Monday 21 December 2020

The last few books before Christmas

I've been quietly reading my way through three non-fiction and one long fiction book since the beginning of December. It's always a slower reading month for me, for obvious reasons, but this year I feel quiet too, like I don't want to read anything that might test me too much, I just want slow, comfortable reading.

A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett collects together the essays he wrote, his articles for newspapers and speeches he gave. Some were new to me, others I had already read one way or another. I'm not quite sure why I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would as I absolutely adore Pratchett's fictional Discworld series. Possibly the fact that I had heard what he had to say on many subjects already did not help. All were very well written though. 

Worst Journeys edited by Keath Fraser was what it says on the tin, an anthology of travel writing stories recounting the authors' worst travel experiences. I was very underwhelmed by this and I normaly love travel writing. A few stood out. One of Dirk Bogarde's wartime experiences from his book Backcloth made me think about reading one or two of his six autobiographical volumes next year. And Jan Morris and Paul Theroux never disappoint. Otherwise, one for the charity shop box. 

The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift is a book I've been reading off and on all year. It's the story of the creation of a garden at Morville in Herefordshire. It's beautifully written, quite autobiographical in nature and very horticultural and historical. The site was a monastry centuries ago so the author uses the form of the medieval books of hours as she takes us through the gardening year. A beautiful book. 

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss is the only fiction book I've read in December. Possibly because it's over 700 pages long...

The 'Monstrous Gentlewomen' are off on their travels to Budapest. Mary Jekyll has recieved a cry for help from Lucinda Van Helsing whom she's never met but presumes is similar to herself and her friends in that she's been changed somehow by her father: the subject of scientific experiments in other words. Mary, Justine and Diana travel on The Orient Express and soon run into trouble, meanwhile Catherine Moreau and Beatrice Rappacinni stay in London but not for long. Soon they're careering across Europe too, worried for Mary and her group who have disappeared somewhere in the mountains of Hungary. This is the second instalment of this fantasy/horror trilogy and is just as enjoyable as the first. It has exactly the same problems but I won't bang on about that again. Suffice to say it was rollicking good fun, I love the European locations, the ideas behind the characters, and the sheer zest of these books. Book three will be on my reading agenda for 2021.


I'm currently reading these two:

The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and 100 Recipes for Midwinter by TV cook, Nigel Slater, is the perfect slow read for Christmas week. He has a wonderfully gentle, descriptive, sumptious style of writing and you can wallow in it at the end of a long day. Loving it.

Weird Woods: Tales of the Haunted Forests of Britain, edited by John Miller, is one of the British library's 'Weird books' series. I've read several and they can be a bit patchy but this is, so far, rather good. And ghost stories naturally go well with Christmas don't they?


TracyK said...

You have a lot of variety in your reading this month. You have reminded me that sometime I need to get back to reading books by Terry Pratchett, especially the Guards series that you had recommended (a good while back). I would probably try the Goss series if the books were not so long. It reminds me of the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, although the premise is entirely different. But both do focus on characters in literature.

I finished all the stories in Crimson Snow yesterday. I thought the last story was very good, the one by Josephine Bell that I think you liked also.

DesLily said...

Glad you liked the Theodora book... are you going to get the 3rd book??? Eventually I will get those.. I got hooked on a really "weird" trilogy of (now don't faint) short stories! (about 100 pgs each story) There are mysteries and murders and "spirits" and more in them lol. Not what I generally read but I find I keep picking the book up so.... lol No accounting for "mood" I guess lol

Lark said...

I hear you on wanting comfort reads right now (and also books from authors I know and trust). I think my whole year has been like that. :)

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I am seriously considering a complete change of direction, so that I can read a few more of the books I want to read, rather than those which are on my Blog Tour / Review schedule. To be fair, I now try to be a little more selective with those requests, only accepting the books which catch my eye as something I might enjoy, however I don't think the balance is still quite there yet!

I loved reading about some of your latest 'finds', although I have to say that I probably won't be rushing to add any of them to my own list, as I am not much of a non-fiction reader. However there are a couple which sound ideal for the 'armchair traveller' site, Trip Fiction though!

Thanks for sharing and have a good Christmas. Let's hope that 2021 is a little better for us all! :) Xx

Sam said...

I see that you are in a similar mood/reading mode to the one I find myself in right now. I just feel so exhausted by 2020 that I want to do little more than "read quietly" and lose myself for a while.

I do hope that 2021 is a better year, but it's hard to believe that we will see any real changes until late into the new year...thank God for books and blogs.

I'm looking forward to hearing more of what you have to say about that second Goss book...700 pages is a lot to chew on.

Cath said...

Tracy: Terry Pratchett's Guards series is ideal for the crime fiction reader as long as you like a bit of fantasy and humour thrown in. You're making me wonder if I should reread them all (around 6 books I think) next year.

Yes, Jasper Fforde's books (I've read 3 or 4 I think) also feature characters from literature but there the similarity ends. Those are written with humour in mind whereas the Goss books are not, they're fun but not really 'funny'. If that makes sense.

Oh yes, that last story by Josephine Bell was excellent!

Pat: Yes, I will get the third of the Goss books but the Kindle price is exorbitant at the moment so I'll wait until it gets a bit cheaper.

My goodness, what the heck are you reading? You must show me when we skype next week!

Lark: I've coped ok with 2020, apart from when my husband was in hospital, but I'm ready for it to go away now.

Cath said...

Yvonne: I can understand why you would want to please yourself a little more with your reading rather than have it dictated by the Blog tours and Review schedules. It must feel a bit like having an unpaid job. I stopped doing so many challenges because I felt like all I was allowed to read was challenge books. A similar situation. I've curbed that and at the moment I'm just doing one next year. I *might* stretch it to two, we'll see.

Thank you, I hope you and your husband have a good Christmas too. I'll be around more than usual as we're only able to have one of my daughters for Christmas Day. They usually stay here for several days and my other daughter comes up with her family. Not happening this year, sadly.

Sam: 2020 has been a real humdinger hasn't it? Who would have thought this last Christmas though if memory serves news was just starting to leak out from China about now.

Yes, they've just been saying on the news that it's unlikely they'll manage to get all of the elderly and vulnerable vaccinated before mid-spring and August before everyone else is done and things can start to return to normal. We're not out of this yet and as you say I'm so grateful for books and grateful I had such a large personal library and lots of books on my Kindle. I'm honestly not sure what I would have done without them. I've berated myself in the past about the number of books I own. No more!

Susan said...

That's interesting that you're craving quiet, comfortable reading right now. I'm feeling that as well. Something about the cozy Christmas season, I guess. Enjoy your reading!