Monday, October 29, 2007

Recently Acquired Books

I bought 6 brand-new books cheaply last week.

Tony Bramwell: Magical Mystery Tours: My Life With The Beatles
Aldous Huxley: The Grey Eminence
Aldous Huxley: Those Barren Leaves
Donovan Leitch: The Hurdy Gurdy Man (autobiography)
Michael Swift: Mapping The World (gorgeous big book full of reproductions of old maps)
Geoff Tibballs: No-Balls and Googlies: A Cricket Companion

Monday, October 22, 2007

Recently Acquired Books

Went into a secondhand bookshop the other day and came out with the following:

Judy Bernard-Waite: The Riddle of the Trumpalar
Ray Bradbury: I Sing the Body Electric!
Ray Bradbury: Long After Midnight
Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter

I read The Riddle of the Trumpalar for school many years ago, and just recently I started thinking about it, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was called! I even googled it but couldn't find it (I was searching for 'templars' for starters), so I was quite excited to see it in a bookshop today! Looking forward to reading it again.

The two Bradbury novels are collections of short stories.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Rating: 7/10

Published: 2006
Number of pages: 390
ISBN: 0224080466

Started: 15 October 2007
Finished: 18 October 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

George Hall doesn't understand the modern obsession with talking about everything. 'The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely.' Some things in life, however, cannot be ignored. At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray. Her family is not pleased - as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has 'strangler's hands'. Katie can't decide if she loves Ray, or loves the wonderful way he has with her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by all the planning and arguing the wedding has occasioned, which get in the way of her quite fulfilling late-life affair with one of her husband's former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials. Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind. The way these damaged people fall apart - and come together - as a family is the true subject of Mark Haddon's disturbing yet very funny portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.

This is not usually the type of book I would go for but I quite enjoyed it, even if some parts read as something I've seen a million times on a soapie (not very original ideas). I noticed that Mark Haddon has a penchant for similes, which I found slightly irritating at one stage when he wrote two in as many sentences, but I got used to them later on (well, either I got used to them or he stopped using so many!).

I found it hard to get to know the characters properly (and I had trouble keeping all their names straight for some reason!). It's written in a slightly dry manner: rather than actual dialogue, Haddon would write a conversation as 'he said this and then she said that', which I don't think helped with my character identification.

I felt quite sorry for George and I don't understand why Ray was the least popular character through most of the book when he was clearly the nicest, most normal one of the lot! I don't think the reader is given good enough reasons why George, Jean and Jamie would dislike Ray so much, and having him throw a bin in a one-off tantrum just didn't cut it!

I enjoyed Haddon's various observations on life and overall I found it a good read. I would like to read more by Mark Haddon. Recommended.

Trixie Belden and the Marshland Mystery by Kathryn Kenny

Rating: 6/10

Published: 1962
Number of pages: 212
ISBN: 0307215784

Started: 12 October 2007
Finished: 14 October 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

Trixie gripped Honey's arm and held her back. "Look at the window!" she said in a strange voice. Honey looked and felt a little shiver go down her spine. A bony hand was gesturing from between the curtains of the window next to the door. And, quite unmistakably, the hand was warning them to go.

First, a bit of background on the Trixie Belden series. Trixie Belden is a 13-year-old girl detective, and this series is much in the same vein as Nancy Drew, only aimed at a slightly younger readership (which, of course, doesn't discourage me from reading them!) There were 39 books published between 1948 and 1986, and while they're all attributed to Kathryn Kenny, this is actually a pseudonym. The first 6 books were written by Julie Campbell, and the rest were written by various other writers (some unknown).

I have almost the entire series (I'm missing #19 and #35-#39 - the last five are reasonably rare and very expensive to buy). I bought quite a few books to fill some gaps last year, so I decided to start re-reading the series and incorporate the new books along the way. I read the first 9 last year and I'll try to read a couple more before the end of this year.

The books are light and enjoyable reads, following the exploits of Trixie and her friends and siblings as they solve various mysteries. I have to say, though, that this one (#10) is the first Trixie Belden book I've been a little disappointed in. The humour seemed a little forced and 'try-hard' and, in actual fact, there was no real mystery to solve at all and very little concerning the marsh. It was more about the unhappiness of a child prodigy. There were quite a few references by characters to the myth that Captain Kidd hid treasure in the marsh, but it was always dismissed quickly and nothing came of it. I think treasure in the marshland would have made for a much better story here. Oh well, it was still a good read!

Great Expectationsby Charles Dickens

Rating: 9/10

Published: 1860-1861
Number of pages: 556
ISBN: 0141023538

Started: 20 September 2007
Finished: 10 October 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

Pip doesn't expect much from life. His sister makes it clear that her orphaned little brother is nothing but a burden on her. But suddenly things begin to change. Pip's narrow existence is blown apart when he finds an escaped criminal, is summoned to visit a mysterious old woman and meets the icy beauty Estella. Most astoundingly of all, an anonymous person gives him money to begin a new life in London.

Are these events as random as they seem? Or does Pip's fate hang on a series of coincidences he could never have expected?

A brilliant read and another tear-jerker! This is the second work of Dickens that I have read since beginning with A Tale of Two Cities last year. I found the style of writing much easier to get into this time, and I loved it from the start. The characters and scenery are beautifully painted and very haunting (Miss Havisham and the marshes come to mind). I love Dickens' descriptive writing and the humour he imbues in his writing.

I was expecting to love the character of Pip, but I mostly ended up disappointed by him again and again, until near the very end. Of course, this is no reflection on Dickens; he wrote an unlikable character extremely well. And I thought Pip's recollections made the transition between childhood and adulthood quite smoothly. Very highly recommended.

October Reading List

Usually I do this at the beginning of the month, but better late than never!

I spent the first week and a half finishing off Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, then slotted in a Trixie Belden mystery before reading A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon for the BCF October Reading Circle. Reviews to be posted shortly.

I'm currently reading The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac, and really enjoying it, even though I've gotten off to a very slow start and have read less than 30 pages. I don't expect I'll be finished this one by the end of the month because it's quite lengthy.

I've found myself thinking lately that if I was to break my leg or something, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing because I could at least spend a few weeks at home catching up on some reading! Is that a bad thing to think? :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

106 Books Most Often Unread by LibraryThing Users

Got this meme from another blog.

Books Ive read are in bold, books that I would like to read have been italicised and books in blue are on my TBR pile.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Ulysses by James Joyce
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Odyssey by Homer
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Iliad by Homer
Emma by Jane Austen
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Middlesex by Middlesex Eugenides
Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Dracula by Bram Stoker
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
The Once and Future King by TH White
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
1984 by George Orwell
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Gulliver’s travels by Jonathan Swift
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-Present by Howard Zinn
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Geoffrey Blainey
Dubliners by James Joyce
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Confusion by Neal Stephenson
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Freakonomics by by Steven D Levitt
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig
The Aeneid by Virgil
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Happy Birthday John Lennon! Imagine Peace

A brief departure from my usual 'bookish' posts. Today is (would have been) John Lennon's 67th Birthday. See below.

Join the biggest online peace demonstration.

Put banners on your websites.
Put IMAGINE PEACE on your work computer.
Put posters in your window.
Send postcards.
Put up flyers.
Put them on your noticeboard at work or at school.
You can even make T-Shirts.
You can do it.
Do it now.
Get them all from the download section at

Email us photos & tell us what you're doing.

If one billion people in the world think peace, we'll get peace.
You may think: "Well, how are we going to get one billion people in the world to think PEACE?"
Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world.
Power works in mysterious ways.
You don't have to do much.
Visualise the domino effect and just start thinking PEACE.
Thoughts are infectious.
Send it out.
The message will circulate faster than you think.
It's time for action.
The action is PEACE.
Spread the WORD.
Spread PEACE.
Remember: A dream we dream together is reality.
So stand up, speak out, and come together.
Imagine all the people living life in peace.


Yoko Ono MySpace
Yoko Ono MySpace IMAGINE PEACE Group
Yoko Ono Facebook
Yoko Ono Facebook IMAGINE PEACE Group
Yoko Ono Facebook IMAGINE PEACE TOWER Event
Yoko Ono YouTube

Join the biggest online peace demonstration -

Please forward this letter to everyone on your mailing list. thankyou. IMAGINE PEACE!