Wednesday 31 August 2011


It's the 1st. September tomorrow which of course means that R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril is with us once again... more commonly known as RIP... and this year it's the sixth year of this challenge, so it's RIP VI!

What a stunning piece of artwork. I honestly think this is my favourite so far of all the images used for RIP. It's Flight by Melissa Nucera and I love it to bits. So atmospheric.

As always Carl is hosting and this is the site to visit if you're interested in joining in and here're are a few pointers:

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Dark Fantasy.

The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

There are two simple goals for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VI Challenge:

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

R.I.P. VI officially runs from September 1st through October 31st. But lets go ahead and break the rules. Lets start today!!!

Okay, well, as always there are several levels of participation and I'm going to do...

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (my very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming or Edgar Allan Poe…or anyone in between.

And here are a few of the books I've put aside as a pool to choose from:

They include:

Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs
Silver Borne - Patricia Briggs
Drood - Dan Simmons
The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (a reread)
Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer
The Small Hand - Susan Hill
Nightlife - Rob Thurman
Wagner the Werewolf - George W.M. Reynolds
The Lair of the White Worm - Bram Stoker
The Picture of Dorian Grey - Oscar Wilde
The Gates - John Connolly
Blood Detective - Dan Waddell
The Wine of Angels - Phil Rickman
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
Wicked Appetite - Janet Evanovich
The Mephisto Club - Tess Gerritsen

There are also numerous short story collections which probably means I'll take part in a couple of the short story weekends:

A few authors I'd like to read for those are, M.R. James, E.F. Benson, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edith Wharton, Rhoda Broughton and so on... the list is endless and I have a few sitting waiting on my Kindle too.

And I have a little bit of a confession... although the challenge doesn't officially start until tomorrow I er... started my first book yesterday. It's Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs. Loving it.

Thanks to Carl, as always, for hosting this challenge once again and giving us all so much enjoyment.

Monday 22 August 2011

Charity shop buys

I seem to have been reading three books at once over the past couple of weeks and thus, no reviews. I did finish one last night, my reread of Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. Delightful... even more so than the first read I think. I'm also pretty certain that I'll return to this one over and over without it getting at all boring. My two other reads... well I'm halfway through The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths, book 3 in her Ruth Galloway series, and it's excellent. And halfway through Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope which is also wonderful. I'm so pleased that his output was prolific as I feel I'm going to be quite a fan.

Anyway. On Friday I hit a couple of charity shops in Exeter with my daughter and grand-daughter. Haven't done this for ages so didn't feel too badly about picking these books up quite cheaply:

From the bottom:

Armchair Traveller edited by John Thorn and David Reuther. This is an anthology of travel stories and I was attracted to it by the variety of authors: Margaret Atwood, Peter Benchley, Noel Coward, Florence Nightingale, Evelyn Waugh, plus the usual kind of author you find in this kind of collection, such as Paul Theroux, Redmond O'Hanlon, Gerald Durrell, Bruce Chatwin etc. An unusal mix and I couldn't resist it. Not that I tried all that hard...

The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope. I could, and probably have (can't quite recall), put this on my Kindle but I couldn't resist this lovely paperback copy for £1. It's book six in the series and I'm only on book two but I like to be prepared. :-)

The Political Animal by Jeremy Paxman. I've read two of this other books, The English and On Royalty and like his style and humour so this was another no brainer.

The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen. My next read in her Rizzoli and Isles series. I just grabbed it and cleaved it to my bosom. No more comment needed than that.

The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge. I can remember reading her Green Dolphin Country many years ago. I loved it but have never read anything else by her. I looked at the cover of this...

... and couldn't leave it behind. *Beautiful*

I also bought four Tamora Pierce books for my grand-daughter. At 20p each how much more of a bargain could you ask for?

So those are my ill-gotten gains for now. Very pleased with all of them and they cost me the princely sum of £4.60, so hardly any guilt involved at all. None if you think it goes to charity.

And lastly, my RIP pile seems to have taken on a life of its own. I swear I didn't put all of those 22 books there!


Wednesday 10 August 2011

Two quick reviews

I'm currently rereading Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. I'm doing this mainly because I loved it so much the first time around but back then I whizzed through it without stopping. This time I'm reading it much more slowly, enjoying it more, and also jotting down recommended books as I go. A bit of a crazy thing to do really. I have a tbr pile the size of Mount Everest and hardly need to be making lists of books I haven't read, don't own, and will thus have to buy or borrow from the library if I do decide to read them. Like I said: mad.

Anyway, this is meant to be a bookblog and I haven't reviewed many books lately so here're a couple of quickie reviews of what I've read recently. First up - A Wild Life by Dick Pitman.

Dick Pitman left England in 1977 on a whim to go and work in what was then Rhodesia and is now, of course, Zimbabwe. He began by touring the national parks writing articles about them for papers and magazines. Completely seduced and bewitched by the wildlife and country he then went on to work for the country's national parks as a sort of PR man... getting the parks into the newspapers and so on. Resigning from there a few years later he went on to give more practical help with projects such as returning the black rhino and the cheetah to various parks in his capacity as a pilot or as someone who was fast becoming an expert on African wildlife.

This book turned out to be quite a little gem. Dick Pitman recalls his experiences in Zimbabwe with a great deal of self-deprecation and humour. His love of Africa shines off the page as he describes the area around the Zambesi river, the Matusadona, Lake Kariba, Mana Pools, and the Mavuradonha. Some of what he has to relate is rather sad - the failure of some of the plans to reintroduce animals when they are hunted and killed soon after release for instance. There is also a great deal of bureaucracy and fraud to be overcome as governmental changes come in and the country begins to slide towards bankrupty under the leadership of Mugabe. Throughout it all the author keeps faith with Zimbabwe and stays on, giving the reader a unique insight into this troubled country. Loved it to bits.

Next up: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns.

Sophia and Charles fall in love in the 1930s and marry rather too quickly. His family are vehemently against the marriage and turn up on the doorstep to berate Sophia. And this is not Sophia's only problem. She has a job which keeps them both while Charles paints... not very successfully because he never sells anything. Then Sophie falls pregnant. Charles is appalled as he doesn't want to be a father and although Sophie wants the baby she knows she will lose her job and they will have no money to live. After the baby is born Charles relents a little but is still hardly the keenest of fathers. Sophie manages to get work modelling for artists but Charles refuses to try and find work himself. Things come to head when Sophia discovers that Charles has been looking into homes for children whose parents don't want them. Enraged and worried for her son's safety Sophie embarks on an affair...

Gosh. Well, this is a story that Sophie relates to her friend, after the event, so we know right at the beginning that it has a happy outcome. Otherwise it would be overwhelmingly sad to be honest. Not that life isn't sometimes tragic but some of the events in the story are really hard to take. It's beautifully written in the first person so we get to know Sophie very well. She's a fighter and a person who never gives up, never complains about her lot, just relates it all in a very matter of fact way which in a way makes it all the more horrifying. Her selfish and immature husband needed a jolly good smack to be honest and at one point in the book I silently cheered. This is very much a book of its time. Before there was any NHS the scenes in the hospital as Sophie gives birth will make any woman shudder. And these days there would be benefits to help women like Sophie and her son and rightly so. An excellent read, quite sad but ultimately uplifting and recommended if you enjoy Virago Modern Classics.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Saturday snapshot

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books to participate in this meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Our first sunflower.

Nasturtiums have to be among my favourite flowers. Such varied and gorgeous colours and you can even eat them: both flowers and leaves are lovely in salads.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and Claire at The Captive Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

I haven't done one of these in a while so, as my pile is nearly all new, I thought I would participate. Here's my latest loot:

From the bottom:

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built - Alexander McCall Smith. Book 10 in the Mma Ramotswe series and next in line for me. Never get tired of these.

Two Wheels on my Wagon - Paul Howard. About a cycling race called The Tour Divide which runs 3,000 miles from the Canadian Rockies to Mexico. Having enjoyed one of Anne Mustoe's cycling travelogues last month, I went searching for others and found this.

Italian Neighbours - Tim Parks. The place I saw this mentioned was here in the comments on Danielle at A Work in Progress's post about Italian books. It sounded interesting when I looked it up so I reserved it from the library.

Out to Lunch in Provence - Mike Aalders. A random grab which I thought might do for my Foodie books challenge.

Excursion to Tindari - Andrea Camilleri. Book 5 of his Inspector Montalbano series. Lots of those still to go...

The Edwardians - Roy Hattersley. Huge, huge, huge, so I've no idea whether I will even get to this let alone finish it but I thought I would at least bring it home and try as it's an interesting subject. The author is an ex-British Labour MP, quite high up in The Cabinet at one time.

A Wild Life - Dick Pitman. Charts forty years of the British author's life in Zimbabwe working with wild-life. My current read and rather enjoyable. I've just finished one of the Mma Ramotswe books so this second book about Africa was a natural follow-on.

The Charming Quirks of Others - Alexander McCall Smith. Book 7 of the author's Isabel Dalhousie series set in Edinburgh of course.

So that's it. I have one book still on reserve which is another of Clive James's books of essays. I seem to be on a slight non-fiction kick at the moment with a definite leaning towards travelogues. I'm not sure why this is, perhaps it's because it's the summer and we have no overseas holidays planned for this year so I have itchy feet. I can't think that it can be bothering me that much as I really am a home-body. I think maybe I'm just a natural armchair traveller, obsessed with geography as I congitated on in my last post.

Monday 1 August 2011

Books for July

I sometimes wonder whether the vast majority of books I read reflect my fascination for Geography and History. Not that I'm an expert in either I hasten to add but, aside from English lit., they were my favourite subjects at school and have remained with me in the intervening years (I tend to wince when I think how many that actually amounts to). I soak up any TV documentaries that are historical or about far away lands that I haven't a hope of getting to... even when said shows are heavily disguised as, say, cookery shows. Rick Stein's Asian Odyssey from last year (or the year before) springs to mind... great cooking but even better scenes of various amazing Asian countries. He's been in Spain this year and even though I'm not that interested in that country I had to watch because it's somewhere I've never been and probably will not get to. And was it interesting? Of course - although I wasn't sure about the snail-fest that was attended by 12,000 people. I have a typical English person's squeamishness about eating molluscs but, you know... it's good to be aware of traditions that are different from yours and I'm sure it helps to be more accepting of different cultures. And on a side-note, let's hear it for the BBC who, despite all, are still making these kinds of programmes...

Anyway, enough rambling, I looked at the books I read this month to see if they do actually prove my theory about me and Geography and History.

43. Magyk - Angie Sage
44. Dark Fire - C.J. Sansom
45. The Deeping Secrets - Victor Watson
46. Flyte - Angie Sage
47. The Lost Art of Gratitude - Alexander McCall Smith
48. Vanish - Tess Gerritsen
49. Physik - Angie Sage
50. Amber, Furs and Cockleshell - Anne Mustoe
51. The Revolt of the Pendulum - Clive James

And the answer is - 'more or less'. History is covered by Dark Fire (16th. century setting) and The Deeping Secrets (WW2 setting). Geography by Amber, Furs and Cockleshells (non-fiction travelogue), The Lost Art of Gratitude (set in Scotland, a country I'm longing to go to and *will* probably get to some day) and Vanish (set in Boston). The three Angie Sage books are fantasy and cover both history and geography for me. Even though her world is imaginary it's rather medieval in feel and it's 'another land' to explore. The only exception to my theory is the book of essays by Clive James... but even then he often disccusses historial and geographical subjects. And his essay on crime books and their readers is worth borrowing the book from the library for, even if the rest of the book goes unread (his whole family is addicted to Donna Leon's Brunetti series, lol.)

So, there you go. I'm clearly a person driven by History and Geography. How about you? Have you noticed anything similar in your reading? I'm curious to know if this is just a weirdness in me or whether others have a similar bent towards other subjects.

Best read last month? Ooooh gosh. They were all very good to be honest *but* Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom probably had the edge - my review is here.

An honorary mention goes to Amber, Furs and Cockleshells by Anne Mustoe. This is her non-fiction account of three cycling trips she took, all of them following famous historical 'roads' which were, the Amber Route from the Baltic to the Adriatic, the Santa Fe trail from the Missouri river to New Mexico and the Pilgrims' Way of St. James from Le Puy in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I've read one other by her, Lone Traveller, and loved it and this second book was every bit as good. My favourite of the trips was the Santa Fe Trail, probably because I love America so much. And the people of Kansas can pat themselves on the back because she said she's never come across such kindness as she found there. A brilliant book full of history, humour and the realities of long-distance cycling. Sadly, I discovered while I was reading the book that Anne died in 2009 in Syria. What a shock and what a sadness. A real loss to all who love her books.

And here's a photo to finish:

Which challenge do you reckon I can't wait for?