Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy 2010 everyone! Been a while, huh?

No best of/worst of list from me - I only read 40 books this year and apart from a couple of standouts (the Chaos Walking books and Her Fearful Symmetry) my reading's been a bit meh.

And I still have grand Challenge Plans, but so far the only one I've signed up for is the Graphic Novel challenge.

What I do want to do in 2010 (let's not call them resolutions, but dreams) is

- Read more

- Finish a challenge or three

- Blog more

- Take care of my family

- Get some exercise

Have a good one! :D

Monday, December 14, 2009

The reading week

Asked, as always, here:

Oh, gosh. I had such a bad reading week last week! I didn't pick up a book until Sunday! The upshot of that is that I'm still reading Unseen Academicals, The Vintner's Luck, and looking at The Eye in the Door and feeling guilty about's Fifty Books for Our Time challenge.

So. That's my week. Eeep!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Virtual Advent Tour

I'm taking part in this today: and I'm sorry my post is so late! Mostly because I still have no idea what I'm going to write about. I've been mulling over old Christmas memories, but I don't know that anything is really standing out that much.

My traditions now - such as they are - are small and quiet. I play Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, wrap the presents and decorate the tree. We go to family for dinner if I'm not working, and in January we'll most likely have a very noisy get-together because not all of the family can be together on Christmas Day.

And ... that's about it, really. Quiet, but you know, not bad. It's making me think about my Dad though, so I'll sign off before I get maudlin on you all.

Happy holidays :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday swap. AKA: I am a terrible person

My book bloggers holiday swap gift arrived from the lovely this week. I got handmade chocolates (and I'm not sharing, so there :P) a lovely Christmas card and postcards of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, which looks gorgeous.
I'm a terrible person because I still haven't sent mine out yet, which means it's going to be late. So, if you're looking for me, I'll be hiding from Nymeth and her scimitar. :P

Monday, November 30, 2009

In which I vlog, and get Stephen King's books confused

NB: I got Dolores Clairborne confused with Gerald's Game. It was late. Here you go:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In which I do not join any challenges

At least - not yet. I mean, a challenge that I was at the genesis of doesn't count, does it?
Of course not.
The details for the epically awesome LOTR readalong are here: and you should all join in the fun.
Er ... there'll most likely be a 2010 challenges post in the next few days. Failing at finishing them doesn't stop me from joining them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Woman in White review

For the Classic Blog Tour circuit. Mr Wilke Collins is visiting a variety of blogs over the next few weeks, and today it's my turn, with Mr Collins' very Victorian, very atmospheric mystery, The Woman in White.
Oh, Woman in White, how do I love thee? I love thee for the Mysterious Encounter in the first few pages, for the way you get out of the traces fast, and you don't let up.
I love thee for the many and varied ways you make me absolutely hate (Sir Percival Glyde and Count Fosco) certain characters, and for the way you make me love others wholeheartedly.
Well. The way you make me love one character wholeheartedly, and I will love you forever and ever
for Miss Marian Halcombe. I have an unabashed girl-crush on her, and wish to be her friend and take tea with her, and have her advise me about my life.
Oh, the book. Sorry. Got a bit carried away there.
The book is wonderful. There are Secrets, and Lies, and Undercurrents, and I don't know how much of the book to summarise without giving stuff away.
A poor drawing-master, Walter Hartright, takes a job teaching painting to Miss Halcombe and her beloved half-sister, Laura Fairlie. The night before he's due to take up the position, Mr Hartright has a mysterious encounter with a shadowy woman in white, who he learns has escaped from an asylum.
Unfortunately - and inevitably - he falls in love with Miss Fairlie, and he and Miss Halcombe agree it's best that he leaves the position, as Miss Fairlie is betrothed to Sir Percival Glyde (boo!! hiss!!).
It turns out that the mysterious woman in white - one Anne Catherick - is inexorably tied to Sir Percival, and knows his ... Secret. Cue letters, and mysterious encounters, and ... all good and Gothic things.
Mr Collins has a way, also, of making places come alive - particularly Sir Percival's home at Blackwater Park, a gloomy, suffocating place surrounded by trees.
The Woman in White is the perfect winter read. Curl up on the couch on a stormy night, and lose yourself in Mr Collins' atmospheric tale.

9/10 So good, you'd take it to meet your Mum (my Mum would LOVE Miss Halcombe.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

The reading week

It's time to ask that question again: What are you reading? posed here:

I'm reading The Woman in White for the Classic Circuit book tour, so just one book for me at the moment.

I still have Unseen Academicals by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett on the backburner and after that? Probably The Eye in the Door - book two of the Regeneration trilogy for Newsweek challenge. After that? Er ... pass.

Happy reading!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

50 Books For Our Time - Review #1

NB: This is "review one" because I chose the Regeneration trilogy, by Pat Barker. And I'm posting them one at a time because this sucker got long!

Also, it's a little stream-of-consciousness, so I don't know how much sense it makes. But these were the thoughts that struck me in reading the first book of the series, Regeneration.

So, a few months ago on, was talking about this list from Newsweek: which they called Fifty Books for Our Times.

And found herself hosting this: _ a reading challenge asking the question: are they 50 books for our times? Or are they titles that Newsweek just pulled out of a hat? (Okay, the last bit is mine.)

Books bloggers being ... books bloggers, we shouldered arms and took on those books, the challenge, and Newsweek.

I got the Regeneration trilogy, by Pat Barker, which is primarily about shell-shocked soldiers during World War I. I'm breaking the reviews down separately as I read the books, because this post is accidentally getting long.

Regeneration is short at about 250 pages, but it pack an emotional punch.

Here's the thing. We're pretty much out of World War I soldiers by now. They've gone into that good night; age has wearied and condemned them, and their stories are no longer memories, but tales passed down through families, or newspaper accounts, or novels like the Regeneration trilogy.

So yes, I believe that these books are for our times. In more than one way, too. Most of the figures in Regeneration - Wilfred Owen, Siegfired Sassoon, Rivers, are historical. They really lived through those awful times.

Owen, of course, is a celebrated war poet. Sassoon _ who wrote an incendiary statement saying he believed the war was being continued for profit _ is the protagonist of Regeneration. He comes to Craiglockheart _ the mental hospital that Rivers runs, to be "cured" of his supposed pacifism. Owens and Sassoon met at Craiglockheart, and apparently Sassoon had a profound influence on Owen's life and work.

Sasson didn't really see himself as a pacifist, but as someone with something important to say about the war. He also suffered from flashbacks and hallucinations _ what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder.

So. That's one way Regeneration is a novel for our times. The other reason? Owens and Sassoon were gay. Deeply closeted, although their sexual orientation would have been enough to get them out of active service.

But in the light of the rather weak "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the US - and probably other _ military outfits, and the continuing debate _ and struggle _ on legalising gay marriage _ Regeneration is a novel that does still matter.

The sexuality of these characters is dealt with subtly rather than outright, but it's easy to pick up in context. And I think _ in terms of when the novel is set _ it's a good approach. These men would have struggled with this; and possibly even remained closeted for their whole lives.

And, of course, this is set only 17 years after the death of Oscar Wilde, something that does prey on the mind of Sassoon, who was friends with with Robert Ross, a close friend (and lover I think? can't remember _ of Wilde's.)

Regeneration still has relevance, as a lot of the issues raised _ young people going off to war, the emotional and physical consequences of those actions, sexuality, repression and every day struggles _ are all present.

There's a gorgeous, sad passage about halfway through the book that talks about the very young now being like the very old as they watch their friends die around them, which _ for me _ summed up the war experience.

Plus, it's a bloody good read, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

So. Well done on this one Newsweek. You've hit the nail on the head. On to book two ...

Short reviews again.

Yes, I know. More short reviews. Sorry about that. Uh ... and swearing. Sorry about that, too.

The Year Of The Flood by Margaret Atwood
So, Oryx and Crake was mostly about this guy, Jimmy, who went a bit nuts after most of the humans died, and he was left with these strange, bio-engineered cat people.

The Year of the Flood is set in the same dystopic universe as Oryx and Crake, but it isn't a sequel. It's more of a this-is-what-happened before, without exactly being a prequel either. Confused? Start with Orxy and Crake; it was published first. That's always easiest.

There are more people in The Year of the Flood, for one thing - the story is told from the perspective of two former members of God's Gardeners - a kind of environmental cult that's preparing for the Waterless Flood, which is basically an evil virus that's unleashed and does some serious, serious damage to the world.

I read The Year of the Flood a few weeks ago, and honestly, I have no idea what to say about it. I liked it - I liked it a lot, and I feel compelled to go back and re-read Oryx and Crake, but it's one of those novels. You read it, and then you try and compose your review in your head ... and nothing happens.
9/10 So good, you'd take it to meet your Mum

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Have I said enough about these books yet? Yes? No? GO AND READ THEM. Seriously.
More dystopia (it's a bit of a theme with me lately) and I don't want to say too much if anyone's reading here who hasn't read The Knife of Never Letting Go.


Suffice it to say ... there is Trouble. Big, big trouble, as Todd and Viola struggle with the mad-bastard mayor of New Prentisstown. There are TWISTS and talking horses (seriously ... 'boy colt' is one of the most endearing things I've ever read). And now I demand that Mr Patrick Ness (sorry ... swears ahead) COME THE FUCK ON with book three. Thank you for your time.
9/10 So good, you'd take it to meet your Mum

Access Road by Maurice Gee
I forgot I'd read this one, actually, which is ... bad. And the book's not bad. It's a pretty good story, with Family Secrets and Betrayals and a Strange Man From the Past, but ... I wasn't as engaged with it as I wanted to be.

Rowan is in her 70s, looking back on various incidents in her life, involving her and her two brothers, Lionel and Roly, who are now living back at the old family home on Access Road. When someone from their distant past returns, Rowan is worried.

Liked it; didn't LOVE it. (I'm totally Simon Cowell here ...)

7/10 Someone else cooks dinner – yay!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The reading week

What are you reading on Monday? Hosted here:

Sigh. I'm still reading Regeneration, for Newsweek challenge. It's a short book, but it's taken me more than a week to read.

Next on the nightstand is The Woman in White for the Classic Circuit book tour, Unseen Academicals, by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett, and a co-re-read of The Vintner's Luck with Vasilly :)

Happy reading!

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Zealand Book Month challenge wrap-up post

Argh, it's the end of October. How did that happen?

It's time for wrap-up posts and, of course, jaffas. If you've taken part in this, leave me a link to your wrap-up post, email me your details at maree_jane30 at hotmail dot com and I will send you chocolate-orange goodness.

I read one (1) book by a Kiwi author this month: Access Road, by Maurice Gee. I'll be doing the review as part of a mini-reviews post soon as I have a couple of other books that I need to review as well.

Thank goodness for Kiwi music, eh?

Hope you guys had fun with this. I know I did. :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

The reading week

The question, as always, is here:
Wasn't the readathon fun? I got almost nothing read, but had a blast anyway.
The upshot of that is that I'm still reading Regeneration, that I started on Saturday for the readathon. After that? I have no idea, but I FINALLY have Unseen Academicals by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett in my grasp. So possibly that.
Happy reading!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Readathon - the last hour!

Final meme:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Um ... About 4-5pm this afternoon. I was trying to read while Patrick was napping, but kept drifting off!
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Oh gosh ... oh! The Knife of Never Letting Go! :D And Mr Roald Dahl's short stories :)
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Nope. You guys blow my mind with your mad skillz
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
Everything. Cheerleader teams. Everything. Team Lost Generation FTW!!
5. How many books did you read?
Erm ... I finished one, started another, and read about three short stories
6. What were the names of the books you read?
I finished The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, started Regeneration by Pat Barker and read three Tales of the Unexpected short stories by Roald Dahl
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
The Ask and the Answer
8. Which did you enjoy least?
Didn't read enough else to compare
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
Sign up early; get on a team (if they have them) and have fun!
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again?
11. What role would you be likely to take next time?
Reading/cheering, but being better organised

Readathon mini-challenge

Four of my favourite books are:
- The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Freaking Gaiman
- Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Readathon mini-challenge

This hour's mini-challenge is here:

Five favourite childhood books off the top of my head:

1) The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

2) The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

3) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

4) The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

5) The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper


Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
Regeneration by Pat Barker

2. How many books have you read so far?
Er ... I finished The Ask and the Answer, and started Regeneration.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Oh, gosh ... I don't know!

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
No. Just working around family, like always :)

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Lots. Two-year-old. Reading on the backburner for now.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How MANY of us there are!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Nope. Organisers doing a great job, like always :D
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
Hmmm ... not sure. Ask me next year ;)

9. Are you getting tired yet?
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
Just have fun!!!

Readathon meme

Here we go ...
Where are you reading from today?
Uh ... the dining room table. Which sounds odd, but the laptop, the TV and the cats are nearby. Other than that, bed, and the couch :D
3 facts about me …
Is there anything you good people don't know?
- Uhm ... my middle name is Jane
- Sunday is my favourite day of the week
- My local rugby team - the Stags - WON THE RANFURLY SHIELD this week, which won't mean anything to any of you, but means something to me, even though I don't really follow sport. I just wanted to say that. Again. It's a big deal :)
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
Getting as much reading done as I can :)

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Have fun!!! And be a cheerleader. Cheerleaders are awesome. Team Lost Generation FTW!!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The reading week

It's time for that all-important question: What are you reading on Mondays? Asked here:
Right now, I'm reading The Ask and the Answer, the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. I flailed on Twitter over The Knife of Never Letting Go, and I expect there to be more flailing in my very near future. Gosh darn, Mr Patrick Ness can write!
I finally finished The Year of the Flood, although I've still got to do a review of that one, and Access Road by Maurice Gee (Kiwi author :D) and I need to review that one as well.
Other than that ... I'm stockpiling books and planning my snack list for the readathon. Aren't we all?
Happy reading!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekly Geeks

Your mission, Weekly Geeks, is here:
Um ... I have no tools. No, really. Lately it feels like I've hardly been blogging at all and as of now, I have two reviews to write up.
I do have a Library Thing page, but I never seem to use it. I'm not even sure what it's for!
Probably I use the most to connect with other bloggers. I'm a chatty bird over there, you may have noticed.
Other than that ... I'm extremely boring!
Happy Weekly Geeks!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

I have nothing

This happened: nowhere near me, but the little girl was the same age as Patrick. I can't even imagine it. :(

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Readathon list

Gosh, I can't believe it's nearly time for the readathon again! Go here for details if you don't know what I'm going on about:

Exciting stuff. That's Patrick during April's readathon, having made off with my book!

My pile is - as it was last year - modest. I'm going to use it to catch up on a couple of challenges; specifically this one: and my very own challenge celebrating New Zealand Book Month :) and don't forget the tasty badges that and made for it. (Still time to join. Runs until the end of October).

So. Here's my pile:

The City & The City by China Meiville

Salt by Maurice Gee

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

The Dark Blue 100-Ride Bus Ticket by Margaret Mahy

Regeneration by Pat Barker

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings

I'm also going to start reading earlier than I did last year. My time, the readathon starts at midnight Saturday. But I'm going to start on Saturday afternoon, when Patrick is down for a nap. The bonus extra of that is, that on Sunday afternoon, once my 24 hours are up, I'll be all over the cheerleading, like a cat on a lap.

Good plan, I think. I hope it holds up ...

Weekly Geeks

We're looking for recommendations from each other this week, geekers. Assignment here:
I love recommendations. Mostly because I always think I'm missing something - some kind of awesomeness that all of the other readers are in on that I'm not. And apart from hysterical romances and westerns, I'll read nearly anything.
If it has a good story, I'm in like a tabby in a box of cat biscuits. Genre-wise, like I say, I'm not fussy, although I'm having a bit of a dystopic moment, with The Knife of Never Letting Go, and The Year of the Flood.
I'm also - thanks to Her Fearful Symmetry - in the mood for some good spine-tingling ghost stories. And I'm always in the mood for a well-written fantasy novel, or suspense novel, or horror novel, or general fiction novel, or ... you get the picture.
As for what I can recommend ...
Here's my post from January, looking back on the 2008 reading year:
For this year's reads so far:
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, obviously. Which, if you haven't read, and found to be awesome ... I can't help you.
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearce Which. I can't even tell you. So, so good.
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. In general.
Soldier in the Mist by Gene Wolfe - I'd nearly forgotten about that one!

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
And ... The Source by James Michener. I read it a few years ago, but it's a really, really good book. Oh. And the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough.
That ought to do, right?
Happy Weekly Geeks. :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

The reading week

I am STILL reading The Year of the Flood. At this rate, I might be done by Christmas.
Move along. Nothing to see here ... but here - - there's plenty. Books bloggers who are reading!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Short reviews

I was going to do these one of two ways: as Serious Reviews, with separate posts and all, or as fangirly flailing short reviews. Obviously, option B won out.

So. Up first is Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger which is, like, this totally awesome ghost story (um ... my fangirl is from the Valley, apparently). Anyway ... Elspeth - who lives in London - is dying of cancer. She leaves her flat to her twin nieces Julia and Valentina, who she hasn't seen since they were babies. Julia and Valentina are mirror-twins, 20 year olds adrift. They move to London and set off a series of unprecedented events.

You know how you get those books, and even way after you've read them the thought of them raise those tiny hairs on the back of your neck? Yeah. Her Fearful Symmetry is that book. I did kind of have issues with the ending at the time, but thinking about it now, it all makes sense.
Without (I hope) giving too much away; there are characters that are vivid and remain that way (Martin and Marijke come to mind); there are characters that start out vivid and start to fade (Robert) and there are characters that start out a little faded and vague and come in to sharp relief - not always for the right reasons (Elspeth). And ... there's a Little Kitten of Death. And Highgate Cemetery, which is basically another character and really adds to the Gothic/ghostly tone.

9/10 So good, you'd take it to meet your Mum

Next up is ... The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. ZOMG!!!! How did I not know about this?? Seriously. I had this book on my shelf for a YEAR before reading it. And I only read it because so many people were being fangirl/boys about it on Twitter. So you know ... thanks.
Um. It's set in the future, on a world far far away. There are no women, and all of the men left in Prentisstown - where the story begins - can hear each other's thoughts all the time. The narrator is the last boy left in the village - Todd, who is about a month away from becoming a man. When Todd hears something he's not expecting - ie the absence of Noise - he has to get out of Dodge, er, Prentisstown. Plus, there's a talking dog, who is obsessed with poo.

I'm failing to convey how awesome this is. IT IS AWESOME. READ IT.
10/10 Could not be improved on, even by angel dust and a basket of kittens

Last but not least, we have The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes. This one is a little hard to describe to be honest. It's a little whimsical, and a little dark, and chock-full of humour, which is always a good thing. It's narrated by an unseen ... entity and it took me a while to work out just what that entity was. Okay. It took me until the book spelled it out for me.
Um. The lives of the residents of four flats of the same flat block are about to change forever. Mostly in good ways. Some in not so good ways.
It IS better than This Charming Man, which I liked, but ... yeah. It was one of those ... but ... books.
For The Brightest Star in the Sky:
8/10 That movie that you've watched 100 times and you never get tired of

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Badges, we have badges!

Thanks to Eva at and Care at the NZ Book Month challenge has BADGES!!!! LOOK at the PRETTIES .... choose your favourite. Play along! Celebrate the Kiwi awesomeness! :D

Business Time

OR ... the NZ Book Month challenge, if you want to be all formal and stuff.

Edited to add ... and LOOK at this awesome button that Care made for it. How can you say no to jaffas? NO ONE can say no to jaffas:

October 1 marks the start of NZ Book month: Chatting with Care - - on Twitter yesterday, I happened to mention this, and idly suggest I might run a mini-challenge for October. She offered to help, and automatically gets jaffas just for that (see near bottom of post).

And so, here we are. :) Um. This is pretty much on the fly, but here's the plan:

During October, read one (1) book by a Kiwi author (there's a very helpful post about that right here: and I believe the origins of this was borne out of a Weekly Geeks.


Part the second (2nd): Watch a Kiwi film, or a film by a Kiwi writer/director. Therefore, the LOTR movies count. (Anything from Peter Jackson ALWAYS counts.) As does The Truman Show ( - the screenplay writer is a Kiwi); the Shrek films (the co-director is a Kiwi); the Narnia films ... OR, really go Kiwi and try and dig up something like Goodbye Pork Pie ( - my hometown is featured at the end) or Once Were Warriors (

Part the third (3rd): Listen to some Kiwi music. Once again, I have a blog post featuring said Kiwi music: although I'm sadly lacking in this area. However, go forth, and google. Kiwi musos are AWESOME. Seriously. Try Midnight Youth, or Kids of 88 (their song My House is really catchy) or Gin Wigmore. Or Steriogram. Or Computers Want Me Dead.

Choose one, two, or all of the above. Or, hell, watch the first series of Flight of the Conchords.

I'm offering options because although it's New Zealand Book Month, we Kiwis are a diverse lot.

Um. There'll be a giveaway at the end of the month. I'll send out ... jaffas, or something. Yeah. I'll send everyone who joins (pleasedontlettherebehundreds) a packet of jaffas at the end of October.

Kiwi as. "You're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!"

Plus also, if some creative person could make me a badge of some kind using the above picture - I'd be really grateful.

AND ... play. You know you want to ... one month. A little slice of Kiwi life ... go ooooooooooooooonnnnn.

To play, sign up in the comments. Or smack me in the face on Twitter here: