Not Quite The Sunday Salon

After I started typing this week’s Sunday Salon post it occurred to me that changing my blog address means I’m no longer officially a member of the Sunday Salon and as they’re not accepting new members at the moment I’m not able to rejoin.  However, I think I’ll still continue to do Sunday Salon posts on an informal basis – it just means they won’t show up on the official feed.

I’ve been here at WordPress for a week now and so far I’m very happy with it. Apart from a few initial problems, the move from Blogger has gone quite smoothly but if you notice anything not working properly please let me know!  One thing I love is being able to reply to comments individually as it’s still not possible to do that on Blogger (unless you install a separate commenting program such as Intense Debate).

This week I’ve been reading Wild Swans by Jung Chang. I’m slightly ashamed that it’s taken me so long to get round to reading it because I’ve been hearing about it for a long time and it has been on my Amazon wishlist literally for years. Well, better late than never. I won’t say too much about it here, except that I can’t remember ever being so gripped by a non-fiction book before.  I’m almost finished so should be posting my review soon.

I also signed up for Nymeth’s 1930s mini-challenge this week. The idea is to read books ‘from, set in, or about the 1930s’. I didn’t really want to be signing up for any more challenges because I think I’m doing enough already, but this one appealed to me as the first half of the 20th century appears to be a time period that I neglect in my reading. I usually seem to read either more recent books or pre-20th century books. At the moment I don’t know exactly what I would like to read, but as the challenge runs until July 18th I’m sure I’ll have time to read at least one 1930s book!

On Monday I found an interesting article in The Times about the portrayal of women with mental illnesses in 19th century literature – the article discusses Bertha Rochester, Anne Catherick and Emma Bovary as examples.

Finally, a reminder that my Michael T. Darkow giveaway in which you can win a copy of Our Promised Land is still open. You have until Thursday 29th April to enter – see the review and giveaway post for full details.  Winners will be announced on Friday.  Good luck!

The Sunday Salon: Easter Edition

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it – and Happy Sunday to those who don’t!

On Thursday the winners of the Book Drum tournament were announced. You may remember a few months ago I mentioned that I was working on a profile of The Far Pavilions for the tournament. I didn’t win, but that’s okay because I wasn’t really expecting to – my profile should hopefully still be going online eventually and I’ll let you know when it does.

So what exactly is Book Drum? It’s a great new website with the aim of bringing books to life. Each book has its own profile – members can create a new one or add to the existing one – with pictures, videos, maps, reviews and anything else that will help other readers to understand and enjoy the book.

The winning profile was Victoria Hooper’s profile of The Odyssey. I have never actually read The Odyssey, although I’m familiar with the story, but if and when I do read it I’m sure Victoria’s profile will be very useful.

I posted two reviews this week – the first was O, Juliet, Robin Maxwell’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet which I gave 3.5 stars. The other was a re-read of one of my all-time favourites, Watership Down. The book I’m currently reading is The Doctor’s Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I read Braddon’s most famous book Lady Audley’s Secret a few years ago and loved it – I’m only four chapters into The Doctor’s Wife but so far it’s proving to be almost as good.

Next weekend (starting April 10th) it’s Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-Thon! This will be the first time I’ve had the opportunity to take part in the Read-a-Thon since I started blogging, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Until then, have a great Easter and a great week!

The Sunday Salon: My favourite bookshop

Sunday again! They seem to be coming round very quickly. I didn’t manage to post any reviews last week, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I finished The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole yesterday (my first book for the Gothic Novels Challenge) so you can look out for my review tomorrow. As you may know, I’ve also been trying to read at least one short story per week as part of a personal challenge – last week I read The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens and will be posting my review of that one soon too.

Yesterday I went to my favourite bookshop, Barter Books in Alnwick. If you’re ever in the north east of England you should pay it a visit – it’s one of the biggest second-hand bookstores in the country and you’ll be able to find almost any book you can think of. It was converted from an old Victorian train station, so the building is enormous and complete with open fires and model train sets – browsing through all the books can be overwhelming though, especially when you know your family are waiting impatiently outside in the car! (There’s free parking by the way, but it gets very busy – particularly on a rainy day like yesterday.) It’s probably best to go with a specific list of books in mind rather than trying to look at everything.

See their website for more information:

What are your favourite bookshops?

* Picture of Barter Books by wfmillar used under Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

The Sunday Salon: Labels, Labels, Labels!

This week I have combined my Sunday Salon post with my Week 3 Blog Improvement Project post.

I haven’t posted any book reviews this week because I’m still reading Drood by Dan Simmons which seems to be taking forever to get through (775 pages but it feels even longer). I’m having mixed feelings about the book at the moment – hopefully I’ll be able to review it for you later in the week. However, I took a break from Drood yesterday to post my first short story review – Chekhov’s The Black Monk. One of my personal reading challenges for this year was to read more short stories, so now that I’ve begun I hope I can make A Short Story for Saturday a regular feature.

[Edited 16th April 2010 to add: This post was written before I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress, therefore its no longer relevant]

This week’s Blog Improvement task is to improve the way our posts are organised by ensuring that we’re using labels that are useful and meaningful. I had already spent some time doing this in January as part of Bloggiesta, but I thought I’d take another look and make some more changes.

You can see my list of labels at the top of my blog’s left sidebar. I’m currently using 12 different labels, as follows:

Author Interviews
Blog Updates: Includes Blog Improvement Project, Bloggiesta and anything else relating to blog maintenance.
Book Miscellany
Fiendish Fridays: My series profiling literary villains
Great Books: The books that I consider to be among the very best that I’ve reviewed – worthy of a 6th star!
Memes: I don’t participate in these very often, so I’ve just used one label to cover them all.
New Book Arrivals: Highlights books that I’ve bought, won, borrowed from the library or that have recently come into my house in one way or another.
Not About Books: Personal or non-book related posts.
Reading Challenges
Sunday Salon: I don’t really consider The Sunday Salon to be a meme, so have not included TSS posts in the Memes label above.

In the future I may add more different types of posts which will need their own labels, but at the moment I think these twelve are adequate.

Further down the left sidebar are two more label clouds – Explore by Genre (e.g. Classics, Historical Fiction, Mystery) and Explore by Theme (e.g. 19th century, Afghanistan, Christmas). I don’t know how useful these are but I like them because over time they should give a new visitor a good idea of the types of books I read and make it easier for them to find reviews that interest them. What do you think – is this useful or not?

Are there any more changes I should make to my labels? Any feedback would be very welcome!

The Sunday Salon: Personal Reading Challenges

In this week’s Sunday Salon post I thought I would mention some of my personal reading challenges for 2010 and beyond.

You can see my current list of 2010 challenges elsewhere on this blog, but there are also a few other challenges I want to set for myself. These will be perpetual challenges – no time restrictions.

Short Stories

Although I read a lot of novels, I don’t often read short stories. One of my personal ongoing challenges is to read as many short stories as I can, particularly by writers I’ve never read before. I know there are existing short story challenges and groups out there that I could join but I’ve decided not to as I don’t know how much time I’ll be able to devote to this and I don’t want to feel under any pressure. I’ll just see how much I can fit in around my other reading.

I will try to read at least one short story every week, (though sometimes I might read more than one and sometimes I might not read any). On Saturdays I’ll post a wrap-up listing the stories I’ve read and a mini-review of each one.


I have read most of Shakespeare’s tragedies, but only a few of his comedies and histories. So, I’m setting a personal challenge for myself to read all of Shakespeare’s plays, including the ones I’ve read before and to post my review/thoughts on each play.

I have Shakespeare’s Complete Works sitting on my bookshelf, so all I need to do is find the time! I don’t expect to progress very quickly through this challenge. If I can read at least 3 or 4 plays this year I’ll be happy.


I feel ashamed of my lack of knowledge of poetry and would like to do something to change this. I want to refresh my memory of some of the poems I’ve read and enjoyed in the past, as well as discovering other poets whose work is new to me (and there will be a lot of those!). This is a huge challenge for me, as I’ve never read very much poetry at all. I don’t want to set any targets for this – I’ll just try to read some poems when I’m in the mood for it and will share my opinions with you.


These are not public challenges, though you’re welcome to join me if you want to. They are simply personal ‘reading resolutions’ to motivate me to spend some time reading in areas I’ve been neglecting.

Do you have any personal reading challenges of your own? What are they?

The Sunday Salon: 3rd January 2010

Welcome to the first Sunday Salon of the year! I’ll be going back to work tomorrow after 11 days holiday, so I really need to put some kind of schedule together so I can keep posting regularly. Next weekend I’ll be taking part in Bloggiesta so I’m hoping that will be the motivation I need to get organized!

I’m more than halfway through The White Queen by Philippa Gregory which means I’ll soon have finished my first book of 2010 and will be able to post my first review of the year. I am keeping track of all the books I read in 2010 elsewhere on this blog. This will also be my list for the 100+ Reading Challenge. I’ll be surprised if I do actually manage to read 100 books this year because I’m not the fastest reader in the world (it doesn’t help that I work full-time and that I usually read long books) but I’m not going to worry about it if I fail the challenge. It will just be interesting to see how many books I read, because I’ve never kept count before.

Reviewed in the last week:

The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

Added to my wishlist:

I was reading a post at Historically Obsessed about a new Susan Higginbotham book called The Stolen Crown due to be published in March. It’s about the same subject as The White Queen – The Wars of the Roses – so it’s been added to my wishlist.

The Sunday Salon: 27th December 2009

I hope you all had a great Christmas and are looking forward to 2010! I managed to get more reading done than I expected this week and posted two reviews. The first was a review of an old favourite, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This counted towards the Christmas Reading Challenge. One Christmas book is enough to meet the requirements of the challenge, but I’m hoping to read another one this week before the challenge ends on Thursday. The second book I reviewed was A Warrior’s Life: A Biography of Paulo Coelho by Fernando Morais. I received a copy from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and would probably not have thought about reading it otherwise, but I still found it quite interesting.

I was thinking this morning about how the most memorable characters in books are often the villains, rather than the heroes and heroines! I’m considering a weekly feature in which I would profile a different literary villain every week, but I’m not sure if anyone is already doing this? If you know of any features like this, please comment and let me know so I can make sure mine is not exactly the same.

I’m also going to be looking ahead to 2010 this week. It will be my first full year of book blogging and my first full year of reading challenges, so I’ll have to plan what books I need to read in January for challenges etc.

Well, have a great week – and enjoy your New Year celebrations!