The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 31 January 2010

January Roundup

This brilliant snowman picture was taken with an old Holga camera by my friend a few weeks ago in Northumberland. You can see the rest of holgachick's photo's by clicking the link. The format really suits the snow and ice pictures that she has shot and I was thrilled when she said that I could use one of them.
January appears to have been a month of directional change as far as reading goes...
Read - One book finished, 3 on the go.
Completed - The Deeper Secret by Annemarie Postma
Currently Reading -
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Anthropology by Dan Rhodes
TBR Pile - currently at 76 with 2 new books added this month...
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Blindness by Jose Saramago
Challenges - some books lined up for some of my 8 Directional Reading personal challenges, including a recommendation by e-mail of a Russian author I had not heard of and sounds intriguing.
Wishlist additions -
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Short Stories: Five Decades by Irwin Shaw
The Master and Margherita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia
The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith by Stephanie Saldana
Discoveries -
Dan Rhodes
Mikhail Bulgakov, thanks to an e-mail sent to me kindly recommending a book for the 'Read another Russian' section of my New Year Directional Reading list on my Looking Back and Looking Forward post.
Events -
Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre.
My Writing America course being cancelled and consequently enabling me to redirect my reading priorities.
The Road at the cinema, which I totally loved and had me thinking about it for weeks, taken from the book of the same name by Cormac McCarthy.
The snow has been coming down again today, its nice to be inside with a book.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


While I am currently in the middle of 3 books (see further down on my sidebar) there were still a number of things that have happened recently that I need to tell you about.

Firstly, my course Writing America, that I was due to start next week, has been cancelled due to low numbers of subscribers, which is disappointing. This has altered my current reading because I was ploughing my way through Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell in time for the start. Now there is less rush I have started The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale as well, and I can plod through Gone with the Wind at my leisure.

I have not read The Road by Cormac McCarthy but I went to see the movie 10 days ago and I was blown away by it. It has been on my mind a lot since then for lots of reasons, the imagery, the acting, but also the relationship between Man and Boy. Also the what ifs...what if that happened, how would I deal with it,. Would I even want to survive? The whole realism of the story hit me hard with its possibilities, in a good way, got me thinking and talking to others who have seen it. It has been a hot topic of debate in my place of work. It is not a film I would recommend to everyone, it has a lot of disturbing images in it and is very bleak and some might say depressing. However, as much as I found it incredibly sad and moving, I picked up on the threads of hope throughout. One of the most memorable and thought provoking films I have seen in ages.

The day after watching the movie The Road was my day off and I had book tokens to use from Christmas so I made a beeline for Waterstones with the expression of a child let loose in a toyshop. Probably because The Road was on my mind (although I did not feel compelled at this point to read Cormac McCarthy's book - too raw in my mind!) there was a distinct theme behind my choices, because I came out with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Blindness by Jose Saramago. The former being about a futuristic society where all is not as it seems, and the latter about the breakdown of society when the majority of the population are suddenly struck blind (and currently being made into a movie). I love book tokens!

During my post Looking back and looking forward at the beginning of the year I totally neglected to list the books that I got for Christmas and during December...

Survivor by Chuck Palhniuk

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

One World - A Global Anthology of Short Stories published by New Internationalist

Caught by the River - A Collection of Words on Water

Lastly, in the absence of the hugely successful Richard and Judy Book Club on British TV, January has seen the start of a new TV programme on More 4, called simply The TV Book Club. I have watched the first one out of curiosity because it has been in the press quite a bit this week, and thought it was quite interesting with a good mix of familiar faces discussing the chosen book. The website is pretty good too because it gives you an extract from each book during the series so you can sample them and decide in advance if you want to read any of them. It remains to be seen whether this TV show can have the same effect on book sales as Richard and Judy did. Click the link to read an article in The Independent about the whole thing.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Deeper Secret by Annemarie Postma

I picked up this book last year from Waterstones on a 3 for 2 offer. It is hardback and seemed to be a book for dipping into by the side of the bed, so I have been dipping ever since.

During this age of Cosmic Ordering and on the back of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, this book claims that there is a 'deeper secret' that you need to know in order to attain everything from the universe and the tagline on the front of the book asks 'What does life want from you?'

This book offers you the Twelve Laws of Creation that will lead to 'profound self-understanding, and the realization of our true dreams' confirming that 'we create the world around us'.

The Laws are split into 3 groups of 'Wanting', 'Deciding' and 'Taking Responsibility' and each chapter covers a law, explaining it, highlighting key sentences, summarising its main points, giving us a relevant affirmation and giving you exercises to implement its message.

This format makes the book easy to read, either all at once, or in little pieces, and it looks nice, well spaced with simple blue illustrations and quotes to accompany the text.

I am not going to spill out all of its conclusions, but there are familiar themes, such as you get out of life what you put in, if you want something but are not getting it then you may not truly want it or need it, and just saying you want something is not going to get it, and many other lessons.

The author was born in the Netherlands and was partially paralysed by an untreated tick bite while a child. She has since studied law and became a model and is now a writer and campaigner specialising in issues of self esteem.

I liked the look of the book, which is why I picked it up. It would make a lovely gift, or a special book to keep. I agreed with a lot of what it says, there is a lot of sense in its pages. Some of it I felt I had heard before and was nothing new, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to be reminded, to put the lessons at the forefront of your mind again. I haven't read The Secret so cannot compare the two books.

I don't tend to like books that have a 'so many point plan' on solving your life problems. Although it probably simplifies what can be complicated lessons or teaching for the purposes of the book, I always feel it is a bit gimmicky and seems to offer false promises. This book puts the ball in your court from the outset, it is your responsibility to do the work. It is not about attaining what you want, but accepting what you have and that the Universe knows best. However some may get half way through this particular lesson and get bored because the book is not giving them an instant foolproof answer. It is not even recommending that you get all that you desire, which is different from what the overall message of The Secret appears to say, and the link to this book may be confusing.

No book has all the answers and if you know this when you approach a self help book I find you are better for it. I took this as a nice book of tips that make sense for a fulfilling life, for you to utilise as you feel appropriate. Creating food for thought is always beneficial.

You can read more about The Deeper Secret by clicking on the link.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Pillars of the Earth - TV series!

You may recall a book that I reviewed last year called The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It was published 20 years ago and has remained popular ever since, now making it into the Top 1oo books to read before you die, as voted for by the Great British public.
This epic and highly enjoyable story has now been made into a TV series, currently in post-production, to be shown some time in 2010. It will consist of 8 hour long episodes and has a very interesting cast...
Matthew Macfadyen plays Prior Philip
Rufus Sewell plays Tom Builder
Ian McShane plays Bishop Waleran
Donald Sutherland plays Bartholomew
The Director is Sergio Mimica-Gezzan and many of the scenes have been filmed in Hungary.
I will be looking out for it because I really enjoyed the book, although I am preparing myself for some of it to be cut for TV simply because of its length. I have no idea how they are going to condense it into 8 hours. Some of the casting intrigues me and you can see lots of great pictures on the series' official website:-
The above picture is one of the illustrations by Petra Rohr-Rouendaal found in the 1999 edition of the book and you can see the others and find out more about the book on Ken Follett's Website.
I always worry when a story I have loved is adapted for TV because so often it can disappoint, or you find yourself comparing how you saw the scenes and characters. As I read this one though, I could see that it would be excellent material for screen adaptation. Lets hope it fulfills its fans needs and expectations.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Looking back and looking forward...

It is the time of year where we evaluate what we have done, and what we hope to do in future. I quite like lists so I will start with some statistics from my reading in 2009...
In total I have read 18 books. Not much compared to some blogs but quite a few for me.
These books were split equally between male and female writers, so 9 each. This was coincidental.
The nationalities of the authors was as follows...
English - 7
USA - 7
Spanish - 1
German - 1
Australian - 1
Irish - 1
-Two of these books were in translation.
-Three of these books were non-fiction.
The Genres of the books read in 2009 were...
Historic drama - 7
Mystery/thriller - 2
Comedy/drama - 2
Psychological mystery - 1
Ghost Story - 1
Childrens - 1
General drama - 1
-Four of the books were prizewinners.
-Four of the books were known as classics.
-Two of the books were collections of short stories.
-One book was by a new writer.

Favourite Reads of 2009...
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Other accomplishments during 2009...
Completion of the 2009 mini challenges hosted by caribousmom.
Attending a one day course 'The Hour for Loving':Texts in time.
Organizing 2 book swap events at work.
Releasing a few bookcrossing books

Onward into 2010...
I have my Writing America course coming up, starting at the end of January.
I have also compiled a list of personal challenges which I hope to use as a guideline to shape my reading in 2010. Because these are my own challenges, I have 8 in total to tie in with the spirit of The Octogon...

  1. Read another Jane Austen
  2. Read another Russian
  3. Read another short story collection
  4. Read another American classic
  5. Read an Irish classic
  6. Read another Zola
  7. Read another Charles de Lint
  8. Read another Elizabeth Gaskell

These are not set in stone but will be used as a point of reference throughout the year. We'll see how I get on!

I am still currently reading Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Its quite a tome and although I am quite enjoying it, it is slow progress simply because of its length. I will keep you posted.

Wishing you all a prosperous and happy new year, hopefully surrounded by those you love, and lots of books!

Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye