Books, life the universe

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Latest reading

Blue Lights and Long Nights by Les Pringle which is about his experiences in the ambulance service in the 1970s. Poignant, funny and thought provoking as are most books like this.

I'm still ploughing through Merchants of Culture by John B Thompson - which is fascinating - but heavy to hold. I've always been interested in the way publishers work and this provides a lot of information. I could have done without so much information about American publishing but it's still worth reading. When you consider how big the US is it publishes - relatively speaking - fewer new books each year that the UK does - 194,000 new titles a year in 2008 compared with the UK's 120,000. What is interesting is that those figures only relate to trade publishers and the books reckons you can double the number of new titles if you include self publishing, print on demand etc. Books are alive and well and living everywhere.

I've currently just started a Jane Austen spin off which I've been debating reading for a while - Laura Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. All American girl wakes up one morning to find herself in Austen's England inhabiting someone else's body - that of Jane Mansfield. Light reading but interesting and amusing for all that.

I have downloaded e-book versions of the whole of Anthony Trollope and the whole of Charles Dickens not to speak of the whole of Mrs Gaskell - plenty of reading there for cold winter evenings! They are such ridiculously cheap prices - or completely free that I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Still reading . .

I have read in the last few days - Erica James - The Queen of New Beginnings; M C Beaton - Hasty Death and I'm currently reading Defending the Guilty by Alex McBride - about his work as a barrister with lots of historical asides about the evolution of the criminal justice system. I'm also reading Merchants of Culture by John B Thompson - which is about the publishing industry over the last 40 years in the UK and the USA. It is interesting reading though a shade heavy going - both physically as it's a heavy hardback and in the brain sense.

I enjoyed the Erica James and while it did have its light hearted and funny moments it had heavyweight themes in at as well about the fickleness of public opinion and the disadvantages of quarrelling with ones parents.

The M C Beaton is one of her Edwardian crime series featuring Lady Rose Summer and Captain Harry Cathcart - not to speak of Daisy the lady's maid with hidden talents. Very light reading but well written.

I'm always interested in people's job so the Alex McBride is good reading for me - not to everyone's taste perhaps.

Friday, 17 September 2010


This week I have read Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm. Everyone has been telling me for years that it is good but I never got around to reading it. I love Flora Poste - she's an absolute gem of a fictional character as is Aunt Ada Doom - 'something nasty in the woodshed'. The names for the characters are pretty good as well; the cows, Graceless, Aimless,Feckless and Pointless and the bull Big Business not to speak of Seth and Reuben - the sons and Amos- the father - the hell fire and damnation preacher. How Flora manages to change everything on the farm and many of the people is brilliant. If you haven't read it then you're in for a treat.

I've also read George and Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody and I love Mr Pooter. His staunch principles, his loyalty to his employer and his love for his wife and son even when they annoy him are marvellous. Yes he gets irritated by some not very important things but often he tears up his letters of complaint and doesn't post them. When given more compensation for his ruined handkerchiefs than the handkerchiefs cost new he is scrupulous about returning the amount he isn't entitled to - which to me sums him up. An absolutely marvellous book and I really should have read it years ago.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Do people complain about nothing these days?

I've been frequenting the Kindle forum on Amazon and found the following complaints about the Kindle which seem to me extremely petty:
  1. The Amazon-Kindle logo on the screen surround irritates me - does anyone know how I can remove it?
  2. I don't like the screensavers which come with it - they're just black/grey pictures of authors etc - can I change them?
  3. I can't buy books from Waterstone's - why do Amazon insist you only buy books from them?
  4. I don't like the size of the margin on the page - I want it smaller
  5. The screen goes black when the page changes - it irritates me
  6. Why isn't there a memory card slot?
  7. I don't like having lots of small transactions on my credit card for Kindle books because my card provider has queried some of my transactions.
  8. I want a Kindle in white not grey

My answers were:

  1. You don't notice it when you're reading but something like T-Cut might get it off if it's really annoying
  2. Do you look at the screensavers when you're reading a book?
  3. Amazon don't insist you only buy from them. In fact they specifically direct you to other sites where you can download books for free and the Kindle supports some other formats as well.
  4. Size of the margin varies from book to book and if you change the text size and the number of words per line - try experimenting
  5. Duh! All e-book readers do this - it is for a fraction of a second only and you could try blinking when it changes then you won't notice.
  6. Do you really intend buying more than 3,500 books? If you do try deleting them when you need more space as Amazon keep a list of everything downloaded from them and you can always re-download them if you want.
  7. Credit card providers get used to your spending pattern and query transactions outside the norm for you. I'm all for them querying transactions myself so I can't see the problem
  8. Grey is easier to read from - a white surround will distract you from the page you're reading. You could always try painting it ;-)

I didn't actually answer some of the questions because my answers would probably have got me severely criticised. But seriously all these points could have been clarified from reading the product page BEFORE purchase. One person sent their Kindle back because of the page change thing even though he'd been told by everyone who responded that all e-book readers do this and you don't notice after a while.

Do people look for things to criticise? As for the person who said the screensaver picture of Jane Austen frightened her - well words fail me!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Good book

I've just finished reading Elizabeth Buchan's Separate Beds. From the cover it looks like something light and frothy but it's actually quite serious and covers a great many problems faced by families today: falling out with nearly adult children, facing up to redundancy in middle age; female breadwinners, caring for children when parents are at work, looking after elderly relatives etc. Tom and Annie have three children - Mia and Jake, twins, and Emily. It is clear from the start of the book that Mia's abrupt exit from the family home five years ago is still having repercussions now and is the cause of the separate beds - actually separate rooms. But Tom's unexpected redundancy from a well paid post at the BBC throws the family into turmoil.

The house suddenly becomes overcrowded when Jake returns home with his small daughter Maisie and Tom's redundancy causes his mother Hermione to move in with them as her care home can no longer be funded. The small irritations of every day family life are recognisably real and even Hermione - the aged relative from hell - has her good points as well as her bad ones. I loved all the characters - faults and all - and wanted things to work out for them. The book provides no trite answers to the problems but shows clearly that family life is based on compromise. I enjoyed it and would recommend this author's thoughtful and thought provoking novels of family life and marriage.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Busy week

I seem to have been spending less time on the computer and more on the Kindle this week and I'm still really pleased with it. I love the free samples of books you can download - try before you buy. I have about 20 free samples to read on mine at the moment and have bought a couple of books having read the sample - most notably John O'Farrell's An Utterly Impartial History of Britain. This is somewhat in the vein of the immortal 1066 and All That by Sellars and Yeatman but contains more facts and no test papers. I particularly like his imaginary conversations between famous people as well as between the not so famous. If you like reading history then give it a go.

I've also cleaned the car and done various things about the house including housework - shock! horror! In fact I'm not sure where the week's gone and I've been busy most of the time.

I'm currently reading the John O'Farrell and some of G K Chesterton's Father Brown stories - which were free to download. I've also started re-reading for the first time in years Winnie the Pooh and Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense. It's amazing what you can find free or very cheap.