Tuesday 30 June 2015

Books read in June

I didn't think I could do any worse in June than I did in May... as regards numbers of books read I mean. Well I proved myself wrong! After reading four in May I've actually dropped to *three* in June. Various reasons - busy in the garden, family stuff and er... jigsaw puzzles. I love doing them and sometimes all I want to do is jigsaw after jigsaw. But to be honest? I think that's fine. You have to do what makes you happy and at the moment it's clearly jigsaw puzzles for me.

Anyway these are the three books I read in June:

31. Fyre by Angie Sage. The last in the author's Septimus Heap books. Delightful read.

32. An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson. The first in the suthor's Josephine Tey series. I was slightly ambivilent about this one but overall it was an enjoyable read.

33. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Another book I was ambivilent about but overall not a bad read.

So that's me for June. The final book was rather long - 660 pages - and took me a good while to read, so perhaps it's not as terrible as it looks. This month also saw the end of Carl's Once Upon a Time XI challenge, for which I managed to read seven books so I'm quite pleased with that.

My favourite read of these three is this:

I loved the way Angie Sage tied up loads of loose ends but also created an interesting plot with all the usual characters. She has a new offshoot series out now and I need to remember to look for those next time I'm in the library.

And just for fun, here're three new (to me) jigsaws I bought recently from charity shops and eBay:

Happy reading or jigsaw puzzling or whatever else you plan to do in July. Truthfully, I dislike heat, thus July is my least favourite month of the year and anyone looking for me will probably find me indoors sheltering from it. I'm such an old misery! LOL!


Thursday 25 June 2015

The Name of the Wind

My seventh and final book for Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It's also my book fifteen for Bev's Mount TBR 2015.

The innkeeper of the Waystone Inn, situated in a very remote forested area, seems like just an ordinary sort of chap. Nothing special, just your run of the mill inkeeper. A writer of stories, the Chronicler, knows better and arrives at the inn hoping to get Kote - alias 'Kvothe' - to tell him his story. He knows that Kvothe is anything *but* ordinary. Eventually Kote agrees but tells Chronicler to set aside three days because his story is a long one.

Kvothe started life in a troupe of travelling actors and singers. Until he was eleven his life was idyllic. Particularly when an arcanist (a sort of wizard, very educated) joins the travellers for a spell. Kvothe is devastated when he leaves but the arcanist has taught him much and left him with a desire to attend the university.

Sadly, Kvothe's life is changed forever, one day, when he strolls into the woods on an errand. It takes a while and on his return his whole troupe, including his parents, have been viciously murdered. The culprits are still there but disappear in front of his eyes. Who or what are they? Kvothe is now a penniless orphan. He makes his way to one of the big cities, Tarbean, and becomes a child beggar, living on his wits, barely surviving. How is he supposed to get to the university this way? Something has to change and eventually it does. He makes it to the university which is of course where he discovers that your heart's desire is not always what it's cracked up to be...

Yet another book I feel rather ambivilent about. To tell the truth I actually wonder if I'm getting a bit bored with long fantasy novels. Or perhaps I'm just not finding the right ones. I did actually give this four stars on Goodreads as the writing is very good indeed and I didn't really have too much trouble finishing it. And parts of it were excellent... the section at the beginning where he was with the troupe, and the last 150 pages where I felt the book - 660 pages of it - really took off.

My problem was how formulaic it is. Life at the university was at times interesting but he gets banned from the 'most' interesting bit... the archives... so we didn't actually get to read much about that at all. Instead we get reams about his feud with a rich student, Ambrose, and I just felt like I had read that in so many other books. Harry Potter for one... Trudi Canavan's books... and I'm sure there are more. Why are none of these kids' school lives ever normal?

The other thing which made me sigh deeply was yet another male author for whom women seem to be an afterthought. You'd never think we make up fifty per cent of the population. His mother hardly figured at all and all the other women in the book were required to be beautiful and potential girlfriends, or fancied Kvothe rotten, thus suffering from unrequited love and so on and so on. I know I'm perhaps not the target audience of books like this but I do get very tired of this male sexual fantasy type of writing. How are we ever supposed to educate boys to change their attitudes towards women when grown men keep churning out these books that exclude ordinary girls and women? Where every woman has to be stunningly beautiful or she doesn't exist. Sorry to rant but it annoys me. I'm now wishing I'd given it a three instead of a four on Goodreads. LOL!

All that said it's not a bad read if you're not ultra-sensitive to this kind of thing. Most people adore the book and it has one of the highest ratings on Goodreads that I've ever seen. It had enough about it that I can't decide whether or not to read the sequel, The Wise Man's Fear. On balance I think I probably won't. It's around 1,000 pages long and I'm not sure I can stand to be irritated for the amount of time it'll take me to read it, despite occasional flashes of brilliance.

I'm hoping one of these days I'll find a fantasy series by a male author that I really love. So far Robin Hobb (female... in the UK Robin tends to be a boy's name) is and probably always will be my favourite fantasy author. Her Liveship Trader series has some fantastic women in it, 'all kinds' of women too with actual characters! Just love it.


Tuesday 16 June 2015

An Expert in Murder

Another of the authors my grand-daughter and I saw at our town's Literary Festival was Nicola Upson. She was doing the crime panel with two other authors, Simon Hall and Clare Donoghue. It was a delightful afternoon, all three authors were candid and very funny. There was also the opportunity to buy books by these authors and I came away with the first two Josephine Tey books by Nicola Upson. The first is An Expert in Murder:

On her way to London from Inverness on the train, author Josephine Tey meets a young woman, Elspeth Simmons. Tey is the author of a play currently enjoying a very successful run in the West End, Richard of Bordeaux. It appears that Elspeth is a huge fan of the play and has already seen it several times. As the play is entering its final week, Elspeth is seeing it one last time, with her boyfriend, who works at the New Theatre where it's being shown.

Josephine and Elspeth get on like a house on fire and Josephine is looking forward to seeing her again later that week. They part on the station platform when Elspeth finds she's left something on the train and goes back for it. It's not until the next day that Josephine discovers from her friend, DI Archie Penrose, that Elspeth was brutally murdered in the railway carriage. A note left at the scene ties the killing to the play, Richard of Bordeaux.

Archie and Josephine set about trying to find the murderer but the plot is very thick indeed. So many people at the theatre had the opportunity but why on earth would anyone want to kill an innocent and charming young girl? Archie is convinced it's a case of mistaken identity and that Josephine was the intended victim. But it turns out to be not that simple and nothing is what is seems in this heartbreaking and complicated case.

When this book was first published back in 2008 I seem to recall seeing various comments about the use of a real person in a fictional book... whether or not it was a bit questionable. I was on the fence about it then and I still am to a certain extent. We're more used to it now of course. Dickens and Wilkie Collins were both used in Drood by Dan Simmons, there's a fantasy series, the name of which escapes me at the moment, that uses a clutch of real authors and so on and so on. On the one hand it does feel a bit odd but on the other... this is actually a very enjoyable book.

I have to admit that theatre based plots are not always my favourite - it's not a world I'm particularly fascinated by and they do tend to have hordes of characters whose identity I have problems keeping tabs on. And this one was no exception, although I did get there in the end. Plus, I do find I have minimal patience with the shenanigans of the acting fraternity. All that prima donna behaviour and no one having the nerve to stand up to them...

To be honest, I think the reason the book was saved for me was Josephine herself who was depicted as a very down to earth, ordinary person and her and the police officer, Archie Penrose, did make rather a good team. The mystery was also rather good and it wasn't until close to the end that I worked out who had done the deed. I had kind of worked out the whys and the wherefores, although it was quite tricky, but not the 'who' exactly. The background of the aftermath of WW1 and the tunnellers was seamlessly interwoven with a 'family secrets' type of plot and is the kind of thing I really enjoy. (Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is probably the best fictional book I've read on the WW1 tunnelling subject but it does waffle rather a lot.)

All in all a very good read and I'm pleased to have book 2 ready to go. It's Angel with Two Faces and is set in Cornwall, which is a real plus for me, and I do enjoy it when this kind of series gets away from London and into the shires so to speak. Yet another new series for me... exactly what I need! LOL!


Friday 12 June 2015

My series update

I was thinking the other day that the various series that I read these days are mostly new ones with a few odd old ones that I still wish to read interspersed. I am a bit fickle with series though. Sometimes I read so far into them and then lose interest. I've no idea why this is - I'm sure it's my fault but there's little I can do about it and at my age I don't really feel like forcing myself to read books in a series I'm no longer rivetted by. Because of that it's time to update and repost my series post from two and half years ago. As always this is just for my own reference as I find it very useful, but any recs are most welcome.

Crime - modern and historical:

Charlie Parker - John Connolly - (read 11... up to book 12)
Matthew Shardlake – C.J. Sansom (read 3)
Flavia de Luce - Alan Bradley (read 6)
Daisy Dalrymple - Carola Dunn (read 21)
Rizzoli and Isles - Tess Gerritsen (read 8)
Ruth Galloway - Elly Griffiths (read 8)
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes – Laurie R. King (read 5)
The Lewis trilogy - Peter May (read 2)
Lord Peter Wimsey - (read 6)
Gordianus the Finder - Steven Saylor (read 2)
Medicus - Ruth Downie (read 2)
Kate Burkholder - Linda Castillo (read 2)
Reverand Clare Fergusson - Julia Spencer-Fleming (read 3)
Temperance Brennan - Kathy Reichs (read 2)
No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency - A. McCall-Smith (read 11)
Kate Shugak - Dana Stabenow (read 6)
Sea Detective - Mark Douglas Home (read 2)
Hannah Scarlett - Martin Edwards (read 6)
Jacquot - Martin O'Brien (read 4)
Armande Gamache - Louise Penny (read 6)

Sci Fi, Fantasy and horror - both adult and young adult:

Mercy Thompson - Patricia Briggs (read 6)
Jackelian - Stephen Hunt (read 2)
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch (read 4)
Liveship Trader - Robin Hobb (read 1)
Astreiant - Melissa Scott - (read 2 1/2)
Hyperion - Dan Simmons (read 1)
Lady Trent - Marie Brennan (read 2)
Cloud Roads - Martha Wells (read 1)


Barsetshire - Angela Thirkell - (read 5)
The Little House series – Laura Ingalls Wilder (read 5 up to book 6)
The Barchester Chronicles - Anthony Trollope (read 2)

Series I want to read: (mainly fantasy)

The Wit’ch series – James Clemens
Alpha and Omega - Patricia Briggs
Starborn - Lucy Hounsom
The Tawny Man trilogy – Robin Hobb

The Coldfire trilogy – Celia Friedman
The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Gardella Vampire Chronicles – Colleen Gleason
Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner

I think what this post underlines more than anything is how much my reading tastes have switched from fantasy/horror to crime. I still read the former but am much more into crime stories these days, especially vintage and historical it would seem. And that's fine. Things change and I always believe in going with the flow.


Monday 8 June 2015


My book six for Carl's Once Upon a Time IX challenge is Fyre by Angie Sage. It's also my book fourteen for Bev's Mount TBR 2015 challenge as I've had it on my Nook since before the end of December 2014.

Jenna is now fourteen and waiting to be crowned Queen. Her whole family, including the forest Heaps, are at home in the castle for the event and also for Lucy and Simon Heap's wedding. Septimus Heap's apprenticeship is still ongoing and he and Marcia, the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, are working on destroying the two-faced ring, one of the last remnants of the Dark Domaine. It involves reviving the Alchemie Fire which is an extremely dangerous undertaking. Septimus is working closely with Marcellus Pye, an alchemist, but Beetle, Septimus's old friend and the new Chief Hermetic Scribe, thinks Marcellus is up to something fishy. There's a lot going on and keeping tabs on it all is trying Marcia's patience... not helped by the fact that she has the ghost of the 'old' Chief Hermetic Scribe sitting on her settee screaming at her every time she goes to her quarters. The ring is the problem though and until it's been destroyed it has to be watched day and night by wizard volunteers. Two of Septimus's uncles come to stay for the wedding and volunteer to help keep watch on the ring. Perhaps their offer is too good to be true...

My grand-daughter and I were lucky enough to go to a fantasy panel evening as part of Tiverton Literary Festival this past weekend. Angie Sage was one of the two authors present (the other was debut author, Lucy Hounsom) so we were able to see her speak about this excellent YA fantasy series. How nice to see an author whose books you enjoy so much, 'in the flesh', so to speak. She was delightful and we had a fun evening listening to the two authors answering questions and reading from their new books.

I read Fyre to finish off the Septimus Heap series before the panel and, as always, thoroughly enjoyed the instalment. This last book ties off a lot of loose ends and 'feels' like a final instalment. As such, I found it very satisfying although a bit sad that these kids, whose adventures I've followed quite closely, are now growing up. Certainly I think this is one of the best fantasy series for teenagers around. I love the sense of family, the humour, the adventures the characters have, the battles between good and evil and so on... there are even dragons! What's not to like?

What I discovered on Friday evening is that it's not the end. Angie Sage has started a new series in the same 'Septimus Heap' universe, but with different main characters. The first book is called Pathfinder and you can read about it here. She read a bit of it out and it sounded pretty good to me so I'll definitely be reading that at some stage.

I didn't buy Pathfinder that evening (and am now thinking that maybe I should have) but I did buy the new book by the other author present, Lucy Hounsom, which is called Starborn. This is it:

You can read about it on Goodreads here. I thought it sounded rather good, I must say, and look forward to reading it.


Wednesday 3 June 2015

Books, books and more books and even a jig-saw puzzle!

This is one of those bits and pieces sort of posts which actually I really enjoy on other people's blogs but hardly ever think to do myself. I really need to change that.

First up, following my post about Roman Blood by Steven Saylor I got several lots of recs and also began looking into what was around in the way of other books and series about Ancient Rome. So I made a little list in case others might be interested and for future reference for myself.

1. Roma Sub Rosa by Steven Saylor. A series of 12 (so far) historical crime books about an investigator called Gordianus the Finder. Lent to me by a friend who I can cheerfully blame for starting all this...

2. Medicus Investigation by Ruth Downie. This is a series of 6 historical crime books featuring Roman doctor, Gaius Petreius. Recced on Facebook by a friend.

3. Master of Rome by Colleen McCullough. An historical series recced by Margaret at Booksplease.

4. Marcus Didius Falco by Lindsey Davis. Another historial crime series. Recommended by Val at Erasmus our Alaskan Cat's blog.

5. Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. An Historical series written for children but which anyone can enjoy I gather. (I've not read them.)

6. I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves. I watched the wonderful BBC series years ago but have not read the 2 books.

7. Blood Games by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Book 3 in her vampire 'St. Germain' series. I read it back in the 1980s when this American writer's books were very hard to obtain (no internet then). I loved this Ancient Rome instalment.

8. Pompeii by Robert Harris. An historical which I think sounds rather good.

9. Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem. Another one that I thought sounded rather good.

I'm thinking there must be a lot more out there and in fact Goodreads has a list: here but it's hard to know from that what's good and what's not so good. So any recs are most welcome.

I also made myself a shelf on Goodreads of books that I would myself would like to read :

My Ancient Rome shelf

Next up, some photos of recent book acquisitions. Firstly, a couple of birthday books and a couple I bought myself:

From the bottom:

The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (B/day gift from youngest daughter.)
Dr. Thorne by Anthony Trollope
Burglars can't be Choosers - Lawrence Block (B/day gift from friend.)

Next, the books I bought myself for my birthday because I fancied some Mark Twain:

A Tramp Abroad
Following the Equator
Life on the Mississippi

Such gorgeous covers. I've read A Tramp Broad before but the other two I've not read yet.

And to end this post another photo. My eldest daughter lent me this jigsaw puzzle to do and I thought the subject matter perfect to post here.

If you click on the photo to enlarge you'll hopefully be able to read some of the lovely bookish puns that are the titles of the books. This one was pure joy to do.