Weekly Geeks – Reading from the Decades

This week’s Weekly Geeks is about examining a book (or books) which were published in your birth decade. Tell us about a book that came out in the decade you were born which you either loved or hated. Is it relevant to today? Is it a classic, or could it be? Give us a mini-review, or start a discussion about the book or books.

The first author I thought of who had written books in the 1940s was Enid Blyton and one of the books she published in 1946, my birth year is The First Term at Malory Towers. The Malory Towers books (she published 6 between 1946 and 1951) were amongst my favourite Enid Blyton books.

I read all of them avidly! The lives of these girls at boarding school were so different from mine. It sounded wonderful, by the sea, at a school that looked like a castle with towers built on the cliffs in Cornwall.

This is boarding school fiction written well before J K Rowling was born. I loved all the books about Darrell Rivers’ adventures at Malory Towers from the age of twelve, when she first went there. It’s been years since I read them but I still remember wishing I could go to a school like that. There is more information on this book and other Enid Blyton books at The Enid Blyton Society.  I had started to write this post and stopped to watch Country Tracks and amazingly part of the programme was about Dorset where Enid Blyton once lived. Even though she located Malory Towers in Cornwall she was actually describing the landscape of Dorset. Ben Fogle was looking at places connected to Enid including the swimming pool cut out of the rocks that features in Malory Towers. The real pool was dug out of the rocks in the 1930s when a headmaster wanted to stop his boys from jumping into the sea from the rocks.

 I no longer have my copy, but I do have two of the series – In the Fifth at Malory Towers and Last Term at Malory Towers, in which Darrell is the headgirl of the whole school. I’m tempted to read them again, but maybe I won’t enjoy them as much now as I did before and I’ll find them terribly dated.

The next book I first read when I was in my teens and it is Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, the first in his Gormenghast series. I found this book in the library, attracted to it by the unusual title. I thought it was brilliantly fantastic and read all three of the series. A few years ago I bought all three books.

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

This is from the back cover of Titus Groan:

Titus Groan, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, has just been born. A Groan of the strict lineage, Titus is seventy-seventh, he will inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle, and its surrounding kingdom. His world will be predetermined by complex ritual, the origins of which are lost in time; it will be peopled by the dark characters who inhabit the half-lit corridors. Lord Sepulchrave, a figment of melancholy, and his red-haired Countess; Swelter the chef and his bony enemy, Flay; Prunesqallor, castle physician, and his etiolated sister, Irma, and Steerpike, the Machiavellian youth.

This is a strange world and I loved it. I think it has stood the test of time, mainly because it is timeless, set in its own world. And, of course, I’m keen to read them again too.

My third choice is one I read only this year – The Hollow by Agatha Christie. I think this is one of the best Christie books. It is a country-house mystery with plenty of characters who could be the murderer and it kept me guessing, almost to the end. I wrote about it in February. This is also a book I’d love to re-read.

Weekly Geeks – Shiny Book Syndrome

The Weekly Geeks’ topic this week is from Tara SG (25 Hour Books). She writes:

In case you don’t know me, I like to make up medical sounding names for my book obsessions. For example: P.A.B.D.. I’d now like to introduce Shiny Book Syndrome. This is usually accompanied by a book hording problem yet to be named.

So what is Shiny Book Syndrome? It is when a person only wants to read their newest book and leave piles of poor unread books on their shelves to collect dust.

What can you do to alleviate the symptoms?

My first suggestion would be to make a list of all the books you own. I use GoogleDocs. I start by creating a form and then can organize the spreadsheet to see what I have and if I’ve read it yet or not. (For more info on how to do this, go here).

My immediate reaction to this topic was that yes I have Shiny Book Syndrome, but when I looked at the list of books I’ve recently finished I realised that although I may think of reading my newest acquisition, I don’t actually do it.

I am tempted to read new books as soon as possible, and sometimes give in but mostly I wait until I’ve at least finished the books I’m currently reading. By that time the urge to read that newest book has faded, only to be replaced by the next book/s.

At the end of last year I joined Emily’s Attacking the TBR Tome Challenge and have been making quite a few inroads into my unread books (I’ve read 18 of them since December!) and I try to balance my reading – reading some from the TBR shelves, then some of the new books and slot in reading library books somewhere in between. Other challenges may help, if I can slot in some of the TBR books, but often they don’t, so these days I’ve backed off from some challenges.

Borrowing books from the library is one  reason I don’t get round to reading my own books, because I’ll often read a library book in preference merely because it’s due back and I’ve reached the renewal limit.

Most of my books are catalogued in Library Thing, unread books tagged TBR. It’s very useful as I can quickly see all the books I’ve yet to read, but that doesn’t make me pick one up and read it. Why is it that once I’ve owned books for a while they no longer have the same attraction they had when I bought them? There are always more books to attract me – that’s it – I keep on finding more books I want to read.

But, it’s not really a problem, because I read as the mood or interest in a book takes me. It would be a problem if I was left with no books to read as I would feel deprived and irritable – that would be much worse than too many.

Weekly Geeks – Book Trailers?

The Weekly Geeks’ question is about book trailers:

In the last year or two a new entity has arisen in the publishing world: the book trailer. Apparently every self-respecting book has to have one these days so it seemed a good time to have a chat about them. Feel free to answer as many (or as few) of these questions as you like.

  • Do you watch book trailers?
  • If yes, do you actively seek them out or just watch the ones that get pushed to you in some way?
  • If you don’t watch them, why not?
  • Have you ever read a book based solely on seeing the trailer? What book was it and what did you like about the trailer?
  • Where do book trailers come on your list of things that influence you with regards to what books to read (friends’ recommendations, mainstream reviews, bloggers, bookstore promotions, the blurb….)?
  • Do you have a favourite book trailer that you’d like to share? What do you like about it?
If you have missed out on seeing many book trailers you might like to visit the Moby Awards website which list the nominees and winners of what is set to become an annual award for the best (and worst) book trailers.

My answer

I enjoy deciding what to read, sometimes it’s better than actually reading a book – not every book’s a winner. So anything that helps me decide what to read next is welcomed. At the moment as I’ve just finished one book I’m wondering which one to read next and this time I want to read a book for the pure joy of the reading experience – not to accomplish anything, or to learn something, nor to cross a book off a list of to-be-read books. I want to read a book I’m going to enjoy that entertains me, holds my attention and intrigues me.

So when I came across this question I realised that here is another source of information on books and it’s one that has somehow escaped my attention until now. I scour book blogs for inspiration and browse my bookshelves, library shelves and bookshop shelves. I scan on-line book sellers and get information from family and friends, from newspapers, and from radio and TV programmes about books, but I’ve never watched a book trailer before today.

My starting point was the link above to the Moby Awards site, where I looked at a few trailers and was disappointed. Nothing there to hold my attention, nothing to excite me or make me want to read the books. I looked for more and found a trailer for a new ghost story by Susan Hill – The Small Hand.  It’s so-so, some spooky-type music and black and white images, but it doesn’t make me want to read the book any more than a written description would. In fact I prefer the written description, for one thing it’s a lot quicker than watching a trailer and for another it’s the words I want, not sounds or images, as I can supply those myself from my imagination.  Book trailers just don’t appeal to me.

But although they’re not for me, I think that anything that gets people reading books is a good thing.

Weekly Geeks:Secret pasts and peculiar presents

Bernadette at Reactions to Reading asks these questions at Weekly Geeks :

A couple of incidents have prompted this week’s topic.

  1. I very much enjoyed the two Susan Hill novels that I’ve read and already have the next book in her series Simon Serrailler series on my audio book playlist. Then I discovered, via the author’s opinion column in a UK newspaper, that I don’t particularly like her personality (this piece is an example of what I found mean-spirited and inaccurate about her rants but there were other articles too). Suddenly her books did not seem so appealing any longer.
  2. Craig Sisterson’s excellent blog Crime Watch featured an article about historical mystery author Anne Perry who, as it happens, committed a particularly grim murder many years ago (at the ripe old age of 15). “Thank heavens I’m not a fan of hers” was my first thought.

So I have been pondering the issues of whether it is possible to separate an author’s non-writing life from the books they produce and thought I’d throw these questions over to you. Feel free to answer one or more of these and give examples if you have them.

Does an author’s politics matter to you? Do you have a favourite book or series written by someone you know to be your political opposite? Or have you stopped reading works by a particular author after discovering that their politics was radically different from your own?

What about their personality? Have you ever stopped reading an author’s work after seeing or hearing them talk because you didn’t like what you saw or heard?

And how about that secret past? How would you feel if you found out your favourite author was a murderer or some other kind of criminal? Are there some crimes that you would be OK about and others that would stop you following their work? Do you know about the pasts of ‘your’ authors? Do you want to?

I’d like to say that a writer’s personality and/or past life crimes don’t affect my reading their work and that I judge it on its own merits. But of course it does. It hasn’t actually stopped me reading their books but I find it means their books have to be sufficiently absorbing for me to disregard what I know about their authors. The only way to avoid that influence is not to read anything about an author.

With regard to Susan Hill, I like her books and had read those comments and articles she published, plus her blog. I don’t agree with everything she writes by any means, but I did find her blog entertaining, perhaps more so when I didn’t agree with her views, and I went to hear her talk at Abingdon. She is not an easy character, in my opinion, certainly not very comfortable speaking in public and she had some very sharp words to say about e-books and book bloggers. But I still enjoy her books and won’t stop reading them.

I’ve read one book by Anne Perry, which I didn’t think was very good and based on that book I decided not to bother reading any more of her books. I didn’t know anything at all about her, but when I saw other bloggers recommending her books I checked them online and read about her crime. I did wonder whether that would have affected my decision if I’d known about it when I chose her book to read but I suspect it wouldn’t have put me off. There are plenty of films and books about real-life crime and I have no qualms about watching/reading them.

Non-fiction is different. For example, I want to know that an author’s credentials are genuine when reading books on health, diet, exercise and so on. I used to go to a book group where one person always asked these question about an author – “Who is the person and why should we take any notice of what s/he writes? “.

Unfortunately I haven’t always asked myself those questions. I picked up Bad Science  by Ben Goldacre this morning, which my husband is currently reading. Ben Goldacre is a qualified doctor working for the NHS, so maybe I can trust his book. There is a chapter on “Dr. Gillian McKeith PhD”, which reveals that she is neither a medical doctor, nor is she qualified as a nutritionist. Her PhD was  bought from a non-accredited correspondence course college. I had watched her TV programmes, You Are What You Eat with interest and I even bought her book, which has since sat on the bookshelves unread, along with other books such as Carol Vorderman’s book Detox for Life – both of them totally useless books, Carol’s because, as my husband points out, I didn’t follow it, but then I didn’t want to spend loads of money on all the supplements she recommends, although some of her recipes are good. As my bookshelves are groaning under the weight of too many books I think it’s time to get rid of at least McKeith’s book.

Weekly Geeks – Reading Globally

weekly-geeksThis week’s Weekly Geeks is brought to us by Terri who asks us about our world travels through books.

Are you a global reader? How many countries have you “visited” in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven’t yet?

I’ve included books both set  in the country and by a native or resident of the country. I don’t have favourite places or cultures to read about – my choice of books is purely haphazard as far as location is concerned. Looking at the map there are large “white” areas indicating countries I’ve yet to visit. Brazil is the only country I’ve “visited” in South America through reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, who is Brazilian. I’ll be reading more from South America with Isabel Allende’s City of the Beasts and The House of Spirits.

Create Your Own Map at The World 66 site

Some of my favourites are:

Weekly Geeks – Reading Challenges

weekly-geeksThis week’s Weekly Geeks topic was suggested by Sheri of A Novel Menagerie. She writes:

“Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you’ve failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I’ve picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?”

As we pass the halfway point of 2009, how are you doing with your reading challenges? Did you participate in any challenges this year?

I’m always attracted to the reading challenges, full of enthusiasm for reading the books and I joined quite a few last year. But then I found that I wanted to read other books when I “should” be reading the challenge books.  Now, bearing in mind that these are all books I want to read I can’t really understand that, except that it’s that imaginary “should” that’s the stumbling block. I’m very much a mood reader!

So, at the beginning of this year I decided to limit myself to just a few reading challenges and I chose What’s In a Name? I took part in that last year and completed it. This has six categories such as read a book with a building in the title, the time of day, the name of a relative etc. I’m doing OK and have read books from two of the categories; as this challenge is for the whole year I reckon I can still easily finish it. They’re all books from my TBR list, which helps.

I can’t say that doing any of the reading challenges has made me pick up and read books I haven’t heard of before, but that’s because I’ve used them to read books I already own or by authors I already know – such as the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. I’m loving that one – each time I finish one I go to the library and borrow another one. So far I’ve struck lucky, with at least one AC book sitting on the shelf ready for me to read.

There’s a tab at the top of my blog for Reading Challenges where I’ve tried to keep track of them – I need to add the Agatha Christie Challenge to it and update the whole thing!

There’s also Support Your Local Library Reading  Challenge 2009 – which is really easy if you read library books. I didn’t have to think twice about taking part – my aim was to read at least 25 library books this year, but as I’ve already read 20 I think I’ll be way beyond that by December.

Catching Up On Reviews

weekly-geeksRecently I’ve got behind writing reviews of books I’ve recently finished reading, so this Weekly Geeks topic is just right for me.

1. In your blog, list any books you’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. If you’re all caught up on reviews, maybe you could try this with whatever book(s) you hope to finish this week.

2. Ask your readers to ask you questions about any of the books they want. In your comments, not in their blogs.

3. Later, take whichever questions you like from your comments and use them in a post about each book. Link to each blogger next to that blogger’s question(s).

4. Visit other Weekly Geeks and ask them some questions!

These are the books I’ve not reviewed yet. Please ask me any questions about them.

  • Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin
  • A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell
  • The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine (I wrote a bit about this after I’d started to read it. I wasn’t too enamoured at that stage, but it did improve and I finished it. I need to update my thoughts somewhat.)
  • Jane Austen: a Life by Claire Tomalin