The Echo – James Smythe. The sequel to The Explorer and just as awesome. If you’re looking for some new sci-fi, I really recommend it.
Miss Buncle’s Book – D.E. Stevenson. I think Lianne over at caffeinatedlife.net directed my attention to this, and man am I glad that she did. It was a beautiful, slightly ridiculous, but never unbelievable, comedy of manners set in middle-England in the 20s. A definite pick-me-up type of book if anyone’s in need of that.
Olivia – Dorothy Strachey. I picked this up after reading The Guardian‘s Top 10 Boarding School Stories (no Antonia Forest? Really now?!). To be honest, I found it disappointing. The style of writing didn’t really appeal to me and it seemed like a poor version of Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, although as a fictionalised non-fiction it’s really not a fair comparison.
Cat Among the Pigeons – Agatha Christie. This also made it into my to-be-read pile via The Guardian list and it was my first Agatha Christie! I quite enjoyed it, despite it’s ridiculousness and racism (god, so much casual racism), and I actually felt that the school bits were really well done (and quite amusing).
The Emperor of Paris – C.S. Richardson. I think this was another book picked up thanks to Lianne and while I enjoyed the fairytale elements, the general style of narration failed to draw me in, unfortunately.
The Chill – Jason Starr & Mick Bertilorenzi. I can’t express to you how awful this was. I’ve liked the other titles in this series, but The Chill managed to be offensive to catholics, the Irish and women. A big fat no to everyone involved in this.
Mystery Men – David Liss & Patrick Zircher. This was interesting, though not wholly original, read following a loose group of people with super-powers in the 30s. And really, who can read that title and not think of the excellent 1999 movie.
Bliss – Kathryn Littlewood. I picked this up at random at work and it was a surprisingly enjoyable wee kid’s book. Telling the story of a magical bakery, this book had a lot to stay about being special when you feel anything but.
84 Charing Cross – Helene Hanff. The non-fiction correspondence between an English bookseller and an American reader, this book was wonderful on so many levels. All the people involved are delightful, the humour is ever-present, and it shone light on post-World War 2 deprivations in Britain, which I found of particular interest.
The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street – Helene Hanff. The sequel to 84 Charing Cross, this was in diary format rather than letter. Just as beautiful but oh so bittersweet in so many ways.
Hellblazer: Staring at the Wall – Mike Carey, Marcelo Frusin & Doug Alexander Gregory. I’ve read Mike Carey’s run on Hellblazer horribly out of order, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it, thankfully.
House of Mysteries: Love Stories for Dead People – Matthew Sturges, Luca Rossi & Jose Marzan Jr. An interesting horror-type comic. I would read another volume but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it, if you know what I mean.
Wolverine & the X-Men, Volume 8 – Jason Aaron & Nick Bradshaw. I love when X-Men writers remember that the X-Men are based in a school and put that in the foreground, rather than hiding it away as a pesky detail. Jason Aaron’s run on this has been fantastic, and I’m sad to see it come to an end.
I came across this beautiful video a few days ago, and it immediately brought to mind Story of a Secret State by Jan Karski. Annoyingly, I can’t find any record of when I read it, even though I’m sure it was in the last few years. I think I picked it up after reading a newspaper review, but I could be making that up entirely. I studied history at school, and loved it, but what has become evident to me as an adult is that history teaches you the broad sweeps while the day-to-day often gets lost. We spent a lot of time on World War II, looking at it from different perspectives, charting its beginning and consequences, and we talked about The Emergency in Ireland (as a neutral country, we didn’t technically have a second world war). But we didn’t talk about what happened to ordinary German citizens when the Soviets moved in (see A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous), we didn’t talk about what happened to non-Jewish people in countries invaded by Germany, we didn’t talk about how badly the Allies let down Poland when the war ended, and we certainly didn’t talk about how someone told the Allies about concentration camps and they didn’t believe him.
‘I do not pretend to have given an exhaustive picture of the Polish Underground, its organization and its activities. Because of our methods, I believe that there is no one today who could give an all-embracing recital…This book is a purely personal story, my story’. Jan Karski’s 1944 war memoir is a heroic act of witness: the courageous testimony of a man who risked everything for his country. At times overwhelming in the details it reveals of the suffering of ordinary people, it is an unforgettable and deeply affecting record of brutality, courage, and survival under conditions of extreme bleakness. During the first four years of World War II, Karski worked as a messenger for the underground, risking his life in secret missions. He was captured, tortured, rescued, smuggled through a tunnel into the Warsaw ghetto and, finally, disguised himself as a guard to infiltrate a Nazi death camp. Then, travelling across occupied Europe to England, with his eye-witness report smuggled on microfilm in the handle of a razor, he became the first man to tell the Allies about the Holocaust – only to be ignored.
It’s been quite interesting reading other people’s ‘Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books By‘. Interesting, because seeing what authors others favour is always a curiosity (so much Cassandra Clare, people…), but also because between 6 and 20 books by each author seems to have been the norm. My stats are waaaaay different!
1. Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (108)
2. Ann M. Martin (62)
3. Terry Pratchett (59)
4. L.J. Smith (42)
5. J.K. Rowling (30)
6. Peter David (27)
7. Garth Nix (20)
7. Anne Rice (20)
8. L.M. Montgomery (19)
8. Angela Brazil (19)
8. Jim Butcher (19)
9. Neil Gaiman (18)
9. Carolyn Keene (18)
10. Georgette Heyer (17)
For some, explanations are necessary: I am a cover whore. There are certain authors (sometimes, certain books), whose books I collect in various editions. Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, L.J. Smith and J.K. Rowling’s figures are all inflated because I own multiple copies of their works. Foreign covers are sometimes just awesome, you know? Sometimes I feel guilty about spending money on a book I’ve already read when I could be getting something new, but the obsession doesn’t listen to sense. As for the other authors, well, that’s just how many books they’ve written. I like a lot of writers who are prolific, to say the least (yeah, Terry Pratchett, I’m looking at you). It saddens me to see a mere eighteen titles attributed to Carolyn Keene though, as I used to have pretty much every Nancy Drew book until the sad day that my mother convinced me to donate them to the local primary school. Not cool, Mum!
The Commonwealth Games are odd. If you’re from a participating country, you know it’s happening, and if you’re not, well, what the hell is going on? I’m from Ireland. We’re not in the Commonwealth so you can imagine how much I heard about the Games growing up – yep, virtually nothing. When I moved to Glasgow, the city had just been chosen as the host of the 2014 Games which meant very little, really. Bit by bit, however, things have been gearing up, the Commonwealth Games have been making themselves known to me, and now I work in a city that is consumed by them.
A city in the run up to a major sporting tournament is a strange, strange thing. There’s the bunting for one – it’s everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Buildings have been painted and generally gussied up, (grammatically questionable) slogans have been coined and plastered pretty much anywhere a slogan can be plastered, and businesses have been told to ‘put their Games face on’ whilst simultaneously being told that they’re not allowed to use the Commonwealth Games logo or the phrase ‘Glasgow 2014′. There’s investment and new shiny things to be enjoyed. There’s displacement of local communities and bitterness that will not be quickly forgotten.
The thing that is most unsettling for me personally is the waiting. Glasgow has been preparing for these Games for years and now they’re almost here. The plans are in place, there’s no going back, and all we can do is wait. Will people come? Will the weather co-operate? Will the denizens of Glasgow go with the flow or kill all the tourists where they stand? Tomorrow, one way or another, we’ll start to find out.