BBC Top 200: 2015 update

Yesterday I went to the local library and checked out copies of The Cruel Sea and Shogun, and put a hold on Papillon (which is ready for collection now).

BBC Big Read Top 200I’ve been reading an e-book version of Bleak House, and have given up trying to find a copy of They Used to Play on Grass (so I’ll be googling it and seeing if I can find a synopsis somewhere), which means that I am almost finished the BBC Big Read Top 200 list that I started in 2007.

Finally.

Reading Without Pressure

Since deciding to abandon a time frame for finishing my BBC Big Read challenge, I have, typically, rekindled my interest in getting through those last few books. At the library a couple of weeks ago, I checked out three from the remaining nine, and have finished one already, leaving just eight to go. (I’ve now crossed The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy) off the list. I enjoyed it, more than any other Hardy I’ve read, even though it was filled with typically melancholic Hardy moments.)

It’s amazing what removing a little pressure can do, right?

Ms Oh Waily feels the same way; she and I both lost our 1001 Books mojo in the second half of 2014, but a third pair of hands coming on board has given us both a renewed sense of reading purpose for 2015. That’s not to say we’d turn down any other reviews/reviewers…..hint, hint, HINT.

Oh hi, 2015

A few weeks into the new year and I feel like I’m owning it already. Yesterday, I was crossing things off lists like a woman possessed, and today…well…today, my brain is busy with a plethora of ideas, tasks and plans.

Tomahawk Beach, Dunedin NZ Last year, my main goal was to finish the final dozen or so books left on the BBC Big Read. I didn’t finish them, and by the end of the year, I didn’t care. I will finish it, but there are so many other good books I want to read, so I’ve decided not to put a time frame on it. Seriously, when someone as awesome as Angela says, “You should read this…”, you can’t say no.

NYE 2014This year, my goals are a bit more complex and perhaps not as quantifiable. Among them are the usual culprits of saving money and budgeting better (or in my case, just “budgeting”, something I am completely rubbish at). There’s the obligatory fitness goal, however instead of vowing to exercise more, I’m simply hoping to maintain the good health and level of fitness I ended 2014 with. I also have little goals like making contact with friends I don’t (or can’t) see very often, and saying “No” without worrying I’m missing out on things (this relates directly to the saving money one).

NYE 2014On a loftier level, I want 2015 to be the year I do something important. I have various ideas swirling around my head, and I hope this will be the year I can make one (or some) of those ideas into reality. My boys are growing up (see below) and I’m not going to be a stay-at-home mum forever (sadly).

NYE 2014On a more philosophical level, I want to embrace the changes that 2015 is going to bring. Recently, I had a minor drifting-off-to-sleep freak-out over Tiny starting school in roughly 12 weeks time, and Pickle starting kindy in less than two weeks. I can not stop my children growing up, so why am I resisting these things?

Waikouaiti Races, Dunedin NZSo bring it on, 2015. I’m going to throw myself at you….once I’ve dug my way out of the pile of washing I need to get through.

BBC Top 200 Update

With a month-and-a-half to go until the end of the year, I’m stuck with 12 books left on the BBC Top 200. That’s a couple of books a week…yeah, I don’t think it’s going to happen!

I’m okay with that though. We’re coming into the silly season and already my calendar is bursting with social stuff (that sounds a bit wanky, but it’s not meant to), and the weather is mostly gardening-weather, not reading-weather.

Who knows, maybe I’ll surprise us all and get through the last dozen like a hot knife through butter…but don’t hold your breath.

Reading and Reviewing

I’m not going to lie to you…I’ve been neglecting my BBC Big Read challenge again (bit like the ol’ blog, really). My goal was to finish the remaining books by the end of this year, and I’m starting to think I might not make it, despite having so few left. Time for a library visit, methinks!

The last Top 200 book I read was The Wasp Factory, which was an intriguing, disturbing, compelling read. The main character was likeable and a little horrific, but the story was told in such an interesting way that I couldn’t put it down. It tells the story of Frank, who lives with his father on a Scottish Island; his older brother has escaped from an institution and is making his way home, while Frank reminisces over the three young relatives he has killed.

I’ve just finished The White Masai and Back From Africa, both by Corinne Hofmann. The first was an intriguing true story, and while Hofmann isn’t a particularly talented writer, her story is fascinating and a really interesting read. She tells her story of falling in love with a Masai warrior and her subsequent move to Kenya to be his wife. Her life in Kenya was fraught with illness and adventure, making for a compelling novel. The second is a sequel, and I found it very self-indulgent and not as interesting as the first; I doubt I’ll seek out the other “sequels” she has written since.

Reading Right Now

So….I’ve been sidetracked from the last dozen-or-so books I’ve got to read from the BBC Big Read Top 200….by The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.

Having loved The Secret History, I knew it was risky starting such a big novel at this point in the challenge, but now….I can’t put it down.

Unsurprisingly, it is good. Sooooo gooooooood.

Could this be my undoing?!?!

Reading and Reviewing: a BBC Top 200 update

A month-and-a-half ago, I had 25 books left to finish my BBC Big Read Top 200 challenge. Now, there are just 14 titles left to cross off the list, and I’m pretty excited to see the number reducing so quickly. It seems that leaving a lot of the young adult books to last was a wise move; I’m whipping through them at lightning speed, which is helping motivate me to achieve my goal.

Of the past 11 books, my favourites were Johnathan Livingstone Seagull’, which I read in an hour one afternoon while Pickle and Tiny had some quiet time – such an uplifting, interesting little fable, full of humour and inspiration – and ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’, which was fantastic. I loved the way it was written, the way it began (with the conception of the narrator, no less!), the way the story unfolded, the truths that were eventually uncovered, and the way the past was interwoven into the present.

I’ve already worked out where 13 of the last 14 can be found at the library; the last is proving quite difficult to find, but find it, I shall!

Reading and Reviewing

I’ve been embracing technology recently, reading e-books while I sit beside Pickle’s cot for a few moments when he goes to bed. I think I will always prefer to hold a physical book in my hands, to turn each whispering page, to place a book on my bookshelf, but I’m happy to admit that reading on a phone or tablet definitely has its place. We’re off on holiday soon, and to minimise our luggage, I’m certainly going to download a few more!

The latest e-book I read was Artemis Fowl (Eion Colfer); and it was okay. I didn’t like it as much as the past few Young Adult books I’ve read, but the story was unique and clever, and I did enjoy it as an easy, cot-side read.

This brings my BBC Big Read Top 200 total up to 175, and I can see the end of the list in sight. I’ll be so pleased to be finished – it has taken me, afterall, almost seven years to get this far – and will relish the chance to read more of the stack beside my bed that aren’t on any lists. However, there are still 800-odd books for review on 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, so I won’t be short of reading suggestions for quite some time to come.

Reading and Reviewing

I just finished reading All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, and wow, what a profound book. I didn’t expect it to have such an effect on me, but it has, and I’m still processing my thoughts. It was a sobering read, often humourous, but mostly thought-provoking and quite challenging.

Other recent reads:

Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman. This young adult dystopian fiction is number 61 on The Big Read, and even though this isn’t my usual genre, I was pleasantly surprised. The style was okay – it was definitely written with a much younger audience in mind – and it was an easy read; the concept was interesting and the ending was not at all what I expected (in a good way).

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was my first reading of Sherlock Holmes, and it was very enjoyable, if a little predictable. The story was clever, and I liked how the culmination of the story (ie: the solving of the mystery) was left until there were very few pages left. I found myself reading faster and faster with the knowledge that the famous detective had to tie everything together in so little time, and this sudden excitement made for an enjoyable end.

My review of House of Leaves has been published here, along with my thoughts on The Forsyte Saga.

Reading and Reviewing

We visited our local library a couple of weeks ago and I found a few books from the BBC Big Read; I tend to forget about the library, but the boys love going there, and the best thing is – the books are free.

Many of the books on the list are ones I have no prior knowledge of (some I’ve heard of, but don’t know much about the story), and The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan, was no exception. It tells the story of a young man who flees his London flat after finding a new acquaintance – a man embroiled in some sort of political plot – dead in his home. He escapes into Scotland, and meets a variety of people along the way from whom he seeks help. He eventually returns to London to seek out an important political figure who will offer him safety and secure his innocence, and with whom he hopes to foil an enemy ploy. I thoroughly enjoyed it, for its clever plot, and the enticing, exciting way in which it is written. The characters are varied, dramatic and interesting, the journey of our main man is intriguing, and the chase is tremendously thrilling. It was an easy, quick read, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

My sister was astonished to hear I hadn’t yet read Goodnight Mister Tom (by Michelle Magorian), as it was a book she read at school. I’m not sure how it slipped through the cracks with me; I’d certainly heard of it, but never picked up a copy until now. It is a beautiful, emotional, poignant story, set in England during World War Two. Tom Oakley looks after a young evacuee, William Beech, who has been sent away from London by his abusive, deeply religious mother; in Little Weirwold, through a great deal of nurturing, he discovers his true personality and strength, which enables him to deal with ultimate tragedies in his young life. Such a stunning story, and one I wish I’d had the pleasure of reading earlier.

The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy, held great promise for me – it sounded exciting…but sadly failed to deliver. Others have raved about this book, but it honestly didn’t do anything for me. I tried so hard to get into it, but struggled with each page and breathed a sigh of relief when it was finished. I’ll be writing a review for 1001 Books to Read Before You Die…and it won’t be a positive one.