Saturday, March 29, 2008

Updated reading list

It's such a changeable thing. Like .... things that change a lot. Feel free to insert your own simile :)

Anyway. This is what I'm reading now:

Duma Key by Stephen King
The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (note: Now I need a classic novel for November)
Mr B. Goode by Clive Barker
The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
The Ivory and the Horn: Tales of Newford by Charles de Lint

In the wings: Belladonna by Anne Bishop.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Pinched from

1. One book that changed your life? Okay. Don't laugh. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers. I read it just before I was about to make my first truly big shift and I was paralysed with fear. The message of the book resonated: you're going to be afraid. That's okay. It really helped me do what I needed to. Oh! And The Lord of the Rings. Opened up a whole genre to me.

2. One book you have read more than once?The Lord of the Rings.

3. One book you would want on a desert island? "How to Build a Boat Using Everyday Desert Island Items"

4. One book that made you laugh? Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

5. One book that made you cry? Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Yes, really. And The Horse Whisperererer

6. One book you wish had been written? How to Make a Million Dollars Even Though You're Crap With Money.

7. One book you wish had never had been written? Hmmmmmmm ... too close to censorship.

8. One book you are currently reading? Love in the Time of Cholera. I"m trying to smack the taste of the movie out of my mouth.

9. One book you have been meaning to read? Oh, gosh. Um ............. um ............ Not a specific book, but something by John Steinbeck. Anything. I've never read any of his books.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week’s question comes from Julie, who asks:
While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

I don't usually notice. I think I've only been put off a book once, because of the cover: The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick. I understand that the book is very good, but I just can't get past the coal-smudged smiling urching on the cover. Sets my teeth on edge.

Font, I don't notice, really; as long as it's readable, and as long as I can hold a book up, I'm not worried about paperback vs trade paperback vs hardback.

The only other thing that puts me off is when there are review snippets on the back cover instead of a plot synopsis. THAT really fries my onions.

I forgot! I have a quirk related to this. If I'm reading a book with a cover that I feel is "staring" at me; say, a horror novel or something, when I put it down, I'll put it down face down, with the spine facing away from me. Weird and sad, but true.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist Wife: Review

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist Wife by Irene Spencer

Irene Spencer was raised as a fundamentalist Mormon, in a polygamous family. Her family never had much, scratching around often on the edge of poverty as the logistics of feeding multiple families failed the ideal of polygamy.

However, Irene was determined to be a polygamous wife, and live the Principle. She was the second wife of Verlan LeBaron, and spent the next 20-something years scratching out her own existence, as she realised that polygamy wasn’t all the fundamentalists cracked it up to be.

Irene’s story is fascinating. Not only as an insight into this strange branch of the Mormon faith, but as a second wife, a mother to 14 children, one of whom died at birth, and finally, a woman in her own right.

There’s a lot of hardship here, as Verlan’s family grows exponentially with each wife, and what resources there are, are stretched and stretched and stretched again.

The best thing about the book, I think, is that Irene doesn’t spare herself. She’s no saint, she knows it and she candidly writes about her struggles and battles with her jealousy and frustration with Verlan.

A fascinating read.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

On the go

What I"m reading at the moment:

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife by Irene Spencer
The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Mr B. Goode by Clive Barker
The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

Hmmmm .... I thought I was starting to lose track, but maybe not. That's not *too* bad. I'm not going to get The Old Curiosity Shop finished by the end of March, so I'll just keep picking away at it, and start Lolita regardless. Otherwise I'll get too far behind with my classics.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

You’ve just reached the end of a book . . . what do you do now? Savor and muse over the book? Dive right into the next one? Go take the dog for a walk, the kids to the park, before even thinking about the next book you’re going to read? What?
(Obviously, there can be more than one answer, here–a book with a cliff-hanger is going to engender different reactions than a serene, stand-alone, but you get the idea!)

Hmmm ... it depends on the book. If it's one that I've been particularly invested in, I'll pause for a bit, and muse, before moving on, so I can digest it properly. Or if the ending is unexpected or sad, then I have to stop for a bit, and chew over what was and what might have been.
If it's something light-hearted, like a Star Trek novel for example, then I'm happy to move on straight away.

I run into a dilemma if I don't have something lined up, and sometimes I don't read anything for two or three days. But that unhappy circumstance never lasts long.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Three short reviews

Storm Front: Book 1 of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
Good stuff. An interesting blend of genres, as Harry Dresden is a wizard who also works as a private investigator. When the police have a case they deem “weird” they go to Harry.
On the same day, two seemingly unrelated cases show up on Harry’s doorstep. A woman is searching for her missing husband, and has found something that leads her to Harry, and the police department has a double murder, committed in such a way as to also lead them to Harry’s door.
Soon, Harry is in well over his head.
The blending of genres works pretty well, and Harry Dresden is an engaging character; flawed yet funny.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Q & A by Keith R A DeCandido
Set after the events of Resistance; this is a better novel. The new Enterprise-E crew is settling in and ready for an exploratory mission; which Picard is particularly looking forward to, as it brings the Enterprise back to her roots.
Then Q shows up and everything goes south very quickly.
It turns out that Q isn’t exactly the malevolent mischief-maker that everyone has always believed; it turns out all these years he’s been working to save humanity, with a little mischief thrown in for fun.
Good escapism.

The Six Pack: Various
Short stories from the winners of a competition for New Zealand Book Month in 2006. Five short stories and one collection of poems. Very good, but my favourite story is The Life Coach; funny and light for the most part, with a couple of shadows thrown in for good measure.

Also finished recently: A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie and Jeeves in the Offing by P G Woodhouse. Christie and Woodhouse are my “fill-in” authors, when I can’t think of anything else I want to read.

Whew! That’ll do for now!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by John :
How about a chance to play editor-in-chief? Fill in the blanks:
__________ would have been a much better book if ______________________.
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Hmmmm .... I was going to say Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be much improved by a lot less bloody apparating and disapparating in the middle of the book. It seemed to go on forever! "Improved" though ... that's a tricky one. I can think of books where I would have preferred a different ending; Great Expectations, for one. I haven't read it for many years, but the ending struck me as feeble and pretty much put me off Dickens for quite some time. Until now, obviously, when I'm picking through The Old Curiosity Shop.
And the ending of Fight Club, the novel, seemed unlikely, given what they'd all just put themselves through. That was one case where the ending of the movie actually improved on the original story.
I'm stuck on "improved". I have no idea whether my projected changes would improve a book or not. Well. Apart from Harry Potter maybe.
And when you edit for a living, like I do (for a newspaper; I'm a layout/copy editor), then a question like this carries more weight. If you need to edit a story, to make it fit a certain hole on a page, you need to give that story full consideration, so that it still reads right, makes sense, and conveys the original message.
I think that holds true for books, too.
Oh! One more, and I've mentioned this before; Marian Keyes' Rachel and Claire in Anybody Out There? We're up to the fourth Walsh sister, Anna, and these two are sidelined as cliches, and played strictly for laughs. I would have liked to see a little more fleshing out of the characters themselves, and it wouldn't have hurt to make them a little more likable and a little less obnoxious.
NOW I'm done!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Stole this meme from
Look at the list of (100) books below. Bold the ones you’ve read. Italicize the ones you want to read. Leave blank the ones that you aren’tinterested in. (Movies don’t count.)

1.The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

I finally started March's classic last week; a few days late. And I haven't got very far yet. Far enough to know that it's not going to be a cheerful journey. Between Quilp _ an evil little bully _ and Nell, who is nearly insufferable, and her grandfather, with his weakness (if I hadn't read the intro I would have picked either gambling or prostitutes as his vice of choice) that will lead to their ruin _ there's not a lot going on here that could be called remotely cheerful.
And I"m not sure I'm liking it. I remember not liking Great Expectations when I read it back in university, but I thought I'd give Dickens another shot. After this, I'm not so sure.
Ah, well. We'll see ...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

You should have seen this one coming … Who is your favorite Male lead character? And why?Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Hmmm ... this took some thinking! My favourite male lead is Odd Thomas. He's quirky and brave, and nice and neurotic, all at once. Then Hercule Poirot ) I seem to be attracted to eccentrics rather than classic "leading" men. And Sherlock Holmes. It sounds strange, but I envy his brilliance. Then there's the little mechanical guy from Dan Simmond's Ilium, whose name escapes me. He sentient, quotes Shakespeare and has literary discussions. Last, but not least, and I had almost forgotten, Will from Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising Sequence. He's about 11, and a lot is asked of him.

Heh ... more than I thought, in the end!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Daughter of the Blood: Review

Daughter of the Blood: Book 1 of the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop

Ah … good stuff. I don’t read a lot of fantasy anymore, but this is the real deal. It has depth and originality and it really shows Bishop’s regard for the genre.
The Blood are the aristocracy of their world, once a great power, now they’ve degraded to petty squabbling and idle pleasures.

However, one is coming who can change all that. Not just witch, according to the prophecies, but Witch. But, right now, she’s a young girl; a very small cog in a giant wheel of corruption. She has people looking out for her; not the least Saetan himself, the Lord of Hell and, in her very own household, Daemon; a seemingly tame male of a petty Queen.

It’s not the first Anne Bishop book I’ve read, but I really loved it and am really looking forward to book 2. However, it’s so … not overblown. Hmmm … intense? Yes. So I need to give myself a bit of breathing space.

But the characters are great; very memorable. Jaenelle, especially, as the scarily talented would-be Witch is well-rendered as a young girl with powers beyond her comprehension. And Daemon and Saetan are wonderfully complex and scarily dark. The evil of the book _ the Queen Dorothea and Hekatah _ weren’t as well-rendered or filled-in, but I’m sure that’s coming in the next two books as Jaenelle grows up.

Great read.

Also reviewed here: