Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas books

I did well for books this Christmas; some years I don't get many but this year I struck lucky (of course that may have something to do with how many I put on my Christmas list *ahem*...) I pride myself on being the easiest person in my family to buy a present for because I *always* have a list of books as long as my arm that I would like. My first spot was a set of books in The Book People's catalogue. And here be they:

The first eight in the Daisy Dalrymple crime series by Carola Dunn. I'd seen these blogged about in several places as being light, fun reads so I waved the page around in front of my husband and hoped he'd take the hint. He did. Aren't they beautiful? Such gorgeous covers. And one will even do for one of the book challenges I'm doing this year - What's in a Name... a book with travel or movement... Murder on the Flying Scotsman. Perfect.

And these are the other books I was given:

Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester. I've no idea where I read about this. I think it might have been an Amazon e.mail - those are of course fatal as they always seem to know what will appeal and this certainly did. My youngest daughter got this for me and earned herself a big hug for her trouble.

A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin is a political memoir and was a gift from a dear friend who knows exactly the kind of thing which appeals to me. This was even spookier than usual as I nearly bought this a few months ago and for some reason didn't. I gather it's very good indeed.

The San-Antonio Tex-Mex Cookbook by Elizabeth Blakely was also a gift from a dear friend in Ohio who knows I love to try different recipes and this style of cooking is certainly something new for me.

And lastly two books I bought for myself:

Murder Past Due by Miranda James and The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee are two cosy mysteries that were also in Amazon e.mails I think, or maybe links on FantasticFiction. Not sure, but whatever, they looked good so I treated myself. And there is actually one more to come, A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow, which is the first in a crime series set in Alaska. Wooooo! Think I'm going to be doing a bit of armchair travelling next year...

Looking forward to a good year of reading in 2011... hope you are too.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

I am reading, just finished The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley, a YA ghost novel as a matter of fact and it was excellent. But no time for reviews at the moment and won't have until the day after Boxing Day really. All I want to do is wish everyone who pops in to read my bookblog a very Merry Christmas. Hope your Christmas is all that you wish for, that you're happy and healthy and that you're not so snowed in you can't get out of the front door! We have been but I managed to get out, at last, yesterday - and promptly fell flat on my backside, but we won't dwell on that... ahem. We're going to have a white Christmas here, we've had so much that unless we get a sudden heatwave it's not going anywhere. So here are a few photos of the views from our house to accompany my Christmas wishes.


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Three short book reviews

As is often the case these days I'm behind with reviews so this is yet another catch-up post with three short reviews. It's the perfect weather for getting on with this sort of thing as outside the garden is covered in six inches of snow. For us in the south west of England this is quite unusual though this is the third winter in a row now where we've had some but this is serious snow! Here're a couple of photos I took first thing *before* we had yet another heavy snowfall, adding an inch or two more...

Looking down onto the garden from the bedroom window.

Our trees.

The town in the distance.

Anyway, enough about the weather (well I am English!) on to books. Starting with The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

When he is ten years old Daniel Sampere's father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books; Daniel's father owns a bookshop and Daniel has been brought up with books. The Cemetery turns out to be a huge labyrinthine library, a wonderful place, and Daniel is told to choose a book for which he will be responsible for the rest of his life. He chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, takes it home and reads it. From that moment on Daniel is obsessed. It seems all books by this author have steadily been destroyed. But by whom? People show an inordinate interest in Daniel's book, not least a strange man whose face Daniel cannot see. It becomes Daniel's mission to find out more about the author's life and in this time and place - Barcelona just after the Spanish civil war - this turns out to be a lot more dangerous than he had ever bargained for.

I've had this one on my tbr pile for a couple of years and it probably would have remained there if Pat at Here, There and Everywhere hadn't read it for her R.I.P. challenge and piqued my interest. It's an amazing piece of work, quite frankly. Not an easy read, quite a complicated plot with a very gothicky feel to it. (Reminded me of a ghost story that I can't now remember the title of or the author but which was also set in a huge gothicky city of towers and churches.) Thus there is a huge amount of atmosphere here, the city is a character in itself and the dark times add to the feeling of oppressive fear and secrecy. This is not a cheery read but if you're looking for something dark and atmospheric and beautifully plotted you could do a lot worse.

Next up, In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany.

Molly Smith is a rookie police woman in the small town of Trafalgar, British Columbia. She finds a body in an alley one night and to her surprise finds herself assisting DS John Winters in the investigation. Winters is a veteran cop and has little patience with Molly's rookie enthusiam or her mistakes. The dead man is Reg Montgomery, a property magnate type who was planning to build a holiday resort outside the town - something which many of the townspeople do not want. The situation is further complicated by plans to build a memorial in the town to American draft dodgers from the Vietnam war, something which Molly's hippy mother is supporting. Suspects for the murder are many and Molly and Winters have their work cut out to solve the mystery and keep the peace.

I liked this a lot! The BC 'mountain' setting is delightful and made me wish I had the chance to go to the Kootenay region of the Rockies. I liked the two main characters, Molly and John Winters - an unlikely police pairing if ever there was one. Winters was wonderfully grumpy and middle-aged with no patience whatsoever. And Molly so terribly excited about her first proper case that she blundered about all over the place driving her boss mad. The plot was pacey, I didn't guess who done the deed, and all in all I found this an excellent new (to me) crime series. Annoyingly, my county library catalogue has no books whatsoever by Vicki Delany so if I want to read more I will have to buy the series... which I doubtless will at some stage.

Lastly: The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith.

Isabel Dalhousie is asked to help in the case of an emminent doctor whose reputation has been ruined over a new drug he supported but which turned out to be dangerous. Ever concerned about miscarriages of justice Isabel 'interferes' as her family and friends call it. At the same time Cat, her niece, asks her to run the deli for her while she goes to Sri Lanka and there is what Isabel sees as rival for Jamie's affections in the shape of an orchestrial conductor. With a small son to look after, Isabel's insecurities about the ten year age gap between her and Jamie come to the fore and Isabel does much mental agonising before her problems are solved.

Wonderful. Loved it. This is book five in the Sunday Philosophy Club series and I hope it goes on and on. Isabel is so real with her agonising and worrying and changing her mind constantly about decisions. I always think that Alexander McCall Smith writes women better than any male author I know apart from possibly Terry Pratchett. Most don't get us at all but he clearly does and his books are a joy to read providing you're not looking for hard hitting or gritty plots with blood and gore. 'Gentle' is McCall Smith's forté and long may it continue to be so.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Another challenge

What? Another challenge? Even after I said I would really limit them next year (to myself anyway)? Yep. I just couldn't resist one called Foodie's Reading Challenge! Not with my addiction to TV cooking programmes and love of TV chefs and cooks such as Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver, Nigella, Rick Stein, and The Hairy Bikers. Never miss any of them. So anyway, the Foodie's Reading Challenege:

The challenge is being hosted by Margot at
Joyfully Retired and there is a special blog with all the details here.

Here’s how it works:

1. Decide how many food books you want to read in 2011 and choose your level of reading. Keep in mind this is a challenge – a thrown-down. Go a bit beyond what you think you can really do. Levels:

Nibbler: 1 to 3 books
Bon Vivant: 4 to 6 books
Epicurean: 7 to 9 books
Gourmet: 10 to 12
Glutton: More than 12

2. Grab the challenge button and write a post on your blog so we can spread the word. No blog? That’s okay. Sign up in the comments section.

3. As you read each book for the challenge, come back here and tell us about it. On January 1st I’ll provide pages so you can post links for your reviews. Non-bloggers will use the comment section.

I'm going to try for 'Bon Vivant', 4 to 6 books. My first inclination was to do 'Nibbler' but, well, nothing ventured etc. What I decide to read will probably change through the year but five possibilites already on my tbr mountain are:

Eating for England - Nigel Slater
Cook's Delights: An Anthology of Food Fantasy and Indulgence edited by Helen Saberi and Madeline Swan
Humble Pie - Gordon Ramsay
The Nasty Bits - Anthony Bourdain
Food: True Stories of Life on the Road edited by Richard Sterling
Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl
Thyme Out - Katie Fforde

Plus, I noticed yesterday that my library has quite a few possibilities too.

So there we go. Sounds like a lot of fun to me and I'm really looking forward to it.


Monday, 6 December 2010

My 2011 challenge

Well, my record for finishing challenges this year has not been all that great but, nothing daunted, I'm still going to try another year long challenge for 2011. This year what's taken my fancy is one one I saw on Yvonne's blog at Fiction Books and that is the What's in a Name 4 challenge. It's being hosted by Beth Fish Reads and here are a few details:

Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:

1. A book with a number in the title: eg. First to Die, Seven Up, Thirteen Reasons Why
2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: eg. Diamond Ruby, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Opal Deception
3. A book with a size in the title: eg. Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Wars, Little Bee
4. A book with travel or movement in the title: eg. Dead Witch Walking, Crawling with Zombies, Time Traveler's Wife
5. A book with evil in the title: eg. Bad Marie, Fallen, Wicked Lovely
6. A book with a life stage in the title: eg. No Country for Old Men, Brideshead Revisited, Bog Child

Other things to know:

Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).

Books may overlap other challenges.

Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.

Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.

You do not have to make a list of books before hand.

You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.


So that's it! I'm not planning to make a list that I must stick by but I did have a look at my tbr pile and found a few possibilities:

1. Number: Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella

2. Jewelry or a gem: City of Pearl - Karen Traviss

3. Size: The Small Hand - Susan Hill.

4. Travel or Movement:

5. Evil: Wicked Appetite - Janet Evanovich

6. Life Stage: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive - Alexander McCall Smith.

Funny how the categories I thought would be easy, were not, and the hard ones - a life stage etc - it turned out I had loads of options. And the truth of the matter is that it's likely I'll not end up reading many of these but will find alternatives that I want to read instead! But then... that's half the fun. Looking forward to this one immensely.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Pratchett challenge wrap-up

I'm a few days late with this but as I've had yet another week of illness I'm going to excuse myself. ;-) The Terry Pratchett challenge which has been taking place over the last year and hosted by Marg, came to an end on the 30th. November.

I had my doubts, towards the end, that I would manage to complete it, but pulled out all the stops in the last week or two and actually managed to read the 6 to 8 books I signed up for.

My final 2 books were Thud! and Sourcery:

There was an eighth son of an eighth son. He was, quite naturally, a wizard. And there it should have ended. However (for reasons we’d better not go into), he had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son… a wizard squared…a source of magic…a Sourcerer. SOURCERY SEES THE RETURN OF RINCEWIND AND THE LUGGAGE AS THE DISCWORLD FACES ITS GREATEST – AND FUNNIEST – CHALLENGE YET.
(From Amazon)

Very enjoyable. So strange that I only decided to give the Rincewind books a try for this challenge and now I really like them and am glad I still have a good handful to read, including the beautifully illustrated, Last Hero.

There's been a murder amongst the dwarves in Ankh-Morpork, but the dwarves don't seem to want to admit to it. And the aniversary of the battle of Koom Valley is fast approaching, where the trolls fought the dwarves, and it's unsettling both modern day factions in the city. They're spoiling for a fight and it's complicating Sam Vimes's investigations into the murder that may or may not have been committed. Add to that Sam's other committment, which is to read Where's my Cow? to his one year old son every night without fail, the Patrician's insistance than he take on a vampire constable, an impending inspection of the force, and Sam's life is suddenly far more complicated than he would like it to be...

Wonderful. Loved it to bits. There's the usual wonderful group of characters that inhabit the Vimes books, Captain Carrot, the rightful king of Ankh-Morpork, Angua, the were-wolf, Nobby Nobbs (who I just can't picture as anyone other than Tony Robinson) and several new ones including 'Sally' the new vampire officer and A.E. Pessimal, the inspector. I adore this series within the Discworld series and am crossing my fingers that there will be more.

Anyway, so those were my last two books for the challenge. In total the books I read were as follows:

The Colour of Magic
The Light Fantastic
The Nightwatch

I enjoyed all of them without exception and would like to thank Marg for giving me the opportunity to catch up a bit with Terry's books and, of course, for hosting the challenge.