Friday, 30 November 2007

Christmas fare for mind and body

Can I recommend Marks and Spencers Milk Chocolate Covered Toffee Butter Popcorn? Yum.
Meanwhile, the book group is doinng local poetry this month - we're all reading Jim Mainland's book A Package of Measures then whatever else we want, dialect or non-dialect, so it will be interesting to see what folk find. Last month's discussion was good, hearing about the varied Latin American authors that folk picked up on. A theme like a country is quite a good idea sometimes. Think we should bring appropriate food into the mix next time though. A smorgasbord of Norwegian food and literature?

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The Christmas Mystery

Ok I know some of you probably aren't really that keen on Christmas, but if you are not in the mood for heroin addiction and prostitution can I suggest as an alternative the Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. This is the best time of year to read it because it is like an advent calendar, one chapter for each day in December till Christmas. Last year I read one chapter a day on the corresponding day, and I really enjoyed it. Get your copy now!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Sex and Drugs

Just read a memoir called In My Skin by Kate Holden. It's the story of how a nice educated middle-class girl falls into heroin addiction and prostitution. I liked the fact that she wasn't pitying herself or blaming anyone else - she had a good stable loving family who never gave up on her. She describes very matter-of-factly how heroin gradually got a grip on her and inexorably messed up her life so much that she found herself streetwalking. She had chances to give up, she did occasionally give up, but the pull of addiction was too strong to resist. Interestingly, it was managing to get off the street and into better class brothels that ultimately empowered her and gave her the self confidence she needed to kick the drugs. She describes her work - all the sex with all the men - in unflinching detail, and some of it is horrible, as you'd expect. But she also acknowledges that there were some times that she enjoyed her work, even found great joy in it. This is a really well-told story. I avoid the rash of 'poor me' memoirs like the plague normally, but this was a different sort of tale.

Monday, 12 November 2007


I was reading some reviews of forthcoming titles in the Sunday papers yesterday,and was overjoyed to see that at last Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's Madness of a Seduced Woman is to be republished in January. Those of you who know me will probably have heard the woeful tale of how I was given a copy by a friend many years ago,read it,loved it,passed it on to a less reliable friend who left the country with it,never to return! By the time I'd given up waiting for it to to appear back by post (ever the optimist!),it had gone out of print. Yes I suppose I could have tracked down some battered secondhand copy, but I do like my books to be in pristine condition,and so from time to time I have clicked on Amazon in the vain hope that a reprint was imminent. So now I'm really happy -roll on January!!

Mixture of mercies

Good luck with the ipod Lesley. I never quite get round to listening to audio books, probably because I don't have a car and don't do much ironing. It's being forced to 'read' at the pace of the speaker that's frustrating. I'll sometimes listen to a story if it comes on Radio 4, but I think the answer is indeed to take up knitting, you have to have something else to do at the same time. Having said that, I've got a couple of long train journeys next week so I'll take along an Ian Rankin and my old chuggy Walkman (belatedly become a Rankin fan so lots of catching up to to) .

Been dipping into a complete mish-mash of reading lately. Working through Midnight's Children, and it's really an OK read but I've allowed myself to think of it as worthy and dense which gives me false justification for conntinually putting it down to read something light. Dipped into a bit of Latin American stuff for our next meeting. Read Nigel Slater's new one Eating for England which is a collection of snippets - some which really hit home - about the British way with food. Like the bit about the ghastly person who always insists on totting up exactly what they've eaten rather than just splitting the bill on a group meal. His memoir Toast is far better though: all based round food, a bittersweet - or sometimes just plain bitter - look at family life. What else - oh yes, more nostalgia new to the library - a book of classic British camper vans which is gloriously anoraky and copiously illustrated. Another one is Britain's Lost Cities, a book of photos illustrating how we carried on ruining our cities where Hitler left off. There's a picture of an astonishing ornate arch which used to grace Dundee harbour till it was gratuitously demolished. It was actually hideous, but having said that it was the prettiest thing in Dundee. Interesting book but would be better if it had 'after' photos to compare with the 'before'. Also dipping into a new illustrated Kama Sutra, just need to check it's suitably tasteful before loosing it on the public. (It's printed by Dorling Kindersley, no less, with the excellent full-colour illustrations one comes to expect from them...).

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Audio adventure

I thought it was time I started posting to the blog. (Karen has been telling me it was time for a few months now!) I have managed to read quite a bit lately. I really liked 'In the Woods' by Tana French, about a detective investigating a murder in woods next to an estate in Ireland. He doesn't admit to it, but he and his friends were abducted there when he small, and he moved away and changed his name after he was the only one to make it out alive. He remembered nothing at the time, and still doesn't, although the case brings back some echoes of memory. It was like your usual crime thriller, but with a lot of thoughfulness added in.
I have also been reading my usual teenage fare, two diares, one a hilarious modern 'adrian mole' type (My so called life) and one more of an 'I'm fat and sad becuase nobody loves me' type (my fat, mad, teenage diary). I liked the first one best. I finally got around to the latest Kevin Brooks 'The road of the dead' which was, like all Kevin Brooks, fantastic. I really like his style of writing.
I am off south on a school trip tomorrow and will be taking my dinky little ipod shuffle and two audiobooks with me. I have subscribed to an audiobook service, and I will be getting one book a month (and the ipod was free!). I have never had much experience of audiobooks, so I am hoping I will like it. Now that I take the car to work I really miss my time on the bus - two half hours a day of guaranteed peaceful reading time. I am hoping to play audiobooks in the car to get nearly the same effect, although I will have to remember to pay attention to the road!
I am also hoping to knit while listening to audiobooks, since it is not possible to knit and read normally (yes, sadly I did try!). I have only recently started knitting and I am very slow at it, so need to do something else at the same time. I have started with 'On Chesil Beach' and 'The God delusion'. I will let you know how I get on with them.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Poetic leanings

Next month the book group's going to get into a bit of local poetry, which I'm looking forward to.

I'll bring the Scottish Poetry Library's resourse box along to the meeting for us to delve into. I thought I'd share this 'novel approach' idea from the Scottish Poetry Library, which has a nice new 'reading room' section on their website - Novel approach is an idea that pairs up novels with poems, and there are examples on the site, e.g Sarah Water's The Night Watch teamed with Vicki Feaver's Book of Blood. However, I think we should think of some of our own - can anyone suggest a poem that sums up a book we've read?

Or maybe we should try writing poems to sum up the books we've read? Can anyone do Housewife Down in a haiku?...