Saturday, 28 December 2013

Challenges for 2014

This year I held back a bit with the challenges - I took part in Ellie's Translation Challenge and loved it and took part in a couple of Classics Club related monthly challenges such as Austen in August and Modern March. I really like the way challenges can help focus your reading without making reading a chore (as uni did, occasionally). I'm signing up for three year-long challenges and will be joining in on a Jazz Age related month in January (time to get through some of those Fitzgerald's that have been lingering on my shelves for a while). 

Russian Literature 2014 hosted by O at Behold the Stars

After reading and loving Anna Karenina this year I was really excited to see O's challenge for 2014. I was completely shocked by AK, mostly by how much I enjoyed it and how I had unfairly pegged it as intimidating when actually it was relatively easy and wholly enjoyable. 

I'm only going to go for level one which is 1-3 books - I don't want to go too far and freak myself out. Some of the big name Russian authors still do scare me half to death. I've got a little list together of some that I would like to read and will pick and chose from there. Still, you never know, I may get caught up in the Russian Lit and head for level two!

  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

Just look at all those Russian authors with their beards!

TBR Pile Challenge 2014 hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader

Reading Adam's reviews of books read during this challenge for 2013 made me realise that I can conquer my pile too if I actually make the effort to do so. What better way to make the effort than by joining in on the challenge next year. I am going to have to seriously consider my twelve reads and will post my list in due course (after serious consideration, VERY serious consideration). I'm hoping to finally get around to one or two (or twelve, even) books that have been languishing on my shelves for longer than should be legal (or than I can admit to).

TBR pile, let's be 'aving you.

Classics Club Twelve Months of Classic Literature

I was really excited to see this announced some time ago. I am really looking forward to matching books on my list to the monthly themes set out by the club. I won't be participating in every month but there are particular months (January, March, June and November) that I will definitely be enjoying.

Jazz Age in January hosted by Leah at Books Speak Volumes

It's not much of a secret that I love novels of the Jazz Age and the Jazz Age in general. I just can't help myself. I am going to thoroughly enjoy settling into the 20s during January and will hopefully get to one or two books I've had on my pile for a few months, some of which are on my CC list. I will also hope to get around to reading one of the relatively recent non-fiction releases that I have been eyeing up for some time. I'm hoping to read some (or all) of the following:

  • The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Z by Therese Anne Fowler
  • Call me Zelda by Erika Robuck
  • Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

This event starts on January 1st - I will attempt to start then but I feel I may be suffering from a slight hangover on that day so the 2nd may be more realistic.

Anyone else as excited as I am for 2014?! What challenges are you participating in this year? Do you find them helpful for focusing your reading?


Friday, 27 December 2013

A Very Bookish Christmas

This Christmas, as ever, I could tell which collection of presents was mine before even looking at the tags. Yep, all the book-shaped presents were sat in a little pile, eagerly awaiting me stripping them of their wrappings, opening their covers and…OK, getting a little bit dodgy right there. Let's all just calm down.

I received some lovely books this year, some which I'd hinted at wishing to find under the tree and others which were just a brilliant surprise. Iain Banks's death this year reminded me of how obsessed I was with him back in my college days. I remember reading The Wasp Factory on the recommendation of a fellow lit nerd and completely falling for Banks. I never owned a copy of The Wasp Factory and I would really like to re-read it so I was completely overjoyed to receive that and two other Banks novels (that dude was prolific -  I've read a ton but still no way near everything). 

I've wanted to read Almost English since hearing extracts at a reading I went to in the summer. I have read another novel by Charlotte Mendelson (I forget what it was called) and I remember really enjoying it so I'm looking forward to getting to this one. I don't think I need to say anything about And the Mountains Echoed except that I am VERY excited to read it. Hosseini's first two novels completely blew me sideways and I have no doubt this will do the same. 

Perhaps the best book I was given for Christmas was one from my sister, Twitterature. It's not an unknown fact that I adore twitter and I have wanted this book since I first came across it months ago. It has not let me down. Imagine my family and I, kir royales in hand, trying to guess which literary masterpiece is being retold through twitter. There were many wrong answers but it sure was an interesting evening. Anna Karenina is by far my favourite with Oedipus not far behind.

And, of course, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Star Wars related goodies. I shall spend the next few months snuggled up in my Storm Trooper onesie (yes, that's a thing), drinking peppermint tea from my new Storm Trooper mug. I'm practically Vader's right hand woman. I think I'll leave you with that image…

Did you have a very bookish Christmas? I hope whether it was bookish or not, you had a lovely couple of days.


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Classics Club Meme: December

The question this month is a repeat from August 2012 which is before I joined the club. It's actually quite a tricky one and I'm glad we can list multiple! I would definitely struggle to limit it to just one. My favourites always change, it depends on my mood and my current life circumstances (I think that explains why I have such complicated histories with four out of five books in this list). These five are the books that always spring to mind when I'm asked about favourites and, though occasionally another book may push its way to the top of the pile, these five never cease to amaze me.

What is your favourite classic?

1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Not going to go into this one, we all know my feelings for Wilkie...

2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I always thought Dickens was a giant pain in rear who used a million words where one would do and wrote sentences that were considerably longer than they needed to be or even should be. Whilst all that may be true, he also had a wonderful knack for storytelling and creating unforgettable characters. Joe Gargery, anyone? Best fictional character EVER.

3. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

I've studied this novel twice at two different levels and loved it both times. Rebecca West has a ridiculous skill for evoking shell shock and demonstrating the impact it can have on all those around. The final lines of this novel are still stuck in my head (and fuelled my obsession with neurasthenia that overtook me during my MA).

4. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Again, another novel I've studied twice (British universities are not known for their variety). I can read this novel in any mood and it will always show me something different. I can learn new things and be shown new ways of looking at the world. Woolf's language is completely stunning and the middle section, 'Time Passes', has some of my favourite pieces of writing ever. For someone who was terrified of Woolf until I hit about 21, it's quite impressive she has so prominent a position in my favourites.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Oh look, another novel I've studied twice! Come on, British education system, learn some new tricks (or don't, given you've introduced me to most of my favourites). I hated Gatsby the first time I read it at A Level. The people were vapid, shallow and generally quite mean. The story was boring and not engaging whatsoever. Fast forward a year to my first year of uni, reading Gatsby again with a lecturer who would not let me sink to the back of the class and hide (FYI, she is the reason I did not drop out of uni when I very nearly wanted to). Gatsby came alive for me - the people had new depths, the story new intricacies and suddenly I could not let go of the novel. Now, I have a cheeky re-read whenever I can.

Have you read any of these? Do any of them have a place in your favourites?


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Review: Wilkie Collins by Peter Ackroyd

Wilkie Collins

Peter Ackroyd
Chatto and Windus
186 pages

Ready for another dose of Wilkie enthusiasm? Of course you are!

I read this biography alongside reading The Moonstone to cash in on all the Wilkie goodness (and goodness it truly is). I bought this hardback practically the minute it was released and then (quite unfairly) abandoned it on my shelf and left it languishing there. I'm actually pretty glad I so carelessly left it on the shelf because, as it turned out, it was the perfect accompaniment to my month of Wilkie.

This is a short biography and shouldn't really be taken as a definitive life of the Wilkster. There aren't any excessive footnotes here. Rather it is a concise and entertaining overview of his life, with some brilliant explorations of his work. 

Peter Ackroyd has such a brilliant style. I'm usually a bit turned off by biographies but in this case I was entertained throughout. Granted Wilkie had an interesting life, but there is something about the way Ackroyd comments on his behaviour that I found completely wonderful. Reading this has actually made me feel like trying more biographies, just to see how I'd get on. I'm certainly going to look out for another Wilkie biography, now I've had a taste of his ridiculously interesting life.

I think a few quotes are the best way to demonstrate the brilliance of this book:

On Wilkie's reunion with Martha after some time away: 'That reunion is not in doubt, since Martha gave birth to their third child nine months and seven days later.'

On his name: 'He was always simply known as Wilkie, not as Collins or Mr Collins.'

On his sexual and romantic adventures: 'To have two mistresses was, even by the standards of the nineteenth century, a precarious situation; but Collins seems to have adapted to it quite naturally and cheerfully.' - I bet he did, the saucy bugger.

He was an opium addict and a womaniser (though he did seem to treat his ladies relatively well) but his enthusiasm for his work almost measures up to my enthusiasm for his work. He always met his deadlines and wrote continuously until his death. I can't help but love him, and this overview and insight into his life has only made me love him even more. What's wrong with having a slight obsession with a nineteenth century womanising novelist? Nothing in my book.

Do you read many biographies? Would you rather read a short, overview-y biography or a detailed blow by blow account of someone's life?


Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Reading

It's the holidays (big cheer), I'm back home in Somerset (bigger cheer) and I don't have work for almost two weeks (biggest cheer yet). Suffice to say, I'm feeling pretty good right now. I feel even better when I think about how much reading I'm planning. I still have non-full time job work to do and I have a few things going on socially (hard to avoid at this time of year) but I am determined to give myself a break and enjoy at least a couple of days of relaxed reading in front of the fire.

I had to very carefully consider my Christmas reading this year as my books are spread out between London and Somerset. As any bookish individual would undoubtedly understand, packing my books for the trip home took priority over anything else (which perhaps explains how I forgot pyjamas). I weighed up the pros and cons of each individual book before putting it on the 'yay' or 'nay' pile. In the end, I realised that it would be silly to bring too many back as I do have about *cough* five *cough* overflowing bookshelves in Somerset. It's a problem we all know well. I managed to narrow it down to three (plus the ridiculous amount on my kindle).

The honour of Christmas reads went to:

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

I have mentioned this book more than once on here. It first turned up when I went to an event in the Archway With Words Festival where Chevalier read out sections from this book (followed by much fangirling and failing at life when she graciously (considering my general non-human-ness) signed my book). It is also on my Winter Reads list. Plus, I know my Mum will want to read it too as we always read Chevalier's novels and then have a little chat about them.

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

I'm reading this for a blog tour in January. I'm really looking forward to it as I remember Jennifer sang its praises on its first tour.

The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins

No explanation needed. It's Wilkie. He is my homie. 

And then, in case of dire necessity, I have my kindle for backup. Although, I have just realised that I asked my parents for a couple of book for Christmas…perhaps backups will not be necessary.

What are your Christmas reading choices this year? Do you like to make your Christmas reading a bit special like I do?


Review: The Moonstone (BBC style)

The Moonstone
BBC Adaptation
1997 (it's time for a new one, surely?)

I stumbled on this adaptation when I was about half way through The Moonstone. I finally watched it about a week ago and, as much as it was satisfying to see the novel come alive on TV, I was left feeling a bit unimpressed. I think the characters were written really well and remained close to the book. Clack could have been a little more wheedling and Rosanna was played a tad wimpish (I thought she was anything but a wimp in the novel) but other than that I think they were all more or less spot on. Greg Wise as Franklin Blake had wonderfully flowing hair and was hilarious in the opium state. Keeley Hawes as Rachel Verinder was suitably stroppy and she said 'Clack' exactly as I imagined, but I do think her love for Franklin was hammed up a little (kissing his opium tainted glass etc.). The real challenge was Betteredge and I think they succeeded in staying true to Wilkie's original. There was not a single reference to Robinson Crusoe (they were sorely missed, I tell you), but his relationship with the other servants was brilliant to watch.

I think that having just read the novel makes the accuracy of the story a low priority and my enjoyment was certainly not reliant on it. It was a two hour adaptation of a 500 page novel - they had no chance in hell of getting it all in there. Good effort made all round, though. It feels very quick because everything that is slowly revealed in the book (via various tangeants in Betteredge's case), is revealed at top speed. Needs must I suppose. Still, if you're suffering from the post-Wilkie slump that I have been then I'd recommend watching this for a slightly different dose of The Moonstone.

Bottom line: worth a watch, just don't go mad for it.

Do any of you lovely #readWilkie participants want to watch this? I'd like to pass it on to you guys to watch...let me know!


Friday, 20 December 2013

Review: Fear by Stefan Zweig


Stefan Zweig
Pushkin Press (2013)
106 pages

Translated by Anthea Bell

Translation Challenge #11

'The horror had now moved into her home and would not stir from its rooms.'

Stefan Zweig is a name I have been noticing more and more frequently in bookshops. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I had no idea who he was and knew nothing about him apart from the fact that seemed to be prolific. According to Wikipedia (font of knowledge) he was pretty famous. Having devoured Fear in no time at all, I can see why.

Fear was first brought to my attention by Lindsay in her review back in May. The subject really intrigued me and I'm glad it stayed in my mind long enough for me to pick up a copy (hello you beauty from Pushkin Press).

Irene Wagner is a bourgeois wife and mother, bored with her mundane existence.  She begins an affair with a young pianist but, upon leaving his apartment one day, she bumps into his former lover who begins to blackmail her. 

Considering the concept of blackmailing an adulterer/adulteress is rather familiar nowadays, Zweig has this incomparable skill for creating a claustrophobic atmosphere that makes the subject completely terrifying. Irene's fear of being found out is palpable to the point that it made me tense. As a reader I did not feel like I was outside the novel but rather within it and sharing in Irene's terror. Skills.

Fear is a study of relationships and the games people will play in relationships. The twist towards the end revealed how much of an emphasis is actually put on gender relationships (particularly gendered power relationships). It reminds me of two other books I have read this year (both also on the Translation Challenge coincidentally) - Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary - in its treatment of women doing 'wrong' in romantic/sexual relationships and the lengths they will go to to avoid the consequences. What I find most distressing is that death seems to be the only way out for such women. All three female protagonists consider suicide to be the better option than dealing with the shame and scandal that comes with being aware of their own sexual wants. Even when knowing that these women are all products of their society and culture, I find the idea of death as an escape from shame immensely depressing. 

Zweig was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and I think that is noticeable in the novel. If you are a fan of psychological, Freudian literature, I would strongly recommend breezing through this very short novel. It is twisted, affecting and more than a little disturbing. I could say so much more about it but I won't, because I think you should all read it and see for yourself.

''Do you think it''s always just fear that...that keeps people from speaking out? Couldn't it be...well, couldn't it be shame?''


Monday, 16 December 2013

Mini reviews: dystopian worlds and a hundred year old man

The Testimony
James Smythe

A couple of months ago I joined a book club in London, a book club that reads post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Could a book club get any better? I think only a book club devoted to Wilkie would beat it. Anyway, The Testimony was the second book I read as part of the club although I did not actually go to the meet up *slaps wrist*. I hadn't quite finished the book on the day and it really is one that could be spoiled entirely by someone slipping the events of the ending into discussion. Which, in this case, was bound to happen. 

Even a couple of weeks on, I'm finding it hard to decide how I feel about this book. Perhaps that says it all. Perhaps the fact that I'm still thinking about it two weeks later completely illustrates the impact of this novel. I'm not going to do a synopsis because I think it would be hard to without spoilers but lets just say it is about an 'event' that involves the entire world and humanity's reaction to it. It is a book that definitely encourages DEEP THOUGHTS. Deep thoughts still give me the wibbly wobblys but I actually really enjoyed it here. I think the style and structure (it is written from the point of view of multiple narrators recounting their experiences), contributed to the endless deep thoughts skipping round my brain but also lessened the deep thought headache. Some of the narrators I really connected to and was interested to read what they had to say next. This novel wouldn't work written in any other way. It's power relies on the multiple narration and the inferences that can be made from the individual experiences. 

If you fancy a brilliant piece of dystopia with a side of deep thoughts, I'd highly recommend this. The ending disappointed me somewhat but the reading experience in general is worth having.

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared
Jonas Jonasson

If I did star ratings this book would get top marks. Both my sister and my flat mate had read this book before it made it to my bedside and they both completely adored it so my expectations were pretty high going into it. I was not disappointed. This is a truly entertaining novel, full of giggles, clever references and absurdly brilliant situations. It's also a haven for history geeks. 

The novel tells the story of Allan Karlsson, a hundred year old man (funnily enough), who climbs out of the window in his care home and doesn't look back. Allan has led a remarkable life and has a phenomenal talent for getting himself out of all manner of mischief. He also has a skill for finding mischief. There are two stories making up this novel. The first is Allan's present and the other is Allan's past and they eventually converge when Allan is getting himself out of one last pickle. 

I can't recommend this book enough. It is funny, uplifting and populated with some amazingly imagined characters (I'm a fan of The Beauty, myself). Read it. That's an order (although I think most people have, I'm a bit behind as always). 


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Winter Reads

As I am clearly a weather woman, I am going to announce that we are definitely in winter now. It's official. I'm sat in my house with a hat on and am seriously considering the practical implications of fingerless gloves (so far they're looking like a necessity). If there is one thing about winter that I love it is the reading mood it puts me in to. There is nothing better than snuggling up under a blanket (or three), with a hot water bottle, a cup of tea and a good book. The Moonstone readalong eased me into the season of reading and now the Dickens readalong hosted by the lovely Bex is just making me hella happy. 

I'm not a huge reading planner and I think reading is actually the only area in my life where I am able to be spontaneous but I really do have an idea of what I want to read over the next couple of months. The following are all what I would consider to be 'wintry' books - books that I just want to curl up with and read for hours. Don't let me down, guys, don't let me down.

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Dickens and winter are pretty much made for each other. It's working for me so far - an excellent pre-Christmas read.

2. The Lie by Helen Dunmore
A new release for 2014 (hello Centenary bandwagon, I love you). Dunmore is one of those consistently good writers so I'm really looking forward to seeing how she approaches the war. Please no cliches, Helen.

3. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Who doesn't love a sobfest in winter? Ness has had me in pieces with every book I've read so far and I have no doubt that this will go the same way. He is so good.

4. The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett
It's bookish and mysterious = win.

5. The Last Runaway by Tracey Chevalier
Like Helen Dunmore, Tracey Chevalier is one of those writers I can always rely on to produce a darn good story. I went to a reading of this in the summer and have meant to read it ever since.

6. Magda by Meike Ziervogel
I saw Meike talk about Magda and the women of the Third Reich in the summer which just encouraged my interest in the subject. It's only a short novel but I am pretty certain it will be a thought-provoking one.

7. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Again, bookish and mysterious = win.

8. Z by Therese Anne Fowler
This feels like it should be a summer read given the subject (Zelda Fitzgerald) but I think it will be one I don't want to put down once I get started. I think I may read this in January for Leah's Jazz Age in January event.

9. Stoner by John Williams
Waterstones book of the year 2013 and quite the publishing sensation  - can't go wrong. Plus, there are books on the cover (it's the little things).

10. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Dystopian sci-fi goes so well with dark, bleak days. This is on my Classics Club list and I've been excited to get to it since finding it at the South Bank Book Market.

Have you read any of these? Have I picked some good winter reads? What is on your TBR for the next few months?


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Review and Interview: Getting Rooted in New Zealand by Jamie Baywood

Getting Rooted in New Zealand
Jamie Baywood

I seem to be on a bit of an expat memoir mission currently. This is the second book in a month or so that follows a single female moving to a completely new country for a fresh start and new experiences (see also At Least You're in Tuscany). I'm not worried though, I've loved both of them.

Getting Rooted is a hilarious, often filthy (right up my street), honest and really quite uplifting (when you think about it) memoir about Baywood's experiences in New Zealand. The style took some getting used to as it is almost a collection of shorter impressions, sketches and stories rather than a structured, linear memoir. I think, considering the content, this is the best structure for it. Baywood's voice is so distinctive and friendly to the point that it feels like you are sat in a coffee shop having a catch up with her rather than reading her words on paper. Quite a skill that. 

I asked Jamie a few questions about the book and her experiences so read on if you fancy...

1. Much of the humour in Getting Rooted comes from your honesty - were there any experiences you had to psych yourself up to include?

Publishing my story was easily the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I barely slept the first half of the year worrying what people would think of my book. I still haven’t told my family or my husband’s family about the book.  My life is literally an open book, but Jamie Baywood is a pen name. I haven’t told my family or husband’s family that I’ve written or published a book. They think I’m just living in the UK working on a MA in Design studying book covers.

At the beginning of the book, I wrote a rather embarrassing and cringe worthy long list of ex-boyfriends and suitors. It explains why the fact that New Zealand’s population of 100,000 fewer men than women made New Zealand an ideal destination for me.  I think readers need to remember this is the dairy of a young, hormonal and confused twenty-something, this is not a travel guide to New Zealand. 

I know it sounds like a crazy reason, but I needed a serious change in my life and felt I needed to leave the country to do so. I started dating my first boyfriend when we were fourteen and the relationship ended when I was twenty-three.  I had never dumped someone and didn’t have the life skills to do so. Between ages twenty-three and twenty-six, I would only date guys I knew I could dump easily. Not surprisingly, only dating guys with clear and abundant flaws that were easy to dump, created a lot of chaos and drama in my life.

When I was twenty-four, I had my second boyfriend who I call Hank, in real life his named rhymed with Hank. Hank had a drug dealer that sincerely went by the name Stank. I took Hank to rehab, after that I had a string of crazy suitors and ex’s.  If you had Hank and Stank in your life, what other choice do you have, but to leave the country and become an author?

2. You faced some really challenging and absurd situations. Did writing them down have a therapeutic effect? 

While living in New Zealand, I had funny experiences that I had trouble believing were true. I wrote the stories down to stay sane. It was absolutely therapeutic.  I wrote situations down that were happening around me and shared them with friends. Most of the book was written as the events happened; it just took me a few years to work up the nerve to publish. Publishing my book Getting Rooted in New Zealand was my way of transforming poison into medicine. I hope that it can help people that have had bad dating experiences or bad work experiences – make them laugh and not give up hope.

3. Your book is non-fiction but readers coming to it blind and without and background knowledge of your journey could easily mistake it as fiction. Do you mind that? And do you think that is reflective of your weird and wonderful experiences?

That’s ok with me. My truth tends to be stranger than fiction, but it is really too weird to be made up.  I had good, bad and weird experiences in New Zealand and California. Although I hope that I have learnt from my mistakes, I wouldn’t change anything. My experiences have turned me into a writer and I am extremely grateful for that. That being said, I would like to go back to New Zealand and give it another try as a writer.

4. Did performing a monologue for Thomas Sainsbury encourage you to keep writing about your life?

Yes, absolutely. I had the opportunity to write and perform for Thomas Sainsbury the most prolific playwright in New Zealand. I performed a monologue about my jobs in the Basement Theatre in Auckland.  The funny thing about that experience was Tom kept me separated from the other performers until it was time to perform. I was under the impression that all the performers were foreigners giving their experiences in New Zealand.  All of the other performers were professional actors telling stories that weren’t their own. At first I was mortified, but the audience seemed to enjoy my “performance,” laughing their way through my monologue. After the shows we would go out and mingle with the audience. People would ask me how long I had been acting. I would tell them, “I wasn’t acting; I have to go to work tomorrow and sit next to the girl wearing her dead dog’s collar around her neck.”

It would be great to return to New Zealand to make Getting Rooted in New Zealand into a TV show with Thomas Sainsbury. 

5. Did you have any intentions of becoming a writer before moving to New Zealand? 

I didn’t start keeping a diary or writing until I moved to New Zealand. I wrote to keep in touch with friends and family.  I saved the emails that eventually became my book.
My education is in fine arts, I didn’t write until I moved to New Zealand. I had a lot of art shows in California and New Zealand and even managed an art collective in Auckland. I was bored with the fine art scene. Everything has already been done before in painting, but I am the only person that can tell my own story. Writing feels like a more honest form of art than any other method I’ve tried.

6. After New Zealand you moved to the UK - will there be sequels?

I’d like to write a prequel and sequel to Getting Rooted in New Zealand. I plan to divide my books by the countries I’ve lived in. My next book will be about attempting to settle in Scotland. I plan to publish it late 2014.

7. And finally, I ask everyone this, what has your favourite read been this year?

May I Ask You Something? by Cyan Corwine.

Getting Rooted in New Zealand is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon:
Jamie Baywood can be followed on the following sites:

Thank you to Jamie Baywood for providing me with a copy to review and for answering my questions so brilliantly. Good luck for the next project!


Monday, 2 December 2013

Review: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins #readWilkie

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins

Wilkie, Wilkie, Wilkie...I am speechless (it happens). Where do I even start singing the praises of this jaw-droppingly excellent piece of detective fiction? I guess the first thing to say is 'Wilkie, you've only gone and hit the spot once again'. 

I think we've all talked about the basic premise enough now for it to be quite clear but, in a nutshell, The Moonstone is about a jolly big diamond taken (nicked) from India by a slightly dodgy character who then bequeaths said ginormous diamond to his niece (potentially as punishment). Said stonking diamond is then stolen and the novel becomes a whodunit of the best kind with some exceptional characters, numerous red herrings and a denouement that utterly shocked me. THE SKILL.

The Moonstone was serialised in All the Year Round over eight months (Victorians must have been in a constant tizz at the suspense). During this time Wilkie's mum was really poorly, he himself was struck prostrate and had to dictate a few pages, and he spent most of the time in an opium daze (parallels much?).

I flicked through my notebook to write this review and I have discovered that the majority of things I wrote down are related to women. Wilkie's treatment of women, Betteredge's delightful chauvinisms, and the odd bit of twisted feminism. What can I say, I love the ladies. 

'[Mrs Betteredge] was more like a fly than a woman: she couldn't settle on anything.' 

'But it is a maxim of mine that men (being superior creatures) are bound to improve women - if they can.'

It's fair to say that Betteredge completely makes the novel. He is hilarious (tube chuckles happened). I love his style of narration and the tangents he takes. I love it when he starts to feel the 'detective fever' and gets all excitable. I definitely love it when he gets all cheeky at the end during the experiment and gives his 'imperfectly pointed pencil a preliminary lick with his tongue' before continuing to thoroughly disapprove of Ezra. Poor Ezra, he had it rough. I also loved his general distaste of people who have failed to live by the good word - the good word of Robinson Crusoe, that is.

'The man who doesn't believe in Robinson Crusoe, after that, is a man with a screw loose in his understanding, or a man lost in the midst of his own self conceit.'

Harsh words, Gabriel. Harsh words indeed.

I really enjoyed Ezra Jennings's narrative (coming in at a close second to Betteredge). He is a stronger man than most for just taking all the hatred and distrust aimed at him on the chin. Just because he has dodgy hair (and a dodgy appearance in general) and did something way back when, it doesn't make him a bad person. But, I find it kinda weird that he is pretty much the town doctor whilst Candy is, um, indisposed. He does seem to have a bit of the genius about him though. I actually browsed back through the novel upon finishing it and I came across a mention of Ezra early on in Betteredge's narration that eludes to the general dislike of the poor fellow. That made me wonder what the experience of re-reading would be like. I've re-read The Woman in White several times and every time I discovered something new so I'm guessing it would be much the same here. I wonder if the perpetrator will become obvious earlier if I know what to look for.

Speaking of perpetrators - did anyone guess that ending? I so did not. I found the opium element brilliantly outlandish and it explained away all of Rachel's general spoilt brat-ness. But the person who actually did the deed? I totally didn't think he had the stones for it. Although, again when I was flicking back through my notebook, I wrote down this quote: '[he was] ogling Miss Rachel'. 'He' is the perp. I clearly knew subconsciously from the start that he was a little less than a gentleman. Ogling is so ungentlemanly.

To sum up my meandering and rambling thoughts: basically, it's love. I knew it would be but to have it so brilliantly confirmed has been wonderful. It is not quite as sensational as The Woman in White but completely on par with it. Wilkie Collins has officially made his way into the top spot as my favourite author. I have nothing left to say now except, read it. Just go ahead and read it, enjoy it, laugh at it and love it (with any luck).

Fun fact: Sergeant Cuff, aside from being an eccentric-rose-loving-babe, was also one of the first fictional characters to use a magnifying glass. Cool, huh?

Previous #readWilkie posts (including those with participant links): 

#readWilkie: The Start
5 Reasons to Love Wilkie Collins
#readWilkie: The Half-Way Point

A big virtual hug and pat on the back to all you lovelies who read Wilkie with me and made November a top notch month.


Sunday, 1 December 2013


It's the beginning of December and #readWilkie is officially over (I'm holding back sobs as I type). It was a wonderful month full of Wilkie goodness. I loved chatting to you all - let's do that again sometime - and I have loved reading your thoughts on The Moonstone as we've read it. Basically, November turned out to be a pretty spiffing month. How has it been for you? Wilkie-tastic? Or a Wilkie flop?

My thoughts on The Moonstone will go up tomorrow (or later today, depending on wifi) and later in the week I will post a review of Peter Ackroyd's brilliant biography that I cannot recommend enough. 

In the meantime, let me know how your month went and whether you intend on meeting Wilkie again in the future. Below is a linky thing to link your reviews/wrap-ups. 

Thanks for joining in, you've all been wonderful!


Monday, 25 November 2013

At the moment I am...

Reading...The Testimony by James Smythe for my book club tomorrow. I joined a dystopian book club a month or so ago called the Post Apocalyptic Book Club and this is second book I have read with the group. I've been loving this one and am at that point where I don't want to put it down. It's written from a million different perspectives and the big bad is something that will prompt much discussion (and debate) so I think tomorrow evening may be a good one. I will be reviewing this one too because I have SO MANY THOUGHTS.

Also, I've nearly finished Wilkie!

Writing...I'm collating a list of WW1 fiction at the moment which is actually a bigger job that I thought - there is so much. I'm also trying to whittle down a list of top 10 WW1 books - if any of you can think of a book that just has to be in a top 10, let me know.

Looking forward to...GLASGOW. Yes, it's here. I'm on a half day on Thursday then it's back to Somerset and then to the airport on Friday with my Ma. I've got my bobble hat and woolly socks packed...

Hankering for...a proper Sunday lunch. Bit of an odd one.

Listening to...a random mix of Deaf Havana and classical music. Deaf Havana for those times I need a good old sing and bootie shake and the classical for when I'm really focusing on my writing. Perfect. FYI I've gone for the singing and butt shaking today.

Christmas lights in Sloane Square

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