B is for the Bechdel test and what it shows us about the novels we read

Posted: Apr 26th 2017, 6:01pm By: Anne


The Bechdel test is an excellent idea which was originally designed to be used for films but has also been applied to books. It aims to measure the sexism of a piece of work by asking a simple question – is there a scene where two named women talk together about something which is not a man ? You can find out more information about the background to this on Wikipedia and you can also find lists of well-known films which fail the test and ideas on how to extend it to look at other types of diversity.

This is obviously a very rough and ready test because a book which passes it may also contain sexist material and those which fail may not be sexist but have some other reason for lack of female characters (“The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco for example is set in a monastery, “Moby Dick ...

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Book Bingo 15

Posted: Apr 12th 2017, 2:09pm By: Debra Found


For this square I had to choose a Booker Prize Winner. The winner I chose was "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes.

To be honest I didn't specifically choose this book, it was the March choice for the book group I attend.

Whenever the books are put on the table at the book group everyone hurries to take one and see what we are reading for the next month. The bookgroup I attend is run at the local library so the library obtains all the books - no need to buy books you are never going to read again. If the book has won a prize there is a collective sigh which goes up from the table. There are lots of comments about it being boring, possibly too deep so no one will grasp the purpose and so on. The group just doesn't like prize winners in general. It is similar when the cover of a book declare ...

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Book Bingo 14

Posted: Apr 12th 2017, 1:56pm By: Debra Found


As you can see I am still strolling along quite slowly through my book bingo squares. This square is a book with an ugly cover.

The book I have chosen is Karen Maitland's "The Raven's Head".

The online dictionary defines ugly as

"unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance."

I wouldn't class this cover as repulsive but it isn't a particularly pleasant cover. The main body of the cover is bright red with a large black raven on it. Raven's are not the sort of bird that people class as sweet or attractive, so I feel that this could easily be classed as an ugly cover.

It was actually the cover which caught my eye. I was having coffee in the library (a great idea having a cafe in the library) when I spotted the book on one of the display stands. For some reason ...

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A is for abridged books and why I don't like them

Posted: Apr 8th 2017, 4:55pm By: Anne


This is a reprint of a blog I first published a couple of years ago. I pretty well stands by my views although maybe I should have emphasised the fact that I don't think that just because a book is long it is somehow worthy !

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The Good Fairy that runs this site posted a link to a news item some time ago about the proposal to abridge Sir Walter Scott’s novels because they are too long for today’s students to read. I have every sympathy for them having been required to read “Dombey and Son” by Charles Dickens as part of a literature course – I am not sure now how I ever got to the end and I certainly wouldn’t/couldn’t do it again. I read “Middlemarch” by George Elliot for another ...

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A is for amnesia and other overused plot devices

Posted: Apr 5th 2017, 5:29pm By: Anne


I would add to this blog which I have reposted from two years' ago a missing relative, usually a sister, which device has appeared a lot lately in crime novels. I also never want to read another book about how a dog changed a life or a relationship !

Feel free to add your own irritations !

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Amnesia is one of the great, and frequently used, plot devices. Whether it is acquired in a car crash or as a result of hidden childhood memories you can be sure that just when the plot requires it the sufferer will remember something important that had previously been forgotten. Honestly, I am growing so tired of this because it seems to pop up in so many books I am reading at the moment and I have n ...

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A is for award winning books and some reasons why I might avoid them

Posted: Apr 3rd 2017, 6:45pm By: Anne


This is a reposting of a blog I originally published in May 2015. I have read a few more award winning books since I originally wrote this but I am definitely still wary of them.

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When reading the summary of a book several things will cause me to hesitate even if it looks like the sort of book I might buy. One of those things is if it tells me that the book is “award winning”.

The words “award winning” conjure up for me a wealth of preconceptions – not all of them accurate, I expect. I have a view of “award winning” books or those which achieve critical acclaim as being difficult to read or having complicated/harrowing subject matter. I heard someone once describe reading a Booker Prize wi ...

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A is for Action and Adventure

Posted: Apr 1st 2017, 3:38pm By: Anne


I started writing a series of alphabet themes book blogs two years ago and rather got knocked off course by other things and challenges. I thought I would revisit them and maybe get to the end this time (yes, I have something prepared for "Z").

Here is a blog I published originally in May 2015 - my real life hasn't got any less boring and ordinary since then and I have continued to live vicariously through my love for action and adventure books.

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So far this May I have lived in a small American town, investigated more than one crime, relived the trauma of occupied France during the Second World War, fought for survival in an eighteenth century Russian court and battl ...

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Book Bingo 13

Posted: Mar 31st 2017, 3:37pm By: Debra Found


This square required me to read a book with a non-human main character. This actually provides quite a lot of scope - a fantasy character, a mythological creature, a ghost, an animal. There are plenty of books which fall into these catagories. I chose to read "Lightning in the Dark" by Michelle Boule. In this book the main character is Petra, a modern day harpy who is descended from the harpies of Greek mythology.

Writers have always included non human characters in their books and stories. Most cultures have an oral mythology which included gods, demons, strange animals, wonderous creatures and monsters. The Greeks and the Romans had a rich mythology but they are also to be found in other traditions such as the Vikings, Egyptians, Incas etc. Many of these mythical creatures were developed in ...

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Book Bingo Square 12

Posted: Mar 13th 2017, 6:08pm By: Debra Found


For the twelfth square I had to choose an author who shares the same first name as myself. I decided to accept the alternative spelling of "Deborah" and chose "Seesaw" by Deborah Moggach. This was a book which had been loitering on my TBR shelf for around 6 months having been passed onto me by my colleague, Anne.

As a method of choosing books this is certainly not the most relaible method. It pays no heed to genre, style of writing, length, cover decoration or indeed any other method by which I may normally choose a book. However, the name Debra/Deborah came into its heyday in the 1960s/70s so it would not be too unlikely that an author with this name was of a similar age to myself but beyond that there is little to guide me as a reader.

I was very restrained when choosing this bo ...

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Book Bingo Challenge - some concluding thoughts

Posted: Feb 26th 2017, 7:37pm By: Anne


I have now finished my Book Bingo Challenge. I had 25 squares to fill and I have read and blogged about all 25 books I read (and mentioned in passing one I didn’t finish). I had hoped to finish the challenge in three months and actually completed the reading in just over that – I started at the beginning of July and finished the last of the books on 8 October – not bad ! It has taken a bit longer though to write and publish all the blogs.

I like book challenges. I find that they make me read different books from those I would normally choose for myself. I enjoy, within reason, having my boundaries widened and I have found some brilliant novels in the past this way and broken down some self-imposed reading barriers. I also made a point with this challenge of trying to include some books that hav ...

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Book Bingo 11

Posted: Feb 24th 2017, 3:45pm By: Debra Found


For this square on my Bingo board I had to choose a book which has been on my "To Be Read" shelf for longer than 2 years. There were plenty to choose from!

I chose "Underground London" by Stephen Smith which is a rather mediocre work about what exists underneath London.

I think it is probably fair to say that all readers have a "To Be Read" (TBR) shelf. It may only be a pile or indeed just one book but they do exist. It may not contain physical books but may be a list of books that the reader wishes to read but has yet to get round to.

I have a small set of bookshelves which contain my TBR pile. Currently there are around 50 books on it. It was only last year that my husband made me have a cull as the shelves had rather overflowed into various piles and boxes surrounding the shelves! So ...

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Book Bingo Square 25 - A free square for my final book

Posted: Feb 19th 2017, 1:47pm By: Anne


The final square of my challenge is a free one which leaves me able to choose any book I wish. Given the restrictions of the previous 24 squares to be able to make a free choice is quite liberating – and frightening. I have many, many unread books from which I can choose but what would be special enough for this final book ?

Fortunately a friend came to the rescue and loaned me “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” which is a play transcript by JK Rowling and Jack Thorne. I was very pleased to borrow it and thought that it was unusual enough to make an excellent final square – I was pretty sure I would enjoy it as I have read all the books.

And I did enjoy it. It was clever and full of lovely little touches addressing some of the issues in the original books. The story was good enough for ...

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Book Bingo Square 24 - A story with time travel

Posted: Feb 17th 2017, 7:18pm By: Anne


I read a lot of science fiction/authors and because of that I have read a number of books with time travel. It is a difficult thing for authors to get right because they have to sort out all the practical details and make the story plausible when, of course, it really couldn’t happen. I have, however, read a number of excellent books which manage it including “The Time Traveller’s Wife”, “The Anubis Gates”, “Shadow of Night”, “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August”, “The Eyre Affair” and “Time and Time Again” – I recommend all of these.

For this square, however, I reread a book that I had loved when much younger but not read for some time “The Doomsday Book” by Connie Willis. It is set in a sort of alternative present where there has been pandemics in the past whic ...

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Book Bingo 10

Posted: Feb 14th 2017, 6:43pm By: Debra Found


I appear to be making quite slow progress through this book bingo challenge. I just get waylaid and read a number of other books which happen my way!

Square ten is a book which was published exactly 100 years ago in 1916. (Note I started this challenge last year!) I chose the book "Greenmantle" by John Buchan. This has been loitering on my "To be read" shelf for several years and it was a happy co-incidence that it was published in 2016.

Greenmantle is a Richard Hannay book - he of the 39 Steps fame. I am well acquainted with that book and all 3 films having encountered them all in my teenage years. However, I was unaware that there were other books with Hannay as the character. The thing that struck me from the outset of this book was the language. It was definitely a book of its time. Everyo ...

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Book Bingo Square 23 - Humour or satire

Posted: Feb 11th 2017, 7:18pm By: Anne


If you are going to divide readers just find a book that one thinks is amusing and ask others if they think it is funny. Humour is very much in the eye of the individual reader and I tend to avoid reviews that talk about books as “laugh out loud funny” unless I know and trust the reviewer.

I wasn’t sure what to read for this square. I have already read a satire in this challenge although it qualified for a different square so I thought that I would look for something funny. I toyed with Terry Pratchett who never lets me down but then the most recent Bridget Jones Book caught my eye at a charity shop – this was before the publication of “Bridget Jones’ Baby”.

I had read and loved the first two volumes of the diaries some years ago and reread them frequently. I know there have been ...

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Book Bingo Square 22 - a thriller or suspense novel

Posted: Feb 2nd 2017, 6:08pm By: Anne


I love reading thrillers and suspense novels and certainly over half the books that I read each year fall within that genre. I read the whole range of books available from cosy mysteries to serial killer novels and including police procedurals, romantic suspense, ScandiCrime and historic mysteries. I do avoid horror, conspiracy theories and courtroom dramas but will have a go at most other novels.

I suppose what I like about crime/mystery/thriller/suspense novels is the sense of good against evil. They are usually very clear about this and often the story will be about putting something right or preventing more wrong things happening. Most mysteries are resolved too; I am not a huge fan of unresolved or ambiguous endings. Of course there are exceptions to these rules but usually suspense novels are r ...

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Book Bingo Square 21 - a book about royalty

Posted: Jan 16th 2017, 9:46pm By: Anne


We have a fascination with royalty in both fact and fiction. I can’t tell you how many books I have on my shelves about fantasy worlds with kings and queens or historical novels which involve the real thing. It seems to be a recurrent element in fiction.

For this square I decided not to delve into the world of high fantasy or seek out books about vampire queens but to read a factual book about a real monarch. I chose “The King is Dead” by Suzannah Liscomb which is about the will of Henry VIII. I was privileged to hear this author speak about the theme of this book last year before it was published and it was that lecture which encouraged me to pick up this volume and I am very glad that I did.

The book itself is lovely. It is hardback and square in shape but not terribly large. It is well ...

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2016 - a final wrap up

Posted: Jan 8th 2017, 11:50am By: Anne


As 2017 gets well under way I thought it would be good to reflect on my 2016 reading as a whole. I have recently published a series of blogs with the best books I read in the year which I hope will be of use/interest to some readers but now I thought I would get into some detail.

In 2016 I read 425 books. I read no duplicates so they were all unique titles. Virtually all of them were full length novels although there were a few electronic novellas included in that number. 425 isn’t an unusual number of books for me to read in a year, in fact I have read more in each year since 2008 than I have in 2016. I am not setting any target for 2017 although I would expect to read in or about the same number.

Of the 425 I read 40% on my trusty Kindle, one on my phone and the majority in paper. To some e ...

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Book Bingo 9

Posted: Jan 5th 2017, 2:37pm By: Debra Found


The 9th square in my book bingo challenge is to read a book that you loved as a child. For this I chose The Faraway Collection by Enid Blyton. This contains three of the Faraway Tree books - The Enchanted Wood, The Folk of the Faraway Tree & the Magic Faraway Tree.

I was an Enid Blyton addict as a child. I grew up with the Naughtiest Girl in the school, Mr Galliano's Circus, St Clares, Malory Towers, The Secret Seven, The Five Finder-Outers, The Famous Five......you name it, I read it. I would have happily have chosen any of these books as part of my challenge but I spotted a combined copy of these three Faraway Tree books in a charity shop so decided to buy & read that.

I am always a bit dubious about re-reading books that were my favourite when I was younger. Sometimes you need to be in the r ...

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Long time, no blog

Posted: Jan 5th 2017, 2:34pm By: Sara Eames


I have not given up reading, but recently I have been plagued by computer problems which has meant that I have been unable to log on to this site. Fortunately, I now have a new tablet and a new computer, so hopefully I will be able to resume blogging re book bingo and putting on book reviews. All I can say at the moment is watch this space ;)

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