Book Blogger Holiday Swap: Thank you Vasilly!

I’m back home after celebrating Christmas with family, and before I go out to watch the fireworks, I just need to say a quick thank you to Vasilly, whose book blogger holiday swap gift has been patiently awaiting me in the letterbox.

Vasilly gave me two books I’m looking forward to reading: Shiver which she wrote she really enjoyed, and The Wednesday Sisters which is literary fiction which has done well in the States.

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

bbhs_teaser_smallJust a quick heads up that the annual Book Blogger Holiday Swap is on again this year.

The holiday swap is a way for book bloggers to connect and celebrate the holiday spirit by sharing gifts. It’s done secret Santa style; all of the participants are randomly assigned a blogger to send a gift to, and these assignments are kept secret until the gift has been delivered. So no one knows who their gift is coming from!

I participated last year and enjoyed it-  anyone who wants to join in this year has until the 12th November 2009 to sign up at the website.

BBAW interview swap

Now that I’ve finished sulking over the Ashes and Spring has bought the sunshine back, I thought I’d come out of hibernation. I’m currently re-reading Cate Kennedy’s short story collection Dark Roots before starting her debut novel and will post my thoughts later this week


In the meantime, as part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week I participated in an interview swap for which fellow book blogger Jenny‘s answers to my questions are below.

My answers to Jenny’s questions will be up on her blog today, and the BBAW site will link to everyone particpating. It’s a good opportunity to get to know people, so take a look!

1. Who are your favourite authors, and why?

Jane Austen: Her accurate descriptions of people, society, and behavior during her time, and her sense of humor. 

Tasha Alexander: Victorian England never sounded so enticing and dangerous.  There are mysteries to be solved.  Her heroine is fantastic with a another good sense of humor.

2. Any authors you really don’t like? If so, why?

Not in particular.  Although, I did read Slaughter House 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, and he is not for me.  Sorry but I just don’t get it. 

3. What is your reading comfort zone i.e is there a particular genre, subject, style that you read a lot of and usually enjoy?

Historical fiction, mysteries, and a good romance book or bodice ripper every now and then.  I do try to incorporate more of the classics, but I have been hit or miss lately on those.
4. Is there anything you’ve read and enjoyed that you didn’t expect to?
 A wonderful little book of short stories by Melanie Haney, titled The Simplest of Acts.  I don’t normally read short stories but the majority of hers resonated with me.

5. Where’s your favourite place to read?

 Oh anywhere really, but probably outside on a bench or on my front step.

6. What do you do when you’re not reading? Any hobbies?

 Knitting and while watching television.  I watch entirely too much television!

7. Do your family and friends know about your blog? If yes, what do they think?

 Yes, they know, but I don’t believe they have ever looked it up.  I share an ignored knitting blog with my one girlfriend, and I know she checks out my book blog, but as for the rest, I believe they think I’m a little out there.  My mom thinks it’s just great I have this wonderful hobby of blogging.

8. I notice you’ve read some ARCs. Do you generally enjoy them? If there were any exceptions, did you find it hard to review them?

I only accept ARCs of books that appeal to me.  If it’s a subject I don’t read, like a biography, then I turn it down.  I have had pretty good luck so far with my ARCs, however I do have one now I just couldn’t finish.  I will write the review saying as much, but it’s still difficult, because the book will probably appeal to others.  It just didn’t work for me.  I try to be tactful and honest.

9. How do you work out what rating you give to each book?

 I am terrible!  I have yet to publish my rating system.  Generally I base it on a 100 point system, with 100-90 representing an A, 89-80, a B, and so on.  I feel I can be more accurate than using a 1-5 point system.  High A versus low A.  Very nerdy, I know, but I use numbers in my job so it makes sense to me.
10. What would you like to improve about your blog?
Oh, I am always trying to fix my blog.  I recently added two tabs up at the top, but now I’m trying to work out some pictures to represent the tabs.  Way beyond my skill set, but I keep trying.  I would also like to become better with my comments back to people.  Sometimes I email them back directly, sometimes I address them right on the post.  Oh yes, and learn HTML, or at least have a working knowledge of it.

Book Bloggers’ Christmas Swap – Thanks Tanabata!

After a tough day at work yesterday, I was delighted to come home and find my Book Bloggers’ Chrissie swap pressie in my letterbox. When I opened the envelope, I saw this:


Of course, I couldn’t resist opening it, and was rapt to discover:


1. A 2009 Library calendar, open to my favourite picture, the Francisco de Burgoa Library in Oaxaca, Mexico.
2. Love and Friendship by Jane Austen- a beautifully published Hesperus press edition of Austen’s juvenalia. I haven’t read this and look forward to doing so soon.
3. An unusual card/bookmark.

All courtesy of Tanabata, who blogs at In Spring it is the dawn. Thanks Tanabata for a lovely and thoughtful gift, I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas.

Book Bloggers’ Christmas Swap 2008

I’ve just found out about the second annual Book Bloggers Christmas Swap, and as it sounds like fun I’ll be participating.

The second annual what?
Last year, Nymeth organized a Secret Santa swap between book bloggers, and this year Dewey is helping out.

How does it work?
You sign up by sending an e-mail to xmasswap08 at gmail. You have until the 18th of November to do so. You will then be randomly assigned as another blogger’s Secret Santa.

What you have to do next is send that person a little something – it can be a book, a journal or bookmark, a box of holiday cookies, a mixed CD, whatever you can think of. It doesn’t have to be anything pricey, of course. Second hand books are perfectly acceptable, as are homemade gifts.

A different person will be assigned as your Secret Santa, and you’ll only find out who they are when you get their package in the mail.

Something to keep in mind: Because there are book bloggers from all over the world, this is going to be an international swap. I understand that not everyone can afford to send a package overseas, though, so if that’s the case with you, please don’t feel that you can’t sign up. Just include a note saying so in your e-mail, and we’ll make sure you get a blogger who’s near you.

What else should your e-mail include?
Other than your name, mailing address and willingness to send internationally, you should include your blog url and a short paragraph about what kind of gifts you like, so that your Secret Santa has an idea of what to get you. You could also include links to online wishlists, your librarything catalogue, etc. Anything that you think will make your Santa’s life easier!

Important dates: The most important date is the 18th of November. It’s very important that you sign up before then, because after that we’ll be assigning the Secret Santas, and once that has been done it would be complicated to include new participants.

As for when to mail your package, if you’re sending internationally it’s probably best to post it before the end of November. Last year, I suggested that people post theirs before the end of the first week of December, but that turned out to be a little late. If you’re sending within your own country there’s more flexibility, but remember that the mail tends to be slow around this time of year.

In any case, you should all know who your blogger is around the 20th of November, which leaves you at the very least ten days to get and mail your gift.

One more thing: if you could help spread the word by posting about this on your blogs, it would be very much appreciated!

Still breathing!

Just a quick note to say I’m taking a blogging break, as I’ve just moved house and my Internet is not yet connected. With all the packing, moving, unpacking etc my reading has dwindled, something I hope to rectify this weekend with Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce, The comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith and volume II of the collected Paris Review interviews. I’m also going to a charity book fair, so it will be a blissfully bookish time after my recent deprivation.

A blogging break

Courtesy of Telstra, I am currently not connected to tne net at home so will be taking a blogging break.  I’m told the external line fault responsible should be fixed within five working days i.e. by Friday so hope to be back posting then.

A quick hello

Just letting everyone know I’m still here! I’m working on reviews of two excellent literary novels published this year (Breath and When will there be good news?), which those jaded by the rather ho-hum Booker longlist might like to try.

In the meantime, if you are an admirer of E.M Forster, there is a wonderful review by Zadie Smith in the NYRB which you can read here. To whet your appetite, it begins:

“In the taxonomy of English writing, E.M. Forster is not an exotic creature. We file him under Notable English Novelist, common or garden variety. Still, there is a sense in which Forster was something of a rare bird. He was free of many vices commonly found in novelists of his generation—what’s unusual about Forster is what he didn’t do. He didn’t lean rightward with the years, or allow nostalgia to morph into misanthropy; he never knelt for the Pope or the Queen, nor did he flirt (ideologically speaking) with Hitler, Stalin, or Mao; he never believed the novel was dead or the hills alive, continued to read contemporary fiction after the age of fifty, harbored no special hatred for the generation below or above him, did not come to feel that England had gone to hell in a hand-basket, that its language was doomed, that lunatics were running the asylum, or foreigners swamping the cities.”

The only problem with it is it’s made me want to read not only the collected BBC talks, but also all of Forster’s novels again. So many books, so little time…

I also can’t resist pointing out (courtesy of Wikipedia) that on this day i.e. 29th August in 1882 Australia defeated England by seven runs in a test at The Oval in London, thus beginning The Ashes rivalry.

And now I’m off to visit the bookshop and see Persepolis at the movies.

Solzhenitsyn, hail and farewell

I had a huge weekend which as an introvert I’m still recovering from. My review of The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society is forthcoming but in the meantime, I was saddened to read this morning that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has died. You can read his obituary here. 

If you haven’t already, read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  It’s short, searingly angry and reminds you that every human being counts.

Sunday catch up

As usual, my blogging is only intermittent. Since my last post, I’ve:

- re-read Mansfield Park and confirmed I like Fanny Price and love Jane Austen.

- visited 19th century Vienna with Lady Emily Ashton.

- been inspired by Vulpe Libris’s children’s week to revisit some of my favourites, starting with The Railway Children, which still makes me laugh and cry.

- and read A. S Byatt’s first short story collection, which was as interesting as I expected from a favourite and reliable author.

I’ve also acquired quite a few new books as displayed below: (I can resist everything except temptation to quote Oscar Wilde.)

1. The Guernsey literary & potato peel pie society by Mary Ann Shaffer- this epistolatory novel has been reviewed by many of the UK bloggers and sounds like the perfect book to curl up with this afternoon.

2. Five children and it by E. Nesbit- a book I never read in childhood but will do now as I enjoyed The railway children so much. The cover blurb says: The last thing Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and their baby brother expect to find while digging in the sand is a Psammead- an ancient Sand-fairy! Having a Sand-fairy for a pet means having one wish granted each day. But the fivesome doesn’t realize all of the trouble wishes can cause. To me, that sounds like fun.

3. Three men in a boat by Jerome K. Jerome- a much loved Victorian comic novel which I’ve been meaning to read for ages.

4. East, West by Salman Rushdie- short stories which might help me decide if I want to tackle his novels.

5. The ode less travelled by Stephen Fry- I want to read this because of Eva’s review here. I hope it will encourage me to read more poetry.

6. Scenes of clerical life by George Eliot- Eloise’s review here reminded me I’d wanted to read Eliot’s first book.

7. Death at intervals by Jose Saramago- a Nobel prize winning Portuguese author whose novels all have very interesting premises. After much hemming and hawing I picked this one, in which death stops happening. Intriguing yes?

8. The unbearable lightness of scones by Alexander McCall Smith- I’m delighted I can catch up with Bertie and co again.

9. Breath by Tim Winton- another book I’ve been meaning to read since it came out. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read anything by Tim Winton, this will change that.

10. The girl with the dragon tattoo by Stieg Larsson- a much hyped Swedish crime fiction novel.