Posts Tagged ‘a book a week’


I am suffering from a bad case of block.

I have writer’s block. Badly.

I also have reader’s block. Very badly.

I can already tell that I am not going to come close to my goal of an average of a book a week this year. I know this because I have only read one book this year and that was a re-read. I have book shelves half-filled with unread books and every evening before bed I go into the office, turn on the light and stand, barefoot, until my toes go numb with cold trying to find a title I actually feel like reading. I have started six or seven books this year but have no desire to finish any of them.

I would ask you all for some suggestions but I probably wouldn’t read them. What I will take are suggestions on how to get past my reader’s/writer’s block.


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I should have known before I started… Given my lukewarm feelings about The Time Traveller’s Wife I should have passed right by this title in the bookstore. However, having always been a complete sucker for a novel with as good a title as this, and as fascinatingly beautiful a cover, I bought it.

My first mistake.

While reasonably well written this novel pretty much lacks any other redeeming qualities. The story is far-fetched and absurd to the brink of pointlessness. The setting is beautiful but flat. Every character, main or otherwise, is painfully stupid. None of them elicit the intended curiosity or sympathy. Julia, the most worthy character, is so horribly cruel that I couldn’t imagine feeling anything towards her other than annoyance. In fact, the only character I cared for at all throughout the entire 496 pages was a little white kitten.

I nearly gave up the book as a bad job three-quarters of the way through having (successfully) guessed the rest of the tale, however it sat on my bedside table mocking me, so I finished it. In my opinion The Time Traveller’s Wife was trite, obvious and far too long, but at least its characters were likable and the storyline was interesting enough to make me wish I’d thought of it first. Her Fearful Symmetry, however, was simply boring, unrealistic and a waste of my time.

My apologies to Ms Niffenegger. I do like her. Perhaps one day she can give one of my novels a pathetically scathing review. Until then I just hope she concentrates on making her next work even the tiniest bit believable.


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This year I have been a busy little reader, although most of what I have read is either something I’ve read many times before (The Borrowers by Mary Norton) or something I don’t feel is worth recommending (The Sisterhood by Emily Barr), so I am WAY behind on updating the On Books section of this site.

By way of an apology I am going to go ahead and list the recommendable books that I’ve read so far this year in their own post before adding them to that page. I hope you enjoy what I have to say and I hope that you are inspired to read some of the titles.

(First I want to say that my “first few books of 2010” prediction was WAY off. I have completed two of the titles I listed [one of which was very disappointing!], but not the other five. Woops!)

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor

My full review HERE. After reading only the first few lines of this debut novel by Jon McGregor, not only did I want to lock myself in a room until I finished it, I knew that as soon as I did I would want to start it all over again. A breathtaking masterpiece. Still my favourite of 2010.

 The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell

 By far and without a doubt my absolute favourite book of poetry, ever. Kinnell is an unparalleled master of his craft and this astonishing book-length poem is phenomenally good. A bit gruesome, yes; Kinnell expresses with a fierce imagery the brutality, anguish and horror of 20th century history and yet there is tenderness here, a lyrical beauty rarely found on this Earth.

My favourite section is number seven, entitled “Little Sleep’s-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight” and written for his daughter, Maud. There is such an intensity of love on these pages it will leave you breathless. Kinnell is a genius.

The full text of this book is available HERE, although I only give you the link knowing if you read the text there your next step will be to purchase the book so you may read it over, and over, and over again.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This is an exquisitely wrought tale of heartbreak, fear and confusion following the lives of African-American maids working in white households in Mississippi in the 1960’s. Moving and unforgettable.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

I found this difficult to get into though I am very glad I stuck it out. Harsh and uncompromising yet wholesome and uplifting.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Oh, my! Did I ever love this book. Beautifully written; an unflinching account of life in a travelling circus during The Great Depression. Be warned – if accounts of cruelty to animals upset you to any great degree you should stay away. You’ll be missing out, though.

Tinkers by Paul Harding

Stark and haunting. Unbelievably well written. Harding’s descriptive power is incredible – you are able to feel the snow and taste the oranges. When he describes dirt you feel as though you should go wash your hands. More than deserving of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

I loved this even though I found it difficult to continue at times. A revelation near the end left me reeling for days.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Pulitzer Prize winner for 2008. I have to admit that some of the history bored me, but I dislike history in general so that was unavoidable. Oscar stole my heart.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

A collection of short stories all relating to the central character, an abrupt woman named Olive. It’s a love/hate relationship with Olive, but in the end you adore her. It leaves you with a great deal of unanswered questions. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009.

Up next? Well, I am still working on The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I recently bought The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, so those are high on the list.

The book I am taking with me on holiday is The Princess Bride by William Goldman because it is light and heart-warming and something I have read (many times) before.

Happy Reading!

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A book review:

Have you ever read a book you couldn’t finish fast enough? Not because it was boring you or because it wasn’t what you were expecting, but because it was wholly compelling?

After reading only the first few lines of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, the debut novel by Jon McGregor, not only did I want to lock myself in a room until I finished it, I knew that as soon as I did I would want to start it all over again.

I was not disappointed.

Owing, perhaps, more to poetry than prose, McGregor’s masterpiece draws you in from page one, and believe me when I say there is no turning back.

There is nothing here which is extraordinary excepting, of course, the breathtakingly ordinary – the fullness of each character is portrayed in an instant, a flashbulb only, revealing secrets, longings and regrets in stark contrast – all set into the context of a lovely summers’ day.

If I may borrow from a review written at the front of the book; McGregor has the startling ability to remind his readers of the infinity in a grain of sand.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes, to anyone who will listen. Will I read it again? I have already started.

He says my daughter, and all the love he has is wrapped up in the tone of his voice when he says those two words, he says my daughter you must always look with both of your eyes and listen with both of your ears. He says this is a very big world and there are many many things you could miss if you are not careful. He says there are remarkable things all the time, right in front of us, but our eyes have like the clouds over the sun and our lives are paler and poorer if we do not see them for what they are.

He says, if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable? (239)

I know it is only February, but this may be my book of the year.

So, to remarkable things.



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a page about books!

When asked whether I read a lot I always have to qualify: “As compared to whom?”

I have friends who devour books and think nothing of reading 75 or 80 titles a year, and at the same time friends who read perhaps five or six.  I like to think I’m quite comfortable in the middle ranges.  I can go weeks without even picking a book up, yet at certain times I’ll be in the middle of reading three different ones at the same time.

There is nothing wrong with people who don’t read so long as they are otherwise gainfully occupied.  It irks me when someone says they “have no free time for books” yet watches hours and hours of television.  If I can fit TV, books and my unhealthy facebook addiction into my own free time, certainly you can Sky+ the X-Factor and take time out to read something other than the gossip pages of the newspaper.

With that little rant well and truly over, I thought I would take the time to share with you the books I’ve read over the past few years that I have found particularly enjoyable and would recommend.  As a side note I would like to emphatically point out that I only have a written record of these titles because someone challenged me to read A Book a Week and I thought, “Well, if I’m going to do it I may as well have proof!” (Plus I have a terrible memory – absolutely awful – this list keeps me from endlessly wandering around book shops going “Have I read this? Who knows!?”)

So I have added a new page to this website.  If you look at the top of the page there should be a tab that reads: On Books.  Here you will find my list of recommendations as well as a short list of those titles that I am planning to read.

As always I am up for suggestions, so if you can think of something I haven’t mentioned please comment!

Also, the opinions stated are my own and do not represent those of my affiliate stations. 🙂  Feel free to disagree, vehemently, and comment as such!



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2010 books

My Book-A-Week regime for 2009 has turned out rather well, acutally. I’ve managed to read 49 books so far and it’s only mid-November.

I’ll probably post a summary of the books I’d recommend out of the ones I’ve read this year nearer to January, but with Christmas fast approaching I’m thinking more about what I’d like to read in the future.

So, here we go, the top-ten books I’d like to read in 2010. (In no particular order!)

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (which has been on my list since 2007)

Shining at the Bottom of the Sea by Stephen Marche

Submarine by Joe Dunthorne

Singer by Ira Sher

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Hopefully at the end of 2010 these will make my list of recommendations!  Fingers crossed I actually get them read over the next year or so, some of them aren’t easy to find.  Especially considering our library in Kilmarnock leaves much to be desired.



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In case you’re someone I don’t know, or have been living under a rock lately, I should probably say that I HAVE A JOB. YES!!! All that positive thinking (joke!) paid off, finally, and since the 12th of August I’ve been gainfully employed.

I started off as a personal assistant in the Service Futures department, but from this past Tuesday I’m officially the National Health Service Ayrshire & Arran Data Sharing Partnership senior support officer. One heck of a job title, don’t you think? Basically I’m administrative support, but I think that a mouthful of words is always the best option!!

Other than getting up in the morning to go to work (YAY!) and actually enjoying my job (seriously!!) I’ve not been up to much. S and I are trying to keep a low profile until our funds eek their way out of the red.

Kate came back from Kansas and her and John got engaged which as sent me into a bit of a frenzy of excitement. I can’t imagine being happier for them!!! Although I am still formulating my plan to kidnap Kate and lock her in my basement garage so she doesn’t ever have to move back to Kansas. 🙂

I have also been reading A LOT. Seven books in the last 11 days, actually. Which ones?

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince and HP & the Deathly Hallows and The Tales of Beedle the Bard by my good friend JK Rowling. I always enjoy re-reading Harry Potter but this time was different – because it has been too long I’d forgotten what happened. It was all very exciting and page-turning near the end.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman which I’ve read before but still enjoyed. It is totally different from the movie, which I’m afraid I actually like better. Sorry Neil. I would recommend both the book and the movie to anyone, but if I could make a suggestion, read the book AFTER you’ve seen the movie.

How Much of Us There Was by Michael Kimball which may actually been the saddest book I have ever read. It’s about an elderly couple and is written in the husband’s point of view. His wife has a seizure in the night and remains in a coma and he tries everything he can think of to wake her up, he sets her alarm clock on her hospital bedside table every night thinking if she hears the alarm going off she’ll wake up. It is a story of their declining lives amidst their strong love for each other. It reminded me of my Nana and Papa a lot, which I suppose made it even sadder. But I absolutely loved the book and will read it again, once I have stopped crying every time I think about it.

Light on Snow by Anita Shrieve which is about a father and daughter who discover an abandoned freshly newborn baby when snowshoeing one evening near their home in New Hampshire. The mother of the baby shows up at their house a week or so later and ends up getting stranded there during a particularly bad storm. The novel focuses mostly on how the young girl deals with trying to understand the horrible crime this woman committed by abandoning her newborn in the snow and at the same time forming a close friendship with her. It was pretty good, although I was kind of just reading it to finish reading it.

And tonight I finished Addition by Toni Jordan. It’s a very clever novel in which the lead character is nearly crippled by obsessive-compulsive disorder. She counts everything in her life and can’t function without her strict routine. She falls in love with a guy and together they try to cure her of her obsession but it all falls apart. It was gently comic and throughly enjoyable. A great bubble-bath read.

So, I guess, that’s what I have been up to.

I am working on something for my next post, which may take a while. I am also going to be reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman next.

And I will be going to work at my fabulous new job. Wish me luck!


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