Wednesday, 12 December 2018

A new series and an old one


Busy, busy at the moment so it's two quick reviews of what I've been reading over the past couple of weeks and they involve a brand new series and an old friend.

First up, the new series. Against a Dark Sky, book one in Katherine Pathak's 'DCI Dani Bevan' series.

DCI Dani Bevan and her team are assigned to a case in the small village of Ardyle at the foot of Ben Lomond in Scotland. A group of climbers became separated in bad weather, two returned safely to their holiday cottage, of the other three, a woman has been found strangled and two men are missing. For the people who live in the village it brings back bad memories of an event 30 years ago when a local school party got similarly separated in the fog and three children died. The parents of one of those children have returned to the village to offer help with the investigation. They claim to 'see' things in their dreams that they believe are linked to real life events. Most of the police team are skeptical about this but Dani feels they need all the help they can get. What she has to discover is whether there's a connection between the two tragedies and, if there is indeed one, is anyone else's life in danger?

This was one of those books that I found hard to put down. I believe this kind of murder story is known as A Police Procedural, where the tale is centred mainly around the police and the steps they take to solve a complicated murder. I sometimes find that can be a bit tedious but it wasn't in this case, there was a lot going on and the author injects a fair bit of pace into the story. I enjoyed the way in which family secrets were slowly revealed, people doing stupid things just as they do in real life. A real star of the book was the Scottish setting. Ben Lomond actually exists and as you can see the area is very beautiful. Katherine Pathak is excellent at atmosphere and depicting how frightening it suddenly becomes when the weather closes in on a mountain. With interesting characters, a strong mystery, and an excellent setting this was a real winner for me. I'll be reading more by this author, I have Aoife's Chariot, which is book one of another series, on my Kindle, and will be buying more in the Dani Bevan series too.

Against a Dark Sky is my eighth book for the 2018 European Reading challenge covering the UK.


And now for an old friend, A Song of Shadows, book 13 of John Connolly's 'Charlie Parker' series.

Parker is staying in the seaside town of Boreas, Maine, recuperating from a near-fatal shooting. He is quite frail and is trying to recover his former vitality by walking the beach, going further every day. A woman and her daughter, Ruth and Amanda Winter, move into the house further up the beach. The little girl is friendly but her mother is extremely wary. Parker isn't sure whether this is because of his reputation, which has preceded him, making the whole town wary of him, or whether there is another reason entirely. The young daughter alerts him when she asks about his dead daughter, how does she know about that? It's not long before things, as per usual around Parker, hot up. A dead body is washed up on the beach, a man named Perlman, and the police wonder if there's a connection to a double sadistic murder in Florida recently. Parker has a bad feeling about the whole business and tries to find out what is frightening Ruth Winter, because he doesn't think it's him. When his investigations turn out to be too little, too late, the trail leads eventually to the German community in Maine. Who are they? Why are they in the USA? What are they hiding?

A strong stomach is required for this instalment of the Charlie Parker chronicles. You know, as soon as the neighbour and her daughter appear on the scene and the daughter can see dead people, that things are not going to go well for them. A strong stomach because sadism is involved here, as regards the modern murders but also holocaust events in concentration camps in Germany during WW2. More than any book of this series, apart from possibly The Reapers which dealt with Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s, this is a real history lesson and even I who have read a fair bit about The Holocaust found myself horrified all over again. I often think that fictional books can be far more affecting than non-fiction when it comes to the retelling of shameful events and this book proves it. But it is also everything else we've come to expect from a Charlie Parker novel. It's psychologically very creepy, it's hugely descriptive - Maine is so real in Connolly's hands - and it's very funny in places: it needs to be to lighten the horror. But best of all there is that running back story of what Parker is and to this has been added the mystery of what exactly his daughter is. Rivetting. Superb, no one writes like John Connolly, but I have to read him in small doses and definitely NOT at bedtime! Five out of five stars on Goodreads, no question.

~~~oOo~~~

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Calendar of Crime challenge


I'm at it again... another challenge I can't resist. Well it does involve crime fiction after all!


The challenge is being hosted by Bev at MY READER'S BLOCK and the sign-up post is here.

This is a reading challenge that will allow mystery readers to include any mystery regardless of publication date. If it falls in a mystery category (crime fiction/detective novel/police procedural/suspense/thriller/spy & espionage/hard-boiled/cozy etc.), then it counts and it does not matter if it was published in 1892 or 2019


This is the chart for the monthly categories:




Challenge runs from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019. all books should be read during this time period. Sign up any time between now and November 1, 2019.

All the other rules are to be found at the sign-up post.


Saturday, 1 December 2018

Books read in November


Another average reading month for me - 6 books read - but not average quality-wise... taking that into consideration it was a jolly good month.

These are the books:

57. Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands - Fred Vargas

58. Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves, and the Will to Swim - Alexandra Heminsley.

Already a seasoned runner and marathon participant, Alexandra Heminsley decides to take up swimming. She can swim, but not all that well. She watches other people do the front crawl easily and wonders why she can't seem to master the stroke. She takes lessons and realises it involves very precise breathing. Why can't she master it? Well of course she does... in the end. Her 'journey' is quite interesting, I really admired her perseverance and the lengths (no pun intended) she was willing to go to to achieve her goals. A longish teaching session at the end was not quite as interesting but not a bad read, a bit different.


59. Picnic in Provence - Elizabeth Bard.

American, Elizabeth Bard, has written two books about her life in France. Naturally this is the second book and I've not read the first, which involved her meeting Frenchman, Gwendal, and falling in love. On holiday in Provence they fall in love with a very old house previously owned by poet, René Charr. They buy the house and, after their first child is born, uproot themselves and move into it. The book is about how they acclimatise to a very different lifestyle to the one they had in Paris. The people are very different for a start, life is much more laidback and attuned to the seasons. Elizabeth loves cooking and in Provence you can really indulge that sort of passion. Loved this book. It seems I never tire of reading about how people cope with cultural differances and experience steep learning curves in foreign countries, especially France and especially Provence. Plus there are recipes! What's not to like?


60. Lord Peter - Dorothy L. Sayers


61. The Pure in Heart - Susan Hill


62. The Writer Abroad - Lucinda Hawksley

Synopsis from Goodreads: From the grand tour to the global village, novelists and poets have made particularly observant travelers. Many writers have been prone to wanderlust, eager to explore the world and draw inspiration from their travels. They recorded their notes in letters, journals, essays and books. In some cases, these became celebrated examples of travel writing, such as George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, but there are many more accounts which remain overlooked. This collection takes us on a literary journey around the world, through extracts from Arthur Conan Doyle in Australia, Aldous Huxley in India, Charles Dickens in Italy, Henry James in France, Mary Wollstonecraft in Sweden, and many more. Quite a sumptuous book this. Fabulously illustrated with paintings various artists have done of the regions covered in the book. It's split into sections: Africa, Asia, Europe, The Poles, Australasia, and more. Being an armchair traveller I enjoyed it enormously, the selected extracts come from journeys taken centuries ago right up to those undertaken in the 20th. century. A book to keep and dip into when the mood takes you and for finding authors and books to explore further.

~~~~~

It seems my reading this month has been split right down the middle: three excellent crime/murder mysteries and three equally good non-fiction books. Very happy with that state of affairs. Once again I'm not going to choose a favourite book of the month. They were all very good in different ways. It was a very satisfying month all round and I wish every month was as good for reading.

Currently reading and enjoying:



And here we are in the last month of the year... not at all sure how we got here so quickly and to be honest it's a bit scary but, regardless, happy reading in December.


~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The World at War reading challenge




The host of this 'new to me' reading challenge is Becky at Becky's Book Reviews.

The sign up post is here.

Duration: January - December 2019
Goal: Get at least one bingo! (more are welcome, of course!)
Sign up in the comments!

The categories:

_ Any book published 1914-1918
_ Any book published 1918-1924
_ Any book published 1925-1930
_ Any book published 1931-1938
_ Any book published 1939-1945
_ A nonfiction book about World War I
_ A nonfiction book about 1910s and 20s
_ A nonfiction book about 1920s and 30s
_ A nonfiction book about 1930s
_ A nonfiction book about World War II
_ A fiction book set during World War I
_ A fiction book set 1918-1924
_ A fiction book set in the 1920s
_ A fiction book set in the 1930s
_ A fiction book set during World War II
_ A book set in the United States or Canada
_ A book set in England, Ireland, or Scotland
_ A book set in Europe
_ A book set in Asia or Middle East
_ A book set elsewhere (a country/continent not already read for the challenge)
_ A book focused on "the war"
_ A book focused on "the homefront"
_ Watch any movie released in 1940s
_ Watch any movie released in the 1930s
_ Watch any movie about either war

More information and rules are in the sign up post.

This is a Bingo! style challenge which are always enjoyable. And I know I have plenty of books which will fit into a lot of the categories. Should be fun.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Yet more crime fiction


A couple of crimefic reviews to catch up on today.


First up, Lord Peter by Dorothy L. Sayers.

This is a volume of all the short stories written by Dorothy L. Sayers about Lord Peter Wimsey. Like most anthologies it's a mixed bag but unlike most anthologies even the ones that're not superb are good, there are no duds here. I've actually been reading this since July so a few of those first stories are lost in the mists of time but these are a few of my favourites that I made a note of:

The Abominable History of the Man With Copper Fingers. The first story in the collection and one of those stories retold in a men's club by an actor about his experiences of a famous wealthy man and his penchant for revenge. Genuinely menacing and creepy.

The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker. A phantom coach and horses with a headless driver story. Was not expecting that from Dorothy L. Sayers! Honestly, this was a 'cracking' yarn. I loved it.

The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head. Wimsey is looking after his young nephew who is recovering from an illness. He takes him to a bookshop where said nephew buys an old book of weird drawings. Then the owner tries to get them back. Why? This one was an absolute joy. Loved it.

The Image in the Mirror. A man is reading an H.G. Wells story, The Plattner Experiment, about a man who was blown into the fourth dimension and came back with all of his organs reversed. The man tells Wimsey that he was bombed in WW1 and also came back with his organs reversed. Absolutely fascinating story and I must dig out the original Wells' story.

The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey. An adventure set in the Pyrenees. A doctor is living an isolated and lonely life with his wife in the mountains. Village gossip has it that the wife's mental state is very bad but she was fine when she arrived. This one has Wimsey pretending to be a magician... great stuff and huge fun but also quite an air of menace about it too.

The final two stories involve Wimsey and Harriet Vane becoming parents.

The Haunted Policeman has Wimsey outside having a smoke after the birth of his first son. A policemen comes up and tells him a very weird story about a house numbered 13 in which he saw that a murder had been committed but on further investigation the next day turned out not to exist.

Talboys. Peter and Harriet now have three sons and are on holiday at Talboys. A female relative is staying with them who thinks the boys are not being brought up correctly and this seems to be confirmed when Bredon, Wimsey's eldest, aged six, is caught pinching peaches. When the tree is stripped the next day Bredon's accused but swears he didn't do it. The boy and Peter join forces to find out who did. Loved, loved, loved this. Particularly the snake named Cuthbert...

A really fantastic volume of short stories. Beautifully written as you might expect and, something I didn't really expect, quite weird. I absolutely loved this weird or supernatural tone to some of the stories and several had a real air of menace about them that was unexpected too. As I said before, even the average stories in this book knock spots off some by other authors. Terrific collection.


Lastly, The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill.

DCI Simon Serailler is in Venice on holiday when he gets a call from his father asking him to come home as his disabled sister is in hospital gravely ill. Having lost a colleague in a brutal manner in a previous investigation Simon is in Venice to recuperate, but answers the summons immediately. Not long after he gets back a young boy is snatched from the street outside his own house, with obvious results for the parents. And an ex-con returns to Lafferton, trying to go straight but will circumstances allow this?

Well it's quite a few years since I read the excellent first book in this series, The Various Haunts of Men. I planned to read this second book quite quickly but discovered it was about a missing child. I don't do children being harmed in books very well so I left it, and left it, and in fact it's now 10 years since I read the first book. And that's a shame. Yes, there is a missing child in the story and it is quite heart rending. But the book also focuses on Simon and his family. I won't call them dysfunctional exactly but there are problems, Simon gets on very badly with his father, his mother has always been distant, Simon himself does not treat women very well. The person Simon adores is his sister, Cat, and being with her and her lively family basically keeps him sane. Susan Hill does psychology extremely well, and I like that. She realises nothing is ever black or white and I thoroughly enjoy the manner in which she examines family relationships, crimes, people's motives, with a fine tooth comb. As a writer she is a class act. There is no firm resolution at the end of the book, reflecting life as it often is of course. I gather book 3 continues on with the investigation so have promptly reserved it from the library.


~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Mount TBR reading challenge, 2019


I had a break from Mount TBR this year but the tbrs have mounted up quite badly, despite my efforts, so I thought I'd do the challenge next year as all the books I bought *this* year will qualify of course. So here we go.

As usual the challenge is being hosted by Bev at MY READER'S BLOCK.




Challenge Levels:

Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s


For the various rules please visit Bev's sign-up post here. (I like the fact that rereads now count.)


At first I thought I'd just go for Pike's Peak - 12 books - and then I thought, 'Don't be such a wimp.' So I'm going for Mont Blanc, which is to read 24 books. As I have actually read almost 30 of my own books this year that ought to be achievable. In theory...

Looking forward to starting this, partly because it'll be the start of a new year and I always feel enthusiastic about what books I want to read. Right now, coming to the end of the year, my enthusiam is waning slightly. It will return.

~~~oOo~~~

Friday, 9 November 2018

More crime fic


Two murder mysteries to review today... it's all I seem to be reading at the moment, not that I see that as a 'bad' thing.

First up, Swiss Vendetta by Tracee de Hahn.

Agnes Luthi is an inspector with the Swiss police, but she has dual nationality, she's actually American who was born in Switzerland. She's just changed departments within the police, moving from financial crime to violent crimes. She's the sole parent of three boys as her husband has recently died. The storm of the century is almost upon Lausanne when the police get a call to say that a body's been found in the grounds of a local chateau. Agnes only just manages to get to the place before the storm hits and the group of police officers who made it with her are to be cut off for several days while they investigate the murder of Felicity Cowell, who worked for a London auction house. The Vallotton family who own the chateau are a very old, traditional Swiss family and are not giving very much away. Agnes has her work cut out to solve this one, not only because of the family but the elements are also very much against her.

I was ever so slightly underwhelmed by this. The first half of the book was really slow and I might have given up if I hadn't been reading it for a couple of challenges. As it was it did improve, more began to happen, and I did become interested in the case. But I still found the characters a little bit flat. There's a back story that concerns how Agnes's husband died and why, I found this distracting to be honest, although the truth when it came out was a surprise. The setting for the book was excellent and there is a strong feeling of Switzerland in a snowstorm and the aftermath - that I very much liked. All in all, this book was a bit hit and miss for me but that's OK, it's impossible to love everything.

Swiss Vendetta is my 5th. book for the What's in a Name reading challenge and covers the category, 'A Nationality'. It's also my 7th. book for The European Reading challenge, covering the country of Switzerland.


Next, Wash this Blood Clean from my Hand by Fred Vargas, book six in the Commissaire Adamsberg series.

No one on Adamsberg's team has any idea that he had a brother, Raphael. Years ago the brother was the main suspect in the murder of a young woman in the village in the Pyrenees where the family lived. The murder weapon had been some kind of trident, a fork for digging, and Adamsberg has, over the years since this happened, done some digging of his own, convinced as he was that his brother was innocent. His conclusion was that a serial killer is on the loose and that it is a famous judge who lived in the village. He comes to think of the killer as The Trident. No one, of course believes him - the judge is well respected - and when the judge dies that seems to be the end of that for fifteen years. Until Adamsberg spots a murder in the paper, a woman killed in exactly the same way as all the others. But the judge is dead... Various members of the team are off to Quebec on a DNA course. Adamsberg can forget about his dead serial killer while over there can't he? Well no, of course he can't.

Oh my goodness, how can Fred Vargas possibly manage to maintain the quality of this series like she does? This was so complicated, so many layers going on, the historical case or cases, the DNA course, Adamsberg's personal life interfering with those two things - his own stupidty, which is a bit mind boggling to be honest. You want to give him a shake at times. The Quebec setting is beautifully done, the cultural differences between the local Quebecois and their counterparts from Paris was beautifully illustrated and very funny. Every single character is so real, all with their different quirks and habits and failings. I love Clémentine and her friend Josette, the eighty year old computer hacker. Hilarious. I've loved every single book in this series and hate the thought that eventually I'll finish them all and have to wait for a new book to be written.

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand is my first book for the 12th. Annual Canadian Book challenge which is being hosted by The Indextrious Reader.

~~~oOO~~~

Friday, 2 November 2018

Books Read in October


October was a pretty average reading month for me. Seven books read, all enjoyed, you can't ask for more than that.

The books:

50. A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

51. Hickory Dickory Dock - Agatha Christie

52. From the Depths edited by Mike Ashley

53. Hunter's Moon - Dana Stabenow

54. Black Diamond - Martin Walker

55. A Trick of the Light - Louise Penny

56. A Swiss Vendetta - Tracee De Hahn. To be reviewed.


The thing that sticks out for me is that there's no non-fiction this month and the one I'd just started I've put aside for the time being. Will have to do better than that next month. I've more or less majored on crime novels, surprise, surprise... five of those and two supernatural themed books. Sometimes you just have gorge on your favourite genre because nothing else will do, this is possibly because I've had a cold for a week and needed some comfort reading.

Favourite book? Well that would have to be this:



A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. Superb, the series just gets better and better. I've already reserved the next book from the library.

And here's what I've been doing apart from reading:


2,000 pieces, Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' of course. Quite tricky. Make that very tricky...


And this one was a 1,000 piece American puzzle entitled 'Hummingbirds'.

I'm hoping November will be a quiet month. I don't mind if the weather is bad because settling down in my favourite chair in front of the open fire with a good book is sheer luxury. I call it 'hibernating'. Happy reading.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The 12th Annual Canadian Book challenge


Inspired by Tracey at Bitter Tea and Mystery I'm joining the 12th. Annual Canadian Book challenge. I had a feeling that I had done this before but I can't find any record of it so maybe I'm imagining it. Anyway, some details:




The challenge is being hosted by The Indextrious Reader.


1. What is the Canadian Book Challenge?

Created by John Mutford at the Book Mine Set a decade ago and hosted by him for its first 10 years, the Canadian Book Challenge is an annual online reading challenge in which participants from Canada and around the world aim to read and review 13 or more Canadian books in a one year span: Canada Day to Canada Day. Reviews must be posted online and participants are asked to share links to their reviews with other participants. More on reviews below.

(It's also a lot of fun and collectively we've read and reviewed thousands of Canadian titles)

2. How do I join?

Send me an email (mkindrach (at) gmail [dot] com) with the subject line "Sign Me Up for the Canadian Book Challenge!" and I'll add you to the list. Consider yourself a participant even if you don't get a response from me right away. Come July 1st you can get started right away. As soon as I get your first link (see below), I'll add your name to the participant list on the sidebar of this blog.

3. Oh no, it's past July 1st, can I still join?

Of course! In the past people have joined even in the very last month. If you think you can realistically read and review 13 books in the time remaining, then why not? To join, just follow the exact same instructions as above.

4. What constitutes a Canadian book?

Canadian books can include any genre or form (picture books, poetry, novels, non-fiction, plays, anthologies, graphic novels, cookbooks, etc), can be written by Canadian authors (by birth or immigration) or about Canadians. Ultimately, participants must decide for themselves whether or not something fits the description of Canadian: however, if it isn't clear in your review as to WHY you are counting your read as a Canadian one, please add a line or two to explain :)

More details about the challenge are here.

~~~~~~~

The challenge runs from the 1st. July of this year to the 30th. June 2019, so I'm rather late to the party but that's OK, I'll read what I can, have fun and see where it leads me.

I have many ideas of what to read, More of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache series, Mary Lawson, Entry Island by Peter May (thanks, Kay!), Fred Vargas (book 6 of her Adamsberg series is set in Quebec), Kelley Armstrong, L.M. Montgomery, Vicki Delaney, Tanya Huff, Guy Gavriel Kay, Jo Walton, and I'm certain there are many more options which I will look into. Feel free to suggest any to me.

Non-fictionwise I have these:







I've started a Goodreads shelf of Canadian books HERE. (The ones I've already read won't count for the challenge of course.)

There's also a Goodreads list of Canadian non-fiction HERE.

And a fiction list HERE.

Looking forward to getting started on this and the nice thing is... I can!

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Some crime fiction


The last week or two has been for reading from my ongoing series, ones I haven't touched for many months so it's been huge fun revisiting characters that feel like old friends.


First up, Hunter's Moon by Dana Stabenow - book nine of the author's Kate Shugak series.

Kate Shugak and her boyfriend, Jack, are acting as guides on a hunting expedition in the wilds of Alaska. Kate is an experienced guide. The hunters are a group of Germans from a German company that is in trouble financially in Europe. They're not a particularly pleasant group of men, plus one woman, and Kate has a bad feeling about them. This feeling is reinforced when one of their number is accidently shot dead. But was it an accident? I wasn't very enamoured of this one until about halfway through. The hunters were particularly obnoxious and I'm not great with situations where animals are killed for sport. But it really picked up later in the book and actually became rather exciting, plus, massive shock occurrence, *massive*, was not expecting that, so it got four stars on Goodreads instead of three.


Next, Black Diamond by Martin Walker, book three of the author's Bruno, Chief of Police series.

The Perigord region of France is famous for its truffles and large amounts of money change hands during the season in autumn and early winter. Bruno gets word that someone is interfering with the Perigord truffle when it's being sent off to restaurants in Paris and suchlike, inferior Chinese truffles being exchanged for the genuine article. One of Bruno's closest friends is found brutally murdered in the forest but is it to do with the truffle smuggling or his links to the French wars in Algeria and Vietnam? I quite like this series but in this book felt Bruno was bordering on too good to be true. But the plot concerning truffle shenanigans and tensions between the Vietnamese and Chinese communities in France was quite gripping and fascinating... I had no idea that the latter problems existed to be honest. Bruno's private life continues to be complicated but that's fine, the lovely details of life in Perigord continue to engage and I will definitely carry on with this series.


Lastly, A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny, book seven in her Armand Gamache series.

Clara Morrow has the first ever exhibition of her artwork in Montreal and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache goes to the vernissage with his wife and a couple of police colleagues. A BBQ party takes place in Three Pines, after the event, and a lot of people from the exhibition and village attend. The next morning the dead body of a woman is discovered in Clara and her husband Peter's garden. It's revealed that the dead woman is Lillian Dyson, a childhood friend of Clara's whom she fell out with in her early twenties. But Clara is not the only person who knew Lillian it seems. The dead woman had been an art critic, specialising in scathing reviews which ruined the careers of budding artists. Who among the guests at Clara's BBQ hated Lilian enough to kill her? Words can't express how much I like this series. It has improved with each book and reached a degree of excellence which many series never achieve. This one told me probably more than I thought I wanted to know about petty wars and alliances in the art community in Montreal. Whether this is true to life or not I don't know, but I suspect it's close... it's not at all my world but I was fascinated by it. And of course all the regular characters are so well drawn, all of them a mix of good and bad but growing and changing all the time. I particulary like the mad poet, Ruth, in Three Pines and her relationship with Jean-Guy Beauvoir. I feel like I haven't had enough of Three Pines to quell my thirst for it so have reserved book eight, The Beautiful Mystery, from the library... it's about a monastry in Quebec, can't wait.

It just occurred to me how much travelling I've done with these three books... Alaska, Perigord in France and then Quebec in Canada. And now I'm off to Switzerland!

~~~oOo~~~


Sunday, 14 October 2018

Catching up


A couple of books to catch up on today because, as usual, I'm behind with my reviews.

First up, Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie.

Miss Lemon isn't her usual efficient self. Hercule Poirot notices that she's making mistakes when she's typing his letters and this is something that never happens. It seems her sister is the house-keeper at a students' lodging house in London and things there are not quite what they ought to be. There has been some pilfering, odd things disappearing and then reappearing. A rucksack is hacked to pieces and hidden, a student has green ink poured over her work, thereby ruining it. Poirot is intrigued... and worried. He feels this may just be the start of something much more sinister. And so it proves to be when a female student is found dead in her bed. Suicide is assumed, but is it? Poirot thinks not.

This book was written in 1955 (I was two!) and aside from some attitudes in places being 'of the time' it could've been written yesterday. They say, 'The more things change, the more they stay the same' and it's so true. *SPOILER ALERT* I had no idea drug smuggling was such a problem in the 1950s. That people went to great lengths to establish smuggling rings or the tricks they got up to... exactly as they do now of course. Poirot doesn't actually appear in this one a great deal. It concentrates more or less exclusivly on the students living in the lodging house, their lives, their attitudes... especially towards students from foreign countries or who're less well off. It made for very interesting reading. You can learn as much about social history by reading something like this as you can by reading text books in my opinion. Thoroughly enjoying these occasional Agatha Christie reads, my respect for her has grown and grown.


Lastly, From the Depths and Other Strange Tales of the Sea edited by Mike Ashley.

This is another volume of short stories from The British Library. These days they're more famous for their reprinting of vintage crime classics, both novels and short stories (those're usually edited by Martin Edwards), but they do have a sideline now of supernatural tales and also science fiction. Mike Ashley seems to edit quite few of them, I gather he also edited quite a lot of those 'Mammoth book of...' that used to be around a few years ago. He does a good job with these, the introduction to the author at the start of each story is always interesting, amazing how many hugely popular authors in their time have now been completely forgotten. All power to elbow of the British Library for returning these people to public awareness.

Anyway, this was rather a good volume of short stories. For me, the stories got better as the book progressed. At the start, several were about being becalmed in the Sargasso sea, stuck in terrible seaweed, that kind of thing. And those were fine, very readable. But story number seven, The Mystery of the Water-logged ship by William Hope-Hodgson, about men boarding a floating wreck and then constantly disappearing, was really creepy and atmospheric and started a run of similarly good tales. I liked the story the title was taken from, From the Depths by F. Britten Austin, a World War Two tale which combined the supernatural and with a sort of spy yarn. Clever. Devereux's Last Smoke by Izola Forrester was a 'tip of a cigar' ghost story, really well written, claustrophobic in atmosphere as it takes place on a fogbound Atlantic liner. The High Seas by Elinor Mordaunt tells the story of twins boys, one big and a bully, the other small and bullied. Really good story-telling in this one and an excellent sense of place in Rye on the south coast of England. But for me, the best story of the whole bunch was The Soul-Saver by American writer, Morgan Burke. A ruthless and cruel captain kills one of his crew and then claims a white mouse that's appeared from nowhere is the dead sailor's soul. Superb story-telling, New England jumps off the pages at you, and I loved the story's wierdness. The final story of the volume, No Ships Pass by Lady Eleanor Smith was also an odd one. Mike Ashley felt it could have been the inspiration for the TV series, Lost and I can see why. A ship-wrecked sailor washes up on an island, where he finds four other people, one of them a pirate captain who has been marooned there for over a hundred years. Odd story and again, well written.

All in all a good, solid anthology, a few average stories but also quite a few really good ones which were very satisfying. I now have The British Library 'werewolf' anthology to read, Silver Bullets, selected by Eleanor Dobson. A happy bunny am I.


~~~oOo~~~

Monday, 8 October 2018

A Discovery of Witches


Autumn is well and truly here so a bit of spooky reading seems to suit the mood. I have a collection of books with ghostly or weird themes but none of those appealed so I grabbed A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness last time I was in the library. Members of my family have read the entire All Souls trilogy and recommended them and I did try this one several years ago, abandoning it after 50 pages or so because I couldn't get into it. 'Time to try again', I thought, 'and be a bit more determined this time'.




Diana Bishop is the latest in a long line of witches dating back centuries to the witches of New England. Except that she doesn't want to be a witch and has spent her entire life, up to her mid thirties, ignoring her magic. At least, she thinks she has. She's over from America studying the history of alchemy in Oxford, using the Bodleian libary's reference section on a daily basis. For her it's the perfect life. There are other 'creatures' like herself around, witches, vampires and daemons, but one way or another Diana is able to ignore them.

Then one day she needs a manuscript, Ashmole 782. It's ancient, obscure - Diana reserves it, studies it briefly and realises it is magic and very powerful and sends it back. Later she's caught using her magic to call another book from a shelf. Diana doesn't think trivial uses of her magic count for her personal ban on it but the person who catches her is a powerful vampire, Frenchman, Matthew Clairmont.

It seems a lot of people, including Matthew, have been searching for Ashmole 782. It's hard to obtain and when got it's almost impossible to read. Diana did both with ease. She's now the centre of attention for some very unpleasant members of the witch, vampire and daemon communities. Attention she doesn't want. And it's dangerous attention too, Matthew makes her realise that her life is in jeopardy and she must accept his protection if she's going to survive. Not only that, learn to use and control her much hated magic. But can she trust her new vampire friend?

Well then, my second reading of A Discovery of Witches went a lot better than the first. It's a long book (almost 600 pages), I got to the end, and enjoyed it. I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads so all is hunky-dory. I'm sure you can hear the 'but'...

There isn't really a 'but' of huge significance, it's just that it was all exactly as I expected it to be... a fairly typical, if lengthy and detailed, paranormal romance. There were no real surprises, I'd guessed at Diana's hidden depths, as I suspect most people would. Matthew Clairmont was the usual romantic vampire lead, dangerous but on the side of the good guys etc. I was not keen on his dominating character traits but I guess that's vampires for you...

I think I was just hoping for a tiny bit *more*. Which is a shame as the writing was good, I loved, loved, loved the chateau in France and Diana's witchy aunts in New England. The manuscript/bookish feel to the tale is excellent. The book really is very readable and if you want a nice long spooky type read that's not too demanding, this would be perfect. But do I want to rush out and read the next two books? I'm pretty sure I will pick up book two, Shadow of Night, at some stage, but I'm not in any tearing rush, although when I do get to it I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Strange, I'm not often this ambivilent about a book but there ya go: it happens.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Books read in September


September felt like a disjointed month readingwise. I think it felt busier than it actually was but there were in fact distractions and things to do and I read just five books.


45. Jacob's Room is Full of Books - Susan Hill. A reread inspired by Nan at Letters From a Hill Farm who's reading the book month by month through the year. I, with zero patience, read it as a bedtime read and devoured it in a week. Loved it all over again, books about books are always sheer joy.

46. La Petite Josette en Provence - Ashley Davidson-Fisher and Martinique Louise Fisher.

47. Serpents in Eden - Edited by Martin Edwards

48. Absent in the Spring - Mary Westmacott

49. The Broken Road - Patrick Leigh Fermor.

The final leg of the author's walk across Europe from The Netherlands to Constantinople. In this instalment Leigh Fermor is in Romania and then walks the coast of the Black Sea to Greece. Hugely enjoyable, I'm quite smitten with The Balkans after reading The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova, set in Bulgaria. I must admit I always thought The Balkans referred to the strip of land that used to be Yugoslavia and is now Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia etc. I didn't realise it also includes Bulgaria, part of Romania and Greece. It's massive! Anyway my favourite parts of his journey were The Black Sea coast and some time he spent on the peninsula of Mount Athos, in Greece, visiting all the monastries. Fascinating. I've now bought, Roumeli, the author's book about his travels in Northern Greece.

~~~~

Of the five books I don't really have a favourite, such a mixed bunch are they that it's hard to compare them to each other. Suffice it to say, they were all good.


And here's what I've been doing apart from reading five books:



A 3,000 piece jigsaw entitled, The Tribuna of the Uffizi and is by artist, Johann Zoffany. I gather The Queen owns the painting itself.

And I'm currently reading this:


A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It's nearly 600 pages and I'm in no hurry so am reading it in a slow, relaxed fashion. It's set in autumn and suits the season and my slowing-down mood very nicely indeed.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

My library pile


Well part of my library pile anyway, there are four others but these are the ones I picked up on a visit to the library yesterday. It was one of those visits where they must've had a new batch of books in, or swapped loads with other branches, because everywhere you looked were books I wanted. I brought home five but it could easily have been double that amount, other times you go and struggle to find one or two.


From the bottom (links to Goodreads):

The Riviera Express - T.P. Fielden. I loved the sound of this crime book set in 1950s South Devon, it sounds rather 'Agatha Christie' and I love the railway poster type cover. Reserved this one.

Picnic in Provence - Elizabeth Bard. My fascination with all things French continues unabated (though I'm exploring the mountainous Balkans region at the moment). This was a random grab and is described in the blurb as, 'Part memoir, part chocolate-smudged family cookbook'. Sounds good to me.

A Small Death in Lisbon - Robert Wilson. This seems to be murder mystery involving WW2 Lisbon. Sounds intriguing and will do nicely for the European challenge I'm doing, Portugal being a slightly more tricky country to cover.

Hickory Dickory Dock - Agatha Christie. The library had a nice little display of Agatha Christie's books, not sure why, but naturally I had to grab one, would've been rude not to. This one appealed as it's not one I'm very familiar with.

Great Britain's Great War - Jeremy Paxman. I try to read something connected to the two world wars during the autumn period. Been meaning to read this one by Paxo for ages so when I saw it in the library I thought now was an ideal time. He's an excellent writer, very good at explaining difficult subjects, clear-sighted, and often laugh out loud witty.

So that's a few of my current library books. It'll be a while before I get to them though as I'm currently reading this, also from the library:




A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness which is nearly 600 pages long. Good so far though and brilliant for a spooky autumn read.

Happy reading!

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Catching up - two reviews


Two 'catching up' reviews today. First up, Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes edited by Martin Edwards.

This collection of crimes stories is exactly what it says on the tin (to quote a well-known advert): an anthology depicting heinous misdeeds, murder and mayhem, which all take place in the countryside. In his introduction Martin Edwards provides an appropriate Sherlock Holmes quote:

"You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there. They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."

And these stories, naturally, prove his point. The collection includes stories by some well known authors, G.K. Chesterton, Arthur Conan Doyle, Margery Allingham, Gladys Mitchell and some not so famous ones. Glancing at the notes I made as I read each one (otherwise by the time I get to the end I've forgotten what I read at the start) it seems, in general, that I liked the lesser known authors better. E.C Bentley's The Genuine Tabard told of an American couple visiting a quaint English village and buying an ancient herald's tabard off the vicar. But is it genuine? I liked The Long Barrow by H.C. Bailey for its archaeological bent and rather creepy atmosphere, R. Austin Freeman's The Naturalist at Lew was a clever story about a man being found dead in a ditch and how something as simple as duckweed is not actually simple at all! A Proper Mystery by Margery Allingham was not a murder story, it was about rivalry in village shows and I loved it. Inquest by Leonora Wodehouse (P.G.'s neice) was a story about a big house and will changing and had an excellent twist at the end, and The Scarecrow by Ethel Lina White about an ex-boyfriend who tries to strangle his girlfriend, is locked up in an asylum, escapes, and is coming to get her, was genuinely scary.

All in all, this was an excellent anthology. A well chosen selection, each one beautifully written, which is what I love about these vintage crime short stories or novels: although it does spoil you a bit for some of the modern stuff which is not as well crafted in my opinion.


Lastly, Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (a pseudonym of Agatha Christie's). This is my fourth book for the What's In A Name? reading challenge which is being hosted by The Worm Hole. It covers the category, 'A Season'.

Joan Scudamore is crossing Iraq by train after a lengthy visit to her daughter in Baghdad. She's married to a lawyer, Rodney, and they have three adult children, all left home and living independently. They're a typical middle-class English family of the 1930s. The train is held up because of flooding and Joan finds herself stranded at a rest house not far from the Turkish border. It seems she'll be there for several days, what will she do with herself when the few books she has run out?

It turns out that the only thing Joan can do to while away the time is to think. Not just vague thoughts but serious, introspective thinking about her life. She's one of these people who're able to ignore realities or simply don't see what's happening in front of them. She thinks she has the perfect life, the perfect family, but we all know nothing is ever as it seems and so it turns out to be. It might sound like a quite a boring plot for a book, a woman stranded in the desert 'thinking'... but it's not at all. Slowly but surely Joan's personality is revealed and the way in which her husband and children have learned to deal with her and keep things hidden. The writing is quite masterful to be honest, the reader starts out thinking that this is just rather a smug woman but we're drip fed information and eventually realise that there's a real story to be told here, sad and tragic in its own quiet way. And one that really makes you think about your own life and things you might have done or said... or ignored because it's too difficult to think about. I read this because I saw Margaret's review here and like her I feel I really must find more of the six books Agatha Christie wrote as Mary Westmacott.

~~~oOo~~~

Sunday, 9 September 2018

La Petite Josette En Provence


The author of La Petite Josette En Provence is Ashley Davidson-Fisher. We follow each other on Twitter and I've enjoyed her photos of Provence (and this summer, Norway) for quite a while now. She's lived in Provence, off and on, with her family for many years and still does. She asked me if I would read and review her new children's book, La Petite Josette En Provence, which has been illustrated by her daughter, Martinique Louise Fisher, and naturally I was very pleased to do so.



La Petite Josette (little Josette) is incredibly excited. Her parents are taking her and her older sister, Anne-Laure, out for the day to visit the hill-top village of Les Baux-de-Provence. She's so excited that when her sister comes to collect her she's already dressed under the bedclothes! The girls help their parents get the picnic ready and load the car and they're off.

After a longish journey they arrive here:



This is Les Baux-de-Provence, (pic from TripAdvisor) which as you can see, is rather spectacular; it has a medieval castle, a very ancient history, and by the sound of it, lovely shops and cafés. I gather it's been named one of the most beautiful villages in France. Anyway the family set about exploring the castle, enjoying a picnic, buying souvenirs and having a reviving drink. In other words a really lovely day out.

This children's book is pure charm. Ashley's beautifully written story is also superbly illustrated by Martinique Louise Fisher. To be honest, the illustrations are a real feature of the book, I sat looking at them for ages. Her website is here if anyone is interested in seeing her work. The paintings in this book made me wish adult books came with pictures like this! How nice to see exactly what the storyteller has in mind.

But not only is the book charming it's also educational. I did French at school and although I haven't kept it up the knowledge is still part of me and I didn't have too much trouble understanding the French. What I didn't know was explained in the story so I feel like I learnt quite a bit. For instance, we're all familiar with the French 's'il vous plait' for 'please'. I've always wondered what families say for this because they wouldn't use 'vous' they'd use the more personal 'tu'. Apparently families say, 's'il te plait'. So now I know. A simple thing but it pleases me. I learnt that sausages are 'des saucisses', peanuts are 'cacahvétes', fab word but my keyboard won't do the accent the other way round, and yoghurt is 'yaourt'.

I think this would be an excellent book for children just starting to learn French or perhaps with a little experience of the language. (My grandson has just started in fact, he did a little at primary school but has started in earnest at comprehensive and loves it.) French makes up a small percentage of the story and there are clear explanations in dialogue for all of the French terms.

I really really hope that Ashley and Martinique are thinking of doing more books about 'La Petite'. I think it would be a gorgeous way to introduce children to the language but also to the beauty and culture of La belle France. And not just children... aged grandmas with a thing about European geography too.

~~~oOo~~~


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Books read in August


August was a busy month for me and that's reflected in the number of books I managed to read: four. It felt like more, and really it was as one of the books was two books in one and another was quite long. But four in number it is and that's fine. These are they:


41. The Voyage of the Basilisk - Marie Brennan

42. Magpie Murders - Anthony Horowitz

43. The Olive Tree - Carol Drinkwater

44. The Shadow Land - Elizabeth Kostova


The four are a mix of my own books and library books. I've done very well reading my own books this year, admittedly not always ones that have been on my tbr pile since time immemorial... I do tend towards the newer purchases... but so far this year I've read 44 books, 22 of which have been my own. I've also managed 16 non-fiction books so far this year... it could be more, I realise that, but it's not too bad.

Anyway, hard to name a favourite as none of them were standout wonderful, all good but not really amazing. I think it would have to be The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova.



It did ramble on rather a lot but it was excellent on Bulgarian history and landscape and I was pleased to get an unusual country for the European Reading challenge.




These are the books I'm reading at the moment, not sure how I managed to be reading 3 books of short stories all at once but there ya go...

My bedtime book is a reread of this, inspired by Nan at Letters From a Hill Farm:


And as with my first read of it, it is once again pure delight to read. I feel a reread of Susan Hill's The Magic Apple Tree coming on and am wondering about getting back to the crime series she writes... I read one but didn't get any further.

And now autumn is here. Hooray! Couldn't be more delighted.



(Burnham Beeches - Myles Birket Foster)


~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The Shadow Land


My sixth book for the European Reading Challenge 2018 is The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova and it covers the country of Bulgaria. (For those who're not sure where that country is, it's on the Black Sea, sandwiched between Romania in the north and Greece and Turkey in the south.)



Alexandra Boyd is from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, brought up very simply by her parents, with one older, adored brother, Jack. Jack, aged 16, disappears while the family is out hiking in the mountains one day, he's never found and naturally it changes the lives of those left behind. Now grown up, Alexandra decides to go and work in Bulgaria, teaching English. It's a country her brother had always wanted to visit because as children the two of them always had fun with maps and imagining what various countries looked like: Jack had always fancied Bulgaria.

Arriving at her hotel in Sofia, three people are just leaving... two of them very elderly, one much younger. They're having trouble with their luggage and the taxi and Alexandra steps forward to help. She takes a photo, waves goodbye, and then realises she still has a piece of their luggage. They had mentioned they were going to a local monastry so she gets a taxi and meets driver and poet, Asparuh Iliev, known to all as Bobby, who has worked in England and speaks excellent English. Together they open the case and find someone's ashes inside. They make for the monastry to try and return the ashes to their rightful owners but things take a sinister turn when they're locked in a room and only just manage to escape.

Thus begins a long journey of discovery. Alexandra is still grieving for her brother, Jack, but this quest to catch up with the Lazarovi family is the beginning of a healing process for her. What they thought might be an imagined danger is in fact very real. Someone in authority is very interested in the urn that Alex and Bobby are carrying and is willing to do anything to get it. But where have the family gone? Their search will take them from one end of Bulgaria to the other.

Elizabeth Kostova is of course the author of the very well known book, The Historian, which I read and loved in 2007. One of the most interesting aspects of that book for me was all the travelling the characters did around Eastern Europe and naturally that's exactly what appealed to me about this as well, ie. all the traipsing around Bulgaria. The author clearly knows the country well - I gather she married a Bulgarian - and brings it to life vividly. I was unaware of exactly how mountainous the country is, it's clearly rugged and stunningly beautiful, and because of fifty years of communist isolation, pretty much untouched too.

I almost want to say that this reminded me a bit of a Mary Stewart adventure where a 'naice gel' gets into a spot of bother abroad and doesn't know who to trust. And it's true, the book is like that. But when it starts to get a lot more serious about life under communist rule, that's where it diverges from a Mary Stewart yarn and becomes frightening and sinister. It brought me up sharp as I knew nothing about labour camps and who they shoved into them and what their fate was. Those parts of the book were not a comfortable read, but then they're not meant to be. We're a mite too complaisant and comfy, those of us who live in countries where this kind of thing doesn't happen, does us good to get a dose of reality from time to time.

The book is certainly beautifully written, possibly the author's tendency to describe every last little thing in minute detail is a tad too much at times. Some will think it's too long and get bored because sometimes little happens... plenty on Goodreads seem to have had this experience with it. Personally, I find that as long as I'm aware a book is like that before I start then I'm ok with it.

The Shadow Land is not a supernatural book like The Historian but it still has that feel to it somehow, perhaps because of the subject matter but also I think because the Bulgarian landscape lends itself to the supernatural... like Transylvania which is not a million miles from Bulgaria of course. For me the book was rich in history and atmosphere and I liked it very much indeed. I think I may have to reread The Historian quite soon - with autumn coming on I tend to slip into creepy book mode and that would fit the bill very nicely.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

What I've been reading so far this month


I'm really behind with reviews at the moment, due to being quite busy, so I thought I'd just do a quick post about the three books I've read since the start of the month.

First up, Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan:

This is book 3 in the author's Lady Trent series.It's a kind of alernate reality, Victorian, type setting wherein women are not supposed to have an intelligent interest in dragons or anything else really. In fact, the books are as much about Isabella's struggles against the restrictions on women as they are about dragons. In this one she goes off to an archipeligo on a ship called The Basilisk to look for dragons, accompanied by her young son and the usual suspects. All kinds of adventures ensue and I really enjoyed the sea-voyage, 'try to blend in with the natives', travelogue-ish, theme to this story. If you're looking for books about dragons where they feature a lot, this series is probably not for you, try Anne McCaffrey, Naomi Novik, Robin Hobb. But if you're a fan of Victorian female travel writing and think you might like a touch of fantasy thrown in, you could do worse than this series. At the very least the covers are just gorgeous.


Next, Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz:

This book is a one-off - the first I've come across where you have two books, not one, in one complete story. Editor, Susan Ryeland, is given a manuscript to read, the latest by her publisher's star writer, Alan Conway. He writes a crime series about a German detective, Atticus Pund, who lives in England. Susan reads the latest instalment but finds, to her horror, that the last chapter of the manuscript is missing. Where is it? And more to the point, whodunnit? I'm a bit worried about spoilers here so I'm not going to say any more but seasoned crime fic readers will guess that there will be deaths and all kinds of Rum Goings On, and it's all very engrossing. And almost as soon as the book begins the reader has the manuscript of the new book to read... when that finishes Susan's investigations begin, so really it is two books in one. I won't pretend I didn't get confused, because I did. I occasionally had to stop and remember which characters belonged in which book, which were fictional and which... well... they're all fictional so you can see where the confusion comes in. It's beautifully written by the creator of the wonderful TV series, Foyle's War, very clever and enjoyable.


Lastly, a non-fiction, The Olive Tree by Carol Drinkwater. This is my third book for my What's in a Name? challenge, covering the category, 'A fruit or a veg'.

In her book, The Olive Route, which I read two years ago, Carol Drinkwater went looking for the origins of the olive tree. In that book she travelled to the eastern Mediterranean, covering The Lebonan, Irael, Palestine, Libya and so on. In its successor she tours the western Med starting by touring Spain, mainly by bus. Morroco follows Spain and then Algeria, two countries where it can be difficult for western women travelling alone. In fact in Algeria it's arranged for her to be escorted by a network of bee keepers, who take her safety very seriously; despite that, it's not a country that she felt comfortable in. From there Carol is back in Europe, touring Italy. This was my favourite section and she clearly adored it too... I thoroughly enjoyed all the island hopping. I think I probably enjoyed the first book more than this, but only slightly. The olive is not as centre stage as it was in book one and I have to admit that her experiences in Morroco and Algeria took up more of the book than I would have liked. That said, Carol Drinkwater is a superb writer, lovely observations of simple things, of people, of quirky happenings and stunning landscapes. She may not think of herself as a travel writer but she surely is.


~~~oOo~~~

Monday, 13 August 2018

More jigsaw puzzles


It seems I last did a jigsaw puzzle post in February so it's more than time to inflict another one upon you. *Coughs* I've slowed down a bit this past few weeks as summer is always a bit busy with grandkids and the garden. Also I usually do them in our conservatory and it's just been too hot in there for weeks on end; the heatwave has now ended thank goodness.

Anyhoo, a few puzzles (not all) that I've done since February.



These two were charity shop buys, both unopened. They're from W.H. Smith and both 1000 pieces. I tend to think I'm not a cottagey person when it comes to jigsaws but I think I must be lying to myself as I love this kind of nostalgic scene.



I love maps so this 2000 piece one was a joy to do. Quite tricky with all the sea but I like a challenge.



A dear friend was clearing out some puzzles and sent me a lovely surprise parcel of them (the joy!!) and this was one. I loved how difficult it was with all the rigging and the tricky sky.



A painting by Monet which was a gift from one of my daughters (the jigsaw not the painting, sadly) and a lovely collage of American lighthouses, both 1000 pieces.



Another gift from my daughter, a scene of a garden in Thailand. 1000 pieces and quite a challenge with all those hedges that look the same.



Finished this one a couple of days ago. Took me three weeks which is hardly surprising looking at the cartoon picture and how much detail is in it. Loved doing it. 2000 pieces, art by Jan van Haasteren, puzzle by 'Jumbo'.

Sometimes I wonder if I have too many indoor hobbies and ought to get out more and, although I do work in the garden a bit, this is probably the case. The trouble is my natural inclination is to get comfy in my favourite chair with a book, a puzzle, a computer game, or something detective-ish on the TV. I like being outdoors but I don't love it as much as I love being warm and cosy indoors with things that interest me. Something to ponder.


~~~oOo~~~