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Polka Dot Rock

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  1. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber Paperback: 894 pages Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd; New Ed edition (30 Sep 2003) Language English ISBN-10: 1841954314 ISBN-13: 978-1841954318 I've been meaning to do a review of this for ages... If I had one word to review this whole novel: WOW. Where to begin? For starters I can't remember reading an opening quite as striking as Crimson Petal's is, and this high performing beginning has, thus far, been maintained throughout. It's like all the Victorian-era literature we love but with all the manky/scandalous/sweary bits left in Plus all beautifully written! Seriously, Faber is an extraordinary writer - the details he includes to really heighten the sense of 'being in the story' are exquisite! Yet, it's also an incredibly readable novel and very, very funny and bawdy. Actually, it's incredibly graphic in parts (as part of it is set in a brothel) - my eyes nearly popped out a couple of times towards the end of the first part! (Like this: , lol!) But it's all part of the narrative and the sense of the novel being what Victorian writers couldn't actually write, yet must have known went on, at the time. Faber takes on a bit of a Thackeray narrative persona too, which I just love. I couldn't wait to get back to reading it, and it really is true what some of the reviews said: at 835 pages long, it does feel too short! I was utterly bereft when I finished it - the characters were so sharply drawn that I really miss them now they are out of my life Definitely 10/10 - and I would give it more if I could!!
  2. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl Paperback: 528 pages Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (3 May 2007) Language English ISBN-10: 0141024321 ISBN-13: 978-0141024325 The blurb from the back:
  3. Wicked - Gregory Maguire

    Wicked by Gregory Maguire The blurb: An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature. I've been intrigued by Wicked ever since I saw an American import version recommended in a bookshop. It really appealed to me as although I love the classic film musical, I
  4. Daphne du Maurier

    On the 13th May, it will 100 years since Daphne du Maurier was born I know there are quite a few people on the forum who are also fans of her, so I thought it might be a good time to start a thread discussing/celebrating her work (and life). I was aware of du Maurier, but it wasn't until I had to read Rebecca for a final year course that I realised how amazing the novel truly was was. I'm on a mission for her to be recognised as the truly great writer she was! Daphne du Maurier was a really fascinating person too: revision last year was so much fun! I think she's an amazing writer: she's very modern, really, and her skill for plotting and atmosphere is wonderful. Even if you've guessed what's going to happen, you still read on! Plus her books always make me want to be in Cornwall! Rebecca is now one of my favourite books and I read Frenchman's Creek in Cornwall last year: I enjoyed it, although I prefer her darker moments. I've just finished Jamaica Inn in all it's Gothic splendor. (With it's dank and creepy home, rotten uncle and downtrodden aunt, it really reminds me of The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter. But I have the impression Carter didn't think much of du Maurier soooo... Hmmm.) I thoroughly enjoyed Jamaica Inn , particularly the character of Mary Yellan: she's fantastic, I was rooting for her all the way! I was struck, yet again, by how easily du Maurier can instantly take you into a sense of place and atmosphere. Her writing is beautiful and descriptive yet never feels unnecessary: I often have a problem with descriptive prose as I can lose interest, but du Maurier never loses me. Actually, I can say the same of Maggie O'Farrell, this month's Featured Author! There were moments that were 'larger than life' but I feel like du Maurier handles these brilliantly. After now reading a few of her novels, I can see that this usually applies to characters (such as Mrs Danvers in Rebecca and Dona's rather comical husband in Frenchman's Creek). In Jamaica Inn, it's Uncle Joss and his band of n'er-do-wells who are over the top, but gloriously so. It makes sense for them to seem so otherworldly and outrageous to Mary, who has only known sleepy farm and small village life. As I enjoyed it so much, I've now ordered My Cousin Rachel from GreenMetropolis - whoops! And I also got hold of a brand new copy of Julius in a charity shop in Bath (the slightly infamous 'incest' novel), so that's waiting to be read. I'm looking forward to all the celebrations that are going to be on over the next month: the BBC are going DdM crazy! There's a documentary by Mr Cornwall himself, Rick Stein (Eh? Rick Stein? I know he's 'Mr Cornwall' but that is just too, too odd): Rick Stein in Du Maurier Country - BBC2 starts 8.30pm May 12th 2007 (thanks to Rennie for the proper title!) There's also a dramatisation of My Cousin Rachel on Radio 4 this Sunday, 6th May, at 3pm Plus, there will be an 'autobiographical' drama on BBC2:
  5. Book Mooch!

    I've just joined BookMooch.com after seeing Louise mention it in her reading blog - does anybody else use it? Do you prefer to other swapping sites? Also, does anyone think it would be also worth signing up with Read It, Swap It?
  6. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi "Now in one volume, both parts of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's brilliant memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution." - Blurb from the back cover The narrative of Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel appears to be a basic one: Part One details her childhood from the age of ten, encompassing her relationship with her family and her family's history, all against the backdrop of the Islamic revolution and war with Iraq. It ends with her leaving Iran at fourteen, after her family decided that it would be best for her safety (and liberal sanity) if she continues her education in Europe. Part Two picks up from this point, with Satrapi in Austria. The first half of Part Two shows how Satrapi battles her isolation and cultural identity, only to end up on the streets and very depressed. At hitting bottom, she concludes that she must return to her family in Iran. However, upon returning she discovers that her isolation and identity problems are not exclusive to Europe... The rest I'll let you read for yourselves if you should so wish! Satrapi's graphic novel has had a lot of press attention, not least because it tackles the issues surrounding contemporary Iran. In this respect, Satrapi pulls no punches and her perspective allows an understanding and empathy that many written accounts of Iran have not been able to convey. The issue of the veil is ever-present throughout, as Marjane must adapt to wearing it twice: once as a child, then again upon her return, after years of not wearing it. I enjoyed both parts of Persepolis, although I found Part Two especially riveting as Marjane struggles with adapting to life in Iran again and relating to other Iranian women. Despite the serious and occasionally harrowing themes of Persepolis, it is wonderfully funny and very witty - particularly the young Marjane. One of the central philosophies of Marjane's life appears to be "If you don't laugh, you'll cry". The illustrations are deceptively simple; bold, monochrome, line drawings. Yet, like the understated prose, they capture a whole wealth of feeling and detail. I'd wholeheartedly urge everyone to read Persepolis, particularly if you're interested in Iran, as Satrapi's novel really helps you understand the history of modern Iran, as well as the religious and political tensions, in a ridiculously easy-to-digest way. I also think that it'll be a great starting point if you fancy delving into the wonderfully varied world of graphic novels, as it was a straight-forward narrative and it's very traditional in it's lay out and style. I managed to finish it in three days, and I was pacing myself! On a personal note, after reading this and Art Speigelman's Maus (one of my favourite books), I think I have an idea of what I'd perhaps like to research for my future studies, which is auto/biographical graphic novels. 9/10
  7. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Paperback: 448 pages Publisher: HarperPerennial (15 Jan 2007) Language English ISBN-10: 0007200285 ISBN-13: 978-0007200283 The blurb from the back Winner of this year
  8. Digging to America by Anne Tyler

    Digging to America by Anne Tyler Paperback: 336 pages Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (19 April 2007) Language English ISBN-10: 0099499398 ISBN-13: 978-0099499398 The blurb from the back
  9. After Andy's and Kell's threads on fantasy, horror and the classics, I was really curious to see if anyone else one the forum has a 'problem' with the crime and / or thriller genres? They are clearly very popular genres amongst many members (as well as the book buying public!), and I just thought I was the 'odd one out' as it were. But then I remembered that when I mentioned my not being a fan in passing, there were a couple of interesting responses, which I now quote below: (H&D and Judy: I hope you don't mind me quoting you!! ) So perhaps I'm not in the minority after all! But I still don't really know why crime and thrillers don't 'do' anything for me: I've had some bad reading experiences such as The DaVinci Code and Restless by William Boyd, but then I really enjoyed Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: The Mirror Crack'd. Yet I didn't feel the need to read anymore. However, I did hugely enjoy Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn and will definitely read more of her crime fiction. Perhaps I crime and thrillers don't provide me with some magic component that makes me want to read on. Or perhaps many can be too similar? (I'm not one for reading books by the same author in a row or even on similar issues/themes on after another). Also have a feeling that TV drama puts me off as there is so much of it on! And I get terribly bored (and I suppose it doesn't help that many are adapted very loosely from books). If you don't like crime and/or thrillers, what is it for you that switches you off? If you do, what am I missing?
  10. In London! It's been the most insanely busy 12 months. Fulltime Masters programmes in a capital city are intense! Oh I really should come back here...

  11. Oh my goodness!! I can't believe where the time has gone!! How are you all? xxx

  12. Favourite Characters

    After reading through the thread on Instant/Constant Characters, it got me thinking about books where the character/s are one of my favourite elements. Here are some of mine: * Fevvers - Nights At The Circus (Angela Carter) * Jane Eyre - erm, Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) * Matilda - Matilda (Roald Dahl) * Nannie - The One Hundred and One Dalmations (Dodie Smith) * Lyra and Will - His Dark Materials trilogy (Philip Pullman) * Estella - Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) * Oskar Schell - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer) That's off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are some others... No doubt, you lot will remind me of more! I found it harder to think of favourite characters than of favourite books, actually! And I've noticed that there are four 'children' in there, and even Fevvers, Jane and Estella are shown as children in their novels. I can't think why that should be! Oh and there's a dog in there too, lol.
  13. Blog a Penguin Classic!

    Guys! Penguin have started something called Blog a Penguin Classic:
  14. Maus by Art Spiegelman

    This was a contender for February's Reading Circle and although it didn't win, it was a popular choice. So, after discussing it with the good Lady Kell, I've started this thread: If anyone would like to discuss The Complete Maus during February, they may now do so: Hooray! The discussion should really start properly in Feb, but in the meantime, please feel free to say you'd like to take part and when you have a copy of the book to hand. Big thanks again to Kell, and I'll be posting all the blurb shortly.
  15. How much do you remember?

    I actually remember quite a lot about a book even after years since reading it. Mainly plot but sometimes characters too. The ironic thing is, as I write so many essays, I find it really hard to remember actual quotes! In an exam, I once made up an entirely new passage of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and lord knows what my exam versions of Pip and Jane Eyre ended up saying...
  16. nigella express

    I believe she used cinammon, of all things! Unusual but since she convinced me to stick cream and cider together, I'll trust her. I was going to try that recipe too with chicken portions - how long did you stick it in the oven for?
  17. The Man Booker Prize 2007

    Yes, it's that time of the year again! The Man Booker Prize 2007 Longlist has been announced and it's already ruffled a few literary feathers by being quite 'low-key' (i.e. no really big names except McEwan). (Anyone interested can find a good article here ) Here's the longlist: Darkmans by Nicola Barker (4th Estate) Self Help by Edward Docx (Picador) The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon) The Gathering by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape) The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton) The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies (Sceptre) Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (John Murray) Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (Viking) On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape) What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn (Tindal Street) Consolation by Michael Redhill (William Heinemann) Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (Simon & Schuster) Winnie & Wolf by A.N.Wilson (Hutchinson)
  18. The Man Booker Prize 2007

    It's strange you mention it, but I picked up the (UK) hardback this week and thought that it didn't really sell the book in the same way as the Australia/New Zealand edition did!
  19. nigella express

    I enjoyed it so much that the next day, I went and actually cooked the pork chops and gnocchi with cider, mustard and cream sauce! It was gorgeous! The recipe wasn't on the BBC website but I remembered it all, so if anyone wants it, let me know and I'll post it on here
  20. The Man Booker Prize 2007

    Ah, you beat me to it! And I went and looked for a previous post and everything The 'blurb' on the cover of mine is slightly different to the UK edition (more emphasis on the Great Expectations elements), so I thought I'd still post it: And it's an absolute cracker. Fabulous book
  21. The Man Booker Prize 2007

    Mister Pip has made it onto the shortlist! I'm so thrilled - it's a great novel
  22. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

    ** Don't worry - no spoilers to follow ** After three years of thinking "I should really read this", I finally started Cloud Atlas on Saturday. I did start reading it three years ago, but I struggled with the opening section ('The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing') so gave up on that particular occasion. I'm surprised I didn't pick it up again sooner as I'd read Ghostwritten (Mitchell's first novel) previously and loved it. Ah well, but at least I'm reading it now Thus far, I'm on page 145 so have read 'The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing', 'Letters from Zedelghem' and 'Half Lives...' and am about to embark on 'The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish'. As with Ghostwritten, I'm really enjoying this so far: it actually really reminds me of the Ghostwritten, especially with regards to the structure, but I can tell that this is a writer who has developed his skills somewhat since his first novel. There seems to be more of a deliberate juxapositioning of themes, genres, narrative, historical context etc, but the various 'stories' are slotting into each other more fluidly. (I'm being quite vague as I don't want to discuss specific details until I've read the whole novel ) One aspect of Mitchell's writing that I appreciate (and, I believe, has helped him to be embraced by the mainstream reading public), is that he really 'hooks' you into a narrative. Which is obviously key to a novel constructed of numerous and varied narrative. Ironically, I feel 'The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing' is still a difficult passage to start from, and although I became absorped by it eventually, I still think it's pretty monotonous to begin with. (Not that diaries from sea-faring types are normally riveting anyway! So I concede that Mitchell's created a convincing style, lol). With hindsight, I can see why I was put off Cloud Atlas the first time I tried: I think Ghostwritten's first chapter was brilliant and so allowed me to keep my hopes high for the rest of that novel, which didn't dissapoint. With Cloud Atlas, reading the first chapter and distinctly not loving it probably made me fear for the rest! Luckily, I appear to have been proven wrong. Hurrah! Really looking forward to getting on with the rest
  23. From June 25 (Previous Blogs are here: Part 1 and Part Two ) Colour Key Classics Modern Classics Short Stories Recent/New Releases (2006/2007) Doorsteps (Chunky monsters of a novel, approx. 400 pages +) Currently Reading Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell August Just In Case - Meg Rosoff (7/10) Possession - A.S. Byatt (8/10) Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones (9/10) Oscar & Lucinda
  24. Polka Dot Rock's Books of 2007: Part 3

    You'll be way ahead of me by the time I get 'round to carrying on reading it, Maureen It is very enjoyable tho', I agree. * * * * * List Updated Well, my TBR pile has gained a fair few more inches this week! By verious means and from various places, I've ended up with the following: In Custody - Anita Desai (mother of Kiran 'Inheritance of Loss' Desai) Howards End - EM Forster The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, a Gentleman - Laurence Sterne (I watched A Cock & Bull Story last weekend and couldn't resist getting this as I enjoyed the spirit of the film so much Also, I rarely read anything pre-19th century!) Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde A Grain of Wheat - Wa Thiong'o Ngugi I'm really pleased as some of these I've wanted for a good while now, so it's nice to 'spice up' my interest again. It'll be great to read Howards End then re-read On Beauty afterwards: I've been meaning to do that since reading the latter last year. Well, I'm off to (sunny?) North Devon again and taking a huge pile of books - I can't make up my mind what I want to read the most!! Oscar & Lucinda - Peter Carey The Book of Not - Tsitsi Dangarembga The Secret River - Kate Grenville The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, a Gentleman - Laurence Sterne And I've taken Dante's Inferno and three text books to guilt-trip myself into starting my MA reading list
  25. Holiday Reading...

    I'm going back to Devon tomorrow for a week and am taking more books this time than I did last time... It was for two weeks! I'm just not in the same disciplined frame of mind, I'm afraid So, going with me are as follows: Oscar & Lucinda - Peter Carey The Book of Not - Tsitsi Dangarembga The Secret River - Kate Grenville The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, a Gentleman - Laurence Sterne Plus Dante's Inferno and three text books from my reading list. Somehow, I doubt I'll get through them all, lol.