Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Want to Reread

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week a list which could go on forever with me.  I constantly reread, often just picking up a favourite (usually Terry Pratchett or Antonia Forest) and skim reading chunks for comfort.  So, am going to keep this to books I want to reread in full/which I haven't read for ages.

1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - I've only read this once, although  I've read every other Austen multiple times.  I read it second year uni and remember finding that it dragged, that Fanny was annoying me, that it was altogether too Moral for my liking, but I also feel like it's Austen and I should now give it another try.

2. Nation by Terry Pratchett - when I read this in June I don't think I paid enough attention; I was so convinced something bad was going to happen that I didn't take the time to enjoy what was happening.

3. The Player's Boy by Antonia Forest - one of the few Antonia Forest books I've only read once, I want to reread it partly because it's Antonia Forest and partly because I'm going through a bit of a Tudor historical novel kick at the moment.

4. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - I'd like to read this in one sitting.  When I read it last year I ended up taking a massive break partway through, so that I not only had to get used to the writing style again but also remind myself who some of the secondary characters were.

5. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - now that I know the plot (oh evil tricksy twists) I think it would be interesting to read for the sake of spotting 'clues'. 

6.  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - just because, really.  This time I'd like to savour the book rather than rush through it in a mad haze.

7. Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer - this was the first Heyer I ever read and I can remember vague bits of the plot and a slightly drunken discussion about Hubris vs Nemesis that had me in stitches.

8. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark - a book that I think I'd appreciate more now that I'm older.  I liked it the first time around but wonder if I maybe didn't get as much from it as I could have done.

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - first read when I was eighteen (after I read Lord of the Rings), I haven't touched it since and think it would bear a reread if I can get past the beginning with the gate crashing dwarves and all the other unfunny overly jovial bits.

10. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco - another book that I might get more from now.  If I'm honest a lot of books I read at uni could probably do with being reread.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Review: The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff

The Silver Branch
Published: 1957
Pages: 246
Series: The Dolphin Ring Cycle #2
Read: 22nd - 23rd September 2011
Challenge: N/A
Status: Borrowed but buying
Reason I Read It: I really liked The Eagle of the Ninth and am now determined to read all of Rosemary Sutcliff's books.

Synopsis: Violence and unrest are sweeping through Roman Britain. Justin and Flavius find themselves caught up in the middle of it all when they discover a plot to overthrow the Emperor. In fear for their lives they gather together a tattered band of men and lead them into the thick of battle, to defend the honour of Rome. But will they be in time to save the Emperor... (from Goodreads)

First line: "On a blustery autumn day a galley was nosing up the wide loop of a British river that widened into the harbour of Rutupiae."

Review: Rosemary Sutcliff is one of my favourite 'new' authors of the year.  The Eagle of the Ninth was fantastic, Outcast was good if depressing until about 1/5 from the end, and I definitely want to read all of her books even though this will no doubt involve tracking a few down second hand.  The Silver Branch sits somewhere between those two in terms of how much I like it (I think it's going to take a lot to knock The Eagle of the Ninth off its top spot in my estimation) and is the book I knew least about as I started reading, both plot- and history-wise.

Because I thought I knew something about Roman Britain.  And I did, it's just that my education always focused on Julius Caesar, Claudius and Boudicca and then fastforwarded 350 years to the Romans leaving us to panic over a lack of luxuries and the fear of invasion.  So, because I never bothered to do any research of my own, I never knew someone called Carausius set himself up as Emperor of Britain and northern Gaul in 286 AD (thank you, Wikipedia) or that he would be the Emperor featured in The Silver Branch.  I genuinely thought Justin and Flavius would be dashing off to Rome and that there'd be a pellmell dash over Europe in a similar style to Marcus and Esca's journey to Scotland in The Eagle of the Ninth.  That the book is set entirely in Britain and that through this I learned a bit of history (and now want to read more on the time period) is an unexpected bonus of reading the book.

I also hadn't realised that both Justin and Flavius are descendants of Marcus, and that the Eagle from the first book would play a part in this one.  Or that the book would turn into an espionage drama halfway through, with lots of sneaking around and secret paths above the town - I love stuff like that.  Add in a couple of courageous last stands and a fantastic closing battle and the book was full of things I enjoy that I hadn't expected to find.  Sutcliff's prose is always beautiful, her plot raced along even during 'quiet' moments and I felt like I learned something.  I am going to have to read the rest of this series.

Rating: 9/10

In My Mailbox #3

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren

This week: I join a library in a neighbouring county and squee my way round their young adult section (except not really because it was a library so it was silent squeeing and a lot of grinning; if there's CCTV footage I probably look deranged).

The Silver BranchThe Lantern Bearers

The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff.  Reason: I'm really enjoying Rosemary Sutcliff, and this is the next in her Roman Britain series (after The Eagle of the Ninth).
The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff.  Reason: Follows on from The Silver Branch in the Roman Britain series, and sounds pretty interesting/dark.

"...Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers" (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #6)'...Startled by His Furry Shorts!' (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Book 7)

Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers by Louise Rennison.  Reason: I'm loving the Georgia Nicolson books, and in this one she's off to America.
Startled By His Furry Shorts! by Louise Rennison.  Reason: As above, next one in the series.

'Luuurve is a Many Trousered Thing...' (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Book 8)'Stop in the Name of Pants!' (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Book 9)

Luuurve is a Many Trousered Thing by Louise Rennison.  Reason: Once again, more Georgia Nicolson.
Stop in the Name of Pants by Louise Rennison.  Reason: The penultimate in the series (I have the last one on order at my local library).

Frostbite (Vampire Academy, #2)The Dead Girls' Dance (The Morganville Vampires, #2)

Frostbite by Richelle Mead.  Reason: I read Vampire Academy recently and now I need to know what happens next.
The Dead Girls' Dance by Rachel Caine.  Reason: I read Glass Houses earlier this year, had this book from another library before I moved, and now I've found it again.

The MissingValiant (The Modern Faerie Tales, #2)

The Missing by Lisa McMann.  Reason: I love Wake and hadn't realised that Cryer's Cross had been published in the UK (probably because they changed the title) which may have been why I meeped when I saw this in the library.
Valiant by Holly Black.  Reason: The sequel to Tithe (though I really want Ironside for Corny).

Wish Me DeadBefore I Die

Wish Me Dead by Helen Grant.  Reason: I've read Helen Grant's first two books recently and I'm a fan.  And once again I hadn't known this one existed.
Before I Die by Jenny Downham.  Reason: I've heard a lot of good things about this book, and it's been on the shelf at my local library for ages calling to me so I finally go it out.

The Hollow

The Hollow by Jessica Verday.  Reason: I've been wanting to try some of Jessica Verday's books for a while, and there it was on the shelf.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)
Published: 2010
Pages: 323
Series: Hex Hall #1
Read: 18th September 2011
Challenge: A to Z Title (cheating a little to get X)
Status: Owned book
Reason I Read It: A review by the Story Siren.

Synopsis: When a spell she performs backfires, Sophie Mercer is sent to Hecate Hall, a school for magic users who have risked exposing themselves (and by extension their world) to humans.  While there she discovers things which her non-magical mother has kept hidden from her, and falls foul of a group of three powerful teen witches.

First Line: "Felicia Miller was crying in the bathroom.  Again."

Review: On the surface, this book may seem a bit like 'more of the same': school of magic, bitchy girls, cute boys, weird goings on and a teacher making the protagonist's life hell.  I think if I saw a brief summary of Hex Hall - like the one I just gave - I might overlook it, but I'd really be missing out.  At no point when reading did I find the book unoriginal, which may be because the magic system and the world feels different to anything I've read before.  There's depth and history and a means of combining magic users, fey and shapeshifters within a world that also features werewolves, demons and vampires and doesn't feel overloaded.

A large part of my enjoyment came from Sophie herself, who isn't perfect or beloved by all (blerg to first person protags like that) but is full of snark and faults.  She makes mistakes and has to pay for them, and a lot of why she is how she is comes from the actions of other people, rather than gifts handed down from on high that show up when she needs them.  How things are going to play out in the sequel are beyond me, which is a feeling I like in a book when it's done as it is here: I want to know because I think Rachel Hawkins will surprise me, rather than because I fail to see any logic to what's going on.

My only real problem with this book is that it is a first in a series, so there are threads left hanging at the end which I imagine will be resolved in Raising Demons (see my predictions below) and Spellbound.  Having said that, I enjoyed everything else about the book: the characters, the world, the magic system - although, again, there is a sense that as it's the first in a series there is more to be discovered.  I think this is a book which raises more questions than it answers, but I trust Rachel Hawkins enough to know that there will eventually be answers - and that they won't annoy me the way some 'revelations' in books do.

Rating: 8/10

Do I Want More? Hell, yes.  Good thing I have Raising Demons, though shame I have to wait till next year for Spellbound.

Predictions: For the next book (Raising Demons) and spoilerful for this one, so highlight to read: Archer isn't evil, he just isn't, there'll be a perfectly rational explanation for the whole Eye thing.  I think a lot of the groups who are purported to be Evil will turn out not to be, or will at least not be as one dimensionally bad as the Council would have people believe. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

Challenge Updates: The whole damn lot of them

This year, I signed up for a few challenges: 1st in a Series, 2nd in a Series, Victorian Literature and the A to Z Title challenge.  I've completed 1st and 2nd, done the bare minimum of Victorian reading (5 out of 5-9) and have only Z to go on the title challenge (Dr Zhivago).  So, time for some updates because I have read a lot of books this year and have so far only managed to review 4/113 - that's 3.5% which is rubbish.

I'm not going to list what I've read for each challenge, as that is on the Challenge page, but I am going to make a few plans and hope that by sharing them I actually complete them (seriously, me and Emma Woodhouse have far too much in common when it comes to book related plans).

1) Complete the A to Z challenge.  Dr Zhivago is scaring me a little because a) it's my first ever Russian novel, and b) I've tried to read Anna Karenina and oh good Lord the names.  Why must everyone have so many different names?  It is confusing for the reader.  This is what is worrying me the most, I think, that I'll get so confused I'll give up.  I must not give up.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871)
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (1848)
Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes (1857)
Villette by Charlotte Bronte (1853)

There are also libraries I can raid, possibly to find shorter Victorian novels.

3) Review at least half of the books I read for these challenges.  Some of them crossover - so far I have read 55 individual books for these challenges, and have reviewed 3 of them (Ash, Sisters Red and Treasure Island).  I borrowed quite a few of them from the library, or don't have them in my current flat, so I'll be doing those which I actually have with me so I can reread/check facts before reviewing.

4) My final, ongoing challenge is Project Fill in the Gaps.  I've read 16 from the list this year, taking my overall title to 29/100.  I'd like to get to 30.  Some of the books I read for other challenges overlap with this one, and the Victorian novels listed above fit on it, so I should be able to complete this.  Review target: half of the books I've read this year.

So, not too much to be getting on with there.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Feel Everyone Has Read But Me

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week (as the big title above suggests) is books I feel everyone has read but me.

1. Anything by Lauren Oliver - I have both Before I Fall and Delirium, I've read half of Delirium - before I bought it, then I had to return it to the library.

2. Anything by Sarah Dessen - again, I bought The Truth About Forever ages ago, and I just got Along for the Ride from the library, and again I'm clearly one of the last YA bloggers/fans to read anything by her.

3. Anything by Shannon Hale - yet another author whose books I own but have never read.  I've started reading a couple, then I've got distracted.

4. The rest of The Hunger Games series - I've only read the first book.  A friend who borrowed my books and read the first one after me has read all of them. 

5. The rest of the Vampire Academy series - once more, I've only read the first one.  This one will probably involve a lot of library reservations as damn those books are popular.

6. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - and the rest of the series, but I feel I should get started on the first one first (it seems logical).

7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman - am I the only person who hasn't read this?

8. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - this could be because I'm British and I read a lot of American YA books in which the characters study this at high school (it wasn't a required book for us), but I feel like I should have read this.

9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - so classic it's used as character development in The Wire.

10. 1984 by George Orwell - all of my friends have read it.  I don't want to be different to my friends.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

In My Mailbox #2

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.  No new bought books this week, but trips to a couple of libraries - needed to kill some time before Tinker Tailor started (and when I used the abbreviated title to the guy at the ticket booth in the cinema he looked at me like I was mental rather than trying to speed to process up) - mean that I have borrowed a few this week.

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the BeastIce

Beauty by Robin McKinley.  Reason: Everyone seems to have read this but me.
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst.  Reason: I love fairytale retellings, and I've heard good things about this one.

Along for the Ride"...and That's When It Fell Off in My Hand."  (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Book 5)

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen.  Reason: I have never read any Sarah Dessen, and it feels like everyone else has.
...and That's When it Fell Off in My Hand by Louise Rennison.  Reason: I am pretty much addicted to these books.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Review: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
Published: 2009
Pages: 337
Series: N/A
Read: 12th-13th September 2011
Challenge: N/A
Status: Borrowed but buying
Reason I Read It: I have The Glass Demon by Helen Grant on my TBR shelf, and because of the first line of this book.

Synopsis: On the day Katharina Linden disappears, Pia is the last person to see her alive.  Terror is spreading through the town.  How could a ten-year-old girl vanish in a place where everybody knows everybody else?

Pia is determined to find out what happened to Katharina.  But then the next girl disappears...(back copy)

First Line: "My life might have been so different had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded."

Review: How could I resist an opening line like that?  Although there aren't any exploding grandmothers in the book - it's more a freak accident involving hairspray and an open flame - the novel more than lives up to that first sentence.  The fact that Pia is in her late teens narrating events from her childhood allows the language and the commentary to be grown up without being ridiculous precocious.  The prose alone is a reason to read, and the plot and characterization make this an exceptionally good book.

While I enjoyed the book as a whole, possibly my favourite thing is the German folklore that pervades the story.  The tales Pia is told eventually colour not only her notions of what is happening to the vanishing girls but also her perceptions of the book's climax.  There's nothing supernatural about the girl's disappearances - there's all too human an explanation - but the ending contrives to makes events take on a folkloric quality.  Often the book feels like an extended folk tale, with the perils lurking not with the Fiery Man of the Hirnberg or in a haunted mill but in the house of someone seen every day.

Overall, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is the perfect mix of prose, plot and folklore all seen through a child's perspective of the adult world.  There are some moments of genuine horror and an ending that isn't perfectly happy, which makes the book as a whole like a true folk tale: even if the hero wins, there isn't a guaranteed happily ever after. 

Rating: 10/10

Monday, 12 September 2011

In My Mailbox #1

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren, and encourages bloggers to post about books they've got that week, whether through the post, from a shop, or borrowed from one of those miraculous places that lets you take books away for free.

In The Post

Supernaturally (Paranormalcy, #2)Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated, I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver (Ruby Oliver, #4)

Supernaturally by Kiersten White. Reason: I liked the first book in the series, Paranormalcy, and I'm not waiting till the sequel is published in the UK.

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart.  Reason: it's the last Ruby Oliver and I need to know the ending.

From The Library

Being Elizabeth Bennet: Create Your Own Jane Austen AdventureThe Riddle of the Poisoned MonkThe Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)

Being Elizabeth Bennet: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster.  Reason: Choose Your Own Adventure Jane Austen style, how could I resist?  Though the prize is Darcy and I'd rather have Tilney or Knightley.

The Riddle of the Poisoned Monk by Sarah Matthias.  Reason: I actually saw the first book by this author before this one, but they both looked good, and then I find there's time travel and a talking cat.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  Reason: Everyone has read these books.  I'm not sure how my classicist leanings will affect my reading of the series, but if I don't borrow it out now I'll never see it again.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Review: Autumn Term by Antonia Forest

Autumn Term (The Marlows, #1)
Published: 1948
Series: The Marlows #1
First Read: Sometime before 2004
Times Read: 3
Status: Owned book (my edition: Faber, 2000)
Reason I Read It: I'd been told Antonia Forest is the Jane Austen of school stories - I was not disappointed.

Synopsis: Twins Nicola and Lawrie are the youngest of six sisters to start at Kingscote School.  They are determined to do as well as their elder sisters, but things do not go to plan.

First Line: "Train journeys, Nicola decided, were awfully dull."

Review: Rereading this book I was surprised by how many elements of the later books are present here, not just the brilliance of the writing and dialogue, but also in the characters and plotlines that are emerging.  There's Lois Sanger and her feud with Rowan and later Nicola; there's Marie Dobson and her general air of desperation; and there's even Miss Cromwell and her hatred of prefects.  All sorts of events are here which are going to affect later plots, but the book itself is self-contained.

The plot itself is fairly simple, as shown in the above synopsis.  Everything Nicola and Lawrie try to succeed in - entrance exams, sports, Guides - fails, either because of their own lack of education (they're behind because they've been ill a lot as children) or because of other people's actions.  Nothing happens that is beyond the bounds of reality, except that it's a fairly eventful term, and there are no sudden miraculous changes of fortune at the end.  The success that is achieved at the end is the result of the twins' own hard work and abilities, when they decide to do something they want to do instead of trying to emulate their sisters. 

If there is a fault with the novel, it's that Ginty and Karen Marlow aren't as fleshed out as they later will be.  They're still believable and differentiated from the rest of the family, but they aren't given the same attention as Rowan and Ann.  I think this may be because Forest planned to do a series in which each member of the family was focused on in turn, so she purposefully left them 'blanker' in order to utilise the others more.  It isn't a weakness of the novel for a first time reader, but as I've read the whole series I'm looking for things - especially from Ginty (bah, The Attic Term, bah!) - which aren't yet apparent.

For a first novel, this is a fantastic book.  I'd recommend it to someone even if they don't read school stories, albeit with the knowledge that the series is only going to get better as it progresses.

Five Reasons I Love It:
1) It takes school story cliches and plays with them.  Everything the twins try to do that is inkeeping with a recognised school story trope fails miserably.  There's even a point at which Lawrie imagines saving Lois from drowning, and then "a feverish and conscience-stricken Lois would...confess everything" (143), only Lawrie isn't really going to follow the traditional storyline, she's going to "jolly well let her drown.  And I'd let her see I was letting her drown, what's more" (143).  There aren't many school stories in which a heroine would have such thoughts, or in which she would be allowed to go unpunished for even thinking such a terrible thing.

2) Rowan Marlow and her snarky glory.  It continues to grow - my favourite future line is "my grief would be consolable" - but is already on display here, such as when she concedes a point to Ginty: "[a]ll right...[y]ou didn't cry.  It was an extraordinary coincidence that just that week you had such a very bad cold" (20).

3) The 'villains' are believable.  They're not hideous pantomime types, doing things because they're evil and devious and have no morals whatsoever.  A lot of the time, they're causing problems and dropping other people in it because they're trying to save their own skins - Marie Dobson is a particular example of this.  They're villains because they're weak, and it's this weakness (as well as Forest's strength as a writer) that prevents them from having redemptive moments in which they're 'fixed'.

4) All of the prose, especially the dialogue.  It's so finely crafted yet doesn't feel forced.  As I said above, Antonia Forest is often compared to Jane Austen and I think this, along with her ironic view of everything, is part of the reason.

5) The occasional flashes of insight: "[she]...was affected by the...uncertain feeling of guilt which arises from seeing one's secret ill-wishing regarding other people come true" (159) or "one couldn't...suddenly like people just because everyone else did, or forget that they had been fairly swinish, even if they were doing their best now" (241).  It ties in with how great the characters are, but everyone gets some deeper moments of characterisation, even if its only for a moment.  All of it adds depth.

Next: The Marlows and the Traitor (scheduled for Saturday 24th September)

Focus On: Antonia Forest

Run Away Home (The Marlows, #10)
In March I read The Marlows and the Traitor, the second in the Marlows series by Antonia Forest and the last book of hers I had left to read.  This did not fill me with joy.  She's one of those writers who never wrote nearly enough to satisfy her fans, even though she wrote ten books over the course of 34 years, and even though they are all quite long for children's books.  All but one of her books focus on the Marlow family; four are school stories; two are historical; and they all feature wonderful prose, believable characters and an ironic view of the world. 

Unlike a lot of school stories, Kingscote is a real school: no wonderfully understanding headmistress, no jolly nice prefects, and no guarantee that the 'villains' will be punished at the end.  The girls are teenage girls, with cliques, rivalries, and friendships that often include cruel words and painful ostracism.  Within the Marlow family there are favourites, arguments and misunderstandings.  Even Nicola, the heroine, is not saved from being wrong or spared ironic representation. 

To summarise: I am a massive fan of these books.

So, I'm going to have a reread.  First the present day Marlow series, then the two historical novels, and finally The Thursday Kidnapping, the standalone book.

The Marlows series
Published between 1948 and 1982, the books only cover two and a half years in the lives of the characters but are all set during the time in which they were written.  The series starts with references to the Blitz and ends with characters watching Morecambe and Wise.  There are seven books in the series: four school stories and three 'holiday' books, although the events of these last range from spies to gymkhanas.

Autumn Term (1948)
The Marlows and the Traitor (1953)
Falconer's Lure (1957)
End of Term (1959)
Peter's Room (1961)
The Thuggery Affair (1965)
The Ready-Made Family (1967)
The Cricket Term (1974)
The Attic Term (1976)
Run Away Home (1982)

Historical novels
The Player's Boy (1970) and The Players and the Rebels (1971) are really one book split in half for length.  They're set in the later years of Elizabeth I, are mentioned in the main series, and feature Shakespeare, Marlow and the Essex Rebellion.

The Thursday Kidnapping
Published in 1963 this is the only book by Antonia Forest not to feature the Marlow family.  It is set in Hampstead Heath, where she grew up, and features one of the most painfully accurate portrayals of a lonely girl I've ever read.

Of all these books, my favourite is The Cricket Term - though whether that will change when I've reread them all, I don't know.  I suspect it won't, but you never know.

Later: Autumn Term, which I haven't read all the way through for ages.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Friday Favourites: Top Five School Story Authors

The School at the Chalet (The Chalet School, #1)
As I'm starting a new series of posts tomorrow focusing on Antonia Forest, I thought I'd start doing Friday Favourite: Top Fives with a list of my top five school story authors.

I'm not sure why I love school stories so much.  Possibly because I first started reading them as a teenager when my life was hellish and they offered an ideal escape.  Possibly because a lot of them are set in between the world wars and there's something I love about that period.  Or possibly because my earliest 'big book' was The Worst Witch, so that got me thinking of school stories as special (that and schools where you learn magic).

1) Antonia Forest.  Obviously.  Given that I'm about to start reviewing all of her books, I won't say any more here except that she is an aberration in my school story love as her books are frequently lacking in any idyllic happiness.  Things are happy, but they're never as perfect or easily resolved as in other author's work.  Favourite book: The Cricket Term.

2) Elinor M. Brent-Dyer.  She wrote a lot of short series, some standalones, and one monster of a series, The Chalet School, which is 58 books in hardback, even more in paperback thanks to Armada and their belief that children don't read long books so they'd better split some titles in two.  The series covers over four decades and travels around Europe, from Austria to Guernsey to Britain and finally Switzerland.  Incredibly idealised in places, lots of girls almost dying and having to be rescued by other girls, but incredibly enjoyable.  Favourite book: The Chalet School in Exile, though all of the early books are wonderful.

3) Dorita Fairlie Bruce.  Five distinct series, four of them school stories although these all continue to focus on the characters after they leave school.  The series often interconnect, so that Dimsie will suddenly rock up at Springdale to help people out or two of the schools will play matches against each other.  Favourite book: Captain at Springdale.

4) Elsie J. Oxenham.  Lots of interconnected series, with major characters in one becoming minor characters in others.  There are charts and reading orders for all of the connections, which are confusing to say the least.  A lot of her books are out of print (and some cost a small fortune to find as they were only printed once) but those I have been able to get my hands on are worth reading.  Favourite book: The Girls of the Hamlet Club (even if I have to read it as loose sheets of photocopied paper because an actual book is out of my price range).

5) Josephine Elder.  I have to admit I've only read one of her books but it was superlative.  Like Antonia Forest, she writes a much more realistic version of school and growing up - I'd dare to say it's more 'modern' than the other authors, in that the interactions between characters feel more real: they're real teenage girls, which isn't always pretty.  I do have a couple more of her books on my shelf (thank you, Girls Gone By) and hope they're as good as my 'favourite' book: Evelyn Finds Herself.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Sequels I'm Dying to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week: top ten sequels we're dying to read.  As usual, my list is a combination of books I want to buy, books that have yet to be published (or named! They may not exist), and books which I own but have yet to read.  Some of them also appeared on last week's Top Ten TBR Books for Autumn.

1. Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart - arrived in the post today.  Am reading first chance I get.

2. The follow up to The Crowfield Demon by Pat Walsh - I don't even know what this book is called, or when it will be published, or anything.  I assume it will exist because The Crowfield Demon left some threads hanging.

3. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett - Lymond in Malta, dealing with the Knights of St John (thus linking him to my favourite painter who shouldn't be let out without supervision, Carravagio) and meeting his Arch Nemesis.  Read the first chapter a while ago and Lymond fools the English with an army of sheep, so he remains on form.

4. The Rivals by Daisy Whitney - I really enjoyed The Mockingbirds (my review here) and was a tiny bit disappointed that I'd have to wait till 2012 for the sequel.

5. Sweetly by Jackson Pearce - Sisters Red was really good (my review here) and now Jackson Pearce is tackling Hanzel and Gretel?  I think it will be both awesome and disturbing, which are things I look for in a book.

6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - everyone and their dog has read this but me.  The daft thing is I want to read it but haven't yet.  I think because it's the middle of a trilogy which means things are about to get very bad.

7. Supernaturally by Kiersten White - also arrived today, also needs to be read as soon as humanly possible.

8. The Lies that Bind by Lisa & Laura Roecker - how did I not know there was a sequel to The Liar Society?  I wanted a sequel but that book could standalone but now I know there will be more. (tbp 2012)

9. ...and That's When It Fell Off in My Hand by Louise Rennison - these books have surprised me by how much I enjoy them, just a shame I have to watch the library catalogue like a hawk to get copies as they're returned.

10. Frostbite by Richelle Mead - again, surprised by how much I enjoyed Vampire Academy, and again having to get this from the library and curse whoever took it out before me.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My TBR List This Autumn

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week (to which I am a bit late, huzzah) is, well, as the title of this post says: books on my TBR list this autumn.  For me I've done a mix of books due for publication, those I'm buying first chance I get and some which I already own which are sitting on my - well, actually, my floor as I don't have bookshelves in my new flat yet and so I have stacks of books all round the walls.

1. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - I loved Anna to the point of reading it in a day and telling my housemates how awesome it is, so can't wait for Lola.

2. Snuff by Terry Pratchett - it's a new Discworld.  It's focusing on Vimes, cynical god of all things awesome and cranky.  And it's called Snuff.

3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - I've loved all of Laini's other books, her prose is always beautiful (writerly jealousy abounds when I read her) and I'm getting the damn special edition even though it takes a hefty chunk out of my change.

4. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - MJ writing about Jack the Ripper, and London, and I need this book.

5. Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart - I just finished The Treasure Map of Boys and I have to know how all this ends.  This has been one of my favourite series of the year.

6. Graveminder by Melissa Marr - Another favourite series for me was Wicked Lovely, and Melissa Marr is now on the (quite short) list of authors whose books I have to buy.

7. Supernaturally by Kiersten White - I read Paranormalcy in July and loved it, so now I need to know what happens next.

8. The remaining Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett - I've managed to track down all but Checkmate (damn lack of recently published copies anywhere but Foyles) and they are sitting there, mocking me with their complex plots and their lines in languages I can't read and their general brilliance.  This series is a hefty undertaking but so worth it.

9. The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff - The Eagle of the Ninth was fantastic, Outcast was bleak but wonderfully written, and I now want to read everything Rosemary Sutcliff wrote.

10. The rest of The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennison - so much fun, really funny and the film is amazing.  Am reading these from my local library so it's a case of scrounging around trying to grab the copies when they come in and calling down curses on the head of whoever got there before me.

Actually, there are a lot of books I want to read, and a lot more series I've just started that I want to complete (Uglies and Vampire Academy especially) as well as series that are languishing and mocking me (Chaos Walking and Hunger Games in particular) that this list could go on forever. 

Month in Review: August 2011

Ah, long inactivity.  Fun things like moving house, job hunting and general lack of internet access have conspired against me (also: natural laziness) which means I haven't updated since April (at least it's April this year, but still) and am now planning all sorts of things which may or may not get done (including something involving Enid Blyton, though what that is I do not know). 

Anyway, something which I can do because it is essentially a list...

Books Read in August 2011
78. The Eagle of the Ninth - Rosemary Sutcliff (1/8 - 4/8)
79. The Queen's Fool - Philippa Gregory (22/7 - 5/8)
80. A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray (5/8 - 7/8)
81. Rebel Angels - Libba Bray (7/8 - 8/8)
82. One of Our Thursdays is Missing - Jasper Fforde (12/8)
83. Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas - Louise Rennison (12/8 - 13/8)
84. The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith (25/7 - 13/8)
85. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson (13/8)
86. Tithe - Holly Black (13/8 - 14/8)
87. Bad Taste in Boys - Carrie Harris (15/8)
88. Five Are Together Again - Enid Blyton (15/8)
89. The Crowfield Demon - Pat Walsh (15/8 - 16/8)
90. Withering Tights - Louise Rennison (18/8 - 19/8)
91. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld (15/8 - 21/8)
92. Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead (21/8)
93. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Joan Aiken (22/8)
94. The Bermudez Triangle - Maureen Johnson (23/8)
95. Dancing in my Nuddy Pants - Louise Rennison (26/8 - 27/8)
96. The Last Continent - Terry Pratchett (27/8 - 29/8)
97. Vegan Virgin Valentine - Carolyn Mackler (30/8)
98. Outcast - Rosemary Sutcliff (31/8)

Total = 21
Total pages = 6591*
Average book length = 314 pages

Completed Challenge = 1st in a Series with Tithe (14/8)

Inadvertent Trope of the Month = It Got Worse.  Seriously, several of these books are full of things just getting worse and worse and bleaker and bleaker.  Prime examples: Outcast (ye gods, that was one thing after another); Uglies (and I know it's going to get worse in Pretties); and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (vile Victorian orphaned and alone bleakness).  I liked all of these books, and two at least had happy endings, but they needed buffers of 'happier' books around them.

Most Read Author = Louise Rennison (3 books).

Nicest Covers of the Month
Bad Taste in Boys (Kate Grable #1)Uglies (Uglies, #1)The Crowfield Demon

Top Ten Books of the Month
01. Uglies
02. The Eagle of the Ninth
03. Speak
04. A Great and Terrible Beauty
05. Rebel Angels
06. Bad Taste in Boys
07. The Crowfield Demon
08. Bad Taste in Boys
09. The Bermudez Triangle
10. Vampire Academy

*I have a spreadsheet for this because clearly I a) have no life; b) am obsessive; and c) really like spreadsheets.
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