Sunday 30 June 2013

Books for June

Another quite busy reading month for me - nine books read and Carl's once Upon a Time challenge finished and completed with nine books under my belt. Looking forward to R.I.P. now, in September, but in the meantime I have two other challenges that I ought to crack on with, I've read half the books for one and and a third for the other. No problem really but it would pay me to get another couple read this month for those.

Anyway. I am, as usual, several books behind with reviewing. In fact it's four. So I will list my books and then do a quickie review of those four as I get to them at the end.

36. The Iron Duke - Meljean Brook

37. The Whisperers - John Connolly

38. Death Without Company - Craig Johnson

39. My Animals and Other Family - Clare Balding

40. The Bell at Sealey Head - Patricia McKillip

41. Kindness Goes Unpunished - Craig Johnson

This is book three in the author's Walt Longmire series. Walt and Henry Standing Bear go to Philadelphia, Walt to visit his daughter, Cady, for a few days and Henry to set up a photography exhibition in a famous art gallery. Cady has a new man in her life and is anxious for her father to meet him. Unfortunately Walt has hardly arrived in the city before he gets news that his daughter has been involved in an assault and is in the hospital. She's badly injured and in a coma and it's not certain if she will be brain damaged or even survive the attack. Walt sets out to find the culprit, not easy in a city the size of Philadelphia, and not easy with Walt's wild west attitude to crime solving.

Loved this to bits. It's always fun to take a main character out of their familiar setting, 'Crocodile Dundee' style, and this was no exception. It's clear Walt is a real fish out of water and struggling to cope, not only with his daughter's predicament, but the city itself and the kind of people who live there. Great stuff. I have two more of these on my tbr shelf and will definitely be getting them all.

42. A Dog Abroad - Bruce Fogle

The author of  A Dog Abroad, Bruce Fogle, is apparently a well known writer of books about pets, and also very involved in the charity, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. I thought the surname sounded familiar and realised about halfway through the book that his son is Ben Fogle, a very well known UK TV personality and maker of documentaries. I think I probably should have realised that a bit sooner...

Anyway, this is a travel book. The author decides to take a trip in his camper van, along with his dog, Macy. The route is across The Channel, through the top part of Germany, into Denmark, across to Sweden, Finland and back in huge loop through Baltic countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Bruce Fogle is a Canadian, living in the UK, but with Eastern European, Jewish roots, and he wishes to discover more about those roots and see exactly where his people came from.

What an enjoyable book! I like a good travel yarn anyway, always have, but this is so very personal somehow. Macy, the labrador is adorable, and the author is very, very good at describing landscape and atmospheres. The 'Great Plain' of Europe came alive in this book and the feel of it is still very much with me, even though it's over a week since I finished it. I loved hearing about the forests and mountains of Scandinavia too, the characters of the inhabitants of each country, his own adventures, the dog, all of it. This book was a joy, and I'm delighted to discover that Bruce Fogle has written a similar book about America, Travels With Macy, so I'll be grabbing that as soon as I can.

43. A Point of View - Clive James

Brits and Aussies will all know who Clive James is, not sure about North Americans. Basically Clive is a journalist who has worked on newspapers and on TV, a TV personality who has done all kinds of light entertainment shows and so on. Currently he writes a TV review column for The Saturday Telegraph which I always read. But he is also a bit of a scholar, speaking many languages fluently, a poet, and a writer of essays. From 2007 to 2009 he was asked to contribute to the radio programme, A Point of View, and this book is the result - essays based on those broadcasts.

Many, many subjects are covered: Global warming... Clive is a sceptic... politicians of all countries, Prince Harry fighting in Afghanistan, Wimbledon, the film world, books, feminism, The Olympics, the list is endless. Clive is an amazing writer, absolutely amazing. Some of these subjects sound a bit dry but handled by him they never are. His observations are always razor sharp, delivered with astuteness and always, always, with humour. I laughed and laughed all the way through. Several times my husband asked me why on earth I was cracking up, unable to stop giggling... yes, the book is that funny, but it also has a lot of serious points to make and will make anyone who reads it think about things from a different angle, and just plain think to be honest. I think that achievement alone would make Clive James a happy man.

44. Dog On It - Spencer Quinn

Chet is a dog owned by Bernie, a private detective in, I *think*, Arizona, but am not certain. Bernie is down on his luck. (Are these detectives ever anything else? LOL) He's divorced from his wife and thus does not see his son as much as he would like. Finances are really bad and there isn't much work about. Then a woman contacts him to ask him to look for her missing daughter. The daughter then turns up with a story about where she's been, but Bernie does not believe her. She goes missing again and stays missing. Bernie starts looking into the family's circumstances... parents divorced, father running a company buildng a private, exclusive housing estate. It seems his finances are not as they should be, could that have something to do with the girl's disappearance?

Well, this is an unusal book in that it's written from the point of view of Chet, Bernie's dog. Quite the brilliant idea really as this means we don't get the full facts as a human would know and understand them, we get a dog's view of the world and what he makes of the things he hears. From that the reader has to deduce for themselves what is going on and why. We also get to know about Chet's world, how a dog reacts to various stimuli, his needs, and how he reacts to the people in his life and strangers. What struck me in a couple of places is how helpless dogs are at times, how reliant they are on us for their wellbeing. An obvious point, but brought over very strongly in this book. I always like it when books make me think about something I'd previously taken for granted or not given any thought to whatsoever. This is book one in the author's 'Chet and Bernie' mysteries and I already have book two on reserve at the library.

So that's my June in books. The thing I'm quite pleased about is that of the nine books three were non-fiction. That's much better than I've been doing in recent months. I do enjoy both fiction and non-fiction but tend to neglect the latter in favour of the former.  Silly really. It's just a case of finding the right non-fiction for me, but that's the case with fiction too; I've become very skilled at choosing that for myself, I just need to become as clever with picking factual books.

Happy July reading.


DesLily said...

wow you are way ahead of me! lol I did do 5 in June and now reading Chaplin by Charlie Chaplin..he sure had a poor upbringing.. he certainly is a true survivor. (small print=slow reading)

But I am on only book 33 !so you are on a faster sliding board than I am LOL.. glad you have enjoyed everything so far!!

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I've read 44 books too, and am behind with writing reviews. In fact for some books I don't think I will write anything, or maybe just a few lines.

When I first read the title A Dog Abroad by Bruce Fogle, I misread it and thought it was by Ben Fogle - I'm going to look out for it. And the Clive James book too - he has such a dry sense of humour!

Peggy Ann said...

You guys are putting me to shame! I've only read 25 books this year total! I like how you do the short reviews at the end of the month Cath. I have a blind brother and he reads everyday with books on disc's from the library for the blind and the Bernie and Chet books are some of his favorites. I still haven't gotten around to reading any of them.

Cath said...

Pat: I seem to be on a real reading kick at the moment, aided by the fact that summer TV is not all that inspiring so I'm reading through the evening most nights too. *Really* interested in the Chaplin book and look forward to your thoughts on that.

Margaret: How odd that we've both read the same amount of books! Summer TV is probably the reason in my case, although Wimbledon is a bit of a distracion for me at the moment. It seems us Brits are having a better than usual year with the tennis.

A Dog Abroad is well worth searching out, I really enjoyed it and I'm not even a doggy person really. The Clive James was not the easiest read but he's always insightful and unendingly funny, and I like his cleverness. I also like the way he makes his point with humour.

Peggy Ann: I think it's not how many books you read but whether you enjoy what you do read. Plus, I'm reading quicker than usual this year, most years I would be where you are.

I'm glad you enjoy my short reviews.

Very interesting to hear about your brother and his love of the Chet and Bernie books. I don't blame him, this first one was delightful.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

Well, you and all your fellow commenters really put me to shame with the amount of books you have manged to amass reading between you!

Before I started blogging and reviewing, I used to get through many more books than I do now, although other extraneous circumstances have also had their role to play in this sudden downturn.

It has got so bad, that I am now having to cull my TBR shelves, before I even get to look at, let alone read some of the books. It is a shame that we don't live just that little bit closer, or you could have had your pick from some of the hundred or so books I have taken to the charity shop in the last couple of weeks!

Whilst I totally agree that Clive James has a very acerbic and keen observational wit, I just can't settle to reading memoirs at all, and never have been able to.

I love your short, concise revie style. It means that you get to spend more time on the important things in life, like reading!

I haven't got to see any of the tennis this year, but will obviously be rooting for Murray all the way, it just has to be his year!


Cath said...

Yvonne: I've started cutting down on the reviewing to allow myself a bit more time reading. I now only review books for challenges and ones that have had a particular effect on me. The rest get shortie reviews or mentions. I have bad arthritis in my neck and shoulders so that's another reason for not spending quite as much time in front of the computer typing.

The Clive James book is not really memoirs, it's essays about current events, books, quirky stuff, all manner of things.

Andy Murray is doing very well this year. And I hope I haven't now put a jinx on him!

Nan said...

I so love Chet and Bernie. I agree with you that it is 'brilliant' that the books are from the dog's point of view. I've read only two but look forward to the others.
Remember the Clive James poem I put up a couple years ago? You left a comment. It was quite wonderful.

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I read Clare Balding's autiobiography too and found it really interesting and a great insight into the sports presenter.

Cath said...

Nan: What I loved was the narrative really did sound doggy. Very funny indeed.

Yes, I do remember that poem. He's a very talented man, although a couple of things about him sadden me. One of those is how sick he is at the moment.

Nikki-ann: It was good wasn't it? I was quite surprised to like a book about horses as much as I did!

Susan said...

Hmm, I would have asked Toby to pick up Clive James for him to read - and me to read after, of course, while he was there! It sounds perfect, and he likes real-life commentary like that. I'll have to see if it's over here now. Good review of it. I like how you laughed all the way through it, too.

I didn't know you had arthritis in your shoulders and neck. That must make gardening difficult too, as well as typing/computer. I'm so sorry, Cath.

I'm also deciding to review a little less - well having been absent for two months, just being back is good for me! lol - but I do want to say what I liked about a book, I just don't want to go into detail unless it's really important to me. I like how you said that, too.

Cath said...

Susan: Not for the first time I wish a bunch of us bookish folk were neighbours... all living in the same street or even the same town, so we could swap books. I would happily lend you and Toby the Clive James book. I'm keeping it as it's definitely a keeper, but it will sit on the shelf unread by anyone else now as it probably is not to the taste of anyone in my family.

I've had a really bad 2 or 3 weeks with pain in my shoulders and neck. At long last I think it's starting to improve but yes, it makes many things hard, like typing and gardening and just day to day chores etc. which I know you understand as you've been there. I also hate being on painkillers for weeks on end. Thanks, Susan.

Yes, I've cut back a lot on reviewing and just review challenge books or ones that I've particularly loved. Others I do short reviews of - next week for instance there will be 3 short non-fiction reviews. It works for me.