A very late 2010 off the shelf start for Ygraine

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A very late 2010 off the shelf start for Ygraine

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Edited: Dec 25, 2010, 8:25pm

I've only just found this group after seeing it mentioned elsewhere, but it looks like the perfect place for me. I love buying books, but I can very rarely justify the expense of buying them new. Instead, I tend to pick them up in charity shops and at summer fetes and so if I see a book that looks interesting, I buy it, as the likelihood of my stumbling across that book again is quite small. Consequently, I seem to have amassed a worryingly large collection of books I haven't yet read and I've decided that, in the spirit of economising and saving money, I really should read them before I buy too many more.

So, in what is left of this year I'm going to attempt to get through at least fifty books from my shelves, all bought before the start of this year. This may seem like a lot given that it's almost the beginning of July, but I've just started a four hour commute to work every day and so I'm devouring books like there's no tomorrow. I may even exceed fifty; who knows?

All books I've read will have reviews posted on the book's page.

1. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (128 pages)
2. Salamander by Thomas Wharton (384 pages)
3. The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis (318 pages)
4. La Prisonniere by Malika Oufkir (400 pages)
5. Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis by Wendy Cope (64 pages)
6. Fire and Shadow by David Hillier (501 pages)
7. The Discovery of Chocolate by James Runcie (320 pages)
8. A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell (192 pages)
9. The Hammer of the Sun by Michael Scott Rohan (520 pages)
10. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, trans. Rosemary Edmonds (864 pages)
11. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (368 pages)
12. Mrs Shakespeare by Robert Nye (224 pages)
13. The Cigarette Girl by Carol Wolper (336 pages)
14. Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood
15. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
16. The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
17. The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers
18. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
19. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
20. Sophia Scrooby Preserved by Martha Bacon
21. Crash by J. G. Ballard
22. Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
23. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
24. Twist of Gold by Michael Morpurgo
25. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
26. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
27. Fireworks by Angela Carter
28. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
29. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
30. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
31. The Lieutenant's Lover by Harry Bingham
32. Child of the Phoenix by Barbara Erskine
33. Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson
34. The Running Foxes by Joyce Stranger
35. Christmas Carols for Cats by Julie and John Hope
36. Christmas Crackers for Cats by Julie and John Hope
37. The Twelve Days of Christmas (Correspondence) by John Julius Norwich
38. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
39. Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
40. Baudolino by Umberto Eco
41. The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis
42. The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
43. Christmas Please! ed. Douglas Brooks-Davies

Jun 29, 2010, 11:44am

Welcome aboard!

Jun 29, 2010, 1:19pm

Four hours! Wow...I hope that's the round trip.

My husband and I commute 45 minutes each way. We joined a book club together and now I read the selections aloud as he drives.

Jun 30, 2010, 12:43pm

Welcome to the group! How nice to be able to sit back and read while someone else drives!

Jun 30, 2010, 3:26pm

Four-hour commute? I am simultaneously appalled and envious. Good luck with your challenge!

Jun 30, 2010, 5:27pm

Yes, welcome. I just have to know - is your commute a total of 4 hours, or 4 hours each way?

Jul 1, 2010, 4:25am

Thankfully it's only (hah, only) four hours in total. I have an hour and three quarters on the train and a further quarter of an hour on the tube each way. It gives me plenty of good reading time though, so I can't complain too much.

Jul 1, 2010, 6:00pm

Like tloeffler said, I am both appaled and envious. Thank goodness you are a reader, that would be a killer commute if you just had to sit and stare out a window or at the other people!

Good luck with the Challenge, looking forward to seeing what books you read.

Jul 2, 2010, 12:14pm

Is it just me? I am unsettled by people who sit and stare with ear buds in their ears.

Jul 3, 2010, 12:20am

Nope, me too. Although I am equally unsettled by people behind me in store checkouts with ear buds in their ears, carrying on loud conversations with whoever's on the other end and not realizing who else might be hearing everything they say! (can you tell I just experienced that today?)

Jul 3, 2010, 3:37pm

I am always so tempted to stare at them until they notice and then innocently say, "I'm sorry. Were you talking to me?"

Jul 4, 2010, 5:42am

I usually manage to avoid those people by virtue of sitting in the quiet carriage where phones aren't allowed. Most of the time people are good and stick to it, thankfully, at least on the main commuter trains.

Today I finished book number one for this challenge. I would have managed it sooner, but my fiance loaned me The Girl who Played with Fire so I felt obliged to read that, and then I bought a couple of books which just proved too tempting and so I had to read those first too. However, I have finally reached my first book from my shelf which was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

I bought this book about seven years ago when I was going to Portugal for a huge international Scout and Guide camp. I needed books which were small and light as I was carrying all my luggage for two weeks on my back and also ones I didn't mind losing/dropping in mud as we were camping. I ended up coming back from the charity shop with this book for (according to the inside cover) the princely sum of 30p. Evidently the camp was much busier than I expected, as the bok came back from Portugal unread and has remained that way until now. I'm very glad I got around to it though; I enjoyed it a lot and I've reviewed it to that effect.

Now to continue ignorning my more recent acquisitions and head on to book number two.

Jul 4, 2010, 2:27pm

That's the best part of this challenge for me, finding good reads that have been sitting neglected on my shelves for far too long. I have had mostly winners so far, leaving me wondering why I let them sit so long!

Jul 7, 2010, 4:43am

Book number two is now complete! I must say, it's rather satisfying to see the numbers of my "to be read" shelf (currently at a very worrying 279 according to LibraryThing) decreasing and the numbers in my general library increasing.

My second book for this challenge was Salamander by Thomas Wharton. This one was a bit of a disappointment as I wanted to like it far more than I did. My review with reasons why can be found on the book's page. I do dislike feeling let down by a book and hopefully book number three, The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis, begun on the train this morning,will be better.

Jul 9, 2010, 5:34am

Book number three was indeed much better! The Silver Pigs was excellent and reminded me how much I enjoy ancient Rome. I may have to break out the Latin books and try reading some proper stuff, although no doubt I've become horribly rusty in the past nine months.

Jul 9, 2010, 8:23am

Thanks for the recommendation, Ygraine. Silver Pigs are now on my wishlist.

Jul 9, 2010, 9:48am

mamzel, you're very welcome. I always enjoy giving people new things to read.

Edited: Jul 11, 2010, 11:54am

I've just finished book number four, which was La Prisonniere by Malika Oufkir (the Touchstone relates to what I presume must be the American title as it looks to be the same book). A shocking read, particularly as the events it talks about happened within the last 50 years. It was an autobiography, a genre I haven't read for a while, so it was a good change and I think I might press on with some more of this type.

Jul 14, 2010, 11:45am

My reading has been slowed down considerably by picking Anna Karenina as book number five. I love it so far, it's just rather long with tiny print.

Jul 15, 2010, 8:26am

Anna Karenina has been overtaken by the much shorter Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, a wonderful collection of poems by Wendy Cope. My attempts at cataloging my library have finally reached my poetry shelf, and it occurred to me that although I've read a lot of the poems individually, I've never actually read most of the books. A handful of poems a night before bed is proving to be rather enjoyable, so I think I'll pick another poetry book from my collection and continue with this.

Jul 15, 2010, 9:26am

I love Wendy Cope.

My favorite of her poems is 'I Worry' but I don't remember whether it's in that book or in Serious Concerns since I have them both.

Jul 26, 2010, 6:28am

I'm still soldiering on with Anna Karenina, which is fascinating but dense. I have been distracted by a few new books recently which makes me a feel a bit guilty, but at least they won't be on next year's TBR pile now. I've been further delayed as this weekend I was at a rather excellent music festival which wasn't really the place for reading Russian literature. Instead I read book number six, Fire and Shadow by David Hillier.

This was another book bought for that trip to Portugal and subsequently completely ignored. This one wasn't particularly good though: it's a story about a woman who journeys to the Holy Land at the time of the Third Crusade seeking answers about the death of her family. It should have been much better than it was.

Jul 27, 2010, 8:01am

After returning home from Trowbridge Village Pump Festival horribly late on Sunday night, I decided that I was far too tired to face the Russian doorstop first thing on a Monday morning. Instead I started and (thanks to both my train to work and my train back home being canceled, resulting in lots of time spent waiting at stations) subsequently finished The Discovery of Chocolate by James Runcie, which I received free with The Times some years ago.

It was a good fun read with an interesting premise, but had lots of flaws. I seem to have read a spate of books recently that are merely ok, justifying why they have lain ignored for so long, so hopefully the next few will be more enjoyable.

Jul 28, 2010, 4:33am

Yesterday I once again felt unequal to the task of Anna Karenina and so I randomly selected A Zoo in my Luggage by Gerald Durrell as book number eight from my shelves. Goodness only knows how long I've had this one kicking around, as it has notes stuffed in the front of it written by my mother teaching me how to subtract negative numbers, something I like to flatter myself I've been able to do quite competently for some time now.

What a shame I took so long to get around to this book. It seems to have broken my curse of two star books! I'd forgotten what a pleasure Gerald Durrell is to read. His writing is dry, his observations are acute and his account of gathering animals in Cameroon is simply fascinating.

Jul 28, 2010, 11:46am

I love Gerald Durrell too! I used to read his books over and over again when I was younger but I haven't read any for years. I've still got them all of course so maybe I should choose one, They definately count as books off the shelf (they have their own shelf). Thanks for reminding me about them!

Jul 29, 2010, 3:42pm

I love them too - I couldn't tell you how many times I've re-read them; some of them are falling apart. I think My Family and Other Animals is my favorite.

Jul 29, 2010, 4:15pm

My family and Other Animals is great, yes. I also have Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons which I feel may be on the cards soon. It's so nice to rediscover books that I'm glad to have still.

Jul 30, 2010, 2:26pm

Today I finally finished book number nine, The Hammer of the Sun by Michael Scott Rohan. I've been reading it for about a month as it is genuinely terrible, but the completist in me felt obliged to finish it (and indeed keep it) as it's the third book in a trilogy. The first two books were rather enjoyable, fantasy books set in a world losely based on Norse mythology, but this last one was atrocious. I'm very glad that's over and done with now.

Aug 1, 2010, 8:06am

A delightful morning of lying in bed has seen me finish Anna Karenina, book number ten. It was fantastic, and the first book I've read for this challenge to which I've given five stars. You can read my review on the book's page.

I'm not sure what I'll read next, but definitely something light and fluffy after all that seriousness.

Aug 3, 2010, 6:18pm

Well, in the end I went for something dark and fluffy rather than light and fluffy: book number 11 was Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Sadly, I really didn't like this book at all and it's gone straight onto my BookMooch inventory. As I've deleted it from my LibraryThing collection, I can't review the book on its page, so I've pasted my review here so you can see why I'm getting rid of it.


I read this book hoping for a take on the vampire story which was different from the rash of alternately saccharine and soft core porn vampire novels which proliferate at the moment, and it was indeed different. However, it seems that darker does not necessarily mean better and apparently it also does not mean I’m any more likely to enjoy it.

Yes, this book is dark, but it’s dark all the time and clearly takes itself very seriously. There are no moments of levity to break the monotonous, stifling morbidity, and while I appreciate this is the tone of the book, there are a lot of wasted opportunities for some delicious black humour which would have been the perfect accent to it. Louis’ constant philosophising which helps to flesh out Rice’s take on the vampire myth wandered between being pompous and being whiney and once again shows a complete lack of irony or self-reflection, even though the eponymous vampire is supposedly looking back on these thoughts from the distance of many years. The interview device which facilitated this is, at best, inconsistently maintained. Great swathes of text went by without any recourse to the interviewer, and I thought that better use could have been made of this neglected outsider perspective.

That said, there were some aspects of the novel that I enjoyed. Claudia is a fabulous character, far more interesting than the insipid narrator. I also appreciate the way that Rice gives the narrative a seductively sensual quality without ever having any of the characters have sex. This gives her writing a class and elegance which I find lacking in modern vampire books. It was also an enormous relief to see the word ‘velvet’ only ever used in the context of fabric (Christine Feehan, I’m looking at you). Nonetheless, this book just wasn’t for me, but I can see why so many people enjoy it.

Aug 13, 2010, 4:52am

After a long break reading new books (five of them; I'm terrible, I know) I have returned to this thread with a twelfth book complete. This was Mrs Shakespeare by Robert Nye, a thoroughly irreverent, bawdy look at the relationship between Shakespeare and his wife through the eyes of Anne Hathaway. As a lover of Shakespeare, I thoroughly enjoyed it although (and I'm trying but failing to phrase this in a way which doesn't sound obscene) there was a bit too much buggery for my liking.

Aug 14, 2010, 7:12am

Rather appropriately, I finished book number 13 on Friday 13th, and it was definitely unlucky for me. I have no idea how The Cigarette Girl by Carol Wolper ended up on my shelves as it's not my sort of book at all, but I felt compelled to read it. I should have known it was a bad sign when I couldn't remember whether I'd read it before or not (turns out I had, but I only realised this when I got to the end). It was a dreadful book and is going straight onto BookMooch to find a new home. My review is below as I can't add it to the book's page as I no longer own it.


This book, despite not being my sort of thing, started out quite well. The dialogue was reasonably witty and, although there's no substance to this book at all, it was light and frothy and quite entertaining. Unfortunately it soon went flat as the sharp one-liners gave way to hormone-laden hand-wringing about finding the right man. Not only the ending but a good three quarters of the book were completely dissatisfying.

I objected to the style of writing, which, aside from the aforementioned witty one-liners, was rather dull. Carol Wolper has an incredibly annoying trick of saying “And then I thought this: (insert vapid thought here)” rather than letting the reader experience what the character is thinking. It’s a first person narrative; it’s already obvious that what I’m reading is what the character is thinking, thank you, I don’t need to be told. I also thought that the sections written as screenplay added nothing to the book. They were infrequent enough that they didn’t create a coherent thread running through the book, and their use seemed random rather than a deliberate device to highlight the most important events. When they did come along, they just seemed like a lazy way of writing the same thing, rather than the clever glimpse into the mind of the scriptwriting narrator that they were undoubtedly intended to be.

Aug 25, 2010, 5:57pm

After a very long and guilty break reading new books, I have returned to the TBR pile for book 14, which was the fabulous Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood. I'm so pleased I got round to reading this book because I loved it and it's definitely one of my favourites so far this year.

I've started a blog for reviewing my books, so my (very enthusiastic) review of this book can be found at http://oldenglishrose.dmi.me.uk Please come over and have a look.

Edited: Sep 2, 2010, 5:28pm

I whizzed through book number 15 today, which was A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I started out convinced I would hate it, but ended up thinking it was quite clever and I'm unexpectedly keeping it.

Review can be found here: http://oldenglishrose.dmi.me.uk/2010/08/26/a-clockwork-orange

Aug 27, 2010, 12:07pm

Well, you were late to start in the group and I am even later in welcoming you. I'm glad you're finding the challenge to your liking. I couldn't believe your goal--mine is only 15 and I started in January--but it seems you just might make it. My problem is that I keep getting distracted by books I read about here on LT that I just have to get from the library. And, since they're from the library and have a due date, I feel compelled to read them instead of books off the shelf that will continue to wait for me...as they have already been doing for so long... Welcome!

Aug 31, 2010, 4:34am

Hello, and thanks for dropping by. I thankfully don't fall victim to the library problem as my long hours at work mean that it's never open when I'm around. I do keep buying new things though, which is even worse I suppose.

Aug 31, 2010, 9:16am

35> That's exactly the problem I have! Impulse library checkouts based on LT conversations that get read instead of what I've actually purchased.

Our library enables people with incompatible schedules. Anyone can pick up an on-hold book for you with just your name; they don't even need to have the card. They're already checked out.

Aug 31, 2010, 3:33pm

That's just not right! I would complain about that. It's one thing to put a book on hold so that no one else could check it out and a completely different thing to check the book out. What if the person never came in to pick up the book? Would they be charged overdue fines while their book sits there waiting for them?

Edited: Sep 2, 2010, 5:27pm

I don't think the library here has anything like that. I used to use it a lot when I was living in York but now it's just not convenient.

I've finally finished book number 16 The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve which was utterly dreadful, in my opinion. Most reviews on this site give it 4.5 or 5 stars though, so it's obviously a matter of taste.

This book is going straight to BookMooch to look for a new home and my review can be found here: http://oldenglishrose.dmi.me.uk/2010/09/01/the-last-time-they-met

Sep 1, 2010, 9:28am

>38 mamzel: They are not charged overdue fines, no. If the book is still sitting there when it comes due four weeks later, it is simply checked back in as if they had returned it.

Sep 2, 2010, 6:39pm

Today has been a good day for getting books off the shelf (or rather moving them from one to the other), as I finished two books. Number 17 was The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers, which was fantastic, and A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire which was sadly less good.

Reviews can be found here:


Sep 14, 2010, 6:19am

I've finally got around to reviewing book number 19, which was Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. I really enjoyed its beauty, although it was definitely not a plot driven novel.

My review can be found here: http://oldenglishrose.dmi.me.uk/2010/09/14/memoirs-of-a-geisha/

Sep 17, 2010, 7:27am

Book number 20 was a quick read; the children's book Sophia Scrooby Preserved by Martha Bacon.


It was nice enough, but it's gone off to BookMooch to look for a new owner as I'm a little old for it now.

Oct 4, 2010, 4:53am

I didn't enjoy book number 21 at all, and that's exactly why I read it: to clear it off my shelves. I found Crash by J. G. Ballard to be thoroughly unpleasant and not a good read at all. At least it's gone now.


Oct 7, 2010, 11:09am

Book number 22, Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier has been finished and reviewed. I thought that Mary Anne's character was great but that the storytelling was unfortunately hampered by history.


Nearly half way through now! I thought I'd get there much quicker than this, but I keep being tempted by shiny new books. BookMooch is my nemesis.

Oct 26, 2010, 6:54am

I've recently finished two books from the shelves, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and Twist of Gold by Michael Morpurgo. Both were very good but for entirely different reasons.


This brings me to a total of 24 books off the shelves. Fingers crossed I make it to 50 before Christmas.

Oct 27, 2010, 4:14pm

And if not, books really don't care what the date is and will be just as happy read in 2011 as 2010.

Edited: Nov 15, 2010, 11:43am

Book number 25 and the halfway mark was the medieval monstrosity Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I expected to love it, but there were too many errors, the writing was too heavy-handed, the characters too poor, the language too wrong and the story too repetetive for me to enjoy it at all. The only reason I finished this book was because I subscribe to the Mastermind theory of reading (I've started so I'll finish). I seem to be in the minority in this opinion though, so don't be put off.


Nov 15, 2010, 11:46am

Finished and reviewed Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which is book number 26. I've had it since university so it was about time I finally read it, but it wasn't one I particularly enjoyed in the end so the long wait was no issue.


At this rate I don't think I'll make 50 by the end of the year. I blame BookMooch entirely. Nothing at all to do with my complete lack of willpower.

Nov 21, 2010, 3:30pm

Book number 27 has been read and reviewed: Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces, a collection of short stories by Angela Carter.


This wasn't my favourite of her collections but her writing is wonderful as always.

Dec 8, 2010, 9:18pm

I enjoyed your review of The Pillars of the Earth, especially as I agreed with every word! Avoid the sequel World Without End, it's even worse.

Dec 9, 2010, 10:39am

I'm glad you agreed! It seems to be a book that people either love or hate, and I'm definitely in the second camp along with you.

I've finished and reviewed another three books off the shelf, but I don't think I'm going to make it to 50 by the end of the year. Ah well, all the more for next year!

Number 28 was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which wasn't as great as I was hoping by a long stretch:

Number 29 was The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, which was good, but didn't blow me away:

Number 30 was The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles which I thought was spectacular and makes up for every bad book that I've read off the shelves this year:

Dec 9, 2010, 8:57pm

It's funny, I quite enjoyed the plot of The Pillars of the Earth and the whole cathedral-building thing the first time I read it when it first came out but was very disappointed with it on a second reading last year. I put it down to book starvation when I first read it.

I've tried to read One Hundred Years of Solitude three times, but never got very far. And there are very, very few books I haven't finished once I've started them (I may pinch your quip about the Mastermind principle).

I read The French Lieutenant's Woman as a teenager but don't remember much about it.

Edited: Dec 11, 2010, 3:59pm

I read in your review of One Hundred Years of Solitude that you plan on trying Love in the Time of Cholera. I wish you better luck with that one! I was dreadfully, awfully underwhelmed by it.

Dec 13, 2010, 11:43am

MsCellophane, I agree with you about LITTOC. Halfway through the book I felt like I was still at the beginning. I couldn't figure out why that was. One reason might have been that all characters were referred to by their whole name, like we repeatedly needed to be introduced to them. I gave up at the halfway point.

Dec 13, 2010, 11:52am

Oh dear. From what the two of you have said it sounds as though I'm going to think much the same of it as of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Still, at least it's shorter I suppose.

Robertgreaves, by all means purloin the Mastermind thing.