Friday, 31 July 2009

The Road to Ruin by Siegfried Sassoon

Sassoon seems to one of the less-well-known of the war poets, at least nowadays (which makes me want to read him more).

The Road to Ruin is a poem published in 1933. In it Sassoon visualises what might happen over the next 10 years. His nightmare vision is obviously concerned about war coming again, but it is written in the vocabulary of the First World War, with London succumbing to gas. It's ironic that the next war was to end with a weapon more terrible than he was able to imagine.

Day 293; Book 283

Cock-a-Doodle Doo by Robert S McLeish

This is "a Scots comedy in one act" published in 1990 but set before the First World War. It's an amusing farce and looks as if there would be plenty of laughs if you saw it performed. The dialect is consistent but it looks like Glaswegian to me - still maybe the farm where it's set was near Glasgow ...

Day 293; Book 282

Thursday, 30 July 2009

In which I am put in the shade by a lady of 91!

Thanks to Jo for alerting me to this news item, which is all about Louise Brown, 91, who joined her local library in 1946 and since then has borrowed at least 6 books every week, recently increasing it to about 12 every 7 days! Mrs Brown, I salute you!

Bodily Secrets by William Trevor

This was a book of short stories by the Irish writer William Trevor. The prose seemed very spare at first and not really my sort of thing but fortunately I persevered. The stories are fairly dark but not completely pessimistic. I'll look out for more of his books now.

Day 292; Book 281

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Byron and Japan

First up was a short book, Byron and Women Novelists by Caroline Franklin. Good: it featured one of my favourite literary bad boys, Byron of course. Bad: I don't like any literary analysis featuring the word "intertextuality". Good again: the last 6 pages were references so I didn't feel obliged to read them. Also good: finding out how Byron's scandalous affair with his half-sister rebounded later on the innocent writer, Harriet Beecher Stowe!

Shashin: Nineteenth-Century Japanese Studio Photography was much more interesting. Who knew there was such a craze for photography in Yokohama after 1853? The craze was partly fuelled by tourists buying views of Japan which they collected in beautiful albums to show off to their friends. Originally the photographers were Western, but then the Japanese took it up as well. The photographs in the book were beautifully hand-tinted, sometimes using brushes with a single hair. Some of the women in the book look much more modern and natural than their counterparts in Victorian photographs from Britain. An interesting book about a little-known aspect of photography.

Day 292; Book 280

Monday, 27 July 2009

Kate Atkinson

I finished When Will There Be Good News. It's great! The beginning is attention-grabbing (though sad) and then there's quite a bit where you don't exactly know who all the characters are and exactly what's happening. (Several of the characters are very appealing though). Then the author wraps it up with a masterful flourish - very satisfying.

I also read Hue and Cry, which is a new novel by Shirley McKay. It's set in the 16th century in St Andrews and it was fascinating to read about the places that you know. The book is very readable too and apparently it's the start of a series featuring Hew Cullan. An intriguing mystery with a humane attitude.

I started the latest John Connolly but I didn't get far because I decided to spend time sorting out my paperwork (mountainous). And in other news I got a phone call from my credit card company alerting me to fraud on my card! Well done to the card company for being on the ball and picking this up - and hopefully I won't be liable for any of the spending! Will keep you posted.

Day 291; Book 278

Friday, 24 July 2009

Quick Reads

I read The Observer Book of Scandal, all about scandals in the news from serious ones to frivolous ones. From Bill Clinton to Oscar Wilde it was all here.

Change the World, 9 to 5 was a book about improving your working life. Some of it was kind of predictable, but I liked the page about remembering to praise people (it came with a sheet of gold star stickers).

Still reading When will there be Good News ... and wondering how it will turn out. It jumps back and forth a bit and plays with the reader's expectations.

Day 288; Book 276

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

In the middle of ...

When will There be Good News by Kate Atkinson and it's really good - a bit upsetting at the start but now it's getting intriguing. Some nice characters too. I went to bed early though so I didn't make much progress.

An apology again to anyone who has left me a comment and I haven't replied *blushes* but Blogger still won't let me *stamps feet*

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Jay Fowler

This is an intelligent, warm and witty book. The narrator is reminiscent of Mary Smith in Cranford in that she observes but does not really take part in the action (in fact, we never learn who she is). It's been made into a film as well. Well worth reading although I could have done without the synopses of the Austen books at the end (and if you did need them, you would probably want to find them at the beginning of the book). Great observation of character.

Day 285; Book 274

Monday, 20 July 2009

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

Another readable novel from Maeve Binchy with her usual mastery of language. Some of the characters have appeared before in other novels so we get to catch up with what has happened to them. Warm and witty but not sentimental and well worth reading.

Day 284; Book 273

Someone Else's Kids by Torey Hayden

Another of the books by teacher Torey Hayden based on her experiences as a special needs teacher. Torey is very honest about her own perceived shortcomings and about the terrible behaviour some of these children can come up with, but she is an inspiring writer who obviously cares about her pupils.

Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz

A good idea and an unexpected ending, but I wasn't so keen on some of the use of language. Dean Koontz seems to use unusual words sometimes just for the sake of it which distracts from the story rather than enhancing it. Also watch out if you are not a dog-lover.

Friday, 17 July 2009

500 Bracelets

Another in the jewellery series, consisting chiefly of images and not too much talk about meaning ... This is studio jewellery so it may be designed to provoke comment rather than to wear, but there were some beautiful pieces nevertheless. The 500 series is an excellent one for aspiring artists.

Day 281; Book 270

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Colquhoun and MacBryde by John Byrne

This is another play by John Byrne but it wasn't nearly as much to my taste as The Slab Boys or Tutti Frutti. It's much darker and the humour of the characters more cruel. I missed the banter from the Slab Boys (although both that play and Tutti Frutti had their own dark sides).

Next I read 500 Pendants & Lockets: Contemporary Interpretations of Classic Adornments which La Rock Chick had made the mistake of having sent to the house. Mwahahaha! Of course I read it (actually she said I could). Looking at 500 pictures of jewellery takes a surprisingly long time as you study the ones you like and recoil from some of the creepy ones. Much of this is art rather than wearable but some are both. Not too much pretentious twaddle either.

Day 280; Book 269

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Silver jewellery

Click here for your chance to win a piece of handcrafted jewellery by the Rock Chick aka Holly Wilcox who is a jewellery-design student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art:

I know I'm biased but I think it is an original and beautiful piece of work!

*Oops, I couldn't make it a hyperlink so please copy and paste into your browser address bar or even easier scroll down my reading list and you can click directly onto Holly's blog.

In Praise of Heat Magazine

I love Heat! Not so much because of the celebrity news but because of their clever humour. Here's their succinct description of the Pre-Raphaelites:

"the 19th-century art-fops who really dug nature, medieval myths and hot ginger chicks".

The Pre-Raphs in a nutshell really!

And here's their take on Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

"Painter, poet and dirty stop-out".

This is all in relation to a new tv drama starting next Tuesday on BBC2, and cleverly called Desperate Romantics (see what they did there, as Heat used to say).

Photography books

I read two photography books last night which are part of the Phaidon 55 series. I have to confess never having heard of Willy Ronis or Lisette Model but some of their images did seem familiar. I enjoyed looking at the photographs but some of the commentary, not so much. Either I am too dim to understand it or it was pretentious twaddle (or possibly both).

Day 279; Book 267

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Date, Marry or Avoid

It's the title of a tv programme but I'm going to steal it for the books I've read over the last couple of weeks.


Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King; Mister B Gone by Cliver Barker; The Blue Bedroom and other Stories by Rosamunde Pilcher; Twilight Children by Torey Hayden; The Dirty Secrets Club by Meg Gardiner; Old Pittenweem by Eric Eunson; Girl in a Pink Hat by Nanzie McLeod; The Slab Boys by John Byrne; Tutti Frutti by John Byrne. I'd go on a second date with John Byrne, Torey Hayden and Rosamunde Pilcher.


Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb, and Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper: not even a pre-nup needed for a long-term relationship with these.


The Shakespeare Secret by J L Carrell (should be interesting but too contrived)
Mercy by Jodi Picoult (didn't like the characters and didn't care about the dilemma. Also hated the Brigadoonery of the Scottish characters)

Day 278; Book 265