June Summary and July Reading Plans

I completed 10 books in June, 2 short stories and I made it a little further through my ongoing projects, 2666 and The Tale of Genji. My favourite books this month were Out and The Ghosts of Eden.

I highly recommend them to you. I’m sure they will both be in my top 10 for the year.

Out – Natsuo Kirino stars51

A Secret Alchemy – Emma Darwin  stars3

Believers – Zoe Heller stars1

The Ghosts of Eden – Andrew Sharp  stars4h

The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing stars4

Mr Toppit – Charles Elton  stars3

The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov stars4

The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas stars4

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt  stars3h

Bleeding Heart Square – Andrew Taylor stars3h

Short Stories 

The Lottery – Shirley Jackson stars51

The Beautifull Cassandra – Jane Austen stars2

I’m still reading….

The Tale of Genji

2666 – Roberto Bolaño

Plans for July

I don’t really have any plans for July! I’m just going to pick up whatever takes my fancy before I knuckle down to read the Booker list in August!

Have you read any of these books?
Do you agree with my ratings?

Do you have more exciting plans for July than me?

2008 2009 Books in Translation

2666 – Roberto Bolaño. Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano

Steph and Claire are hosting a read-along for the highly acclaimed book, 2666, by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The novel is 900 pages long, and divided into 5 parts. We are reading one part a month, for the next five months.

Here are my thoughts on Part 2: The Part About Amalfitano


As the title suggests this section is all about Amalfitano, and other than the fact it is set in the town the critics visited searching for the German writer, it has little relation to Part 1.

Amalfitano is raising his daughter, Rosa, after Rosa’s mother, Lola has walked out on them. Amalfitano receives letters from Lola occasionally in which she tells him of her travels round Europe and her obsession with a Spanish poet. Lola eventually returns and confesses that she is dying of AIDS.

This part was much easier to read than Part 1, but it made me feel incredibly stupid. There were so many references to poets/philosophers/other people I’d never heard of that much of it went over my head. About half way through this section Amalfitano discovers a geometry book in his house that he has never seen before. He studies it for a while and then decides to hang it on the washing line:

…to see how it survives the assault of nature, to see how it survives this desert climate,

Why? I really didn’t understand. He then goes on to draw geometric shapes, with various people listed at the apexes. I have no idea why! Amalfitano’s attempts to explain it just confused me even more:

The B that appeared at the apex of the triangle superimposed on the rectangle could be God or the existence of God as derived from his essence.

By the time he lists the three columns of names I have decided that it is all beyond me, and so I’ll just ignore that until someone more knowledgeable than me explains it all.

As with part 1, this section contains numerous sexual and homophobic references and at one point Lola has sex in a cemetery. Again I found this all a bit weird. I find myself just shaking my head at this book. I just don’t seem to understand where it is coming from.

I really hope that it comes together soon, as it is all a bit weird for me.


Do you think you understand what the author is trying to achieve with this book?

Is it mystifying you, or are you really enjoying it?

2008 2009 Mystery Thriller

Bleeding Heart Square – Andrew Taylor

Winner of the Cartier Diamond Dagger 2009

I really enjoyed The American Boy, which was a Richard and Judy choice a few years ago, so was interested to see what Andrew Taylor’s latest book would be like. I don’t think Bleeding Heart Square is quite as good as The American Boy, but it gets quite close.

Bleeding Heart Square
is set in London, just before the WWII. The central character is Lydia Langstone – she flees her abusive husband to live with her elderly father in Bleeding Heart Square. Soon the landlord starts to receive foul smelling hearts in the post, and Lydia sets out to investigate whether there is a link between the horrible parcels and the landlord’s missing lover, Miss Penhow.

Period atmosphere is present throughout, and the book is very well researched, but I found it slow in several sections. The begining and end were perfectly written, but there were many points in the middle sections where my mind started wondering. I loved Lydia, but found many of the side characters blended in to one another, as they weren’t vivid enough to picture as individuals.

The mystery was cleverly written, but I did guess the twist in the end, which is perhaps why I am scoring this book a bit lower than I otherwise would.

It is a nice, light thriller though, so may be worth picking up if you’re looking for something with a bit of Gothic atmosphere.



Andrew Taylor is highly thought of in the crime writing world, and has won the CWA John Creasey Award, an Edgar Scroll and two CWA Ellis Peters Historical Daggers. I was surprised to learn that he has written more than 25 books.

Have you read any of his books? Which one is your favourite?

Really Old Classics

The Tale of Genji: Chapters 10 – 13

Matthew is hosting a read along for The Tale of Genji. This week I have read chapters 10 – 13. I am finally getting used to reading The Tale of Genji. I have established a pattern for reading, which first involves reading a summary of each chapter, so I have a rough idea of what is going on. I then read the chapter, going back to read the footnotes at the end.

I have also found this summary of The Tale of Genji, where each chapter is represented in the form of a painting. I can almost say that I am enjoying reading the book now!

Genji is still sleeping with every woman in sight, but we are also beginning to get a bigger picture of what life was like for them, and a feeling that not everyone is happy he is sleeping around!

Chapter 10

Genji’s father dies and everyone is stricken with grief.

It goes without saying that everyone was profoundly moved to see Genji, the most brilliant presence among all his father’s Princes, so devotedly perform the memorial rites. His beauty was perfect even in drab mourning.

Kokiden’s son becomes the Suzaku Emperor. Genji is then caught sleeping with Oborozukiyo again and so Kokiden decides to plot his downfall.

She could not have Genji pointedly mocking and belittling her by brazenly invading her house while she herself was at home, so nearby, and this gave her a fine reason to set in train the measures to accomplish his downfall.

Chapter 11

Genji has an affair with Reikeiden and her sister Hanachirusato.

Chapter 12

Genji feels the “mounting unpleasantness” after being caught sleeping with Oborozukiyo and so decides to travel to Suma. On the way he visits his father-in-law and he spends some time with his young son, Yugiri, who makes him cry. While he is away he write love letters to all the women but Murasaki is the one he misses most.

Chapter 13

A storm brews and Genji is miserable in Suma. He dreams of his father, who instructs him to leave Suma. Genji impregnates the Akashi lady. The Emperor summons Genji and he is reunited with Murasaki.

Classics Other Quiz

Can you guess the classic from it’s cover?

The pictures below are all covers of classics that we know and love, but can you guess which is which?

You should know all of the books, but the covers get more obscure as you go down the list.

I’ll give you the answers next Friday, and a few clues along the way if no-one can is getting close.

Answers now available here.
It’s just for fun, but GOOD LUCK!











































This week all the Weekly Geeks are creating quizzes, so if you’d like to challenge your brain visit the other Weekly Geeks.

2009 Chunkster Historical Fiction

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt

I had a love-hate relationship with this book and have to admit that there were several points, especially in the middle, where I nearly gave up on it.

The Children’s Book is set in England in the last few years of the 19th Century and ends in during the first world war. The book follows a vast number of characters, mainly children, as they grow up in this often forgotten period of history.

The book is packed with detail about the news events of the period and the lifestyles they led, but it’s richness was also it’s downfall for me. The book was very long (the hardback I read was 600+ pages of tiny type) and the descriptions so detailed that it lacked momentum. I had to become immersed in the beautiful writing  of each paragraph and try to forget that I still had 400+ pages to go, and I didn’t really know where the story was going. It focused on the minute details of their lives, which although interesting, often failed to engage me and led to my mind wandering. I’m still not sure whether I made the right choice in finishing this book. It took a very long time to read, and although I now know a lot more about that period in history I do not feel I have gained much. It didn’t really entertain me, and the ending didn’t merit the build-up.

I’m sure that lots of people will love this book, but although I enjoy a bit of detail this went a bit far for my tastes. It is a beautifully crafted book though, and will probably win this year’s Booker prize. So if you fancy being transported back to the early part of the 20th century – give it a go.



This is the first book written by A. S. Byatt that I have read, although I vaguely remember giving up Possession after just a few pages.

Do you enjoy reading books written by A. S. Byatt?

Which of her books is the best?