Well, you did if you’re Mrs M!  Congratulations!!!

Mrs M, If you drop us a line at thebookitlist@live.co.uk to let us know your address and which book out of the following three you’d like:

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold;
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly
by Jean Dominique Bauby; or
The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

If you click on the title it’ll direct you to the Amazon page so you can check them out first.

And the July’s book group choice will be announced shortly (though if you’ve been following comments you might already have an inkling what it might be)!

NTTL

Title : Night Train to Lisbon
Author: Pascal Mercier
ISBN: 978-1-84354-713-6
Rating : 7/10
Great for : when you’re feeling thoughtful

I’m struggling to write a review for Night Train to Lisbon. 

The central character is Gregorious, an aging classics lecturer who one day, whilst rummaging in a book shop, is drawn to a particular book written in a language he doesn’t understand.  When the owner of the shop translates a paragraph for him, he is so overwhelmed by the words he suddenly quits his ordinary life and moves to Portugal so that he can discover more about the author, Amadeu Prado.  What unfolds I guess can only be described as a journey of the mind.  The more Gregorious learns about Prado, the more he surprises and ultimately learns about himself.  I guess you could call it a “voyage of self discovery” but I hate that term, and Night Train to Lisbon is so much more than that.

So why am I struggling to write a review?  Well, the only words I can think of to say is that I loved it despite a few bad points, but on the other hand I got a bit fed up of it despite many wonderful things.  I wouldn’t suggest that you rush out to buy/borrow/swap it, but I don’t want you NOT to read it either, because I think everyone will ultimately get something out of it.  I don’t for a second regret reading it, and I would recommend it with a few caveats.

I love the introspection, the insights, the characters – especially that of Prado.  I love the idea of running away and taking a holiday from yourself.  I love how as you’re reading it, you feel as though you’re building up momentum, just as though you were on a (Night) train (to Lisbon!) hurtling through the unknown to your final destination.  The blurb describes it as a thriller.  There’s not much plot, but I can see what they mean.  I didn’t want to put it down.  There’s also some really lovely interactions in this book, subtle but really, really touching.

Now for the downsides.  Oh I’d just wish Mr Mercier were a little less verbose, a litte more conscise!  He waffles. A lot.  And okay, he waffles about many interesting philosophical ideas but it slows the book down too much.  I have to confess, by the end of the book I started skim reading huge chunks of the philosophy – of course now I feel like I cheated, but I suspect I didn’t lose much in doing so.  (I’ve just read in the inside leaf that Pascal Mercier is a philosophy lecturer….all becomes clear!).

Also, the action in the novel is somewhat lacking.  I don’t mean I want a Jean Claude van Damme style shoot ’em up in chapter three.  I just think more could have been done to break the monotony of the book.  It IS a book about thinking, it provokes thought, all the characters DO is think, and talk about thinking.  Sometimes they even think about talking.  Or talk about not thinking. 

In summary, you’ve got to be in the  mood.  Not one for the beach.  Good for when you’re feeling a bit philosophical and want to indulge in a bit of bigger-picture thinking.  Maybe if you’re at a crossroads or tipping point in your life, read it and feel reassured.

You can read a preview here.

Book It Lists….

June 27, 2009

For some time now, I’ve had a little list in the back of my filofax of all the books that I want to read next.  I HATE for good novels to pass me and disappear into the bookish hinterland, so every time a friend makes a recommendation, I read a good review, or, as I am a pathetic advertiser’s dream, even if I see an interesting advertising hoarding plugging a recent publication (e.g. Mr Toppit by Charles Elton which I have not yet read but can’t wait to do so) I’ll stick it on my list.

I’ve recently added Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim after a glowing review on So Many Books, along with Quirkology by Richard Wiseman, after attending a lecture of his on Humour.  If he’s half a good a writer as he is on the stage then I know I shall love it.

Even though we’ve not been doing this blog for very long, I’ve already stuck a lot of your recommendations on my list including Holly’s suggestion of Death’s Acre by Bill Bass; Caroline’s suggestion of Things We Knew Were True by Nicci Gerrard; Shoestringalley’s suggestion of The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler (I’ve read other Anne Tylers but not this one) and of course my esteemed and distinguished fellow blogger A Piece of Wood’s 10/10 suggestion of A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown  –  so a big thank you!  This is exactly what we were hoping to achieve from this blog.  Please keep the recommendations coming!

Kat

Oh dear, oh dear

June 25, 2009

Have you tried the Beeb magazine’s 7 Questions on GCSE English Literature quiz?

It’s tough.  And that’s all we have to say about that!

Title : A Piece of Cake
Author: Cupcake Brown
ISBN: 978-0-553-81817-8
Rating : 10/10
Great for : inspiration, that feel good feeling

cake

Wow, I don’t know where to start with this one!  This is the true life story of Cupcake Brown who enters the child welfare system at 11.  From one disastrous placement to another, she was abused and neglected, turning to drugs and alcohol before entering the world of the gansta.

It follows Cupcake’s story as she goes to hell and back and survives.  It is a truly inspirational read.  I couldn’t put it down and couldn’t begin to comprehend even a small part of what Cupcake has been through.

This book really touched me.  It’s not often I say that.

Title : Dry
Author: Augusten Burroughs
ISBN: 1-84354-185-8
Rating : 9/10
Great for : Bathtime, a train journey, making you laugh out loud

dry

I love this author, just love him!

Having not long read Running With Scissors, I was eager to get my hands on this one.  Continuing to follow Augusten’s story, this relays his battle to get sober and stay sober.

I found this funny in place, but sometimes sad and quite thought provoking.  His style of writing is so easy to read.  He doesn’t mince his words and I like that.

It’s definately onwards with more books by Augusten Burroughs for me.

Anyone else read this one?

SO!!!  Have you finished Behind The Scenes at the Museum yet?  If not, please just read the housekeeping part of this post (we’d hate to give anything away).  If you have, carry on to the discussion section.  (Caroline please read the housekeeping bit anyway).

HOUSEKEEPING

First things first:

1.  If for some reason you’ve read the book and are wanting to take part in the discussion but haven’t let us know, please do so, so we can enter you for the….

2….giveaway! No, we’ve not forgotten.  Winner will be chosen at the end of the month!

3. We’re contemplating July’s book group and thought it might be nice to give our blog readers the option to pick a book of their choice.  As she’s been so supportive of the blog (and sadly had such a bad time of it with June’s pick), Caroline would you do the honour of choosing the next book?  It can either be something you’ve read and loved, or something you want to read. The choice is yours! 🙂


DISCUSSION

So……did you love it? Loathe it? Are you completely indifferent?  To kick start the discussion, here are a few questions and issues that popped into our heads as we read the book.  We’d love to hear what you think and start some chitchat so please leave your comments in this post, and if you have any musings or questions, we’d love to hear those too.

1.  Did you really get a feel for the main character, Ruby?  She is brilliant at describing events that take place around her (even from conception!), but do we ever get a sense of what she is like as a personality?

2. Bunty. Did you like her?

3. Kate Atkinson doesn’t stick to linear storytelling but instead jumps from one timeline to another.  Did that work for you, or did you just find it confusing?

4.  When did you first (or did you at all) suspect Ruby was a twin?  Do you think that plot twist added to Ruby’s character?

5. Are all the examples of maternal dysfunction (Alice running away with the photographer, Nell’s virtual non-existence, Bunty’s emotional neglect etc) believable to you?  Do you think Ruby and Patricia will break the chain?

6.  How would you rate the book out of 10?  And would you now read another Kate Atkinson book?

Those are just for starters – so let’s hear from you!

Sourcing Books : Snazal

June 18, 2009

Anyone heard of Snazal?

I can’t do my usual review as I haven’t heard of it, let alone used it.

Be interested in anyone’s opinions if they have used it?

E-readers.  You know the ones, supposed to look like a book (sorta), feel like a book (kinda), smell like a book (maybe not), but are a hundred times cleverer than good old paper pages because you can literally carry your library with you.

It’s one of those things that I dislike in principle.  They’re just not books.  But maybe I’m just a fuddy duddy stick in the mud.  They’re bloody expensive too.  But I could get one cheap(ish) secondhand.  They’re clever.  And very compact, compared to the brick of a Penny Vincenzi I’ll be lugging to a hen weekend tomorrow. They don’t feel right.  Or smell right.  But people said that about digital music and look at iPods now. 

As you can see, it’s quite a dilemma.

What are your thoughts, bloggerland?  Does anyone have/use one?  Would you ever consider buying one?

Remember our post about the million word milestone?  Well apparently we’ve now hit one million English words, the millionth being, disappointingly (in my view anyway) …drum roll please:

Web2.0!

Is that actually a word?! Who uses it, and what does it mean?!

The BBC have asked readers to submit their favourite new words and it makes for quite a fun read.  My favourites are mouse potato (acknowledging how times have changed since we were merely couch potatoes) and hidying (the admirable skill of tidying up by hiding everything – I never knew there was a word for my housekeeping methods!).