This morning, I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. ‘So wot?’ I hear you ask. So it’s the only complete book I’ve read this month. It was worth it because, Wow, what a book! But also, what a long book.

What are these good intentions? To read, in December, only what I really want to, with probably quite a lot of re-reading. I still have books which should be reviewed, or at least given a mention and it makes me feel guilty. Guilt and reading should never go together, IMO. So I’ve been resisting all most of the tempting offers from NetGalley.

I have very much enjoyed Issue 4 of The Scribbler. Books about women’s war work, books about nursing, Christmas books. A frightening short story by Ethel Lina White* which I read elsewhere recently. Best of all is a brilliant Twelve Days of Christmas quiz. I’ve looked through it and am really looking forward to having a go some wet afternoon. Recommended, as I said here, for lovers of middlebrow fiction and children’s books.

*Recently? It was nearly a year ago! Took me a while to find but it’s reprinted in Serpents in Eden, one of the British Library Crime Classics. The fact that I remembered it so vividly shows how good it is.
The BBC’s Love to Read season means lots of programmes about books on television and radio. I can’t possibly watch or listen to them all. Here’s a few I’ve managed.

On Sunday I watched a programme in a series I seem to have missed: Books That Made Britain. This one was East Anglia: The Scene of the Crime. It was introduced by Martha Kearney and the poor woman had little to do but walk about on windswept beaches putting in noddies for her interviews. The question was: why has an area with a low crime rate been the setting for so many fictional murders? The best answer came from one of the authors, who said that seeing a beautiful scene, he had to put a mutilated corpse in it. As Martha Kearney said, not what would occur to most of us but the point was the contrast between peaceful beauty and horrid murder.

I will leave aside my indignation that there was no mention of Margery Allingham, who set so many of her stories in Suffolk. This programme was boring; half an hour really dragged. Sorry, but I don’t find comments from members of a book group at all interesting or enlightening. The author interviews were better. A good wheeze would be to watch this with the sound off, just to see those incredible East Anglian skies and the mysterious, crumbling coastline. Absolutely beautiful to look at. I kept thinking of David Copperfield and the wreck scene but there was no mention of it.
Several other episodes are still available to watch and rather than give up on the series, I’ll try Rye.
even more )

I was absolutely furious yesterday evening to find that the borefest which is Autumnwatch had taken over the schedules for the entire week and there would be no University Challenge or Only Connect. My favourite programmes! All was not lost because I had the second episode of Andrew Marr’s Paperback Heroes to look forward to. This is a brilliant little series. In the first episode Marr looked at detective fiction. Last night’s episode, about fantasy writing, was even better, I thought. Phew, it was so fast and so dense I could hardly keep up.

I’m a bore about fantasy, thinking that once you’ve read Tolkien you don’t need to read any more. It’s often been pointed out to me that there are many different forms of fantasy and Andrew Marr convinced me that this is true. I now have to read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, for example. This series (BBC 4 of course), is television for intelligent viewers and shows what TV can be at its best. Next week: spies!

Christmas in Vermont, Bryan Mooney
The Box of Delights , John Masefield
A Christmas Cracker , Trisha Ashley
Last Christmas , Julia Williams
Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries , ed. Martin Edwards
Serpents in Eden , ed. Martin Edwards
Green Grow the Rushes , Elinor Lyon
Christmas at Nettleford, Malcolm Saville
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Katy, Jacqueline Wilson
Return to the Secret Garden , Holly Webb

This year I have to add a new category: iPad. One of the publishers sends out books in file formats I can’t cope with but now that there’s an e-books option, nothing could be simpler than to download them as iBooks. It’s surprisingly pleasant to read them on the iPad. Here’s the list:
Dead tree: 55
Kindle: 55
Library: 24
iPad: 2

Total 136
This doesn’t seem many but I’ve probably had some re-reads unlisted. I notice that I used the library more at the beginning of the year and resolve, yet again, to use it more next year. With so many libraries closing down, it really is a case of use it or lose it.

I can’t pick a book of the year or even a top ten so here’s a few books I’ve admired in 2015 with links to where I wrote about them. They weren’t all published in 2015.

Funny Girl, Nick Hornby
Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper , Alexandra Harris
Expo 58, Jonathan Coe
The Museum of Things Left Behind , Seni Glaister
Crooked Heart , Lissa Evans
Sweet Tooth , Ian McEwan
The Quality of Silence , Rosamund Lupton

I’ve enjoyed several books by reliable Trisha Ashley, Simon Brett and Elizabeth Edmondson; also the British Library Crime Classics and the Dean Street Press reprints of crime writing from the golden age.

National Book Tokens have sent me this image again, as a Christmas card. I know Cornflower posted it a while ago but it will still be new to some people.

Murder on the Flying Scotsman, Carola Dunn
Damsel in Distress, Carola Dunn
Lois in Charge, Bessie Marchant
Chris in Command, Irene Mossop
Hazel, Head Girl, Nancy Breary
Dead in the Water, Carola Dunn
Margery Merton’s Girlhood, Alice Corkran
The Exciting Journey, Norman Dale
Rattle his Bones, Carola Dunn
To Davy Jones Below, Carola Dunn
The Case of the Murdered Muckraker, Carola Dunn
Boys of the Valley School, R A H Goodyear
Mistletoe and Murder, Carola Dunn
A Question of Inheritance, Elizabeth Edmondson
Die Laughing, Carola Dunn
A Mourning Wedding, Carola Dunn

Not very exciting, as I’ve written about several of these books already. No literary fiction at all this month; I’m right off it and preferring familiarity and reliable entertainment. Today I received this month’s offer of a free book for the Kindle. Six choices and every one seemed utterly depressing.

Plate from Hazel, Head Girl
I just got this link to the Staples’ reading test from Mrs Miniver’s Daughter. I think of myself as quite a slow reader but this was my score: You read 843 words per minute.
That makes you 237% faster than the national average.

Cheating, because the first time I did the test, I forgot to note my score. The second passage I got was one I knew anyway. So I’m taking this with a pinch of salt. Have a go? Just click on the red rectangle below.

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

Why Read?

Oct. 29th, 2012 04:11 pm
Here are some reasons suggested in an email I've just received from AbeBooks.

Fact: Reading can make you a better conversationalist.
Fact: Neighbors will never complain that your book is too loud.
Fact: Knowledge by osmosis has not yet been perfected. You'd better read.
Fact: Books have stopped bullets - reading might save your life.
Fact: Dinosaurs didn't read. Look what happened to them.

The first one sounds like something from The Reader's Digest. Any more?
This came from Bookish NYC

Do you snack while you read?
No, but I can’t eat on my own without reading at the same time.
What is your favorite drink while reading?
Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I used to mark text books but never mark books now. Sometimes they bristle with little strips of paper because I can’t find the Post-its.
How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book open flat?
My sister *waves* has made me a lot of lovely bookmarks and they’re all in use as I tend to have several books on the go. I have a collection of items used as bookmarks collected from second hand books I’ve bought. They range from out of date currency to pressed chocolate bar wrappers. I'm a very clean reader and hate dog ears.
Fiction, nonfiction, or both?
Probably a ratio of one non-fiction to every nine fiction. I’m slightly ashamed of this.
Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
I prefer books with short chapters, as I like to stop at a sensible place.
Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a book.
If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
Probably. It annoys me to find a word I don’t know and I feel irritated with the author for using it: show-off!
What are you currently reading?
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg.
What is the last book you bought?
Jennings in Particular at the market. I’m sad; I already had the book as a reprint in a dustwrapper but this was a first edition.
Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
Bed, because it’s the only place I feel really relaxed. Unfortunately, I tend to fall asleep over the book.
Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?
Most books are stand-alones. There is a huge pleasure in starting a series and always knowing exactly what you’re going to read next.
Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
Charlotte M Yonge, O Douglas.
How do you organize your books (by genre, title, author's last name, etc.)?
Series books are organized in the correct reading order. Other books have to take their chances of finding space on a shelf.
I’m adding another question to this, in the form of a poll.
[Poll #1570405]

I’m having a terrible time settling to reading at the moment. I have any number of books around, started but not finished. Being so stressed out by builders means that the highlight of my day is getting into bed with a hot water bottle and a cosy Mrs Malory Mystery; saddo me. The exception is Hopes and Fears by Charlotte M Yonge which is new to me and totally gripping. I revere that lady so much that she deserves another post of her own.

All the books in the picture above came into the house yesterday. Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul I was lucky enough to win in a draw over on the dovegreyreader blog. ‘A novel about music, food and love’; well, two out of three ain’t bad and dovegrey certainly made me want to read it. From the library comes La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith. I heard this on Book at Bedtime, or would have done if I hadn’t regularly dropped off to sleep before the end of each episode. Let’s hope reading it will prove less soporific. I’ve just ordered Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. I was tempted because The Book People have it for £4.99 but adding on their postage charge made it cheaper from Amazon (with Prime). Goody, another parcel will be on its way.
Also from the library is Anna Shepard’s How Green are my Wellies?. I picked this up thinking it would be about gardening but see it actually deals with green matters generally. Hmm. The author writes for The Times and has a green blog. It will have to be very good to please me.

The top three books on the pile also came from the library but I bought them for ten pence each. This is shocking, really; only one of them is in poor enough condition IMO to warrant throwing out. Damsel in Distress is part of The Everyman Wodehouse series and is in just about perfect condition. Donna Leon: some say one thing, some say another. The books are never in the library or in any charity shops so I was happy to risk twenty pence to find out if I will be a Brunetti fan. Although I’m pleased to have the books, I still think it quite wrong that for every new book coming into the library, an old one has to go.

To add to my weekend’s reading pleasure, Folly Magazine arrived today. [profile] lizarfau, First Term at Cotterford is highly recommended!

I haven't had time to write many proper reviews this month but I have read a few books.
Little List )

June books

Jul. 2nd, 2008 11:10 am

I see I read more books than I thought I had last month. Here’s the list, with links if I’ve written about the books already.

One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson
Lily A Ghost Story, Adèle Geras. An odd little book, branded a ‘Quick Read’, which I assumed was aimed at older children, but perhaps not. A strange mixture of Jacqueline Wilson and The Girl on a Swing.
The House on the Kopje , Mollie Chappell
The Fortunes of Frick, Mollie Chappell
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen , Paul Torday
Digging to America , Anne Tyler
Stormy Petrel , Mary Stewart
Pilgrimage 1, Dorothy Richardson
Life Skills, Katie Fforde. Always a pleasure.
All the Adrian Mole books one after the other, when I felt poorly. I wished there were more.
Collector’s Progress, Stanley W Fisher

May books

Jun. 1st, 2008 10:27 am

June already, though you’d hardly know it from the temperature. Where did May go? Why have I read so few books? Questions, questions, flooding into the mind of the concerned young person today (© F. Zappa).

Thyme Out, Katie Fforde. A business growing exotic salads, a feisty old woman friend and an ex-husband appearing out of the blue. What will happen to Perdita? Guess! Very enjoyable.

The Unfortunates, Laurie Graham. Already reviewed and my Book of the Month.

The Shop on Blossom Street, Debbie Macomber. Not impressed.

Flora’s Lot, Katie Fforde. See above and post on subject.

Case Histories, Kate Atkinson. Gripping and I now have One Good Turn waiting to be read.

The Princess Diaries Sixsational, Meg Cabot. I love these books for the language but Hello. Meg Cabot has fully stolen from Adrian Mole again.

The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame. This is the one I have to review for Blog a Penguin Classic. Every time you read it it’s a different experience. This is strange, because what one most looks for in a re-read is to repeat the same enjoyable experience over and over.

The Life of a Provincial Lady (E M Delafield), Violet Powell. So of course I had to read
The Diary of a Provincial Lady, E M Delafield yet again.

Still ploughing through Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf. About time I cracked this one.

I don’t seem to have finished many books this month. Hermione Lee’s Virginia Woolf is an ongoing read and very good it is, too. As part of that read I’ve dipped again into Mrs Dalloway (goodness, those first pages are a wonderful piece of writing) and A Room of One’s Own.
more books )
This comes via [ profile] sloopjonb. Must be American? Lots of these I've never 'eard of.
What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you've read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish. Here's mine )
I found Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns as compulsive a read as Sisters By A River. It's an account, written completely without self pity and in the same naive style as the other book, of Bohemian hard times in 1930s London. Our heroine is married very young to an unspeakably selfish man who refuses to get a job and leaves all the work to her. The narrator's account of having a baby while she was desperately poor will have you feeling grateful for the NHS, despite its failings. Luckily, 'I was always optimistic' and by the end of the book things are looking brighter for her. The book is partly based on the author's own life, which is a horrifying thought.
Another family saga from Adèle Geras: A Hidden Life. Rich Constance upsets her relations by secretly changing her will shortly before she dies. She successfully sets out to cause trouble and the fallout affects everyone in the family. I enjoyed this but didn't warm to the characters. The most interesting part of the story is what disinherited Lou finds out about her grandfather, who was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp as a child. I finished this and another Robert Goddard in double quick time and will now start the treat I have been saving for a cold, miserable Easter: The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m also of course looking forward to this .
I always feel rather guilty doing anything at all on Good Friday. When I was a child no one did much, except that my father walked up the road first thing to fetch the hot cross buns from the baker’s. I still feel it should be a day of quiet reflection. Nevertheless, I went to the Upton House book sale this morning and came away with ten books for less than £5.00. I got some Penguin classics with pretty covers (see pic); Hermione Lee’s massive biography of Virginia Woolf; Good Harbor by Anita Diamant and A Gathering Light
by Jennifer Donnelly, both recommended by a friend I always meet there and Maggie O’Farrell’s After you’d gone recommended by a complete stranger who saw me looking at it. That’s the nice thing about these book sales, everyone there is a reader. Disappointing that there were so few older books and the only one I picked up was a John Buchan I haven’t read, The Watcher by the Threshold.

The wind is so strong today that it’s impossible to garden so I’m planning to watch His Girl Friday, which I recorded yesterday, and knit.
My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson.
This arrived in a surprise parcel: thank you! The book seems very much a reprise of Double Act, with bookish Pearl in the Garnet role and wild Jodie as Ruby. Then there’s the intertextuality. At one point in the book a girl says she used to have a boarding school friend called Garnet and later on Pearl tells her mother about a book she is reading in class, a book which is obviously Double Act. There’s even a family move to a new house and job. The main difference is that the book is far longer, like most of Wilson’s recent work and has a genuinely shocking ending. As usual, the characters are believable and there is one particularly enjoyable chapter in which a wheelchair-bound woman and Pearl discuss The Secret Garden, What Katy Did and Heidi. I can’t help feeling that Dame Jacky was indulging herself a little here, but hey, she likes talking about books as much as the rest of us do and in her case she’s recommending them to thousands of girls at the same time.

I should write fewer posts like this. I just did a ‘reading level required to read your blog’ test and it came out as Junior High School! Perhaps I should be flattered; it must be the level required to read Jacqueline Wilson, too.



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