Tuesday, 26 June 2012


I’m catching up on my notes about the books I’ve read since my last book post.  They are as follows:- (Oops – just realised some are duplicated from the last post but I’m not amending this.)

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Shadow of the Wind [La Sombra del Viento] (2004) 10/10 (see separate review)

Carlos Ruiz Zafón – The Prince of Mist (1992 – English translation 2010)  7/10
A Young Adult novel of magic and mystery. Well written but I didn’t take to the plot.

Sally Gardner – I, Coriander  (2005) 8/10   Children’s Book.  The story of a girl born in 1643, the evil which befalls her in Commonwealth England and the magic that helps her survive.  “The world we live in is nothing more than a mirror that reflects another world below its silvery surface, a land where time is but a small and unimportant thing, stripped of all its power.  I hope to find you there.” S.G.

Mary Stewart – Touch not the Cat (1976) 10/10  I have read most of Mary Stewart's srories two or three times before and knew what I was getting.  So probably only 8/10 this time because I’ve read it twice before and know the plot but that was the whole point of reading it.  I wanted a cosy but well-written romantic mystery with a tinge of the uncanny. 

Martin Hopkinson - ‘Ex Libris, The Art of Bookplates’ (2011) 10/10 See separate review.

Neil Gaiman – Stardust (1999) 10/10.  A book to rival Terry Pratchett.  In the Victorian town of Wall the beautiful Victoria Forester tells lovelorn Tristran Thorn that she will marry him if he finds the falling star they have just seen. In a charming faerie world he makes his quest and seeks his prize.

She laughed, and the sound was a clear rill bubbling over rocks and stones.

…for no one crossed Bridget Forester: she had a tongue that could, the villagers said, blister the paint from a barn door and tear the bark from an oak.

Every boy in the village was in love with Victoria Forester. And many a sedate gentleman, quietly married with grey in is beard, would stare at her as she walked down the street, becoming, for a few moments, a boy ince more, in the spring of his years with a spring in his step.

Tristran could smell the distant winter on the air – a mixture of night-mist and crisp darkness and the tang of fallen leaves.

While clothes do not, as the saying would sometimes have it, make the man, and fine feathers do not make fine birds, sometimes they can add a certain spice to a recipe.

Essie Fox – The Somnambulist (2011) 8/10. Set in Victorian England this mystery and romance covers lost love, grief, murder, madness and a stern morality. When seventeen year old Phoebe Turner loses her favourite Aunt Cissy and around the same time becomes companion to the reclusive wife of a rich merchant she finds her life changes in so many ways. 

James Patterson & Andrew Gross – The Jester (2003) 9/10 A historical mystery and adventure set in eleventh century France where a serf’s life is worth nothing but where one serf sets out to combat the tyranny and oppression of the local lords.  Chivalry and honour – but not among the lords!

Terry Pratchett & Bernard Pearson - The celebrated Discworld almanak for the year of the prawn (2004) 129 p. 10/10
Terry Pratchett joined forces with Bernard Pearson to produce the definitive Almanak to the Common Year 2005. An essential guide to all aspects of life, and a sure means of ensuring fertility of crops and livestock. It includes recipes, horoscopes, and an extract from the 'Cabbage Companion'.  Including homemade remedies for common ailments, recipes, horoscopes, scientific discoveries, a calendar, strange tales and many valuable facts about the cabbage. With witty illustrations from Paul Kidby, this is an artistically presented package guaranteed to tickle the funny bone of all Pratchett fans.  I can't understand why I didn't get it when it came out.

Martin Davies – The Conjuror’s Bird (2005) 10/10
The novel switches between the worlds of Joseph Banks (seventeenth century English naturalist, botanist, patron of the natural sciences and a hero of mine) and that of a twentieth century taxidermist who is hunting for a missing bird specimen. Not only enjoyable and informative but with a twist of the mysterious and a hint of romance. I loved it.

Markus Zusak – The Book Thief (2005) 10/10
I read this only a couple of years’ ago and it was reviewed on my book blog.

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter – The Long Earth (2012) 9/10.  This is very much a Stephen Baxter science fiction with an over-glaze of Pratchett humour. Much as I enjoyed it I felt it was unfinished.  I can only conclude it is to end up as part one of a trilogy or series.

If Humphrey Llewellyn III could have his way, every book ever written would be treasured, aqt least one copy bound in sheepskin and illuminated by monks (or specifically by naked nuns, his predilection being somewhat biased in that direction).  So now, he hoped, here was a chance to bring mankind back into the book-loving fold.  He gloated. There was still no electronics in the pioneer worlds, was there!  Where was your internet? Hah!  Where was Google? Where was your mother’s old Kindle? Your iPad 25?  Where was Wickedpedia? (Very primly he always called it that, just to show his disdain; very few people noticed.)

Felix J Palma – the Map of Time (2011) 8/10.  Originally published in Spanish in 2008. Never have I read a more infuriating and frustrating novel and yet it not only read well with realistic expression of emotions but it was almost impossible to put down. Part of the frustration came from the excessive biographical detail about H G Wells – I like to learn things from a novel but I don’t want it to be non-fiction. The other part came from trying to get one’s head around the possibilities /impossibilities of time travel and the theories of what happens when someone goes back in time and changes events.  All in all a brilliantly conceived plot but be prepared to be driven up the wall at times!    The first two quotations below relate to feelings upon the loss of a loved one and the fourth is the sort of book review I wish I had written at times!

His sorrow intensified until it became physical torment.  Suddenly it was agony to be in his body, as if he lay in a sarcophagus lined with nails.  He wanted to feel, unshackle himself from the excruciating substance he was made of, but he was trapped inside the martyred flesh.

He gazed out of the window.  People were coming and going, carrying on their lives without the slightest token of respect. Why did they not notice that the world had changed, that it was no longer habitable? He gave a deep sigh. The world had changed only for him.

Anyone who has been to Billingsgate fish market in the early hours knows that smell travels faster than light.

“In my opinion, not only have you started out with a rather naïve premise, but you have developed it in a most unfortunate way, stifling its few possibilities.  The structure of your narrative is inconsistent and muddled, the episodes are linked only tenuously, and in the end one has the impression that events occur higgeledy-piggledy, without any inner cohesion, simply because it suits you. This tiresome randomness of the plot, added to your writing style – worthy of some legal clerk who admires Jane Austen’s romantic novels – inevitably produces boredom in the reader, or if npt, ab profound aversion to what he is reading.”

Jen Campbell - Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops (2012) 7/10. Knowing from personal experience, and from many a good story in the staff room, what weird things customers say in libraries I had hoped for better of this book.  It is fun and will be an eye-opener to those who don’t work with the public but, perhaps, unfortunately, many were all too familiar, like

“I read a book in the sixties.  I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know the one I mean? “

Or –
Customer: I don’t know why she wants it, but my wife asked for a copy of The Dinosaur Cookbook.
Bookseller: The Dinah Shore Cookbook?
Customer That must be it; I wondered what she was up to.

The one that I loved was -

“Do you have this children’s book I’ve heard about? It’s supposed to be very good. It's called Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe’.”

I was most annoyed by the page numbers which are tiny things hidden within dark grey blobs and suitable only for those with 40/20 vision or an illuminated magnifying glass.  Why do publishers so often get the little things (literally) so wrong!

Barbara Vine (pseudonym of Ruth Rendell) – The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy (1998) 10/10.  A mystery occurs when a famous novelist dies and one of his two overly devoted daughters decides to write his biography. He seems to have invented himself in his twenties.  As she delves deeper she finds out he was not the person she thought he was.  I loved the idea of quoting from the famous author’s own books at the start of each chapter.  A clever twist.

 When the guests had gone, Peter said, quoting Goethe or someone, They are pleasant enough people but if they had been books I wouldn’t have read them.

Our children when young are part of ourselves but when they grow up they are just other people.

Ursula knew very well how a penetrating comment on the incongruities of one’s behaviour, a remark that brings home an unacceptable truth, arouses dislike for she who utters it.

Neil Gaiman – Smoke & Mirrors (1999) 8/10 A collection of Gaiman’s short fiction. OK but disappointing by comparison with Stardust. Mind you, I loved it when an elderly lady found the Holy Grail in a charity shop…

Christopher Paolini - The Inheritance Cycle
1. Eragon (2001) 10/10
2. Eldest (2005) 9/10
3. Brisingr (2008) 8/10
4. Inheritance (2011) 10/10

I loved Eragon – written when Paolini left school at 15.  An epic fantasy of 2270 pages with the obligatory dragon and all the other characters one would expect.  The saga became a bit repetitive after a while.  Nevertheless, in my view, it joins the classic fantasy sagas. 

Books should go where they will be most appreciated, and not sit unread, gathering dust on a forgotten shelf.


  1. The Conjuror's Bird was a book I much enjoyed, too. I read it in 2011 and posted my review here:
    Maybe you want to compare what I thought of it with how you liked it.
    Love the "Lionel Richie" quote :-D

    1. Just read your posting and am wondering if that is how it got added to my 'to be read' list. I should keep a note of who recommended books or where I picked up on them from.

  2. I loved the Conjuror's Bird too but I'm not sure I blogged about it, I read it in Swedish a few years ago.
    I listened to The Shadow of the Wind as audio book in Swedish.
    I've read to Touch Not the Cat probably more than once, as most of Mary Stewart's books. (My favourites by far are her Merlin series.)
    I've seen Stardust as film, and also Eragon.
    I think I probably also read or listened to The Chimney Sweeper's Boy. I've read quite a few by Barbara Vine. Have you read The Minotaur? A library plays an important role in it...

    I love your Weird Things Customers Say quotes. I have one question in my mind similar to the green book one. From the 60s I remember a children's book (which I borrowed at the library) which I think included some little people (gnomes, fairies?) and there was a magic button at the bottom of a steep hill that could make the road go downhill instead of uphill. I have no idea of the title or the author or the name of any character in the book. It was that button that fascinated me! But I've never been able to find anyone else who has any idea or memory of what I'm talking about!

    1. Nope - no memories of a magic button. Mind you, when my dizzy spells come on I could with one of those!!

      I haven't read The Minotaur. I just started Barbara Vine's The Blood Doctor but am not sure it's my type of book.

      I've heard reports that the Eragon film doesn't live up to the books but I'd like to see it to compare the two.

      Stardust as a film could be wonderful or could be a disaster. I'm not sure if I want to see it or not. Since I'm so lazy where watching films is concerned I probably won't get around to it any way.

      You and I so often share the same interest in books. I'll rephrase that to maker my meraning more clear - you and I so often seem to have read the same books / authors.

  3. I suspect if I also included all Swedish titles I read in between the English ones, the impression might fade a little ;) (Unless I know them to have been translated into English I usually don't find any point in mentioning on my blog!)

    I also suspect there is one other factor involved: A book or author from another country that gets translated into Swedish has usually already gained a certain reputation abroad.

    But yes, I do agree it seems that we like many of the same books, or kinds of books!


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