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February 8th, 2037
04:46 pm

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Access to this blog and restrictions etc.
As I say on my profile page I mainly use this blog to keep track of dosage changes and symptom patterns/progression in my neurological disease. Those entries are restricted to family only.

I do post more widely though. Many early entries are friends-locked. If you know me, either in person or online, feel free to friend me.

But some entries will be on more open access, especially those I link to from Twitter.

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December 29th, 2013
10:59 pm

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Moving book posts to academic blog
I've been trying to blog every month about books I've finished, but have been struggling lately to keep up with this, due to my MS-like illness.

So instead I have decided to do less frequent posts about my reading, including in particular an end-of-year recap, on my separate academic blog.

To see the first of these, see here.

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November 18th, 2013
02:14 am

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Books finished in October 2013
Late writeup this month - sorry! And not a very impressive haul of books finished. But I was away for quite a lot of the month, at an academic conference, and also very knocked out, and often not able to read so much.

First finished was Edmund Crispin's The Moving Toyshop. This was fantastic fun: a Golden Age whodunnit with many good things in common with the best Avengers episodes. I enjoyed this immensely, found it a real page-turner, and was sad when it finished. I'm surprised it hasn't been turned into a movie to be honest, or a TV version. Correction: it was, in 1964. Wish I’d seen that.

Next up was Rosemary Goring's After Flodden. I grew up in the Scottish Borders, and there is a strong local folk memory of how terrible this Anglo-Scottish battle was, though it's often forgotten elsewhere, including in other parts of Scotland. In Flodden's 500th anniversary year I wanted to read this novel set immediately after. I enjoyed it, but had quite a lot of issues. The chronology jumped about way too much at the start for me. I also found the overall plot too predictable, including the identity of the traitor, which I worked out right at the start. But still glad I read it.

My third and final (oh dear!) book finished in the month was the latest Doctor Who anniversary e-short, The Mystery Of The Haunted Cottage by Derek Landy. This featured the Tenth Doctor, plus Martha, and was very much set in an Enid Blyon-esque world. It was ok, I enjoyed it, but it wasn't stellar. I didn't find the characterisation of Martha too recognisable for example, and I think that the supposed Amelia Williams-penned Summer Falls was a far more effective Blyton-esque story.

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October 7th, 2013
02:56 pm

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Books finished in September 2013
I finished quite a lot of books this last month. First up was the Eighth Doctor e-short by Alex Scarrow, Spore. I quite enjoyed this, and could visualise Paul McGann reading some of the lines, but the actions of the Doctor seemed off for me, and the plot was not gripping enough.

Next up was the first in Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time trilogy: An Alien Heat. I last (and first) read this trilogy of books 25 years ago, and have been waiting for the Kindle versions to reread them. This opening book did not disappoint. I could remember quite a lot of the details, but many other things had been forgotten over the years. And it was just a joyous mashup of sci fi, time travel, and Wodehousian comedy. Fab.

Third book finished, which I'd been reading on and off for months, was Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges. I'd put off reading Judge Dredd for decades, thinking it wasn't for me, far too hard-core sci fi and hard-core comics. But I found this really gripping, well told, and the artwork was good. On the downside the edition I read reprinted the pages too small, so the text in speech bubbles and elsewhere was absolutely teeny weeny, and a strain on eyes to read. But otherwise it was good, and I've bought more Judge Dredd to read on my iPad.

Next up was Samantha Hay's Archie the Guide Dog Puppy: Hero in Training. I sponsor two guide dog puppies through training, and often see guide dogs - from the nearby Guide Dog centre at Forfar - being trained in the streets and shops of Broughty Ferry. This book is a children's book, retelling true stories of guide and other assistance dogs and their owners in a form that is easy for children to read. But it was still a good read, and I recommend it.

I'd never read Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, though I saw the TV version back on first broadcast, and again more recently. The book is an improvement on the TV version: freed of the restrictions of TV budgets and filming limitations. I enjoyed it a lot.

Charlie Higson wrote the Ninth Doctor e-short The Beast of Babylon. I enjoyed this, and, without saying too much more for fear of spoilers, liked where it fitted into the Rose chronology.

Our Yoggie book club book of the month was The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. This had been on my Amazon Kindle wishlist for ages, so it was nice to get the prompt to read it at long last. And I enjoyed it, despite it being very much a sci fi book. Initially I was a bit frustrated by the narrative being split among so many characters. But then when things settled down on the one character, who I was much more interested in, I got much happier. It does end on a rather sudden note, though I know it's setting up book 2.

My final book finished in September was the second of the Dancers at the End of Time series: The Hollow Lands. I liked this, though perhaps not as much as the first book. But it continued the amusing comedy of manners and time travel shenanigans of book 1. I am looking forward to moving onto book 3, perhaps in October.

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September 6th, 2013
12:02 am

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Books finished in August 2013
I finished quite a few books this month.

First up was the Elementary BASIC book that uses a Sherlock Holmes framework to teach wannabe programmers the computer programming language BASIC. Or at least that was the aim when it was published in 1982 in the early days of home computing. It's quite a lot of fun, with a nice premise, but I found the later chapters less convincing. Indeed the most impressive computer program in the book for me was in the opening proper chapter, and things went downhill from there. I also found some of the programming structural decisions frankly bizarre, and wonder how a beginner would have understood them. But still fun.

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty tells of a human travel writer who ends up writing a guide book to New York for zombies, vampires, werewolves, and the like. It's quite fun, but I didn't find it as gripping as I expected. Plus I was a bit annoyed that so much of the plot swung (rather unconvincingly) around the human character. But I'm sure I'll go on to read the sequel, which is based in New Orleans. Comes out next year I think.

I'm rereading the Narnia stories, in my own order, which is always to start with Lion etc., then go back to Magician's Nephew, then read the rest in sequence. This month it was the turn of The Magician's Nephew. I like this book a lot, it has a charm about it all of its own.

Poor Yorick was the prequel to the To Be Or Not To Be Choose Your Own Adventure version of Hamlet which was such a success on Kickstarter. Backers got Poor Yorick too, which tells how Yorick ended up as a skull dug up years later. It's short, but fun, and highly entertaining. I sent a second copy of the main book to my English teacher from school, who took us to see a Royal Shakespeare Company touring production of Hamlet at Carlisle. She enjoyed the new book a lot.

This month's book club choice was Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves, essentially a WW1 autobiography. I found the beginning and ending sections almost unreadable, and waded through the beginning chapters until the trenches were reached, and the narrative improved. From then on it was gripping, albeit grim, and a worthy read, at least until Armistice was reached. I studied WW1 in both history and English classes at school, and am glad I read this book.

Last was the latest Doctor Who e-short: Spore by Alex Scarrow, featuring the Eighth Doctor. Some readers found this read more as a Third Doctor story, but I could picture Paul McGann saying the lines. It was a shame he was companionless. For example I'd have liked to see his long-term audio companion Charley Pollard in the story. And I had some issues with the plot and narrative. But I enjoyed it, and more than I expected to.

I'm flying through a few more books at the moment, and expect September to be a bumper read too.

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August 3rd, 2013
04:49 am

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Books finished in July 2013
It's been a lean month for reading for me. I've been very weak for much of the time, extremely brain tired, and often unable to read at all before sleep. Even when I can read it's often been for just a few minutes at night, so I've made extremely slow progress on my reading. But still managed to finish some things.

First finished was my choice for the Yoggie Book Club this month: The Eagle Of The Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. I'm sure I read it as a youngster, but had forgotten most of the plot, so it was a fresh read. I enjoyed it, though found some bits lagged somewhat, and I expected a rather different ending. It was also nice to see the Roman fort near where I grew up as a child featured, albeit under a slightly different name from usual.

Next up was the latest Doctor Who e-short, The Ripple Effect by Malorie Blackman. This featured the Seventh Doctor and Ace. I really liked the central plot idea, but thought the characterisation of Seven was off. Also I found the resolution too easy. But still fun.

Nemo: Heart of Ice is Alan Moore's latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel. I wanted to read this because it had strong Lovecraftian elements. I also hoped that it could be read out of context of the other books in the series. But I was very disappointed by it. I found the plot barely coherent, the story and artwork frequently confusing, and all in all very disappointing. INJ Culbard's graphic novel of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness is much much better.

I've since finished another book, and am well on the way with others. But will blog about those in the blog post for August finishers.

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July 2nd, 2013
12:13 am

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Books finished in June 2013
Not so many books finished this month, but have quite a few ongoing as I close the month.

First finished was the Yoggie book club choice: Fluke by James Herbert. I've read quite a few James Herbert books. This isn't like his others. It's touching, and warm, and not horrific, though there are scenes of jeopardy. It's about a dog, and I really cared for the dog as I was reading it. I suspect James Herbert must have been a dog lover to write such a well observed book about the dog's perspective.

Next up was Whitstable by Stephen Volk. This is more a novella than a novel, quite short, and tells a fictional story slotted into the real life of Peter Cushing. I'm not that familiar with Peter Cushing's life, and can't tell how well-judged the biographical side of this book is. But it was a moving read, and quite gripping, and I would recommend it to any fans of Cushing, or Hammer films, or just a good story.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman's new book. I read this on my Kindle and really enjoyed it. It's marketed as for adults, and there are some adult things in it, but nothing as strong as, for example, American Gods. I suspect it could be read by youngsters well. It's very much in the spirit of Diana Wynne Jones books. Good stuff. I also ordered a signed hardback copy for me to keep.

Something Borrowed was the latest Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-short, this time by Richelle Mead, the first lady to write one of these short stories. It's been well received by Doctor Who fans, but I struggled with it quite a lot. It features Sixie and Peri, and I found it quite difficult to get into. It was also set on a very alien world, which is never a promising thing for me. I'm not the biggest fan of sci-fi, despite being an ardent Who fan. So not a big success. But still vastly better than the misfire of the First Doctor story months ago.

The Obverse Book of Detectives is the latest in a series of quarterly slim volumes published by Obverse Books. This one contains six detective stories. Mostly they use very unusual settings, and many experiment with the detective story format. Despite that my favourite of the bunch had perhaps the most conventional setting of the lot. But 'The Sorcerous Dogsnatchers of Fishwife Lane' still won out for me on sheer outright barminess.

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May 31st, 2013
11:11 pm

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Books finished in May 2013
It's been a good month for reading, though quite a lot of the books finished this month had been started long before.

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May 3rd, 2013
10:40 pm

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Books finished in April 2013
Quite a good month for books finished, though some were quite short.

First up was Ash by James Herbert. This is the third in a series of books featuring paranormal investigator David Ash. I must have read the first one in the late 1990s, but never read the second one. This is the last book James Herbert published before he died. And I enjoyed it. It's set in a castle in Scotland, and in some ways is more about the inhabitants of the castle than hauntings and ghosts. But it was quite excitingly plotted, and gripping, and a page turner. I read it on my Kindle and knew it was a long book, but when I saw a paperback copy in the supermarket the other day I was shocked at just how thick it was. And I read all that!

Next up was Summer Falls, a Doctor Who tie-in book supposedly by Amelia Williams, and featured on-screen in the first episode of the second half of the current series, the one reintroducing Clara. This was a very lightweight read, almost in an Enid Blyton vein. Fun, disposable, but enjoyable.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff was this month's Yoggie Book Club read, a book given to Helen by her Mum, leading us all to read it. I'd probably never have read this otherwise, and really enjoyed it. It was a short quick read, perhaps it needed a little more plotting, but it was gripping, and had unexpected plot turns. Not sure how well it will do as a film (coming soon) but the book was good.

I've read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis many times since childhood. It was the first Narnia book I ever read, and on my reread of the series it was the one I automatically turned to first. As an agnostic and an adult I am more aware of the Christian overtones running through it. But I still think it is a thoroughly enjoyable book.

Doctor Who: Shroud of Sorrow by Tommy Donbavand is one of the recent new Eleventh Doctor books, this one including Clara. I wasn't convinced by the relationship portrayed between the Doctor and Clara: more spikey than it is on-screen. But in other respects it was really good, and felt like a celebratory anniversary book, even though it is not deliberately intended to be one. There are nods throughout to the series' past, and it also tied in nicely with the start in 1963. Good stuff.

My final finished read in April was Philip Reeve's e-short The Roots of Evil featuring the Fourth Doctor and Leela. This was fun: told more from Leela's perspective than the Doctor's, but the Fourth Doctor became more visible and recognisable in the latter half of the book. It also used the short length well, packing a lot of adventure into not many pages. Very good, perhaps the best in the e-short series so far. Which has admittedly been strong, apart from the first book mis-step.

Not sure I will finish so many books in May. I started a new long book a week or so ago, but have now had to put it to one side to be sure I get through the Yoggie book club choice for May, which is also a long one. We shall see anyway.

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April 3rd, 2013
09:19 pm

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Books finished in March 2013
First book finished was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I didn't read this when first published, and was only able to read it now because of the Kindle version. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first, with much more swearing and sex than I'm used to in Neil's books! But I quickly adjusted, and grew to love what it did with mythology and storytelling. I now look forward to reading his Anansi Boys, also waiting for me on my Kindle.

Patrick Moore loved his many cats, and Miaow!: Cats Really are Nicer Than People! is his book about them. I read this in Kindle version, but mainly on my iPad, so I had full colour pictures. I wanted to like it more than I did. It was very touching in places, but needed to be edited much more ruthlessly. For example there was an awful lot of repetition throughout.

Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer was a Kindle deal of the day, which I snapped up, intrigued by its telling of a romance played out in emails. I have a personal connection with this, given partly how my husband and I got together, back in the early days of the Internet. But I found the book frustrating. In particular I regularly wanted to slap the female main character. It was such an irritating reading experience. I do not intend to read the sequel.

Ever since seeing Audrey Niffenegger talk to Neil Gaiman at the Edinburgh Book Festival I'd wanted to read her The Night Bookmobile graphic novel. I was able to borrow a copy through the local library, having one sent over to my local library to pick up. And although I liked the idea of a story set around a mobile library I had huge problems with the book, specifically the ending. It was such a problem for me that it plummeted at that point from earning a Goodreads rating of 3/5 to 1/5. I cannot recommend this book.

For the Yoggie book club last month I read The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. This is a time travelling concoction involving ancient Egyptian sorcery and timey-wimey Doctor Who style plotting. I enjoyed the plot, but had huge problems with the writing style. So often it seemed to be written in a way - arguably over-written - which made it really hard work for me as a reader. I also thought it needed to be edited far more brutally. Still glad I read it.

The BBC are rereleasing a number of Doctor Who old novels, one for each Doctor, in print and digital form. I snapped up Mark Gatiss's Last of the Gaderene, which I tried to read in print years ago, but could never get into. This time I got on much better. It features the Third Doctor and Jo, and although I had some problems with it, and also found it a bit too similar for example to the same author's Nightshade, I really enjoyed it.

Last finished was a quick read: Marcus Sedgwick's The Spear of Destiny Doctor Who anniversary e-short featuring again the Third Doctor and Jo. I really enjoyed this, and found it another step up in quality from the previous month, and a vast improvement over the appalling First Doctor story of January. So very pleased. Having read American Gods recently I also liked what it did with Norse myth. Very good story.

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