Thursday 23 May 2024

I have been reading...

 Again, I meant to post a bit sooner than this but I'm still not quite back in the swing of things and suspect that might continue for some time. The oddness of it all is very hard to shake. I have been reading though and thought I would a do brief rundown of the books I've been reading this month.

I finished this BLCC collection, Guilty Creatures, edited of course by Martin Edwards. The theme in this one is 'animals', each story has a connection to wildlife or pets. So we have a chap with a fear of earthworms, a yarn about nobbling racehorses, there're gorillas, parakeets, slugs, all life is here. Authors include G.K. Chesterton, Christiana Brand, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Josephine Bell, Edgar Wallace and so on. Overall, I thought this was a better than average collection, only a few failed to please and the rest were top notch. I didn't jot down my usual notes so I can't name any favourites, other than remembering that the Father Brown was good and so was the Christiana Brand. And what a glorious cover!

The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White is a novel published in 1936, and subsequently made into a Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes. I'd seen that years ago, so the plot was slightly familiar, but I couldn't remember the outcome, so it was fine. Socialite, Iris Carr, is travelling back by train from a holiday somewhere mountainous (they don't say exactly where but I think northern Italy) in Europe. An English governess, Miss Froy, takes her under her wing, but the next day the woman has disappeared and no one in the carriage can remember her being there. Is Iris suffering the results of sunstroke  or is there a conspiracy of silence. Excellent read this one, a little too heavy on the surreal, 'am I going crazy?' aspect but nevertheless, a real pageturner and not a little creepy, to my mind anyway.


The Man by the Sea by Jack Benton is book one in his 'Slim Harding' series. Slim is a private detective, ex-army and an alcoholic. He's hired by a woman who thinks her husband is having an affair. Slim duly sets about following the husband only to discover that what he's actually doing is driving to an isolated cove and reading something aloud to the incoming tide. Slim thinks the man might be mad. Delving a bit deeper, the case ends up being connected to a woman who went missing just before her wedding. Is she dead and haunting this part of the wild Lake District coast? And what does she have to do with a man reading to the waves? I liked this a lot despite not being all that enamoured of the detective, Slim Hardy. As is the nature of the beast, his alcoholism rules and that was hard for me to identify with. That said, the story has a huge sense of place and is really atmospheric. I also found the plot intriguing enough to carry me through the book without any wish to abandon it. I will probably, at some stage, continue on with the series.

So, my most recent book, I finished it yesterday, is Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge. Lady Grace Kilmichael  is leaving her husband and grown-up children behind and going off on a European trip. Only they don't know. She thinks her husband might be having an affair and the children are not really interested in her nowadays. She does leave a letter to her husband however, telling him she's off to Greece to paint as Grace has recently become quite a well-known artist. She doesn't go to Greece. She starts in Paris and then on to Venice where she comes across Nicholas, aged 23, half Grace's age, who wants to be a painter but whose parents won't hear of it, they want him to be an architect. She takes him on to mentor him, and the pair travel together along the Dalmatian (present day Croatia) coast, not just painting but learning a lot about life from each other. So this sounds like a fairly simple plot and indeed it is. If I'm honest the whole thing is more of a travelogue and homage to the Dalmation coast and, in fact, I read that the impact of this book when it was first published in 1935 was to up tourism in the area and even Edward and Mrs. Simpson took a cruise down the coast to see what all the fuss was about. Fascinating. 'And' I have no problem understanding it because that was exactly what the book made me want to do... pack my bags and set off! It has quite an introspective sort of narrative and this might not be everyone's cup of tea. I was reminded of Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott, or Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim, they too have older ladies looking for a break from humdrum life or difficult relatives and trying to find a way to make life work for them now they're older. It's not often I finish a book and find myself wanting to go back to the beginning and start again but I did with this. A five star read and certainly a book that will be in my top ten for this year.

So, that's me, up to date. I hope you're all well and finding lots of good book to read this spring.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

A bit of catching up

 It's several weeks since I posted, I did mean to post again sooner but, as I'm sure you'll understand, with the loss of my husband and the funeral last week, I felt like I was existing in a strange kind of limboland. The funeral, I felt, went well and was a nice celebration of his life. We cried but also laughed, and I did enjoy catching up with family and friends afterwards. What was also nice is that these days funerals can be live-streamed so those who couldn't make it were able to attend that way. Technology has its faults but there are occasions when it's a wonderful thing.

This won't be a very long post as I'm doing it on my Kindle Fire. My computer decided it didn't want to speak to my monitor any more and it seems it's the pc not the monitor and my family computer boffins say there's no easy fix (one could but hope). I now have to decide what to do and as I can prevaricate for England I've warned folk not to hold their breath...

So, books. I read seven in April.

26. Silent Creed by Alex Kava. Book two of her Ryder Creed series. It was 'excellent ' but the theme of secret laboratories doing uncontrolled experiments I found quite alarming.

27. Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley. This was a superb biography on the world's most famous crime writer. A lot of interesting comments and reflections from the author. Highly recommend!

28. Murder in Tuscany by T.A. Williams. Murder at a writing retreat for erotic fiction writers, the narrator did not know it was such before he arrived. Huge fun and I loved the dog.

29. How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry. Father who has been running a bookshop in The Cotswolds dies and his daughter comes home to take it on and save it. Nice cast of characters. I enjoyed this light read.

30. The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius, translated by Peter Graves (hopefully not a Mission Impossible!) YA fantasy type yarn about a gorilla, Sally Jones, who is a ship's engineer. When the captain is accused of murder and locked up, she sets about trying to prove he didn't do it.  A bit overlong I thought but nonetheless a decent, unusual read. 

31. Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford. I think this is another one that Lark is responsible for. LOL! Fascinating look at the lives of American NP rangers and what they have to deal with on a regular basis. Sobering.

32. No Life for a Lady by Hannah Dolby. Hugely fun yarn about Violet, a young woman whose mother disappeared ten years ago and how she sets out to hire a private detective to find her. Great fun and I've already preordered book two which I think is out in early June.

So that was my reading month. A good lot of escapism, gentle reads and interesting non-fiction. Since then I've DNFed one book, a BLCC vintage crime story, The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell, because it was thoroughly unpleasant. I'm now reading these three:

All interesting and entertaining, which is all I'm asking of a book at the moment. I hope you're all keeping well and finding lots of good books to read this Spring.