Monday 28 October 2019

This and that

I've had to enable 'comment moderation' on here due to a recent increase in spam... at least, I'm trying to enable it, still waiting for email confirmation and am now wondering if I've done it correctly. Oh, to be technically savvy! And why the hell can't these morons find something better to do with their time like ... you know... read a book!

I know it's early to be thinking about 2020 reading but I've already decided that I'm cutting right back on challenges next year. I get all enthusiastic at the beginning of the year because they all sound fun and interesting and I have books on my tbr pile that fit perfectly. Then I find I have tons of books to review, which is fine, but sometimes I don't feel like it or I've not got time, but if I don't review it the book won't count. The other thing is, I kid myself that the challenges will take books off my tbr mountain. They don't. Or rather they do but the number doesn't decrease because I keep adding new ones! And I'm not very good at book buying bans... So anyway, I will probably limit myself to two, definitely the European one, which I love, and one other, possibly Mount TBR but keep the number small and target specific books, possibly 12 chunksters or non-fictions. We'll see.

I've just finished this:

I have to thank Judith at Reader in the Wilderness for encouraging me to revisit Maisie Dobbs. If it wasn't for her I never would have gone back to it after reading book one, feeling a bit so-so about it, and thus not bothering with any more for years. The series is both thoughtful and thought provoking, making you consider issues about World War One that would never otherwise occur to you. In Among the Mad Maisie finds herself 'invited' (ie. not given much choice in the matter) to work with Scotland Yard and Special Branch on a case where a possible WW1 veteran is making a toxic gas which he intends to use to kill hundreds in London. He writes letters to the government demanding better treatment for veterans who, of course, returned from the battlefields scarred forever, not just physically, but also mentally which is the issue in this book. War veterans were very poorly treated, not looked after, pensions were not at all automatic, and there were very few jobs. Many ended up on the streets begging. This was an absolutely superb book. I didn't mean to read it in two days but that's what happened, I just couldn't put it down. Jacqueline Winspear, in this book, somehow managed to make you feel sorry for the perpetrator of a potentially horrific crime, via Maisie and her understanding of human nature and of the horrors inflicted on men who fought in WW1. Also featuring strongly in the book are women's mental health issues connected with the death of a child, a common occurence in those days, in fact my own grandmother lost a young son in the 1920s. An amazing book, gave it 5 stars on Goodreads, no dithering at all (and I can dither for England over Goodreads' ratings). Among the Mad is my book 27 for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge, covering the December category of 'Primary action takes place in this month'.

Currently reading this:

Which is all about sailing and the sea and how daunting it can be crossing the Atlantic in a yacht. For people who like 'sea-voyage' travel fiction I can't recommend this series of books by Sandra Clayton enough. The first two books are Dolphins Under My Bed and Turtles in My Wake and there are now two more books I gather, making, I think, five altogether.

Not sure how that led me to this, Moby-Dick, apart from the fact that it also has a strong 'sea' theme, but I thought after years of procrastinating, I'd give it a go. All 600 pages of it.

I foresaw it taking me months to read, 'into infinity and beyond' sort of thing. But when I did the Maths I realised that if I read 10 to 20 pages a day I should be at the end by the New Year. Not sure how I'll get on, naturally it's a book that divides opinions... it's wonderful 'the best book ever written'... or it's so tedious people can hardly stand it. I reckon if I go into it knowing it rambles on a bit I am forewarned and thus forearmed. Works for me. Well, hopefuly it will.

Happy autumn reading!


Thursday 24 October 2019

Books read so far this month

I have been reading, in fact am back to normal with it now, but due to personal events of the past month or two I've been rather slow to get any reviews done here. Hopefully I can pick it up a bit now but in the meantime a few quick reviews to get myself caught up.

First up, Backpacks, Boots and Baguettes by Simon Calder and Mick Webb. This is my 20th. book for Bev's Mount TBR 2019 challenge.

The two authors have known each other for years and been on many trips together away from their respective families. They decide to walk the length of the Pyrenees which form the border between France and Spain, from the Atlantic to The Med. They do it over a number of years, going back to do set routes of the GR10 walking path. This was an enjoyable travelogue, the two authors take turns in writing each chapter, both having fun at the other's expense, Simon Calder, for instance, is terrified of heights (as am I) so a great deal is made of that. I enjoyed hearing about the vaguaries of hotels and their owners, great food, other walkers they met along the way, mistakes made when choosing a path, leading to getting lost, the weather and so on. Not a bad read.

Next, (The) Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie. This book qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge covering the March category of 'Book has title starting with 'M'.

Anne Beddingfield has lived a rather dull life as the daughter of an archaeologist. She never gets to go anywhere so when her father dies unexpectedly she sets off for London in search of adventure and excitement and finds it when a man drops dead in front of her on an underground station platform. It turns out he's been murdered and, determined to be the one to investigate, Anne ends up on a ship bound for South Africa with a motley bunch of industrialists, spies, and a rich bored wife who takes to Anne's youthful sense of adventure. The trouble is, she has no idea who she's meddling with and is soon in fear for her life... but who, out of all these people, should she really fear? This was fun, if a trifle far-fetched... I think I might have enjoyed this more when I was in my twenties when I was a bit less cynical. I did really enjoy the sea voyage though and the subsequent setting of South Africa in colonial days. I am ever an armchair traveller.

Next, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

Dr. Marina Singh works on developing statins for pharmaceutical company, Vogel, based in Minnesota. A close colleague, Anders Eckman, was sent to the Amazon rainforest several months ago to check up on the progress of another scientist, Dr. Annick Swenson, whose research Vogel is funding. The company is getting anxious that it hasn't heard from her and wants to know that their money is being spent wisely. Dr. Swenson is developing a new, top-secret, drug connected with human fertility. A letter is received notifying them that Dr. Eckman has died, very few details of what happened, just 'he died of a fever'. Anders' wife wants to know more and begs Marina to travel to Brazil to find out what happened to her husband. Reluctantly, Marina embarks on the long and hazardous trip. This was quite a different read for me as I tend towards genre reading such as crime-fic or science-fiction and fantasy rather than contemporary fiction. As such I had to get used to a slower pace of narrative and I did struggle a little with this I have to confess. I found the weeks Marina had to spend in Manaus dragged for me almost as much as it did for her. Once the story reached the rainforest it picked up and I was fascinated by the Lakashi tribe and their way of life. Marina has a lot of adjustments to make to fit in and struggles to be taken seriously by Dr. Swenson, although her friendship with a young boy, Easter, helps. The forest pervades this part of the book like an extra character, and so does the river, a tributary of The Amazon. One scene completely blew me away, that of the killing of an anaconda in a small boat and the deadly peril it placed the occupants in. The book is beautifully written, I don't know why I've never read anything by Ann Patchett before as I have heard of her, just never got to it I suppose, but I will definitely read more at some stage.


Wednesday 23 October 2019

Cobwebs in October

I love this quote from Anne of Green Gables:

And to go with this celebration of the month of October here are a few pics of cobwebs I took in the garden this morning when the dense fog had cleared a bit. As always, click for a bigger view.

Some book reviews to come soon!


Tuesday 15 October 2019

Cornish beaches

We were down in Cornwall for the first week of the month and took some time off from personal stuff to take in a few local beaches. It wasn't the weather for swimming, unless you own a wetsuit and a surfboard, which I most definitely do not, so picture taking was the order of the day (and cups of hot tea and pasties in little caf├ęs of course). Anyway, I thought I'd share a few Cornish beaches here because how can you ever have enough pics of the Atlantic in all its moods? As always 'click' for a much bigger and better view of the pics.

First up, the St. Agnes life saving club (we think) was having a practice.

And a lovely Golden Lab was having so much fun.

The beach and village of Porthtowan from the hill.

Storm clouds at The Lizard.

The lovely beach and village of Coverack on The Lizard peninsula.

The harbour:

Porthleven next. This is the church in the iconic 'stormy Cornwall' pic you see so often, with the massive waves washing over the top of it. But not that day...

On our last day in Cornwall we just had to go to Cape Cornwall. We always do it, I don't know why, family roots and memories I suspect.

And lastly, from Cape Cornwall Sennen Cove is but a 15 minute drive.

Looking back at The Cape from Sennen.

From these photos it looks like the weather was lovely all week. It wasn't, it was rough and stormy and wet a lot of the time, we just picked our moments to get out, mainly the mornings, and spent wet afternoons mooching or with family.


Monday 7 October 2019

Books read in September

My first book post in a month. There's a reason for it of course... on the 9th. September I received the sad news that my brother had passed away. It wasn't unexpected, he'd been in poor health for years and had taken a definite turn for the worse over the last year or so. But, regardless, it's always a difficult time and I haven't felt very much like blogging.

I'll do a brief review of the final book I read in September and then a quick rundown of the other books I read last month.

Inspector French and Sir John Magill's Last Journey was Freeman Wills Crofts' 6th. book about the cases of Inspector French of Scotland Yard. It qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the November category of 'Family relationships play a major role'. I also read it for the European Reading challenge 2019 for the country of the UK... I thought it particularly appropriate as it takes place in three countries of the United Kingdom - England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Inspector French receives a visit at Scotland Yard from Detective Sergeant M'Clung of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland. M'Clung is investigating the disappearance of Sir John Magill who supposedly took the ferry from Scotland to Northern Ireland to stay with his son, prior to a business meeting the next day, but did not turn up. The missing man was retired, having made his money in linen in Belfast and handed the business on to his son, Malcolm. He was working privately on an invention though, and the police wonder if his disappearance is something to do with the plans for this invention. They hope for the best but suspect the worst and when a body is discovered in the grounds of Magill's son's home an investigation is launched that is wide ranging and very complicated indeed.

I've read a couple of books by Freeman Wills Croft this year, The Hog's Back Mystery and Antidote to Venom. I must admit that I enjoyed both of those more than Sir John Magill's Last Journey. I somehow or other got rather bogged down in all the travel times and schedules, there's so much of it, plus rehashing of clues, and possibly because my concentration has not been what it should be I got bored with it all. Nevertheless it was a well written crime yarn, I like Inspector French very much and the setting of three UK countries was a bit different... you don't see many vintage crime books that touch on Northern Ireland.

Books read in September:

54. The Resistance Man - Martin Walker. Mainly read in August. An excellent 'Bruno, Chief of Police' instalment involving a train robbery in 1944.

55. Blue River, Black Sea - Andrew Eames. Non-fiction, travel book, wherein the author travels the length of the Danube. My 18th. book for Bev's Mount TBR challenge. Not bad but dragged a bit. Took off when he went walking in Romania towards the end.

56. Melmoth - Sarah Perry. A little disappointing.

57. Lost in a Pyramid - edited by Andrew Smith. Vintage weird short stories based on pyramids and mummies. Patchy, but did have several good stories.

58. Inspector French and John Magill's Last Journey - Freeman Wills Croft. See above.

Looking at these five books I realise that 54, 55, and 57 were mainly read in July and August. Melmoth was read in the first week of September and John Magill towards the end. Other than Bruno I would call it a not very inspiring reading month. It could be said that losing someone is bound to affect your mood but this doesn't apply as only the final book was read after my brother passed away. Nearly all got threes on Goodreads, which is very average for me as I tend towards overmarking rather than under. I'm hoping October might be a bit better readingwise.

Autumn seems to have arrived while I was not paying attention. My favourite time of year for curling up with a good book. Happy reading!