Wednesday, 17 December 2008

105. Harrison Weir - Our Cats and All About Them

I was very excited to find a copy of this book which was originally published in the 1800s. Weir is credited with moving the domestic cat's social status from 'necessary hunter' to 'beloved pet.' He organised the very first cat show (at Crystal Palace) and wrote this book as a means to help people enjoy and understand the species. Although some of the language used is difficult to read at first (think Dickens), I enjoyed this book. There's a lot of detail about what makes a good show cat and, I must confess, I did skip some of the detail as my interest isn't in showing. The rest of the book is made up of sections of varying size and covering such diverse topics as 'Cats Take Note of Time' and 'The Wild Cat of Britain'. I found it fascinating to note where Weir's thoughts match (or differ from) modern knowledge of cats.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

104. Elizabeth Martyn & David Taylor - The Little Book of Cat Behaviour

This is a beautifully illustrated little book, full of tasty bites of information.

Monday, 15 December 2008

103. Bob Briner - Roaring Lambs

What an interesting book. I don't remember why I acquired this book but I'm glad I did. Generally, when I book comes into this house, it's registered on BookCrossing and put in a box or on a shelf until it works its way to the top of Mt To Be Read. Then I pick it up and read it without reviewing the marketing blurb on the back cover. I think that books should stand on their own merits and quite like the adventure of not knowing what I'm reading when I set out on my journey through the pages. I followed this pattern with Roaring Lambs and, from the title, was rather expecting an exhortation to lead a traditional and fundamentalist Christian life in the manner of, say, Elizabeth George. In fact, this book is quite different.

Briner takes a broad look at culture - literature, visual arts, television, films - and asks 'Where are the Christians?' He suggests that, instead of complaining and boycotting what we find objectionable, we should be praising the good and creating more that is good in these fields. He says that it isn't enough to write Christian books for Christian readers - this is, after all, a classic case of preaching to the choir - but Christians should be using the popular culture to bring the Gospel message to those who'd never darken the door of a Church or Christian bookstore.

The book is a very easy read - it's taken me only a few hours - and I am surprised at having enjoyed it and taken on board some of the ideas. I wasn't in the mood for a fundamentalist lecture and I'm glad not to have found one.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

102. Laura Ingalls Wilder - Little Town on the Prairie

Laura does a lot of growing up in this book - she's pinning up her hair, wearing hoopskirts and Almanzo is walking her home from Church. When I was growing up, this was one of my favourite books in the series and I'm pleased to say that it still is. Laura writes so honestly and simply of events big and small that I don't want me re-reading of the series to end.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

101. Frank Delaney - Ireland

This isn't the book I thought it was. Fortunately, by the time I'd worked that out I was well and truly hooked and read happily right through to the end.

Delaney is telling two ... or three, or four? ... stories in this book. First is the story of Ireland from prehistoric times right up to the 1960s. Then there's the story of the young boy we meet in the opening pages. Ronan is only nine when a Storyteller visits his family home. He is spellbound by the old gentleman and his tales and devotes a great piece of his life to finding him again. To say more about the plot would be to tell secrets so I shall leave it there.

Delaney's writing is engaging and knowledgeable. The characters are painted in broad brushstrokes and there are so many stories within the stories he tells that it might have all become a shade too complicated. Thankfully, Delaney is skillful enough to pull it off and I never had that nasty feeling of being all at sea. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

100. Laura Ingalls Wilder - The Long Winter

I'm delighted to be finishing off 'Read 100 books in 2008' with this well-loved book. Laura is growing up and becoming more aware of events outside of her own home, even though she's frightened of living in town at first. She makes new friends and tells of their adventures, most notably Almanzo's. The Ingalls family face very real dangers in this book and Laura is honest about how hard the winter was for them. Despite the hardships this is still a warm and loving account and very readable.

99. Pam Johnson-Bennett - Cat vs Cat

I have rather grave misgivings about some of the advice in this book. The author is a strong advocate of keeping cats exclusively indoors. She feels that the outside world is too dangerous for them and that allowing them out may cause redirected aggression within the home. I, on the other hand, am in favour of cats leading as natural a life as possible and that, I'm afraid, means braving the great outdoors. That said, this is still a useful guide for anyone in a multi-cat household or who has chosen to keep their cat(s) exclusively indoors. The author suggests great use of interactive play sessions and offers some good advice on feline relationships. That said, some of her advice does sound wrong to me - for example, if a cat is upset by something outside then one should cover the windows! - and likely to create a neurotic rather than a happy, confident cat.

Friday, 5 December 2008

98. Eliabeth Marshall Thomas - The Tribe of Tiger

I found this a fascinating look at the social and predatory behaviour of cats large and small across a variety of situations. The author has spent a considerable amount of time in Africa where she observed lions and their interaction with the native bushmen and I found her account of these wild animals fascinating. She also looks at captive tigers and comes to the conclusion that circus animals are actually better off than their zoo-bound counterparts. Pumas are also covered as are the humble house-cats. I read this book as part of my studies but would happily read it again for pleasure.

97. Leslie Parrott - You Matter More Than You Think

Although this is a very readable book with some interesting ideas, I didn't find myself drawn to the author although I'm sure she intended that I should be. I am left thinking that I am not a typical woman, according to her description, and that's a very unsettling feeling.

96. Debbie Macomber - Changing Habits

I’m very interested in Catholicism so I was intrigued by this, my first Debbie Macomber. She tells the story of three women who become nuns and friends. She tracks their history from childhood, looking at why they became nuns, what that life was like and why they left their Order after Vatican II. There are some big issues addressed – homesexuality, abortion, alcoholism – and I think the book was well researched. Although Ms Macomber fell into the trap of telling rather than showing a few times, I enjoyed this book and will look forward to reading more of her work.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

95. Charlie Connelly - Attention All Shipping

I feel very lucky to have been sent a copy of this book by a BookCrosser and apologise for not having read it sooner. Although some of the sporting references went straight over my head, I enjoyed this travel book very much. Connelly resolves to visit each area covered by the UK's Shipping News over the course of a year and this book is his account of his travels. Beginning with Viking, he works his way right through to South-east Iceland although he does rather fudge Trafalgar. His descriptions of his adventures (and mis-adventures) are amusing and he provides information on the geography and history for each area he visits. All in all a very enjoyable and educational read.

94. Nigel Slater - Eating for England

Having read Slater's previous book - Toast - I'd been looking forward to reading this volume. I was not disappointed although, rather than being a memoir, this book is full of little essays each covering some aspect of the British experience of food, cooking and eating. I do have one complaint though. I don't know who organised the chapters but they seem to have done so in a totally random manner. I would have enjoyed the book more if all the chapters on chocolate were together, all those on cooking together and so on.

93. Lee Janogly - Stop Bingeing!

I don't re-read this book so much because I like it as because it's the only thing that gets me back on the straight and narrow when I've been stuffing myself ...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Teaser Tuesday

"I wondered later how long my fellow music lovers had had to wait before their received the message that 'Reverend Cholmondeley-Pottlestone sleeps with the fishes', or some such. I was up and about early the next morning hoping to catch the fish market open for business on the west quay."
Attention All Shipping by Charlie Conelly

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!
Please avoid spoilers!

It's Tuesday - Where Are You?

I'm going to some unusual places this week, reading Charlie Connelly's Attention All Shipping. I've been to North and South Utsire, Dogger, Cromarty and Forth so far and have the delights of Clyde (my home), FitzRoy and Trafalgar still to come. I'm travelling round the nautical areas that make up that portion of sea covered by the Met Office/Radio 4's Shipping Forecast. I'm anticipating cold, wet and wind along with a healthy dose of humour.

Where Are You?

Monday, 3 November 2008

92. Victoria Osteen - Love Your Life

When I received this book, I was really worried I wouldn't like it. Fortunately, I did. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, a woman from Simon & Sauster: Free Press contacted me to see if I'd be interested in receiving a copy of Victoria Osteen's book. Well, how could I refuse a free book? Which rather committed me to reading and reviewing it. Which is great - but what if I didn't like it? Of course, I resolved to be honest about it and to try to find something good about the volume even if it wasn't my cup of tea. But I haven't had to struggle.

Victoria offers her own take on living life to the full in this slim volume. Using Bible stories and anecdotes to illustrate her points, she talks about attitude, relationships and love - giving *and* receiving. She avoids dotting about from one topic to the next and the book hangs together well without being repetative. Her language is rich and evocative without being too flowery so this book is a pleasant and quick read. Each chapter comes with a set of affirmations (called 'Anchor Thoughts') which is nice although I feel an explanation of how to use them would have been helpful. Also missing is a 'Going Deeper' or study section so there is a danger of the reader thinking: "That's all well and good but how do I *do* it?" But perhaps that's something that will be covered in future work? I'll certianly be looking with interest to see if Victoria publishes anything further - she has a talent for writing and it'd be a shame not to use it.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

91. Monica Ali - Brick Lane

I'm rather torn on how to review this book. I met with friends last night, before I'd finished it, and was ambivalent then too. I felt that my opinion would be strongly influenced by the ending. And it was.

Basically, this is the story of Nazneen. She grows up in a Bangladeshi village and then travels to England for an arranged marriage at 18. Her husband is Chanu - pompus, self-obsessed, talkative, ineffectual, irritating. He is a failure. Nazneen lives with him and their children in a high-rise flat in London. She learns to submit - although it does seem to come very naturally to her and she rarely rebels - and, I think, loves her husband.

Then she meets Karim - a young man, full of life and passion. And Nazneen has to grow up. One might say that she 'finds herself' and, indeed, she comments later 'that was before I knew what I could do.'

And the ending? After toiling through about 300 pages, the pace shifts dramatically. There are lost children, riots and absent husbands and the pages turned quickly. Was 'toiling' the best word? Parhaps not - I enjoyed the preceding pages. Monica Ali is an expert when it comes to characterisation and Chanu, in particular, will stay with me for a long time. I don't grudge the time I spent 'toiling'. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the read more if there had been more drama mixed with the day-to-day detail. But more drama would have lessened the impact of the last few chapters. Perhaps the sudden shift in pace could be seen as a metaphor for Nazneen's life - hum-drum, grey and boring and then, suddenly ...

But you'll have to read the book to make up your mind.

The Year of Readers 2009

Urgh. I was nearly finished writing a (slightly) witty post for this new project when Sammy-cat jumped on the computer. Of course, this would be the time when autosave hasn't autosaved. Le sigh. I really don't have the energy to write it all out again (even if I could remember my witticisms) - it's too early and too cold - so I will give you the bare bones.

I found this new challenge. I've decided to ask people to sponsor my reading for Eco Libris.

You know, if I'd just said that at the beginning I'd of saved a whole lot of time. Sometimes being witty isn't the best option.

Sponsors will receive a monthly email (also published here) letting them know which books I've read but I won't chase people for payment - I'd hate doing it and we're all adults. Payment can be by post in the UK (sterling only) or by Paypal in any currency (sterling preferred) although I would ask that you use Paypal sparingly (save up your payments and then give me a lump sum every few months) as I'll incur fees. When I have $10 I'll donate the money by buying 10 trees.

The little extra I'm planning is that the books I read will (mostly) be released via BookCrossing thus encouraging people to read in my locale. I will pay for any BookCrossing supplies I want rather than using sponsorship money. I'll also provide the books, obviously.

I think this is a great opportunity to get Mt ToBeRead under some kind of control, help the environment, help people in the developing world and encourage reading localling. You can help by also seeking sponsorship for your reading (for the charity of your choice) or by sponsoring me. If you'd like to sponsor me, please email me using the link on this page.

Friday, 31 October 2008

56th Page Meme

I'm jumping on the bandwagon with this meme which I found at A Girl Walks into a Bookstore.

Here's the deal:

"open up the nearest book to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The CLOSEST book, not your favorite or most intellectual."

And here's my answer:

"'It'll be noisy and dusty. I didn't want to get started without showing you the drawings and explaining it all first. And I ned your signature on a couple of permits.'"

And the book is Sealed with a Kiss by Mae Nunn.

Monday, 27 October 2008

90. Pam Young & Peggy Jones - Get Your Act Together

The Slob Sisters present a more streamlined version of the card index system for housework and incorporate some ideas from The Happiness File in this, their most recent, book. They also provide chapters on storage, how to get the family working alongside you and health. As with their other books, I found this an easy read (although I confess to skipping the sections which had no relevancy for me - I'm single). There are lots of ideas that I'd like to come back to - at the moment, I'm working on getting Back in the Box!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

89. Claire Bessant - The Secret Life of Cats

Bessant offers a comprehensive look at the domestic feline covering all aspects of its care and behaviour. Although some parts of the book were repetative (especially the A-Z of problems at the end) I enjoyed Bessant's writing which was friendly and confident.

88. Pam Young & Peggy Jones - The Sidetracked Sisters' Happiness File

It's difficult to review this book. I enjoyed reading it and left motivated to do the things I'm supposed to be doing but have neglected. Do I want to build a Happiness File? I want to adapt it but, yes.

Pam and Peggy begin this book five or six years since they 'got organised' using the 5x3 card system described in Sidetracked Home Executives. They are running seminars and making media appearances across the USA but are still disorganised in many ways. Realising that they're not walking the talk, they describe the steps they took to improve themselves and create their own Happiness Files. There are weekly and monthly themes and lessons for the reader but she is encouraged to make the system fit herself rather than the other way round.

The authors illustrate with lots of stories from their lives and, in parts, this book reads rather like a memoir rather than self-help. That said, the tone is engaging throughout and without the sugar that one has come to expect from FlyLady (who bases her system Pam & Peggy's).

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is securely using the original SHE system but wants to take it to the next level.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

87. Laura Ingalls Wilder - By the Shores of Silver Lake

I am amazed at how much I have forgotten since I last read this book as a teen. Of course, my forgetfulness has meant I had to pleasure of reading it almost for the first time. Laura and her family leave Plum Creek in this book and make their last trip West to De Smet where Pa finds work for the railroad company. They spend winter in 'the surveyors' house' before Pa files their claim in the Spring and they move to the homestead. Their characters are becoming more defined in these, later books, and it is interesting to see the girls growing up and thinking about their futures.

Friday, 10 October 2008

86. Nancy Leigh DeMoss - Lies Women Believe

Going back to The Fall, DeMoss traces the deceptions Satan uses to bring women into bondage and asserts that only the Word of God can set them free. While the tone was sometimes preachy, she makes a lot of good points in this book which I will reserve for further study.

85. Elizabeth George - A Woman's High Calling

Elizabeth George presents a comprehensive examination of Titus 2. Although she tends to lists rather than narrative, I found this an interesting book.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

84. Linda Gillard - Star Gazing

I found this an engaging read even though I didn’t always feel sympathetic towards to central character. The writing is rich and evocative although a lot of the musical references went right over my head. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys good writing, detailed characterisation and unpredictable romance.

83. Pam Young & Peggy Jones - Sidetracked Home Executives

Another re-read of one of my favourite non-fiction titles.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

82. Kraybill et al - Amish Grace

I found this an interesting and educational look at Amish life with particular regard to forgiveness in extreme circumstances.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

81. Joanna Weaver - Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

Weaver has a pleasant voice as she describes her journey towards balancing te 'Mary' and the 'Martha' in her life. She suggests that there are two sides to spirituality - the Living Room where one meets with God and the Kitchen where one gives service. She draws on Bible stories (and especially those of the sisters in Bethany) to highlight our need for a Sabbath and regular Quiet Time. I think there is a sequel to this book waiting on Mt TBR and I will be interested to see Weaver develop her ideas further.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

80. Wanda E Brunstetter - Going Home

The first volume of 'Brides of Webster County' this novel tells the story of Faith, a young woman who left the Amish community to become an entertainer in the English world. After the death of her husband, Faith returns to her family in Webster County intending to leave her daughter for her parents to raise while she returns to the entertaining circuit. Meantime, Amishman Noah is falling in love with Faith but knows he cannot enter into a relationship with her unless she has a relationship with God. This is a beautifully told love story with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing right until the end and I look forward to reading more from the series.

Monday, 15 September 2008

79. Elizabeth George - Following God with All Your Heart

Elizabeth George returns to her usual good form with this inspirational work. Taking six verses of Scripture, she discusses how a woman can become successful, courageous, exceptional, humble, contented and confident. This is an easy read even if the standards set seem somewhat unattainable!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

78. Laura Ingalls Wilder - On the Banks of Plum Creek

I am so enjoying re-reading this series of childhood favourites. Laura and her family have come to stay in a little house ‘On the Banks of Plum Creek’ where they hope to raise wheat. They go to school and Church for the first time as we watch the family cope with happenings big and small.

Friday, 12 September 2008

77. Jennifer Chiaverini - The Quilter's Apprentice

This is a start to the Elm Creek series that is almost as beautiful as the quilts it describes. We meet Sarah, Matt and Mrs Compson and are quickly drawn into their present life even as Mrs Compson tells the story of her family home - Elm Creek Manor. I'm greatly looking forward to the next instalment.

Monday, 8 September 2008

76. Laura Ingalls Wilder - Little House on the Prairie

I greatly enjoyed this episode from Laura Ingalls Wilder. The family settle in Indian country and we are given a detailed account of their year there setting up home, planting a garden and starting til till the soil. There are chuckles, chills and tears galore and I am very much looking

Sunday, 7 September 2008

75. Clare Blake and Chris Ledger - Insight into Anxiety

A very helpful look at anxiety from the Christian perspective. My only criticism is that the case studies seemed rather simplistic, unreal and patronising.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

74. Jenna Bailey - Can Any Mother Help Me?

This is the story of the Co-operative Correspondence Club - a group of women who corresponded for over fifty years through the pages of a secret magazine. I first heard about it in a mailing from Mass Observation where the articles are no help and was particularly interested to read it as it covers the Second World War years and promises an intimate look at women's lives. I was not disappointed. Bailey has skillfully edited the articles together into a cohesive whole while allowing the women to speak for themselves. Although I skipped the last two chapters (they appeared to deal mostly with death and this is a topic I'm not fond of!) I greatly enjoyed my peek into the lives of some extra-ordinary and ordinary women.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

73. Janette Oke - Love's Long Journey

In this, the third in the Love Comes Softly series, the narrative moves away from Marty to her step-daughter, Missie, and her ne husband, Willie. They join a wagon train moving west to start their own cattle ranch. The book tells of their adventures, joys and sorrows on the journey and over the first two years of their new life.

Still holding to the 'Laura Ingalls Wilder - for grown ups' style, Oke has a stronger Christian theme running through this book than the previous volumes - Missie is more overt in her religion than Marty. Oke avoids preaching, however, and this is still a romanticised view of frontier life.

A very enjoyable, light read - 8/10

Sunday, 10 August 2008

72. Rob Bell - Velvet Elivs

Title: Velvet Elvis
Author: Rob Bell
Publisher: Zondervan
Format: Audiobook
No. of pages: 4 discs
First sentence: --

I listened to this recording over a long period and I think this did not do it any favours. Additionally, I found that the author's reading of the text was very fast which made it difficult to really take in what he was saying. However, the gist appears to be that he is passionately excited about Christianity while being disappointed in the modern church.

Mimi Wilson & Shelly Cook Volkhardt - Holy Habits

Title: Holy Habits
Author: Mimi Wilson & Shelly Cook Volkhardt
Publisher: Navpress
Format: Paperback
No. of pages: 207
First sentence: The morning of my 30th birthday I determined not to waste any more time.

I picked up this book in Wesley Owen on a whim, just because I like the title. I think I was expecting a list of all the does and don'ts that one usually associates with Christianity. The authors have far exceeded my expectations. Presented at the CDs of 12 lessons, the book is divided into two parts. Section 1 deals with "Making Him Our Daily Focus" and provides a study of eight of the names of God. The second section is entitled "Changing Us from the Inside Out" and looks at the wheeze God works in our lives when we are willing to let him do so. Both sections include expediencies from the authors' lives along with examples from fictional accounts and people the authors have known. In the first section, the final part of each chapter includes the habits the authors suggest one acquires and questions for study and discussion.

It took less than a day to read this book although I fully intend to return to it for a further, more detailed study. I found the opening chapters dealt with some abstract concepts which I found difficult. However, the remainder of the book is much more practical in content and tone and there are many ideas which I look forward to implementing in my own life. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

70. Susan Cilyk -- Rainbow Bridge

Title: Rainbow Bridge
Author: Cilyk, Susan
Publisher: Athena Press
Format: Paperback
BCID: HTTP:\\www.bookcrossing.con/journal/6337096
No. of pages: 129
First sentence: As I stood in a private car park on an abnormally cold Sunday afternoon in the early summer setting a trap pilchards, my thoughts were filled with images of the many times I've been in similar positions…

I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to read this book. This is the story of the many cats who have entered the life of the author in her work as Cats Protection volunteer. I started reading the book by accident on the day that I received it and I read it in little bursts ever since. Some of the stories have made me cry and others have made me laugh until I cried. I find it amazing that there is someone in the world who is as dotty about cats as I am and who has had some similar experiences. For the first time in my reading to hear I'm actually considering writing to an author!

69. Lisa Bevere -- Nurture

Bevere, Lisa
Faith words
No. of pages:
First sentence:
I write as a mother and daughter of our time.

I have greatly enjoyed other books by Lis8 Bevere so I was very excited about the publication of Nurture. And fortunately, while I did enjoy reading this book, it did not quite live up to my high expectations. Lisa is writing about the role of women in society and highlights the way in which women for connections. She is suggesting that we are all daughters mothers and grandmothers to one another in mentoring relationships. This is an interesting concept, but not one I feel able to run with at present. For me, the most interesting part of the book was Lisa's experience of chancing upon an anti-abortion film on TV -- this has made a big impression on me.

I would be interested in looking at this book in greater depth but, at present, there is no work book available.

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Movements of the Books

Erik Rees - SHAPE: This book moves from Mt TBR to the Bible Study pile as it's the kind of book you do rather than the kind of book you read.

Orson Scott Card - Sarah: DNF - I've decided I don't like fictionalised accounts of Biblical characters.

Corrie Ten Boom - The Hiding Place: DNF - I did start this and am sure I would have got a lot out of it but I'm a bit depressed at the moment and so an autobiographical account of life in a concentration camp does not appeal.

Eirc & Leslie Ludy - When God Writes Your Life Story: 8/10 - I read this in a day after waiting impatiently for its arrival! Although I prefered Authentic Beauty, I found this an enjoyable and worthwhile read. The authors tell of the early years of their marriage and ministry and their aim of living life totally surrendered to God. There's plenty of practical help although, as with all books of this nature, there is the danger of legalism. This is a radical approach to Christianity and one which I find very appealing. I'll hold on to this for further study although I fear some of the ideas are beyond my reach.

In Other News, I'm experiencing severe problems with one of my wrists. I'm seeing the Dr this afternoon but suspect I'll be told to rest it which will curtail my online life. Fortunately, the other book I've been waiting for (Lisa Bevere - Nurture) has finally arrived so I do have something good to read!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

It's Here!

After yesterday's extreme disappointment (and resultant sulks!) one of the books I've been waiting for has finally arrived. So today will be mostly spent reading Eric and Leslie Ludy's When God Writes Your Life Story.

Incidentally, a reader asked what 'DNF' stands for? It's 'Did Not Finish.'

Friday, 1 August 2008


I am a very grumpy reader. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of two books I really, really want to read. I also have a migraine. Now, if either of said books had arrived in the morning's mail, I would have had a very pleasant day popping painkillers and reading. As it is, I'm DNFing everything I come across. Here we go:

Beverly Lewis - The Crossroad: I read The Postcard on holiday last year and complained then that Lewis had employed one of my pet hates - dialect. Dialect is fine when it's one character's voice. Well. I still don't like it much but I can live with it. Unfortunately, Lewis allowed the Amish dialect to spill over into her own narration. It would have worked, perhaps, if the book were narrated by an Amish character, in the first person. I forgave Lewis for this when reading The Postcard (possibly because I was on holiday and therefore only had a limited number of books available?). So, just over a year later, I come to the sequel - The Crossroad. Unfortunately, I've read a lot of books since then and don't remember much from The Postcard. But I expected that there would be some overlap between the books and it'd all come flooding back to me. This wasn't the case. Lewis provides a few pages in the voice of one of the principal characters and then goes on with the story and there just weren't sufficient signposts for me. I felt all at sea, was irritated by the language and gave up. If I'd read the two books more closely together, I might have persevered. But I am as I am and life's too short. Especially when my head's thumping!

Jay E Adams - Christian Living in the Home: I'd already looked at this book and cast it aside but decided to make another attempt. I got a little further this time before learning that the author believes there's no such thing as mental illness (save for that caused by brain injury). As a sufferer of Atypical Bipolar Disorder who has now recovered from bad Church experiences (no, I'm not demon possessed ...) I decided to close the book at this point.

James D Berkley - Essential Christianity: This is a pleasant enough little book which aims to set out the tenets of Christianity in an easily digestable format. The author is a little patronising - I think he's just trying to hard to be friendly. As I'm already a Christian, I don't see the point in reading it.

Judith Miller - Whispers Along the Rails: I read the first in this series (In the Company of Secrets) some time ago. Unfortunately, I couldn't really interest myself in this instalment. The situation of a young woman becoming a kind of mystery shopper on the railways in the (I think) 19th Century didn't appeal to me although it's possible that I would enjoy this as a popcorn book at another time. For now, however, as I'm being ruthless I shall allow the book to find a new home.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

How Has Blogging, Or Reading Blogs, Changed Your Reading?

This is the question posed over at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? today. And a very interesting question it is too :)

Blogging has changed my reading in fairly subtle ways, I think. The most obvious thing is that my wishlist and Mt TBR have increased greatly as I've seen books reviewed and then tried to Mooch them. I'd imagine that this is the case for most book bloggers. Of course, I'm on The Project now so am avoiding the acquisition of books (and I'm doing not bad although I'm not perfect) but my little wishbook is rapidly filling a small notebook.

I've found, since I've been reviewing books (first on BookCrossing, then also LibraryThing, now also here) that I read more actively. Instead of just passivly letting the words wash over me, I'm judging the writing and watching to see if I'm enjoying it. Yes, I still sometimes read quite mindlessly but I do tend to have one eye on my review as I read.

The other change that blogging has wrought is the challenges. I used to read books in the (rough) order in which they entered by home. Today I have a challenge shelf and read from that. If it's ever empty (like that's going to happen any time soon!) I'll go back to my former method. The challenge shelf is a kind of fast-track for the books and I'll also put books there that other people have asked for when I'm done with them or that I have a burning desire to read and therefore don't want to put on Mt TBR. I like my new system and it does appear to be working for me.

The only negative I can see is that reading blogs takes me away from reading books. Sometimes, when I'm tired and not having a good day, it's so much easier to surf through some blogs instead of schooling myself to settle down with my book. I did this last night. Sure, I had fun but would my time have been better spent with my book? Maybe. But I think it's all a question of balance.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Teaser Tuesday

There are so many lovely games and challenges about at the moment. I really love this one. Here are the rules:

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!

So, here we go:

Judith Miller - Whispers Along the Rails - page 43

"One thing was certain: she'd soon need to make plans for her future. She had paid for her room rent through the end of February, or was it March?"

Naming Convention Challenge 2008

I've come across a very interesting challenge. Here are the rules:

1) Write down your first name (or whatever name you usually go by)
2) Do any or all of the following:
2a) For each letter, pick an author whose last name starts with that letter.
2b) For each letter, pick an author whose first name starts with that letter.
2c) For each letter, pick a book that starts with that letter.
3) Books can be cross-overs from other challenges, but each book can only be used once in this challenge. Authors may be repeated though.
4) The challenge lasts one month per letter of your name

I've decided, firstly, that I can't resist a good challenge. And, secondly, to use my first name (Laura) to choose books whose titles begin with the letters. So the selections are:

Janette Oke - Love's Long Journey
Jan Karon - At Home in Mitford
Kazuo Ishiguro - The Unconsoled
Vanessa Del Fabbro - The Road to Home
Marlena de Blasi - A Thousand Days in Venice

Happy reading, everyone!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Monday Musings #2: Choosing Your Next Book

Today's Monday Musings asks:

What do you think? Would you use a program like this [BookLamp], that helped you pick books to read based on what you’ve read before?

I think BookLamp sounds a fairly good idea but I think there would be a danger of the reader falling into a rut of always reading books of Type A and missing out on all the other Types she might enjoy. I suppose it would depend on exactly how the site makes selections for you. I certainly wouldn't want to be dependant on one source for reading recommendations. At the moment I gather wishes from various blogs, LibraryThing and friends over at BookCrossing.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

67. Niki Anderson - What My Cat Has Taught Me About Life

This is a charming book which would be welcome at my bedside anytime. It is subtitled 'Meditations for Cat Lovers' and lives up to its aims. The author has put together a series of lovely, catty stories with prayers and verses of Scripture. A welcome addition to my library, I plan to hold onto it for now although I will send it out on a Ring when I've completed the feline behaviour course I'm currently working on.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Unread Authors Challenge II

The Unread Authors Challenge II will be getting underway on 1st August 2008. And I'd like to play ... The rules are simple. Read six books in six months by authors that you have never read before. You can read six books by one 'unread' author or six books by six authors or something in between. I'm going to choose:

Book Lover by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack
Jam and Jeopardy by Doris Davidson
Bread Alone by Judi Hendricks
Sarah by Orson Scott Card
Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh
The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini

Musing Mondays

There's a new bookish meme in town. Should Be Reading's Musing Mondays aims to encourage readers to talk about their reading. How could that be bad?

Today's prompt is:

Every once in awhile, especially when I hear a lot about book challenges and number of books read, I want to pull back and ask people why they read. Is reading inherently better than watching movies or making jewelry or cooking fancy cakes or cultivating roses? Is reading ever negative and, if so, when? So why do we read?

I think it'd be sad if my reading ever boiled down to how many pages I can get through in a day. I suppose that's a danger of challenges and such but, as I've only just started doing them, I've not found it a problem thus far.

Why do I read? It's only partly the content of the books. I love the process of reading. I love running my eyes over the words and seeing them come to life as I learn their meanings. I find it calming and magical and consuming. I can, quite literally, get lost in a book. A lot of my reading is distraction. I have mental health problems which include anxiety and reading is the best way I've found to force my mind to switch off the nasty feelings and tune in to something more pleasant. For me, reading is better than watching a film or knitting or going for a walk. It suits the way my mind works. Is it inherently better for everyone? I'm inclined to say it is. Surely it's better to be engaging your mind with a good book than vegging out in front of the TV? I feel strongly that reading is superior to movies, TV and popular music. It is equal to other hobbies that engage the mind. I think my objection to TV etc is that it's so passive. All we need to do is clutch the remote and gaze at the pretty pictures. Which is fine for a little while but not four hours a night (or whatever the average is).

Is reading ever negative? I don't think so ... I'm struggling to find a way that it is. There are plenty of pop-corn books out there (I'm thinking cheap romances and sci-fi) but even these require us to engage our minds to some extent.

I think my beliefs about reading are very strongly influenced by my own experiences of poor mental health. Because it is beneficial for *me* to read a lot, I tend to assume that it is likewise beneficial for everyone. And, really, why would it not be?

Saturday, 19 July 2008

66. Geraldine Brooks - Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders
Brooks, Geraldine
4th Estate
No. of pages:
First sentence:
I used to love this season.

I chose to read this book because I enjoy historical fiction and found something oddly romantic about the concept of a seventeenth century village quarantining itself while plague was amongst the inhabitants. I was not disappointed.

The central character and narrator is a young widow named Anna. She has an engaging personality and her voice rings true throughout the text. Brooks has chosen a style of language which seems natural to Anna and has obviously researched her subject meticulously. At times I could see myself sitting at Anna's hearth while she told me her story - and it is a story that held my interest from start to finish.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction based on the facts as we know them. I have read another book by Brooks and am looking forward to reading more in the future.


Monday, 14 July 2008

65. Amy Tan - The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
Tan, Amy
Ivy Books
Paperback (Cleaning Challenge)
No. of pages:
First sentence:
The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.

This book was sent to my by the very generous hetku77 as part of chirel's Cleaning Challenge. I had wishlisted it after reading a description/review of it.

This is the first Amy Tan I have read. I enjoyed her style of writing, finding it smooth and easy to speed along with although the plot is slow and simple rather than thrilling. The book gives us scenes from the lives of eight women - four Chinese mothers and their four American-Chinese daughters. Each scene is evocative and intricately depicted. I found myself sighing, wincing and getting frustrated along with the characters. My only criticism is that the different narratives didn't really have different voices so I had to keep checking to see whose story I was reading and whose family she fitted into. That said, I cannot think of how differentiation could have been achieved without falling into cliché.

The main theme of this book is mother-daughter relationships. I found many parallels to my own life even though I'm not Chinese.

I would recommend this book to women who enjoy family sagas, cross-culturalism and examining relationships. The cover is fairly attractive, showing a very Chinese design. I have at least one other Amy Tan book on Mt TBR and will look out for more in the future.


Friday, 11 July 2008

Classics Challenge May-Dec 2008 - Change

I made a rather half-hearted effort with James Montgomery Boice's The Parables of Jesus for this challenge (on which I am already behind) this afternoon. I don't know why I got this book as it didn't appeal to me at all when it arrived and has continued not to do so as I've shifted it from box to shelf to pile. Anyway, I read the first chapter and still didn't want to continue so I've decided to substitute The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Hopefully I will get on better with that!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

64. Deeanne Gist - The Measure of a Lady

The Measure of a Lady
Gist, Deeanne
Bethany House
No. of pages:
First sentence:
This Street is Impassable, Not Even Jackassable.

I had a copy of Gist's first book (A Bride Most Begrudging) but found it too unlikely to be enjoyable. This second work seemed much more firmly grounded in fact and, indeed, Gist says in the Author's Note that many of the events retold did in fact happen although the characters and plot are works of fiction. I found myself sucked into the whirl of storytelling right from the start. I particularly like the loose ends that still dangle at the end of the book. This is unusual for me - I usually like to see everything set square by the end of a novel.

Gist's style is easy to read and easy to love. Her language is simple but effective. Some passages made me wince while others really did make me laugh out loud.

I think Johnnie is my favourite character. He's a good boy made bad and I'd be happy to have him sweep me off my feet! The romance in this book is passionate without falling into salaciousness. Gist raises questions about sexuality, prostitution and purity and deals honestly with these difficult issues.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, old-fashioned romance. The cover is very attractive - indeed, I sometimes paused in my reading just to sneak a peak at it. The title is appropriate to the text weaving in Rachel's desire to fulfil expectations and her realisation of what being a lady really means.

I will read more from this author although I probably won't revisit A Bridge Most Begrudging.


The TBR Project: Amended

It's my Project and I can do it any way I like!

I'm really missing reading book blogs and reviews and keeping a wishlist. Now, I can't keep my list on BookCrossing or BookMooch because that's a sure-fire way to ensure that I end up acquiring the books (even if I don't buy them). But I'm going to allow myself a non-computer wishlist. I have a nice, new notebook and I shall write down what I would like to read when the Project is over.

The alternative to this softening would be my giving up in disgust 'cause 'I'm deprived' and that won't shrink Mt TBR!

Monday, 7 July 2008

63. Roger Tabor - Understanding Cats

Understanding Cats
Tabor, Roger
David & Charles
No. of pages:
First sentence:
They key to understanding cats is to look at the many aspects of the animal and to develop an integrated view.

I acquired this book as part of the Feline Behavioural Course I'm doing. I've read another book by Roger Tabor and have still more sitting on Mt TBR! I really enjoyed this volume. The information is clearly presented and the lavish illustrations made it a real pleasure to read. Tabor's writing is easy and informative. He has a clear passion for his subject and explains sometimes complex topics succinctly. I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in cats.


Sunday, 6 July 2008

62. Max Lucado - Cure for the Common Life

Cure for the Common Life
Lucado, Max
W Publishing Group
No. of pages:
First sentence:
"Sweet spot."

The title of this book really appealed to me on a rainy day in Glasgow when life seemed incredibly common. This is the first Max Lucado book I've read and I was most impressed. Using People Managemet International's 'STORY' method, Lucado guides the reader to discover their sweet spot - the spot in which they are using their uniqueness to make a big deal out of God every day of their lives. The book is split into two parts. The first contains Max's analysis of the STORY while the second, written by a representative of PMI, tells the reader how to write their own STORY.

I really enjoyed Lucado's lyrical writing style while finding the content incredibly relevant and stimulating. I haven't worked through the second part of the book but intend to put this book into the 'for further study' box to do later. I am blow away by the idea that God doesn't want to take away my passions - instead he wants to use them for His glory!

I would recommend this book to anyone seeking purpose in their life and I will certainly be looking for more Lucado books in the future.


Thursday, 3 July 2008

61. Peter Ho Davies - The Welsh Girl

The Welsh Girl
Davies, Peter Ho
Paperback (BookRing)
No. of pages:
First sentence:
Outside, the technicolor sunset is giving way to the silvery sweep of searchlights over distant Cardiff as a hand tugs the blackout curtain across the sky.

I read this book because I'm interested in the social history of the Second World War. I'm not sure that 'enjoy' is quite the right word to describe the reading experience. The book seemed dark and grey, sinister in parts. But the stories - of a German Jew, a German POW and a Welsh woman - all entwined in a captivating manner. I tend to enjoy female characters more than male and found that the case here - I wish the loose ends of Esther's story hadn't been gathered so swiftly at the end of the book.

Much of the book is written in the present tense (presumably to differentiate from the flash-back scenes) and I found this a little strange, perhaps the narrative is set so firmly in the 1940s and they are most certainly the past.

I would recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the Second World War whether they're interested in military or social history as both sides are covered.


Wednesday, 2 July 2008

60. Joyce Meyer - How to Hear from God

How to Hear from God
Meyer, Joyce
No. of pages:
First sentence:
Learning to hear from God and be led by the Holy Spirit is very exciting.

I read this book because I usually enjoy Joyce Meyer and the subject matter appealed to me. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed. Although the book does contain some good information, it lacks a coherent argument and tends to dot about from subject to subject. It is also repetitive and contains several power-trips for Meyer to enjoy. I think this is one of her earlier books as it lacks the sophistication of her latter works. I would, however, still recommend this book to others who are interested in Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity.


Rings or Rays?

Katie1980 asked, very sensibly, why I'm Ringing books read for The Project rather than Raying them?  I also realise that (maybe) someone might read this who isn't a BookCrosser so a word of explanation is needed.

BookRings and BookRays (Rings and Rays) are run via BookCrossing.   In both cases, the book travels down a list of participants each of whom reads it and leaves a Journal Entry reviewing the book.  In a Ring the book returns to the originator when it gets to the end of the list.  In a Ray the book becomes the property of the last person on the list.  So, if you're trying to get rid of books, a Ray is the way to go.

But I've chosen to Ring the books I read for The Project.  Why?  I suppose it's habit.  I always Ring what I read and have done for a number of years.  When the Ring's over and the book comes home I usually put it on BookMooch.  And that's what I will continue to do.  My books need to pay for themselves and, when The Project is over, I'll be Mooching for books again and will need points.  If I end up with an enormous bank of points and am still on The Project and therefore not Mooching then I can send the points to Charity.  I also Wild Release and OBCZ Release books that I've read and then Ringed so that's another outlet for books once they come home.  I enjoy all these activities and I think if I were to eliminate them by doing Rays only then I'd feel like I'd lost my hobby and The Project would soon fall by the wayside.  It'd be a bit like dieting and banning all the food you enjoy.  It's not likely to work in the long-term.  And, with this many books to deal with, long-term is the way it's going to be!

Oh - I should also say ... I really don't feel tempted to keep the books when they do come home from their Ring.  I've already read the book and it's rare for me to desire a re-read.  So there's very little chance of a read and Ringed book finding it's way back onto Mt TBR.  Anything I thought was that good won't be getting Ringed anyway (books sometimes go astray on these things).  It'd go into the 'Further Study' pile or straight into Permanent Collection.  Further Study is currently looking rather full so I'll be choosier than usual and PC isn't a problem as it fits in its home (or would, if the space wasn't taken up by Mt TBR).  I do need to knuckle down and do some of the studying I have planned and probably also weed out the books a bit but, compared to Mt TBR, FS and PC just don't even rate as problems.

And so I shall read ...!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Mount ToBeRead Project

I have too many books.  

This is something I realise periodically.  And I periodically go on Book Diets and vow that there will be no more until Mt TBR reaches manageable proportions.  Sometimes I [gasp] have a Book Cull.  This is not as drastic as it sounds - I'm a BookCrosser and have plenty of things to do with unwanted books.

None of these measures is long-lasting or effective.  Because I am an addict.

I've been decluttering and tidying and cleanng my home.  And have started putting all the boxes of Mt TBR in one place.  I've never done this before and I am, quite frankly, shocked.  Far from being a convenient way to store those books that won't fit on the shelves, the boxes are taking over the living room.  There are seven boxes in there now and I can no longer hide them behind the curtains.  And there are more to come.  And then there are the bookcases.  And the books that aren't contained but live on the study floor.  And, of course, this is only Mt TBR.  Never mind Permanent Collection or those for release or BookMooching or whatever.  Oh Lord.  I've just remembered another hidden stash.

I have too many books.

Now, I'm a BookCrosser and we've already established that this gives me an easy avenue by which to release unwanted books.  I have resolved to BookCross in a more active manner and get the random books which I don't want to read out of the house that way.  But what about Mt TBR?  I'm not about to release a book unread when I paid good money for it and still want to know the secrets hidden in its pages.  But reading and then releasing all these books will take years.  And if I keep adding to Mt TBR in the way I have been then it becomes of Forth Road Bridge project.  (For those who don't know, it takes so long to paint this bridge that the men start again as soon as they reach the end and will never be 'finished.')

So I would like to introduce you to:

The Mount ToBeRead Project.

The aim of the Project is to reduce the size of Mt TBR.  I'm not going to start counting the number of books on the Mountain.  I think it's pretty self-evident that the Mountain is huge and drastic action is needed.  Enough said.  To make the Project measurable, my goal is to fit Mt TBR into two shelves of the bookcase in the study (each measures about 1.5 meters).  I'm thinking two shelves so that I can have one for fiction and one for non-fiction.

In order to meet my goal, I'm going to enforce the following Rules for the duration of the Project:

  1. No book acquisition.  This includes Rings, BookMooch, NSSs and shopping.  It does not include books required for studying.  It does not include instances where I have (say) No. 3 of a series.  I may acquire books 1 and 2 but not book 4.  The prohibition includes audiobooks.
  2. No digital wishlists.  I may keep a Word.doc or something listing books I really want to read when the project is over (eg book 4 of a series where I've read 1-3) but no BM/BC/Amazon wishlists.
  3. No eye candy.  I may not read reviews of books not currently on Mt TBR.
  4. No magazines.
  5. No knitting.  
  6. No Sky+.
Reading is to be my primary focus.  I do not expect that I shall read a book a day for the next five years or anything like that but, given the choice of what to do, I shall read.  And I shall endeavour to avoid things that would distract me from my goal - like magazines (which don't count as reading).

I will be ruthless in the application of The Fifty Page Rule.  With this many books available, I can afford to be choosy.  DNFs will be released (either wild or through BookMooch).  Read books will be Ringed and then also released.

I will blog about my progress right here.

Let the Project commence!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Incoming Books

Mimi Wilson & Shelly Cook Volkhardt - Holy Habits
Anne Tyler - Digging to America
Erik Rees - SHAPE

Friday, 27 June 2008

59. Veronica Heley - Master of the Hall

Master of the Hall
Heley, Veronica
No. of pages:
First sentence:
It was a bad decision.

I started reading this series last year. In fact, Eden Hall was the first Christian fiction book I actually finished. I was attracted by its billing as a 'modern-day Cinderella' story. I read the first three books in quick succession but found Secret of the Hall a bit sinister. Fearing that Master of the Hall was be more so I avoided reading until now.

I found that I did enjoy this book although perhaps not as much as Eden Hall. Minty and Patrick are the same flawed but loveable characters and we are party to their exploration of what marriage and parenthood mean. The themes of forgiveness and prayer also run strongly in this book. The sinister element I had feared was not much in evidence. Indeed, I think that the author may have missed an opportunity here. But, of course, I would likely have laid the book aside had she taken that road. I did find that some of the plotting was a bit confusing and I'm still asking, 'Why?' on a couple of points.

Heley has a very pleasant narrative voice and I do look forward to reading more of her work.

Eden Hall is endowed with a wide variety of characters. I think my favourite is (understandably) Minty as I know most about her. Choosing from the more minor characters, however, my favourite is Carol because she's so honest and forthright without being intimidating.

I would recommend this book to others who enjoy Christian fiction and, specifically, to people who have read the proceeding books. This one could be read alone but I think a lot of the magic would be lost. The cover is attractive. Indeed, it makes me long to step into the warm, fire-lit room Minty is looking at. The title is only specially meaningful in the light of the book's ending so I shall not write about that here.


Thursday, 12 June 2008

Incoming Books!

Alexander Kent - Midshipman Bolitho
Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities
Amy Tan - The Joy Luck Club
Peter Ho Davies - The Welsh Girl
Marina Lewycka - wo Caravans