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Posts tagged ‘Robert Harris’

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!!


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.

Yarn Along!

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Lets start with the heap of books. The Robert Harris I was reading last time was brilliant. I love this author, his historical novels are so well researched and written, and his thrillers are great too. If you like thrillers with a conspiracy element then do try The Fear Index. I could sum it up in three words but that would give the whole book AWAY. Whilst we were away looking after business I read the John Grisham, The Litigators, another one of his good legal dramas.

Now I am reading The Spice Merchants wife, by Charlotte Betts, the blurb on the back compares her to Phillipa Gregory and Joanne Harris, check out my book page and you will know why I was drawn to this book. Sadly too much of the bodice ripper about it for my taste, but an enjoyable  read for all that.

On the underneath of the pile and barely visible is a Library book called Reclaimed Textiles by Kim Thittichai. The introduction contained sentences which really appealed to me. Consider ” How many of you have at least one drawer of products you have never used? Do you even know why you bought them?Many of us feel guilty of storing away things we are never going to use” THAT’S ME! Or material and objects  with ” an infinite number of colour and texture…many in your home right now” Has this Kim been in my house and had a rummage round.

Readers I borrowed the book. Sat down at home Earl Grey in the mug and commenced reading . By Page 10 the list of things called Basis Techniques began. BUT guess what you need all sorts of things I never heard of let alone having lying around my house unused. Consider Jones Tones heat transfer foils, mica flakes,gilding flakes, gel medium, acrylic wax, foil glues, xpandaprint, and I am only on page 13. Not quite what I was hoping for, but pretty to look at. Anyone heard of any of this stuff?

On the needles right now the tunic I am making for Miss F, the front is done. I never did a pattern before when you do the front before the back. What a sheltered life I have!

Meantime anyone going to the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate tomorrow. Hoping I can make it.

Joining with Ginny for Yarn Along

Yarn Along

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I love love love this little cardigan I made for Miss F. I only started it a week ago and its already finished along with two hats. Such a simple and pretty pattern. Made from Sirdar chunky on 5 1/2mm (US9) it just knitted up so quick. There is a lot of shaping to do ,so you row count the whole time ,but no button or neck band. It is fastened with a snap fastener hidden under the flower.

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The pattern is Sirdar 1772. You can make a plain one tone cardigan and use a button instead of a flower for a little lad. But if you need a baby jumper for a gift in a hurry this could be the one.

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Close up of the flower which is made of a contrast yarn, I used a pink tiny tot yarn left over from a previous offering.I made two hats, the first looked too small so I made the size larger as well just in case.

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What about the book I hear the cry. Well I am ashamed to say I abandoned the book I started last week. I didn’t follow the plot and I got muddled on who the characters were. It is rare for me to abandon a book, after all I am the person who waded through The Old Curiosity Shop and Little Dorrit, but this one just bored me, so I gave up.

Robert Harris is a favourite author so I knew I would be ok with this one, The Fear Index. Still at early stages of getting into it, but I know that I will!

Joining with Ginny

Books Q&A

I try to catch up with my emails daily, and so that includes checking out my favourite blogs. And once in a while a post comes up which really catches my attention and sends me off blog hopping. Today this happened. The blog that started it was Hannah Ackroyd-Here is the post which started me off. And here is the post which got Hannah started. And here is Skye’s post which got Stephanie started. And what is it all about- why some Q&As about books and reading. Bliss!

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Oh have I had fun today.

Here come the Questions.

What are you reading right now?

Revelation by C.J. Sansom. The book is a mix of historical (Tudor times- Henry 8th) and detective story. I started it three days ago and have read 181 pages. This story is set in London and concerns the mysterious and violent deaths of two seemingly unconnected learned men and the strange case of a young man admitted to Bedlam for becoming to fervent in his prayers. What I love about this book and others in this series is that I get caught up in the atmosphere of the story, I feel tangible fear emanating from the court of the tyrant Henry Tudor.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read after you finished this book?

I usually have a pretty good idea what I am going to read next as I always have a huge pile of books waiting to be read. The one I’ll read next is The Warden by Anthony Trollope. I have no idea if I’ll like it, but Trollope is one of those authors I’ve always meant to read. It’s the first in the Chronicles of Barsetshire, and I have wanted to read them as they are set in a Cathedral city , based on Salisbury. Not that I have ever been to Salisbury but I just love Cathedral cities- eg Winchester. And I found this copy in a charity shop on Tuesday, so it was meant to be.

Five Books you’ve always wanted to read but have never got round to.

Oh my this is hard as there are so many books I want to read and re read and time is ticking by. Like all the Dickens I have not yet read. But to be more specific, here are 5 books in my pile which never quite get to the Next Book stage.

The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck- I have actually started this but not got far. It’s supposed to be the book that has the most of Steinbeck himself in it, but it’s all marine biology and fishing and boats.

The Sea Wolf by Jack London-I bought this in San Francisco nearly 5 years ago. I read The Call of the Wild and White Fang also by Jack London which I loved. I just never got round to this.

Cervantes by Don Quixote – I bought this a while ago too. I was given a book token for £10 and managed to buy ten books with it from our now most lamented  long gone book shop. It’s just so big….

The Romance of Tristan by Beroul- no excuses I just never read it

Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky- again no excuses – I have loved the Russian books I read before, I just never read this.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now.

No magazines as such in the bathroom, but there is a seed catalogue usually in the cloakroom on the window cill. And I’m embarrassed about those in the lounge- so many sewing and craft magazines it’s not true. The one I bought most recently was “Stitch”. I may incriminate myself to say any more!!!!!!!!!

What’s the worst book you ever read?

The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury. On which the film of the same name is based. I read this with my son Mr B when we got back from a holiday in New York. Both of us gave up on it. We both found the film fascinating but just got plain bored with the book. But both of us said we would go back and finish it one day, we just didn’t- it’s still on our shelves.

What book is really popular but you really hated?

There are two authors I really can’t stand – one is Barbara Cartland and the other is Catherine Cookson. Both popular and both oh YUK!

I will however plump for The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald- I just had no sympathy for the characters.

What’s the one book you recommend to everyone?

The BBC compiled a list of 100 Good Reads. Now to my mind a Good Read is not the same as a Good book. It needs to appeal to men and women and across lots of age groups. So the book I suggested is one I would recommend to everyone. It is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. If you’ve not read it or seen it on TV then read ASAP before a TV production spoils it for you. The book is MILES better than any film or TV production. It is a cracking good read.

What are your favourite three poems?

I love listening to poetry read out loud but loose concentration when reading poetry to myself. So top of my list is not very original but it has to be ..

If by Rudyard Kipling. Des Lyman recorded it following the world cup in which England exited  rather ignominiously. I’ve still not forgiven a certain football player for his stupid kick. He broke my sons’ heart… Anyway this poem still makes me cry when I hear it read.If

Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep- Anon– found on a soldier who died in Northern Ireland. It is just beautiful.here And I see it has been attributed to someone now according to this site

This be the Verse by Philip Larkin . Sorry this is still in copyright and I can’t give you a link. But I try to forgive my parents in the hope my sons will forgive me…. you probably know the one I mean!

Where do you usually get your books?

The answer has to be Everywhere. Presents, book shops, charity shops, our second hand bookshop, car boot sales,  borrowed from family and friends,the Library. The book I read a week or so ago was passed onto me by my son Mr J and my current book came from a charity shop. If somewhere has books than I go and usually buy!

Where do you usually read your books?

Always in bed, sometimes on the sofa- usually on a Saturday afternoon before I watch Final Score. Always on holiday and boats, airplanes and trains. Never on coaches or cars – I get sick! Oh and always when I have to make a phone call which is going to involve listening to Vivaldi- turns a nightmare to a joy!

When you were little did you have any reading habits?

“Cathy turn the light out!” “Yes Mum!”. Under the bedclothes with a torch.. didn’t we all

And I also read cereal packets at breakfast- it beat having to eat the contents!

I still read everything- On watching adverts on telly it’s always “How much %?!!!!!” Or “they asked 98 women and 35 said they would recommend it! Big Deal!”

What’s the last book you stayed up half the night to read?

Oh that was Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. After three months reading it I just had to get it finished and move onto something more agreeable. I don’t recommend it but I did read it to the bitter end. WHY?

Have you ever faked reading a book?

No, I don’t believe I did, why would I?

Have you ever bought a book just because you like the cover?

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Sorry I forgot to turn the picture. I just love William Morris designs and so had to have the book- never read it but it looks great on the shelf! One day…

What was your favourite book as a child?

It has to be The Treasure Seekers by Enid Blyton. I owe her such a debt of gratitude for writing books that led to a lifetime of enjoyment in reading. I took the trouble to learn off by heart the opening paragraphs so that when I finally turned out the torch to go to sleep I recited them as I fell asleep.

Which book changed your life?

The Women’s Room by Marilyn French . Described as a hugely popular and feminist book here Just read it please ladies. It made me stronger as a woman, and I went back to studying.

What is your favourite passage from a book?

Apart from the Treasure Seekers?

Now I love Jane Austin  ( Pride and Prejudice)so don’t get me wrong here , but I believe that Elizabeth Bennet was a gold digger of the worst order- I don’t blame her-  poverty beckoned but consider on her first sight of Pemberley she goes into raptures in her description and then “and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something” And from that moment Mr Darcy seems a lot nicer!

But my absolute favourite passage is from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. “I’ll think of it all tomorrow….After all tomorrow is another day” Good advice!

Who are your top five favourite authors?

John Steinbeck

Alexander McCall Smith- for the Number One Ladies Detective Agency

Kate Mosse

Leo Tolstoy

Maeve Bincy- my guilty pleasure

But that’s just today…

What is your favourite classic book?

Middlemarch by George Elliott- all of life is  here and so beautifully written

Five notable mentions?

 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury- if you love books then read this for certain sure

Pompeii by Robert Harris– I felt as if I was there… wonderful descriptions of life in Pompeii

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey- and why Richard the 3rd did not kill those Princes in the Tower

The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory- just a good read.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac- so evocative of the period and just made me want to travel in the States, and i have done

Narrowing that down to five was so hard






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