Book Haul!

It’s been a very long time since I bought books, and it’ll be a very long time until I can do it again, but lately I did buy a few books to last me through most of the summer. I thought I’d just quickly show you them, as I made sure I bought only books I was very keen to read. Also, The Last Girlfriend On Earth which I reviewed here was among these books but I figured I didn’t need to show it again. Now, to the books which I shall also briefly comment on because, you know, it’s me and that’s what I do!

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. This is the second novel by the Swedish novelist, who is famous for writing the amazingly funny The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, a novel which was Sweden's bestselling book the year it was released, which has achieved international fame and has even recently been made into a movie. Very excited about this one.

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. This is the second novel by the Swedish novelist, who is famous for writing the amazingly funny The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, a novel which was Sweden’s bestselling book the year it was released, which has achieved international fame and has even recently been made into a movie. Very excited about this one.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman. I bought almost all of Gaiman's novels last year, then never got around to reading them and had to leave them boxed up in Australia for the time being. This, his latest novel, will help make up for that a little I hope.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman. I bought almost all of Gaiman’s novels last year, then never got around to reading them and had to leave them boxed up in Australia for the time being. This, his latest novel, will help make up for that a little I hope.

If you haven't seen the brilliant television show QI, get off my blog and go and look up QI on Youtube right now (I'll talk to you in a few days upon your return). For those more familiar with it, this book basically deals with the same sorts of information the show does, and even includes snippets from the show. A good way to find out a lot of what you know is wrong, and very funny too.

If you haven’t seen the brilliant television show QI, get off my blog and go and look up QI on Youtube right now (I’ll talk to you in a few days upon your return). For those more familiar with it, this book basically deals with the same sorts of information the show does, and even includes snippets from the show. A good way to find out a lot of what you know is wrong, and very funny too.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. Don't know much about this one, but the title made me curious. Every now and then I make a reckless purchase based on something like the cover or the title. Fingers crossed.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. Don’t know much about this one, but the title made me curious. Every now and then I make a reckless purchase based on something like the cover or the title. Fingers crossed.

Imagining Alexandria by Louis de Bernières. One of my favourite ever authors, famous for Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Birds Without Wings and Red Dog, this is his first collection of poetry. What I've read so far is beautiful.

Imagining Alexandria by Louis de Bernières. One of my favourite ever authors, famous for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Birds Without Wings and Red Dog, this is his first collection of poetry. What I’ve read so far is beautiful.

The Pleasure Of My Company by Steve Martin. I was swept away by a more recent novel by Steve Martin recently, An Object of Beauty, and have decided to backtrack to his first two works of fiction. This one is about a modern-day neurotic, and as I expected it is incredibly intelligent, witty and insightful. Steve Martin, I have to admit, is a very impressive writer.

The Pleasure Of My Company by Steve Martin. I was swept away by a newer novel by Steve Martin recently, An Object of Beauty, and have decided to backtrack to his first two works of fiction. This one is about a modern-day neurotic, and as I expected it is incredibly intelligent, witty and insightful. Steve Martin, I have to admit, is a very impressive writer.

Shopgirl, by Steve Martin. His first work of fiction, this short novella looks at a young woman working in a shop who embarks on a relationship with a man nearly twice her age. I am yet to read it, but the praise I have heard about it, plus the fact it was made into a film, make me suspect it's as good as everything else I've read by Martin.

Shopgirl, by Steve Martin. His first work of fiction, this short novella looks at a young woman working in a shop who embarks on a relationship with a man nearly twice her age. I am yet to read it, but the praise I have heard about it, plus the fact it was made into a film, make me suspect it’s as good as everything else I’ve read by Martin.

Well, that’s it for now. I aim to have proper reviews up of all seven of these books over the next couple of months, so keep an eye out for them!

What books have you bought or borrowed recently? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read (30 Day Book Challenge #2)

There are so many books I could do for this topic, but I think I’ll post one that I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet in this edition of the 30 Day Book Challenge (and if I have, oops, oh well).

Captain Corelli's MandolinI wish more people would read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. It’s one of my favourite novels of all time, which probably has something to do with my choice here, but there’s more to it than that. You see, there’s a film adaptation of this novel that is absolutely awful. Louis de Bernières himself isn’t that fond of it if my memory serves me correct, and I am yet to hear one person say a good thing about it. Sadly, for a lot of people that is their main contact with the story, and so they are reluctant to read the novel, which makes me sad because it is such a brilliant book. It’s funny and tragic all at the same time, as it weaves a love story during a time when invading armies would take over whole towns in Europe during WWII, and there is just that beauty that always exists in war stories when we see the best and worst of mankind simultaneously.

If you haven’t read this book, and you feel unsure because you’ve seen or heard about the movie, forget about the film and just read it. Trust me, it’s amazing.

What’s a book you wish more people would read?

I dedicate this blog post to great book dedications

As eager as I often am to jump straight into the story when starting a new book, there is one thing I always have to do first – check to see if there’s a book dedication.

While many dedications are quite simple and usually just include the mention of loved ones, every now and then I stumble across one that includes a bit more, such as a cheeky sidenote, or  something completely different and silly, or sometimes a more serious and inspiring message. I have gathered here some of my favourites, all of which are taken from my personal book collection (so hopefully there will be a few you haven’t read before). Enjoy!

“To my daughter Leonora, without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.” – The Heart of a Goof by P. G. Wodehouse

“Simply and impossibly: For my family.” – Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

“This book is dedicated to my bank balance.” – Silly Verse For Kids by Spike Milligan

“To my mother, who liked the bit about the horse.” – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

“To Vik Lovell, who told me dragons did not exist, then led me to their lairs.” – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

“To my dear brother Desmond, who made my boyhood happy and with whom I have never had a crossword, mind you he drives his wife mad.” – ‘Rommel?’ ‘Gunner Who?’ by Spike Milligan

“To the love of my life, my soul mate, and the greatest person in the world: Me.” – The Alphabet of Manliness by Maddox

“To ………………………………………….
                (insert full name here)             ” – The Liar by Stephen Fry

“For Stephen and the bills.” – Mrs Fry’s Diary by Mrs Stephen Fry (Stephen’s alter ego)

“This book is dedicated to my family, for their unfailing faith and enthusiasm; to Caroline, for her fund of stories and luminous presence; and to all those who are persecuted for daring to think for themselves.” – The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman by Louis de Bernières

And finally, perhaps my favourite book dedication of all time, and one I mentioned briefly the other day. I decided this one might be easier to just take a photo, rather than type it all out. Sorry about the glare. Enjoy…

From Calcium Made Interesting by Graham Chapman. Do you think this story is real? I certainly do (I particularly love the mention of Douglas Adams, too).

Are there any great or funny book dedications you have come across? I’d love to hear them if so!

30 Day Book Challenge Day 17 – Favourite Quote From My Favourite Book

Ahh quotes, who doesn’t love them? Well, a few people actually, but that’s beside the point. I have often thought a sign of a good book is when it is quotable, when it has lines in it that you want to memorise so you can go and tell all your friends, regardless of whether or not your friends even care about it. In many cases, those quotes are unique to that writer and their style of writing, and can remain as powerful out of context as they are in context.

For this day’s challenge, I’m going to show a few of my favourite quotes from a number of my favourite books, because picking one is just plain impossible! So here goes:

Catch 22From Catch 22:

  • “He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.”
  • “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.”

Douglas AdamsFrom Various Douglas Adams books:

  • “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
  • “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
  • “In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
  • “My doctor says that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fiber, and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes.”

Louis de BernieresFrom Birds Without Wings:

  • “Man is a bird without wings and a bird is a man without sorrow.”

From Captain Corelli’s Mandolin:

  • “It was an idea so inconceivable he had never even conceived of conceiving it.”

Spike MilliganFrom various Spike Milligan books:

  • “All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.”
  • “And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light, but the Electricity Board said He would have to wait until Thursday to be connected.”
  • “How long was I in the army? Five foot eleven.”
  • “I can speak Esperanto like a native.”

Stephen FryFrom various Stephen Fry books:

  • “Old Professors never die, they just lose their faculties.”
  • “You are who you are when nobody’s watching.”
  • “It is a cliché that most clichés are true, but then like most clichés, that cliché is untrue.”

I could go on for days, but I’ll stop there! What is surprising is that about half of these I knew off the top of my head without looking them up, so there you go.

Do you have any favourite quotes from books or authors you’d like to share?

30 Day Book Challenge Day 14 – Favourite Book by my Favourite Writer

For those of you who missed yesterday’s blog, to cut a long story short my favourite author is Louis de Bernières (have a look here if you missed this one). As I mentioned yesterday, my favourite book by my favourite author is not in fact my favourite book of all time, the title of which will be revealed at the end of these 30 blogs. However, my favourite novel by Louis de Bernières comes down to choosing between what are unarguably his two best novels, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and Birds Without Wings.

Captain Corelli's MandolinCaptain Corelli’s Mandolin, written in 1994, is set on the Greek Island of Cephallonia during the Italian and German occupation from World War Two. While it details the war itself, and some aspects of the political side to the war, essentially it is about the social side, and is a love story between Pelagia, the daughter of the local doctor, Dr Iannis, and Antonio Corelli, the captain of the occupying Italian force who despises the war, and loves music and life. As the story progresses we see the effects of the war on various levels, from the effect on the forces themselves to the towns, right down to the individuals who are all affected in different ways, and in many cases are also driven by love. It is stunning both in story but also in the style of writing, managing to balance the humorous with the tragic to produce a beautiful tale of love, loss and war. This book also won de Bernières the Commonwealth Writers Prize the following year.

Birds Without Wings, written in 2004, is the longest book written by de Bernières, with an epic story to match. Set in the fictional village of Eskibahçe in southwestern Anatolia (although based upon a real village in the area now in ruins), this story spans through World War One and the era of Turkish nationalism, and focuses upon this village where two cultures and religions have resided peacefully together for centuries, only to be ripped apart when war and revolution sweep through. While it is slow to build up, this helps the reader to really fall in love with the characters and town, only to watch their worlds and lives turned upside down, which makes it all the more heartbreaking. The story also focuses on the tragic love story of Philothei and Ibrahim, who, like other characters in the novel, become caught up in all the political events which they cannot control. Lastly, throughout the novel is a Birds Without Wingsrunning story about the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, “father of the Turkish nation”, which lends to the historical side of the novel quite well. While there are themes that cross over between this book and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and even some characters that cross over (though at different ages, due to the two decades separating the stories), this book is much more ambitious in scale and in story, and encompasses a lot more, being told through various perspectives as the tale progresses.

So which one is my favourite? It is quite difficult to decide. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is by far the more famous and more successful of the two novels, and as I mentioned yesterday, is probably the novel you want to start with if you have never read any work by de Bernières. It is beautiful, and unforgettable. And yet, when I read Birds Without Wings it just moved me that little bit more, it toiled with my emotions more, and had me hooked – I read the second half of the book in a single sitting because I just couldn’t stop. And so, at the end of the day, it is Birds Without Wings that I would consider my favourite book by my favourite author, although both novels I have mentioned here are fantastic.

What’s your favourite novel by your favourite author? Is it the same as your favourite novel of all time?

30 Day Book Challenge Day 13 – My Favourite Writer

I think I have reached that age, in my mid twenties, where your all time favourite writers and books are pretty well cemented, and are unlikely to change, only to be added upon. I know for me, my favourite book (which isn’t by my favourite author, and so won’t be revealed until Day 30), will probably never change. Back to the topic though, my favourite writer is pretty set in stone for the time being. I have many that could be considered, such as Douglas Adams (who I discussed on Day 2), Carlos Ruiz Zafón (who I discussed on Day 1), Patrick Rothfuss (Day 1 again), and several others, such as P.G.Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, Roald Dahl (who I discussed yesterday), and so on.

However, my favourite author is one of the only authors where I can proudly say I own all his books. His stories have been set in various places all over the world, and in fact he is somewhat known for his stories abroad. They have often looked at the human condition under various trying times, such as wars and conflicts, love and loss, changing times, politics, and more. Who am I talking about? This guy:

Louis de Bernières

Don’t worry, I was surprised when I first realised what this writer looked like. This is Louis de Bernières, my favourite writer. Don’t be fooled by his appearance, his stories are exciting, hilarious, charming, devastating, and ultimately beautiful and poignant.

He began his novel writing career in1990 with a trilogy of Latin America novels (which I discussed here in a bit more detail), and in 1994 published his most famous novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a beautiful and funny story set in World War Two, which went on to win The Commonwealth Writers Prize for 1994. Since then he has published numerous short fiction works, as well as the play Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World, before returning to novels with Red Dog in 2001 (which has just been turned into a film), the magnificent World War One set Birds Without Wings in 2004, A Partisan’s Daughter in 2008, set in 1970s London, and Notwithstanding, in 2009, which is a collection of short stories all set around a fictional English village called Notwithstanding.

Louis de BernièresIf you’ve never had the pleasure of reading Louis de Bernières, I would suggest starting with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and then going from there. But all his novels are great, and I am eagerly awaiting his next book! Tomorrow I’ll explain which of his books are my favourite, and why.

What’s your favourite author? Have you read all their books? Do you think they’re likely to ever ‘lose’ their position as your favourite author?

30 Day Book Challenge Day 3 – My Favourite Series

I keep waiting for a day with this challenge where there will be a clear cut winner, but it never seems to be that easy, and picking my favourite book series is no exception. I struggled immensely with this one, and surprised myself with the answer in the end, so before I get to my favourite series, I’d like to briefly discuss a couple of others that I have loved over the years.

First of all, I have to mention a series which has already been included before in this challenge (yesterday, I think), a series lovingly known as The Hitchhiker series by Douglas Adams. This sci-fi “trilogy in five parts”  pokes fun at, well, just about everything, and there is quite simply nobody who writes like Adams, making these books uniquely funny and insightful. For me personally, I read these first when I was a teenager and my reading habits were pretty bad (as they often are at that age), but this series helped me back into a good reading routine, and for that reason will always have a special place on my shelf (when none of my friends are borrowing it, which is rare).

Another series I love (though I must admit I haven’t read every book in the series) is the Jeeves and Wooster series of novels by the fabulous P.G.Wodehouse. Wodehouse was the master of playful language, and his stories about the silly aristocrat Bertie Wooster, and his ever present and ever helpful butler Jeeves, are some of the most charming tales you will ever read. I love to read Wodehouse when I just want to escape and lose myself in a good book, and luckily for us, the man wrote nearly 100 books in his lifetime, of which a significant portion form the Jeeves and Wooster series. If you’ve never read Wodehouse, I strongly suggest it, but warn you now: it is addictive.

My favourite book series, however, is one I perhaps didn’t even realise was my favourite until after I had read it, and many other books, and then gone back to it a while later. Louis de Bernieres, a writer famous for the beautiful Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, as well as Red Dog (which has become popular since the recent movie adaptation), started his writing career with a trilogy set in a fictional South American country, and it is this trilogy which, when I look back, is my favourite book series of all time. The titles alone had me interested, consisting of The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts, Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord, and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. Each of these three books are set in the same area, and feature many of the same characters, but focus on different themes and events, the first focusing on guerilla warfare, the second on drug trafficking, and the last one on religious fanaticism. All three are amazing, especially when you consider these were the first books de Bernieres wrote, and it is no wonder he went on to become an award winning and best selling author. I would definitely recommend these to anybody without hesitation, as they are all stories which will stay with you long after you have read them.