Friday, 29 May 2020

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times, week 11

It's time for another Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times post which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.

The idea is to share your bookshelves with other bloggers. Any aspect you like:

1. Home.
2. Books in the home.
3. Touring books in the home.
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.

Whatever you fancy as long as you have fun.

This week my shelf is connected to my last two posts about Carl's Venture Forth reading programme.

I did as I often do with these reading experiences and collected together a selection of books that fit the prompts. It's so much fun to do! Venture Forth will run from now until the end of July so this is basically two months reading. Can I read them all? Thirteen books? My instinct is to say 'no' but in fact I think I probably could but whether I actually 'will' is another matter. We shall see as I have no intention of putting pressure on myself to do so, I want to have fun with this after all.

The pile on the left:

Travels with Tinkerbelle - Susie Kelly
The Nine of Us - Jean Kennedy Smith
Woodswoman - Anne LaBastille
Walter and Florence - Susan Hill
To War with Whitaker - The Countess of Ranfurly
The Shell Seekers - Rosamunde Pilcher
The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
A Kentish Lad - Frank Muir

Standing upright:

Munich - Robert Harris
Dr. Thorne - Anthony Trollope
The White Road Westwards - 'BB'
Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield
The Pull of the River - Matt Gaw

A motley bunch if ever there was one but that suits me perfectly. There should be something there to suit all of my moods but one thing I have just noticed is that there's no crime fiction apart from The Moonstone. I rather suspect a more modern murder mystery or two will elbow their way in there somehow.

Happy reading and stay safe.


Thursday, 28 May 2020

Venture Forth part 2

So this post is really for my own reference, a place where I can list the prompts I want to attempt for Carl's Venture Forth summer reading programme and the books I actually end up reading.

Some of his prompts I would like to fulfil:

A gift that was given to me:

A 2020 book purchase (There are endless possibilities!)

A used bookstore find

A story that I have read before (Possibly Rebecca or Frenchman's Creek.)

A social media recommended book (I might look to read out of my comfort zone for this if I do it.)

A recommendation from my husband

A non-fiction book (I have a couple of books about the Kennedys in mind.)

A checkout from the library (I still have my library pile untouched, been reading my own books during lockdown.)

So those are a few of Carl's prompts, but he encourages us to add a few of our own so these are mine:

A book set somewhere I have never been but would like to visit: Summer at the Lake - Erica James

A book connected to one of the world wars

A book of short stories

A book where travelling is heavily involved

A book set in Cornwall (Plenty of choice, see header pick.)

A book connected with the sea

A book about forests, woods, trees (Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille or Oak and Ash and Thorn by Peter Fiennes. Also Ghost Trees by Bob Gilbert. )

A biography or autobiography

A classic

A non-fiction book about the British countryside

A few possibilities:

I suspect somehow that not all of these categories will be filled in the two months available. There are, after all, 18 of them. But we'll see. The main thing is how much fun it will be trying.


Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Carl's Venture Forth

Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings has posted about his new Summer Reading Program, Venture Forth.

He says:

So I created my own Summer Reading program: Venture Forth. The name is a play on the idea that we are being allowed to venture forth into certain businesses and venues once again, and that reading always allows everyone to Venture Forth on an adventure.

This isn’t a challenge or event like I’ve hosted in the past. It is simply something that I want to do and want to share with you. If you desire to recapture a bit of that childhood summer experience, please feel free to be a part of this, and feel free to use the gif.

There are no rules. No number of books to read. No prizes outside of the great pleasure of reading. As part of the fun I did make a list of prompts that I will check off if I end up doing them, but the only thing motivating factor of my reading is finishing a book, and then going and pulling the next read off the shelves that calls out to me.

Prompts include:

A book with a Michael Whelan cover

gift that was given to me

2020 book purchase

used bookstore find

novel that is part of a series

story that I have read before

book that I read as a child or teen

social media recommended book

graphic novel

children’s book

narrated book

recommendation from my wife (husband in my case)

nonfiction book

title that is part of a series

checkout from my local library

book outdoors (at least 75% has to be read outside)


So, it runs from now until the 31st July and I thought I would participate and see how it goes. It's not a challenge, just a fun thing to take part in for the summer. Anyone is welcome to take part and I hope some will be tempted.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The Woman in White

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is a book I've been prevaricating about reading for 'years'. Why, I have no idea. Perhaps I thought it was a difficult read, that I would struggle with the language, plus, it is 'long'. Whatever. In the event that all proved to be nonsense. Yes, it took me a couple of weeks to read but that was fine, plenty of books take me that long, some of which are meant to be savoured and not read at break-neck speed and The Woman in White is one of those. It's my seventh book for Bev's Mount TBR 2020.

Walter Hartright is an art teacher who sometimes takes positions in large country houses teaching young ladies to paint. After attaining such a position in Cumberland he's returning from a last visit to his mother and sister in London before setting off. It's late at night and dark and a woman, dressed all in white, approaches him for help with directions. She seems rather strange and distracted but Walter nevertheless finds a cab and helps her on her way only to observe a couple of men in hot pursuit shortly after.

Arriving in Cumberland and 'Limmeridge', the house that will be his home for many months, Walter meets Marion Halcombe and Laura Fairlie, half-sisters devoted to one another. Laura is the heiress of the family, very beautiful, Marion has no money and is not beautiful but is the kind of person you would want on your side in a crisis. Despite his efforts not to, Walter falls in love with Laura. The problem with this, apart from the difference in their stations, is that Laura is already engaged to be married. Her fiancé is Sir Percival Glyde and it was her father's dying wish that Laura should marry him.

Walter has to leave but is extremely worried about Laura's future. He has seen The Woman in White again and she is desperate to prevent Laura from marrying Sir Percival. Why? The woman disappears before they can find out. The two sisters live with their uncle, Frederick Fairlie, who has inherited the house from their father. The only interests he has at heart are his own and being left alone to enjoy his fragile health, thus he is no help whatsoever in helping Laura to decide what to do. It seems they have no one to turn to in their hour of need.

I'm never much good at reviewing hugely well known classics but these are just a few thoughts and observations of my own about the book.

I don't really think I had much of an idea what The Woman in White was actually about. I think I had some vague idea of ghostly apparitions which turns out to be a long way from the truth. The woman is real and she has a secret concerning Sir Percival which is kept until almost the end of the book and took me by surprise when I read what it was. Meanwhile, all you can do as the reader is hang in there for 600 pages worrying about the two sisters. Even when I wasn't reading the book I was thinking and about Laura and Marion. This is a tense, 'edge-of-your-seat' story, not at all cosy or reassuring in any way.

My favourite person in the book was Marion Halcombe. What she wouldn't do to protect her sister wasn't worth thinking about. Intelligent, loyal, brave, my goodness me no wonder a certain character in the book was very intrigued by her. I didn't feel Laura's personality was quite as well defined, perhaps that's because I'm more interested in character than looks. And if I'm honest I am inclined to the view that the way the hero always falls for the 'beautiful' girl is a mite tedious and predictable. Wouldn't it be nice if a writer gave us a hero who valued intelligence and character over physical beauty? I won't hold my breath.

I'm hard-put to say who I think is the biggest villain of the story. It's a crowded field with Sir Percival and Count Fosco, not to mention Count Fosco's awful wife. But really the person I despised the most was the sisters' uncle, Frederick Fairlie. This was a wonderful depiction of a very weak, self-centred man by Wilkie Collins, I found myself utterly loathing him.

The first sentence of the book begins with, 'This is the story of what a woman's patience can endure...' and that is what it all boils down to: how powerless women were in the Victorian age to be in charge of their own destinies. Especially wealthy women. At one point Laura wishes with all her heart that she was poor like Marion. She can never truly know if any intended husband loves her for herself or is simply after her fortune. A sad tale is what this is and Wilkie Collins had a point to make as vivid as any that Dickens made in his books. Only Dickens manner of illustrating injustice is to whack you round the head with extreme Victorian poverty, Collins' way of illustrating injustice was a bit more subtle... in my opinion anyway.

A brilliant book and many thanks to Pat and Judith who've been encouraging me to read it for ages. So pleased I did so at last.


Friday, 22 May 2020

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

It's time for another Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times post which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.

The idea is to share your bookshelves with other bloggers. Any aspect you like:

1. Home.
2. Books in the home.
3. Touring books in the home.
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.

Whatever you fancy as long as you have fun.

Well, I think this might be our 10th. week of doing this. How cool is that? I never imagined we'd be going on this long with no end in sight.

So today my shelf consists of two piles. (Click for a bigger view.) Not random as is usually my wont, but specific.

The pile on the left is a few books I picked out at the beginning of the year for the European Reading challenge.

From the bottom, the countries covered are, Spain, Romania, Denmark (Greenland in fact), The Netherlands, France, the UK, Cyprus, Italy and Norway.

Two of these will have to come off the pile as I just read something else for France and am in the middle of another book for Italy. But no matter, they will be read at some point I'm sure. That's the joy for me of making piles, they're ideas not commandments set in stone.

The pile on the left consists mainly, as is obvious, of vintage crime books published by the BLCC. Oh how I love these old fashioned crime yarns, so beautifully written and gorgeously presented with stunning covers.

Here's a better look at two of these:

The pile represents several of my favourite vintage crime authors: Freeman Wills Crofts, E.C.R Lorac, Michael Gilbert, George Bellairs and two I haven't read before, Anthony Berkeley and John G. Brandon. Hours of wonderful entertainment lie within the covers of this pile and I'm in no hurry to gobble them up too quickly.

Happy reading and stay safe.


Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Books Set in Cornwall 2

This post is for my own reference, really just updating my list of fictional books set in Cornwall slightly and bringing it closer than 2009 (!) for ease of editing. That said, any suggestions to add to the list are most welcome as I'm sure there are 'loads' more.


Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne du Maurier
Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
The House on the Strand – Daphne du Maurier
The Loving Spirit – Daphne du Maurier
The King's General - Daphne du Maurier
Crossed Bones – Jane Johnson
The Poldark series – Winston Graham
Deep Down - R.M. Ballantyne
Mistress of Mellyn - Victoria Holt
The Dead Secret - Wilkie Collins
A Pair of Blue Eyes - Thomas Hardy
The Dead Secret - Wilkie Collins

Contemporary fiction

Away From it All – Judy Astley
Just for the Summer - Judy Astley
The Shell Seekers – Rosamund Pilcher (And other books by her.)
The Carousel - Rosamund Pilcher
A Week in Winter – Marcia Willett
The Cornish Legacy – Barbara Whitnell
The View from the Summerhouse - Barbara Whitnell
The Last Lighthouse Keeper - Alan Titchmarsh
Sea Music - Sara MacDonald
Penmarric - Susan Howatch
The Returning Tide - Liz Fenwick (Any book by her in fact.)
Making Waves, September Song, A Cornish Christmas, Easter Holiday - Nell Dixon
A Cottage by the Sea - Ciji Ware
That Summer in Cornwall - Ciji Ware
An Exaltation of Larks - Daisy Treadwell
Little Beach Street Bakery - Jenny Colgan
Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery - Jenny Colgan
A Cornish Christmas - Lily Graham


Zennor in Darkness – Helen Dunmore
The Cammomile Lawn - Mary Wesley
Hold My Hand - Serena Mackesy
Summer in February - Jonathan Smith
Notes from an Exhibition - Patrick Gale
A Perfectly Good Man - Patrick Gale
The Cat Sanctuary - Patrick Gale
The Camomile Lawn - Mary Wesley


The Wycliffe crime series - W.J. Burley
The Rose Trevelyan crime series – Janie Bolitho
Touchstone – Laurie R. King
The Lighthouse - P.D. James
The Murder Bird - Joanna Hines
Wait for What Will Come - Barbara Michaels


The Jewel of Seven Stars – Bram Stoker
Cornish Tales of Terror - ed. by R. Chetwynd-Hayes


The Little Country – Charles de Lint

Children's/young adult

Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
Over Sea, Under Stone – Susan Cooper
Greenwitch - Susan Cooper
The Valley of Secrets – Charmian Hussy
The Mousehole Cat - Antonia Barber
Tales of Terror From the Black Ship - Chris Priestley
Dead Man's Cove - Lauren St. John

There may well be more by Daphne du Maurier. Not having read all of her books, I can't say where the less well known ones are set.

The artwork for the railway poster in this post is by H.A. Tripp.


Monday, 18 May 2020

The Vineyards of Champagne

The Vineyards of Champagne by Juliet Blackwell is my 5th. book for the European Reading challenge which is being hosted by Rose City Reader. It covers the country of 'France'.

Rosalyn Acosta is currently working for the wine industry in the Napa Valley in California. It's not her dream job but when her adored husband, Dash, died two years ago he left her with debts and no job to help pay them off. Friend of the family, Hugh, employs her out of the goodness of his heart but now wants her to travel to the Champagne region of France to scout out new varieties of Champagne for him to sell. But, to put it bluntly, she doesn't want to go. France holds too many memories of her blissful honeymoon with Dash and Rosalyn has become a bit of a hermit into the bargain, grieving non-stop for her adored husband. And to add insult to injury... she really doesn't like Champagne that much.

Hugh gets his way and Rosalyn is off to France. On the plane she meets Emma, an Australian woman, and they get talking. Emma has some letters from World War One that she wants to investigate. They were written to her Australian aunt by a young French soldier, somewhat in the style of them being pen pals. Sensing something in Rosalyn she asks her if she would like to take on the task of looking into them as Emma has broken her leg and isn't very mobile at the moment. Rosalyn feels unable to it take on but mistakenly takes one of the letters after reading it on the plane. Reading it properly later she becomes fascinated and isn't exactly unhappy when Emma arrives at the gite complex to visit her, bringing the rest of the letters. A whole new world of history opens up to her when she begins to read them, that of the people of Reims hiding from German bombs and snipers in the Champagne caves under the city during WW1. Rosalyn has no idea of course that the friends she's making as a result of both this trip to France, and of these letters, will begin the healing process she so badly needs.

I first read about this book on Marg's blog, here. I liked the sound of a book about the history of a region you don't often read about. And here I must confess that I didn't know where the Champagne region was. I had some vague idea that it was somewhere in the south near Provence. Nope. It's actually in North Eastern France! It has a border with Belgium and is nextdoor to Alsace-Lorraine. The city of Reims which features in this book is halfway between Paris and the Belgian border. No wonder it had such an awful time during WW1. I didn't know about that either.

There are two story-lines in this book. The main one is that of Rosalyn's unwilling trip to France and the people she meets who become friends. The secondary time-line is told via the letters written by the French soldier, Émile, to Doris in Australia, plus we learn a lot more about that situation as Rosalyn, Blondine and Emma begin their search. I thought the book was a joy in that heartwarming manner that depicts hope and healing in the face of great grief. Rosalyn finds that France weaves a magic spell on her although the effect is not immediate. I loved reading about French meals and traditions in the area and the way in which Champagne is made differently to wine... I didn't know that either. It seems I learnt quite a lot from this delightful book. Will definitely read more by Juliet Blackwell.