Archive for the ‘sunday salon’ Category

I don’t know how he does it. Stuck-in-a-Book has come up with another great meme.  Perfect for Sunday Salon chatting.

1) The Book I am currently reading

Well, I actually have 6 books on the go.  Books that I’m reading slowing, snacking on between meals if you will such as 50 Literature Ideas that You Really Need to Know About and a Rilke Anthology.  Others that I am taking a break from because a) the experience is too intense – Georg Letham:  Physician and Murderer and b) The Tin Drum because I’m waiting to see the film which is based on parts one and two before I read part three.  (Actually I’ll give up on waiting on the DVD to drop through the door – I’ve been waiting over 12 months so far.)   

The Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi

This coming week, I’ll be concentrating on Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi by Charles Dickens as I’m reading it for the next Classics Circuit and am due to post on 20th May.  Details of book number 6 in section 3 of this post.

2)  The Book I finished last

The Tiger's Wife

Tea Obrecht’s The Tiger’s Wife is an ambitious debut novel.  Very well written and successful in that it is currently shortlisted for the Orange Prize.  Yet I found it puzzling and struggled to finish it.    I was wowed during the first third, my interest waned during the second – entirely due to my lack of understanding for the magical realist elements.  Sheer bloodymindedness made me pick up the book (after a two book interlude) to complete the final third.  Unfortunately I still don’t get it and the reading group questions at the back aren’t helping.  I need to read some reviews and, should a blinding flash of light impart some understanding, I may write a full review. 


Edit: No need to write that review now that The New Dork Review of Book has written this. I agree with every word.

3) The Next Book I want to read

The Scottish Islands are in my mind at the moment and so, I’ve finished the Dickens, I will concentrate on Night Waking by Sarah Moss, which is set on the island of Colonsay.  I read the cracking first chapter during my day trip to Arran last week and am looking forward to losing myself in the rest.

4) The Last Book I bought:

Sssssh – don’t tell Rossetti but I had a 22-book binge at The Book People yesterday.   Avoid their current catalogue if you’re trying not to buy books.  I made the basic error of taking “just a peek”  on Friday night and ended up checking out with 22 books for £26 yesterday.  But how can you say no?  More to the point how do they do it?  

The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days

Those books aren’t here yet, which means that I can now enthuse about The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days.   I bought this about 3 weeks ago and so far have baked the feta and ham muffins (7/10), the lemon meringue cup cakes (8/10) and the absolutely divine chocolate and lime cheesecake (10/10).  The best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten was a raspberry and white chocolate confection from The Cheesecake Factory in Huntington Beach, California.  There’s something about American cheesecakes that has remained elusive to my homebaking  … until now.  This book tells me how to make them and I’m going to try them all:  chocolate, caramel and hazelnut;  pumpkin (yes!);  strawberries and cream;  summer fruit. Yum!  Yesterday a friend gave  me a bag  of rhubarb from their back garden and so I’m writing this post with the heavenly smell of rhubarb and almond loaf wafting through from the kitchen.  It’s cooling as I type ….

The book is also currently on offer at The Book People for the crazy price of £6.99! (But you didn’t want to know that, did you?)

5) The Last Book I was given

The Slaves of Solitude

Well, I give myself books all the time ( 🙂 ) as do publishers (and very grateful I am too!) But the last time  an individual, other than myself,  gave me a book was back in February when the lovely and ever generous Frances from NonSuchBook sent me (and a few other UK bloggers) a selection of NYRB classics.  I was fortunate to receive Patrick Hamilton’s The Slaves of Solitude.  Hamilton is very well thought of in blogland though I have yet to read him.  I must get round to reading this sooner rather than later.


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The week of April 11 promises to be an interesting one – it is the week of shortlist announcements.

April 11 International Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist announcement

April 12 Orange prize and the IMPAC Dublin shortlist announcements

Inbetween literary festivals and overtime (imposed by another altogether more prosaic deadline), I have been reading from the associated longlists.  My last 3 reads have been longlist reads (Wolf Hall – IMPAC, Fame and Dark Matter – International Foreign Fiction Prize) and I hope to catch up on reviews soon.  The short story is that I have been having a fantastic time and I want to keep that going for the next 3 weeks until the shortlist announcement.   I’ve rummaged through the TBR and come up with the following candidates.

From the IFFP and IMPAC longlists:  Red April -Santiago Roncagliolo

More IMPAC candidates:  The Library of Shadows – Michel Birkegaard, Brodeck’s Report – Philippe Claudel, The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver, This is How – M J Hyland, Let The Great World Spin – Colum McCann, In A Dark Wood – Marcel Moring,  Brooklyn – Colm Toibin (The longlist is 126 titles long – I’m sure there are a few more of these in the house somewhere.)

From the Orange Longlist: The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna, Great House – Nicole Krauss, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – Lola Shoneyin

Any recommendations on where to start?

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I’m spending the weekend and some of next week dashing back and forth from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.  It’s Ayewrite! time again and this year the programme is really exciting.  In fact, I am actually hyperventilating about one particular event to come.  Stories to follow in due course.

Of course, the dates clash with World Book Night.   I am too busy being a consumer of all things literary this week to be a World Book Night giver.  However, I did like Nicola Morgan’s suggestion for complementary world book night giving.  To select a personal favourite to share.  So yesterday at the festival while I was getting my own copy signed, I picked up another copy for you.  

Alice Thompson’s The Existential Detective was my favourite crime novel of 2010  and when I gushed, ravedperceptively reviewed (see footnote) it last year, there was a lot of interest in its intriguing title.   So here’s your chance to win not only a brilliant novel but most likely the only copy in the world that has been signed thus:

 All you need to do to put your name in the hat is to faithfully promise me that you will read the book and let me know what you think of it.  Open worldwide.   Winner to be selected in some random fashion during next week’s Sunday Salon.


“perceptive” was the word Alice Thompson used yesterday.   How pleased was I?

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TSS: Celebrations

Yesterday I was four and there is still time to join in my party game ….

Last week also saw me successfully complete the six week TBR dare, during which time I read 11 books from my TBR stack and one book group read (ironically the one I enjoyed least).  Aquisitions were somewhat greater.  Publishers have been very generous; there were a couple of newspaper freebies and as the sales were on, I made a number of my own purchases! According to my  librarything catalogue,  I now have a physical TBR of 1170.  Assuming a  consistent reading rate of two books per week and no further incomings (this is one very big assumption!), I will finish reading my way through Mount TBR  in only 11.25 years!   

So short post today.  I’d better get started on that!

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TSS: Ambivalence

A quick word about my star-rating system or rather the 2.5 rating in particular.  In shorthand it means worthy but not for me.  This can be due to beautiful prose which fails to engage me.  I start reading but my eyes skim the words.  Before 10 pages are through, I’m longing to read something else.  The good news is that I’m prepared to continue reading to the end in the hope that it picks up.  In most cases,  I’m reading a book by a well-established,  nay a world-class author,  and I’m in a state of disbelief that I’m struggling.

Such is the case right now.  The book has been on my library reading group’s list for a good couple of years and I was delighted when it finally came in.  Written by someone heralded as the greatest living short story writer, the first third was very interesting, with humorous cameos of famous Scottish writers, Walter Scott and James Hogg.  It may just inspire me to finally pick up The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner.  Since the author’s ancestors landed on the shores of Canada, however, there have been occasional flashes of brilliance – a few pages here and a couple of paragraphs there – but in general this read has become a slog.

I have a hundred pages left and  I reckon it will take me about 6 sittings to finish it.  6 x 15 = 90 pages.  OK,  7 sittings.  Fortunately my book group doesn’t meet until a week tomorrow.  I’ll make it.

The book in question?  The View From Castle Rock by Alice Munro, a potential Nobel laureate.  Good grief, what is wrong with me?

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I’ve been wanting to read more Somerset Maugham ever since loving The Painted Veil.  January’s Book People catalogue is always good but this year’s was spectacular!  All of these for just £9.99!

Aren’t they lovely?  But much as I wish to dive in, they remain untouchable for just two more weeks …. I’m still on the TBR dare.  I’ve now read 9 books from the book piles: 3 x 3-stars, 4 x 4-star and 2 x 5-star reads.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a better start to a reading year.   C B James – thank you for the inspiration.

I hope February’s reading list matches the quality of January’s.  I’m particularly looking forward to two new releases, both of which are second novels.

After giggling my way through A Not So Perfect Crime, Solana’s second novel,  A Short Cut to Paradise, has been on order since before Christmas.  It is the reason why I signed up for the dare for only 6 weeks. The plan was to read it as soon as it dropped through the letter box on 10th February. But now Amazon tell me it will be arriving earlier! Aaaargh. Will I fall at the last hurdle?

I finished J David Simons’s debutThe Credit Draper, on Friday night.  A review will follow later this week.  Suffice, for now,  to say it lived up to the expectations I had of it as a Two Ravens Press title,  and for a number of reasons I am quite stunned. I shall read the companion novel, The Liberation of Celia Kahn just as soon as I finish the Solana.

Which new releases are you making a bee line for this February?

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Half-way there now!  (I signed-up for 6 weeks.)  And I’m thinking that I may do this again at the beginning of quarter 2, quarter 3 and quarter 4 of 2011.  There’s some good reading material in my TBR!

Reading wise I’m currently in Italy alternating reading between City-Pick Venice (a place I have never been but now know that I will visit someday) and Niccolo Ammaniti’s Steal You Away.  When finished, I’ll have completed all of Ammaniti’s translated fiction.  Are there any more in the offing?

Next week is Italian Week on Winstonsdad Blog, so I’m all prepared for that.  It clashes, however, with Virago Reading Week and I’m not prepared for that.  The reading life of a book blogger is a  busy one which could so easily become stressful.  I’m not up for that so please accept my apologies,  Viragoites.  I must pass this time around.

Yesterday saw the publication of the program for this year’s AyeWrite literary festival and pumping adrenaline when I saw that Jo Nesbo is scheduled to appear.  I bought a ticket for that and a couple more events including the World Book Night event in which Sarah Waters will be talking about the magnificient Fingersmith.  Very fitting as that is the title  I would have chosen to distribute had I found the enthusiasm to become a book giver.   48 copies of the same book, even if magnificent, feels like hard work, and work is hard enough as it is at the moment for me to take on more.

However, I’m now itching to reread Fingersmith.  Would reading a TBRR count as a TBR dare cheat?

I know a few have taken the opportunity to stop acquiring books during the TBR dare.  Not I, though I am cutting down on purchases.  First pounds of 2011 were spent on 17th January.  On an impulse triggered by learning that 21.11.2011  will mark 200 years since the death of Heinrich von Kleist.  It’s a couple of years since I enjoyed Michael Kohlhaas and I had a book voucher that was burning a hole in my pocket.  Of course the voucher didn’t quite cover the cost but what’s £2.50 in the grander scheme of things.  I was quite restrained ….. 

and obviously resting on my laurels when I examined the new catalogue from the Book People. More detail next week but, in the meantime, let me issue a word of warning to UK bloggers on book buying bans/restraints.  Don’t open it!

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