After six months in which I bought only three books I’ve been on a little spree this week. I say ‘little’ because I’m determined not to let the TBR get further out of control. This is a reward for sticking fairly well to my goals for the first half of the year. As reminder I set two goals:
- Enjoy my library collection to the full by reading only these books for six months. In other words: read the books I already own rather than go chasing shiny new ones. This was a more positive approach than a book ban (I know from past experience I’d never keep to that) and did give me the flexibility to borrow from libraries. I did acquire a few titles via give aways and offers of review copies but I also declined more than I accepted so the TBR is still on a downward trend. Down from 318 at the start of the year to 276 by end of June. I’m counting this as success.
- My second goal was to Learn how to use Photoshop to create more compelling images. With help from my husband who is a whizz-kid with this software program and some online tutorials I’ve managed to get beyond the basics. Much huffing and puffing is still involved each time I want to do a new montage and realise I’ve forgotten the instructions again or my computer won’t do what the tutorial says it should do. But I’m getting there.
I’m giving myself a breather in July before going once more unto the breach for the final five months of the year.
I’ll keep goal number one but will give myself a bit more slack to buy a few new titles (I’m thinking four new books would be a reasonable allowance for a 5 month period). I have a very long wishlist that I maintain on Goodreads so chosing just four books from that list could be a challenge.
Goal two will remain – there is still a lot more I to learn with Photoshop so I don’t think I can declare victory just yet.
I’m going to add a third goal.
Goal 3: I will finish all the books remaining in my Booker project. I have only 8 more titles to go before I’m done. No reason why I can’t do this by end of December.
So what did I buy on my mini spree? I deliberately avoided going to a bookshop which would be way too much temptation. Mind you I have a few hours to kill in the city tomorrow so my resolve might waver….. (I’m making zero promises!).
The local branch of The Works was doing a deal on paperbacks of 3 for £5. I couldn’t find three but did end up with:
Stasi Wolf by David Young. This is an atmospheric crime fiction series set in East Germany in the 1970s, in other words when it was still part of the Soviet empire. There’s a good review of this book by MarinaSofia at CrimeFictionLover. I won book two in the series in a give away earlier this year but was then advised to start from the beginning so was delighted to find what I thought was book. That will pay me to give closer attention to my TBR – I got home to find Stasi Wolf is the one I already have. Maybe it doesn’t count as a purchase in that case???
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny. I wasn’t familiar with this title in the Chief Inspector Gamache series set in Quebec and the publishers have a habit of using alternative titles for some of her books. So I did a quick web search while standing in the shop to confirm that I don’t already have this under a different name. I should have done that with Stasi Wolf shouldn’t I?
My local library branch has a regular book sale table which I browse regularly, on behalf of my dad, for books in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace crime fiction series by Peter James. He loves this series set in Brighton but gets frustrated because he can’t borrow them from his library in the order of publication. So I keep an eye out to fill in any gaps for him. No luck again on my recent visit but I did find that monstrously large book at the bottom of the stack.
Cwmcardy is published by the Library of Wales as part of their project to bring out-of-print or forgotten books of Welsh literature back into play. Cwmcardy is one of two epic novels written by Lewis Jones about his experience in South Wales between 1890s and 1930s and is considered one of the Great Welsh novels. This is a rather graphic portrait of exploitation, violence and political aspiration experienced by the industrial workers of this part of Wales around the time of the General Strike in 1926. That could make it sound rather grim and ‘worthy’ but I note that the reviewer who nominated this as a Great Welsh Novel, considered it a page-turner full of action and sensation. It’s more than 700 pages long so quite when I’ll get round to reading it is a big question – however it cost 20pence which seemed a small investment for strengthening my collection of Welsh authors.
This week’s Top Ten topic (as hosted by Broke and Bookish) is “Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t.” This could turn out to be a very short post in that case since I don’t tend to be a reader of series. Or at least I didn’t think I was until I took a look at my reading over the last few years and the list of books I own but have not yet read. It seems I am already part way through a few series. So let’s talk about those first.
Current Series Reading
The Rougon-Macquet cycle by Emile Zola: a sequence of 20 novels written by the French author between 1871 and 1893. Subtitled Histoire naturelle et sociale d’une famille sous le Second Empire (Natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire), the novels follow the lives of the members of two branches of a fictional family. Zola planned in this sequence to “study in a family the questions of blood and environments.” In other words, he wanted to advocate his theory of naturalism by demonstrating how people are heavily influenced by heredity and their environment. So far I’ve read four of the 20 and each one has been excellent. I have another title on my 20booksofsummerreadinglist which will get me quarter of the way through the collection. That’s fine, I’m in no hurry. If you don’t know Zola’s work and want to get more familiar with it, take a look at the superb readingzola blog created by Lisa and Dagny.
Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope: a sequence of six novels set in the fictitious English county of Barsetshire and its cathedral town of Barchester. The novels concern the political and social dealings of the clergy and the gentry but don’t imagine that means they are rather dull – the novels are full of power struggles, social class clashes, financial disasters and frustrated affairs of the heart. They also contain some of the most magnificently rendered characters I’ve come across in literature. I’m half way through the series – next up in my Anthony Trollope project is Framley Parsonage which was published in 1861 and features a young vicar whose aspirations to move up in the social circle make him vulnerable to the machinations of a Member of Parliament with a reputation for debt. More info about Trollope can be found at the Trollope Society website
Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny
We’re now at book twelve in a series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Head of Homicide at the Sûreté du Québec. Louise Penny’s protagonist is a man of great integrity, a man who refuses to shirk from uncomfortable truths or to turn a blind eye when he senses corruption and wrong-doing even at the heart of the police force. But he’s also thoughtful, gentle and warm – not only to his wife and son in law but to the inhabitants of a small community in the province of Quebec called Three Pines that he discovers during the course of one of his investigations. Three Pines is a superb created fictional place; it’s so small it doesn’t even show up on maps, yet it is home to Gabri who runs the bistro, the acerbic poet Ruth, Myrna who owns the bookstore and the artist Clara Morrow. Each book that takes us back to Three Pines means we get a chance to meet up with these old friends. I’ve read six of the books published so far (a new title is due out this August) but I didn’t read them in sequence. Penny has said each novel is meant to be self-standing but to get the full effect of the character development they are indeed best read in order. So that’s what I’ve now started to do. You can find more about Louise Penny at her website
Series I may not finish
The Shardlake novels by C. J Sansom. I’ve enjoyed a few of this historical crime series which feature a laywer called Shardlake who takes on the role of the ‘detective’. Sansom is a historian by training which enables him to bring the Tudor period to life with all its political machinations, religious upheaval, sounds and smells (he does smells rather well). There are six in the series starting with Dissolution which was the first I read. I’ve read four now – the last one being number 5 in the series; Lamentation (reviewed here) – and though I’ve enjoyed them, the level of enthusiasm has begin to wane. If I wasn’t so close to finishing I probably would give up now, but it seems as Macbeth said
I am in blood
Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er. (Act 3, Scene 4)
Future Series to Read
Palliser Novels by Anthony Trollope: Once I finish the Chronicels of Barsestshire I’m planning to move onto the Palliser novels. This is a series of six novels written between 1864 and 1879 which feature a wealthy aristocrat and politician Plantagenet Palliser, and his wife, Lady Glencora (although they don’t play major roles in every title). The plots involve British and Irish politics in varying degrees, specifically in and around Parliament. There is a bit of a cross-over of characters with those in the Barchester Chronicles – Plantagent Palliser has a small role in The Small House at Allington for example and he has an unwise flirtation with the daughter of Dr Grantly and granddaughter of the Reverend Mr Harding, characters who appear in The Warden and Barchester Towers. The Victorian Web considers the Palliser novels to be superior to the Barchester Chronicles
Strangers and Brothers by C. P Snow: This series of 11 novels, published between 1940 and 1970, is one that has been on my radar screen for about 30 years. So keen was I to read them that I made my husband trek from bookshop to bookshop in Hay on Wye just so I could get all of them in the same Penguin livery. All the novels are narrated by a character called Lewis Eliot whose life we follow from humble beginnings in an English provincial town, through to a reasonably successful career as a London lawyer. In future years he becomes a Cambridge don, and sees wartime service in Whitehall as a senior civil servant. They deal with – among other things – questions of political and personal integrity, and the mechanics of exercising power. This series may not be familiar to you but you’ll possibly have heard the expression Corridors of Power – this is the title of book number nine but was referred to in an earlier title in the series. The term went on to become a household phrase referring to the centres of government and power. Its still in use today though the name of its originator has faded from the public’s mind. What constituted ‘required reading’ in earlier decades is barely heard about now. I’m just hoping that when I do start reading the series, that trek around Hay will prove to have been worth the effort.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Eleven Pipers Piping
Day 11 of the 12 Days of Christmas game and giveaway.
We’re almost at the end of this game and its much harder than I imagined. Today is particularly challenging – not a single book title comes to my mind that involves pipers unless its related to cake decorating.
Booker Talk Titles for Day
Help! I can’t think of a single book containing the words piper or piping. There’s the folk legend of the Pied Piper of Hamlin which is probably in text form somewhere but I don’t know that for sure.
So I’ll have to think tangentially – what do pipers do? They mend or lay pipes maybe but thats not very interesting and probably not the intent of their song – I can’t imagine anyone being very pleased to unwrap a gift of a pipe on Christmas morning. Probably whoever created the song was thinking of the kind of pipers who make music. That’s more like it – here are my choices:
Music and Silence by Rose Tremain
This was only the second novel by Tremain that I read and I did so purely based on the fact I had enjoyed her earlier novel Restoration. This one too is set in the seventeenth century though this time we are in Denmark not England. It features a lute player who gets a position in the King’s orchestra and then falls in love with the Queen’s companion. He doesn’t realise what he is getting into because the court, for all its show of harmony is a hotbed of evil. It wasnt as good a book as Restoration unfortunately – I found it rather confusing.
An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
This was a wonderful book about the love between two highly gifted musicians. One is Michael, a violinist, the other is Julia a pianist. They split up but now 20 years later she re-enters his life and their romance is re-ignited. But Julia has a secret that might get in the way of their love. A magical story which takes place to in two of the most atmospheric cities in Europe – Venice and Vienna.
And finally, something completely different – a crime story with a strong musical theme. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny is one of the novels in her Chief Inspector Gamache series set in Quebec province. It sees Gamache, head of homicide, travel to a remote island which is home to a community of monks. They are a silent order yet ironically have become world-famous for their prowess in singing Gregorian chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.” As I indicated in my review at the time, I loved this book, not just because its well plotted but I desperately wanted to hear some of that music. So I went and bought a CD of Gregorian chants. If ever you have trouble sleeping and need something to restore a feeling of peace and calm, this kind of music could be the answer.
Now over to you. Here’s how to play……
Come up with book titles or book images or anything book related (could be the name of a location mentioned in the book or a character) that matches with pipers and piping Let’s see how creative you can be. I’m looking ideally for 3 titles/images etc . You can mix and match your nominations.
Put your titles into the comments field of that day’s post. Don’t just give me the name since you could easily get that from a Google search – tell us something about the book itself. Why did you choose these titles – are they from your TBR or ones you’ve seen mentioned on a blog. Please try not to just use lists from Goodreads etc.
Feel free to blog about this on your own site or via Twitter using the #12days hashtag
There’s an incentive to play along with this which is a giveaway of a book up to the value of $20 USD from the Book Depository
To participate, your list of books must be in the comments field by 10pm GMT/5pm Eastern Standard Time on Friday Dec 16.
Day by Day Prompts
Day 1: Partridge in a Pear Tree
Day 2: Turtle Doves
Day 3: French Hens
Day 4: Calling Birds
Day 5: Gold Rings
Day 6: Geese a-Laying
Day 7: Swans a-Swimming
Day 8: Maids a-Milking
Day 9: Ladies Dancing
Day 10: Lords a-Leaping
Day 11: Pipers Piping
Day 12: Drummers Drumming
Rules of the Game
1.Each day a post will go live on booker talk.com matched to the task for that day. All you to do is post a comment with your list of books on the page
2. Each day try to come up with 3 titles. No need to think of 11 books featuring pipers or eight with maids in them. This is meant to be fun not mission impossible…..
3. Participants are encouraged to be creative with the names of titles matching each day. But the books do need to be in existence – no scope here for making up your own titles.
4. The number of contributions per person will be totalled and the one with the highest number will win the prize. So if you post three titles for day 6 and 5 on day 11, that gives a total of 8 points.
5. Contributions should be entered on the page within the time limit stated each day – typically I will give 48 hours between the time I post the day’s challenge and when comments will be closed.
6. You don’t need to play every day in order to be entered for the prize. Some days will be easier than others – and anyway you have all that shopping and packing still to do
7. There is only one prize – available internationally. The Prize winner will be announced on the blog around about the 15th of December.
6. The prize is that you get to choose a book up to the value of $20 USD from the Book Depository that I will arrange to ship to you. This will probably not arrive until next year given the last postage dates for international mail.
It felt so good to get home yesterday after my two week trek around Asia. No matter how luxurious the hotel, how wonderful the restaurants and how memorable the experiences, there is absolutely nothing as delightful as spending the night in your own bed. It was however not as long an acquaintance as I would have liked – 4am saw me awake (if not particularly alert).
Still the early morning start did give me chance to re-connect with you all and with the world in general. China may be the world economic powerhouse but when it comes to letting its citizens and its visitors access info electronically, it is way behind many other nations. I already knew before I got to the country that media sites like the BBC are blocked and many social media channels like Facebook and Google are restricted. What I hadn’t anticipated was that WordPress was similarly blocked which meant I couldn’t get to my blog site and then something happened which prevented my email system working. Hooray for Korea and Japan where I had no such restrictions but still couldn’t get email to work. Hence why I haven’t been around much. So now I have a lot of catching up to do on all the blogs I follow.
It did mean however I was able to read quite a lot. On the spur of the moment I picked up the very hefty paperback of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning novel from 2014. I knew I would be reading this at some point as part of my Booker project but I’d been debating whether to get the e-version rather than lug a really big book. But one look at the copy in the airport was enough to persuade me that only the real book would work if I wanted to keep track of all the characters. I’m not much good at keeping details in my head so find character lists helpful – with an e-reader, it’s too cumbersome to keep getting back to the beginning.
So Catton came with me and proved a good companion if not a particularly stellar one. I admire the achievement but am not convinced it really deserved to win the award. More on that another time when I get to write the review.
I don’t often read crime fiction but it just happened that I had an advance copy of the latest in the Chief Inspector Amand Gamache series by Louise Penny on the iPad. It was a delightful chance to re-visit the small community of Three Pines and meet many of the inhabitants again; Ruth the drunk, award-winning poet, Clara the famous painter, Olivier and his partner Gabri who run the bistro and of course, Gamache’s comrade in arms, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir. The Long Way Home will be published late August. If you’ve not read any of Louise Penny’s series so far I promise you are missing out on a treat.
Usually when I’m travelling I like to read something either by an author from the country I’m visiting or set in the country. I took Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum with me but hadn’t started it when a work colleague in Shanghai presented me with Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls. It seemed entirely appropriate to read that one given that my team is located in Shanghai and they’re all female. Although it wouldn’t be what I would class as ‘high literary fiction’ nevertheless i’m enjoying the story of two sisters forced to swap their party lifestyle in 1930s Shanghai for a life of drudgery and poverty in San Francisco.
So that’s all my news for now. What’s happening in your neck of the world??