Monday 21 November 2022

I have been reading and plan to read...

So I finished a couple of books and have also been making plans for December (actually, I've been making plans for 2023 but we won't go there just yet...) First up, books read.

In a Glass Darkly, by Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu, is a book of spooky or weird tales first published in 1872. M.R. James was apparently a big fan of Le Fanu's writing saying he, 'stands absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories'. Praise from a master. This collection consists of five stories, all of them cases which a Dr. Hesselius has investigated and written about.

The first story, Green Tea, concerns a Reverand Mr. Jennings who has a parish of his own but can't go and preach there because when he does he's haunted by a small, spectral, black monkey that follows him everywhere. That one really creeped me out. The Familiar tells of another similar situation. A Captain Barton gets engaged to a woman in the city of Dublin. Walking home late one night he hears footsteps behind him but when he turns around no one's there. Eventually the presence shows itself to be an old man who haunts the captain, changing his life completely. Mr. Justice Harbottle is a 'hanging judge' as they used to say, merciless and cruel, and the story tells of how he gets his comeuppance via a nasty dream. The Room in the Dragon Volant is a story set in France. The narrator is doing a tour after the fall of Napolean. On the road he witnesses an accident and falls for one of the women involved. He follows them to an inn and gets involved with her and her very elderly husband and things deteriorate from there. This one is not a ghost story but really a mystery made creepy by the excellent writing and setting, although I thought it dragged a bit in places. The final story, Carmilla, is one of Le Fanu's most famous stories. It's set in the forests of Austria, the main protagonist, Laura lives there with her father in a huge old castle. A carriage accident outside the castle delivers to them the injured 'Carmilla' and she stays there with them while her mother goes off on some urgent business. Lonely Laura and Carmilla become good friends but their visitor is a bit strange. Not only that, Laura is sure she recognises her from somewhere. This vampire yarn is effective and atmospheric and who doesn't love a weird story set in an Austrian or German forest! Anyway, not a bad collection, I thought one or two of the stories dragged a bit, if I'm honest, but the writing was superb and the tales never lacked for atmosphere. I had read several before, and recently, so that probably did not help. I would like to read Le Fanu's full length novel, Uncle Silas, at some stage as I think I would rather like it, influenced a bit, I have to admit, by Lark's review.

Next, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This is my third reading of this iconic classic, written for children and published in 1908, but equally wonderful when read by adults. This qualifies for both the Back to the Classics and  the Book Bingo challenge I'm doing.

The main characters in the story are of course Ratty and Mole but the supporting cast is equally as interesting in my opinion: Badger, grumpy and anti-social but kind, Otter, strong and very family orientated, Toad, prone to fads and mad as a bag of ferrets. It's a very long time since I read this book so I'd forgotten how much it resembles a series of long short stories put together in one volume: Mole moving in with Ratty, Mole getting lost in the wild wood, Toad discovering gypsy caravans and then automobiles, Toad going to gaol. And then a wonderful interlude where Ratty meets a Sea Rat who tells him of his travels around the world, almost mesmerising Ratty (and me!) into going with him. I'd totally forgotten that chapter which is odd as it was absolute 'magic'... what a novel that would've made! And lastly, how the Toad question was resolved except that we all know it wasn't really. It's many, many years since I read The Wind in the Willows so I had completely forgotten the beautiful writing and atmosphere of a quiet life lived by the river interrupted by various crises. The artwork in my version, by Robert Ingpen, is fabulous too, my post showing some of the paintings is HERE. For me the best sections in the book are when Mole gets lost in the wild wood and how they subsequently find Badger's  home. Also when Ratty and Mole are walking home late one night near Christmas and walk through a human village. And, as previously mentioned, the Sea Rat's tale. Toad I always find annoying and am not so keen on the sections which involve him. All in all, 'gorgeous', 5 stars, and I'll doubtless read it again in a few years.

So, I've just started this:

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. I've wanted to read this for a while now as it comes highly recommended by several devoted Pilcher fans I know. But I wanted to read it at the right time of year and kept missing it somehow. So it's now just a few weeks away from the winter solstice and perfect timing so off I go! I'm only 20 or so pages in and love it already in that way that sometimes you know immediately you start a book that it's going to be a joy.

In December I plan to read some Christmas short stories taken from various books and perhaps do some posts about them.

I also plan to have some fun reading crime fiction for a Booktube event called Cloak and Dagger Christmas which is based around the Twelve Days of Christmas song. There are 12 prompts and I don't expect to do them all but I'm definitely going to try to do the four or five crime book prompts. I don't have a Youtube channel obviously but that's not necessary to take part. 

This is the ten minute introduction post from one of the hosts, Janelle at Too Fond of Books: 

Cloak and Dagger Christmas

I think that sounds like a 'lot' of fun. (I highly recommend Janelle's channel actually, her love for crime fiction is just glorious.) My first book for it will probably be for the 'Read a book with an alliterative title' and I'll read Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley or Murder in the Mill-Race by E.C.R. Lorac. 'Nobility', probably The Fatal Flying Affair by T.E. Kinsey, although two series that Janelle recs in another vid, Wrexford and Sloane by Andrea Penrose and the Veronica Speedwell books by Deanna Raybourn also sound interesting and might bear investigating next year. 'Foil on the cover'... possibly Rebecca, but we'll see.

Anyway, this post is now long enough methinks! Happy late-November reading and I would love to hear about any plans you have for December/Christmas/Winter reading.


Sue in Suffolk said...

I've really enjoyed all the BLCC by Lorac - another due soon I think and The Rosamund Pilcher was a good read too.
Enjoy your winter/Christmas reading!

Margot Kinberg said...

You've got some great plans, Cath. That Cloak and Dagger event sounds terrific, and I like the sound of In a Glass, Darkly. I don't always go for the ghost story theme, but some of them are fantastic. It's good to hear you're re-reading The Wind in the Willows, too. Re-reading a book you've loved is like getting together with an old friend, isn't it?

Vallypee said...

That's quite a list and a pile, Cath. Good for you! I simply aim to keep working down my reading pile, which I know I'll never reach the end of. I'm also busy writing now, which infringes on my reading time.

TracyK said...

The edition of The Wind in the Willows that I want to read is an annotated edition, with illustrations from various editions, and I keep putting it off because I think it will take me too long with all the annotations, but I really should start it soon. Either in December or early 2023.

I haven't read anything by Rosamunde Pilcher but this one you just started looks very good, with a lovely cover, and perfect for this time of year.

Although I have two or three of short story books with Christmas stories in mind, I haven't made any decisions on what to read. I should get started though, we are very close to December.

I listened to the Cloak and Dagger Christmas video and it did sound like fun. I am possibly reading one full length mystery for Christmas, one we bought recently titled Murder After Christmas (from the British Library Crime Classics). Or maybe reread one of my favorite mysteries set at Christmas, Not a Creature was Stirring by Jane Haddam. Or I may just stick with Christmas short stories.

Cath said...

Sue: I haven't read all of the BLCC books by Lorac but those I have read I thought were excellent. I'm slowly moving on with Winter Solstice but it's a longish book so it'll take me a week or so to read I suspect. Enjoying it a lot.

Cath said...

Margot: I always love a crime fiction challenge and if it isn't specifically crime orientated then I make so. LOL! I enjoy a ghost story and especially like the way the vintage ones are written, the atmosphere those writers were capable of creating. Oh yes, rereading a book you've loved is exactly like meeting up with an old friend. The surprise for me was that I'd forgotten so much of The Wind in the Willows. That whole section with the Sea Rat was a huge surprise, luckily a pleasant one.

Cath said...

Val: Yes, that is a bit of a pile... I don't think all of them will be read but I do hope to sample stories from all of the anthologies.

I hope the writing is going well!

Cath said...

Tracy: An annotated edition of WitW sounds interesting, I don't think I've seen one of those. Doubtless if I see one in a secondhand bookshop though I will grab it because I already have three versions of the book so one more will not harm. LOL

This is my first book by Pilcher too, so far it's absolutely delightful.

Pleased to hear you went and watched Janelle's Cloak and Dagger video. I love her enthusiasm and sense of humour. I'll be reading the group read anthology (I forget the title now) and definitely a couple more. Hope you have fun deciding what your December reading will involve.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I am so pleased that you enjoyed 'The Wind In The Willows' for the third time around, you really have made me want to source a copy and re-read it again for myself and perhaps even persuade my little great niece that it might be a fun read. I know that my original illustrated copy from childhood was not as beautiful as yours, so I shall definitely check out my options carefully.

I haven't read a Rosamunde Pilcher book in an age, so I am probably only up to date with those from the 1960s and 1970s. I did enjoy the storylines and writing style, but I can't say that I ever felt compelled to keep up with her new titles.

I haven't really made too many plans for December or beyond, as I am officially 'retiring' Fiction Books, in its current format at least, from the weekend of December 3rd/4th. I shall still be posting reviews to Goodreads, Netgalley, Amazon and Twitter (if that's still around by then!). We are considering a couple of other options too, but I'm not saying anything about those as they may not come to fruition and at the moment, they are only vague ideas.

I have one Christmas review to get published soon and I do have a couple of other Christmas books on my Kindle, but whether I shall get to them this side of the New Year, I'm not sure. I have read a couple of short story / novellas recently and I have to say that I enjoyed them much more than I thought I would.

I'm off to check out the video you link to, but we have work being done both in the garden and house at the same time, so you can imagine the chaos and mess. Reading is a bit of a luxury right now, cleaning up seems to prevail top of my 'to do' list!! :)

Lark said...

Winter Solstice is such a great book; it's one of my favorite Rosamunde Pilcher novels. And I've added Le Fanu's short stories to my list of possible classics to read next year. I've read Carmilla, but that's the only one. Good luck with your December reading plans! :D My list of books to read in December is impossibly long! I have to try and cull it down somehow.

CLM said...

A nice assortment! I was thinking about Winter Solstice too.

I forgot all about Book Bingo, and I doubt I have the energy to revisit it.

My mother keeps recommending the Penrose series.

I am reading the most horrible book by an author I really like. I think I have to put it aside before the heroine does something quite Thornbirds-esque.

Cath said...

Hi Yvonne. The Wind in the Willows is available free for Kindle but of course if you want to read it with your great neice then it would be nice to have a physical copy with nice pictures.

I didn't realise it but Winter Solstice was RP's final book, published in 2000. There're a few others I plan to read but don't see me reading all of her books.

Thank for letting me know that Fiction Books is retiring from the beginning of December. I feel quite sad but will still see you on Twitter and your reviews on Goodreads etc. Yes, the trouble with Christmas reads is fitting them in. I purposely left a bit of room for them this year but will not be reading those exclusively and may even just concentrate on short stories.

Oh gosh, yes, I can imagine the chaos if you're having work done in both the garden and the house. I hope all goes well with it and you keep your sanity!

Cath said...

Lark: I'm really enjoying Winter Solstice, the writing is just lovely. I wish we were neighbours, I would pass the Le Fanu short story collection over the fence to you. :-) Yes, that's the trouble with being an avid reader, you want to read every book you own in any given month. LOL

Cath said...

Constance: Have you read Winter Solstice already? I'm assuming you have and you're thinking about a reread.

That Penrose series looks interesting. I'd grab the first book but the Kindle edition is over £8 which I think is extortionate for a Kindle book. And nor does the library have it so that may be a series that I'll have to miss out on. It won't do me any harm.

Oh dear, not great when an author you like churns out a book you hate. Be interested to know what it is!

Judith said...

Oh, gosh, I LOVE Pilcher's Winter Solstice!!! My favorite book of hers by far! Oh, you are in for such a heart-warming treat. I've read it twice. Almost read if for a third time this year, and so far I haven't, but it's been five years, maybe I should! I will be by your side in spirit every minute while you're reading this book. Enjoy in splendor!

Cath said...

Judith: Winter Solstice really has me in thrall. It's such a lovely warm and cosy book and I love everyone in it to be honest, but especially Elfrida. I can so see why it's your favourite RP book. And it's so perfect for this time of year too.

Mary said...

Many decades ago, when reading some of Pilcher's earlier books (many set in Cornwall, etc.), I kept thinking that I had already read them. It turns out, I was correct. Some of her work had previously been serialized in UK magazines like Woman's Weekly and in US magazines such as Ladies Home Journal. Like you, I sometimes enjoy reading (or rereading) books to match the season or even the places I might be visiting. Hence, Pilcher's September is read in that month or when perhaps even when I am visiting Scotland. Some of the characters in the The Shell Seekers continue to show up in the book, September. And as you say, Winter Solstice is perfect for reading as we approach that time of the year.

Cath said...

Mary: How interesting about RP's books being serialised years ago in magazines. I didn't know that. Yes, I do enjoy a bit of seasonal reading I must admit, so perhaps I'll read September in September, that would be fun! I note though that you say characters from The Shell Seekers crop up in that so best to try and get that read sometime in the summer perhaps.