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I have been very quiet on the blog recently, simply because I haven’t been reading that much, due to an increase in social activity (it’s that time of year, lots of cocktails, what can I say) and also because I have been distracted by my new toy, the iPad which I bought myself as an early “didn’t I do well in 2010” present.
I have always been easily diverted by bright and shiny things.
So I will not reach my target of 52 books this year but will attack the same goal with renewed vigour in 2011. At least, that’s what I’m saying now.
And I will be helped by the bookish spoils received from the Book God and others this Christmas:
- My Favourite Dress by Gity Monsef and others – a beautiful big fashion picture book, full of talented designers picking their favourite frocks, none of which I can ever afford or indeed hope to fit into…
- 100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman – absolutely gorgeous book with wonderful examples of fashion illustration from Paul Iribe in 1908 to Kareem Illya in 2005. Has made me realise that I would have liked to have been a wealthy Edwardian
- Britten & Brulightly by Hannah Berry – a graphic novel to add to the collection “There are murder mysteries and there are murder mysteries, but this is a noir where nothing is black and white” sayeth the blurb
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, in graphic form by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young – exactly what you might think, absolutely lovely and wished for solely because I liked the illustration of the Cowardly Lion on the cover….
- Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King – it wouldn’t be Christmas without a new Stephen King purchase though in terms of reading I am about 5 books behind (not to mention the Dark Tower series (so let’s not and say we did))
- Blow by Blow by Detmar Blow with Tom Sykes – the story of Isabella Blow, muse to Alexander McQueen – yet more high fashion
- Paperboy by the lovely Christopher Fowler – won the first Green Carnation prize and looks like it will be brilliant – to be saved for the dead grey days of January
- Dark Matter by Michelle Paver – a ghost story “Out of nowhere, for no reason, I was afraid”
- Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet – I love books about books
- The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley – another one of my favourite authors. “A boy, a mysterious guardian and a haunted house with a terrible secret”.
- Gaslight Grimoire: fantastic tales of Sherlock Holmes – Fantastic tales. Sherlock Holmes. What’s not to like?
- A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore – shortlisted for the Orange Prize, don’tcha know. Audrey Niffenegger says its full of perfect sentences and that would be good enough for me even if I didn’t already like Lorrie Moore
- The Existential Detective by Alice Thompson – on my wish list simply because I read about it at Lizzy’s Literary Life and it sounded right up my street
- The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant – more fashion; “the thinking woman’s guide to our relationship with what we wear”
- A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd – WWI mystery novel
- The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova – can it live up to The Historian? I hope so…
- Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan – “Three strong women. Two feuding families. A singular story of enchantment…”
Not a bad haul, I have to admit. And there’s also The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble (a personal history with jigsaws) which I have already started.
So if I was a lazy blogger I would probably just link to Raych’s post here and sit back because everything she says is absolutely right. But I do have stuff to say about this book and so will ignore my laziness and do the blogging thing.
Alexia Tarabotti has no soul (hence the title), which only a few select people know (and that doesn’t include anyone in her family). This lack of soul makes her unusual even in a Victorian society which accepts the existence of vampires, werewolves and ghosts. It also means that she can neutralise the supernatural abilities of others simply by touching them, which comes in pretty handy (pun unintentional).
The great fun of this book is its tone, which is very arch (to use an old-fashioned phrase). Actually, I could go further than that and say quite honestly that the novel is basically hugely enjoyable tosh. It has all the necessary elements:
- feisty heroine who knows more than everyone suspects but whose talents aren’t recognised;
- the handsome hero with whom she spends the whole story fighting but you just know she’s going to end up with him in huge romantic moment at some point;
- sidekicks with varying levels of acceptability;
- a nefarious plot which could represent the end of civilisation as it is known; and of course
- the obligatory evil, twisted genius who must be stopped at all costs.
Oh, and because of the period in which this is set, an appearance by Queen Victoria herself.
I just loved it; not great art by any means but an indulgent, steampunkish romp which passes the time very pleasantly. I already have (and fully intend to read) the sequels.
So I got this as a present (last Christmas or this year’s birthday, not entirely sure which) and it was on my wish list because of a fascinating series of programmes about the 1920s which was shown on BBC4; one of the programmes had an interview with the writer of Anything Goes, Lucy Moore.
This interest in the 1920s faded slightly until recently when, following a mixture of inter-war-Mitford-madness and watching the film Bright Young Things I decided to pull this off the TBR stack and give it a go. I hadn’t fully appreciated that this was a biography of the Roaring Twenties i.e. the American rather than the British experience, but that doesn’t matter because it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
The author covers a wide range of topics and in most of the chapters, which are thematic rather than chronological, she picks key character(s) or event(s) which are emblematic of the topic she’s considering at that point. As a technique that worked very well for me, illuminating the general from the particular.
So for example we have:
- Prohibition through Al Capone;
- Flappers and women in Hollywood through Zelda Fitzgerald and Mary Pickford;
- Americans in Paris through Harry and Caresse Crosby
- Hollywood through Chaplin and a variety of scandals
- The New Yorker through Harold Ross, and so on.
It’s such an interesting and well-written book with lots of asides and nuggets and anecdotes that I just wanted to go off and read more on each of the topics. And it made me glad in many respects that I wasn’t around in the 1920s, although if I had been I would probably have been working in a thread mill in my home town like my great-aunts did rather than swilling illegal cocktails.
Cocktails being very important now as then because as they say
you cannot make your shimmy shake on tea.
A mission statement that I can certainly get behind!
Details are here and I am committed to start this on 1 January 2011 along with everyone else. I think I can manage this as any books I get for Christmas (and I will be getting books, don’t you worry about that) will already be on my TBR pile, and I plan to stop on 31 January which is my birthday, in the expectation that other books will arrive on that day too which I may want to read as soon as I get my hands on them.
As is traditional at this time of year, I have hit a bit of a reading slump. This is almost always due to getting back into the swing of things after my annual holiday in October; the tendency to be carrying more stuff than normal as the weather takes a downward spiral (am thinking umbrella, gloves etc.) which makes it even more difficult to read standing in my commuter train than usual; a bit more working at home (I haven’t yet found a routine that allows me to read when WaH without getting so involved that I don’t actually do any work); and this year a bit of an upswing in work activity over the past couple of weeks.
But I did manage to finish a book this morning for the first time in two weeks and that gives me hope that I can read the seven I need between now and 31 December to meet my 52 books in 52 weeks target for the first time ever.
What do you think? Will I make it?