Other Uncategorized

August/September Summary and Plans for October

I was away at the end of August so didn’t get the chance to summarise that month’s reading. This means I have combined two months into one massive list. As usual, all books are listed in order of enjoyment so if you share a taste in books with me you should look for recommendations towards the top of the list.

Books of the Month:

The Novel Cure: An A to Z of Literary RemediesThe View on the Way Down

Books Reviewed in August/September:

The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin 

The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait 

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling 

The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness 

The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent 

Benediction by Kent Haruf  

Pecking Order by Chris Simms 

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud 

I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir 

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss 

Harvest by Jim Crace 

Fortunate by Andrew JH Sharp 

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason 

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan 

The Colour of Blood by Brian Moore stars21

DNF: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Plans for October

In the next couple of days I plan to read The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin so that I can finish my Booker shortlist reading and bring you my thoughts on the list as a whole before the winner is announced on 15th October.

Once I’ve finished my Booker reading I don’t have any firm plans, but I’m being drawn towards older books and hope to try a few modern classics. These are the books that are calling to me at the moment:

Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally

I hope that you have a wonderful October!

Blogging Other Recommended books Uncategorized

Farm Lane Books is Five!



Five Years Ago

Five years ago I published my first post on this blog. The blogging world was very different back then. I followed about 250 blogs on google reader and that enabled me to know and interact with almost everyone in the world that had a book blog at the time. It was a close-knit community and I commented on YA, science fiction and chick-lit blogs just as often as literature ones. Finding someone with a similar taste in books was a rare, joyous celebration and many of the bloggers I met back then became good friends – both real and virtual.


Since then things have changed a lot. The number of blogs has exploded and it is no longer possible to follow everyone with a similar taste in books, let alone keep up with different genres. Google reader no longer exists and social media is now dominating the blogging world. I’ve cut back on my blogging time and no longer try to post every day. I’m hoping that I can maintain 2 or 3  posts a week and concentrate on books that beg to be talked about. I’ll continue to review every book I finish, but I suspect that many more will be bundled together in shorter summary posts. I also hope to include more posts that enable you to discover books you hadn’t heard of. To begin that process I’m going to celebrate five years with a 5×5 of book love: my five favorite books in five different categories….


My Five Favourite Fiction Books

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Blindness by José Saramago

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

HHhH by Laurent Binet


Far From The Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love

My Five Favourite Non-Fiction Books

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

The Mountain People by Colin Turnbull

Leviathan by Philip Hoare

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick



My Five Favourite Audio Books

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher



My Five Favourite Children’s Books

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Z For Zachariah by Robert C O’Brien

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

Duncton Wood by William Horwood

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien


The Half Brother

My Five Favourite Lesser Known Books

The Harlot’s Progress: Yorkshire Molly – Peter Mottley

Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller

When I Was Five I Killed Howard Buten

The History of History – Ida Hattemer-Higgins

The Half Brother by Lars Saaybye Christensen


Do I share any of my favourites with you?

Do you plan to try any of my favourite books soon?



Board Game Reviews Uncategorized

Board Game Review: Bugs in the Kitchen

Ravensburger Bugs in The Kitchen Game

Bugs in the Kitchen is a new board game for children. It is unusual in that it utilises the nano hexbug, a small woodlouse-like robot that moves erratically. The idea is to capture the bug in your trap by moving the walls of a simple maze. Which wall you are allowed to move depends on the roll of the dice, but the maze is so simple that the luck of the dice rarely makes any difference to who wins – it is simple fast-paced fun. The winner is normally picked at random by the unpredictable nature of the hexbug’s movements.

Age range

The manufacturer states that this game is for ages 6+. I’m not sure if this is due to the fragility of the hexbug, but I’d suggest a much younger age group. With supervision I’d recommend this game for children aged 3 or over. The concept is so simple and there is very little/no skill required to win. My six-year old enjoyed playing this game, but my eight-year old became frustrated by the fact that his skill counted for nothing and the hexbug would fall randomly into someone else’s trap, despite the fact that the route to his had been open for the longest time. The main appeal of the game is its novelty factor and I suspect it will be played when new people come over, but will be of limited appeal once they are familiar with the hexbug.


The board is well designed and the maze walls are robust enough to withstand young hands. The hexbug eats batteries and probably requires gentler handling, but ours has survived so far!


Number of Players: 2-4

The game works equally well with 2 or 4 players, but having an odd number of players gives a slight advantage to those that share a maze side.


This is an unusual little game and I’d recommend it for its novelty factor. I can’t see us playing it a lot, but I’m sure it will appear when younger children or those unfamiliar with board games come over to play.


2013 Historical Fiction

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites

Five words from the blurb: Iceland, murder, lover, remote, family

Burial Rites is an atmospheric story set in Iceland during the 19th century. The book is based upon real events and tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a women sentenced to death for murdering two men. There were no prisons on Iceland at this time so Agnes is sent to live on a remote farm, but the family are unhappy to have a criminal in their midst. Even the presence of a young priest, instructed to help Agnes mentally prepare for death, does not reassure them. But over time the family begin to bond with Agnes and the truth about her actions are slowly revealed.

The story itself is quite simple, but the author manages to make it gripping throughout. Details of family life in this harsh, isolated environment add to the book’s appeal:

Steina Jonsdottir was piling dried dung in the yard outside her family’s turf croft when she heard the rapid clop of horses’ hooves. Rubbing mud off her skirts, she stood and peered around the side of the hovel to better see the riding track that ran through the valley. A man in a bright red coat was approaching. She watched him turn towards the farm and, fighting a flicker of panic at the realisation she would have to greet him, retreated back around the croft, where she hurriedly spat on her hands to clean them and wiped her nose on her sleeve. 

Burial Rites could be described as crime fiction as there is a gruesome mystery at its heart, but I think the book will have greater appeal to fans of literary fiction who will appreciate the clever structure and emotional depth.

My only criticism is that the novel failed to capture the Icelandic mindset. When reading this book amongst many other Icelandic ones it stood out as different. The countryside and their living conditions appeared to be well researched and accurate, but the thoughts and actions of the characters often felt wrong. Many subtle aspects of their culture were missing, including their unique independence, and without reference to Icelandic names and places it could easily have been set in any Western country. This is unlikely to detract from most reader’s enjoyment of the book, but is something I found a little disappointing. 

If you enjoy literary fiction with historical elements then you’ll love this compelling, atmospheric read. I’m sure people will particularly enjoy its originality, but be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster!


The thoughts of other bloggers:

Kent writes with an artist’s hand, crafting her story meticulously. S Krishna’s Books

 …at times so entrancing it is almost hypnotic. Cerebral Girl

It’s original without being gimmicky, poetic without being overdone. The Incredible Rambling Elimy


Booker Prize

Books in Brief: The Colour of Blood, The Luminaries and Jar City

The Colour of Blood (Paladin Books) Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1987

The Colour of Blood by Brian Moore

Five words from the blurb: conflict, Church, state, political, suspense 

Brian Moore was shortlisted for the Booker three times (in 1976, 1987 and 1990) and so I was keen to try his work. The Colour of Blood is a political thriller involving  Catholic activists, an unnamed Eastern block country, and the Security Services. Unfortunately it hasn’t aged well. It might make an interesting read if you are studying the Cold War, but the writing and the attitudes of the characters felt dated. At less than 200 pages it was a quick read, but I felt I’d wasted those few hours of my life. Very disappointing.




The Luminaries Shortlisted for the 2013 Booker Prize

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Five words from the blurb: New Zealand, goldfield, men, crime, mystery

The Luminaries is fantastic book and it deserves to win this year’s Booker Prize. It is beautifully written, perfectly captures New Zealand’s 19th century gold rush, and has a whole host of literary merits; but unfortunately it wasn’t for me.

I invested a significant amount of time reading the first 250 pages of this book. I initially loved the atmosphere and historic detail, but after a while I became frustrated by the incredibly slow plot. If I am to invest days/weeks reading a massive 800+ page chunkster like this I really need to care about the characters and have a desire to find out what happens next. Unfortunately the characters were a bit distant and I began to dread having to continue with this book. I didn’t care who’d murdered who and became irritated by the meandering plot. Sadly I abandoned it, but I know many people will think it is the best book of 2013. It probably is.



Jar City (Reykjavik Murder Mysteries 1) Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Five words from the blurb: Reykjavik, Detective, haunt, genetic, secrets

Jar City isn’t my normal choice of reading material. It is a fast paced, dialogue lead piece of crime fiction. I read it as part of my Icelandic fiction binge and found it an enjoyable distraction, but instantly forgettable. Three weeks on I can remember next to nothing about what happened. It is a typical light mystery in which the murder is solved via a series of fairly unrealistic discoveries. If you’re after an entertaining read that doesn’t stretch the brain cells then there’s nothing wrong with this one.



2013 Non Fiction

The Novel Cure: An A – Z of Literary Remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

The Novel Cure: An A to Z of Literary Remedies

Five words from the blurb: advice, cure, ailments, books, world

The Novel Cure is a reference book that will delight every book lover. It claims that all of life’s problems can be cured by reading the appropriate book and prescribes a wide range of literature for everything from adultery and bad backs, to hunger and shyness. I’m not entirely convinced by all of their suggestions, but love the way it introduces the reader to many forgotten texts and exudes a passion for a wide variety of literature.

I admit that I haven’t read this book from cover to cover – the advice is so rich that it doesn’t make sense to do this. The joy is in looking up individual sections and discovering new reading ideas. I found myself adding to the wishlist on almost every page. I particularly liked the sound of Wolf Solent by John Cowper Paris, which is described as a cure for Internet addiction:

 ….once you discover JCP, as we shall call him, you’ll chuck your monitor into the nearest skip and go and live out the rest of your days among the birds and the bees.

On a slightly negative note, some of the advice didn’t make sense to me. I have a fear of flying and it suggested reading Night Flight by Antoine Saint-Exupery. I haven’t read this book and so don’t know whether or not it ends well, but the last thing I need is more images of plane crashes running through my head when I get on a plane. Similarly recommending The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe for agoraphobia and Blindness by José Saramago for fear of commitment made little sense to me, but both are amazing books so I’m happy people read them, whatever the reason.

I also loved the way it suggested books for every age group. I’ve only read one of the ten books recommended for thirty-somethings (Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which I loved), but I am interested in trying many of the others:

The writing style was light and chatty and I found the advice entertaining and easy to read, even when I had no interest in the ailment or the remedy suggested. I believe that the right book can help if read at the right point in time and I look forward to trying suggestions from this book for many years to come.


Should I give them the benefit of the doubt and see if Night Flight cures my fear of flying?

Have you read Wolf Solent?