Reading Roulette – March

Welcome a new month’s lucky dip, and the March winner was . . .2017-03-04_15-30-06_345  ‘The Running Sky’ by Tim Dee. Funnily enough, like last month’s pick, it’s another one from my non-fiction section.

This ended up in the ‘reading roulette’ for pretty much the same reasons as last months pick. I like buying books, I like nature, and I believed that expanding my non-fiction collection would somehow make me more intelligent!! Seeing as this book has also been sitting on my shelf for about 7 years, you can probably get an idea of how well that idea worked out for me.

So, onto ‘The Running Sky’ and unfortunately it just wasn’t my kind of book. It was nothing to do with the subject matter, I love birds, I was in the Young Ornithologist Club (As was Tim Dee), Bill Oddie is my personal hero! Possibly, I may not have been the intended market for this book, or my scientific mind may have still been engaged from last months ‘Field guide to Natural Wonders’, or maybe I should have looked more into the premise of the book rather than making an assumption.  Whatever the reason, unfortunately I just could not get into it.

The cover blurb reads – “ The Running Sky records a lifetime of looking at birds. Beginning in summer with clouds of breeding seabirds in Shetland and ending with crepuscular nightjars like giant moths in the heart of England, Tim Dee maps his own observations and encounters over four decades of tracking birds across the globe” So from this, my expectations were that I would be treated to numerous accounts of seasonal bird behaviour and extravaganzas. Instead I got an anecdotal account of Dee’s bird related stories and memories they’ve conjured up.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very well written, and in a tone very reminisce of the old style of nature writing, viewing the world from an emotional standpoint rather than a scientific one. Which comes across as being more of a love letter to the days of John Buxton, and J A Baker, than an engaging informative account of bird ‘sightings’. That is possibly where it lost me.

It does bother me when I don’t like books for no obvious reason, and I do like to look into things a little more to find out if I’m missing something that would have made my experience more enjoyable. So, after reading the book I did a little research. On hindsight, I do understand what Tim Dee wanted to achieve through ‘The Running Sky’ and I do believe that he has accomplished exactly that. Maybe if I had known this before I started I would have been reading with a different preconception and loved it, or perhaps not. Often I did feel like I was being told a story by my grandad, who then goes off on a tangent, and by the time he gets back on track you’ve forgotten the main point of the story he was telling you.

As much as I didn’t like the book I do still like to end on a positive note, so very much sticking to the theme of Grandads and their ramblings, I did learn an interesting fact about bananas from ‘The Running Sky’ which I think will stick with me for a while.

In one of Tim Dees many story tangents, he’s on an airplane leaving Shetland thinking about seals and seabirds. Then he randomly starts talking to his neighbour, who happens to be a supermarket Manager, about bananas being sold in the Northern islands like Shetland – “They arrive refrigerated from the tropics in a state of arrested development. Opening the box they have travelled in releases a ripening agent, but from that point the clock ticks fast on their sale ability. A banana reaching Shetland would have to be sold the day it arrives . . . therefore Shetland will have the only bananas in Tesco Britain that will ripen without assistance

Challenge so far. .

3 Contemporary fiction:

  • The Ghost by Arnold Bennet
  • The watchmaker of filigree street by Natasha Pulley
  • Illumination by Matthew Plampin

3 Classic fiction:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Andersons Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
  • Emma by Jane Austen

3 Non-fiction:

  •  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  • The Running sky by Tim Dee
  • The field guide to Natural Wonders by Ian Whitelaw

3 Hardbacks:

  • The long earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Under the ivy: the life and music of Kate bush

Reading Roulette – February

So, my February book is ‘The field guide to Natural Wonders’ by Keith Heidorn & Ian Whitelaw

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I first bought this book because it appealed to my love of nature and science, I was working in a bookshop at the time and had to feed my book buying addiction. It was following one of my ‘educational’ whims, believing that reading a non-fiction book every now and again would balance out the amount of fiction I read and possibly increase my intelligence (emphasis on the ‘possibly’). Well the intention was there, just never the inclination so this has been sitting on my shelf for about 7 years now, which is how it ended up in the pot!

I suppose I read a lot of fiction as I like a bit of escapism in my reading and I do often find non-fiction books a bit of a hard slog, especially if they use too much technical jargon. However,  I found this fascinating and whipped through the first couple of chapters in no time (I particularly liked the section on eclipses). They did start to use a bit of technical jargon in the later chapters, especially when talking about ‘atmospheric’ and ‘electrical’ phenomenon, but by this point I was hooked. So, I happily worked my way through it, plus they have a handy little ‘Summary’ at the end of some sections, for the lazy brained like me.

One negative thing I do have to say for this is, although I do like a bit of science and knowing the ins and outs of certain things, this did often feel like I was having a magicians trick explained to me, and I only hope that next time I see a ‘natural wonder’ it won’t have lost any of it’s majesty because of it.

I’m now constantly on the lookout for more natural wonders though.

2017 Challenges

So it’s the start of another year, but instead of doing resolutions this year I thought I’d do challenges.

 Challenge #1 – If you’ve read my previous posts you may have come across my ‘reading roulette’ idea. Which is basically a random way of picking my next book to read from the numerous books that have been sitting untouched on my shelves for years. So I’ve expanded on this idea for 2017. I’ve chosen 12 books that I have either never got around to reading or I have only just acquired and want to ensure I read them. These twelve books I have divided these into four categories and chosen 3 for each, I shall be picking one at random every month, and hopefully writing a little about it.

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In by twelve books I’ve chosen;

 3 Contemporary fiction:

  • The Ghost by Arnold Bennet
  • The watchmaker of filigree street by Natasha Pulley
  • Illumination by Matthew Plampin

 3 Classic fiction:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Andersen’s fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson
  • Emma by Jane Austen

 3 Non-fiction:

  •  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  • The Running sky by Tim Dee
  • The field guide to Natural Wonders by Ian Whitelaw

 3 Hardbacks:

  • The long earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Under the ivy: the life and music of Kate bush

 

Challenge #2 – Temperature Afghan

For those of you who do not know what one of these is, I’ll explain. Basically it’s an afghan where you knit/crochet a row or two of the afghan in a colour that is pre-chosen for the temperature high for that day, and at the end of the year you have a lovely multicoloured afghan.

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Temperature afghan for the year, divided into two separate afghans. Photo from knittingparadise.com

 

In my area the temperature high for the day rarely drops below 0 degrees and rarely goes above 30 degrees, so I’ve adjusted my gauge accordingly

tempafg

and again, once a month I’ll share my progress

Wish me luck!

The Random Reader (or Reading Roulette)

I don’t know about you, but one of the hardest questions I ever ask myself is “What should I read next?”

This is often a difficult question for me for many reasons, but mostly because I have a LOT of books. I have books that have sat, neglected, on my shelves for years as they no longer hold the appeal that they obviously had when I bought them. I have hard back books that I haven’t touched, because I always carry my ‘current read’ everywhere with me and the idea of doing that with a hardback makes my back cringe.

So as you can imagine, not long after venturing into my spare room/library to pick my next read i’m either wandering out again a few minutes later with an armful of books, hoping that through the course of the day they will somehow fight amongst themselves and the victor shall become my current read. Or, I end up a sobbing wreck on the floor when faced with the magnitude of such a decision.

Until that is, Fate stepped in (with the assistance of a book) and presented me with a solution!

After reading ‘The Dice Man’ by Luke Rhinehart, I was inspired!! Not to live my life as a Dice woman, good lord no, I’m far too much of a wuss to live my life that way. However, one decision I was willing to let the dice handle though was that ever troubling “What shall I read next?” one. So I adapted the decision making format, and found a way to take the pain and strain out an otherwise delightful venture. It’s like a lucky dip, where you win every time, and the prize is a book!!

This has actually been quite fun for me, and I also find that I’m more inclined to finish reading books that I find a little dull, as the ‘Pot’ has challenged me to read it, so I MUST!!

(and maybe one day, for the tech savvy amongst you, I or somebody with a bit more skill than me, will develop an app that can randomly pick from your ebooks too!)

WBN Challenge 2012 – Room

I’ve officially started the 2012 World Book Night Challenge! Which is, in a nutshell, to read all 25 World Book Night titles by WBN 2013. I unfortunately failed last years challenge, missed the deadline by two books. My excuse is I joined it late, so I’m being on the ball this time. These are the books I have to read:

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. The Player of Games by Iain M Banks
  3. Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham
  4. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
  5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  6. The Take by Martina Cole
  7. Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell
  8. Someone Like You by Roald Dahl
  9. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  10. Room by Emma Donoghue
  11. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  12. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  13. Misery by Stephen King
  14. The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
  15. Small Island by Andrea Levy
  16. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  17. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  18. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  19. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
  20. The Damned Utd by David Peace
  21. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  22. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  23. Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
  24. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  25. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The ones I’ve already read, and recently, I’ve put a line through so after my recent conquest of ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue I’m now down to 21 titles.

Room
I’ve avoided this title for quite a while, as ever since it’s nomination for the Booker prize there’s been a ridiculous amount of hype around it. However, with it being on my challenge list I knew I had to read it and thought well might aswell tackle it first.

I did like this book a little more than I expected to, however I was more enamoured with the content than the style. Whilst it is quite clever to have a child narrate this kind of story, so you experience such a harrowing tale through the eyes of an innocent, unfortunately there were minor inconsistencies in Jacks speech development that i just couldn’t get my head round.
 It took me several attempts to even start this book as Jacks narration takes some getting used to and his frequent repetitions were often distracting.
Despite these drawbacks ‘Room’ is an absorbing read. You definitely do get drawn into the world of Jack and his mother and empathise with every blow that life deals them.
To say anything more about this book would be to spoil it for most, as there are revelations from one page to the next and the pace is constant.
What I would say though is that it is definitely worth a read. You have to applaud Emma Donoghue for taking a shocking news story and turning it not only into a real page turner, but also a life lesson.

 

Far From Home

For the last few months I’ve been rather reluctant to organise any evening events in Waterstones, this stems from a rather awful evening we planned late last year. Things were set to go well, the book had all the trademarks that a top selling local book has, the author had a double page spread in the local newspaper the weekend beforehand, he’d even been on the radio the morning of the event and of course we’d been promoting the event ourselves in store and online, so we were expecting a fairly good turn out. Well, I have never been more wrong! Absolutely nobody turned up to the event, not a single person. I felt really bad for the author, but luckily he hadn’t travelled far so it hadn’t taken too much out of his day, and as you can imagine I was left with an abject fear of something like that happening again so I did my best to avoid organising any more evening talks.

However, when two local authors got in touch with me within the same week and expressed an interest in putting on an evening talk for their book, part of me thought ‘well maybe at least one of them is going to garner some interest’.  So, after establishing that both authors lived quite locally, just in case the worst happened, I said yes and coincidentally enough the dates the authors were free were right next to each other, so that raised my hopes a little more.

Then we moved on to the next bit, advertising and promoting the events and waiting . . hoping that at least a few people would call up for tickets so we could get some bums on seats. Well two weeks drifted by and not a peep, I was already mentally drafting the email I would have to send to each author to let them know that there had been no interest when the first phone call came in “Hello, I’d like two tickets for the Joy Bounds event on the 2nd” Somebody actually was going to come to the event! I practically hugged the phone, that’s how happy I was that at least there would be someone there on one of the evenings. Then the phonecalls started coming thick and fast and by the time it came to the evening of the event we had at least fifty ticket requests.

So that event was last night, local author Joy Bounds with her book ‘Far From Home’ – A fictional account of the life of Joan of Arc as told from her mothers perspective.

The evening was a huge success, not only did we have about 50 ticket requests, but they all turned up too, and at least 80% of them also bought her book (which, by the way, Joy was donating £1 from the sale of each book to St. Elizabeth Hospice, as she is participating in The Midnight Walk on 19th May) Everybody really seemed to enjoy themselves, and were still chatting and enjoying the drinks and nibbles laid on by us lovely people at Waterstones till nearly an hour after Joy had finished her talk.

I was so happy to see the evening turn into such a success not just for us but for Joy aswell, it’s great to  support local talent.

Tonights event is with Ann Chadwick and her book ‘Suzie: The little girl who changed our lives’ Which is her true story about when her family took in a 5 year old Jewish girl during the war. brought over here of the Kindertransport and not speaking a word of English.

Unfortunately, there haven’t been as many requests for Anns event as there were for Joys, but Ann has informed me that she has handed out at least 42 tickets herself, so hopefully it will be as much of a success as last nights.

Accidental Success

Well last night (Monday 23rd April) was World Book Night and Shakespeare’s birthday. So we had some big celebrations planned.

If you don’t know what World Book Night is www.worldbooknight.org it’s essentially a celebration of reading. If I’m getting my figures right 40,000 people around the country were given 24 copies of a book they had specifically chosen from a list of 25 (mine was Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’) to hand out to whomever they choose. So whether it’s someone they think doesn’t read much, so the book could help get them into reading. Or maybe it’s someone who has never read the genre that their book is in. Giving these books out free could help in a number of ways. World Book night is in its second year now, and it’s growing with each year.

Basically my task is then to organise some kind of event, a platform for the ‘Givers’ to distribute their books. Last year I organised an in store event, which went well but then there’s still the issue of how do you entice non-readers into a book shop? So this year we decided to hit the streets!

It was going to be great! We would all meet up in the shop about 5pm have tea and coffee, get to know each other, maybe swap books if somebody had a title you’d like to read, then at 6pm we’d head out on our walk. We had a designated route planned out for the ‘Town Walk’ where we’d be passing some old buildings and sites of historic interest so I invited local author Carol Twinch along to maybe point out and tell us a bit about such things, and as we merrily skipped along the streets we’d be distributing our books to the people we met. It was a very Disneyesque image I had conjured up, ideal for a beautiful spring evening.  The only thing was I hadn’t counted on the general mistrustfulness of the public whenever you mention the word FREE, and . . the British weather.

Oh yes, rain was well and truly my downfall on the evening as not many people are overly keen on walking round the streets of Ipswich on a rather wet Monday evening. So as six o’clock slowly came around I had to admit defeat for, alas, instead of the hoards of Givers descending upon the unsuspecting pedestrians of Ipswich, which I had envisioned, instead we had 3 Givers, 2 ‘assistants’, and an author. This however did not deter us from our mission, as three of us had dressed up for the occasion (two fairies and an Ass to be precise) we were going to see it through till the end.

So last night six very odd-looking, overly cheerful, and slightly damp people took to the pubs, cafes and shops of Ipswich distributing our wares to whomever we came across. Aside from a very high number of suspicious looks and rejections of a free book we all really had a good time and distributed our books quite widely and rather quickly.

                As we sat in a pub afterwards, having a well-earned drink, I looked around at our merry little band and realised that this was perfect. If there had been a lot of us it wouldn’t have worked, we would have been too intimidating and we wouldn’t have had the great interaction we had with a few members of the public. Also there would have been too many books we wouldn’t have been able to distribute them all, as things stood we were able to distribute all of our books and have a good time in the process.  So it turns out that completely by accident we ended up having the perfect end result.

Although I think I may pass the ‘Events’ cap to somebody else next year.

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