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This weekend I'm at Indietracks, which is a jolly exciting festival of indiepop, steam trains, beer and owls.

This year, it also featured the launch of a novel written by the singer from one of the bands. Having had a Mishap with his agent, he's gone down the self-publishing route on Amazon. He's made the Kindle version of the book free to download for the first few days in the hope lots of people will download it and boost him up the rankings.

Because I'm a Luddite, I've ordered a paper copy and thus haven't read it yet. So I can't actually comment on its quality. However, I can guarantee that the author is a jolly nice bloke, who is funny in person. He says the book is (a) short, (b) spell-checked and (c) hopefully amusing. So if you'd like some cost-free sci-fi reading material, grab it from Amazon before Monday evening. You can read the author's blog post about it here.
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Reading recommendations sought!

I am off to hospital on Monday, so am looking to stock my e-reader up with extremely lightweight reading matter. (I'm not opposed to proper books, of course, but during non mobile periods the simplicity of download vs. shop and clicking next vs. going to the bookshelf is quite appealing.)

So, what should I be reading?  I think, for mental bubblegum my tastes run rather more towards (say) YA sci-fi than they do towards chick-lit. Everyone keeps telling me I should be stocking up on T.V. boxed sets, but T.V. isn't really my thing.

I'm currently reading The Screaming Staircase and sadly finding it a little unsatisfying. I'm not sure what age range it's aimed at, but it does seem very simplistic. I loved the Bartimaeus books, but have been a bit underwhelmed by Lockwood & Co.

EditJust for clarity, I don't require YA sci-fi. It was intended as a frinstance, not a demand. Thanks for all suggestions!

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Yesterday[*] I finished Life After Life. I highly recommend it, though I should declare that I am a massive fan of Kate Atkinson's writing.

Anyway, at one point during the book a character in a garden is surprised. He leaps backwards, and falls over into a cotton-eater.

Wait, back up, he falls back into a what now?

A cotton-easter.

Err, no that's not a thing, either.

At which point something weird happened. I realised that I was looking at a word, and had no idea what it was. Obviously I meet words whose meaning I don't know on a daily basis - technical terms, words in languages I can't read, obscure words that don't crop up much. I read them, and realise I don't know them. I look them up (or not, as appropriate) and move on.

A related problem, of course, now that I work on the fringes of marketingworld, is finding words that I know perfectly well but which are clearly being used to mean something other than what I think they mean. See also: neologisms, ghastly. Though at least it was immediately obvious what was meant by the word "onboarding".

Anyway, the cotton-eater. For the first time in probably thirty years, I found myself having to carefully spell out a word, syllable by syllable. Co-to-ne-as-ter. Aha! A cotoneaster! A word I know perfectly well once it's said, but which - had I ever thought about it - I would have spelled katoniasta.

It's rather nice to know that English can still surprise me.

[*] With rather annoying timing - I still had a lot of journey left when I ran out of book.
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My Christmas present from [livejournal.com profile] ebee this year was a voucher for a "Reading Spa". This is a bibliophiliac experience at the lovely Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. And not, as I first guessed, a spa in Reading.

So, I trundled down to Ebee's on Thursday evening, and on Friday we got ourselves up and down the M4 to Bath. The M4 wasn't in a very good temper so we arrived a little later than expected, but figured we had just enough time to squeeze in lunch if we could locate some form of eatery near the bookshop.

Step forward Wild Cafe, who furnished us with a most excellent lunch. They were friendly, and helpful, and had the sort of menu where you read it thinking: I'll have that... no, wait, that... or that! I had potted brown crab on toast with (at my request, having observed they were still serving breakfast) two poached eggs on it. Nowt fancy, but if you make that with nice crab, nice eggs and nice bread it's awsome.

I've never been to Mr B's before: it's exactly the kind of bookshop I wish would profilerate. They describe themselves as "a curated bookshop". Being far too tiny to have any hope of competing with the Waterstone's across the road, they go for sourcing unusual books you may not have heard of. If anyone else has fond memories of the QI bookshop in Oxford, then it's a bit like that.

Having grown up with the serendipity of second-hand bookshops, I've always found new shops disappointing. Sure if you go in with a goal, you can find it, buy it and leave. Which is useful. But I rarely find inspiration there for things I didn't know I wanted. But what the likes of Mr B's provides is the fun of browsing... oh look, that's got a nice cover... I've never heard of that guy... I didn't know she had a new book out! A nice selection of books, mostly displayed covers-out to tempt you.

Anyway, I settled myself down into a large, squashy chair in front of the fire[*]. With a big mug of tea and a frankly epic piece of chocolate and brazil nut cake. And a nice chap called Ed sat in the next chair and started asking me about the books I liked. And the books I didn't like. And what I did or didn't look for in a book. And after a bit, he scooted off and came back with a big stack of books.

He ran through them, enthusing about each of them, and we chatted about them and wandered off into reminiscing about favourite books, and then he came back with another big stack. Ed was charming, and entertaining, and spectacularly well informed about books. (The only time I mentioned an author he didn't know all about was Lois McMaster Bujold, [livejournal.com profile] lathany's recommendation for my new year booklist. I'm pretty sure he took it as a personal slight, too :)

Eventually, I was left in my comfy chair to fish through the stacks and pick out the ones I wanted to keep. Which was hard. I don't really feel I have a favourite genre, or style, or setting. Mostly if someone says "this is a good book", I'll trust them. And Ed had said that about every last one[**]. I whittled it down by a mixture of inclination, determination to read books I might not normally go for, and caprice.

And I went downstairs and scooped up Ebee, who'd also succumbed to the lures of the shop and collected her own big stack of books. And we chatted with the staff some more, and headed off laden down, into an extremely sunny and pleasant Bath. We squeezed in some more tea, and all in all it was a thoroughly excellent day.

Of course, the downside of all this book-related frivolity was revealed to me on Saturday morning. I have more books than is reasonable for someone with my level of bookshelf ownership (and my level of bookshelf ownership is dictated by the quantity of available wall). Accordingly, I girded my loins. Here is the out tray:

Stacks of books waiting to be taken to Oxfam

And here, for those interested, is the in tray:

Ten shiny new books

(The shelves, of course, don't look any less full. How does that happen?)

In summary: Mr B's is lovely, and anyone stuck for a present for a booklover should consider a book spa voucher ;)

[*] In their "Bibliotherapy Room". Which also contains a tiny booth which you can hire - complete with headphones, tea, and cake - for "uninterrupted reading" at £3.50 for half an hour.

[**] I think he went through about 25 books, of which only two turned out to be books I already knew. Both of which I love.
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I spend a lot of time on trains, commuting. And a lot of that time I spend reading. I have, however, come to a rather sad realisation: I can't be trusted to choose my own books.

I don't seem to be very good at it )

Accordingly, this year my new year's resolution is to read better books. Which is where you, ladies and gentlemen of LJ, come in. Please recommend me a book which you love, and which I should read. I'd like fiction, but beyond that I'm willing to try anything. It'd be useful if it weren't something which is very out of print, but if you really think it's worth it I'll try and track it down (or turn up on your doorstep demanding to borrow a copy).

[Poll #1887610]

[*] )
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Oooh, I do like a nice mystery.

My nice mystery )

Are you my mystery person? You? I hope you are. Will you tell me?
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This morning, in my office, no one understood today's XKCD properly because no one had read both the relevant books. We sorted it out between us, because n-1 of those present were very familiar with Lord of the Rings, and 1 of those present was very familiar with Charlotte's Web.

I, um, er. I. Yes.

I'll be the 1.
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No.... no... nooooooo.

This probably isn't going to be good, is it?

http://www.bureau42.com/view/11398/snow-crash-es-onto-film

(To clarify: I don't really know who Joe Cornish is. People keep saying he did Attack the Block, but that doesn't mean anything to me. Oh, and, er, apparently he's the Joe of Adam and Joe. That surprised me.

I just can't currently conceive of a film version of Snow Crash which doesn't suck.)
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Blimey. Now that I don't share a house with Frances any more, these things sneak up on me...

She's got another book out

I know virtually nothing about it, but it's pretty much bound to be brilliant. The last four were ;)
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This lunchtime, I was amusing myself with the first-lines-from-books quiz that [livejournal.com profile] undyingking twittered about: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/03/book-quiz-classic-first-lines/

I was doing rather poorly on it at first, partly because it featured first lines from books I hadn't read, but mostly because it was featuring first lines from books which don't appear in quizzes of first lines from books.

Now what I want is, Facts )
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Public Service Announcement, in case anyone else has been suffering vague confusion when reading film reviews of late:

The Arthur Kipps who features in The Woman In Black bears absolutely no relation to the Arthur Kipps who features in the HG Wells novel (subsequently adapated as Half a Sixpence).

I did wonder how I'd managed to watch a stage production of The Woman In Black without realising that the protagonist was a character I'd met in a book before. I didn't. He's a completely different character, written by a different author, 80 years later. He just has the same name.
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The book I am reading: Death Called to the Bar, David Dickinson
The book I love most: Um, it changes regularly, but over the last few years it's most consistently been An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
The last book I received as a gift: The Portrait, and The Titian Committee, both by Iain Pears (for Christmas)
The last book I gave as a gift: a James Anderson omnibus (to my dad)
The nearest book: Join Me, Danny Wallace

Hmm. That does make my reading look a bit one-dimensionsal, doesn't it?
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Oxfam are bastards, and they are in league with the buses of Reading.

Y'see, whenever I get to the bus stop (which isn't that often, due to cycling most days[*]) I do it slightly too late to catch the bus which is departing. Which means I have to wait around for ten minutes. And I can either sit about in a bus shelter... or go into the Oxfam bookshop. Just to have a look around, you understand. And pass the time.

Except Oxfam - as well as making the bus run ahead of time so I miss it - have got a habit of putting books with interesting covers at about my eye-height just as you walk in the door. Don't judge a book by its cover, y'say? I find it often works quite well. I originally bought my favourite-ever book because it had a cool cover.

So, interesting black and white cover? Silly-sounding plot? Dragons? Oh, go on then.

The ten minutes' reading I got in on the bus confirmed initial suspicions: I expect the rest of the book to be silly, lightweight, and rather enjoyable.

I'm not meant to be spending money on books, though. Not even charity second-hand ones :(

[*] But not today. Thanks to a rather strange slide-and-kneel-down movement I did on Kilburn High Road last night giving me a sore knee. The odd things was, the knee-pavement impact wasn't even very great, and I had time to think "gosh, that was an odd manouevre, thank goodness I didn't bang my knee hard, and I must look quite silly" before I got round to thinking "aaaargh, that's actually really painful".
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Last night I finished reading Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. Or, as I consistently think of him, "no, not that David Mitchell". Black Swan Green was actually a birthday present from [livejournal.com profile] spindlemere last year, but a housemove got in the way and caused it to hide for a while.

Linguistic regression... )

Anyway, it's a book well worth reading. I commend it to you.
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One of the things most guaranteed to throw any sensible person into a flat spin is the discovery that a favourite book is being made into a film.

Sometime this year, a film version of The Eagle of the Ninth will be released.

Will it suck? Will it be great? Will it trample all over one of the best-loved books of my childhood[*]?

I'm waiting anxiously.

Oh, and yes I do know that the book is based on an entirely false premise - what was a reasonably valid historical theory in 1954 is now known to be untrue. Don't care.

[*] and adulthood, if we're strictly honest
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Continuing my apparent obsession with people called Brown...

Anyone who did not enjoy The Da Vinci Code should take themselves along to the Radio 4 website and listen to the first six minutes or so of Front Row.

Once they've got over the introductory bits, they launch into a review of The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's latest. At least, they would if they could stop giggling long enough.

People who enjoy levelling accusations of intellectual snobbery at Radio 4 arts programmes will no doubt do so, but it made me laugh.
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If I were a modern, up-to-the-minute type I might say that I spent Sunday de-junking my life. However, I'm not, so I'll say I was having a bit of a clear-out. As usual, the six bags of stuff to go charity shopwards do not correspond to six bags worth of space in my room.

While attempting to weed things from my bookshelves, I was amused by the uncomfortable bedfellows )
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I've just been reading, on a friend's recommendation, Stoneheart, by Charlie Fletcher. Which is a children's book, and manages to be impressively dark, understated (in some regards, less so with the giant trampling statues) and extremely funny in places.

Flipsidecities )
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So... adaptations of, sequels to or improvements on classic literature are always a mistake, right ?

Something which is completely genre-defying is going to be a disaster, right ?

On the radio this morning I heard about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!.

I want to hate it. I really do. But the author - interviewed on the Today programmer, for his sins - somehow managed to sound so endearing that it's actually made me want to read it. He described carefully reading "one of the most expertly plotted novels" in order to insert sequences of "gratuitous gore and zombie mayhem". He sounds like he has a huge respect for Austen (the finished work is "about 85% Austen"), and as if he had a real sense of humour about the whole thing. He agreed it was not an extensible idea, and promised not to go on to do Sense and Sensibility and Werewolves.

Help. Someone convince me that this book is going to suck before I have to deal with the disappointment.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in need of more brains...
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Grab the nearest book. Find the 5th sentence on page 23. Append it to the paragraph below. Append your name to the list below of people who have contributed to the paragraph. Post the result to your LJ.

Erisian literature below )

Y'know, I'm worried how much sense that made in places.

I've often suspected that a lot of philosophy (and lit. crit.) is clever-sounding sentences chained together to give the illusion of an argument. I now feel even more strongly that this is the case.

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