Stars and gift book ideas

I have not much time to write tonight as Jenny discovered as she left school that "astronomy club", postponed from the night before because of cloud, was "on" tonight. She arrived home in a quandary as to what to do. I happened to be working from home today, so I drove her back to school through the rush hour traffic, meaning that a half-hour journey took an hour. She and her friend then went up to the "astronomy tower" as I call it (mini observatory on the roof). They looked at the moon through a telescope, aided by two girls from the sixth form.

By chance, Cathy was playing in a hockey match after school tonight also, so after a bit of mobiling we all met up and I drove them home. Malcolm had just returned from his experiments in Chicago. So we are reunited.

And it is late — not much time for thinking so I thought I’d just mention a few books I’ve seen reviewed or mentioned recently  that look like good ideas for gifts, as the holiday season is coming up.

Naturally, I am putting Brian Sibley’s biography of Peter Jackson on my own personal Christmas gift list after he so kindly commented on this very blog. I am most honoured, thank you Brian — you have one extra sale out of that generous deed.

Another book I definitely want either for myself or for one of my daughters is Heroines by Jessica Ruston. I was alerted to it by this post at The Good Library blog, and one very nice thing about it is that it is published by Long Barn books (Susan Hill) and you can buy it direct from her using her impressive e-commerce system. One up for the small publisher.

Any 8-11 year old children of my acquaintance will be receiving Into the Woods by my lovely friend and neighbour Lyn Gardner.

And anyone slightly older might well be getting Lisey’s Story (or maybe I should read it) — see this post at Big A little a. That’s Stephen King’s latest, by the way.

I’m not sure about Christine Falls, by John Banville writing as Benjamin Black. Some have slated it, some have loved it, others are on the fence (eg the Guardian, linked to here). I can’t work out whether all these reviewers are mesmerised by the "proper author writes crime fiction" hook or whether the book really is a bit of a curate’s egg. I suppose I’ll just have to read the darn thing.

For crime fiction fans, Crime Scraps has a post of the best of the year..so far which I imagine is a pretty safe bet or three. International Noir Fiction and Crime Scraps are known fans of a 60s/70s series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahoo — I haven’t read any but based on this Crime Scraps post I clearly must. Can I ask for all 10 books in the series, I wonder (or at least the ones that are in print)? Adding to this selection anything published by the excellent Bitter Lemon press would set a reader up well for the year ahead.

But…..there’s always another…. Echo Park by Michael Connelly is obviously a must — but since I have kicked my book-club addiction (?) I shall have to wait until late next year and the paperback. (By the way, I read on the Rap Sheet that Harry Bosch is half brother to Mickey Haller, central character of the Lincoln Lawyer. Is this correct? My memory is so poor that I may have read this and missed it. Can anyone confirm or deny? I asked Rap Sheet in a comment but have had no reply.)

For bloggers who have moved beyond the "how to" style of book, here is a link to four reviews of blogging book The Mirror and the Veil  by Viviane Serafty — plus an "author response". All seems a bit academic to me, but the world is a bit short of decent books on blogging (try An Army of Davids by Glenn Reynolds, though — or at least the first half), so I might give Serafty a go, hoping it isn’t all sociology-speak.

Finally, for now, reading this post at Random Jottings made me want to re-read the magnificent Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. Tremendous, whatever one may think of the TV series (I think I may have seen some of the first but certainly have not seen the second). I had forgotten that Galsworthy won the Nobel prize for literature — ah, those were the days!

8 thoughts on “Stars and gift book ideas

  1. Hi, Maxine– Some good books on this list. But you used a phrase I have never heard: What is “a curate’s egg”?

  2. Yes (next morning — you’ve all been here while I was abed!) — a curate’s egg is famously “good in parts”.

  3. I really like the look of that Brian Sibley book on Peter Jackson. Being a long time Tolkien fan, I was a bit nervous about the films, but I liked them, and also liked the extra bits on the DVDs where Jackson seemed quite forthright about things. Brian Sibley’s books I have read too (seems to be an occupational hazard, with all things Tolkien), so I really fancy this for the wish list.
    Saw Lisey’s Story slated on the Newsnight Arts Review last Friday, so I’m a bit curious about that one… I’ve read one or two of King’s in the past – Misery sticks out for me.
    Having not read any John Banville (gasp!) I am curious about his latest venture. I read him interviewed in the Irish Times not so long ago, where he was saying how good and yet how hard it ws for him to come to terms with the Man Booker… a little like sticking up two fingers to the literary establishment, whilst getting acknowledged… (a curious Irish trait!). So, I’d be interested in reading that one too!
    So many choices, huh?
    Some really nice recommendations here! Thanks.

  4. I’m still quite tempted by the Benjamin Black, though — A. Alvarez once wrote a crime fiction novel which I really enjoyed, I don’t think he’s written one since? I can’t remember the title and it does not seem to be listed on UK Amazon (isn’t that A9 search engine terrible? And it gets fuller of ads each time I go there) – not very useful of me, sorry.
    And yes, Caileach, I love the extended editions of the lord of the rings movies, too. I think they have strengths that the books don’t, and vice versa — for sure the films have their weak points but the set pieces are fantastic and as for Viggo, say no more. I liked the way they wove the Aragorn/Arwen “back story” into the plot. I also liked the way they somewhat boosted the roles of Arwen and Galadriel. I’ll stop now, could go on for ages. My family watches the EEs every Christmas (used to be the regular versions) — we are very much looking forward to it having had 10 months without…

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