Monday, 20 April 2015

Q is for Quitting

Q is for quitting.

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is a book you were supposed to read in school but didn't. That is, a book that you quit reading. Except that I'm going to mention one I did the opposite with - not only did I read Shane by Jack Schaefer, I read it again a few years later! Why, you ask?

The answer's in an ancient blog post of mine featuring a meme on books and reading. Reposting the main questions here, with comments in square brackets:

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Usually anything by a first-time author who's "essentially Canadian" or who's an ethnic Canadian and has just written something scathing or revealing about their homeland. Boo-ooring! [This is very odd. The tone doesn't sound like me at all. I wonder which book I was thinking of?]

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Well Jamie and Claire from the Outlander series obviously. They count as one character :-) Possibly Hercule Poirot. I'll make my life easier, I'll stick with adult humans (i.e. no hobbits!). And Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey. And Lord John Grey. Right, that's four. I would be extremely nervous and very shy, so we would have to be at an event that wouldn't make me more nervous - perhaps a trip to the Biodome, followed by a night at the pub. [Why on earth did I want to take them to the Biodome? The Ecomuseumwould have been better if we had to visit animals, but the pub would do just fine on its own!]

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
Shane by Jack Schaefer. We read it in eighth grade and a few years later I thought that it couldn't have been as bad as I remembered, so I read it again. It was worse.

Come on, we've all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
Dostoyevsky's more famous works. I've read Notes from Underground, The Double and White Nights but I've never read Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to 'reread' it that you haven’t? Which book?
Not really. I tend to reread stuff all the time because I forget everything so easily.

You're interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What's the first book you’d recommend and why (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP)?
Well it does depend on the VIP. Let's say it's some vapid actor/actress who keeps pretending he/she doesn't have the time or patience for reading. Even then, it depends what his/her interests are. Stephen Fry might be a good place to start. Emily Carr. Or Thomas King. And Stephen King. [Depending on the VIP, I might also recommend Monica Lewycka or some YA.]

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
German. Right now I can only read books that I've already read in English. Turkish would be nice too, so I wouldn't have to keep running to my mom and asking her what the more difficult words mean. And Welsh, so I could read fairy tales without a dictionary and phrasebook.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
I already do this with the Lord of the Rings. And [also did it] with Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia while they [were] still making the movies.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What's one bookish thing you 'discovered' from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art, etc.)?
I haven't really discovered anything new yet. But I will buy my first Graphic Novel ever when Diana [Gabaldon]'s comes out. I've only ever read Maus before. [Now I can add Neil Gaiman's Sandman to the list!]

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she's granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.
Are you kidding? It would be a huge, two-floored old English library, kind of like the Osler Library, with lots of dark wood panels, deep leather armchairs, New York Public Library reading lamps and those green lamps with brass chains, pipe smoking, busts of authors and of a raven, a drinks cabinet, bookshelves lining every wall... drool...

Speaking of quitting, have you ever quit a job? I ask simply in order to segue to another old blog post of mine, where I listed all the jobs I've had.

It's fun looking at old posts, isn't it?

Feel free to answer the meme questions!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

P is for Porno

P is for Porno. No, not what you're thinking!

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is one that was originally written in a different language. I'm fudging things a bit and including Porno by Irvine Welsh, the sequel to Trainspotting. They're written in English, of course, but the Scottish characters' accents and word usage are spelled phonetically.

I picked up the book at the Salon du Livre in Geneva last spring, where I met Irvine Welsh!

Here's what I reported at the time:
I couldn't think of an intelligent question. One person asked if there'll be a sequel to the Trainspotting movie and the short answer is maybe. The intriguing bit was that, apparently, a little while ago, Welsh and Danny Boyle and a couple of others locked themselves into an Edinburgh apartment for a week to talk about the books and the movie and see if they could start hashing out script ideas. That would have been a great week during which to be a fly on the wall!


One other interesting I learned is that Welsh's writing style changes with every book. Sometimes he'll work 9 to 5, other times he'll work late at night; sometimes he'll write at a desk with notes and Post-its everywhere, other times he'll write outside the house... One book was written while riding the Circle Line of the London Tube, apparently!

I suppose I could have mentioned some Turkish or German or French books. Someday I'd like to try reading in Spanish and Russian too.

Which languages do you read in?

Friday, 17 April 2015

O is for Outlander

O is for Outlander.

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is one set somewhere you've always wanted to visit: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I've noted before that if it wasn't for Outlander my life would be very different:
A great book affects you not only at an emotional level - when you can't let go of the characters - or at a mental level - when you learn new words and information at every reread - but at a life level.
It's a stack of dominoes - if I hadn't read Outlander, I wouldn't have joined the (awesome!) Compuserve Books and Writers Community (and its group of wonderful readers and writers!). If I hadn't joined the Forum, I wouldn't have started taking my writing seriously. Imagine, I used to finish a story or novel and just leave it by the wayside. Now I've got two fully edited novels - one out on queries! - and I'm in the process of overhauling [four more]. If I hadn't started taking my writing seriously, I wouldn't be blogging, and I wouldn't have met all you wonderful people!
Yay for Diana Gabaldon!

The "somewhere I've always wanted to visit" aspect is, of course, Scotland. Later books in the series are set in France and North America, but I've been lucky enough to visit most of those settings (especially France and the Carolinas in the United States). In Scotland though, I've been to Edinburgh twice, yet have never been further north.

Let's see... I'd like to take a distillery tour, roam the Highlands, explore the islands, drop by the Walkers Shortbread factory, attend a Runrig or Idlewild concert or two...

My Runrig playlist

My Idlewild playlist

With the Outlander musical, and now the new Outlander series on Starz (with its evocative score, especially the title music, which always makes me cry) -- not to mention the awesome Outlander Kitchen -- there's an Outlander to suit (nay, overload) all five senses.

And that's not including all the knitting possibilities!

While I'm visiting the United Kingdom, I'd also love to attend the Hay-on-Wye literary festival.

 (love these press photos from the website!)

This year's edition will feature talks by Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Graham Swift, Elif Safak, Irvine Welsh, Rose Tremain, and Stephen Fry, among others. Wish I could go!

Which festivals would you like to attend?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

N is for The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

N is for The Nature of the Beast.

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is a mystery or thriller: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny.

Except that this isn't a book I've read, it's a book I'm eagerly anticipating!

The last time I mentioned Louise Penny's series of mysteries featuring Inspector Gamache, I noted that I'd "been lost in the village of Three Pines created by Louise Penny, reading about Inspector Armand Gamache, his team, and the inhabitants of that village. The food! The drinks! The depth of character -- one of those books where the setting is just as much a character as the people. The Eastern Townships region of Quebec (and Quebec City) comes alive, in all four seasons. I've already ordered the last four books in the series and am haunting our mailbox."

The reading order of the books, bottom up, is:

Now I've read all of them and am looking forward to the next book, due out in August:

No cover art yet!

To whet our appetites, there's a new series of inspirations for the settings of the books called the Real Places of Three Pines. Here's a list of the places that will be featured, the book they're from, and the date the inspiration will be posted:

"April 6: Still Life/Arts Williamsburg
April 20: A Fatal Grace/Hadley House
May 4: The Cruelest Month/boulangerie
May 18: A Rule Against Murder/Manoir Bellechasse
June 1: The Brutal Telling/general store
June 15: Bury Your Dead/Literary and Historical Society
June 29: A Trick of the Light/Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
July 13: The Beautiful Mystery/Monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups
July 27: How the Light Gets In/Champlain Bridge
August 10: The Long Way Home/Baie-Saint-Paul
August 25: The Nature of the Beast is published!
August 31: The Nature of the Beast (TBA)"

Meanwhile, ROW80, a brief update: Nothing doing! I've been very busy at work, to the point of bringing work home. Hoping for more time next week!

Do you enjoy visiting the settings of your favourite books (if possible)
or prefer to keep them in your imagination?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

M is for Metroland

M is for Metroland.

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is a book with a love triangle: Metroland by Julian Barnes

I included Barnes in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, especially as he's a Francophile the way I'm an Anglophile, so I feel a certain kinship (as much as you can with an author you haven't met!).

This was maybe the third or fourth book of his that I read (the first was The History of the World in 101/2 Chapters and I was hooked after the first chapter). Metroland is one of those dark suburban tales of accepting life. Inevitably, perhaps, there was a sequel, Love, Etc., which features the characters railing against what they thought they'd accepted. Does that make any sense?

Here's the Amazon description:

"Christopher and Toni found in each other the perfect companion for that universal adolescent pastime: smirking at the world as you find it. In between training as flaneurs and the grind of school they cast a cynical eye over their various dislikes: parents with their lives of spotless emptiness, Third Division (North) football teams, God, commuters and girls, and the inhabitants of Metroland, the strip of suburban dormitory Christopher calls home.
Longing for real life to begin, we follow Christopher to Paris in time for les evenements of 1968, only to miss it all in a haze of sex, French theatre and first love, leading him, to Toni's disappointment, back to Metroland."

For a long time, the movie version of this book was the only reason I knew who Christian Bale was!

Which books shaped your view of the world?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

L is for the Library

L is for the List of 180 and the Library in English.

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is a book you own but have never read.

I recently blogged about the (mostly) failure to read, by 2015, 180 books I own but hadn't read, since most of the books are now in storage. In our new place I already have 70 books to read - actually, it's down to 65 now. I'm making a dent in the pile!

Mainly because there's a book fair coming up! The Library in English in Geneva is having its biannual book sale at the end of the month.

Which books do you think I should get?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

K is for Steinbeck

K is for Steinbeck. Yes, it is. It has to be, because I need an excuse to blab about The Grapes of Wrath.

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is based on a true story.

The Grapes of Wrath is set in the 1930s and relates in a very personal and individual way the migration of farmers from states such as Oklahoma to California, seeking work and basic sustenance for their families.

I learned afterwards that Steinbeck based a lot of his notes for the book on research conducted by Sanora Babb, so now her novel Whose Names Are Unknown is on my wishlist. I've read other Steinbeck before, but hadn't read his books on the migrations. In Dubious Battle is up next.

I couldn't find the time to enter into a detailed discussion of the book on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, so I tweeted some of my initial reactions. Here are a few of the conversations:

Let me see if I can Storify the rest of my tweets (first time I've done this!).

It worked!

(Not sure what those related stories are. I didn't have time to tidy up this storification...)

What novels based on true stories have you enjoyed?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

J is for Jacob Two-Two

J is for Jacob Two-Two.

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is a book that takes place in your hometown.

Jacob Two-Two is the main character in three books for children written by Montreal author Mordecai Richler (of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and many other books and essays). They're snarky and funny and have all sorts of tongue-in-cheek references to Canadian politicians and other authority figures. Jacob Two-Two gets his name from the fact that because he's the youngest child in a large family, he has to keep repeating himself in order to be heard.

I was lucky enough to attend a book signing by Mordecai Richler before he passed away and even got a photo! But it's in storage back in Montreal, and I haven't scanned it, unfortunately. Here are the three books:

Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang

Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur

Jacob Two-Two's First Spy Case

If you're looking for fun books for the family, I'd definitely recommend these!

Friday, 10 April 2015

I is for Kindle for iPad (and I Have New ROW80 Goals)

I is for Kindle for iPad.

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is supposed to be a book at the bottom of my to-read list.

Except that there's a problem. My to-read list has no bottom. It's nearly as deep as the Mariana Trench. I own about 200 books in storage that I haven't read yet, have about 400 on my wishlist, am staring down 70 unread in our new house (coming up in a future post), plus there at least 200 .pdf books and downloaded Gutenberg files and so on in my e-mails and on my laptop.

Today, then, I shall feature my Kindle for iPad collection, which I'm finally starting to make a dent in (the ones with check marks are the ones I've already read):

Round 2 of A Round of Words in 80 Days has already begun!

My goals for this round are:
1. Keep up with the A to Z!
2. Finish the latest batch of Wallace letters
3. Type up some more of Larksong (I went back to it last weekend after two months, and managed to type up 400 words during baby's naptime. From tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow...)

Is there a book at the bottom of your to-read list?
Which book are you looking forward to reading next?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

H is for Hercule Poirot

is for Hercule!

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is a book set during Christmas.

For this one, I'm going back to one of my favourite authors to reread (sometimes I even forget whodunit and am pleasantly surprised all over again!), Agatha Christie. There are two I can think of that relate to Christmas: the novel Hercule Poirot's Christmas and the short story collection Hercule Poirot and the Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.

I like this line from the Guardian review quoted in Wikipedia: "In this kind of detective novel, depending almost entirely for its interest on accuracy of logical deduction from recorded fact and yet with the drama played out by recognisable human beings, Mrs. Christie remains supreme."

Do you reread books?

What's your favourite not-necessarily-Christmas-but-set-at-that-time story?

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

G is for the Guide to Mediterranean Plants

G is for guide...

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is a book your mom loves:

The Guide to Mediterranean Plants

Unfortunately I can't find information about the book online. It was published in the 1960s or so and is a small hardcover with illustrations on the right-hand side of plants and animals, and short descriptions on the left. It was very useful for research when I was drafting my three 15th Century romances set in the Mediterranean.

Instead, here are a few of the plants my mother's featured on her The Nature of My Memories blog:


Which flowers and blossoms do you look for when spring comes?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

F is for Forumites

F is for #ForumitesRule!

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's books are by female authors, who also happen to be Forumites, that is, members of the Compuserve Books and Writers Community!

Diana Gabaldon (I never would have discovered the Forum if it wasn't for her!)

And finally... Linda Grimes! Who happens to have a new short story coming soon:

Pre-Fix: A Ciel Halligan Short Story

"Meet Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire, in this charming introduction to Linda Grimes' 'sparkling series' (Publishers Weekly).
A genetic quirk means Ciel can take on the appearance of anyone she meets by projecting their aura. This startling ability presents endless possibilities, and she's one of a rare few who has you'd think it'd be easier finding a day job that lets her put it to use. Actress? Model? Ethically dubious and possibly criminal activities, like her best friend Billy? Ciel's long-time crush and fellow aura adaptor, Mark, has found his calling as a CIA agent-a life of intrigue, danger, and the perfect utilization of their rather unique skill set. It seems like the obvious choice to Ciel: She could do good and spend time with her crush. What could be better?"

I'm reading this right now and loving it!

Which writers' or readers' communities are you a part of?

Monday, 6 April 2015

E is for Evelyn Eaton

Eis for Evelyn Eaton!

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is one set in a different country. Of course I've read lots of books set in North America, Australia, Europe and Asia (but only a handful from South America!), yet when I saw this category, one of the first that leapt to mind was Evelyn Eaton.

I found out about Eaton through her granddaughter, author Marte Brengle. Eaton was born in Switzerland (yay!) to Canadian parents (yay!) and later moved to the United States. She wrote quite a few books, but so far I've only read Go Ask the River.

"The haunting story of the great female poet Hung Tu, who flourished in the ninth century during one of the great periods of Chinese literature. The daughter of a Government official far from the capital, on the Silk River, she was, most unusually, brought up with her brothers, whom she far outshone. Falling on evil times, her father sells her to the best Blue House on the Silk River.

Hung Tu's poetry and calligraphy bring her great renown, and the story traces her rise from Flower-in-the-Mist to Official Hostess at the court of the governors of the Silk City, and her love affair with the poet Yuan Chen. Set against the backdrop of the scholars, poets, officials, and warring factions of ninth century China, this wonderful story reconstructs one of the great periods of China - turbulent, cruel, yet with a sense of beauty remarkable by any standards and in any age. Go Ask the River is a tale not only of historical China, but of the human struggle to discover how to be alive." (description from Amazon)

I'd recommend this book to everyone. It truly is haunting, and both simply and beautifully told. I also have a copy of Eaton's Every Month Was May - I think I'll move it up the To Read pile!

And now... A shout-out to all our A to Z Challenge hosts:
Thank you for hosting and helping us!

Which countries have you read books from?
Are you managing to keep up with the A to Z?
I'm reading a lot but don't always have time to comment...

Saturday, 4 April 2015

D is for Dickens

D is for Dickens!

For this year's A to Z I'm featuring books I've read based on the Reading Challenge.

Today's book is one you can finish in a day:

The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In by Charles Dickens

I know I can finish this one in a day, actually less than a day, because that's exactly what I did. One day, eons ago when I had more time (so far back that I was still living with my parents!), I was reorganizing my bookshelves (one of those things you do when you have oodles of time, before life happens), and I came across a palm-sized hardcover I'd picked up at a book fair: The Chimes. I read the first page, got suckered into the story, and sat on the floor and read the entire book.

Apparently it's part of his series of Christmas tales, along with A Christmas Carol, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain.

The Chimes is available on Gutenberg! As are the others. Maybe this year I'll read the full Christmas set.

The only other book I've finished in one day was It by Stephen King. I had to finish it because I couldn't go to sleep without finding out if everyone was okay at the end!

Which books have you read in one sitting?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Captive Diary of Catherine Logan by Mary Pope Osborne (Dear America)
  • The Wars by Timothy Findley (reread)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • (Subterranean collection) John Scalzi
  • So Anyway... by John Cleese
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King (loved My Pretty Pony)
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • Beowulf and Sellic Spell by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • The War of the Ring - Book 8 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • Harold and His Purple Crayon (reread)
  • Ferdinand the Bull (reread)
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • secret beta read 2
  • Pre-Fix: A Ciel Halligan Short Story by Linda Grimes
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • Hidden by Catherine Mackenzie
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
  • But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton
  • Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad by M. R. James (short story) (1904)
  • Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman (reread)
  • My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
  • Usborne board books
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson (so lovely)
  • Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico
  • secret beta read!
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend
  • HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner by Kait Nolan
  • This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner
  • Two Caravans by Monica Lewycka
  • Aunt Sass by P. L. Travers
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (actually a few pages of the story, written by John Green for the film of his novel The Fault In Our Stars)
  • January Brings the Snow by Sara Coleridge (poem)
  • Kissing song by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • The Mother by Nettie Palmer (poem)
  • William Tell Told Again by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne
  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
  • Mes P'tits Contes, legends of Swiss cantons
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at