Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Well, the blog reading went well, and I got my reader down to one hundred and something. And then I took my eye off the ball and it’s back to 1000+ again. I don’t help myself by subscribing to more blogs, of course. Oh well.

Today’s choice is the marvellous Smart Bitches, Trashy Books – if you don’t already read it, you should. It’s a blog about romance novels, and based on the premise that there are some good writers writing romance and some intelligent people reading romance and that’s OK. It’s fantastic. If you like romance then the reviews are useful and help you find good books and avoid appalling ones. If you don’t like romance then it’s worth reading the bad reviews because they’re often very funny. As in, hysteria-inducing, tears-down-the-face, Oh-my-God-I-can’t-breathe funny. Check out the review of The Playboy Sheik’s Virgin Stable Girl if you don’t believe me.

She also frequently finds awful covers and runs caption competitions and posts about developments in the publishing world and there are funny videos on a Friday. Go to it.

There’s also a book by SB Sarah, which is on my to-read list:

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Weekword: Novel

Emma chose this one – and I’m afraid I’m going to be very literal. Here’s the novel I’m currently reading.

This can double as my winter pleasures post for the day as I do like a weighty classic as winter reading. There are some classics I return to in the summer, but Dickens is one of those authors that for me require cosying up – if not full-on winter, then at least a rainy day. I don’t know why, as they’re not inherently cosy books – but there it is.

I’ve not read Bleak House before, so I asked the library to get it for me. It has ‘STOCK’ stamped on it in big letters – I infer that it’s not in great demand! I’m enjoying it very much – there’s a wonderful cast of characters, some of whom are very sharply and satirically judged, and I do like Dickens’ writing. His books were originally published in installments, and I think I’d have struggled if I’d only been allowed a chapter a month!

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Kirsty at the Leopard Anchor has had a rather splendid idea. She’s hosting a monthly photo scavenger hunt – she posts the topics and you have the rest of the month to take the photos. Clever, eh?

Me being me, I signed up a few days before the deadline, but here are my photos.


I’ve posted before about my love of the library, and it continues unabated. I love the library, the pleasure of picking up a book just because it takes your fancy. Our library has a great stock of inspiring books for the crafty sort – here are the ones I have on loan at the moment:

The top one is the River Cottage Bread book, by the way, which despite my wheat allergy, has inspired me to make all sorts of bready things (there are lots of not-wheat recipes) and Mr S&S to contemplate making a clay oven. No, really. Some of these books were fetched from libraries in the far reaches of the county – a little van brought them to my library – which cost me nothing. Libraries are brilliant, and if we don’t use them, we’ll lose them. Join your library and borrow books, people!

Ahem. Next heading:

Something I made

Yeah, bit of a cheat here. I have made things this month but for various reasons I can’t show you yet. And the stuff I made before this month I’ve already shown off. So this morning, I made this cup of tea:

It was very nice. And the chickens on the mug lead to the next category:

Motifs: Birds

I bought this fabric at the Festival of Quilts. It’s slightly baffling as it’s not my usual taste at all – I dont’ usually go for the very cute and pastel – but something about it really appealed to me.

Then we have Supplies
I was in a hurry, so I grabbed the yarn that came to hand in about 2 minutes and piled it up. So many possibilities!

And finally, Holiday

I haven’t got round to posting much about our holiday – Dance Camp Wales; it’s a camp, in Wales, there’s dancing – but here’s a picture of the Little Girl joining in with the evening dance:

I recommend you have a look at Kirsty’s blog, not just because there’ll be a list of all the other scavengers, but because the blog is lovely. She’ll be posting September’s categories soon if you want to join in!

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Being boring

I had an email from a dear friend, in which she asked me what was new in my life. And the answer was: not much. Life here plods on and nothing much happens. For a while I wondered if this was a problem, if I should be chafing, but actually, I’m not. And then I remembered a poem by one of my favourite poets, Wendy Cope, which seemed to be an absolutely perfect description of my state of mind.

If you ask me ‘What’s new?’, I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it’s better today.
I’m content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears and passion – I’ve used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last,
If nothing much happens, I’m thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you’re after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don’t need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring,
I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.

Some people are very sniffy about Wendy Cope, because her poems are a) accessible and b) often funny, (as though humour was incompatible with poetry) but knickers to them – she still manages to deal with the big subjects and does so with verve. (Although like a lot of poets, she is not at all good at reading her work aloud – I saw her at Hay and although she was witty and engaging and interesting, she read her work very stiltedly. I wished more poets did what the late UA Fanthorpe did, and got someone else to read for her.) So I think this happy cabbage will go and dig out my copies of her books and make a cup of tea. Not the most thrilling way to spend an afternoon, but then, I don’t aspire to thrills.

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100 Greatest Non-Fiction books

as chosen by the Guardian, can be found here.

It’s an interesting list. Ususally, on lists of fiction books, I’ve read at least half, more usually at least two thirds, of the list. In this case, nothing like it.

Here’s what I’ve read:

The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes (1980)
The Story of Art by Ernst Gombrich (1950)
Ways of Seeing by John Berger (1972)

(i.e. all of the ‘art’ selection – and almost entirely due to my history of art studies at university)

From the biography section:

Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari (1550)
The Diaries of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys (1825)

None of the culture or environment section. And more alarmingly for a history graduate, none of the history section, apart from bits of the Hobsbawm. (But then, I was a medievalist, not a classical historian, nor a modern one, so not much of my period is covered. I do, however, now intend to read The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson.) Nothing in journalism, literature or mathematics, either.

In the memoir section, only The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947). I haven’t read the recommended music book, nor any of the philosophy.

I pick up a bit in politics:

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (1532)
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949)
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)

I’ve also read bits of The Rights of Man and The Communist Manifesto.

From science, I’ve read Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene.

From society

The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pisan (1405)
Letters Concerning the English Nation by Voltaire (1734)
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)

And from travel: Venice by Jan Morris (1960)

So, in total, 15% of the books on the list (plus some selections from a few others).

Are there any books on the list you would recommend?
Are there any you would have added?

I would make a case for Simon Singh’s Fermat’s Last Theorem in the mathematics section. I also think Cellini’s autobiography is worthy of a place (although it might be generous to describe it as ‘non fiction’).

In history, I’d nominate Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, and Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. In biography, I’d go for Claire Tomalin’s book on Pepys, The Unequalled Self. In journalism, I’d pick Hugo Young’s Supping with the Devils.

There are bound to be others that spring to mind – but that will do for now. What do you think?

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Here’s a list of the books I’ve read over the past couple of months. Reviews are on the Bookshelf page.

As ever, comments, suggestions, whatever, welcome!

One Day by David Nicholls
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
The Dressmaker by Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn
Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830 by Rictor Norton
Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas
Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas
The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt
Deep Country by Neil Ansell
Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas
Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations by John Diamond
Decline and Fall by Chris Mullin

Some great books here. I think from the list I’d single out Decline and Fall, Deep Country and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as my recommendations, but there are a few others that I enjoyed almost as much.

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Weekword: Book

I love books. I’ve got piles on the floor because I’ve run out of shelves. I have a ‘to read’ pile by my bed which is toppling over. I am in and out of the library so often that the librarians all know me by name. But I’m going to post about my attempts to write a book. (I have written a non-fiction book, under a pen-name, but that was more of an extended copywriting job than a literary endeavour).

I started writing a novel last June. Not with any view to publication – just because the characters leapt into my head and lived there, fully formed. I found myself writing and before I knew it, I had five thousand words… seven thousand… nine thousand… I felt I knew the characters intimately. I knew what scent some of them wore. I knew what wine they drank. I knew about their parents, their politics and where they went to university. I knew that one of them had a cat called Jasper that her landlord didn’t know about. None of this made it into the story – it was just stuff I knew about these people who seemed as real to me as my own friends. Then, when I had about twelve thousand words, it stopped. I thought it was just a hiatus, but there’s been nothing. I haven’t written a word of my novel for more than eight months.

I don’t really know what to do. There seems no point in forcing it, but on the other hand, the idea of abandoning these people feels wrong and makes me sad. I want to finish the story but have no idea how to do it. I wonder how many characters lurk in notebooks and computer hard drives, waiting for their stories to be finished? And I wonder if mine will ever be rescued.

Here are the other Weekworders:


Carmen is our next host. I look forward to her word!

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Weekword: Book

I think I’m hosting Weekword this week… I’ve been out of the the loop a bit, and I’ve really missed the Weekwording – and all the Weekworders!

So, for this week’s word I suggest ‘Book’. I really look forward to seeing what you do with it – post in the comments if you’d like to play. And I’d really like to get Weekword going with a swing, so if you’d like to, please encourage other bloggers (including Weekworders old and new) to join in.

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Bookshelf: March

A bit of a light month for reading, was March. This is partly, as I explained on the Bookshelf page, because I was a) reading an involved book and partly because I was often too tired to read. But still, here are March’s books. Any thoughts, reviews or recommendations?

Wiffle Lever to Full! by Bob Fischer
Venice, Pure City by Peter Ackroyd
A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behaviour by Suzanne Enoch
A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh

Any thoughts, reviews or recommendations?

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Found this, and thought I’d share. The music is by the wonderful Rodrigo & Gabriela, which makes it even better!

I can’t embed it properly, and can’t get a link that works. But you should be able to get there from here!

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