Monday 30 December 2013

And My Overall Challenge......

So my overall challenge for the year is at least 200 books..... including the challenges that I have already accepted...... so that is 200 books, including a range of fantasy trilogies, and including 25-50 authors I've never read before. Should be interesting. :)

Sunday 29 December 2013

My Official Work Challenge 2014

I've been set an official work challenge now, to read my way through as many fantasy/Sci-fi trilogies as I can..... I shall be making a start with the Gormenghast trilogy...... then probably His Dark Materials..... then who knows. For both of these I have read the first in the series already, but have never got round to any of the other books, so now is when I shall make amends..... Titus Groan here I come.

Saturday 28 December 2013

2014 First Reads Book Challenge

I have decided to sign up to the 2014 First Reads Challenge from fellow blogger b00k r3vi3ws.

I have decided that a sensible challenge level for me would be Lover: reading 25-50 new authors over 2014...... as I'm planning on setting my general reading challenge at 200 books for 2014, this should be a nice little addition to the reading complexity for next year. :)

Thursday 19 December 2013

Italian Library Looted....

Have just been reading about the looting of the Girolamini library in Naples. A 16th century library was systematically stripped of it's invaluable works by the director of the library Marino Massimo de Caro. At least 500 books were sent for sale in Germany after having their recognisable bindings removed, and often after having identifying seals and stamps simply ripped out of the centuries old texts. This is just one of the innumerable batches of books that has been distributed around the world by this gang of thieves. Police now believe that around 80% of the missing books have been recovered, but that still means that 20% is still out there somewhere; and with the catalogue having been destroyed by the gang Police are unable to be totally sure what is still missing. The authorities are now forced to rely on older recollections of what should have been on the shelves of this ancient library, and to simply hope that the world of antiquarian books rallies round and is able to unearth the remaining items.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

This Week.... busy, busy, busy.....

I can't believe just how busy I am this week. So far it doesn't feel as though I have stopped. Despite this I have still managed to get a wee bit of reading in. So far this week I've read a couple of excellent books. The Boat by Clara Salaman is a tense psychological thriller about the loss of innocence. Similar in style to the bestselling The Beach, and to films such as Dead Calm, the story follows romantic lovers Johnny and Clem as they confront evil and madness in the confined space of a sailing boat. The story works really well, with the contrasts between the idyllic scenes in Cornwall working very well against the immoral and dreadful truths they learn on the 'Little Utopia' This one isn't published until 30/01/14 and I will look forward to seeing how it does.
 I've also read through my proof copy of Wake by Anna Hope. I found this to be a deeply moving piece of writing. The story follows three women, a sister, lover and mother of men killed or damaged by the 1914-18 war, during the five days running up to the first Remembrance Day in 1920. Running Parallel to the story of these women, and integral to their lives, is the story of the choice and journey home of the Unknown Warrior from his unknown 'grave' in France/Belgium to his final resting place in Westminster Abbey. All of the stories intermingle to form a whole which is compelling, tragic and exceptionally well written. Again I'm afraid there is a bit of a wait until the publication of this beautiful book as it is not released until 16/01/14. The wait will be worth it though as this really does stand out among the current crop of First World War novels.

So now I've moved on to something quite different, The Gospel of Loki by old favourite Joanne Harris. I'm a sucker for a Norse legend so this is right up my street, but even despite my bias I can see that this could turn out to be something rather special.....

Friday 6 December 2013

R.I.P Nelson Mandela

18th July 1918-5th Dec 2013

Today the world mourns the great Nelson Mandela who has died, aged 95, after what seems like a period of almost constant ill health.

I was only in my very early teens when Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, but can still remember haw much of an impact we all thought he would have on the world. 

There are so many biographies available of this great man, the last few years of illness have produced what seems like a vast number; one which I am planning on reading in tribute is Conversations with Myself published in 2011. This is a wonderful collection of Mandela's letters and diary entries that provides insight to the thoughts of this great man.

Rest In Peace.

Thursday 5 December 2013

World Book Night 2014

World Book Night 2014 falls on 23rd April. So everyone had best look out for some free books being offered out. This year a friend and I got together, and managed to bully our wonderful boss, Mark, into letting us have a whole trolly load of promotional books that were still kicking about the stock room. We spent a very happy hour handing these books out to bemused shoppers on Fareham High Street. It amazed us how many people viewed us with such total suspicion, if someone offers you a free book just take it people!! what was more worrying was the number of people who seemed to be so proud that they never read anything. This is not something to be proud of people of Fareham. Being someone who never picks up a book is shameful. I don't care what it is from the greatest high intellect of world classics to the crowd pleasing vanilla smut of modern erotic fiction and everything in between, there are books out there for everyone; and everyone should be making use of them. It doesn't matter what you choose, but please just pick up a book and open up your mind to the amazing places that exist between the pages.

Next year's book choices manage to have something to please everyone really, it's a shame that givers aren't able to take a selection of the books instead of just one title. But let's not worry about that too much. There is such joy in sharing a book that you love, especially if you can spread the joy of books about a bit at the same time. The selection has a few good solid classics alongside a couple of teen choices and even a nice selection of titles from the 'quick reads' range. I would happily have applied for a fair few of these books, but had to settle for just the three possible choices, so now the wait is just on to see which one I actually get allocated. I can't wait.

The choices offered this year are
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
A Collection of Short Stories by Roald Dahl
Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon
Theodore Boone by John Grisham
The Humans by Matt Haig
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Geezer Girls by Dreda Say Mitchell
The Recruit by Robert Muchamore
Whatever it Tales by Adele Parks
Black Hills by Nora Roberts
The Boy With the Topknot by Sathnam Sanghera
Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman
Four Warned by Jeffrey Archer
Hello Mum by Bernadine Evaristo
The Perfect Murder by Peter James
Today Everything Changes by Andy McNab
and Confession of a GP by Dr. Benjamin Daniels

I think they are still taking applications for givers for a little while yet so if you are interested get moving. :) 

World Fantasy Award for Best Novel 2013

I am so pleased to read that Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson has won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel 2013.

I read this back in 2012 and was blown away by it's blend of the Arab Spring and 1001 Nights. It is a really unusual and enjoyable read. Certainly one I would recommend to any fans of The Night Circus or The Snow Child.

Here is the review I gave it at the time.
I read this in July 2012

'I don't know if this is a work of true genius or if it's just insane. Right now I'm torn, probably leaning towards the genis though; it's the Arab Spring meets Thousand and One Nights. To be honest I think it needs more than one reading to appreciate the complexities of the story. It seems to have some profound things to say about faith and religion, as well as about the nature of freedom, but I may have missed some of these trying to come to grips with computer hackers being protected by the Genie from Aladdin. It has some amazing characters and some brilliantly written scenes all wrapped up in this beautiful concept, certainly one to read.'


Christmas is getting closer now, I had my first couple of christmas cards through the post yesterday and am having to properly think about all the cooking that I will need to do shortly. It can be quite a stressful time of year luckily the lovely people at The British Museum have sent me my review copy of 'A Literary Christmas - An Anthology'
This has to be added to my reading list as I am very much looking forward to dipping in and out of it in the run up to Christmas. Aren't some people lovely to us poor booksellers? :D

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Little Exiles - Robert Dinsdale
Another one of my five star books of 2013... this one sadly didn't seem to do as well as it deserved to. I urge everyone to read the books written by Robert Dinsdale. I have read two of his this year, with another on my 'to read before Christmas' heap, and each one has been spectacular. 'Gingerbread' is one of the best things I have read in the last decade (details of it will be posted here soon I promise). Robert Dinsdale is seriously underrated and I really hope I can do something to change that.

The paperback edition of this is published 2nd January 2014, so make it your New Year's resolution to read it everyone.
Anyway here is what I wrote about Little Exiles, which I read from 27th December 2012- 1st January 2013....

'A highly moving and thought provoking story of the 'export' of children in the mid twentieth century, from children's homes in the uk to Australia. The story follows boys transported at the end of the second world war but draws in details from other 'crusades' Also touched upon is the shameful practice of the forced adoption of aboriginal children. Beautifully written with a compelling story and believable characters, this should do very well this year.'

A Minor Problem

Damnation! So have come across a minor hitch in my plan to catalogue everything I have here on my shelves. Sadly I have apparently reached the limit for books allowed on the version of software I am running. This is slightly annoying to say the least. especially as in order to discover this I had to first enter the details of several hundred books! Not entirely sure what to do now really. I do want to complete the filing of everything, but evidently it's not going to happen right now. Oh well, shall have to put this plan on hold for now.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Looking through the list of books I have adored this year I think I should make one wee note, these are not all books published in 2013; some are classics, some from 2013 and some are books not due for release until 2014. As with most years i've read a good selection from across periods and genres, although sadly it looks as though none of the books I've read in 2013 have a publication date of BC anything.... It adds something quite special to your timeline on Goodreads if you can get some really ancient texts in there like I did in 2012. I may have to dig out some Aristotle or something to push my limit back a little for this year.

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

I know that when I was sent my review copy of this one several people were a little jealous about it. Personally I was very pleased and yet also a little intimidated by the great brick of a book I had been presented with. It seems that far too many of the books that I feel need reading this year have been massive, 700+ page tomes. This has put me off reading some of them, not forever but just until my reading challenge was complete. However I couldn't delay getting stuck into this one, I was too keen to get started.Iin the end it became something insanely difficult to put down, and despite beingreally very busy in the first week of August, I managed to read through it in only a few days.

I read this from 1st Aug-5th Aug 2013.....

'I have waited a while to come back and write my review of 'The Goldfinch', and still I am not quite sure what I want to say about it. At 784 pages, it really is quite a brick and yet once you start reading you find that the pages fly by, and you are just wanting more of the flowing beautiful prose. Theo Decker is a total individual and the story of his travels through modern America is both powerful and emotionally charged. Obsession and loss are the overriding themes of the story, although the value of true friendship is also explored in depth. At times this is an emotional read, and the descent into the criminal underworld comes almost as light relief; all I can say don't be put off by the length of this, just read this beautiful book.'

Review taken from my Goodreads review page.

Books of the Year.

Ooooo Lots of Books of the Year being released so far we have them from Waterstones, GoodReads, Lovereading, Amazon and The Guardian. Lots of the same titles coming up over and over again. I've made a wee note of the top 10s and top 5s for my work notebook, after all you do often get people asking for 'That book that was number seven in suchorsuch a list' at this time of year, normally the person asking for this doesn't have the faintest idea of the title and/or author, so a wee note should come in handy. I'm glad to see that 'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt has featured so highly on so many of these lists. I absolutely adored the book when I read it earlier in the year, for such a great brick of a book the pages just flew by. As it is doing so well I thought it might feature as my first 'Books I've Loved in 2013' rehashed reviews. All of these have been posted on Goodreads, as well as elsewhere but I thought it would be a good idea to stick a few of the best on here too. Maybe someone will be inspired to go pick up the books in question by my random ramblings. :)

Book Oganisation .... the endless issue.

It must be said that my bookshelves are not as organised as they could be. I do rather enjoy the mix of things that can be found on the shelves; and love the fact that the same shelf that contains Boccaccio's Decameron and Malory's Le Morte D'Arther also has books about the IRA and Yugoslav wars on it, not to mention a couple of Hardy short story collections. However there is generally at least a little method to the madness. On the whole non fiction can be found on the downstairs shelves, with books on a military theme mainly on the one, rather stocked bookcase. This is less to do with me and more thanks to the insistance of my darling other half, as he is keen that his RAF/WWII based collection all stays together. As he is so accepting of the piles and heaps of books that continuly build up I can hardly begrudge him this concession to sanity! The other section which shows clear signs of rational organisation is also thanks to him. Every book we own by Fleming is nicely catologued together, as is the Richard Sharpe series, and even the Bourne series, despite the annoyance of these books being in a range of formats. The only area where I, personally, show a similar fastidiousness is on the bookcase that can be found at the top of our stairs. This is where you would find our collection of Tolkein (even down to parodies such as Sellamillion.) as well as our books of poetry and drama. Admittedly there is going to have to be a reorganisation of this bookcase soon, we are now completely out of space here and items which are only there for the sake of asthetics, such as the hardbacked editions of Austen will soon have to decant into another bookcase. This brings us to the continual problem of my household, a new bookcase is required. I am fully aware of at least what I will be giving for Christmas, and have some expectations as to what I will receive, so I know that a new bookcase is required. Sadly this is not quite as simple as get one and stick it in, this will in fact involve a shift around of two or three cases to replace a small one with a large etc etc..... So my problem for today is..... should I start this process now? Or should I leave it for another day? I think that the answer is clear, as always in my life book rearranging wins out. ;) It does give me something to fill my time I guess.......

Monday 2 December 2013

Decision Made... and now an early night.

Poor Caroline it is.... This should compliment the other bits I'm dipping in and out of right now I think.

I have a day all alone tomorrow, so should be able to take some time for myself and get nicely engrossed I think. Always good to have a day of reading ahead :D

The Rabbit Back Literature Society - Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
My first book finished since starting this page..... ok so it's the 175th book I've finished so far this year but still it is a first for this page at least. It is brilliant. I couldn't stand having to put it down just had to keep reading it through to the end. Apart from anything else I'm just glad I got through it before it got too late.... really it is rather creepy.

So my Goodreads review is here.... a Five Star book I think.

'Wow! This is a crazy, crazy book. Dark, disturbing, genuinely creepy at times but also lighthearted and very intelligent. The blurb likens it to a literary Twin Peaks and this pretty much hits the nail on the head. I'd say that there are aspects of Jasper Fforde thrown into the mix. This is certainly a book that you will find impossible to put down, the question is, do you dare discover the secret behind Laura White?'

Now I have to pick something a little less disturbing for my next read.... I'm torn between some nice 1930's comedy from Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby, or maybe some romance from The Engagements by J Courtney Sullivan......

Early Resolution......

So it's been in my mind for a while now, where can I spill my thoughts about what I'm reading, what I plan to read and what I have read without driving my nearest and dearest up the wall. Much as they largely enjoy talking about all things bookish, I can hardly expect them to want to listen to me pontificate about some of the random things I get through at odd times of the day and night. The best plan then seems to be to pour all my thoughts out here, online, so that anyone (or noone) can decide to read my thoughts or not. Maybe some people will want to interact, maybe not..... who knows. It will at least be able to act as my own personal Pensieve and empty my mind out a little bit. It may also help me collate all the random places where I currently post my reading lists etc..... at the moment keeping everything updated is a minor nightmare! So now my Goodreads, Shelfari and LibraryThing items should also appear here..... 2014 is the year that all this gets sorted..... Wish me Luck!!