall – A thoughtful and inspiring set of writings

Feb 28, 2012, 11:52 am

#276 - I enjoyed Blankets as well. It was my first graphic novel and I plan to read a few more this year. I thought the relationship between the two brothers was particularly touching.

Feb 28, 2012, 11:54 am

>278 psutto: Probably sensible about skipping the Salmon. You know I never read And another thing either. Mostly harmless seemed such a good place to stop. Have you read that one, and was it any good?

Feb 28, 2012, 12:35 pm

Good review of Blankets, I was a little more blown away by this book which I found I couldn't put down once I started it. I am looking forward to trying both Goodbye Chunky Rice and Habibi.

Feb 28, 2012, 2:57 pm

279 & 281 I wasn't blown away but did enjoy it very much I will be getting habibi I think

@280 I have read mostly harmless but remember nothing about it, by then the laws of diminishing returns had really kicked in. Hitchhikers should really be enjoyed by listening to the radio show because that's the medium it was written for, the tv show and books are adaptations and I don't really rate the books very much (Adams was not a great novelist although the Dirk Gently books are superior to the Hitchhikers) and especially the later books where he had to come up with new material rather than adapting the radio show

Feb 29, 2012, 4:20 am

Mini reviews from the weird compendium

The white Wyrak by Stefan Grabinski

A monster tale, quite good but dated as the protagonists are chimney sweeps

The night wire H F Arnold

Creepy tale which although using obsolete technology for us manages to convey a nice sense of horror -recommended

The Dunwich horror H.P. Lovecraft

One of Lovecrafts longer and better tales, a good place to start if you've never read him, considered a key text in the Chthulu mythos

The book Margaret Irwin

Good supernatural chiller about an evil book

The Mainz Psalter Jean Ray

Lovecraftian type tale about a ship's voyage into another world

Mar 1, 2012, 3:37 am

I tried to order this huge brick online a few days ago, but the site said it wasn't yet published. Are you reading an ARC or an e-book or something?

Mar 1, 2012, 4:15 am

Nope - its published here, it was a present off Claire no idea where she got it but I have seen it in book shops here...

Mar 1, 2012, 4:32 am

I heard some of an audio version of The Salmon of Doubt, it brightened up a stay in hospital. I have it in my head that Stephen Fry narrated it, but I wouldn't bet on it. Would that it were, I love his voice - I have the Harry Potter audiobooks, just brilliant.

Mar 1, 2012, 4:58 am

I have a secret connections. Actually I just ordered it online from Book Depository I think (Wasnt available in Amazon). Surprisingly I did see it in a local bookshop, but I dread to think how much the P&P would be from the UK to Sweden for a book that size!

Mar 1, 2012, 7:26 am

Stephen Fry wrote the introduction and did house sit for Douglas Adams whilst he was off with Mark Carwardine when doing last chance to see & did the follow up 20 years later last chance to fill in for Douglas Adams so its entirely possible

Mar 3, 2012, 5:54 pm

Can you say "Stephen Fry" and "Richard Dawkins" in the same sentence? That just seems wrong! Great review, and it'll go on my wishlist. It might be just the thing to cheer me up right now.

Mar 4, 2012, 7:42 am

Must be missing something why is Dawkins and Fray in the same sentence wrong?

Mar 4, 2012, 10:35 pm

Fry is an outrageous comedian. Dawkins is an outspoken scientist. I suppose that works.

Mar 9, 2012, 8:47 am

been ultra busy this week and got little in the way of reading done and will take some time to catch up on LT

I "owe" 2 reviews though of if he hollers let him go and gould's book of fish which will come soon...

Mar 9, 2012, 1:16 pm

We'll be looking for 'em.

Mar 9, 2012, 3:38 pm

I am going to go to Bath literature festival tomorrow and must avoid buying lots of books

Mar 9, 2012, 10:32 pm

No no!!! Buy! Buy and tell us what you got. (Am I a bad influence?)

Mar 10, 2012, 12:40 am

Yes! And pics of loot, please. :)

Mar 12, 2012, 6:13 am

Yep bought several books - will sort out pics soon

Edited: Mar 12, 2012, 12:44 pm

monthly round up (going from 12th to 12th) & rolling total

# books read 42 (read half the number of books from 12th of Feb to 12th March than I did 12th Jan to 12th Feb - combination of larger/more difficult books and less time to read)

# fiction 28
# non-fiction 14
# male writers 33
# female writers 9
# Unfinished 0
# Poor 0
# Average 6
# Very Good 23
# Brilliant 13

1 uncategorized (walking dead as its part of a long series)

categories so far

12 days of christmas = 13
12 Angry men = 4
12 stars in the flag of Europe = 4
12 Olympian gods = 3
Doomsday clock = 2
1912 = 3
Baker's Dozen = 10
Life, the Universe and Everything = 1

I've decided that Baker's dozen can go over 12 but only due to the fact that its where graphic novels will live...

nice to see that if i wanted to I can "stick" on several categories now...

Mar 12, 2012, 8:11 am

If he hollers, let him go Chester Himes

Very Good

Crime and racism in WW2

Himes sets his story in WW2 where Bob Jones works as a “Leaderman” for a group of ship builders. After a build up of institutional racism and casual racism on the street Bob loses his temper with a white woman in work who calls him the N word and he cusses her out. From this small incident Bob’s life is soon spiralling out of control. Jones is an angry man and through his eyes we see the unfairness of the oppression that African Americans (and others – most notably the Japanese who are interned at the time the book is set) really is. Jones is not willing to take it lying down and Himes explores the way others react to this including Jones’s girlfriend who, being fair skinned, is more accepted and therefore advises Jones to be more placid. This is a gritty and compelling read in which you share the main character’s frustration.

Overall – highly recommended for thriller fans

Mar 12, 2012, 8:11 am

Gould’s book of fish Richard Flanagan


Historical novel based on early Australia set in a Tasmanian penal colony

It may be worth saying that this book was over-hyped some years ago, although the hype passed me by and I hadn’t heard of it until it turned up on my doorstep as part of my brilliant reading year present. Therefore, as with all over-hyped books, some people must have read it only because it was hyped and it wasn’t the book for them hence the fact that there are a lot of 1 and 2 star reviews (imho). Saying that though this book is not an easy read even if the writing is deceptively simple it is written like a 19th Century novel and does have some challenging aspects. Despite that I would recommend it to all but especially to lovers of the weird.

A found manuscript sets the scene for a rather strange reading experience. Our first narrator finds a very odd book of paintings of fish, with text written in all possible blank spaces, in a chest in an antique shop and becomes slightly obsessed by it and reproduces it for us as a standard(?) novel. The rest of the book is the memoirs of Billy Gould, a criminal transported to Australia and via a series of real or mistaken crimes ends up at Sarah Island ( where his artistic skills (learnt as a forger) lead him to aid the camp surgeon’s attempt at joining the Royal Society by painting the fish the surgeon is cataloguing. He starts by hating the fish, slowly comes to love them and then eventually you cannot tell where the fish stop and the man starts. This basic summary does not give any indication of the strangeness of the book, occasional changes from 1st person to 3rd person, a cast of odd characters and situations and the extremely grim conditions lovingly painted in words. It’s a complexly simple historically inaccurate yet illustrative book. There is a man in a golden mask, a very aggressive pig an unreliable narrator narrating the writings of an unreliable narrator from memory and a grindingly grim penal setting. Reading this book is like being beaten around the head by a very literary fish, which is probably what the author intended.

Overall – Utterly strange and destined for a re-read

Edited: Mar 12, 2012, 8:32 am

So I was at the Bath Lit fest on Saturday and "accidently" purchased some books - as there was a request for pics heres the haul...

some of these may make the 12/12

Mar 12, 2012, 12:09 pm

Great summary of your reading so far..... and I really like how so many of the books read are rated as "Very Good" or "Brilliant". Great reading year so far!

I have been able to dodge so book bullets here lately but will have to take the one for Richard Flanagan's Gould's Book of Fish. I read his book Wanting back in 2009 and was really impressed with his writing style and the details of Australian history he presented. I have been meaning to read more of Flanagan's works but his name kind of fell off my radar screen. Thanks for putting it back there!

Nice book haul!

Mar 12, 2012, 12:41 pm

302 - Thanks, its been good so far and I hope I'm getting better at spotting books i won't enjoy from a distance now!

Edited: Mar 12, 2012, 2:46 pm

oooo I've been wanting to read Richard Fortey for a long time... looks like a terrific haul!

Mar 12, 2012, 3:23 pm

Richard Fortey was a good speaker and apparently there's a TV series to go with the book that I completely missed, it's probably on iplayer somewhere as it was on BBC4...

Mar 12, 2012, 5:25 pm

"accidently" purchased some books

Nice. :) Excellent haul from Bath as well!!

Mar 13, 2012, 4:52 am

Great haul, Richard Fortey looks like someone I can add to my list of authors to try.

Edited: Mar 13, 2012, 9:17 am

Here's a terrific interview with Dr. Fortey on the books HE recommends (found the link on the LT author page).

I did some research on the trilobites of Wyoming in grad school ... fascinating fossils to locate and identify.

If you were lucky you found rocks like this (the fossils in front are not trilobites, but are ammonites ... and are exceedingly cool in their own right):

which you then had to painstakingly remove the matrix (the rock in between the fossils) and then collect and sort and identify.

This image is, of course, a museum piece which wouldn't be broken down, but I had a number of smaller chunks that put together would have made something similar.

Sorry about the rave... it's been a while and looking at Fortey's books brings back the memories...

Mar 13, 2012, 9:18 am

His book on trilobites was very interesting. I've been meaning to read something else by him. Maybe later this year.

Edited: Mar 13, 2012, 12:17 pm

they had his trilobite book on the stand too but I kept to just 2 of his books - I'm guessing if I get on with his style I'll read them all

thats an amazing trilobite/ammonite picture

Mar 13, 2012, 12:27 pm

I had to restrain him from buying the entire back catalogue :)

@308 As with most kids I was into fossils and dinosaurs. I remember getting very muddy and happy in the mud of the river Severn or horribly sandy in Lyme Regis looking for fossils. I never found anything that cool and my coolest possession was a sharks tooth my uncle gave me. Anyway since I didn't follow my childish dream of becoming a geologist any rock/fossil porn is fine by me! So thanks for the photos :)

Mar 14, 2012, 8:55 am

Scott’s last expedition Robert Falcon Scott

Very Good

Scott’s journals of the expedition to reach the South Pole in 1912

What lots and lots I could tell you of this journey. How much better it has been than lounging in too great comfort at home....But what a price to pay

Scott made the pole but was beaten to it by Amundsen and died on his way back. These journals cover the time from leaving New Zealand right up to the Southern journey and the last march. Also included are extensive notes, a biography by J.M. Barrie and a list of the changes that were made to the journals for publication (from when they were first published). Having also read the worst journey in the world a lot here was familiar and I would recommend Cherry Garrard’s book and the chapters from these journals that cover the journey to the pole itself. Scott became a controversial figure in the 2nd half of the 20th century especially after Roland Huntsford’s Scott and Amundsen there’s no doubt that he made a few bad decisions which ultimately led to the deaths of himself and four others but I do not feel he deserves the vilification he received. There’s a vast wealth of detail in the journals showing that there was extensive planning for the journey and as it was an early endeavour into this sort of journey mistakes were made but since Scott went later in the season than Amundsen he suffered worse weather and this was his downfall. Take this for what it is, a set of journals detailing life at the Antarctic with discussions on clothing, food, skis, sledges, dogs, ponies etc. etc. One important difference between Scott and Amundsen was that Scott was there mainly for scientific reasons with the visit to the pole just part of the programme. Much of this scientific work is discussed and is in itself quite interesting as these are the first forays into the geology and biology of the Southern continent. This weekend I’m hoping to go and see the pictures taken by Herbert Ponting of this Antarctic journey that are currently on display in London.

Overall – A must read for those interested in the heroic age of arctic exploration

Edited: Mar 19, 2012, 12:30 pm

Unwritten – Volumes 1-5 by Mike Carey


Going to review the entire series so far instead of book by book to save time –they’re all brilliant so far anyway. We follow Tom Taylor who is the son of a famous reclusive/missing author who wrote a series of best selling books about a boy wizard named Tommy Taylor. When Tom is confronted with some difficult questions at a “Tommycon” he is thrust into a series of adventures. This is a story about stories and how they contribute to reality.

Without a story there is no meaning
And the nature of the meaning depends on the nature of the story
To understand this is to understand the power of stories
And so, to control the stories, to be the one doing the telling....
Well now, wouldn't that be quite a thing?

The art is quite good showing different styles for different stories, we have a parody(? I've not read Harry Potter so for all I know it is that cheesy) of a certain boy wizard, we have a choose your own adventure for one of the stories, we have the mother of all “in the belly of the whale” stories, we have a story about propaganda and much more.

Overall – highly recommended for all lovers of story graphic novel fans or not

Edited: Mar 19, 2012, 12:29 pm

Astro City volume 1 by Kurt Busiek

Very Good

Busiek aims to tell stories set in a world of superheroes that seek to explore what it would be like to visit their world rather than the big dramas concentrating on the heroes. This works so well in short story format rather than using an overarching plot and I look forward to reading some more. This is not just for fans of superheroes as the stories are about so much more than that.

Overall – recommended to all comics lovers

Edited: Mar 19, 2012, 3:12 pm

flashman on the march George Macdonald Fraser


I read this out of order as it fits the TIOLI “12/12 has 12 months”. If you’ve read any Flashman novels you’ll know what to expect here as the cowardly cad gets involved in the Abyssinian war. This was the last published Flashman and with another 11 books out there is filled with many sentences that ran “and I also did this in (such and such) adventure” or "if you remember (so and so name) from a previous adventure" which I ended up skipping over having not read the previous adventures he's speaking about.

The short campaign performed by the British in Abyssinia was not something I was familiar with and the Flashman stories are very good at bringing the history and setting to life. I will get round to reading all of them but would not advise you start with this one.

Overall – Good faux historical novel but don’t start here

Mar 19, 2012, 1:24 pm

I do want to read more graphic novels and both Astro City and Unwritten are on my list to check out. Glad you enjoyed them. I have the first of the Flashman books on my tbr pile and will get to it eventually but it's not something that is jumping up and down saying "read me now!"

Mar 19, 2012, 2:29 pm

yet another series of stories that I've been meaning to get to ... I've heard a lot of good things about Flashman

Mar 19, 2012, 4:57 pm

Claire managed to put Unwritten firmly on my wishlist - I'm looking forward to sitting down and mowing through the series!
This topic was continued by Psutto 1212.