Other Recommended books

The Best Books of 2009

There aren’t many weeks left in 2009, so I thought that now was a great time to share my favourite reads of 2009. I was surprised to see that the only author I had previously enjoyed was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the rest were all new to me. The books I was most looking forward to at the start of 2009 (The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters,  Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins) were all slightly disappointing and failed to make this list.






Stone’s Fall – Iain Pears (Literary Mystery)  stars51


The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey (Literary Fiction) stars51


2666 – Roberto Bolaño (Literary Mystery) stars51


Legend of a Suicide – David Vann (Literary Fiction) stars4h



The Island at the End of the World – Sam Taylor (Fiction) stars4h


The Help – Kathryn Stockett (Fiction) stars4h.


Heliopolis – James Scudamore (Fiction)  stars4h


How to Paint a Dead Man – Sarah Hall (Literary Fiction) stars4h


The Glass Room – Simon Mawer (Literary Fiction) stars4h


The Ghosts of Eden – Andrew Sharp (Fiction)  stars4h


The Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Short Story) stars4h


The Invisible Mountain – Carolina De Robertis (Fiction) stars4h

Other books which I have heard amazing things about are:

The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

I’m not sure I’m going to fit these in before the end of 2009, but I’ll ensure that I get copies as soon as they are out in paperback/appear in my library!

Are there any other 2009 books which you recommend I read?

What is your favourite book of 2009 so far?

1800s Classics Mystery Short Story

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

I decided to read The Turn of the Screw after I heard Audrey Niffenegger describe it as her favourite book. Halloween also seemed the perfect time of year to read this classic, spooky story.

The book is set in an Essex country home and describes the life of a governess who is charged with looking after two children. She becomes increasingly disturbed by glimpses of strange ghostly figures and begins to suspect that the children may have something to do with them.

I’m afraid that I don’t share Niffenegger’s passion for this book. I found it very hard to read – the writing style meant it required a great deal of concentration and I had to continually re-read sections to understand exactly what was happening. His overuse of commas meant that the writing had an irritating, jumpy feel to it.

The large impressive room, one of the best in the house, the great state bed, as I almost felt it, the figured full draperies, the long glasses in which for the first time, I could see myself from head to foot, all struck me – like the wonderful appeal of my first small charge – as so many things thrown in.

The complexity of the writing and the fact that the book is written from the viewpoint of a narrator who wasn’t present as events took place meant that I failed to connect with the characters. I was so distanced from events that I didn’t find it remotely scary.

I loved the ambiguity of the plot and in hindsight I can appreciate the cleverness of it, but I much prefer it when modern writers take aspects of this book and re-write them from a modern perspective.

I am really pleased that I read it, but it felt more like a chore than entertainment at the time.


Did you enjoy The Turn of the Screw?

Blogging Other

Do leaders make better bloggers?

On Sunday I posted a link to 50 blogging lessons. I found the whole list interesting to read, but I was surprised to see:

12.  If you’re not a leader, don’t even bother.  Your writing will show it.  The best bloggers are natural leaders and exude confidence.  You have to be if you hope to stand out in a world of infinite choice.  It’s basic sociology, why else would anyone listen to you.

Forgive me for this generalisation, but I don’t have an image of bloggers as leaders. I picture the average blogger as someone who enjoys their own company, with no desire to lead anyone.

I would describe myself as quiet and thoughtful, not a natural leader – saying that, I do end up leading lots of things, but this is more due to the fact that no one else will volunteer, rather than any aching desire to run things!

I am self confident though – I don’t have any problem with stating my opinions, however controversial they may be. I think that this lack of fear may be a better indication of the quality of the blogger. The best bloggers always seem to be first in the queue to state their opinion whenever there is a controversy, while the people with less popular blogs seem nervous about taking sides.

I think that the ability to experiment with new ideas, (rather than copy things other people have already done) is the key to great blogging – perhaps it does take someone with leadership qualities to do this?

Do you think leaders make better bloggers?

Have you noticed any link between confidence and blog quality?

2009 Recommended books

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

The Help won book of the year at the recent BBAW awards, and I have seen so many rave reviews that I can no longer remember where I first heard about it.

The Help gives an insight into the complex relationship between white families and their black maids. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s this book examines the difficulties faced on both sides, but also shows the love and trust shared between them.

This is a fantastic book and I can only add to the massive amount of praise that is already out there. The characters are all incredibly well drawn – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book in which so many people are portrayed so realistically. Each character has their own flaws, but it is the fact that we are able to read their thoughts so clearly that makes this book so special. The conflicting emotions each person experiences when dealing with the issues of racial segregation are sensitively handled and I feel that this book will become a classic in the same way that To Kill a Mockingbird did.

The author’s note at the end of the book helps to explain how Kathryn Stockett managed to create such a emotionally rich book – I loved discovering the fond memories she had of her own maid and her thoughts on writing the book. Kathryn Stockett is most proud of the following line, so I thought it appropriate to share here, as it is a great summary of the book.

Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to be very picky now – the book didn’t manage to hold my attention fully throughout, and although the emotions of the characters were very clear, it failed to move me. For these reasons I’m only going to give it 4.5 stars.  These are tiny criticism though – if you haven’t read this book yet, then you really should.

I highly recommend this book to everyone – it will be in my top 10 for 2009.


Is The Help your favourite book of 2009?

What did you like about it most?

Blogging Other

My RSS Feed is Broken

My RSS feed has broken and so new posts are no longer showing up in Google Reader. I am trying to fix it, but have no idea what caused the problem, so it is proving difficult. My husband normally sorts these technical issues out for me really quickly, but he’s gone to Turkey on business and so won’t be able to help me out until Sunday.

I’ll be adding a new post each day, so please check back regularly to see my latest posts.

Hopefully I’ll get it sorted soon.

2000 - 2007 Other Prizes Science Fiction

Perdido Street Station – China Miéville

 Winner of the 2001 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2001 British Fantasy Award. Nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Locus and British Science Fiction awards

When the Booker longlist was announced there was some anger from the science fiction community that China Miéville was excluded from the list. Damien Walter was particularly vocal on Twitter, and so, keen to ensure I wasn’t missing out on a great author, I decided to read one of his books. It was agreed that Perdido Street Station was the best and so I bought a copy. I was a little daunted when a 870 page chunkster dropped through my letter box, but I was still keen to find out why people were raving about this book.

Perdido Street Station began really well, with vivid descriptions of a strange world.

Sil lived and worked and slept in the tub, hauling himself from one end to the other with his huge, webbed hands and frog’s legs, his body wobbling like a bloated testicle, seemingly boneless. He was ancient and fat and grumpy, even for a vodyanoi. He was a bag of old blood with limbs, without a separate head, his big curmudgeonly face poking out from the fat at the front of his body.  

Isaac, the central character, is employed to study winged animals by a secrective creature who has lost his wings. I loved the character development and the imaginative plot – I was hooked for the first half of the book.

Everything started to go wrong at about the 500 page mark. The plot deteriorated into one long chase scene; I became bored by the continual fighting and longed for the thoughtfulness of the beginning to return. The ending was also a disappointment. It was such a shame, as I was really enjoying it.

I can see why this book won so many fantasy awards, but now I know why it didn’t win the Booker, or any other literary fiction prize. This book is beautifully written, but it doesn’t have the depth required for literary fiction. It is an incredible work of imagination, but in the end it lacked enough emotion or depth for me.

Recommended to people who are very passionate about their science fiction, but not to lovers of literary fiction.


Have you read anything written by China Miéville?

I was very intrigued to read that he is planning to write a book in every genre. He is clearly a talented author and so I will read more of his books in the future. I am especially tempted by his latest book  The City & The City,which is described as detective noir novel. Has anyone read it?