Thursday 1 June 2023

Books read in May

May was quite an interesting month wasn't it? We crowned a king in the UK, I turned 70, and I read 10 books. :-) I'm sure other things must've happened... yes, we started the garden, seeds sown in the greenhouse and up and soon to be planted out, others sown outside and doing nicely. And Spring has turned very sunny and very dry... dare I say it, we 'could' do with a bit of rain now...

Anyhow, 'books'. These are they:

37. 14 - Peter Clines

38. The Bangalore Detective Club - Harini Nagendra

39. In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward 

40. Queens of the Abyss ed. by Mike Ashley

41. Killers of a Certain Age - Deanna Raybourn 

42. Soul Music - Terry Pratchett

43. Horse - Geraldine Brooks. This my book for my Read Around America challenge, featuring the states of Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Nebraska. 

This is a three timeline novel about a famous racehorse from Kentucky, 'Lexington'. The story concentrates on the early life of Jarret who is a black slave who ends up with the care of the horse from quite a young age, and a very strong life-long bond is formed. We follow as the horse is sold to another owner and Jarret sold with him. Civil war happens and we see how the two cope. The second main timeline is that of Theo and Jess in 2019. Theo is a black Brit who is a journalist, Jess a bone scientist from Australia. They meet in Washington D.C. over the search for the skeleton of a horse and the quest to find the origin of a painting of a horse. The third timeline is less prevalent and is that of a New York art gallery owner in the 1950s, Martha Jackson. It sounds a bit confusing but it isn't once you get into the story and chapters are well marked. I gave this 5 stars on Goodreads because I thought it was excellent. I have no interest in horse racing and not much in horses really, but I was captivated by Jarret's story and his devotion to Lexington. But it's not just that, the book is historical fiction at its best, I learnt a lot about life in Kentucky in the 1850s, for the well-to-do, yes, but mainly for slaves.What a huge deal the horse racing life was in 1850s America but the people it depended on for its survival, black slaves, were hardly acknowledged at all. It was sobering but not depressing, there was love and friendship and loyalty and also intellectual investigations which I love. 'Not depressing' apart from a real body-punch event towards the end of the book which knocked me for six. Regardless, this will likely feature in my top ten books of the year in December. Terrific book. 

44. Death in August - Marco Vichi. (Translated by Stephen Sartarelli.) This is the first book in the Commisario Bordelli series, set in Florence in the 1960s. I enjoyed this very much, the boiling-hot City of Florence in August was a character in its own right.

45. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy - Becky Chambers. Book 2 of the author's sci-fi Monk & Robot series. It was fine but not outstanding.

46. La Vie - John Sempel-Lewis. A year in the life of the author after he had moved to The Charente area of France. He's well known for his nature writing, birds and so forth, and I think it really shows in the beautiful, lyrical writing. I thought it was delightful and gave it 5 stars, no hesitation. 

So that was my May reading month. Nine fiction books, one non-fiction. The standout book was Horse by Geraldine Brooks, but to be honest it was a good reading month and nothing was terrible. 

So, on into June and, unusually, I have no idea what I want to read this month. So it's going to be very much a mood-reading month I think. We shall see.


DesLily said...

You turned 70?? !! Heck only 9 more years to catch up to me Sis!!!

Lark said...

That's a good month of reading. I've got several of these books on my TBR list, including Horse. I've hesitated about reading it because I don't always like when there are so many different timelines in a book, but the fact that you loved it so much makes me think I should give it a try. And Happy Belated Birthday! Is 70 now the new 50? ;D

Nan said...

Have you ever posted a picture of your greenhouse? Is it plastic (is that the material?) or glass? I'd love you to post more about your gardens.
Horse racing is being looked at very carefully, as it should be. Sounds like there was awful stuff right at the start. I love horses just so much. I never learned much about riding, but when we had our Bandit, it was a dream come true for me.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

We just turned 65, so only a little way behind, although D has another year until he is able to retire, which isn't going down too well!

I totally agree that we could do with a good splash of rain, or at least no hosepipe ban (although am I right in thinking that you already have one?), as we have just had to plant 75 hedging plants in the lane behind our property, so together with the container bedding plants in one half of the garden, that's one heck of a lot of watering each evening.

Still waiting on the insurance company for the repairs etc, so the back of the place still looks like the Somme!

I made most of my may choices from your selection, following your previous update posts. However, I have also just added 'Horse' to that list after your glowing review!

Happy June Reading :)

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm so glad you had a good reading month, Cath! You did some virtual travel, which I always think is great, and you read an interesting variety of books, too. Best of all, no utter disappointments. Roll on, June!

Cath said...

Hi Pat! Yep, only 9 more years and I'll be all caught up with you. LOL!

Cath said...

Lark: Horse is not an easy read in some places but the love between Jarret and Lexington was so lovely. I also liked how it was so much of its place - Kentucky. I didn't have a book for that state for my personal US states challenge so I'm very happy with that. Thank you for the birthday wishes, 70 sounds horrendus but I really don't feel that age, mentally. Physically, well somedays that's another matter. LOL!

Cath said...

Nan: Hmm, I'm not sure if I've posted a pic of the greenhouse but I will once it's full of growing tomtoes and peppers. I have posted pics of the garden, I know that, but I will do more this summer if you like.

I don't have a particular affinity with horses but nevertheless think they're beautiful animals. There are some sections of the book that concern the races themselves that are very hard to read. I think you might struggle so am not sure I would recommend this to you. I can't say that racing as a sport has ever attracted me but learning about its early years in America was very interesting and Geraldine Brooks writes 'so' well. 'Too' well in places.

Cath said...

Yvonne: Ah, I thought you were slightly closer to me in age than that, not sure why, LOL.

Well no, at the moment we're the only part of Devon that hasn't got a hosepipe ban, but we're not using ours anyway, we're watering with cans. Which as you can imagine is quite hard work so I'm hoping for a bit of rain soon. Of course, all I'm seeing is forecasts of terrible heataves for us in the UK this summer. Saharan 'waves' or somesuch. I jollywell hope not.

Glad you picked out a few of my May books to add to your tbr list. Have a good weekend.

Cath said...

Margot: Thank you! Oh yes, I forgot to look at where my bookish travels took me last month. Let's see, France, Italy, India, the USA... not bad. (And currently I'm on Mount Everest!)It's always a good month when there are no utter disappointments.

Sam said...

You're starting to stack some great reading months back-to-back now, and that's going to turn 2023 into a nice reading year for you. I'm familiar with some of the others you read in May, but the only one I've actually read is Geraldine Brooks. I always end up enjoying her books, but for some reason I'm always slow to pick up one by her. She's really all over the map - and that's a good thing. I've looked at Horse a time or two, but sounds like I need to revisit it.

Cath said...

Sam: Yes, I am stacking up a few good reading months... after deciding in January to slow down a bit... I don't seem to be able to. It seems I have a new readng speed which is coming naturally and I can't do 'slower'. Luckily, the quality stands up too, they're not, for the most part, rubbishy books I'm devouring just for the sake of numbers.

I think I've read one other Geraldine Brooks which was People of the Book, which I liked but feel I would like to read again as I'm not sure I appreciated it enough. She's famous for the plague book which I can't remember the title of now, but I must investigate what else she's written. Yes, she really is all over the map, possibly due to being Australian who is interested in all of the world. I do heartily recommend Horse to you if you haven't already read it.

CLM said...

I have read several books by Geraldine Brooks and I think Horse was the best by far. I am so glad you liked Horse, although I agree it is not an easy, read necessarily.
You would probably enjoy March, Cath, which is an imagining of Louisa May Alcott's father. It is shorter than her other books!

I do think the best part of a greenhouse is keeping the critters away! I like those little grape tomatoes but the only time I tried to grow them the animals ate them instead.

I now have a family of chipmunks living in my back yard and they are making holes everywhere. Also rabbits eat my tulips, and an occasional possum, raccoon, skunk, and coyote are seen. It feels weird to be living in a city with wildlife so close but people say these animals got hungry and bold during the pandemic. If I happen to be walking my brother's dog after dark, I stay very alert in case we run into a coyote and need to run. Chloe would probably be curious and think it was another dog but someone's dog got snatched off its leash in a town nearby the other day.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Hi Cath, an interesting month of reading and, happy belated birthday. I know that number very well:)

TracyK said...

I enjoyed your thoughts on Horse. After reading Constance's review I wanted to see what you thought of it, and I am glad to see that you liked it too. I like multiple timelines, although I can tell that there would be parts that will be difficult for me to read.

Your reading month sounds good, I will have to look into La Vie by John Sempel-Lewis. I did like Killers of a Certain Age a lot, exactly my kind of thriller.

I was surprised to have missed your post when it came out, but Sunday was an especially bad day for me, I was very fatigued and had some symptoms similar to when I had a stomach ulcer a few years ago, so Glen took me to the Emergency Room. We were only there a few hours, and I am better now, but still very tired, so not doing much.

Cath said...

Constance: I thought I'd read a couple of other books by Brooks but now I think it's only one, People of the Book. I thought I'd read the plague one but now I realise I haven't. No, Horse is not an easy read in many respects but it's the sort of thing I like 'when' I can find it. Literary fiction and I don't always get along.

I think we have less critters in the UK than you do in the US. Our problem is slugs and snails and, if you leave your greens (sprouts, broccoli) exposed rather than netted, 'pigeons'. At the moment it's very dry here so although the slugs are not out in force it means more watering. You can't win...

Yes, reading your list of critters I can see that you have a lot more than us. Country gardens will suffer with rabbits and even deer sometimes but there is not a list of them like you have. The idea of having to run from coyote feels somewhat alarming!

Cath said...

Diane: Thank you! Yes, the big seven-O, bit scary really.

Cath said...

Tracy: Horse was just excellent. Geraldine Brooks writes incredibly well and even though I'm not a huge multiple timeline fan, this worked fine for me. I really liked two of them, the third not so much but it was ok.

La Vie was such a beautiful book that I'm sure I'll read it again. Killers of a Certain Age was completely bonkers but great fun.

I'm really sorry you had to spend time in the emergency room. I've had that happen a couple of times too (chest pains but they couldn't find anything wrong) and it's unnerving and not something you want to do! I'm so glad you're now ok, but take care and have some quiet days. I'm sure you have plenty of books! :-)