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Books- October 2019

The month in which Book Bingo was started at the library as a reading challenge for grown-ups. The first three books were read before this and so don’t count in the line.

John Marrs- When you disappeared- Perfect family man Simon vanishes  early one morning, his wife Catherine and children are devastated. Twenty five year later he turns up on the doorstep. What happened is told by Catherine and Simon. I did find part of the ending upsetting and skipped three pages, apart from that it was a jolly good thriller.

Neil Spring- The Ghost Hunters- based on the exploits of one Henry Price and his investiagtion into the  most haunted house in England-Borley Rectory. The novel is very well done, his use of language and style really evoked the age in which the book is set- 1920’s till 1970’s, with most happening in the 20’s- 40’s. A perfect book for a Halloween/ Autumn read. I always think I have a good book on my hand when I break off to google something- here’s a link. There was also a TV series starring Rafe Spall, should it sound familiar to you. It was a good read.

Phaedra Patrick- The Library of Lost and Found- A nice, cosy and quite charming feel good story. Martha is a volunteer at her local library and never says No. So she’s put upon. A book comes into her possession with a note that it’s for Martha from her Nana , but the date is three years after her Nana died. This would make a lovely stocking filler at Christmas for someone….. On the negative side, the writing is not great   and clearly the author has never volunteered in a library! But hey, it is set around books, so that’s good.

So here’s where Book Bingo started, which means I had read the above before…

Rowan Coleman- The Girl in the Window- published in August 2019,  by a woman,  recommended to me and it’s a mystery, so lots of potential ticks. It is also very good indeed. A blend of historical and modern, fact and fiction. Trudy’s husband is missing so she and her son return to the house she grew up in -Ponden Hall. It’s a real house and is now a B&B. There is a Bronte connection to the house. The Bronte family were invited to make use of the library, and the son Robert Heaton had a soft spot for Emily and planted a pear tree as a sign of his devotion. The house may have inspired several houses in the novels, from Wuthering Heights, to Thrushcross Grange and Wildfell Hall. Trudy finds various papers written by Agnes Heaton in the 17th century and by Emily Bronte. Agnes’ story  seems to have inspired Emily to write a second book, one that is missing. That’s all I’m saying because a mystery wouldn’t be a mystery if I spilled the beans. It’s good though.

Susan Orlean- The Library Book- qualifying as non- fiction and a recomended book for my bingo cards. The library is the Central Library in Los Angeles, and covers a lot of different angles, including the history of this library and libraries in general across the world, the people who work, volunteer and use this library and the story behind a fire in Central library. I found it abasolutely riveting, but then I probably would. The library I volunteer in is nothing like central library and yet I could reognise the tales she related about library users, volunteers, books and all the other things that happen in a library.We should really value our libraries, not just for the books we can borrow but for all the other things you can do in a library and for the human contact it provides to people.

Nella Last’s war- edited by Richard Broad and Susie Fleming. Did you see Victoria Wood’s TV drama called Housewife 49? This is the book which inspired the drama. Nella Last started to keep a diary for Mass Observation at the beginning of WW2, and kept it going throughout the war and beyond. It is so good. Honest history, written as it happened, telling what life was like for ordinary people in Barrow. Nella is in her early 50’s with two grown up sons, and has always been a stay at home wife and Mother. We see her gradually becoming her own person, working in the Centre, endlessly sewing and  knitting, and opening a charity shop for the Red Cross to pay for all the parcels for POWs. She keeps chickens, cooks wholesome meals, her husband actually starts to complement  his meals, she thinks for herself, has bouts of anxiety, worries about her sons, suffers from arthritis, puts on a brave face so everyone thinks she is cheerful all the time. She is fabulous. The book should be compulsive reading in schools! Don’t take my word for it read it, or have you already, were you impressed. There were a couple of bits that grated, but you have to recall the zeitgast.

Madeline Miller- Circe- Huge thanks to people who recomended this one to me. I loved it. A retelling of greek myths through the story of Circe, a witch , a goddess, and one time lover of Odysseus. So good to read a story with a powerful female hero. It also reminded me of these myths which I had read at school and had mostly forgotten.

So I am 4/5ths of my way through the central line on my bingo card. The only one left for that row is the Free Space, by which I take it to mean my choice. I’d like to thank everyone for all their ideas for me, I followed up on so many of them I actually have 12 books from the library waiting for me to read. Three of which have to be returned by 7 November as someone else has requested them. Better get reading…

Love to know if you have read any of these, did you like them? Have you read a good book this month?

 

Books- July 2019

After all last months psychological thrillers and Who dun its , time for a change.

Elizabeth Von Arnim- The Enchanted April- written in the 1920s , by a new to me author, from the Penguin modern classics book range. Four women answer an advert  to rent a medieval castle on the Italian Riveria. They make an odd group, but gradually each succombs to the magic of “Wisteria and Sunshine”,  and blossom until they change in unexpected ways. I loved the language and sentence structure of the book. It was a delight, so gentle, so elegant and leisurely. Really enjoyed this book.

Muriel Spark- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie- this was a re-read for me, and I can’t decide what I make of it. Miss Jean Brodie lost her sweetheart in the first world war and is now a school teacher, with dubious morals and political leanings. She selects a small group of her pupils to be the creme de la crème. They enjoy special treats- trips to the theatre , afternoon tea, and her approach to education is odd. They do well and pass their exams, but they are only 10 when they come under her wing. She falls in love with a married art teacher and sets about grooming one of the girls to be his lover. Meanwhile she starts an affair with the single music teacher. Certainly complex. Have you read it, what did you think?

Marian Keyes- The Break- I think someone recommended this one to me. It wasn’t what I expected, the plain white cover made me think it would be more challenging. In fact it was the perfect holiday read when we had a few days in  Weymouth. Hugh decides he needs to take a break from his marriage following the deaths of his father and brother, and off he goes on a six month vacation, feeling totally free to make new relationships. His wife Amy is first distraught at his departure, until she realises that she too is therefore on a break. family life for the children falls to bits. And when Hugh comes home,  will they reunite? As I said a good holiday read. The only thing I do wonder is do people really lead lives like this? All the characters seem to have jobs in journalism, PR, media, all are high flying or pretend to be, is that really what the world of work is like?

Jean Rhys-Voyage in the Dark- I had read her Wild Sargasso Sea, which tells the story of the first Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre. I had found that very moving so was keen to read Voyage  in the Dark, which covers similar themes. Anna is the daughter of a white plantation owner and a white creole mother. She has a lovely childhood in the Caribbean, but returns to Edwardian England with her step mother when her father dies. Anna becomes a chorus girl, yearning for her childhood home. She is a friendless innocent, so the inevitable happens. The style is wonderful, simply told, so you feel as if you are living her life. I found it very poignant. Jean Rhys herself came from a similar background, and I am going to try to track down her biography.

Erin Kelly- The ties that bind- just couldn’t keep away from the thrillers!  Really enjoyed this one set in Brighton, covering the shady world of the 1960s, and the long shadow cast over the present day. I first went to Brighton in the 1970s, I recall the Lanes and surrounding streets as being quite hippy like, full of wholefood shops, the original Body Shop and lots and lots of fabric shops and not at all shady.

Denise Mina- Exile- the second book in the Garnethill  trilogy. You really do need to have read the first one, and even then I struggled to pick up the characters and threads , memory not what it was. It was an ok read, too many characters for me to hang onto. Will I read the third, maybe now I have got this far!

Libby Page- The Lido- the perfect book for this last week of July , which in the UK has been hot! The plot is the battle to save a Lido in London which is threatened with closure by the council and being turned into a private tennis court by an upmarket property developer. It has a wonderful feel good factor, which reminded me of Maeve Binchy’s books. There is the love story of Rosemary and George. There is grief and how it is experienced through place. I loved the line “George is in the way the mist sits on the water in the morning.” When you loose someone very dear to you, they are everywhere still. Above all there is the importance of community and identity. I am not sure I buy into parts of London being like villages, it always seems to be full of people pushing and shoving and not caring a d**n about anyone but themselves. But I do agree about the importance of keeping places open and available to the public. Rosemary used to work in a library and regrets not doing more when it was closed. As you know our library was threatened with closure and enough people came forward to keep it open and volunteer there. I am amazed at the number of people who do just come in for a coffee and a chat. The children’s reading scheme has started for the school holidays, we have to sign up at least 300 children. The council closed the local tourist information centre, so now the library volunteers provide their local knowledge instead, We have the only photocopier in town. We give computer lessons, host other events from holocaust remembrance days, to sing songs for the elderly, science days for children, Moorsbag sewing sessions, drumming lessons etc etc.. Biggest cheek of all is that the County Council who wanted to close the library now directs people to the library for help applying for their bus passes. So I am with the characters in this novel , if you value somewhere, use it or lose it.

Ok off my soapbox for now. Have you read  any of these books , what did you think ? Have you read anything good this month? I love the recommendations you all make, four of this month’s books came from your ideas. Thank you.

April books-2019

April has been a good month for books. The first one was the least enjoyable, thereafter I had some great reads. Do let me know if you have read any of them and what you thought.

Marcus Zusak-Bridge of Clay- I am a little amazed I made it to the end of this book, I found it rather heavy going and frankly disappointing after his Book Thief. I rather think style got in the way of story telling. Basically it is a rather sweet love story and a marvellous tale of loss and death. I also loved the depiction of family life with five boys, he captured the utter chaos brilliantly as well as the love and care of brothers. So reminded me of bringing up three boys. I found the first 80 pages hard to wade through, and had I not been away from home and my heap of books I might have abandoned it. Part of me wishes I had.  I really wish someone had told him to stop the muddly style. Has anyone read it and what did you feel? Oh there is a Bridge and Clay is short for Clayton- he helps his father build a physical and emotional bridge to the family. There is a twist towards the end which is so subtle I missed it and had to go back and recheck because things subsequently made no sense.

Anne Griffin- When All is Said– I really enjoyed this book. Maurice Hannigan makes five toasts over one weekend to the five people who influenced his life, beginning with his marvellous older brother , his hero Tony. It is simply a love story to five people , there is a country house and mystery too. Read this one, you’ll be glad you did.

Ann Cleeves- White Nights- sometimes a who dun it is just what I need. The second book in the Jimmy Perez series. So good.

Chris Hammer- Scrublands- A top notch thriller which I really enjoyed. It had a very strong plot, full of twists and turns, but not so complicated that I ever got muddled or confused .A journalist visits a town a year after a priest commits a most inexplicable murder to research how a community recovers from such a crime. What struck me throughout the book was how well the author conveyed the heat in the Scrublands, I had a real sense of place in this Australian community. A thoroughly good read.

Alex Michaelides- The Silent Patient. Another thoroughly enjoyable thriller. The silent patient killed her husband, her new psychotherapist sensing a book in getting her to finally break her silence , works hard to make that happen. Some interesting twists and turns. Highly recommended.

So that’s it for this month. Have you read anything good recently?

February books-2019

I have read some super books this month and many are thanks to the recommendations I receive here or read on blogs. Please tell me if you have read any of these or have found any good reads recently.

Natasha Lester- The Paris Seamstress- an enjoyable book set in Paris and New York, blending real and fictional characters and two-time spans- the 1940s and the present day. There is romance, spies and fashion.

Heather Morris- The Tattooist of Auschwitz- gosh what can I say, other than read it. The real story of Lale Sokolov who was given the job of tattooing the numbers on the arms of the people who were taken to Auschwitz. One day he looked into the eyes of the young woman whom he fell in love with and married after the war. Just read it, and have some tissues by your side. Onto my Top 100 list. A very well written book , you feel as if Lale was talking direct to you, one to one.

Stuart Turton- The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle- Cluedo meets Groundhog Day! A murder happens in Blackheath House, can Aiden Bishop discover the murderer. Only problem is he only has eight days to solve the mystery otherwise he has to start again. On each of the  days he wakes up as a different person staying in the house. It’s a very complicated and well executed plot, the map of the house and the list of characters help you keep track of what is happening and to whom. It felt like being inside a computer game, where you can start over but you obviously remember what happened. It isn’t one by the way, if it had been it would have been a more satisfactory explanation at the end. It was an enjoyable read, but you do need to have set aside big chunks of time to read it, not one for the journey to work, be great on holiday. And if you don’t like it don’t blame me blame Doris.

Peter Toohey- Boredom, a lively history- I attend a monthly group through the U3A which looks at psychology. This month it was my turn to run the session for the group. I choose Boredom as my theme. My question underpinning things was Is Boredom useful? So I read this book as part of my research. It covered a lot of ground from a Boredom Proneness test to looking at how boredom has been portrayed in art and literature. I found the whole subject totally fascinating and guess what, I am not prone to boredom. If you enjoy things psychological this was very accessible and interesting read. I am thinking of looking into the psychology of shopping next, what do you reckon, interesting or boring?

Julie Kibler- Calling me home- two love stories across the racial divide set in the present day and the 1930s in America. Well written, but knowing that the 1930s story could not end well , made it quite harrowing at times. A good read. The best part was the developing friendship between the elderly white woman and her hairdresser and friend who is a black single mother as they travel to a funeral.

Sally Rooney- Normal People-This book won the Man Booker Prize 2018. It examines a rather weird couple and their non relationship  -friends with benefits really. Marianna is clever, but has a troubled home life, bullied by her older brother, father is dead, Mother is a shadowy presence who fails to make any meaningful contact with her daughter. At school she is a misfit, bullied by the other pupils. Connell is the son of their cleaner, also very clever and popular, he enjoys the sex and power he has over Marianna but ignores her at school. They go off to Dublin to uni, he to read English she to read History. Marianna is now pretty, and popular, but goes beyond being a doormat to her boyfriends and becomes masochistic. Connell is the misfit now, being the boy from the poor background, but their relationship comes and goes, and sometimes they have significant others and sometimes they don’t. It all ends abruptly. I mean Connell gets the offer of a place in New York to do creative writing and the book stops. My advice is don’t bother with this one. However if you already read it I would love t know what you made of it?

And that’s it for February. Love to know what you are reading? I am reading about some Remarkable Creatures…

November Books- 2018

I have read some lovely books this month, including a couple recommended by discerning bloggers. So many thanks.

Byron Rodgers- J.L.Carr- The life and times-not so much a book as a pamphlet. J.L.Carr wrote the book A Month in the Country, which if you haven’t read or seen the film, I can highly recommend. J.L.Carr was a bit of an enigma even to his closest friends- a remarkable Headmaster in Kettering, an aficionado of cricket, a painter of great skill creating paintings of rural Northamptonshire  especially churches, a writer and publisher. An enjoyable but too brief read.

Michael Robotham- The Secrets She Keeps- Another very good thriller from this author. Two women, two pregnancies and some big secrets. Not saying any more as I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Sarah Waters- The Little Stranger. This one was recommended to me by Tialys, and I loved it. Lynne described it as a slow burner which is most apt. The pace is so well-timed, it is brilliant. The lure of the old house Hundreds Hall is  strong. The past glories, the balls, the parties, the library , the stables, the glamour, the family, the decline post war, the tragedy, and finally the Little Stranger. Thoroughly enjoyable, thank you.

Jhumpa Lahiri- The Lowland- Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2013. This is a well constructed novel with several narrators, and once again was a blogger recommendation last month. It’s set in Calcutta from the 1940s and Rhode island from the 60s to the present day, and the focus is on one family and their relationships and the impact of everyday life  in troubled times. The Evening Standard on the book cover calls it “A sad and haunting story”, which sums it up nicely. I found the part set in India during the war interesting because my Dad was there from1943 to 1946. I am always appalled by my lack of knowledge of life outside the West. I enjoyed the book, and there was a happy ending of sorts, but it was a sad novel. Worth reading.

Edward Royle- A Church Scandal in Victorian Pickering. This turned up on the books returned shelves at the library. How have I missed it before? A very well written account of a vicar in Pickering, who may or may not have been carrying on with the daughter of a local weaver, and who was had up before a church court accused of immorality and bringing the church into disrepute. Needless to say that whilst the immorality wasn’t proved the causing a scandal bit was. So he headed off to Belgium with his wife and family for a while and the weaver’s daughter went to Paris as a dressmaker. Seems the vicar and the dressmaker got together a few years later . He became a curate in Suffolk and she the curate’s wife, although in the census she still had her maiden name. This only took a couple of hours to read and I nearly didn’t include it here except for the fact that it threw a light onto the town in which my Gt Grandfather grew up, only yards away from the vicarage.  Was my family aware of the scandal, in a town of less than 4000 people they must have been. Also it showed the shocking disregard the said vicar had for the reputation of the woman. It also said a lot about the hypocrisy of the day. And finally, just to flag up once again how great the library is, you never know what you might find.

Finally, Tialys reminded me that I had once taken the trouble to compile a list of 109 authors whose books I should seek out, and then had promptly forgotten it, even though I turned it into a page here. So I consulted it a week or so ago, and ordered some books through the library. I thought they will be here in time for Christmas, I shall have plenty to keep me going when the library is shut for the two-week break. Humph! They all arrived within  three days and I now have a huge pile of books to read right now, beginning with the Night Circus. Bring on those winter nights when I can settle down with a book, my blankie and a cup of tea. But do please keep your recommendations coming in. Thanks to you all my reading choices have widened to new genres and I am loving them.

Now where’s my book, half an hour before dinner….

June Books-2018

Only three books to tell you about this month. The new one by Kate Mosse which I had to read as fast as I could as the library had a waiting list of readers who had reserved it. The other two are both by Laurie Lee. Three good books.

Kate Mosse- The Burning Chambers- A simple plot but beautifully done with lots of details. At the heart of the plot is a mysterious woman hell-bent on finding a girl. Why ? There is a love story, and kidnappings, and murders and intrigues. Set in Carcassonne ( and folks if you have never been , stop now and go immediately to France and visit Carcassonne), it is just the most wonderful city. Set also in Toulouse and surrounding countryside in the 1500s at a time of religious unrest between the Catholic faith and the Huguenot (Protestant ) faith.  Lots of skullduggery to enjoy. A good read and the first in a trilogy next one not due till 2020.

Laurie Lee- Cider with Rosie- This is the third time I have read this and was my choice of reading for my 30 Days Wild challenge ( Last year was the hilarious Corfu trilogy by Gerald Durrell). Cider with Rosie is a delightful evocation of village life in 1920s England. Before the days of electricity and motor cars for all, the village is a real community, schools, a Squire, church, an agricultural cycle of life and above all tolerance, acceptance and self-help. We may have gained mod cons but by golly I think we have lost more. There are funny stories and beautiful descriptions of the flora and fauna in the Gloucestershire countryside, a perfect choice for June.

The book I borrowed from the library contains all three books by Laurie Lee, and I have carried on reading.

Laurie Lee- As I walked out one midsummer morning.The second book in Laurie Lee’s autobiography. Laurie leaves home, he walks down to the south coast from Cold Slad , Gloucestershire and ends up in London. The contrast between village life and the Big Smoke could not be greater. After a year or so in London he sets sail for Spain and begins another big walk. Spain in the 1930s is poverty-stricken and desperate. he makes ends meet by busking. If you ever wondered what Malaga was like before the tourists came , this book will open your eyes. He sympathises with the farmers and fishermen and starts to be drawn into the beginning of the civil war, until he is rescued by a British destroyer sent to help all Brits in Spain. He leaves Spain, but then feels he has betrayed something important and heads back again.

We had many a holiday in Spain, admittedly not anywhere near Malaga thank goodness. I went with my parents in the days of Franco, and with Mr E  after Franco died. I found the accounts of Laurie Lee’s experiences really interesting and his descriptions of the landscape so good I could feel the heat of the Sierras coming right out of the book.

Can’t wait to start the final book in the trilogy.

Collins  Complete British wildlife, photoguide. Giving this book a mention because whilst I haven’t studied it from cover to cover it has been my companion throughout June during the month in which I may have gone a little Wild.

Coming up next month, more Laurie Lee.

So what books has everyone been reading? And are there any reference books that have gripped you recently?

 

April Books

Not surprising at all really that I have only read two books this month.

Kate Chopin- The Awakening- Recognised now as an early feminist novel , according to the blurb on the back. Not sure I agree, unless you only focus on sexuality and desire. It was published in 1899, and is set in New Orleans. Edna is the daughter of a plantation owner, wife of a financier and has two small boys. The family holidays one summer at Grand Isle. Here she learns to swim and begins to fall for an engaging young man Robert, who by all account has worked his charms on most of the married ladies. However Robert is attracted to Edna and realising things can not go further takes himself off to Mexico. The family returns home and Edna begins to paint. She stops doing her ” at homes”.  The children go to stay with their grandparents on the plantation and her husband goes to New York, to wheel and deal. Edna spends a great deal of time with a well-known “rake”, before moving out of the family home and into the “pigeon-house”.  Robert returns to town and both realise their attraction to each other. Robert being a gentleman removes himself and Edna returns to the Grand Isle, where the book ends. I won’t say exactly how.

Now I will be up front here. this book took me a fortnight to read, which is not like me. Mostly a couple of pages a  night and in hospital corridors where I did a lot of hanging about. Not the best way to read a book. I was disappointed. Sometimes I wonder if critics have read any of the classics like Jane Eyre or Middlemarch. Plenty of repressed sensuality there! I know others have read this book already, and some for A levels. What did you make of it? It’s certainly not the revolutionary tract on feminism I was expecting. I really thought Edna was going plough her own furrow with her own house and her painting, but no.

Melvyn Bragg- The Soldier’s Return- I was drawn to this book, partly because of the Sawdust hearts which admittedly are WW1, and the return in this book is from WW2, but the war in Burma against the Japanese, which is where my own Dad was.  Sam returns home to Cumbria, somewhat traumatized in 1946, to find the euphoria and bunting from VE day has long since gone and post war austerity with rationing and housing/ unemployment problems besetting his little family. His wife and son who is now 6 years are close to each other and to the other people in the lodging house they now live. Sam feels very much an outsider and a stranger to his family. His son is frightened of him and does not like being evicted from his Mum’s bed. Sam considers him a Mummy’s Boy.

The book is well written and the descriptions of post war life in a rural/ small town setting  believable. I especially liked the chapter with the town carnival which Sam and family throw themselves into. Then Sam attends a reunion in which one of his comrades waxes lyrical about Australia. Sam feels very hemmed in after the war and decides to go. His wife however wants to stay in the town where she feels safe.

I won’t spoil the ending, it was quite satisfactory. You do find out in one chapter what Sam and his comrades witnessed and it is extremely shocking. My Dad wrote an account of his time in India nad Burma and I am pleased that he did not have such a horrific experience.

I enjoyed the book, both for its personal link to my Dad, the descriptions of Cumbria, I love that people collected rose hips and the like and could actually sell them, the reality of the promised land fit for heroes and the austerity and poverty of the post war years. I am a fifties baby boomer, and I can recall bomb sites when we visited my Grandad in Liverpool, and how carefully Mum eeked out some food stuffs. A good read.

So what next? These two.

Have you read any good books this month? Love to know.

 

 

 

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