Books, life the universe
Monday, 27 December 2010
John Galsworthy - The Forsyte Saga - all nine volumes of it. I haven't read it since the BBC dramatised the books back in the 1960s with Nyree Dawn Porter and Irene and Kenneth More as young Jolyon. I find I am still seeing all those famous faces as I read!
Patricia Wentworth - The Gazebo - I do love these Golden Age detective story writers and it's great - form my point of view - that some at least are available as e-books.
David Austin - Delivered Unto Lions - not my usual sort of book but I found it compelling reading. Daniel is 12 when he is sent to Oakdale - a psychiatric children's unit in the 1970s. It is written in the first person in a matter of fact style which makes it all the more effective. He is suffering from depression and the regime at Oakdale would be more likely to give anyone depression than cure it. Daniel is kept in the dark about just about everything and punished if he asks questions. I really hope children - or adults for that matter - are not treated like this now.
Ngaio Marsh - Final Curtain - Troy is commissioned to paint the portrait of an ageing Shakespearean actor dressed as Macbeth. Naturally he ends up dead which provides another case for Troy's husband Roderick Alleyn.
Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time is starting to appear in e-book format.
Friday, 24 December 2010
They are just melt in the mouth gorgeous. I used to buy them quite often when I lived near Waitrose but they're only a Christmas treat now - or they were until I bothered to look at the box on Wednesday and found a web address - www.whoismontybojangles.com. They do mail order and have other varieties of chocolates and truffles.
I ordered some more on Wednesday evening and they arrived this morning so I would like to recommend this website to any chocoholics out there not just for marvellous chocolates but also for excellent service. They will be getting more of my custom.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
M C Beaton - Death of a Maid - in this case maid means cleaning lady. Hamish wins the services of a somewhat aggressive and unpleasant cleaning lady. He and her other customers don't know whether to pleased or sorry when she is found dead - hit over the head with her own bucket.
Hazel Holt - Mrs Malory and the festival Murder - this is the first Mrs Malory book I've read and I shall be looking out for more. They are English village murder stories with a literary and musical background. Crime in a classic mould.
M C Beaton - Death of a Dustman - Fergus is not the most popular dustman in the world and soon becomes even less popular when he is given a new uniform and more power . Is he murdered because he has been brow-beating the villagers into recycling everything or is it something more than that?
Still plodding through Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - one chapter at a time.
Amy Silver - Confessions of a Reluctant Recessionista - chick lit about Cassie who loses her job and her boyfriend and goes on spending sprees to make her feel better. Clearly she is heading for disaster. Well written and entertaining light reading.
M C Beaton - Death of a Celebrity - those who are bored with reading about Hamish Macbeth will be relieved to know I've almost come to the end of the available e-books in this series.
Julia Cameron - Mozart's Ghost - set in New York - a story about a medium who needs peace and quiet for her job but finds it disturbed by a pianist playing Mozart moving into her apartment block. I've read nearly 100 pages of this and I'm really not sure about it. I shall persevere - it may redeem itself.
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Rebecca Tope - A Cotswold Mystery - Thea Osborne has to look after and house and an elderly lady next door who may or may not be as senile as you might think. The fourth novel in this interesting series includes Thea's daughter Jessica but only a very brief appearance by Phil Hollis - Thea's significant other.
M C Beaton - Death of a Scriptwriter - a darker novel in this series featuring Highland policeman - Hamish Macbeth
Shannon Hale - Austenland - Jane's aunt leaves her a 3 week Jane Austen experience when she stays in a country house and has to pretend to be a young lady of the Regency period. Interesting concept though some of the details are not right - the title Sir is used with the person's Christian name not his surname. The author is America - as is the heroine.
M C Beaton - Death of a Dreamer - an artist has her own fantasy life and ends up dead - Hamish thinks it's murder - Blair thinks it's suicide.
Friday, 3 December 2010
Rebecca Tope - A Cotswold Killing - the first in her series about Thea Osbourne - a widow - who takes on house sitting assignments and gets involved in investigating murders. The second in the series is A Cotswold Ordeal. I seem to remember reading one of this series some years ago and wasn't keen but I have gone back to them and found them interesting. Thea is growing on me as a character and the plots are nice and complicated.
Polly Samson - Perfect Lives - this is a book which has been in the news recently because of some Amazon reviews which were less than favourable. I'm not sure I would have bought it myself but it is quite good. It is a book of interlinked short stories and the writing is a little too self conscious for my taste. I shall persevere and hope when I post a review on Amazon it doesn't attract too much criticism.
Rebecca Tope - Death in the Cotswolds - the third in the series and narrated by someone in the village where Thea Osbourne goes to stay with Phil Hollis - a police superintendent. Pagan undertones, village life and the plot centres round a prehistoric barrow and the pagan festival of Samhain.
Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - a very long book about magic in the 19th century with pictures and footnotes. I have mixed feelings about this but I will persevere with it.
Web site - for those of us who like cozy mysteries - www.cozy-mystery.com For the uninitiated - cozy (or cosy if you prefer) are crime or mystery novels which have very little violence and usually feature every day situations and characters often with a theme - such as candlemaking, cooking, knitting etc.. All the above crime novels fall into this category. It is a genre which is perhaps more popular in America than here. The Golden Age authors fall into this category - Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy L Sayers.
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Barbara Erskine's Whispers in the Sand - time-slip novel about Anna who goes on a Nile cruise to get over her divorce and gets involved in some unfinished business from thousands of years ago. I stopped reading this half way through when it first came out but decided to give it another go. I found it totally absorbing the second time round.
Ruth Newman's Twisted Wing - serial killer in Cambridge college. More violence than I usually like and some of the characters were perhaps a little cardboard cut out but I found myself totally gripped by it. The psychological aspects of it make it worthwhile. I found I had to keep reading the second half and stayed up way past my usual bed time to find out who the killer actually was.
Currently reading . . .
Barbara Erskine's The Sands of Time - short story collection which includes two stories which follow on from Whispers in the Sand.
Patricia Wentworth's The Fingerprint - A Miss Silver mystery. Golden Age type detective story - several suspects in a country house.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Georgette Heyer - A Blunt Instrument - body in the study and plenty of suspects not to mention a Bible quoting PC. Another case for Hannasyde and Hemingway.
Trisha Ashley - Twelve Days of Christmas - chick lit set around Christmas with widow Holly Brown coming to terms with her grief for her late husband. Serious issues but feel good factor too.
Veronica Heley - False Money - latest instalment in the Abbot Agency series. Cosy crime with interesting characters and fascinating scenarios.
Elizabeth Buchan - That Certain Age - two women sixty years apart - facing very similar problems in balancing their own lives with family life
Angela Thirkell - Wild Strawberries - I first read this book about forty years ago and had forgotten how good it is if you like reading about life for the upper classes in the 1930s. Her dialogue and witty descriptions raises this author's work above run of the mill novels.
M C Beaton - Death of a Gossip - first in the Hamish Macbeth series - good light reading.
Anna Dale - Magical Mischief - a children's book but still worth reading for adults - Mr Hardbattle's bookshop has been taken over by magic. We see drawing pins sending messages, a velour elephant which marches up and down a shelf, a step that turns to custard and books that rearrange themselves in the colours of the rainbow when no one is looking. Fun for any age.
Trisha Ashley, Angela Thirkell and Veronica Heley were books the rest were e-books.
Thursday, 4 November 2010
This was abandoned before it was ruled to be illegal and anti-competitive. Now some publishers - most notably the Hachette group which includes such big names as Penguin and Harper Collins - are saying that anyone selling their e-books, whatever format, must sell them at the price dictated by the publisher - i.e. retailers are acting as the publisher's agents and selling on their behalf.
This to me is price fixing under another name and is, I think, illegal in the UK under EU and UK law. Even if it is illegal it would seem that the publishers are likely to shoot themselves in the foot with this as in some cases the e-book price is turning out to be considerably higher than the hardback price. This piece of nonsense arises because retailers can discount hardbacks and paperbacks as much as they like but cannot alter the price of e-books from some publishers.
I'm aware both publishers and authors need to make a living and like most people who read I have no problem paying a fair price for a book I want to read. Ultimately I shall do with e-books what I have always done with tree books - look at the price for the cheapest format and make my choice accordingly based on whether I want to keep the book or read it once and dispose of it. What I am against is people trying to sell to me at a higher price because it keeps the market dynamic and gives consumers more choice as one publisher tried to say. So making every retailer sell an e-book is giving consumers more choice and keeping the market dynamic? I don't think I'd want him working for me if I was running a company!
I don't see there are any baddies or goodies in this situation - it is just a new market trying to establish itself and stabilise. I shan't be boycotting any publishers but I will be making my book buying decisions based on price and how much I want to read the book concerned. If the price fixed bears some resemblance to the paperback price of the book then I may buy it. If it is way more than the hardback then I shall wait for it to come down or not as the case may be. I read between 250 and 300 books per year. I can't see me running out of e-books to read - many of which are free.
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Recent reads in e-book have been:
Georgette Heyer - Death in the Stocks - a body is found in the village stocks and leads Superintendent down some very murky byways of family life
Wendy Holden - Gallery Girl - this was a paperback - I enjoyed it though not as much as some of hers. I did enjoy the jibes at the pretensions of some of the more way out parts of the art world - artificial legs sprayed gold and hung on a washing line - your for £20 million. There are some absolutely priceless scenes towards the end of the book which make the whole thing worth while.
Georgette Heyer - Footsteps in the Dark - a brother and two sisters inherit a dilapidated country house only to find that it appears to have a resident ghost or two. They quickly realise that the ghost may be rather more corporeal than it would like them to think.
Richard Wiseman - 59 seconds - sort of distilled self help and psychology. It was interesting but as I can't remember anything about it now it clearly wasn't that memorable!
The Complete Idiot's Guide to dealing with Difficult People - interesting with a few tips I shall make use of such as lowering your voice when someone is getting angry. It reminds the reader that you can never control the behaviour of others - only how you react to that behaviour.
Georgette Heyer - Detection Unlimited - murder of a very unlikeable solicitor in a country village - featuring Chief Inspector Hemingway.
Jenni Mills - The Buried Circle - set around Avebury featuring two parallel narratives from the point of view of India in the present day and Frannie, her grandmother in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Trisha Ashley - The Twelve Days of Christmas - this is a paperback which I'd bought before I realised there was an e-book. I'm getting through it slowly and I'm starting to think her recent books are not as good as early ones.
Saturday, 23 October 2010
Georgette Heyer's Penhallow - e-book - not what I was expecting because the reader knows who the murderer is and how it was done. The portrait of a family tyrant - Adam Penhallow - and the effect he has on his nearest and dearest deserves to be better known. It is an excellent psychological novel
Games People Play by Eric Berne - I first read this about 30 years ago and had forgotten a great deal of it. Very instructive about the way people operate and you find yourself looking out for the games people play in every day life.
Georgette Heyer - Death in the Stocks - e-book - a body is found in the stocks on the village green. Superintendent Hannasyde is his usual self and the story exposes a very strange family set up.
Risk: the science and politics of fear by Dan Gardner - e-book - fascinating book about how bad human beings are at assessing relative risk
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Coffin, Scarcely used by Colin Watson - 1950s crime in seaside town in Lincolnshire - paperback
Our Lady of Pain by M C Beaton - Edwardian Crime featuring Lady Rose Summer and Captain Harry Cathcart - private investigator - e-book
Pursued by Love by Georgia Hill - love story set against the filming of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice - e-book.
The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh which is a new Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane story set in 1951 and featuring a case which is mentioned in other Peter Wimsey books. It is very good and I could imagine Sayers herself writing this one - paperback.
What's Up Doc? by Hilary Jones - the doctor who appears regularly on TV - good but not as good as some - e-book.
Cranford by Mrs Gaskell - Victorian life from a female perspective, e-book.
A Medal for Murder: a Kate Shackleton Mystery by Frances Brody - Yorkshire crime set in the 1920s - very good it was as well - I can thoroughly recommend this series. Paperback
A predominance of crime set in other eras.
The Hedge Fund Wives by Tatiana Boncompagni - chick lit with bling and shopping but seems pretty well written - paperback
Wives and Daughters by Mrs Gaskell - 19th century literature - e-book
What would Jane Austen do? by Laurie Brown - time travel and ghosts - e-book
59 seconds by Richard Wiseman - sort of self help/popular psychology - e-book - I will be writing a post shortly about this type of book - which I've always enjoyed reading.
Saturday, 2 October 2010
I have also read Holday SOS by Brian McFarlane about a doctor who was involved in repatriating people who had been injured or taken ill when abroad. It was interesting reading and showed how complex the situation becomes if you need to be repatriated while abroad. It is also a reminder to make sure you have adequate travel insurance cover!
I finished Merchants of Culture by John B Thompson and thought it was interesting and well written even if it did take some getting through because it was packed full of information.
Then I've read another in M C Beaton's Edwardian mystery series featuring Lady Rose Summer and Captain Harry Cathcart. This was the third one in the series - Sick of Shadows. It is entertaining reading and I am currently part way through the fourth one - Our Lady of Pain.
I'm currently reading Thomas Love Peacock's Nightmare Abbey - which is a bit of an acquired taste. As light relief I'm also reading Pursued by Love by Georgia Hill - romantic comedy set against the filming of a new version of Pride and Prejudice. There are just so many Pride and Prejudice spin offs - whether set in the present day or the past. Some better than others of course.
Sunday, 26 September 2010
I'm still ploughing through Merchants of Culture by John B Thompson - which is fascinating - but heavy to hold. I've always been interested in the way publishers work and this provides a lot of information. I could have done without so much information about American publishing but it's still worth reading. When you consider how big the US is it publishes - relatively speaking - fewer new books each year that the UK does - 194,000 new titles a year in 2008 compared with the UK's 120,000. What is interesting is that those figures only relate to trade publishers and the books reckons you can double the number of new titles if you include self publishing, print on demand etc. Books are alive and well and living everywhere.
I've currently just started a Jane Austen spin off which I've been debating reading for a while - Laura Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. All American girl wakes up one morning to find herself in Austen's England inhabiting someone else's body - that of Jane Mansfield. Light reading but interesting and amusing for all that.
I have downloaded e-book versions of the whole of Anthony Trollope and the whole of Charles Dickens not to speak of the whole of Mrs Gaskell - plenty of reading there for cold winter evenings! They are such ridiculously cheap prices - or completely free that I couldn't resist.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
I enjoyed the Erica James and while it did have its light hearted and funny moments it had heavyweight themes in at as well about the fickleness of public opinion and the disadvantages of quarrelling with ones parents.
The M C Beaton is one of her Edwardian crime series featuring Lady Rose Summer and Captain Harry Cathcart - not to speak of Daisy the lady's maid with hidden talents. Very light reading but well written.
I'm always interested in people's job so the Alex McBride is good reading for me - not to everyone's taste perhaps.
Friday, 17 September 2010
I've also read George and Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody and I love Mr Pooter. His staunch principles, his loyalty to his employer and his love for his wife and son even when they annoy him are marvellous. Yes he gets irritated by some not very important things but often he tears up his letters of complaint and doesn't post them. When given more compensation for his ruined handkerchiefs than the handkerchiefs cost new he is scrupulous about returning the amount he isn't entitled to - which to me sums him up. An absolutely marvellous book and I really should have read it years ago.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
- The Amazon-Kindle logo on the screen surround irritates me - does anyone know how I can remove it?
- I don't like the screensavers which come with it - they're just black/grey pictures of authors etc - can I change them?
- I can't buy books from Waterstone's - why do Amazon insist you only buy books from them?
- I don't like the size of the margin on the page - I want it smaller
- The screen goes black when the page changes - it irritates me
- Why isn't there a memory card slot?
- I don't like having lots of small transactions on my credit card for Kindle books because my card provider has queried some of my transactions.
- I want a Kindle in white not grey
My answers were:
- You don't notice it when you're reading but something like T-Cut might get it off if it's really annoying
- Do you look at the screensavers when you're reading a book?
- Amazon don't insist you only buy from them. In fact they specifically direct you to other sites where you can download books for free and the Kindle supports some other formats as well.
- Size of the margin varies from book to book and if you change the text size and the number of words per line - try experimenting
- Duh! All e-book readers do this - it is for a fraction of a second only and you could try blinking when it changes then you won't notice.
- Do you really intend buying more than 3,500 books? If you do try deleting them when you need more space as Amazon keep a list of everything downloaded from them and you can always re-download them if you want.
- Credit card providers get used to your spending pattern and query transactions outside the norm for you. I'm all for them querying transactions myself so I can't see the problem
- Grey is easier to read from - a white surround will distract you from the page you're reading. You could always try painting it ;-)
I didn't actually answer some of the questions because my answers would probably have got me severely criticised. But seriously all these points could have been clarified from reading the product page BEFORE purchase. One person sent their Kindle back because of the page change thing even though he'd been told by everyone who responded that all e-book readers do this and you don't notice after a while.
Do people look for things to criticise? As for the person who said the screensaver picture of Jane Austen frightened her - well words fail me!
Thursday, 9 September 2010
The house suddenly becomes overcrowded when Jake returns home with his small daughter Maisie and Tom's redundancy causes his mother Hermione to move in with them as her care home can no longer be funded. The small irritations of every day family life are recognisably real and even Hermione - the aged relative from hell - has her good points as well as her bad ones. I loved all the characters - faults and all - and wanted things to work out for them. The book provides no trite answers to the problems but shows clearly that family life is based on compromise. I enjoyed it and would recommend this author's thoughtful and thought provoking novels of family life and marriage.
Friday, 3 September 2010
I've also cleaned the car and done various things about the house including housework - shock! horror! In fact I'm not sure where the week's gone and I've been busy most of the time.
I'm currently reading the John O'Farrell and some of G K Chesterton's Father Brown stories - which were free to download. I've also started re-reading for the first time in years Winnie the Pooh and Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense. It's amazing what you can find free or very cheap.
Sunday, 29 August 2010
I was going to say it's like reading a book but it's actually better in some ways than reading a book. You can change text size and appearance, line spacing and the number of words per line. You don't get text lost at the edge of the page as you do when reading a tightly bound paperback. Of course the big advantage is you can store up to 3500 books on it and pretty well anything out of copyright is free or less than £1. Other books - unless they're only just published - are cheaper than paperbacks.
It has to be one of the best things I've bought.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
I'm also reading The Fan Tan Players by Julian Lees which has a really pleasing cover picture. It's set in Macao and Scotland among other places in the early to mid 20th century. Well written with some glorious descriptions of places and food, it features Nadia a White Russian exile and Iain a Scot working for an early version of MI6.
Then there's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz which I'm still ploughing through. It is interesting but not that sort of thing you want to read for hours at a time.
I've nearly finished Mean Spirit by Will Kingdom - not I think as good as his Merrily Watkins series written under his real name but still worth reading.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
I also finished Kate Muir's Suffragette City and enjoyed it. Some very funny scenes and some interesting characters as well the historical background of suffragette activity in the early 20th century.
I'm currently reading David Hamilton's How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body which is very interesting. Visualisation as a way of helping to heal your body. He makes clear that people shouldn't give up their conventional medication but use visualisation as something extra. He is also honest enough to say that the personal stories he quotes have not been medically verified and they're just how people have sent them to him. As I'm interested in the mind/body link I'm finding it fascinating.
I've also just started reading this Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz - about how we are so attached to being right. I've only read about 30 pages so far so maybe more about this later.
Monday, 16 August 2010
Also reading Suffragette City by Kate Muir which I've had kicking around for ages. I finally picked it up and started reading it on Saturday and was hooked by it. Albertina is living a somewhat Bohemian life in New York when her grandmother gives her a trunk belonging to Agnes - Albertina's great great grandmother. The problem is that Agnes - in spirit form - keeps turning up and haranguing Albertina about her life and how she's wasting it. Funny and historically interesting.
Pretty mixed bunch there and I'm also still listening to Bill Bryson's At Home - on disc 13 of 14.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
I have no problem with people wanting to live in cities - it's just not my thing. I find people in villages very friendly. When I walk to the the post office - about 5 minutes - I find that everyone speaks to you. The same in the post office and shop. When I go to the hairdressers the conversation is often general and involves the hairdresser's three staff and all the customers there at the time. Same with the doctor's waiting room.
The walk to the post office has been known to take me more than an hour because I've met so many people to talk to. In spite of that life is quiet and much slower than city life. If I wake up about 2.00 or 3.00am everything is quiet outside which it never would be in a city.
Yes there are disadvantages. No theatres nearby, though there is a cinema about 6 miles away. There are libraries and mobile libraries but no art galleries unless you want to travel about 40 miles. There are some specialist museums - such as the bulb museum - that's flower bulbs not electric light bulbs; and there are big houses to visit not that far away - nearest is 10 miles away. With mail order and the internet you can get anything you want delivered and there is a furniture shop about 5 miles away which is very good and very reasonably priced in spite of a captive audience.
I like being able to walk into the doctors and be addressed by name by the receptionists - it makes me feel I belong - though it could indicate I go there too often! Crime is low - virtually non-existent in this village. It's a bit higher in the two neighbouring towns though in both of them you could walk through the town centre at night on your own without any qualms about safety.
Saturday, 7 August 2010
Set in Cambridge and New York this is a well written book with many very funny one liners and some believable characters. Theo's wife Theresa - a Shakespearean scholar - is one of the protagonists. Both Sasha and Theresa have their faults which make them human. I'm always wary of reading this type of blockbuster fiction because it frequently promises a lot and delivers little. Scandalous is a satisfying read with an intriguing finale. I enjoyed it. Not quite a 5* read but certainly 4*s.
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
The lessons I have learned:
- Don't ever show something is important to you or you feel strongly about something otherwise you will be ridiculed
- Accept all abuse without retaliating
- If someone accuses you of breaking any rules or laws - don't rise to it and defend yourself - you'll only end up in the wrong
- Everything you think is insulting is actually humorous and you're the stupid one for taking it seriously - no good expecting your own comments to be taken as a joke because they won't be.
I'm semi-serious about those points but I actually think the person I was arguing with has a screw loose.
Some of the problem is that I have developed a reputation for being reasonable and rational and not insulting people and I was consequently arguing with my hands tied behind my back and with a bag over my head while the other person behaved like drifting mist and turned round everything I said to mean the opposite of how it was intended.
Baffled by the whole thing - yes I am. Communication to me is a two way process and I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. I always mean exactly what I write - unless I put a winking smiley at the end of it. Other people seem to take the piss all the time. Oh well we're all different and there's nowt so queer as folk.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Obviously this is a generalisation but I've read before that women are in general better at describing symptoms of any sort. There are sad cases in the book - the Type 1 Diabetic who is not using her insulin properly and the hypochondriac who does turn out to have something serious wrong with him. But the big thing to take from this book is that 90% of complaints will get better without any medical intervention at all and medical intervention may even make things worse. Your doctor's job is to keep you away from the hospital and away from all the expensive tests - not to save the NHS money but to allow your body to do what it does best - heal itself.
Should be required reading for all patients.
Friday, 30 July 2010
This is fantastic news for Leigh and I wish her the best of luck.
You can find out more about Leigh at her blog www.leighrussell.blogsport.com or at www.noexit.co.uk and both Cut Short and Road Closed the next book in her series featuring DI Geraldine Steel are available from www.amazon.co.uk
I thoroughly enjoyed both of them and they are well worth reading if you like crime novels.
There is just so much packed into the books - ghosts, the supernatural, religion, paganism, local history and folk lore. Then there's the characters - Merrily herself and her teenage daughter Jane and her boyfriend Eirion; Gomer Parry - semi retired plant hire expert; Lol Robinson - singer, song writer and guitarist; Sophie - the Bishop's lay secretary; Frannie Bliss - detective and his boss - the ice maiden Annie Howe. Great stuff and I find myself totally lost in their world on the Hereford border with Wales.
When I get to the end of the series I have several other books to start on. Matt Haig's The Radleys; Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson; Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles; Sick Notes by Tony Copperfield. A fair old mixture there!
The stop press news is that I have finally ordered an e-book reader. I've been debating for about a year whether to get one. Now Amazon are selling a UK version of their very successful Kindle I'm going for that - which will be released at the end of August. I had favoured the Sony but having found out their latest one has a shiny screen I decided to go for the Kindle. I dislike reading books printed on shiny paper as I find them difficult to read so trying to read on a shiny screen could have been difficult.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
So far he's talked about clergyman in the 18th and 19th century - I hadn't realised how many of them had made inventions or discoveries in all fields of human endeavour. Then he's covered the Great Exhibition and all its interesting statistics. Only 25 people arrested for crimes out of 5 million visitors. The Chartists and their struggle for universal manhood suffrage and the design and construction of the Crystal Palace and its subsequent history.
There are so many interesting snippets that you immediately want to know about them and I suspect you really need to read it as an e-book so that you can look up more information about the things he mentions. I really recommend it to anyone who likes information and interesting and eccentric people.
Friday, 23 July 2010
I found The Lamp of the Wicked - number 5 in the series - compelling reading. The background to it the Fred West murder cases and a possible copy cat killer - with of course supernatural elements. A very good and thought provoking mystery.
Monday, 19 July 2010
I'm also listening to an audio book of Jane Austen's The Watsons and Sanditon - her two unfinished novels. I really wish she'd lived long enough to finish Sanditon as I'm sure it would have been one of her best books.
I also have an audio book - all 14 discs of it - of Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life which looks like being good. I got that through the Amazon Vine programme - free - which can't be bad.
Friday, 16 July 2010
That said I don't think David Cameron should have asked for the Facebook page to be taken down. I'm all for freedom of speech - even if I don't like what is said and I'm also of the opinion that the majority don't agree with most of what has been said in support of Moat. It's better to let stupid people expose themselves to ridicule really or as my grandfather always said; 'better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt'.
Monday, 12 July 2010
Village life with all its fallings out and cliques is well portrayed. A newcomer wants to stage a drama in the church to rehabilitate a 17th century vicar - Wil Williams. But things are not as simple as they seem. There is ghostly activity in the vicarage and Jane - Merrily's daughter - has some strange other worldly experiences. This is a gripping story and it keeps you reading even when you're hair is standing on end. It even made me break my usual habit of reading several books at the same time - even though I'd read it before.
Friday, 9 July 2010
Thursday, 8 July 2010
Lady Susan is written in the epistolary form and presents a picture of one the nastiest most manipulative fashionable ladies in fiction I think. She descends on friends and relatives at a moment's notice and stays too long. She delights in enticing men away from their wives or girl friends - for the hell of it. Her own interpretation of her conduct is of course completely different. She has no qualms about adultery or about treating her teenage daughter something like a parcel - moving her between friends and schools and trying to marry her off to someone rich and gullible.
The Watsons is about a family living in a small village on very little money. Emma Watson has just returned from several years living with an aunt. The Aunt has re-married and Emma has lost any hope she might have of being left any money. The story centres on the intereaction between a group of country families. By the end of the fragment it is unclear whether Emma will end up with Mr Howard - the local clergyman - or Lord Osbourne - who seems to have a passing resemblance to Mr Darcy.
Sanditon is about a seaside village which two local landowners - Mr Parker and Lady Denham - are hoping to turn into a fashionable seaside resort. Mr Parker has Charlotte Heywood staying with him and his family in return for being looked after following a carriage accident. There are many hypochondriacs of all ages who are brought vividly to life and the village is described in some detail. If the book had been finished I can't help feeling it would have been as good as anything else Jane Austen wrote. Unfortunately it was left unfinished when she died.
Saturday, 3 July 2010
Knowing your area and knowing what could happen is a big part of the work - and luck and being in the right place at the right time. I enjoyed reading about the funny incidents - the gang who stripped down a Land Rover and took the bits away (they were caught); the gang who dismantled part of the back wall of a supermarket brick by brick to remove the safe from the manager's office (they were also caught eventually). Then there's the author's Countryside Watch initiative (like neighbourhood watch) which helped them catch the lawn mower thieves by acting as the police's eyes and ears.
I recommend the book - it is interesting reading.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
I'm also reading Dan Waddell's Blood Atonement - the sequel to Blood Detective which I read last week.
I just read Kirsty Robinson's Grass Stains about Louisa, a journalist, who is teetering on the brink of a breakdown and really doing nothing to stop herself falling over the edge. If you like the sort of book which depicts the excesses of the drink and drugs culture as though it is a really great lifestyle - then maybe this is the book for you. I'm afraid it brought out the prude in me and I just wanted to shake both Louisa and Dan - her alcoholic and junkie husband - and tell them there is more to life than getting wasted.
I've just started Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog - which I'm really not sure about yet. It is set in Leeds - a city I know quite well - which drew me to read it. I'll see how it develops - it may improve.
I'm also reading Mike Pannett's Not on my Patch, Lad about his experiences of policing in North Yorkshire. I enjoy books about people's jobs and have read the previous two by this author.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Isabella must be one of the most manipulative, simpering and silly women in Austen's books. Yes she has to make a reasonably wealthy marriage - having no fortune of her own - but to behave how she does is not the best way to achieve that aim. The misunderstandings about everyone's relative wealth and status are the sub text for the love story of Henry and Catherine. Ultimately it does not matter to Henry how much Catherine's fortune is because he has enough money of his own, but others in the story such as his father, have other opinions.
Catherine is not typical heroine material, as her creator acknowledges, but I found myself warming to her as she tries to make sense of her world. Her journey home on her own shows she is made of sterner stuff than the average heroine. Her civil manners and generous tipping provide her with good care and treatment as she has to sort out hiring her own post horses - a frightening prospect for a young girl of 17 in the early 19th century.
I have Persuasion, the Juvenilia, Sanditon, The Watsons and Lady Susan left to read. I have read Persuasion before - though not for many years - the rest I have not read, so that is a treat in store.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
A murder victim is found in London with what appears to be a reference number carved into its chest. This proves to be a reference number for the GRO registers of births marriages and deaths. Fortunately one of the detectives - Heather Jenkins - knows of a family history researcher - Nigel Barnes - and contacts him about it. Heather Jenkins and Grant Foster - the detectives - are then involved in an exciting to chase to try and second guess what the murdered is going to do next based on what happened in 1879.
My only complaint about the book was that some of the violence was a bit too graphic for my taste and that yet again we have a hard drinking morose policeman. I really wish someone would write a crime novel featuring a cheerful detective - maybe someone has done so - if so can anyone let me know who? In spite of that criticism I shall be reading the next one in the series - and skipping the violent bits.
Sunday, 20 June 2010
You see even the most trivial decision is fraught with difficulty if you want it to be. I was debating whether to take Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey with me but I like to appreciate Austen in peace and quiet - so maybe not her. But there is Joan Aiken's Mansfield Revisited (thank you, Noreen, for the information about this) which may need less savouring but is fewer than 200 pages long. My journey is about 2.5 hours each way and I therefore need something longer than 200 pages.
In the end I've plumped for Dan Waddell's The Blood Detective and Joan Aiken's Mansfield Revisited - neither of them heavy books in the physical sense; and I'm taking my trusty Kangol messenger bag so there's plenty of room. I had considered a heavy weight tome about feminism - Simone De Beauvoir's The Second Sex but as I've tried to read that before and found it difficult a train journey is not the place to get to grips with it.
Friday, 18 June 2010
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
I have no problem with dialogue - if it is well written, which hers is - but I do like to see a larger proportion of narrative in the novels I read. Her last book Love Letters - set in the literary world - was good - almost back to the standard of her earlier work. So I had high hopes of A Perfect Proposal. I did enjoy it but . . . It seemed almost as though there were two books trying to get out. There was the story about Luke and his grandmother Matilda - from New York and there was the story with Sophie's (the heroine's) family. There just seemed to be too much material for one book and it seemed a little disjointed and sort of thrown together in a hurry. The problem is, I think, that Katie Fforde has found a formula that works and sells books - which she and her publisher obviously love - but I think she needs to maybe do something a bit different.
If you like light fiction then don't let me put you off - just read her earlier books as listed above. - anything prior to about 2003 was excellent in my opinion.
Monday, 14 June 2010
Saturday, 12 June 2010
Many people like Frank Churchill as a character but I find him too smarmy and insincere. He does not treat Jane Fairfax well at all especially when you consider his clandestine relationship with her. It is a book which repays several readings as do all Jane Austen's novels.
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Abi - having fallen out with her boss Kieran Scott - is sent by her Bishop to stay with some friends of his who live near Glastonbury. But she has not seen the last of Kier who has accused her of being a witch and conjuring up the spirits of the dead when they both see and hear a ghostly congregation in a church in Cambridge. This is a fascinating and compelling story of history and the present day and religions both past and present. I loved it and found it totally enthralling.
Friday, 4 June 2010
The plot is complex with several apparently overlapping investigations. There's the unsolved series of burglaries, a murder of an elderly lady which might have been an accident and a deadly arson attack. Pretty standard police fare you might think. But then things get complicated with an apparently unprovoked attack on a local small time villain. Geraldine herself has problems with her on/off relationship with Craig, a local estate agent, her mother's death and a demanding friend who can't understand Geraldine' devotion to her job.
The characters are believable and I really like Geraldine herself who is far from perfect, unlike some fictional police officers. I also liked the way everything dovetailed together so that while you're reading you get those light bulb moments when a piece of the jigsaw slots into place. I thought the petty villains and the arson victim's widow were particularly well drawn as was the elderly man whiling away his time in the seedy pub.
Enjoyable crime, without the graphic blood and guts so many authors use and well worth reading if you enjoy psychological police procedural novels where the police seem like real people with lives outside the job. I'm looking forward to the next one in this series.
I will be posting an interview with Leigh Russell on jillysheep on Monday 14 June 2010.
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Here it all goes pear shaped as far as I'm concerned. The obnoxious swear word on the first page; the violent impulses of many of the male characters; the concentration on bodily functions; and the obviously endemic racism against anyone who isn't exactly like the character whose thoughts the reader happens to be privy to at the time. Yes I'm sure the writer is accomplished and he paints an interesting and accurate(?) picture of middle class life in Melbourne. But do people in Melbourne really behave in this way? Are they constantly fantasising about attacking their wives or any one else they don't happen to like at that moment?Misogyny is rife and what a man says goes. The women who attempt to stand up to them are mainly defeated.
I found I didn't really care what happened to any of the characters and the book was about 250 pages too long for me. There was too much verbiage; too much irrelevant back story for all the characters which clouded all the issues. If the author had concentrated on the ripples spreading out from the slap and nothing else it would have been a powerful story. As it was, I felt there were at least two novels trying to get out and to remove most of the second one would have left a much better book.
Sunday, 30 May 2010
I started reading Leigh Russell's Road Closed last night and found it engrossing reading - to the extent that I read all of part 1 - about 8o pages- even though I had the latest Barbara Erskine tugging at my sleeve and clamouring for my attention! I did start reading Time's Legacy as well before I fell asleep. I'm lucky enough to have received a proof copy of Time's Legacy through Amazon Vine - which allows its members to pick from a list of free books - usually advance copies - every month. I was surprised to see Barbara Erskine on there because she has a large readership anyway. Lady of Hay sold 2 million copies! But I'm more than glad to receive a copy at least 6 weeks before publication.
Friday, 28 May 2010
I'm currently still indulging in an orgy of Jane Austen; reading Mansfield Park and listening to Sense and Sensibility. I'm also reading The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas which is about a man at a friend's BBQ who slaps a child - not his own. The book is about the repercussions from that one single act has amongst the friends who were at the BBQ when the parents of the child go to the police.
What a good idea for a novel you might think as it provides lot of opportunities for showing characters in their ordinary lives and the effect of one ill thought out action on them and their relationships. But it is set in Melbourne and the culture there must be completely different from the UK. There is much use of heavy duty swear words, casual racism and a fascination with violent imagery. At least two of the main characters - male - are having affairs.
It is clear the men are the boss at home. They walk into a room and change the music their wives are listening to and insist on their choices. Wives get bawled out if they talk about their lives to anyone and the husbands are always thinking about smashing their faces in even if they regard themselves as happily married. Not pleasant. The writing is good and it would be even more powerful if the bad language, violence, misogyny and racism weren't there. It is perfectly possible to indicate that a character swears without using the words.
For light entertainment I'm also reading Victoria Clayton's Dance with Me.
I have received today - from Amazon - my copy of Leigh Russell's Road Closed - the month before official publication so I will probably be able to post my interview with Leigh AND a review of the book at the same time. I'm looking forward to reading it.