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January books- 2020

 A mixed bag of books for the start of the year. Have you read any of these, what did you think?

Bridget Collins- The Binding- I was keen to read this book as I thought it was a novel about book binding.Young farm worker given chance of apprenticeship to a book binder.  It’s not about book binding! At least not in the accepted sense of book binding. The plot unfolds in three parts through two narrators. I found Part One completely baffling. I couldn’t tell what period it was set in, 1800’s maybe with references to factories and grime, but then the crusades? The crusade part was never explained and I think it probably meant a moral crusade but who knows? Part two was much better, and part three brought things to a conclusion. It was quite enjoyable, and that’s the best I can say. And the book binding bit- painful memories bound into a book, either to be stored safely or sold onto “gentlemen”!

 

 

Elizabeth MacNeal- The Doll Factory- A most satisfying book! Set in Victorian London Louis Frost is an artist in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Iris his model and pupil. Silas is obsessed with Iris and will not take No for an answer. A well written and enjoyable plot.

Neil Gaiman- Coraline- This was a suggestion for book bingo but took too long to arrive. What to say- seriously weird. Not sure what age grop it’s intended for. It’s simply told so could be an older child’s book. The library has classified it as Young Adults, which I would assume means 18-25 years, I suspect older teenager would be better-14-16. The style and content seems to be at odds. I would not be happy giving the book to a child as it is scary. In some ways like Roald Dahl, but lacking warmth. Not my cup of tea.

Claire Douglas- Last Alive- Top notch pyschological thriller, lots of twists, and I didn’t see them all coming.

Lorna Gray- In the shadow of Winter- Set in the hard winter of 1947 somewhere in the Cotswolds, Eleanor Phillips runs her own stables. One night her stable boy finds an injured and distressed man out in the felds. This is Matthew Croft her former beau in need of shelter as he flees the police who want him for murder. It has quite a slow pace for a romantic thriller, and I kept loosing the plot. Ok only.

Clover Stroud- The Wild Other- Clover , whose half sister is Emma Bridgewater, had an idyllic childhood, with her sister Nell, father Rick and mother Charlotte, in the small market town of Minety in Wiltshire. Think big kitchens, red wine, horses and freedom. This came to a crashing halt when her Mum was severally disabled in a riding accident, and spent 22 years in a nursing home, unable to properly respond to her family. Rick takes himself off to London to work and the treasured home is sold. Clover embraces her wild side with a gusto- gypsies in Ireland, cowgirl in Texas and amongst ex- soldiers in the Caucasus Mountains, before settling to a tamer existance in Wiltshire. All the time trying to cope with the loss but not loss of her mother. I’ll be honest I found the book a bit of a struggle, too many horses and I didn’t feel any rapport with Clover herself. Goodness knows how her children will cope with the revelations she makes. Anyway has anyone read this and what did you think?

As I said a mixed bag of books for the start of the year. I have a stock pile of books from the library, so have plenty to go at in February and probably into March, but I always like to know if you have read anything really good, and if you read any of my January books and if so what did you think about them?

January 2018, Books

I love to read, and to share my thoughts on the books that cross my path. Please let me know if you have read any of these and what your thoughts were. This is what I read this month.

Jo Baker- The Picture Book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Four generations of one family connected by their first names. William a sailor in the  First World War at Gallipoli. Billy his son, a keen amateur cyclist who sees action in Normandy on a bycycle. Will his son has walking difficulties and spends time in a children’s orthopaedic hospital which apart from location strongly resembles the Adele Shaw Hospital for Crippled Children in Kirkbymoorside that I researched last year. The one in the novel even started life as a hospital for wounded soldiers from the first world war, and the descriptions of the buildings and the staff were very recognisable.  Will’s daughter is Billie and she is an artist in London. A good book to start the year.

Lynne Reid Banks- Uprooted- written as an older children’s book, but shelved in the library with adult books, I think because of its story line. This tells the true story of the author’s time in Canada as a refugee  from the second world war. The language was so clever, it really captured how children aged about nine did think and speak. Her style was just like the diary I wrote at that age. It was an easy and enjoyable read.

Juilan Barnes-The Sense of an Ending- A winner of the Man Booker prize, 2011, I am going to have to revisit my opinion of books which win prizes as being weird and unreadable. This is very good indeed. Man looking back over life, themes of history, self-delusion, whether people can or do shape their lives or just go along what is dealt to them. Just a little disappointed with the end , but only a little.

Nick Hornby- Funny Girl- I really enjoyed this book. It starts in the 1960s with a feisty Miss Blackpool , who gives up her title almost immediately for the bright lights of London. There she becomes a successful actress in a TV sitcom. But it is the early 60s and a time of change, how long can a staid comedy about a married couple continue? In places the book was laugh out loud funny, not certain that a much younger reader would find it as funny. Give it a go.

Mark Haddon- The Pier Falls- A collection of short stories. I wouldn’t have borrowed this one had I realised it wasn’t a novel. What to say? They are very imaginative and well constructed, but half of them go way off and are rather odd. The ones that aren’t odd are enjoyable, but in an unexpected way the odd ones are better. Like Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl. But it’s ages since I read Roald Dahl so I might be wrong. I reckon if you like short stories and the unexpected you will love these.

So that was my January reading. Have you read any good books this month. Here’s what I have lined up so far for February.

Should keep me out of mischief!

October Books

October has been a good month for book choices. So glad I go to the library with a list of a 109 authors to look for. Here’s what I have read.

Ian McEwan- Atonement- I groaned a little when I saw it had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2001. I really am going to have to get over my prejudice against these books which get on prize lists, just because I read a couple I didn’t like is a very poor reason to condemn the lot. Especially as I can’t even remember which books they were.

Moving on then to Atonement. I do so wish that the blurb on the back didn’t give away so much. The title Atonement suggests that a book is going to be about someone atoning for something. I spent the first half of the novel wanting to know what so the atoning bit started. Page 166 before you find out the what. Which is a great shame because the lead up is brilliant, and if you haven’t read the book be patient. A single day begins on P18 and ends on P187, the tension builds slowly through a hot summers day in a very well to do household in 1935, the servants struggle with cooking Roast Beef which no-one wants, children squabble and young love blooms.

It’s not often the various Parts in a novel are so completely different from one another. Part two is all about a group of soldiers in the second world war trudging through Belgium, or it might be France, my geography is hopeless, anyway they are making their way to Dunkirk in an ignoble retreat. Only us Brits could turn a disaster of military failing into the triumph of grit and determination by the ordinary man.

Part three, is different again, and deals with the aftermath of Dunkirk in London hospital. And by golly this is a powerful bit of writing.

Part four is set in the present day.

It’s a jolly good book and I recommend it, but relish the first part, and don’t be in a rush as I was to find out what exactly happened. It’s a masterful build up. Parts 2 and 3 are brilliant too and for these two parts I have decided that this books makes it into my top 100 books! I liked the ending too, as the author doesn’t dodge a final confrontation by killing off the protagonists. When authors do that I get very cross.

John Boyne- A History of Loneliness- Oh my this book got to me. Tears were streaming down my face at the end. Plot is quite easily summed up for you- Irish Catholic Priest. Going to quote from the front cover” Boyne writes with compelling anger about the abuses of power and the dangers of submission”, Helen Dunmore, Guardian. There is another part which brought tears to my eyes too, the description of the Priest’s sisters illness as she moves into a care home. I read this in a couple of sittings, a compelling read.

Both these books are making it onto my Top 100 books.

John Grisham- The Whistler- time for a bit of easy reading, another cracking good thriller, corrupt judge, casinos, golf courses and scheming!

Andrew Taylor- The Silent Boy- Historical crime novel, set in England during the French Revolution. Boy becomes mute after witnessing the death of his mother, taken to safety in England, but there are rival claims to be his guardian. The book is a good read but ended a bit abruptly, can’t help wondering if there is a missing page from this library book. The best bit for me was the description of life in 18th century England. The fancy manor houses don’t sound so fancy when the money runs out , the damp and vermin get in and the decor goes. It made me very grateful for running hot water and central heating.

Hilary Mantel- The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher- collection of short stories. My favourite was Harley Street, most appropriate for the time of year.

Susan Hill- The Mist in the Mirror. A ghost story! Quite good, the build up is better than the ending which was a bit of an anti climax. Monmouth is haunted by ghosts, when he returns to England. Who are they? Why do his new friends warn him against finding out about Conrad Vane, an explorer?

So that’s what I read this month. Have you had any good reads, or bad ones to avoid? Please leave a link to any book post in the comments.

 

 

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