Tagged: Books

re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf II

It’s Bookshelf time! I haven’t reviewed any books for ages, so let’s do a quick round before I forget all about them. It’s been a good year for reading so far – even though I’ve been spending a lot of time on my new workout routine, I’ve managed to set lots of time aside for books. Happiness all around.

Adventures, weirdos, tattoos, gods, satanic cats and potential spoilers after the break.


PS: I’m ditching the Amazon links. Explore your local bookshop!

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re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf I

Once again we’re months into the year and I’m just catching up on the Bookshelf! In my defence I’ll say I’ve had a very busy spring with lots of things happening that kept me away from both my books and the blog. But books have been read and are now in the process of being reviewed. This year’s Bookshelf, so far, has been a weird mix of classics and random books I picked up in bookshops or got as presents, some of which took me quite a bit off my planned reading path for the year. Here’s the first lot, with more on the way.


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BookLove: Just how gorgeous is this edition of Huck Finn?!

Just a quick one. I’m in love. In love with Mark Twain, in love with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (which I’ve finally read, about twenty years too late) and especially in love with this beautiful edition of Huck Finn. Brown and blue leather, blue gilded edges, gorgeous typography. If only they made all books like this.

Ironically, I’m now reading it on my Kindle because this edition is just too beautiful to touch…

How to take all the pleasure out of reading in just 90 minutes

The reading game is set to change forever, ladies and gentlemen. Well, at least according to this dude here who (along with the rest of the media this week) is getting all over-excited about an ‘insane’ app that supposedly lets you read a novel in 90 minutes.

Spritz it’s called, and it is out to ruin your reading pleasure forever.

Well. The speed reading thing may have its uses if you’re reading for work or for study. (I was certainly wishing I had this skill back when I was going through a combined British and American history and literature degree!) But when reading for pleasure – arguably the main reason behind most everyday novel-reading – why on earth would you want to take all the enjoyment out of the experience just for the sake of being able to boast that you read, like, four books in an afternoon?

I don’t speed read, but a lifelong obsession with books has turned me into a fast reader. Often too fast for my own good. Yes, maybe I get through more books in a year than the average reader, but the downside is I don’t always take them in as much as I would like. So I allow myself to speed through a book if it’s a bit rubbish, but I force myself to slow down on the books I enjoy, often going back a page or even a chapter to read it again, more slowly, and pay attention to the details.

Because really, all the pleasure of a novel lies in the detail and in the language – each sentence carefully crafted by the author, who generally takes a hell of a lot of time to create it all. (So take the time to bloody appreciate it.) If you’re speeding through, you just won’t take these things in. You probably won’t even notice what a beautiful thing language can be, or feel the joy of discovering a particular author’s unique way with words. All that will stay with you is essentially a plot summary; and you can get that in less time from Goodreads or Wikipedia.

Besides, it’s just incredibly sad to think that our attention span has shrunk so much that we now need an app to convert a novel into a bite-sized portion of entertainment that our overloaded brains can handle in between playing Candy Crush Saga and watching X Factor.

No. I refuse to believe that this is true. We don’t need a speed reading app for novels. What we need is to sit down and take a breath, set aside some time and throw ourselves into a book with all our brains and all our hearts. Because that’s the only way to really experience the magic of getting completely lost in a good novel for hours at a time. If it takes a week, let it take a week. If it takes a month, whatever! It will be worth it.

Let’s not allow today’s obsession with technology to ruin this ancient, timeless and absolutely essential pleasure for us.

In a nutshell, as the brilliant Emma Donoghue said on Twitter this week:

No, what’s ‘insane’ is thinking you’ll enjoy books more by giving them less of your brain and time!


My bookshelf – well, part of it anyway. The result of years of reading, not minutes.

re:View – The 2013 Bookshelf V

The final one! This batch completes the 2013 bookshelf and contains Hobbitses, Dunces, Jeeves and Pratchettses, among others. Amazing books, weird books, and books I should have read decades ago. (I’m approaching 30. I can actually say stuff like “I should have done this decades ago” now.)

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I’ve found the perfect man

And he lives in a book, of course. Damn my life!

The beastly Huns! They stood between him and Valentine Wannop. If they would go home he could be sitting talking to her for whole afternoons. That was what a young woman was for. You seduced a young woman in order to be able to finish your talks with her. You could not do that without living with her. You could not live with her without seducing her; but that was the by-product. The point is that you can’t otherwise talk. You can’t finish talks at street corners; in museums; even in drawing-rooms. You mayn’t be in the mood when she is in the mood – for the intimate conversation that means the final communion of your souls. You have to wait together – for a week, for a year, for a lifetime, before the final intimate conversation may be attained . . . and exhausted. So that . . .
That in effect was love.

(From the Parade’s End series by Ford Madox Ford. I’ve never been so in love with a book. Except when I’m reading Edith Wharton.)

I need Christopher Tietjens to be real, so I can marry him. And this isn’t helping AT ALL!

re:View – The 2013 Bookshelf IV

I’m finally making progress on last year’s bookshelf! Although, considering that I can hardly remember what I ate for dinner yesterday, we’ll see how well I do attempting to review books I read almost a year ago…

This episode of Bookshelf contains some mind-blowing reads, some disappointment and at least a couple of books that deserve a special spot on my favourite books of all time shelf.

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And I didn’t scream or faint.
(Almost not at all.)

Question: How do you give Girl With A Pen multiple fangasms?

Answer: Just put Gillian Anderson, Benedict Cumberbatch, James Rhodes, Neil Gaiman and assorted other Awesome People into a room. With books.

Exactly this happened a few weeks ago. Letters Live, a night of Awesome People reading brilliant letters. And by some miracle I managed to get tickets about five seconds before the Cumberbitches found out about it and the whole thing sold out within minutes.

So, for the first time ever and after waiting for about sixteen years, I managed to be in the same building with my biggest celebrity crush / role model / Woman I Want To Be, Gillian Anderson, and watch her do amazing acting stuff live on stage. I also have tickets to see her in A Streetcar Named Desire next year which I probably won’t survive. And what can I say, other than she’s fantastically good at what she does, as well as being gorgeous and utterly charming. Yes, I’m fangirling and I’m not ashamed.

Gillian Anderson

Here’s Gillian reading a very entertaining letter by Dorothy Parker. (YouTube)

Then there was James Rhodes, my favourite living pianist, reading and playing Beethoven. Turns out he is just as gorgeous on the microphone as he is at a piano. Such an inspiration. I need to get myself to one of his gigs. Yes, still fangirling.

Other things I learned that evening:
a) Benedict Cumberbatch is really unnecessarily attractive as well as breathtakingly good at acting. (Seriously, how’s a girl supposed to cope?!)
b) I would really like for Neil Gaiman to read every single one of his stories and novels to me, and
c) I need to listen to more Nick Cave.

And I also got some Cumberbach reading a love letter. Quite gutted I didn’t catch the steamy parts on video.

I’ll stop fangirling now and will get on with the pictures.

Response code is 404


And finally, the best bit of dialogue from the book auction that ever occurred. (In the world, ever.)

Gillian Anderson: “£3800 for a bit of Benedict Cumberbatch!”
Neil Gaiman: “…also licked by Gillian Anderson!”

The book eventually sold for £5k. Caitlin Moran bought it, because she has five grand to spare and I haven’t. Not bitter AT ALL.

re:view – The 2013 Bookshelf II

Blimey. Ages since I’ve done a Bookshelf. I can’t even remember half the books I read six months ago. But I’ll try.

This time, we have funny feminists, scandalous classics, a wizard who would totally make Harry Potter cry, the new George Saunders, epic American history, and assorted randomness.

The usual health and spoilers warning applies.

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