Tuesday 17 October 2023

Top Ten Tuesday

I don't usually do Top Ten Tuesday but I saw on Lark's blog that the theme this week is: 

Books With Weather Events in the Title... or on the Cover  

Being a true Brit the weather is something of a major preoccupation so I had to do it this week, didn't I?


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.


I'll link some of the books to my reviews if I've read the book and can actually find the review. (Some were read before I started this blog.)

1. First up, a classic that needs no introduction: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Lots of weather in this one including one of my favourite ever scenes in literature with Mole lost in the Wild Wood in a blizzard.

 2. The next book is weather on the cover, The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. To my mind one of the best books ever written about deadly winter weather. 

3. Ill Wind by Nevada Barr is one of her excellent Anna Pigeon books, this one is set in the Mesa Verde NP in Colorado.

4. Next up, an anthology I'm planning to read in December that I have on my TBR shelf: Sunless Solstice: Strange Christmas Tales for the Longest Nights edited by Lucy Evans and Tanya Kirk. Quite excited about this one.


5. The Sunny Side of the Alps by Roy Clarke is a lovely non-fiction book about the author's stay in the beautiful country of Slovenia.

6. Another beautiful 'weather' cover is this edition of High Rising by Angela Thirkell.


7. Four Cheeks to the Wind by Mary Bryant is an excellent account of the author and her husband's attempt to cycle around the world.

8. Richmal Crompton didn't just write the 'Just William' books she also wrote a lot of books for adults, one of them being Frost at Morning, which I read just before I started this blog in 2007. It's a WW2 novel exploring how the war affected children. A sad but beautiful book.

9. A non-fiction book I own but haven't read yet is Weatherland by Alexandra Harris. This sports a wonderful summery, cloudy sort of cover. It looks fascinating so I'll put in on my pile for 2024.

10. And lastly, here's a book I don't own, haven't read, but want to. The Storm by Daniel Defoe. Just look at that cover!

 Well, that was fun! I should do Top Ten Tuesday more often!

Saturday 14 October 2023

Three short reviews

Several books behind with reviewing, as is often the case, so without further ado, a few short reviews.

First, The Lost Bookshop by Evie Woods... my 13th. book for Susan's Bookish Books reading challenge.

So this is a dual timeline story told from three different points of view. There is Opaline who lives in the 1920s, a bright, educated young woman but at the mercy of her older brother who wants her to marry money to get him out of financial difficulties. Desperate, she flees to Paris where she gets a job in the famous bookshop, Shakespeare and co. Fast forward to the present day and Martha who lives in the Irish countryside, is also fleeing, this time from an abusive husband. She lands up in Dublin and lands a job as a sort of house-keeper to an elderly lady, Ms. Bowden. There she meets Henry, who is researching what he thinks is the missing manuscript of an unknown book that Emily Bronte may have written after Wuthering Heights. He's convinced that the empty space next to Ms. Bowden's house is the site of a mysterious 'lost' bookshop that only appears sporadically. The various stories of these three people intertwine as we find out more about what happened to them. I'm not a massive fan of dual timelines but these days they seem to be more and more prevalent so needs must and this one worked nicely for me, so I have no complaints. Both timelines kept my interest and it was fascinating to try and guess where the connections were. There's romance in this, 'lots' of bookish talk, a bit of magical realism which I like but I know not everyone cares for, and also a good dose of reality... the author puts her characters through it a bit, particularly Opaline. I enjoyed the book very much indeed, gave it 5 stars on Goodreads, and will look for more by the author.

Next, a non-fiction book, Outlandish by Nick Hunt.

So the author of this book, Nick Hunt, starts to wonder about landscape anomalies in Europe. Why is there a large patch of Arctic tundra in Scotland? Primeval forest in Poland and Belarus? Europe only has one true desert, The Tabernas in Spain, what's it like? And the steppes of Hungary, how do people live there? And how are all these landscapes affected by the huge changes brought about by us humans? He goes off to investigate so the book is split into four sections charting the various experiences he has. First of all I have to say that Hunt's writing is sublime. He transports you to landscapes so diverse from each other but has no trouble making you feel like you're actually there with him. Beautiful descriptions of his surroundings, fascinating stuff about the history of the countries he's in, geological facts, current events, the people he meets, it was a perfect book for me as I do love an author who meanders around all kinds of subjects and points of view. I had favourite sections: the tundra in Scotland and the forest in Poland. Not so interested in the Spanish desert, but it's all stayed with me nevertheless and I'm very keen to read more by Nick Hunt. He's written a book following in the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor - Walking the Woods and the Water - which is already on my Kindle waiting for me. Another 5 star read. 

Lastly my October book for the Read Around the USA challenge, To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, set in Alaska.

So, this was unusual in that it was a fiction book that, because it was written in the form of diaries and letters with occasional photos, felt like a non-fiction read. Colonel Allen Forrester is tasked with leading an expedition to the Wolverine river in Alaska with the idea of it being opened up to the wider world. With him goes his new wife, Sophie. She's an explorer at heart too but being a woman it's far more difficult to achieve and at the last minute she's unable to leave Vancouver and he goes without her. He is accompanied by a team of course, but truly has no idea of the hardships ahead and how much the indigenous peoples will affect his journey or test his beliefs in the real world. Sophie meanwhile, is also tested. I won't go into how as it involves spoilers but it is all rather painful: luckily she discovers a new interest which saves her. Another superb read... as I said, very much a fictional story in the manner of a non-fiction travelogue. There's disaster after disaster in the wilds of Alaska, but amazing descriptions of the wilderness landscape, the almost insurmountable difficulties of travelling over it and encounters with the native tribes. There is magical realism in this one again, involving the beliefs of the tribes, I liked that but some might not. Another really excellent read. 

So my current read is this: 

Inspired by the Polish and Hungarian section in Outlandish, my interest in Eastern Europe returned so I found Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker on my Kindle. It recounts the author's time spent living in the Maramures region of northern Romania, an area where, at the time, the lifestyle was centuries old... very rural, of the forests and mountains, many old traditions alive and well, fascinating people. It's a wonderful book. 

Fictionwise, I've no idea what I want to read next, possibly something Victorian for the Booktube event, 'Victober'. 

I hope you're all keeping well and enjoying some good books this autumn (or spring if you're in another hemisphere.)

Sunday 1 October 2023

Books read in September

It seemed to me that September had no sooner arrived than it was gone. I'm sure time is speeding up! And now it really is autumn with leaves dropping and gales coming in from The Atlantic. Love it.

So, books read in September, by me, numbered 7. (Feel free to say that as Len Goodman would have. :-) )

75. Remarkably Bright Creatures - Shelby Van Pelt

76. Everyone in my Family Has Killed Someone - Benjamin Stevenson

77. Legends and Lattes - Travis Baldree 

78. The United States of Adventure - Anna McNuff. (This has an alternate title of 50 Shades of the USA.) I read this for the Read Around the USA challenge I'm doing, this category was 'a book that covers multiple states'. The author, a British cyclist, decides to cycle every state of the USA, taking 6 months to do it. Some states she really just passed into and out of an hour later but others she spent time in properly. I enjoyed this a lot especially reading about the people she met who were so kind to her. But my gosh, what an endeavour! Amazing. 

79. The Belial Stone - R.D. Brady. This was a Dan Brown type mix of adventure, archaeology, paranormal thriller - all life was there. There's an ancient source of power that needs to be found before someone or some'thing' gets hold of it and destroys the world. Enjoyable romp, first book in a series that's already 14 books long. I have book 2 as it's about a hidden library in Ecuador, but how much further I'll go after that I'm not sure.

80. The Mystery of 31 New Inn - R. Austin Freeman.

This is a London based novella published in 1912. R. Austin Freeman wrote a load of books and short stories featuring his detective Dr. Thorndyke, and this one of those. A friend of Thorndyke's, Dr. Jervis, takes a position standing in for another doctor while he's on holiday. He's called out in the middle of the night but the situation is very mysterious as he's not allowed to see where it is he's being taken in the enclosed coach. When he gets there the patient is clearly either suffering from sleeping sickness or an overdose of morphine and the two people whose care he's in are very odd indeed. Something is clearly not right and Jervis needs Thorndyke to help him solve the mystery. I always like the style in which these early 20th. century crime yarns are written, they're always well written with a nice sense of the macabre. The two drs. are very much in the vein of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with one of them knowing everything and the other not so much. I enjoyed this but thought it was more of a short story padded out than a book in its own right. Not bad though and I'll read more when I come across them.

81. The Night Hawks - Elly Griffiths.

So, this is book 13 in the author's well known Ruth Galloway series. Ruth is now head of archaeology at the fictitious University of North Norfolk after a brief foray in Cambridge. Metal detectorists who don't abide by the rules are known as Night Hawks, although the group who find a dead body on a beach are not in fact of that ilk, their leader has just called the group that. Alongside the dead body is found a bronze-age burial so Ruth is called in. Meanwhile Nelson is called to a lonely farmhouse where a murder/suicide of a man and his wife have taken place. Eventually, of course, the two cases collide in the middle. So, I loved this as I do every Ruth Galloway book but had the sense that Griffiths was coming to the end of her interest in the series and indeed she has said that book 15 is the last but possibly not forever. I find each instalment strangely addictive, once I start reading I simply can't stop and I think quite a lot of people are the same. Ruth's thoughts have always brought a lot of humour to the books but this time I found that humour to be not quite there. I still enjoyed the ongoing saga of her personal life with Nelson and the cast of extra characters, all different, all with their complicated lives... Cathbad the druid is a favourite and has been since the start. I shall miss Ruth when I have no more books in the series to read. 

So that was my month of September in books. Standouts were Remarkably Bright Creatures, Legends and Lattes, The United States of Adventure and The Night Hawks. I consider it to be a pretty good reading month when you have four really good books out of seven and the rest weren't actually terrible either.

At the moment I'm struggling to decide on another fiction book after setting aside two after 30 or so pages. I am reading this non-fiction though:

Outlandish by Nick Hunt is split into four sections all dealing with various wilderness areas that are sort of in the wrong place, Arctic tundra in Scotland, primeval forest in Poland, the only European desert in Spain and grassland steppes in Hungary. The writing in this is sublime and I'm absolutely 'loving' it. Will look for more books by him when I've finished this.

Happy October! I hope your families are doing better than mine healthwise, it seems to be one thing after another for us. Thank goodness for good books. I hope you all have an excellent reading month.