Monday, 5 October 2009

Ennui

I didn't mean to be away for so long, but over the summer I've been suffering from ennui. Not sure what bought it on, except that I seemed that I've spent most of this year dealing with the same old problems and, well, its frustratingly annoyingly boring.

The good news is that as the first leaves began to plummet from the trees the ennui lifted as otherwise I could have been forced into the usual literary cure of an entanglement with an unsuitable, but dashing, man ... hmmm ...

But I digress.

As you'll see from the updated reading list, I've still been reading, but with the ennui and all that, my reading pace has slowed. So I thought I would share the following review, and yes I did really read the new Dan Brown - it was presented to me by a friend, who loved it, as a pre-MA treat (did I mention that in an attempt to lift the ennui I signed up for an English MA?). When I pointed out that I'd hated the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons my objections were swept aside on the basis that I'd read The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and was bought up Catholic, although my view of the Roman Catholic Church is very jaundiced and not improving - did you see this from the Pope? A new form of colonialism? They need to cast off the old ones first - James Joyce wrote, 'the tyranny of Rome still holds the dwelling place of the soul’ which still holds true today, Rome needs to embrace the twenty first century rather than hanging desperately onto pointless tradition, especially in Africa - but yes I was incensed by Angels and Demons and I thought his writing was a little clunky. And who says that I don't have an opinion on the masons? But I digress.

I am a fast reader, my reading average is around 3½ books per week for fun (this doesn’t include books and texts I have to read) and I can usually read a 500 page or so book in a couple of days. This took me over 3 days to read, not quite my slowest record, but even so, rather than being a ‘page turner’ it was a ‘putter downer’. I persevered to try understand just what it is that makes these books so popular.

The first page reads ‘Fact: In 1991, a document was locked in the safe of the director if the CIA. The document is still there today...The document also contains the phrase “It’s buried out there somewhere”. My first reaction was ‘here we go again’ so I put the book down and went for a very long walk. The thought of my friend, who only reads a book a month, and read this in a day, spurred me on so I picked up the book again.

It’s definitely a book that needs some serious editing and most of these have been detailed already by other reviewers so I won’t bore you, apart to add that my particular annoyances are how he leads the reader by the hand, using full names throughout the text, often tacking on job descriptions, ‘Security Chief Trent Anderson’, we are repeatedly told of a character's ethnicity or size, he reminds us three or four times in the space of a couple of pages that Bellamy is ‘African American’. But my particular favourite is ‘Their father had succumbed to cancer when Katherine was only seven, and she had little memory of him. Her brother, eight years Katherine’s senior and only fifteen when her father died’ - does he assume that his readers can't add or subtract?

As for the plot, as you can see from the side bar, I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, and the key to these is to keep the reader guessing almost to the end of the book – sadly I guessed one of the major plot twists in the first third of the book, and spent the rest of the time reading the book hoping that Brown would come up with a different solution. Additionally a couple of ‘deus ex machina’ plot twists, which I won’t spoil for anyone yet to read the book - one of which involves a miraculous escape worthy of The Perils of Pauline, which left me screaming and beating the floor in frustration - also made me put the book down and go for very long walks.

As for the characters, I really didn’t care if any of them, including Robert Langdon lived or died.

Eventually, and believe me I've never been so pleased to see the end of a book, I made it through and I still don’t get it. I loved the first two instalments in the Millennium series by the late Stieg Larsson both of which kept me reading far too late into the night - I'm currently reading the third and am finding it hard to put down. I understand why people love the Harry Potter books and I kind of understand why the Twilight series is so popular. But this reads like the bad third instalment in the National Treasure series of films - you know the one that should never be made but everyone is cashing in while they can - don't take this as a criticism of the films I loved them.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Superpod

No its not the name of some new pop band, although give it time... did you see this film of a superpod of dolphins off the coast of Wales on the BBC website? This bought back memories of the superpod of dolphins I saw whale watching off Kaikoura back in 2004 - its scary its been so long since I last travelled properly and I have very very itchy feet but a combination of study and freelancing (lack of cashflow) has stopped me and unless more work comes travelling to any of the places I want to see is a very far horizon.

I finally got to meet the whales and dolphins on my fourth attempt on that trip - I'd tried off Auckland and in the Bay of Islands but no one was home, and on my first visit to Kaikoura the weather was abysmal so the boats stayed in port and the helicopter was grounded, not that I was going anywhere near a helicopter in that weather. The second time I went through Kaikoura the weather was perfect and this is an extract from my diary:

We sailed a little way from shore, where the continental shelf drops away very steeply and the warm tropical waters meet the cooler waters from the Antarctic (I think). Then the captain started the hunt, I guess, as in the Bay of Islands, the earlier boat and the other boats all keep in touch so that they all know what is going on, so the captain knew that there were whales around. He kept dropping the sonar over the side of the boat to listen for their calls.

He did have good news, there was a sperm whale about and he sounded as if he was going to surface – so we sailed around a bit and there he was (they are all males in this area). Amazing. It sounds so new agey, but it did feel very spiritual as the whole experience was so peaceful despite everyone else on the boat and the helicopters overhead. We could see him and hear him spouting water regularly from his blow hole. It was very humbling experience, he was so unconcerned that we were watching him, he just got on with the business of re-oxygenating his body, just so calm, magnificent, wonderful.

Took lots of photos, of course, they told us when we was ready to dive and hopefully I got one of his tail. (I did).




Then we were off again. ... We found another whale again, once again it was just so calm and so peaceful and gentle (although not if you are a squid apparently). Whales are like icebergs, the majority of the whale stays underwater. Amazing that it was so calm as there was another boat and the helicopter there – a third boat had already had several encounters so they backed off – the NZ authorities insist that only three craft (including helicopters) can get close to the whales in the water (you can just see one of the other boats here).




We sailed around some more and the lookout found some dusky dolphins. Amazing, but so different to the whales. There were some 50 – 100 so they were hard to see as they splashed around and dove and looped. Where the whales don't seem to care or notice that we are around, the dolphins seemed genuinely delighted to see us – they swam over to us and started playing around and under us – such a feeling of joy and fun (these photos give just a very small idea of the size and closeness of the pod).






Then back to the whale hunting and the first whale we encountered had resurfaced, apparently they come up for air every couple of hours or so. They turned off the engines and stopped the commentary and we had some quiet time with him (despite the other boat and the helicopter). Such peace and a feeling of timelessness, agelessness even though he is a relatively young male (around Kaikoura they are under 40, when they get that old they are finally large enough to mate and so leave for warmer waters where they get to meet girls!) just amazing.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Feeling like Alice...

I'm sitting here typing with a fidgety cat by my shoulder, which is very distracting to say the least.

I've just finished reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, its a wonderfully imaginative children's book so may not be on every ones radar, although it was made into a film which starring Brendan Fraser. I haven't seen the film, but as it has the fantastic Paul Bettany playing Dustfingerwho is my favourite character in the book, plus Helen Mirren and Andy Serkis playing the evil villian Capricorn, it is now on my 'to watch' list. The central conceit of Inkheart is that when he reads a book aloud Meggie's father, Mo, can conjour characters from the book into our world which is how Dustfinger, Capricorn and various of Capricorn's associates all got here. I would have absolutely adored this book when I was a child.

I've also read a couple of books by Neil Gaiman, who writes the most wonderful contemporary fairy stories, Neverwhere probably being my favourite - travel on the tube will never be the same after reading this. The Graveyard Book, his most recent release reworks The Jungle Book into a darkly beautiful, fairy story. While Coraline has just been made into a deliciously scary film - one day Coraline finds a strange door which leads to an alternative version of her home with Other Mother and Other Father which initially looks more fun.

I loved these books as an adult and would have absolutely adored these books as a child as they sit alongside Antonia Barber's The Ghosts (aka The Amazing Mr Blunden) Penelope Farmer's Charlotte Sometimes and Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, three of my favourite childhood books.

I don't remember being a particularly unhappy child, but these three books all share the central conceit of an escape to another world which does make me wonder - OK I'm not sure I'd want to be living in a girls boarding school during WWI. I also have a vivid memory of me aged around seven wobbling on my mother's precious sideboard and staring intently into the big sitting room mirror, trying to recreate the opening of Alice Through the Looking Glass - only a seven year old would want to meet some of those characters, its been a while since I read the Alice books but I am sure that the Red Queen is in the second book as well - so let's chalk this up to childhood imagination and a desire to learn about places other than the small cathedral city in Southern England I grew up in. A desire I still have as an adult, especially after a very bad day at work.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Small Beginnings

1,032 words written. Not an enormous amount I know, but they look like good words and in the right order...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Quick Update

You may have noticed that a new widget has appeared on the blog called "Book" showing how much of my book I've written. It stays relentlessly at zero for the moment, although I do have a rough chapter breakdown and I've concluded most of my research, so I am ready to go.

But not a word has been written.

Why?

I've had a really bad couple of weeks with work, and when I say bad I mean sleepless night, 3am pacing bad - worrying about the discovery of a huge issue with one project close to completion which seemed, at 3am at least, completely unsolvable - while trying to deal with a series of 'what if...' questions that are basically unanswerable. So my poor head feels as if a hole has been drilled in my skull and various fingers have poked and prodded what's left of my brain.

The good news is that there are certain deadlines that can't be avoided so things should get easier soon. But I'm still not getting enough sleep as I'm worried that it is going to be too quiet in the second half of this year!

The good news is that this all means that I might actually have the time to get a good first draft of the entire novel written. I nearly abandoned the whole project a couple of weeks ago, because I thought I didn't really have anything to say, but then I read a couple of books that really didn't seem to be saying anything at all, to me at least, and this has spurred me on and I'm aiming to write around 10,000 words a week which a break for the bit of research that I've been avoiding. The 100,000 words on the widget is just an estimate, I may write more, I may write less - as Neil Gaiman says in the Intro to Smoke and Mirrors 'Sometimes the only way I would know that a story had finished was when there weren't any more words to be written down' and I suspect that this is true for me.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

When I am old

I may well wear purple, but I won't have a red hat - I hate wearing hats. But I shall go to my local supermarket and fling a few items into a basket. When I get to the head of the queue at the checkout I'll put my hands to my head and exclaim 'oh my, I've forgotten to get ....'. When that arrives I'll remember something else I've forgotten. When that arrives I'll complain that its the wrong size and wait for them to come back with the 'right size' and then mention that I actually wanted two. I'll drag this game out for as long as I can and then I'll pay my bill with ten pence pieces, slowly counting each one out. Then I'll drop the receipt ... and then pack my shopping, one item at a time - I am old after all. Eventually I shall turn to the extremely long queue behind me and, with a big grin, apologise for keeping them waiting and skip out of the shop.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

To Write or Not To Write

As some of you may know I completed the NaNoWriMo Challenge in 2007 and since then I've been slowly researching things and letting the plot of my novel brew. I've also just finished this Birkbeck Novel Writing 1 which I would highly recommend to anyone in the London area considering writing a novel. Everyone was writing a very different kind of novel and we all seemed to be at very different stages in the process and this was part of the joy. The exercises in class enabled me to refine my plot, gave me some brilliant ideas and has, I think, enabled me to find the way into writing this book because write it I must, even if no one else reads the manuscript.

My problem is that I need to do some more research on one particular area for the book - its actually a very significant part of the plot. I have the books all piled up on my bookshelves, most of them are on loan from various friends, but, for various reasons, mainly the subject matter, I'm reluctant to start reading them - and not just because of the looks I am likely to get on the train.

So my question is should I just start writing and fill in the research as I go along or should I wait to start writing until I finish my research? Or should I just do nothing?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Ill

For once the sun may be shining on a bank holiday weekend, but I'm stuck indoors with the mother of all colds. Its not Swine Flu, this cold has been brewing for a couple of weeks, but of course I would start sneezing the moment that having a cold in public is the social equivalent of walking naked down your local high street. Despite my assurances that I don't know anyone whose been to Mexico, or know anyone who knows anyone whose been to Mexico, I am being eschewed by everyone bar the cat and even she's asleep in a different room.

Which leads onto the question of the day. If you feed a cat, but the cat doesn't see you feed it, even though the cat eats the new food, does this mean that the cat has been fed?

I've been a recent lucky recipient of Library Thing Early Reviewers largess. Its been a good bunch on the whole and there are a couple of books that I really want to recommend to people.


This is a road-trip book and some reviewers have compared this to Little Miss Sunshine, I wouldn't go as far as that. This is a deceptively simple but in reality a very complex book. Toews is both compassionate and detached in her exploration of the effects of Min's, possibly terminal, depression on her children, Thebes and Logan, and her sister, Hattie. Hattie's relationships with her sister and with her niece and nephew feel rooted in reality. In particular the dialogue between the characters is superb and feels very authentic, and Thebes and, especially Logan, are never sentimentalised, but are compelling oddballs in their determination. On the trip to find the children's father the family encounter various quirky characters, who bring humour and insight to family's predicament. This is a book I highly recommend and I will be be looking out for Miriam Toews's other books.

Petina Gappah's writing is so masterly that it is hard to believe that this is her debut. Her writing has an elegance which reminded this reader of Katherine Mansfield, which is especially true in the things that Gappah does not say. Gappah writes about the daily lives and struggles of the people of her native Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean leaders only appear in passing in these stories, as Gapph is writing about the ordinary people and how the increasing inflation and AIDS epidemic impacts on their daily lives. The characters in these stories are very real and whilst they seem very rooted to their geography and situation they are also universal, we all know people like 'My Cousin-Sister Rambanai' and the people who live 'In the Heart of the Golden Triangle' and people's whose marriages are similar to the one in 'The Negotiated Settlement'. 'Midnight at the Hotel California' made me laugh out loud, but Gappah never lets you forget that behind the laughter there are tears. Superb. Gappah is definitely a writer to watch.

I must read other books by Helen Garner as this is an absolutely amazing book. Garner, seemingly effortlessly, encapsulates in this tiny text, the fear, sadness, anger and frustration of watching someone you love in denial of their own death. I shared Helen's anger at the doctors Nicola trusted and who charged her for expensive treatments and her frustration and anger with Nicola 'The one thing I was sure of, as I lay pole-axed on my bed that afternoon ... was that if I did not get Nicola out of my house tomorrow I would slide into a lime-pit of rage that would scorch the flesh off me, leaving nothing but a strew of pale bones on a landscape of sand.' This is a brutally honest, gentle, compassionate, loving and, at times, funny novel which is beautifully written.

Sadly, last does mean least this time. I love a crime novel, and was really looking forward to this one, but having read it I am quite ambivalent this book. It has an interesting premise, a paedophile is brutally murdered in the City of London, and fearing that this will escalate the police question the families of other victims of paedophiles possibly connected with the murder, but somehow it just doesn't work. The story is bleak and is overly complicated, but that isn't the issue. The main problem is that Staffe feels too much of a written by numbers dysfunctional DI, almost as if in creating Staffe Adam Creed had taken elements of all the dysfunctional D.I.s ever written (Rebus, Dalziel, Morse, Dagliesh to name a few) and mixed them all up. Other readers may like this book, but it just felt too formulaic for me.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

An Important Ramble

Once again didn't mean to be away this I've taken on far too much work, but, like so many, I am worried that the work will dry up. So there hasn't been much to report.

I am still reading though, it takes a lot for me to stop reading for more than a couple of days and the last time I stopped was in the weeks before my father died. Which leads me to one of my ramblings, and am important one, my Dad had Parkinson's and you may have seen in the news that the Parkinson's Disease Society is asking for people to donate their brains to help further research into this perfidious disease, and why not, whatever happens to us after death (the body isn't part of it as stays here and rots) so why not let it help someone else? More information can found here.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Alive....

but slowly disappearing under paper.

Not helped by this.





As the box was nearly as deep as it was wide you would think this contained something large and exciting - but no, just these three little things!





Bad bad Canon store.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Not much to say...

as all I'm doing at the moment is working and commuting - I tend to read on the train, unless its been a really bad week and then I stare out the window at the familiar suburban landscape, so I am racing through the books.

But I have recently, thanks to the wonderful Library Thing Early reviewers programme, fallen in love with the poetry of Robert Burns through Andrew O'Hagan's excellent book A Night Out with Robert Burns. Being English, and southern English at that, Burns has always been, to me, a bit of a sentimental Scottish cliche - there's a drunken Scotsman who always seems to be staggering through St Martin's Lane, muttering "A Red Red Rose" when I'm on my way home, which is in itself a testament to Scottish education as the average drunken Englishman can at best manage, "Come on show us your tits" - and don't get me started on "Auld Lang Syne".

Burns is much more than this, he was a political poet, just read this, which O'Hagan puts into context with an extract from an MOD release announcing the death of a 19 year old Highland Fusilier in Basra in 2004:

I Murder Hate

I murder hate by field or flood,
Tho' glory's name may screen us;
In wars at home I'll spend my blood,
Life giving wards of Venus;
The deities that I adore
Are social Peace and Plenty;
I'm better pleased to make one more,
Than be the death of twenty.-

I would not die like Socrates,
For all the fuss of Plato;
Nor would I with Leonadas,
Nor yet I would with Cato:
The Zealots of the Church, or State,
Shall ne'er my mortal foes be,
But let me have bold ZIMRI's fate,
Within the arms of COSBI!-

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Children say the funniest things...

A five year old was jumping up and down on the train station platform over-excitedly yelling "Hurry up and come Mr Train we're going to Slough"!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Working too hard...

and too much, to post. Still commuting, so still reading.

In the meantime someone forwarded this to me at work.



Dog's Diary


8:00 am - Dog food! My favourite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favourite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favourite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favourite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favourite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favourite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favourite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favourite thing!
6:00 pm - Oooh, Bath . Bummer!!!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favourite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favourite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favourite thing!


Cat's Diary



Day 983 of my captivity.
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Ba$tards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now.................

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The Vesuvius Club


As you would expect from a member of the League of Gentlemen and one of the writers for the new series of Dr Who, this is an opulent romp. Lucifer Box is an Edwardian painter and spy whose office is based in a gentleman's lavatory underneath the Royal Academy of Art. Lucifer is an interesting, self-obsessed character, the opening chapters are peppered with asides about his pretty mouth and fine white hands. He's also very very naughty, with 'a girl with a name and the body of a goddess ... There'd been a balcony, starlight, whispered words and then something very cheeky in the rhododendrons' as well as with anyone else who takes his fancy. He lives at 9 Downing Street (someone has to and its "awfully handy for town"). The prose is superb, darkly funny and surreal and this is an entertaining read.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

All Books Read in 2008

1. The Lost Luggage Porter by Andrew Martin
2. Murder at Deviation Junction by Andrew Martin
3. Suite Fran├žoise by Irene Nemirovsky
4. The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith
5. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
6. The Year of Living Magically by Joan Didion
7. Agatha Christie: The Biography of Agatha Christie by Laura Thompson
8. I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan
9. Silent as the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
10. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
11. Silk by Alessandro Baricco
12. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
13. The Owl Service by Alan Garner
14. The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
15. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
16. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
17. The Man in The Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
18. Deadlock by Sara Paretsky
19. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
20. The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
21. The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler
22. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
23. Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
24. Frederica by Georgette Heyer
25. The Big Four by Agatha Christie
26. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
27. A Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xialong
28. The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
29. Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
30. Miracles of Life by J G Ballard
31. The Underdog by Agatha Christie
32. Blood Price by Tanya Huff
33. Blood Trail by Tanya Huff
34. Blood Lines by Tanya Huff
35. Blood Pact by Tanya Huff
36. Small Favour by Jim Butcher
37. A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
38. The Mysterious Mr Quinn by Agatha Christie
39. The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
40. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale
41. Blood Debt by Tanya Huff
42. Red Mandarin Dress by Qiu Xialong
43. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie
44. B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
45. C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
46. Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
47. The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie
48. Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
49. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: Underfoot in Showbusiness by Helene Hanff
50. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
51. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
52. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: Apple of My Eye by Helene Hanff
53. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff
54. D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton
55. Smoke and Mirrors by Tanya Huff
56. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
57. The Listerdale Mystery by Agatha Christie
58. E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton
59. Why Didn't They Ask Evans by Agatha Christie
60. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
61. Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie
62. Trading Tatiana by Debi Alper
63. Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
64. Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
65. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
66. ABC Murders by Agatha Christie
67. Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
68. The Search for Sana by Richard Zimler
69. The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie
70. Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
71. Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
72. F is For Fugitive by Sue Grafton
73. Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
74. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
75. Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie
76. Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
77. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
78. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
79. Maisie Dobbs An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
80. Batting on the Bospherus by Angus Bell
81. G is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton
82. Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie
83. Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie
84. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
85. The Regatta Mystery and other stories by Agatha Christie
86. Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
87. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
88. Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
89. N or M by Agatha Christie
90. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
91. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
92. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
93. From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
94. Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
95. Death Comes As the End by Agatha Christie
96. Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie
97. The Hollow by Agatha Christie
98. The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie
99. Taken At the Flood by Agatha Christie
100. Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie
101. Crooked House by Agatha Christie
102. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
103. Winchester from Prehistory to the Present by Tom Beaumont James
104. The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn
105. The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith
106. Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
107. The Mousetrap and other Plays by Agatha Christie
108. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
109. Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs
110. They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie
111. Mrs McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie
112. Underground London by Stephen Smith
113. Hunting Midnight by Richard Zimler
114. They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
115. H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton
116. Nation by Terry Pratchett
117. After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
118. A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie
119. Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie
120. The Rose Labyrinth by Titanie Hardie
121. Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie
122. Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie
123. 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
124. Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie
125. Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
126. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie
127. The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
128. The Mirror Crack'd from side to side by Agatha Christie
129. The Clocks by Agatha Christie
130. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
131. A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
132. At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie
133. Third Girl by Agatha Christie
134. Endless Night by Agatha Christie
135. By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
136. Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
137. Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
138. Nemesis by Agatha Christie
139. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
140. Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie
141. Poirot's Early Cases by Agatha Christie
142. Curtain: Poirot's Last Case by Agatha Christie
143. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
144. Miss Marple's Final Cases by Agatha Christie
145. Letter from New York by Helene Hanff
146. To Dream of The Dead by Phil Rickman
147. A River Runs through It by Norman MacLean
148. Address Unknown by Kressman Taylor
149. Once Upon A Time in the North by Philip Pullman
150. The Weirdstone of Brisingham by Alan Garner
151. The Amazing Mr Blunden aka The Ghosts by Antonia Barber
152. Tom's Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce
153. New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
154. The Wildest Dream: Mallory - His Life and Conflicting Passions by Peter Gillman
155. The King and Mrs. Simpson: The True Story of the Commoner Who Captured the Heart of a King by Erin Frances Shulz
156. The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine by Tom Hozel and Audrey Salked
157. The Ghosts of Everest: The Authorised Story of the Search for Mallory and Irvine by Jochen Hemmleb, Larry Johnson and Eric Simonsen
158. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
159. Detectives on Everest: The 2001 Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition by Jochen Hemmleb and Eric Simonsen
160. The Haunted Tea Cosy by Edward Gorey
161. The Headless Bust by Edward Gorey
162. The Luck of Troy by Roger Lanclyn Green
163. Saturday by Ian McEwan
164. Sorbonne Confidential by Laurel Zukerman
165. Agatha Raison and a Spoonful of Poison by M C Beaton
166. Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
167. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
168. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
169. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
170. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
171. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
172. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
173. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
174. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket
175. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket
176. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket
177. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket
178. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
179. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
180. Stray by Rachel Vincent
181. Absent Light by Eve Isherwood
182. The Songs of the Kings by Barry Unsworth
183. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young

Thursday, 1 January 2009

First Book of 2009


This is the third book in the Brenda and Effie series and is no less bonkers than the other two. Something is up in Whitby - Mr Danby is hosting an all night radio phone-in show which seems to be keeping most of the locals up all night and Mrs Claus is hosting a convention for British ex-super heroes, Harry the Cat and Mrs Midnight are two of those in attendance, but something is coming and its not just romance for Brenda, whether she likes it or not. As usual Brenda, Effie and their sidekick Robert are determined to get to the bottom of the various goings on, and their investigations lead Brenda into danger and Effie, Robert and Sheila Manchu have to go very deep in their attempts to save their friend. Lots of fun.

Reading Review of the Year

My reading statistics for 2008.

183 books read in total, which averages around 3.5 books a week.

I've read books written by authors whose surnames start with every letter of the alphabet from Debi Alper to Richard Zimler.

Favourite books of the year were (in reading order):

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
The Year of Living Magically by Joan Didion
Miracles of Life by J.G. Ballard
Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
Underfoot in Showbusiness by Helene Hanff
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
The Duchess of Bloomsbury by Helene Hanff
Apple of My Eye by Helene Hanff
Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
Letter from New York by Helene Hanff
To Dream of the Dead by Phil Rickman
The Weirdstone of Brisingham by Alan Garner
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Many of these, the Agatha Christies, some of the Helene Hanffs and of course the Alan Garner and Philippa Pearce were re-reads, but I was pleased to note that time had not diminished the power of the writing and the narrative. If you like life/travel writing do read Helene Hanff, she is an exuberant companion and you won't be bored!

But there is one book that has stood head and shoulders above the others, and as I actually read it in December 2007 shouldn't really be mentioned in a reading review of 2008, but its the book that has stayed with me since I first read it, when I blogged about it back then I headed up the blog with 'You Must Read this Book' and I still feel the same about this over twelve months. I've read other books in the Zarco series as well as Search for Sana and they are each superb and compelling reads, but haven't haunted me in the way that this one has. Read it.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, my worst book of the year was The King and Mrs. Simpson: The True Story of the Commoner Who Captured the Heart of a King by Erin Frances Shulz. This was a book that came to me through the excellent Library Thing Early Reviewers programme and was fortunately very short, but oh dear. I've just realised that I was extremely generous when I rated this book on Library Thing and doubled my rating as this book sadly only managed to be ranked at 2 points out of 10 on my system. I've just looked at it again to see if I was too hard, as the book is intended as a 'snapshot of history' and to attract readers who wouldn't normally pick up a history book, which is not me, but sadly I was right. As I wrote in my Library Thing review, 'this is sadly not a book I can recommend to newcomers to the story, as the inaccuracies combined with the simplistic prose make what should be an epic and engaging read, flat and uninspiring.'

Oh yes, and if you are considering joining Library Thing Early Reviewers, do, unlike other review programmes (cough cough Amazon) they don't penalise you for bad reviews and I can confirm that as I snagged another Early Review copy after posting this review.

Happy New Year

I didn't mean to be away for so long, but the last couple of months have been a bit strange.

Firstly, like so many, I've staggered from one cough and cold to another - probably not helped by travelling on the tube where on every journey someone seems to kindly cough or sneeze in my face - which left me wiped out.

Secondly my laptop threw all its toys out of its pram by keeping on shutting itself down, usually when I was in the middle of typing an email which it would send to some random person in my address book. After investigation a virus was ruled out and it was decided that I'd just bought a lemon. So eventually I bit the bullet and bought a bright new shiny laptop from the lovely people at John Lewis.

It hasn't all been bad news though, the company Christmas do was at the London Hippodrome seeing La Clique . I'd expected to only make it through the first half because I wasn't feeling so great, but lasted throughout the entire performance. David O'Mer and the English Gents were probably our, all female table, top recommendations ('The Man in the Bath' was one person's request for our office Secret Santa, but as we had a £6 limit per person so even if we'd pooled our resources it was never going to happen - you need look at the website to really understand this!) and I have a soft spot for Mario Queen of the Circus - did you know Freddie Mercury was really writing about ... juggling! All the performances were fabulous, although Ursula Martinez's strip divided our audience - especially as she later proved she has singing and comedic talents without taking her clothes off.


I also sat through the 165 minutes of this. Its had some mixed reviews, which are not unfair, but I have seen it described as a turkey which is unfair - I don't think Baz Luhrmann is capable of making a bad movie, but this one is just a little too busy and overlong and he should have concentrated on one of his story arcs, rather than trying to deal with two complex stories in depth - oh yes and there was a complete Thomas Hardy moment, well as Thomas Hardy as you can get in the outback! But it is overlong and the narrative drags in places, but its a lot better than a lot of the stuff out there at the moment.

Oh yes and while we are on the subject of movies, I also had the requisite Bond moment. I loved Quantum of Solace and thought it pitched perfectly the emotional depth and tone for a direct sequel to Casino Royale. I've also just started to read the Bond books in order of publication - I read some of them when I was at school years ago, and have to say that Daniel Craig may be blond, but he seems to be the actor whose got the closest to Bond, well in my humble opinion!

Oh yes and finally, but not least, congratulations to Sir Terry Pratchett for his much deserved knighthood, the man is a genius and not afraid to stand up for what he believes in from humanism to Alzheimer's research and if you haven't read any of his books, why not?