Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Gem Collector by PG Wodehouse

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1909
Number of pages: 208

Started: 19 August 2008
Finished: 28 August 2008

Summary (taken and edited from Wikipedia):

Sir James Willoughby Pitt, baronet, a former jewel thief who was expelled from Eton and has since inherited wealth, is in London and bored with life. Seeing a stranger in need in a restaurant, he comes to his aid, and so befriends Spennie Blunt. He later encounters Spike Mullins, a former American criminal associate, who has fled to England and fallen on hard times. Pitt takes him in.

From there on it's a typically Wodehousian romantic farce, set at the stately Dreever Castle, overflowing with imposters, detectives, crooks, scheming lovers and conniving aunts.

A reasonably short story and very enjoyable. Wodehouse is terrific and I've been building up quite the collection of his works of late. This one is actually an earlier, serialised version of a story that became the longer A Gentleman of Leisure.

A terrific read; light and funny. Recommended.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Rating: 7/10

Published: 2005
Number of pages: 413

Started: 15 August 2008
Finished: 21 August 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

This stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognises that his daughter has Down's syndrome. For motives he tells himself are good, he makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own.

This book is quite a downer. It's hard to feel sympathy for any of the characters. Although I understand the reasons behind David's decision, it's still hard to comprehend. And he had so many opportunities to rectify it, but he chose not to. It's very frustrating and depressing to read about these people living their sad and difficult lives because of one man's decision.

I read the book so long ago that the details are a bit hazy. Despite my gripes I apparently thought highly enough of it to give it a 7, so it must have had some good qualities. Interesting to see how one decision can so deeply affect your own life and that of everyone around you.

The Most Brilliant Library Ever

Check out Jay Walker's library (puts my humble library to shame).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

Been a while since I've updated. I have a stack of reviews to do but life is hectic and my reading has come to a virtual standstill. I've managed to find time to buy more books though!

JG Ballard: Empire of the Sun
Pearl S Buck: The Good Earth
Peter Biskind: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
Alexandre Dumas: The Last Cavalier
Gregory Maguire: Mirror, Mirror
Scott Westerfeld: Specials
PG Wodehouse: Carry On, Jeeves
PG Wodehouse: Money for Nothing
PG Wodehouse: Right Ho, Jeeves
PG Wodehouse: Something Fresh

I have another stack of Wodehouses on their way to me, and I bought a box sest of the Complete Sherlock Holmes, which incorporates:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes
The Valley of Fear
A Study in Scarlet
The Sign of Four
His Last Bow
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

Today I picked up:

Kyril Bonfiglioli: The Mortdecai Trilogy
John Brunner: The Sheep Look Up
Raymond Chandler: The Lady in the Lake and Other Novels

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

TT: Favourite Bookstores

(From 12 August 2008): What's your favourite bookstore? Is it an online store or a bricks-and-mortar store? How often do you go book shopping? Is your favourite bookstore (or bookstores) listed as a favourite in LT? Do you attend events at local bookstores? Do you use LT to find events?
I must admit that I'm fan of big bookchains. In Australia, they're represented by Dymocks, Angus & Robertson and Borders. All 3 have huge stores in Sydney which I frequently visit during my morning tea and lunch breaks (although A&R is currently shut due to the redevelopment of Pitt St mall).

Borders is probably my main haunt, largely due to the fact that they cunningly send me vouchers every week for a certain % off books and most weeks I can't resist heading in to pick up a bargain. Both Borders and Dymocks have a pretty good selection of books.

I've also recently discovered Kinokuniya - they have a great range of books and are very good value, plus their website can tell you if they have the book you're searching for currently in stock AND it will provide you with an exact map of where the book is located in the store. Very cool! And it works: I tested it when I went to buy A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr.

There are quite a few secondhand bookshops that I love too. Too many to list here, but I've found a lot of great stuff when browsing through those shops.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BTT: Gold Medal Reading

(From 14 August 2008): Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general? Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both? And, Second: Do you consider yourself a sports fan?
I have a book about cricket (the greatest sport ever) that was written by a guy at my work. I didn't know who he was at the time - I received the book through a mutual friend - but I've now moved into his department and see him daily. I haven't actually read it yet, but I'll get to it one day...And I have another book about cricket called No-Balls and Googlies by Geoff Tibballs. It's a terrific little read full of interesting facts about the history of the game. I read it in a day or two while watching the cricket on TV. Pure bliss!

As for sport in general, I don't watch a huge amount. I see a little bit here and there, but if it's not cricket, I'm generally not interested (I'm especially not interested in soccer!) As far as cricket goes, I've been known to take multiple days off work in order to sit home and watch it. In fact, the next lot of holidays I have coming up (3 whole days) were chosen specifically because there's a test match on that I want to watch.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Rating: 9/10

Published: 1957
Number of pages: 160

Started: 8 August 2008
Finished: 14 August 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):
Timofey Pnin, a St Petersburg bourgeois until the age of twenty, has had to struggle most of his life - with foreign languages he can never get the better of, with foreign transport he always misses or arrives several hours too early for, and with foreign people whom he invariably misunderstoods, and who usually misunderstand him. But his principal protagonist is modern, gadget-ridden America, and the love-hate relationship between Pnin and his adopted country is the main theme of this very funny book.

Pnin is the second work of Nabokov's I've read, after Lolita. I find that Nabokov is not an easy author to read; despite the short nature of Pnin, it took me a week to get through it. Nabokov needs to be read slowly in order to appreciate the true brilliance of his writing.

Timofey Pnin is a wonderful character; one of the best I've read in literature. As a Russian professor living in America and bumbling his way from one situation to the next, it's hard to know whether to pity him or think he's a fool. Either way, you can't help but love him in all his quirkiness and foibles. Sheer brilliance!

Thank You, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse

Rating: 9/10

Published: 1934
Number of pages: 275

Started: 31 July 2008
Finished: 8 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

Thank You, Jeeves is the first novel to feature the incomparable valet Jeeves and hist hapless charge Bertie Wooster - and you've hardly started to turn the pages when Jeeves resigns over Bertie's dedicated but somewhat untuneful playing of the banjo. In high dudgeon, Bertie disappears to the country as a guests of his chum Chuffy - only to find his peace shattered by the arrival of his ex-fiancee Pauline Stoker, her formidable father and the eminent loony doctor Sir Roderick Glossop. When Chuffy falls in love with Pauline and Bertie seems to be caught in flagrante, a situation boils up which only Jeeves (whether employed or not) can simmer down...

Ah, the joy of discovering a new author! Wodehouse's brand of humour is right up my alley and I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of Jeeves and Wooster. Since finishing this book a few months ago, I've gone and bought a couple of dozen other works of Wodehouse. If that doesn't tell you how much I enjoyed this book, nothing will! A light, entertaining read and highly recommended.

Charlotte's Web by EB White

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1952, 1946, 1970
Number of pages: 530

Started: 19 July 2008
Finished: 1 August 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

Charlotte's Web
This is the story of a girl called Fern who loves a little pig called Wilbur. And of how Wilbur's dear friend Charlotte A Cavatica, a beautiful grey spider, saves Wilbur from the usual fate of nice fat pigs, by a wonderfully clever plan (which no one else could possibly have thought of).

Stuart Little
Stuart Little is a fascinating character. A debonair, intelligent mouse, game for every kind of adventure, and always managing to overcome any difficulties.

The Trumpet of the Swan
Louis is a trumpeter swan without a voice, a swan of great character not at all deterred by his handicap. With the help of his friend Sam beaver, Louis learns to read and write, but his main problem is still how to woo the elegant Serena. And so Louis learns to play the trumpet.

I loved Charlotte's Web when I was young and was looking forward to revisiting it as an adult. The story has lost none of its charm and wonder for me and Charlotte and Wilbur's friendship is beautiful to behold.

Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan were equally charming stories. Highly recommended.

Recently Acquired Books

Picked up the first three Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer for a song today.

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code

I already have the second one, but it's a used copy and I never liked the cover much...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

Found a couple of good secondhand bookshops today!

Clive Barker: The Thief of Always
Lois Lowry: The Giver
John Updike: Rabbit, Run
Dorothy Wall: Blinky Bill

I haven't updated my 'books bought' for a while, so here's the rest of what I've been buying, all for the month of September I'm afraid (and already posted in the other thread):

Arthur C Clarke: Childhood's End
Jack Kerouac: On the Road: The Original Scroll
Walter Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz
Vladimir Nabokov: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

And from a bookfest:

Douglas Adams : Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Virginia Andrews: Flowers in the Attic
Isaac Asimov: Foundation's Edge
Isaac Asimov: Prelude to Foundation
Isaac Asimov: Rest of the Robots, The
Isaac Asimov: Second Foundation
Isaac Asimov: Stars Like Dust, The
Isaac Asimov: Foundation
Isaac Asimov: Foundation and Empire
Clive Barker: Everville
Clive Barker: Galilee
Ray Bradbury: Day it Rained Forever, The
Ray Bradbury: From the Dust Returned
Ray Bradbury: Machineries of Joy
Ray Bradbury: Silver Locusts, The
John Brunner: Squares of the City, The
Frances Hodgson Burnett: Little Lord Fauntleroy
Orson Scott Card: Ender's Shadow
Geoffrey Chaucer: Canterbury Tales
Agatha Christie: Taken at the Flood
Arthur C Clarke: Cradle
Iris Rainer Dart: Beaches 2: I'll Be There
Philip K Dick: I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon
Philip K Dick: Divine Invasion, The
Philip K Dick: Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, The
Philip K Dick: Transmigration of Timothy Archer, The
George Eliot: Mill on the Floss, The
Michael Ende: Neverending Story, The
William Gibson: Neuromancer
Ursula Le Guin: Dispossessed, The
Thomas Hardy: Jude the Obscure
Dashiell Hammett: Thin Man, The
Harry Harrison: Deathworld 1
Harry Harrison: Deathworld 2
Harry Harrison: Deathworld 3
Harry Harrison: Stainless Steel Rat, The
Stanislaw Lem: Hospital of the Transfiguration
Stanislaw Lem: Memoirs of a Space Traveler
Stanislaw Lem: More Tales of Pirx the Pilot
Stanislaw Lem: Solaris
CS Lewis: Dark Tower, The
CS Lewis: Perelandra
CS Lewis: That Hideous Strength
Norman Lindsay: Magic Pudding, The
Michelle Margorian: Goodnight Mr Tom
John Marsden: Great Gatenby, The
China Mieville: Scar, The
Philip Pullman: Northern Lights
Olaf Stapledon: Last and First Men
Sue Townsend: Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years
Edgar Wallace: Door with Seven Locks, The
John Wyndham: Seeds of Time, The

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Brand Spanking New Library

OK, so I've moved house and, for the first time in my life, I have a place where I can put all my books together. It's not quite complete, but this is the basic setup. The purple (excuse me, plum) armchair and ottoman arrived last week.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Top 100 on LT

(From 1 July 2008): Here are the Top 100 Most Popular Books on LibraryThing. Bold what you've read, italicize what you own. Star what you liked. Star multiple times what you loved!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (32,484) ****
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by J.K. Rowling (29,939) ****
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) by J.K. Rowling (28,728) ****
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by J.K. Rowling (27,926) ****
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) by J.K. Rowling (27,643) ****
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) by J.K. Rowling (27,641) ****
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (23,266) ***
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (21,325) ****
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling (20,485) *****
1984 by George Orwell (19,735) *****
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (19,583) *****
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (19,082) ****
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (17,586) *****
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (16,210) ****
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (15,483) ***
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (14,566)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (14,449) ****
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (13,946)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (13,272) ***
Animal Farm by George Orwell (13,091) *****
Angels & demons by Dan Brown (13,089) ***
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (13,005) ****
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (12,777)
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (12,634)
The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, Part 1) by J.R.R. Tolkien (12,276) ***
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (12,147)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (11,976)
The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Part 2) by J.R.R. Tolkien (11,512) ***
The Odyssey by Homer (11,483)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (11,392) *****
Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut (11,360) ****
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (11,257) ****
The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, Part 3) by J.R.R. Tolkien (11,082) ***
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (10,979) *****
American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman (10,823)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (10,603) ****
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (10,537) *****
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (10,435) ***
The Lovely Bones : a novel by Alice Sebold (10,125)
Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card (10,092)
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman (9,827)
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman (9,745)
Dune by Frank Herbert (9,671)
Emma by Jane Austen (9,610) *****
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (9,598) *****
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (9,593)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (9,433)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (9,413) ****
Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides (9,343)
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (9,336)
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (9,274) *****
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (9,246)
The Iliad by Homer (9,153)
The Stranger by Albert Camus (9,084)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (9,080) *****
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (9,027) *****
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (8,960) ****
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (8,904) ****
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt (8,813)
The Little Prince by saintexupryantoinede - 75k - (8,764)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (8,421) ***
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (8,417) ***
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (8,368) ***
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (8,255)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (8,214)
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (8,191)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (8,169)
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (8,129)
The Complete Works by William Shakespeare (8,096)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (7,843)
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (7,834)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (7,829)
Hamlet by William Shakespeare (7,808)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (7,807) *****
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (7,793) *****
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (7,710) *
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (7,648) ***
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (7,598) *****
The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk (7,569)
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (7,557)
The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) by Philip Pullman (7,534)
Atonement by Ian McEwan (7,530) ***
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (7,512)
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (7,436)
Dracula by Bram Stoker (7,238) *****
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (7,153)
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (7,055) *****
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (7,052)
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (7,043)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (6,933)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (6,901)
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (6,899)
Neuromancer by William Gibson (6,890)
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (6,868)
Persuasion by Jane Austen (6,862)
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (6,841)
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (6,794)
Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (6,715)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (6,708)
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (6,697)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

John Brunner: Stand on Zanzibar
China Mieville: Perdido Street Station
William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair
Melina Marchetta: On the Jellicoe Road
Melina Marchetta: Saving Francesca
PG Wodehouse: Blandings Castle
PG Wodehouse: Full Moon
PG Wodehouse: The Heart of a Goof
PG Wodehouse: Leave it to Psmith
PG Wodehouse: Piccadilly Jim
PG Wodehouse: Ring for Jeeves
PG Wodehouse: Summer Lightning
PG Wodehouse: Ukridge
Markus Zusak: The Messenger

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

Cliver Barker: Abarat
GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday
Arthur C Clarke: The Other Side of the Sky
Aldous Huxley: After Many a Summer
Aldous Huxley: The Devils of Loudun
PG Wodehouse: Jeeves in the Offing
PG Wodehouse: Service with a Smile

I have a stack of reviews to catch up on. Trying to get them done by the end of the month.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

Rating: 6/10

Published: 1997
Number of pages: 219

Started: 16 July 2008
Finished: 28 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

'Timequake explores what happens to Vonnegut when, in 2001, a 'timequake' hits. The universe has a decade of self-doubt, shrinking back to 1991 and forcing everybody to relive the last 10 years of their lives exactly as they had before, but without free will. The same mistakes. The same corny jokes. The same doses of clap.' James Urquhart, Independent

I really tried to enjoy this book, but it was just so disjointed and confusing that I couldn't really get into it. Part autobiography and part fiction, it's often hard to tell where fact ends and fiction begins. I know the book is supposed to be this way but, regardless, I struggled with this method of writing.

The basic plot (and I use the term 'plot' very loosely) discusses a 'timequake': an event whereby the universe shrinks slightly and everyone is thrown back 10 years in time to relive their lives exactly as they happened the first time around. That is, every thought, every action and every word is identical. When the timequake ends and humans are suddenly presented with free will again, most don't know what to do with it. It's an interesting premise, but one that isn't used to great effect. The timequake is more like a thin thread that weaves together some of the thoughts and anecdotes of Kurt Vonnegut, which make up the bulk of the book.

Timequake's saving grace is that Vonnegut comes up with some absolute gems concerning humans and their environment. Some of his stuff is very quotable (so quotable, in fact, that I forgot to write any down!) I'd only recommend this for the more hardcore Vonnegut fan. Having only previously read Slaughterhouse-Five, I'm not in that camp myself, but Timequake certainly hasn't put me off reading other works by Vonnegut.

Friday, August 15, 2008

BTT: Other Worlds

(From 7 August 2008): Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live? Or where you certainly would NOT want to live? What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?
I'd love to live in Harry Potter's world of course! Even with Voldemort and the other baddies, there'd never be any shortage of exciting things happening. And who wouldn't want to live in a world with magic?

And now for a little secret...I've sometimes fantasised about living in John Marsden's world from the Tomorrow...When the War Began series. If you haven't read the series, it's about a group of Australian teenagers who manage to escape being imprisoned when Australia is invaded by another nationality. They go bush and then begin making attacks on the enemy, starting small (blowing up a bridge) and getting bigger and bigger (blowing up an airport). I know it would be an awful, awful world to live in, but I can't help but think about being in that situation myself and wondering whether I'd have the guts to do the stuff they did. I suppose it's the inner delinquent in me wanting to get out and experience the adrenaline of destroying stuff (structures, not people, of course!) So now you know my dirty little secret...

Oh, and having just finished Thank You, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse, I'd happily move in with Bertie to watch him get into his mishaps! And the world of Alice in Wonderland might be all right, but it'd probably do my head in after a while. And I'd love to join the time-traveller in The Time Machine by HG Wells. Ooh, come to think of it, give me War of the Worlds too! If only so I can get to see aliens/spaceships.

I've just been looking through the books I've read in the past few years, and I didn't realise how utterly miserable most of my books are! There are very few worlds or lives I'd like to inhabit.

As for where I wouldn't want to live...A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess says it all, I think. I also wouldn't want to live anywhere that Stephen King has written about!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Rating: 8/10

Published: 2006
Number of pages: 459

Started: 7 July 2008
Finished: 15 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family - fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmaline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates...

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past - and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has the house been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret's own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield's spell?

The Thirteenth Tale is an engaging and atmospheric gothic novel, and Setterfield reveals herself as an excellent story-teller. Having a booklover narrate the story helped me to identify with Margaret, the main character, and there are some lovely insights on reading.

The story is very well developed and the mystery is built up nicely. I wouldn't say it was suspenseful, but I was kept very interested in learning the outcome, which I didn't guess beforehand. I like that not everything was resolved, and also that the story had no definite time setting; it helped add to the mystery.

The main problems I had with the book were Margaret's obsession with her twin, which came on a little strongly, and I also felt that the Angelfield family were a little too unbelievable as characters. They were all so remote as to not even seem human most of the time, and in the time setting that I had concocted in my mind, they seemed very out of place (actually, when I tried to place them at different points in time, they didn't seem to fit anywhere).

Overall, a very enjoyable book; different and full of intrigue. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Popular Books

(From 17 June 2008): What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it? What's the most popular book you don't have? How does a book's popularity figure into your decisions about what to read?
No surprise really, but the most popular book in my library is one of the Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (owned by 34,182 LibraryThingers). Of course I've read it! Multiple times in fact, and I'll be reading it many times more.

The most popular book on LibraryThing that I don't own is The Kite Runner (owned by 15,707 LibraryThingers). I'm in two minds about reading this book. Well, no I'm not. I'd definitely like to read it, but despite its huge popularity, I just can't get excited enough about it to go and a buy a copy and read it immediately. The subject matter just doesn't do it for me. Perhaps one day I'll get around to it.

A book's popularity doesn't factor into my decisions too much. If I read a lot of good things about a book, I'll probably be inspired to try it, but seeing on LibraryThing that a large number of people own the book isn't going to make me rush out and buy it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

Picked up some bargains today:

Arthur C Clarke: The Space Trilogy (Islands in the Sky, Earthlight, The Sands of Mars)
John Connolly: The Book of Lost Things
Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist
Helen Fielding: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Henry Fielding: Tom Jones

BTT: Beginnings and Endings

(From 24 July 2008): What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?
The first sentence of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has always stuck in my mind:

'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.'

Then there's the first sentence of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, which rather alarmed me when I first read it. I'd had no idea what the story was going to be about, and was expecting something quite highbrow and serious (which I guess it was, but I certainly wasn't expecting a line like that!):

'As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.'

And then there's the first (rather long) sentence of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:

'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'

(From 31 July 2008): What are your favourite final sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its last sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the last line?
I think the last line that will always stick in my mind is (again) from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:

'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.'

I positively bawled when I was reading that. I don't think any other line can top that!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

I've been a bit lax in updating my 'Recently Acquired Books', so here's what I've bought or received in the past few months:

Raven Hart: The Vampire's Kiss
Raven Hart: The Vampire's Secret

Daphne du Maurier: Julius
Kathryn Kenny: Trixie Belden #19: The Secret of the Unseen Treasure
Stephen King: Night Shift
PG Wodehouse: Thank You, Jeeves

William S Burroughs: Naked Lunch

My book-buying has dropped a lot since I joined a 'read 3, buy 1' support group for book-buying addicts like myself to help us decrease the size of our TBR piles. The idea is that you must read 3 books to earn 1 credit that you may then spend. I joined a few months back and things have been going well until today, when I officially fell off the wagon (having teetered on the edge for a couple of weeks now). But who can resist buying books when Borders sends you a voucher for 30% off?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Tags

(From 10 June 2008): Do you tag? How do you tag? How do you feel about tagging - do you think it would be better to have standardized tags, like libraries have standardized subject headings, or do you like the individualized nature of tagging? What are your top 5 tags and what do they say about your collection or your reading habits?
I absolutely tag. I find it very handy, especially when checking the size of my TBR pile or looking for a certain genre of book. I much prefer having individual tags - everybody likes to tag their books according to their own needs/wants, so why make it standardised?

My top 5 tags are:

'on goodreads' (563): this is just a tag I added to my books after joining another book cataloguing website called Goodreads. I was having trouble trying to identify which books I had yet to add to Goodreads, so I painstakingly went through all the lists (no easy task when Goodreads alphabetises books differently to LibraryThing) and added this tag once I was certain the book was also listed in my Goodreads account. I plan on removing it one day - after I'm certain all of my books are catalogued in both places.

'read' (431): pretty self-explanatory. This is the number of books I own that I have actually read.

'to be read' (326): again, self explanatory. The number of books I own but have yet to read. Thanks goodness this number is smaller than my 'read' pile!

'children' (250): apparently I have 250 books aimed at younger readers. Probably just over half of those would be my Baby-Sitters Club books. I really should change this tag to 'young adult'. It sounds much more dignified that way.

'second-hand' (248): the number of books I've bought second-hand. With a book addiction like mine, you can't afford to buy brand new books all the time!

I just have to mention the next 2 tags: 'classic' (170 - pretty self-explanatory) and 'bought 2007' (169). Yikes! I bought 169 books last year! As opposed to 52 so far this year. I'm trying to behave this year in an effort to get my TBR pile down.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl

Rating: 6/10

Published: 1973
Number of pages: 137

Started: 4 July 2008
Finished: 7 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

Charlie has won the chocolate factory, and sails off in his strange new means of transport to take possession. But somehow the elevator goes into orbit and Charlie, Mr Wonka, and all the grandparents have to save themselves and three gallant astronauts from a mob of vicious space monsters.

Another enjoyable read by Roald Dahl, but nowhere near as good as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My edition has been illustrated by Faith Jacques, and while the illustrations are nice, it's just not the same as having it done by Quentin Blake. Surprisingly, I found this had a definite impact on my enjoyment of the story. That said, there were some humorous parts (including the stuff that was politically incorrect and which I probably shouldn't have laughed at), and overall it was a decent read. Not one of Dahl's best, but worth a read nevertheless.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Classic First Lines Part 4

47) They embraced each other as tightly as two-flavor entwined string cheese, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white, Mozzarella.

48) Her mouth was set with pearls adorned with elastic rubies and tuned with minstrel lays, while her bulbous nose gracefully concealed its umbrage, and her eyes imparted a cross-eyed, but radiant glow to the azure of the sky

49) As she gingerly reached for the constipated gorilla's suppository.

50) Nicolette let the silk blouse fall from her shoulders, wrapped her left leg around John and deftly cut some cheese.

51) He smelled of pork. Rotting pork, in fact, and lots of it.

52) This time he was prepared for the alien probe, having just finished a seventh bean burrito, a case of Bud, and four packs of Pop Rocks

53) The graphic crime-scene photo was not pretty, mainly beause of the shutter speed,

54) Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably - the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career.

55) Lashed with duct tape to the side of his stolen hovercraft, her head lolling in the breeze...

56) He fell off the wagon like a frozen turkey from a Goodwill Helicopter.

57) No one knew of Alicia's troubles, because they'd learned to tune her out.

58) Colin slammed the spritely Vauxhall Vixen into a lower gear as he screamed through the roundabout heading toward the familiar pink rowhouse in Puking-On-The-Wold.

59) And so rosy-fingered Dawn awakened him, first with light counterclockwise strokes, then with gentle kneading, and finally with relentless ticklings that made him rue ever buying her finger paint.

60) Borson crushed a Coke can powerfully with one hand and turned slowly to face the source of the ridicule.

61) He blasted the creature from Xilth, as one pops the head off a zit, except of on a much larger scale.

62) "Forgetttabowwwtit" intoned Arnold gutturally,

63) Olive was waiting on the couch, with only a smile and a cucumber sandwich.

64) "Wear something uncomplicated-I'm in no mood for a struggle tonight,"he drawled.

65) Though flanked by two swarthy state troopers, Paula found her gaze drawn to the chubby saxophonist.

66) Along greasy, paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, he wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister, brother, and three children were all buried, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to devastate his life

Monday, July 21, 2008

BTT: Doomsday

(From 10 July 2008): What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favourite source of books was unavailable?
I have plenty of shops around me for reading material. I'd be disappointed if a favourite shop closed down, but ultimately I'd just move on to other shops. I like to spread my business around anyway.

(From 17 July 2008): Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday? Do you have favourite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip? What/Where are they?
I absolutely buy books on holidays. When I visited England several years back I came back with quite a few books on The Beatles (hard to find over here). I also bought a book from Hay-on-Wye. I know, just one book from a town full of bookshops? Unfortunately I only had a few precious hours to spend there and at that stage my luggage had already doubled.

When I went down south on holidays last year, I drove home via Australia's own small 'book town' in the Southern Highlands, and called into a bookshop based in a large barn in the country near Berrima called Berkelouw Books (pics here). A lovely bookshop.

There are also several wonderful bookshops in the Blue Mountains town of Katoomba, my favourite being Mr Pickwicks, a 3-level shops that deals in secondhand and antiquarian books.

Otherwise, whenever I'm on holidays I'll call into any bookshop I see (mostly secondhand; the chain stores are all the same). I love discovering new bookshops. I recently visited a shop in a tiny country town that was quite a nice surprise - it had the best range of Australian history books I've ever seen. I picked up a few good buys there, and I'm sure I'll visit it again next time I'm in the area.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Classic First Lines Part 3

31) It was a dark night on Pluto, a planet nobody had ever taken seriously before.

33) As she pulled Chloe's unmistakable prosthetic arm from under the bed, she knew she'd been played for a fool.

34) Grandpa was belly down in the meadow , taking a close-up of a cow-pie, when lightning struck.

35) The corpse had been shredded, as usual, with coffee beans to throw off the police dogs.

36) Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle compressed by a Thigh Master

37) I'd always wondered what it was like to wake up naked in a dumpster...

38) The chubby-faced cherub of a niece was stopped abruptly, like a pancake, by the sliding door she had failed to notice, and slid to the floor in a motionless heap.

39) Hoping his lunch hour would provide time for a romp and a digestive biscuit...

40) His thoughts, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a tumble dryer,

41) My underwear stuck to my backside like an All-Pro cornerback to a rookie wide receiver as I browsed through the seed catalog that had mistakenly found its way into my mailbox."

42) Her hair as dark as new tires, her eyes flashing like bright hubcaps, she was driven -fueled by a single accelerant- the man, Alf Romeo.

43) To escape the grizzly, all Gordon had to do was outdistance his chubby hiking partner, Fred.

44) 'Time to leave the Fluffy Forest,' said Susan, as she was smashed on crack.

45) On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky like the way a squashed toilet roll that goes bumpity bumpity in it's holder,

46) Mud squished up between the toes like cappuccino-colored bog-ooze.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Why LibraryThing?

(From 3 June 2008): Why did you choose to open and maintain an LT account? Do you/did you use other online cataloging/social networking sites, like GoodReads or Shelfari? Do you use more than one? Are they different or do they serve different purposes?
I chose LibraryThing for the simple reason that I wanted to keep a listing of all my books online and this seemed like a good option. I catalogued 200 books, which is the limit for a free account, and then decided that I liked it enough to purchase a lifetime account - a highly unusual move for me because I've never paid money to a website before.

I also have an account with GoodReads, which I keep pretty up-to-date. I enjoy catching up with various discussion groups there (for some reason I don't do the same with LibraryThing), but I don't like that you can't edit the details of your books. On LibraryThing, all of my books have been neatly edited so they're consistent in terms of capitalisation and the wording of series names etc. On GoodReads, you just have to accept the default, and the selection of covers isn't as good as LibraryThing.

I tried Shelfari for a while but didn't like the layout and the fact that many of my books didn't have covers, so I eventually deleted my account.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Classic First Lines Part 2

16) Lidie Meaks was a medium-sized, elegant figure, wearing a neatly fitted travelling dress of black alpaca, her raven black hair, copious both in length and volume and figured like a deep river rippled by the wind was parted in the centre and combed smoothly down, ornamenting her pink temples with a flowing tracery that passed round to its modillion windings on a graceful time.

17) The sea raged, the wind howled, and the sand was just plain irritated.

18) We stumbled numbly, dragging behind us the frozen dead corpse of our friend, Bartholomew, whom the hardened permafrost of the tundra had resisted our burying.

19) If it weren't for the knee-high sewage lapping at his dress pants and the confused terrorist spraying automatic gunfire over his head, Johnson could see little reason to change his mind about the wisdom of registering at a two-star hotel.

20) The Prince stood, wondering how her supple lips would feel against his own and contemplated how bad Sleeping Beauty's morning breath would be after one hundred years.

21) The butler did it. Sorry!! I've given the ending away - I couldn't help myself.

22) The thunder sounded like a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage

23) Thockmorton knew if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.

24) The newest Lady Turnpot descended, her creamy bosom rising and falling like a temperamental souffle.

25) The sun rose over the Canada geese, feathered rumps mooning the day.

26) She gratefully popped the glass orb back in place with a soft sucking sound.

27) The moment he laid eyes on inmate #472825994, he became a prisoner of love.

28) As the blue screen froze, Capt Kirk vowed never to use a Microsoft system again.

29) The blood dripped from his nose like hot grease from a roasting bratwurst pierced with a fork, except that grease isn't red and the blood wasn't that hot and it wasn't a fork that poked him in the nose.

30) This is a story of twin Siamese kittens, or, more specifically, of their shared appendage; it is a tail of two kitties.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Classic First Lines Part 1

Got this off a forum I'm on. Some good stuff here - I'm sure these books would be very interesting to read in full!

1) Sex with Isaac had been like an experiment wherein she had accidentally mixed ammonia and bleach, burned her eyebrows off, lost all sense of smell for weeks, and never saw the family cat again.

2) McMurphy hit the pavement running like a paper bag filled with vegetable soup.

3) Had she known Duncan was a psychopath who would seduce, then brutally murder her, she wouldn't have bought that screwdriver.

4) Ralph looked over at the rumpled form of Lila sleeping next to him in bed and wondered idly why making love with her made him feel as though his body had been pounded by heavy surf.

5) In these uncertain times, one must think of others' viewpoints, and always remember that a crowded elevator smells different to a midget.

6) The scent of sweat from the horse's buttock wafted into his left nostril, past the fine cilia of his nose, through the nasal cavity and into the dark damp depths of his single emphysemic lung.

7) Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.

8) The potted palm made a feeble attempt at photosynthesis with the naked 25 watt bulb that hung from the cracked plaster of my low-rent office on a less-than-desirable (unless you were vermin) stretch of Pico.

9) He wanted to hold her forever, but he knew evntually that he'd have to take a whizz.

10) Her breasts were like ripe strawberries, but much bigger, a completely different colour, not as bumpy, and without the little green things on top.

11) The sun rose over the horizon like a great big radioactive baby's head,

12) He slumped wearily onto the couch like a sack of **** slung over the shoulder of a warehouse worker.

13) I'm sorry but you still have 873 pages to go.

14) He snapped my bra like a Concord taking off, and I was unhooked for love.

15) The alien was eager to ravage her, unlike Ted, who wanted to take it slow, having come of the heels of a nasty divorce.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

BTT: Definition and Holidays

(From 26 June 2008): What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader”? A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?
I think a 'reader' refers to anyone who loves reading books. Simple as that. (I feel like I've answered this question before. There seems to be a lot of questions that pop up on BTT that are similar to others that have already been posted.)

(From 3 July 2008): It’s a holiday weekend here in the U.S., so let’s keep today’s question simple–What are you reading? Anything special? Any particularly juicy summer reading?
It's all right for some! I love (read: hate) these questions that assume everyone lives in the same time zone/hemisphere/country etc. At any rate, whether or not there are holidays happening (in my own country), they don't really affect my reading. I'm currently reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and enjoying it a fair bit. Speaking of which, it's now lunch time and I have some reading to do :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Rating: 5/10

Published: 1894-1895
Number of pages: 383

Started: 16 June 2008
Finished: 3 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

A naked baby is abandoned deep in the jungle and is taken in by a she-wolf to be raised as one of her own. Soon Mowgli the man-cub becomes a wise and feared hunter, learning the Law of the jungle from Baloo the bear, and the skills of the hunt from mighty Bagheera, the black panther, and Kaa, the stealthy rock python.

At once an outsider in these wilds and a unique bridge between the species that inhabit them, Mowgli evolves in the shadow of a dramatic mortal encounter that is fated to take place between himself and Shere Khan, the man-eating Bengal tiger under whose fiery gaze the whole jungle trembles with fear.

The characters and stories that comprise Kipling's Jungle Books are a microcosm of life as he saw it, but like most great literature, Kipling's words speak to us on many levels, blending fantasy and philosophy in a work that continues to delight generation after generation of adults and children alike.

For a book of children's stories, The Jungle Book certainly took me a long time to read! I can't quite put my finger on what was wrong with the stories; perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for them. The style of writing was OK but there was nothing exceptional or even slightly above average that pulled me into the stories and made me want to pick up the book at every available opportunity. I didn't really enjoy the poems that began and ended every story, either.

The stories in both Jungle Books focus on different animals (not all from the jungle), which was interesting, and some of the characters, such as Mowgli, Bagheera, Baloo and Kaa appeared in multiple stories.

There's not much else to add, I'm afraid. I highly doubt I'll ever read it again. It was a bit of a slog and I was glad to be done with it!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Cataloguing

(From 27 May 2008): How many books do you have cataloged in your LibraryThing account? How do you decide what to include - everything you have, everything you've read - and are there things you leave off?
I have 758 books catalogued in LibraryThing. This makes up the vast bulk of my collection. As far as I'm aware, there are only a few books that I haven't catalogued yet, and they're ones that I couldn't find through LT. I'll be packing up all my books to move house next week, and as I do so I'll hopefully have time to check that each one has been catalogued in LT, GoodReads and in my separate Excel spreadsheet. If I run out of time, I'll just have to check them off after I unpack at the other end!

I try to catalogue everything I have, and I've also included a few ebooks I've read over the past year or two, and a couple of books I've borrowed. According to my tags, 11 of the 758 books are ebooks, which means I most likely read them on my iPod and I don't own hard copies at all. Also according to my tags, 3 of the books were borrowed (2 from my brother and 1 from a library), although I have since obtained my own hard copy of one of those books.

I've thought about creating another LT account to list all my ebooks, but that would cost more money and take me forever to complete. I'll probably just catalogue them in another spreadsheet instead (actually I've already started; it's a mammoth task). As I read more ebooks I'll add them to my regular account, just for the sake of keeping a record of how many books I read each year.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

BTT: Flavour

(From 19 June 2008): Think about your favourite authors, your favourite books...what is it about them that makes you love them above all the other authors you’ve read? What is it about those books and authors that makes them resonate with you in ways that other, perfectly good books and authors do not?
The thing that resonates most with me is a beautiful writing style. Something that is lyrical and just flows straight off the page and straight into my heart. Those books are a real joy to read. This is one reason why Jane Austen and Vladimir Nabokov are among my favourite authors.

I also enjoy reading about characters that are real; where the author isn't worried about showing all their faults. It helps if I can relate to them personally, but it's not necessary and certainly isn't the case with a lot of my favourite books. I just need characters that I care about and can connect with on some level. If a character is impersonal or cliched and not developed properly, it's very off-putting.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Rating: 10/10

Published: 2005
Number of pages: 584

Started: 10 June 2008
Finished: 16 June 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. And will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.

So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

What a beautiful piece of work. One of those books that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds you why you love reading so much: for the chance to come across a gem like this every now and then.

The characterisation is brilliant. The characters are so real - they're unique, flawed and beautiful, and I came to love every single one of them. The narration by Death and all the little asides that came with it is very well done. And it's interesting how Zusak uses Death to tell us what is going to happen, but manages to do so without lessening the impact of the story in any way.

I could rave about the characters until the cows come home, but I'll try to restrict myself to a few short points. Liesel is a beautifully charming young girl, and her foster father, Hans Hubermann, is such a wonderful person - the type you wish you knew in real life. I enjoyed the infrequent but invaluable insights into Rosa Hubermann's real character and my heart broke for Rudy over and over throughout the entire book. Max Vandenburg's artwork also lent a lot to the book - much more insight is given into his character through his stories and art, all of which was very touching.

I haven't read a lot in the way of WWII literature so I don't have much to compare The Book Thief to, but I love that Zusak gives the reader a German perspective of what was happening in their lives.

This is one of the most powerful books I have read in a while and has definitely been added to my list of absolute favourites. A brilliant and very emotional read (I recommend having a lot of tissues handy). Having shamelessly gushed over this book, all that is left to say is that I very highly recommended it!

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Book Meme

Because you can never do too many of these, here's a book meme. The usual rules apply:

1) Bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible - I've read enough to constitute it as being read
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - on my TBR pile
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy - on my TBR pile
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - read a couple in school, want to read the day
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier - on my TBR pile
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger - on my TBR pile
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot - on my TBR pile
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell - on my TBR pile
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens - on my TBR pile
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh - on my TBR pile
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck - on my TBR pile
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame - on my TBR pile
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - part-way through them
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen - on my TBR pile
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne - pretty sure I read all the stories when I was younger (so much younger than today)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins - on my TBR pile
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy - on my TBR pile (started this last year - had to put it aside for a little while)
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - bit dull
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan - meh
52 Dune - Frank Herbert - on my TBR pile
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons - on my TBR pile
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon - on my TBR pile
57 A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt - on my TBR pile
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy - pretty sure this is on my TBR pile
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding - on my TBR pile
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce - I'm hoping to get to it before I die
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray - on my TBR pile, looking for a nicer copy before I read it
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell - meh
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker - on my TBR pile
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery - undecided whether I want to read this or not; sounds too much like The Alchemist for my liking
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - on my TBR pile
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole - on my TBR pile
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute - on my TBR pile
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

(I have an awful lot of them on my TBR pile!)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book News (Old and New)

Here's an article from the beginning of the year regarding Vladimir Nabokov's final and incomplete manuscript that goes by the name of The Original of Laura. Nabokov wanted it destroyed but his son, Dmitri, is trying to decide whether he should honour his father's wishes or get it published anyway. I'm in two minds about it, myself (like my opinion matters!)

And a story pinched from another blog about various items that have been found in books - some interesting stories there!

By the by, I'll be moving out of home soon (got my keys on Monday), and I'm moving into a 3-bedroom place, so I'll be able to do justice to my book collection (present and future) and house them in their very own library. I'm going to buy a stack of bookcases from IKEA - the famous Billy bookcases. Think I'll get 5 bigguns to start with, and we'll see where to go from there. I'm planning on putting in a comfy lounge as well that will double as a sofabed for guests (who of course will be under strict instructions to keep their mitts off my books). The room is pretty small, but it'll do - it's nice and cozy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Discussion Groups

In an effort to post blog entries more often, I'm going to start doing Tuesday Thingers. It started up in May so I'll have to play catch-up again. All the questions refer to LibraryThing - an excellent online book cataloguing system that I've harped on about before.

(From 20 May 2008): Discussion groups. Do you belong to any (besides Early Reviewers)? Approximately how many? Are there any in particular that you participate in more avidly? How often do you check?
Actually I don't belong to the Early Reviewers discussion group. I belong to a few discussion groups on LibraryThing but rarely visit them or post. Too busy with other forums and blogs for that malarkey!

The groups I belong to are the 50 Book Challenge (rough aim to read 50 books a year, which ties in with my own personal goals), Australian LibraryThingers, BCF (based on the Book Club Forum, that I've mentioned before), Books Compared and Science Fiction Fans. Now that I've looked them up to get the links, they're looking pretty good. There's an interesting discussion on comparisons of dystopian literature (that a couple of readers of this blog will appreciate). I really should check in more often - there are probably lots more interesting discussions happening.

Prince Caspian by CS Lewis

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1951
Number of pages: 107

Started: 8 June 2008
Finished: 9 June 2008

Summary (taken from Dymocks website):

King Miraz can only mean trouble for Narnia, and Prince Caspian, his nephew and the rightful heir to the throne, fears for his safety and the future of his country. He blows the Great Horn in desperation, summoning Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy to help with his task - that of saving Narnia.

I enjoyed Prince Caspian a little more than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, perhaps because I now know more about the world of Narnia and the characters within it. A thoroughly enjoyable story, full of magic and adventure. Good stuff!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

BTT: Clubbing

(From 12 June 2008): Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?
I'm a member of an online Book Club Forum. It's a terrific site full of great people who are very enthusiastic about books. As someone who doesn't have a lot of people in the 'real world' to talk to about books, it's great to be able to jump online any time of day (usually when I'm at work!) or night and talk books with fellow readers. The site is based in the UK, but of course it welcomes members from all over the world.

Every month we can each nominate 2 books to be in the running to be selected for the next month's reading circle. The 3 books that are seconded the most by others are then put into a poll so everyone can vote. It's a really good method that has been working for a long time. We have also done a couple of comparative reading circles where, as the name suggests, we compare 2 books on a similar theme. One such reading circle we did was on vampires, and we read Dracula by Bram Stoker and Carmilla by J Sheridan LeFanu. We don't do the comparative circles anymore though; I think perhaps members had too much other reading to be doing to be able to commit to an extra couple of books. That suits me fine too; I'm happy to participate in the monthly discussion instead.

This month we had a tie for 2 books: Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe and The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling. I've decided to leave Wolfe for now, but I'm reading Kipling as I already had the book on my TBR pile anyway.

One of our mods always starts off the discussion by posting several questions, which we can use answer if we choose. Otherwise we just post our own comments on what we enjoyed (or not) etc. Depending on the book, a lot of discussion can be generated or not too much. Life of Pi was pretty controversial, as I recall. I love when everyone really gets into it, rather than just posting 'I liked this', or 'I didn't like this'.

Whether or not I'm reading a book for a circle doesn't really affect my reading too much. I might perhaps put a little more thought into it and try to remember certain parts to bring up later on, but mostly I just read like I always do - read the story first, then analyse it a little afterwards. I can often appreciate a book more after I've read thorough comments from others - they might pick something up that I didn't notice.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Rating: 10/10

Published: 1958
Number of pages: 157

Started: 4 June 2008
Finished: 7 June 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

It's New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany's. And nice girls don't, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboys millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly 'top banana in the shock department', and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.

This edition also contains three stories: 'House of Flowers', 'A Diamond Guitar' and 'A Christmas Memory'.

Truman Capote is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, and Holly Golightly has to be one of the best characters I've had the pleasure of encountering in a book. For such a short story, her quirky character is developed nicely and to great effect. I watched the movie again straight afterwards and thought they did a pretty good job adapting it for the big screen, except the obvious change of the ending (and Mickey Rooney's character in the movie is a little over-the-top and unncessary, I thought).

The three short stories included in the book were also very enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed A Christmas Memory - a very touching story.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Hereby Christen Thee...

I've changed the name of my blog because I didn't think it sounded pretentious enough. This means that I should probably avoid any further mention of The Baby-Sitter's Club and restrict myself to reading only long and complicated Russian literature. Hmm, maybe I should change it back.

The Fine Book Connoisseur is IN (and currently reading 'The Jungle Book' by Rudyard Kipling).

BTT: Trends

(From 5 June 2008): Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?
I read much more fiction these days than non-fiction. In years gone by, I read a great deal of non-fiction books, largely concerning my favourite band, The Beatles. I have roughly 60 books about The Beatles. You wouldn't think there could be that much new information in each one, but there are a lot of different aspects to write about.

I have books by The Beatles themselves, books about them as written by the people who were closest to them, such as (ex-)spouses, (ex-)managers, sisters, record producers, friends etc, and by people who weren't close to them at all! Then there are books concerning the writing of their songs and the production of their albums. I have pictorial books, books detailing where they were and what they were doing on a day-by-day basis and other books solely full of interviews and quotes. I have books concerning bootlegs, the 'Paul is dead' conspiracy, tourist books of Liverpool and London, and books concerning their post-Beatles career. Almost all of them offer something new and interesting.

The Beatles story from beginning to end is truly fascinating and I never get tired of reading about it. That said, I haven't read any books about them for a few years. I've been on such a book-buying binge that I have a ridiculously large number of fiction books waiting to be read and I can't afford to re-read a lot of others that I would like to.

I also used to read a lot of non-fiction regarding all aspects of the paranormal - mostly on UFOs and aliens, but also ghosts and anything else concerning the paranormal. It was a great passion of mine which, sadly, I don't have much time for anymore. I think I've also grown a little more cynical so I'm not as interested as I used to be.

So these days, my reading almost entirely comprises of fiction, with the occasional non-fiction book thrown in, usually in the form of a history book. One day I hope to even it out a little more. I mostly read a lot of classics, which can be heavy-going at times. I never read light and fluffy chick-lit - I have a bit of an aversion to the genre, although I must admit I do have Bridget Jones' Diary on my TBR pile. I try to balance my heavy classics with some light reading though, usually in the form of young adult fiction; there's a lot of great stuff out there. I never really read how-tos, mysteries, or romance, although I suppose a lot of my books have those aspects in them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Idle Chit Chat

I have so many freaking reviews to write, but I can't seem to find the time to write them. I keep thinking 'I'll do it later - this time would be better spent reading'. Grr...

Maybe it's also because work has been busy lately, and work is where I write most of my reviews (shhh...) If I have time when my work deadline passes this afternoon I'll get onto them.

In the meantime, to keep all my thousands of readers entertained, there's a great blog on cover artwork for books over at Caustic Cover Critic.

There's one post in particular that caught my eye, and that was about...well, read it for yourself here. Very sad pics, especially the one of the abandoned/trashed library. I'm currently reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and have just gotten past a section on Nazi book-burning. What a crying shame to see all those books go to waste.

"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings." - Almansor - Heinrich Heine

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

Friday, June 6, 2008

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Rating: 10/10

Published: 1818
Number of pages: 279

Started: 23 May 2008
Finished: 2 June 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):
Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with the secret of resurrecting the dead. But when he makes a new 'man' out of plundered corpses, his hideous creation fills him with disgust.

Rejected by all humanity, the creature sets out to destroy Frankenstein and everyone he loves. And as the monster gets ever closer to his maker, hunter becomes prey in a lethal chase that carries them to the very end of the earth.

Comments (possible spoilers):
I loved this book. It took me a while to get into it (through no fault of the book's), but once I did I thought it was a terrific read, and not at all what I had expected. I thought the story would dwell a lot more on the creation of the monster itself, but in fact it was more concerned with the consequences of Frankenstein's actions.
Speaking of which, Victor's actions often baffled me (for example, when he turned his back on the monster without trying to find out where he went and without considering what he might have unleashed on the world).

I saw a theatre production of The Phantom of the Opera a few nights ago and I couldn't help but make comparisons between the Phantom and Frankenstein's monster. Both are shunned by the people who created them, and by society as a whole, through no fault of their own. They yearn to be loved by good people but ultimately their unhappiness consumes them and they turn to a life of violence in the misguided hope of getting what they want. I found it interesting that the people who rejected them were good people, but they ultimately suffered greatly because they were unable or unwilling to look beyond the surface of what they were faced with.

They are both truly tragic tales and I found them to be really heart-rending. Some of what Frankenstein's monster said really struck a chord with me, and I sympathsised with him a great deal (well, until he became violent). Very, very highly recommended.