Saturday 27 November 2010

I Dare You - and the Advent Calendar Tour 2010

So by now you all know about my weakness for book lists, and books of the year reviews.  How my TBR mountain grows because of books you love, dear Gentle Readers, as well as the recommendations from Locus, Book Awards, The Guardian, and a whole host of other book information places.  Well, today,  I went to the Guardian to see what was new on the book site, and they have put up a list of books chosen as 'book of the year' by a selection of writers.  *big sigh*  I've added 11 books to my TBR pile.  I should say I sigh happily, but matter how many books I read, there are so many more to be read out there.  We are spoiled in this age, by having far more books being published than we can ever hope to read.  So I dare you, dare you, Gentle Reader, to go the Books of Year article here and read through it all, and not find at least one book that you would like to read.  Go ahead.  And then if you like, come back here and let me know if you were seduced - and by what, of course.

 Now because you are like me and love book lists, and from my previous posts we ALL want to know what other people are reading/want to read/have read/long to get,  you all are wondering what titles I found, that I picked out as ones I'd love to get my hands on. In the spirit of "if you missed it the first time, maybe you'll find it interesting this time" and "if we are going to be poor because we spend too much money on books, let's be poor together and have a wealth of wonder instead", here is my list:

It's only a small list of books:
-Ghost Light, Joseph O'Connor.  This looked interesting enough that I added it to to my Amazon wish list as well as the book of 'books to get' (yes, it's an actual book!) I carry around with me.  Going to Amazon let me see his other books, to which I then added: 

-Star of The Sea, his earlier prize-winning novel about the 1847 potato famine and the journey in a ship from Ireland to North America that winter.  Since some of my family fled Ireland that same year, arriving here in Canada, I really want to read this novel.  It's out of print now.  So on my growing "books to look for in second-hand bookstores", I've added this title
-Heartstone - CJ Sansom.  I have the first two books to read still in this series, but this came with such a high review that I had to add it.  Dissolution is on my immediate to be read pile.  I'm warring between it and Raven Black by Ann Cleeves, which my friend Lee in Texas is waiting impatiently for me to read so we can talk about it.  She really liked Raven Black.  I told her about Martin Edwards and now she's read and enjoyed the first one, The Coffin Trail. I then sent her Louise Penny's Still Life for her birthday.  She has since sent me Janet Neel's Death's Bright Angel because it's set in York and I wanted to find more books set there.  So I told her about this series (by CJ Sansom) and Susanna Gregory's Thomas Chaloner series, plus Ariana Franklin's series which she hadn't heard about.  We're not competitive at all on how many series we can recommend that we like, are we?  
- Freedom - Jonathan Frazen.  I'm of two minds about this book, since I tend to find books everyone likes, usually not as good as I'd like.  I'm not sure if I'm so afraid of being disappointed because of the hype that I'm avoiding it, or afraid that once again my dislike of 'literary' novels is getting the better of me here.  Maybe in the new year.....
-Ghosts of Belfast/alt title The Twelve - Stuart Neville.  Since discovering that some of my ancestors are from Ireland, I've begun seeking out books on Ireland.  This led me to Declan Hughes' wonderful The Wrong Kind of Blood noir mystery earlier this year (which I still have to review), and now I add this book to my growing books about Ireland I want to read.  It's a thriller, and I'm hoping I can find it here.
- Whoops!  Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay - John Lanchester.
- Enough is Enough - Fintan O'Toole
thoughts on both books: I am amazed at how countries that were seemingly doing very well suddenly are facing bankruptcy. I'm even more amazed that the lessons about inflated mortgage schemes and property investments that caused such disasters in the 1980's, and 1990's, are recurring again.  Did no one pay attention to any of the lessons from before?  Apparently not.  I am puzzled and saddened also, and deeply worried, for the people affected - Greece, Spain, England, USA, and now Ireland - where did all the money go?  And why?  I don't like thinking that we aren't secure, and yet, earlier this week, the public service union I belong to held a vote on whether to accept the government's offer for our contract.  On the table?  This, for the largest public union of workers in Canada?  Our severance pay.  Since when does the government decide that paying out the measley severance pay to clerks if they leave service, is responsible for the sudden 'biggest debt carried by the Canadian government ever " - 1 billion dollars?  Something isn't right, something doesn't smell right, and I want to try to understand why, when the world has so much, there doesn't seem to be enough to go around at all now. 
- Human Chain - Seamus Heaney.  Poems about loss, death, which becomes a meditation on life - irresistible, especially as I go through my second year of being diabetic and glimpsing, as my kidneys started to fail this summer, that the second half of my life isn't going to be the way the first half was.
- And The Land Stay Still - James Roberston.  If you can resist what Ian Rankin says about this book, good for you.  Any time my favourite mystery writer says a book shouldn't be ignored and it's about Scotland (where some more of my ancestors are from) and a novel, I'm right there.  I miss my yearly new Rebus - it's really hitting home this year that there will be no more of him - and while I know I have The Complaints in my Christmas box (isn't it surprising how buying books for myself for Christmas is one of my true delights?), and am truly looking forward to reading about Malcolm Fox - I miss Rebus and Siobhan and gritty Scottish noir.  I'm thinking of rereading the entire series next year. In the meantime, a novel about Scotland sounds like it might just do to tide me over.  Oh dear.  I just went to look to see if it's over here in Canada.  It's not.  He does have an earlier book which looks just as interesting: 
- The Testament of Gideon Mack. It's available here. A Scottish Minister who confronts the Devil. This one was nominated for The Booker. His first book is also available,  
- The Fanatic.  Look, it's about witches and witchhunts, ghosts and ghost tours, and historical Scotland, set in Edinburgh. Oh dear dear.  Somehow they just slipped onto my wishlist.  Don't they sound like they'd make excellent Christmas reading?  And I can catch up on this interesting Scottish author while I wait for And The Land Lies Still to make its way across the ocean.
- poetry by Jackie Kay.  Poems that make you laugh and weep?  I'm so there!  
- Of Mutability - Jo Shapcott.  Poems about transformation, and mutability?  I think I am moving into reading more poetry as a way to capture the intensity of my moments and minutes, because somehow time is going by faster without my being aware of it slipping by.  I don't feel old, or  even middle-aged yet, though I am aware that being present in my life is a choice I am conscious I have to make as an adult, when as a child it simply is that way. 

Is it Christmas so soon?
Speaking about time, how is that we are now less than a month away from Christmas?   Reading over my books read for this year, I realize I still have to read over 10 mysteries to make my 50 mysteries read I promised myself this year.  So that's quite a challenge for the upcoming month!  I won't be doing my best books read this year until the end of the year, since I have so many good ones just in the 10 I am waiting to read.  It's kind of fun, really, to know I must spend the next month reading in order to make one of my goals.  The 100 books a year I have sadly laid to rest, but not for long.  Starting Jan 1, I will be back at this personal challenge again!  I do plan on catching up on my book reviews for this year, over the next month, since there are so many good books I read that I haven't let you know how I felt about, this year.  And I do want to tell you about Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (I have a Charles Dickens post planned), and The Good Fairies of New York, plus the afore-mentioned The Wrong Kind of Blood, and so many others.  It has been a wonderful year for finding good books to read.  How about you?

I am joining the Advent Calendar tour again.  I am very excited, and have a couple of ideas already.  I am looking forward to seeing what all you, dear Readers, are doing and celebrating this upcoming holiday season, as we go around the world via our book blogs.  I will be doing my entry on December 24, the last day of the tour.  This starts in three days!  Get ready! 

In my corner of the world we have been getting snow flurries in between some sun.  We have snow on the ground, finally.  It feels like winter. Now to do the impossible:  read 12 mystery books between now and Dec 31.  Hmm, sounds like the Twelve Days of Christmas, doesn't it?  "On the first day of Christmas, I let myself read:  Raven Black, by Ann Cleeves.  On the second day of Christmas, I open up: Dissolution, by CJ Ransom.  On the third day of Christmas......" Only in the life of a book fanatic!!  What are you reading over the holidays? Before?  Do you even try to read during the month of December? 

Happy reading, everyone!

Monday 8 November 2010

Who says readers don't converse in public?

Remember that post I had a few weeks back, from Chris at Book-a-Rama's post, who spotted the U.S. article about 'people who have their nose stuck in a book are considered anti-social and the stigma attached?'  Well, unexpectedly, I have the perfect answer to that outdated stupid idea:

This morning, yes, this first dark Monday morning after the clocks were moved back one hour,  the sun was just rising as my bus stopped at the major transfer station near our home, and people rushed on to the bus. Morning is not a time I talk very much.  A gentleman took the seat beside me.  He had a book in his hand, Bk 12 of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series.  He noticed me staring at the book (he hadn't opened it yet) so I said, "I'm sorry, I was looking at the book because I read up to book 9 in this series, and I didn't realize Bk 12 was out now."  And for the next ten minutes as our bus raced along the river drive into the heart of Ottawa, we discussed Robert Jordan, Isaac Asimov, Tanya Huff (he's read Enchanted Emporium, which I have sitting on my shelf to be read), Trudi Canavan (very good series he says, I haven't read it yet though I've had it from the library), and I mentioned Robin Hobb and Connie Willis, two of my favourite writers.  My stop came first, and so I said goodbye, and as I jumped off the bus, I thought to myself, "I have no idea who you are, fellow bookworm, but that was a lovely conversation about books."

Now I do have to caution you, my Gentle Readers, that most of the time I don't talk to strangers!  and especially not to strange men!  but sometimes, books break down that wall of silence we all cast around ourselves as we make our way to and from work.  This was a most unlooked for experience, as usually I have my nose in my book and I really am not looking to talk first thing in the morning.    And truly, I was  not looking for any conversation this morning, I just didn't want him to feel awkward with someone staring at the book he was holding.

So thank you, fellow bus-rider and bookreader, for an enjoyable conversation about books.  And as for that stigma about reading books?  What stigma?  I feel so much privilege in being part of a society that welcomes anyone and everyone who delights in the written word. 

It's still dark far too early in the afternoon now!  I want that hour of daylight back!

I know I still have to do my roundup of books read for Carl's RIP 5 challenge.  I did get my 10 books read, including - just finished yesterday - Phil Rickman's To Dream of the Dead, wonderfully atmospheric and moody and perfect for this time of year.  So reviews coming shortly.  We have just finished the annual two-birthdays-family visit-Hallowe'en rush at this time of year, on top of which everyone was sick with the cold virus going around Ottawa, so I am just now catching my breath.  I hope you all had fun with the challenge, I've tried to visit as many of you, my Gentle Readers, as I could lately.