Saturday, February 25, 2012

Some Things You Can Never Get Back... the morning I just spent reading this book.  My first instinct was not to read it, I'm just not interested in these kinds of things.  Books about personalities, rockstars, actors etc.,  just leaves me  bored.  It wasn't really all that bad,  I did learn one or two new things, and I laughed a few times.  It was just one morning's effort.    
The issue for me however, is confusion.  I am puzzled about why people now are writing such books about themselves when, to my point of view, I don't think they've done that much (be on the lookout for Justin Bieber's book coming soon...not!).  It has always been an assumption of mine that when you write an autobiography you have already lived a long and eventful life and have much wisdom to share.  The exception being I suppose that one really special noteworthy thing has already happened to you and there is so much material to write about this event that it couldn't possibly wait for years from now when you are old and grey.  Apparently not.  These days anyone with a bit of renown can churn out a book about themselves and it doesn't really have to make much sense...or have a point.  
When I read a book I expect to get somewhere at the conclusion, even if it is a series or a trilogy...whatever.   When it is a one-off non-fiction deal, shouldn't it make sense?  Where do you want to go?  What are you trying to say?  

This is a genre I have not really looked at before, because I have not really been all that interested in non-fiction, and it has been something I have wanted to change.  So with the aim of reading LibraryThing's Hot This Month list, and trying to improve myself by reading something possibly educational, I thought I would give Bossypants a whirl (at #10 on the list).  I don't know much about Tina Fey (being too tired to stay up and watch Saturday Night Live and I have never watched 30 Rock.  So it was all new information to me. 
She's funny and smart,  a person who works hard and does a good job.  She's had some success in her career, and has a nice little family.  At the end there we all know how ambivalent she is about her job and her family,  and she really can't make up her mind about having another baby. 
My question is why does it have to be in a book?  Isn't it something more appropriate for say a journal, or even a blog?  Those one off entries you can make about something that concerns you at the moment, but have no need to be decided on or to be concluded in any way?  There is just this very unfinished feeling about the book, which annoys me.  And inspires me to rant a little about how these days the world is just being flooded with every concieveable media and it all seems to be about quantity, not quality.  
Ok I promise to stop being grumpy now.  And I promise to have a look at her next book when/if she writes one  twenty nears from now (stuffed with experience and wisdom I fervently hope!)
 Also, I will not be reading #4 on the Whats Hot list... Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  Just reading the contents make my eyes glaze over and my stomach clench at how many pages are in there... over 700!  While I know it meets my criteria for what I think should make up an autobiography I just can't read that many pages about computers and people who make them  So I will go with my instincts on that one and give it a miss. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Color Purple

Over the years there have been a few movies I have watched that have moved me emotionally, so deeply that they have held a very special place in my heart. To name a few, in Steel Magnolias the scene after the funeral always has me tearing up a bit and ready to bawl because the pain that Sally Fields portrays is so very real and raw.  The English Patient  is another tear-jerking  movie which I have only seen once and have yet to read the book of because it was just so hauntingly heartbreaking.  Then there is the movie I Am Legend with Will Smith (yet another show I will never be able to see again because of it's suspense and frightening content).   The Color Purple directed by Steven Spielberg is one of the most emotionally evocative movies I have seen (yet).  This scene pictured above is what I consider to be the most powerful one I have ever encountered.  If the movie is on the television, I will always stop to watch it even if I only catch the last half hour (which is, in my opinion the best part), just so that I can see Whoopie Goldberg again perform one of the most touching and overwhelmingly emotional parts of the whole movie.  I always cry because it is just so beautiful.
So it was with great interest that I read the book, and I am pleased to say that Spielberg didn't muck it up (meaning that he was pretty faithful to the book).  I must admit I would have been tickled pink to see Danny Glover quilting with Whoopie on the front porch, but I guess you can't have everything. 
Written as a journal (one of my favorite formats!), we get to follow Celie throughout her life, to a most satisfactory conclusion.  The writing is simple and the imagery is vivid without detail (though I thought that might be because of the movie at first, but I was wrong because as I went further into the story I had other images come to mind which are not a part of the movie).
It is a great story to step into and experience another way of life for a short while. It was great to have a peek into the strong and loving bond between women who are the best of friends. It was also a great way to be reminded of the value of simpler things that life can be about,  a good home-cooked meal or a hand-made quilt, which are more powerful and important than anything else I can express the significance of here.

Sitting Down and Giving Away

The next two chapters in this book have ended in mixed results for me.  One chapter suggests sitting down when you eat, no problem... I can do that.  I just don't like eating at the dinner table preferring my reading chair or the couch in front of the television. I have even gone as far as predicting that one day, if I happened to out-live my husband (and I can already tell you that that is not allowed to happen becuase I insist on going first), that I would probably get rid of all dining room furniture and turn the room into a library or reading room.   And I don't know why.  It bugs me, so I have ignored this chapter quite vigorously.  So naturally this time I made myself look at it properly.  Geneen is right... if I had guests over for dinner I would not expect them to eat on the couch.  So why do I do it?  I really don't know.  When we first moved in to this house the dining room was just awful.  Closed in and with really dreadful wallpaper on the walls, and so very dark and dreary. 
Dreadful isn't it?  I am glad to say that DH (that stands for darling husband) whacked out some walls and placed a window right where that green tape is on the wall.  He also planted an ornamental crabapple tree in the yard so that I could see the blossoms from the window while I sat at the table.
Nice isn't it?
(Notice how I have manged to get away from the subject?  Pretty good distraction eh?)  Yes, I am still in strong denial over this chapter!

The next chapter is about getting rid of the clothes that cut off your circulation.  I know and understand what Geneen is talking about here and I haven't really had a problem with this (except when I was a teenager and that was only when I was borrowing a girlfriend's clothes), unfortunately right now I am in between sizes (which is my current dilemma).  If I eat something for breakfast that bloats me  I go to the old size, and it's really easy to go there because everything is loose and comfortable, and it tells me that I have lost a few inches (except after about an hour of wearing my jeans all it would take is one good yank and they would slip right off my hips and that is it's own source of discomfort!).  If I put on my new size I feel fat, and annoyed.  Fat because there are ugly bulges still, and annoyed because I have all of these lovely new clothes and I can't wear them in comfort.  It's bad for my self esteem.  There is, of course, a very simple solution to this,  and any of you have been reading my blogs so far would know that that solution (a diet), would just backfire in the most devasting way.  I get impatient and annoyed about it, but there really isn`t anything else I can do.  I will fit into those pretty clothes one day, just not when I want to.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Isaac and Me

Issac and I have had a very special relationship for a really long time (I can't remember when I first started reading Asimov, but it seems like he has been a part of my life forever).  I love his robots!   The book I, Robot just changed my world as I knew it.  A whole new concept of science fiction was opened up to me and I have loved robots ever since (the modem I have for my laptop had to be from other would have been acceptable).   I couldn't help but be on the robots side in almost every story.   I would have to say that this enduring love for all things robotic has influenced my life in a few ways, down to what kinds of music I favor (who can resist some really great electronic music or even a song with robots in it??) and what literature I prefer the most (hard science fiction). 
 Asimov's genre of social science fiction was revolutionary... I had only until then seen or read of a future where robots/androids were a thing of fact, and a sign of progress , and it was different to read about a future humanity that was suspicious, scared and even resentful of all that a personal humanoid robot could offer.  The movie I, Robot starring Will Smith, did a great job of highlighting this ( I also appreciated how the movie incorporated the various short stories from the book into the movie story line and I wonder what Isaac would have thought).   While his futures do not include much in the way of technical advances, I think that his perceptions of what humanity will be like is spot on.  It's too bad I won't be around to see it for myself. 

I have just begun to read the Foundation series.  Isaac was kind enough, in his later years, to connect all of his individual series into one future history.  I must admit that I had never seen that before.   I have read his other series separately and had never made the connection with any of them.  Strangely, incredibly, I had managed to read them all, over the years, in the order that Asimov suggested, so now, with Prelude to Foundation, I am able to make connections, and can admittedly feel some nostaligia while reading it for past events and characters (especially the robots, I was on the verge of tearing up a little when they made an appearance).  Of course, now that the connection has been made I am tempted to just go right back to the beginning and 'do the thing properly'.    But then, the vague sense of familiarity just adds to the frustrating and almost helpless feeling of lost history which Isaac is building with Prelude.   It's exciting!  I can't wait to see how the story progresses and I am grateful to Isaac for bringing out in me again that special feeling of pure happiness I get whenever I read one of his wonderful books.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep

A truly scary concept.  Waking up every day and not remembering yesterday or your life for the past twenty to twenty-five years.  Not remembering growing up, going to school, getting married, the book, movie or music you listened to the day before... terrible!  Devastating!  What would you do with your life?  You wouldn't be able to read a book (one of the biggest horrors imaginable in my world), you could watch the same movie more than twenty times and never know!  And music would be a fleeting and shallow pleasure because you would not be able to put in the time to really appreciate it.  There would be no depth to your life at all.  And you would be alone, because who could you really trust?  
This book is all about trust and the consequences of trusting someone.  I followed the protagonist Christine everywhere she went with the intense interest and care, full to the brim and overflowing with anxiety and suspense about what could possibly happen next.  While the wrapping up was a little too brief and very "storybook ending-ish" I didn't expect it to conclude as it did.  And S. J. Watson has my admiration respect for the way he did it!  Well done!  A super first novel.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cultivate Curiosity

Ugh!... This is a hard one,  I skipped it this morning and just flipped through the pages looking for a chapter that I could be comfortable writing about, but made myself go back and re-read this chapter and really think about it (because this isn't about being comfortable, its about being honest and about sharing with those I care about).  This is heavy, deep and meaningful stuff.   I couldn't stop thinking about this topic.  What does cultivating curiousity mean to me?  And how did I reach my current conclusions?   Lots of ways.

I am a curious person.  When I find something interesting, I will learn as much about it as I can (to the point of obsession) until I have seen it from all angles and "puzzled until my puzzler was sore" (if you don't get that reference  shame on you!).  It can sometimes cause me pain to be this inquistive (more on that later).  I need to know why.  More than anything else I want to understand.  So when this  'cultivate curiousity' suggestion popped up I had no real idea what Geneen was asking me to do so I skimmed the chapter and went on to something else (which makes it interesting to come back to later and see just how far I have come from the beginning).  I  have a slow and sometimes difficult time  absorbing the information that is set in front of me (I used to think that I was just stupid and that I had inherited this stupidity from my my greatest shame).  I work very hard, read a lot and think a great deal about a topic.    Mull it over, digest it and finally reach an understanding (if it is the 'right' understanding or not is not important).  I haven't gotten very far but from my various studies this is what I can understand so far (thanks to insights from C.S. Lewis, Aristotle, Lord Byron, Gandhi and Deepak Chopra).   To quote from the chapter:-  "One of my main functions as a teacher is to rekindle a student's interest in herself.  To assume that no matter how it may appear, she has good reasons for her behavior, and simply to be curious about what those reasons are."
It has taken me a long time to figure out myself (it's an ongoing procedure), and some of it was really painful (okay...lots of it was).
The gist, however, is this.  Deepak Chopra coined the phrase 'self-referral'.  I think that it is very apt.  Basically it is just about listening to yourself, really listening.  And being able to trust what you have heard.  There is no mystery about this, there are no tricks.  If you know and trust yourself enough, you can hear what your body is telling you.   Be egocentric about it.  Push out all of the crap and just go inside yourself.  Listen to every little bit of yourself, because when you ignore it you fail.  You become malnourished.  Write down what you learn so that you don't forget.

We really can trust ourselves, trust our bodies.  The human body is an amazing thing.  After reading Deepak Chopra's Book of Secrets I was amazed at just how clever our bodies are (that first chapter just blew my mind!), but I didn't just believe Chopra outright, I had to come to my own conclusions through extensive self referral.  I will give you an example.  A few years ago I watched a show called 'The Truth About Food'.  In one very interesting episode they were investigating cleansing the body.  There were two control groups placed in separate cottages, and they were given two diets.  One group did a cleanse, complete with rigourous diet and awful tasting shakes, the other ate what they wanted... lots of junk food, booze etc.,  They did blood tests at the beginning and the end of the experiment to measure contaminants in the body.   Now what was most interesting about the results of this experiment was that after a week there was no real difference between the two groups, the assumption being that the human body is capable of cleansing itself, without the help of drastic dieting, fasts or supplements.    I wish I hand known that earlier... it would have saved me a lot of money and angst.  Of course, this doesn't mean its okay to just stuff yourself with crap.  Just look at all the obese, unhealthy people out there.  It just means that if you understand enough about yourself and are able to interpret your own body signals, they aren't going to lead you astray, and that your body will let you know if it needs something.

It took a lot of work for me to get where I am this morning.  I have read countless books about nutrition, ethics, cultural beliefs, ayurveda etc.,  It was slow, and it was hard work, with lots of experimentation on my part.  I have tried so many things.  But worth it in the end.  I know more about myself, what I want, what I like, what I believe, and what makes me happy.  I know everything about what I eat, why I eat it, and how it nourishes me.  I know what is good for me.  
  I had breakfast this morning.  This is a huge change from say ten years ago, when breakfast used to be a pot of coffee (and bad coffee at that).  This is what I did instead;  I started my day with a cup of coffee.   This is something that I don't want to change and don't feel guilty about consuming.  I love coffee.    I am an really early riser and I am never hungry on waking, so a cup of coffee is just right.  After an hour or so I made some Banana Muffins with walnuts, and while they were baking  I made myself a fresh fruit salad, today was a quarter of a pineapple and a lovely organic gala apple.    Once the muffins where out of the oven I put on another pot of coffee and ate them together... it was really delicious, I liked the sweetness of the muffin combined with the taste of the coffee.   It was perfect for me, it was just what I wanted and I felt good.  This is a step beyond just self-referral, because now I am being kind to myself beyond just understanding my needs, I am nourishing them. as well.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Do you know those things that you encounter during your life that are very interesting or challenging in some way and you make a mental note "I'll have to do that sometime" and yet you never do?    There are many things in my life that I have a mental list for; quilts I have to make, places I have to travel to, foods I have to try, experiences I have yet to have, books, music, movies... the list has grown to immense proportions over the years to a point where I despair of ever doing any of it (especially when there are obstacles in the way like not enough time or money).  But to counterract this despair today I am pleased to announce that I am going to do one thing.  I am going to read the top ten list of "Whats Hot" on Library Thing.  Small potatoes, I know, compared to other things I want to do, but you have to start somewhere right?  And I have been bugging myself to do this for over a year (every time I go on to LibraryThing and see the list).  I have already read two:  Inheritance by Christopher Paolini and now Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.
You have to look closely at the picture to see what is peculiar about it.  I didn't notice at first, but I was drawn to this story anyway just by the charm of the little girl in the picture and the title (plus this is a Title from Quirk Books which has become one of my favourite new publishers). This unusual title appealed to me and this book has been on my 'to read' list ever since I first spotted it last year.  It doesn't hurt that one of the categories for my reading challenge this year is Intriguingly Titled Books (the wierder the better!).

I liked this story, and was only mildly annoyed that it will be a series (or that there will be a sequel at least).  These days it has been a practice of mine not to even bother with series until they are finished.  It is too much work after a while... since I read so many books, I cannot retain every story line, so like I just did with The Inheritance Cycle, I have to re-read previous stories so that I can keep up (which explains my annoyance at Christopher Paolini when he switched from a trilogy to the four book set because I had to re-read everything first). 

This is a neat idea for this book.  The photos throughout were the inspiration for the story...

...and it adds to the strangeness.  There's nothing like some real life to add to the authenticity and creepiness of the tale.  There is this strange feeling that I experience when I look at photos like this, and not just the ones that are doctored to be unusual.  There is a mystery to the past, which is slightly unsettling because I cannot relate to the person in the photograph with the old fashioned clothes and hair.  What were they like, how did they live, how could they have lived without the conveniences that I take for granted today?  These are foreigners... people who did not live like I do.  While I know that they had the same feelings, goals, and dreams of people today, it is still a mystery and one that I will never know the answer to.  The label 'creepy nostalgia' seems to fit this novel. 
 I hope I don't have to wait too long to find out what happens next.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I have waited a long time to get to this point, and I was excited to see how the story would end.  This is the completion of all Christopher Paolini's hard work, and he is coming into his own with this final story, just like his main character, Eragon.
Eragon's story is concluded in this last book and, in my opinion, in a very satisfactory way.   I was disappointed when it ended, I wasn't prepared to let everyone go after reading about them for nearly two weeks straight.   I liked how Paolini wrapped this up into a very neat and tight package, and I also like how there is room made for him to revisit the world that he has created sometime in the future.  Nice.   Thanks for the ride Christopher, well done!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Brisingr: The Inheritance Cycle again!

This is the second time that I have read this book.    I kind of raced through it the first time because I had re-read the other two in preparation, and I had grown a little irritated with how much had been borrowed from other works of fantasy fiction.  I admit I was being a little judgmental and that this third book irritated me because of how indulgent it was.  The story was not so tight as the other two before and seemed to meander more than I could tolerate, and I was under the impression that this third book was the last of what was then known as the Inheritance Trilogy.  So by the end, when I discovered that this story was not over, I was cross.   I fully expected it to be wrapped up and was confused throughout the whole book because it didn't seem like it was going anywhere, and I had this fear that after all I had already read that the author was going to flub the ending and that I would be disappointed.

Not so with the second read through.  This time, with a difference in expectation, it all made better sense, and the story did not seem to meander as much as previously.  I maintain that it was still indulgent, but that is the authors pleasure and right.  I couldn't help but giggle a bit when Eragon was looking for another sword because the scene was so incredibly Potterlike, I expected an 'Ollivanderism' to pop out at any second.    He did however, get another sword, and it was a pretty good story.  Now, onto the fourth (and last!) installment of this saga, Inheritance.  I really don't know what to expect and I am looking forward to the conclusion.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Eldest: The Inheritance Cycle

Part two of The Inheritance Cycle.  Still a very tight story, packed with more adventures, and experiences and interesting twists.  I liked the format chosen to cover three stories, each one with it's own intensity, which switched off on each other in an easy way.  I liked that there was even more back story, and had to chuckle a bit at some of the newer characters like the baby that was blessed in Eragon which has now grown up a little to be freakishly spooky in a very 'Dune' kind of way.    Which isn't a bad thing.   Consider what kind of story this would be for someone who has never read a fantasy in their lives?   It would be a very clever story to them, I think.    Just consider, for instance, how much Agatha Christie's Poirot has been loved irregardless of the fact that it was very obvious that Christie 'borrowed' quite heavily from Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.  It's still a good story, no matter the origins.  I also liked how vegetariansim was covered, and I thought it was neat how the elves' exercise regimen seemed to be borrowed from yoga's sun salutations.   The conclusion was satisfying, there is curiosity for what happens next, especially after such an interesting twist.  It is all wrapped up in a handsome red package of over six hundred pages which was a pleasure to read.

Eragon: The Inheritance Cycle is last

I know... it doesn't sound like I liked these books, but I did.  I love a good fantasy epic, especially with dragons, and this series has everything in spades.  We've got bad guys, magic, fighting, long journeys, elves, more bad guys,  and dwarves.  I haven't read any reviews on this book, and probably never will.  I suspect though, that there have been some harsh ones and some really judgmental ones.  I 'll tell you why, but first I want to share my history with this book. 
I first sighted it at the local library.  The lovely blue jacket with the dragon in front appealed to me very much.  So much that when I had finished this story (which I really enjoyed) I ordered my own copy (in hardcover!), and I kept an eye out for all the ones that came after (which I also bought in hardcover).  It has been a long wait, and there has been some frustration in there as well, but I 'll write about that later.

I will never give a bad opinion/review of a book.  That has to get out there first, and this is why.  I have read other reviews before that have hated books and were pretty brutal in their criticism, and underneath, in the comments I have read, some had said that they would not read this book after reading that review.   In my opinion, that is ignorant.  Why would I trust someone else's opinion on a book I have never read? Are they so exactly like me in every way, that they know what I wouldn't like to read?  That's just silly, and it's sad.  What if you missed something special?  Wouldn't that be a shame?  And last but not least, I know that a bad review would hurt the author, and it is not in my nature to hurt anyone for any reason.  After all, they have done something that I have never done... they wrote a book!  That in itself is an amazing achievement.    What is extra amazing about this book, is that Christopher Paolini wrote it in his teens.

Back to Eragon.  What you will notice about this book is that it has borrowed a lot from  great pieces of fantasy literature.  For the most part this book is what I would call 'flavored' with Tolkien.  I'm sure that there were other books as well, but it was the Lord of the Rings ones that inspired this first volume, the influence that stood out the most.  I have read a great deal of fantasy fiction (of which only my science fiction collection is larger) and I recognize pieces from them.  When I said this series has everything in spades, I meant it.  It seems that Paolini quite judiciously included everything he ever loved about every book he has ever read.   Another impressive thing about him.  He is well read for his age.

I liked the story, I want to know what happens next.  Over five hundred pages packed with adventure, and magic and characters that I care about.  The story was tight, and wrapped up in a very satisfying way.  A great beginning.

50 Ways to Feel Thin, Gorgeous, and Happy (When You Feel Anything But)

I am going to lump this book into a new category on my blog called "Books Every Woman Should Read".    If you (and I'm talking to all the women I know) have an issue with food or not, this is a 'must read'.
I first read this book over a decade ago, and almost cried after I read the first chapter.  I know of other women who upon reading it threw the book across the room and, after reading the first chapter the rest was read with incredulity.    It is hard to digest at first (har pun intended).  So after my first reading of this book I started to change the way I viewed my life,  and after every consecutive read I have used the book as a yardstick to let me know how I have been doing in the interim.   It makes sense, it has that ring of truth about it, and it really is possible.  I highly recommend this book, and have lent it to women, and sent it to my best friend in Australia (because it is what I consider to be a powerful gift of love).  I have earnt a few merit badges since the beginning (it seems like every chapter is a challenge after which you earn your reward on completion).  But it is not only that, this book shows me how I have changed since the beginning and that it really is possible to do the things that Geneen suggests we do, and it isn't as hard as you think it is. 
My plan is to discuss different chapters (badges if you like) that I have come to believe and have achieved/earnt and would like to share with you, because when you don't have anyone to share these things with, your life gets very small.  And I am ready to share.

Merit Badge #1  Whatever you do, don't diet.

The fourth law of the universe is that for every diet there is an equal and opposite binge.  This is very true.  Even when you don't mean to diet, somewhere deep inside you always knows and responds in kind.  That I have earnt this badge or not isn't absolutely certain as I always feel like I am on a tightrope which is very hard to balance on (but it's not always like this... there are months when I don't think about it at all).  Even when I don't mean to it just happens, like for instance, a few weeks ago I was testing recipes for a raw food cookbook.  I really wanted to give this a wholehearted genuine try and it seemed like lots of fun and a challenge to try this way of life (especialy during winter when all I want is to be warm).  But after a few days some deeper urges expressed themselves and for a day or so I ate lots of food, hot, cooked food, and I couldn't seem to regulate my hunger.  I got bloated, heartburn and a bad nights sleep, as my body was still busy digesting all of the food I had consumed.

Which is when I took out this book (to do a little self diagnostic).  I knew what had happened (even though I didn't mean it to happen) and, after reading a few chapters felt better.   I had been on a diet.  I had only ate raw food, and I had skipped my morning coffee.  And while I felt good, light, had extra energy and decent rest, I was feeling deprived and I had ignored this feeling in the interest of seeing how my body would respond to this new regimen. This feeling of deprivation is an important feeling, and should never be ignored, ever!

So since that incident I have been re-thinking the way I eat, and trying to add new ways of eating (in the raw) without having that feel of a diet, and absolutely NO sense of deprivation.  Like I said, it feels like a tightrope which I have trouble balancing on sometimes.   What I took from this experience is that, for me, there is a delicate balance which I shouldn't take such drastic steps on, as I will fall off the tightrope.  So baby steps is the way to go...and my large cup of coffee every morning, no matter what!

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Sometimes I can't help but feel that certain things out there in the whole wide world were written  just for me.    This is one such book.  Lovely and long (intimidating at first), it didn't take long to be drawn in to this story, with its intriguing twists and freshly original story that is just so interesting that you don't want to stop until you know what will happen next (and since it is such a long book you are in this state of anxious suspense- mild as it is - throughout most of the book).

   I say it was written just for me as it is a Regency era tale (and I am particularly fond of this time period because of its literature, music and art).  Throughout the book I read phrases that were happily familiar...  having read Jane Austen's books many times I love the language and feel comfortable in it. This is a good thing as it lends  an authenticity to the story that Clarke is telling (and feeds my love of all things literary from that era).  Even Lord Byron makes a cameo appearance in this tale.   And magic!   An alternate history where magic is commonplace.   I just love the illustrations, they provide a depth to the sinister undertones of this story.
   There are so many novels out there about this period they kind of run together after a while (more of the same), but this one was so fresh and invigorating I read it with pure joy.  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell stands alone.

Don't try to figure out what will happen in the story, or try to forecast how the book will end... let it slowly creep up on you.  It's really worth it, I promise, to just trust the author to just take you where she wants you to go. I wont tell any more as I really want you to go out and buy this book for yourselves and discover the many special features and pleasures inside.