Books, life the universe

Sunday 25 September 2011

The end

Jillysheep is now up and running at Wordpress. I am still getting to grips with the layout and what to put where but there are two posts on there to be read - one about the Mountjoy novels of Elizabeth Pewsey/Aston/Edmondson and one about Jane Austen sequels, prequels and continuations.

Thank you everyone for your support over the last few years and I hope you will continue to visit jillysheep at www.jillysheep.wordpress.com

I hope to resurrect Lady Sophia as well and start writing regularly about feminism again and I think Lady Sophia will also migrate to Wordpress in due course.

Sunday 18 September 2011

New home for jillysheep

I am currently in the process of setting up jillysheep on www.wordpress.com I seem to have a lot of problems with blogger with it throwing me out from time to time and not letting me comment on other people's blogs even when signed into my account. It has been known to not let me amend my own posts and locks me in a loop of signing in and then throwing me out. So I decided to move house as it were.

I am currently finding my way round Wordpress and will let you know when I feel that it is ready for visitors - might be later today or might be later this week. I intend to post more in the future and be rather more professional about it as well so there will be more in depth book reviews and occasional long posts on my favourite series and authors. I will also post essays on such topics as Jane Austen sequels, the ebook phenomenon and other book related themes.

I had considered changing the name of the blog but rejected that idea in the end as people seem to recognise jillysheep. The address for the blog's new home is www.jillysheep.wordpress.com and I will let you know once I have decided whether to re-post some of the entries from here on to the new blog. It is likely that this edition of the blog will stay as it is and the Wordpress version will be the blog which will be updated in the future.

Saturday 17 September 2011

A marvellous book of short stories

People Tell Me Things by David Finkle - this is not my usual sort of reading by any means. It is by an American writer and the stories are set in the literary and art world of New York. But something appealed to me about it and I accepted the review copy I was offered a few weeks ago.

I am really glad I did. The stories are some of the best I have read for many years. They are full of compassion for the human condition and gently humorous. The amusement does not arise from poking fun at the foibles of the characters but springs naturally from the situations and descriptions. There is a wamth and compassion which is lacking in so much writing this days. I found it really enjoyable to read an author who clearly loves people for their personalities.

The stories left me with the feeling I was eavesdropping on real life but not in a voyeuristic way. Small everyday actions have unforeseen consequences and repercussions. Characters think they know what is going on and then find the situation isn't as they believed it to be and the piece of the jigsaw they hold does not belong to the jigsaw they thought they had. The dialogue is realistic, the characters are believable and idiosyncratic and the situations could translate to almost any milieu because human behaviour is universal.

It is difficult to give a flavour of these stories because they are so different from anything I've read. They leave me with a warm feeling that there are still people left in the world who don't want to find amusement in cutting people down to size or dwelling on extreme sex and violence to the exclusion of the good qualities in human nature. These stories are unique in my opinion and deserve a wide audience.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Latest reading

The Psychic Tourist by William Little - the author buys his sister and her daughter astrological chart analyses for Christmas. Unfortunately they both say that his sister and niece need to be careful about being near water. This stops his sister travelling by boat or even being anywhere near water. Feeling responsible for restricting her life, William Little sets out to discover whether the future really can be predicted. He consults psychic, mediums, astrologers, gypsies, palm reader, Tarot readers and physicists. The verdict? Perhaps it is possible to predict the future but no one really knows. Fortunately he is able to eradicate his sister's fear of drowning and takes her out in a rowing boat to show her she is quite safe. This is an interesting read with some thought provoking findings especially in the field of science.

Mansfield Revisited by Joan Aiken - it is a credit to this book that I have been carrying it around in my bag for months and only reading it when I'm waiting for things to happen such as in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms and yet I still managed to retain my interest in the story. I actually took it out of my bag and read the last 30 pages because I wanted to find out the ending. The books starts a few years after the end of Mansfield Park. Sir Thomas Bertram is dead. Fanny and Edmund have two children and are about to leave on a trip to the West Indies to oversee family business interests there. Susan - Fanny's sister - has grown into a sensible young woman with more sparkle than her older sister. Mary Crawford - a much subdued Mary Crawford - returns with mixed results. There is a marvellous failed trip out to discover Roman ruins which is worthy of Jane Austen herself. This is worth reading in its own right as well as a continuation of Mansfield Park.

The Plague Maiden and A Cursed Inheritance by Kate Ellis - Further episodes in the Wesley Peterson series which mixes modern crime with archaeological discovers with conspicuous success. I found both of these compulsive reading. There is little on the page violence or bad language and they are dark stories with many ramifications between past and present. Human nature is both good and bad. Tensions are growing between Wesley and his wife Pam and the constant conflict between work and home life is well done.

When Last I Died by Gladys Mitchell - the inimitable Mrs Bradley is drawn into a cold case when she rents a house which formerly belonged to a lady who may or may not have been murdered. There is a marvellous haunted house featured in this absorbing and psychologically well crafted story. I read nearly all of it one evening and found it totally absorbing.

Saturday 3 September 2011

More reading

Falco : the official companion by Lindsey Davis - one of the best companions to a series of books that I've ever come across. It includes short descriptions of all the books; details of the major series characters; lots of information about life in the Roman Empire in the first century AD; amusing essays about the author's own life and how she came to write the books as well as the difficulties involved in writing a series such as forgetting your main characters have a young child which they have left at home and having to find a baby sitter from the remaining characters!

Just the Job, Lad by Mike Pannett - continues the author's experiences as a policeman in North Yorkshire. I find books about people's jobs fascinating reading and this author brings life in North Yorkshire vividly to life. Crimes are relatively minor in comparison with crimes in cities but all human life is here.

The Doctor Will See You Now by Max Pemberton - the author is back working in hospital in geriatrics and psychiatry. The incident which really stuck in my mind was the case of the schizophrenic with a broken shoulder who no one was prepared to treat BECAUSE of his mental illness!! The way elderly people with mental problems were treated varied from the barbaric to the wonderful as well. I found it a very disturbing book to read - probably because of my age. Why don't we treat older people properly in this country?

Poseidon's Gold by Lindsey Davis - Falco's uneasy truce with his estranged father and trying to unravel his late brother's complicated business affairs without bankrupting the whole family in the process.

An Unhallowed Grave, The Funeral Boat, The Skeleton Room, A Painted Doom, The Bone Garden all by Kate Ellis - more Wesley Peterson crime stories mixing archaeology and modern crime.

Domesday Book - the latest Penguin translation - no I haven't read it cover to cover but it is fascinating to dip into.

A sixty year old look at education - Jane Hope's One Term at Utopia. Life in school is recognisable even though this book was first published in the 1950s. There are disruptive pupils, thick pupils who are unable to write their names or follow simple instructions, trouble with parents when pupils are disciplined, and lazy and incompetent teachers. Major difference is that there was corporal punishment available and teachers were not afraid to use it. Now no one could get away with describing teachers as 'child-beaters' as Jane Hope does. Refreshing reading if only to remind you that political correctness didn't exist until recently.

Currently reading:

The Making of the British Landscape by Francis Pryor - a study of man's effect on the landscape over the last several thousand years. Well written and informative and a joy to read.

Conversations with Mr Prain by Joan Taylor - Stella is New Zealander running a second hand bookstall in Camden Market. Edward - Mr Prain is a customer who invites her to his country house for tea. The book consists of their various conversations about art and writing and descriptions of the various rooms in the house. I've read about half of it and I'm really not sure whether I like it or not. It is somehow compelling but . . .

Thursday 11 August 2011

Books and decorating

I have been making a start on the decorating as well as doing other boring mundane chores which practically drive me demented but need to be done if we're not to live in a mess. I have practically finished the dining room/kitchen thanks to a very useful gadget - a Dulux Paint Pod. It is basically an electrified roller system. Much quicker than using a roller normally as you don't have to stop and re-load the roller - you just press a button.

I'm the world's messiest decorator so anything that promises no mess is a bonus for me. It really is no mess as well. It also cleans itself - fill a chamber with warm water and switch on. Empty the chamber at the opposite end of the machine when done and everything is clean and just needs drying - including the roller itself. I'm far from being a gadget freak but I just love this. I wonder when they'll bring one out that works with gloss paint? In the meantime I'm tempted to emulsion everything!


The Devil's Sonata by Elizabeth Aston - very good - supernatural influences in a co-ed boarding school which occupies a former monastery. A violin which seriously affects the girl who plays it and an American researcher studying a grimoire in the library.

Anna, where are you? Catherine Wheel, The Case of William Smith all three by Patricia Wentworth and all are among her best work for sheer complexity of plot and character analysis. I only have about six more to read by this author.

The Merchant's House and Armada Boy by Kate Ellis - archaeology and modern crime - fascinating. All the police characters get on as well which makes a change from many police procedurals.

The Hanging Wood by Martin Edwards - another episode in the Lake District series of mysteries. A very enjoyable crime story with a truly horrific ending. I love the concept of a residential library - now that is my idea of heaven! I thought the characters were well drawn and I like the way the relationship between Daniel Kind and Hannah Scarlett is being developed slowly and sensitively.

The Secrets of Pain by Phil Rickman - thanks to a mix up over publication dates I have the ebook version of this which is not actually published until September. I think by the time Amazon realised their mistake my copy had already been downloaded and they haven't asked for it back! It is the latest in the Merrily Watkins series and very good it is too. Not so much about the exorcism side of Merrily's job but enthralling just the same.

The SAS feature in the form of Syd Spicer - the vicar who was in The Remains of an Altar - currently temporary chaplain to the SAS, his old regiment. He is trying to deal with something unpleasant which would be better left to Merrily but for reasons of secrecy he has to keep it to himself. Hereford police - in the form of Frannie Bliss and Annie Howe have their own problems with the murder of a farmer and the murder of two girls. The book kept me reading late into the night when I got to the last third of it as I had to know how it all worked out. At least with ebooks it is more difficult to flick to the end and make sure all your favourite characters escape unscathed!

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Books read and reading

Rattle his Bones by Carola Dunn - one of her Daisy Dalrymple series. Daisy is researching a series of articles about the Natural History Museum and is inadvertently one of the first people of the scene when one of the curators is murdered. The professional rivalries are extremely well done in my opinion. This series is growing on me.

Flights of Angels by Victoria Connelly - chick lit with angels - which could have been twee and sickly and is actually really well done. First published in German and made into a film in Germany and only recently available in English thanks to the e-book revolution which enables authors themselves to produce their own ebooks.

Death of a Sweep by M C Beaton - latest in the Hamish Macbeth series. Milly Davenport comes home from a shopping trip to find her husband dead and stuffed up the chimney and the sweep missing. Hamish eventually gets to the bottom of the mystery.

Ivory Dagger and The Brading Collection - both by Patricia Wentworth. Cosy mysteries in the classic detective story mould with Miss Silver imperturbably knitting, watching and listening.

How to Leave Twitter by Grace Dent. I thought it might enlighten me about why people join Twitter in the first place. Seems the reason is because everyone else has joined. I can see that people can like watching it - in a sort of car crash fascination way but apart from that it really isn't something I actually want to take part in. I might change my mind - but not yet.

Currently reading

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell by M C Beaton. Agatha is married to James Lacey but things aren't as blissful as she had hoped.

The Devil's Sonata by Elizabeth Edmondson (AKA Elizabeth Aston and Elizabeth Pewsey) This is a story set in a Yorkshire girls' school located in a former abbey. Zuleika has come over from the USA to study a Grimoire discovered hidden in a pillar in the cloisters but she is unhappy about the atmosphere.

Mountjoy fans will be pleased to know that the rest of Elizabeth Pewsey's Mountjoy series will all be available in e-book format by the end of this month.