Tag Archives: books

2016 Reading Update, September

I’ve met my target of reading 26 books this year, with a few months left to keep reading in. Since my last update I’ve added seven more books to my total, four of which are Patrick O’Brian books – and I’ll finish the series before next update, library stock permitting.

The list so far

Here’s what the list looks like after the last update in July:

  1. Cadfael: Monk’s Hood by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  2. Cadfael: St Peter’s Fair by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  3. Key Under Blue Pot and Please Milk the Goat by Marie Sever
  4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  5. Cadfael: The Leper of St Giles by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  6. The Fire Mages’ Daughter by Pauline M Ross
  7. Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  8. The Mages of Bennamore by Pauline M Ross
  9. The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
  10. The Plains of Kallanash by Pauline M Ross
  11. The Magic Mines of Asharim by Pauline M Ross
  12. The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift
  13. The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence
  14. Echoes of the Great Song by David Gemmell
  15. The Dragon’s Egg by Pauline M Ross
  16. The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O’Brian
  17. The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian
  18. The Errant Hours by Kate Innes
  19. Iceland Defrosted by Edward Hancox
  20. Touch of Iron by Timandra Whitecastle
  21. The Thirteen-Gun Salute by Patrick O’Brian
  22. The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O’Brian
  23. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrell Drake

Continue reading 2016 Reading Update, September

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2016 reading update, May

I’m nearly half way through the year now – and it feels like it’s gone very quickly. But so has my reading, so I’m well ahead of target. I have read 17 books so far, which beats my total for the whole of 2015.

The list so far

In my previous updates I have discussed the following:

  1. Cadfael: Monk’s Hood, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  2. Cadfael: St Peter’s Fair, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  3. Key Under Blue Pot and Please Milk the Goat, by Marie Sever
  4. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  5. Cadfael: The Leper of St Giles, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  6. The Fire Mages’ Daughter by Pauline M Ross
  7. Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  8. The Mages of Bennamore by Pauline M Ross
  9. The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
  10. The Plains of Kallanash by Pauline M Ross
  11. The Magic Mines of Asharim by Pauline M Ross

Recent reads

12. The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift

This is a non-fiction book about the development of a garden from a field to the beautiful selection of settings it now is, all mixed in with local history and history of the house it is connected to, some history of British Christianity, and a little bit of autobiography too. It’s a well-written and fascinating book, and it was easy to follow even for someone like me, who can’t keep a basil plant alive in the kitchen window. Swift has really done her research. And when her garden was open as part of May Day celebrations two weeks ago, I went to visit it (it’s only a short drive away from me), got the book signed and bought the second one, The Morville Year.

13. The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

How could I read in April that which isn’t to be released until June? I got an Advanced Review Copy. And Review it I shall, soon. But not here.

14. Echoes of the Great Song by David Gemmell

I read Gemmell a lot from when I was about 17 to about when I was 21, by which point there were very few of his books I hadn’t read. This was one of them. I found it in the library while looking for something else and of course had to read it. I found it a little difficult to get into at first – there are a lot of terms and concepts to get to grips with – but once it had got going I enjoyed the way the story developed, which Gemmell’s characterstic cast of moral greys fighting against the moral black standing against them.

15. The Dragon’s Egg by Pauline M Ross

I recieved an ARC of this book and reviewed it here. It’s one that has lingered in my mind, where I still think of the ending and the points earlier in the book that foreshadow it. Absolutely masterful.

16. The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O’Brian

and

17. The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian

Finally I have got back to this fantastic series. I love reading about Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin and their various adventures and escapades on land and sea. They are written in quite a different style and with a different approach to most novels, which is refreshing. The voices of the characters come through wonderfully strongly, and it really feels like I’m reading about the lives of real people, with their marital concerns, financial troubles and all. The concept of a plot as charted and diagrammed on various writing forums seems rigid and ritualised compared to the more fluid, more life-like sequence of events of O’Brian’s books.

As happens surprisingly often, I finished one and bought the next immediately. They seem to come in pairs, one ending abruptly on a low or neutral point, with questions of how the protagonists might recover, the second ending on a high point that feels more natural an ending. I was, as I finished reading The Letter of Marque, laughing out loud at every second paragraph, as much because of the humour (the subtle humour that comes about as a result of knowing these characters well and recognising when they are fooling themselves) as because of the general sense of happiness on which the book ended.

Up next

I’ve got a library book that needs to go back soon: The Errant Hours by Kate Innes, an historical fiction novel set in nearby Much Wenlock, another one I sought as part of my “read local” aims, but which seems to be within my normal reading patterns too, with a setting not too dissimilar to the Cadfael books. So that’s next.

I shall shortly be posting my review of The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence, and I’d quite like to look back over the previous books of the trilogy to remind myself of them and perhaps have a few more things to say about the first two books without restricting myself to a spoiler-free review.

 

Review: The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

The Stockholm Octavo, by Karen Engelmann, is an historical novel set in Stockholm in the late 18th century. It follows Emil Larsson, a Sekretaire working in customs, who has been told by his employer that he needs to marry in order to retain and improve his job and his social position. The enigmatic Mrs Sparrow performs a mystical card reading called an Octavo for Larsson, giving him hints of eight people whom he must find in order to find the love and connection her vision has foreseen for him. Larsson’s story is set within a period of unrest and political intrigue which influences and is influenced by Larsson’s aims.

The-Stockholm-Octavo

Continue reading Review: The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

A Year for More Reading: update

I have been reading more this year, as planned, though until now I’ve been rather lax about the recording of it. Having just completed a book, I thought now would be a good time to update, and find out just where I am when it comes to that 26-book target.

Here’s the list of books I have read (as far as I can remember, by checking my bookshelf and my Kindle):

  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis
  3. The Surgeon’s Mate, Patrick O’Brian
  4. The Ionian Mission, Patrick O’Brian
  5. Treason’s Harbour, Patrick O’Brian
  6. The Liar’s Key, Mark Lawrence
  7. The Bloodline Feud, Charles Stross
  8. The Trader’s War, Charles Stross
  9. The Revolution Trade, Charles Stross
  10. The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett
  11. Star of the Sea, Joseph O’Connor

As for non-fiction, I’ve read bits of a few but not got all the way through any, or even most of the way, so there’s nothing to list. Must do better. I suspect I might be reading more acadmically-written books, and finding them rather dense, so might see what I can manage in books written more for a general audience.

So that’s 11/26, if you count the books I said I wasn’t going to count because they’re by my favourite authors. I’ve changed my mind about that; I’m counting them. In my defence, I could count the three Charles Stross books as six, which is how they were originally published, but I’m not.

Eleven books may well be more than I read last year. I’ve got the twelfth lined up, freshly picked up from the library yesterday.

I’m glad I read Star of the Sea. It’s given me insight into a period of history I was previously ignorant of, and it is incredibly well written. The style used is that of the “true crime” genre, though the story is fictional, with a character of an author who claims to have put the disparate parts of the narrative together – captain’s log, letters, diary entries, recollections, witness statements and so on. It’s one of these books that leads you to draw certain conclusions while carefully sowing the seeds of truth where they might easily be missed. The key characters are complex and nuanced.

The book I picked up from the library yesterday is The Genesis Secret by Tom Knox, which I look forward to starting later this afternoon.

If I am to reach the 26 planned books by the end of December, now less than three months away, I’ll have to read more quickly. I don’t think I will reach 26, though perhaps I might manage 18. Still, an improvement on last year. I’ve also been reading more short stories too, though I can’t remember those so easily. Maybe I’ll start making records of that too.

Amazon is blocking book reviews if it thinks you know the author

In a Guardian article posted this afternoon, it is revealed that Amazon’s attempt to clamp down on fake and inaccurate reviews has taken a creepy turn. An author called Lori L Otto posted on her blog some weeks ago about a fan who was blocked from posting a review of her latest book on Amazon, because, to quote the Amazon email she received:

We cannot post your Customer Review for “Olivia (Choisie Book 2)” to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.

Continue reading Amazon is blocking book reviews if it thinks you know the author

Beautiful new Library of Birmingham opens its doors

This morning Malala Yousafzai officially opened the new Library of Birmingham. The Library aims to “rewrite the book” for modern public libraries and offer “world-class facilities and resources” (see Mission Statement). It is the largest public lending library in Europe. I think it’s a stunning building, shining out golden across Birmingham with a façade made up of over 5,000 silver and black circles. The appearance has been a bit controversial, but I adore it.

It's quite an imposing building, and some aren't fond of it, but you can't deny that the new Library is quite the eye-catcher.
It’s quite an imposing building, and some aren’t fond of it, but you can’t deny that the new Library is quite the eye-catcher.

I’ve been quite excited about this building. You see, I work for Carillion, the Main Contractor responsible for building the Library of Birmingham, and my job has involved keeping my department’s records up to date for completed and ongoing projects, including the Library of Birmingham. And since it’s been a flagship project for the company, I’ve been seeing a lot of info about the Library – and an awful lot of amazing photos.

Continue reading Beautiful new Library of Birmingham opens its doors

On reviewers, authors and online behaviour

I recently heard of a situation in which an author had allegedly been bullied so much by reviewers that she withdrew her book. Because she has expressed the desire to move on and a distaste for the drama and misinformation that has grown around the situation, I won’t link to her story. The fact is, though, it’s not the first time I’ve heard reports of authors being bullied by reviewers.

So I mean to set a few things straight here regarding the behaviour of both authors and reviewers. I will not be naming any names in this post as I don’t think it will do any good.

Continue reading On reviewers, authors and online behaviour

Author engagement

Author engagement is important for an indie author because it humanises you to your potential audience and encourages them to be interested in you and emotionally invested in your success. If readers feel that you are their friend, they will be more willing to support you and your work.

But recently I’ve come across a few authors who just don’t seem to get it. They posted links to their blogs without getting stuck into conversations, or they tweeted nothing but promotional information about their books. From a reader’s point of view, this is off-putting. Nobody likes a spammer. What we want to see in our twitter feeds and on the forums we frequent is interesting information, helpful advice, people talking with passion about something they enjoy.

Continue reading Author engagement