Monday 3 October 2011

Books read in September & Sweetness

I'm going to do this as a combined post so that I can catch up on myself a bit. First, a quick run-down of what I read in September, and then secondly a quick review of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.

September was pretty much an average reading month for me, six books read... well actually five and half... as one of them, Barchester Towers, is a book I started back in August and have been reading slowly. So this is what I read:

58. Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs
59. The Gates - John Connolly
60. Barchester Towers - Anthony Trollope
61. Blood Detective - Dan Waddell
62, Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer
63. The Small Hand - Susan Hill

Every single one of these was a thoroughly good read, but if I had to choose a favourite it would probably be Barchester Towers. It was just so beautifully written, characters that were very memorable and superbly drawn such as Obadiah Slope, and an excellent storyline. And honestly, it was so much fun and a joy to read. My next book in the Barchester series is Dr. Thorne which I have on my Kindle but I'm wondering how long I'll be able to resist getting myself a nice hard copy.

So six books read, five of those for Carl's R.I.P. VI challenge, so I'm very pleased with that acheivement. If I don't manage to read anything else for the challenge, five will complete it quite nicely. Although I *am* hoping to read several more... I have the Miss Peregrine book everyone's talking about, from the library, and a couple of others that will fit in very well. It all depends on real life circumstances really.

Next up, a quick review... my first book for October is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.

The story here is based around the De Luce family who live in a crumbling country pile by the name of Buckshaw. Flavia de Luce is eleven or there abouts and very keen on chemistry, a child prodigy you would probably say. She lives with her father, and two older sisters that she doesn't get on with. In fact at the beginning of the tale she's tied up and gagged and left by them in a wardrobe. Their father lives there but is not there in spirit. His wife died some years ago and he has become a bit of a recluse, interested only in his stamp collection.

When Flavia finds a dead body in the cucumber patch early one morning, after witnessing a strange meeting between her father and the dead man the night before, she sets about investigating the crime. Is it connected to the dead bird with a stamp impaled on its beak that turned up on the doorstep a few days ago? The answer is almost definitely yes. But where does her father's stamp collection fit in? And why is the local librarian obsessed with Flavia's father's school days and clique of friends? The local police seem clueless but Flavia is not. Methodically sorting out the clues and using her skills as a chemist to aid the investigation, Flavia finds herself not only one step ahead of the police but ultimately in some considerable danger herself.

I think I might be the last person in the world to read this book. Since I first read about it on various blogs two more books have been written in the series! And I'm very pleased about that as I enjoyed this one immensely.

Flavia is such a wonderful character, full of curiosity, intelligence and enthusiasm. I have to say I'm not too sure that an eleven year old would have quite that grasp of the English language but it's all so charming that it's quite easy to suspend disbelief. You find yourself not only rooting for her all the way through the book but also feeling a lot of sympathy as her family is really quite dysfunctional. The father has no interest in his three daughters and Flavia's sisters are appalling in their disinterest and spitefulness.

The plot itself is huge fun, I loved following the clues and, as a lapsed stamp collector, found all the philately details fascinating. Humour abounds as Flavia flies around the countryside on her trusty bike, Gladys, telling the reader her thoughts on everything imaginable but especially chemistry. Truthfully, it was one of those books I found myself reading with a smile on my face and that's not to be sneezed at as an accomplishment of the author, Alan Bradley.

Wonderful. Loved it and have already reserved book two, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, from the library.


Jo said...

I always think it is good to come late to some books which have been seen all over the blog world and advertising in book shops. Makes you think differently and that you have not gone with the crowd.

Flavia is a great character and they really are fun books, I have read the 2nd book and now waiting to read the 3rd.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

Great news that you have read so many books for your R.I.P challenge in such a short space of time,
I probably wouldn't be able to choose between 58, 59 or 61

The Alan Bradley book, I have never read either, so that must make me one of the last in the country not to know of Flavia Luce.

I have never even bothered reading or commenting on a review of said book until now and I have no real idea why, as your review makes it sound like a most compelling story.

I have actually added it to my reading list now, so I may get to it one day.

Great post as always,


Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I do have Barchester Towers, it's one of those books I've been meaning to read for years - good to know it was a joy to read. The only Trollope book I've read is The Way We Live Now, which is so very long, but very good.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is one of those books that I've been put off by the title - silly, I know. So no, you're not the last person in the world to read it. I should give it a go, if only to see how Flavia's grasp of the English language matches my granddaughter's, who is also 11 - and very good at writing stories!!

DesLily said...

nope, not the last person! believe it or not I just picked this up at the used book store! lol but I have so much else to read right now and i seem to have lost interest in everything, so don't know when I will get to this.

Cath said...

Jo: I think you're right. I'd mostly forgotten what others thought of it and came to it quite fresh. Flavia is such a great character, I can't wait to hear more of her adventures, I thought book 2 sounded especially good.

Yvonne: The book is set in 1950, I should've mentioned that. And although I wasn't born until 1953 I still remember what that decade was like so the book was quite nostalgic for me. It harked back to a much simpler time and I liked that a lot. I found it huge fun and would be interested in your opinion if you ever find it somewhere.

Margaret: You should probably read The Warden before you read Barchester Towers as it explains an awful lot. You could manage without but I was glad I had read that first.

My 11 year old grand-daughter is also good at stories but not like this! Flavia is more like a very literate 16 year old to be honest and it is necessary to suspend disbelief. To tell the truth the whole thing reminded me a bit of I Capture the Castle.

Pat: Get to the book as soon as you feel able... it will cheer you up no end.

Kailana said...

I really enjoyed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I really must read more in the series!

Cath said...

Kelly: I have book 2 on reserve from the library and hope it comes in soon as I'm really looking forward to reading it. I even think it might be suitable for RIP.

Nan said...

I fear I am the only one not so fond of this book. I simply could not 'suspend disbelief.' We've read the same amount of books this year so far. :<) Congrats on the RIPVI - I've just reported on my first. I had a hard time getting started.

Jodie Robson said...

I loved the second as well, and am going to read the third as soon as I've worked my way down the TBR pile a bit!

So glad that you liked it, I think Flavia's one of my favourite characters from the last couple of years.

Cath said...

Nan: It's a good job we don't all like the same things or life would be very boring. LOL! I do understand why you had a problem with this book because, as I said, it bothered me a bit too.

This is the most amount of books I've ever read by this stage in the year... for as long as I've been keeping a record anyway. Odd, because I'm not sure how it came to be so many (for me).

GeraniumCat: I just got an e.mail from the library to say that the second book is ready for me to collect, so I'm pleased about that.

At the moment though I can't put The Wine of Angels down...

Alyce said...

It looks like you read some good mysteries. I've heard good things about the sweetness book, so I wasn't surprised to see that you liked it too. :)

Cath said...

Alyce: I'm a real convert to crime/mystery books these days, partly I think because there are so many excellent ones around. Including the Flavia de Luce series.

France said...

Starts out well, but as the pages dwindle down, you'll find yourself wondering, "How is this going to get resolved in just a few more pages?"