Saturday, 28 January 2012

REVIEW:- Audrey NIFFENEGGER - “The Night Bookmobile“ - And a comment on Graphic Novels

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- My own copy (2nd hand - ex Highland Libraries)
ISBN: - 978 0224 089 524
Pages: - 40pp
Genre: - Graphic Novel
Location:- Chicago
How I came across it: - Reading reviews
Rating: - ***** ***** (But see below re whether it is a novel)

One sentence summary:- A cartoon format short story about a woman, the books she reads and an unusual mobile library.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
A haunting tale of a girl who has an argument with her boyfriend and while wandering the streets afterwards, in the middle of the night, finds a strange mobile library with an unusual librarian.

General comments:- I've never read a 'Graphic Novel' before and I'm not sure that a graphic novel differs much from a cartoon or comic book. So does Asterix count as a novel? I don't really think so. According to Wikipedia “a graphic novel is a narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art in either an experimental design or in a traditional comics format. The term is employed in a broad manner, encompassing non-fiction works and thematically linked short stories as well as fictional stories across a number of genres. Graphic novels are typically bound in longer and more durable formats than familiar comic magazines, using the same materials and methods as printed books, and they are generally sold in bookstores and speciality comic book shops rather than at newsstands. Such books have gained increasing acceptance as desirable materials for libraries which once ignored comic books.” Even by this definition 'The Night Bookmobile' is at best a Graphic Short Story rather than a Graphic Novel.

With that reservation I have to agree with Neil Gaiman who says “The Night Bookmobile is a love letter, both elegiac and heartbreaking, to the things we have read and to the readers that we are. It says that what we read makes us who we are. It's a graphic short story, beautifully drawn and perfectly told.”
If only one could have one's own night bookmobile to explore in the middle of the night when sleep won't some. How would we react to seeing all those forgotten books; the ones which we didn't finish and the well-thumbed pages of those we have re-read many times? Paradise is a night bookmobile.

AUTHOR Notes:- Audrey Niffenegger was born in 1969 in the USA. debut novel sold nearly 5 million copies worldwide and has been translated into thirty-three languages to date. She is also a widely exhibited artist. She lives in Chicago.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

More TBRs

More books I want to read as a result of reading reviews in We Love This Book - issues 2 and 3

James Jackson – Perdition
Lisa Genova – Still Alice
Lynn Shepherd – Tom-all-alone
Roman Krznaric - The Wonderbox: Curious histories of how to live
Steve Roud – The Lore of the Playground
Julie Coleman – The Life of Slang
Kathryn Erskine – Mockingbird
Lloyd Shepherd – The English Monster
Wendy Jones – The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price
Susanna Jones – When Nights were Colld
The Slow Cooking Bible
Courtney Watson McCarthy – M C Escher Pop-ups
Cressida Cowell – How to Train your Dragon
Cornelia Funke – Dragon Rider
Stef Penney – No Room to Roam
Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus
Morag Joss – Across the Bridge
Madeline Miller – Achilles
Christopher Priest – The Islanders
(To quote from the review - “To call Christopher Priest a science fiction author is true but doesn't quite get it – it's like calling Jane Austen a big name in chick-lit.)

Conn Iggulden – Conqueror (Genghis Khan pt 4)
(Also recommended for Daughter-who-takes-photos who, I think, like me, has read the other three)

Elly Griffiths – A Room full of Bones
(Also recommended for Daughter-who-loves-food)

Donovan Hohn – Moby Duck
(Also recommended for Son-in-law-and-friend-who-loves-Otters)

Recommended for Son-in-law-and-friend-who-loves-Otters & Daughter-who-takes-photos:-
Chris Seay – A Place at the Table
Toby Musgrove & Clay Perry – Heritage Fruit and Vegetables

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

REVIEW:- Molly COCHRAN & Warren MURPHY - “The Forever King“

Year Published: - 1992
Where the book was from:- My own copy- ex-library
ISBN: - 1 857980182
Pages: - 364pp
Genre: - Fantasy adventure
Location:- Chicago, Somerset
How I came across it: - Serendipity - On library sale table
Rating: - ***** ***

One sentence summary:- An original take on the Camelot legend as magic is let loose in the twentieth century.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- An ex-FBI agent gets involved in protecting a 10 year old boy and his aunt after the boy accidentally stumbles across a metal cup, dropped by bank robbers in Chicago. Meanwhile, in Hampshire, a prisoner with no name escapes from a secure unit for the mentally unstable and seems to have a whole army of supporters. The boy inherits a piece of real estate in Somerset and that is where the action begins to really unfold as an old man with white hair becomes another ally.

General comments:- "A fresh and exciting view of the Arthur legend" (Robert Jordan, author of The Dragon Reborn). "Books like this don't come along very often." Marion Zimmer Bradley.

There are two more books in the series:-
1. The Forever King (1991) (with Warren Murphy)
2. The Broken Sword (1997) (with Warren Murphy)
3. The Third Magic (2003)

Quotations:- nil

AUTHOR Notes:- 

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Molly Cochran lived in Europe and was educated at the University of Pittsburgh and the Sorbonne in France. She has written 26 books, including 12 ghosted novels, and the non-fiction bestseller, 'Dressing Thin', before her own first novel, Grandmaster, was a New York Times Bestseller. Since then, she has written almost a dozen other suspense and fantasy thrillers. She also writes under the pen name of Dev Stryker. 'A Wilderness of Mirrors' is published by Tor Books. (I don't understand the principle of a ghosted novel. Ghosted 'autobiography' in which someone writes a life story on behalf of a celebrity is understandable but what is a ghosted novel? Do you write a new Terrry Pratchett on his behalf and publish it under his name for him?

Warren Murphy was born in Jersey City, where he worked as a reporter and editor. After the Korean war, he drifted into politics, "but when everybody I worked for went to jail, I thought God was sending me a message to find a new line of work." Warren Murphy writes screenplays and his film credits include 'Lethal Weapon 2'. The first Destroyer novel followed soon after. Murphy says he has "the usual passel of snot-nosed kids, Deirdre, Megan, Brian, Ardath and Devin, some of whom now have their own snot-nosed kids." He has been an adjunct professor at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA, and has also run workshops and lectured at many other schools and universities. His hobbies are golf, mathematics, opera and investing. He lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. 

New or unusual words:- ...the hardscrabble earth still sprouted clumps of hearty weeds... hardscrabble means returning little in exchange for great effort; characterized by chronic poverty and hardship.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

REVIEW:- Simon MASON - “Rough Guide to Classic Novels“

Year Published: - 2008
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 1 84353 516 4
Pages: - 368pp
Genre: - Non-fiction - Literature
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **

One sentence summary:- One of the Rough Guides series this lists over 200 of the 'world's best fiction ever written'.

General comments:- Each book has information about the plot, style and author and whilst any such choice is bound to be subjective this collection is quite traditional in its approach.

AUTHOR Notes:- Simon Mason is the author of the Quigleys series and four novels - The Great English Nude (1990); Death of a Fantasist (1994); Lives Of The Dog Stranglers (1998); and Moon Pie (2011).

REVIEW:- Nick RENNISON - “100 Must-read Historical Novels“

A Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide
Year Published: - 2009
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 1 408 11396 7
Pages: - 176pp
Genre: - Non-Fiction - Literature
How I came across it: - Browsing Library shelves
Rating: - ***** ****

One sentence summary:- An interesting selection of historical novels that 'should be read' including a brief description of the plot and the author.

General comments:- This, sensibly, does not claim to represent the best ever historical novels since that would be such a subjective view. Rennison takes a gap of 60 years between the events and the writing as a minimum which excludes some that I would consider obvious candidates but he had to draw the line somewhere. In addition to the principal 100 there are a selection of 500 'read-on' recommendations. The few small 'themed categories' are inadequate but the idea is a good one.

AUTHOR Notes:- Nick Rennison is a writer, editor and bookseller with a particular interest in the Victorian era and in crime fiction. He is the author of many books including The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide to Crime Fiction, 100 Must-Read Crime Novels and Sherlock Holmes: An Unauthorised Biography. He is currently working on his own crime novel set in nineteenth century London.

Monday, 23 January 2012

To Be Read - Historical Novels

To Be Read - Historical Novels
Peter Ackroyd – The Clerkenwell Tales
Peter Ackroyd – Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem
Maragret Atwood – Alias Grace
Tracy Chevalier – The Girl with a Pearl Earring
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – White Company (re-read)
Michael Faber – The Crimson Petal and the White
Ken Follett – The Pillars of the Earth
Ford Maddox Ford – Ladies Whose Bright Eyes
Margaret George – Helen of Troy
Philippa Gregory – A Respectable Trade
Matthew Kneale – Sweet thames
Charles Palliser – The Unburied
Charles Palliser – The Quincunx
Iain Pears – An Instance of the Fingerpost
Sharon Kay Penman – Here be Dragons
Sharon Kay Penman – The Sunne in Splendour (re-read)
H F M Prescott – The Man on a Donkey
Steven Pressfield – Gates of Fire
Michele Roberts – Fair Exchange
Sir Walter Scott – Rob Roy
Anya Seton – Katharine
Belinda Starling – The Journal of Dora Damage
Rosemary Sutcliff – The Eagle of the North
William Makepeace Thackeray – Barry Lyndon
Rose Tremain – Restoration
Barry Unsworth – Morality Play
Sarah Waters – Fingersmith
Sarah Waters – Tipping the Velvet

(This list was compiled as a result of reading Nick Rennison's '100 Must Read Historical Novels')

Sunday, 22 January 2012

REVIEW:- Sarah WINMAN - “When God was Rabbit“

Year Published: - 2011
Where the book was from:- Kindle edition
Pages: - 352pp
Genre: - General / romance / family life
Location:- London, Cornwall, New York
How I came across it: - Recommended by a fellow blogger (wish I could recall who so as to thank them!!)
Rating: - ***** *****

Three sentence summary:- A book about life that defines the cliché word 'unputdownable'. This is the book I wish I had written.  Buy it!

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Elly, the writer of the story, begins as a small child but at no time is she short of experience of life. The key relationship which the book explores through her eyes is that with her brother but the themes of friendship, growing-up, family, being gay and being guilty are among many others which are brilliantly exposed. It would be hard to describe the plot without spoiling it for you and I really think this book should be on everyone's TBR list.

General comments:- Despite being full of unconventional relationships and a marvellously novel approach to writing almost all the characters are recognisable as people I've met and known. Like the very best 'first person' books there comes a time when you wonder just how much of Elly is Sarah Winman herself. Whether she had experienced some of the situations or not they are all wonderfully credible and the book, like her life, is a book of two halves. The first half is gently humorous with some black undertones and hidden secrets. When God said 'Ouch. S**t that hurt.' I was in stitches. Elly's decision to vary the script of the school play had me in tears of laughter. The second half is darker and my tears were not of laughter but of sympathy as disaster struck.

“He who has a why to live for, can bear almost any how,” I said solemnly. “That's Nietzsche,” I continued with emphasis.

“You said I could be anything I wanted when I was older,” I said.
She smiled and said, “And you can be, But its not very easy to become Jewish,”
“I know,” I said, forlornly, “I need a number.”
And she suddenly stopped smiling.

My mother was beautiful. She had lovely hands that lifted the conversation when she spoke, and had she been deaf, her signing would have been as elegant as a poet speaking verse. I looked at her eyes: blue, blue, blue; same as mine. I sang the colour in my head until it swamped my essence like sea water.
(Fancy being able to write English like that - Hilary Mantel won a Booker Prize and this book got nothing.  Life is unfair.)

 He could never understand what Nancy saw in her, and all she ever said was that K.H. Had amazing inner beauty, which my father said must be extremely hidden, since an archaeological dig working round the clock would probably have found it hard to discover.

… suddenly veering away from the script. …. (I can't put this one in without spoiling it for you but it's the quote of the book for me!!)

She darned our socks, patched our jeans, and even the tooth fairy refused to reimburse me for a particularly painful molar, even when I left it a note saying that every additional day accrued interest.  

Three months before, he’d fallen in love with a holiday-maker from Beaconsfield and had stopped his (therapy) sessions immediately, giving credence to the myth that love cures everything (except perhaps the settlement of an outstanding bill).

And I wrote about what I’d lost that morning. The witness of my soul, my shadow in childhood, when dreams were small and attainable for all. When sweets were a penny and god was a rabbit.

AUTHOR Notes:- Actress Sarah Winman grew up in Essex and now lives in London. She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film and television. When God Was a Rabbit is her first published novel though not the first she has written. Come on, someone, publish her as yet unpublished first book, please. And Sarah – we need more from you please..

New or unusual words - nil

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Review:- P G WODEHOUSE- various

Year Published: - see below
Where the books were from:- Kindle editions
ISBN: - -
Pages: - -pp
Genre: - Humour
Location:- Shropshire /London, England
How I came across them: - reading my way through some Wodehouse for the second or third time.

Something Fresh (1915) Rating: - ***** ***** 
Print Length: 256 pages
Leave it to Psmith (1923) Rating: - ***** ***  Print Length: 256 pages
Summer Lightning (1929) Rating: - ***** ****  Print Length: 256 pages
Pigs have Wings (1952) Rating: - ***** ***  Print Length: 276 pages
Aunts aren’t Gentlemen (1974)Rating: - ***** **  Print Length: 196 pages

General comments:- Typical Wodehouse humour and light-hearted looks at Blandings Castle, its occupants and visitors with a bit of Jeeves thrown in for good measure... One of the best Wodehouse quotes of all times appears at the start of ‘Summer Lightning’
"A certain critic – for such men, I regret to say, do exist – made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy."
As Marian Keyes commented about Wodehouse:-
The ultimate in comfort reading because nothing bad ever happens in P.G. Wodehouse land. Or even if it does, it’s always sorted out by the end of the book. For as long as I’m immersed in a P.G. Wodehouse book, it’s possible to keep the real world at bay and live in a far, far nicer, funnier one where happy endings are the order of the day.


From ‘Something Fresh’

Science, with a thousand triumphs to her credit, has not yet succeeded in discovering the correct reply for a young man to make who finds himself in the appalling position of being apologized to by a pretty girl. If he says nothing, he seems sullen and unforgiving. If he says anything, he makes a fool of himself. Ashe, hesitating between these two courses....

The singing in the bathroom was increasing in volume, but Lord Emsworth heard it now without wincing. It was amazing what a difference it made to a man’s comfort, this fair prospect of getting his younger son off his hands.

He was as completely happy as only a fluffy-minded old man with excellent health and a large income can be.

Ashe drifted out. He was conscious of a wish that he understood girls. Girls, in his opinion, were odd.

This odd impulse to leap across the compartment and kiss Joan was not love. It was merely the natural desire of a good-hearted young man to be decently chummy with his species.

‘Well, as Mr Peters’ valet, I suppose you will be rather a big man.’
‘I shan’t feel it.’
‘However large the house-party is, Mr Peters is sure to be the principal guest, so your standing will be correspondingly magnificent. You come after the butler, the housekeeper, the groom of the chambers, Lord Emsworth’s valet, Lady Ann Warblington’s lady’s maid—’
‘Who is she?’
‘Lady Ann? Lord Emsworth’s sister. She has lived with him since his wife died. What was I saying? Oh yes. After them come the Hon. Frederick Threepwood’s valet and myself, and then you.’
‘I’m not so high up then, after all?’
‘Yes, you are. There’s a whole crowd who come after you. It all depends on how many other guests there are besides Mr Peters.’
‘I suppose I charge in at the head of a drove of housemaids and scullery-maids?’
‘My dear Mr Marson, if a housemaid or a scullery-maid tried to get into the Steward’s Room and have her meals with us, she would be—’
‘Rebuked by the butler?’
‘Lynched, I should think. Kitchen-maids and scullery-maids eat in the kitchen. Chauffeurs, footmen, under-butler pantry-boys, hall-boys, odd man and steward’s room footman take their meals in the Servants’ Hall, waited on by the hall-boy. The still-room maids have breakfast and tea in the still-room and dinner and supper in the Hall. The housemaids and nursery-maids have breakfast and tea in the housemaids’

A fruity voice, like old tawny port made audible, said ‘Come in.’

Mr Beach was too well bred to be inquisitive, but his eyebrows were not. Ah!’ he said. ‘?’, cried his eyebrows. ‘? ? ?’

Lord Emsworth belonged to the people-like-to-be-left-alone-to-amuse-themselves-when-they-come-to-a-place school of hosts. He pottered about...

From ‘Summer Lightning’
‘He is grossly inefficient. And,’ said Lady Constance, unmasking her batteries, ‘I consider that he spends far too much of his time mooning around you, my dear. He appears to imagine that he is at Blandings Castle simply to dance attendance on you.’ The charge struck Millicent as unjust. She thought of pointing out that she and Hugo only met occasionally and then on the sly, but it occurred to her that the plea might be injudicious. She bent over the spaniel. A keen observer might have noted a defensiveness in her manner. She looked like a girl preparing to cope with an aunt.

The advance guard of the company appeared, in the shape of a flock of musicians. They passed out of the stage door, first a couple of thirsty-looking flutes, then a group of violins, finally an oboe by himself with a scowl on his face. Oboes are always savage in captivity.

He still thought Pilbeam should not have been wearing pimples with a red tie. One or the other if he liked. But not both.

A psychically gifted bystander, standing in the hall of the block of flats, would have heard at this moment a faint moan. It was Sue’s conscience collapsing beneath an unexpected flank attack.

But there had been a decade in his life, that dangerous decade of the twenties, when he had accumulated a past so substantial that a less able man would have been compelled to spread it over a far longer period.

‘Oh?’ said Millicent dully. She had dropped into a chair and picked up a book. She looked like something that might have occurred to Ibsen in one of his less frivolous moments.

Statistics relating to madness among coots are not to hand, but we may safely doubt whether even in the ranks of these notoriously unbalanced birds there could have been found at this moment one who was feeling half as mad as he did.

That grey, threatening sky had turned black by now. It was a swollen mass of inky clouds, heavy with the thunder, lightning and rain which so often come in the course of an English summer to remind the island race that they are hardy Nordics and must not be allowed to get their fibre all sapped by eternal sunshine like the less favoured dwellers in more southerly climes.

But the milk of human kindness, of which the butler was so full, had not yet been delivered on Baxter’s doorstep.

Before, he would gladly have murdered Beach and James and danced on their graves. Now, he would have been satisfied with straight murder.

Hugo squeezed her fondly and with the sort of relief that comes to men who find themselves squeezing where they had not thought to.

From Leave it to Psmith:-
‘Are you really broke?’
‘As broke as the Ten Commandments.’

…That low moaning sound you hear is the wolf bivouacked outside my door.

Go to her and say, “Susan, you are a very pretty girl. What would you do if I were to kiss you?” If she is a detective, she will reply, “How dare you, sir!” or, possibly, more simply, “Sir!” Whereas if she is the genuine housemaid I believe her to be and only sweeps under bureaux out of pure zeal, she will giggle and remark, “Oh, don’t be silly, sir!” You appreciate the distinction?’

A depressing musty scent pervaded the place, as if a cheese had recently died there in painful circumstances.

From Pigs Have Wings:-
‘He is stout, this Parsloe?’
‘He certainly gets his pennyworth out of a weighing machine.’

Left alone, Lord Emsworth sat for a while savouring that delicious sense of peace which comes to men of quiet tastes when their womenfolk have said their say and departed.

He rebuked himself for having allowed his thoughts to wander in such a dubious direction. He had received his early education at Harrow, and Old Harrovians, he reminded himself, when they have plighted their troth to Girl A, do not go about folding Girl B in their arms. Old Etonians, yes. Old Rugbeians, possibly. But not Old Harrovians.

I appreciate your surprise. Strongly anti-traditional, you are feeling. Butlers, you say to yourself, don’t kiss guests. Chauffeurs, perhaps. Gamekeepers, possibly. But butlers, never. In extenuation of his odd behaviour, however, I must mention that he is her uncle.

and on one cheek of that dark, saturnine face was a long scar. Actually it had been caused by the bursting of a gingerbeer bottle at a Y.M.C.A. picnic, but it gave the impression of being the outcome of battles with knives in the cellars of the underworld.

From Aunts Aren't Gentlemen:-
I would gladly have continued our conversation, but I knew he must be wanting to get back to his Spinoza. No doubt I had interrupted him just as Spinoza was on the point of solving the mystery of the headless body on the library floor.

AUTHOR Notes:- See Ring for Jeeves

New or unusual words:-
“…pleasure grounds and messuages.” A messuage in property law is a dwelling house together with its outbuildings, curtilage, and the adjacent land appropriated to its use.
Gravamen.” The essence or most serious part of a complaint or accusation; the substance of a charge.
“No jimcrack work here..” Jimcrack or gimcrack means shoddily built.
“so we decided we’d just slide off and spring the news in our bread-and-butter letters.” A bread-and-butter letter was a thank you letter written to people with whom one had been staying upon arriving home.

Friday, 20 January 2012


I am reading a number of books on my Kindle.  As a result I no longer have page numnbers and, more importantly, I have no total number of pages. The ability to vary the size of the font (and in my case use a big one to make it easier on my double vision problem) means the number of 'pages' can vary enormously - even if one could count them. I wanted to add up my number of pages read in 2012 and future years but how to do it.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Review:- Wilkie COLLINS - “No Name”

Year Published: - 1862
Where the book was from:- Kindle Edition
ISBN: - -
Pages: - -pp
Print Length: 392 pages
Genre: - Classic fiction
Location:- England
How I came across it: - Inspired by reading ‘The Moonstone’ I am tackling more of Wilkie Collins’s works
Rating: - ***** ****

One sentence summary:- A rollicking good yarn with a moral and some really believable characters.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- The Vanstone family is a happy one – Mr Vanstone is a gentle and genial sort and his wife equally loving to their two daughters – the traditional and sensible Norah and her younger sister, the head-strong Magdalene. When their parents die tragedy hits in more ways than one – the girls find out their parents were not married and consequently they are not entitled to any inheritance and are turned out of their home. As bad as that is the fact that they are not entitled to use the name Vanstone. They are illegitimate, have no name. While Norah settles for the prospect of being a governess, Magdalene decides to tackle her wicked uncle and his son head on…

General comments:- This novel, about the stigma of illegitimacy, was initially rejected as immoral by the critics of its day, but is now seen as a work of social insight, showing Collins at the height of his powers.


“Norah,” he said, after an interval, “you needn’t wait for me. Magdalen, my dear, you can go when you like.” His daughters rose immediately; and Miss Garth considerately followed their example. When an easy-tempered man does assert himself in his family, the rarity of the demonstration invariably has its effect; and the will of that easy-tempered man is Law.

Nothing in this world is hidden forever. The gold which has lain for centuries unsuspected in the ground, reveals itself one day on the surface. Sand turns traitor, and betrays the footstep that has passed over it; water gives back to the tell-tale surface the body that has been drowned. Fire itself leaves the confession, in ashes, of the substance consumed in it. Hate breaks its prison-secrecy in the thoughts, through the doorway of the eyes; and Love finds the Judas who betrays it by a kiss. Look where we will, the inevitable law of revelation is one of the laws of nature: the lasting preservation of a secret is a miracle which the world has never yet seen.

As a father, he regarded his family of three sons in the light of a necessary domestic evil, which perpetually threatened the sanctity of his study and the safety of his books.

When the boys went to school, Mr. Clare said “good-by” to them – and “thank God” to himself.

Few men of forty would have resisted her at that moment. Frank was twenty last birthday. In other words, he threw aside his cigar, and followed her out of the greenhouse.

To Miss Garth’s horror, Magdalen’s arm was unmistakably round Frank’s neck; and, worse still, the position of her face, at the moment of discovery, showed beyond all doubt that she had just been offering to the victim of Chinese commerce the first and foremost of all the consolations which a woman can bestow on a man. In plainer words, she had just given Frank a kiss.

I wonder who first picked out a mule as the type of obstinacy? How little knowledge that man must have had of women!

AUTHOR Notes:- Wilkie Collins (William Wilkie Collins) was born in 1824 and died in 1889. He is considered the author of the first detective novels in English. Although he studied to become a barrister it was never his intention to practise and by 1848 he had turned to writing, a number of short works appearing in Charles Dickens' periodicals "Household Words" and "All the Year Round". A first novel, “Iolani”, may have been written as early as 1844 but was rejected by publishers (and published for the first time in 1999). Collins’s second novel, “Antonina” (1850), set in fifth-century Rome, was a popular success, before his first venture into crime fiction with “Basil” (1852). Collins became hugely popular with the reading public thanks to his great novels which appeared in the 1860s - “The Woman in White” (1860), “No Name” (1862), “Armadale” (1866), and “The Moonstone” (1868). Unafraid of the criticism of Victorian society, he maintained two families, living with both Caroline Graves and Martha Rudd, neither of whom he married. In later life, he became addicted to opium and from 1870 his novels became less skilfully contrived.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

To Be Read

This is my current ‘TBR’ list. I shall aim to read all before 2012 is out – this is my personal challenge!

Christopher Paolini – Eldest
Christopher Paolini – Brisingr
Christopher Paolini – Inheritance
Anthony Trollope - Linda Tressel
Sarah Winman – When God was a Rabbit
Karin Alvtegen – Missing
Harold Begbie – The Bed-book of Happiness

Laura Childs – Death by Darjeeling
Wilkie Collins – The Woman in White
P G Wodehouse – Blandings Castle and Elsewhere
Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Birds of Prey
Aravind Adiga – The White Tiger
Henri Alain-Fournier – The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes)
David Bellos - Is That A Fish In Your Ear?: Translation and The Meaning of Everything
Tad Williams - The Dragonbone Chair

Stieg Larssson – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Mark Forsyth – The Etymologicon
Haruki Murakami - 1Q84
S J Watson - Before I Go to Sleep
Simon Van Booy - Everything Beautiful Began After
P G Wodehouse - Do Butlers Burgle Banks?
Audrey Niffenegger – The Adventuress
Peter Ackroyd - Hawksmoor

Audrey Niffenegger - The Night Bookmobile

Sunday, 15 January 2012

More about 2011

With thanks to Words and Peace for all these additional ideas on summarising my reading year.

I read an average of 7.4 books per month. In 2012 I shall total the pages (though how to do this with Kindle editions I am not yet sure).

Books by the same author: - 2 each by Muriel Barberry, Elizabeth Gaskell, Khaled Hosseini, Charles Dickens, Hilary Mantel, Terry Pratchett, Anthony Trollope, and 3 by Margaret Oliphant, David Dickinson, and Thomas Hardy.

Re-Reads: Various non-fiction but only two fiction (I think) – P G Wodehouse – “Ring for Jeeves” ; and Terry Pratchett – “Once more ** with footnotes".

Favourite character of the year: Jacob de Zoet

Which author was new to you in 2010 that you now want to read more of? Mary Elizabeth BRADDON, Wilkie COLLINS, Helen DUNMORE

Best title: “The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce - a novel in four vintages”

In 2012 I shall also count up – Books coming from: my personal bookshelf; the library; borrowed from family; Kindle editions.

And now to a fun wrap up:-

- When I was younger I was : The Immoralist
- People might be surprised to discover that I’m: Not Quite a Geisha
- I will never be: The Rector
- At the end of a long day I need: A Thousand Splendid Suns
- Right now I’m feeling: Fludd
– Someday I want to: Ring for Jeeves
- At a party you’d find me: (looking for) The Skeleton in the Closet
– I’ve never: (been) The Mayor of Casterbridge
- I really don’t enjoy: Love Letters of Great Men and Women
- My advice is to: (be) The Observant Traveller
– In my next life I want to be: Lady Audley’s Secret
- If you could go anywhere, where would you go: North and South
– Your favourite form of transportation: A Pair of Blue Eyes
- Your best friend is: The Assassin’s Cloak
- You and your friends are: The Doctor’s Family
- Favourite time of day: A Shadow on the Glass
- If your life was : A Farmer's Year
- What is life to you: Vanity Fair
- Your fear: Wives and Daughters
- What is the best advice you have to give: (follow) Dead Man’s Footsteps
- Thought for the Day: They saw it happen
- How I would like to die: An English Murder
- My soul’s present condition: The Light of Other Days

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2011 - A Summary

During 2011 I read (or at least I recorded myself as having read - I may have missed a couple) 62 fiction and 27 non-fiction.

This compared very poorly with the previous year, 2010 - 137 fiction and 32 non-fiction (not 125 and 32 as previously recorded) but I have the excuse that 2010 was exceptional since I was laid up for a while after my heart by-pass.

The 2011 total figure was also down on 2009 when I read at least 89 fiction but the non-fiction were up on that year's 21.

Six of the non-fiction that I read in 2011 got ten stars :-

David Verey (Ed) – “The Diary of a Victorian Squire” (re-read)
Joan POWERS (Ed.) - "Eeyore's Gloomy Little Instruction Book" (re-read)
Ronald Blythe -"The Penguin Book of Diaries" (re-read)
Scouse Press – "An Everyday History of Liverpool" (re-read)
E & M A Radford - "The Encyclopedia of Superstitions" (re-read)
William Plomer (Ed.) - "Kilvert's Diary 1870-1879" (re-read)

Since they were all books I had read before it seemed inappropriate to make a 'Best of non-fiction award' for 2011 though if I were pressed I would give it to Kilvert's Diary which is one of those books one could read and re-read a dozen times and still enjoy.

The SCRIPTOR SENEX PRIZE FOR FICTION for 2011 is divided into three sections – Victorian fiction, 20th Century Fiction and 21st Century Fiction.

The Victorian Fiction that got ten stars were:-

Charles DICKENS – "Dombey & Son" (1848)

Elizabeth GASKELL - "North and South" (1855)

Mary Elizabeth BRADDON - "Lady Audley's Secret" (1862)

Anthony TROLLOPE - “Rachel Ray“ (1863)

Joseph Sheridan Le FANU – “Uncle Silas ” (1864)

Margaret OLIPHANT - "Miss Marjoribanks" (1865)

Wilkie COLLINS – “The Moonstone” (1868)

And the VICTORIAN PRIZE was shared jointly by an obscure scribbler called Charles John Huffam DICKENS for "Dombey & Son" (1848) and Mary Elizabeth BRADDON for "Lady Audley's Secret" (1862).  Unlike Dickens,whowrote little and faded into obscurity, Braddon was an extremely prolific writer, producing more than 80 novels with very inventive plots. The most famous one is "Lady Audley's Secret" which won her recognition as well as fortune. The novel has been in print ever since its publication, and has been dramatised and filmed several times. Unfortunately neither of the above responded to my e-mails asking them to collect their prize.

No 20th Century books that I read in 2011 got ten stars so no Prize was awarded in that category!

The 21st Century fiction that got ten stars were:-

Helen DUNMORE - “The Siege“ (2001)

Khaled HOSSEINI – “The Kite Runner” (2003)

Terry PRATCHETT - “Once More * *with footnotes” ( 2004) (re-read)

Alice HOFFMAN – “The Ice Queen ” (2005)

Khaled HOSSEINI – “A Thousand Splendid Suns ” (2007)

Muriel BARBERY – “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” (2008)

Paul TORDAY - “The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce - a novel in four vintages" (2008)

David MITCHELL – “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet ” (2010)

Terry PRATCHETT - “Snuff“ (2011)

Like the Victorian Prize the 21st CENTURY PRIZE was shared. This time by David MITCHELL for “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet ” (2010) and Khaled HOSSEINI for “A Thousand Splendid Suns ” (2007).  Both deserve all the praise that has been heaped upon them and I recommend them to you most heartily.  They are books not only to read but to buy and keep for ever.

If either of those gentlemen would care to contact me I shall be happy to forward a printed certificate and a tin of my delicious cornflake crunch.

What was the best book you read in 2011?