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.



Sam Sattler said...

I absolutely love "long walk" books and that first book you mention is one I need to take a look at. I have half a bookshelf filled with similar books and I always come away a bit awestruck by what the authors have accomplisher and/or endured on those walks.

Glad to see that you ended up enjoying State of Wonder." I'm going to pick up her brand new one tomorrow morning from my local library and I'm looking forward to it already. Patchett never lets me down.

DesLily said...

How come you can go away and still read so much? lol...This is going to be a super sad month for me! lol... love you!

TracyK said...

I liked The Man in the Brown Suit especially because it had a different format from some of Christie's books, and I also liked the sea voyage.

I have one book by Patchett, Bel Campo, which I think I have had over ten years and not read. I really should read it.

I also think I may try doing the TBR Challenge in 2020, after skipping it for several years.

Cath said...

Sam: I love 'long walk' books too. I recommend Clear Waters Rising by Nicholas Crane, charting his walk across Europe via all of the mountain chains. Wonderful.

I saw Ann Patchett's 'Commonwealth' in the library this morning. I didn't bring it home as I already had a load of books, but is it a good one?

Pat: I take books away with me to read. Always. LOL

Tracy: Yes, that's why I liked The Man in the Brown Suit too, different to her usual stuff.

I think Bel Campo is Patchett's most famous book, so I'm thinking it must good.

I haven't decided about Mt. TBR 2020 yet. Am thinking I might cut back on challenges next year and just do the European one. We'll see.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I guess that in this day and age, a good 'vintage' crime story has to be read with a little licence given to its narrative, dialogue and storyline, with unfortunately even the great authors such as Agatha Christie having the rules employed, as much as I may not personally approve. She is the one author I could re-read again and again and never tire of the slower pace of story-telling!

I wonder...Does Simon Calder write with the same enthusiasm with which he speaks? I am not afraid of heights per se, however it does depend on the difficulty of the walk. If it becomes more like a climb at any stage, then that's another story. Ask my tutors from the Welsh outward bound centre I went to in Wales, as a teenager. A quite low level rock climbing exercise turned into full scale rescue, when I froze half way up the rock face and couldn't be persuaded to go either up or down!

I can't believe we are already discussing the New Year and the challenges we might consider signing up for! This year has been crazy mad and has sped by in the blink of an eye. My TBR pile hasn't gotten any smaller, in fact very much the opposite, to the point where no challenge is going to help!!

Hope you have some great books lined up for November and that the coming month sees life back on something of an even keel for you :)


Cath said...

Hi Yvonne. Gosh yes, always a little license required when reading vintage crime, but that's fine. I can do that whereas I see on places like Goodreads that some can't get past certain aspects. And that does happen to me occasionally too, although not with Agatha Christie.

Yes! I am happy to report that Simon Calder writes with the same enthusiasm that he speaks. I was hoping he might have written other books that would come under the heading of 'travel writing' but his other books are more in the line of 'travel guides' so not of such interest to me.

Oh goodness, that sounds like a horrific experience for you as a teen, but I can completely empathise.

This year has sped by hasn't it. Mad. Not helped by September and October not being anything like I imagined when the summer hols ended and the children went back to school. No way did I consider that a bereavement was on the cards, with all that it entails.

Yes, new challenges already being posted by their hosts. It's a bit early for me to decide to be honest. But I already know I won't do five or six like I did this year. Possibly just one or two where I can overlap books and also arrange them to target certain books that I have on my tbr pile. My tbr pile hasn't got any smaller either so you're not alone!

Thanks for your kind words and thanks too for dropping by, as always.


Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

Backpacks, Boots and Baguettes sounds fascinating, and I'm another one who is terrified of heights! I thought The Man in the Brown Suit was rather far-fetched too, not very credible but I did enjoy it. Ann Patchett is one of those authors I keep meaning to read. I have read one of her books - The Magician's Assistant which I enjoyed, but I've had Bel Canto and Run on my shelves for years and although I've started them, they've gone back on the shelves whilst I read other books - maybe next year ...?

Ah, next year's reading challenges - at present I'm undecided. My TBR pile has gone up, but I'm not convinced the challenges make much difference to what I read, so I just don't know.

Cath said...

Margaret: Yes, I think there are quite a few of us terrified of heights, although it does seem as though there are degrees of it... I'm somewhere in the middle I think.

Bel Canto seems to be the famous Ann Patchett so I must see about that one at some stage. The library has 'Commonwealth' so I must borrow that... perhaps next year.

I'm absolutely certain the challenges make no difference to what I read or to the tbr pile. LOL! But they are fun when you're in the mood for a reading challenge year. I've had one of those this year so next year I plan to ease off a bit.