Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

This was short stories, mainly set in post-war Harlem. Very evocative of time and place despite being written in a sparse sort of style, but kind of gloomy.

The Dragon on the Roof was a book of short stories by Terry Jones. Well-written and amusing but not that gripping (they are childrens' stories though).

Day 355; Book 347

Monday, 28 September 2009

Weekend reading

First, thanks to Gil for suggestions in Friday's comments (my own comment facility isn't working). I'll see if we've got those in the library. Thanks also to Jayne for a bag of skinny books - much appreciated.

Over the weekend I read:

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett - not boring like I had feared but existential angst in plenty.

Esprit du Corps by Lawrence Durrell - having seen Gerald Durrell's viewpoint of his brother Lawrence I wanted to see what his writing was like. This is an amusing account of the post-war diplomatic service. I must try one of his novels though.

Happy Christmas by Daphne du Maurier - a clever but rather depressing reworking of the Christmas story.

More Friends of the Doctor by Isabel Cameron - well written but very dated pre-war fictional anecdotes set in the Highlands.

High and Low by John Betjeman and John Betjeman: poems, selected by Hugo Williams - two volumes of Betjeman's verse. He is the master of evocation, using familiar objects to bring out homely settings. Clever and amusing word-play. The end of the poems often have their own existential angst, though, all the more powerful for having had such a cosy setting.

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart - I like this author so was pleased to find one I hadn't read before. Slightly dated but not too bad and a well-written mystery. I must try reading My Brother Michael again, by the same author, but set in Greece.

Day 354; book 345

Friday, 25 September 2009

My calculations are out!

Turns out I have only 14 days to finish 27 books! Looks like those books will be very short. Here's what I read last night:

The Frightful First World War by Terry Deary. Funny and horrifying in equal measures, but poor old Rupert Brooke gets it in the neck again. Posho Rupe seems like an easy target. He's criticised for glorifying war (although most people at that stage of the war thought similarly), and then at the same time he's criticised for not dying a hero's death himself (he died from an infected insect bite). He still wrote some wonderful poetry though and just because it doesn't fit in with today's interpretation of the war, which has the benefit of hindsight, doesn't mean that his poetry cannot stand alongside the anti-war poets like Wilfred Owen.

I also read George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl. I quite liked it, but I think a lot of its appeal to children must be the wish-fulfillment element of admitting that some relatives, even our nearest and dearest, can be quite horrible. Even better is the inflicting of horrible deaths on them!

Day 351 (new calculation); book 338 = 14 days to read 27 books!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Bluff your way in the quantum universe

I shall, thanks!

(Slightly disappointing to find out that some of this stuff I had studied in Physics at school. I was expecting something more sensational ...)

But I did like Schrodinger's cat, although apparently Stephen Hawking doesn't. If he really said this, it's very funny: "When I hear the words Schrodinger's cat," he said, "I wish I were able to reach for my gun."

I also liked the Double Slit experiment. Particles or waves? This will tell you.

Day 345; book 338

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

In which I raid the children's shelves again

I read The Five and the Mystery of the Emeralds by Claude Voilier, which is one of those books where an author continues a famous series (in this case the Famous Five). Not bad, but too modern for the Famous Five I thought. When I was little I didn't even like those editions of the Famous Five with modern illustrations - I liked the old-fashioned ones with Julian and Dick wearing those swimsuits with tops! It doesn't fool children when you try to update stories anyway.

Day 344; book 337

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Anne proposes, Mr F disposes ...

of his income, ha ha.

We're going to hear Christopher Brookmyre speak at the Wigtown Book Festival. (My idea, Mr F's funds). He should be an amusing speaker, and his latest book is out now.

In the meantime I have been reading Asterix and the Golden Sickle.

Day 343; book 336

Monday, 21 September 2009

More Harry Hill

Didn't like it so much this time though - it was The Further Adventures of the Queen Mum and I didn't find it as funny. Plus nothing could compete with Tim *sighs fondly*

I also read Better Than a Rest by Pauline McLynn about Leo Street, who is a Dublin female private detective. Very amusing in parts and an interesting outcome, but I won't be rushing to get the others in the series. Pauline McLynn is the actress who played Mrs Doyle in the Father Ted comedies. She must be multi-talented because she also graduated in History of Art.

Then I read Asterix and the Great Crossing (Asterix accidentally discovers America ...)

Day 342; book 335

Friday, 18 September 2009

Tim the Tiny Horse at Large by Harry Hill

Another in the ultimate of cuteness that is Tim. This time Fly gets married and Tim is best man.

Day 339; book 332

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Tim the Tiny Horse by Harry Hill

The sweetest book in the world ... ever!

Tim is a pony so small he lives in a matchbox with a Tic Tac conservatory. These are his adventures, during which not much really happens but it is all observed with the surreal humour of Harry Hill.

This is a children's book (supposedly) but I think it would be wasted on the little blighters.

Day 338; book 331

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Asterix and Tintin

Thanks to Kim for lending me these comic books. I knew the characters of course but had never actually read them. There's a surprising amount of reading in them. My favourite has to be Snowy the dog who "comments" on the action with cute expressions on his face. The fact that Tintin is a boy detective who lives in his own flat seems to be one of those accepted comic book conventions. Asterix was less for children than I had thought - quite a few of the jokes I don't think children would get.

Day 337; book 330

ps my Books So Far list isn't letting me add any titles so I must remember to count them in these posts.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is another children's book which I read last night. It's by the author of the Little House on the Prairie series, which are her memoirs from the last part of the nineteenth century. This is sentimental but not mawkish so I can recommend it. It is charming and the author has a good memory of what it is to be a child.

Here's a page about Laura Ingalls Wilder. It's interesting, because apparently there is some doubt about the authorship of the books - the consensus seems to be that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the books but that they were heavily edited by her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, who was a much more famous author at the time.

Day 336; book 328

Monday, 14 September 2009

E. Nesbit, Enid Blyton and other children's classics

Here's what I read over the weekend:

The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E Nesbit
The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton
Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
Jill Enjoys her Ponies by Ruby Ferguson

I loved these when I was little. I think those librarians who banned Enid Blyton because they said she wasn't a good writer were really making political decisions based on her attitudes to class and her sexism. She was of her day though, and to prevent children from reading them is to deprive them of a lot of fun (and to underestimate their intelligence and ability to recognise outmoded attitudes).

Ruby Ferguson's books are still jolly funny!

Day 335; Book 327

Sunday, 13 September 2009

My Life in Books Meme

I saw this meme on True Crime Book Reviews. I'm not completely sure what a meme is, but here goes with the format and my answers:

Using only books you have read this year (2009), cleverly answer these questions.
Try not to repeat a book title.

Describe Yourself: Daughter of Fortune

How do you feel: Guilty as Sin

Describe where you currently live: Old Pittenweem

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Espedair Street

Your favorite form of transport: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Your best friend is: The Tailor of Gloucester

What's the weather like: Snow Falling on Cedars

Favourite time of day: The Remains of the Day

What is life to you: Something to Do

Your fear: Bad Medicine

What is the best advice you have to give: Cut and Run

Thought for the Day: Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

How I would like to die: With a Strange Device

My soul's present condition: Among the Missing

Care to have a go?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

I've been away

But here's the books I've read recently:

Children's classics: Stig of the Dump by Clive King, Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson and The Children of Greene Knowe by Lucy M Boston.

Two books in one free with Mr F's Sci-Fi Now magazine: Ultimate Guide to Sci Fi Literature (vol 1) by Matt Hardrahan and The 50 Greatest Moments of Doctor Who by Andrew Rilstone.

Borrowed from Jo: Scarred Hearts by Max Blecher and The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale

Bought in Oxford: Beyond Words: How Language Reveals the Way We Live Now by John Humphrys.

Sorry, no time to comment today!

Day 331; Book 324

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Jeweler's Bench Book by Charles Lewton-Brain

A book thoughtfully provided by the Rock Chick so her Papa can build her a jeweller's bench for Christmas! (It's American, hence the spelling). Naturally I decided to read it.

It was most enlightening, because up till now I had thought of jewellery-making and silversmithing as a dainty craft ... how wrong was I! The outcome may be dainty but there is brute force and hazards involved. Now I am worried about the Rock Chick surrounded by dangerous heat, chemicals and fumes, which just goes to show that ignorance can be bliss.

Maybe I will get over it if she makes me something nice ...

Day 325; Book 315

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Apologies and catch-up

Having been obsessed with moi and outings for moi recently (it's been my birthday), it's time to catch up with what I've been reading. Here we go:

Deception is one of the books for children and teenagers featuring Grace Cavendish, a maid of honour at the court of Elizabeth I. Quite fun and doesn't shy away from the nastier aspects of life. I would have loved this when I was about 10. Here's a link to the series.

Another classic children's book is The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. Little children would love this, especially with the repetition of the phrase "No more twist" and the happy ending, and the illustrations of course.

Then I read Quest for a Kelpie by Frances Hendry. This is billed as a children's book but I think it could appear just as happily on the shelves for adults (you could compare it with Kidnapped). It's seen from the point of view of an old lady looking back on her childhood in Nairn at the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Culloden. There's lots of period and local detail. I don't normally like historical novels but this one has an exciting story and a likeable heroine.

Then Mr F had bought the latest Jeffery Deaver, Roadside Crosses (hardback, but half price in Asda). Good story and plenty of misdirection as usual until the baddie is unmasked. A bit too much explanation about blogs and posting though - surely most people would know about this (most people on here anyway!)

Finally Mr F had also bought the last part of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein trilogy (Dead and Alive). I don't care for horror, but fortunately this one had plenty of humorous asides as well. Very enjoyable.

Well, I've got behind again so looks like I will have to take up Elizabeth's suggestion of reading all the Beatrix Potters ...

Day 326; book 314