11 October 2014

Reading report for September 2014

I went through reading slump in September. For me, this usually does not mean I read fewer books in a given month, but that I read a larger proportion of books I have read before. I finished a total of 16 books – which is actually above my monthly average – but 10 of them were re-reads (of which three were audio books I listened to for the first time). Out of the remaining six, two were books I had started reading long before and then put aside for some reason.

For more than half the month I kept picking up never-before read books, opening them, reading a chapter or two, losing interest and grabbing a familiar book to read instead.



This coincided with the beginning of my yearly struggle with the winter blues. As I have mentioned before, I suffer from depression. It is usually mild these days and comes in fairly predictable waves throughout the year, but the downswings are always deeper during the winter and the first signs are usually an increased need for sleep and everything around me starting to feel uninteresting. At such times I feel the need to surround myself with things that are cosy and familiar, including books I have enjoyed many times before. The key to fighting this is novelty, and reading new-to-me books is one of the way in which I find novelty.

The book that finally helped me break the re-reading pattern was Gene Simmons‘ autobiography, Kiss and Make-Up. I used to be a Kiss fan when I was a teenager, and I still enjoy listening to their music. Not that the book is terribly remarkable, except possibly in the fact that he (or his ghost-writer) mostly actually writes about himself and doesn't spend half the book recounting juicy gossip about others, which has been the case with a number of celebrity autobiographies I have read. It was interesting, however, and so I kept reading and read it pretty much in two long sessions.

There were two stand-outs. The first was Katie Hickman‘s Daughters of Britannia, which examined various aspects of the lives of the spouses of British diplomats (mostly women). It gives an insight into the world of diplomats that shows that it used to be hard work being married into the diplomatic corps and it isn‘t all glittering parties and fun, and indeed the parties are only glittering and fun if you are on the outside looking in at them. The other stand-out was, predictably, the Gary Larson collection The Far Side Gallery II.

The low point of the month was a Mills & Boon romance: In Love With the Man by Marjorie Lewty. It is one of those books one finds one day in one's book collection without having any recollection of ever having bought or otherwise acquired it. I don't have any particular gripe with Mills & Boon per se, but this was one of those "innocent young woman falls for experienced older man" stories with a side order of industrial espionage, exotic foreign location (Tokyo) and a spiteful competitor for the hero's affections. The heroine is a wide-eyed innocent and the hero's behaviour towards her borders on the creepy at times and falls under my definition of sexual harassment. I think I read it from cover to cover only because it was short and I was feeling too lazy to stand up and get another book.

The Books:
  • Mike Ashley, ed.:The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives. Short detective stories, historical.
  • Jennifer Crusie:The Cinderella Deal. Romance. Reread.
  • Georgette Heyer:The Reluctant Widow and Masqueraders. Historical romance. Rereads.
  • Katie Hickman:Daughters of Britannia. History.
  • Gary Larson:The Far Side Gallery II. Humour, cartoons.
  • Marjorie Lewty:In Love With the Man. Romance. Reread.
  • Ólafur Davíðsson:Ég læt allt fjúka. Collected letters and diary.
  • Terry Pratchett:Truckers, Diggers, Wings. Children’s fantasy. Reread. Audio books, read by Tony Robinson.
  • J.D. Robb:Naked in Death. Futuristic police procedural. Reread.
  • Oliver Sacks:The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Neurology. Reread.
  • DorothyL. Sayers:Strong Poison. Mystery.
  • Gene Simmons:Kiss and Make-Up. Autobiography.
  • Winifred Watson:Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Novel, humorous. Reread.



05 October 2014

September 2014 book haul

I have already read one of the books in the two-book volume at the top of the pile. I was quite happy to find new Regency romances (my favourite sub-genre of historical romance), but I miss the old-fashioned painted covers. The clothing on these photograph covers isn't even historically correct.


26 September 2014

My book haul for August 2014

Missing is The Real Animal House: The Awesomely Depraved Saga of the Fraternity That Inspired the Movie, by Chris Miller. I lent it to my brother, who is a big fan of the movie (I sort of bought it for him too). I haven't yet read any of them, but I will probably start one once I finish one of my current reads (I'm juggling three books at the moment).

I already had an older copy of Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer, but I love the cover art on these newer editions. Besides, the old one is liable to fall apart if I try to read it.


14 September 2014

Reading report for August 2014

I read nine books in in August: some travel and romance with a peppering of other genres. One was a reread and one was an audio book I had previously read but was listening to for the first time.



The first high point was Slow Boats to China by Gavin Young. It’s one of those travel books that makes an appearance on numerous lists of best travelogues, and for good reason: It’s well written, describes a journey that most of us can only fantasise (and occasionally have nightmares) about, and is undoubtedly romantic. It describes the type of journey that can be found in the top ten wish lists of most hard-core travellers of the type who travel for the journey, not the destination.

The second high point was Map of Another Town by M.F.K. Fisher. I found it a little disjointed in places, but that did not detract from the joy of Fisher’s prose and her long love letter to Aix-en-Provence.

The Books:
  • Cecil Adams: Return of the Straight Dope. Trivia.
  • Mary Balogh: The Famous Heroine. Historical romance.
  • Jennifer Crusie: Maybe This Time. Paranormal contemporary romance. Reread.
  • M.F.K. Fisher: Map of Another Town. Travelogue.
  • Michael Green, ed.: The 'Peterborough' Book. Humour.
  • Jeff Greenwald: Mister Raja's Neighbourhood. Travelogue.
  • Balogh Mary: The Plumed Bonnet. Historical romance.
  • Terry Pratchett: Dodger. Alternative reality historical novel; audio book read by Stephen Briggs. Reread.
  • Gavin Young: Slow Boats to China. Travelogue.



23 August 2014

I have added a new page

In 2013, impressed by the number of book titles popping up in the books I was reading at the time, I began posting what I called Friday Book lists, in which I would list all the books, plays, periodicals, poems, short stories and other publications that appeared in the books I was reading. The endeavour fizzled out after a while when I took a break from rereading the Ngaio Marsh detective novels and began reading books that contained few, if any, mentions of books or reading. However, one thing I found fascinating about the exercise were all the fictional titles I came across.

Years before, I had discovered the - now, alas, long defunct - Invisible Library website and had been intrigued by the titles contained therein. Other webmasters and bloggers have since then made their own versions of this library of fictional books (as has Wikipedia), and now I have decided to join that club. On my Invisible Library page you will find (to begin with) the fictional books, short stories, poems and plays included in my Friday Book lists (I decided to omit any periodicals, newspapers and articles as their actual existence is often quite hard to verify). I will add new entries whenever I come across them and mark the newest at any time in red. 

My aim is not to list as many fictional books as possible, but merely to collect the ones I discover between the pages of the books I read. I may, if I find myself looking for something to do,  pick up, from other invisible libraries, titles gleaned from books I read before I started collecting titles, but that's it. If I haven't read the containing book, you will not find it listed.

Chilling opening sentence

I love the chilling promise in this opening sentence:
 "There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood."
 From Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers.

14 August 2014

July book haul


Count: 15
Of which I have already read 3: Return of the Straight Dope, Touching the Void and Map of Another Town (one of the two volumes contained in M.F.K. Fisher's Two Towns in Province).
Previously read: A Considerable Town, the other volume in Two Towns in Provence.


01 August 2014

Reading report for July 2014

I read 12 books in July, most of them fairly quick reads due to either being short or having a lot of pictorial content. None were rereads and 10 were TBR, meaning I am now several books ahead in the TBR challenge, with only 18 books to go. However, I don't plan to go slacking off, and neither am I going to push the number of challenge books up - I am simply going to finish the challenge and by then I will hopefully be in the habit of choosing more of my owned books to read and fewer loan books. If all goes well, I might push the limit higher next year.



If you wonder at seeing the same title twice, it‘s because I read two different editions of the same book. I jump at the chance to buy second-hand guide books of places I have visited or plan to visit one day, figuring that although they may be old, the important information, that about the old buildings, monuments, state museums and works of art, remains mostly valid, even if the information about hotels, restaurants, opening times, currency exchange, etc. has expired. This is because I prefer to read the guides at home while preparing to travel and then rely on locally available information when I get to where I am going. Also, if the books are old and cheaply bought, I don‘t need to hesitate to clip information, photos, maps and illustrations out of them to take with me and even paste into my journals. It saves considerable weight, I can tell you, if the guidebook is big (e.g. Lonely Planet's India guide), to simply cut it up and only bring the parts you need.

So, when I came across an All Venice guide book second hand, I bought it, not remembering that I already had a newer edition of it at home. When I realised this I compared the two and saw there were two different authors, so I figured there might be some differences between the two, and there were. Some of the images had been reused in the newer book and so had bits of the text, but the focus had changed slightly and there was more information in the new book, including a map of Venice. I think I will keep both, as the photographs in the older edition are quite charmingly quaint, what with the sixties fashions worn by the people in them and the sometimes strange colours in the prints.

I enjoyed all the books I read in July, but the standouts were Skuggasund and the two Far Side collections, The Far Side Gallery 4 and Cows of Our Planet. I already reviewed the former, and I don’t think the genius of Gary Larson needs any additional praise, but if you aren’t familiar with the Far Side, go find one of the books and read it.

 I also want to mention Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, which I think was recommended to me by George, who occasionally drops by the blog to comment and recommend books. I finally read it after buying it soon after it was first published. It marks a return for me to reading about my field of work and I found a number of the things Bellos discusses in it interesting and thought-provoking. This especially applies to the two chapters on my twin areas of professional expertise: legal translation and EU translations.

One book was somewhat disappointing: The Widow Clicquot. So little seems to be known about the famous widow that her life could have been fitted into a couple of chapters, and the author has the annoying habit of stating on every other page that the widow “must have” done or thought this or that (the wording differs, but it still gets annoying after a while). However, her story is filled out with the history of champagne-making and events in French history, which makes the book worth reading.

The Books:
  • Arnaldur Indriðason: Skuggasund . Murder mystery, detective story.
  • David Bellos: Is That a Fish in Your Ear?. Translation theory.
  • John Burke: Life in the Castle in Medieval Times. History.
  • Jayne Castle: Bridal Jitters. Romantic suspense, urban fantasy.
  • Emi Kazuko (text); Yasuko Fukuoa (recipes) : Japanese Cooking: The traditions, techniques, ingredients and recipes. Cookery book.
  • Gary Larson: The Far Side Gallery 4 and Cows of Our Planet. Humour, cartoons.
  • Tilar J. Mazzeo: The Widow Clicquot. Biography, history.
  • Eugenio Pucci: All Venice. Guide book.
  • Philip Pullman: Lyra's Oxford. Novella.
  • Vittorio Serra: All Venice. Guide book.
  • Joe Simpson: Touching the Void. Memoir, survival tale.