Wednesday, 30 November 2011

November Round Up/ Month Ahead

I can safely say that this has been my slowest month reading wise in years. I had to double check that I was right but then I have been busy with my course. I have read a grand total of six books most of which I have read in the last two weeks. Normally I would manage that in two weeks or less. However, it's quality not quantity and I think I managed that. Here is my meagre list;

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (classic book of the month)
Player One - Douglas Coupland
I Can See You - Karen Rose
She-Wolves - Helen Castor
Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino

I can safely say that I enjoyed all of these books. I Can See You probably got my lowest rating but I still very much enjoyed it for what it was, a light and easy read. It was exactly what I was in the mood for at the time and I am glad to have found another author to fit that. Plus the author left a lovely comment on my review which has never happened to me before.

My classic book of the month was A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I have had that book for years. I was planning on reading it earlier in the year but had been put off by my disappointment by Hard Times. Thankfully though this book restored my faith in Dickens and is now one of my favourites by the author. It has one of those ending that is never going to leave me. If you have read it you will know why.

She-Wolves is my only non-fiction book this month. Not unusual really as I read maybe one every month at the most. This book has been on my tr list since it was released last year and I finally treated myself to a copy a few months ago. If you read my review post you will know that exceeded my expectations and has become my favourite history book so far.

Player One by Douglas Coupland was another fairly light read. Or at least a quick read. It was another book which restored my faith in the author. It took me back to some of his earlier books which I loved. Whilst I have always looked forward to each of his books I have also felt a little apprehension as they just haven't matched up to his previous releases. I think this one has taken that feeling away.

I'm not going to say too much about Invisible cities as it will be my next review. I did enjoy it and it was certainly very different from anything else I have read this month. Actually I don't think I could compare it to anything else even if I wanted to.

Last but not least 1Q84. Whilst I can't say I didn't enjoy any books this month I can confirm the best of them. It took me just over two books to read the first two installments of Murakami's latest. I savoured every page of that book. So far I haven't read a single bad review of it from fellow bloggers. If anyone is going to be honest about it book it's them (in my opinion anyway). I could rave about it all day but I'm not going to. Instead all I will add that this is the authors finest book yet and I can't wait to read the third part.

Having only read six books has it's advantages. I normally wouldn't have been able to go through each book but just mention a few of the best and least liked. As for the month ahead I honestly don't know. It's going to be busier for me again. Busier than last month right up until Christmas. From Monday I am thinking of putting my blog aside for three weeks. I doubt I will have time to finish one book and for that reason I am think of making that one book a large classic. I haven't completely decided as yet. For now though I am reading a book which was recommended to me by another blogger. I am sure I will have that finished and reviewed before Monday however.

How has your reading month been? Are any of you planning to hibernate this month with some good books?

She-Wolves - Helen Castor

This is a history book which describes the women who set the path that allowed Mary and then Elizabeth to take the thrown. In France the law was set so that women could not inherit the throne. However, four women in England set precedent so that the same law could not be enforced in England. Matilda, granddaughter of William the Conqueror, was the first female to fight for her right to rule as her father's only living heir. Eleanor of Aquitaine rose up against her husband and fought to rule on behalf of her sons. Isabella rose up to free England from the tyrannical rule of her husband. Margaret of Anjou fought to rule on behalf of a husband who could not. Then we get to Mary Tudor. She had to fight for her right to the throne too and for the first time being female did not go against her. This then led to Elizabeth taking her rightful place as Queen easily.

This is one of the best history books I have read in a long time. Also the best book about historical Royals. The book is only 450 pages long and yet so much is packed in. In each section I didn't feel like areas of these women's lives were being glossed over. We got to hear about what brought them to England's Royal house in the first place and then details of  how they fought to rule. It was all extremely interesting. Each section covered and era I knew very little of or absolutely nothing of. I am definitely going to go back and read more on most of these eras.

Eleanor of Aquitaine interested me in particular. I had heard of her but I knew absolutely nothing about her. She was a controversial figure even before she reached England. Once married to the King of France she managed to get him agree to divorce despite the fact that he loved her. Eight weeks later she was married to Matilda's son Henry II. I found it interesting too that the legend of Robin hood was a result of her younger son John. I am sure there are a few books on her which I will have to invest in at some point.

This isn't a book about feminism in history. It's simply a historical look at why Mary and Elizabeth were able to take the thrown when other countries wouldn't have allowed it. It doesn't portray these women as angels either. They have their good points and their bad. You just need to read the section on Isabella who was no saint. Ironically she became the embodiment of what she had been fighting against. Oh, and that section is good just to prove how inaccurate the film Braveheart actually is. Yes, she is that Isabella (sorry, pet peeve).

If you like history then I think you will like this. It covers several periods and isn't at all dry.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

 This is a fun book meme by Sheila of Book Journey. It's a fantastic way for everyone to share their reading week.

This week I read just one book;

I Can See You by Karen Rose. An enjoyable light read which was just what I was needing. My review also got a lovely comment from the author.

Just now I am reading;

She-Wolves by Helen Castor. A bit of non-fiction for a change. Has been a while since I read any history and I am enjoying this. Learning lots about strong women I knew little about. I'm about 1/3 of the way through.

Not sure what I plan to read next. I am sure I will get onto another book this week. Whilst I was slow with She-Wolves at the start my reading sped up over the weekend. Plus I am on to Eleanor of Aquitaine and I am very much enjoying that. I do know I will probably pick a classic. It's between "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino, "The Bell" by Iris Murdoch and "The Leopard" by Tomasi di Lampedusa. The last two have been recommended by the same friend. If I am honest though I am more for the Calvino just now. It looks like it will be such a lovely book.

How has your reading week been? Any of you looking forward to getting started on a particular book?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

I Can See You - Karen Rose

Eve has been damaged in the past and is determined to put that hurt to good. As a psychology student she is doing a study into online gaming and trying to find a way that would give victims a way to feel safe in the real world. Somehow she has gotten hold of her participant list and this could not only get her expelled but black listed too. One of the participants though has committed suicide and she wonders if it has anything to do with her high volume of hours spent in the virtual world. She tried to tell her mentor who ignores it. When another woman dies in the same way and is believed to now have been murdered Eve has now choice but to go to the police. Detective Noah Webster is the first of the Hats to realise theses suicides are the work of one sick individual. Noah is in love with Eve and this murder has brought him together. As the killer works his way through Eve's list it's clear that Eve is also a target. Noah is determined that he won't lose someone else he cares about and races to catch the killer.

This is probably the easiest read I have had in a long time and was exactly what I needed. Not a lot of thinking had to go into it at all. About five years ago I would have turned my nose up at the type of book too. Glad I got over it. The crime side of the story was fairly interesting. A serial killer (it's always a serial killer isn't it?) wants to be finally noticed and get his revenge on the group of detectives known as the Hats. There is a growing trend in crime books for the criminals to use technology. Jeffery Deaver has used it a few times and now Karen Rose. It always makes for an interesting premise I think. In this case the killer is stocking his victims on and online game. A game that's supposed to be anonymous which makes finding the killer difficult. It wasn't hard though to work out who it was as the killer had to have some kind of inside knowledge (I'm honestly not giving anything away with that one).

I did have a chuckle at the hat squad. I couldn't help it. The idea that detectives receive and wear a hat after solving their first case just seemed very old fashioned. Do people wear these hats other than in the old black and white movies. I had to take back that laugh though when I read that this team of detectives is actually based on a real life team who do that. I probably shouldn't make fun of something that is probably a good team building exercise and brings the team closer together.

I also couldn't let this book go without commenting on the romance. As you know I am not a romance fan. I don't go out of my way to read it. This author is described as a romance-suspense writer so I shouldn't really be surprised when there is quite a bit of it in the book. I wasn't ignorant of it either when I picked it up. The friends who convinced me to read this book did warn me. I have to say it didn't actually bother me too much. I still preferred the crime side of the book but I could live with it. That doesn't mean that I have changed my mind about romance books in general.

Not my favourite book in the world but it was mildly entertaining and what I needed at the time. Perfect for anyone who wants a light crime book and a touch of romance. These books are all connected in some way so I will probably go back to the beginning and read the others.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Player One - Douglas Coupland

Four people separately find their way to a cocktail bar at Toronto airport.  All four are there for various reason. All four are waiting for their lives to change. Karen is there to meet someone after years of being alone. Rick is the bar man. He is waiting for his life to start over again. Luke has run away from his old life and picked the bar at random. Rachel is there to prove to her family that she is human after all. Their lives do change but not in a way they could ever predict or expect. The fuel crisis hits and all four are stranded as the world outside starts to riot.

I found this to be a very easy read. I was able to read it in a day and still got some studying done. It actually take me back to early Coupland because I did the same with most of those books too. The plot is a little unrealistic. I remember someone saying in a review that they felt that there would be a little more warning when we do run out of fuel. Fuel saving strategies would probably have kicked in on the lead up. I have to say that I agree. However, unrealistic isn't unusual for Coupland. One of my favourites, "All Families Are Psychotic" also had an unlikely scenario and I still loved it. As did "Girlfriend In A Coma".

In the end the fuel crisis was actually only background noise. A way for these characters to come together and to change each others lives. The story of each character was key to the plot. They each represent the everyday in some way. Each of them have everyday problems too. Essentially they are all lonely and are trying to find a way to break down that loneliness. The disaster gives them that chance to discover themselves and each other.

There really isn't much  more I can say about the book other than I very much liked it. Reading it I felt that Coupland was going back to his writing before Jpod. It's the first one he has published since then that I haven't been mildly disappointed with. Overall a good read.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

RIP Anne McCaffrey

The plan today was that I would post a review. I am actually two behind. I then found out that Anne McCaffrey passed away two days ago. I had to dedicate a post to her.

I was introduced to the fantasy genre by an ex who got me reading David Eddings. I enjoyed it so much that I eventually picked out an author I had always wanted to try. That was Anne McCaffrey. I loved dragons and so her Pern series appealed to me. Of course I realised that it was more science fiction than fantasy but that didn't matter. I had fallen in love with the series and soon devoured the rest. I was saddened when she stopped writing them and I'm sorry to say that her sons additions just aren't the same. She didn't just write the Pern books of course. She is also famous for her Brainship, Acorna and Crystal Singer series'. She opened up a whole world to me and for that she will be missed.

RIP Anne McCaffrey.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a book meme by Sheila of Book Journey. A fun way for everyone to share their reading week.

I haven't taken part in this in a few weeks. Mainly because I have been reading the same books. Last time I was reading a large collection of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. It was part of my Halloween reads but as I was so busy and it was quite large I knew there was no way I would get that one finished over Halloween. I was still going to go ahead with it but after reading a few I decided I wasn't in the right frame of mind to read short stories. I wasn't appreciating them. So I am going to leave the book for next Halloween. I don't normally leave books aside like that but it will give me something to look forward to.

Last week I read;

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (book one and two). Two years I have been waiting for it and it took me just over two weeks to read. A fantastic book and now my favourite by the author. Can't wait for book 3.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. A fast paced start, a slow middle and an amazing ending. Now also a favourite by this author. Has restored my faith in him. Was originally one of the titles I chose for the books I should have read by now challenge before I called it quits. Now it is just my classic of the month.

Player One by Douglas Coupland. I only finished this last night and have yet to review it so no link. A great book though. Very much enjoyed it.

Just now I'm reading;

I Can See You by Karen Rose. Another book that I had on my books I should have read by now challenge list. I've read one book by the author before and this one is starting out with a similar feel. I was in the mood for something light and easy and I think with this I am going to get it.

I am not going to plan a next book as my reading has been taking it's time of late. Not unexpected in all honesty. I am thinking that the next one might be some non fiction though. but we'll see how I feel at the time.

In the last week or so I also signed up for some 2012 book challenges and decided against creating my own (which I was originally going to do). You can see all those challenges on my sidebar. I've also decided that my next book shopping spree won't be until after Christmas. So with these challenges I am planning a rather large shopping list. Can't wait.

How has your reading week been?

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

Sweet Lucie Manette and Mr Lorry travel to France in order to rescue her Father. Once believed to be dead he is now free in France after years of unlawful imprisonment. He is now a broken man and it's only the love of his daughter that can bring him back to a shadow of his former self. Back in England circumstances cause to men to fall in love with Lucie. Meanwhile France is in upheaval and is heading towards it's revolution. At the center is the man and wife who cared for Dr Manette until his daughter arrived. Lucie is now married and with her own little daughter but is somehow dragged into the center of events. It's only the love that these two men feel for her that will help save her and her family.

I think most of Dickens books are famous but this one is probably more famed. Mainly for it's opening line. How many of us could quote it without having ever read the book? I know I could. Despite that I was a little hesitant in reading it. I was so disappointed with Hard Times and I didn't want that same disappointment. I was worried that maybe Dickens had lost it's appeal for me. I have to admit that at first I thought that worry was going to come true.

The book has an exciting start. Mr Lorry is on his way to Paris by coach. There is already turmoil in France and each traveler is suspicious of the other and so keeps to themselves. Mr Lorry and Lucie then arrive at the wine shop of Defarge and his wife. Again there seems to be some tension amongst the people and Defarge is keen to show Dr Manette off to others. This then filters away to them being back in England and settled some years. The story slows down and there are hints of things within this section that seem to be unconnected to the story. It was with impatience that I read the scenes of Mr Cruncher and his family. All very interesting had it anything to do with the story itself. Plus it wasn't the only thing that didn't seem to connect.

In the third part things get interesting again. The tension in Paris has built up nicely with characters we already know at the center. As I said already Lucie and her family and friends are dragged into these events and the book really takes off. It's in the last 100 pages of the book that all these scenes that annoyed me now make sense. They are actually connected and it adds to the tension of the story. I probably shouldn't have been surprised as Dickens is well known for his coincidences in his tales. I happen to like that aspect of his writing and it certainly made this book exciting.

My complaint about Hard Times was that the characters felt a little flat and that the characters I found interesting practically disappeared from the story. This wasn't the case with Two Cities. Sure the characters were stereotypical for the author but there were more to them. Each of them had an interesting back story and there were even one or two surprises in there for me.

A Tale of Two Cities has not only revived my faith in Dickens it is now my favourite of his books. Looking through the list though it would seem that I have mainly read his later books. When I next plan to pick up one I think I will read an earlier book (possibly his first) as an interesting comparison.

This was my classic book of the month.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

What's Next!

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel published May 2012.

This obviously isn't the image for Bring Up the Bodies. There isn't on yet. In fact the title of the second book was only announced this week. I read this book before I started this blog. Which is a shame because it means I haven't shared with you how amazing this book actually is. If you love historical fiction then I have no doubt that you will enjoy this. For those of you who don't know the book is written from the point of Thomas Cromwell, a controversial adviser to Henry VIII. He has often been portrayed as a rather dark character. One who uses situations for his own political gain and is blamed for the downfall of Anne Boleyn. This book instead gives a more sympathetic view of Cromwell. He is seen as a family man who hasn't had the best start in life and is now just trying to do what is best for his family and his King. He is more a victim of circumstance. It's a rather large book and the writing style felt a little strange at first but I soon was caught up in the story and quickly devoured it. I have enjoyed Booker Prize winners in the past but this is the first time I have felt the need to rave about one. It was also the first historical fiction that I had read. A new genre for me to explore.

Enough raving about the first book. As I said the title of the second book was announced this week. I knew that there was going to be a sequel due to the way Wolf Hall ended. It was set up so that the second book would be about the downfall of Anne Boleyn. What I didn't know was that it is going to be a trilogy. I read an article in the guardian this week which said that the author had decided that when writing Bring Up the Bodies that she felt that it needed a third book. Very excited about that and I really can't wait for the publication of Bring Up the Bodies.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

1Q84: Books 1 and 2 - Haruki Murakami

Aomame is a fitness instructor who specialises in the muscles. As the story begins she is on her way to assassinate someone. Tengo is a maths teacher who writes fiction in his spare time. He opens his story with a meeting with his editor as he tries to push forward an unusual piece of writing for a literary prize. As children they once recognised something of themselves in each other. Ever since they have never left each others thoughts although they never saw each other again. Events in both their current lives seem to be overlapping without them being aware. For Aomame it is the belief that she has entered  an alternate world that she calls 1Q84. For Tengo it begins when he decides to ghost write for a 17 year old.

That brief paragraph doesn't even begin to describe this book. Murakami's strength is surrealism and I think he surpassed himself here. Alternate worlds and mysterious figures are actually nothing new to him. Although some of his other books have been slightly more bizarre this really was something else. The surrealism started early with Aomame discovering that she was ignorant of some parts of recent history. Things that she is 100% sure she would have noticed. It's relatively mild at first though and picks up pace later on in the book.

As I said this isn't exactly new for Murakami. By book 2 however, it gets darker. I have read all of Murakami's books and never before have I sat on the edge as I waited to see what happens next. There is one chapter that this was particularly so. Of course the chapters alternate between Aomame and Tengo so I had to wait a whole other chapter to find out what happens. I have never had that experience when reading one of his books. It's the kind of thing that would make you stay up to the early hours just to get to the end.

One Critcisim of Murakami I have frequently seen is the slow pace of his books. I actually like that about them and I never feel that not much is happening. Instead I take the time to enjoy the writing style. I felt that I could take my time and appreciate it. It can be refreshing when you come across a book and you actually enjoy the slow pace. 1Q84 gave the impression that it was going to be this way too and so after the first chapter I settled in to that expectation. Of course, as I have already said, that changed in book 2. Since it was unexpected I was completely blown away by it. It's mainly for this reason that I would say it has overtaken Norwegian Wood on my list of favourites.

Don't get me wrong I think the characters are truly stereotypical for him. His writing didn't change that much. They are fairly likable and average for the most part. Sure they excel in things but in terms of personality they are average and it's another thing that I like about them. Even the quirky characters have that feel of every day about them (even when they are not every day. Perhaps because the characters don't see anything unusual in themselves and think of themselves as average). It's not a criticism and it's another reason why I love his work. Again with this book there was one difference and that was my reaction to them. Perhaps because I was so caught up in the second book but I really wanted everything to go right for them. I felt very strongly about that.

I really don't want to say too much about what happens within the book in general as I don't want to spoil any surprises for the reader. My recommendation is that you read the book. If you are new to Murakami though I would read some of his others first. Not because I think it's necessary to understand 1Q84. Really, it's because I would hate for anyone to read it and love it and then be disappointed with his back list after reading such a good book.

Of course I have yet to read the third book and I am not sure when I will get to do that (I haven't even picked it up yet). I am a little curious as the third one was translated by someone else. I wonder if that will affect the style. Definitely a worry and something to look out for.

Which brings me to another worry. How is Murakami going to surpass himself with his next book? I really don't see how that would be possible. I wonder if he will have set the bar too high with this one (in my opinion I think Douglas Coupland did that with Jpod). It will interesting to find out.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Sci Fi Challenge 2012

The last challenge I am signing up for is the science fiction challenge which Ellie of Curiosity Killed The Bookworm has put together. The idea is to read some science fiction. You can chose your own book but she is also going to put forward a potential book each month as a readalong. If you manage to read a sci fi book each month she will even put you forward for a giveaway.

First of all, how much to I love the image she used? She also has a fantastic blog which is worth checking out. I decided to go with this rather than start my own challenge because I love science fiction. I used to devour the genre but over the last couple of years I have read maybe a handful. I think this is a perfect way to get back into it. I am looking forward to discovering some new others and trying out some classics I haven't gotten round to yet. I also have a couple of sci fi books by favourite authors sitting in my tbr pile. This will be the perfect encouragement to get those off the shelf. I am also looking forward to seeing what books are put forward for the readalong each month. Maybe I will discover a new favourite or get to reread an old favourite.

Fingers crossed this is the last challenge I am signing up for. I don't think I could handle much more. The problem is there are so many good ones out there and I have to admit I am already restraining myself from signing up for more.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Shakespeare Reading Month 2012

Yes, I admit it, I have signed up for yet another challenge. As a result I am not going to start my own next year. It also means that I will be joining one more which I will post about later.

The Shakespeare Reading Month challenge is by Allie of A Literary Odyssey (a fantastic blog, especially if you like your classics). The fantastic thing about this one is that it lasts only a month and as I have a few weeks off in January I thought it would be perfect to take part. My knowledge of Shakespeare is limited to what I read in school. I am a little ashamed of that and I have always meant to do something about it. A lot of his plays sound right up my street and I have always meant to get round to reading them. I think Macbeth, Henry VIII and Anthony and Cleopatra are definitely on the list for now. Very much looking forward to this.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Mixing it up Challenge 2012

This is the second challenge I have signed up to for next year. This one was created by Ellie from Musings of a Bookshop Girl. The idea is to branch out from what you usually read. There are 15 categories to chose from and you can sign up for as many as you like. I have decided on 12, one for each month of the year. Here are the categories I have picked out;

This can be any classic work, from Alcott to Zola.  Always fancied trying Great Expectations, or finally feel like tackling Jane Eyre?  Now's your chance!  From the fun to the frightening, the gentle satire to the all-out swashbuckling epic, there are hundreds of years' worth of books to choose from.

Edit 9/01/12 - Read and Reviewed Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.

This can be modern or historical, biography or autobiography.  From the latest celebrity autobiography to an academic biography of Henry VIII - it all counts!  Perhaps you fancy a book on your favourite classic movie star, athlete or musician? 

Edit 31/01/12 - Read and Reviewed Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

More scope to indulge a whole range of interests here, including local history, military history or world history.  It might be a biography of Anne Boleyn, a book on World War II aircraft, a study of the American civil war, or something with a much smaller focus, like Bill Bryson's At Home or Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History.  Whatever floats your boat!

Edit 3/4/12 - Read and Reviewed Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir.

This covers literary and popular fiction, so you can't really go wrong with this one.  From Sophie Kinsella to Haruki Murakami, Wilbur Smith to Isabel Allende, Jenny Colgan to Kate Mosse, you should be able to find something to fit your tastes! 

Edit 20/4/12 - Read and Reviewed Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

This will be an entirely new genre for me, but I'm looking forward to hitting the library to see what all the fuss is about!  First on my 'to check out' list will be Neil Gaiman's Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes and Alan Moore's V for Vendetta.
This category will cover everything from the genteel Agatha Christie and the scrummy Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke, through Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, to the gruesome forensics of Martina Cole and Val McDermid.  You could even delve into some gritty true crime if that's more your style. 

Edit 25/06/12 - Read and Reviewed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John LeCarre

One for Hallowe'en, perhaps!  Maybe a modern writer like Stephen King or James Herbert, or you could turn to the classics with Edgar Allen Poe or the ghostly writings of M.R. James?  Some YA novels would also fit into this category - Darren Shan, or Lindsey Barraclough's Long Lankin - but no paranormal romance!

Edit 17/07/12 - Read and Reviewed Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Again, plenty of scope here.  From the hilarious characters of Terry Pratchett's Discworld to Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings, Charlaine Harris'sSouthern Vampire Mysteries to Frank Herbert's Dune, you can go modern or classic, and pick from any number of sub-genres.

Edit 04/09/12 - Read and Reviewed A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel

The world is your oyster, as it were!  Maybe you're going somewhere interesting on holiday and want to read up on it first?  Rough Guides, Lonely Planet guides, that kind of thing.  You could pick a Bill Bryson (always popular) or choose a book on a particular city, country or continent, like Francesco da Mosto's Venice or one of Michael Palin's books.  Then there are all the delectable memoirs by people who've moved abroad and opened a taverna/olive farm/vineyard!

Edit 07/09/2012 - Read and Reviewed A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson.

This could be a novelty collection of limericks, a collection by a particular poet, or if that sounds a bit daunting, a single, longer narrative poem.  How about 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', 'Hiawatha' or 'The Waste Land'?  My particular favourite is probably Christina Rossetti's 'Goblin Market', which is more like a simple fairytale that just happens to rhyme.  Or you could choose a play - how about Ibsen, Miller, Shakespeare or the brilliantly witty Wilde?

Edit 09/09/2012 - Read and Reviewed The Crucible by Arthur Miller

This one might take a little more thinking about, but it should be a bit of fun!  Journalism collections can range from Nick Hornby's Shakespeare Wrote for Money to Marian Keyes's Under the Duvet, Jeremy Clarkson's The World According to Clarkson to Bill Bryson's Notes from a Big Country.  Anything that's been published in a newspaper or magazine first!  Humour could be a book of cartoons, a novelty joke book or The Wicked Wit of Oscar Wilde 

Edit 28/09/12 - Read and Reviewed Moranthology by Caitlin Moran

Again, this one throws the doors wide open for you to follow your interests.  Always fancied learning more about space?  Are you curious about the life of Charles Darwin?  Or got a lifelong love for a particular animal?  There are some wonderful 'popular science' books around too, including things like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, David Attenborough's natural history books, and the entire works of the brilliantly funny Mary Roach.

Edit 14/11/12 - Read and Reviewed The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins

The categories I have decided not to do are romance, children and young adult and social sciences and philosphy. I have absolutely no interest in branching into romance. It just doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. I have read my fair share of Children's and Young Adult books in the past and I have overkilled on it. My last degree was social sciences and whilst I would find some of the books interesting I had my heart set on doing 12 so it didn't make the cut.

There are a number on here that isn't exactly branching out for me so I have decided that the books I read for this have to be by authors I have never read before. Looking forward to discovering some new authors from this and perhaps a new genre. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2012 Challenge

The first of the challenges I am taking part in next year is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen challenge. Thanks to Gabe Reads and Kayleigh of Nylon Admiral for bringing this to my attention. This challenge is being organised by Hanna of Booking In Heels. I am excited not just because of the idea of the challenge but also because this is a new book blog to me.

Basically the idea of the challenge is to read all the books which feature the main characters from "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". I have read a few of them in the past and there is only one on the list that I didn't enjoy. I am looking forward to reading new books and to rereading some old favourites (Dracula is long overdue a reread).

I have to confess that I saw the film when it was first released in the cinema. I was excited about it because of all the characters involved but in the end I was extremely disappointed by it. It hasn't put me off the idea though. I think Alan Moore himself hated the film too (although he hates all the films which is why he took nothing to do with The Watchmen). When I tried out graphic novels this year the ones I enjoyed the most were by him. So like Gabe and Kayleigh I am adding the graphic novel to the list which is;

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (Allan Quartermaine)
Dracula by Bram Stoker (Mina Harker) 
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (Captain Nemo)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Dorian Gray) 
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) 
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (Rodney Skinner)
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (The Phantom)
The Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (James Moriarty)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore

My rereads are Dracula, Tom Sawyer, Dorian Gray, Jekyll and Hyde and Phantom of the Opera. That's actually more than I initially thought. Dorian Gray I disliked and Phantom of the Opera wasn't a favourite either. The others though I loved and I am looking forward to reading the rest. I might even watch the film again as it has been years since I originally watched it.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

2012 Challenges

This is really just a quick post to let you know I am still here. I am still wondering around blogs and reading. It's just my reading has slowed down (definitely savoring the new Murakami).

I will put a post up in the next few days to talk about two challenges I have joined for next year. Should involve me reading books I haven't thought about reading before. I am also working on my own challenge for next year. This is a challenge I am setting up because I want to do it but I am happy for anyone to join in. So watch this space for more information on that.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Challenging/Light

Booking through Thursday is a fun book meme. Every week someone asks a book related question. This weeks question is;

All other thing being equal, would you rather read a book that’s hard/challenging/rewarding or light/enjoyable/easy?

My preference completely depends on the mood that I'm in. I have went through phases of reading only light books and I get bored of them very quickly. I either get bored of the type of book I am reading or the author or the series. It happened when I read nothing but YA for about a year or so. In the end I missed the challenging books and I am very rarely able to face picking up a YA. Same with the supernatural books. I over-killed with both. I've discovered I need to be challenged now and then to keep me interested. I love to be challenged by new authors and for that reason I love discovering new ones. It's why I like visiting other blogs so much. I also started the classics a month as a challenge. Something I am very much enjoying. I still like a light read. It's great during times of stress or when you are too busy to concentrate. Sometimes I am just in the mood to be entertained without putting much effort into it.

So to answer the question I love both and me preference for one over the other depends on what mood I am in.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

What's Next?

The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts. Pub 31/05/2012 (according to Waterstones but on amazon it sites it as 2013). Having mentioned Shantaram in my last post I remembered that the sequel was supposed to be out about now. Clearly it has been postponed. There isn't even an image available of the book cover yet. Regardless, I am looking forward to it. Despite some flaws I very much enjoyed the first one and I think by the time the second one comes out I will be ready to read another huge volume by this author. I am extremely curious as to what happens next.

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde. Pub 10.11.2011 (although it looks like it's out now as it's available to order rather than pre-order). The is the second book in a children's series by one of my favourite authors. The first book was called "The Last Dragonslayer" and it was fantastic. Extremely funny and well written. Actually reminded me a little of John Connolly's writing style in his children's books. For me that was just a sign that Jasper Fforde was made for writing them.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James. Pub 3.11.2010. It was actually seeing this book whilst browsing online that made me want to do another What's Next post. I have never read anything by this author before although my mum used to be a big fan. I do have one on my tr list because it's dystopian. However, you can imagine that it was the title that caught my eye. If you haven't guessed it, it's a murder story involving the characters of Pride and Prejudice. It takes place a few years after the original book. Lydia turns up the door of her sisters and claims that her husband has been murdered. How could I not be intrigued by that?

Does anyone else have news of books soon to be released that they are looking forward to?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

October Roundup/ Month Ahead

I didn't do one of these last month but have decided not to do two months in one. To be honest I didn't have that much to share from September. It was a fairly quiet month reading wise. October was fairly quiet too mind you but I still have more to share.

First of all I decided to stop taking part in the 'Books I Should Have Read By Now' challenge. True I only had six books to go from my original list but I decided that if I only got to read three books in one month I would rather it was something that I really wanted to read and not just a book that has been collecting dust on my shelf. Plus, half way through October I decided I wanted to have some Halloween reads and I knew there was no chance that I could do both. I still think I did well in taking part though and here are the books I did manage to pull down off that dusty shelf and finish;

1. Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts
2. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
3. Hard Times - Charles Dickens
4. Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
5. Lullaby Town - Robert Crais
6. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet - David Mitchell
7. Mary Tudor - Anna Whitelock
8. The Surgeon - Tess Gerritson
9. A is for Alibi - Susan Grafton
10. The Bachman Books - Stephen King
11. A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold - George R. R. Martin
12. Making History - Stephen Fry

I think 12 is a respectable try. I have managed to make my tbr pile grow back again in the last few months but I made a good dent in some of the older books sitting there. My least favourite was Hard Times by Charles Dickens. A little sad that it's the classic. I think disappointment put it at the bottom as I normally love Dickens and this was the first book I read by him that I didn't like. The favourite is actually harder to choose.  I probably got the most out of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. I also read it as part of a readalong and had some fantastic discussions as a result. King, Mitchell, Roth and Martin are up there with it though.

Being October I decided to read some scary books and I looked for suggestions from other bloggers and friends. This is only the second year I have done this although I used to devour the horror section. Here is what I picked out from all the ones I was recommended;

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
The Fall of the House of Usher and other Stories - Edgar Allan Poe (still reading)

Whilst not the scariest books I have ever read I did enjoy them for the most part. Odd Thomas may have disappointed me in plot but I did love the character. The Haunting of Hill House was a pleasant surprise. However, my favourite was the Ray Bradbury. Extremely creepy with a fantastic range of characters and beautifully written. I'm not really surprised by that mind you, I have always enjoyed Bradbury.

So this month I managed to read;

How To Be A Woman - Caitlin Moran
The Bonesetter's Daughter - Amy Tan
The Woman In White - Wilkie Collins (classic of the month)
An Idiot Abroad - Karl Pilkington
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury

My classic choice was my favourite this time. I loved The Woman In White. Full of suspense and a great detective story. My least favourite was An Idiot Abroad. It just wasn't as funny as I was hoping it would be.

I actually don't have my books planned out for the month ahead. I am probably going to read "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens for my classic of the month. It was originally on the challenge list but I was put off a little after the last Dickens. I have gotten over it now though and I am looking forward to it once again. Other than that I am just planning on enjoying the books I am reading now and will try my hardest not to buy any more. Speaking of which, I will have another What's Next post for you this week. It's been a while.

How has your reading month been? Any highlights? What do you have planned for November?