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Posts tagged ‘Books’

September Books

Last month I drew up a list of 93 authors to take with me to the library to help me choose what to read next. Thanks to everyone who helped get this list up to well over a 100. Finding something to read is easier with so much choice. All authors come from this list unless otherwise stated- there will always be a title or cover that intrigues me.

Tracy Chevalier- At the Edge of the Orchard- one of my favourite authors and this book as good as her others. Set in America between 1838 and 1856, we have mud,swamps,futility, apple trees, quilts, bad relationships, death, flight, survival, adventure, misadventure, gold prospecting, Redwood trees, birth and a happy ending.

Jo Baker- A Country Road,  A Tree- The course by Future Learn, How to Read a Novel,  used examples from four novels that Edinburgh University short listed for the James Tait prize. The only one that really interested me was this one. I sometimes struggle with books that win literary prizes, finding the style, language or plot, let us say – hard to appreciate. I had better hopes of this one.

Back in the day when I was a young and noisy teenager I attended a week-long residential course on drama in Chester, staying in what was then a teacher training college. but is probably now a university. We studied Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and being a young and noisy teenager, myself and a fellow participant, one Lyn Edwards from Birmingham ( and if anyone knows a Lyn Edwards from Birmingham how marvellous that would be, we kept in touch for a couple of years , but pre Facebook this involved snail mail, so fizzled out).  I digress, both Lyn Edwards and I were most taken with Waiting for Godot, and began an impromptu play reading in the college grounds,to great applause, and being young and noisy teenagers, so taken with ourselves were we that we took to being strolling players and walked the city walls whilst we proclaiming the Wait. So I have a great fondness for dear old Godot.

If you don’t know the play, two chaps at a roadside wait for Godot who does not come. A play in which nothing happens, a bit like the novel The Crowded Room by Winifred Holtby which I read last month about a young woman who waits for her life to begin. So to Jo Bakers novel about Samuel Beckett and his mistress during the second world war which they spent in France, trying to keep out of harms way, write and help the resistance movement. They  have to keep moving and that involves a lot of walking along country roads and waiting for people to help them along the way, and quite a bit of nothing happening,thus providing the inspiration for Waiting for Godot.

I will be honest, I struggled with the book for the first 60 or so pages, style, language etc which seemed to be a bit flowery and a bit arty farty, pretentious maybe. But then something happened, either I got over the language style or it improves or it suddenly seemed to be right for the disjointed existence of the characters. The hand to mouth lifestyle of a country invaded by another nation. There is a sense of life seeming to go on, but not going on, of fear but of social gatherings, holidays, wine, but careful what you say, and who sees you, and of what happens to your communist and jewish friends.

Then the war ends, and Beckett goes home to  Eire alone, to his Mum and her new bungalow. His teeth are fixed having suffered from malnutrition they were in a bad state. But he knows he can’t stay there, he can’t write in the comfort that is home. The only way back to France is to accept a job to set up a hospital in France, which he does before returning to Paris, His mistress and his writing, which has changed forever.

I enjoyed the book, and if you like a book with a bit of a challenge then go for it. I think that one of the marks of a good book is when you start to google things as a follow-up, which I did, and I know that Beckett married the mistress, which is nice after all they went through together, and she does get a bit fed up with him and the danger he puts them in, and the writing.

This is Jo Bakers second novel, the first one is called Longbourne, I have bought it for my Kindle, for reading when I am not at home. It is the story of Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of the servants, shortly to be a film. Sounds promising.

I very nearly made this number 44 in my top  one hundred books. I really liked the centre section of the book, but not the start or end, and the middle bit not enough!. Let me know if you have read this, I would love to know your thoughts.

Graeme Macrae Burnett- His Bloody Project- this one was mentioned on the course as a good example of setting a story in context. For example, Bridget Jones’s diary the story is told through the medium of a diary. This novel is told through some “found papers” in the course of some family history research. I was apprehensive at first as I discovered from the cover of the book that it had been long listed for the Man Booker prize in 2016. I need not have been. The book is an enjoyable and accessible book. The first parts are some witness statements to a crime. The next the accused gives his account, which he is writing it at the behest of his council. At no time does he deny that he committed the crime he was charged with. Then comes the examination by a doctor, and then an account of the trial. It is very cleverly constructed, and the language is sufficiently archaic so that I had no trouble believing I was reading a historic document. The setting is a Scottish crofting community in the 19th century. It’s a good book and I suspect if I had Scottish roots it would make own top 100. A jolly good read. Look out for it.

Jessie Burton- The Miniaturist- not one from my 100 authors list, but found on the library shelves at the same time as the previous two books. It sounded familiar, on the front cover it says The Sunday Times Number One Best Seller. Maybe someone mentioned it, maybe it was reviewed on the Radio. An interesting book, set in Amsterdam in the 17 th century. Young girl from the country is married to an older rich merchant and travels to join his household in Amsterdam. In the house a sister who runs the household, a man-servant who may be a slave or a freeman, and a female servant from an orphanage.  The new wife is given a miniature house, resembling the one she has just moved into , as a wedding present. She sources a miniaturist to help her furnish it, but soon parcels she didn’t order begin to arrive, can this miniaturist foretell the future? Tragedy follows, there is love and death. It’s a strange book by no mistake, but not a bad read. Is that the same as a good read? No. Quirky, that’s the word I am looking for. For the first time I found myself able to stop reading and think, now why is the author doing this, what is the intention of this event or that. I am beginning to read a little like a Professor!

Donna Leon-Falling in Love- Opera singer in Venice has a scary stalker, friendly detective saves the day. A pleasant read.

Some good and interesting books this month. And by sheer coincidence I see that the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough is staging a production of Waiting for Godot. Perfect or what?

Love to know what others have read recently. Anything to recommend to me please? If you have written about books this month I would be thrilled if you left a link in the comments.

Now where is my book…

 

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August Books!

 I volunteer at the local library one morning a week. It means I get to see books that are available by all my favourite authors whilst I do the shelving. This month in one morning I found five books. I borrowed the lot! Here’s what I have been reading in August, in the order I read them.

Susan Hill- The Pure in Heart- After a bit of a wobbly first chapter this turned into a jolly good detective story featuring DCI Simon Serrailler. The familiar themes from Susan Hill came through even in a different genre, love, life grief, relationships. An entertaining read.

Winifred Holtby- The Crowded Street- an interesting read which I think would be a good choice for a book club to read. Life for middle class women before, during and after the First World War, the birth of feminism. If the author sounds familiar she wrote South Riding and was friends with Vera Brittain ( who is the inspiration for one of the characters). Vera Brittain is Shirley Williams mother and wrote Testament of Youth. One of my favourite books this year.

Joanne Harris- Gentlemen & Players- the middle book of a trilogy, but the third one I read. Fortunately the books work well as stand alone novels. The plots are all revealed in a similar way and in this third book I saw the big twist by page 96 of 507 pages. To begin with I thought this would spoil my enjoyment. However there was a different enjoyment to be had, first was I right and secondly and more interesting to see how the characters were being duped, and hence how the readers were being sent off in the wrong discription.The story is set in St Oswald’s School for boys and has two narrators, one who focuses on events of 15 years ago and one on the here and now. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Ann Cleeves- The Glass Room-another Vera book. The setting is an authors retreat. I was well and truly hoodwinked till the final scenes! Good detective story.

Marina Lewycka- The Lubetkin Legacy. There is love and government corruption in this tale of an iconic social housing flat designed by Berthold Lubetkin. The tenant dies and her son fears losing the right to succeed in the tenancy and smuggles in an old lady to act as his mother, for the housing officers investigations. A good read. I spent a happy evening afterwards researching the real life architect Lubetkin, surely a mark of a good book. Can’t say I liked the buildings I saw, but then I don’t like concrete much!

You may recall that last month I was taking an online course called How to read novel, through Future Learn. I completed it with great enjoyment, it may be repeated next year but there is still a week that you can access it for. I thought about paying for the upgrade but decided against it, instead taking up Kerry’s suggestion, I bought this book.

It’s very readable and very good.Thanks for heads up on this one Kerry. I started to read it whilst reading the last book, and he’s right , the author is frequently quoting Shakespeare!

Have you read any good books lately?

Books – July 2017

I have recently begun a short online course run by Edinburgh University through Future Learn. You can do this course for free but I am giving serious consideration to paying over hard cash for an upgrade to give me unlimited access to the material, as I have enjoyed the first week so much. It’s called “How to Read a Novel”. Which you might think was self-evident , but I have realised that by rushing from story to story I am missing out in so much more. The last book I read this month was the Joanne Harris, I list them in the order that I read them, I just feel now that I want to re read this book, to see how she managed to send me off in the wrong direction. Anyway there is still time to sign up for this course, as it is only 4 weeks long,  the second week only just started, and you can still access week one. Here’s the link. Future Learn, How to Read a Novel

John Updike- The Afterlife- A collection of short stories and a book from the heap. An author one is supposed to like, but to whom I did not warm. The writing is good, and I had a sense of place which to me is important, but not a sense of love for place. The stories all concern the end of things, life and relationships between lovers, married couples, parents and children. The stories were all too realistic of the futility of us all, and so I found it rather depressing . The only one I really enjoyed was called A Sandstone Farmhouse, which had some warmth in it.I would love to know what others think of this author. I have another in the heap by the bed of his called The Farm, which concerns the same farmhouse and people so that is a relief! I think it will be a while before I get round to reading it though.

I am nearly coming to the end of my heap challenge and I figure if I read 1.25 books from the heap I will have finished it, as long as I don’t add to it in the meantime. Just why am I compelled to buy more books when I have a very good library to go too?

The rest are Library books.

Susan Hill-  A Kind Man- a short novel, beautifully crafted as ever. Similar setting to other books she has written, just wonderful. Themes again are life, love, birth, death, illness etc. Superb, just try one of her books for me.

Linwood Barclay- Broken Promise- big thanks to the blogger(s) who recommended this author to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the first in a trilogy. Basically a returning to his home town journalist investigates the mystery of the angel who gave his cousin a baby.

Robert Harris- Conclave- An interesting and enjoyable read, as the Cardinals are locked in Conclave for 72 hours whilst they elect the next Pope. A disappointing end, which I won’t give away here, but if you want to know more, please look in my Page above on Books. Be interested to know if anyone else has read this one, and for their thoughts.

Joanne Harris- Different Class. Two narrators, one a former pupil and one a teacher ,relate a past event through the changes a new Head is making to an old style Grammar School. Described as a masterpiece of misdirection by Val McDermid, I can only agree.

So have you read any good books recently. I keep a note of recommendations for my trips to the Library, so look forward to reading your comments.

Books- May 2017

None of my books this month have come from the heap by the bed. I have had some good reads too, and many thanks to all who recommended the works of Nikki French and Deborah Crombie, they are as good as you said.

M C Beaton-Death of a Policeman– having enjoyed the Hamish Macbeth TV programme I looked forward to reading a novel. The writing and plotting is weak. I won’t read another

Ann Cleeves- A Lesson in Dying- an early novel from this author, well plotted and written. A good solid detective story.

Nikki French- Friday on my Mind-a good detective story but I should have started with Blue Monday and worked my way through the series.

Deborah Crombie- To Dwell in Darkness. A solid London-based crime novel. The Americanisms grated a bit as all the characters are British. A good read, but as with the previous book there are earlier novels featuring the main character which I should have started with.

But this is my favourite. Now I don’t who mentioned it, but someone did and a great Big Thank You to you. I had never heard of this one and it is an utterly charming picture book and I can’t wait to give it to Little Miss F and I am sure her brother Master T will love it too. That’s if I can bear to part with it.

In the meantime I should start to read from the heap again but am rather thinking I would like to read some books to do with nature as I embark on 30 days wild.

Love to hear any recommendations from your recent reading or on the subject of nature.

My A-Z Reading Challenge.

In July last year I set myself the challenge of reading through the alphabet. Starting with a book by an author whose surname began with an A, then moving onto b, then c and so on, and in the correct order, and only going to the library for my books I read my way through the alphabet. There is no book in our library with an author whose name begins with an X, but other than that I have managed to read 25 books, from A-Z.

I wanted to do this to find new authors, rediscover favourite ones and to read outside my normal genres. In that I have been successful. Starting with the bad bits first, Henry James is never going to be an author I shall read again. It was the only book I abandoned. Chick lit and me are never going to get along either. Gruesome tales even by favourite authors such as Kate Mosse are not for me either. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguru was the biggest disappointment. I just didn’t get it and found the book boring.

Harlan Coben was a new author for me and I shall definitely be reading his books again.

The five best books I read were in reverse order:-

John Boyne- The Boy in the Striped pyjamas. A very moving story about a concentration camp, also a film

4 David Ebershoff- The Danish Girl- another moving story and I am sure one everyone has heard of, also a film

3 Sue Monk Kidd- The Secret Life of Bees– growing up with secrets is not a good idea- also a film

2 John Steinbeck- To a God Unknown– probably my favourite author, so maybe I surprise myself putting this book at number 2. A love of the land shines out from this book. It was a beautiful read. Not a book I had heard of before.

1 Lalin Paull- The Bees. I really loved this book. I mean really loved this book. A very interesting way to explore environmental issues through the eyes of a bee.

4 of these authors were new to me and one an old favourite.

Was the challenge worthwhile for me? Oh yes.

And my next challenge. To read through a heap of books I have acquired over the years and not read yet. At least 15 of them as part of my 17 for 2017 list.

Wish me luck.

Love to hear of your reading goals for this year.

Oh and Spring is on its way. The first snowdrops are coming out in the garden.

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Yarn Along!

I have my first piece of knitting for 2017 completed.

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A jumper and matching hat for my grandson. Knitted in a yarn called Party Time by James Brett. It’s chunky and oh so quick to knit up. Very satisfying. The buttons came from my button box.

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and there was enough yarn to make a hat which I adapted from another chunky pattern. Think it will be ok. The jumper is on the big size so I am knitting another one in the next size down, different colour, same yarn and pattern. Meantime, I have now reached the second sleeve on that white cable cardigan.

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Carrying on with my read through the alphabet I have reached W- Vita Sackville West, All Passion Spent. An 88-year-old finally gets to do what she wants on the death of her husband. And the first of my non fiction reads for the year is a diary written by John Steinbeck as he wrote his masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath. A fascinating insight into the mind of my favourite author.

Joining with Ginny for Yarn Along

 

 

Yarn Along!

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So T is for Anne Tyler. Just when I thought I had read the best book for this year ( John Steinbeck To a God Unknown) I start this one. And I love it. Such resonance with where I am in my life right now, ie getting older with grown up children and grandchildren, facing the trials and tribulations of life. Fantastic. Probably my second favourite book this year.

And who is that peeping out, at least it’s not tinsel yarn! From the 20 Twenty to make series, Mini Christmas knits. Should be 4ply but I don’t have any so it’s DK and bigger needles. he looks a fine snowman to me. Now where is he destined for I wonder?

Linking with Ginny for Yarn Along

 

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