JAJ: Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen January kicks off tomorrow with:

Sense and Sensibility (1811)

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love - and its threatened loss - the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

which will run until January 14th.

Please be aware comments on this post will contain spoilers for those who wish to discuss during their reading. If you don't want the book to be spoiled, wait until you've read it to comment and discuss!

Happy reading!

Audio Books

I'm not a fan of audio books, although I was going to give the first Gossip Girl book a whiz on audio because it was included with Season 1 of the TV show... until I discovered it was abridged - grrrr!

Personally, I prefer to read books than listen to them. I remember as a child I had these Disney audio tapes and I would *always* read the book along with the tape. I like reading the action for myself and being active with my stories.

What does everyone else feel about audio books? Love them or hate them?

Top 100 Reads!

This is the Top 100 Reads, taken from the BBC 's 2003 list. How many have you read? What books from 2003 - 2008 do you think should be on an updated list? Which are you surprised to see on here?

1. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
18. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone - JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets - JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban - JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch - George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath - John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker - Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth - Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion - Jane Austen
39. Dune - Frank Herbert
40. Emma - Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down - Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited -Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm - George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom - Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers - Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men - John Steinbeck
53. The Stand - Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The BFG - Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons - Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses - Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha - Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds - Colleen McCollough
65. Mort - Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
67. The Magus - John Fowles
68. Good Omens - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies - William Golding
71. Perfume - Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch - Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda - Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White - Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses - James Joyce
79. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
80. Double Act - Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits - Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle - Dodie Smith
83. Holes - Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast - Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel - Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
89. Magician - Raymond E Feist
90. On The RoadItalic - Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather - Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear - Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic - Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine - Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel - Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love - Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

Book Review: Twilight

The film version of Twilight is finally released in the UK today, so I thought I'd review the book by Stephenie Meyer before I revert into a complete tween and drool... sorry, before I head off to watch and appreciate the movie. But, I don't know which is worse. You see, I also drool over Edward, the book character. Yes, I *heart* Edward, with teeny ♥♥♥'s too!

Now there are some people who scorn the whole Edward is a vampire (sorry if I spoilt that for you) and therefore "Bella-is-so-fragile" attitude. Not me. I *loved* it. I think what people forget with Twilight is that this is a tweeny-teen book. People forget that first crush giddy feeling they had, back in the days when you went all swoony and envisioned boys to be bona fide knights-in-shining-armour (before you knew better, basically). But, if you approach Twilight with this impossible ideal, then I think you too will adore it. If you can get into that mind frame, Bella's endless lavished praise of Edward's perfection will be the most logical description you have ever read. You may even find yourself swooning over him too.

Sure, if you approach Twilight as a cynical adult, then you're going to get irritated with Bella's "quirks" - she's actually a 2-D character who I feel Meyer tried to pass off as 3-D - but reading through the eyes of unrequited puppy love, combined with the knowledge of adult passions... *sigh* You can overcome that this is a love story about a girl with low self-esteem (rather annoyingly Bella constantly sees herself in a sub-par light to the point it is blatantly annoying) who falls in love with a vampire... who loves her anyway, despite all her "but you're so perfect and what am I? A mere ugly mortal" moments. I thoroughly recommend you check out Twilight (if you've not already) but *only* if you approach it by embracing your inner tween

Anyone else read the book (is this is a silly question)? If so, what did you think?

Jane Austen January Information

I'm very excited to be starting 2009 with Jane Austen January and am really looking forward to this. When I first decided I needed to read Jane, as I'm severely under-read, I never expected a Book Club to come out of all this - it only emerged because Hannah said she'd read Jane with me and that gave me the idea! :0) Thank you to everyone who has promoted this as well!

I hope you've all got your copies sorted out (there's still time to ask for copies for Christmas! :p). Here's the schedule:

Jan 1st - 14th = Sense and Sensibility
Jan 15th - 28th = Pride and Prejudice
Jan 29th - Feb 11th = Mansfield Park
Feb 12th - 25th = Emma
Feb 26th - March 11th = Northanger Abbey
March 12th - 25th = Persuasion

I'm still not sure if we are including Lady Susan (thoughts?), but if we do, then that will be from March 26th!

On the first day of each book, I'll open a blog post up and I'll link to each book discussion at the top right of the site so you don't have to scroll through my other posts to get to Jane Austen January posts.

As it stands, for discussing the books, please be aware comments on the book post will contain spoilers for those who wish to discusst during their reading. If you don't want the book to be spoiled, wait until you've read it to comment and discuss!

If you need to get in touch with me personally, you can via Twitter or e-mail me at, but I think that's it - here's to some happy Jane Austen reading and thank you for wanting to take part!

PS: I was asked if I'm only doing a Jane Austen Book Club and I said if people are interested, I will happily host others. If you are interested and have any book suggestions for April onwards (or maybe May if we feel like a break first!), then comment and let me know!

Jane Austen January

By my count, it seems we have eight people so far for Jane Austen January. Awesome! But what this update really is for is to sort out some questions - mainly how long we will allow on each book, what order will we read the books in and whether we are focusing on discussing any particular aspects of the books.

Firstly, I think it's ambitious to manage to read all the books in January. As far as I'm concerned January merely marks the start of the Book Club, but how long do you think we should allocate to read and discuss each book? Is a week enough time? Ten days? Or perhaps two weeks per book? Let me know your thoughts!

Next up - what order? Order of publication? That would mean we start with Sense and Sensibility and end with Persuasion, unless anyone wishes to include Lady Susan or has any other order preferences?

Then, are there any particular areas anyone wishes to focus on in discussion? Favourite parts? Favourite characters? Themes? And so on? Do you want to discuss as we read the book or at the end of the book?

Finally, let me know if I've missed out any important questions and remember to spread the word if you know any Jane fans! :D If you need to buy copies of the books, I'm using this all-in-one version.

PS: Today, December 16th, is actually Jane Austen's birthday! Fitting, huh? She was born in 1775 at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire.

EDIT: Another thought - what about spoilers? Some people might want to comment as they are reading the book, some afterwards... when shall we choose to discuss the book - during or after? I think this will be ironed out after we've got through the first book how we'll approach discussion, but if anyone has views now, let me know!

Do you lie about reading?

Apparently, half of all men and one third of all women lie about what they read, according to a recent Populus survey (spotted here). I can't understand why you would lie about your reading... unless you are a lazy student asked if you've done your tutorial reading (an understandable lie). What purpose does it truly serve?

Personally, I've never lied about what I have and haven't read, but has anyone else ever lied? If so, why?

Jane Austen?

I am ridiculously under-read on Jane Austen; I've only ever read Pride and Prejudice, although I've seen TV/film adaptations of some of her other books... shameful, huh?

But, I am going to rectify this. I now have Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Lady Susan in my possession and I'm sure there are some readers out there who love Austen, right?

So, any recommendations to which book I should start with? What's your favourite Austen book? What's your least favourite? Or are you as under-read as I am?!

EDIT: As a follow-up, it seems that following Do-cember, it's going to be Jane Austen January (or Jan-eAusten-ary :p)! Basically, we're going to do a Jane Austen Book Club (like the book by Karen Joy Fowler; also made into a movie) where we set the order of reads and then discuss the books/encourage each other to make up for our appalling lack of Austen-reading. But, if you're already an Austen devotee, you're more than welcome to be a part of Jane Austen January (which will more than likely spill into February), plus anyone in the world can take part. Oh, and you can be part of this for one book, or all of them! So, anyone in?

Book Review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

If you're a Harry Potter fan, it's extremely likely that you will have already skedaddled to the book shop/ordered online the latest charity spin-off from J.K. Rowling - The Tales of Beedle the Bard - mentioned in the final instalment of the series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

This book raises money for CHLG, with £1.61 from the sale of standard edition book going to Jo's co-charity (MEP Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne is the other founder). CHLG aims to help the 1 million children across Europe still living in large residential institutions, and it works at a political and practical level to ensure that UN minimum standards for the care of children are implemented across the whole of Europe and beyond.

So, the reason behind the book deserves a round of applause, but was it any good? The book features the original Tales of Beedle the Bard, translated by Hermione, with a commentary after each from the late Albus Dumbledore. There's also an introduction from Jo and her own illustrations throughout.

To be honest, there's not much I can say about it. If you're a fan of the series you're going to get little tidbits about the world of Hogwarts, previously unknown, and you'll like it because it is Harry Potter-related. Viewed as mere fairy tales, they hit the fairy tale requisite, and highlight the usual moral cautions. All in all, this is an enjoyable, but quick, read for any Harry Potter fan and it's for a good cause - what more can I say!

Has anyone else read this, or are you not Harry Potter fans? (Say, what?!)

What's your writing weakness?

Some writers are better at creating believable characters; some have witty dialogue; some set the scene so well you can almost sense the sights and sounds radiating from the pages. Some writers are fabulous, full stop, and some are so truly awful that you wonder how they managed to get published in the first place.

For me, I admire writers who can knock out loquacious description. In fact, there are times when I have to remind myself to include a little detail because description doesn't come as naturally to me as narrative voice or dialogue - I tend to shy away from it.

Personally, I blame Tolkien. Don't get me wrong, I bow down to his writing, but is it just me who always finds themselves skimming his ten page descriptions in Lord of the Rings? In fact, when I see a book described as "epic", I just know that it's going to have lengthy descriptions. My reading habit of skimming lengthy descriptions has created a writing habit where I forget to include description. You could say description is my writing weakness.

For my fellow writers out there, what's *your* writing weakness? And for those of you who are just readers, is description actually *that* important to you?

Personal Achievement

Tell us about a personal achievement that was important to you.

Now, am I wrong to believe I shouldn't include my novels in my CV/job applications? Because to answer the above question I had on a recent job application, I felt I couldn't use the one achievement I prize above them all - my books - through the fear the company would take that answer as me having no interest in a career. Is it the right thing for me to do - pretend the Pipe Dream doesn't exist for the sake of a Profession - or would you use it as the achievement if you were me?

For the record I ended up using the example I HATE because it's more "employer friendly" - however, if they Googled me, Pipe Dreams & Professions is attached to all variants of my name so they could discover the truth anyway ... it's a tough call.

Anyway, enough about me, what personal achievement is important to you?


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