Category Archives: Do I Want To Read?

Do I Want To Read… Charles Dickens?

I haven’t done a ‘Do I Want To Read’ post for sometime but seeing as I know I will be moving when this goes up, there really are occasional bonuses to being able to schedule a post if it all goes right, and as it will also be his 200th Birthday (I could go on about what would happen if we celebrated everyone’s 200th but I won’t, oh I did) I thought maybe it would be appropriate to ask you all about Mr Dickens and what you would recommend this reader do with the ‘Dickens difficulty’ he has.

Happy 200th Birthday Charlie-Boy!

My mother, no less, has said on many occasional that I shouldn’t really call myself a reader if I haven’t read Dickens, or maybe it was Hardy… or maybe Austen (I have failed at all three in the main). I tried to argue this one out and failed, she is an English teacher after all. We have also come to snarky sneery banter about Shakespeare; I hated him at school and have been unable to shift this phobia. Anyway let’s discuss my ‘Dickens dilemma’ further, for it is his birthday and should be all about him.

I have tried and failed with Dickens on four occasions now. ‘Oliver Twist’ was first, I thought being a tale for children it might be the easiest way in, along with the fact it was one of the shortest. The 22 year old me just didn’t like it, remember he wasn’t the best reader though – or certainly not a patient reader shall we say, I have no idea why now but I simply didn’t enjoy it and so probably promptly moved onto an Agatha Christie.

The following year came Andrew Davies adaptation of ‘Bleak House’ which being made by the BBC and starring Gillian Anderson (I am of the X Files generation, what can I say) enticed me to watching the whole 15 episodes which I really enjoyed and thought ‘ooh I must read the book’. I started it and thought it was ok, then I got lost with all the characters and plot (which seemed so much more graspable in the adaptation, enough said) and these dreaded words ‘well the TV show was much better’ were actually muttered out of my mouth. I think dear reader I might just have heard you muter ‘heathen’ under your breath. Rude.

Moving in with a very well read family member in December of 2010 who was also, very important for this post, is a huge Dickens fan I found my interest peaked again. ‘Great Expectations’ was the recommendation, apparently his most accessible work. If I remember rightly I think Polly of Novel Insights and I were considering reading it that Christmas, in fact knowing our Christmas Classics pact she probably did, I picked it up, got on with it ok but wasn’t held enough to read it right through. My bookish magpie eyes kept seeing other newer shiny reading gems. We parted ways about page 80-90, we haven’t faced each other since.

This Christmas we had another adaptation of Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ on the BBC, and again with Gillian Anderson once more I was drawn into the show. But I decided to hold off watching and try to read the book instead. Until I saw someone on twitter give away the fiery ending and so I thought ‘what’s the point now?’ I soon settled down with some of his ghostly stories instead but Scrabble, Spite & Malice or (the most likely) a Snowball cocktail lead me away from them.

Yet I do still want to try him, so oh wise readers of this blog… where should I start?

(And will anyone else please own up to not having ever finished a Dickens so I don’t feel such a literary loner? I have also noticed I didn’t mention the Queen yesterday, but frankly 60 years ruling a country vs. me moving house, which is bigger news? Ha!)

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Do I Want To Read… The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan?

I personally don’t read that much werewolf based fiction, even though I love a good werewolf film, so it’s interesting that I have had Glen Duncan’s ‘The Last Werewolf’ on my periphery for quite some time. I can’t say I am a big read of supernatural fiction, though I have dabbled in the Twilight series (which some people would say I shouldn’t admit to but stuff it) and have various thoughts on those, I do like a good chilling ghost story though. Yet I have read a few reviews – like this one – and heard various podcasts and the like that make me think I might rather like this read. Weirdly there was one absolute slating of the book that made me want to read it more, and that was from the fabulous Marieke Hardy.

I am pretty sure I have pushed you in the direction of Australia’s ‘First Tuesday Book Club’ before. It’s the perfect book show and one I am shocked we haven’t the likes of in the UK as I think it would be a great success (and I know someone who would love to host it, cough). Each month they read two books in a panel of five (three of whom, Jennifer Byrne, Marieke Hardy and Jason Steger, are always on it) and discuss them. Invariably the books are one modern and one classic, this month the modern one was ‘The Last Werewolf’. Well Marieke went crazy on it calling it ‘a very silly book’, and excuse my French, a ‘cock forest’,  where else would you get a brilliant review like that? If you want to see it then go here and skip to 3.33 minutes for the fun to begin its hilarious. You can also sign up to get the series as a vodcast every month.

I have also heard on ‘Books on the Nightstand’; one of my other favourite podcasts, that this is a ‘literary werewolf novel’ could this be a surprise contender for the Man Booker 2011, how bizarre and brilliant would that be? So have any of you read ‘The Last Werewolf’ and what did you think? Isn’t it funny how a bad review, when done honestly and well, can make you want to read something even more?

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Do I Want To Read… Memoirs, Of A Kind?

I haven’t done a ‘Do I Want To Read’ post for ages and yet I think there are about ten or twenty books whizzing about my brain that I would like to your thoughts on, alas with everything else going on they come into my mind and then are soon forgotten. I bet as soon as this post has gone up I will be kicking myself that I didn’t mention some other titles. Anyway, today I thought we would deal with two books which have a link of sorts for one is a memoir and the other a fictional work that’s very much based on the authors personal life, well as far as I can gather. So I am hoping some of you will have read either or these or have heard things about them that you can pass on and help me form an opinion of whether I do or don’t actually want to get my mitts on them.

I have seen huge posters for Margaux Fragoso’s memoir ‘Tiger, Tiger’ here there and everywhere in my travels from home to town or home to hospital. It wasn’t until Louise mentioned it in the comments of another post and said “I recently read Tiger, Tiger… I don’t usually read that type of thing, but I couldn’t not read it, most unsettling” so naturally my interest was piqued, though when I saw the blurb, during a browse of Waterstones, I was rather shocked…

“I still think about Peter, the man I loved most in the world, all the time. At two in the afternoon, when he would come and pick me up and take me for rides; at five, when I would read to him, head on his chest; in the despair at seven p.m., when he would hold me and rub my belly for an hour; in the despair again at nine p.m. when we would go for a night ride, down to the Royal Cliffs Diner in Englewood Cliffs where I would buy a cup of coffee with precisely seven sugars and a lot of cream. We were friends, soul mates and lovers. I was seven. He was fifty-one.”

I instantly wanted to hate the book, yet thought I should put my prejudices to one side and maybe try the prologue. I don’t know if it was the honesty, or the quality of the writing (though I have heard people say it’s written appallingly, each to their own) or the car crash element of it but I read the prologue and could have carried on. I had to leave, and something stopped me from actually buying the book. I didn’t know if it was tasteful or not and to be honest I still don’t yet something makes me want to read on, is that bad?

The second of the books I have been mulling over is actually the last of a series, so maybe the question is do I want to read this series? The book I am talking about, and have started seeing lots of reviews of it popping up here and there is ‘At Last’ by Edward St. Aubyn. Here’s the blurb…

“For Patrick Melrose, ‘family’ is more than a double-edged sword. As friends, relations and foes trickle in to pay final respects to his mother, Eleanor – an heiress who forsook the grandeur of her upbringing for ‘good works’, freely bestowed upon everyone but her own child – Patrick finds that his transition to orphanhood isn’t necessarily the liberation he had so long imagined. Yet as the service ends and the family gather for a final party, as conversations are overheard, danced around and concertedly avoided, amidst the social niceties and the social horrors, the calms and the rapids, Patrick begins to sense a new current. And at the end of the day, alone in his rooftop bedsit, it seems to promise some form of safety, at last. One of the most powerful reflections on pain and acceptance, and the treacheries of family, ever written, “At Last” is the brilliant culmination of the Melrose books. It is a masterpiece of glittering dark comedy and profound emotional truth.”

I had heard this series was based on his own past which included being raped by his father, drug abuse and possible suicide. My initial thoughts were ‘oh not another Dave Pelzer’, sorry if people love him but how much money many books can someone write out of their own misery, it even sparked the ‘life tragedies’ genre in certain book stores. However one of the previous novels in the series ‘Mother’s Milk’ was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2006 which leads me to believe they must be very well written, I also heard him on Open Book with Mariella Frostrup and found him rather interesting to listen to and the fact a book based around death and abuse had had Mariella laughing. I’m wondering if I have been missing out on this author and series, have any of you tried him?

Any thoughts on either of these books or the authors?

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Do I Want To Read… Beryl Bainbridge?

There are certain authors which I always feel like I should have read and invariably haven’t. I am sure that all readers have this feeling of ‘why haven’t I tried that author yet’ now and again. One of the authors that I have always felt I should give a read is Beryl Bainbridge. This week when The Booker Prize Foundation announced it was doing a ‘Best of Beryl’ prize I was reminded that she was an author I had been meaning to read and had no clue where to start, this is of course where all of you come in.

You see something about Beryl Bainbridge has always appealed to me without having read a word. In part this is because I have seen her on TV a few times and been fascinated, it’s also because I love the name Beryl and in fact named my very first cat just that. I have always seen lots and lots of copies of her last novel ‘According To Queeny’ in charity shops but although I always pick it up I am never quite sure if it’s me or not.

So I thought I would ask you all for your Beryl Bainbridge thoughts and recommendations. I am tempted to see if I can find her first novel ‘A Weekend With Claude’ as I do like to start from the beginning but actually I am going to throw caution to the wind, or indeed to the whim, and see where your suggestions lead me. So where should I start with a bit of Beryl?

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Do I Want To Read… Criminal Authors; Val McDermid, James Ellroy & Jo Nesbø

I haven’t done a  ‘Do I Want To Read’ post on for a while but now seemed the perfect time. I don’t mean to bore you all with health issues at the moment but I think between the various waiting rooms I have managed to catch a corking cold and its put me in the mood for some crime anyway and I don’t mean cosy either. In fact what I have been hankering after is chilling and page turning crime and three authors have sort of been on my horizon who fit the bill for various reasons and who I wondered if you could recommend or not…

I was listening to one of my favourite book podcasts ‘The Book Show’ the other day and they repeated and interview with Val McDermid and her latest novel ‘Trick of the Dark’. Val McDermid is an author that I have always wanted to read and yet haven’t gotten round to. I actually got a copy of ‘Wire in the Blood’ ages ago and then a) found out it was the second in the series and I do like to read in order and b) the cover was atrocious (I think it was a magazine freebie) and I went right off it. Listening to her talking about her latest book, which also happens to be a standalone novel, I found her really compelling and so of course now I want to read all of her work. I have heard she is very chilling and it’s quite brutal which oddly, with flu and therefore furious at the world, is just what I am in the mood for right now.   

Another author I have wanted to read on and off is James Ellroy. I saw the film ‘The Black Dahlia’ a few years ago and was left rather confused and also really compelled, I thought ‘ooh I should read the book’ and then of course didn’t. I did the same with ‘L.A. Confidential’ actually thinking about it. Strolling through the City Library, which I will be reporting back on very soon, I caught sight of a What’s On pamphlet and saw that it was LGBT month and there is a regular book group which is ‘a monthly group for anyone who enjoys LGBT-interest fiction’ and one I thought with The Green Carnation Prize now back in swing (yes we are receiving submissions already) it might be interesting to pop by. Their next choice of novel is James Ellroy’s ‘The Big Nowhere’ so of course now I need to read the book. I am just worried it might be a little bit too hard boiled for me. What do you think?

Finally there is an author I seem to be seeing everyone reading, and who was recommended by a few of you when I tweeted my desire for chilling crime the other day and that was Jo Nesbø. I was actually sent ‘The Snowman’ a while back and passed it onto Novel Insights as ‘the new Stieg Larsson’ tag annoyed me (though oddly I have been mulling those over again after loving the films and being in this crimey mood) but I new she loved that series. It also bothered me that it seemed a bit Henning Mankell like an I had only read the first of those, and in fact must read the second at some point, and didn’t want to get my detectives confused. And yes the fact that it wasn’t the first in the series put me off too. Of course I am now intrigued and want to read the series from the start and apparently that’s ‘The Redbreast’ although on Wikipedia it says it’s ‘The Bat Man’ but that’s not out yet which leaves me in confusion, can any of you help and which have you read? Does the order matter?

So can you help? Recommendations on all three authors would be great, as would any specific thoughts on the titles that I have mentioned and pictured above or indeed any of the other titles by those very authors. I am looking forward to your thoughts, I have a feeling this is a post lots of you will be able to advise me on. Ooh, I just thought if there are any cracking crime authors I might have missed do let me know about those too!

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Do I Want To Read… Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Once again I am looking to all of you for advice on a book that I have been umming and ahhing about, however I wasn’t (if I am honest) until last week when I saw a feature in the paper all about it’s adaptation. It seems the next big Sunday night period drama in the UK, after the wonderful Downton Abbey finished, is going to be ‘Any Human Heart’ based on the book by William Boyd. It looks like its going to be marvellous, I held off from watching it this Sunday because of course in this instance I always think ‘should I read the book first?’, so now I am asking you… should I?

I have only read one other William Boyd novel before, though I do have ‘Ordinary Thunderstorms’ on Mount TBR and that was ‘Restless’ which was in my pre-blogging days for an old book group. I have to say I really, really enjoyed it I also promised my self to read some more of his work… and then of course haven’t since 2007.

Back to ‘Any Human Heart’ though! After having seen this feature and my interest being piqued I decided to pop to that fountain of all book knowledge (my tongue is in my cheek) that is a certain online book store to see what people were saying in their reviews. We know on that site people can be quite venomous, hence why I was always going to ask you all your thoughts regardless, yet the reviews I started reading for this novel were all simply incredible. People saying things such as ‘nothing I have read for years has had such a profound effect on me as this has’ and ‘read pretty much continuously, but was unable to pick up another book for almost two weeks after finishing this – there was no point, I was…replete’. Now that is quite some quotes from those reviewers, only it also rather intimidated me as I thought ‘oh dear what if its so good nothing compares afterwards?’

So I thought I would ask out into the blogosphere and see if any of you have read it and what you made of it, or if you know people who have read it and what they thought? Anyone else suddenly had the urge to read this?

I did notice that people are in uproar on thta certain site as the Kindle edition is more than the book… I inwardly jumped for joy at that, buy the blinking book instead.

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Do I Want To Read…? A Ken Follett Special

Ok two posts in a day when I am on a mini break is a bit nuts but this is because I have an urgent book related question for you in a mini special ‘Do I Want To Read?’ So I am sat at home with a free day and a dilemma. I am having a lazy day of catch up on demand TV and I am in two minds about watching an adaptation of a book which I have never thought that I might want to read… until now. The adaptation in question, and there for the book is ‘The Pillars of The Earth’ by Ken Follett.

There is one main reason that I want to watch it and that is because it has one of my all time favourite actresses, oh sorry actors Sarah Parish in it, who I adore in every single thing that she adores (Hearts & Bones, Cutting It, Mistresses, I could go on and on) who is looking particularly menacing and fabulous in the promo shoots that I have seen…

I missed it over the weekend here in the UK (ahs it been on in America already?) and so thought ‘ooh, I will settle down and watch this double bill opening show’ but then I thought ‘ooh, maybe I should read the book first’. So I went off and had a look on the internet to find out more about it, before seeing if the library might have it, and discovered its 1100 pages long!!!! Now I actually fancy a book that I can get myself completely lost in (I haven’t discovered a comfy read I mentioned earlier yet) but I am a little pensive and the blurb makes me want to read it and not read it all at once…

“The Pillars of the Earth” tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known; of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect – a man divided in his soul; of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame; and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother. A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett’s historical masterpiece.”  

The reviews of the book seemed mixed and so I thought that I would throw it over to you as you guys are great with recommendations and may know if this is my cup of tea or not. So is it worth me trying to get it from the library (hopefully they don’t have the awful new TV cover, I don’t like them)? Will I get completely lost in it? Is it better I just stick to the TV series for an escape and not worry about the book, or should I try the TV show and see if that leads me to wanting to read the whole thing? Let me know I’m off to catch up with some other telly treats in the mean time.

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