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Wednesday, March 7th, 2007
5:34 pm - Worst Books
xquiq Despite their inherent subjectivity I enjoy looking at lists of the 'best' or 'most read' books, however today I'm intrigued by the truly bad.

Inspired by my current attempt to read 'The Celestine Prophecy', I'd be very interested to see your comments on the worst books you've ever read.

I'm not going to do a poll or anything like that, however some possibilities could be:

1. Truly awful fiction.
2. Worst non-fiction.
3. Most overrated book I've ever read.
4. So bad I didn't finish it.
5. I really wanted to like this, but...

For the record, my own answers and somewhat blunt opinions are under the cut:Read more...Collapse )

current mood: bitchy

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Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
10:16 pm - I found the coolest thing today!

Before I forget and doze off, I was forced to break my rule of thumb to try not to buy shinies from Oxfam. I found Monkey - You know the one with Tripitaka, Pigsy and Sandy :) So I had to buy it. Then I was forced to buy The Dilbert Future to make up to the magic £5 card limit. Oh well, I've been good for weeks :)

Now if I can only find Shogun and The Water Margin going cheap...

current mood: amused

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Tuesday, February 6th, 2007
5:29 pm - 2007's Reading So Far
xquiq Having started the year reasonably well - I've taken to reading instead of watching appalling television programmes - I think it's time to post about the books I've read so far.

One of my goals for this year is to read more fiction, which was an excellent excuse to order more books online: so far the balance is 50/50.

I've just finished The Time Traveler's Wife, which I quite enjoyed: review under the cut.

Read more...Collapse )

Other Reading
I've also enjoyed:

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All, which is an entertaining collection of his journalism. I'm not sure I'd recommend going out of your way to pick it up - it's enjoyable, but did remind me of something you might find sitting in a bathroom.

Andrew Taylor's A Plum in Your Mouth, which is an interesting look at accents. It's entertaining, if not deep and doesn't have the school-teacher's tone of Lynne Truss. I couldn't locate my register for about a week after finishing it.

Phillip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. Odd, twisted and seeming at times to jump between a Kerouac or Burroughs style tale of junkies to a paranoid Orwellian state where no-one really know who anyone is and who they can trust. Excellent.

Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith. If anything, this is funnier than witches books aimed at adults. The Nac Mac Feegles are hilarious and I'm sure I know Annagramma...

current mood: cold

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Friday, January 19th, 2007
9:15 pm

Getting on well with Dark Tower, onto book 5... I knew there were parallels to The Stand and The Talisman and SK's other earlier works, for once it wasn't me being mad and imagining things! Not sure where I'll go after this, I've got Elizabeth Wurtzel's 'Bitch' and 'More, Now, Again' that I've had for ages, I've started Bitch, but keep stalling with it as it gets a bit heavy. I've also been trying to read and keep stalling with Bill Hicks 'Love All The People', mainly because funny as he is when you read the same stand up material over and over it does get a tad wearing eventually. Plus I really should finish Scar Tissue, Anthony Kiedis' autobiography, Bodies Under Seige and I've got A Bright Red Scream and Pippa Funnell's autobiography to read.
Looks like I've got a good start at least...

Apologies if this bit is not technically allowed, but as I know this group was started by a group of friends in Edinburgh...Collapse )

current mood: accomplished

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Friday, January 12th, 2007
1:55 pm

The Intrepid Enchanter - L Sprauge de Camp and Fletcher Pratt:

This is and omnibus of five linked fantasy novella's written in the 1940's and 50's. The stories themselves are well-written and move along nicely without you being left feeling bored with detail or cheated of content. Because the stories follow on directly from one another, you get a feeling of having read a much larger novel in easy to digest segments.

Its also one of the earliest example of incorporating other peoples works into a new story that I've seen. The other being Samuel Clement's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. For what may well be a prototype of the technique it works really well. Of course there have been many uses of this kind of 'borrowing' technique since, from collaborative universes like Thieves World and Larry Niven's Man-Kzin Wars, and homages to other authors like Terry Pratchetts nod to Fritz Lieber and Anne MacCaffreys work in The Colour of Magic, and blatant rip-offs like Bored of the Rings and a title I saw in Waterstones: Harold Porter and the Shameless Parody... But this could be one of the books that led the way.

What I think also helped is that I am fairly familiar with the Norse, Finnish and Irish myth-cycles that three of the five tales are written around, but am completely new to Spenser's world of Faerie Queen or Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, so there was an element of familiarity with the concepts and at the same time an introduction to something new. :)

current mood: intrigued

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Thursday, January 11th, 2007
10:46 pm

I've just noticed a gap in my vocabulary. A set of three books is a trilogy, and four is a quartet. But what do you call a set of two books? Anyone?

current mood: confused

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Saturday, January 6th, 2007
7:39 pm

I'm thinking maybe my challenge this year should be To Get Round To Reading All The Stuff I've Been "Going To Read When I Get Round To It"...
Which will if nothing else allow for a fairly diverse selection. I may also look into the Read 29 Books First Published In 1978 (year of birth and hence 29 is how old I'll be this year), or I might save that one for next year and do 30. (Now that torsparkles has pointed out to me that Wikipedia have a list of stuff published in '78 which will remove all the tedious time-consuming headache of finding stuff. Thanks for that, I've no idea what my excuse is for being too useless to have worked out to Wikipedia for myself!)

Starting point...Collapse )

current mood: curious

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Sunday, December 31st, 2006
2:59 pm - Year end totals

I stopped counting the height of the books I was reading in September. I stopped for two reasons, firstly because I was a couple of inches off my height so I was clearly going to reach it and secondly because that's when I started reading electronic books and how do you measure the height of an electronic book?

But I kept on with noting the books I read and the total for 2006 was 83 books, which breakdown as follows:

72 fiction
11 non-fiction
21 Re-reads
62 first time reads

The full list of the books I read in 2006 is here.

The best of the yearCollapse )

I think 83 books is a decent amount to read in a year so I'm not going to challenge myself to read more in 2007, rather I'm going to challenge myself to read more new (to me) authors. This year I read nine new authors (not counting non-fiction). So next year I will set a target of fifteen.

Any recommendations?

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12:21 pm - The 2006 Total
xquiq Having totted up my reading for this year, I have to admit glorious failure in attempting to read my height in books. This despite being shorter than some 10 year olds.

Looking through the list, it's not all doom and gloom. This year's favourites include Levitt's fantastically entertaining 'Freakonomics'; the bizarrely entitled 'Killing Yourself to Live' by Chuck Klosterman; Christopher Meyer's 'DC Confidential', which is like reading the best of Radio 4 politics, but with more bitching and Kate Mosse's 'Labyrinth', which actually lived up to the hype.

I also surprised myself by ploughing through Tariq Ali's 'The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity' and promptly forgetting most of it. Ditto Bill Bryson's 'A Short History of Nearly Everything', though it is far and away the more entertaining of the two.

In the 'don't bother' pile, I'd stick 'The Blind Assassin', because even Margaret Atwood gets it wrong at times, anything by Michael Moore (I should have known better) and the intriguing but irritatingly flawed vampire novel 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova.

I'm not sure what my goal is for 2007. This year's reading has been heavily slanted towards non-fiction and unfortunately most of the fiction I have read has disappointed, so I'd definitely like to read more good fiction.

With that in mind, I found Pratchett's 'Wintersmith' in my stocking this year. I wonder, if I start it today, but finish it erm, tomorrow, probably, does it count for 2007? Or perhaps it's more likely that I'll start it today and tonight's guests won't be fed on indeed spoken to...

Update: Erk, I've been rumbled and asked to clean things. I suppose I'll be starting the book in earnest tomorrow.

current mood: cheerful

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Saturday, December 30th, 2006
6:39 pm

I've just spent a silly amount of time confirming I do in fact own a copy of 'Dune'... ...and earlier today I could not remember if I had Ken McLeod's 'The Sky Road' or not...

Perhaps I need an index, though I'm not going Dewey Decimal until I have a lot more books.

Edit: Well its 00:15 and I'm 53 authors in... Which isn't really so bad considering the amounts of Larry Niven, Terry Pratchett and Michael Moorcock on my shelves.

current mood: confused

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2:05 am - Not so much a festive read as a read I read whilst not being festive...

The Warhound and the Worlds Pain - Michael Moorcock

I've been reading MM's work for years on and off. A lot of it used to go over my head - I periodically re-read Jeremiah Cornelius and piece together a few more hidden meanings within the text. Others like Oswald Bastable I like for their atmosphere. As it was I'd never read Von Bek (Our hero) before. Its very different to other pieces of MM's work in that it is set in a historical part of our world - medieval Germany.

Essentially Von Bek is contracted by Lucifer to seek out the cure for the World's Pain (or the grail.). Whilst an interesting journey with vibrant slightly-larger-than-life characters forms an enjoyable tale, I enjoyed this for similar reasons to Anne Rice's Memnoch. Its interesting to look at the christian mythos from different angles. What if the devil isn't really what we think. What if hes more like us, seeking redemption and meaning than the god he rebelled against? What if he wants to return to his place of grace in heaven? To most of the tales we hear Lucifer is the ultimate evil, the final bogeyman waiting for us behind the door of death - and to my eyes very two dimensional.

MM asks questions like these with intelligence and a certain irony. His books may not always be the easiest to read, but I find them worth the effort of persevering with, even if it takes me some time for the thoughts they provoke for me. TWatWP is something I'll probably revisit in a few years, but in the meantime there are the two further chronicles of the Von Bek family to discover.

Wintersmith - Terry Pratchett

Not finished yet, but it will be later tonight :) The third in his series of Tiffany Aching books allegedly for younger readers. Theres not a vast amount to say really. If you like Pratchett then you'll find him in good form, alternating laughter, irony, and some pointed statements about the ways people see each other into a very enjoyable romp. If you're like me you'll have bought it anyway and be prepared to forgive the flatter novels. If not theres probably not a lot I could say that would convince you to try it, so I won't. For me though it, like its two prequels is some of his better work, and I hope TP's current high form (Wintersmith and the very thought provoking THUD!) continues.

current mood: bibliphilic

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Friday, December 29th, 2006
11:49 pm - New Challenge? Group Challenge?

Any Idea?

I reckon there may be up to ten of us active - each reading between 1-3m of books...

So potentially 10-30m of books; any idea of a group challenge?

Not sure what to aim for myself - read twice my height and then some last year.

current mood: sick

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Tuesday, November 21st, 2006
9:04 am

I've been rereading Jack L. Chalkers Well World books as of late. They're nice and easy and not too big for me to cope with, and since I've read them before any lapses in concentration aren't so obvious.

Cut for length of waffle :)Collapse )

Nevertheless I enjoyed reading it all again.

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Friday, November 17th, 2006
9:38 pm

Previous...Collapse )

Additional...Collapse )

Current total - 174.5cm
Target height - 165cm

So assuming I can in fact add up properly, I've done it with 6 weeks to spare - Hurrah! In fact, even allowing for my uselessness at Maths, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't have miscalculated by as much as 10cm.

I'm currently reading Wicked, about halfway through. Ok, so maybe I was expecting too much given all the hype and superlatives that have been heaped on the musical, and by extension the book, but I'm really not finding it to be anything special. It's not that it's bad or anything, I'm not struggling to read it and I'll finish it easily enough. It's just, it hasn't grabbed me and pulled me into it so that I'm walking to work trying to navigate around busy operational Police units with my nose in it because I can't bear to put it down even for 30 seconds to be sure I can cross the road safely, or exhausting myself being awake until 3am/being late for work as I didn't leave on time because I was reading because I just must finish this chapter... and just the next one... 5 more minutes...

Ok, own height too easy. Even with the restriction of must be previously unread books, there's a whole extra load of height this year that doesn't count because I read it before. Anyone any suggestions for next year's challenge?

current mood: accomplished

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Sunday, October 29th, 2006
12:10 pm

Previous...Collapse )

Additional...Collapse )

Current total - 153.5cm

Not sure what I'll start on next, probably either Wicked or Labyrinth, though I really should read some more of Bill Hicks. I gave up temporarily as it's a collection of his stand up shows, which means it's mostly the same material repeated over and over in a slightly different order, which does get tedious after a while, funny though he was. And I'm still only partway through Bitch, as it's proving rather dryer and harder going than I was expecting from Elizabeth Wurtzel. It is great, and very interesting but as it's more an 'essay' style piece it's lacking the dry self-deprecating humour and sassiness that makes her other work so fantastic. I'll get there eventually with both I'm sure. In the meantime, final round of MotoGP at Valencia to watch... Laters all

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Saturday, October 21st, 2006
10:02 am

Midnight Tides - Steven Erikson.

Its taken me a while to get through this, but thats no reflection on the book. This is the fifth in his series of fantasy novels, and though I haven't got the fourth yet, this might be rectified today. I decided to read it out of sequence because I wanted to see more of his world after Memories of Ice, and this book is set apart from events in the previous volumes to a certain extent.

I wasn't disappointed, though a most of the characters are new, there are enough continuing threads of deeper plot to make you feel at home. Also characters that have been hinted at in previous books make an appearance here, fleshing out the world still further.

The story revolves around the war between the Letherii and Tiste Edur with the narrative alternating between characters on each side. A touch of familiarity is provided by a group of Malazan soldiers who themselves turn out to be a plot twist as they are sworn to depose the Emperor whose subjects have formed the subject of the previous two books. Culminating in a cataclysmic battle for an empire, the book also has something more - humour. Tehol Beddict and his manservant Bugg are a comedy double act who lighten the tone of the book, whilst being integral and necessary to the plot. The humour doesn't detract from the story, it just adds another dimension to it. Its good to see an author developing and experimenting with his style without discarding anything of what has gone before.

As well as this, Mr Erikson has obviously been influenced by Stephen Donaldson, beyond the usual testimonial on the front cover. There are a few very subtle homages to Thomas Covenant if you look closely, but these are kept very discrete and seem almost accidental. Nevertheless it does make me wonder what a collaboration between these two would bring...

current mood: impressed

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Thursday, October 12th, 2006
12:00 am

Memories of Ice: Steven Erikson

I'd been wanting to read some of Steven Erikson's stuff for years, eversince I saw a review of Deadhouse Gates in Waterstones (once upon a time in Manchester they had someone who loved fantasy working in their store who made the place seem friendly.) quarterly SF/fantasy magazine. I was lucky enough to mistakenly buy the first volume, Gardens of the Moon instead of Deadhouse Gates first and was hooked. The second book was as good as the first but throws you by taking place in a completely different setting.

I did however have a a little bugbear about the first two books. They were complete stories unto themselves, even to keeping some of the same characters. But they left nagging holes, unanswered questions, that looked too big to even start to be filled in future volumes.

Then I started Meories of Ice and discovered the holes were in fact the gaps in a web that was being drawn skillfully together into a book that once more drew me in and had me actually caring about the characters and their sacrifices, deaths and victories. Theres no heroic fantasy here, rather like James Barclay, the magic is a tool and a plot device in the narrative which focuses upon the characters. This volume concludes, for now I suspect, the story of The Bridgeburners, a worn down military unit in a war seemingly without purpose, whilst leaving other stories taking place in this world part told.

I loved reading it - its one of the few books of late that has drawn me in and not allowed me to put it down. But now I face a quandry. I have the fifth and sixth volumes in front of me, but don't want to read them in case I miss anything in the fourth...

Anyone have a copy of House of Chains they could lend me? :)

current mood: impressed

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Wednesday, October 11th, 2006
4:58 pm - Jumping on _purple_'s bandwagon...

This started as a comment on _purple_'s last entry and got out of hand!Collapse )

*end of my two-penn'orth*

current mood: thoughtful

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10:15 am - I was assigned homework by a 12 year old

I'm absolutely hopeless with this whole book reading thing. But, at least I'm doing better than the other teachers here, most of whom can't even remember the last book that they read.

I'm sitting at lunch last week and this 1st year comes up to me, hands me a piece of poster board with a title on it and says "Annie sensei favorite book. Please write. I come back October 12."

Evidently, here in Japan, Autumn is the best time to read books, because the nights are long. Morning reading time has been extended from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. And I have a book report due tomorrow and I have no idea what book to recommend to junior high school students. Compounded by the fact that I have no idea which of my favorite books are available here.

And then after I find a book I need to decide whether to write my book recommendation in English or Japanese.

What book would you recommend to junior high school students? and why?

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Sunday, October 8th, 2006
8:23 pm

After last nights question posing, I suppose I should put my money where my mouth is:

With the independant bookshop being a thing rapidly becoming extinct to the sleeker corporate bookshops, and the rude man in Till's putting me off shopping there again, most of my literature comes from the charity bookshops around my home.

Oxfam is of course my bone of contention here. I have often found of late that their prices are that 50p to £1 beyond impulse purchasing will allow me to spend. When I compare my recent purchaces I find I've come out of Banardo's, Shelter or the PDSA with large piles of reasonably priced books. Oxfam on the other hand I go into thinking of two or three books I may buy if they have them and if they're not too expensive.

They kind of take the fun out of the charity bookshop, by being too commercial. They're not Waterstones, and I don't really want to see BOGOF's and Three for Two's. I'd rather buy more books because I like the look of them and know they're not going to break my sadly limited bank.

This is not to say I don't feel bad about mouthing off about this. They are after all a charity and doing good works. But I'd rather see a non-commercial approach to selling books rather than another corporate clone in disguise. Surely selling more books because they're slightly cheaper is better than selling a few expensive ones? Surely its better to have your stock turning over quickly so theres always something new to see?

Most of all isn't it better to have people saying what a good bookshop you are rather than muttering about pennies on their blogs?

current mood: thoughtful

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