Tuesday 20 December 2011

Family stuff

Just a very quick update. Some lovely people have shown concern about my daughter's health issues and impending spinal surgery. Well, her operation was this morning. Naturally it was a bit of a twitchy morning for my husband and myself but we kept ourselves busy with Christmas cooking. It wasn't helped by the fact that my husband had not been able to find out what time the surgery was scheduled for when he dropped her off at 7am. Then at 1pm she called on her mobile phone to say the op had been done at 9am. She sounded a bit groggy, naturally, but so pleased to have the procedure behind her. We pick her up tomorrow and are all looking forward to a quiet but lovely Christmas. Thanks to those who sent good wishes, prayers, and positive vibes. *Very* much appreciated.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Tea and Books reading challenge

Well, ever a glutton for punishment, I've found a second book challenge for 2012. As with the WW1 challenge, I saw it first on Margaret's blog at Booksplease and it's the Tea and Books Reading Challenge. It's being hosted by The Book Garden and the details are as follows:

This challenge was inspired by C.S. Lewis' famous words, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

You better settle in with a large cup of tea, because in this challenge you will only get to read ... wait for it ... books with more than 700 pages. I'm deadly serious. We all have a few of those tomes on our shelves and somehow the amount of pages often prevents us from finally picking them up. You may choose novels only, no short story collections or anthologies, and in case you're trying a short cut by picking large print editions of a book, well I'm sorry, those do not qualify for this challenge! Let's battle those tomes that have been collecting dust on our shelves, so no re-reads, please!

2 Books - Chamomile Lover

4 Books - Berry Tea Devotee

6 Books - Earl Grey Aficionado (this will be the one I'll try)

8 or more Books - Sencha Connoisseur

To sign up, please read the general rules below! Then post about the challenge on your blog, including the button above, and don't forget to link back to the Tea & Books Reading Challenge page on my blog!

The challenge will take place between January 1st and December 31st 2012.


Okay. So, the level I'm going to aim for is 'Berry tea devotee' which is four books. Partly because I like berry tea *g* but also four seems just about attainable. This is the pool of books I want to choose from:

Drood by Dan Simmons
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
No Name by Wilkie Collins
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb

The thing that surprised me was how many books are not quite 700 pages long. I had several others to add - The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, a biography of Gerald Durrell for instance, but when I checked they were 'only' 650 - 690 pages. Very frustrating.

Several other books I might choose from are:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley
The Kingdom of Shadows by Barbara Erskine
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope *if* I manage to read the intervening three Barsetshire books before the end of next year... which I would actually rather like to do.

This challenge will suit perfectly my reading plans for next year which are to read a few longer, more absorbing, books than I have this year *and* to get more books off my tbr pile. Looking forward to starting.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Challenge wrap-ups

Getting various posts out of the way while I can and this one involves two challenge wrap-ups. Aside from Carl's challenges I did two others this year, a Foodie reading challenge and What's in a Name. I've completed both! Little bit surprised by that. LOL.

Anyway, first up The Foodie's Reading Challenge which was hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired

I did 'Bon Vivant' the aim of which was to read 4 to 6 fiction or non-fiction books that are: 'centered around food and/or drinks. That could be a cookbook, a food biography or memoir, a non-fiction book focused around a specific food, wine, chef or restaurant. Also allowed is a fictional story in which food plays a major role'.

I read four books:

1. Eating for England - Nigel Slater
2. Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl
3. Thyme Out - Katie Fforde
4. Wicked Appetite - Janet Evanovich

I planned to read more but it just didn't happen and really I'm quite happy with simply finishing the challenge. I enjoyed it very much and thank you to Margot for hosting.

Lastly I finished the What's In A Name Challenge that was hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

For this, various books had to be read which had certain words in their titles. This is what I read:

A book with a number in its title:
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

A book with jewellry or a gem in its title:
The City of Pearl by Karen Traviss

A book with size in its title:
The Small Hand by Susan Hill

A book with travel or movement in its title:
Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn

A book with Evil in its title:
Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

A book with a life stage in its title:
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith

I enjoyed all six of those but my favourite would probably have to be The City of Pearl by Karen Traviss. It was great fun doing this challenge and my thanks to Beth Fish Reads for hosting.

Monday 12 December 2011

Murder on the Flying Scotsman

Just a quick review for this, my 6th and final book for my What's In A Name challenge for 2011, which was hosted by Beth Fish Reads. The book is Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn and covers the category, 'A book with travel or movement in its title'.

Daisy Dalrymple is off on her travels once again, to yet another stately home for an article for the magazine she works for. But first of all she has to get there and her method of travel is to go via The Flying Scotsman. Annoyed that she hasn't been able to procure a book for the journey but pleased she shelled out the extra for first class travel, Daisy is expecting a quiet, uneventful journey north. That is until a young girl turns up and Daisy realises that it's Belinda, the nine year old daughter of her boyfriend, Chief Inspector Alex Fletcher. Belinda has run away in protest at her grandmother's restrictions and, because she knew Daisy was catching this train, had decided to stow away and travel with her.

Next thing you know an old school-friend of Daisy's has appeared and tells her whole family is on the train, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on, because they've been summoned to Scotland by their miserly great uncle, presently on his death bed. He's about to leave all his money to his twin brother and the family hope to persuade him to leave it to them.

It's a very tangled web! A web which becomes even more tangled when the old man's twin brother, who is on the train and has been subject to all kinds of verbal attacks and persuassions, is found murdered. The whole family, plus Daisy and Belinda, who found the body, are forced to disembark at Berwick upon Tweed and take up residence in a local hotel. Daisy's boyfriend, Alex Fletcher, arrives to head the investigation and is shocked to find his daughter embroiled in the proceedings. It seems practically every member of the family had reason to want the old man dead, be it money or something else. Daisy and Alex have their work cut out, not only to solve this crime but also to protect Beinda who clearly knows more than she's letting on.

Well now, this is book 4 in Carola Dunn's very successful series about the wonderful Daisy Dalrymple. I've enjoyed them all so far and this one was every bit as much fun as the previous three. I can't decide whether Daisy is perhaps a trifle too modern for the age she lived in but suspect there were quite a few girls like her who, after the end of the first world war where many husbands and fiances died, no longer had any option but to find a job. Her and her mother were turned out of their home when a cousin inherited it. She's fairly sure he would've allowed her to live there still and her mother would have had her to live with her, but Daisy wants to be independent and who can blame her. I love her determination and optimistic outlook and also her lack of snobbery. There were still plenty of restrictions applied to women of course. You had to be extremely careful of your reputation and silly little things put it at risk, like being seen in public without a hat, getting your hair cut short and so on. These books, while on the surface fun and fluffy, are quite informative if you read between the lines to what is really going on, and one thing that is very clear - in the 1920s it was still very much a man's world.

Looking forward to reading more in this series next year. Just *one* of the many series I seem to be hooked on right now.

Thursday 8 December 2011

A Superior Death

I'm fitting all my December reading into the beginning part of the month it seems. I was halfway through two books at the start of the month and those I've finished. Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman, book two of his Merrily Watkins series, was absolutely excellent. My reread of The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill was wonderful... I'll probably do a separate post about that if I can find a moment. So, my first complete book of December was A Superior Death by Nevada Barr.

Before I start I should say that this is not the cover of the book I read. My library catalogue only had the one copy and it was large print. I couldn't find that cover on the net so this picture will have to do. I also discovered that Devon library services don't charge for reserving large print books, so that made me feel guilty and a fraud because I wasn't reserving large print because I need it (although...) I just wanted to read the book! And it is a bit odd reading large print books... but actually quite nice as there's no strain involved whatsoever. I could get to like it.

So, this is book two of Nevada Barr's 'Anna Pigeon' series of crime thriller type stories. Anna, a national park ranger, has moved on from the Guadalupe Mountain NP after solving a murder down there. She is now on Lake Superior, on Isle Royale NP to be exact, which is towards the north shore of the lake, quite close to the Canadian border but officially part of Michigan.

The summer season is just beginning for Anna. Two divers who've been diving the old wreck of the merchant ship, Kamloops, talk to Anna about the six bodies that are down there... Anna thinks they're mistaken as there should only be five, but it turns out they're correct. There is an extra floating body down there, dressed in an antique service uniform. She is also approached by two seasonals, young husband and wife, Damien and Tinker, who think one of the other rangers, a difficult, surly individual, has murdered his wife and eaten her to dispose of the body!

The body in the wreck turns out to be that of Denny Castle, one of a trio of divers who do trips for tourists. His partners, twins Hawk and Holly, immediately come under suspicion but others had both motive and opportunity. Denny had just married but was possibly having an affair with the missing ranger's wife. How do all these facts tie in? Very much a novice diver, Anna's investigations take her to the bottom of Lake Superior where she'd really rather not be. And it turns out that it's not just the dangers of cold water, deep diving that threaten her life.

Excellent, excellent, excellent. Yet another edge of your seat read from Nevada Barr. Down in Texas Anna was falling off mountains for excitement. Up here on Lake Superior she's down in the depths of the lake, where it's dark and dangerous and there are issues with how long she can be down there before she'll have problems with the bends when coming up. She also has no idea who she can trust amongst her colleagues and, although she loves the 'loner' outdoors lifestyle, does feel the need for human companionship from time to time. I love the fact that she is very human with plenty of foibles, but also quite a strong character who never gives up on an investigation when others think there's nothing to investigate.

Nevada Barr has chosen yet another unique setting for this second book in her series. I had no idea there was an island in Lake Superior. And a national park at that. This is NASA's view of it:

Isle Royale is to the left of centre, very close to the Canadian border and the province of Ontario. Three American states have a coastline on Lake Superior, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. I didn't know that either... I would have guessed a couple of them but was surprised that there were three:

Being a map person I have to include a map of all of the Great Lakes:

The only one I've seen is Lake Erie - we stayed at Port Clinton and visited The Bass Islands. Very, very beautiful. Another time we visited the Finger Lakes in New York state and I now realise how close I came to seeing Lake Ontario without realising it. Rats.

I digress... here is Isle Royale from the air:

And so beautiful from the ground too:

I forgot to check where all the photos came from so I must apologise for that. Hopefully they were all from tourist sites and nothing personal.

It seems this new challenge of mine is leading me to all kinds of interesting places. I definitely plan to read more about this corner of the USA - I was bowled over by its beauty and am now wondering about its history. It seems to be all lakes, rivers and forests (how wonderful!) so that has to mean some interesting historical stuff. I certainly hope to find out at some stage.

Back to the books - I can't recommend this series highly enough and this was an excellent read. The next Anna Pigeon book is already on order as the library has no copy of it whatsoever. It's Ill Wind and takes place in the Mesa Verde NP in Colorado. I honestly cannot *wait*.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

War Through the Generations challenge 2012

I decided not to do too many official challenges in 2012. I always do Carl's challenges of course, and will have my ongoing American states one too. But I do like to have at least one other official one on the go, so I've chosen a war one and it's the War Through the Generations: World War 1.

War Through the Generation’s 2012 reading challenge will be World War I. The challenge will run from January 1, 2012, through December 31, 2012.


This year you have options when reading your fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, etc. with the WWI as the primary or secondary theme.

Books can take place before, during, or after the war, so long as the conflicts that led to the war or the war itself are important to the story. Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria.

Dip: Read 1-3 books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme.

Wade: Read 4-10 books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme.

Swim: Read 11 or more books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme.

I've picked out a pool of books to read from:

Mr. Punch's History of the Great War
Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, The Ghost Road - Pat Barker
The Patriot's Progress - Henry Williamson
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer - Siegfried Sassoon
People Who Say Goodbye - P.Y. Betts
Testament of Youth - Vera Brittain
The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry edited by Jon Silkin

I'm signing up for 'Dip' as I reckon I ought to be able to read three of these books in a year. And if I read more, well that would be lovely, but I'm not putting pressure on myself by promising.

I think this should be a really interesting and informative challenge for 2012 and am looking forward to starting.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Books read in November

November has been a rather good reading month for me. I think it was more fun than usual due to me embarking on a mammoth personal challenge of reading my way around the USA. Of the seven books I read last month four were for this challenge and somehow this fact meant that everything made a lot more sense than usual and I hope this continues.

Anyway, books read in November:

70. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag - Alan Bradley
71. The Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
72. Syren - Angie Sage
73. The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett (a reread)
74. Track of the Cat - Nevada Barr
75. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Laura Ingalls Wilder
76. These is My Words - Nancy Turner

Every one of these was an excellent read but there were two stand-outs: Track of the Cat and These is My Words. I also thoroughly enjoyed the two Laura Ingalls Wilder titles and am so glad I have several more of these to read this winter. Can't wait.

And now it's December and I'm wondering where on earth this year went. Either I'm getting old or time is speeding up! Anyway, I'm not sure how much time I'll have to read this coming month. I start out assuming that December will be a normal month and of course it never is! Christmas looms and time is swallowed up with preparations for that. Add to that that my daughter will have her operation on the 20th. and will then be staying with us, along with our grandson of course, over the holiday season and I don't foresee much in the way of reading time apart from last thing at night. But that's okay, I can start again in the new year, all fresh and raring to go.