Monday, December 29, 2008

The reading week

How are we looking for the last few days of 2008?
I'm glad you asked, imaginary blogging friend, and the answer is: "okay". Bland, I know, but accurate.
I'm about halfway through My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates and I'm contemplating starting The Count of Monte Christo _ January's classic _ a few days early.
For one simple reason: that book is HUGE! I honestly had no idea, thereby exposing my ignorance. So I may truck off to bed soon(ish) and maybe make a dent in it. Or I might dig deeper into My Sister, My Love and save the Count for Thursday, which is what a right-acting blogger would do.
Me? I'm a rebel without a clue (which I did steal from somewhere, but I can't remember where.)
Shortest reading week post ever?
Discuss :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not blogging, but reading

I love this photo. It's one of my favourites. Sigh ...

I've been lazy and uninspired to blog this week. I have, however, been reading. I finished Stranger in a Strange Land today, and also read The Uncommon Reader.
Lately I've also finished The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver, Embroidered Truths by Monica Ferris and made a decent dent in My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike by Joyce Carol Oates.

I enjoyed The Uncommon Reader the most. It's really short, and takes maybe 1-2 hours to read, but it's just lovely. It's on my list for the Dewey Reading challenge, so I'll either count it as an early read, or find something else to add to the list.

I did enjoy The Broken Window and all I can say right now about Stranger in a Strange Land is I'm glad it's finished. But maybe I just didn't grok its fullness.

We had a good Christmas. Noisy morning, with family and suchlike coming in to see Patrick and exchange presents and then a lovely quiet afternoon. I read/dozed on the couch while Jeremy made us roast chicken for dinner. I could have stayed there the rest of the afternoon but I had to go to work.

I had a weirdly serendipitous moment in a bookshop on Friday. I'd ducked out of work for a bit _ ostensibly to go to Starbucks but also to have a quick look in the bookshops across the road _ and in one of those bins of paperbacks, $6 each or four for $20, I spotted Requiem by Graham Joyce. And I'd blogged about him not so long ago.

So, of course, I couldn't just buy one book, I had to shuffle through the bin for three others. I got a book of short stories, called Phantasms, by Some Guy, a Ngaio Marsh mystery and a crossword-based mystery novel as well. I'd go look up titles and such, but they're all the way across the living room.

Then, on the way out of the store, I noticed they had copies of The Stand by Stephen King. The store _ Whitcoulls _ has a Top 100 list every year and The Stand was part of a display of those books. With 25% off fiction, I was tempted. But managed to resist ... until today, that is. I love The Stand, it's one of my all-time favourite books but I've never owned a copy.

Until now. Heh.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book bloggers Christmas swap

Yay! Look at what was in the mail for me today! My Secret Santa parcel, from Jessie in Georgia;

First, there were these packages, all very carefully wrapped in extremely cute paper :


Then, this is what was inside (and I'm sorry, they were so well-wrapped, I had to tear the paper!)

We have: Four tins of Altoid mints (I really like them, but can't buy them here). There's Creme de Menthe, Cinnamon, Peppermint and Wintergreen. Two CDs; one of Brer Rabbit stories (Jessi's hometown is the home of the author of the stories) a CD of Christmas songs, which I"m going to listen to tonight; a leather bookmark from the Uncle Remus Museum and Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.

Jessi, thank you so much; it's a great parcel and I love everything! :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Reading Week

Sigh. I read a whole book today, because I was home sick from work.
Gallstones. In the New Year, I'm going to have to bite the bullet, go to the doctor and 1) get better painkillers and b) go on the waiting list for surgery, even though the thought of going under general anasthetic gives me the ya-yas.
However. I had an attack this morning, for no reason. I hadn't even had breakfast yet when it hit. Normally, they're food related. AND I haven't had one for more than three months.
So I spent most of the morning fighting pain and wanting to lie down and go to sleep, and feeling sick and ... ugh. No work for me.
So, once the pain had (finally) eased, I spent most of the day reading and trying not to pick Patrick up too much, although that's one of his things at the moment _ wanting to be picked up.
The book I read was a ''cosy'' mystery by Monica Ferris: Embroidered Truths, A Needlework Mystery. It wasn't bad, and was chock-full of cross stitch and embroidery references, which is fun for me, as a cross-stitcher, and the characters are likable.
I also finished The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver yesterday, his latest Rhyme/Sachs novel. All the hallmarks of a Deaver novel: well-paced, easy to read, full of forensic fun, but ... I've found, in his past few books, his 'whodunit' twists (which I used to love) have lost their punch a little bit.
So. On to this week.
I've started Stranger in a Strange Land, so that's on the agenda for this week. Also, still, My Sister My Love, which I haven't really picked up but hopefully I will.
I'm actually working Christmas (yay ... *sarcasm*) but not until 5 in the afternoon. So my mother and my sisters are coming here in the morning for present-exchanges and suchlike before my mother and my sister who is single go to my brother and sister-in-law's place for lunch and my other sister and her two kids head home (they live out of town) for their own Christmases. Low-key, but it works for us.
My husband will roast a chicken and we'll have a peacable afternoon until it's time for me to head to work. I'm not too upset about working Christmas; Patrick's still too little to really notice, plus I get paid time-and-a-half.
Plus, I like Christmas week anyway, because we get two days off. We get our normal, rostered day off, plus Christmas Eve, because Christmas Day is a non-publishing day. So we all take our stat day (day in lieu) from Christmas then. (I have shares in the word "plus").
That was convoluted.
My point is, I should have more reading time than usual this week.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A post about challenges

Well, the ones I decided to sign up for, anyway.
I have lists done for the Art History Challenge and the Dewey's Books Challenge; and my own Classics challenge. I have other classics, too, that I'd like to try and find, and read during the course of the year, but these 12 are my one-a-month books.
It was a good compromise for me, and helped me focus my list. :

My Classics challenge books are:
January: The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas
February: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
March: Mrs Dalloway by Virgina Woolf
April: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
May: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
June: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
July: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
August: The Woman in White by Wilke Collins
September: Intensive Care by Janet Frame
October: The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende
November: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K LeGuin
December: To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To date, I've read seven of the 12 novels I earmarked for this year's list. Not bad, I feel, but Must Improve.

For the Dewey's Reading Challenge, I took the read six books, one from each year that Dewey blogged, and came up with this list:
1): Grass by Sherri S. Tepper (2003)
2): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (2004)
3): The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (2005) (crossover to the Art History challenge)
4): March by Geraldine Brooks (2006)
5): Enstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (2007)
6) The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (2008)
And in one of those serendipitous moments, I was talking today about The Uncommon Reader with our features editor, who pretty much sung its praises. :)

For the Art History Challenge, here is my list:
The Agony and the Ecstacy by Irving Stone
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (crossover with Dewey challenge)
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland
The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles by Martin Gayford
Death and Restoration by Iain Pears
The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

I have a copy of The Agony and the Ecstasy, so that segues nicely into the Read Your Own Books challenge.
I don't have a list. But last night, with little effort, I managed to gather together 35 books from my bookshelves that I haven't read. They're in the photo. I know that new books and review books will also cross my path, but for that challenge, those 35 are my starting-points.

Last but not least, are the Support Your Local Library and 100+ Books challenges. Given my lists above, I'm (very) cautiously optimistic.
We'll see.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday Wants _ on Thursday!!!!!

First up is one I saw over at Nymeth's blog:
You may, or may not have noticed that I have a passing interest in cats. We have, um, several and even Patrick thinks he's a cat. So, naturally, I want The Curious History of Cats, by Madeline Swan and Celia Haddon
It is, according to Amazon, "This is a biography of the cat, beginning in ancient times when it was revered as a goddess and following it as it emerges as enigma, playmate and companion. There are also tales of great and famous cat-lovers throughout history and literature, such as Dr. Johnson, Horace Walpole (and his noble Maida) or Sir Walter Scott, whose own constant companion waited for a snap of his master’s fingers to rise and lay his head on his knee. The book is illustrated throughout with noteworthy and intriguing images of cats through history including ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and medieval engravings and drawings."
I keep seeing The Private Patient by P D James everywhere and who am I to ignore book-related serendipity? I've only read one other of hers, Death in Holy Orders, but The Private Patient is still going on my Want!!! list.
The title of The Solitary Vice: Against Reading by Mikita Bottman caught my attention while I was trawling some best-of lists for 2008. Hmmm ... yep, Want!!!
Wednesday Wants: being all that they can be.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Reading Week

I'm free!!!!!!!!!
I finally finished Love in the Time of Cholera yesterday.
I feel as though I've been reading the same books for weeks on end. Oh, wait ...
So that should mean that Stranger in a Strange Land is up next for December's classic.
Except maybe ... it's not.
Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:
I have a book on the go at work, sorta kinda; one from the review cupboard. I've had it there for a while, and it's interesting and all, but it's a long book. And there's nothing like trying to read on your break at work for attracting people who think you want to be interrupted.
Um ... booooooooooooooook .... see the book? See me reading? Booooooooooooook ...
anyway. The book is My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates and I'm only a little ways in, so I've brought it home, in order to get stuck into it properly and I'll take a shorter book to work to try and read on my breaks.
So I'm thinking I might get stuck on that. I also feel the need for something lighter in touch and tone, so I'm probably leaning towards an Agatha Christie, or a Star Trek novel.
Stay tuned, and all that jazz. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2009: The Year of the Challenges

I can't remember if I said I'd never do another book challenge, after failing so badly on the ones I joined this year.
But I never listen to myself. Also, a couple of the challenges dovetail with my own reading goals for 2009, one has a deeper meaning, for a lot of us, I think and one is just ... because.
First up is the just-because challenge.

The Art History Challenge; hosted here:
I do love Art History. I nearly majored in it at university. *Sigh*
The challenge itself is simple; to read six art history books _ either fiction or non-fiction _ during the course of 2009. I don't have a list yet, but I do know that I'll have The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone on that list. I started it many years ago but never finished it.
So ... one down, five to go.

The ones that dovetail with my own goals are these:

The Read Your Own Books Challenge hosted here:
I have oh, so many of my own books to read. So I'm aiming to read 30 of my own books in 2009. I have way more than that, but 30 feels like a nice, round number.

Then there's the Support Your Local Library Challenge; hosted here:
I love the library and a lot of my reading comes from there. So I'll be joining Challenge No 2: Read 25 books from your local library.

Next up is this one:
The 100+ Reading Challenge, hosted here:
My goal is to actually try and read two books a week for the year; plus one. I don't know; for some reason 105 sounds more rounded than 104.

Then I'm also going to be doing my own personal challenge of reading one Classic novel a month _ the handy thing being that that challenge can merge with the Read Your Own Books and the Support Your Local Library challenges.

The final one is the Dewey Books Reading Challenge, hosted here:
I've decided to go with the six books, one from each year that Dewey blogged, that I trawled through Dewey's archive (and damn near started crying) to find. So I have that list done, but not the others yet.
This is already pretty long, so I'll put my lists on a separate post, when they're done.


Just After Sunset

You know, I love me some Stephen King. When he's on, he's on like Donkey Kong and no one can touch his ability to tell a story.

Unfortunately, this collection falls a bit short. King was inspired to release another short story collection after editing the latest Great American Short Story compilation. Great, fantastic; King writes wonderful short stories. Only, not here. Oh, some of them reach that level that you'd expect but most of the stories _ I'm sorry Stephen King because I truly do love you and I LOVED Lisey's Story even though a lot of people didn't _ are just ... forgettable.

For me, the strongest story in the collection is ''N.'', which is King doing what he does best _ scaring the growth out of you with seemingly everyday things. In this, a patient with bad OCD comes to a therapist. The story unfolds through the therapist's case-notes as "N." explains how he came to have OCD and why it's so terribly important to keep counting ... everything.

Beyond that, I'm hard-pressed to remember the details of a lot of the stories. I found The Cat from Hell entertaining, and the last story in the collection _ about a man locked in a portable toilet by a vengeful neighbour.

I get the impression that King put the collection together in kind of a hurry and I just wish that he had taken a little bit more time, because then we might have been looking at something really special.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Reading Week

Le Sigh
Well, as you can see below, I finally finished a book, although all of my other good intentions packed their bags and went surfing, or something.
I'm STILL reading Love in the Time of Cholera and I had meant to have it finished by now, and be on to Strange in a Strange Land. Now I'm aiming for Wednesday.
I'm also still reading Just After Sunset, which I keep picking up ... and putting down ... and picking up ... well, you get the idea.
I'd really like to get that one finished this week too and finally move on to something new _ I'm well over posting the same Reading Week over and over again.

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette does just what it says on the tin. It's a novel, in diary form, told in the voice of Marie Antoinette.
I'm not usually a fan of novels told in letter or diary form but this was very easy to read and makes me want to dig out a biography of the queen. Handily enough, Erickson has written one so I'm putting that on my to-read list.
The diary is written in a very chatty style, as Marie Antoinette transitions from being a young Austrian princess, to the Queen of France.
It is, obviously, written through a period of tremendous upheaval for France and despite the fact it's all a matter of historical record now, in parts of it I was reading right along with Marie Antoinette holding my breath, and hoping she would find a way to save her family, which is a tribute to the immediacy of the diary style of writing.
A good summer read. :)

Also reviewed here:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Weekly Geeks 27 _ Making It Count

Here, as Becky suggested in this post, is my Weekly Geeks post in honour of Dewey. It's nothing specific, just a collection of thoughts.

It's nearly a new year, a time when people reflect, renew and go forward with purpose and energy. Sometimes that purpose and energy sustains them throughout the year, sometimes it flags on January 2. I'm usually of the latter category but you know what? That's okay.

And you know what else? Not this time.

I never met Dewey except as a book-blogger and a Weekly Geek participant. And while her loss reverberates and resonates through all of us, I started thinking how I could make it mean something, even in my little corner of the world.

You know the movie Titanic? There's a scene in that, when they're all sitting in the first-class dining room and this is part of Leonardo di Caprio's character Jack's speech:
"... I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you... to make each day count."

So. That's my goal for 2009. Making it count.
And what does that mean for me?
It means trying to make the most of the things I love.
My family, yes, my cats; my reading and other hobbies; even my work. That last one may sound a bit strange but the thing is, I love my work but after the upheavals of the past year or so, I'm not so sure I love my job. So I'm going to focus on the work. I also want to answer that nagging question: "What if I did all of the things that I want to do, every day. What would my life look like then?"
Those things are (apart from be the best mum I can to Patrick and as good a wife as I can):Read every day
Write every day
Go for a walk every day
Do some cross stitching every day and actually finish some projects
Blog often, listen to more music, go to more movies and laugh .... a lot.
I really want to know what the shape of that life is.

It also means actually trying to pay down some debt and saving some money for a change, so that I can make some long-held dreams _ mostly to travel _ come true.

I don't know if any of us had any idea how ill Dewey really was. Certainly the energy she put into her blogging and community-building belied any illness, or hint of illness. I believe that, in her own way, Dewey really and truly made her life count and maybe the best way to remember is to make our own lives count, in our own way.
I do know that, because of Dewey, I started a couple of "regular" features for myself, on my own blog. My Reading Week and Wednesday Wants posts, became, along with the Weekly Geeks, the framework on which I hung my blog posts. And, in Dewey's honour, long may it continue.

In your honour, Dewey, wherever you may be, I'm going to sit down sometime this weekend, with a good book, a cup of tea to raise to your extraordinary energy, and I'm sure a cat or two ... or three.

Here's to you, Dewey.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Reading Week ... so late!

Oh, so late! It's Thursday.
The truth is, my reading has been bogged down for the past week or so. The last book I finished was Oxford Exit, last week, I think.

I'm still in the middle of Love in the Time of Cholera, which I'm trying to finish so I can start Stranger in a Strange Land and be all done for my new Classics list in January, which I haven't finalised yet. Still time.

I'm also still halfway through Just After Sunset, which I'm reading in bits and pieces at lunchtime mostly, when Patrick is captive in his highchair and he can't grab it (he loves books, but not for the same reason I do, yet).

I'm also reading The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, which I'm trying to get finished because it was due back at the library on Monday. Luckily, it's a pretty speedy read, so I'm hoping to finish that tonight after work.

Then tomorrow I'm working 11.30am-7.30pm, so, providing nothing catches my attention on TV (no guarantees there, I swear sometimes I'd sit through a test pattern) I'm going to give Love in the Time of Cholera some much-needed attention, leaving just Just After Sunset for Saturday.

After that, I'll probably start Stranger in a Strange Land, on Sunday, with luck and a fair wind. And A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, which I've had on the boil for a while.

My goal is to try and read two books a week from now on. After I'm out of this mire, hopefully I can organise myself and make it happen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Weekly Geeks for Dewey

Becky, in this post, has suggested a way that the Weekly Geeks _ and others _ can honour the memory of Dewey and her commitment and energy to the blook blogging world. It's a great idea, and mine will be coming up soon.

Meantime, she's asked us to spread the word. :)

Also, Raych at is calling for artists to create a button for Dewey. I have no idea how to go about that, but thought I'd mention it any way. :)

I'm hoping that the Weekly Geeks, the Readathon and the Bookworms' Carnival will continue, although I think Jackie at is going to keep the Carnival running.

I'm a bit crap at doing things to be honest, but if anyone needs any behind-the-scenes help, I'm a GREAT behind-the-scenes person.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Huge loss

I don't have a lot of words to say; I think Nymeth summed my _and I'm sure others' feelings up best here _ about what a huge loss Dewey is.
I'm still in shock and my thoughts and heart go out to her family at such a sad time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday Wants!!!!!!!

First on the list is this book of short stories: Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honour of Jack Vance. The list of names .... oh my ....
I've never read any of Jack Vance's novels but after seeing that collection, he's also on my Want!!!! list.
Also, trawling Amazon I came across Annie Leibovitz At Work, a volume of photographs, the stories behind them and reflections on her work. I'm not a photographer, and nor do I play on on television but I love LOOKING at great photography. So ... want!!!!
Hm ... I'm starting to think my Want!!! list needs a want list of its own.
Anyhoo, this isn't very long, because I've had a stupidly busy few days, beginning last Friday and not really letting up until yesterday. Today, however, was my day off and a friend of mine went trawling secondhand bookstores.
And here's what I got:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Probables vs Possibles

Here's my draft list for next year's classics challenge _ my own one, to read one classic novel a month:

The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Duma
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Woman in White by Wilke Collins
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Quiet American, or The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
Scented Gardens for the Blind by Janet Frame
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende


Dracula by Bram Stoker
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
It by Stephen King
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee
The Halfmen of O trilogy by Maurice Gee
Howard's End by E M Forster

The Reading Week

My reading is completely up the spout this week, because of Stephen King.
I got Just After Sunset from the library on Saturday and pretty much abandoned all my other reading plans.
Here's the thing, though: the stories are just ... okay. And yet, I can't stop reading it, because no matter what, Mr King knows how to tell a story. He's has definitely written better short story collections and I plan to go back, starting with Night Shift, and re-read them (oh, the things I do ...).
Anyway, I had planned to start Helen of Troy by Margaret George but Mr King put paid to that.
And I also have A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson on the boil but once again it's on the backburner.
I'm still picking away at Love in the Time of Cholera but I read before going to sleep and that book makes me sleeeeeeeeepy. Not because it's bad, it's not; it's lovely. It's just that's it's very languid and slow-moving _ in the best possible way.
I need to get Just After Sunset out of my system first, I think.

I finished Oxford Exit by Veronica Stallwood last week, which was okay. Not great, not bad, but okay. I kept getting confused about what the main character was actually doing, but it was well-written enough to finish.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weekly Geeks 26

It’s been awhile since we’ve done some serious WG bloghopping. So this week, let’s visit five other Weekly Geeks.
How to:
1. Using the
WeeklyGeeks category here in my blog, find 5 Weekly Geeks you don’t know. The easiest way is probably to look at the Mr Linkies in my weekly Saturday posts.
2. Visit each of your 5 new blogpals and snoop around their blogs to find at least one thing you have in common.
3. In your blog, write a post, linking to your 5 new blogpals, about what you have in common with them.
4. Come back and sign Mr Linky.
5. As you run across other Weekly Geek posts (or deliberately seek them out) if you see anyone mentioned who has something in common with you, pay them a visit.

Okay. Here we go :)

First up is Snooping around, I discovered that we have both read Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill _ and totally loved it.

Second is Rhinoa at We have similar tastes in books, but that's not the only thing we have in common. We also both have cats called Merlin. :)

Third is in her header she describes herself as a bookeater, and I can relate to that. If I'm reading something that I just can't put down, I think of myself as inhaling it.

Fourth is Poking about in her blog, I noticed a post about the UK series Lost in Austen that she called an "I wantys". I can totally relate to that _ that Want! reaction. Plus, I want to see the series as well, but have no idea if/when it will ever show here.

Last, but certainly not least, is, who is planning to join the Read Your Own Books challenge for 2009. And despite swearing off reading challenges ... so am I. I have books upon books upon books so it would fit nicely.
Live long and prosper, Weekly Geeks!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday Wants!!!!!

ZOMG! Have you ever had this happen? You read a couple of books by an author that you really, really like, then totally forget all about it until you stumble across him being mentioned on another blog?

That happened to me!

I was reading Fantasy Book Critic, this post about a new release:, called Memoirs of a Master Forger by William Heaney. Only ... William Heaney is the narrator of the book, and the author is Graham Joyce, who writes short, punchy, spooky novels. I've read three _ Dreamside, Dark Sister and Requiem, which is just ... fantastic. (Note to self: re-read Requiem).

I clicked through to his blog, and he is really, really, really funny to read. So that's my No 1 Want! of the moment. Wait. No 2 want, after the Stephen King book.

Also on the list this week is Mistress of the Art of Death, a medieval mystery that I stumbled across on Lynda's Book Blog the course of the latest Weekly Geeks.

And last, but not least, once again from Fantasy Book Critic: The Drowned Life, a short story collection by Jeffrey Ford that sounds fascinating. I've never read any of his works but from the sounds of things, this is a pretty good place to start.

Too many wants spoil the reader, so I think that'll do for this week. :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book bloggers Christmas swap

Nymeth and Dewey are hosting a book bloggers' book swap and I think today is the last day for sign-ups. Nothing like leaving things until the last minute, right?

So I signed up today, mostly because I really love getting packages in the mail. I mean, no one writes letters anymore really, so the only mail we're getting is the kind with little windows (ugh). Plus also, I get to put a package together for someone else, which is almost as much fun. :)

Looking forward to it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Six things meme

I've been tagged for this meme by Rachel at The idea is to write 6 random book-related things about myself and then tag six more people. But I'm going to throw it open to the floor: if you're reading my blog and you like the meme, feel free to pinch it. :)

1) I can't close a book on a page, or a chapter, ending in a 13. I always have to read past it.

2) My secret vice is true crime books. Every so often I go through a stage. Although, come to think of it, I haven't this year.

3) I've just realised that Neil Gaiman is my favourite author. After 30-something years of reading.

4) I originally started my blog last year to keep track of my own classics challenge (read 1 classics novel a month for 2008) and it's kind of ... expanded (in a good way).

5) Apart from my husband and son, the two truly great joys of my life are books and cats.
6) Our cat Scout, is named after Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. I haven't read it since I was about 15, but I loved that book.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The reading week

Heh ... multi-tasking last year, on the day the new Harry Potter book came out ... so leetle! (um ... the baby, obviously, not the book)
Anyhoo ... I've still got Love in the Time of Cholera on the go, and in retrospect, I really should have made that winter reading, because it's been very hot here the past few days and it's set on a hot, sticky, Carribean island. So I haven't picked it up for a while.
I've been reading Oxford Exit by Veronica Stallwood. Part of a series, apparently, featuring a historical romance writer, Kate Ivory, who gets tangled up in mysterious doings. In this one, someone's been stealing books from Oxford's venerable libraries, and a young woman has been murdered. The two are, obviously, connected.
Also, someone is handing in Creative Writing assignments that seem to detail the murder.
It's not bad, but I keep getting confused about what Kate's doing at the libraries. It's one of those things that, to me, sounds like it should be simple, but really isn't.
I don't have anything else in particular on the horizon. I'll have to shuffle through my library books.
Happy reading everyone. :)

Weekly Geek 25

With winter (or summer) holidays coming up, many of us have started thinking about gift giving. And, of course, many book bloggers prefer to give books. At Amazon, there are gift guides based on relationship or personality. Unfortunately, I don’t really find the gift suggestions for mom and wife very suited to me, and the personality guides are even worse. I may be interested in green living, but I’d be pretty disappointed to find an energy-saving lightbulb in my stocking.
So let’s make our own, a books-based Weekly Geeks Gift Giving Guide!
How to:
1. Think about the books that you and people in your life love. It’s best to use more obscure books, because we’ve all heard plenty about the more popular ones.
2. Come up with categories, based on relationship, personality, or whatever else you like. I think this is easier to do once you have your books in mind; you can then just assign categories to those books.
3. Post your own gift giving guide! Add short blurbs about the books, just enough so that your readers can determine if it’d be a good gift for people on their list. Don’t forget to come back and sign Mr Linky.
4. Visit other Weekly Geeks, and if you like their guides, maybe add links to the bottom of your own.

Um ... h'm. Apart from immediate family, we don't buy Christmas presents for anyone else, so I'm having trouble coming up with categories of people. And while I like to get books as presents, I don't very often, unless I've specifically asked for one. I'll give them _ if there's a book I know that Jeremy wants I'll buy it for him for Christmas _ and I know my mother and my sisters' tastes pretty well, although one of my sisters is married with kids, so we just buy presents for the kids, and bypass the grown-ups. I have a niece who is a real bookworm, so buying books for her is a no-brainer.
Um ... I just don't know.

Wow, that's wishy-washy, huh?

So, I've decided to go through my own archives, pick out some books and say why I think they'd make good presents. :)

Let's start with my bookworm niece. She's 13 and reads voraciously. So I'm probably going to get her Un Lun Dun by China Mieville for Christmas: it's a great read, has fantastic characters and a fast-paced story, and, best of all, a strong and smart female protagonist. Great stuff, I think, for any 13-year-old bookworm.

My mother and both my sisters are nurses (well, my mother is retired) and I know that my oldest sister would really enjoy The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby's account of life post-stroke with locked-in syndrome. It's not a clinical read by any stretch of the imagination, but I think anyone in the medical field would appreciate Bauby's perspective of being on the other side of the bedpan, so to speak.

My other sister is an avid reader of crime _ both fiction and non-fiction. Not the Agatha Christies that I have on my finished list, but I'm sure she'd enjoy Sail by James Patterson and Howard Roughan. It's fast-paced, has a pretty good story, and holds the attention. And, given that it's coming up to summer in this part of the world, perfect holiday reading.

My oldest brother is the one who introduced me to the Lord of the Rings. I read his copy over and over again when I was a teenager, until my mother finally got me my own for my birthday. So, for the avid Lord of the Rings (books and movies) fan, I don't think you can go past Alan Lee's Sketchbook. It's a hardback of sketches and notes from his work on all three films, and really is a beautiful book. (That's a cheat because it's not on this year's list, but I have been dipping into it on and off.)

I don't see a lot of my other brother (no particular reason, he lives with his family about 45mins away and they have three kids _ all teens, so a busy enough life!) And he's not really a big reader, so if I were to buy him a book (highly unlikely) I'd fall back on some kind of biography _ Buck Shelford's new one, perhaps.

My mother does a lot of patchwork and I've given her books on that topic in the past. If we're talking about books from my own list though, I think I'd have to go with Beach House by Jane Green. It's another one that's good for summer reading, and if you've got someone in your family who likes their books to be sweet, and not too demanding, then I'd go for Beach House. Or possibly Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, if I could find a nice copy _ Mum enjoys a good mystery and if you've got someone in your life who likes their mysteries seasoned with Gothic, you can't go past Rebecca.

What are we up to?
Right. My husband pretty much exclusively reads sci-fi and fantasy, so almost anything in that genre would be a goer.
He loved the Black Jewels Trilogy The Graveyard Book I made him read it), and Un Lun Dun, so any of those would suit. He's also been working his way through The Dresden Files and believes they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. One of his (and mine) favourite books is Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay, a standalone novel that is truly outstanding and one, I think, that any fan of the genre would enjoy.

Patrick ... ah, for the Kiwi kid there is only one choice: Hairy McLary, from Donaldson's Dairy, by Lynley Dodds, although Patrick's still at the book-tasting stage.
My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes by Eve Sutton, and illustrated by Lynley Dodd, is great too, and really fun to read out loud (''The cat from France, liked to sing and dance, but my cat likes to hide in boxes"). book for littlies, I think. :)
This year, though, I might branch out into a spot of Paddington Bear. I've got a book of classic Winnie the Pooh stories, and it seems like a natural progression.
Long enough, yes?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's BTT question:
I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?
Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?
If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

I don't buy books very often. We have a pretty good public library and I do book reviews for work, so I get a lot of my books from there.
If I do buy books, I try to go for specials, or secondhand ones, because books can be prohibitively expensive to buy here.
However, once in a while one slips past my radar and the conversation I have with myself looks something like this:
"Hey look! The new -- "
"But it's payday! I have monies!"
"You have bills! No!"
"It's the new Terry Pratchett one. And it's on special."
"N- wait ... Terry Pratchet?? That's different. On special you say? So we're saving monies?"
"Then what are we waiting for???"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday Wants!!!!!!!!!

First on this Wednesday's Want!!!!! list is this anthology: Shine edited by Jetse de Vries. It's a futuristic anthology with an optimistic twist. From what I can gather from the website, it's still very much a work in progress but when it DOES come out? Want!!!!
I think it sounds fantastic.

Hmmm ... James Patterson has a new Alex Cross novel coming out, which would be a want! rather than a Want!!!!! I enjoy Patterson's novels but to be honest, sometimes Cross' complaining about his life gets a bit wearing. I'd get it out of the library, though.

I spotted these at and while I don't usually like sequels written by people other than the original authors, these sound good: Letters from Pemberley and More Letters from Pemberley by Jane Dawkins, which take the form of letters from Elizabeth to her sisters _ mostly Jane. It's a format that makes sense to me as sequels and I loved Pride and Prejudice. So let's call those Wants!!

There's a new Lincoln Rhyme novel by Jeffrey Deaver: The Broken Window and a new non-Rhyme novel by Deaver: The Bodies Left Behind. I love Deaver's ability to completely pull the wool over his readers' eyes and his really gusty twists. So both novels are Wants!!!!!!

That'll do for now. Mustn't overwhelm the Want!!! gene.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The reading week

On the go this week I have Love in the Time of Cholera and that's all for now, which is very unlike me.

I do, however, have some very interesting-sounding library books out at the moment, so it will be a matter of deciding which one sounds the most interesting, and also which batch is closest to being due back. So possibly on the agenda is Waifs and Strays by Charles de Lint, or The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson, or Oxford Exit by Veronica Stallwood.

As usual, so many books, so little time ...

It was payday on Friday and my day off, which led to Inappropriate Spending. I bought Finding Nemo on DVD (it was on special) and Dark Alchemy, a collection of YA short stories by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Garth Nix. Although I might give that one to my niece for Christmas, which means, actually, I SAVED money (yes, that's how my brain works).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Weekly Geek 24

1. Choose a writer you like.
2. Using resources such as Wikipedia, the author’s website, whatever you can find, make a list of interesting facts about the author.
3. Post your fun facts list in your blog, maybe with a photo of the writer, a collage of his or her books, whatever you want.
4. Come sign the Mr Linky below with the url to your fun facts post.
5. As you run into (or deliberately seek out) other Weekly Geeks’ lists, add links to your post for authors you like or authors you think your readers are interested in.

Oh, so many authors! I was a-dithering over Stephen King, or Neil Gaiman, or Elizabeth Knox, or Agatha Christie or Dean Koontz or ... in order to make this easier on my tiny brain, I've decided to go with the author of the book I'm reading.

So. I'm reading Love in the Time of Cholera.
Therefore my author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez and here is what I have learned about him from Wikipedia:

1) His full name is Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez
2) He was born on March 6 1927, making him 81 years old
3) In 1982 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature
4) His best-known works are One Hundred Years of Solitude (which I've read three times) and Love in the Time of Cholera
5) He has also worked as a journalist and written other novels and short stories
6) He is a film critic and founded and served as executive director of the Film Institute of Havana, was the Head of the Latin American Film Foundation, and has written several screenplays
7) He is married with two sons
8) He published his first work in secondary school, in the school magazine, Juventud
9) In 1999 he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, which went into remission after a successful course of chemotherapy10) The first part of his projected three-part autobiography _ Living to Tell the Tale _ was published in 2003 and his last published work came out in 2004 _ Memories of my Melancholy Whores. He is, according to the article, working on a new book.

Blind Faith by Ben Elton

Hmmmmmmmm .... irony is crunchy and good with tomato sauce.

Blind Faith is set in a post oceans-rising world, where privacy has become a perversion and every aspect of people's lives is expected to be lived out in public _ on blogs, webcams and shouted as loudly as possible.

Elton is a viciously funny, cynical writer but there is a core of sadness that runs deep in Blind Faith: hardly any children survive. All that matters is the Faith and science _ including vaccinations _ has been outlawed and is pretty much punishable by death.

London is a wet, stinking crowded mire of a city with people living in ever-more crowded spaces as the waters fail to recede and nothing is really done to improve living conditions.

Trafford, however, is a rebel. He keeps secrets and fails to put his daughter's birthing video up on the web straight away, earning him the ire of his Confessor.

Blind Faith is a bit like 1984, only instead of Big Brother, everyone is watching, all the time. The cult of the personality has become so elevated here that Diana (I'm presuming the Princess of Wales one) is worshipped as a deity and a law is passed making everyone famous.

It's a less-than-subtle mockery of our own obsession with celebrity and our willingness to make the most ordinary person famous, just for being on television.

After a relatively minor act of rebellion _ Trafford secretly has his daughter Caitlin Happymeal (yes, really _ all of the names are like that) vaccinated, things begin to spiral very quickly out of control. Trafford meets others who worship Reason rather than themselves, he falls in love with someone other than his wife and when Caitlin Happymeal is revered as a miracle child for surviving a measles plague and a mumps plague, things really start to go mad.

Blind Faith is viciously funny, terribly sad and a very good read.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wednesday Wants!!!!!!!

I have no idea what's old or new out there; not really. So this is all about poking around and seeing books/book related products that make my greed-gene stand up and say want!!!

Okay. I want a Kindle. I feel as though I shouldn't, but I do. I want one to carry around with me, to read snippets on buses and in downtime at work. I want one to download books to so I can flip through them at odd moments. Would my Kindle replace my books? Oh, no. Nothing will replace my precious books (my preciousssss). My Kindle would be for travelling, not for at-home reading, where one of the best things ever is tucking up on the couch or in bed; turning pages. Can't do that with a Kindle, obviously.
But. Reading on buses and at break time at work?
Unfortunately, as I understand it, the technology, or software, or something isn't available outside the United States yet.
Still .... Want!!!!

I realise there are no books in this Want!!!!!!! post. But I've had another stupid week at work and haven't had the chance to trawl Amazon/blogs yet.

There will be books though. Oh yes. There will be books.

Weekly Geeks 23

Question Three comes from Dewey at who asks:

Which characters did you love best in The Graveyard Book, and why?
Hmmm ... I've been pondering this one and I know it's a cop-out to say "I loved them all" but I particularly enjoyed Silas and Miss Lupescu, I think. I liked their nobility and warmth towards Bod _ even Silas in his own particular way.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Weekly Geek question 2

For Kaimira Book 1, what made you read this book? How would you rate it? Do you recommend it?

It came in to work as a review copy and I think a workmate of mine and I who have similar reading tastes had been talking about a new book coming out, set in a village of hot-air balloons. So when it came in I took it to read. :)

I would rate it pretty highly, actually. It's got all the goods: good story, believable characters, a very bad villain, and of course, a village made up entirely of hot-air balloons. :) If you like YA fantasy/steam punk/distopia or just a very good read, then I'd definitely recommend it. :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The reading week

What's on the go for the first week in November? Well, my November classic, Love in the Time of Cholera, for a start. I have read it before, about 13 years ago, so it's a fairly distant memory. I would have done One Hundred Years of Solitude but I only read that (for the third time mind you) last year. I have very vivid memories of it because I was reading it in May, just after we brought Patrick home from the hospital. :)

So that, and then I have a novel about the Knights Templar that I'm also going to start this week ... I think it's called Knights of the Black and the Red but it's all the way in the bedroom ("We're knights of the Round Table ... we dance whenever we're able") ... sorry ... and um ... it's by Some Guy.

I think those two books will take me through to the end of the week all right. I have two late shifts this week (which means working 5-1 instead of 4-12) and they kind of knock me for a few days, because I end up staying up so late trying to wind down. So this week I"m going to try just coming home, going to bed and reading for a bit, so I'm not up so freaking late (I'm talking 3am ... bleh).

I've also started mentally compiling my classics list for 2009.
So far I have
-The Woman in White by Wilke Collins
-Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
-The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
-Something by Grahame Greene (I haven't decided which one yet)
and ... I know no Dickens this time, and no Brontes. But that's about as far as I've got.
All ideas gratefully received _ any genre. :)

Have a great week everyone. :)

Weeky Geeks 23 ...

... question the first (I hope) ...

I'm rewinding and replaying WG 12, where we asked each other questions about what we were reading.

I've most recently finished The Graveyard Book and The Sky Village.

My first question is about The Graveyard Book and comes from who asked me:

I've heard great things about The Graveyard Book and Neil Gaiman in general, but the idea of a boy raised in a graveyard by dead people just does not appeal. Should I read it anyway? How much of a creepiness factor is there?

Yes. Yes you should read it. Tomorrow. Absolutely.

Um ... ahem. Actually it's not that creepy, or I didn't think so. There are a couple of things that send shivers, like the chapter on the ghouls for example, and of course, the man Jack (every man Jack), but there has to be a villain and it's very well done here _ scary and creepy for sure but so well-written that you sort of ... forget to be scared.
But otherwise ... h'm. This is going to sound strange, but somehow Neil Gaiman manages to make the graveyard sound comforting. It's basically Bod's haven as he grows up and that's the sense I got from it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weekly Geek 23

This week the Geekers are asked to re-visit a favourite previous Weekly Geek.
Scanning the archives at I found this one: for Weekly Geeks 12, that I had a lot of fun with first time around.

It's a timely one for me to repeat as well, as I've just finished two books this week and I'm going to do this instead of reviewing them.

1) is Kaimira Book 1: The Sky Village by Nigel and Monk Ashland, a YA novel set in a troubled post-war future. Mei and Rom live on opposite sides of the world but are able to communicate through The Tree Book. Mei is travelling with The Sky Village: a village of interconnected hot-air balloons, while Rom is battling to keep himself and his sister Riley safe in Las Vegas. The official website is here:
2) is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. There are many, many great reviews of this book out there, including Dewey's at and Nymeth's at so instead of adding my own, I'm opening the floor to questions. Suffice to say, I loved it and want to stroke it and pat it, and keep it as a pet and carry it with me everywhere. I'm pretty sure it's my favourite book of 2008.
So, there you go. Ask away Weekly Geeks (please? pretty please? _ remember: comments = love).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wednesday Wants!!!!!!!

I've decided to take a cue from Dewey at and do a book coveting post. Except, you know, I'm not as polite as Dewey. So I've gone with Want!!!!!

At the moment, the book that is at the top of my Want!!!!!! list is Just After Sunset, a new short story collection by Stephen King, which is coming out on November 11, according to Amazon. I have no idea when it's coming out here but hopefully before Christmas so that when I give Jeremy my list, (I make him a list of things I want and he picks something from it _ I love him dearly but sometimes he's not very good at deciding what I might like) that will be right at the top.

Dean Koontz also has a new book coming out next month, which sounds promising; Your Heart Belongs to Me, so that's on the Want!!!!!! list as well.

Apart from that, I'm not sure. I need to go trawling some book websites and blogs (heh!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The reading week

It's nearly 1.30am. I should be in bed already but I wanted to get this done first. :)
I'm still reading Kaimira Book 1: The Sky Village, which is pretty awesome and I'm doing my best to get it finished before I give in to Graveyard Book goodnes.

I've even put The Graveyard Book away so it can't say reaaaaaaaaad meeeeee every time I look at it on the table. However, if by the end of this week I haven't finished both Sky Village and The Graveyard Book, I'll be highly disappointed in myself.

Then, on Saturday, I'll be starting Love in the Time of Cholera, which is November's classic novel and a friend of mine said something vague about reading it along with me, so we'll see how that goes.

What else do I have? Oh! Nation! That's the other one! Plus I went to the library on Thursday and got some books. Not as many as I could/usually get, but I think first on that list may be Blind Faith, by Ben Elton. Or this other one, about the Knights Templar, but the name of it escapes me and it's aaaaaaaaaalll the way in the bedroom. Black Knight Red Knight, or something (I keep typing night ... I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something).

I also went to the movies on Thursday with a workmate to see Brideshead Revisited (for some reason, I always want to say Pride and Prejudice) and while I enjoyed the movie (but not as much as the series with Jeremy Irons in it), not much of it is sticking with me.

Having said that, I might put it on my classics list for 2009. For which I'm still looking for suggestions. :)
Um. Must go to bed now. Mostly because I've just accidentally deleted this post about 10 times.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weekly Geek 22

This week, let’s dig into the archives of our fellow Weekly Geeks!
Step 1: Choose 3 Weekly Geeks, either from the Mr Linky below or from any of the Mr Linkies in any previous Weekly Geeks
, and explore their archives. Try to choose at least one Weekly Geek you don’t know well.
Step 2: Looking through some of their oldest posts, find at least one that you really like from each of the three blogs.
Step 3: Write a post featuring these 3 bloggers, linking to the posts that you enjoyed, with a short blurb.
Step 4: Visit the WG #22 posts of two other Weekly Geeks from the Mr Linky below, and link to their posts at the bottom of yours.
Step 5: Come back and sign Mr Linky with the url to your specific WG #22 post, not just your general blog url.
All righty, here we go. :)
Her most recent Friday Finds post is the one I'm linking to here:
For one thing, I've now discovered a new book I'd like to read, (thanks Kim!) and the post is informative and interesting. :)

Next is Kerrie at and this post:
has given me some great ideas and links for books to read. She's also flying the Aussie authors flag pretty high, and as a Kiwi book blogger I admire that, and aspire to do something similar (I'm a bit crap at it at the moment.)

Finally is Bookfool at
This is her most recent post but I'm putting it up because it made me laugh out loud when I read it: and yet another book to add to my want, or as I've taken to calling it, WANT!!!!!!!!!!!!! list.
Edited to add step 4:
And here's Sarah's: who said some very nice things about one of my blog archive posts. :)