Sunday, 19 December 2010
This wasn't the first book from the 25 that I intended to read, but when I got to work yesterday I realised that I had forgotten the book that I was actually half way through. No problems as I work in a library but it was serendipitous to find this one on the returns trolley just as my break started.
I've long admired Bennett for his plays and screen plays, and I found his Uncommon Reader a pleasant little story but I'd not read any of his longer or autobiographical works before nor, if I'm honest, had I any inclination to.
This was a real treat. It isn't a happy book by any means but there is such humour amongst the poignancy that it isn't depressing. Bennett comes from a family of genteel eccentrics and his love for them is what shines through this piece of writing. Mental health is not an easy topic to write about either as a witness or sufferer but I found the balance to be struck perfectly in this volume. Bennett neither glamourises it, nor demonises it and appears to be totally honest in writing his reactions to it.
As ever an eloquent review of this book is not forthcoming all I want to do is run around and tell everyone how wonderful it is. Oh and read more of Bennett's autobiography, which won't help my challenge at all as there two volumes of over 600 pages each!
It is a great pick for World Book Night as it is an autobiography by one of our National Treasures TM it isn't overly long and even if you can't relate to the exact issues in Bennett's history his style of writing draws you in regardless.
I hope the next 24 are as good, but this one is going to be hard to beat.
Friday, 10 December 2010
Ever since I started working in the book trade, far too many years ago to count, I have been a fan of World Book Day. I thought it was odd that we in the UK celebrated it on the 1st Thursday in March when the rest of the world did so on April 23rd but never mind - free books for children that's all that mattered.
This year the scheme has changed slightly and grown ups can get involved, and get free books too.
25 titles have been chosen by various people and then during the first week of March 40 000 copies of each book will be given away free. More details can be found on the official website but the 25 books are:
- A Fine Balance by Rohintan Mistry
- A Life Like Other People's - Alan Bennett
- Operation Mincemeat - Ben Macintyre
- All Quiet on the Western Front - Eric Maria Remarque
- Beloved - Toni Morrison
- Case Histories - Kate Atkinson
- Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
- Dissolution - C J Sansom
- Fingersmith - Sarah Waters
- Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Killing Floor - Lee Child
- Life of Pi - Yann Martel
- Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Northern Lights - Philip Pullman
- One Day - David Nicholls
- Rachel's Holiday - Marian Keyes
- New Selected Poems - Seamus Heaney
- Stuart: A Life Backwards - Alexander Masters
- The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
- Curios Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Mark Haddon
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
- The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - John le Carre
- The World's Wife - Carol Ann Duffy
- Toast - Nigel Slater
I'm not usually very good when I 'have' to read a book but as this is a task I have set myself I will probably be OK.
I also have to decide which book I am going to apply for to give away...now where did I put my copy of the Northern Lights?
Saturday, 13 November 2010
I love reading books in letter or diary form. I'm far too dull and lazy to keep my own diary but the format is one that I adore in literature.
I'm not fussed if the diaries are fictitious (Adrian Mole), real (Anne Frank) or edited like the Mass Observation projects I am just drawn to the format. I wonder if it is the nosiness coming through again. It feels 'naughty' to be reading a diary and perhaps this heightens my enjoyment.
It is the same with reading books comprised of letters, although here I think that it is often that you only get one view point in this style of book (84 Charing Cross Road) and so you have to use your imagination that appeals.
I have a horrible feeling that the real reason is that is makes the 'chapters' short and the books easy to dip in and out of, and this brings me back to the reason I don't keep a diary - I'm lazy!
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
I also remember having a tape player and lots of books on tape as a young child. Even then I was quite discerning and I do remember being fond of books read by Penelope Keith, I'm sure it had a dragon in it as well...
My recent bout of dizziness has rekindled my appreciation of audio books. I've been a fan of spoken word radio for years - I'm not sure that any of our radios tune to stations other than Radio 4 - and listening to comedies such as the Navy Lark still lull me to sleep 6 nights out of 7. However over the past few weeks it has been novels in audio form that have been life savers. Not being able to do much other than remain still could have meant total boredom but thanks to the audio book my remaining sanity has been preserved.*
Getting my hands on good books has been easy as well, not only library loans but iTunes downloads have made the choices easy. Now friends are trying to tempt me into the world of Audible...
However it doesn't matter how good the plot if the book has the wrong reader then it is useless. Stephen Fry is a delight for me to listen to but Tony Robinson leaves me cold. Robert Hardy also has a lovely voice to listen to.
It is also important to have the right voice for the book - Billy Bryson read by a Brit doesn't work, it has to be a slightly bemused, gentle American voice.
Thanks to comments on my last entry I've been using the listen again feature for Radio 7 and catching up on things I've missed over there, but I's love more recommendations please.
I'm much better now but my rediscovered love for being read to hasn't diminished and yesterday when travelling by train I was almost wishing for a delay just so I could hear a bit more of the story (Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh) then I opened my eyes and saw the crowded train, full of professionals shouting into their mobiles and re-thought my position. What I need is a nice early night and to curl up with a good voice!
* I feel that people who know me may doubt this statement!
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
I've not been well over the past 10 days or so and I've not simply lost my reading mojo, I've actually been finding reading nearly impossible. As anyone who knows me will understand this is not a happy place to find me in.
I've found the solution though - short stories. I've never been against the format as such but being a fast reader I've always preferred a longer story with lots of plot and character development.
However having balance problems and then side effects from the medicine I've needed to try something different, and it was the short story to the rescue.
I've been dipping into some of the Sherlock Holmes stories (who me - inspired to do so by the BBC series Sherlock? No! Never!) and really enjoying them. For short stories they have a lot of plot and character and it would seem that perhaps I also only have an aversion to modern crime as I am loving the problem solving that Conan Doyle creates.
When my mind has felt too woolly I've been trying other short stories and books of essays. Unusually for when I am ill the comfort reading of my 1930s school stories has failed and Elinor Brent Dyer's short stories left me cold, as did the chapters of PJ O'Rourke, Matt Frei and Justin Webb that I tried. I am quite enjoying some of Annie Proulx's short stories but they are hit and miss and it is definitely only *some* of them I am enjoying. And as a side not how did they get a full length movie out of Brokeback Mountain.
Anyway the next case for Holmes and Watson beckons so I shall leave you with a gratuitous shot from Sherlock and thank the BBC for encouraging me to try something different*
* And just as an aside to Mr Norfolkbookworm - just cos Sherlock owes a lot to Dr Who and inspired me to try something new this doesn't mean I will become a convert to that series!
Friday, 15 October 2010
I've just walked through the city centre and while I wasn't actually shopping I couldn't help but look at the bookshop window displays. Even without looking at a calendar I could tell we were in the run up to the PGP* - the posters and windows were full of celebrity (auto)biographies.
All of them looking the same.
Last year the look was sitting down head on arms, this year it is standing up laughing.
I like biographies and autobiographies, perhaps I am just a nosy person but I love reading about other people. Sometimes I wish I lead the same sort of exciting lives as others do, but most of the time I am pleased that I don't.
I'll read a biography at any time of the year if I am interested in a person and I really don't understand how the autumn has become synonymous with (auto)biography. You only have to look in the charity shops (or work the refund desk in a bookshop) in January to know that these books are often unwanted gifts given by desperate family members. I've come to see them as the book equivalent of the bunch of flowers from the petrol station!
The other problem is that as the autumn is considered biography season the ones I want to read are also published at this time of year, but as the subjects aren't as 'sexy' or 'bankable' the books get lost, don't do very well and then publishers don't take risks on these more eclectic biographies and each year there are more celebrity memoirs and less interesting ones.
The biography that I am reading at the moment is Storyteller, The Life of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock.
It is a hefty tome and one I am dipping in and out of rather than racing through. I'd always known that Dahl wasn't your typical children's author and that he had a dark side but this book is wonderfully balanced, all sides of Dahl are written about. I think my favourite part so far has been where Sturrock compared Dahl's real life to the account he gives in his two volumes of 'autobiography'. I love Boy and Going Solo and deep down I always knew that were more likely to be a heavily fictionalised account of Dahl's life but the genius of this biography is that I can still love these two books whilst also knowing the truth. Storyteller whilst being honest isn't a hatchet job and it is still okay to love Roald Dahl's books.
There are a few more biographies I want to read being published this autumn but all I know is that they aren't of celebrities and they won't all look identical.
*PGP - Primary Gifting Period. I've loved this term for Christmas ever since I heard Bill Bailey use it.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
I have to confess that I haven't been reading a lot of fiction recently. I recently dusted off my camera and have been forcing Mr Bookworm to drive me around Norfolk and Suffolk so that I can get my hand (and my eye) back in.
We've been quite lucky with the the weather during my weekends off and I've had great fun taking loads and loads (and loads) of pictures and then spending my days off editing them.
I will sort myself out with a proper Flicker stream soon as I have taken some pictures that I am quite proud of and would like to share with more people.
However I am trying to get to grips with some new photo editing software so I am working my way through a lot of manuals. I think that I must work better being shown how to do things as I keep looking at the books and managing the very basic editing 'bits' but the stuff I want to do is beyond me at the moment. I'm hoping to persuade my dad to teach me more in a couple of weeks (not that he knows this unless he's reading this post!).
Mr Bookworm and I are also off to Cambridge to see Agamemnon in a couple of weeks, as the play is going to be in ancient Greek I am trying to get a head by reading the play in English before this. However people keep mentioning other classical works I might like and I have been side tracked into the Lysistrata (one of the Banned Books for our evening on Tuesday) and Ovid (abhorred by the first Bishop of Norwich as I discovered during a fascinating talk by a colleague)
Focus is what I need and not just that which is found through my camera!
Monday, 13 September 2010
I've just been to the cinema to see Stephen Fry Live, sort of. He was performing at the Festival Hall and it was beamed into provincial cinemas.
We'd cut it a little fine for taking our seats and so when I saw that books were for sale at the event I thought 'oh good I'll get a copy at the end' (I'd already downloaded the free sample from iBooks and decided this was a book I wanted).
The event was fun, Fry read from his book and I enjoyed it and I knew I wanted to read it ASAP, hurrah I thought a new book!
The books weren't on sale at the end of the event.
Woe - like Fry and sugar I needed my book fix.
Within 10 minutes of being home I had a copy on my phone and as soon as I finish this post I'll be off to read it.
Sorry bookshop you lost out that time, and I now have another reason to love eBooks.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
Mt friend Sam over at Books, Time and Silence posted this meme which he had found at Booking Through Thursday and I couldn't resist having a go myself.
1. Favorite childhood book?
My real favourite was a book called The Learning Tree. I got very excited when I found a copy at bootfair recently but when I tried to reread it I found it dire. It had a good environmental message but was so didactic. I hope I didn't make my parents read it aloud too often!
2. What are you reading right now?
I have several books on the go at the moment - Fahrenheit 451, a travel guide, a day by day diary of the German Occupation of Guernsey and the translation of an Arabic novel called The Proof of the Honey.
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
I have about 10 books on request at present, all are books that should be published in the next few weeks and they range from teen fiction through to histories of the Holocaust.
4. Bad book habit?
Buying too many!
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
I currently have one travel guide, 2 history books, 1 social science book, 1 book about the Second World War, 2 adult fiction titles and a junior fiction book.
6. Do you have an e-reader?
Yes - I have a beBook mini and iBooks on my phone.
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I tend to have several on the go, usually one non fiction, one in my work bag and a novel. When I am on holiday I tend to read more books but only one at a time.
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
I think about the books I read for longer but I don't choose books with the blog in mind.
9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
House of Special Purpose - John Boyne. I wish he'd stop messing around with history in his books. He is considered such a good writer that his books are being studied and I worry that his versions of the past will soon become accepted as true despite their terrible inaccuracies.
10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Adult novel - The Help by Katherine Stockett
Teen novel - Matched by Ally Condie
Children's Book - the very advance copy of Suzanne LaFleurs new book
11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
All the time, but a lot more at present as I prepare for our Banned Books event at work.
12. What is your reading comfort zone?
I'm not sure I know this as I read so much and so widely. I don't like very scary books or gory books and crime often leaves me cold but apart from that if it is written I'll read it.
13. Can you read on the bus?
14. Favorite place to read?
On a sun lounger somewhere warm and sunny! When at home curled up on the sofa or in bed.
15. What is your policy on book lending?
Hmm tricky this one as when I've read something and loved it I want everyone to read it BUT if I've really loved it I can't part with it.
16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No, if I am making notes for an essay/presentation I write longhand notes as I am reading.
18. Not even with text books?
19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English, I can read a little in French and German but it takes me so long that English is easier.
20. What makes you love a book?
Good characters, something that makes me think, something that moves me, reading it at the right time in the right place.
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
If I've loved a book I will try to find the right person to recommend it to, Sometimes if I've disliked a book I'll want to get someone else to read it to see if my objections are general or personal.
22. Favorite genre?
1920s school stories, historical fiction, some fantasy
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Sci-Fi - I love 'hard' sci-fi rather than speculative but I find one book every so often satisfies this.
Usually the last one I've read!
25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Probably but the genre does nothing for me
27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Guernica by Dave Boling as it has led me to read loads more about the Spanish Civil War, a conflict I'm ashamed to say I knew nothing about.
28. Favorite reading snack?
Probably chocolate but I often get so engrossed in the book that I lose track of where I am so don't event snack.
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Working in the book trade for so long I got used to ignoring the hype around books. Harry Potter became a full on experience as each book launch had to be bigger and better than the last but luckily for me that increased my enjoyment of the wait for the books and I still enjoyed them once I had recovered enough to read them.
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Some and some.
31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
That is a hard one, usually review very personally so if I haven't liked a book I say why *I* didn't like it rather than anything else. I do remember writing a scathing chapter about a book/author in my MA Dissertation and then the author coming into the shop to sign books which was awkward, although of course they couldn't know what I'd been writing the day before!
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
There are so many good translations out there that I'd rather read them than struggle to read a translation.
33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Some of the reference tomes I read for my MA. I love children's literature but found some of the theory around them hard going.
34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
I'll generally try anything but I do have a mental block when it comes to Watership Down and Catch-22. I can't get past the first few pages of either novel.
35. Favorite Poet?
I'm not a poetry fan but the First World War poets were amazing.
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
I often borrow books for the library to see if I like them before buying so I read a lot of the starts of novels but don't always finish them!
38. Favorite fictional character?
This changes all the time but the books I turn to time and again are the Tortall Books by Tamora Pierce
39. Favorite fictional villain?
Again this changes as often as my mood but I have a soft spot (if that is the right phrase for a villain) for Lord Voldemort
40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Anything, but in quantity.
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Probably no more than a day
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Catch-22 and Watership Down spring to mind but I have got better at abandoning books I'm not enjoying.
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
If I'm reading on my iPhone or laptop then the Internet distracts as I keep looking things up as I read. If I'm in bed it is probably sleep!
44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I'm not a great fan of film adaptation of books I've already read as the pictures in my mind are generally better.
45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Most of the ones I've seen.
46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I can't answer that my mum and my husband read this!
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Sometimes with non fiction I will and sometimes I'll read the first chapter of a book before buying.
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Boredom, too much gore, being badly written.
49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
If I had more space I would, at present our books on Space, Space Travel and astronomy are grouped together, as are our novels/books on ancient Greece and Rome. My collectable books are all together and so are the travel guides but apart from that you'll often see me tearing the house apart looking for something to read.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
That really depends on the book, sharing a book is one of the pleasures of reading
51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Not avoiding as such but I don't tend to read a lot of what are termed classic novels.
52. Name a book that made you angry.
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Because I'll read anything this happens all of the time.
54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
I read in hope all the time so there are plenty of books that I try but that ultimately disappoint. Some of the autobiographies/ biographies I have read I have wanted to like more as I like the subject but the books have left me cold.
55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
I try to make all reading guilt free!
Monday, 23 August 2010
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - attributed to Voltaire.
Banned Book Week 2010
I've been working on a big project for work just recently. The last week in September is the ALA's Banned Book Week and this year Norfolk Libraries are taking part.
The library where I work is planning a discussion evening and to prepare I am reading lots of books that have been banned as well as lots of reference books about censorship.
It is a really interesting project to work on and my eyes have been opened to a lot of things - including just how much censorship has taken place in this country in the not too distant past.
I don't know if I am too liberal but so far while I haven't liked some of the books we've read there is nothing I'd want to ban or restrict. Just because I don't like something, or find something uncomfortable to read it doesn't mean that I don't think anyone else should read it, it just means that it wasn't my cup of tea.
I'm not even sure where I stand on books like The Satanic Verses. OK I don't think that people should go out of their way to insult other races/creeds/religions etc but at the same time if you know you are going to be offended you don't have to read it and for most views it is possible to find another book proposing the other side of the story...
This whole project is stirring up a lot of thoughts and emotions in me, and one of the things that it has really done is to make me want to study seriously again.
If anyone is interested the discussion evening is going to be on Tuesday 5th October at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. We will spend a little time talking about the ALA, Banned Books Week, Censorship in the UK and Norfolk and how we buy books for the Norfolk Library Service and then we shall move on to discussing ten books that have been banned or challenged around the world.
The ten books are:
James and the Giant Peach
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Tropic of Cancer
To Kill a Mockingbird
Not Without My Daughter
The Da Vinci Code
Monday, 16 August 2010
After last weekend's teen fiction binge I've been reading a lot of non fiction. Some of it in preparation for the Banned Book event at work, who knew that there was so much censorship of the printed word in this country right up until the late 1950s?
As light relief I've been reading the wonderful history of the Girl Guides in wartime.
I was an enthusiastic, if inept, Brownie from the age of 7 but was only a guide for about a year. The company I joined was not very active and I got very bored at meetings. There was also the small issue of Church Parade...
This history of the Guiding Movement is fantastic, it doesn't just feature the British movement but really emphasises the importance of Guiding world-wide, and the bravery of Guides, especially in occupied countries.
I really want to savour this book and make it last as long as I can, but sadly there is a waiting list on my library book and I shall have to return it far sooner than I'd like.
I've read many books, fiction and non, about the two world wars but this book is really bringing something new to the social history of the era. If you were a Guide, wanted to be one or if you scoff at the idea this book has something for you and will amuse, move and educate all while you are having a wonderful read.
And no there are no photos of me in the 1980s Brownie uniform - sorry.
Monday, 9 August 2010
Mr Bookworm and I were out and about yesterday and as we always seem to, we ended up in a secondhand bookshop.
Once more I have a huge pile of books to read, and some of it is more complicated than normal as I am busy researching a special topic for an event at work - more details soon, so I wasn't really going to buy anything.
Then I saw the shelf full of books by Paula Danziger. I read everything I could by her as a teenager, I guess that she was the Jacqueline Wilson of my youth. Her books featured teenagers that were nothing like me, or my friends, but I think it was the exotic (New York, and New York State) that really appealed to me.
The books weren't threatening, and unlike Judy Blume didn't have to be hidden from grown ups!
I treated myself to 6 of the books yesterday and unlike many re-reads they didn't disappoint me. Yes they are hideously dated, and each book took me less than an hour to read but they were fun. The characters were real teenagers - they had problems that seem huge when you are 13 but as an adult really are nothing much and they had ideals that they were willing to fight for but that in the grand scheme of things aren't that important.
I'm glad that I'm not still a teenager but it was fun to read the books that I loved as a teen. I think that Remember Me to Harold Square is still my favourite - and when I get to visit NYC I will take the book to help act as a guidebook, although the chapter on visiting the World Trade Center feels horribly poignant now.
Today I shall grow up and read some more of my more academic tomes, or maybe I shall find myself sidetracked by the pile of recipe books I have from the library...
Friday, 30 July 2010
I'm not a fan of the crime novel, in fact the closest I've really come to the genre is the Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence. Recently a friend lent me a pile of novels by Agatha Christie and I've been dipping in and out.
I've watched, with half an eye, several episodes of Poirot (David Suchet) and Miss Marple (Joan Hickson) and debated with Mr Norfolkbookworm as to who really is Miss Marple - he says Margaret Rutherford. However despite being a voracious reader all my life I didn't 'do' Christie at any point in my teens or twenties. This surprises me on reflection as I loved playing Cluedo...
I've started to rectify this now and have read And Then There Were None, The Body in the Library, Murder on the Orient Express and the Mystery of the Blue Train recently.
Now I wonder am I missing something? They are an enjoyable way to pass my lunch breaks - they don't take a lot of concentration so I can read them in the noisy staffroom - but that is about it. I am finding them, well, a bit daft really. The denouements are often so convoluted that I am more confused after them than I was before, I've usually worked out 'who dunnit' but not the reason why and often that is no clearer after it has been explained to me!
There must be some reason why they are so popular, and I am finding them quite addictive (I hope to swap the pile I have for another stack at the weekend) but I have to confess to being more interested in Christie's life than her fiction...
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
I think that is is clear that I like reading. In fact my worst nightmare is being stuck somewhere without a book. Even thinking about it can send me into a panic. That is why I like my (sorry our) eReader. It can store so many books that providing I remember to carry it around with me I'll never be without something to read.
Bonuses of the eReader include that I find reading books on it a pleasure, and that Norfolk Libraries have an eBook catalogue with which my device is compatible.
However I am a bit of a gadget nerd and in particular I like Apple products. I have a MacBook, and iTouch and an iPhone and I was lusting after the iPad.
Just before we went on holiday I upgraded my iPhone to the iPhone 4, and this comes with the iBook application. I've downloaded quite a lot of books into my library now, and read a few books in this format so I think I can comment on my new gadget, and compare it with my BeBook (and the real thing!).
The pros to the iPhone:
well I always have my phone on me and so now I really will always have something to read with me.
The graphics are incredible. The new phone has such an impressive screen that it makes looking at illustrations a dream.
The graphics also make turning the page a delight, it really does mimic reading a book in a way that my eInk reader doesn't.
There are lots of books available to download on to it, and many books have sample chapters so that you can try before you buy.
Using iTunes you can buy a book absolutely anywhere you have a good phone connection, you don't need to connect the phone to a computer to get new reading material
I don't like reading on it as much as from a physical books or even the eReader.
I think that a lot of this is to do with the screen size, perhaps an iPad would eliminate this as the screen is bigger.
The eInk is easier on the eye for reading, although the iPhone can be read in the dark.
I think that the main problem is that you can do so much more on an iPhone/iPad that I was getting distracted from the book, where as once you have a real book in front of you (or the eReader) all you can do is read.
Oh and thanks to DRM issues I can't download library books onto the phone (yet).
I am pleased to have a *good* book reader on my phone and for reading familiar books, or light weight tomes it is fine but I found it impossible to immerse myself in a book.
In fact I have purchased an electronic book and then had to get a paperback version of the same title because I just couldn't get into the version on the phone.
I love my new phone and all that it can do, but I think that despite all of the publicity the advent of iBooks has in fact lengthened the life of the real book rather than shortening it... for the moment!
Monday, 26 July 2010
As I said in an earlier post I did a lot of reading on my holiday, some books were better than others but I don't actually regret the time spent on any of them (for once!)
1) Lorna at Wynards - Elinor Brent-Dyer. This was a re-read and the one I took to read at the hotel the night before we went. As I knew the story very well it wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't finished it. This book is the first in a two part series and loosely connects to the Chalet School series.
2) Dreaming of Amelia - Jaclyn Morriarty. This was a lovely thick, young adult proof. I've enjoyed other books by this author in the past but found this one a bit hard going, too many back references to books I've read long ago and little confusing in style. It does chart the chaos of the last two years at school quite well.
3) The Boy I Love - Marion Husband. This was an impulse buy and quite enjoyable but a really quick read - in fact it didn't last the 4 hour flight to Kos. I didn't really empathise with any of the characters and I've read better books about the problem of adjusting back to the real world after fighting in the First World War. However the style of writing did make it enjoyable.
4) Mrs Harris Goes to Paris - Paul Gallico. This is one of the Bloomsbury reprints and has been recommended on a few other book review blogs. I loved it. Mrs Harris is a char lady with a dream, however like so many dreams not all is as it seems. Pure farce in the Wodehouse style but I enjoyed it far more.
5) To Serve Them All My Days - R F Delderfield. This is one of my favourite books of all time and I enjoyed rereading this. A school story but this time set in a boys school and told from the staff view point.
6) Fire From Heaven - Mary Renault. I'd read one of her contemporary novels but somehow had missed her Greek books. This was one of the highlights of holiday reading and since we've been back I've 'acquired' nearly all of her books and have nearly finished the sequel to this one!
7) Operation Mincemeat - Ben MacIntyre. This was a true account of one of the madder schemes from World War 2. A little graphic in places, but a wonderful insight into the world of spying pre-Cold War. The author is coming to a Norfolk book festival in the autumn so I hope to go and hear more about this.
8) Corduroy Mansions - Alexander McCall Smith. This is another book that first appeared episodically in a newspaper and while it started well I found that it quickly petered out and that I was bored reading it. Also no ends were tied up making it humorous but unsatisfying.
9) The Story of the Night - Colm Toibin. I read Brooklyn by this author earlier in the year and loved it so had high hopes for this one. They were met. The book is set in Argentina around the time of the Falklands War and is about many thing all of which are covered realistically and movingly.
10) The House of Special Purpose - John Boyne. When will I learn to leave anything by this author well alone? This was about the Romanov family and as I like that period of history and the book was called a novel and not a fable I thought I'd be okay. I read it to the end by I did want to throw it across the room many times as I was reading it. I won't spoil the book by saying why I loathed it so much, I don't regret reading it as I can now have an opinion and rant about it but if you like historical accuracy in books DO NOT READ!!
11) The Help - Katherine Stockett. This was the highlight of my holiday reading. I was a bit nervous as it has had a lot of media coverage, and was picked by the Channel 4 book club, but it was incredible. So scary to think that this could happen less than 50 years ago, but this really deserves to become a classic, not least for the author's honesty in the afterword.
12) Their Finest Hour and a Half - Lissa Evans. I read this in eBook format and enjoyed it a great deal. It is about an advertising copywriter called up by the Ministry of Information to help write patriotic films during WW2. Lots of humour and sadness but anyone who likes films made by the Ealing Studios is likely to enjoy this.
13) Rose in Bloom - L M Alcott. Another re-read but this time using iBooks on my phone. A good book but I'll write more about iBooks later.
14) Clover - Susan Coolidge. as above
15) In the High Valley - Susan Coolidge. as above
16) Turbulence - Giles Foden. Another WW2 story but this one fictitious although based on fact. It is all about trying to predict the weather in advance of the D Day Landings in 1944. The mathematics went over my head but the tension and chaos kept the story moving and although I knew the outcome it was fascinating reading how they came to make the decision. I want to read more factual accounts about the planning now.
17) Magician's Apprentice - Trudi Canavan. I didn't finish this one until we got home but I did start it while we were away so it counts as holiday reading! I loved Canavan's first series but didn't get on with her second so I was a bit nervous of this one. I needn't have been - it was just the sort of fantasy I like. Well crafted, strong female characters and a believable world from start to finish. I'm pleased to see that the next book is also going to be set in this world too.
I've now almost read my way through the huge 'to be read' pile. I have some new Mary Renault books to read, but I want to savour them but apart from that I'm looking for new books to try - all recommendations gratefully recieved.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
In the end the prize went to Lucy Christopher's Stolen, and I am very happy about that as it was one of my top books of 2009, but I think that I really wanted Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda to win.
A good result and one that I am really happy with but at the same time I really do wish that the prize could have been split two ways.
In other news I've just spent a pleasant 2 weeks lounging around on a Greek island eating, drinking and reading too much. Just like earlier in the year the eReader was a blessing, but this time also had a new iPhone complete with iBooks to keep me going. There really isn't (for me) a much nicer way to relax than laying on the beach under a palm shade with a good book.
Shame about the laundry when you get home...
Thursday, 17 June 2010
I’m making headway into my giant to read piles.
Some of them I put aside for holiday and that instantly lessened the guilt I was feeling. A lot of them I have now read, and a few I’ve skimmed the first few chapters and decided that they weren’t for me. And of course in the meantime newer books have come in and I’ve read them instead of the tottering stack!
It is probably the advance copies of books that have been the most exciting, although a lot of the library books I’ve been reading are worthy of blog posts all on their own. There is just something special about reading advance copies of books, and even after all these year the thrill of a proof hasn’t worn off.
I’m pleased to say that my friend’s book really didn’t disappoint. I now know that it has changed a lot from the draft I read but I still thought that it was excellent. Less Philip Reeve and more Gemma Malley by the end but that just made it better for me. Enough of the story had been wrapped up that I felt satisfied but I do hope that volume two is forthcoming (hint! hint!)
I was also reading Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Sadly for me this one didn’t get any better. I really had guessed the twist from the beginning and in the end I was just bored by it. I can see that it might appeal to the Jacob fans of the Twilight series but for me it just didn’t have the punch or story to make this an author I will read again.
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma is a hard one to talk about. I think it is a brave book but I’m not sure about it at all. I think that The Bookwitch sums it up best on her blog.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson was a good read. Not that original perhaps but it handled a lot of issues in a fairly believable way. While it didn’t move me as much as other books with a similar theme I enjoyed it and will look out for more by this author.
The highlight of recent days has been Matched by Ally Condie. This isn’t out until the end of the year but it blew me away. A teen romance that didn’t include vampires or werewolves was always going to good, but the dystopian, sci-fi feel was a real surprise. I like books that are different from the current trend and this one really is. It is also well written, tense, romantic, sad, funny… Can you tell I loved it? The best thing was that again although there is scope for a sequel (and I really hope that there is) it is a complete book and you aren’t left hanging. This one is a real contender for book of the year…certainly the best teen novel I’ve read so far this year.
I’ve a few more treats lined up, the sequel to Sarwat Chadda’s Devil's Kiss and an early draft of another favourite author’s book. In addition to this I am involved in the wonderful Writers’ Centre Norwich Summer Read and next week I’ll have the chance to meet and listen to some wonderful authors at the launch event. It is a good thing that the days are so long at the moment – I might event have time to read all of these books!
Monday, 14 June 2010
I've been looking forward to today for ages. I am venturing out of Norwich and down to London for the afternoon and evening and it is going to be a very bookish day.
This afternoon a colleague and I are going to Penguin HQ. I've been a couple of times before, doing some consultancy work, back when I worked for Waterstone's. This time E and I are going in our library capacity, to talk about how libraries work, how we buy books, how we monitor popular titles and how we can work more closely with publishers.
After this we are meeting some friends for drinks before going on to the Puffin 70th Birthday Party.
At the library we've been celebrating Puffin books for a while - getting people to vote for their favourite Puffin titles of all time, we also held a book club birthday party where we played lots of games based on Puffin books. Unsurprisingly our games based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factor are the most popular.
I loved Puffin books as a child, but sadly I was never a member of the Puffin Club, Mr Bookworm was and thanks to eBay we now have a nearly complete collection of the early magazines. I am about to become Auntie Bookworm and I am very excited to see that the Puffin Club has been restarted. You're never too young for books after all...
As for picking my favourite Puffin title? Not possible I'm afraid. Who could chose between Arthur Ransome, Roald Dahl, Charlie Higson, Rick Riordan, CS Lewis, Raymond Briggs...
I have to catch a train now but in the mean time I leave you with this:
and of course the Puffin Blog.
No Puffins, Penguins or Pelicans were harmed in the making of this blog post!
Thursday, 3 June 2010
Well the title is slightly misleading, but once more I am in a reading dilemma.
Through many and varied (and gratefully received) sources I have recently acquired a lot of proof and review copies of books. All of them look good and even if they aren't normally my 'thing' all of them certainly look appealing enough to at least try.
The problem is that I feel a bit overwhelmed, I don't know where to start.
Well that isn't quite true either as I've started several of them. One in the bedroom, one in the living room, one at work, and so on. I don't know which to continue first. And then there are the ones that I haven't event started yet. They are sitting in a pile sending out 'read me' vibes and making me feel guilty that they don't have my attention.
Sitting next to this pile however there are another two stacks. One of recent purchases and another of library books that I've reserved after reading reviews elsewhere. Sam I feel you and your Summer Read and the coverage of the Hay Festival being shown on Sky Arts are predominantly to blame for this, however there are some cracking books being reviewed all over the blogosphere at present.
I am currently reading two books:
One is Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. I have a review copy of this and it is just a plain red book, no hints as to content at all. I've got about half way through it so far and I think I've worked out the plot twist. If I have I am a bit disappointed that a book with so much more to offer than a lot of books from genre is so easy to guess, if I'm wrong I will be astounded at the talent of the author.
I'm avoiding reading too much about the book as I don't want it to be spoiled but the author is on a blog tour this week and started over at Chicklish where you can find out more.
The other is a manuscript from a friend, it is very well written and very different from much of the teen literature out there. Definitely more Philip Reeve than Stephenie Meyer. I'm getting towards the end of this one now and there are a lot of loose ends to tie up - I'm just hoping that it does end properly and not with those dreadful words 'to be continued'. I don't think Abbie would do that to me but you can never be certain!
I shall take both of these books, a glass of something cold and a comfortable chair into the garden as I try to avoid my usual reading habit when I am overwhelmed by choice - rereading comfort books!
Thursday, 27 May 2010
Wow - I really can't believe that I've had a blog for a whole year.
It has been a busy year, lots of travel, lots of reading and a new job and I haven't quite managed to average a blog post a week. Perhaps next year I'll get to this.
I'm actually quite proud of myself for managing to keep going with the blog as most of my diaries seem to peter out by June.
Right now I am reading an impulse book - Up in the Air by Walter Kirn. I haven't seen the film but the book is really enjoyable. After that I have a few proofs to look at and then I have the enjoyable job of choosing holiday reading. I'm really not sure what to take for my two weeks on a Greek Island so if you've read anything recently and think I might please do let me know.
Now on to more birthday cake I think!
Picture of the incredible cake taken from http://www.inspirations-cakes.co.uk/ - I wonder if I drop enough hints Mr Norfolk Bookworm will get me one of these for my next birthday?
Sunday, 16 May 2010
One of the projects that I started through work was an International Literature Group.
Over the past 5 months a small group of us have attended monthly meetings where a lecturer from UEA has come along and taught us all about translating. Rather than all reading a set book we've all then been reading any book that has been translated into English and thinking about it using the guidelines given in the session. It has been great fun and I've really read my way around Europe this winter and spring. It has also been nice to think in more depth about what I'm reading, rather than just reading for pleasure. I miss studying sometimes.
May's challenge was a little different, our group was shadowing the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. We'd been sent 4 of the six books to read, talk about and then review.
None of the four books was an easy read, and we had only limited time to read the four titles. I managed to get through 3 of them:
Philippe Claudel's Brodeck's Report (translated from the French by John Cullen.)
This was my favourite of the 3 read. On the face of it this was a simple book about a very rural village trying to put itself back together after WW2 and a dramatic event. The more you read however the deeper the story went and it really was like an onion - each layer was good but taken as a whole it was fantastic.
The themes covered were not easy and despite the apparent simplicity this was a book that had to be read slowly so that none of the detail was missed.
Julia Franck's The Blind Side of the Heart (translated from the German by Anthea Bell)
On the face of it this was the most appealing book, from a retail view point it looked like the most commercial too. Sadly it didn't live up to the cover.
The story starts with a most dramatic event - a mother abandons her child on a railway platform in what will become Russian East Germany, and then we go back into the mother's past to find out how she could do such a thing.
The problem with this one was that none of the characters captured me, it was obvious from the subject matter that none of them were nice, but they all remained flat on the paper and never came to life. The writing was also dull and the story stagnant. This could have been so good, and I was disappointed as it had won many prizes in Germany.
Alain Mabanckou's Broken Glass (translated from the French by Helen Stevenson)
This one was really not my cup of tea at all and even though I persevered for about 100 pages I'm still not sure what it was about.
The translation of this one really impressed me for not once in the text is there a full stop. To have the skill to translate a story with only commas for punctuation and keep it readable is a huge talent I feel.
I also had a copy of Rafik Schami's The Dark Side of Love (translated from the German by Anthea Bell) but although I do want to read this one it is a massive 853 pages long and I just ran out of time to read it before the prize was announced.
The prize was announced at a ceremony on Thursday, sadly our shadowing group wasn't picked as one to go to this party, and the winner was...
Thanks go to the Reading Agency for the chance to participate in this project.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
I've had lots of books reserved at the library and typically it seems that all of them have become available at once.
Luckily the housework is pretty much up-to-date (don't faint mum!) and the weather is nice enough that I can spend my days off in the garden reading.
We've recently discovered the Lake Woebegone podcast and have had great fun listening to these, so I decided to try some of the books. As luck would have it there is a new one just out, Pilgrims. This one is set in Rome, a city I have visited so I thought I'd really enjoy it. Being a new book there was a bit of a wait on this title so while I was waiting I read Pontoon.
This was a book that made me laugh out loud a couple of times. I wouldn't say that it was a great book but it was a pleasant interlude and really made me want to read Pilgrims. Sadly it didn't live up to my hopes, I knew I wasn't going to enjoy it as soon as I realised the author had written himself into the book and as a serious character not a cameo. The plot was a farce too far for my taste too. The Telegraph reviewed the book a couple of months ago and this is a pretty good summary of the book although I enjoyed it less than the reviewer I feel!
I shall have to listen to a few more podcast episodes to rid myself of the after-taste left by the book. There is the saying "he has a face for radio" personally I think that Garrison Keillor has plots that are best suited to the radio.
Now back to that stack of new books. How can I chose which to read first - the new book by a local author, the new travel biog, something topical like Eating Animals or a nice comforting old favourite....
Friday, 2 April 2010
The problem is my eReader.
I love it. I can now dip in and out of all those classic children's books that I love but don't own, as well as slowly making my way through some of the great adult classics of all time.
Then there are the collections of myths and legends...I say "oh I'll just read one" and before I know it an hour has passed. Ooops.
Now I'll be honest here. I really didn't expect to have this reaction to the eReader. We treated ourselves to the BeBook mini last autumn and while I have downloaded some books on to it during the winter I haven't really played with it at all.
Then we went on holiday and had a very small luggage allowance. I cut down to the bare minimum on clothes (and I really do mean this it doesn't mean I only took 5 pairs of shoes rather than the usual 10 etc.) but when the books were added in - one a day each plus spares - we were well over the limit. I panicked.
Then I remembered the BeBook.
It was great. It took a while to work out just how far down the page I should be before I 'turned over' as there is a delay but once that was sorted I flew through the books an didn't event notice the slight flash as it went. I read books that I wouldn't normally take (short books and kidlit) and thoroughly enjoyed the variety.
I did read quite a few paper books too but this was a wonderful addition to the case and only needed charging once in the week. I was pleasantly surprised how I took to eInk and the reader in general and now I am not so bothered by the iPad when it finally comes despite being an Apple geek.
Roll on the next holiday so I can do it all over again!
For those interested we went to Lanzarote and I read 14 books in 8 days!
Monday, 1 March 2010
I've just finished this book in pretty much one sitting and it has me an emotional wreck.
It starts in modern times with a young lad being mildly embarrassed at a Service of Remembrance as he has push his deaf great grandfather in a wheelchair, he can't understand why the service is so important, and he can't understand why his 'Pa' is making him take part - the war was years ago after all.
The plot then goes back in time to 1915 and we meet the three heroines of the book, Midge, Ethel and Anne at their school. All three are itching to do more for the war effort and when one of the girls receives a telegram stating that a loved one is missing in action they decide to do something about it. Ethel's father is a grocer he supplies the girls with all they need to set up a canteen, in France, for the troops.
All three girls have different reasons for their actions but it is Colonial Midge that we follow the most and throughout the book her bemusement, bravery and determination shine through, right down to her last brave decision.
This is a work of fiction, but the author is very clear to state that although none of these characters existed all of their adventures did happen to real people. I have read many books about World War One, fiction and non, but this just leaves many of them in the dust. I cried from about half way through and wasn't surprised to read in the afterword that Jackie French had found this the hardest of her books to write. It is incredible.
It tells a well rounded story of war, it touches on other topics such as the Suffragettes and the problems of Empire, but ultimately it is about how pointless the slaughter of the trenches was - bit how important it was at the time. French's afterword and glossary really adds to the book and I love the recipe for ANZAC cookies that is included here.
The ANZAC point of view made a nice difference to the topic, and the importance of the Australian and New Zealand contribution should not be overlooked.
This really should become a must read for anyone who like historical fiction.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
I love the internet, I love the worlds it has opened to me - especially when it comes to finding new things to read.
There are some great review sites (personal and media) out there and my horizons have really expanded over the past few years.
When I worked in the bookshop this was expensively dangerous as I'd read about another new book that I'd want to read and find myself plucking it off the shelf (or ordering it in) and buying it straight away. Quite a lot of the time I didn't enjoy the book as much as I'd hoped.
For a while I didn't think about the library for these brand new books, to my shame I didn't realise just how many new books are available on publication in Norfolk's libraries. (I know better now I work for them!)*
Probably 90% of books reviewed that are produced by British publishers are available as soon as they are published, it is saving me a fortune. It doesn't matter if the review turns out to be better than the actual book - I haven't spent any money on it.
I'd like to say that I don't spend as much money on books now but it isn't quite true.
I now spend my money on books from America/Canada/Australia as well as building my antiquarian collection but I am buying less books. In fact Mr Norfolkbookworm has purchased far more books than me this year (probably by a 2:1 ratio so far) but he might not actually own up to this so I'll whisper it!
Perhaps I should now stop reading so many blogs and reviews and start reading the books they talk about. Then write about them.
Now where did I put my library card...
* I should add that this blog isn't sponsored by the library and it is just my thoughts not propaganda or advertising. Just happiness that I can get my hands on so many books and save some money for my other love - travel!
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
The winner of the 2010 Waterstone's Children's Book Prize has been announced and I am so happy at the result.
Finally books written for the younger and newly emergent readers have been victorious with Katie Davies' The Great Hamster Massacre.
This was a truly great addition to the WCBP shortlist. It was funny, sad, cute and revolting all in one. I read it, my husband read it, my sister read - oh and her stepson read it. It amused us all.
A real winner.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Holocaust Memorial Day 2010
Blogging about something like Genocide is virtually impossible, but at the same time Holocaust Memorial Day should not go unmentioned.
January 27th has been picked as HMD for it marks the day that the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, and 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of this action. Sadly this act didn't see the end to genocide and countless millions have died since.
There are many books, fact and fiction written about the Jewish Holocaust. Many have been written for children, in fact I studied many of them in the course of writing the dissertation for my M.A. Not all of them are good but the important thing is that they are there. Hopefully if such actions aren't brushed under the carpet they will occur less and less. What we must not do is pretend such things never happen.
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialist
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
Monday, 25 January 2010
January 26th (which it already is there!) is Australia Day and so time to celebrate the wonderful writing that comes from Down Under.
As a child I was lucky enough to be sent lots of books from Australia by relatives living their. The Muddle Headed Wombat was a great favourite, to the extent that when my sister and I left home we fought over our copy and had to have another one sent to us to stop the bloodshed! Then there was Shy the Platypus, Cuddlepot and Sugglepie and We of the Never-Never. As we got older classics by Mary Grant Bruce and Ethel Turner arrived. I've reread and cried over Seven Little Australians many times!
Australian authors are still writing cracking good fiction, Garth Nix, Jaclyn Moriarty, Melina Marchetta, Morris Gleitzman and Randa Abdel-Fattah are my particular favourites.
However if I could only keep one book Australia it would have to be:
This is not only the one Australian book I would save but also the one picture book. I can only try to explain how much I love this book.
Part of it is to do with where I first came across it.
In the autumn of 2005 I went to Australia and spent some time travelling with my sister, one of the first places she took me was the fabulous children's department in Dymocks bookstore in the centre of Sydney. This book was new then and had a lovely display. We then went to Taronga Zoo and I got to come face to face with a wombat. It was love at first sight.
The other reason I love the book is how it is written, the words are good but without the pictures it would be quite dull, it really is a visual delight.
The best bit? A sequel has just come out...
... oh and my parents arrive in Australia in a couple of weeks and have promised to bring me a copy home!
Thursday, 14 January 2010
It is the season of the book prize again.
I am mostly interested in prizes which are aimed at or include children's books although I do enjoy seeing all of the lists.
The Costa Book Award category finalists have been announced and the overall winner will be announced on January 26th. The children's category winner is a strong contender this year and although I haven't read the book a lot of people I respect have read and loved it. Sam at Books, Time and Silence has a fabulous review, and I will be taking Ness's books on my next holiday.
The leading American children's book awards are due very soon but for me these aren't the awards I am most interested in.
The Waterstone's Children's Book Prize shortlist was announced today. From 2006 to 2009 I was really closely involved with this prize and I was privileged enough to read the long list for 2010. I've been waiting with baited breath for this shortlist and I haven't been disappointed at all.
The nine books making the shortlist are incredible:
1. Flyaway by Lucy ChristopherOf the nine books I only disliked one and one made my top 5 books of 2009. My favourite five books from the long list all made this shortlist.
2. The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies
3. The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
4. Seven Sorcerers by Caro King
5. Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
6. The Toymaker by Jeremy de Quidt
7. Desperate Measures by Laura Summers
8. Superhuman: Meteorite Strike by A.G Taylor
9. The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh
Picking the winner is tough though. Flyaway was an incredible book - it didn't suffer at all from second book syndrome and was just as powerful at Stolen. Superhuman: Meteorite Strike is written by someone originally from Norfolk and so that has a soft spot in the Norfolkbookworm's heart and then the Great Hamster Massacre is a truly great book for newly independent readers and these never seem to win awards.
I could go on and justify why 8 of the 9 should win but I am going to be loyal to Love, Aubrey it was one of my top reads from 2009 after all and even on the third re-read it moved me just as much as the first time.
Now all I have to do is wait until February 10th for the winner to be announced.
I had planned on writing about all of the exciting books I've already read this year - being snowbound has worked wonders on that lost mojo - but the excitement of the award season means that post is on hold for a few days.