Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Today's Plans...

So apparently, going out four nights in a row is something I can't do anymore without just wanting to curl up and sleep for a week afterwards.

Who knew?!?


Today, therefore, will be filled with naps, books, tea and possible catching up on a few reviews. I haven't been feeling like writing reviews much for a while, but today might actually be that day.


Hope you all have a lovely weekend!



The Ladybird Book of the Hangover

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide to the Hangover - Jason Hazeley

A good hangover should be a total mystery to you.


How did this happen? Why do you feel so ill?


Pretend to yourself that you drank less than you did. Insist you stuck to beer, forgetting the champagne at the start of the evening and the round of jalapeño tequilas you did for a bet in that club next to the dual carriageway at 2 a.m.


So far, this has been the best one in the Ladybird series, yet. And I mean the best of both the kids and the adult series.

The 2018 Mt. TBR Project - End of July Update

A day early, but I'm out for the next three days (a work conference which includes evening socialising every.single.night...).


July has been an excellent reading month, especially considering everything that was going on in RL ... with work being hellish and me spending way too many late nights in the office.

However, it just goes to show again how much reading acts as stress relief and how much of a necessity a good book ... or five ... is to stay sane.


This month's picture also shows another reason why I am so keen to dedicate August to reading (almost entirely) from Mt. TBR - there has been a significant shrinkage and now it actually looks like I might finish the actual Mt. TBR by the end of the year!


Of course, it helps that I have limited the purchase of new books, a little. Even the clerk at my post office collection point recently commented that I haven't been around as frequently. So, I guess there has been a noticeable change.


End of July Mt. TBR: 


End of June Mt. TBR:


End of May Mt. TBR:


End of April Mt. TBR: 


End of March Mt. TBR:


End of February Mt. TBR:


End of January Mt. TBR:


Start of the Year Mt. TBR:


The Stats:


Books read this month: 19

Mt. TBR Books read this month: 8


Women / Men / Team*: 55% / 41% / 4%

Fiction / Non-fiction*: 75% / 25%

% of original Mt. TBR read: 74%

% of live Mt. TBR read**: 60% 


(* - of all books read since 01 January 2018)

(** - live Mt. TBR includes new purchases added throughout the year)  


Link to the original Mt. TBR (2018) post.

Link to the original Mt TBR (2018) Reading List.


Rules - same as previously - are that I picked a stack of physical books off my shelves at home which I would try to read over the course of the year. Any new purchases are added to the pile. If I pick another physical book of my shelves, I get to take one off the pile and put it on the shelf - as a substitute.

Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 121 pages.

Lucio's Confession - Mário de Sá-Carneiro

It's still raining and the local Mela Festival organised by the Multicultural Centre has been cancelled as the venue currently resembles a pond more than a park. 


So, I just made another mug of tea and am going back to Lucio's Confessions, which has had me glued to its pages all morning. 


I simply can't believe this was written in 1913, it is so ahead of its time that all the images it conjures up for me are from the late 1920s, the heyday of expressionism and modernity, but mixed with fin-siecle sentiment. It's weird. It's glorious. I am loving it.

The Post Where ...

I try to commit to a month of TBR busting.


Happy Saturday!


It is the height of the Scottish summer, and after some very unusually warm and very dry weeks (!), we woke up to this today:

Apparently, I slept right through a night of thunder and lightning without so much as a stir. 


Mind you, I am glad it has finally rained. It was getting seriously dry and we have had issues with wild fires, etc. that come with a lack of rain over a prolonged period. 


So, this downpour has been great. 


It's been quite a day here at BT HQ -filled with filling in forms, despairing over lack of guidance how to fill in the blasted forms, and finally resigning from the damned paperwork to meet a friend in town for tea and ice cream to try and forget the frustration caused by the stupid admin requirements.


After I vented my woes, we stopped by Waterstones and I picked up three books (The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, The Selected Poems of Rumi, and The Seabird's Cry by Adam Nicolson).



As much as love the new books, I came home to realise that buying new books is counter-productive to the ongoing efforts to reduce Mt. TBR. So, I have resolved the following:


1. I will not add the new books to Mt. TBR. Chances are that I will read these sooner than later except for The Tale of Genji, which I think will make up the centrepiece of  a reading project next year. (I just couldn't pass on the opportunity to buy the paperback version at my local bookshop instead of having to order it online next year.) 


2. I need to spend some serious time working on the current Mt. TBR. Therefore: August shall be dedicated to reading as many books on Mt. TBR as I can, without - hopefully - getting sidetracked with library books or those lovelies that you guys make me look at in your bookish blog posts. 


August is going to be one tough month. 

Aberystwyth Mon Amour

Aberystwyth Mon Amour - Malcolm Pryce

Well, this was different...


A noir-style mystery set in alternative version (one hopes!) of Aberystwyth, where a Druid mob silences its opposition by making them ... disappear or just kills about anyone who knows too much.

And all because the Grand Wizard is...


Ah. Hehe. 


The mystery in this one started off intriguing. A schoolboy has disappeared. Then other schoolboys turn up dead. So, when Aberystwyth's finest ... and only ... private eye is hired to investigate, the mystery turns into a spoofy, yet, gritty detective story that tries and tries.


This issue I have is that I am not sure what it tried exactly.

The noir feel was there, certainly, but the spoofiness didn't really work for me. Maybe it was the lack of subtlety, maybe it was the abundance of schoolboy humour (gaah...), maybe it was abrupt (and somewhat predictable) ending. I don't know. What I do know is that this book made me want to pick up a Thursday Next novel again...which, btw, also features Wales in a special light, even tho slightly differently.


I'm glad I read this, and parts of the book were funny, but I'm not going to continue with the series.

Reading progress update: I've read 245 out of 245 pages.

Aberystwyth Mon Amour - Malcolm Pryce

WTH did I just read???


I didn't hate it, but WTH???


I can't say I loved it either. It will take a day or two to digest this one.

Reading progress update: I've read 88 out of 245 pages.

Aberystwyth Mon Amour - Malcolm Pryce

The Druid mafia is building an Ark to prepare the Exodus.



It's that time again - reminders from your friendly librarian.

Reblogged from Murder by Death:

With BookLikes' automated import on search functionality in limbo (please for not much longer), everyone not finding their books in the system is adding them - YAY!  BUT...that means the queue of approvals for librarians is so. much. longer.


That's totally fine, but in order to churn through them in a timely manner it becomes more important than ever to keep the following in mind:


Covers:  Changing covers must have a valid source librarians can verify.  Librarians won't change covers without source URLs.  Please note:  Goodreads error rate has gone significantly up, they are no longer a reliable source for correct cover art.  Librarians may or may not accept a request depending on other sources.


Some ISBNs have multiple cover art.  If your book is one of them, please file a report (flag icon on book page) to indicate you would like to have an alternate cover edition made, providing a valid source URL for your cover of choice, and the ISBN it is an alternate for.  I do not recommend trying to change an edition's cover with alternative art - it may or may not be accepted depending on what the librarian finds.


Titles:  DO NOT include series information in the title.  DO NOT include the format in the title.  Just the title please.  And  a subtitle if applicable.  Series are not subtitles.  Please use the series field for series.


ISBN/ASIN fields:  I cannot stress this enough:


Hardcovers and paperbacks get ISBNs only.  NEVER USE AN ASIN FOR THESE!



Kindles get ASINs only:  NEVER USE ISBNs FOR THESE!


Please add seperate editions for ebooks and kindles.  Librarians will not leave records with both ISBNs and ASINs. 


Audible audiobooks get ASINs.  Digital download audiobooks from EVERYWHERE ELSE get an ISBN.

Seriously, the number of "ebooks" with ASINs that come through AND the number of "kindles" that have only ISBNs drives me a little nutty.


Books without any ISBN or ASIN need valid source URLs.  Please make an effort to find the ISBNs or ASINs.   If you add a book without either of these numbers and there are matching editions that DO have them, your added book will be merged with the edition that is correctly identified.   (Note: see alternate cover notes above if this applies.)


Format:  Please see my rather frantic notes above under ISBN/ASIN.




Descriptions:  Please do not include quotes from other authors, notes from the author of the book, a list of other titles, or any other marketing material that is not directly describing the plot of the book you're adding.  If you do, it'll likely be removed.


While I'm on that subject - When editing author records, please keep the bio of the author to being an actual bio.  NO MARKETING, no title lists, no quotes from other authors, no announcements of book sales, upcoming releases or free stuff in exchange for a newsletter subscription.  These will also be removed.



Please feel free to reblog this if you think you can get it to a wider audience.  Complete records for new added books will help librarians get through  the lists faster and free up their time to clean up other parts of the database that are in urgent need to attention.


Thank you from your friendly (mostly) neighborhood librarian.s

Reading progress update: I've read 33 out of 245 pages.

Aberystwyth Mon Amour - Malcolm Pryce

"Kierkegaard or Heidegger, Mr Knight?"

"Sorry, you've got me there, Sospan."

"It's Existentialist week; my latest promotion."

"Give me a mint choc chip with a wafer of the Absurd."

"Coming up."

That is one rad ice-cream vendor. 


Also, this book is bonkers.

Aberystwyth, here I come...

Aberystwyth Mon Amour - Malcolm Pryce

After two somewhat heavy and sombre reads, it is time for a literary romp. 


Tigus recommended this one a short while ago, and from the first couple of pages this looks like it will be delicious fun. 


All I am saying, it has gangs of Druids.

"The thing I remember most about it was walking the entire length of the Prom that morning and not seeing a Druid. Normally when I made my stroll shortly before 9 a.m. I would see a few hanging around at Sospans ice-cream stall, preening themselves in their sharp Swansea suits and teardrop aviator shades. Or they would be standing outside Dai the Custard Pie joke shop, waiting for him to open so they could buy some more of that soap that makes a person's face go black. But on that day in June there wasn’t a bard in sight. It was as if nature had forgotten one of the ingredients of the day and was carrying on in the hope that no one would notice. Looking back, it’s hard for people who weren’t there to appreciate how strange it felt. In those days everything in town was controlled by the druids. Sure, the Bronzinis controlled the ice cream, the tailoring and the haircuts; and the Llewellyns controlled the crazy golf, the toffee apples and the bingo. But we all know who control the Bronzinis and the Llewellyns. And, of course, the police got to push a few poets around now and again; but that was just for show. Like those little fish that are allowed to swim around inside the shark’s jaw to clean his teeth."

E.M. Forster: A New Life

E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat

Before judging my reading experience of this book based on my star rating, let me say this:


This was not a bad book and there are aspects of this biography that provide a valuable insight into Forster's life and work. However, this biography really follows Forster's life from one angle only, depending on what you expect from a biography, mileage on this may vary.


Moffat starts the book with an explanation of her approach, which in turn is based on something Christopher Isherwood said when looking at a stack of biographies about Forster:

"Of course all those books have got to be re-written," he said. "Unless you start with the fact that he was homosexual, nothing's any good."

That is, Moffat is quoting from an Isherwood biography by John Lehmann here, and whether this is a true account or was written as a dramatic embellishment, I could not say. 

It does, however, go straight to the heart of Moffat's biography ... and also to one of the criticisms I have.


Moffat does an excellent job presenting Forster in the context of his sexuality, or more precisely his initial struggles with it and the immense pressure he felt of not being able to live openly for fear of persecution and, indeed, prosecution. Being a young man at the start of the 20th century, Forster would have only been too aware of the trials of Oscar Wilde and would himself witness the arrest of friends and acquaintances over the decades. 


His resentment over not being able to tell the stories he really wanted to tell and over having to work within the expectations of societal conventions lead to Forster stopping to write major works of fiction after A Passage to India (1924). That is, he did write another major novel, Maurice, but insisted that it should not be published until after his death as the story tells of the relationship between two men and he feared the repercussions. (Btw, Maurice apparently includes a game-keeper scene that may have inspired D.H. Lawrence - one of the few people who were aware of the manuscript - to mock it in Lady Chatterley's Lover)   


Moffat explores Forster's diaries - including his "locked" diaries, which he also only allowed access after his death - in detail and we do get a clear picture of the anxieties and of the passions Forster had, and Moffat does well to connect Forster's diary entries with the lives of his friends, peers, and with perception of homosexuality in society through the decades. 


However, this is also the main point where this book fell down for me. Moffat goes into a lot of detail. Salacious detail. Lots and lots of it. At times, I felt like whole chapters were focusing about who bedded whom more so than Forster's life and work. Rather than developing an argument, it felt like some of the descriptions merely served to provide a sensationalist hook. 


I really should have liked this more than I did, but the meandering descriptions of relationships (not just Forster's but also of his friends and acquaintances) made me skim over quite a few paragraphs. There was little point to most of them.


The other criticism I have is with Moffat's writing style. It did not work for me. Her narrative sounded dramatised in a way that made the book read more like fiction than non-fiction and some of the descriptions, as a result of the narrations, did not sound factual even tho they may have been. This was not helped by the way that references were not clearly marked in the text. They were there, of course, but I should not have to check the reference section in the book to see if a certain line on a page is actually backed up with a source of research. 


All in all, this was interesting, but I would not recommend the book without some hesitation.

Reading progress update: I've read 83 out of 404 pages.

E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat

It appears that the author has given me a rest from her dissection of Forster's love life and we now a have a (hopefully extended) period of discussing the rest of his life.


I knew that Forster was a tutor to Elizabeth von Arnim's children but didn't know about the anecdote of his arrival at her castle, or about descriptions his employer. 


I am not typing these right here but much of the quotes are also provided in this post on the Books as Food blog. 


What was even more interesting, there are some glimpses now about Forster's, Morgan's, development as a writer - the stuff that makes his book stand out so from others of the time: 

While in Nassenheide, Morgan turned to his diary to ruminate on the wider question of how he fit into the world. He felt out of touch with modern writers. In its infancy, the novel had been novel - of all the literary forms, it made the unique promise of showing life truthfully - but the conventions of the nineteenth-century novels Morgan revered had begun to feel a little like a cage. It seemed to him wrongheaded, even trivial these days simply to end a novel with "the old, old answer, marriage": "Artists now realise that marriage, the old full stop, is not an end at all..." Resolving a plot with marriage was part of the imperative of comedy, but the blind optimism of lesser writers seemed dishonest to him: "The writer who depicts [life as a bed of roses] may possibly be praised for his healthy simplicity. But his own conscience will never approve him, for he knows that healthiness and simplicity are not, in all cases, identical with truth. 

Reading progress update: I've read 15%.

A Passage To India - E.M. Forster


“Yes, as Mr McBryde was saying, but it’s much more the Anglo-Indians themselves who are likely to get on Adela’s nerves. She doesn’t think they behave pleasantly to Indians, you see.”

   “What did I tell you?” he exclaimed, losing his gentle manner. “I knew it last week. Oh, how like a woman to worry over a side-issue!”

   She forgot about Adela in her surprise. “A side-issue, a side-issue?” she repeated. “How can it be that?”

   “We’re not out here for the purpose of behaving pleasantly!”

“What do you mean?”

   “What I say. We’re out here to do justice and keep the peace. Them’s my sentiments. India isn’t a drawing-room.”

   “Your sentiments are those of a god,” she said quietly, but it was his manner rather than his sentiments that annoyed her.

   Trying to recover his temper, he said, “India likes gods.”

“And Englishmen like posing as gods.”

   “There’s no point in all this. Here we are, and we’re going to stop, and the country’s got to put up with us, gods or no gods. Oh, look here,” he broke out, rather pathetically, “what do you and Adela want me to do? Go against my class, against all the people I respect and admire out here? Lose such power as I have for doing good in this country, because my behaviour isn’t pleasant?

You neither of you understand what work is, or you’d never talk such eyewash. I hate talking like this, but one must occasionally. It’s morbidly sensitive to go on as Adela and you do. I noticed you both at the Club today—after the Collector had been at all that trouble to amuse you.

I am out here to work, mind, to hold this wretched country by force. I’m not a missionary or a Labour Member or a vague sentimental sympathetic literary man. I’m just a servant of the Government; it’s the profession you wanted me to choose myself, and that’s that. We’re not pleasant in India, and we don’t intend to be pleasant. We’ve something more important to do.”


Written in 1924.


Reading progress update: I've read 75 out of 404 pages.

E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat

I'm conflicted about this one so far. It's not a bad biography but I'm also not thrilled with it...



Back to the Forster Project

Morgan: A Biography of E. M. Forster - Nicola Beauman E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat A Passage To India - E.M. Forster

It's been a while since I finished The Longest Journey (still need to write a review) and now that tennis plans are on ice for a bit (because of a pulled muscle) and that work has, not slowed down, but has at least moved past the frantic phase, I feel might get the right time and head-space again to enjoy the next read in my Forster project. 


I only have two novels left, the short stories, and Aspects of the Novel.


But, I have also found two biographies at the library that looked really good:


Morgan is the one which I am really excited about because it was written by Nicola Beauman. She's now head of Persephone Books who publish the most marvellous forgotten women writers of the early 20th century. I'm subscribed to their newsletter and it is the only newsletter I actually look forward to receiving. 
So, I can't wait to read what she has to say about Forster. 
The other one, by Wendy Moffat, seems to focus more on just one aspect of his life and how it affected his writing. At least, this is what I got from several reviews about the book and which seemed to shelf it under "gender studies" a lot. 


So, without further delay, I am off on A Passage to India


(Taken on a trip to Simla a few years ago. The book is not set there, but this is what I picture when reading the book.)

Currently reading

Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck
To Bed With Grand Music by Sarah Russell, Marghanita Laski, Juliet Gardiner
Cole Porter by William McBrien
Progress: 21/437pages
Morgan: A Biography of E. M. Forster by Nicola Beauman
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry
Progress: 79%
Isabelle: The Life of Isabelle Eberhardt by Annette Kobak
The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt by Nina Voogd, Elizabeth Kershaw, Isabelle Eberhardt
Die Aula: Roman (German Edition) by Hermann Kant
Progress: 43/448pages