Monday 14 November 2011

Bookish meanderings

I usually only read one book at a time, possibly two if my main book is a bit too creepy or is perhaps a crime book that scares me half to death. (I would cite Tess Gerritsen's books as being typical of this category, love them as I do they do not make for a comfortable bedtime read.) Occasionally though, I get so swept away that I end up reading three. And that's the case at the moment. I started These is My Words by Nancy Turner last week for my American states challenge. It's superb but rather gruelling in places. Luckily its narrator, Sarah Prine, is wonderful and at times very funny, because otherwise it might even be unbearable.

So, as light relief from that I started Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr. This series about a park ranger was recommended by several people when I asked for titles for the challenge. Because it was so popular I bought the first book for my Kindle and am already halfway through as it's a bit unputdownable. Love it. And this is the whole point of my challenge. I had never heard of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in Texas. I feel ashamed to admit it. Look how beautiful it is:

Photos from the NPS. gov. site linked to above.

Now I have heard of it and read about it, albeit in a fictional book but... that said... the descriptions of the park are stunning and make me want to find out more. Which, in a nutshell, is why I'm taking on this Behemoth of a challenge. Some people must think I'm a penny short of a shilling to even try it but here I am, just a week or ten days in and I already know more that I did when I started. Who knew, for instance, that the 'ponderosa' was a pine tree? I didn't. I thought it was just the name of the ranch in Bonanza! But These is My Words informed me otherwise. It seems too that there may be two national parks of that name... I wonder if Anna Pigeon gets to either of them? Can't wait to find out.

And my third book arrived on Saturday, On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I wondered how long I would be able to resist starting and the answer was precisely one day. I'm about 20 pages in and have I learnt anything yet? Well, yes as a matter of fact. Minnesota has prairie. How could I not have known that? I thought it was all forests and lakes! My ignorance it seems, is unending.

Okay... I'll give it a rest now and talk about something else.

So far this month I've read four books and only reviewed one. So I'll say a little about what else I've read.

I started the month with The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley. This is the second book in the author's 'Flavia de Luce' series. In this story Flavia finds herself involved with a travelling duo of puppeteers who suddenly turn up in Buckshaw. They can't pay for their van to be repaired so the vicar suggests they put on a performance in the village hall. Of course, it's not long before someone turns up dead and, as in the last book, Flavia has a lot more success in solving the crime than the local police. *Huge* fun. Love this series to bits and have book three on my library pile at the moment.

Next up, Syren by Angie Sage:

After their last adventures in The House of Foryx, Septimus returns to The Trading Post (the descriptions of this imaginary coastline were stunning) on Spit Fyre the dragon to pick up Jenna, Beetle, Nicko and Snorri. He finds them ensconced on Jenna's father's beautiful ship and only Jenna and Beetle will return with him on the dragon. A storm takes them off course and they crash land on an island. Spit Fyre is badly injured so they can't leave until he recovers. Is the island uninhabited? No, it's not. Septimus, as usual, finds trouble where he has not actually looked for it. This is such a great series. Very readable, a lot of humour and with characters who act like normal people. The books are aimed at 10 to 14 year olds I would say but are also a good, fun read for adults.

And lastly, The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett:

I snuck in a quick reread of this little book after reading Danielle at A Work in Progress's review of it here. And it was every bit as much fun as I remembered. The Queen chases one of her corgis into the mobile library, parked outside the palace, and ends up borrowing a book because she doesn't like not to. (So English.) It's by Ivy Compton Burnett and she finds it hard going but goes back for something else. A lad who works in the kitchen, Norman, helps her with titles and the queen is suddenly addicted to reading, which doesn't go down well with everyone... Such a joy this little book. Alan Bennett's unique brand of humour is understated and wonderful:

As it was, with this one she soon became engrossed and, passing her bedroom that night clutching his hot-water bottle, the duke heard her laugh out loud. He put his head round the door. 'All right, old girl?'

'Of course, I'm reading.'

'Again?' And he went off shaking his head.

Joyous. Anyone looking for a nice little Christmas pressie for someone bookish could do a lot worse.

And, last but not least I have to give a virtual pat on the back for the book title that made me laugh the most. It was amongst the recs for my American challenge and the pat goes to Kay at My Random Acts of reading. Book one of the Alafair Tucker series she recommended by Donis Casey is called, The Old Buzzard had it Coming. I'm still tittering.


Elaine said...

I think the Uncommon Reader is a gem of a book. The idea of the Queen sitting up in bed and reading Proust is a very beguiling one!

Silsbee said...

The Uncommon Reader is going onto my TBR list NOW. I hope my library has it. ;)

DesLily said...

I have about 80 pages to go to finish Flavia's Puppet book... it sure sounds like you have been reading up a storm!

I have to admit I knew Ponderosa was a tree..but ONLY because I have always wanted a log home and when I used to look them up most were made of Ponderosa Pine! lol..

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post and wonderful reviews and off I go in search of The Uncommon Reader.

StuckInABook said...

I loved The Uncommon Reader - I have been planning a little re-read myself. I also love Ivy C-B and find that a lot of people first heard of her through Bennett's book!

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited that you're starting out a lot of your trek across the US in my part of the world. Yes, Anna Pigeon begins her series in far west Texas. It is a beautiful place, stark and full of shades of all kinds of colors. Very, very dry.

Glad you like the name of Donis' first book. It's a doozy of a mystery. And, yes, there is a ponderosa pine that the Cartwright family named their spread after. I'm having a good time already hearing about your adventures. :-)

Jo said...

I only discovered The Uncommon Reader this year and I loved it, an easy reread as it gives insight through imagination of really what the Queen might do!

As you say I would recommend it for Christmas Presents as well.

Thomas Hogglestock said...

As a child we visited Walnut Grove and I have actually seen (the rather muddy)Plum Creek. The TV series Little House on the Prarie took place in Minnesota. As a kid growing up there I could never understand why the TV show (shot in California) had mountains in it when the real Minnesota didn't.

Cath said...

Elaine: A gem is right. I love the idea of her having a reading friend like Norman. I wish Alan Bennett would write more novels like this.

Silsbee: I hope so too as I think you would love it.

Pat: Look forward to your thoughts on Flavia and the puppets. I liked that one better than the first book.

Ohhhh, so they made many log cabins from ponderosa pine? See? I never knew that.

lifeonthecutoff: I hope you find it. It's worth the search. Very subtle humour and done with no nastiness whatsoever.

Simon: I'd heard of Ivy C-B before but, like the book suggests, had also heard she was a difficult read. I will certainly try her one of these days.

Kay: I think I've fallen a bit in love with that corner of Texas. LOL. *So* beautiful. I put up that first pic I used, of Shumard Canyon, as my new wallpaper. My husband saw it and was immediately smitten too. I wonder if Texas is going to be included in the itinery of our next US roadtrip?

Glad you're enjoying my bookish wanders. I sat here last night reading stuff on the internet about the Guadalupe mnts. I'm wondering if every book I read is going to have this effect. I do love Track of tha Cat very much... that scene where she fell off the trail into the canyon had me on the edge of my seat!

Jo: I actually thinked I enjoyed it more the second time around.

Thomas: I looked up Walnut Grove on the net last night and saw pictures of it. Also saw a map where the prairie is in MN, although I gather a lot of it is no longer there. I didn't realise that the TV series was meant to be Minnesota... I always thought it was somewhere like Kansas. No wonder you got confused as a child!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

What a great post, almost information overload, I shall need to go back and read it all a couple of times before it all sinks in, and follow up on some of the great links.

The most noticeable thing about the US, is the sheer vastness of it all. So mant different cultures and environments to explore, you could spend a lifetime and still not get to understand it all.

There was one item in your post that I did follow up on and I came across a link that you just need to take a quick peek at, I am still chuckling away to myself at the very thought of it .... Like yourself, I had only ever thought that 'Ponderosa' was the ranch in 'Bonanza' and was intrigued when you flagged that it was also a variety of pine tree. I checked it out on Wikipedia and came across the ultimate 'Ponderosa' ... see what you think!!!

You sound like you are having a blast with this challenge, enjoy!!


Nan said...

Don't feel ashamed - not one bit! I live here and I didn't know any of those things. It's a big, big, big place. I don't even know all the things in my own little state.

Nan said...

Oh, and I meant to say that I have the UC, and so look forward to it. I hope that Philip really does say 'old girl.' Somehow those two words have such love in them. May the two of them live a long, long time.

Cath said...

Yvonne: You're so right about the vastness of the USA. I think it takes a while for that fact to sink in when us Europeans are over there. What looks like 5 miles on the map often turns out to be 25!

Well, that's certainly a different kind of ponderosa!! LOL.

Thank you, Nan, I feel better now.

Yes, I'd like to think Prince Philip calls the Queen 'Old Girl' too. In fact it's become so much part of a sort of urban myth that I wonder if he actually does call her that and it's based on fact. I hope so.