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Books- November 2019

Seriously I have read all these books this month. I requested a lot and they came all at once, so what’s a body supposed to do hey, but read? I have still got a big heap to read- five to be precise. Should see me through the weekend! I shalln’t be requesting more for a while, after all I  do have you know what to prepare for. Here’s what I read.

Amor Towels- A Gentleman in Moscow- probably my favourite book so far this year. The writing is sublime. The pace is measured and exactly right. Count Alexander Rostov, gentleman of the title, is placed under house arrest in the Hotel Metropol. Not in his usual suite but in an attic room. Free to go where he likes within the hotel but not outside. Free to mingle with staff and guests. He makes the most of what he has. This book is just a sheer delight. Loved it.

And I have completed my first line on my book bingo card.

Jonathan Coe- Middle England- So as far as book bingo goes, I have a book here with a tree on the cover, a book by a male author and a funny book. It must be funny because the Guardian calls it “a comedy for our times.” Which probably tells you I smiled a bit but was not rolling around the floor with mirth. He is a new author for me, which means I hadn’t read the previous two books featuring the same characters, this doesn’t matter as it is a stand alone book.  Right moving on, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’s well crafted. It’s about Brexit and attempts to understand why people voted to leave and actually makes a sympathetic stab at it. It’s less good about showing why people voted to remain, except that they are happy with the status quo.  I think that is probably because he assumes his readers voted remain so don’t need that explaining. Which is a shame because I would have liked more on that and on the current state of the Labour party, and the seeming determination of MPs to say they will honour the referendum but then not. Love to know if anyone else has read this book and what you thought.

Margaret Atwood- The Testaments- A jolly good read. It’s a long awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tail. I thoroughly enjoyed it , but felt it lacked the power of the first book. Have you read it what did you think?

Eva Ibbotson- The secret of Platform 13- published three years before Harry Potter , comes this children’s story- with wizards, magical creatures, an magic island accessed through a gump to be found behind the old gents loo on Platform 13 at Kings Cross Station. There’s also a missing baby stolen by a a horrible rich couple. Sound famiiar? Anyway this is rather a sweet story, can’t believe I didn’t read it to my youngest, but I didn’t. I think Miss F might love it.

So that is my book with a number in the title. Thanks so much for the suggestion. Three out of five read along that line. Next up is a book with a face on the cover.

P G Wodehouse- The Little Nugget- I choose this for book bingo on a number of counts- published over 100 years ago   (1913), a funny book  and a book by a male author. However it also had a face on the front, so there we are. It did also make me chuckle which was nice. The Little Nugget is a spoilt son of a rich American and is prime target for kidnappers, as he’s worth a nugget.  When his parents divorce he goes to live wiith his father who sends him off to school. His mother is unhappy and her friend persuades her fiancee to pose as a school master and to kidnap him and return to his mother. Meantime there are two other kidnappers also after him for money. It was an enjoyable read and not my usual fare at all. Thanks to the person who suggested P G Wodehouse.

Adele Parks- Lies Lies Lies- A new to me author, and a good domestic thriller. All I will say is secrets and lies do ot a happy family make.

David Lagercrantz- The Girl who lived twice- being the third book he wrote following on from Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series( The girl with the dragon tattoo). A good thriller with the girl pursuing her sister whilst a mystery of deaths on Everest is resolved. I struggle with a large list of unfamiliar names, thank goodness for a character list of the ones I need to keep track of. And this represents another row on my bingo card.

Stacey Halls- The Familiars- loosely based on real people and the Pendle witch trials this is a thoroughly enjoyable historical novel. Fleetwood Shuttleworth and her husband live at Gawthorpe hall. They have already lost three babies and Fleetwood is determined to carry this pregnancy to full term with the help of her midwife. Then they get caught up in witch mania.

Agatha Christie- Endless Night- A few weeks ago I was talking to my DIL Mrs G and she mentioned reading an Agatha Christie and saying the book was different to the TV programme. Now I read most of Mrs Christie’s books a very long time ago, and the versions that are in my mind are now the TV dramas. Then I watched Endless Night in a repeat of the Miss Marple series and something didn’t ring true. So I requested and read the book. Miss Marple doesn’t appear in the book at all, but apart from shoe horning her into the story there are very few changes , and the ending is different. The book is better. I shall have to re-read some more. The only question is why on earth did the programme makers add in Miss Marple.

So that was an awful lot of books this month. Do let me know if you have read any of these, and a huge thank you for all your recommendations.

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….

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.

 

 

 

February Books, 2018.

I have had a lot of reading time this month and read all these ones I had from the library.

David Hanson- Children of the Mill- this book was written to accompany the TV programme The Mill based on the true stories of the children who worked in The Quarry Bank Mill at Styall. The book compares the real stories to the ones that were changed for the purposes of a good drama. It was a fascinating yet easy book to read. I really enjoyed it.

David Ebershoff- The 19th Wife- A story of two 19th wives. Ann Eliza Young trapped in an unhappy polygamous marriage to the Prophet Brigham Young, escapes and helps end the practice of polygamy within the Mormon religion. The second modern 19th wife is accused of the muder of her husband, they are part of a breakaway religion from the Mormons known as the Firsts. Her son sets about finding the truth. This was a jolly good read. Now I read this in quite a short space of time over several afternoons.  There are a lot of characters each telling their bit of two stories, and the two parts are interlinked throughout. So choose a time when you can settle down to just reading. Perfect holiday reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I agree with one of the reviews on the back “A big book, in every sense of the word…it does that thing, all good novels do: it entertains us”. Los Angles Times.

Toni Morrison- God Help the Child- how do you prepare a child for life’s slings and arrows? How can an adult overcome emotional abuse experienced as a child? How can children cope with bereavement? How do children survive sexual and physical abuse? What happens to the adults? God Help the Child indeed. Well written, thought provoking, distressing in places. Not for those in want of a fluffy read.

Ian McEwan- The Comfort of Strangers- or adults should think stranger danger too. Set in Venice, probably we are never told, a couple meet a local couple and are befriended. Enough said. There is such a feel of menace in this book, it draws you in and you race to the end. Absolotuely not for the faint hearted.

Kate Hamer- The Girl in the Red Coat- now did someone recommend this to me or did I hear about it on the radio, I don’t know. But by golly it grips you. Every parents nightmare, child disappears at a story telling festival. A very, very good thriller. Oh perfect holiday  reading , you are gripped. I read pretty much non stop to find out what happens. Go on, treat yourself to a good read, you know you want to….

Joanna Trollope-Second Honeymoon- as always a plot in step with our times. Edie is distraught when her youngest child, aged 22 moves out of the family home. She lacks purpose and mourns the empty nest. Russell her husband hopes they will return to the feeling of newly weds. Edie auditons for a part in Ibsen’s Ghost, and much to her surprise is offered a role. One of her co stars,  fresh out of drama school, becomes their lodger. Then her children’s lives fall apart and one by one they all return home. But having six adults under one roof does not equal happiness and a return to how life used to be. In the course of the novel everything is resolved through new jobs, new relationships, babies and greater understanding of what it means to be independent. Not a bad depiction of empty nest syndrome, and how life just goes its messy way on.

And for March I have these from the library

Now in case you think you have never heard of the book called Paul Clifford, I bet anything you have heard the opening line. What do you think it might be… honest you know it. I believe I may not actually get to the end of this one, I gather I will be in for some purple prose.

Any got any books they read this month to recommend?

 

Yarn Along!

So glad Yarn Along is back.

I am really enjoying The 19th Wife. I will do a review at the end of the month. Having finished the dragon I am now knitting some small squares to make a cushion. I am trying different patterns so it a kind of a sampler cushion, and using cotton yarn which is not my favourite but maybe I will get used to it.

To see what others are knitting and reading have a look at Small Things.

Big day tomorrow with Mr E’s Op, hopefully I will have good news for my next Knit and Natter. Take care,xx

December books

I have read four books this month which gives a total of 63 books consumed in 2017. Clearly I am a Lady of Leisure.

Robert Harris- An Officer and a Spy- Robert Harris is a favourite author of mine, and this book came recommended to me by Jane who blogs at Rainbow Junkie Corner, here.   The story based on a true case,is  set in France and concerns the Dreyfus Affair, in which an innocent man is framed by the army. The Army persists in covering up their role and it takes a brave officer to help uncover the truth. As always Harris tells a good story. I was gripped very early on in the book and spent two afternoons reading it whilst indulging a head cold! A jolly good read.

Qui Xiaolong-Death of a Red Heroine- ostensibly a murder detective story, but really that is a peg to hang other things on. I was initially frustrated by the very slow pace of the tale, till I relaxed into it and stopped looking for detective bits of the plot and allowed the whole narrative to pull me in. The book is really about life in China, Shanghai in the 1990s, the political undertones and faint menace of life, food, there is a lot of food and Chinese mythology and poetry. I really enjoyed the book. It was recommended to me when I was reading my way through an alphabet of authors and had got unstuck on X. I rather suspect that the last name is really what we in the West would call the first name, so should really be Q, but it’s as close to X for an author as I think I can get, unless you know an author whose family name begins with an X. I am calling that particular challenge to myself, complete.

Margaret Foster- How to Measure a Cow- a woman released from prison tries to make a new life for herself with a new identity. But she is thwarted by the interest of three former friends and the lady who lives opposite her. The book is OK. It started off very well and had my interest quite quickly, but it is another book where I feel the author didn’t know how to draw it to a conclusion. But you do learn briefly how to measure and cow, and more importantly why. I’ve been reflecting on this book further. The plot was not the point of this book. The story was a peg to be hung on, when am I going to learn to look beyond the story line. It is an exploration of self, can you re-invent yourself to be someone completely different, or rather do you come to terms with past events and become a better you. A better book than I first thought, give it a go and let me know what you think please.

Jane Gardam- Old Filth. This author had come highly recommended to me this year, but the two books I read I didn’t enjoy.Then the BBC world book club choose Old Filth and I liked what I heard. So it came home with me for Christmas reading and did not disappoint. Sir Edward Feathers, Teddy, Eddie or Fevvers to his friends, aka Old Filth (acronym for Failed in London try Hong Kong) was born in Malay and sent back to the UK aged five for his health, fostered out to a couple in Wales along with two distant cousins and another boy. Not a very nice couple it transpires. Onto schools, Oxford, the Bar and finally Hong Kong where he is highly successful. A fascinating read which has left me wanting to read the other two books in this trilogy, and to find out more about the Raj orphans.  A good book to finished the year on.

I shall do a pick of my top five books I read in 2017 sometime next week. Next year I hope to join in with Circle of Pines, details here a blog for sharing books each month. Here’s a preview of the books I shall try to read in January.

You can tell I was shelving the B’s last time I was volunteering in the Library. The How to Read like a Professor is my own book and one day when I have absorbed it all, you will be bowled over by my erudite book reviews!!

November Books!

Some more wonderful books this month.  Love to hear what you have read recently, I really enjoy your recommendations.

June Emerson- Albania-the search for the Eagle’s song. Not only is June an artist, a practising musician in her 80s, still working in the sheet music company which bears her name and inspiration and organiser of the Repair Cafe, she is also a bit of a travel writer. There is no end to her talents. In the late 80s on almost a whim she spotted an advert for a guided tour in Albania. Thus began a love affair with the country, the music and the people, and in due course two booklets. A Fascinating read. This lady really is my role model.

Ian McEwan-Nutshell- unborn babe with amazing thinking skills over hears his mother and her lover planning the murder of his father. The book struck me as odd and thought-provoking, until page 124. How could I be so dense? I had my “Reading like a Professor” lightbulb moment. Then all of a sudden the book was clever, sheer genius and brilliant! Loved it. If anyone is looking for a book for Book Club, this has got to be one, so much to get your teeth into, don’t let people give up, See how long it takes for their light bulb moment. Even the names of the characters should have told me. As I said , just dense.

Kate Atkinson- A God in Ruins- a stand alone follow on from Life after Life. The main protagonist is Teddy Todd, RAF fighter pilot in the Second World War. There are a lot of chapters about this part of  his life as well as about his family. It’s a good read, but the chapters are each very long, too long to read one at bedtime, at least for me. They also dot around a lot from one time period to another , which is confusing to me as I couldn’t always recall who the secondary characters were from one chapter to when they appeared again. Also I got bored with them all, the book is just too long for me, which is what I thought about Life after Life. Love to know if anyone else has read this one and what you thought.

Joanne Harris- Blackberry Wine- I have waited ages for this one to appear in the library. It’s a lovely book, if you enjoyed Chocolat , you will enjoy this too. Young boy befriends old man who is a whizz of a gardener and herbalist. Later on young boy as young man writes a best seller based on the character of the gardener, then moves to France where the magic begins.I was reminded of the message from Joni Mitchell about the pink paradise putting up a parking lot, the sentiment fitting in with our discussion in my York City Wallls post on tourism. One of my favourite book this year.

Samuel Beckett- Waiting for Godot- re-read of a loved play, prior to seeing in performed at the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough.. It’s like marmite you love or loathe it. A play in which nothing happens while waiting for Godot. Bit like life!

Emma Healey -Elizabeth is Missing- this one was recommended to me by Simply Hooked in the October books comments. A woman in her late 70s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, worries why she can’t find her friend Elizabeth and why no-one listens to her concerns. This story is entwined with her earlier life and her missing sister. A good read and especially good for highlighting the symptoms of this terrible condition, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as one after another of my own Mum’s peccadillos, as we thought them at the time, were mentioned. Especially poignant were the endless notes and the most irritating reading out loud of street signs. A well observed book, and I would sincerely recommend everyone reads this, because it may save you months of misery whilst you try to cope in these early days should your friend or relative fall victim to this illness.

Have you read and enjoyed or not enjoyed any of these? Has anyone been to Albania? I spent a long time reading about the country after reading June’s book on t’internet, fasicanting country and the folk costumes looked so Greek to me. And please do give me your recomnedations. Rainbow Junkie, I am reading yours right now An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris.

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