Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

Posts tagged ‘library’

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?


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.

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