Top 5 Books of All Time

1. I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith - I love this book even though I don't usually go for such overtly girly books. The novel was published in 1948 and was written whilst Smith was feeling homesick for England as she and her husband had moved to the USA during the 1940's. Perhaps this is why there is something very nostalgic about I Capture the Castle - telling the story of a young woman during the early thirties, who lived with her family in a broken down old castle as they struggle to get by in growing poverty and isolation. It tells of a time before the war and the ugliness so it must have been a lovely book for those young people to have read.

Mainly, what I loved about this book are the characters. It is so much a story about the people who inhabit the pages. It is not a fast paced book, I think it is rather a book that you come to love in and alongside. Cassandra's voice came alive in my head as she wrote. The opening line is: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." And from this moment you are there with Cassandra - sitting in that kitchen sink - or making a few quick observations and then coming back later to write them up. There is a sense of time and movement in her journal - of belonging and intimacy.

I Capture the Castle makes me feel happy, it makes me feel alive and I it makes you think about these characters and it makes you feel.

2. Shogun - James Clavell - This is a surprising book. It's hard to imagine me even reading a book like this. At first glance you might think this is just some blokey book about Japanese samurai, ninjas and war but this couldn't be further from the truth.

Kandice recommended this book to me - and I got it into my head to give it a go. My copy of the book was a good 1125 pages, but it is the shortest long book I have ever read. Clavell is a master storyteller - at every twist there is a turn and if you think you're going in one direction you'll be taken down another. You find yourself on a massive Japanese rollercoaster and unable to stop.

Shogun follows the story of Blackthorne, an English pilot during the 1600's who is ship wrecked along with his Dutch crew upon the shoreline of Japan. Blackthorne has to learn how to survive in a culture so vastly different from his own.

It is unexpectedly funny - in fact outright hilarious as I found myself laughing so loud people had to tell me to shut up! Just wait until you get to the duck scene, I shall say no more but boy did that have me laughing up a storm. 

The characters of Blackthorne and Mariko are two of the most memorable characters I have ever read and will stay with me for a long time. Reading Shogun is much more of an experience then just a good book.

3. Dogsbody and Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - Oh okay okay I know, that is two books but I really cannot choose. Dogsbody is the first book I truly fell in love with at the age of nine and my love for it has not changed sixteen years later. Howl's Moving Castle is also one of the books that I love and who cannot love Howl (even though you know you should not)?

Dogsbody is about the Dogstar, Sirius who is punished for losing his temper, by being sent down to earth to retrieve something he lost. He wakes up on earth in the form of a puppy - and is later adopted by Kathleen, a lonely young girl living with her uncle's family. The story is actually surprisingly deep and reading it again after so many years I observed a lot I had missed as a young child. Jones has a skill for writing invisible threads of complexity, into a deceivingly simple sounding story.

Howl's Moving Castle is about Sophie, a young hat maker who is cursed by a wicked witch and anything more would really be a spoiler. I have read it many times and every time it makes me laugh and fall in love with the characters over and over again. It is hard to describe books by Diana Wynne Jones. They never sound fantastic on the outside, but inside they are exceptional. She is by far the best writer of YA/Children's fantasy there ever is. And I mean better then JK Rowling. Which brings me to...

4. The Harry Potter Series - These have been with me for near on ten years ever since I first read them at the tender age of 13/14. There is a lot of criticism of the Harry Potter books - such as the idea of a wizarding school not actually being unique. You don't have to be Einstein to arrive at that conclusion. Anyone read The Worst Witch? And there will be countless other stories about young, orphaned boy wizards who end up in a school for wizards. It is not an original idea. What makes Harry Potter, Harry Potter and not some other book like Willy the Wizard or whatever other half-baked load of crap there is out there?

Rowling meticulously planned each of these seven books so that when you read book six and look back to book three for example, you suddenly see a connection you may not have had before. She developed a world which people believed in, one that lives on in each of our imaginations, and characters whom we all felt we knew.

Harry Potter makes up a whole era of many people's lives - millions of people young and old waiting for the next installment and rushing out to buy it, queuing up for hours at midnight openings.

When Harry Potter ended - some part of my childhood ended with it. It was hard to believe I'd never again feel excited for the next one - never be left wondering whether Snape was a goodie or a badie (I always knew the truth!)  I don't think there will be another book or series that will captivate me like that ever again. But maybe it was because I was a child at the time I started the series? Maybe now that I am no longer a child I can no longer give myself to a book so effortlessly and freely?

5. The Stand by Stephen King - Picking the 5th one is the hardest. So many could go in this spot. The Otori Series by Lian Hearn, The Roth trilogy by Andrew Taylor... Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, The Loop by Nicholas Evans. These could all be in my top five of all time. I have chosen The Stand though because it filled me up just like the other four filled me up. Maybe it isn't the BEST written book I have read, perhaps there are BETTER books in my read list, but The Stand wrapped me up and took me away and I guess that's what it takes to get on my top five. Not quality but how much I enjoyed it.

The Stand was my first book by Stephen King. I bought it totally on whim. (Partly because of Gary Sinise, partly because it had crossed my mind that I rarely read any American fiction). I never expected to even like it so I was pretty surprised by myself when I ended up loving it.

For one these kinds of dystopian, end of the world novels have never attracted me. The idea of 99 odd per cent of the population being wiped off the face of the earth did not fill me with excitement. Stephen King had never even been on my radar. I don't like horror but I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm an idiot and shouldn't be trusted to pick my own books.

I'm not sure what I liked about it. I think it is, that King is able to write about something that is so far out there but make you believe it. He does like to go on an on and on with characterisations (I think he overdid it in IT) and is quite wordy and descriptive - but it works. He has such a strong voice you want to listen to him. I wanted to know about these characters - Stu, Fran, Nick, Tom, Larry, Nadine. My favourite was of course Stu.

The only thing I did not like, which is perhaps why this book should not be in my top five, is that I think the ending was rather weak - in fact let's just call it lame. But despite this, I still loved it which brings it back into a rightful position within my top five all time books.

And so that folks - is my Top Five of All Time list. Later I will come back with my other High Fives, so keep an eye out (or just close them, whichever.)

I am a total Book Madame! I love reading and I am also a bibliophile. I am extremely picky about my bookshelves.
First, my bookshelves all match. Second they are in alphabetical order by author. Finally, I have a special bookshelf in my room for my favorite authors and collectable books. This way I know that no one will touch my "special books".

I completely have OCD when it comes to my books. But they completely deserve the special attention that they get.

My favorite all time poet who also has earned extremely special status is Rod McKuen. Amazing american poet who is also a songwriter. He has a wonderful voice and his writing he just puts his whole heart and soul into his songs and poems. Rod wrote several pieces for Frank Sinatra, wrote music for the movie "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" and even the theme for Charlie Brown. His autobiography, Finding my Father is just amazing.

Ernest Hemingway is one of my all time favorite prose writers. A must read is "Farewell to Arms". And of course "Old Man and the Sea". And I must say that Ernest is very brillant and handsome!

My favorite humourist is Mark Twain. Who couldn't love his satire? "Huckleberry Finn" is my very favorite of his but I also love "Life on the Mississippi". I haven't read all of his work but plan on completing his extensive and amazing prose.

I also adore English writer Ian McEwan. He is great as his books leave you in complete amazement. I really enjoyed "Atonement" but I would say that "On Chesil Beach" and "In the Comfort of Strangers" are my favorite prose work form McEwan.

The greatest fantasy work is "Lord of the Rings" Tolkein has done an amazing job. He is completely brilliant. When it comes to Fantasy I also love Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series. In addition absolutely love Brandon Sanderson and the Mistborn Series.

Robert Jordan passed away before the Wheel of Time Series was completed. Jordan's wife picked Brandon Sanderson to complete the series. Wow! Sanderson has done a fabulous job. It is hard for me to be impressed but they both (Jordan and Sanderson) are amazing, descriptive and cleaver writers and they have done a great job. I would highly recommend reading the Wheel of Time Series.

I also love Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, E.M. Forester, John Irving and Robert Frost. Reading is so statisfing. I just can't read enough!

Since I know that we all love a bit of book-porn now and again, I figured that I would go ahead and post my bookshelves here for your enjoyment. So, without further ado...
This is one and a half of two and a half bookshelves in my bedroom. The tall bookcase contains my Stephen King collection (top two shelves) and miscellaneous other books (bottom two shelves). The very bottom shelf is empty, because the cats enjoy laying in there. I would too, if I was small enough. :)

Here are some close-ups of these shelves.

The first picture is of my King Collection (the second shelf of which is shelved by published date) and three library books. I haven't read "Little Brother" yet, but the other two were both excellent. Highly recommended. :)

This next picture shows random miscellaneous books. As you can see, I don't have any particular shelving system, except that I keep my series books together. This shelf DOES contain a good bit of historical fiction though. And an apocalyptic fiction collection and a zombie collection. The second shelf contains my Percy Jackson series (except #5 which I've sent to Allison), the Abhorsen series, except #1 which is loaned out, and random other fantasy.

Next we have the 2nd bookcase in my bedroom, which is within arms reach of my desk. I have my "currently reading" library book "Sepulchre" there.

And again, some close-ups. First, a bunch of classics...

Next, contemporary fiction, and one of my sets of "Lord of the Rings", and some books that I have no room to shelve yet. =\ My Grisham collection is here, along with the beginnings of my Koontz and Crichton collections. Right up top is one of my favorite books ever, "I Know This Much Is True" by Wally Lamb... Read it. Love it.

Next we have other miscellaneous books...

Next we have the bookcase in the living room. This one weighs a gajillion pounds, and is from Ikea. Pretty, yes? The cats love it. :) See?

Some more shots of this one... First, my Harry Potter collection. I have one US set, and one UK set. :D Also, up top, you can see my Hitchhiker's Guide collection, my Complete Shakespeare, and Complete Poe sets. The statue on the left is a cat gargoyle with yellow light up eyes (you put a candle behind it's head), and the sphere on the right is a little model of Hogwarts with a ring of pewter dementors that sits on the globe. The car, which is hard to see, is a contribution of my boyfriend's - it's a collectors edition Saber graffitied model car. (He's got another in the box.)

Next... More miscellaneous books: My omnibus edition of "Lord of the Rings", my Jane Austen collection, my Colleen McCullough collection, most of which consists of the "Rome" series. Kristin Cashore's "Graceling" and "Fire". The bottom shelves contain more fantasy, Paolini's books, Eoin Colfer's "Artemis Fowl" series and my "Narnia" omnibus. Then we have "The Book Thief", some more classics, "Anne of Green Gables", "The Little Princess", "The Count of Monte Cristo", "The Secret Garden", "1984", "I Am Legend", a second copy of "Little Women" and Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn" series.

Finally, we have my boyfriend's contribution to the "public" shelf... A lot of game guides, art magazines and a non-fiction book along with a vegetarian cookbook. He's got more books (graffiti & additional art books mainly) in his computer/art room.

And last but not least, a nosy Girl cat.

1. Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

Brilliant, take a shuffle in Iris' slippers for a day. Fantastic, cutting commentary on aspects modern life as well as a beautiful sweeping historical memoir with puzzles and riddles that keep you guessing right up to the last chapters, even when you're pretty sure you've got everything all sewn up. Very clever stories within stories. You will be missed Iris.

2. The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

A stunningly beautifully written book, touching and clever. It was such a joy to read, one of those that you turn each page lovingly, stroking the pages, treasuring it.

3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

I adored this book from the start, the language is so lush, rich and almost didn't matter where the story was going it was so dripping with beautiful wordplay. And like someone else said about the 'spiraling' time line, kept you working your way towards the plot unraveling - a bit forward, a bit back, pieces at a time. A joyful experience, I haven't smiled so much with a read for a long time. As others have said its funny its not an uplifting storyline, but its an almost incidental fact when the imagery and playfulness is like this.

4. Shogun by James Clavell.

Bloody brilliant - re read after a 20 year gap after GR peer group pressure and upgraded from 3 to 5 stars. Pleased to find memory of goldfish so remembered almost nothing from previous read and that had seriously done an injustice with previous rating,

The writing isn't always first class but at the same time Clavell perfectly en-captures the delicacies of the Samurai code of honour and Japanese life at that time. Its gruesome and bloody and coarse but the plots and counter plots and intrigues keep you on the edge of your reading chair the whole way through. And you change with Anjin-san as you get to know the Japanese better and your standpoint on who are the more barbaric changes the more you read on. Mariko-San became one of my favourite literary heroines. Im not usually one for war novels but there was so much more to this and i loved never knowing whos side anyone was on and wondering what the next carrier pigeon would bring. The mind boggles at how many seppukus and decapitations and gruesome deaths happened throughout the book but you have to admire the sense of honour and duty and commitment to their cause that these characters had.

There's even some philosophy in there..i found myself trying to imagine rocks growing while trying to struggle through Christmas shopping hoards of people without hitting someone!

You even get to pick up some Japanese on the way!

Top marks!

5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Bloody Brick-Tastic! Possibly the best book I've ever read, certainly the longest. 1243 pages of action, revenge, retribution, planning, plotting, secrets, affairs, Parisian glamour and romance. The pace barely lets up, its pretty much a page turner all the way through, and the second half has plenty of OMG moments. I never would have attempted something so daunting seeming if it wasn't recommended by GR friends, i seriously thought it would have to be one of the stuffiest old books going. Wrong, wrong wrong!... read it!

Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books
Fiona must not buy any more books

But the trouble is... there are so many I want to buy. The question is do I need them? With so many books in my bookshelf to be read I am hard put to actually find space for them. What I need are more shelves but soon enough I won't be able to get into my bedroom for all the books. I will be reduced to sleeping under the bed whilst my books snuggle up under the covers. 

The thing is you see, is that I buy quite often on impulse. I buy on feelings - and what I feel one day I might not feel the other day so I think to myself if I do not get it today I may not get it tomorrow and then end up missing out on a good book. This has happened to me many a time - a whim caused me to buy a book and read it soon after, one that I would never have read before otherwise, that was so out of my zone I would never have considered it on a normal day.

Take Haruki Murakami for example. He is a Japanese author who abstract, magical realism novels that frankly... had you tried introducing me to him in any other way I'd have pooh-poohed him as too weird and not of my taste. However I was attracted to The Wind-up Bird Chronicle one day in the bookshop. I cannot explain why but there was something.

This is the description on the back:

Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician.

 Why did this interest me? I generally do not like books that have a list of seemingly unrelated elements listed and no discernible storyline at all. I like something that looks like it is going to come together - that sounds like a story. I do not like things that sound like a lot of different things mangled into one to make it sound cool.

Anyway on a whim I bought it. And then a week later I bought Kafka on the Shore by the same author on another whim purely because there was a black cat on the front cover and I was missing having a cat around. It was this one of Murakami's I read first and he has become a favourite author of mine despite being completely not my kind of author.

Sometimes I feel that something like fate draws me to a book or an author. I never consciously chose to expand my reading limits into abstract Japanese literature. The only other book before then I'd read that was set in Japan was Memoirs of a Geisha which was written by an American author so not really the same thing. Finding Murakami just happened for no reason - twice.

Maybe it was just coincidence I picked it up and coincidence that I felt in the mood for something like that. I had never heard of this author before - not even vaguely. But the moment I picked it up I felt something in my arm - I am not kidding. Occasionally with books I feel something and even if I don't buy it instantly I keep picking it up and looking at it even if it initially does not attract me.

I Capture the Castle for instance - never heard of either book or author and yet for months I picked it up, thought it sounded far too girly and romancey and put it down again and again until I got fed up with myself and bought it. And now look - it is my all time favourite book.

And also - The Stand by Stephen King. Never been interested in King before. Never. He just did not appeal and yet for some reason (actually I confess maybe partly to do with the fact I'd found out that Gary Sinise starred in the mini-series) I bought it and read it and loved it so much I want to read it again. Unfortunately my second experience with King did not turn out to be so good. I gave up on IT after reading a whole one thousand pages. I just couldn't bring myself to read another three hundred odd. I do have faith in all of his others though, which is why I have a stock of King growing in my bookshelf.

So maybe that wasn't quite a whim. There have been other whims like this though - electric shock whims where I picked up a book without having previous knowledge of it and ending up loving it.

Sometimes though, I do just buy a book for the sake of buying - and those I rarely feel good about. Instead of an electric shock, I feel more of a sinking feeling. I just can't go into a bookshop without coming out with something. These are books I end up throwing away at some point, having never read and never really with the intention of reading. So why do I buy them? It's almost an unhealthy compulsion to do so.

Anyway the point of this blog post is really to say that I really want to get Hardboiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Murakami and it will probably be my next purchase. I already have Dance Dance Dance by him that I need to read... oh and Sputnik Sweetheart which I forgot I owned until now, so really acquiring a new book by him is not at all necessary.  But does this stop me? I know that the next time I get to go into that bookshop I will buy that book. Unless something else draws my arm out that is. But I know, I just know that I will pick that book up and buy it even though a part of me will feel bad about it - which in the end taints the pleasure of buying a book. And if it is not there I will feel cheated, lost - perhaps however relieved unless of course, this desperate compulsion draws me into buying a different book.

Why i should be King of the World, one can only guess. Perhaps its because The Travel Agency i manage lost only $7000 this month, its lost a tiny bit less each month ive taken over, but its been a long hard an thankless struggle. This was believe it or not quite a jump for us and profit can be heard calling from the future. Who would have thought losing money could bring a smile to your face! finally my store turnaround bonus is kicking in.

My reasons for bounciness certainly would not be due to me driving to a friends place in the city tonight, only to find no parking and drive around for an hour looking -yes an hour!!. I almost gave up but eventually got somewhere and managed an hour there watching Star Trek Voyager and being fed, feeling sorry for myself.

It would also not be due to me being having my gob stuffed to the brim with nasty teeth moulding materials today being measured up for Invisalign which somehow my dentist talked me into, i nearly choked to death in the chair with orange gue dripping down my oesophagus. I am to be the poster boy for Invisalign for his surgery it seems (with half price of for being the guinea pig), and had about 10 people in there oohing and ah-ing about my case and what a transformation it will be, you'd think I was Quasimodo. Seriously folks, although I'm substituting my own visage with one of an Australian marsupil in here, I don't turn people into stone with one glance. Despite my near death dental experience, I did come out daunted by the next year but imagining morphing into George Clooney by 2011. I've also coincidentally been offered 2 free weeks at a gym in the city and started on the hard drugs for quitting smoking after trying every other means known to mankind, so maybe this year really will be my transformation into a sex god who stops traffic!

cool myspace layouts

In honour of the master mind behind the vine, Fiona - who's Avatar is Tweety

Hello anonymous reader! I write this in the middle of a “snowicane”. I confess that I didn’t make that up…the weathermen did. Connecticut has received a record rain fall today and by midnight the rain will be turning to snow. Lucky me, I live about a mile and a half from work *sarcasm*. In case you are wondering, I work as a customer service representative for a commercial insurance agency. I wear many hats at work – I do claims, some back end work for other CSRs, I service my own small book of business and I do part time IT…all while talking to my fellow Viners on company time.

Oh yeah, before I continue blabbing my name is Jackie. I also go by Jack, Jacks, Jack-in-the-crack (by my loving boyfriend), J or Jacqueline (if you like a mouthful). Oh and Sweet Ass™ by Allison. In a few days this Sweet Ass™ will be turning 29 years young.

Besides, all my J nicknames I’m also known as the Queen of Smut on the Book Vine. I have Jon-Bear to thank for revealing my closeted romance addiction. My reading tastes vary from historical fiction to mystery to fantasy and so on, but I tend to gravitate towards the romance section. I can’t help but loving a strong heroine and a handsome alpha male fighting with each other for 100 something pages, only to find out how much they love each other and end up getting it on by the end of the book. Nothing like a happy ending and the steamier that ending the better! I’ve pretty much been reading romances since I came out of the womb, but I have some standards. I don’t read Harlequins or cheesy soft porn novels…although I’m dying to read the nasty version of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice that Allison promised to send me ages ago *glares at Allison*. I love, love historical romance. My favorite historical romance authors are Julie Garwood and Lisa Kleypas. I’m also into paranormal romance. Werewolves, vampires, shape shifters…oh my!! My two favorite series for this genre of romance are the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and Sookie Stackhouse series.

Apart from reading I also dabble in crafts. Knitting is my nemesis, but I can crochet a nifty scarf, paint and embroider like no one's business. I learned to embroider by watching my grandmother and my mom painstakingly taught me to crochet (bless that woman's patience). Most of the women in my family seem to have some kind of talent. Unfortunately, I did not inherit the cooking gene, but man my scarves can sure keep you warm! Here's one of my creations in action:

Unfortunately, I have no cute pictures of pets to share. After a series of fish (miss you Hiram Jr., Mikey, Blue and Tiger) I decided that maybe I'm not quite mommy material just yet. So I've stuck to plants...well just bamboo at the moment because I don't seem to have a green thumb either.

So yup, that's me and my confessions. I play on the internet while at work, I have a serious romance addiction, I can't cook, I'm a fish and plant killer, but I sure can make you a pretty scarf.

I also have a rather sad spreadsheet obsession and have my DVD collection mapped out, categorized and rated. I really should get out more. The fun starts when you click on the worksheets at the bottom where you can see my collection ranked by rating, awards, year etc etc.

Jon-Bears DVD collection

I am Jon, otherwise dubbed Jon-Bear, Koalino, Furball, Gumnuts or being the only male amongst these wonderul women - The Harem Master.

My Koala related Monica derives from my Good reads avatar, chosen to reflect my adopted country of Australia and of course my fluffy cuddly nature.

Hailing from London originally I have lived in beautiful Sydney for the last 10 years.

I am a passionate traveler and photographer, I dabble in piano playing but get easily daunted by the magnitude of what it takes to be any good, I love film, music and of course books. I used to think fiction was a bit nonsense and preferred biographies and historical non-fiction to something that was just a 'story'. I have come to see the error of my ways and realise there is so much enjoyment to be had from beautifully phrased words of fiction, and much to be learned from reading a well written and researched novel about a place, theme or situation you have not read about before. My path to fiction was well and truly paved by Rose Tremain's 'Music and Silence' and Eugenides' Middlesex, which i read back to back after picking from Oranges list of 50 essential reads and i was totally engrossed. Thank you Rose and Jeffrey!.

The Phenomenon of the Book Vine from its humble beginnings over the year and the novel idea of sending a treasured book around the globe, has grown and grown. Each of us has shared so much with each other online and we truly feel like a family, supporting each other through difficult times, making each other smile, occasionally showing our claws and making up again, and of course discussing books and reading.

I just have to say that this is truely the most wonderful group in the WORLD. I have the sweetest most amazing friends. I love all of you so much!

Thank you Rach, Kandice, Allison, Heather, Jackie, Becky, Laura, Jon, Fi and Jeane.

You are all the best. Thanks for all your love and support to this little blue smurf!

I confess, I have an obsession with my books to the extent that I keep an excel spreadsheet updated with the books I read, the pages I read a day and how many a month, year... as well as a list of all the books I own and yet to read.

I would like to share it with you all. I have blacked out and deleted the 'vine book' information - that is the books part of our book vine because for the meanwhile they are secret from each other. All will be revealed in a couple of months time!

Here it is, my beautiful spreadsheet. (I uploaded it to google docs, I believe you should be able to see it even if you do not have a google account.

These are my feet. I come from the south coast of England and I have been alive for twenty four years. 

What can I tell you about myself? I of course, love reading, something that has become more important to me over the last year especially. I love all kinds of books but over the last year I have delved into crime and Historical Fiction more so then anything. I have not read much horror, sci-fi or 'grown up' fantasy but I would really love to explore those genres more some time in the future.

My favourite books of all time are: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Shogun by James Clavell, Howls Moving Castle and Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones, The American Boy and The Roth trilogy by Andrew Taylor, The Otori series by Lian Hearn, The Loop by Nicholas Evans and many many more but these are the books I would recommend without hesitation.

Like Becky, I have a compulsion for excessive book buying. Only yesterday did I pick up three new books (The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch and The Colour by Rose Tremain) which brings me up to a total of 365 unread books all stuffed into my bookshelf.

 This is my bookshelf - showing my to-be-read shelves. It's quite and old picture now as it has since been rearranged and made untidy by every time I have to dig through it to get to the book I want.
It is a constant battle to keep my bookshelf in some semblance of order and it is so jam-packed that the back is bulging outwards and some of the nails are falling out. At least I know that if there is a nuclear war I will have a good supply of books to keep me going.

The Book Vine has not helped at all with curbing my book addiction, if anything we just end up persuading each other to come into possession of even more books. (You guys are fantastic!)

Other then books, I enjoy cross stitching so maybe I will share with you my creations (or destructions as they may turn out to be!) I enjoy nature and natural things - the beauty of wildlife never ceases to fascinate me. I would love to go exploring the British countryside one of these days - to take my book into a field, lay down and just read. I am of course imagining that the sun is out but most likely it will turn grey and rain knowing my lucky rain cloud that follows me about.

I also love old things - castles, ruins of castles, stately homes, history that you can see and touch and feel and be a part of. I want to read more history books, biographies and all that but to me history is so much more about being there and trying to imagine it. I would love to see all the cathedrals and castles in Europe and the world. 

Cities fascinate me also, I would love to move to London, Bristol or somewhere where there is LIFE which I know is completely contrary to what I have just been saying about the countryside - considering one is full of fresh air and the other pollution and the ugliness of humans. But I like the ugliness  and the beauty of people, I like observing people especially in train stations and the like wondering what they get up to when they are at home.

I love the theatre and my dream would be to be able to go to the West End  in London, but then saying that some of the best times I have had, the best plays have just been in the library who have hosted quite a few plays costing no more then a fiver to get in. I love how they make you feel - how you can lose yourself there and just believe and become a part of the story. 

Other then that, I of course like watching films - such as Gosford Park, Inside I'm Dancing, Lawless Heart and many more. My favourite music artists are Regina Spektor, Mumford and Son, Bat for Lashes, Muse  (and yes, Lady Gaga too!) but my main musical love is soundtracks. Anything by Hans Zimmer and John Williams are winners for me. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, Vivaldi are my favourite classical composers and I also love the modern 'neo' classical artists such as Arvo Part, Gorecki and Karl Jenkins.

In the past I have also enjoyed writing but I am so out of practise, though maybe one day - who knows. If I can master the art of writing something without boring the pants off everyone maybe I will get back into it all.

Other then my interests, I also spend my time volunteering in a hospital which I have done in various forms over quite a few years now - and also in an environmental charity too. I love volunteering and think I would like to continue doing so in some shape or form long in the future.

And well, that is me - all figured out.


A few of my favorite poems shall be added daily or weekly depending upon my smurfy mood.

My first poem that I am sharing is my all time favorite poem by my favorite poet.

Song Without Words

I wanted to write you some words you'd remember
words so alert they'd leap from the paper
and crawl up your shoulder and lie by your ears
and be there to comfort you down through the years.
But it was cloudy that day and I was lazy
and so I stayed in bed just thinking about it.

I wanted to write you and tell you that maybe
love songs from lovers are unnecessary.
We are what we feel and writing it down
seems foolish sometimes without vocal sound.
But I spent the day drinking coffe, smoking cigarettes
and looking in the mirror practicing my smile.

I wanted to write you one last, long love song
that said what I feel one final time.
Not comparing your eyes and mouth to the stars
but telling you only how like yourself you are.
But by the time I thought of it, found a pen,
put the pen to ink, the ink to paper, you were gone.

And so this song has no words.

Rod McKuen
Listen to the Warm

The Smurf

This group would not be complete without a little smurf. Thus I have blessed this group with my smurfness. I inherited the nickname as my avitar in Goodreads is and will always be a smurf. I would like to say I am a little bit of brainy, a little bit hefty, and a lot of papa smurf.

I love this little vine family. We have an extremely close bond that started out with sharing a common interest in books. This spread to a wonderful friendship amoung our cute little group.

At this point I guess I should probably introduce myself. I am an avid reader and love to dive into a book and eat it up. I always say "books are food for the brain". My favorite writers are Hemingway, Twain, McEwan, Shakespeare, Austen, Eliot, and Woolf. I love poetry and my favorite poets are Rod McKuen and Robert Frost.

Not only do I read but I enjoy quilting, and making scrapbooks. I love the outdoors and go for long bike rides when the weather permits. I am a dancer and rock climber. I really enjoy climbing rock walls. I love the outdoors. Camping is so wonderful!

I am the mother of three extremely beautiful children. They are all blessed with talents that fill my soul with happiness. I have a dog, two cats and a turtle.
This is the smurf in a nut shell!

Well, this marks the start of me trying to find interesting things to say. When we started our book vine several months ago I'm not sure if any of us knew what we were in for. We've got quite the dysfunctional family dynamic now, and this blog should turn out to be a hoot unless we totally screw it up.

I'm 23, the youngest of us all. I'm working on finishing up my degree in English. I hope to end up with a Master's in Library Science even though I'm not 100% sure what I'll do with it. In a few months I plan on moving to Norman, OK and accomplishing all that within the hallowed halls of the University of Oklahoma. We'll see how that goes.

Reading is, of course, my main hobby. I love reading anything and everything. I usually go through a period of several weeks with one genre and then suddenly snap out of it and move onto something else. I mainly switch between historical fiction, fantasy, paranormal and smut (I love reading smut with Jackie especially!). I love mysteries too, but I usually only end up reading them if they're part of a series. I especially love reading series period, because I get addicted to characters and don't like letting them go. I actually just finished re-reading one of my favorite series...the In Death series by J.D. Robb.

Trying to pick my favorite books and keep the list narrowed down is a ridiculously impossible feat for me. I won't even try. Hopefully as the blog unfolds I'll have time to regale everyone with most of them. My recent favorites are Soulless by Gail Carriger, Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig (which is 6th in one of my favorite series, the Pink Carnation books), and the Troubleshooters series by Suzanne Brockmann. The only books I can claim as ultimate favorites are fairly cliche...both the Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables series.

Anyway, I'll leave you with a picture of my pride and joy, Sadie. I am ridiculously in love with her, isn't she cute?

Hello there. It's very strange to be writing for anonymous masses... or probably more apt, random internet wanderers trusting their path to StumbleUpon. Hopefully, random blog reader, you will be amused by my rambling attempts at cohesive thoughts and hilarity. Or not. *shrug*

Anywho, here goes...
I am 27 (eek!). I'm currently in a relationship of almost seven years (holy cannoli, this April I'll become a Commonlaw Wife!), the boy part of which is named Thomas. I'm also the pet human of two diva cats, Alfie (short for Alfalpha because of his 'do), and Indica (more commonly known in the household as "Girl".). Here are some piccies for your viewing pleasure!

The first picture is Alfie in his "No, don't READ, PLAY!" pose. The second is Indica being nosy with a bunch of books that were given away. Alfie is in the background, sleeping. Look for the cow spots. :)

Anyway, if you couldn't tell from the abundance of books in the above pictures, I enjoy reading. My favorite authors are Stephen King and Jane Austen (yeah, like polar opposites, right? That should give you an idea of the range of my reading tastes), but I'm willing to give anything a try. My absolute LEAST favorite book is Beloved, by Toni Morrison. I know that book is beloved (ha, get it?) by many people, but either they had an interpreter (read: Cliff's Notes) or they possess superhuman metaphorical deciphering ability. To me, it made NO sense whatsoever. That's why I hated it.

I generally gravitate towards emotionally difficult books, about death and loss and heartache and suffering. I think that looking at all the ugliness in the world and in ourselves makes me appreciate life all the more. But I cannot stand books, or movies for that matter, that are emotionally exploitive, meaning that they are dishonest and fake. Honesty is a must for me, no matter what.

I own too many unread books, but keep buying more. It's a compulsion. I just love the way that they look on my shelves. Books are beautiful, don't you agree? Some of my (many) favorite books are The Shining, The Stand, The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb, Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

The rest of me, in a nutshell: In addition to reading, I sometimes enjoy knitting, but I can only knit straight things. I can also crochet, somewhat, but not even straight things end up truly straight when I crochet. *sigh* I love food, all kinds, but I could live on Indian food. We have a great Indian food buffet about 20 minutes away that I visit as often as I can. I work for one of the top online travel companies, but I don't get free travel. Boo! I live about 3 hours from New York City, and love wandering around people-watching. I am going to NYC this coming weekend to go to a Joe Hill booksigning and meet up with Jackie, which should be AWESOME. :D

I like loud angry music, like Rage Against The Machine or the Deftones, but NOT death metal. I dislike loud obnoxious stuff in general, otherwise. We have three TVs in our house and watch none of them. We have a huge collection of movies, and watch some of them occasionally. I love to sleep. I have 8 tattoos, with plans for more. I tend to ramble a lot.... Yeah. There you go. Toodles!

The Book Vine

The Book Vine consists of a group of friends who met via Goodreads, a website where book lovers can catalogue their books, meet fellow readers and talk about books, books, books with people from the world over.

I joined Goodreads in July, 2008 and through one of the most popular groups I met a bunch of people who have become closer friends then I could ever have imagined.

In March of 2009 we decided to create a group - but one with a difference. Instead of just talking about books we decided to send a books forwards, in a circular fashion - once a month and every book would be a surprise.

Our members are:

Robin (Who unfortunately due to life's little difficulties has not had time to participate and so has dropped out.)

Our books have circumnavigated the globe (more or less) going from one end of the USA to the other, to Australia, to England, to Ireland and back to the USA. Each book was selected by the individual member and has become a part of ourselves. The books that pass through our hands have become something special, something which is more then just a book. The books represent friendship, as cheesy as that sounds, but over the past year we have all come together in ways unexpected.

We started off not really knowing each other very well - but over the past year we have become stronger, better, real true friends. We are all different - we come from different places, countries, different ages, backgrounds, ideas, experiences, and a wide range of book tastes - from fantasy and sci-fi, to crime to historicals, literary... smut!

We share books, we recommend them, we read together and discover new ones that maybe we would never have found before. We also share recipes, life, stories, advice, ups, downs - everything else.

The Book Vine is as much about friendship as about books and hopefully, this blog will represent that.

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