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  1. Today
  2. I'm halfway through the Mortal Instruments series and enjoying them, I have the Dark Artifices and Infernal Devices too, and she's just started a new trilogy as well, I can't remember what it's called though.
  3. Charles Dickens

    Here's my copy. Given to me by someone when doing a house clearance.
  4. Word Association

  5. Yesterday
  6. Original Manuscript Dimemma

    Hi all. First post from a lifetime reader of pretty much anything & with zero knowledge regarding the buying & selling of unusual items. Three years ago, a good friend of mine passed away & one of the items left to me is Dudley Pope's original, typewritten (but with copious handwritten amendments) manuscript for his novel "The Black Ship" complete with a personally dedicated first edition of that novel. How (& who do I contact) to find out if this is of any value - historical or otherwise? Thanks
  7. Current readings Don't Tell Alfred - Nancy Mitford (set aside for the mo. Seemed good at the beginning, though I started to flip pages as the dialogue was dull and never ending....*yawn*) BEASTARS Vol 1 - Paru Itagaki Manga. An animal version of style of possibly 50s Preppy, US style academy. Sparsely artwork, but at the same time beautifully done. An herbivore student is brutally murdered, could it be that the culprit be one of the carnivore students? Weird stuff, but captivating! And 5 volumes to buy, I think . Chapter 1 read of Half a King - Joe Abercrombie. Different style of genre for me, but I think its time for less of the English in the WW2 theme, for the time being.
  8. A Book Blog 2020 by Books do Furnish a Room

    Shorts and Thoughts by Maggie Fogarty This is a set of short stories designed to make you think and to have an edge, creating a little disturbance with a twist along the way. The themes are obsession, life changing decisions, growing old, loss, life changes and the lonely and isolated. There are eight in all. What drew my attention to the collection was the fact that the author is donating half the profits to the Social Work Benevolent Fund. Being a social worker myself, how could I resist! Maggie Fogarty worked for Social Work Today in the 1980s and has reported on social affairs issues for many years. She has worked as a TV producer and journalist, but also writes. She has written a novel and some novellas. This collection was put together to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the British Association of Social Workers. The stand out story for me was Two Doors, partly because it resonated for me personally. It is about a Child Protection social worker who has a decision to make; there are two urgent visits that need to be done, but which one does she prioritise. Inevitably she prioritises the wrong one and a child dies. She is vilified in the press and has to leave her job and change her identity. The story is brief and looks at her new life whilst reflecting on her old one. Although I work with adults and not children I face decisions like that several times a week. Although I manage a team of social workers I make sure the buck stops with me. I have more work to allocate than people to allocate to. So I have to decide who gets seen and when. It is difficult and often there are no right answers, just the lesser of the evils and no one notices when we get it right. Other stories of note involve a woman finally confronting her father who was responsible for a childhood trauma, a woman with an acquired brain injury who wakes up every day with no memories of the day before and relies on notes and diaries to start again (yes, I know this has been done before, but this is shorter and more effective). There is a man recalling his life with his wife, a radio agony aunt who gets very involved in a domestic abuse situation. A woman who was an ex surveillance officer in the police force carries on what she did as work into her daily life without work; she researches the lives of those she comes across and “tries to help” with somewhat disturbing results. Unravelling Freddie is about a group of council workers whose job it is to dig into the lives of people who die alone and try to find family friends and connections. Deadline is about a woman who sits on a government committee whose task it is to think the unthinkable. Her area is end of life. This is a good collection of stories which grew on me because they stay with you after reading and they do make you think. You may find things to question ore disagree with, but you do have to react. Recommended and cheap (at £3.99) with enough edge to satisfy. 9 out of 10 Starting A Lost Lady by Wi;;a Cather
  9. A Book Blog 2020 by Books do Furnish a Room

    Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran by Fatemeh Keshavarz Keshavarz wrote this as a response to Reading Lolita in Tehran (RLT) and I have read the two books together. She was concerned that Nafisi had misrepresented Iran and Iranian culture, but especially Iranian women. As Keshavarz says herself: “The greatest omission in the content of Nafisi’s book is that it overlooks the agency and presence of Iranian women in the social and intellectual domain. That is ironic particularly because the book’s main claim is to tell the untold story of women in post-revolutionary Iran. If Reading Lolita in Tehran is the only book you have read about Iran, you would not be able to imagine that vibrant Iranian women writers such as Shahrnush Parsipur, Simin Behbahani, and Simin Danishvar ever existed, let alone imagine that they wrote during the same period that Nafisi’s book covers. You would not guess that post-revolutionary Iranian cinema has women writers and directors as outspoken as Tahmineh Milani and Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, or that women activists such as the Peace Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi spoke and wrote about women and children’s rights during the same period. And these are only a few examples.” This is not a negative book. Keshavarz looks at Iranian culture and literature pre and post revolution including poets and mystics. There is a close reading of Shahrnoush Parsipur's Women Without Men (1989), she describes the effect on her classmates of the early death of the poet Forrough Farrokhzad. There are poets, mystics, novelists, film makers, philosophers and many more. The arguments are convincing and she goes through RLT in detail pointing out inconsistencies and the flatness of many of the players. Keshavarz draws on New Orientalism perspectives to make her point; she also points to the Westernization of goodness in RLT, an unqualified attribution of good things with the West. One of the problems is that readers, especially in the West, tend to bring many preconceived ideas with them about Islam and the situation in the Middle East and RLT just reinforces them with no thought or analysis. Keshavarz sets the record straight and as a result my to be read list has suddenly grown a little longer! 8 out of 10 Starting The long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers
  10. A Book Blog 2020 by Books do Furnish a Room

    Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi I read this in conjunction with Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran by Fatemeh Keshavarz. The second is a reaction to the first and I found reading them in conjunction very helpful. The publicity blurb for the book is helpful: “Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov.” This is primarily a memoir. Nafisi describes her experience in Iran from the Revolution until she left for the US in 1997. For some of that time she taught literature at Tehran University. The class described above took place in the last two years before she left. The memoir jumps around a good deal and ranges around the 1980s and late 1970s. The discussions around books mainly revolve around Nafisi’s lectures. The Thursday meetings seem to revolve around more mundane matters like food, relationships, and issues around wearing the veil. Much as I disapprove of the Iranian regime, as I disapprove of any regime based on religion, I found many of Nafisi’s criticisms rather short-sighted and simplistic whilst not minimizing the problems she faced. I could also have done without the teaching on James and Fitzgerald! There are more important concerns. Much of the criticism of this book centres on what is called New or Neo Orientalism. Hamid Dabashi accused Nafisi of playing the role that Thomas Macaulay had asked of the class of Indian civil servants in the Raj: 'We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect.' It is based on Said’s original concept which examined European justifications for being involved in the Eastern Hemisphere. New Orientalism scapegoats Islam for many ills and negates all nuanced interpretation. It has a tendency to prefer Western culture and politics. Keshavarz argues that often this New Orientalism is cloaked in an insider perspective as in this narrative. She names a number of others as well. There is a danger that books like this feed into the vehemently anti-Islamic and anti-anything but the West narratives and feelings in Western culture. There is a hostility in our culture to otherness and I think this is in danger of feeding that. That doesn’t negate the author’s experience, but reading the two books together was illuminating. Reviewing them separately is trickier! Keshavarz seemed much more sympathetic to the Iranian people and I learnt more from her account (review to follow). 5 and a half out of 10 Starting Mean Little Deaf Queer by Terry Galloway
  11. A Book Blog 2020 by Books do Furnish a Room

    Red Shelley by Paul Foot Of all the upper and middle class white boy poets of the early nineteenth century: Keats, Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley, Southey, Coleridge etc, for me there has only really been one that mattered: Shelley. Paul Foot has eloquently reminded me why. It was Marx who allegedly said that if Byron had lived he would have become a bourgeois reactionary (like Wordsworth), but if Shelley had lived he would have remained radical and been in the vanguard of socialism and revolution. This may come as a surprise to some who may be used to reading the Shelley they find in the anthologies and peddled by the Shelley society. Foot looks at all of Shelley’s writing and shows that his prose is as important as his poetry and that his views were truly radical for the time. He also expressed his anger eloquently. Take the beginning of The Mask of Anarchy, for me his most important poem, where he reacts to the Peterloo massacre. Castlereagh is the prime minister of the time and Shelley was in Italy: I As I lay asleep in Italy There came a voice from over the Sea, And with great power it forth led me To walk in the visions of Poesy. II I met Murder on the way - He had a mask like Castlereagh - Very smooth he looked, yet grim; Seven blood-hounds followed him: III All were fat; and well they might Be in admirable plight, For one by one, and two by two, He tossed them human hearts to chew Which from his wide cloak he drew. Foot deals with a number of aspects of Shelley’s thought. His atheism is pretty straightforward and stayed with him throughout his life. Those who have tried to tame Shelley have tried to argue he moved towards religion in later life, but Foot deals with this effectively. His republicanism is again incontrovertible. Foot also deals with his attitude to women and his attitudes to reform and revolution. Shelley was always aware of injustice. This is from a pamphlet called “Address to the people on the Death of Princess Charlotte”: “Thus much the death of the Princess Charlotte has in common with the death of thousands. How many women die in childbed and leave their families of motherless children and their husbands to live on, blighted by the remembrance of that heavy loss? How many women of active and energetic virtues—mild, affectionate, and wise, whose life is as a chain of happiness and union, which once being broken, leaves those whom it bound to perish, have died, and have been deplored with bitterness, which is too deep for words? Some have perished in penury or shame, and their orphan baby has survived, a prey to the scorn and neglect of strangers. Men have watched by the bedside of their expiring wives, and have gone mad when the hideous death-rattle was heard within the throat, regardless of the rosy child sleeping in the lap of the unobservant nurse. The countenance of the physician had been read by the stare of this distracted husband, till the legible despair sunk into his heart. All this has been and is. You walk with a merry heart through the streets of this great city, and think not that such are the scenes acting all around you. You do not number in your thought the mothers who die in childbed. It is the most horrible of ruins:—In sickness, in old age, in battle, death comes as to his own home; but in the Season of joy and hope, when life should succeed to life, and the assembled family expects one more, the youngest and the best beloved, that the wife, the mother—she for whom each member of the family was so dear to one another, should die!—Yet thousands of the poorest poor, whose misery is aggravated by what cannot be spoken now, suffer this. And have they no affections? Do not their hearts beat in their bosoms, and the tears gush from their eyes? Are they not human flesh and blood? Yet none weep for them—none mourn for them—none when their coffins are carried to the grave (if indeed the parish furnishes a coffin for all) turn aside and moralize upon the sadness they have left behind.” I could add similar quotes on Ireland and on other subjects: Shelley’s prose surprises. So does his poetry. This is called A Ballad and wasn’t published until 120 years after his death. I wonder why? A woman came up with a babe at her breast Which was flaccid with toil and hunger- She cried- “Give me food and give me rest We die if I wait much longer- The poor thing sucks and no milk will come; He would cry but his strength is gone – His wasting weakness has left him dumb - Ye can hardly hear him moan. The skin round his eyes is pale and blue – His eyes are glazed – not with tears – I wish for a little moment that you – Could know what a mother fears. Give me a piece of that fine white bread; I would give you some blood for it – Before I faint and my infant is dead – O give me a little bit. Shelley didn’t stop at the observation of poverty, he wanted to know why people are poor and what could be done about it. He even developed a form of what became known as The Labour Theory of Value and talked about liquidating landed wealth and privilege in his notes on Queen Mab. This is Shelley asking what freedom is from The Mask of Anarchy: “Thou art not, as impostors say, A shadow soon to pass away, A superstition, and a name Echoing from the cave of Fame. `For the labourer thou art bread, And a comely table spread From his daily labour come In a neat and happy home. 220 `Thou art clothes, and fire, and food For the trampled multitude-- No -- in countries that are free Such starvation cannot be As in England now we see.” Although Shelley argued for universal suffrage, he also warned that the granting of it would not solve the problems we faced as power and privilege would remain. How right he was. His approach to marriage was clear. This is from The Revolt of Islam: “Well with the world art thou unreconciled; Never will peace and human nature meet Till free and equal man and woman greet Domestic peace; and ere this power can make In human hearts its calm and holy seat, This slavery must be broken” And this: “Can man be free if woman be a slave? Chain one who lives, and breathes this boundless air, To the corruption of a closèd grave! Can they, whose mates are beasts condemned to bear Scorn heavier far than toil or anguish, dare To trample their oppressors? In their home, Among their babes, thou knowest a curse would wear The shape of woman--hoary Crime would come Behind, and Fraud rebuild Religion's tottering dome” His approach to society is clear in Men of England: Men of England, wherefore plough For the lords who lay ye low? Wherefore weave with toil and care The rich robes your tyrants wear? … The seed ye sow, another reaps; The wealth ye find, another keeps; The robes ye weave, another wears; The arms ye forge, another bears. … Sow seed—but let no tyrant reap: Find wealth—let no imposter heap: Weave robes—let not the idle wear: Forge arms—in your defence to bear. There is much more in this and similar vein in The Revolt of Islam, Queen Mab, The Mask of Anarchy, Swellfoot the Tyrant and Peter Bell the Third. Foot does not hero worship or idolize Shelley; he delineates his faults and inconsistencies. What he does do though is show that at heart he is a radical who believed in radical solutions (for the time) to society’s problems. Some of those solutions would still be radical for our times sadly. For me there is only one of that group of poets who stays with me and that is Shelley. 9 out of 10 Starting Seahenge by Francis Pryor
  12. A Book Blog 2020 by Books do Furnish a Room

    Glitter of Mica by Jessie Kesson This is the third novel I have read by Jessie Kesson. It tells the story of an isolated community in rural Scotland over a period of 30 years, mainly through the eyes of the head dairyman on one of the farms, Hugh Riddell. The novel does periodically switch to other points of view: to Hugh’s wife and daughter and other local residents. The community of Caldwell seems unchanging and insular, but modernity is creeping up. The setting is post Second World War, but the narrative is not really linear. There is a particular incident referred to near the beginning of the book and taking place near the end round which the whole thing revolves. There is a social hierarchy which the War has begun to loosen, but it is still there and Kesson is charting the start of its downfall. At times the book feels as bleak as the landscape. There is the occasional flash of humour: “for she was a tight woman and had she been a ghost she would have grudged giving you a fright”. And the character of Sue Tatt brings a certain humour, but her portrayal is as poignant as it is amusing. There are times when the dialect is a little difficult and for me I enjoyed Kesson’s other two novels I have read more. But if you like bleak then this may be for you! 6 and a half out of 10 Starting Shorts and Thoughts by Maggie Fogarty
  13. Flagging with Don't Tell Alfred . so I'm started with Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
  14. Last week
  15. Always been a bit tempted by the Infernal Devices Trilogy because of the Victorian setting. Also love the term 'bubblegum reading'! I finished Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (while I was waiting for the hosts to email me about our disaster restore!) and it was so good. Now I can't decide what I want to read!
  16. I've been picking off a couple of Iain M. Banks Culture novels that I've not read before. I finished Inversions at the end of last month and am now onto Surface Detail. Picked up a book of Japanese short stories and the second Tegan Frost novel last weekend.
  17. I have been reading my way through Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices Trilogy. followed by her Mortal Instruments series (6 books), and now her Dark Artifices Trilogy. Very easy reading, fast paced, urban / supernatural / young adult. it has been just what I have needed these past weeks. Bubblegum reading - low nutritional value, but sometimes just the thing you fancy.
  18. It is a good start, and they get better as they go along as well. I like Feynman; What Do You Care What Other People Think? is an interesting account of his time on the Warren Commission, investigating the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger. I've been reading Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! in stages on my Kindle, that is good as well. You might find Moondust, by Andrew Smith interesting.
  19. Charles Dickens

    Last Saturday was the first time I've been in a bookshop since lockdown started, and I did look at a copy, but it was a bit dog-eared so I left it. I'm not in hurry; if I don't get a copy for a while it's not a problem!!
  20. Welcome Back! An Update

    It was pretty stressful but we’re back so it was worth it . Thanks for pointing that out, I hadn’t noticed until you said it. It looks like our actual profiles are fine so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, I’ll look into it!
  21. Finished The Blessing by Nancy Mitford, and that was a hoot, especially the blessing child Sigi
  22. July already! So, I’m reading Don’t Tell Alfred in the final book of The Penguin Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford
  23. Time for some updates, I'm so happy that the forum is back. Please excuse the brevity of some of my mini reviews as my memory of my thoughts about some of the book is a little hazy. Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman (2/5) 6 fundamental physics theorys explained for non-scientists. I have a decent grasp of physics but I have to admit that a lot of the stuff in this book went completely over my head. This appears to be common complaint from other reviews I have read. Airframe by Michael Crichton (1/5) A pilot of a commercial flight declares an emergency to ATC and informs the controller that he will require 40 ambulances on landing. 94 passengers are injured, 3 dead, and the aircraft interior looks like a war zone. Can the investigation reveal what happened during this flight? Positives, this was a quick read. Negatives, just about everything else. I know a lot about aircraft and how they work, having worked on them for 20 years. I'm pretty sure Crichton read the basics of flight but misunderstood some of the concepts as this book is absolutely littered with technical errors. There are also loads of errors in how the FAA works and how incidents are investigated (a company is not allowed to carry it's the investigation into incidents where there are injuries or deaths). The final 'cause' of the incident is realistic and something similar has happened in the past but it was lazily written in my opinion. Finally, a unionised work force trying to kill a member of staff on a regular basis on company property is laughable. A History of Britain Vol 1 by Simon Schama (4/5) I listened to this on audiobook over the course of about a month. The first volume covers 3500BC to AD1603 and covers a lot of ground in that time. I found it very interesting and the narrator added a few flourishes which helped to keep me engaged. I'm currently listening volume 2. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (4/5) Do you ever feel like you struggle to concentrate when doing things but remember that you used to be able to with little effort? Do you feel 'dumber' than you used it? The cause could be the internet, how you use it, and how it uses you. This book looks into how our use of the internet is changing our brains in both a physical and practical sense. This book really spoke to me and how I have felt about my own mental capacities over the last 3 or 4 years. There are loads of scientific studies explained in this book along with some advice on how you can start to change your relationship with the internet to help reverse this trend. Lockdown by Peter May (2/5) The blurb proclaims this book to be "The crime thriller that predicted the world in quarantine". The book starts with a note from the author saying that he originally wrote this book about 15 years ago and that publishers turned it down for being too far-fetched. Now that we are faced with the reality of a modern day pandemic the publishers decided that it was realistic and chose to print it. Call me a cynic but I think originally the publisher chose to pass on it because it is simply not very good, and then decided to publish it now as an attempt to cash in. It's not terrible, it's just not very good and feels like a first draft with minimal editing done. Apollo 11 by David Whitehouse (4/5) This is a non-fiction book looking at the history of the race into space and then to the moon. It is really well written and contains loads of information that was new to me. There are also some really good colour photos in the middle of the book with the main players in them. I would perhaps have liked a little more technical detail about why certain things went wrong but this is a minor criticism. The Thirst by Jo Nesbo (3/5) Harry Hole novel #11. There is a new killer on the streets who is targeting women via the internet dating app Tinder. It would appear that he or she is a modern day vampire, but who is it and can the police catch them now that Harry Hole is not working as a detective any more? I've really enjoyed the Harry Hole books so far and while this isn't a bad book I was left feeling a little disappointed by the time I had finished it. The story is really well worked web of intrigue with plenty of things to keep you thinking but I felt that there were a few too many wrong turns. I pretty much sussed out who was involved in the crimes fairly early on but my biggest let down was how the final act played out. There is no way Harry would have been permitted to reveal the killer in the way he did and he made such a basic error I refuse to accept it. I'm hoping that Nesbo soon winds up the Harry Hole books before they continue on a gradual slide. The way Henning Mankell ended the Wallander series was pretty much perfect and while Nesbo can't end the Harry Hole saga in the same way he needs to end it when the time is right. I know there is another book for me to read but I think that the time is now.
  24. Charles Dickens

    Did you ever find that "real" copy of Pickwick Papers Raven? Sadly copies of the older classics are becoming more difficult to find in paperback or hardback. Somehow it feels wrong to read them on kindle etc., though I expect their authors would be fascinated! Summer is usually my time for some fantasy or folklore type reading but I've been feeling a pull to stretch my brain a little lately (must be all the old repeats I've watched during lockdown!) so now that my local Library is soon to re-open I'll soon be able to mull over a full over the range. Meanwhile, finishing off my dual time Avalon novel ... Happy All!
  25. Welcome Back! An Update

    I'm glad to see the forum back! Thank you for all your efforts . It must have been a stressful time for you . I haven't browsed the forum much yet other than the main index and this topic. The only thing I've noticed, is that when I hover over your, or anyone else's, name, it used to show bits of the member's profile, but now it says: There was a problem loading this content.
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