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?


Lark said...

I'd totally read that one about the volcano on Montserrat. I remember following the news coverage of it when it happened. Volcanoes are so incredible to watch. And I'm glad you liked The Cold Vanish. I really loved that book. :)

Margaret @ Booksplease said...

You're reading such interesting books - and I love how you're loving O'Brian's books, so I think I will have to try them too.

I don't know what it is, but I'm not really reviewing books right now, just reading them. Of course the garden isn't helping - there seems to be so much to do in it and the weather has been so much better up here recently.

CLM said...

That is so creepy about people disappearing from the National Parks! I know one of my former publishers put out a series by a mystery writer named Nevada Barr which are set in parks and presumably lots of murders take place there (I read one and it didn't capture my interest) but I hadn't thought about it being a real thing!

My Study Abroad in London just got canceled. I suppose I expected it to happen but I had saved up all my vacation for 3-4 weeks in the UK in July, so am disappointed. The school says the info for the UK to reopen is not available so they couldn't go forward and are going to do what they can on video instead, which hardly seems worth doing. Oh well, I guess with the money I am saving I can afford to order a few books instead.

Sam said...

Quite a variety of books for April...that should keep your reading fresh and moving right along.

"Life after Life" pushed me to the edge of quitting it several times because it just got more and more repetitious than I could handle. Frankly, I can't even remember now that I actually finished it.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I can't recall what Life After Life was about but, I am pretty sure that I donated it unread several years ago.

Cath said...

Lark: The Montserrat book was excellent. Well worth a look. I'm still thinking about The Cold Vanish, such an intriguing subject that I've bought another book on the same subject for my Kindle.

Margaret: I do seem to have picked a wide variety of subjects to read about this month. LOL

The O'Brian books have been a real revelation for me. I thought they were unreadable because of the nautical terms, which I struggled with on my first attempt. I see now that it make no difference if you don't know which sails are being referred to!

Constance: Reading this book would put me off going for a wander in a NP I have to say, so many well prepared people who know what they're doing die because they've underestimated the terrain or the weather or their own abilities. I would have no chance.

I've read several Nevada Barr books and enjoyed them, mainly I think because they give me a US NP fix when I can't go there.

Really sorry to hear that your Study Abroad in London was cancelled. It doesn't surprise me as we are not fully open over here yet and when we are things change overnight. You wouldn't want to get stranded... or maybe you would. LOL!

Cath said...

Sam: Yes, I looked at what I've read so far this month and even I was surprised at how far around the world I've been!

I am so with you on Life After Life. It's very well written but even with that I could only give it a three on Goodreads, it just drove me nuts.

Diane: Life After Life is about someone living the same life over and over with small events changing each life and thus different lives are led with different outcomes. It very much divides opinion, some love it, others don't, I'm in the latter category... with Sam!

TracyK said...

Starting from the bottom, I loved Life after Life but I know it gets very mixed reactions.

The Cold Vanish sounds very interesting. I did not know that people going missing in the US National Parks was a big thing. Also Lally Brown's book about Montserrat and the volcanic eruptions. Scary.

I have had similar problems with short stories set on trains. They are not usually as good as I expect them to be. Maybe my expectations are too high.

I still haven't finished Post Captain but I am about 2/3 through. And loving it of course. I can see that this will be a never ending search for the next book in the series. Just when I was trying to buy less books.

Cath said...

Tracy: Life After Life definitely divides opinions!

I had no idea that people going missing in NPs was a thing either but turns out it's huge and no one is keeping a record.

Me too with the never ending search for the next O'Brian book. I've book several for my Kindle, I just have to decide whether to slowly buy the whole set.

Susan said...

I just finished THE COLD VANISH yesterday! It's definitely a compelling read. Disturbing, but fascinating.

Cath said...

Susan: Oooh, interested to hear what you think about it if you do a review. I've started mine and hope to finish it later.

CLM said...

Ha ha, yes, I would like to get stranded but not quarantined in a hotel room or stuck in a hospital, of course!

TracyK said...

I did finish Post Captain and I loved it.

I found a copy of H.M.S. Surprise that I liked on ABEbooks so I am happy about that. It will take a week or two to get here but that is probably good timing. I would love to get Kindle copies because it would so easy to check some definitions but then I would have to do all the reading of the books in the morning and that might take longer to finish them. Maybe not.

Cath said...

Tracy: So pleased you loved Post Captain. And also that you found a copy of HMS Surprise. You won't be sorry about that, it was excellent. I have a Kindle copy of my next one, The Mauritius Command, but after that I'll have to decide whether to buy them all gradually and create a Kindle collection or whether to borrow some from the library. Difficult one.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I read the first Aubrey/Maturin book years ago and loved it and quickly bought the second and have not gotten back to them, which is a real shame as I have no doubt I would enjoy the rest of them.

Cath said...

Carl: That's pretty much what happened to me as regards the Aubrey/Maturin books. I'm not sure if I read 'all' of the first book even, but I'm actually not sorry because I feel there is a time to read a series for everyone and my time for this series is now.