Wednesday, 21 December 2011

What the Dickens?

2012 is going to be an exciting year for literature fans everywhere as it marks 200 years since the birth of Charles Dickens.

For me, Dickens is one of the most imaginatively brilliant and clever writers that has ever lived. His characters are fascinating and his stories are both tragic and heart-warming.
Admittedly, his books are not easy to read and many people find the old fashioned language hard to cope with. But if you can get past that and allow yourself to be immersed in his world, the effort is truly worth it.

To mark the special occasion, there are lots of activities planned throughout 2012 -have a look at the website for more details. Sadly I'm not sure I will be able to enjoy any of them as most of them seem to be taking place in London. However, I am looking forward to the season of Dickens on TV and Radio.

The BBC has this year filmed a new version of Great Expectations. It stars Gillian Anderson as Miss Haversham and Ray Winstone as Abel Magwitch and apparently  has a new ending. I am looking forward to this greatly as no-one does Dickens like Aunty Beeb.

Top of my Christmas list this year is Claire Tomalin's Charles Dicken's- A Life. I already know that Santa is going to be bringing this to me and I can't wait to get started on it.I am really interested to find out more about the man behind the books although I have a feeling I am going to be surprised by what is revealed about him.

As part of  my own celebrations, I have decided to set myself  the challenge of reading at least 6 Dickens novels throughout 2012.
I am cheating a little as I have already made a start on the first on my list- Little Dorrit- but I am sure no-one will hold it against me.

The others on my list are

Bleak House
Our Mutual Friend
Dombey and Son
The Old Curiosity Shop
Nicholas Nickleby

If time allows, I also hope to read some of his short stories, in particular, this collection of Ghost Stories,

If you would like to join me in this challenge, feel free to add a comment to this post. I would love to hear your choices.

To me, Charles Dickens is as much a part of the Christmas tradition as mince pies, carol singing and falling asleep in front of the TV whilst watching The Queen's speech.

A Christmas Carol is one of if not the greatest Christmas story of all time and there have been many excellent versions. However, my favourite ( if not totally accurate) one and the one that is always watched in our house over the festive season is A Muppet Christmas Carol.

I will leave you with one of my favourite songs from the film and would like to wish you all A Very Merry Christmas and A Peaceful and Prosperous New Year

Take it away Kermit


Friday, 11 November 2011

We Shall Remember Them

'Jack fell as he'd have wished,' the mother said,
And folded up the letter that she'd read.
'The Colonel writes so nicely.' Something broke
In the tired voice that quavered to a choke.
She half looked up. 'We mothers are so proud
Of our dead soldiers.' Then her face was bowed. 

Quietly the Brother Officer went out.
He'd told the poor old dear some gallant lies
That she would nourish all her days, no doubt
For while he coughed and mumbled, her weak eyes
Had shone with gentle triumph, brimmed with joy,
Because he'd been so brave, her glorious boy. 

He thought how 'Jack', cold-footed, useless swine,
Had panicked down the trench that night the mine
Went up at Wicked Corner; how he'd tried
To get sent home, and how, at last, he died,
Blown to small bits. And no one seemed to care
Except that lonely woman with white hair.

Siegfried Sassoon 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Faceless Killers

 I have just finished  reading Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell, the first in the Kurt Wallander series.

 I am a latecomer to the series as this book was written 20 years ago. Mankell has a huge fan base from all over the world and in fact the Wallander novels have been translated into 45 languages and have sold over 30 million copies.
There have also been several screen adaptations of Wallander, both Swedish and British (with Kenneth Branagh in the British version.)

I don't normally read crime fiction as it doesn't generally appeal to me but I was tempted by this after having recently watched the excellent The Killing on BBC 4 and The Millennium Trilogy on DVD.
Scandinavia is somewhere I would love to visit and so anything set here is immediately more appealing to me. There seems to be a huge surge in interest in the Scandinavian crime fiction genre and I am not ashamed to admit I have jumped on to the bandwagon.

From the start of Faceless Killers,  it is obvious that Wallander is going to be a complex character. He is going through a lot of turmoil in his private life- the recent breakdown of his marriage, his father's ill health and a troubled relationship with his daughter.
He also has an alcohol problem,  lives off a diet of junk food and is a workaholic. His marriage breakdown has affected him deeply and in desperation he tries unsuccessfully to begin a relationship with the attractive and more importantly, married, acting public prosecutor Anette Brolin.

The main plot of the story is the brutal murder of an elderly farmer and his wife at an isolated farmhouse in the Swedish countryside. When the couple are discovered, the man is already dead but his wife is still alive and manages to utter the word 'foreign' before she dies.

This one word leads to the conclusion that the awful deed has been committed by an immigrant and there is a public backlash against a nearby refugee centre.
Wallander and his team of colleagues not only have to solve the murder, but also have to protect the refugees from attacks of a racist nature.

Manning's writing is fast paced and engrossing. He explains the investigation process in a logical precise manner and it is easy to follow what is happening. There are poignant scenes, such as the one where Wallander's senile father thinks he is leaving home to travel to Italy to paint, dressed in a big hat and pyjamas.
Manning handles this scene beautifully, showing a softer caring side to Wallander.

I was very interested to listen to Henning Mankell talk about this book on the World Book Club broadcast in July of this year. In the interview, he says that he didn't create Kurt Wallander and then write stories around the character but rather that the story came first and that he felt he needed a policeman in his story.

The interview is well worth a listen, whether you are a Henning Mankell fan or like me, totally new to his work. He comes across as a genuinely very nice man with a superb sense of humour and total humility.
I shall certainly be reading more of his novels, both the Wallander series and his other general fiction.

I would rate this book as 8 out of 10. The storyline is a good one and keeps you guessing until the end although it does finish a little abruptly. Worth a read.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Back to school

October is nearly here and I am really looking forward to it for a number of reasons.The main one is that it heralds the official start date for my OU course- AA100 The arts past and present

I am doing this course as the first step towards the BA in English Literature that I hope to achieve. Doing a degree is an ambition that I have had for a long time but which has been on the back-burner due to time restraints.
However, now I am not working and my daughters are teenagers, there are a few spare hours in the day in which I can study.

Having received the course materials a few weeks ago, I have made a start already so that I can get ahead.

From what I have read so far, AA100 promises to be both a challenging and enjoyable experience.The subjects covered are extremely diverse and include chapters on Cleopatra, Stalin and The Dalai Lama. 

There is also a strong focus on analysing art, which is something that I have no knowledge of and of which I am a bit apprehensive.

Part of my first assignment involves analyzing this painting by Paul Cezanne, called (uninventively) Jug and Fruit.

  I think I am going to find this quite difficult as my first impression of the painting is sheer dislike. It is not something that I would choose to hang on my wall, no matter how renowned an artist Cezanne is.

Currently I am reading the play Doctor Faustus written by Christopher Marlowe.

 Marlowe was a contemporary of Shakespeare and there is a somewhat controversial theory that some of The Great Bard's plays were written by other authors of the time, Marlowe amongst them.

Having only studied Hamlet and Macbeth at school many years ago, I thought I would struggle to read the Renaissance language. However, by using the study notes and by also listening along to the play on CD whilst reading , I haven't found it difficult at all. In fact it has been a very enjoyable experience.

Without giving too much away, the play tells the story of Doctor Faustus, an extremely intelligent but greedy man who sells his soul to Lucifer in exchange for 24 years of service from the demon, Mephistopheles.
The play, which was written around 1592 is based on the German legend Faust. It wasn't published until 1604, 11 years after Marlowe's death.

The story of Christopher Marlowe's life would make a fascinating book in its own right. He was born in the same year as William Shakespeare and studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. While there, it is believed that he was recruited as a spy for the Government and disappeared for a while, later returning to obtain his MA.

In 1587, he went to London to become a playwright and wrote several plays including The Jew of Malta, Edward II and The Massacre at Paris.

What is more fascinating for me though is his life outside writing. He was frequently in trouble with the police for brawling and was charged with murder in 1589 when a man died during a street fight. Marlowe was sent to Newgate Gaol where he spent two weeks. He was later acquitted of the charge. It was apparent that Marlowe had "friends in high places" who saved him from getting into serious trouble.

 Marlowe is possibly more famous for his death than anything else. In 1593 at a house in Deptford belonging to a Mrs Eliza Bull,  Marlowe was eating supper with three other men- Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. An argument broke out over who was to pay the bill and Marlowe is said to have grabbed Frizer's dagger and hit him over the head with it. A fight broke out which resulted in Marlowe being stabbed through the right eye by Frizer. He died instantly.

The coroner found that Frizer was acting in self-defence and received a royal pardon for the charges against him. However, Frizer, Skeres and Poley were all three quite shady characters and it is now believed in some quarters, that he was assassinated for his heretical beliefs or his involvement in the secret service. Very James Bond!

I find the whole story quite fascinating and  think it would make a brilliant topic for a novel and or a film. Quite surprised that it hasn't been done before.

Anyway that's today's history lesson over with- I have more study to do

Catch you all later



Thursday, 11 August 2011

Back to normal, riots and book burning.

 I realise that it has been almost two months since my last post and for that I can only apologise. I have not been feeling too well of late but it seems like I might now be turning a corner as my enthusiasm for reading and blogging is returning.


However, as I haven't been in a reading frame of mind recently, I was wondering what I could write about to get back into the swing of things- after all this is a reading blog. 

Obviously, the topic on everyone's minds at the moment is the riots that have been taking place across the country. As I  followed the events unfolding via Twitter on Monday evening , there were many tweets and retweets from all over the country. A vast number of them were expressing concern for areas where they lived or for people they knew and the amount of tweets coming through became almost too overwhelming to keep up with.
  There were however, other more upbeat tweets and whilst I do not wish to make light of the riots and their effects in any way I couldn't resist a small chuckle at those referring to comments made by a Waterstone employee. He/ she is reported as saying that Waterstones would remain open despite the disturbances as "if they stole some books they might learn something."

Unsurprisingly it does seem that very few if any books appear to have been looted, the rioters preferring instead to take plasma tv's, watches and designer label clothing- a very strong reflection of our materialistic society.
This led me to wonder what part books have played in the history of rioting ( if any) and what I have found is very interesting.

The practice of book burning (aka libricide or biblioclasm)  is something that has occurred throughout the ages. It is a symbolic act, usually performed in public and generally motivated by moral, political or religious reasons.

During my research , I came across this  blog post written by Prospero on The Economist.
In it he states that
rioting and books share a stormy history 
and refers to the Bonfire of the Vanities which took place in 1497 when
Girolamo Savonarola and his band of religious followers roundly collected and set fire to mounds of “pagan” literature.

Girolamo Savonarola was an Italian Dominican Priest  who destroyed all types of art, including books, that he deemed as immoral in a fire on the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Unfortunately, his moral stance and actions did him little good and he was executed in 1498.
If you are interested in reading a fictional portrayal of Savonarola, the Victorian novelist, George Eliot wrote a book called Romola where he is one of the main characters.

I also looked at  the portrayal of rioting in literature and came across a very appropriate book to read in the context of the last few days- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I had heard of this novel but until today, I was unaware of its story. However, on reading the blurb (courtesy of Bianca's Book Blog) I have immediately added it to my TBR pile. The blurb says;
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic, frightening vision of the future, firemen don't put out fires--they start them in order to burn books. Bradbury's vividly painted society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal--a place where trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad. Fire Captain Beatty explains it this way, "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs.... Don't give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."
Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman undergoing a crisis of faith. His wife spends all day with her television "family", imploring Montag to work harder so that they can afford a fourth TV wall. Their dull, empty life sharply contrasts with that of his next-door neighbour Clarisse, a young girl thrilled by the ideas in books, and more interested in what she can see in the world around her than in the mindless chatter of the tube. When Clarisse disappears mysteriously, Montag is moved to make some changes, and starts hiding books in his home. Eventually, his wife turns him in, and he must answer the call to burn his secret cache of books. After fleeing to avoid arrest, Montag winds up joining an outlaw band of scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature."
 Ray Bradbury was apparently inspired to write this novel by the Nazi Book Burnings of the 1930's. The story which was published  in 1953 is set in an America of the future. Reading and books are banned and anyone caught  with them is at best sent to a mental institution. Lawlessness is rife-there are teenagers crashing cars into people, and hedonism is the way of life. Firemen are employed to set fire to books which are the source of knowledge and knowledge leads to unhappiness.

I doubt it is going to be a comfortable book to read, especially as it seems to have parallels to the events of the last few days. However, I believe we should all occasionally read texts that make us uncomfortable if only to feel glad for the lives that we have.

 I hope that all of my followers are safe following the unrest of the last few days. I feel it is important to remember that although there were a great number of rioters, they are in a minority and the rest of us law abiding citizens should hang on to what we believe is right and not be intimidated by these mindless individuals.

 See you soon

Friday, 24 June 2011

Friday Challenge

Ok so as it's Friday I thought I would do something different and  have posed a fun challenge for anyone to take part in. It's nothing too taxing- I am just interested to find out about my fellow readers and blog followers and  have composed a few questions for you to answer!

So that it isn't a one sided exercise, I have posted my answers underneath each question to help you get started.

So here goes;


A book that disappointed you

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave- this book was really hyped up at its release in 2008 but it left me cold.                                    

A book that surprised you
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier- This book was recommended to me by my Grandmother who is also an avid reader and it is amongst my all time favourites.

A book that frightened you

The Fog by James Herbert. I never finished it because it scared me so much and have been unable to read any more James Herbert since!

A book that shocked you 
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - There are some very upsetting scenes in this book but it an excellent read and I recommend it highly.

A book that made you laugh out loud 

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4- I read this first as a teenager but have been back to it since as an adult and still love it.

A book you didn't expect to enjoy

Star of the sea by Joseph O'Connor (Brother of Singer Sinead!) A surprisingly good read.

The book you have re-read the most

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- This is the first book I fell in love with as a teenager. I have lost count of just how many times I have read it.

Your favourite genre

I like books from all genres but if I had to choose I would say historical fiction.

And finally......

Name a book that will always live on your bookshelf and why
Eckhart Tolle A New Earth (see my previous blog post)  

I am really looking forward to reading your answers and I hope you all enjoy taking part.

Happy Friday everyone!!


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Reading Challenge- 1st Book and Film completed

Well folks, I am pleased to say that I have just completed my first book and film  in the Two Bibiliomaniacs reading challenge.

First up is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I love historical novels and have read many over the years, but for some reason I have shied away from books about The Tudors.This may be because so many people have written about them and I already know quite a lot about Henry VIII and his wives from history lessons at school.

However, I picked up a copy of the book in a local charity shop and after reading the blurb decided to include it in the challenge. 

What can I say but "Why oh Why haven't I read Philippa Gregory before?"  From the first page I was hooked and spent several nights reading until I could no longer keep my eyes open. At over 500 pages long, it is a meaty book, but at no stage was I bored nor did I feel that the story was too long. In fact, I slowed down my reading towards the end as I did not want to leave the world of Mary Boelyn and her outrageous family.

Ms Gregory's style of prose is, in my opinion similar to that of one of my favourite authors, Ken Follett. The story moves along at a good pace- it isn't bogged down by overly descriptive phrases or stilted dialogue. All of the main characters are brought vividly to life and I found myself still thinking about them several days after I had finished reading.

As if you haven't already guessed, I loved The Other Boleyn Girl and give it  10 out of 10. It is without doubt the most engrossing book I have read for a very long time. Highly recommended.

This now leads me on to a review of the film.

Having enjoyed the book so much, I was prepared for the fact that I may not like the film as much as if I hadn't known the story first.
However, when the DVD dropped through my letterbox this morning, I was still excited to see how the book had been interpreted and from what I knew of the cast, and the writer Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland) it sounded very promising indeed.

Sadly, I have to say that I was very disappointed. I understand that it must be a real challenge to condense a 500+ page book into an under 2 hour film, and that parts of the storyline will, inevitably be affected.
However, many of the important threads in the book had either been totally omitted or changed beyond recognition and this made the film seem disjointed and  hard to follow. I became increasingly annoyed by the bits that were left out and by other elements of the story, (such as Anne's trial and execution) being rushed through.
I feel that it would have been far better to dramatise the story on TV over several parts and am sure the BBC with its talent for dramatic productions would have done it far much justice.

I would score this film 5 out of 10. It is not a bad film and I am sure if I hadn't read the book first, I would have enjoyed it more.  But I don't think I will be rushing to watch it again.

Anyway, that's the whole point of this challenge so on to the next one!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Hello Blogland

Hi All

Apologies for my lack of posts lately but I have lots of interesting things going on at the moment and just haven't been able to sit for long enough to focus on my blog.

The thing I am most excited about is I am going to start an honours degree in English Literature with The Open University.
It is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time but until now haven't had the opportunity.

However the time is right and so in October I will be embarking on a course titled Arts Past and Present. The description says 
This broadly-focused course introduces you to university-level study in the arts across a range of subject areas, including history, art history, philosophy, classical studies, history of science, religious studies, music and English. It is structured around four themes, guiding you through some of the basic concerns of arts subjects: Reputations; Tradition and Dissent; Cultural Encounters; and Place and Leisure. Your studies will range from poetry to string quartets, and from sculpture to short stories – across a wide variety of cultures and historical periods. This key introductory Level 1 course is also a useful means of acquiring the key skills required for further study of arts subjects
It sounds very interesting as I know next to nothing about art or classical studies and have never studied philosophy.
As well as expanding my knowledge and passion for literature, I am also hoping that a degree will enable me to write in a more insightful way and help me in my journey to becoming a professional writer.

Probably the thing I am most looking forward to on the course is the essay writing. A few years ago I did another OU course , An introduction to the social sciences and whilst I really enjoyed the coursework and the lectures I attended at Bournemouth University, the essay writing gave me both the greatest challenge and the most pleasure. Not sure what that says about me!
I have already bought the set books from ebay, saving myself a considerable amount of money and so am ready to go. Roll on October! I can't wait.

The next thing I need to do is fit in a trip to the cinema to see Water For Elephants as part of my Reading Challenge-I have already finished the book so need to get moving. Hopefully will be reviewing both very shortly.

Have a great weekend all


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Reading Challenge Book Choices

After much deliberation, cogitation and inward digestion (as my history teacher used to say) I have come up with my list of 8 books and movies for the Reading Challenge over at Twobibliomaniacs

They are

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Pavilion of Women by Pearl Buck

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Theatre by  W Somerset Maugham ( film is called Being Julia)

The End Of The Affair by Graham Greene 

The Other Boelyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

And last but not least Empire Of The Sun by J G Ballard 


It was really hard to choose as there are so many book to movie adaptations and I wanted them all to be ones where I had neither read the book or seen the movie.

I am really looking forward to this challenge and I hope I can encourage some of you to take part too.

Happy Hump Day Everyone

Monday, 16 May 2011

My First Reading Challenge

I have just signed up for my first reading challenge and I can't wait to get started!

It is called the "Books to Movies Challenge" and is being hosted by the lovely people over at Two Bibliomaniacs

There are 4 levels you can participate in and the challenge is running from 1st June to 31st December. Have a look and see if you fancy having a go.Its all for fun and you never know, you might just enjoy it.
However, if you are not a fan of book to movie adaptations, have a look at A Novel Challenge to find something that takes your fancy.

 AllI need to do now is choose how many and what books to read. Choices choices!

Hope you have a great week


Thursday, 12 May 2011

Ebook apathy

Today I have decided to write about my distinct lack of enthusiasm for ebooks.
Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous articles in newspapers and on the internet telling us that digital downloads of books have increased substantially. According to The Guardian, ebook sales increased by 20% last year and this is due in part to the growing popularity of Amazon’s Kindle.

 Don't get me wrong-I am most certainly not a Luddite. After all, if I were I wouldn't be blogging. I am a huge fan of digital music and love being able to download individual songs instead of having to buy whole albums. I adore my Android Phone and some of the amazing apps that it has (such as my favourite, Google Sky Map which you can use to identify constellations and planets in the night sky.)

However, when it comes to books, I just can't seem to embrace new technology. I am well aware of the advantages of having an ebook reader-they are lightweight, you can store as many as 3500 books on them and you can adjust the text size (fantastic for people who have sight problems.)
They are also a great way of satisfying society's need for instant gratification as new ebooks can be downloaded within seconds and are often cheaper than a paper copy.

But for me, reading isn't about convenience and cost. It is my favourite pastime and some might say it verges on being an obsession. I can’t describe how much I enjoy spending time browsing in book shops and libraries, excited at the prospect of finding a book to read that I have never come across before. I have been known to spend several hours at a time in such establishments, (much to the annoyance of my hubby who sadly does not share my passion for reading.)

There is something magical about shelves and shelves of books whether in a bookshop, a library or in someone’s home-I am drawn to them like a moth to a flame.
I love the smell and feel of books, new or old and this is something that cannot be replicated by an ebook reader, however advanced they are.

 I will be totally honest and say that I have never used an ebook reader or even seen one close up and you may, quite justifiably say that I can't possibly dismiss what I don't know. 
I am sure there are many people out there who would argue very strongly in favour of ebooks and I would certainly love to hear your thoughts and opinions equally as much as the ones from those amongst you who are like myself, undecided and apathetic.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Books with impact

Every now and again I read a book that has a profound effect on me. Today I am going to review two such books.

I was at a particularly restless time in my life a few years ago when I read  Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth

I was searching for my life's purpose and thought this could be fulfilled by getting the right job. I spent many hours researching new career paths and tried several options but nothing seemed to feel right and I became more disillusioned.
I had also begun to have a growing dissatisfaction with our society and its obsession with having everything and having it now regardless of the consequences both for ourselves and for our planet.

I was not innocent of this by a long way. In my 20's and early 30's,  I believed that to be happy I needed to have a nice car, a big house and expensive clothes. I constantly lived my life in the future " When we have more money we can..."  or "When the children are older we can....."
Then I discovered "A New Earth" and began to look at life in a very different way.

Since then, I have read it many times and my copy is looking a bit dog-eared now. It is covered in sticky tabs and pencil notes marking my favourite quotes such as this one from p 47
Unease, restlessness, boredom, anxiety, dissatisfaction, are the result of unfulfilled wanting. Wanting is structural, so no amount of content can provide lasting fulfillment as long as that mental structure remains in place.

 A New Earth isn't the easiest book to read but is well worth the effort. Give it a go- you've got nothing to lose!

The second book is Timeless Simplicity by John Lane.

I have just finished reading this and was hooked  from the first paragraph of the introduction.
This is a book about simplicity-not destitution, not parsimoniousness, not self-denial-but the restoration of wealth in the midst of an affluence in which we are starving of the spirit. It is a book about the advantages of living a less cluttered, stressful life than that which many of us now live, in the over-crowded and manic-paced consuming nations.

If any of you are feeling that you need to find a slower pace of life, I recommend that you read this as a good starting point. It is only just over 100 pages long and is a gentle but absorbing read. The book is organised into 6 chapters and covers subjects such as how to reduce expenditure, adopting a positive attitude and following your bliss.

It has taken me many  years of struggling and a recent severe bout of depression for me to finally start to make positive changes to my life. I have given up my job and begun to take pleasure in performing simple activities such as cooking and knitting. These combined with my love of reading and desire to write and I finally feel that I am living the life I should be.
What could you be doing?

If you have read any  books that have had a similar impact on your life I would be very interested to hear about them.

Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy reading

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Review The Piano Teacher : Janice Y K Lee

Once again, I find myself apologising for the tardiness of my latest post. All these Bank Holidays for Easter and the Royal Nuptials have completely thrown out my blogging schedule. They have however given me lots more reading time which is always a good thing and so I have a bit of review catching up to do.

It is my intention to blog much more frequently from now on as I am no longer working and will have more spare time. I just hope that I can produce enough interesting content to entice my followers to read it!

 A couple of weeks ago, I promised a review of The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee and so here it is.

The book is set during two time periods- 1940's and 1950's Hong Kong. It begins in the 1950's and introduces us to Claire Pendleton, a young newlywed who has moved to Hong Kong with her much older husband, Martin. To help pass the time, Claire takes a position as a piano teacher to Locket, daughter of the wealthy Chinese family the Chens. Through them she meets Englishman Will Truesdale, and they begin an affair.

The story continues by moving back in time to Hong Kong, 1941 where we are properly introduced to Will and where we find out about his love for Trudy, a beautiful Eurasian woman and the consequences of this passion.

The Piano Teacher had been on my TBR pile for some time. It was recommended as being in a similar vein to the excellent Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and so I had high hopes that I would find it an excellent read.

However, to begin with, I was a little disappointed as I found the story to be too slow paced. Also when moving between the two time periods, the writing tense changed and at first this irritated me as I found it affected the flow of my reading.

Stubbornly, I persevered and am glad that I did. Looking at WWII from an Eastern perspective introduced me to facts about the war that I was unaware of. Lee's descriptions of life in a prisoner of war camp were detailed enough to give me a sense of the horrendous conditions and suffering of the prisoners without being overly graphic.
Her characters, particularly Will and Trudy, were complex and interesting and helped me to finish the book as I wanted to know what happened to them.
Other than the (in my view unnecessary) tense changes, I found I enjoyed Lee's style of writing and would be tempted to read any of her future novels.

I was a little disappointed with the ending as I seem to be with many of the books that I have read just lately, but overall I enjoyed it. In my own mind I rate a book as being either one that I loved and would definitely read again (10/10) down to one that I hated and didn't bother to finish (0/10) and  would give The Piano Teacher 7/10.

Friday, 15 April 2011

What to read next?

Having just finished The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K Lee, ( review to follow) I am struggling with what to read next.
My TBR pile grows larger on a daily basis but I can still look at all of the books and think I have nothing to read!
Choosing my next book is a very important decision to make. As my blog header says " So Many Books, So Little Time" and because of this, I don't want to waste time on starting anything that I won't finish.

How do you choose your next book? Do you have a system or do you pick one randomly?
I would love to hear your selection processes and also how much of a chance do you give a book? I find that if the story doesn't grab me within the first chapter then it is cast aside in the search for something better.

I used to feel some guilt about this as I am known as being someone who has a habit of starting things and not finishing them. However, in my blogging experience, I have come to realise that I am not alone.
Steph Su Reads is one such like minded soul. Check out her blog as it makes interesting reading.

OK so I have just taken a brief break from writing this and  have finally chosen my next book " The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". I am probably one of the only people on the planet not to have read this. I usually avoid books where there has been so much hype surrounding them but for some reason I have been drawn to this on my bookshelf. I will let you know how I get on.

Hope you all have a relaxing weekend with plenty of time to read.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Review- Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Sorry I haven't posted for a while but have had  "life" stuff going on which has been taking up most of my spare time. It has also impacted on my reading time and so it feels like I have been trying forever to finish Ken Follett's latest offering.

"Fall of Giants" is the first in Follett's Century Trilogy and at over 800 pages long, isn't for the faint hearted but in my opinion is well worth the effort. I am a huge fan of Ken Follett as he has written two of my favourite novels- The Pillars of The Earth and World Without End and was excited to read his latest saga.

The story takes place before, during and after the First World War and follows the lives of a group of multi-national characters who are all connected in some way. It looks at the conflict from their differing perspectives and the difficult choices they have to make.

 The story is well researched and moves along at a good pace. The characters are interesting, diverse and believable and I found myself caring about what happened to them. 

As always, Follett's pace of writing suits my reading style.In Follett's own words
"My aim in constructing sentences is to make the sentence utterly easy to understand, writing what I call transparent prose. I've failed dreadfully if you have to read a sentence twice to figure out what I meant."

I found this to be true for the majority of the book and if I have one criticism it is that there was perhaps too much focus on the battles and behind the scenes politics and not enough on the lives of those who were left behind.

Having said that, it is only a minor fault and didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. I wouldn't say that I was as captivated by the story as in "Pillars" or "World Without End" but still rank it as an excellent book and would give it 8 out of 10. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy when it is completed.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Review of The Behaviour of Moths-Poppy Adams

Well as promised, here is my review of The Behaviour of Moths. It is the debut novel of Poppy Adams, a documentary film maker for the BBC and Channel 4.
The book made the Costa First Novel Shortlist in 2008 but was beaten by Sadie Jones very successful debut The Outcast.

The narrative is written from the perspective of Virginia Stone (Ginny), an elderly woman living in her ancestral home, Bulbarrow Court in Dorset.
At the beginning of the story, she is waiting for the arrival of her younger sister, Vivian (Vivi), who is returning home after a 47 year absence.

Virginia is both unsettled and excited by Vivian's imminent arrival and it is obvious the sisters once shared a close bond.  However, something happened to change that and as Virginia begins to look back over her life to understand what this was, family secrets are revealed and hidden tensions surface.

I read The Behaviour of Moths on recommendation from a fellow bookworm. From his description, it had many of the elements of stories that I enjoy- a crumbling Gothic house, family secrets and a storyline that moves between the past and the present.

There were many things about this book that I liked. The narrative was easy to read and the descriptions of the house and the Dorset countryside were just detailed enough to bring them to life without losing my interest.
I found some of the references to moths and lepidoptery informative but the story wouldn't have suffered if some of these had been omitted.

I didn't fnd either Ginny's or Vivi's characters particularly likeable, and this perhaps contributed more than anything else to my overall lack of passon about this book.

For me, the ending didn't successfully tie together all the loose ends and so I was left with too many unanswered questions.

Overall I would give The Behaviour of Moths 5 out of 10. I didn't really dislike this book but I wasn't enthralled with it either.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A Brief Introduction

Welcome to "Chick's Lit" Reading Blog.  As you can see, this is my first post and I confess I am just a tiny bit  nervous.  I hope that you will find something of interest to you over the coming months (and hopefully years!) and that you will visit again.

I thought I would begin my foray into blogging by giving a brief outline of what I envisage my blog will be about.
 Reviews will play a major part in my posts and will feature books from many genres.However, I also intend to blog about other aspects of reading and the literary world such as authors, book prizes and characters from books.
I am open to any suggestions you may have about features you would like to see/ not see and any books that you would particularly like me to review.

Currently, I am reading The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams and will be reviewing this shortly.

I look forward to being a part of the blogosphere and welcome your comments.