28 January 2014

The Dog Who Came in from the Cold

This was definitely one of my 2013 books that ended up in the good pile. It is a wonderful book, but then most of what Alexander McCall Smith writes  is wonderful. There is a vibrant optimism that runs like a red thread through all of his books, and makes the reader believe that the world is not so bad after all, that everything will work out eventually and that people are actually quite nice. In this book - the second in a series - there is a beautiful collection of characters (including, of course, the dog, Freddie de la Hay). The story progresses, dipping first into one story and then into the next, pulling out small connecting threads and tying small knots. The humour is delightful, the observations - both of people and their surroundings - exceptionally accurate. Definitely a book to recommend. Photo source:

24 January 2014

To Finish or Not to Finish...

Do you finish reading a book that is obviously not your kind of book? I usually do - it is though I have entered into some kind a weird contract with the book,
and then I think that I would feel as though I was letting down the book, the author and myself by not finishing it. That said, over the years, there have been a handful of books that I have not finished (and I am sure that neither the books nor the authors have held it against me, at least I hope not). I am fairly careful selecting the books I read, so I usually don't end up in the situation of wondering whether or not I should throw the book out through the window or leave it on a park bench for some unsuspecting passerby. But sometimes I can be disappointed, and then the question is: to finish or not to finish...

20 January 2014

the best of times

A few posts back, I wrote about the subjectivity of good versus not-so-good and how someone can easily dislike a book that many others would find extremely engaging - and, of course, vice versa.  To date, I have been concentrating on those books in my 'good' pile, so perhaps it is time to have a look at my 'not-so-good' pile... One of the books that landed in this pile was the best of times by Penny Vincenzi. In all fairness, it is not the type of book I normally read, veering very close to what I would imagine is the Mills and Boon genre: handsome men, beautiful women, dramatic (though somewhat superficial) events and happy endings. Perhaps if this was a genre I normally read then I might have really enjoyed the book; however, this is merely surmise. The only reason I waded through all 900 odd pages was because it was the Book Group's book of the month; otherwise I might have given up after the first 300 pages (the first third of the book was quite readable in comparison to the latter two thirds). Perhaps someone has read the book and really enjoyed it; if so, I would love to hear from you.

The following image has been taken from 'Tales of the city: news from Edinburgh libraries'.

17 January 2014


I still seem to be running off at tangents... This is a link for anyone who may feel that the whistleblower Edward Snowden is being unfairly treated. The petition, which is aiming at 1,000,000 signatures, is being run by Avaaz.

I will most definitely be 'back to books' with my next Post.

16 January 2014


Just thought I'd let you know that I have updated/redesigned my website. It was lots of fun though it did have its moments. I'd love to hear what you think... In my next Post, I'll be back to looking at books from 2013.  

11 January 2014

Stieg & Me

Stieg & Me by Eva Gabrielsson is a book that sheds some interesting light on the author of the Millenium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson (1954-2004), and, to a certain extent, reads a little like one of Larsson's thrillers. Stieg never lived to see the unbelievable impact that his books about Lisbeth Salander had around the world, and Eva, who had lived with Stieg for thirty years and who was an important part of the conception and realization of all three books (and possibly a fourth), was excluded from the profits generated by the books simply because she and Stieg had never married. As well as giving a very personal background to the creation of the Millenium books, Eva's biography explores Stieg's rocky relationship with his extended family, his relentless pursuit of the neo-Nazi movement in Sweden and his founding of the magazine Expo. It is definitely a 'must read' for all Stieg Larsson fans.
 The Following photo has been taken from Bok, Janerik Henriksson / Scanpix 

08 January 2014

Good or Bad

Let's face it: we all have very different ideas as to what constitutes a good book or an interesting genre. We don't all like the same kind of books, and, as a result, our piles of good and not-so-good books must vary considerably. Of course, it's obvious, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. As a result, I know that many of you will not agree with my good book pile - not even with my not-so-good-book pile - but that's perfectly as it should be, and I would love to hear your idea of the different books I am reviewing.

05 January 2014

A Fine Balance

To continue with some of the books I read in 2013, I thought I would mention A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. This is an amazing book, depicting India during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It collects hundreds of small images, spreading them out across a canvas woven with threads taken from the traditional caste system, British colonization and encroaching modernity. The picture thus painted is at times overwhelming, sad, inspiring, frustrating, unbelievable and depressing; however, at all times it maintains a definite integrity, and at no time does it slip into the muddy waters of sentimentality. As one of the characters says, "You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair...", and this, in essence, is what the book is all about. It is beautifully written with some wonderfully drawn characters. If you are looking for a 'feel good' book, I would suggest that you do not read A Fine Balance, but, by not reading it, you will miss out on a very special reading experience.

The image below is taken from 'World Literature Today'.

02 January 2014

Haruki Murakami

Thinking back over the many books I have read during 2013, some of which were really very good and some anything else but good, I decided to mention a few of them in the following posts.

I was first introduced to Haruki Murakami in 2012 when I read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World. In this amazing book, Murakami slides two completely different stories over the top of each other until they cling together to form one story. Be prepared to be slightly confused, enraptured and always completely involved as  memories from the past and the perceived reality of the present create new, fanciful ideas of time and even of identity.

In 1Q84, which I read in 2013, Murakami continues to weave together many different strands, and, while the story itself is drawn from different planes and even different parallel worlds, the actual expression of the story does not belong completely to the fantasy genre, nor is it just a thriller or a romance: it is a mixture of all three and even more. Like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World it is beautifully and intelligently written, subtly presenting images and ideas that remain with the reader long after he/she has finished the book. Murakami's books most definitely belong among the best books I read in 2013. Has anyone else read him? What do you think?

The following image is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.