31 January 2009

Book Review: The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout

The League of Frightened Men During his trial for obscenity, Paul Chapin announces that his book had to have that much violence in it as he had killed a man that way and felt the need to confess in a manner that wouldn’t incriminate him. The judge fines him $50 for contempt of court, but Nero Wolfe makes the connection between Chapin and a recent prospective client, and takes a more serious view.

Twenty-five years before, Chapin was crippled in a hazing accident at Harvard. Some thirty men were involved; and those who are still breathing are scared for their lives. Two are dead, one is missing, and three menacing poems have been distributed to the survivors. They agree to let Wolfe take the case as the police have gotten precisely nowhere - the first two deaths were ruled as accident and suicide, the supposed murder of Andrew Hibbard can’t be investigated without a body, and to outside eyes the poems contain nothing that could be construed as a threat. Furthermore there isn’t a shred of evidence, or any likelihood of there being any, for Paul Chapin is a twisted genius who’s determined not to get caught.

By a quirk of coincidence, the very night I finished this, I read the Guardian’s Top 1000 Novels list and spotted it in the Crime category - and deservedly so. This isn’t your average cozy mystery. The bad guy seems obvious from the start. There’s no question of solving a crime - if indeed any crime has taken place - and the only hope of arriving at the truth is to obtain a confession from a brilliant man who has no intention of giving anything away. But then, Nero Wolfe isn’t your average detective - he puts his bottom line above all other considerations, rarely leaves the house, and won’t let anything keep him from his scheduled time with his orchids. His mind, however, is far from indolent and is a match for that of his adversary.

Paul Chapin’s first appearance is chilling and he doesn’t much improve upon acquaintance. His smile never reaches his eyes and most of the League are terrified of him, yet he is never less than charming to his “dear friends”. He has mastered the art of the veiled threat and uses it to wonderful effect. Until the final pages there is constant doubt as to whether he’s guilty, and if so whether Wolfe will get him to confess to his crimes - or indeed to anything at all. Here the technique of handing the narration to Wolfe’s secretary/assistant Archie Goodwin works particularly well - since he has no idea what his employer is cooking up, the reader is perforce kept in the dark as well.

It’s not particularly fast-paced, but I enjoy a battle of wits and this is a good one.

Rating: B+

27 January 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from - that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

She was no horsewoman and only came hawking because it was the proper thing to do, and as the heir to the throne - well, in Protestant eyes anyway - she must be seen regularly close to the existing incumbent. Or as close as she dared to come.

From To Shield the Queen by Fiona Buckley, p. 42.

25 January 2009

Book Review: Stone Cold by David Baldacci

Stone Cold Annabelle Conroy has just pulled the con of a lifetime on psycho casino boss Jerry Bagger and knows she should run, but she can’t bring herself to leave D.C. and her new friends. The magnitude of her error becomes apparent when she learns that a colleague who failed to lie low enough has been bashed and left for dead - she knows he would have talked. Enter her friends of the Camel Club, four middle-aged conspiracy theorists who are happy to help, even if it means risking bringing Jerry’s wrath down on themselves. Annabelle’s estranged father Paddy wants to help as well, but his plan involves using Annabelle as bait.

The Camel Club member who calls himself Oliver Stone has a bigger problem to deal with. Harry Finn is a Homeland Security contractor and devoted family man who spends his spare time working his way through a list. All those who appear on it end up discreetly dead, and thanks to power-hungry ex-intelligence chief Carter Gray Oliver’s real identity has just been added to it.

Although it’s the third in a series I’d say it could be read on its own without much confusion; but The Camel Club and The Collectors are well worth reading. They’re an unlikely bunch of heroes, but somehow between them they have all the skills needed to take on anything - even irate nutjobs and corrupt politicians. The two sides to the plot don’t meet until late in the book, but if that counts as a flaw it’s one I never noticed while reading. Baldacci has a habit of jumping from scene to scene at the most suspenseful point possible, which is either really good or really annoying, depending on how many other things there are that you ought to be doing. This is one of those books where sliding into another chapter (and another, and another) can be all too easy.

The best thing about the book is Harry Finn. He’s such an interesting character; it’s obvious from the start that he’s not what he appears, and obvious soon after that he’s a stone cold killer driven by revenge, yet it is impossible to dislike him. When not freelancing as a hitman he goes to extremes to ensure the security of his country and is the sort of father every kid should have. If he’s not quite a hero, he’s not truly a villain either, and I’m hoping he’ll pop up again in the next book in the series.

Sadly this is counterbalanced by something which my mother and I agreed was a horrible thing to do. I can see why it had to happen - it was a necessary catalyst, and the book wouldn’t have ended with the, er, bang that it did otherwise. But I still wish there could have been any other means by which to accomplish that end - one which didn’t leave me blinking back the tears.

Rating: B

The Centuries Challenge

Centuries Challenge

Last of all in my post-Bookfest challenge sign-up binge is the Centuries Challenge. Mercifully this is an all-year challenge - not that I think it would have stopped me joining if it wasn’t. I’m not going to let myself get carried away, and will choose only four books from four different centuries to read:

Metamorphoses - Ovid (1st century)
Three Restoration Comedies - Congreve/Etherege/Wycherley (17th century)
A Sicilian Romance - Ann Radcliffe (18th century)
Sister Carrie - Theodore Dreiser (20th century; overlap with What’s in a Name? 2)

With all these challenges it will be some time before I’ll be at a loss as to what to read next!

The Victorian Challenge

Victorian Challenge

I love nineteenth-century literature, so I was thrilled to discover this challenge. I’ll be doing the “Tour of the British Museum” option of five books before the end of June, most of them written during the period:

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë (re-read)
Cousin Phyllis and other stories - Elizabeth Gaskell
Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy (re-read)
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
Barchester Towers - Anthony Trollope

I can’t wait to get started on this one!

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Historical Fiction Challenge New host, similar challenge, more delightful buttons - the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge is on again. (Which all of you probably know by know, but when your TBR pile is heading for single digits there’s not much challenging you can do. And better late than never, right?) Being a little short of books about queens, and being a rare Twilight-free zone, I picked the following books to read before the end of March:

Pompeii - Robert Harris (Ancient Rome)
To Shield the Queen - Fiona Buckley (Elizabethan)
Slammerkin - Emma Donoghue (Georgian)

24 January 2009

Chunkster Challenge

Chunkster Challenge

The Chunkster Challenge is back! This year I’m going for the “Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big?” category and committing to reading four doorstoppers before November 15. Specifically:

Possession - A. S. Byatt (re-read) - 510 pages
Bleak House - Charles Dickens (overlap with What’s in a Name? 2) - 808 pages
The Magus - John Fowles - 656 pages
Drums of Autumn - Diana Gabaldon - 880 pages

So close to having three truly enormous books for the “More-book-ly Obese” category! Still, I expect the Dickens with be challenge enough all by itself - the only book of his I have ever finished is the brief A Christmas Carol. Third time lucky, I hope.

What’s in a Name? 2 Challenge

What’s in a Name? 2 When I set out for the Bookfest I could only remember two of the categories for this year’s What’s in a Name? Challenge, but by a stroke of luck I got books to fit all six:

The Sculptress - Minette Walters

Time of Day:
The Night Manager - John le Carré

Sister Carrie - Theodore Dreiser

Body Part:
A Bone of Contention - Susanna Gregory

Bleak House - Charles Dickens (overlap with Chunkster Challenge)

Medical Condition:
A Plague on Both Your Houses - Susanna Gregory

Next time, I will make a list before going book hunting!

My TBR Pile Has More Than Sextupled!

Courtesy of my laptop’s camera:

My TBR pile before the Bookfest...

...my TBR pile after the Bookfest.

Even if you count two-in-one volumes as a single book, I now have more than six times the number of books waiting to be read than I did earlier in the week. It’s a happy day indeed when a book nut can acquire nearly fifty books for under sixty dollars - even if she does have to lug all twelve kilos of them home afterwards. (My next Bookfest will be my eighth; after which my combined Bookfest hauls will approximately equal twice my own weight in literature. No wonder I’ve got shelving problems.)

I managed to spend six hours browsing the tables, loading up with the usual mix of books I’ve been hunting for years and books I didn’t know I wanted until I saw them, and smiling at some of the odder titles on offer. (Who would buy The Basics of Anaesthesia and Resuscitation? And is the second topic intended for use when the first goes horribly wrong?) All the King’s Men joined All the Queen’s Men in my bag, I snared the first three of Susanna Gregory’s Matthew Bartholomew chronicles, and picked up several books I’ve read good reviews of but never so much as seen. After ending up happily weighed down and footsore the day took an unfortunate turn.

The train was packed. My feet were killing me. There was scarcely enough room to sit on the floor. Out of sheer desperation I did the unthinkable.

Dear readers, I sat on my books. Set the bags side by side and sat on them. For a good half hour.

I gave them an anxious once-over when I got them home and unpacked, but they were none the worse for having just been squashed by their owner. I’ve got a new appreciation for them now, after discovering this additional use for them, and I’m not sure I wouldn’t do it again should the need arise - even if it does seem a little sacrilegious.

Now come the fun parts of having a newly-increased TBR pile ... dithering over what to read next, and CHALLENGES!!

23 January 2009

Blog Improvement Project: Task 2

Blog Improvement Project

The second task in the Blog Improvement Project is all about one of the most important things in any blog: CONTENT.

Part One involves reading through the articles linked to in the original post and acquiring some strategies for coming up with ideas. This isn’t overly relevant to me; if I want to create more posts, I have only to read more and participate more. That being said, I like the idea of devising a snappy title and proceeding from there. I think that will be a help when I do non-review posts.

I’m not sure yet what such posts might be, but I will very soon be starting a series relating to one of my 101 Things: Reading the entire Bible. Not out of any religious conviction - I’m a born sceptic - but so that I can say that I have done it and know what I’m rejecting, and to better understand the references to it that often appear in novels, particularly older ones. (Confession time: I still have only a vague notion of just what happened on the road to Damascus. Or who it happened to.) I’m undecided as yet whether I’ll do fortnightly updates, monthly updates, or hallelujah-I-finished-another-book updates, but I am determined to embark on the project with an open mind.

22 January 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Inspired

Since “Inspiration” is (or should) the theme this week - what is your reading inspired by?

This was a hard one to answer. I don’t think of myself as needing a reason to read, and I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember. Essentially I read because I can’t not read, because without a book on hand I’d be lost. I call myself a book addict, and it’s true that there is a degree of compulsion driving me ever onwards to the next volume. Books make me happier than anything else; I find being at a library or a bookstore or a book sale and seeing all those rows of lovely books to be pure bliss, and I have only to look at my TBR box to smile. Books offer both an escape from humdrum reality, and a way into a better world where there are interesting people, exotic locations, knowledge to acquire, things to spark my curiosity and imagination, and thrills without any danger to myself. Or at least just a character having a much worse day than mine.

What I read is a department where there is room for inspiration. Generally I read whatever I feel like reading, though I do try to space things out so that there’s a bit of variety and more challenging volumes are separated by easier reads. Now that I’ve embarked on the delights of NaNoWriMo that influences some of the reading I do as I like to research in advance. (Expect the Victorian and the Gothic this year!) Reviews, especially those of other bloggers, keep my must-read list at an unmanageable length and I’ve been known to acquire books I otherwise wouldn’t look twice at simply because I’ve heard good things about them or their authors. Or I just read whatever’s due back next at the library!

The biggest influencing factor, though, is serendipity. When you get almost all your books from second-hand sales and libraries luck determines what you are able to choose from. I look for titles from my ever-expanding list and then I just browse. An interesting title or cover will catch my eye, the blurb will sound interesting, and I’ll end up borrowing a history of London graveyards, or buying a biography of someone I never previously knew existed. It can be a haphazard system, but somehow it works.

20 January 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Lydia’s intention of walking to Meryton was not forgotten; every sister except Mary agreed to go with her; and Mr Collins was to attend them, at the request of Mr Bennet, who was most anxious to get rid of him, and have his library to himself; for thither Mr Collins had followed him after breakfast, and there he would continue, nominally engaged with one of the largest folios in the collection, but really talking to Mr Bennet, with little cessation, of his house and garden at Hunsford. Such doings discomposed Mr Bennet exceedingly.

What else but Pride and Prejudice?

Book Review: The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker When Squire Bramble leaves Wales to take his family on a tour through England and Scotland, the result is a comical series of misadventures. His niece Liddy is being pursued by a most unsuitable young man, his spinster sister Tabitha sets out to throw herself at every halfway eligible bachelor she sees, and his nephew Jery watches and is greatly amused by it all. Before they even reach London there is an addition to their party: a shabby servant named Humphry Clinker who quickly becomes devoted to them - particularly Tabitha’s maid.

Between the family party themselves, the people they meet along the way, and recollections of events past, their journey is filled with entertaining incidents, all faithfully related by the travellers in their letters to friends back home.

At first the epistolary form of this novel was confusing, as it was hard to tell who was writing what. But after the first few dozen pages it was easy to identify the writer by the style and addressee - and it helped that most of the writing was done by only two people, Squire Bramble and his nephew. Luckily they were also the most entertaining and literate of the bunch. The literary malapropisms of Tabitha and her maid Win allowed plenty of jokes and double entendres, but made for painful reading.

The story is really a series of incidents, with the only continuing threads being Liddy’s star-crossed (or is it?) love for a mere strolling player, and her aunt’s attempts to lure someone, anyone, into matrimony. In a way it was reminiscent of a Cranford on the road - there’s not much that you could call a plot, but things do happen, and the book works wonderfully. At least, until the end, where things get wrapped up a little too neatly, and with too much help from coincidence. But the vivid picture it provided of eighteenth-century life was well worth the raised eyebrows.

Rating: B+

Book Review: Detectives and Young Adventurers: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

Detectives and Young Adventurers In this volume are all those Christie short stories featuring recurring characters other than the famous Marple or Poirot. Partners in Crime features Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, a young couple who turn to the annals of crime literature for inspiration as they run a detective agency and try to bring down an international crime ring. In The Mysterious Mr Quin an elderly observer of life, Mr Satterthwaite, finds himself repeatedly called on to take an active part courtesy of his strange friend Harley Quin, who by some quirk often catches the light in such a way as to appear to be dressed in motley. The former civil servant of Parker Pyne Investigates places advertisements in the newspaper promising his clients happiness, but encounters other kinds of mysteries when he sets off on his travels.

Also included are the original versions of four Poirot stories that were later expanded, and Star Over Bethlehem, a collection of Christian-themed stories for children. (Appropriate, really, since I got the book for Christmas!)

The fact that this collection is really four and a bit books rolled into one makes me feel a lot better about my low total for the year so far! Unfortunately I found on closer inspection that I had in fact previously read three of them, but it turned out that this book was better than the single volumes. Unlike my copy of Partners in Crime, the stories are headed with the details of just which other fictional sleuths are being parodied and which authors created them. (Most of them I’d never heard of, which shows how many books get lost to time.) And this version of The Mysterious Mr Quin included two additional stories.

The first segment of the book was the best. I love Tommy and Tuppence (perhaps - dare I say it? more than Marple and Poirot) and their detective-agency antics show them in highly entertaining form as they tackle everything from organised crime to a hapless young man trying to meet a girl’s challenge. They even parody Poirot along the way. Harley Quin - a.k.a. Harlequin - is a character I wish there was more of, as I’d love to find out more about him and his mysterious, well-timed appearances in the world. It’s a strange proposition, to write a series of non-supernatural mysteries centered around an essentially supernatural character, but somehow it works.

Happily I found myself unable to remember much of the outcomes of the stories about civil servant turned detective of the human heart Parker Pyne. (Obviously it’s been longer than I thought since I read it last.) Instead of crime, he investigates what makes his clients unhappy - then sets out to fix it. It’s a different matter when he goes on holiday; somehow crime finds him wherever he may be. Of the two types of tale I preferred the first; they were something unusual and it was a lot of fun seeing Parker Pyne - aided and abetted by novelist Ariadne Oliver (who appears in several Poirot novels) - orchestrate the means to give his clients a little bit of joy.

After the Poirot originals (the expanded versions of which I unfortunately didn’t have on hand to compare) came the stories I didn’t really expect to like, as they were written for children and of a religious bent. In fact, I quite enjoyed them. There was no preachiness and a touch of irreverence which I liked.

And now I can BookCross my existing copies of Partners in Crime and The Mysterious Mr Quin. It’s about time I set another book or two free into the world.

Rating: A-

13 January 2009

The 2009 Blog Improvement Project: Task One

Blog Improvement Project

The Blog Improvement has begun, and the first task is a perfect place to start: setting blogging goals for 2009. Having long since pretty well given up on New Year’s resolutions (which these almost are) I don’t know how well I’ll succeed in sticking to them, but I’m determined to try.

Firstly and most obviously, I will keep blogging! No more letting myself get swamped by real life.

Leave more comments on other people’s blogs. This has always been my weak spot; I’m very prone to not being able to think of anything to say, or not thinking any contribution of mine worthwhile (online and off) and I’d like to see whether practice can make a difference.

Also in the networking vein, I want to expand my blogroll and participate more in things like Booking Through Thursday, Saturday Review of Books, Teaser Tuesdays, etc.

Complete and post all reviews in a timely manner. (Well, all further reviews.... and we’ll just forget the nine days it took me to post on Sepulchre.)

Post about something other than books once in a while!

12 January 2009

The End!

Of the first draft of my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, that is! A little over one and a quarter months, and a little under forty-eight and a quarter thousand words, after 30 November I have finally finished. It really is remarkable how far one’s momentum drops as soon as the thirty days are over. But I’ve dragged myself to the end and I couldn’t be prouder of myself unless I’d actually written something coherent. The curious can check out the synopsis and an (only partially edited!) excerpt at my NaNo profile page.

NaNo was by far the most fun I’ve had in ages. I loved every chaotic moment of it and I can’t wait for the first of November - and I already have enough ideas to see me through to NaNo 2012 at least. I foresee a drastic improvement in my time management skills, between researching, plotting, writing, and editing, particularly given that my ideas have a habit of becoming far more complicated than they first appeared. I’ve now got a little over nine and a half months to work out how to write a supernatural gothic with an intelligent, sensible heroine, and how to have her investigate the mysteries of the spooky manor house without seeming like an idiot for doing so. (It must be possible ... surely it’s possible....)

I’m giving myself two weeks off now before the fun of editing, during which I can happily imagine that what I’ve got so far will be readable. (In reality, of course, it needs cutting in some places, expansion in others, rewriting, rearranging, and a lot more research; and has plot threads disappearing to and coming out of nowhere, characters ditto, doubtless atrocious characterisation, dialogue, etc., and plot holes you could drive a road train through.) I wanted to let it rest for longer, but I have impatient relatives to whom the word ‘novel’ should probably never have been mentioned. I guess it’s nice to be thought capable of being the next Ruth Rendell, but it certainly puts the pressure on.

On the bright side, now that I’m not writing so much I can finally knit a mate for the lone sock that’s been languishing in my knitting basket since October.

11 January 2009

Book Review: Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

Sepulchre In 1897, an abbé in the south of France unveiled a cache of hidden treasure. It “revealed” the bloodline of Jesus and the Priory of Sion, spawning everything from outright accusations of fraud to The Da Vinci Code. But what if the abbé’s discovery was merely a diversion set up to distract people’s attention from events elsewhere in the region?

Seventeen-year-old Léonie Vernier jumps at the chance her brother offers her in 1891 of going to stay with an aunt in the south of France. Bored with Paris and keen to escape the tedious presence of her mother’s latest admirer, she doesn’t question the haste and subterfuge of their departure. What she doesn’t know is that Anatole has crossed a very dangerous man.

For a fan of gothic novels, the Domaine de la Cade is a paradise. It stands at some distance from the village and comes complete with overgrown grounds, dark legends, and a ruined Visigoth sepulchre that Léonie can’t resist investigating - even after finding her late uncle’s account of a terrifying visit. Nor can she overcome the temptation of searching the Domaine for a long-lost deck of tarot cards said to be hidden on the estate. Using them could be dangerous, but with the threat that is rapidly catching up with them Léonie may have no choice.

A hundred and sixteen years later, Meredith Martin has travelled from America to France to research a biography of Claude Debussy - a Paris neighbour of the Verniers and supposed member of the Priory of Sion. While her ostensible purpose in heading south is to trace Debussy’s wife, she has another reason - finding out about her birth mother’s family with nothing to go on save a piece of music and a photograph. A peculiar tarot reading in Paris is only the first strange event, with spooky things happening even before Meredith checks into her room at the Domaine de la Cade. Someone long dead wants something revealed - and someone still alive has formed his own conclusion as to the purpose of Meredith’s visit, assuming she’s after something he very much wants for himself.

Despite the title, there is no sepulchre in this book. Or there is, but it’s not a sepulchre as any dictionary would define it (a burial chamber) but an old church. (Though admittedly I can’t think of any synonym for church that conveys the same atmosphere.) That can be written off as an oddity, but alas, the book contains a number of errors that to my eyes stuck out like Uluru. Characters travel in the wrong direction, remark upon something that didn’t happen, have their hair inexplicably change colour ... a publisher’s office somewhere needs a new proofreader.

Moving on to the plot: There was much to like in Sepulchre. Not a fast-paced thrill-ride like Labyrinth, it takes the time to build up the atmosphere and tension like one of those gothics Léonie loves. Planning to go gothic myself for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I was glad of the opportunity to read such a good example of the style. In spite of the summer heat it was at times almost possible to shiver. The main villain was deliciously evil and intelligent enough to be a formidable opponent. So much so that Léonie needed a bit of help to take him down (from my favourite character from Labyrinth); and I’m afraid that Léonie is one of those headstrong, foolhardy gothic heroines. Several times I longed to give her a shake and yell ‘You idiot!’, and I have her mentally noted down as an example of what not to do come November. Happily she came good in the end.

I liked Meredith better, though she occupied a much smaller portion of the book. The events of 2007 unfolded with extreme rapidity, but it is possible to accept that with a bit of luck and a good grasp of all the information she picked up, Meredith could have put it all together so fast - and, I was pleased to see, without a man coming to the rescue. (Well, he tried, but she didn’t need him.) The supernatural element tied in nicely with the tarot theme, but its origin was never really explained and that was not the only loose end.

Flaws aside, this is still an entertaining book, especially if you love the mysterious and the spooky. Just be prepared to smile at the mistakes and be left with unanswered questions at the end.

Rating: B

08 January 2009

Booking Through Thursday: The Best?

It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?
After much deliberation I’ve narrowed the list to a Top Ten ... plus a Top Four Non-Fiction, just so I can squeeze in a few more.


Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen (re-read)
Bliss - Judy Cuevas
Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell
Cocaine Blues - Kerry Greenwood
Imperium - Robert Harris
Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
The Sunne in Splendour - Sharon Penman
Fingersmith - Sarah Waters
To Say Nothing of the Dog - Connie Willis
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón


Digging Up the Dead - Druin Burch
Marley & Me - John Grogan
The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes - Mark Urban
A. D. 500 - Simon Young

06 January 2009

The 2009 Blog Improvement Project

A couple of nights ago I signed up for the year’s first challenge - of sorts - and miracle of miracles, it has nothing to do with reading! Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness is running the ...

2009 B.I.P.

I think given my recent hiatus Rule Number One should be: Keep blogging. Which should be somewhat easier now that I'm no longer spending all my internet time fiddling around with HTML and CSS in the quest for the perfect layout. Yes, I have finally made the jump from Template to Layout - and being a stubborn perfectionist I coded all but the trickiest bits myself.

All those late nights spent nodding over the keyboard have been worth it, I think. And I’m looking forward to many more improvements during the year.

01 January 2009

Booking Through Thursday: New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone!

So … any Reading Resolutions? Say, specific books you plan to read? A plan to read more ____? Anything at all?

Name me at least ONE thing you’re looking forward to reading this year!

My reading resolutions for 2009 are quite simple.

1. Finish the year with fewer books TBR than I have now.

2. Read everything currently in my TBR pile, rather than letting anything linger there for another year.

As for what I want to read, I am determined to get my hands on The Book Thief and A Room with a View, two volumes which have been stubbornly eluding me for some time.

Hello 2009


We spent a quiet night in with the aircon; after a mild Christmas summer has arrived full force. I've just watched the Sydney fireworks on tv, which was strange since although they're on roughly the same latitude they saw in the new year an hour earlier (no daylight saving in Queensland, though I live in hope).

Christmas was good here (though really, any Christmas which adds to my TBR pile counts as a success) but I’m hoping that calamities do not, in fact, come in threes.

Christmas night 07 there was a drive-by further up the street. No one was hit, and I now know that from a distance, gunshots really do sound like fireworks.

Two nights before Christmas 08 we had The Invasion of the Eight-Legged Freak - the appearance, in the house, of the Goliath of huntsmen. I swear that thing had a seven-inch leg span, and it was still moving an hour after being doused with fly spray and sucked into the vacuum cleaner. (Hooray for transparent appliances ... not.) Since my sole contribution to the proceedings - after raising the alarm by shrieking and leaping onto the couch - was to fetch the aforementioned implements, I am exceedingly thankful I was not home alone at the time. And that my mother managed to hoover it to its fate before it set foot on any of my books during its last desperate scramble up the bookcase.

Since I can't recall any similar events from 2006, I'm a tad worried about Christmas 09....

But for now I’m going to stop thinking about Christmas - and stop looking over my shoulder in case there's another giant arachnid - and announce my New Year's Resolutions.

1. Not to let real life, desktop trouble, laptop death, or the delights of NaNoWriMo get in the way of blogging.

2. Finish the year with a smaller TBR pile than that with which I’m starting.

Number 2 shouldn't be too hard because ... drum roll please ... I am almost down to single figures! And by the time the Bookfest arrives in a few weeks, I certainly will be. I’m not exactly sure how I managed such a miracle, but I hope to keep doing it.

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776