Thursday, 30 April 2015

Z is for Ze Rest of Ze List featuring Dolly Parton

Z is for ze rest of ze list!

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

Today's post details all the categories that didn't fit under A to Y!

A book with more than 500 pages: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

A classic romance: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

A book that became a movie: The Human Comedy by William Saroyan

A book written by someone under 30: Liza of Lambeth by Somerset Maugham

A funny book: Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico

A book you started but never finished: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

A nonfiction book: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

A popular author's first book: Something Wrong (horror stories) by Edith Nesbit (1893!)

A Pulitzer Prize winning book: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

A book that scares you: 1984 by George Orwell

A memoir: Moab Is My Washpot by Stephen Fry

A play: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

A book that came out the year you were born: Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah Howe and James Howe

A trilogy: The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

A book set in the future: The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree by Louis Slobodkin (not exactly in the future, of course, but it is science fiction)

A book set in high school: Bright Days, Stupid Nights by Norma Fox Mazer and Harry Mazer

A book that made you cry: The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells

A banned book: A lot of my favourite authors have been banned at one time or another. Judy Blume, WH Auden, the list goes on. Banning books is ridiculous.

A book a friend recommended: The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle

Speaking of recommendations, here's a great way to share books and a love of reading:

I've signed up for the free publication StoryMonsters Ink 
and their last issue featured Dolly Parton's Imagination Library!

"Originally, the Imagination Library was created as a way to reach out to preschool children in Dolly's home county in East Tennessee. Her dream was to foster a love of reading at an early age by giving children the gift of a special book each month, regardless of income. The Imagination Library grew so popular that in 2000, she decided to offer the program to any community willing to partner with her. Today, more than 1,600 local communities have joined the Imagination Library."

 There are five categories I haven't had a chance to fill. Please give me your suggestions!

A book by an author you've never read before
A book based entirely on its cover
A book written by an author with the same initials as you
A book with antonyms in the title
A book with bad reviews

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Y is for FairY Tales or Not-Young Books

Y is for fairY tales...

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 more than 100 years old.

I have a few such books in our library, but most are in storage! I thought it might be fun to talk about fairy tales instead.

Here are a few of my favourite authors:

Hans Christian Andersen

My favourite story: The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf

Andrew Lang

The coloured fairy books! (sorry, upside down again)
I happily own all of them, but could only bring one with us, unfortunately.

My favourite story: from the Nursery Rhyme book, Ken Ye the Rhyme to Porringer? (because of the Gaiman Tolkien connection!)

The Brothers Grimm

My favourite story: The Six Swans

Charles Perrault

My favourite story: Puss in Boots

There're also Walter de la Mare, Eleanor Farjeon, Edward Lear, and many other authors.

ROW80 in brief!: I have a couple of days off work coming up. And so many exciting A to Z blog posts to catch up on!

Which fairy tales do you love?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

X is for X-Files

X is for X-Files.

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 based on or turned into a TV show: The X-Files!

I only ever read the first two X-Files novels, Goblins and Whirlwind. They were fun, but didn't compare to watching Mulder and Scully, of course.

I wonder if the show would have the same effect if I watched it now? When it first aired, it was on so late that after we watched it, my sister and I would turn on the lights all the way up the stairs to bed, because we were scared to be in the dark. Just thinking about the Peacock family episode still frightens me no end.

Someone's probably made this comparison before, but in a way the earliest X-Files episodes were like Doctor Who - there was a central core of disbelief, and once you'd willingly suspended into that, the fun and excitement and unassuming cheesiness was there for the taking. I was watching a lot of the old Doctor Who episodes in the same years, now that I think of it. My favourites are still Hartnell and Troughton. Aww. I miss them.

An Unearthly Child, first episode ever

The Simpsons is mostly unavailable on YouTube, but I did find this from the X-Files episode, The Springfield Files:

The X-Files is returning with new episodes next year!

Doctor Who is back on the BBC in autumn!

Which book would you like to see turned into a TV show?
(Of course, there's always Outlander. And I didn't even mention All Creatures Great and Small!)
Which TV show would you read books of?

Monday, 27 April 2015

W is for Watership Down and the Library Book Sale

W is for Watership Down.

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 nonhuman characters: Watership Down by Richard Adams.

There's also a sequel, Tales from Watership Down.

Both books are about the adventures of a group of rabbits, led by two brothers called Fiver and Hazel, who are forced to leave their warren and find a new home. "The story follows a warren of Berkshire rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a land developer. As they search for a safe haven, skirting danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band and its compelling culture and mythos. Adams has crafted a touching, involving world in the dirt and scrub of the English countryside, complete with its own folk history and language (the book comes with a "lapine" glossary, a guide to rabbitese)" (from Amazon)

There's a brilliant recent interview with Adams in the Telegraph.

I also glanced at the Wikipedia entry for the book just now and learned that Adams participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything last December. I missed it! If only I'd seen a notification for it on Twitter. Someone asked a Tolkien question:
"I'm a huge fan of your fantasy novels. Did you ever meet J. R. R. Tolkien? What did you think of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies?

I never met Tolkien, and I can't say I've seen the films. I hear they're good. I think the Lord of the Rings is first class. Wonderful. There aren't enough novelists today writing stories. Not many novels nowadays are really stories - they concentrate on character and the relationships between characters. Sad love and happy love. But a story. "Once upon a time...". It's not sophisticated enough you see, but I think there' a real place for it."

I also learned that Adams co-authored a nonfiction book on a journey in Antartica, Voyage Through the Antarctic. That sounds fascinating! It's definitely difficult for me to resist adding books to my wishlists all the time.

Not only that, but I keep adding to my To Read pile... Last weekend the Library in English in Geneva hosted another book sale!

Purchases on the first day

The second day's haul

Which books with non-human characters would you recommend?

Saturday, 25 April 2015

V is for Mandalas by Wendy Piersall

V is for very many colours!

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 colour in the title. I've been reading a few Usborne touchy-feely books in the past year, which are full of colours:

The colours, children!

Mainly, though, I'm reposting part of a recent book review blogpost. But I'd like to insert a brief note here with regard to the 100th anniversary of ANZAC day, today. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk delivered the following words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields in Turkey:

"Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well."

And now, the letter

and very many colours:
Look, a colouring book!

"From the Sanskrit word for "circle," mandalas have been used for meditation and healing for thousands of years.
"Coloring Animal Mandalas" adds the beauty of the animal kingdom—including butterflies, tigers, swans, snakes, peacocks, seahorses and even unicorns—into these intricate designs for page after page of coloring book bliss.
As you transform the detailed shapes in this book into stunning works of art, you'll find yourself relaxing, focused, reaching a higher state of mindfulness and simply enjoying yourself."

Here are a couple of sample pages, both coloured and in black and white:

It might be a fan-of-Tolkien thing (he drew lots of friezes and sigils and emblems that I find very attractive) but I've always enjoyed colouring in patterns and shapes, and even drawn a few geometric repeating patterns of my own (usually when in class...).

There's lots of enjoyment to be had in this book if you're also a fan of that sort of thing. Just looking at the images gets my fingers itching to pick up coloured pencils!

And there's even a time lapse video showing a colouring-in.

Which books on colour have you enjoyed?

Friday, 24 April 2015

U is for Ulysses by James Joyce

U is for Ulysses.

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 one-word title: Ulysses by James Joyce. I've blogged about Joyce twice before, including him in a list of intimidating books and noting that his works are now public domain (which seems scary!) and that the first book of his I read was A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I first read it in my early teens. I had a sweatshirt that featured Joyce and jokingly referred to Samuel Beckett going out in the middle of the night to get pizzas.

I mentioned then that I've read Ulysses! It took me a year - I read a chapter each Sunday (or so). After each chapter, I read the corresponding chapter in Stuart Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses: A Study. Is it really possible to read Ulysses without any help at all? I haven't tried Finnegan's Wake yet... A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is still my favourite of his writing.

Of three Joyce-related parts of Europe, I've visited Dublin and the James Joyce Centre, Paris and the Shakespeare and Company bookshop and am hoping to visit the third -- which is in Switzerland!

The James Joyce Foundation in Zurich which "was established in 1985 with a view to keeping alive the memory and work of the Irish writer James Joyce for the literary world in general, and above all for Zurich, where he spent some important creative years and where he died."

I hadn't realised he was buried in Switzerland. Not only that, but there are all sorts of houses and pubs associated with him to visit!

Screenshot of photos from the James Joyce Foundation page

Which difficult books have you tackled?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

T is for Tolkien and Children's Day

T is for Tolkien!

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 from an author you love that you haven't read yet. Hard to believe there's any Tolkien book I haven't read (never mind that I haven't yet had time to finish his translation of Beowulf released last year, especially because I'd like to compare it to the last translation I read, which was Seamus Heaney's), but there is one book:

Songs for the Philologists

Here is the Tolkien Library description:

"In Leeds, J.R.R. Tolkien and E.V. Gordon founded a "Viking Club" for undergraduates devoted mainly to reading Old Norse sagas and drinking beer. It was for this club that Tolkien and Gordon originally wrote their Songs for the Philologists, a set of duplicated typescripts, containing a mixture of traditional songs and original verses translated into Old English, Old Norse and Gothic to fit traditional English tunes.

In 1935 or 1936, Dr A.H. Smith of University College London, former student at Leeds, gave a copy of one of the typescripts to a group of students to print at their private press as a printing exercise. There for we can assume there were not many copies printed originally. He later realized that he had not asked for permission from Tolkien or Gordon, so the completed booklets were not distributed. Most of the copies were destroyed in a fire at the college where the press and copies of the book were stored, but evidently some copies survived, perhaps retained by the students who printed them. The number that survive is not known, but is very small, perhaps as few as 14."

"There were 30 songs in the collection, J.R.R. Tolkien contributed 13. Further details can be found here.

'From One to Five'. To be sung to the tune of 'Three Wise Men of Gotham'.
'Syx Mynet'. In Old English, to be sung to the tune of 'I Love Sixpence'.
'Ruddoc Hana'. In Old English, to be sung to the tune of 'Who Killed Cock Robin'.
'Ides Ælfscýne'. In Old English, to be sung to the tune of 'Daddy Neptune'. Reprinted, together with a Modern English translation ('Elf-fair Lady') in The Road to Middle-earth.
'Bagm? Blom?'. In Gothic, to be sung to the tune of 'O Lazy Sheep!'. Reprinted, together with a Modern English translation ('Flower of the Trees') in The Road to Middle-earth.
'Éadig Béo þu!'. In Old English, to be sung to the tune of 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'. Reprinted, together with a Modern English translation ('Good Luck to You') in The Road to Middle-earth.
'Ofer Wídne Gársecg'. In Old English, to be sung to the tune of 'The Mermaid'. Reprinted, together with a Modern English translation ('Across the Broad Ocean') in The Road to Middle-earth.
'La Húru'. To be sung to the tune of 'O' Reilly'.
'I Sat upon a Bench'. To be sung to the tune of 'The Carrion Crow'.
'Natura Apis: Morali Ricardi Eremite'. Also to be sung to the tune of 'O'Reilly'.
'The Root of the Boot'. To be sung to the tune of 'The Fox Went Out'. Reprinted in Anderson's Annotated Hobbit, and in a revised form in The Return of the Shadow. Also reprinted in The Tolkien Papers: Mankato Studies in English. Later revised and printed in The Lord of the Rings and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil as 'The Stone Troll'.
'Frenchmen Froth'. To be sung to the tune of 'The Vicar of Bray'.
'Lit' and Lang''. To be sung to the tune of 'Polly Put the Kettle On'.

The above information is a summary of that given in Hammond's Descriptive Bibliography. For full details see pages 293 and 294."

I note that even Wikipedia calls it "the rarest and most difficult to find Tolkien-related book"!

The trouble is not so much that it's not available, but that it's out-of-budget. Look at these prices!

Meanwhile, today is Children's Day in Turkey! I've Storified a few photos off Twitter:

Which priceless book would you like to own?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

S is for Sandman and Theories of Time Travel and Collating Gaiman Blogs

S is for Sandman.

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

Today's book is a graphic novel: The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman.

I'm trying to think of a way to describe this in the shortest possible terms to anyone who might not have heard of it. The Sandman (Dream) is one of the Endless, along with Death, Desire, Despair, and so on. They're like angels, in that they can intervene in individual human lives, and also like Greek or Norse gods, in that they not only intervene but sometimes see their plans go awry.

Here's the Sandman Wikipedia page for the nuts and bolts of the comic, the reading order and so on.

One of the many reasons I love this series (and I'm still only on book eight of the collected volumes!) is the seamless weaving of history, myth, mythology, and character development. Because I have read a limited amount of fantasy and science fiction, and because I'm a Tolkien and Gabaldon fan, I tend to be a stickler when it comes to continuity. Stephen King, for instance, in his brilliant 11/22/63, has a character time travel to a time he's already in. This isn't possible, physics-wise, based on the Gabaldon Theory of Time Travel. It's another reason that Hermione's use of the Time Turner works when she's attending classes but not at the end, when they use it to save Sirius and Buckbeak (unfortunately). Mainly because if Harry's the one to cast the Patronus (and not his dad, as he believes it was until he sees himself), there has to be a first moment in time when that occurred before they travel back to it.

But back to Sandman. One interesting light-hearted aspect about the character is that every once in a while in the books he looks like Robert Smith of The Cure. Other times he's Bowie-ish. Once he reminded me of Tim Burgess of The Charlatans. I saw one photo of Neil Gaiman looking like his creation, but can't seem to find it, so here's a random collection:

Here are most of my 2012 blog posts featuring Neil Gaiman, the year it all started:

An Unexpected Post About Neil Gaiman -- it begins!

I Want to be Neil Gaiman's Copy Editor

Body-in-the-bog whisky

I ask Neil a question

Neil Gaiman Writes Back!

Quotes from Stardust

Neil Gaiman Pep Talk

Neil with a chainsaw

More copy editing wishes, and Douglas Adams

American Gods

The faces of authors

Ray Bradbury

Neil Gaiman references George Formby. Your argument is invalid.

Utterly bonkers and deeply profound

Twitter wives and honey

What's in my bag? and Amanda Palmer Kickstarter Deluxe Edition, yay!

Gaiman on Poe

Free short story

Rule No. 8 for writing

Shortest Neil Gaiman story ever

A cartoon of Neil, and Dr. Martignetti

Neil and the Earl of Rochester

Neil and Doctor Who

Neil Gaiman perfume

My 2012 year-end books read review

Plus, bonus - Neil, Chu, and my nephew

And then there was the time I dressed up as one of the Endless for a party...

Can I sneak in an ROW80 update? I've kept up with the A to Z! Mostly. Still making my way 'round, visiting everyone. But otherwise, real life continues to be busy. One life event, one life project, and lots of tasks at work. Ah well, the writing/editing will come.

Which comics and graphic novels have you enjoyed?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

R is for Ruth Chew and Iain Lawrence

R is for Ruth Chew.

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 magic. Of course there's Harry Potter and books by E. Nesbit, Susan Cooper, L. M. Boston, Alan Garner, and all sorts of other authors. But I don't think I've ever mentioned Ruth Chew on the blog before. She's the author of The Wednesday Witch and many other books. I've only ever read one: Second-hand Magic.

I never really sought out her other books because, actually, this one disturbed me a bit. The magic was a bit reckless, if I remember correctly, and the kids didn't always seem to be enjoying themselves.

I'd like to reread it and see if my impressions have changed.

Another book with magical elements, which I preferred, is Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence, set during World War I.

The main character Johnny's father sends him carved soldiers with every letter he writes home from the front. But the soldiers reflect his father's suffering, and Johnny worries that whatever game he plays with the soldiers affects his father's fortunes in battle.

I'm always interested in stories set during World War I and World War II. Historian Claire Greer has compiled a very detailed and comprehensive history on the Road to War and Back blog, tracing the lives before, after, and during World War I of a select group of Australian enlistees, as well as their families, as part of the Landscape of Loss project. I urge you to check it out!

Which stories of magic have you enjoyed?

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?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Alexandria by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Hermit Crab by Peter Porter (poem)
  • The Hidden Land by Private Irving (poem;
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • Dear Mr Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Managed by Kristen Callihan
  • beta read! (JB)
  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • 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