Monday, 19 April 2021

What I've been reading so far in April

I've been reading pretty much all month but not reviewing it seems. Time for a quick catch-up.

We'll start with HMS Surprise by Patrick O'Brian, which is book three in his Aubrey/Maturin series.

I love the covers on these books, they're by artist, Geoff Hunt and his website is well worth a look. This instalment sees Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin sent to India and the South Seas to deliver an Envoy and protect The East India Trading Company's ships. They go by way of South America and then cross the Atlantic to round Cape Horn. Amazing descriptions of the storms they encounter follow. At one stage Stephen is stranded on a desert island for days and barely survives. He gets involved in a dual later in the book and ends up operating on himself. Jack is still hoping to marry his Sophie and Stephen comes across Diana Villiers again in India. And there's a death which was incredibly sad. So much happening in this one with the friendship between the two men now very strong. I love the deep understanding of human nature Stephen has and Jack's total obliviousness to what's going on in anyone's head. These books are a joy and I'm hooked and starting to understand why O'Brian is known as the Jane Austen of the sea. 


The Platform Edge: Uncanny Tales of the Railways edited by Mike Ashley is another of the British Library's 'weird tales' volumes which somehow found its way onto my Kindle. *Cough* I'm quite keen on railway based fiction (and non-fiction come to that) so this was a must read for me. Sadly, although it was OK, it was not a brilliant collection. Out of 12 stories I marked 5 as being good, although the writing of every one was excellent. Oddly enough, the one story that wasn't supernatural, The Tragedy in the Train by Huan Lee, and was a sort of locked room crime yarn, was one of my favourites. Other favourites: The Underground People by Rosemary Timperley, a rather disturbing 'zombie' type story, A Romance of the Piccadilly Tube by T.G. Jackson was a 'father cutting a profligate son out of the will' tale, and A Ghost on the Train by Dinah Castle was a 'see that old woman in the corner, she's a ghost' kind of story. I liked the fact that many of the authors in the anthology were unknown to me and thus had something to offer that was not familiar.

Lastly, The Volcano, Montserrat and Me by Lally Brown, is a non-fiction account of the author's three year stay on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. Lally's husband was posted there as part of a government contract and she, of course, went with him. Almost as soon as they arrive the local volcano starts to act up and it's not long before things get very hairy indeed. I enjoyed reading all about local customs, colourful characters and life on Montserrat as I haven't read an awful lot of books based on Caribbean islands. It sounded idyllic and how cruel that a natural catastrophe should rob the 10,000 inhabitants of their way of life. Descriptions of eruptions... and there were many... were absolutely terrifying, I've no idea how Lally stood it, but completely understand why she and her husband stayed. If you can help, you must, but goodness me, what a test of endurance and I'm so full of admiration for the couple. If you have any interest in volcanoes and how they behave, as I have in an amateurish sort of way, then this would be an excellent book to read. It's astonishing to be quite frank, her descriptions of what happens when a volcano errupts and the bombardment starts are mind-blowing. I will be reading more by Lally Brown and already have her High and Dry in the BVI (British Virgin Islands) on my Kindle. Can't wait.

I've also just finished this:

The Cold Vanish by Jon Billman, about people who go missing without trace in American National Parks, was an absolutely compelling, 'can't put it down', read which I'll review in due course.

And this one I'm two thirds of the way through:

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is another compelling read but is driving me a bit bonkers to be honest. More about that later too.

I hope your April reading is going well?

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

My reading challenges update

The first three months of the year are now behind us so I thought I would do an update on how my reading challenges are going. I'm only doing two this year, unusual for me to not to be doing half a dozen, although I have cut down a bit over the past couple of years and, to be honest, feel much the better for it.

First up the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2021 which is  being hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader and Baker.


I signed up for the 'Victorian Reader' level which is to read 5 books by the end of December. So far I've read 4 of the 5. These are they:

1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

2. Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian 

3. Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce

4. The Abominable by Dan Simmons

It looks like I'll have to up my level to 10 books, I must admit I did wonder if I was aiming a bit low. Also I perhaps need to head back a bit further in history, 3 of my 4 books are early 20th. century and although they're still classified as 'Historical' I did plan to go back a lot further than that when I first signed up. I am pleased however that each of the books I've read so far has taught me something about the time period in which it's set... which after all is the point of the exercise.

The other challenge I'm doing this year is, Book Bingo 2021 which is being hosted by  Unruly Reader.

This is the Bingo 'card' to work from:

The idea is to form a line or go for broke and read a book from every category. I'm just reading books and seeing how it turns out. LOL

Books read so far:

SURVIVAL: Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth 

RESTORATION: Krakatoa by Simon Winchester 

IMMIGRANT: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 

BREEZY: Gardens of Delight by Erica James 

QUEST: Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce 

TRIUMPH: The Abominable by Dan Simmons 

RABBIT HOLE: Emma by Jane Austen (This category covers, 'A book you fall into, or a book that inspires you to read related books'. I felt that Emma was both of those.)

So, 7 books read and not a bad start I feel. In fact, I'm only 2 short of a Bingo! on the righthand side but I shall plough on as I'm having too much fun to stop. 

So that's my challenge progress so far this year. Going pretty well I think and the main thing is I'm not stressed by either of them and they're 'fun'.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Books read in March

I can't believe another Easter is already upon us, it only seems like five minutes since Christmas! Lockdown is easing in the UK but our Easter will still be a quiet one, not least because they're forecasting wintery showers. Daffs and primroses in the garden, magnolias and camelias are everywhere magnificent, the blossom on the greengage tree is so pretty ... and it might snow. Only in the UK.

Anyway. March was an excellent reading month for me. I read eight books and these are they:

16. Brat Farrar - Josephine Tey 

17. Post Captain - Patrick O'Brian 

18. Diamonds and Dust - Carol Hedges 

19. Death Has Deep Roots - Michael Gilbert 

20. Heavy Weather an antholgy edited by Kevan Manwaring 

21. A Time to be in Earnest - P.D. James 

22. The Abominable - Dan Simmons 

23. Emma - Jane Austen (to be reviewed)

So, eight books - seven fiction and only one non-fiction. A motley mix, three murder mysteries, two historicals, a collection of weird short stories, a classic, and an autobiographical work. And they were all good. I don't know what's happened but I seem to be enjoying every book I pick up this year. Whether this is pure 'luck' or whether my skill at choosing books I will enjoy has been honed to the point where I'm now rarely mistaken, I'm not sure. I do know that I will now happily abandon books if I'm 30 or 40 pages in and not enjoying it, but even that has not happened a lot lately. Oh well, one of life's little mysteries.

A favourite books from the eight is hard because they were all so good and I would recommend any of the them to the right reader. But I think this just had a 'very' slight edge on the rest:


Emma really took me surprise. I knew that I liked the book but I had no idea that a third read of it would be quite so enjoyable... to the point where I just couldn't put the thing down. I have a couple more Austen  rereads coming up over the next few months, probably but not definitely starting with Persuasion.

Happy Easter to the lovely people who visit my blog, and especially to those who take the time to leave a lovely comment or two. It is so appreciated. And not only 'Happy Easter' but 'Happy Reading' too.