Saturday, 22 April 2017

Pern books

It seems ages since I last posted. It is ages! Easter and the school holidays seem to have got in the way of everything this month so my book count for April is going to be well down I suspect. But there's no harm in that... it's been a fun couple of weeks with the grandchildren, they grow so quickly you must enjoy every moment with them.

Another reason for less reading is that I've become terribly addicted to the TV series, The Game of Thrones. We bought the boxed set a few weeks ago to see if we would like it... various people I know love it so I thought we might too. And goodness me we really do. I wasn't sure at first. It's very adult... quite a lot of sexual content and heaps of violence. But if you can get beyond that the storylines, acting and sets are amazing. We're on season three at the moment and fair galloping along. Plus... the books are calling to be read after I've finished with the TV series.

Anyway, books!

Anne McCaffrey's Pern books have long been a favourite of mine. I read the first two, Dragonflight and Dragonquest, in the early 1970s when I was in my early twenties and I remember being totally smitten with the fabulous world McCaffrey had created. It was many years after that that I finally got back to Pern with The White Dragon and The Harper Hall trilogy. Since then I've been slowly catching up with the many other dragon books Anne McCaffrey has written.

No sooner had I started All the Weyrs of Pern when I realised the book I should be reading was Dragonsdawn. This is because at the beginning of All the Weyrs it talks a lot about the original settlers but doesn't actually tell their story. Dragonsdawn does just that. The settlers were originally from Earth, all looking for a peaceful, agrarian way of life. They set up a settlement where they land, call it 'Landing', and for around eight years things go well. People gradually move out of Landing to set up their own farms or craft centres - life is idyllic. Small dragon-like animals have been discovered and many taken as pets. Then comes the day when thread falls from the sky like rain. People die, land and crops ruined. What is this horrific 'thing' which eats everything in its path? Where is it coming from? How long will it last? Questions need answers but in the short-term the settlers must find a way to fight the thread in the air before it can hit the ground and do tremendous damage. Is it possible the dragonettes might harbour an eventual solution?


Jump forward 2,500 years and we have the events of All the Weyrs of Pern. The inhabitants of present day Pern have discovered the remains of Landing where their ancestors first settled. The computer system, AIVAS, is still working and it doesn't take the likes of Jaxom and Piemur long to get it up and going. It seems that AIVAS is the font of all knowledge and the inhabitants of Pern have a lot to learn. Their ancestors slowly lost all of their technical know-how as they concentrated on fighting thread with dragons. They have to relearn what their forebears knew and quickly. AIVAS thinks they could eradicate thread forever but there is much to learn and only a short period of time in which to do it.

Thoroughly enjoyed these two connected books, particularly Dragonsdawn. When I first read the two initial dragon books all those years ago it didn't occur to me that there was a real back story to the tales of Lessa and F'lar and their dragons. I thought I was reading fantasy when in fact I was reading science fiction. I've just about made the adjustment! Because Dragonsdawn is pure sci-fi with its Earth settlers arriving on Pern to start a new way of life... the start of thread... and their use of the little dragonettes to find a way to fight the dreaded scourge. It's all fascinating stuff. When I'd finished that I went back to All the Weyrs of Pern which updates the story of the rediscovering of 'Landing' and how AIVAS has the current population relearn the knowledge that's been lost for 2,500 years. Again, fascinating. Towards the end one bit upset me to the point of tears. Pern fans will know what I'm referring to. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable couple of weeks with the dragons of Pern and I'm not going to stop as I'm reading a book of short stories that lead on from Dragonsdawn... Chronicles of Pern. Although I do plan to move onto to something crime based alongside that, as I miss my mysteries.

These two books are my books 9 & 10 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017 reading challenge.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Mount TBR: Checkpoint 1

Three months of 2017 have whizzed by so it's time for the first checkpoint for Bev's Mount TBR 2017


These are the questions Bev wants us to answer:

1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read).

Well I'm doing Pike's Peak which is to read twelve of your own books in a year. I've read eight so far. Which means I'm two thirds of the way up the mountain already and way ahead of where I should be. It looks like I might be moving on to the next level at some stage. We'll see.


2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following: I shall do three.

A. Post a picture of your favorite cover so far.

This is mine.


B. Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.

That would be 'Moon' from the above book, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells. Despite the sadness of his past life and how hard his present life is for him he still manages to be brave, honourable and hopeful for the future.

D. Title Scrabble: See if you can spell a word using the first letter of the first word in the titles of some/all of the books you have read so far. Feel free to consider "A," "An," or "The" as the first word or not as it helps you with your word hunt.

I thought I had a 5 letter word but no... I have heaps of 4s instead. So I'm choosing 'BOTH'.

Blood Will Tell - Dana Stabenow
On the Shores of the Mediterranean - Eric Newby
The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells
Haunted Library - ed. by Tanya Kirk

~~~oOo~~~

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Books read in March

March was an average reading month for me... six books tends to be my default number and if I manage that then I'm quite happy. Not that it bothers me, I read what I read... it's whether I enjoy the books that's the main factor. So when that is taken into account then it's actually been quite a good month.

Anyway, these are they:

15. To Helvetica and Back - Paige Shelton

16. The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny

17. The North Face - Mary Renault

18. L'Auberge - Julia Stagg

19. The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells

20. On the Shores of the Mediterranean - Eric Newby

My usual mixed bag... two crime stories, two general fiction, one fantasy and a non-fiction travel book. Two were a bit so-so and four very enjoyable. A month where two thirds of the books you read are good to very good is about as much as you can ask for really.

I'm struggling with a favourite. Two books *just* have the edge and those are The Brutal Telling and The Cloud Roads.


















Two very different books but both absolutely superb. Two things they have in common is a wonderful sense of place and the kind of paciness I enjoy. Always something happening in both books. I don't think I will choose between them... I'll award them joint first place in my affections.

So now it's almost April and the year is slipping away. This 'time speeding up' thing as you get older is scary. It makes me feel that I really *must* read what I like, when I like. So, on that note I suddenly felt like reading some Pern books by Anne McCaffrey so that's what I'm going to do. I shall spend a couple of weeks indulging in one of my favourite science-fiction series of all time and read these two books:



















And then maybe this:

















*What* a gorgeous cover! So that's my reading plan for the first part of April. What are yours? Tell all. :-)

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A few short reviews

As is often the case I'm a bit behind with book reviews so this is a 'catching up' post.

First up, L'Auberge by Julia Stagg

Gosh, what a hideous cover but that aside I rather enjoyed this light, fun read set in the French Pyrenees. An English couple, Lorna and Paul, have bought The Auberge (hostel, B&B type affair) in the mountain village of Fogas. The local mayor rather wanted his brother-in-law to have it and sets about making life very awkward for the couple in the hope that the business will fail and they'll have to sell it cheaply. All kinds of shenanigans ensue but along the way certain of the French villagers decide they don't like The Mayor's rum doings and set out to thwart him by helping the English couple out. Very nice sense of place in this one, nice descriptions of mountainous scenery and wintery conditions. My late sister-in-law lived in France for a while and also ran a B&B so this was quite familiar territory to me. I was quite aware of how much power French mayors wield, although hopefully most are not as corrupt as the one in this book. This is a series of five books, I'm not sure if I'll read any more, possibly if I happen to see any more in the library, but not otherwise.


Next, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells.

Moon has no idea what he is... he only knows that he can shape-shift at will into a winged, flying creature. As far as he is aware there is nothing else like him anywhere, his small family having been killed by The Fell, another race of flying beings - but vicious - when he was a small child. He has been nomadic since this happened, living for spells with groundlings, here and there throughout The Three Worlds, but they always find out about his shape-shifting eventually and banish him from their commmunities. Then one day, expelled from yet another village, Moon is astonished to encounter Stone, an individual exactly like himself, albeit much, much older. Stone explains a little about what he is and offers him sanctuary at his colony some way away. Used to being independent, Moon is reluctant but decides to go with Stone for the duration, having nowhere else to go. It's probably just as well that he has no idea of the challenges ahead and how much danger his life, and that of his new friends, will be in.

I've owned this for four years now, always meaning to get around to it but never actually managing to. I'm so glad I made the effort at last as it really was an excellent fantasy read... well written, amazing world-building and interesting characters. Martha Wells has packed this book full of beautifully imagined beings, especially the Raksura, of which race Moon is a member. The Fell, who seem to be trying to take over the world, are vicious and frightening... genuinely scary. I loved the travelling element, naturally, and I think this continues through the next books of which there are five altogether. Delighted and plan to read all of them as and when I can. Thrilled with this new to me fantasy series. This is my book 7 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017.


Lastly, On the Shores of the Mediterranean by Eric newby.

Oh, how I wish I'd enjoyed this as much as I hoped to. I quite like Eric Newby's travel writing and this book about his trip to most of the countries surrounding The Mediterranean sea, with his wife, Wanda, should have been right up my street. And parts of it were. Where he concentrated on what they got up to it was fine, although I don't think I really needed quite so many names of streets in Naples. Where I got bogged down was in the history. Which is very odd because I like history, really like it, but it was all so dry and he didn't make any of it come alive. Carol Drinkwater's, The Olive Route, also about The Med, knocked spots off it quite frankly. A real shame, but there you go... you can't win 'em all. This was my book 8 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Secondhand book buys

Sometimes you come across the best book buys when you're least expecting it. We had to visit a local small town on Monday for my husband to have his hearing aid adjusted. They have a Health Centre there, one to which we'd never been before. As soon as I walked in I sensed books. LOL! And there they were, quite a few of them, 50p each in aid of the Health Centre and being looked after by a lovely volunteer. We chatted while I picked out books. And what books!


First I spotted one of the delightful British Library Classic crime reissues, then another... eventually I had SIX.

From the bottom:

The Cheltenham Square Murder - John Bude
Death on The Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay
Antidote to Venom - Freeman Wills Crofts
Thirteen Guests - J. Jefferson Farjeon
The Poisoned Chocolate Case - Anthony Berkeley
The Cornish Coast Murder - John Bude

New, these are £8.99. I got six for £3. Fantastic bargain! Plus, several are books I wanted to read as I'd already read books by those authors and liked them.

On the other pile:

Mysterious Air Stories - edited by William Pattrick. An AM buy.
A Book of Railway Journeys edited by Ludovic Kennedy. Also an AM buy.
The Christmas Collection - Mary & Carol Higgins Clark. Bought at the Health Centre.
The Girl In Blue - P.G. Wodehouse. Also from the Health Centre.
Best Foot Forward - Susie Kelly. A walking in France book, AM buy.

Hubby's face when I approached him carrying a bag of books rather than one or two, was a picture... wish I'd taken it on my phone. I left a fiver in the honesty box and thought the fiver very well spent... and a good cause.

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 18 March 2017

North Face

So I'm standing in the Post Office queue yesterday afternoon... four or five people in front of me, my mind wandering, as it does, cogitating on books I want to read and those I'm reading at the moment etc. etc. North Face was going round my head, where it's set, its characters and so on, when I suddenly focussed on the woman standing in front of me. She was wearing a dark grey quilted anorak type of thing and there on the back of it in the right hand corner was a maker's logo. And what did it say? The North Face, that's what. This kind of thing happens to me all the time...

Anyway, enough about coincidences, North Face by Mary Renault:


A group of people converge on a quiet B&B on the North Devon Coast, just a few years after World War Two. Miss Searle is an academic, a teacher, and a bit on the snooty side. Miss Fisher is a nursing sister, very down to earth, seen it all. Neil Langton is also an academic and teacher, he likes climbing and walking and is nursing a tragedy in his past and has yet come to terms with his grief. The two women try to communicate with him but he's not forthcoming, keeping himself to himself. Two more guests arrive. A young girl, Ellen, about 19, and a young man, Phillip. They arrive separately and affect surprise to see each other telling everyone that they are acquaintances at work. The nursing sister puts two and two together...

Next morning, Phillip takes off in a hurry. Something clearly wasn't right. The guests assume the girl will go too but she doesn't. She stays. Out one day, Neil comes across her, stuck on a rockface and has to rescue her. From then on the two slowly become friends and more, but naturally nothing is ever straightforward especially when the two people involved both have a lot of sadness in their past.

This was a random grab from the library. Well, not that random as I've felt for a while that I should read something by Mary Renault. What I want to read is actually her Alexander trilogy but naturally my library doesn't have it so I just sort of grabbed North Face to sample the author's writing.

I wish I'd liked it as much as I wanted to. On paper it should have been perfect, set in North Devon, an area I've lived in or around for over twenty years, and involving a bit of rock climbing which I don't do but like to read about. It *should* have been right up my alley. So, what was wrong?

Well firstly, to be positive, there was an excellent sense of place. The sleepy, summery atmosphere of the North Devon coast and countryside in the late 1940s was spot-on as it hasn't actually changed all that much. I recognised various places... even if one or two were actually over the border in Somerset, no matter, that aspect of the book was delightful. I also enjoyed the rock climbing bits, the danger was very well portrayed... edge of seat stuff towards the end. Brilliant.

What I'm ambivilent about is all the internalising of emotions that was going on in the book. The author clearly had a good grasp of psychology, people's selfish motives for what they think and do was nicely put over and I found that interesting. But at times I got so bogged down in the writing of it that I had to read some sections several times and still didn't really know what she meant or sometimes what had actually happened! It was quite frustrating to be honest and I had to face the fact that I might not be intelligent enough to understand parts of the book, which is quite sobering. LOL!

The one thing that did come over very well was how damaging to people's personal lives the war was. Even if you didn't lose someone, the effect on marriages and children was often catastrophic. The other thing I was struck by was the social mores of the period. I recognised all of them in my parents and grandparents, especially as regards the behaviour of women and how a reputation could be ruined in moments. Men had a lot more leeway of course and it was interesting how Neil thought of the two women in the B&B as unmarriageable old spinsters when they were around the same age as him... mid forties. This was very much a book of its time. Attitudes were very entrenched and the idea that anyone should have sex before marriage was so unthinkable that not only did it cause terrible gossiping, it made sensitive ladies like Miss Searle quite ill and write 'letters'. Fascinating stuff from our perspective in the 21st. century.

So, I was a bit hot and cold about this one. Gave it three stars on Goodreads when plenty of others would probably give it at least a four. I'm glad I read it and will try a few more of Mary Renault's book, especially the Alexander & Theseus trilogies if I can find them.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Update on my book series.


I haven't updated my list of the series I'm reading in quite a while, not since 2015 in fact. I find it very useful to do this as every now and then I peer at it to see which series I haven't read in a while and should get back to. Or maybe don't want to get back to at all... this happens quite a lot with me as I'm quite fickle. Embarrassed to admit it but I am. Extremely subject to moods in reading, like a butterfly flitting from one theme or place to another... vintage crime, ancient Rome crime, US based crime, Scottish crime... The Lake District, Canada, France! It seems there's no end to my finickyness. Ah well, never mind.

Anyway,the books:

Crime - modern and historical:

Charlie Parker - John Connolly - (read 11... up to book 12)
Matthew Shardlake – C.J. Sansom (read 3)
Flavia de Luce - Alan Bradley (read 6)
Daisy Dalrymple - Carola Dunn (read 21)
Rizzoli and Isles - Tess Gerritsen (read 8)
Ruth Galloway - Elly Griffiths (read 7)
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes – Laurie R. King (read 5)
The Lewis trilogy - Peter May (read 2)
Lord Peter Wimsey - (read 6)
Gordianus the Finder - Steven Saylor (read 2)
Medicus - Ruth Downie (read 2)
Kate Burkholder - Linda Castillo (read 2)
Reverand Clare Fergusson - Julia Spencer-Fleming (read 3)
Temperance Brennan - Kathy Reichs (read 2)
No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency - A. McCall-Smith (read 11)
Kate Shugak - Dana Stabenow (read 6)
Sea Detective - Mark Douglas Home (read 2)
Hannah Scarlett - Martin Edwards (read 6)
Jacquot - Martin O'Brien (read 3)
Armande Gamache - Louise Penny (read 5)
Dangerous Type - Paige Shelton (read 1)


Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror - both adult and young adult:

Mercy Thompson - Patricia Briggs (read 6)
Jackelian - Stephen Hunt (read 2)
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch (read 4)
Liveship Trader - Robin Hobb (read 1)
Astreiant - Melissa Scott - (read 2 1/2)
Hyperion - Dan Simmons (read 1)
Pern - Anne McCaffrey - (read loads but need to get back to them)
Books of the Raksura - Martha Wells (read 1)


Series I want to read: (mainly fantasy)

The Wit’ch series – James Clemens
Alpha and Omega - Patricia Briggs
Worldmaker trilogy - Lucy Hounsom
Lady Trent - Marie Brennan
Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
All Souls trilogy - Deborah Harkness
Todhunter Moon - Angie Sage
The Tawny Man trilogy – Robin Hobb (in fact all of the rest of her books.)



The Coldfire trilogy – Celia Friedman
The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy – Guy Gavriel Kay
Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner

As I noted back in 2015, what's really striking is how I've moved from being a fantasy/horror/sci-fi reader to being a reader concentrating on all kinds of crime stories. I never ever thought this would happen. I did read a bit of crime years ago, I used to love Ellis Peters' Cadfael books for instance, but converting to crime as a main genre, no I didn't anticipate that at all. Never say 'never'.

~~~oOo~~~