SandDune in 2014: January thread

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SandDune in 2014: January thread

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Edited: Dec 27, 2013, 7:18am

Welcome to my first thread of 2014! For those that don't know me from previous years, I'm SandDune (aka Rhian), a 52 year old Finance Manager working for a local charity. I live about thirty miles north of London in the UK with my husband of 25 years (aka Mr SandDune), our thirteen year son (aka J), our (almost) 2 year old sweet-tempered Staffordshire Bull Terrier Daisy, and 10 year old cat Sweep, who is not sweet-tempered at all as far as Daisy is concerned and whose life ambition is to drive Daisy out of the house. Mr SandDune is an Assistant Principal at the school that my son attends and so our lives tend to be rather dominated by school issues during term time. I'm half-way through an English Literature degree with the Open University and currently studying the Nineteenth Century Novel module.

My reading tends to be quite varied. Historically, I've read a lot of literary and classical fiction, but in recent years (thanks largely to LT but also my University course) I've been branching out and exploring science-fiction, fantasy, children's and YA fiction, and graphic novels. I read very little chick-lit, thrillers or detective fiction. I haven't read much non-fiction during the last couple of years but I hope to remedy that this year.

Those that followed my thread last year know I like to start with a picture. This year I've chosen a theme of dogs in art: I thought there are probably enough dog lovers among the 75ers for that to go down well! So the first painting of the year is:

'Double Portrait' Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

This is a double portrait of Lucian Freud's daughter Bella with his whippet Pluto. I didn't realise before I started looking for suitable pictures that Lucian Freud had painted numerous pictures of his dogs (mainly whippets): I chose this one because the woman and the dog look so completely at peace with each other.

Edited: Dec 27, 2013, 10:23am

Reading Plans for 2014:

This year I'm going to be a little more flexible in my reading plans. Last year I joined the 2013 category challenge but I didn't find that it really suited how I wanted to read, so in 2014 I'm just going to have some general overall goals:

- First World War Centenary. As it's the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, I'm intending to read at least some fiction connected with this period.

- American Author Challenge 2014. I am very poorly read in some of these American greats from the 20th century and so a lot of these authors will be new to me.

- Vorkosigan Year Long Challenge. I read Shards of Honour in 2013 and I'm really looking forward to continuing this series.

- Open University reading. The Nineteenth Century Novel at the moment and then Twentieth Century Writing later in the year.

- RL book group. We read a book a month (mainly literary fiction), as well as the Booker prize short list every year.

In 2013 I read just over 100 books so this plan should leave me plenty of room for random picks and book bullets!

Dec 27, 2013, 6:45am

Hi Rhian, nice to see your new thread! I've starred you :-)

Dec 27, 2013, 7:27am

Found you and starred :-)

Dec 27, 2013, 10:10am

Rhian - I will of course be along for the ride in 2014.

Dec 27, 2013, 10:13am

Trail of breadcrumbs left to your thread.

Dec 27, 2013, 10:13am

Starred. I'll be following in 2014 as well.

Dec 27, 2013, 11:00am

Hi there Rhian -- I, too, hope to be reading some WWI in honor of the Centennial. Looking forward to following your reading (and hope for some WWI book ideas...) Checked your profile and our interests seem simpatico. Loved your review of Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane. Cheers, Marianne

Dec 27, 2013, 11:16am

Hi Rhian - starred! Love the painting too.

I'm at least going to start the Vorkosigan novels, so I'll get to Shards of Honor at some point soon.

Dec 27, 2013, 12:34pm

Here you are, Rhian! I'm going to be reading and re-reading all my WWI books and discovering some new ones, too. My obsession with it dates back to my tour guide summers at Vimy Ridge back in '78, '79, '80. Impossible not to FEEL the history. And then looking at that history, realizing that we're still living with the consequences a century later. Gavrilo Princip has a lot to answer for...

Dec 27, 2013, 1:07pm

Hello Rhian! I think we will certainly see a lot of WWI books in 2014 and I'm also planning to read some.

Dec 27, 2013, 1:27pm

Dropping a star. Hi, Rhian!

Dec 27, 2013, 1:37pm

#6,8,9,10, Hi Diana, Paul, Helen, Beth - nice to see everyone back even though we haven't actually hit 2014 yet!

#7,11 Barbara, Marianne, it's great to see some new faces. Don't get too intimidated by the number of messages flying round for the first week of the new year - it does calm down!

#12 Kerri, I had such fun yesterday researching a selection of dog paintings. It's amazing how many old family portraits from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries include dogs in them, and some of the dogs are just huge! I hope you enjoy Shards of Honor - I thought it was great fun.

#13,14 Suz, Susan I'll probably be starting my First World War books with a reread of A Farewell to Arms. We had a few days in Kobarid (the Caporetto of Hemingway's book, now in Slovenia) in 2010 and I've been meaning to reread the book ever since as I've now got a much better idea of the terrain that they were fighting over than when I read it first. And really it is incredible that anyone would have even considered fighting there in the first place, given how rugged it is. Vimy Ridge is certainly a very moving spot as well: we visited years ago and I've been meaning to take J there for some time but it hasn't quite come off.

Edited: Dec 27, 2013, 1:56pm

Hi, Rhian. I haven't followed your thread in the past, but I've "seen you around", as we say. I look forward to sharing your 2014 reading, especially in the American Authors Challenge, because American lit is where my heart lies, no matter how much other great stuff I read.

Dec 27, 2013, 4:08pm

Hi, Rhian! Happy (premature) New Year!

Dec 27, 2013, 6:07pm

#15,18 Hi Mamie, Liz!

#17 Linda, my knowledge of American 20th century authors is very poor: I've read a little bit of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald but not much else. I'm not too sure how I will get on with the January author for the American Author Challenge (Willa Cather) as I really didn't care much for My Antonia! but I am going to read Death comes for the Archbishop anyway.

Dec 27, 2013, 6:34pm

I enjoyed Death Comes for the Archbishop a lot. It's the only Cather I've read so far. There is a whole boys' club of American authors I don't give a fig for, I must admit. Included in that bunch are Philip Roth, John Cheever, Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway, John Updike and Kurt Vonnegut. Still, I will give some of them another chance to impress me in 2014.

Dec 28, 2013, 11:24am

Welcome back!

Dec 28, 2013, 1:40pm

Hi Rian, thank you for stopping by. :) Love that painting and I am a big dog fan :). Whippets are adorable. I've starred your thread- I'm interested to see what you pick up this year.

Dec 28, 2013, 1:43pm

Steinbeck, Hemingway, Wharton and Fitzgerald .... Not a shabby start!

Dec 28, 2013, 2:50pm

Starred because I figure anyone who's reading the Vorkosigan series and gave 5 stars to Tooth and Claw is similar enough in taste to me that your thread will be full of great recommendations!

Dec 28, 2013, 8:35pm

Hi, Rhian! Looking forward to the year long Vorkosigan challenge, among many other things.

Dec 28, 2013, 11:28pm

Hi Rhian - just dropping off a star!

Dec 29, 2013, 3:39pm

Hi Linda, Jim, Tamara, Marianne, Susanna, Joe, Katie.

In the past I've struggled with some American authors who write literary fiction, but I'm looking forward to seeing if I can get over that this year.

Susanna, have you read Among Others? That was another one of Jo Walton's that I really enjoyed: gave 5 stars to that one too I think.

Dec 29, 2013, 5:50pm

Happy New Year, Rhian! Lovely painting up top and I'm thrilled there will be regular doggie fixes to counteract all the cats around here. :-)

Dec 29, 2013, 9:25pm

Looking forward to following your reading this year - like you, I am not really well read when it comes to American authors, but that challenge looks like fun!

Dec 30, 2013, 12:18am

Hi Rhian--looking forward to following you again this year!

Dec 30, 2013, 6:14am

Leaving a star... I hope I can follow you throughout 2014. Happy Reading, Rhian!

Dec 30, 2013, 8:14am

Swinging by and dropping off a star! Not long to go now until we can begin our threads 2014 in earnest!

Dec 30, 2013, 9:31pm

Hi Rhian, I am here for 2014 as well. I hope you love Death Comes for the Archbishop -- it's one of my favorites. I also listed Barchester Towers as a 2013 favorite as well. I'm listening to The Ocean at the End of the Lane right now (or I will be when school starts again and I am back to the commute). Cheers to you!

Dec 30, 2013, 9:36pm

Hi Rhian- Congrats on starting the 2014 thread. Looking forward to another great year of reading.

Dec 31, 2013, 12:07pm

Hi Rhian. Love the theme of your 2014 thread. Wishing you a great reading year in 2014!

Dec 31, 2013, 12:17pm

Hi Rhian, I've starred you for 2014!

Dec 31, 2013, 12:27pm

#28 Julia I like cats as well (we've pretty much always had one) but dogs will always be my first love! I seem to have spent a very large proportion of my life wanting, but not being able to have, a dog, so it's made me appreciate them all the more.

#30,31,32,34 Hi Deborah, Nathalie, Hannah, Mark Happy New Year to you. We're currently in my sister's flat in London and will be experiencing the New Year in a few hours time with a bang. Or more accurately quite a few very loud bangs as there is only one building between us and the London Eye which forms the centre point of the London Fireworks. Unfortunately, it is quite a tall building so we won't have a great view unless we brave the massive crowds (not sure about that as I'm not great in huge crowds) but we should be able to see some of the display from the front door.

#33 Anne, I will be definitely reading more Trollope this year, and hopefully finishing the Barsetshire Chronicles. Does Neil Gaiman narrate The Ocean at the End of the Lane? Having heard him speak I imagine he's a great narrator of his own books.

Dec 31, 2013, 12:45pm

#29 Cait , here are my current American Authors choices: I've changed my Faulkner and Welty choices as a couple of their other books appealed more when we were book shopping in Foyles in London yesterday.

Willa Cather- January Death comes for the Archbishop
William Faulkner - February As I Lay Dying
Cormac McCarthy- March All the Pretty Horses
Toni Morrison- April The Bluest Eye
Eudora Welty- May The Golden Apples
Kurt Vonnegut- June Mother Night
Mark Twain- July Huckleberry Finn
Philip Roth- August The Plot against America
James Baldwin- September Go Tell it on the Mountain
Edith Wharton- October The Custom of the Country
John Steinbeck- November The Grapes of Wrath
Larry Watson- December Montana 1948

Dec 31, 2013, 2:37pm

#36,37 Becky, Kathy, we cross-posted. Happy New Year to you as well!

Dec 31, 2013, 2:47pm

Enjoy the fireworks, Rhian. At least it's warm enough not to get totally frozen out there. Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2013, 4:24pm

Happy New Year Rhian!!! I enjoyed chatting with you last year and am confident 2014 will bring more bookish fun.

Dec 31, 2013, 6:26pm

May all your wishes come true.

Dec 31, 2013, 6:56pm

Happy New Year Rhian! Hope 2014 is kind to you!

Dec 31, 2013, 7:21pm

Happy New Year everyone. Just came back in from watching London fireworks 100m behind London Eye. Couldn't see everything, but could see enough for it to be really impressive.

Dec 31, 2013, 7:41pm

Happy New Year, Rhian!

Dec 31, 2013, 7:54pm

Happy New Year and happy reading, Rhian!

Dec 31, 2013, 11:48pm

Hi Rhian... dropping my star and along for the ride!

Jan 1, 2014, 12:11am

Happy New Year Rhian! I need to come back and see all I've missed above already, but wanted to at least drop by and send you good wishes.

Jan 1, 2014, 1:06am

Rhian - To Alan, J and your lovely self: Have a wonderful 2014 and thanks for being good friends and company in the old year.

Edited: Jan 2, 2014, 2:14pm

We've been having a relaxing end to 2013. We went into London for a couple of days, staying at my sister's flat which is very central, just behind the old County Hall building, for those of you that know London. On Monday we had a general wander across the river, into Covent Garden and on up to Foyles, where new books were in order:

The Malarkey Helen Dunmore - poetry - my next RL book club book
The Purple Cloud Matthew Phipps Shiel - an early apocalyptic novel
As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
The Golden Apples Eudora Welty - both for American Authors challenge
The Faster I Walk the Smaller I Am Kjersti A. Skomsvold - been on my WL for ages.

And then dinner, and theatre to see 'One Man, Two Guvnors', which was silly but funny.

Then yesterday we saw the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, which had some amazing photographs. Spent most of the rest of the day at the museum, bought another book (The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey) and watched the Fireworks at midnight. We found a reasonable place to stand: my sister's flat was in a cordoned off area with entry for access only for New Year's Eve, so we could stand at the edge of that area on the other side of the crash barriers from the huge crowd and still see quite well. Came home this morning, but unfortunately a sniffle that I could feel coming on yesterday has now developed into a full-blown cold so I'm feeling pretty groggy.

Jan 1, 2014, 9:45am

Hi Rhian - Feel better soon. You have some great reading ahead in 2014. I'll be following your thread to see what you think of the American writers.

Jan 1, 2014, 9:48am

Hi Pat, Tina, Nancy, Illana, Paul, Beth. Happy New year to you all!

Jan 1, 2014, 9:52am

Happy New Year Rhian, I'll be lurking again this year:)

Jan 1, 2014, 10:04am

Starring for 2014!

Jan 1, 2014, 11:43am

Ooh, Wildlife Photographer of the Year grabbed me enough to look it up. And you got me with a BB for The Epigenetics Revolution. Happy New Year!

Jan 1, 2014, 11:47am

Happy New Year! I love anything by Lois McMaster Bujold though Shards of Honor is a definite favorite.

Jan 1, 2014, 12:18pm

#53,54 Hi Calm, Morphy. Happy New Year to you!

#55 Katherine, the exhibition would be right up your street. It's an annual event, but I've never been before. Even J really enjoyed it, and he was a little doubtful whether it was his sort of thing.

#56 Hi Kathy - I haven't come across your thread before - I'll look out for it. I've only read one Lois McMaster Bujold before and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Jan 1, 2014, 12:30pm

Rhian - Nice little splurge to end the year. Take plenty of VC.

Jan 1, 2014, 12:31pm

Happy New Year, Rhian! I hope your cold passes quickly. Your visit to London sounds quite lovely.

Jan 1, 2014, 12:35pm

Happy New Year, Rhian! Looking forward to following you on your reading journey this year and I love that you are adopting a dog theme for the year of thread toppers.

Hot tea with honey & lemon, wrap warm and stay snug as a bug on your couch with a good book ... hope your cold passes quickly.

Edited: Jan 1, 2014, 3:01pm

Continuing the dog theme, while I was feeling poorly this afternoon I sat down and watched 'Doggy Styling': a documentary about a British woman's attempt to win the extreme grooming world championship. This has been mentioned on Susan's thread, but before I saw this programme it had never occurred to me just how extreme 'extreme styling' can be! Apparently this is a pastime that has yet to make it's way to the UK in any meaningful way, and to be honest I can see why.

Here is a picture of her winning dog 'Dobby', with a Japanese geisha theme:

Edited: Jan 1, 2014, 3:08pm

Wow, that's some bizarre, impressive, extreme grooming!

Happy New Year, Rhian!

Jan 1, 2014, 3:33pm

Hi, Rhian, sorry to hear you're under the weather. Hope you get better soon. Your sister's place is in a great spot. We stayed in County Hall the previous time we were in London, when our youngest was a mere bump. Just wanted to swing by and wish you and your family the best of health and happiness for the New Year.

Jan 1, 2014, 3:39pm

That poor dog! Looks like Walt Disney threw up on her coat! Hope you are feeling better! marianne

Jan 1, 2014, 4:35pm

>64 michigantrumpet: "That poor dog!" My thoughts exactly! I don't know whether to feel worse for Rhian because she's come down with a cold, or for the poor pooch being exploited that way. At least I can send you good wishes for speedy recovery, Rhian. No way to tell the dog how sorry I am!

Jan 1, 2014, 4:52pm

The extreme grooming photo is too funny! I hope you feel better soon.

Jan 1, 2014, 5:07pm

Hope you feel better soon, Rhian. I have a friend who takes her dog to an extreme groomer but from what I've seen it's very tame compared to that picture you posted. She has a miniature poodle and the extreme part is that he has a mohawk.

Jan 1, 2014, 5:22pm

Dear Rhian, I wish you a happy, smooth, productive, satisfying 2014 --- and .....

and .... that you shake that cold soonest!

Jan 1, 2014, 5:30pm

61: Oh the poor dog to be afflicted with such a person. Got me wondering whether the dog realizes how garish it looks, and the answer is... no.

Edited: Jan 1, 2014, 5:38pm

#62 Hi Joe, happy new year to you as well!

#63 It's a great location, Nina. So many things are within walking distance. Last night I was a bit worried about not being allowed back into the restricted area if we went outside as we didn't have great proof of address (happened to my nephew one New Year's Eve and he wasn't allowed back until about 3am) but it did mean we could see the fireworks without braving the massive crowd.

#64,65,66,67 Hi Marianne, Linda, Rhonda, Pat. To be honest the dog seemed fairly happy with all the attention it was getting, but it must inhibit his natural behaviours to be got up like that. I mean you couldn't really take a him out for a walk looking like that, could you? I can sort of see the point in having an interesting cut for a poodle: they've got to be trimmed somehow and there's no reason that they should all look the same, but I don't quite get why you would want your dog to be painted all over. He is a literary dog apparently: it's based on Memoirs of a Geisha and his tail is a bonsai tree. Not sure about the orange stripy thing though - any orange stripy snakes in the book?

Jan 1, 2014, 5:54pm

>61 SandDune:: Esme the standard poodle just ran yelping from the room. She thinks looking like a lab with a perm is just fine and doesn't understand why people feel the need to do this kind of thing to their dog friends.

And I found you! Happy New Year, Rhian. Happy reading and hope you shake that lurgy off soon.

Jan 1, 2014, 6:24pm

Hi Rhian just dropping off a star!

Jan 1, 2014, 6:33pm

Happy New Year Rhian! Sorry you're feeling under the weather. I guess I just don't get that dog styling pastime. Nor do I know a dog who would put up with it. Certainly my Buddy wouldn't. He likes to maintain a certain standard haha.

Jan 1, 2014, 8:51pm

Hello, Rhian, and happy 2014! Your reading plans for the year look like lots of fun. I believe we'll have a few shared reads. I'm looking forward to following your progress.

I also love the double portrait. They do, indeed, look completely at peace together.

Jan 1, 2014, 10:45pm

It took a bit of work to get here but I have now located your thread, Rhian! Sorry to learn you have come down with a cold. Here is hoping it is short lived and you will be back to full strength in no time. Happy New Year and all the best in 2014!

Jan 2, 2014, 12:18am

Happy New Year to you, Rhian!

Yes, Neil Gaiman does narrate The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and so far it's really good, if a bit slow. I'm not in the car so much by myself while school is not in session, but next week I'm back and will have more time to listen.

I hope you love Death Comes for the Archbishop -- it's my very favorite Cather. I know My Antonia didn't work for you last year.

Jan 2, 2014, 1:30am

Hi Rhian - looking forward to follow your reads, your painting-posting and chit-chat. Have a wonderful 2014!

I loved Death Comes from the Archbishop - but then again....I also loved My Antonia - I have three more Cather lined up for me in 2014. She's such a good writer.

Jan 2, 2014, 1:50am

Happy New Year Rhian!

Jan 2, 2014, 5:41am

Hi Peggy, Katherine, Tui, BBGirl, Bonnie, Ellen, Lori, Anne, Carsten, Rachel. Such a lot of visitors!

You would definitely need a dog with the right sort of temperament for the extreme grooming to be sure. I can't imagine Daisy standing still long enough to be dyed! Even giving her a normal bath is hard work and needs at least two people, as she tries to escape at every available opportunity. The bathroom and all the participants usually end up covered in water! Luckily staffies tend to stay fairly clean so we don't have to do it that often.

Still feeling really under the weather unfortunately. I'm supposed to be back at work today but I'm staying at home, and will probably be at home tomorrow as well. Luckily, our replacement Apple TV remote has arrived from Amazon and so I once more have access to Netflix and iTunes so should be able to find something to watch. I can't help feeling that when they designed Apple TV they paid too much attention to style over substance. It's impossible to operate if you lose the remote as it has no buttons in it at all. And the remote is so small and stylish that we lose it on a regular basis. We lost the old one for good before Christmas and we've been waiting for the new one to arrive

Jan 2, 2014, 6:15am

Happy New Year, Rhian! I'm sorry that it has started out with a bad cold, though. Thanks for mentioning County Hall; I now realize that it's the building that Bryony and I passed last year, as we walked from Parliament Square to the South Bank and the stalls under the Waterloo Bridge. That is a great location.

Lots to catch up on here!

The portrait by Lucian Freud is a superb way to start your new thread.

I'll also read several books for the WWI centenary, including two books I bought yesterday, 1914: A Novel by Jean Echenoz, and the U.S.A. trilogy by John Dos Passos.

I probably won't formally participate in the American Authors challenge, but I will read several classic works by American writers throughout the year, including Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, and the Dos Passos trilogy.

I'm glad to see that you're planning to read Go Tell It on the Mountain, as James Baldwin is my favorite American novelist. He is also my favorite American essayist; I should probably add Collected Essays to my list of TBR books. It's a Library of America edition that includes Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time, Nobody Knows My Name, and other works.

Poor Dobby.

Jan 2, 2014, 8:43am

I figured out the orange stripy thing! It's a koi. The eyes are near the foot. The rust brown tuff near the heel is a fin and the tail is up on the hip.

Jan 2, 2014, 10:51am


Edited: Jan 2, 2014, 12:11pm

#80 Darryl, thanks for dropping by. We would have done a walk along the South Bank yesterday morning before we came home but there was heavy rain and I was starting to feel ill so we gave it a miss. I haven't really done much today except sit on the sofa and watch TV - been feeling a bit too groggy for reading. I did have to go out briefly as I had a hospital appointment to get a mole checked. I was dreading sitting for ages in the waiting room feeling poorly but for some strange reason I seemed to be the only patient in the dermatology clinic and I was back in the car park before it had even got to my official appointment time. And there were no problems, thank goodness.

#81 Morphy, you definitely get a prize for that. I would never have thought of a koi, but now that you've said it I can see what you mean. I'd put the blue parts down as water though and I think the brown lumpy bit on top is a bridge?

#82 Hi Karen. Happy New Year!

Jan 2, 2014, 12:37pm

>80 kidzdoc: Ahh...the Dos Passos trilogy. Thanks for mentioning that, Darryl. I have it around here somewhere, and this would be a good year to finally plunge into it.

Jan 2, 2014, 1:04pm

>83 SandDune:: Oh, I see the koi. And now you've said that, I can see the geisha too. Seriously, they dyed the dog's fur? It all looks synthetic. Weird!

>79 SandDune:: Re the remotes; one day you'll move the sofa or something and find a heap of Apple remotes, and then you'll be set for life. Or at least a couple of months until they all get lost again.

Jan 2, 2014, 2:02pm

#84 Hi Linda, Happy New Year to you as well!

#80, 85 Darryl, Linda, I haven't come across the Dos Passos trilogy. What books are those exactly?

#86 Nina, it is all his own hair. Apparently it is dyed in segments with specialist dog hair dye (who knew such a thing existed) and then trimmed. And re the Apple remote we had a huge look for it before Christmas (moved the sofa, pulled all the cushions off), and it's such a pain as there don't seem to be any shops nearby which stock the remote on its own. And losing things really annoys me - I like to know where everything is. I'm definitely a bit of a control freak with that.

Edited: Jan 2, 2014, 4:54pm

Hi Rhian, hope you are feeling better. Re the Apple TV remote … a techie where I bought my unit showed me an app called Remote that will operate Apple TV from an iPhone or iPad, if you have either. ETA: the link

Jan 2, 2014, 5:00pm

Love the picture ... Very peaceful.

Jan 2, 2014, 5:02pm

Just realised that there is a flood warning for tomorrow morning exactly where my Mum's new apartment is. It's never flooded there before as far as I'm aware but still... Luckily she's staying with my sister at the moment.

This is what the flood alert says:

Winds are forecast to be force 9 from a south westerly direction. High spring tides will coincide with storm surge, large waves and high winds giving potential for the highest water levels we have experienced for some time.

It sounds even worse in Devon and Cornwall where the news says that waves of 30ft may hit the coast in some places.

Jan 2, 2014, 5:10pm

Poor pup! Hi Rian- wishing you a speedy recovery!

Jan 2, 2014, 5:14pm

#88 a techie where I bought my unit showed me an app called Remote - Nancy, I'd discovered that when we lost the remote in the first place, but apparently you need a functioning remote to set it up in the first place. But now that the new one has arrived I'm going to be setting it up sharpish before it gets lost again!

#89 Hi Anne! Welcome to the group. Hope you're having a great 2014 so far.

Jan 2, 2014, 6:25pm

Rhian, your star is firmly attached! I like your dog theme but the Geisha dog just makes me ask "why?". Dogs just want to be dogs imo which is seconded by the brindle boxer napping on my lap! I'm also excited about the WWI Centenary and the many good suggestions for books to read on the thread. Happy New Year!

Jan 2, 2014, 6:36pm

I'd discovered that when we lost the remote in the first place, but apparently you need a functioning remote to set it up in the first place.

Oh, I love stuff like that! "Having trouble with your internet connection? Please access our website..."

Jan 2, 2014, 7:21pm

It is still very soggy in Kent. The river Medway has had flood warnings up almost constantly in some places for more than 2 week. I am so glad I live on a hill. The wind is not fun though! I hope you feel better soon.

Jan 3, 2014, 5:38am

Rhian, Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy consists of the interlinked novels The 42nd Parallel, 1919 and The Big Money, which apparently provide a portrait of American life during the first three decades of the 20th century, through the lives of 12 ordinary citizens, camera eye views and poems.

Sorry to hear about your lousy weather; I hope that it's better there today. It was and continues to be pretty brutal in the eastern half of the US, due to the effects of a double barreled weather system. It rained here in Atlanta (I flew back from Philadelphia yesterday afternoon), but the temperatures plummeted after it ended. It's currently 21 F (-6 C), but the wind chill makes it feel like 7 F (-13 C). It's far colder than that in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, and they will get up to 18 inches of snow and experience blizzard conditions and coastal flooding until later this morning. It's -16 F (-26 C) in Madison, Wisconsin, where my best friends live, and it's 2 F (-16 C) in Boston, with a wind chill of -20 F (-28 C) and there's over a foot of snow on the ground so far.

Edited: Jan 3, 2014, 5:54am

#93 Dogs just want to be dogs imo
Donna, I definitely agree with that!

#94 Liz, don't get me started in Internet problems. We had huge difficulties earlier in the year and it nearly drove me to distraction.

#95 BBGirl, the problem where my mum lives is the sea rather than river flooding: the town where she lives doesn't even have a stream, let alone a full-sized river. And in the normal course of events her flat is well above sea level. The problem will be that with a very high tide and a storm surge with the wind blowing from the south-west it will lift the waves right onto the promenade in front of my Mum's flat. And they can deliver large amounts of water in that way.

When I was looking at the flood warnings I discovered that the house where I grew up is in an area where the sea defences are not expected to be repaired by the local council if they fail, so I don't know what the chances of it still being there in thirty years time is. That house was virtually at sea level with a very high tide when I was a child!

Edited: Jan 3, 2014, 9:26am

#91 Hi Tamara, sorry I'd missed you out up above.

#96 Thanks for the information on the USA Trilogy Darryl. I'll have to look those up. I'd seen your awful weather on the news, but it's been a bit overshadowed by our awful weather over the last few days to be honest! We haven't got any snow - it isn't very cold actually - but the wind and the rain have been awful. And all the rain is falling on ground that's already completely saturated, so that and the combination of the high winds and very high tides means that virtually the entire west coast has been on a flood alert of one shape or another. And apparently we are getting your storm on Sunday as well, if the ones we've had already isn't bad enough.

This is what it can get like a few minutes walk from my Mum's flat:

That picture seems to have been taken earlier in the year, but I've seen a comment on the BBC website from someone who obviously lives quite near my Mum who says 'very large waves have been breaking over the wall opposite the house and sweeping up the drive. The sea wall is also badly damaged'

I am going to be very unpopular with my son. I sent him out into town to get his hair cut: the sun was shining then but it's turned to torrential rain and hailstones and he is going to get soaked.

Edited to add: J has returned and looks like a drowned rat. He got caught in both rain and hail and then got soaked by a passing car driving through a puddle. And he didn't take his coat! What is it that teenage boys object to so much about coats, is what I want to know?

Jan 3, 2014, 7:58am

OMG that looks dangerous.

Jan 3, 2014, 8:44am

>83 SandDune: I think you are right about the bridge. That part was driving me crazy. So the green is land and the blue is water and bridge goes from land over the water!

Jan 3, 2014, 9:00am

#99 Barbara, it is dangerous if you are standing on the breakwater at the time as a wave like that can easily sweep you away.

I've found another picture of the storm: one that was taken this morning this time. This is taken a little further along the promenade nearer to where my Mum lives. The lights you can see are the tops of the lamp posts along the promenade.

Jan 3, 2014, 9:11am

98, 101: Fantastic to look at, but would be frightening to be in the vicinity of.

Jan 3, 2014, 12:48pm

#100 The mystery is solved, Morphy!

#101 I certainly wouldn't want to be underneath those waves Katherine. But I'd love to be somewhere out of reach where I could watch them. When I was a child and a storm coincided with a high tide I remember my Dad used to take me just a little further along the road from the second picture where it's a bit higher up and you can watch the waves smashing onto the prom without getting caught up in them. Not that they were usually as big as those ones though.

Jan 3, 2014, 1:49pm

>98 SandDune: Yikes. You "win"; I'll take the snow and frigid temperatures over that.

Jan 3, 2014, 2:02pm

Agreed. Yikes. That looks scary bad, Rhian. I'm glad you're son made it home fine, if sopping. Our son as a teenager never wanted to wear a coat either. Always said he wasn't cold. Have no idea why that's a trait for the young guys. Coats don't look cool enough?

Jan 3, 2014, 2:10pm

Those waves are truly frightening...look at how much sand is caught up in that first one...

Jan 3, 2014, 2:16pm

Extreme doggy styling -- just no. no. it's deeply wrong...

Those waves are kinda surreal. Not what you want to be standing underneath or anywhere near. Hope your mother is safely indoors, behind sold windows and walls.

I do love big waves, but only if I'm watching from a safe distance. I relish the sound of breakers, too.

Hear it's just cold. Oh, and snowy....

Hope you're feeling better!

Jan 3, 2014, 2:48pm

#104, 105, 106, 107 Hi Darryl, Joe, Linda, Suz.
Don't worry. It's not like that where we are, and my mother is still with my sister at the moment well away from the sea. It was very windy and wet here this morning but not dangerously so. In a funny sort of way I miss the high winds that they get in my hometown, and I certainly miss the sea, even when it's like that.

Still feeling quite groggy unfortunately, so haven't got any reading done since the new year. I'm hopeful I might improve tomorrow.

Jan 3, 2014, 2:51pm

Those waves are awesome in an awe-some sort of way. The power of nature ...

Your earlier comments reminded me of a joke: An elderly couple are in bed, when the wife feels her husband's hand start to feel along her arm. As he moved up to her shoulder and down to her belly, she thought, 'it has been so long ... I just love this!' Just as he reached her thigh, he simply stopped. "Oh darling, your feeling around ... why did you stop?" His reply? "I finally found the remote!"

Jan 3, 2014, 3:03pm

WTH is wrong with that woman?! That poor dog!!!

I'm glad your mom is out of harm's way, Rhian. I have a friend living in Scituate and he walked along the seawall for all of 10 minutes and then hightailed it back indoors.

Jan 3, 2014, 3:31pm

#109 Marianne, about the one place we know the remote isn't is in bed, as we haven't got a TV in the bedroom. I suspect that my son has picked it up and put it down someone really stupid, which he has a tendency to do.

#110 Caro, I've just been watching the weather news and all our current weather is coming from the US apparently. We are due your latest storm on Sunday, but I think the high tides will start to reduce a bit by then, which will reduce it's effect on the coast. My Mum lives on the Bristol Channel, which has the second highest tidal range in the world, so when it's a high tide, it's a really high tide.

Jan 3, 2014, 3:33pm

Rhian, maybe you need to put the remote on one of those retractable chains that some people use to attach their wallet or their keys to their pants? You could get one long enough to reach from the TV to the sofa. :-)

Jan 3, 2014, 6:57pm

Rhian, those pictures are truly scary but also awe inspiring. I'm glad your mother is safe and sound and not in harm's way.

Jan 3, 2014, 7:09pm

Those pictures are sceary. Glad all your family are safe.

Jan 3, 2014, 7:32pm

Rhian, I always English weather watch because I have several friends living in various parts of the country. Apparently some of the waves in Devon and Cornwall went 30' high, which is far too high and far too dangerous. I hope those old seawalls can take this battering.

Edited: Jan 3, 2014, 8:12pm

>112 rosalita:: But what if you release it suddenly, and it retracts and hits the screen? Better than losing it, I suppose …

About young boys and coats, my two (who are a long way from being teenagers yet) have been known to wear long sleeved shirts in summer, and run around in just vests and trousers in winter, when I'm shivering. And you can't convince them to change clothes.

Jan 3, 2014, 8:42pm

Re: your first dog themed painting....I would feel quite at ease asleep with a whippet snout in the palm of my hand, I think. And I am not even someone who could be called a dog-lover! That is a lovely and serene painting.

>101 SandDune: large waves = the stuff of my recurring nightmares. Really, that picture is terrifying.

Jan 4, 2014, 12:08am

Glad to learn your Mom is safely at her sister's place, Rhian. Those storm pictures you have posted are amazing! We don't get anything of that magnitude as far as storms go here out here in Victoria as we are on the 'innner side' of the island, so to speak. We get some storms that pass through and they usually bring out the storm watchers who want to do foolish things like walk along the breakwater that is located at the entrance to the harbour in high winds and rain.... some people just should not be allowed outdoors when a storm hits. *rolls eyes and sighs* The breakwater now has reinforced guardrails on both sides. Until 8 months ago, it was a fully exposed breakwater with no handrails or anything to protect you from falling off on either side, which used to unnerve me a bit even on lovely sunny days when it was crowded with walkers and sightseers.

Jan 4, 2014, 12:24am

Watching the news with some interest on the weather, particularly across the western part of the United Kingdom. Glad to see your mum has moved inland a bit.

Have a good weekend and tell J that his heair will grow back eventually. Start cutting it too often at my age and I cannot state the same with such certainty.

Jan 4, 2014, 7:53am

#113,114,115,117,118,119 Hi Pat, BBGirl, Tui, Megan, Lori, Paul.

The town where I grew up and where my Mum still lives, Porthcawl, is on a reasonably exposed part of the coastline so I was always used to large waves. The ones this weekend seem to have been exceptional though as the storm has coincided with tides of over 10m. The house where I grew up was very close to the sea indeed, less than 100ft away when the tide was right in, but luckily our house had a much more sheltered position than the town centre, as we were pretty much at sea level when the tide was very high and waves of any size would have flooded us! We did get sandbagged up once when I was a child (I was 8 or 9 and found the whole thing very exciting) but the sea decided not to come quite as far as us!

Lori, our breakwater is completely exposed as well. There's quite a wide walkway on the other side but people have been known to get swept off it. Me and J actually got completely soaked on it a couple of years ago. I'd carefully checked to make sure that waves weren't splashing onto it and as the tide was only half way in and it wasn't windy I'd said that we could walk to the end. Unfortunately, a large wave came along and hit the other side exactly where we were standing: all the spray went up in the air and came down on top of us. J said we should run and I said no we should stand still next to the wall, but when the spray had finished falling I realised that it had only fallen in a circle of about 10 feet all around us. Nobody else on the breakwater was even slightly wet at all whereas we were drenched to the skin.

#112,116 Julia, Nina. Personally I think they should just make the things a bit bigger. They're just too small!

Jan 4, 2014, 8:54am

This weather is crazy at the moment, thanks for stopping by my thread. I'm perfectly safe here as I'm not close to the sea ... about 2 miles inland. But the news reports are scary and I hope that your mum's house does not get flooded. Pleased to hear that she is well away from it all though.

Jan 4, 2014, 9:29am

Hope you're feeling better today! Even small improvements count. :)

Jan 4, 2014, 9:37am

Hi Rhian! I love your dog theme! I hope you feel better enough to read very soon. I'm glad you and your mom are at a safe distance from those storm surges!

Jan 4, 2014, 2:17pm

I remember on my first trip out to the Oregon coast getting a laugh out of all the signs warning of sneaker waves. I had never heard of them and had no idea how serious they could be--sweeping people out to sea. It was hard to imagine that you wouldn't have warning of a big wave. I've since seen enough news stories of this happening to people with a dire ending to take it very seriously. I've also had a similar experience to yours--getting doused by a huge wave that I never saw coming.

Jan 4, 2014, 4:21pm

Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia is famous for slurping people off of the rocks. If the ocean is in one of her moods, best to stay back and respect it.

Jan 4, 2014, 6:00pm

#121 Calm - the pictures of Aberystwyth promenade look quite impressive. It's amazing how powerful the waves can be to throw up all that stuff!

#122 Faith - feeling a little bit better today - managed to read my first book of 2014 The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold. Review to follow tomorrow.

#123 Pat I'd never heard of sneaker waves before. The trouble with the breakwater that we were walking on is unless you are on the top (where I would never walk) there is a high wall between you and the direction that the waves are coming from. On the landward side there's a wide walkway but unless you're right at the end of the pier you can't see what's coming from seaward. And as I said the tide wasn't particularly high and the sea wasn't even rough (I would have described it as a bit choppy) but I suppose when any reasonable sized wave hits it the water just goes straight up in the air. And we were just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place when the first wave of the day did that. All the fisherman at the end of the breakwater (who were in their waterproofs) and everyone else around who stayed completely dry throughout thought it was very amusing.

#125 Tui, I can imagine that. I've not been to Peggy's Cove but I have seen pictures and I imagine it gets a lot of visitors who maybe aren't used to the sea?

Edited: Jan 7, 2014, 6:18am

1. The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am Kjersti A. Skomsvold ****

Mathea Martinson has lived her whole life being invisible to the outside world. From her schooldays, when even such a dramatic event as her being struck by lightening (twice) couldn't engender the sort of interest among her school fellows that she craved, and then throughout her life she has been isolated from the world at large. 'Don't you ever get the urge to talk to someone other than me?' Her husband Epsilon asks 'But I've done that' Mathea says 'Don't you remember the time I went with you to the Christmas party? But Epsilon is only a little more comfortable in society than Mathea is herself, his main interest being studying his full collection of the Statistical Yearbooks for the Kingdom of Norway for each year from 1880, and so their lives are lived away from other people.

But in old age, when she realises that all of the people in the obituary columns of the local newspaper are actually younger than she, Mathea determines that she will not die before letting the world know that she existed. But when even talking to a neighbour is a traumatic experience how can Mathea do this? She decides that she will bury a time capsule of her life in the courtyard of her apartment block to at least bear witness to the fact that she had lived.

This is a short and slightly surreal book about a seemingly wasted life. Mathea's isolation is not just that of old age, it is how she has lived her entire life. But surprisingly the ending, without being in the slightest bit sentimental, manages to be rather uplifting.

Edited: Jan 5, 2014, 8:36am

Am sitting here on the sofa being cried at by Daisy. Mr SandDune is cooking a meal at lunchtime rather than our usual evening meal, and as she clearly associates cooking with time for her food she has decided it's time to be fed! I've told her she's got another three hours to wait but I don't think she believes me.

Have decided that I've got bronchitis. If it's no better tomorrow I might go to the doctors.

Jan 5, 2014, 9:08am

#127 - This sounds wonderful and, not exactly, but ever so slightly reminds me of my favorite novel of last year - An Unnecessary Woman. I'll certainly put this on the list.

Also, I certainly hope you don't have bronchitis and that the weather calms down over there! Take care.

Jan 5, 2014, 9:13am

128: Have decided that I've got bronchitis.
Well that doesn't sound good.

Jan 5, 2014, 9:25am

Rhian, I hope it's not bronchitis. Also that Daisy stops crying :-)

Jan 5, 2014, 9:34am

Oh bronchitis is awful, but once you succumb, get antibiotics, and sleep a lot, it gets better quickly. At least that's my experience. The first time I had it I didn't realize it was anything more than a cold so it took me a while to realize I needed to see a doctor. The second time I recognized the symptoms much more quickly, and as a result healed more quickly. The only casualty was due to our then-puppy Woody, who took advantage of my weakened condition, while I was knocked out on the sofa, to gnaw a large chunk out of a rug.

Anyway, I hope you are on the mend soon, Rhian!

Jan 5, 2014, 9:50am

#129,130,131,132 Hi Kerri, Katherine, Susan, Laura - I've looked up my symptoms on the NHS symptom checker and I'm pretty sure bronchitis is what I've got. I don't think I had flu to start with as I don't think I felt ill enough or had a high enough temperature - it was probably a bad cold - but I think I should be feeling better by now if I didn't have something else. According to the NHS website 90% of bronchitis is caused by a virus and so won't respond to antibiotics, and it will usually get better on its own, but I am borderline asthmatic so will go to the doctors tomorrow anyway.

An Unnecessary Woman looks an interesting read Kerri - added it to the WL.

Daisy has now given up on her attempts to convince me that it's food time and has gone to sleep on my foot. She is very keen on sleeping on my feet for some reason.

Jan 5, 2014, 10:20am

No cats on those feet. I have been looking at pics of the waves along the south and west coasts of England: what awesome power in those waves. Keep safe! As someone prone to bronchitis, an observation that antibiotics have always worked for me because it clears up the infection in the lungs caused by the virus. The virus may run its course in two weeks but the infection in its wake can last much longer and be really debilitating. I don't muck about with that stuff. Good luck to you with it, Rhian.

Jan 5, 2014, 12:49pm

Wow, Rhian, those are some waves!

I'm so sorry you're feeling so poorly. Hope you are on the mend soon!

Jan 5, 2014, 1:15pm

Bronchitis is miserable, Rhian. Get better soon! Chuckled at Daisy deciding it was time to be fed, LOL.

Jan 5, 2014, 1:35pm

Yes, get better soon, Rhian! The one time I had bronchitis I had the bad luck to get the viral kind so nothing to do but wait to feel better. Still, it was comforting to have a diagnosis even if no medication, so visiting the doctor is a good idea.

Edited: Jan 5, 2014, 1:42pm

>134 tiffin:: antibiotics have always worked for me because it clears up the infection in the lungs caused by the virus.
Oh, so that's why antibiotics work; I was wondering about that. I'm with you, Tui -- I don't much around with lung-related stuff.

Jan 5, 2014, 2:07pm

>138 lauralkeet:: I should add that I really try hard not to use them because I don't want to build up resistance to them. I know what's going on out there with those viruses 'talking' to each other and don't want to be hung out to dry if a pandemic hits (only slightly joking).

Jan 5, 2014, 3:38pm

Loved how Daisy thought it was food time but not good on the bronchitis! Take care of yourself, Rhian and I hope it quickly clears up.

Jan 5, 2014, 6:29pm

Hi Rhian, I've dropped by to place my star and am so sorry to hear that you aren't feeling well. Bronchitis isn't something to fool around with, so best get to your doctor and get on the antibiotics.

Those storm waves are really something to see, but I certainly wouldn't want to be near them. Even though we live 2 minutes from the beach, our waterfront here is very sheltered with all the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island that are between us and the open Pacific.

Looking forward to following your reading again in 2014.

Edited: Jan 5, 2014, 7:26pm

All caught up here, Rhian. Sorry that you are under the weather - no good. Hoping that you are feeling better very soon.

I am adding The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am to the WL. Lovely review and that title is wonderful.

Jan 5, 2014, 8:44pm

Lots of chuckles on this thread! Apart from the scary waves and bronchitis, of course. It's a good idea to see your doctor, and hoping that it's not as bad as that.

Jan 5, 2014, 9:29pm

>127 SandDune: looks like a goodie. And so does An Unnecessary Woman, but my library has neither. Hmph.

I 2nd (3th) the support for you to visit the doctor, get it sorted. I hope you pick up soon!

Jan 6, 2014, 4:59am

This is my first year in the 75 group. I look forward to following your thread ( if I can keep up, it looks rather busy). Happy reading in 2014 :)

Jan 6, 2014, 5:44am

Feel better Rhian. Thank you for the review :)

Jan 6, 2014, 7:05am

#134,135,136,137,138,140,131,142,143,144,146 Tui, Anne, Nancy, Julia, Laura, Lori, Judy, Mamie, Nina, Megan, BBGirl Thanks for all the good wishes health wish: I have been to the doctors this morning who has confirmed that I have indeed got a chest infection and has given me some antibiotics. Hopefully they will do the trick.

#145 Nicole don't worry - I would be very surprised if my thread carries on at this pace for much longer. Things usually calm down a lot a couple of weeks into the new year.

My Mum is back in her flat now with no flooding, although rumour has it that the road where I used to live as a child was flooded in the storm.

Edited: Jan 9, 2014, 2:37pm

Contains spoilers for those who haven't read the first book in the series Shards of Honor

2.Barrayar Lois McMaster Bujold ****

Captain Cordelia Naismith is now Lady Vorkosigan, having married Admiral Aral Vorkosigan at the end of previous book Shards of Honor, and is coming to terms with the life of a Barrayan lady. A life surrounded by liveried retainers and armed guards, beset by the formal protocol of Barrayan society, and the difficulties of trailing skirts. Not such an quiet life as she had imagined either, as her husband has been appointed regent to the four year old Prince Gregor, who will succeed the dying Emperor Ezar. And she is also coming to terms with her pregnancy, on her home of Beta Colony most pregnancies are gestated in artificial wombs, once the potential parent has passed the appropriate physical, psychological and economic tests of course, and taken the course to qualify for a parent's licence, so that the more natural arrangements on Barrayar seem a little primitive.

But Barrayan politics are anything but peaceful and Cordelia is left very little time to enjoy her pregnancy in peace. Not everyone was happy with Admiral Vorkosigan's elevation to become regent, considering him dangerously progressive in some of his attitudes, and an assassination attempt soon brings home that his position is not secure. And as events develop it becomes apparent that the life of action that Cordelia had known as a captain in the Betan Astronomical Survey is by no means over.

A really fun read this one. I don't think I absolutely love the series so far as much as some people but I do like it a lot. In particular, the contrast of the Barrayaran and Betan societies works very well with oddities for the reader on both sides.

For the record, my review of the Shards of Honor the first book in this series is here:

Jan 6, 2014, 8:38am

Happy New Year Rhian, sorry that the New Year is starting out with a cold. Let's hope you are 'getting it over with' for the year.

Have you looked into these? - tracker devices for small items like keys and remotes:

I can't wait until it's been long enough that I can reread all of Bujold..... she is just so much fun.

Jan 6, 2014, 9:04am

#149 Lucy that's exactly what we need! I have a son who is very prone to just picking up small things, fiddling with them for a bit and then putting them down again somewhere that makes no sense at all. I don't think he even knows he's doing it most of the time.

It is annoying about the cold and chest infection, but to be fair I don't think I've had a particularly bad cold for a couple of years and that's probably the last time when I had any time off work as well. Debilitating coughs are something I am prone to, but last time I had one the nurse suggested that I take anti-histamines if I started coughing after a cold so I've tried that, and I do seem to be getting less irritation in my main airwaves than normal.

Jan 6, 2014, 9:44am

Adding good wishes: get well soon! I hope the antibiotics will do their job quickly.

Jan 6, 2014, 10:09am

Glad you're having a good time with the start of the Vorkosigan series, Rhian. You're going to get lots more of those cultural comparisons you're liking, as the scope expands.

Jan 6, 2014, 10:24am

Rhian, the Vorkosigan series is not one I am familiar with, but that is a compelling review. One of the tags for Barrayar is space opera … hmm, intriguing!

Jan 6, 2014, 10:29am

Get well soon Rhian.

Jan 6, 2014, 11:39am

Well, good to know that the diagnosis has been pinned down. Hope you recover soon, Rhian.

>150 SandDune:: I have a son who is very prone to just picking up small things, fiddling with them for a bit and then putting them down again somewhere that makes no sense at all

You know, my 5 year old is just like that! And so there'll be toys all over the house, bits of Lego in every room, part of a set here, there and everywhere (not to mention that sometimes they go on car trips, too) … I end up with toys in my room, which drives me to distraction, because I'm trying to get on top of my own mess, which drives my husband to distraction.

Kids! Can't their parents bring them up properly? At least my older kid isn't (quite) so bad; but then, he hasn't trained me (and my expectations) for his younger brother.

Jan 6, 2014, 12:15pm

150 - hope your cough shifts soon. I've got some antibiotics that look like horse pills for my cold that seems to have turned into a chest infection. The husband's been nagging for a week that it's not a cold & I ought to go to the GP - turns out he was right. bother...

Jan 6, 2014, 1:04pm

That's a great tip re coughs after colds! For me, those tend to linger far longer than the cold lasted -- after my last super-mega cold in June, I was coughing into early July. I routinely stock up on Canadian cough syrup -- they can sell the stuff with codeine in it over the counter, and that does a far better job of calming it down than does what I can buy locally. But next time, may try the anti-histamine route.

Jan 6, 2014, 1:11pm

Hey Rhian... just dropping in. Nothing much to add, other than hello! :)

Jan 6, 2014, 1:16pm

My dog is like that. It's as if we have a two year old. Every night we have to put all her toys back in the container. And it's not like she'll ever grow up and stop doing it!

Jan 6, 2014, 2:07pm

#151,154,156,157,158 Hi Nathalie, Calm, Helen, Suz, Tina. Thanks for the good wishes. I just wish I didn't feel so lethargic but probably what I need to do at the moment is sit down anyway. If I move around at all I go into fits of coughing. I'm not a great believer in cough syrup. I seem to get worse coughs than anyone I know, for no apparent reason, and I think I've tried every sort of cough medicine over the years. A doctor once told me that the only thing that would really stop you coughing was to take the full day's dose of a codeine cough syrup before you went to bed, but that always sounded rather hazardous to me so I've never tried it.

#152. Joe I'm intending to carry on with the series. It was ideal reading for feeling poorly: a good page turner.

#153 Nancy I don't know that I'd call Barrayar space opera for the simple reason that it doesn't take place in space! The first book in the series Cordelia's Honor has lots of spaceships though!

#155 Nina We've just come out of the Lego phase so the residual piles of Lego that I find lurking in corners are diminishing. When Daisy was a little puppy eighteen months ago J was still in a huge Lego phase and the stuff was everywhere. I had to retrieve pieces from Daisy's mouth two or three times a day as she seemed to think it was just perfect for eating.

#159 Morphy, Daisy only really collects shoes, but she puts them all in the same spot (the sofa) so at least we don't lose things.

Jan 6, 2014, 2:17pm

Happy New Year, Rhian! So sorry to hear about your bronchitis. We got back home over the weekend, but your thread is so long already that I didn't feel up to tackling it until I was rested and refreshed!! Glad you have enjoyed Shards of Honor and Barrayar and are doing the year-long read.

Jan 6, 2014, 4:23pm

My kid is 10 and still can't seem to put her stuff away! Do they ever grow out of that?!

Here's to feeling better Rhian.

Jan 6, 2014, 5:55pm

I hope you're feeling better, Rhian. # 127 sounds interesting. I'm going to look for it.

Jan 6, 2014, 9:24pm

((Rhian)) Hope you feel better soon. Aren't animals funny? Dogs and cats really seem to enjoy "ritual". If my dogs follow me into the bedroom they think it is time to bed down like at bedtime and I have to use the jaws of life to get them out. LOL All the animals think it is dinner time any minute of the day. :)

Jan 7, 2014, 1:55am

I hope the antibiotics kick in quickly, Rhian, and you are soon feeling better. I just finished Barrayar as well and really enjoyed it. I thought this second book elevated the series a notch, and I am looking forward to continuing on.

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 10:09am

3. Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Robin Sloan ***1/2

I've seen this described as a feelgood book so often on LT over the last couple of months that it seemed like a good choice to read when I feeling ill. But although I'd seen it mentioned on a lot of occasions I realised that I had no idea what it was actually about, apart from well ... a bookstore. I'd pictured some fantasy type bookstore, urban fantasy probably, but definitely with some magic in it, maybe a touch of the Neil Gaiman's. (In my defence I'd like to say that the book doesn't seem to be anything like as big in the UK as it is in the US, so it was easier to avoid spoilers). So the absence of magic came as something of a surprise, as did the presence of loads of technology and Google.

Clay Jannon is an unemployed designer with a sideline in websites who loses his job at NewBagel in the great food-chain contraction sweeping through America in the first years of the 21st Century. Finding a Help Wanted advert at Mr Penumbra's 24-hour book store he finds himself working the night shift. But Mr Penumbra's is no ordinary book store: despite being three stories high there are no actual floors and so a major requirement of the job is a good head for heights to allow for ladder climbing. Very few of the books are ones that any would want to buy and Clay soon discovers that all of the rest (which he christens the Waybacklist) are written in code, don't seem to exist on the internet and are certainly not available on Amazon. And the Waybacklist is not for sale, only available for borrowing by a certain slightly strange group of customers belonging to Mr Penumbra's private library. And rather than just recording their usual library number when they borrow a book, Clay finds that he is expected to write a detailed description of the borrower each time they appear:

'You must keep precise records of all transactions. The time. The customer's appearance. His state of mind. How he asks for the book. How he receives it. Does he appear to be injured. Is he wearing a sprig of rosemary in his hat. And so on.

I guess under normal circumstances this would feel like a creepy job requirement. Under the actual circumstances - lending strange books to stranger scholars in the middle of the night- it feels perfectly appropriate.'

But when Clay starts to get bored in the long hours when there are no customers and decides to secretly computerise the bookstore's records his discovers that the bookstore has an even stranger secret than he had previously believed. One which requires him to depart on a quest to New York with those essential companions of any quest, a wizard and a hero, in tow. Actually the wizard is a girl from Google and the hero is his best friend from school ... but it's a quest nonetheless.

This was a fun read, but I didn't quite love it the way that some people clearly do. Not sure why not, but it just didn't have that certain something as far as I was concerned.

Jan 7, 2014, 8:51am

Mr. Penumbra resolutely refused to download to my Kindle so I had to ask Amazon for a refund. But I did try to read it, honest.

Edited: Jan 7, 2014, 9:00am

#161 Roni, I'm not quite sure how the thread got so long. maybe because I haven't felt well enough to do anything but watch TV, read, and go on LT for the past week! I'm going to really try with the group read - I have a bad habit of signing up for group reads and then not feeling like it when the times comes but I think I will make it at least part way with this one.

#162 My kid is 10 and still can't seem to put her stuff away! Do they ever grow out of that?! Kathy I don't think they do! And I'm not sure that it's just laziness, certainly as far as J is concerned. He just likes to sit in his bedroom surrounded by loads of his stuff around him: I think it gives him a nice warm cosy feeling. We have an agreement that as long as he tidies up once a week so the room can be cleaned, he can keep his things on his bedroom floor the rest of the time!

#163 Beth, forgot to mention that The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am was shortlisted for the 2013 Impac prize. Here are the judges comments from the website:
The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am has the verve and vitality of Buster Keaton combined with the linguistic playfulness and intelligence of Vladmir Nabokov. In this little volume not a single word is wasted,and the experience of reading it is akin to being blown up by a delicious bomb,a grenade of the most delicious and fragrant flowers

I'm not really quite sure what they mean by all that but they obviously liked it!

Jan 7, 2014, 9:15am

#164 All the animals think it is dinner time any minute of the day
Tamara, Daisy would certainly like to have dinner time much more frequently. She is an incredibly greedy dog, and given a choice would eat until she physically couldn't fit any more in!

The animals are developing a new routine in our house by the way. Mr SandDune has been complaining of dry eyes and has come back from the optician with an eye mask that is supposed to treat it. So he has to lie down on the sofa with that over his eyes for ten minutes every evening. Both animals are taking this as a good opportunity to sit on him. Last night Sweep attempted to sit on the actual eyepatch, it being nice and warm, but was pushed off and ended up somewhere around his neck. Daisy (who was there first) was very brave and defended her position on his legs from the evil cat. They looked very funny and I did try to take a photo but it has not come out well, so you will have to make do with the description.

#165 Judy, to be honest I'm getting very fed up with being ill. I got virtually no sleep last night from coughing and now it has given me a splitting headache as well. Only consolation is that I think the chest infection might be starting to clear as my lungs as feeling a bit less clogged up than yesterday.

#166 Mr. Penumbra resolutely refused to download to my Kindle
Tui, that's quite ironic as one of the themes of the books seems to be the importance of everything being available online! I did enjoy the book - it's just I came to it after seeing lots of people giving it five stars and it just wasn't that sort of book for me.

Jan 7, 2014, 9:30am

I agree. I was hoping it would be something like Ready Player One but it didn't appeal to me as much. I liked it, but didn't love it.

Jan 7, 2014, 9:40am

166: Yeah, I had about the same reaction. The people were engaging so I'd read another by the same author, but it seemed maybe the motivation had been tacked on to justify the puzzle.
170: OTOH, I loooved Ready Player One.

Edited: Jan 7, 2014, 9:50am

#170,171 Hi Morphy, Katherine. Well I had Ready Player One as one of my Secret Santa books so I've got that one all ready to go.

Mr Penumbra was definitely a fun read and I'd read another book by the same author, but no more. I might recommend it to J as a potential read though. He is crossing the line into adult books and I'm always on the look out for something to recommend.

Jan 7, 2014, 10:34am

Wonderful review of Mr Penumbra, Rhian. I've not read it, and I also had no idea what it was about until I read your post.

I got such a chuckle out of Daisy and Sweep lying on Mr SandDune on the sofa! And good for Daisy, defending her position.

Jan 7, 2014, 12:14pm

Hi Rhian - I hope you're feeling better. We had similar reactions to Mr. Penumbra; it was entertaining, but I didn't love it.

Jan 7, 2014, 12:23pm

Hope your health improves soon, Rhian.

.160: Maybe you should get Daisy to train J - to at least put things down in the same place.

Jan 7, 2014, 3:21pm

Atta girl, Daisy! Now if it were me, Sweep wouldn't be allowed on me when Daisy was having a cuddle. Manners, Sweep, manners.

Jan 7, 2014, 4:56pm

I started Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore last year and ended up sending it back to the library unfinished it just didn't appeal to me as much as I thought it would, like you I had heard a lot of good things about it on LT, but I guess it just wasn't for me.

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 10:10am

4. Turned out Nice: How the British Isles will Change as the World Heats Up Marek Kohn **1/2

Given the extreme weather events we've been having over the last few days I decided to read this book about global warming which has been sitting on my kindle for a while, extreme weather events being supposed to be an indicator of global warming after all. Marek Kahn's book focuses on what the environment of the British Isles will be like by 2100 assuming an average temperature rise of between three and four degrees Celsius. He takes specific locations in the U.K. and Ireland and looks at the specific changes that might be expected to these environments. The locations he chooses are quite varied: a London which might be rather more like modern day Marseilles; a coastal stream in Sussex; a Suffolk Coast that with higher sea levels is even more susceptible to erosion than today; the upland areas of the Brecon Beacons and theYorkshire Dales; a Scottish glen where plans for a new Caledonian forest are afoot; and finally the limestone platforms of the Burren in western Ireland. Kahn looks at all these areas in some detail: from the effect of sea level rise and coastal erosion, to the effect of changes in temperature rise on the ranges of plants and animals. A particularly interesting section was that on the Scottish Highlands, where Kahn considers the question of the reintroduction of once native species such as beaver and wolf, and considers the point of conservation. In a changing climate should a conservationist focus on the protection of species and habitats that have historically existed in the British Isles, but which will struggle hugely in a warmer climate? Or does it make more sense to allow Britain to become a sanctuary for beleaguered species from further south that can no longer survive in their current ranges.

So some interesting ideas and it seemed a well researched book.But to be honest I'm a little disappointed. Firstly, the books was crying out for some maps: understanding how changes in a species's range depend on changes in temperature calls out for a map, as does consideration of how much of London might be subject to the risk of flooding. And there were no photographs or illustrations: I've been to all but one of the locations mentioned but not every reader will have been and in many cases understanding what it looks like now is crucial to understanding the effect of a change. And some artist's impressions of what that change might look like would have been nice as well. But my main complaint about the book, is that instead of confining itself to what seem fairly well-evidenced predictions about the effect of climate change on individual elements of the natural world, it keeps diving into fairly haphazard predictions of the effect that climate change will have on the society of Britain in 2100. And these predictions, rather than being presented as one of a number of possible scenarios, are presented as an almost inevitable outcome of global warming.

Here is an example about the organisation of ramblers of the Southern England of 2100:
Visitors are not permitted to stray more than a metre either side of the path without prearranged permission. There are no fences to enforce the rambling ban: there is no need. Everybody's position is always known, in town or country, thanks to their mobiles. If visitors go beyond the metre-wide buffer zone, they are sent a warning; if they tarry too long before getting back onto the tracks, fines are deducted from their bank accounts

I mean, Kohn doesn't know any such thing - it reminds me so much of those 1960's predictions that we would all be wearing silver jumpsuits and jet packs by now. And for me these flights of fancy really detract from some interesting facts elsewhere.

So, overall some parts were interesting but I feel sure that there must be a better book out there on this subject.

Jan 7, 2014, 8:43pm

What a shame, Rhian, because the premise of that one certainly sounds interesting. Your criticisms all seem perfectly valid; I think those things would have bugged me, too.

Jan 7, 2014, 9:52pm

178: Firstly, the books was crying out for some maps
Aaaaagh! So annoying.
haphazard predictions
Looking at his other books, seems he ranges all over the place; maybe an editor should've kept him focused on the task at hand.

Jan 7, 2014, 10:20pm

>178 SandDune:: rats, I would have liked that one if it had been good. I hope you find that better book.

Jan 8, 2014, 9:05am

#173, 176 Nancy, Tui - Sweep will happily jump on the sofa if Daisy is on there already but not vice versa. But Daisy is getting a little bit better at holding her ground if Sweep jumps up ... as long as she doesn't get too close! But Sweep definitely considers Mr SandDune her property ... Daisy is usually on me.

#174,177 Beth, Nicole it's funny but with these books that loads of people seem to have loved it's very easy just to focus on the five star reviews before you read them. But there always seem to be other people who aren't so enamoured of the book that you pick up on later once you've read it.

#175 Nina, Daisy's definitely not going to be teaching J anything! She seems to regard him in the light of a much older big brother who does all sorts of exciting things. Whatever J does she follows.

#179,180,181 Hi Julia, Katherine, Tui. I think I picked the book up on a kindle daily deal for 99p a while ago, so at least I'm not out of pocket by much. It did have some reasonable reviews, but I do usually pick science related books by more of a specialist. And as you say Katherine, he isn't and I think it showed.

I had my doubts when I came across this paragraph fairly early on:

By the 2080s average summer temperatures in the Greater London area are projected to rise by 5.5C, an increase of more than a third over the present average of just under 16C

Well no it isn't actually. It would only be a third if temperature actually stopped going down at 0C. If you did the same thing in Fahrenheit you'd get a completely different fraction. Average temperature would be about 60F now, temperature would go up by about 10F, so you'd have a change of about one sixth instead!

Jan 8, 2014, 9:41am

It sounds like a worthy effort, but a little off the mark here and there. A shame that it doesn't have good maps - they cost a lot, apparently.

I love the analogy to the silver suits with her predictions! They do sound very Brave New Worldish if you ask me. Ugh.

Jan 8, 2014, 10:09am

182: an increase of more than a third
Oh dear.

Jan 8, 2014, 10:48am

Hi Rhian. Your first read of the year looks like one for which I'll keep an eye out. The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am is a great title!

And the photos of the storm are wild! In the wee hours this morning, I dreamed I was waiting (outside and who knows where) for a hurricane to arrive. And I hadn't even looked at your thread yet! I think it was the doing of Their Eyes Were Watching God which has a pretty horrific hurricane scene.

I'm sorry Turned Out Nice fell short of the mark. I have always been fascinated by weather and it seems increasingly important that we figure out how to adapt.

Jan 8, 2014, 5:40pm

#183,184 Hi Lucy, Katherine I'm probably being a bit harsh just giving Turned Out Nice two and a half stars ... If only it had had some maps.

#185 Ellen, there was an article on the news last night of extreme surfers congregating to surf the huge waves off the west coast of Ireland. Completely mad in my opinion!

Jan 8, 2014, 8:16pm

Good grief, re the surfing. That's just insane!

Jan 8, 2014, 8:20pm

Back to Mr. Penumbra -- I think I liked it a lot better than you did, but that's because I had so much fun with the contrast between the Google culture and the antique book culture. Oh, and because I revere/idolize Aldus Manutius. Gonna read a book about him soon. Very soon.

Jan 8, 2014, 9:31pm

>186 SandDune:: Surfing 100 foot waves? Going off the 5 meter diving board gives me pause enough.

Jan 9, 2014, 2:33pm

#187, 189 Hi Tui, Nina. Surfing any sort of big wave looks deeply scary in my opinion!

#188 Suz, now I have to come clean and admit that I didn't realize that Aldus Manutius was a real person! Sorry - will have to try harder.

I made it back to work again today after feeling a distinct improvement this morning. Still not 100%, but a lot better than previously.

Jan 9, 2014, 5:00pm

I'm glad that you're feeling better, Rhian. Don't push yourself too much and too quickly, though.

Jan 9, 2014, 5:07pm

Don't overdo things, Rhian, and I hope you get back to 100% before the weekend.

I had the same reaction to Mr Penumbra that you had. There's a second book out now, a prequel so to speak, but I didn't like Mr Penumbra enough to want to read Ajax Penumbra 1969.

Jan 10, 2014, 2:00am

Hope you are feeling better, Rhian. Feel good reads are what I gravite to when I am under the weather and I see Mr. Penumbra was one of those reads for you. It was a fun read but not a stellar read for me. I am with Morphy, as fun as Mr. Penumbra is, I loved Ready Player One. I have heard some mention here on LT that Ready Player One is very focused on North American pop culture so I will be curious to learn what you think of it when you read it.

Jan 10, 2014, 6:34am

Take care Rhian. I'm glad you're feeling better.

Sometimes I think the hype about some books raises our expectations.

Jan 10, 2014, 8:49am

#191, 192, 193, 194 Hi Darryl, Caro, Lori, Beth. Well I went to work yesterday and today but had to come home at lunchtime today as really not feeling up to it. Obviously more resting is called for.

Jan 10, 2014, 9:46am

I hope you continue to feel better, Rhian. Have a quiet weekend!

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 10:12am

5. We Need New Names NoViolet Bulawayo ***1/2

Darling and her friends Bastard, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Stina roam the streets of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, getting handouts from the NGO lorry and searching for ripe guava in the gardens of more prosperous suburbs. The shanty town that they come from, Paradise, does not have gardens of fresh fruit: it has tin-roofed one-roomed shacks with no running water or sanitation. There are no schools any more as the teachers have not been paid and have fled to more prosperous countries: any one who can leaves to find a country where it is easier to stay alive. Even the children play the country game as they dream of where they will live:

But first we have to fight over names because everyone wants to be certain countries, like everybody wants to be the U.S.A. and Britain and Canada and Australia and Switzerland and France and Italy and Sweden and Russia and Greece and them. These are the country-countries. If you lose the fight, then you just have to settle for countries like Dubai and South Africa and Botswana and Tanzania and them. These are not country-countries but at least life is better than here. Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo, like Somalia, like Iraq, like Sudan, like Haiti, like Sri Lanka, and not even this one we live in -- who wants to be in a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart.'

Gradually it becomes apparent that the children have not always lived like this: they once had proper brick houses with bathrooms and TVs and proper furniture; some them had parents who had been to university; they had bicycles to play with outside. And then the government bulldozers had come and bulldozed their houses and everything in them, and the children were left with Paradise...

The first half of this book is definitely the strongest, when the imperfect understanding of the children brings to life the horror of the day to day existence. But as Darling's dream comes true and her Aunt Fostalina takes her to the United States to live the book seems to lose something of its focus. Throughout the book has a slightly loose structure, but this seems to loosen further once Darling is in U.S. so that it becomes a series of rather disjointed episodes. And while overall it has some interesting things to say about the differences between the reality of life in a new country and the expectations of those who remind behind in the old, it seemed to do so on a quite superficial level. Overall, while an interesting read, I'm a bit surprised it made the Booker shortlist.

Jan 10, 2014, 1:59pm

Rhian, I'm glad to hear you're on the mend, and also glad you decided to get the rest you need. When I had bronchitis I had bursts of energy where I felt completely fine, and then all of a sudden I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Sounds like you are doing the right thing, paying attention to your body's signals.

And hey, you're reading -- so that's a good thing too.

Jan 10, 2014, 7:44pm

Nice review of We Need New Names, Rhian. I agree; the first half of the book was far superior to its second half, and it was a very disappointing selection for the Booker Dozen and the prize's shortlist. Americanah would have been a much better choice.

Jan 11, 2014, 11:15am

>197 SandDune:,199 - Agreed. I was not impressed with We Need New Names either. I still have Americanah on my TBR shelves, but I'm looking forward to it!

Edited: Jan 11, 2014, 5:03pm

#198 Laura, that's exactly what I feel like. I'm gradually on the mend but it's taking a long time. I managed to get outside today for the first time for a non work-related activity since New Years Day. Only briefly, as I needed to get my hair cut but I managed a brief detour into the bookshop. After being off colour for so long I definitely needed cheering up and so bought the following books:

Longbourn by Jo Baker: this one was right at the top of my wishlist and it was the first time I'd seen it in paperback. And it was on the buy one get one half price shelf, so I has or buy something else as well:

Ghana must Go by Taiye Selasi: she was on the best young British novelists list for 2013.

And having spent over £11 I got the last stamp to complete my Waterstones loyalty card, and so got a £10 voucher back. Result!

Daisy was supposed to go for the first of her new dog training classes today, but I made the executive decision that standing in a cold field for an hour and a half was probably pushing the recovery a little bit too far so stayed at home.

Edited: Jan 11, 2014, 4:27pm

After being off colour for so long I definitely needed cheering up and so bought the following books:

And it was on the buy one get one half price shelf, so I had to buy something else as well:

Good to know you're feeling better. Hope the recovery continues apace.

Jan 11, 2014, 4:29pm

I endorse the remarks of the previous poster. Says it all really.

My husband has a Pride & Prejudice fetish (inexplicable to me, but hey ho - I did marry him). I bought him Longbourn for Christmas, still awaiting the verdict on that one.

Jan 11, 2014, 5:45pm

#199,200 Darryl, Cait, I haven't read Americanah yet but I have read one of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's other books, and I would agree that on that evidence she seems the more accomplished writer. I do think that the child narrator is a difficult trick to pull off, and very few books do it totally successfully. In We Need New Names I did rather feel that although NoViolet Bulawayo was critical of American society in its viewing of Africa as a homogeneous entity, I did think that she fell into the same trap by seeming to want to describe an archetypal 'African' experience of emigration to the U.S..

Surprisingly, the biggest culture shock I got in the book is when Darling's employer tells her that he is going to her country to shoot an elephant, something that he has dreamed of since he was a boy! I just can't conceive of a conversation in which someone could tell me that.

I did find We Need New Names particularly interesting for its location in Zimbabwe. I had an uncle who lived in its old incarnation of Rhodesia, so it was a country that I was well aware of as a child. And as its present reincarnation as Zimbabwe it's the only African country that I've actually visited. When we were there in the mid-nineties it seemed a fully functioning country where things worked, things seemed so much more dilapidated when you crossed the border into Zambia, and so it's so sad to see what has happened to it since.

Jan 11, 2014, 5:53pm

Glad to hear that you're feeling better, Rhian. I bought Ghana Must Go last year, but I haven't read it yet.

That reminds me...Rachael (FlossieT) was one of the judges for the 2013 Costa First Novel Award, which was won by Nathan Filer for his book The Shock of the Fall earlier this week. We were in touch last night, and I forgot to ask her what she thought about that book, and the others that were chosen for the award's shortlist, namely Idiopathy by Sam Byers, and Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy.

Jan 11, 2014, 11:44pm

Rhian - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is in my view a superb writer and her failure to make the Booker Longlist last year was along with the snubbing of Aminatta Forna and Kate Atkinson unnecessarily obtuse.

Without being in the least bit obtuse I want to wish the three of you a splendid and hopefully healthy weekend.

Jan 12, 2014, 12:05am

Rhian, I hope you continue to feel better, and that you can enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Jan 12, 2014, 12:35am

>168 SandDune: We have an agreement that as long as he tidies up once a week so the room can be cleaned, he can keep his things on his bedroom floor the rest of the time!
I like that.
I remember my sister and mum having rows about her room being a pig sty. I hope to never have to go there with my own!

Mr Penumbra and his Bookstore may just remain unread my me, I think. It sounds rather an odd story. And just to say, that Neil Gaiman has been mentioned on 4/5 of the last threads I have visited- what is it about that guy?

Edited: Jan 12, 2014, 5:10am

#205 Darryl I think The Shock of the Fall is the only one on the First Novel short list that I have really heard anything at all about. On the poetry short list (not usually my comfort zone) I do want to look at Clive James's translation of The Divine Comedy which is supposed to be very good.

#206 Paul, I've still got Life after Life sitting on the shelf - I really must get around to that soon. I haven't read anything by Aminatta Forna but I've heard good things about The Hired Man.

#207 Hi Anne. Hope you have a good weekend too.

#208 Megan, I wouldn't put too much money on not having the issue of messy bedrooms at some point it it's not an uncommon failing in teenagers! Incidentally, I've passed Mr Penumbra onto J to read now - we'll see what he makes of it.

Jan 12, 2014, 7:02am

>201 SandDune:: that is most definitely a result! Well done, and I'm sure that little bit of retail therapy will do wonders for your recovery (and I agree, much better than standing out in a field).

Jan 12, 2014, 7:12am

*waving* at Rhian

Jan 12, 2014, 11:05am

Thanks for the review of Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Sounds like one I would enjoy - even if it wasn't as good as you expected..... Have a good sunday.

Jan 12, 2014, 9:04pm

(Rhian) I hope you continue to get better. . .*waves*

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 10:31am

6. The Encylopedia of Early Earth Isabel Greenberg ***1/2

Not an encyclopedia at all, but a graphic novel. A tale of the Early Earth, a time long before the Permian when the Earth was much smaller, and lands were different and three moons shone down...

Once upon a time a man from the Land of Nord met a woman from the South Pole and fell in love. But despite their love for each other they find that they unable to touch, or even come within two feet of each other. But despite this they had a belief that love would conquer all and so were married, and throughout the long cold winter of the Southern Pole the man told his wife the story of how he came to the South Pole, starting with the story of three sisters who once asked a shaman to split a baby's soul into three so that they would each have a child to care for ... And as the man relates his tale, story follows story, each hinting a little at something from mythology or the bible, but never being exactly what is expected.

I'm not quite sure exactly what I liked about this little book. But like it I did. Here is one of the pages:

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 2:07pm

7. Longbourn Jo Baker ***1/2

Everyone knows what Pride and Prejudice is about, don't they? It's full of pretty girls whirling around ballrooms in beautiful silk dresses looking for Mr Right. All its female readers imagine themselves as Elizabeth Bennet with a Mr Darcy (possibly bearing more than a passing resemblance to Colin Firth) in hot pursuit. Except that far from finding herself in the position of Elizabeth Bennet, a female reader transported back to the early nineteenth century would be far more likely to find themselves one of the army of maid servants who were needed to launder and mend the silk dresses of the girls like Elizabeth Bennet, who despite the Bennet's professions of poverty were actually living a very privileged lifestyle. And what Jo Baker gives us with Longbourn is the story of one of those maidservants and the other members of the household that are never mentioned in Pride and Prejudice. This is not a straight retelling of Pride and Prejudice though: the events of that story go on in the background but the concerns of the Bennet family are their servants are not the same, even though they may overlap at times.

Sarah has been at Longbourn since the housekeeper Mrs Hill selected her from the other poorhouse girls at the age of six. Despite the Bennett's being good employers and Mrs Hill being a kind mistress, she longs for something else in her life other than the monotonous routines of a servant's life in a country backwater. Surely there is something more to life than cleaning shoes and emptying chamber pots. The arrival of a new footman seems at first to add very little to her day to day existence, but is the new footman all that he appears to be?

This was an enjoyable read, but it didn't fully attract my attention in the way that it has done for some others. I didn't find Sarah or James (the footman) to be particularly engaging or interesting characters. And the day to day realities of the servants' lives didn't produce too many surprises: I've probably spent too much time trailing round the kitchens of National Trust properties for that. So a good read, but not a great one.

Jan 13, 2014, 1:22pm

I also loved Ready Player One much more than Mr. Penumbra, although the latter was entertaining. I see by your stars that you were not totally enamoured of Longbourn--I have that on hold at the library.

Hope you are feeling better.

Jan 13, 2014, 2:37pm

Hi Rhian - I'm glad that you're feeling better -- and there's nothing as effective as book therapy! Thanks for the comments. I was wondering about Longbourn and think it's one I can put on the bottom of the pile. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, though, sounds fascinating. I will add it to my list.

I would like to read We Need New Names, but I've heard mixed reviews. I did read Americanah, and it was one of the best books of last year.

Jan 13, 2014, 2:39pm

Sorry Longbourn didn't take off and fly for you, Rhian, but I'm glad at least it was an enjoyable read.

Jan 13, 2014, 3:01pm

#210,211,212,213 Laura, Stasia, Carsten, Tamara. Unfortunately, my recovery seems to have come to a bit of a halt. I went back to the doctor's today and she confirmed that the chest infection is getting better, but I am actually coughing more. I'm off work again today and probably tomorrow as well. I think what set it off was on Sunday I was feeling better and started to do more around the house and then just started coughing and coughing. It's so frustrating, but I'm prone to this and I know from past experience that the only thing I do is sit down and wait for it to go away. It sounds so ridiculous to be off work with a cough but it's just so debilitating.

#216, 218 Roni, Joe, I think it's definitely worth trying Longbourn. Part of my problem with it is that I have actually been studying Jane Austen in some detail over the last few years, both Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, so I've been looking at how Austen creates the effects she does. And I think that's made me realise even more what a brilliant writer Jane Austen is and rather more critical of anyone who 'dares' to use her characters!

#217 Beth, Americanah is on the Audible list to listen to once I've listened to Germinal for my course. Oh and maybe The Woman in White as well. But I will get to it!

Jan 13, 2014, 4:20pm

Nice reviews of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and Longbourn, Rhian.

I can't remember if you have asthma or not. Are you using an albuterol inhaler for your cough?

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 5:14pm

#220 Darryl I might be borderline asthmatic, but if so only very slightly. I have had asthmatic type symptoms only once in the past - then an inhaler did help (can't remember if it was albuterol) but with this type of cough it's never done any good. Usually if I get a cough like this it lasts about two weeks in its bad phase, so I'm expecting an improvement any time soon. Luckily I don't get them too often.

Jan 13, 2014, 9:24pm

Hang in there Rhian. Hopefully with the right amount of rest the cough will clear up.

Jan 14, 2014, 6:14am

Yesterday we were supposed to have tilers turn up about 8am to re-lay our bathroom floor. But they didn't arrive and it took till 11am for the company to let me know that they had accidentally been double booked. But they did manage to rebook some tilers to come today who did turn up this time, although an hour late, but unfortunately left again 50 minutes later as the stopcock to cut off the main's water supply seems to be jammed and they need to cut off the water to move the toilet. So now we need to get a plumber to sort out the stopcock before they will come back!

I am so fed up with getting this bathroom floor re-tiled. People with long memories might remember that we had a leak underneath the shower back in August that lifted the tiles and meant that they needed relaying. It's taken months to get the insurance company's contractors to set a date for the work and now it's been delayed again. I'm beginning to wish we'd employed our own tilers, even though it would mean that would have had to pay an excess over the insurance company's own estimate.

Jan 14, 2014, 8:07am

Ack!!! Sorry to hear about how long this is taking to fix. That sounds like a headache and a half, I hope you're able to get it sorted without having to wait another 4-5 months to get the contractors in.

Jan 14, 2014, 9:53am

There is nothing more annoying than waiting for people to do some work which you wish you knew how to do yourself so you'd never have to wait for them again.

Jan 14, 2014, 10:16am

I understand your frustration with a bathroom leak FIVE months ago, Rhian: waiting on insurance, then contractors who don't show, then unexpected problems when they do show, the need for more contractors. I do hope everything is finished SOON!

Jan 14, 2014, 4:42pm

#222 Laura I Think I am feeling a little bit better today. I don't work Wednesdays so hopefully by Thursday I will OK.

#224,225,226 Hi Faith, Tui, Nancy. We originally wanted to have the bathroom floor relaid by the people who originally laid it but their quote was higher than the insurance company was happy with so we agreed to have one of the insurance company's approved suppliers so that we wouldn't be stuck with a shortfall. And they've just been useless. Still I've found a plumber to come round tomorrow so hopefully we won't have too much delay.

Jan 14, 2014, 7:03pm

Ooh. Annoying coughs! I hate that! I used to get very bad coughs as a child, but they cleared up as I got older (touch wood!) Anyway, I can remember what a misery they were! I used to have to hold my head over a bowl of some weird smelling goo, in a kitchen that my mother had steamed up by boiling the kettle repeatedly. Has anyone suggested any such thing to you? I seem to remember it helped…
Well, I'm half tempted by "Mr Penumbra…" but all the love shown by people here (and by Roni, who was recommending it strongly on another thread), made me cave in immediately and order Ready Player One from Amazon, along withThe Player of Games for the Culture Group read. Only my first two books of the year, so I feel fairly restrained! Yay! For a £10 Waterstones voucher!

Jan 14, 2014, 9:38pm

>228 HanGerg:: HanGerg, I used to get dosed with something called Friar's Balsam, which was put in a steaming vaporiser by my bed. It was a goo like substance which was spread into a special holder on the vaporiser and then the hot steam blew over it at the ailing moi. And it did help! I'm a baby boomer so perhaps you are too young for this particular goo.

Jan 15, 2014, 1:56am

229> You can buy Friar's Balsam, but I've never found it feels like it does a lot. Instead I use Olbas oil or Vicks vapourub in a bowl of hot water & a tea towel over my head and do the steam inhalation that way.
I'm still trying to shift the very tail end of my cough, so you have my sympathy.

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 8:08am

8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Sherman Alexie****

When Junior, a 14 year old Indian boy living on a reservation, discovers on his first day at high school that his geometry book once belonged to his mother when she was in the same school thirty years ago, he is so angry that he throws the book at the wall. Unfortunately, his teacher, Mr P, is standing between him and the wall and gets his nose broken in the process. So Junior, who has never been in serious trouble in his life, is suspended. But when Mr P comes round to his house to talk to him, the conversation does not go as expected and Junior ends up making a life-changing decision: to leave his reservation high school where he is being taught to give up hope, as his parents were before him, and go to the high school in the white, prosperous town of Reardon 22 miles away. But leaving the reservation high school will be seen as a betrayal by the people around him, and in particular by Rowdy his best friend. But Junior is a fighter: he was born with hydrocephalus and survived, albeit with physical problems, against the expectations of his parents and doctors; he's been beaten up since he was a young child because he looks different and has a speech impediment; and he can survive this.

This is a sad book in many ways. As he comes to terms with the different unwritten rules that seem to apply to behaviour in his new school, Junior's world is rocked by a series of deaths on the reservation, all alcohol related and all needless, but not so very unexpected: at the age of 14 Junior has been to 44 funerals in his life while most of his white classmates have been to a couple at most. But it's also a heart-warming and refreshing book without being in any way sentimental. Recommended.

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 8:10am

9. Servants A Downstairs View of Twentieth-century Britain Lucy Lethbridge ***1/2

Lucy Lethbridge gives an entertaining and thought provoking view of the realities of servant life in the twentieth century. From the swan song of the great country house with its servant for every task to the inter-war years when the impossibility of finding a good servant seemed to be at the forefront of many a (female) writer's mind, to the Second World War when the place of home grown domestics was frequently taken by Jewish refugees brought up to have servants of their own, to today's completely different social climate, where the middle and upper classes retain a mixture of cleaning ladies, gardeners, au-pairs and nannies (but of course never servants).

There's a tendency to think of servants as existing in the world of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs but for the majority of servants life was very different. Of the one and a half million female servants in Edwardian Britain (out of a total female workforce of four million) the majority worked in single servant households. And when you consider how far down the social structure servant keeping went this isn't perhaps surprising. With the middle-classes servant keeping was a requirement of respectability but even prosperous members of the working class, faced with a growing family and housework that was a much more back-breaking operation than it was today would be tempted to hire a servant:

Among the higher class artisans, the little nurse-girl, the young slavey or general and the periodical char woman are quite frequent; for in this class the daughters of the house on leaving school are generally put out to some trade, and the mother of the house has her hands full with the cooking, mending and washing, for a family with a standard to maintain; but it is rare to find an adult servant in possession of all her faculties until you come to the shop-keeping class.

And those maids of all work would not have the good food and decent living conditions that might be expected in the big houses either. A bed in the kitchen and breakfast of bread and dripping with herring every day for dinner might be all that was available from them.

And as the century progressed, and more and more opportunities opened for women elsewhere the middle classes became more and more desperate to find the servants that they consider essential. And it's clear that they really did consider them essential: labour-saving devices having failed to make an early appearance in British homes largely because of the perception that the 'labour' that they purportedly saved was that of the servants, who would somehow be 'spoilt' if their jobs were made too easy. And it's clear that most of the women writers of the period, while very clear on their own rights to a fulfilling intellectual and cultural life, were rather more vague when it came to the same rights of their female servants.

There are many quotes from this book that I'd like to share, but here is just one piece of advice offered by a mother-in-law to a new wife that illustrates the appalling snobbery that existed at the beginning of the period in question:

Army or naval officers, diplomats or clergymen might be invited to lunch or dinner. The vicar might be in invited regularly to Sunday lunch or supper if he was a gentleman. Doctors and solicitors might be invited to garden parties, though never, of course, to lunch or dinner. Anyone engaged in the arts, the stage, trade or commerce, no matter how well connected, could not be asked to the house at all.

One thing which I hadn't appreciated before reading this book was that the gulf in the status of the servant employing classes and the servants themselves was one that to a large part had been a creation of the nineteenth century. In earlier centuries the divide had been much less fixed and more fluid, so that servants were almost part of the family (albeit a less important part). This makes sense when I consider some of the particularly old books I have read, but was something I hadn't really given any thought to previously.

Jan 15, 2014, 8:58am

Two excellent reviews, Rhian.

Jan 15, 2014, 9:28am

Coming through to say hello Rhian --

Hope the bathroom woes are well on their way to resolution by now. Some great reviews here. That final quote from Servants -- WOW! Pulls one up short, doesn't it?

Have a great week! Marianne

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 9:37am

Ooh, both books sounds tempting, but I've put the one about the Native American schoolboy on the wish list. I like books told from an unusual (to me at least) narrative viewpoint. I liked the sound of the book set in Zimbabwe for the same reason, but I have a feeling that, like you, I wouldn't find the bits in America so compelling. I did once read a very good and rather haunting book about the immigrant experience, where the narrator comes to America in search of a better life. I read it as part of a module in Post-Colonial writing at university, and have never forgotten it. It's Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee.
9 books already?! Wow, your reading year has got off to a flying start Rhian!

Jan 15, 2014, 9:55am

Delurking to say that your thread is always interesting, Rhian.

Jan 15, 2014, 11:04am

#228,229,230 Hi Hannah, Tui, Helen. I've tried Vicks Vaporub in hot water for inhalation but to be honest it doesn't seem to make much difference. With these coughs I find that eventually it will go in its own sweet time and nothing much I do will make any difference.

#234 Marianne, it was full of full of interesting quotes like that - such a different world. The plumber has been and gone and fixed the stopcock. I say 'fixed' but apparently there wasn't anything wrong with it - it was just a bit stiff - oh well! So now we just need to wait for the tilers to come back, for which there will probably be another big delay as so many people were flooded over Christmas that every tiler in the south of England must be booked up for months ... I do wish either me or Mr SandDune were better at this sort of thing, but after numerous unfortunate experiences with DIY we've come to the conclusion that it's better to admit defeat and get someone in.

#235 Hannah, it's actually 10 books as I have just finished a reread of Far from the Madding Crowd: I read it in the autumn but I have to write an essay on it so needed to look at it again. I should say that this reading speed will not continue! It's only because since being ill I have done virtually nothing other than read and watch the odd bit of TV, so I've been getting through a whole book some days! I've got Jasmine around the house somewhere. An excerpt from it was used as an example in my first English Literature course: I thought it looked interesting and bought it and of course have not looked at it since.

#236 Hi Becky - thanks.

I did something yesterday that I have never done in all my years of motherhood: I did J's homework for him. He is doing a textile module in DT and he needed to finish his Tshirt. I was going to provide advice and moral support as per usual but then I looked at what he had done already, and it was just so bad, and today is his last textile lesson, so he will never have to do it again, and it was clearly going to take him hours. So all my moral principles went out the window and I finished it off for him in about 15 minutes. He does try very hard in DT but he is very, very bad at it. Luckily he can drop it next academic year.

Jan 15, 2014, 12:10pm

Two fine reviews, Rhian. I've heard so many good things about the Alexie book.

You'll get no judgments from me about doing J's project for him. I had to sew a shirt and a skirt in home ec class in high school and I was absolutely terrible at it! I assume DT is similar to home ec(onomics) or now I think it's called consumer education around here, but I'm having trouble figuring out what the acronym stands for. Domestic ... something?

Jan 15, 2014, 12:38pm

Julia, DT is Design & Technology which includes pretty much everything practical. J is not practical at all! So it includes Food technology, Textiles, Electronics, Graphics and Resistant Materials. I'm not 100% sure what Resistant Materials is but I think it includes making things out of wood and plastic. They do a different module for about a term. He should be able to drop it when they choose their subjects for GCSE (the exams they sit age 16) later this term and he is counting down the days!

Jan 15, 2014, 12:53pm

Thanks for the explanation, Rhian. It sounds like a sort of combination of what the school I went to called shop class and home ec. It would be interesting to at least get an overview of those subjects but as you say J will likely never need to sew a T-shirt again.

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 2:48pm

>231 SandDune: right, that is it. I am going to find that book. Today. I have been interested in that one for ages. ANd you have got me past that tipping point. :)
BB, fair and square

Eta: OK, the only copy at the libraries is a 25 minute drive will have to wait. Again.

Jan 15, 2014, 3:08pm

10. Far from the Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy ****1/2

Those of you who were following my thread last year will know that I read this in the autumn and marked it down as three and a half stars. So a decent, but not a memorable read. But as I have decided to do my next assessment on the book (together with Germinal which I'll be reading next) I decided I'd better reread it. And this time around, for some reason, the book just clicked and appealed a whole lot more. I think this is mainly due to my having listened to it on audiobook this time (last year I rather rushed through it as I wanted to finish my preparatory reading before my course started), and on audiobook you have to slow down and just go with the flow. Far From the Madding Crowd is the sort of book where you have to allow yourself to soak up the atmosphere! rather than just read for the plot, and so I got so much more out of it second time around.

In nineteenth century England Gabriel Oak has worked himself up from a position as a shepherd to being a farmer in his own right. A solid, dependable, hard-working young man who is the master of his trade he seems likely to succeed in the world. And for such a solid young man Bathsheba Everdene, a headstrong and penniless girl of twenty or so who has recently come to live with her aunt nearby, is not the sort that he should be thinking of marrying. He admits to himself that a woman who can bring some money, or some stock for the farm, to the partnership would be much more sensible. But love is not always sensible, or indeed reciprocated, as Gabriel discovers when his attempts to woo Bathsheba with images of domestic bliss fall on deaf ears ('And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be -- and whenever I look up there will be you.') and his offer of marriage is refused.

But then comes a time of great change for both. When the bulk of Gabriel's sheep are killed when his new dog drives them over the edge of a quarry at night 'under the impression that since he was kept for running after sheep, the more he ran after them the better', he is left owning nothing more than the clothes that he stands up in, and is forced to hire himself out as a mere shepherd once more. While meanwhile Bathsheba's fortune's rise when she inherits the farm of an uncle in another neighbourhood and suddenly becomes a woman of property. Unable to find work locally, Gabriel travels further afield and is hired as shepherd on the very farm belonging to Bathsheba. And then the stage is set for the love triangle that occupies the rest of the novel as three men compete for the love of Bathsheba: Gabriel Oak, who is now very much her inferior in social status; Mr Boldwood, a neighbouring farmer and man of property to whom Bathsheba has thoughtlessly sent a valentine; and Sergeant Troy, a somewhat dissolute but dashing soldier.

In this novel the modern world ( well what constituted the modern world in nineteenth century England, anyway) does not intrude like it does it some of Hardy's other novels: the pattern of life in the village Weatherbury, where most of the novel is set, goes on as it has for centuries. I think this may perhaps be a reason why this is not my favourite of Hardy's novels. But still a great book.

Jan 15, 2014, 4:16pm

>237 SandDune:: hey, you're talking to the woman who made an Iroquois false face mask with papier maché and a balloon. No judgement from this quarter.

Jan 15, 2014, 4:37pm

Wonderful review of Far From the Madding Crowd, Rhian; I thoroughly enjoyed this one. A couple of years ago I listened to Alan Rickman narrate Hardy's The Return of the Native -- oh, that one is so fabulous! Not to be missed.

Jan 15, 2014, 4:47pm

Do I even want to know what a 'stopcock' is?

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 5:02pm

I gave The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 9 out of 10 stars. So it's a favorite of mine! My micro-review: "Excellent story. Only reason I didn't give higher is that it was a little young for me."

When I was young I had terrible allergies (also probably had asthma like I do now). When I got sick with a bad cough, she would put me on the bathroom toilet seat (cover down), turn the shower on hot, then have me sit in there for 15 to 20 minutes. It really helped a lot to relieve symptoms.

>245 michigantrumpet: A stopcock is a valve used to restrict or isolate the flow of a liquid or gas through a pipe.

Makes you kind of wonder about the origins of the second half of the word, doesn't it?

Jan 15, 2014, 5:02pm

#241 Glad to be of service Megan.

#243 Tui, that sounds very impressive. I was always one of those irritating mothers who insisted he had to do it himself. Although, I did make a fairly snazzy volcano themed t-shirt once.

#244 Nancy, Alan Rickman would be great as a reader I imagine. He's got just the right sort of voice.

#245 Do I even want to know what a stopcock is? - well, probably not, but it's the ... thing ... that shuts the water off at the mains where it first comes into the house.

Jan 15, 2014, 5:05pm

#246 A stopcock is a valve used to restrict or isolate the flow of a liquid or gas through a pipe
Morphy, your explanation is so much more technical than mine. You can tell I don't do a lot of home improvements can't you?

Jan 15, 2014, 5:10pm

You've been reading such great stuff - the Alexie and Hardy - and the two books about servants in the early 20th. Did you read the Mrs. Woolf book? I found that very well written and interesting.

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 5:34pm

Hi Lucy, no I haven't read that one but I've seen it recommended. The reason I picked up the Servants book was that having read Longbourn I wanted to read a bit more about that area. And I know that Lucy Lethbridge's book isn't the right period but was one that looked interesting. And I also found a Guardian article in which she recommends a number of memoirs that she used in her book. Particularly interesting look Bengal to Birmingham by Faizur Rasul, a memoir of his life as a servant to the imam of Britain's first mosque in the 1920's and The Servantless House, written in 1923, as an attempt to convince the middle classes that life without servants would not spell the end of the world as they knew it.

Here's the article:

Jan 15, 2014, 6:44pm

Great link! The latent teenager in me teehee'd when you said the stopcock was stiff. Makes much more sense now! ;-)

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 7:39pm

>248 SandDune: Wikipedia is my friend.

Along with copy/paste.

Jan 15, 2014, 7:44pm

>247 SandDune:: so did I but, like you, this one time he needed serious help.

Jan 15, 2014, 8:15pm

I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a few years ago because I'd seen videos of Sherman Alexie speaking; he's extremely engaging. Have never read anything by Thomas Hardy, and despite your excellent review, I'm not yet so inclined.

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 11:23pm

I listened to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and truly loved it. I may have missed a bit because of the artwork, but it was Alexie narrating and it brought something incredibly real to the work. I was moved and saddened. Great review, Rhian. I've added my thumbs up!

Jan 15, 2014, 11:42pm

Add my name to the list of those who loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.

Rhian, the images of the waves and the lighthouse near your mom's house are incredible!

Jan 15, 2014, 11:46pm

Hi Rhian. I agree with your assessment of We Need New Names. Strong start, not so strong finish.

And Bengal to Birmingham sounds interesting.

Jan 16, 2014, 2:42pm

#251 Oops! I'll try and compose my sentences a bit more carefully in future!

#252 Hi Morphy - where would we be without Wikipedia, that's what I want to know.

#253 Well Tui, apparently the T-shirt went on display today and it was not a success. I am consoling him with the fact that he probably won't ever need to do that again in his entire life as I can't imagine J picking any career which is even remotely creative or practical in nature. Words or numbers, that's what he'll be doing.

#254 Katherine, I think Thomas Hardy is one that you either love or you don't. I've read quite a few of his apart from this one: Tess of the Durbevilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Return of the Native, The Woodlanders and I've pretty much enjoyed all of them.

Jan 16, 2014, 2:54pm

#255, 256 Hi Tina, Linda - I am certainly going to try some more of Sherman Alexie's work! and I'm also going to be recommending this one to J to read. We've suddenly reached a point where there is quite a bit of crossover in our reading which is lovely. I've obviously raised just a big a book lover as I am myself. J was looking at a book just now (The Inverted World by Christopher Priest for the record): his comment was 'I've just pulled it out to read while I'm looking for the bath plug'. Someone who needs to get a book to read while he looks for a bath plug (which had gone missing, by the way) is slightly addicted, I think.

#257 Ellen, I looked to see how people had rated We Need New Names on last year's Booker prize group, and most people put it last or last but one. I think of the two books on the 2013 Booker shortlist that I have read (A Tale for the Time Being being the other one) I think I would put We Need New Names last as well. Not that I liked A Tale for the Time Being particularly, but I can see it is a more accomplished book.

Jan 16, 2014, 2:55pm

I'm another fan of The Absolutely True Diary, Rhian. That got me reading more of him - his The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is quite different and not YA, but it's awfully good.

I read Tess, but none of his others. I keep thinking about giving The Mayor of Casterbridge a try.

Jan 16, 2014, 4:09pm

It's reviews like that that make me think I really ought to put my school induced loathing for Hardy to one side and try him as an adult. Maybe one day.

Edited: Jan 16, 2014, 4:47pm

Daisy has found a tennis ball. She likes tennis balls because she can get hold of the fluff on the outside and then throw them around the floor, so that she can chase after them. Unfortunately this also means that the ball rolls under the bookcase, the sofa, and the TV approximately every 30 seconds and then she can't reach it. And then she sits and cries. Whenever I move the ball someone where there is nothing for it to roll under, she brings it straight back. She does not have much brain!

Jan 16, 2014, 5:19pm

Max the Wonderdog could chase tennis balls endlessly. If we were ever attacked by scary extraterrestrial tennis balls shaped superbeings, we'd be perfectly safe...

Jan 16, 2014, 7:49pm

I don't know, Rhian, I think Daisy has more brain than you give her credit for. After all, she's taught you how to fetch ...


Jan 16, 2014, 8:16pm

>264 rosalita: LOL, Julia:)

Rhian, wow, what great books you've been reading lately! Oh, the List is getting bigger.

Jan 17, 2014, 6:21am

>264 rosalita:: good one!

Just be sure you don't introduce more tennis balls, for example, if ball #1 rolls completely out of your reach. Because #1 will mysteriously turn up again and then Daisy will be playing with two balls simultaneously and you'll really be chasing them around!

Jan 17, 2014, 7:09am

#261 "I really ought to put my school induced loathing for Hardy to one side and try him as an adult" That's exactly what I thought, reading your review Rhian. I read Far From the Madding Crowd as part of my GSCE syllabus and found it a bit of a snooze fest. It's always a mystery to me why people put these kind of subtle, slow burn books about nuanced relationships etc. into the GCSE syllabus. I guess because they're part of the literary "Cannon", so have to be passed on to the next generation, but honestly, I think what it mainly does is turn most kids off reading for good! I have similar feelings about E.M. Foster after being bored to tears by A Room With A View at school. I could probably read both books as an adult and get a lot out of them, but as a teenager I yearned for something a bit more lively. Luckily, I already had the reading bug by then and was reading loads more interesting stuff on my own; but I wonder how many of my classmates got the idea that reading wasn't for them from having to slog through that stuff?

Jan 17, 2014, 9:48am

Jude the Obscure finished me off for Hardy back in uni days. Gack. Perhaps, in fairness, I should give him another chance but there are so many books...

Jan 17, 2014, 2:53pm

#263,264,265,266 Hi Marianne, Julia, Anne, Laura. I suppose she has been teaching me to fetch (and J, but Mr SandDune is more hardhearted). But I've been feeling a bit guilty that she hasn't had enough exercise over the last few weeks since I've been I'll so I've been quite susceptible to any moral blackmail!

#267, 268 Hannah, Tui - I never studied Hardy in school so I never got turned off. I did read Tess of the Durbevilles as a teenager though and enjoyed it. Jude the Obscure is one that I've meant to get around to, although it does sound very miserable.

Jan 17, 2014, 3:18pm

Well, I am a big fan of both Sherman Alexie and Thomas Hardy. They kind of fit together; social issues, bleak settings? I think that Tess of D'urbevilles is by favorite Hardy.

Jan 17, 2014, 4:11pm

I admit to having gaping holes in my Hardy reading, but I'm afraid I categorise him as Just Too Damn Depressing. There's something about knowing that, at the end of 600 pages, something appalling is going to happen, that makes it mighty difficult not to find an excuse to put him aside one more time... :)

Edited: Jan 17, 2014, 10:16pm

I'm always going around saying this but the BEST audiobook experience of my life was listening (twice, I just started the CD's all over again when I got to the end) to Return of the Native being read by none other than Alan Rickman. He was INCREDIBLE - and it's the only audio CD he's ever done. He brought Hardy completely to life - his massive love of the landscape, of the country people, a wicked humor, compassion too for those with wild and strange longings and ideas and intelligence, stuck in the middle of nowhere.... all the (really dire) trouble that those sorts of folks get themselves into..... I am now a total Hardy fan. I can't think of a better intro.

Jan 18, 2014, 10:51am

HI Rhian! Just stopping in to say hello! Hope you are starting to feel better!

Jan 18, 2014, 10:52am

I'd listen to Alan Rickman reading the phone book.

Jan 18, 2014, 12:27pm

>231 SandDune:/232 sound awesome! A lot of great books for the tbr pile here. *waves @ Rhian*

Jan 18, 2014, 12:36pm

OK, I'm convinced, I've just reserved Alan Rickman reading Return of the Native from the library. If I still feel like I'm 15 and have a late essay to write that I simply don't understand at the thought of Hardy after that at least I can say I gave him a fair trial.

Jan 18, 2014, 12:46pm

#276 I adored Rickman's narration of The Return of the Native; hope you will, too!

Jan 18, 2014, 1:32pm

Oooh, Alan Rickman! I'm with tiffin - I don't care what he's reading, I'll listen!

Jan 18, 2014, 6:17pm

Hi Rhian - Great review of Far from the Madding Crowd. I'm a Thomas Hardy enthusiast and Jude the Obscure is, by far, my favorite. I highly recommend it. It stands apart from the others (many of which I also love), as he put forward some rather radical ideas (for the time) about religion, sex, etc. But yes, it is very, very grim. I've been thinking of listening to some the Hardy novels I've already read on audio.

#232 - This one also sounds good. Thank you!

Jan 18, 2014, 7:33pm

>272 sibylline: Lucy, I discovered that I can get the Alan Rickman-narrated Return of the Native through our library's Prospector system. Once I've finished with the audio I am on, I plan to request it. I've heard so many wonderful things about it, and like others here I would listen to him read anything! What a shame it's the only book he's every narrated.

Jan 18, 2014, 7:56pm

Well Rhian - Thomas Hardy seems to split the group a little. I am on the positive side and I am so pleased that Far From the Madding Crowd sang to you more melodiously second time around. My own favourite is Return of the Native but all his major works bang my drum. His lesser works don't.

Germinal is awesome.

Have to concede that I would have helped J with his homework too in the circumstances described; only of course I cannot sew for toffee so would have had to get you to help me to help J but you know what I mean.

Love to all this weekend.

Jan 18, 2014, 11:00pm

One of my unofficial goals this year is to finally read a Hardy. I somehow escaped him all through school. I like grim, so there is hope... HA!

Jan 19, 2014, 1:28am

So if Far from the Madding Crowd is not your favourite Hardy, and you gave it 4.5 stars, then you must really love some other Hardy's! Great review.
You have me interested.....I am not usually a fan of old books ;), because of the language used in them being so verbose? prolific?...but I like the idea of learning more baout other times. It is a conflict I have. I empathize with a lot of the Occupy folks but there were too many who weren't knowledgeable and pragmatic.

Edited: Jan 19, 2014, 5:08am

Hi Rhonda, Liz, Lucy, Chelle, Tui, Tamara, Helen, Nancy, Amber, Kerri, Anne, Paul, Katie, Megan.

Like Paul says, it does sound as if there is a real difference of opinion about Hardy. I probably read Tess of the D'Urbevilles when I was about fourteen or fifteen and loved it. That would certainly be one five star read and The Return of the Native would be another. But then I don't mind miserable. And I will certainly look out for the audiobook of The Return of the Native by Alan Rickman: I'm a great Alan Rickman fan too. Many years ago we saw him live on stage in Les Liaisons Dangereuses and he was wonderful: so much better than John Malkovitch in the screen version.

Megan, I've always been in the habit of reading older books since quite a young age so I've never found it off putting. And while the language can sometimes be more difficult they do have the advantage of frequently being structured in a more straightforward way than more modern literary fiction. When I was a child I was the sort of reader who would battle on through whatever I was given to read, and the things I was given included books like The Children of the New Forest, Lorna Doone, Gulliver's Travels (original version), David Copperfield (by my class teacher when I was about 7 as I think she was slightly intimidated by my having finished all the classroom books and she wanted to slow me down a bit), so I think I just got used to the older style gradually.

Edited: Jan 19, 2014, 9:34am

Paul, I'm going to have to disagree with you about Germinal as I ... didn't ... really ... like ... it ! I'm probably disagreeing with most other people as well judging by the number of five star reviews it's got. I should like it, a good portion of my ancestors were coal miners (in the South Wales coalfields) in the 1860's when the book was set, but apart from the last 20% I found it bit of a chore. Unlike the last two books that I've read for my course, Middlemarch and Far From the Madding Crowd, where you got into the skin of the characters, it seemed that in Germinal the reader was very much at a distance looking on. So I couldn't feel any emotional attachment to any of them, which always reduced my enjoyment of a book. My next essay is to compare the styles of realism presented in Germinal and Far from the Madding Crowd though, so I should be able to articulate much more what I feel after I've done the work for that.

Edited to add:forgot to mention that this is the second time I've read Germinal the first time being years ago, and I didn't much care for it then either.
This topic was continued by SandDune in 2014: January thread part 2.