You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2008.
Bought a lot this month for some reason……
The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill – I have really enjoyed the other Simon Serailler crime novels and this may just drift to the top of my tbr pile
The Fairytales of Hermann Hesse – Demian and The Glass Bead Game are two of my favourite novels (and both due for a re-read now that I come to think of it) so I was thrilled to come across this
An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear – the fifth Maisie Dobbs mystery, I’ve been looking forward to this for ages
My Grandmothers and I by Diana Holman-Hunt – the second publication from Slightly Foxed
Wonder Woman: Love & Murder by Jodi Picoult – I’ve never read any of her novels but wanted to see what she could do in graphic form, plus I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Diana Prince
The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine MD – all about the “uniquely flexible structure if the female brain” complete with case studies which read a little bit like gossip to me (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing….)
The Curious Life of Robert Hooke by Lisa Jardine – a biography of Hooke, who lived and worked at the same time as Isaac Newton but isn’t as well known. A real Renaissance man, this looks fascinating
Critical Mass by Philip Ball – or how one thing leads to another as the subtitle says; human behaviour in all its glory
And then I made the mistake of reading the SFX sci-fi and fantasy book special, which led to the following:
White Apples by Jonathan Carroll – I already have two of his novels but this looked intriguing
The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones – not ready any of her stuff before and she’s a national treasure!
The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land by Diana Wynne Jones – “an indispensable guide for anyone stuck in the realms of fantasy without a magic sword to call their own” says one T Pratchett; I’ve already dipped in and this looks very funny indeed
Then one very stressful day at work I decided to go for a walk at lunchtime and ended up in the Covent Garden branch of Waterstones with absolutely no intention of doing anything other than having a look, but…..
Making Money by Terry Pratchett was out in paperback, the sequel to Going Postal which I had really enjoyed, and
Unseen by Mari Jungstedt looked interesting, another Scandinavian crime novel, and
Banquet for the Damned by Adam L G Nevill was set in St Andrews and looked suitably creepy, and finally
Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly – I’ll confess it was the cover that did this for me (the illustrator is David Roberts) plus the tagline is “you would not like it here after dark” so how could I resist?
What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader.” A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?
Not terribly scientific, but for me a “real” reader is someone who does it for pleasure. That means it doesn’t matter what they’re reading, whether they’re learning something or not, if they’re enjoying the process then that’s what it’s all about.
If course, if they’re anything like me they panic if they don’t have anything to read at all, which suggests that something else might be going on entirely……..
And this week’s theme is Challenges.
If you participate in any challenges, get organized! Update your lists, post about any you haven’t mentioned, add links of reviews to your lists if you do that, go to the challenge blog if there is one and post there, etc.
If you don’t participate in any challenges, then join one!
Towards the end of the week, write a wrap-up post about getting your challenges organized OR if you’re joining your first challenge, post about that any time during the week.
So, what did I decide to do, having got myself organised and talked about challenges in this post? Well, I’ve completed my first challenge and thought I would sign up for two more:
I’ll post my lists for these separately, once I’ve got them organised. I’ve also set up a completed challenges page where I can remind myself that I can do it if I really, really try!
Oh, and I posted on my first completed read for The Non-Fiction Five challenge.
This turned out to be a completely different book from the one I expected. I thought I was going to read a fairly straightforward historical description about the Empress Constance returning to Sicily to reclaim her father’s kingdom; instead I got a mixture of history and travel book, which jumped back and forwards not only between Constance and the present day followers in her footsteps, but also within Constance’s own story. And although it took me longer to read than I intended, I really enjoyed it.
I normally dislike non-fiction books or films about historical subjects that are inaccurate or play about with history for dramatic effect, but for some reason didn’t mind the fact that the author of Travels With A Medieval Queen has created some imaginary relationships for her protagonist because so little is known about her real companions and she couldn’t bear to have Constance unaccompanied through her journey. So there is an imaginary Arab servant, and imaginary female doctor, and an invented romance with a real poet, Frederick von Hausen.
The story of Constance is fascinating; her marriage to the cold and ruthless Henry VI, son of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, her years of infertility and her astonishing first pregnancy at the age of 41, which led her, according to many sources, to deal with suggestions of trickery by giving birth in public. In a tent in the town square. In December.
And against the background of Constance’s own story are the author and her friend retracing as far as they can Constance’s journey from Germany to Sicily.
There are lots of wonderful nuggets of information supplied in passing. I didn’t know that there were so many women doctors during the 12th century, effectively de-legitimised when medicine became “professional” and therefore male. I didn’t know that in the early middle ages red actually meant coloured in general and could cover anything from yellow to purple.
Also, it’s always a good sign when I read bits of a book out to the Book God, and I did a fair bit of that with this one. And it made me want to find out more about the period, and especially Constance’s son Frederick, destined to become Holy Roman Emperor. Delightful. And my first read for the Non-Fiction Five challenge.
Think about your favorite authors, your favorite books . . . what is it about them that makes you love them above all the other authors you’ve read? The stories? The characters? The way they appear to relish the taste of words on the tongue? The way they’re unafraid to show the nitty-gritty of life? How they sweep you off to a new, distant place? What is it about those books and authors that makes them resonate with you in ways that other, perfectly good books and authors do not?
This really made me stop and think, because I’ve never been very sure that if put on the spot I’d actually be able to say who my favourite authors are or what my favourite books are. But I have decided to stop give it a go.
And actually i found that my favourite books were reasonably easy to define, so I’ll start there (in no particular order):
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – small but perfectly formed, I first read this at school in the 1970s and come back to it often (but not often enough)
- The Great Gatsby – for very similar reasons, and I was heavily influenced by the advertising campaign for the Robert Redford film – I was at an impressionable age, what can I say?
- Catch-22 – this was a cult book amongst the crowd I hung around with at school, it never left the pocket of my Barathea blazer, and I used to start it again as soon as I’d finished it – haven’t read it for a while, though – lots of quotable lines, very anti-war
- Katherine – in reading this I fell in love with John of Gaunt and it made me a lifelong Lancastrian (despite being Scottish)
- Lord of the Rings – inevitable really, I love the epic scale, every time I read it I focus on something new
- The Glass Bead Game – I was very impressed with Hermann Hesse when I was a student, but this is the only one I re-read regularly and I love the philosophical aspects
- Family Happiness – my first and favourite Laurie Colwin novel (more of her anon), again a short and perfect book
The only thing these have in common is the emotional response they’ve elicited in me which has lasted long after the book has been set aside, so perhaps that’s what I look for? And having said they were in no particular order I realise that, except for the first two, they are in the order I first read them.
As for authors, I think it is a similar thing of emotional response, and style, and having something to say, and the plots and characters they’ve created sticking with me long after the book has gone, so the list is (and this really isn’t any order):
- Stephen King – have read almost everything he has written, starting with Carrie, and what I haven’t read is probably on the tbr pile
- Muriel Spark – intelligent and witty
- Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse is probably my favourite, but the non-fiction sticks out for me as well
- Laurie Colwin – novels, short stories, cookery essays, all wonderful
- Iain (M) Banks – for the inventiveness of both his straight and sci-fi works
- Joyce Carol Oates – awesome in all senses of the word, and so prolific
Very brief comments but I think the thing they have in common as authors, if anything, is that they each have their own distinctive styles, instantly recognisable (in a good way). And I make no apology for having Stephen King on that list, I know it’s not “literature”, I know he can be patchy, but as a body of work it’s pretty great stuff and I like it.
And I bet if I’m asked to do this again in a year or so’s time, Charles de Lint will be on there as well.
What do you think?
Mongol  directed by Sergei Bodrov, starring Tadanobu Asano & Khulan Chuluun.
This is Lacock Abbey, which the Book God and I visited at the end of May when on an outing to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The reason I mention it here are the two literary connections which we spotted. One is that the cloisters were used in at least one of the Harry Potter films (it’s difficult to miss this as they understandably make a big thing of it and it certainly excited the children that were there at the same time as us).
The other is a little more interesting. The Abbey is also home to the a museum dedicated to the work of William Henry Fox Talbot, who was a pioneer of early photography. In the museum, as well as the standard exhibits, they had a special exhibition on the work of Julia Margaret Cameron, specifically the photographs she took as an illustration of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, which I have started to read as part of Becky’s Arthurian challenge. It was a lovely coincidence and the photographs themselves were otherworldly and beautiful.
This is my fifth and final read for the Once Upon a Time II challenge, and what a corker. I am a huge fan of short stories (I may have said this before) and this is a strong collection. I began by trying to read one story a day, but actually ended up reading it almost like a novel. I heard someone in a radio interview (I think it was Anne Enright but I may be wrong) saying that she approaches a book of short stories like a box of chocolates – she can’t stop at just one, and despite my attempts at discipline I’m exactly the same.
The Faery Reel, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling brings together some of the finest fantasy authors and challenges them to write new works about faery in all its guises, and they all rise to the occasion. There wasn’t a single piece in this collection that I didn’t enjoy, but my particular favourites were:
CATNYP by Delia Sherman – a changeling in the faery version of the NY public library, where the catalogue is a talking lion whose first words are always “Title. Author. Subject. Keyword.” This is probably my favourite story in the book, and a new author for me to investigate!
The Faery Handbag by Kelly Link – sassy heroine, very enjoyable.
Never Never by Bruce Glassco – what is it like to be Captain Hook?
And of course there is a contribution from Neil Gaiman, and a wonderful, entertaining and enlightening introduction by Terri Windling herself, with a list of books for me to pursue a continuing interest in the faery world.
As an added bonus, the Charles Vess illustrations at the head of each story are really wonderful, and I can’t recommend this too highly.
And I have now completed my first (but certainly not my last) challenge!
Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?
This is an interesting question for me as I have never been a member of book club and have always resisted the idea of reading to order. That has changed recently as I’ve become involved in some reading challenges which has satisfied the need to get involved with others in reading, but still leaves me the freedom of choice over what actually to read.
I’m not sure what the best way to choose books in a club would be – something random like pulling recommended titles out of a hat might be fun but I don’t know if it’s workable
What I have found with challenges is that I am more aware of thinking about what I’m going to say during the reading process, in comparison to my normal reading which really only takes shape after I’ve finished the book (not sure if I’ve explained that terribly well!)
Very interesting questions though…………..