Thursday 20 June 2024

Time for a catch-up

How on earth can it be mid-June already? I feel like the year is flying by and before you know it we'll be into autumn, especially as it's the longest day tomorrow. Summer's not my favourite time of year, I hate too much heat, and so far this year we've been lucky and Spring into Summer has been really nice with temps. in the high 60s, low 70s. That suits me very nicely.

Apologies for being AWOL for a few weeks. I've not been reading as much as usual, fueled by a strange inability to settle to anything. I'm assuming this is quite normal after a serious loss but I'm getting there, albeit slowly, and actually have some books to talk about today.

So, I started June with The Bordeaux Book Club by Gillian Harvey. 

There's an awful lot of bookclub themed contemporary fiction around these days, this one being slightly different with its setting of Bordeaux in France. As usual, a motley group come together to discuss books. Grace is the instigator of the group, she's an older, single lady with a finger in a lot of pies. She ropes in her friend, Leah, who lives on a small holding with her husband and daughter and is finding out the hard way that The Good Life is not all it's cracked up to be. Add to them Monica, a young mum, husband away a lot and struggling with a new baby, George, a builder, and Alfie, very young and clearly harboring a secret and you have a new bookclub for Brits in Bordeaux. This was a bit formulaic, the usual problems to be solved with everyone coming together to help, or not. I enjoyed it a lot but didn't feel the setting of Bordeaux came very much alive, it could've been anywhere but it was a very decent 'people' sort of read. 


I've been reading The Wild Isles: An Anthology of the Best of British and Irish Nature Writing, edited by Patrick Barkham for a couple of months and finished it last week. It was a bit hit and miss for me. There were dozens of authors (it's a huge book) such as Dorothy Wordsworth, Kathleen Jamie, Roger Deakin, Nan Shepherd, Horatio Clare, Kenneth Grahame and so on. Some pieces were excellent but quite a few were just a bit tedious. I see from reviews on Goodreads that I'm not alone in this opinion. 

A Charmed Life by David Essex is pretty much what it says on the tin - an account of the singer and actor's rather charmed life in showbiz. Fascinating, I enjoyed it a lot but it's not a kiss and tell sort of account, he's clearly a really nice chap.

What Would Jane Austen Do? by Linda Corbett was next.

Maddy Shaw has her column in a magazine cancelled and is jobless until she discovers a 'black sheep' uncle has left her a huge house in the Cotswolds (which, as we all know, often happens.) Off she goes to live in it for a year as the will stipulated, but will she then sell up? The locals welcome her to the point where she suddenly finds herself in charge of the village literary festival. She's also met a local crime writer, Cameron Massey, nice dog but very grumpy owner. Can she persuade him to come and give a talk at the event? This was fun. I mean the outcome was never in question but I liked Maddy's Jane Austen obsession and the grumpy author with a bit of a superiority complex was well written. As was the village and the locals who lived there. A fun read.



I seem to be in mood for fluff because I then moved on to a couple of novellas by Cressida McLaughlin, set on a canal boat, the canal itself being next to a small village and pub etc. All Aboard is book1.

Summer Freeman, an artist specialisng in sign writing, is returning to her mother's canal boat cafĂ© nine months after she died. A friend has been keeping it going but it's struggling. Summer takes it over but it's hard with so many memories closing in on her and antipathy from the local owner of the pub. Eventually her bacon butties and delicious brownies win people over and a growing friendship with another boat owner, Mason, a wildlife photographer, doesn't do any harm. This had a lovely sense of the British countryside about it, the canal and surrounds feeling very real. Summer's indecisiveness and inability to put her foot down with certain people slightly annoyed me, more than slightly, but I liked the dogs and the birds and it was charming enough for me go straight on to book 2, Casting Off, which I've already finished but can't say anything about as it would involve spoiling the end of Book 1. 


So, my current read is this:

Death in the Sunshine by Steph Broadribb is set in Florida in a retirement complex. Moira is an ex-police inspector from the UK who discovers a body in a swimming pool. She gets together with several other retired folk to solve a murder that the police don't seem very interested in. Very good so far. 

Next month is Jane Austen July and I'm planning to try to get a few Austen related titles under my belt. I've never read Sense and Sensibility so would like to get to that and then I have a whole heap of other possibilities as I do enjoy anything related to Jane Austen and her writing.

So that's my June reading so far. I hope you're all keeping well and enjoying some good books.  


Lark@LarkWrites said...

Glad you're hanging in there. It's hard to get back into a 'normal' rhythm after a loss like yours... because things aren't normal any more. And grief can be very unsettling. So take care of yourself! And I really like the sound of What Would Jane Austen Do. That's definitely my kind of book. :D

Kay said...

Cath, I agree with all that Lark said above. Good to hear how you're doing, but I think you're just in the 'one step at a time' phase. I also want you to take care of yourself and read whatever speaks to you. A Jane Austen month sounds fun. Sending you happy thoughts and big hugs.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I have a couple of contemporary fiction books in my immediate TBR pile and they always evoke a host of varied emotions when I read them, but I think that for me, it is perhaps an age thing! However 'The Bordeaux Book Club' is definitely heading for my list - I am intrigued!

'Cozy' mysteries have to be not too fluffy for me to enjoy them, but I am prepared to give 'The Retired Detectives Club' a try, as the series sounds quite good, although like yourself, I am going to start back at the beginning with book #1, so that I can get a feel for the characters. I hope this one continues to give you good vibes.

Have you managed to keep your large garden ticking over this year? Like yourself I am not a fan of the summer heat, so our more modest patch doesn't get too much attention at this time of year :)

Take Care and do whatever makes you feel at peace :)

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Cath glad to hear that you are getting back into reading and there is no rush. You need to go at your own pace and I always look forward to your reviews.

As you say, there are alot of books out there set in bookstores or involving book clubs. And one would think that those of us who love books would love books about books but that depends. There is no substitute for character and plot and if a novel doesn't have that, setting it in a bookstore is not going to make much difference

Margot Kinberg said...

You've got some interesting books there, Cath, and I like the variety, and there are a few in there that have me interested. Funnily enough, I'm currently finishing a crime novel having to do with Jane Austen - timing! At any rate, It's lovely to see you here again, but there's no rush. Post as and when and do things as you want to.

Judith said...

Hi Cath,
I'm so glad to see and read your post!
And I think it's so great that you're reading. Lots of times after the deaths of loved ones, I've found myself unable to read for a time, but when I picked up reading again, it was so helpful.
I'm going to respond again after I've digested your post!
Just so, so very good to hear from you!
My very best wishes to you.
And, if you've read my blog, we've been suffocating in a "heat dome" heat wave. I AM A WINTER ANIMAL! Yes, just to be crazy,yes, I DO love winter temperatures. I never complain about winter, which is very, very harsh here, but I thrive on it.
So, Cath, I wish you MODERATE summer temperatures, and if it gets too hot, you have the perfect excuse to RETIRE to your books. Keep them stacked by your side, now, and please do tell us all about them!
So happy to read all you have to say!
Best wishes,

TracyK said...

It is good to hear from you. Your recent reading sounds good.

I have noticed that there are lots of library and book club related books nowadays and it makes me cautious to try them. I usually wait to see if they are recommended by someone I know. On the other hand, even when those books don't live up to my expectations, they often have interesting parts about books, so not a total loss.

I think I would like Death in the Sunshine and the rest of the series and the kindle is in my price range. I plan to get a copy but I will wait and see if you like it after you have finished it. Jane Austen July sounds interesting and I look forward to hearing what you read.

I had cataract surgery this week (Tuesday morning) and everything is going well with the first surgery. So far it has not impacted my reading; I am very surprised. Although my eyes seem to change through out the day, which is disconcerting. I will have the operation on the second eye next week.

Take care of yourself. I will be thinking of you.

Harvee said...

I like the idea of a Canal Boat as a setting for a light novel.

Cath said...

Lark: You're so right that things are not normal any more... so I'm having to create a new normal and it's not easy to establish new routines. I think you would enjoy What Would Jane Austen Do? I was surprised at how much I liked it. Nice setting too.

Cath said...

Kay: Thank you for your wise and kind words. One thing I have to learn is how to cut myself a bit of slack rather then be too tough on myself when I'm struggling. Thanks for your happy thoughts and hugs. Much appreciated.

Cath said...

Yvonne: Yes, contemporary romantic fiction does affect me in different ways too. Depends on the book, some of it is ridiculous but some of it, when it's well written, is quite enjoyable.

You'll be pleased to hear that Death in the Sunshine is not too cosy at all and is very well written. So that saved it for me. Florida settings are not my favourite though, if I'm reading a book set in the US I prefer New England or somewhere like Oregon or the Rocky Mountains - I'm not a huge Florida fan.

I haven't done much gardening, no. I have a gardener who keeps the grass cut and the borders tidy but I have not grown any veg this year apart from some tomatos in the greenhouse.

Thank you, I will.

Cath said...

Kathy: No there isn't any rush and I need to keep reminding myself of that.

You're right about the trend for books set in book shops now. It feels like publishers are telling writers to do that in order to get their books sold, that readers will read anything set in a book shop regardless of the quality. I'm very suspicious to be honest.

Cath said...

Margot: Oh yes, there's a few crime based Jane Austen themed books, in fact there's a new one due out very soon, or just out. Perhaps that's the one you've read, sadly I can't remember the title now. And thanks for your kind words.

Cath said...

Judith: Thank you. Like you, I couldn't read anything for a week, maybe two, and then I tried and found it was such a boon to lose myself in another world which was different to the one I suddenly found forced upon me. And I've kept on reading ever since.

No, I didn't see that you're suffering a heat-dome though some friends in Pittsburgh mentioned a bad heatwave, I assume it's the same thing. Horrible for you, I really don't like summer and ours are far cooler than yours. It's 65f here today and absolutely lovely, though it's meant to get warmer next week. I'm wishing autumn here already and we still have two summer months to go!

I hope you're keeping well?

Cath said...

Tracy: Thank you.

Yes, you're right to be cautious about all the bookish lit that's suddenly available. I think publishers are urging writers to set their books in book shops in order to increase sales. It feel like us readers are being taken advantage of somehow.

I've finished Death in the Sunshine and liked it quite a lot. I'll try to get a review done soon.

Well done on the cataract surgery. I think my eyes need doing too so I must get along to the opticians to get them checked out. Was the procedure very uncomfortable?

Cath said...

Harvee: The canal books are very light but I must admit I've enjoyed the two I've read quite a lot.

TracyK said...

Re the cataract surgery: The cataract surgery was like a very short light show, once they get you all set up, which seemed to take forever. I really like my ophthalmologist, so that helps. I did not experience any pain except in my hand where the intravenous anesthesia was injected. I had minor pain in the eye that was operated on for the rest of the day after surgery, but Tylenol took care of that. And my vision in that eye was blurry. But by that night I could read with reading glasses. Using the computer for blogging and such has been my major challenge, since both eyes are different until I get the second surgery.

This morning I purchased a copy of Death in the Sunshine. And also What Would Jane Austen Do?

Cath said...

Tracy: Thanks so much for taking the time to tell me about the procedure and reassure me. It's something I feel very uneasy about having done but I've heard that most people find the improvement in sight afterwards is really good. Hope all goes well with your second eye.

And I hope you enjoy the two books!

CLM said...

All these books sound enjoyable and what's wrong with fluff? Especially in the summer when one is meant to be reading outside if not at the beach. I really prefer to be inside with my tea and a snack. Speaking of which, when did brownies become popular in the UK? I am sure I have told you my story about Patrick Stewart eating my brownies and saying he'd never had one before (of course, I got this second hand) and that was in the 90s.

Cath said...

Hi Constance. Absolutely nothing wrong with fluff, I've enjoyed all of it particularly the two canal novellas! I'm an inside reader too, have never really got on with reading outdoors.

Oh, now that's a good question about brownies. My wild guess would be about 20 years, maybe 25. No, you've not told me your Patrick Stewart story! Did you meet him? Surprised he had not had brownies considering all the time he spent in the US filming Star Trek: TNG.

Judith said...

Hi Cath,
I'm with you TOTALLY about Summer not being my favorite time of year either. I try so hard to find things to like about it. I love the greenery, the wildflowers, the birds, but it is simply much too warm, or too HOT and Humid for me. I do hope you won't be overwhelmed by HEAT this year.
Now that I've written that, I guess I'll have to finish this note off, because without going back into your post, I can't comment on your reading...
Oh, dear!
I'll be back soon!

Cath said...

Judith: So far we've been lucky with the heat. It's been warm this past few days but only up to the high 70s, a bit humid too, but today we're back down to the mid 60s and it's breezy and very pleasant. It might be a different story in July so we'll see! For me, May is the nicest month of the year, followed by September and October. I barely tolerate July and August. I hope it's a bit better there now?

Judith said...

Hi Cath,
Oh, yes, we've had some lovely, MUCH cooler weather this week, and today was absolutely glorious! Cool, very low humidity--I took Sandy for a long hike, worked a couple of hours, and then hiked solo for another hour. The birds were rejoicing. Today was a day to remember.
I'm hoping to post about my reading this weekend.
Wishing you the very best!