Orange is not the only Penguin (book) - charl08 reads #8
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Books read in 2017 - 116
Last three month's reading: (ish)
Milk and Honey (F, Canada, poetry)
Husband by the Hour (F, US, fiction)
When he was Wicked (F, US, fiction)
Shot gun Grooms (ditto)
Married on Demand (ditto)
East West Street (M, UK, history)
The Hawkshead Hostage (F, UK, fiction)
A Rising Man ( M, UK, fiction)
Father in Training (F, US? fiction)
Crimson Lake (F, Australia, fiction)
The Masuda Affair (F, Germany, fiction)
The Long Dry (M, UK, fiction)
The Patriots (F, Ukraine, novel)
Out of this World (F, UK, novel)
As good as New (F, US, novel)
Spandex and the City (F, UK, novel)
Shenzhen: A travelogue (M, Canada, graphic memoir)
Maigret at Picratt's (M, Belgium, novel)
Flesh and Bone and Water (F, Brazil, novel)
Fever Dream (F, Argentina, novel)
Blanche and Marie (M, Sweden, novel)
The Way to a Duke's Heart (F, US, novel)
Barbara the Slut (F, US, short stories)
Truevine (F, US, history/ biography)
For Your Arms Only (F, US, fiction)
Our Holocaust (M, Israel, fiction)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (M, US, novel)
The Unaccompanied (M, UK, poetry)
Rogue's Downfall (F, US, fiction)
Victorians Undone (F, UK, non-fiction, history)
Out of Bounds (F, UK, fiction)
The Best We Could Do (F, US, graphic memoir)
Anything is Possible (F, US, fiction)
Hostage (M, Canada, Graphic Biography)
Blame it on Bath (F, UK, novel)
Swell: a waterbiography (F, UK, memoir/ history)
Unexploded (F, Canada, novel)
The Good People (F, Australia, novel)
The Brittle Star (F, UK, novel)
In a Lonely Place (F, US, novel)
The Little Shop of Happy Ever After (F, UK, novel)
First Love (F, UK, novel)
Dancing the Death Drill (M, South Africa, novel)
On a Chinese Screen (M, UK, short stories)
Cheese (M, Netherlands, fiction)
Date at the Altar (F, US, fiction)
Roads to Berlin (M, Netherlands, travel/ memoir)
Waterlog (M, UK, travel/sport)
Sister Noon (F, US, novel)
Spaceman of Bohemia (M, Czech Republic, novel)
One Hundred Nights of Hero (F, UK, graphic novel)
On Friday the Rabbi Slept In (M, US, novel)
Penguin Modern Poets Three (Multiple authors, poetry)
The Idiot (F, US, fiction)
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry (M, US, fiction)
Sunday the Rabbi stayed Home (as above)
The Serpent Prince (F, US, fiction)
Becoming Unbecoming (F, UK, graphic memoir)
A Gentleman in Moscow (M, US, novel)
The Murderess (M, Greece, novel)
All for Nothing (M, Germany, novel)
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (F, UK, GN/history)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane (M, UK, fantasy)
Blood Curse (M, Italy, crime)
A Chinese Life (M, China, GN)
The Warmth of Other Suns (F, US, history)
In the Name of the Family (F, UK, fiction)
A Cast of Vultures (F, UK, fiction)
Kafka in Bronteland (F, UK, short stories)
US & Canada 1 Europe 5 (UK 4 ) Australia 1
Library 11 Mine 1
Fiction 10 Poetry 1 Non-Fiction 1
F15 M 7
Europe 8 (UK 5) US & Canada 11 Latin America 2 Middle East 1
Library 17 Netgalley 2 Mine 3
Fiction 17 Non-fiction 4 Poetry 1
F13 M9 (+1 multiple authors)
Europe 11 (UK 8) US & Canada 9 Australia 1 South Africa 1 (+1 multiple authors)
Fiction 19 Non-Fiction 3 Poetry 1
Library 10 Netgalley 3 Mine 10
F 6 M 6
Europe 9 (UK 6) US 2 China 1
Fiction 8 Non-Fiction 2 Graphic Novel 2
Mine 3 Library 8 Digital 1 Netgalley 1
For Jan/Feb see http://www.librarything.com/topic/254233
1. Last year I read over 300 books: I'd like to do the same this year.
2. Read Harder Challenge (Bookriot) 13 down...
Read a book about sports.
Read a book about books.
Read a book you’ve read before.
Read a nonfiction book about technology.
Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
Read a classic by an author of color.
Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel
Read a book published by a micropress.
Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
I've not done too well with the swimming or the African fiction reading lately- maybe in June?
The garden's doing ok though
Another poppy flowered yesterday morning
Beans waiting to be planted out in the allotment
300 books is a lot, Charlotte!
I appreciate the Guardian reviews. I've added a couple of books to the Wishlist.
Your flowers are lovely. There's nothing quite like seeing them grow and bloom, is there? So much pleasure for the grower.
Have a great, book-filled week.
A sax-playing penguin? That's not something we see every day! Your garden is looking lovely as well.
>5 bohemima: I'd like to read more than that, but I'm thinking I probably won't manage it this year. Hey ho!
>6 DianaNL: Thanks Diana.
>7 msf59: Mum picked it up whilst I was out for coffee, so I think I better get in and finish it before she nobbles my copy, Mark!
>8 katiekrug: Thanks Katie. Looking forward to hearing about more NY Adventures. Did The Wayne join the central library? I'd love to go there. It looks like they have so much on.
>9 Ameise1: Thanks Barbara. I never worked out why it was there, but it was fun to see.
>10 scaifea: Thanks Amber. How you get round so many threads I will never know! It is much appreciated.
>11 drneutron: Thanks Doc. Ditto re ^^.
>12 rosalita: A Swedish, sax playing penguin, no less! No idea why, mind. It was on a building we passed on a mini walking tour of the city.
>14 BLBera: Thanks Beth! It's fun to see what is coming up now. My neighbours gave me some lovely plants that have done pretty well, and I bought a few here and there, some of which have survived!
>15 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul. Hope you've had some relaxing time with a book this weekend.
>16 mdoris: Thanks Mary! I've been aphid hunting this afternoon. Squashing them is very satisfying.
Happy New Thread, Charlotte! Looks like the garden is doing well indeed. Are you finally warmed up?
For Your Arms Only (F, US, fiction)
Regency Romance, but I suspect this one would have historians getting the vapours and not in a good way. Was supposed to be a Bond theme but beyond the tedious spy thing (if romance writers had anything to do with it, there were more spies than soldiers in the Napoleonic period), this rather passed me by. Not this writer's finest hour.
Our Holocaust (M, Israel, fiction)
And in contrast! Gutfreund creates an estate in Israel populated by elderly Holocaust survivors, and two young children desperate to find out about the events they are not allowed to know, as they are too young.
We sat at their feet, an inner ring inside the circle of tea-drinkers, enjoying a wonderful childhood in the shadow of their terrors.This first section of the book would have made a powerful novel on its own, as the child's eye view of damaged survivors is absorbing. The author then takes the reader with his narrator as a grown man, obsessed with the evils of the shoah and seeking to document everyone's experiences in exhaustive detail. What makes these narratives bearable is the humour of these elderly people, living with each other and their memories.
When we went to Poland with Dad to see his stories made real (the imaginary pictures solidified, we could even take photographs), we discovered that we did not need the Holocaust stories as much as we wanted the stories of his childhood—the happy one, the forgotten one, in Bochnia before the war. Dad showed us places, houses, abandoned gaps of time. He gestured with his hands—this happened here, that happened there. The house he was born in. The soccer field across the street. The rooftop where he chased pigeons and almost fell off. The chestnut trees whose fruit he used to gather with his friend Penek Lamensdorf (1930–1942), intending—based on a personal scientific hypothesis—to manufacture sophisticated glue.
Thanks to Kerry who recommended this one.
I read the afterword half-way through, which is a bad habit, I know. In this case, it
Happy new thread, Charlotte :-)
Sorry For Your Arms Only didn't work (oh, I see what they did with that title, but only once I'd typed it out). It sounds like the sort of romance that might have been improved by the addition of, say, a pirate, but maybe that's just me.
Thanks Susan. I'm wondering if you have seen the Usborne pirate sticker book? You could add pirates to all books in need of additional arrr... On the plus side, the Linden book was free via the library digi-books, so there's that!
Happy new thread, Charlotte, it looks like your iris will open soon :-)
>25 FAMeulstee: Ooh, I hope so! So exciting...
I've been reading Benita's messages about the ALA this year. I'd love to visit New Orleans, where the conference is next year. Time for some fun dreaming looking at hotels and touristy things to do!
>28 charl08: Oh! Sorry! I must have mixed it up with another one on my kindle. It's a good one, I think. Made me laugh as well as being unbearably sad.
>24 charl08: Charlotte, I hadn't, but that is precisely the delightfully silly sort of thing I need today. I could become the Tower Hamlets libraries' Banksy, with stickers.
I hope all your people are OK after last night.
Love your "found penguin"- Im sure you could build a whole trip around a city exploring for images of penguins. It would make a great trip!!
>26 charl08: so you're going to the ALA, in NOLA?
I finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena I don't know what I thought, really. There were some things that I really liked about it, but didn't love it ... hmm.. .
>18 charl08: Yeh, for the irises. They are blooming in our garden, too.
You are not too far away from Manchester, aren't you? I hope you feel well. It's so awful what happend last night. My thoughts are with everybody.
Thanks Barbara. Rather too close to home, yes.
The Iris is just showing half purple now : hoping it opens fully soon!
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (M, US, novel)
This was mentioned by several members of LT as a favourite of theirs, and it was the first novel I've ever read about Chechnya. I was struck by how similar it was to some dystopian fiction I've read - people making desperate choices in the face of limited resources. Telling the story of characters affected by the two wars as Chechnya sought independence from Russia, but much more than that, going back to Stalin and the forced emigration of the Chechen community, and the migration from the Russian heartlands, creating a two tier population with ethnic Russians at the top. I wanted to love this novel - the characters, especially the two sisters - were compelling, but somehow it didn't quite work for me. I think the timeline - jumping between different dates - was part of the problem: I felt as though I would just get into one story and then I would be pulled into another one. So not for me - but it might be for you?
Read The Unaccompanied via the library digital system and now I want my own copy. I love Simon Armitage.
Nurse at a Bus Stop
The slow traffic takes a good long look.
Jilted bride of public transport,
alone in the shelter,
the fireproof bin and shatter-proof glass
scrawled with the cave art of cocks and hearts.
It’s late, Friday, the graveyard shift,
you’re ready to dab blood from a split lip,
to hold the hand of cancer till the line goes flat.
Cardigan, sensible shoes, the kids
with a neighbour, fob watch pinned
like a medal to your breast.
Winter sharpens the day.
The centuries crawl past,
none of them going your way.
Charlotte, I noticed you credited me with recommending that one, but it wasn't me - I have not read it yet, although I do have it in my stacks.
Your jazz penguin up top made me smile! Hoping that your Wednesday is full of fabulous!
>39 charl08: Yikes! I seem to be doing a lot of that lately... It was Joanne, from my tag list, anyway. Sorry folks!
Glad you liked the penguin. S/he made me smile too...
Hi Charlotte, how are you doing?
Must have been a hard week with the funeral Friday and then Manchester.... ((((hugs))))
Thanks Anita. A strange and upsetting week for sure.
I am now reading Victorians Undone, an intriguing retreat into the past. Having spent the first chapter on a phantom pregnancy in Victoria’s court, have moved on to Darwin's beard. I had no idea he had excema...
>41 charl08: We are going to a Historical Literary Festival at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire in July and the author of Victorians undone is giving one of the talks that we've booked.
Wimpole Hall! Ooh, we used to go there all the time when I was a kid (the grounds were free, a fact that no doubt influenced my parents, who did and do love a bargain). Hope you have a great time.
Thanks Beth. I felt I should like it more than I did, and just couldn't put my finger on quite what it was...
And with apologies to all those who couldn't care less about flowers : my iris finally opened! So beautiful.
Sorry Constellation didn't work for you, Charlotte. I was one of those who did love it.
>47 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. It only took two years...
>48 EBT1002: I'm glad it found a loyal readership Ellen. As wise people say, life would be boring if we all liked the same things.
I had a rather disappointing evening: went to return a top that has proved to be rather disappointing, quality-wise. Except all the shops were closed. So much for thursday late opening, which I thought was a Thing... Will have to try again at the weekend, possibly by bribing myself with the promise of a visit to a rather lovely independent bookshop. If they had a coffee shop attached, they'd be perfect.
One of my colleagues, who is organising refugee events with students and is an all round nice person, has turned out to be heading to Edinburgh for the weekend, so I have passed on this list
(With my own additions of the lovely Oxfam bookshops, of course)
Hoping to visit there myself this summer. Although I might post the books back to myself and avoid the back issues!
Handy list, Charlotte! I'll be in Edinburgh for a couple of days in July...
>50 katiekrug: Katie, hope you've got plenty of space in your luggage!
>46 charl08: Charlotte, lovely iris! It's the little, lovely things we need this week. Yesterday I was feeling so furious that I had to go and ask Former Office Roomie if he had any new pictures of the kids, just to cheer me up. He produced a lovely one of the baby trying to stuff both hands into her mouth, and one of his son looking down delightedly at his new shoes. "Velcro tabs?" I asked. "Oh yes," he said.
Thanks Susan. The garden is definitely on my list of little things. As are velcro shoes!
I have been looking at booklists in my lunch hour, as if I didn't have enough to buy. I am very tempted by Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre, and all the books the author lists on her list of five Scandi books - fortunately most of them don't seem to be available yet!
Probably more controversial than helpful case for the benefits of reading...
At high school, Lenin fell in love with Latin. His headteacher had high hopes that he might become a philologist and Latin scholar. History willed otherwise, but Lenin’s passion for Latin, and taste for the classics, never left him. He read Virgil, Ovid, Horace and Juvenal in the original, as well as Roman senatorial orations. He devoured Goethe during his two decades in exile, reading and rereading Faust many times.
It is rare for me to make it over to your thread and not find you already moved on to the next thread! Your garden looks fabulous! I have A Constellation of Vital Phenomena lurking on my TBR bookshelves so I am intrigued that you found that it wasn't that great a read for you. I will probably get around to reading it.... at some point.
>46 charl08: - Lovely!
Great garden pictures, Charlotte, especially the iris in bloom. Happy new thread.
My irises had a great spring, but they're done until autumn. Glad you still have all those blooms ahead of you.
Lovely pictures of the irises in your garden, love them.
>53 charl08: You've probably already heard Ian Rankin's opinion of Scandi crime writers, he says they're the Hollywood writers of crime. Summed it up by saying that Jo Nesbo's hero Harry Hole gets his throat cut so goes back to his hotel room and sews it up, whereas Rebus would have gone to the emergency department of the nearest hospital.
I'm reading the latest Harry Hole which is rather gruesome so tend to agree with him.
>54 lkernagh: Thanks Lori for the garden compliment. I think there are a lot of fans of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, so would be interested to hear what you make of it. If nothing else, I felt I learnt a lot about what it was like to live through the wars in Chechnya, which mostly seem to have passed me by. Marra includes a list of authors who have written non-fiction about the conflict, and I would like to read A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter In Chechnya, partly because I would like to read Anna Politkovskaya, and also Angel of Grozny which also passed me by, although I read her Afghanistan book.
>55 Familyhistorian: Thanks Meg. I have one more iris to come, and various others that show no sign of a bud, so I guess I will be waiting until next year to see what happens with them!
>56 RidgewayGirl: I'm so glad they flowered I would take it at any time at all! The garden seems to be an ongoing learning process, which I mostly like, although sometimes it gets a bit frustrating when things don't work and all the google searches for advice are full of contradictions.
>57 avatiakh: Thanks Kerry. I hadn't heard that about Rankin on scandicrime. Harry Hole has never appealed,I'm not sure why. I'm never sure what is covered by scandicrime as a term - not sure the Martin Beck books or the Indriðason ones,would fit into that criticism.
What I thought was interesting about the five books website was this list isn't crime - but then most of it hasn't been translated. So not that helpful!
It's finally raining here - hoping for a bit of a drop in the temperature. Last night was so stuffy it was unbearable, and the little girl next door was wailing away late last night and this morning. Hopefully with the temps being a bit cooler she will get some sleep.
I finished a book - Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes. I like her writing - she does a lot for the Guardian book pages. It's fairly relaxed and casual, but based on extensive archival research and knowledge of the literature and letters she refers to. Here she takes five potted biographies from body parts which came under focus in the Victorian period, to make a case about the way in which our image of Victorians as all buttoned down is a misunderstanding. The picks are wide ranging, from George Eliot's supposedly dairy-enlargened hand to the head of a small girl brutally murdered in a small town. Hughes uses these points of focus to discuss how the biographical process works - Eliot's rather bizarre late-in-life husband's approach to her memory, or Rossetti's to create a linear relationship history, conveniently writing out one of his model-mistresses who was uncomfortably working class for the reading public and his friends. I found this a very readable account which made me think about how we look at people from an earlier age, as well as some bizarre facts about the lives of famous Victorians: I'm still wondering how many women objected to their husbands' crazy prophet-style beards.
Guardian Reviews - Non-fiction
Reissued, with a new introduction: The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher reviewed by Kathryn Hughes
"Reading it again in this handsome new edition I am struck by the fact that it is, above all, a queer book. I mean the term not so much as Fisher used it colloquially and carelessly in the middle of the last century but how we employ it today, to mark a work in which sex and gender and everything that is built from them – the whole world in other words – is on a tilt. Nowhere is this better summarised than in Fisher’s trenchant inversion of the usual pap about liking to cook for her friends because it makes them feel at home. On the contrary, she explains gleefully, her goal is to give her guests something that will make them “forget Home and all it stood for”."
I really love the cover!
Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford reviewed by Blake Morrison
'What he does remember tends to be fragmentary, pieces standing for the whole. He remembers his father pinning his mother against the wall and yelling at her. He remembers rowing with his father about a Christmas tree. He remembers a Sunday drive where they came upon police cars at a murder scene. He remembers hearing someone describe Edna as a “little black-haired woman” and his sudden perception of her as something other than his mother. He remembers a conversation withher in his teens when he feared his girlfriend might be pregnant. Perhaps these memories have stuck because they are troubled, whereas his childhood, he says, was mostly happy."
I'm not a Ford fan, so think I'll pass on this one.
The Fall of the House of Fifa by David Conn reviewed by Andy Beckett
"Conn’s heartfelt portrait of the Dutch great Johan Cruyff, “elegant beyond imagining” in his sinuous play at the 1974 World Cup, also serves as a contrast with the unlovely Fifa patriarchs to come."
Ditto (except for football)
How Trump Thinks by Peter Oborne and Tom Roberts reviewed by Meghan O'Rourke
"“I think that maybe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Trump told Fox News in a recent interview. “I might not be here talking to you right now as president if I didn’t have an honest way of getting the word out.”
These lines are the book’s epigraph. In an introduction that usefully seeks to historicise his success, Oborne and Roberts argue that Twitter helped Trump, who had long toyed with running for president, bring populism back to the forefront in the United States, mobilising disgruntled citizens against the Washington establishment.'
I think I'm avoiding Trump books.
Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship by Ulrich Raullf reviewed by Kate Kellaway
"...what is thrilling is that the horse becomes a subtext – a new way of considering history via the stable door. It is not altogether a farewell. It is also about the way horses persist in imagination: “Graffiti on a wall, a metaphor, the shadow of a dream – none of these is less real than a being of flesh and blood.” Raulff believes that, as the horse has retired from its working role, it has become more potent as metaphor: “The more they forfeit their worldly presence, the more they haunt the minds of a humanity that has turned away from them.”"
Not a horse person (first riding experience which I was expecting to love, was terrifying, and I never did it again) but intrigued by this one.
Guardian Reviews Fiction
House of Names by Colm Tóibín reviewed by Kate Clanchy
"Tóibín has always been a marvellously spare writer: he never describes a face or a room, instead evoking them with occasional sparse details. For Brooklyn or Enniscorthy, this works because both he and the reader know the places and people he is talking about so well: our knowledge of the 1950s and 60s, whether garnered from experience, films or talk, rises up to fill the gaps and a legend is made. But we don’t know this maybe-bronze-age, maybe-Homeric world at all, or how its society is supposed to work, and as Orestes wanders ever more confusingly over it, bumping occasionally into Goya- esque scenes of violence, we begin to wonder if Tóibín does either."
Argh! Say it isn't so! I choose to believe it's a good book anyway, and will definitely pick it up soon.
The Adventures of John Blake by Philip Pullman by Fred Fordham reviewed by Rachel Cooke
"Beautifully drawn by Fred Fordham, The Adventures of John Blake first appeared in The Phoenix, the weekly comic published by David Fickling Books (aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds, its 300th edition will appear in September). Thanks to Fordham’s artwork, as well as the fact, perhaps, that Pullman grew up on the adventures of Dan Dare, it has (for adult readers, at least) a wonderfully nostalgic feel: Fordham’s ligne claire style combined with the sheer pull of the story took me straight back to my Bunty-reading days. However, it’s whizzy and modern, too. Put aside for a moment the fact that its plot turns on time travel: its 21st century characters are utterly in thrall to their “apparators”, all-powerful mobile phone-like devices, the battery of which never runs out. It’s an addiction that is more dangerous than they know."
This sounds great!
Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic reviewed by Hermione Eyre
"...an astute, quirky, slow-burning satire on emerging codes of behaviour, intergenerational differences, globalisation, the tech industry and the vortex of the dark web. Alice tumbles through an online rabbit hole of absurdities and dream-like connections that ultimately leads into a nightmarish mise en abyme and an illegal, orgiastic rave – rather a long way from Lewis Carroll."
I usually don't get satire, so probably not one for me...
The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers reviewed by Carol Birch
"In pursuit of an epic folk quality, he uses balladic repetition and scattershot word pairings. Occasionally his similes become almost as tortured as the poor unfortunate Cumbrian. Smoke from a pipe swirls “like the unravelling bandages of a shot-blasted soldier back from the far-flung killing fields of the bloody rebellions”. Myers also writes good prose that sharply evokes weather and wildness, and communicates a deep love of the Yorkshire landscape."
I was going to say definitely not, and then I saw the retro cover. Temptation!
The Ice by Laline Paull reviewed by Ellie Robins
...tends towards allegory. As characters take the stand at the inquest, they seem to represent various attitudes to conservation, each given an opportunity to have their say. Here’s Sean: “The Arctic is melting … While some people are wringing their hands, treaties fall wildly out of date and business capitalises. So choose denial, or choose – like I did, like my partners and I have actively and responsibly done – to be at the vanguard of those changes and make sure they happen in the most positive way.” ... All this polemic is rather a lot for the characters to carry, and at times the fiction wears thin."
And for something a bit different -
'Have a lover, have friends, read books,' said Montaigne. He was right about one of them
Have a lovely weekend everyone. I'm off to try and return my top to the shop (again).
Charlotte, I may have escaped unscathed from the Guardian reviews! The Victorians Undone one sounds good though.
I hope you got your retailing errand done OK.
Charlotte, well done on remaining firm in the face of muttering. I've had a long nap, but may now stay up for hours :-)
Lovely iris, Charlotte.
Good luck with your return.
Love Toibin -- he writes so beautifully. Have his new one home from the library, one of twenty. I hope I can get to it before I have to return it.
>65 susanj67: It wasn't really a great day for customer service. The one shop assistant had been left alone on the till, and by the time I left there were four people behind me..
>66 BLBera: Thanks Beth. It was a lovely top so I was kind of sad to have to return it, but it had frayed from the seam under the arm, and was hardly cheap (to me). I have hopes for the new Toibin, which has been reserved at the library. I think I've just got one or two of his back catalogue left to read. The library didn't have them though so I'll buy online.
Out of Bounds I'm reading mid series again. Sorry (notsorryenoughnottodoitagain). Karen Pirie is now living in Edinburgh, part of the new Police Scotland set up for Historic Crimes. Dealing with her own grief, she tries to solve an older murder case from Glasgow after DNA evidence is found from a young man in a coma after a joyriding accident. Nothing is quite that simple though: it's a familial match and his father is not hospital biological father... I thought the people she met on the footpath a bit of unnecessary political stirring the pot at first, but as with Trump and Scottish Independence storylines they build to create an entertaining list of red herrings.
The wanders around Edinburgh described in the book were fun - I do like it when I recognise a place in a book. I think I might just read the next one rather than go back to the start.
Happy Sunday, Charlotte. Sorry to hear that A Constellation fell short for you. It is frustrating, when expectations are high and you know others have loved it, but that is the book life.
I am interested in the Ford memoir. Haven't seen much LT activity on it.
Thanks Megan. The Guardian ones?
I've been reading a graphic memoir this afternoon The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. Very moving account of Bui's family's experience leaving Vietnam and adapting to life in the US.
Thanks Mark. It's just one of those things, I suppose.
It seems that the Zebra Finch is widely kept as a pet, so that explains our visitor, it seems, rather than such a long migration?
What Ellen said up there, Charlotte. I was hoping Constellation would do better for you. I'm another one who loved it.
>73 BLBera: I can't believe I've been so slow to pick her up - just the kind of crime fiction I enjoy: intelligent without too many histrionics or crazy plotlines.
>74 jnwelch: Ah well - they can't all be stellar reads. I did want to like it more, honest!
The Best We Could Do
I fell asleep before posting some images from the graphic memoir I read today. Here are some! Bui uses her own experience of giving birth to ask questions about her parents' experience of growing up in Vietnam, the war and their flight as refugees. Her portrait of her parents' very different childhoods, her mum growing up affluent and in a stable family whilst her dad, although from a relatively wealthy family, was repeatedly abandoned by his parents and saw both the French and Vietnamese soldiers attack his grandparents' village.
The picture she paints of her fears as a child has made me try and remember even one dream or imaginary fear I had as a small kid - and come up blank. Not sure why that is!
She has a tumblr page with more images
And another review
I'm stopping by to wave hello Charlotte. Happy Sunday to you.
An iris popped up in my garden today. No idea where it came from as it has not been there previous years and I never planted it. Quite the mystery!
I will put the MFK Fisher book on my list. She led a very interesting life and I want to know more about her.
Fascinating that the Guardian makes a note of Toibin's spare prose. He went on a bit of a rant at the Hay Festival about the overuse of the flashback (having just read a novel where at least 1/3 of the novel is superfluous, including not the flashback, but the contemporary stuff, and where the novel should have been the entire flashback scenes knitted together, but where the author clearly is obsessed with flashbacks as a device) I couldn't help empathizing. But it does speak to his interest in having the reader do some of the work; on close reading and not just doing all the heavy lifting as a writer. I found his comments interesting, and 90% persuasive, as I think this spareness can be carried to excess, and flashbacks, when used well (usually within the body of a narrative) are a great tool. Here's the Guardian piece for your perusal.
>77 Whisper1: Thanks Linda. Lovely giraffe!
>78 mdoris: An accidental iris? Wow. I aspire to that! The quotes from Fisher's book make me want to read it - as well as the pretty cover - it sounds beautifully written.
>79 Chatterbox: I thought it was interesting that the author of the review claimed that the Irish books worked because the reader has knowledge to fill in the gaps. I'm not sure that's true of all readers, and given his wide popularity... I quite like a flashback done well, but even I have limits!
Anything is Possible
I really loved this collection of connected short stories, linked by a character from a previous novel, Lucy Barton. Barton's fame ripples through tales about former residents of her home town and family members. Questions of wealth, of the impact of small town bigotry, abuse and poverty are all sensitively and carefully explored. She reminds me of Toibin and Proulx - that same sense of being led clearly and gently to a kinder view of characters the reader may have written off.
I want my own copy. Wah! (Throws toys out the pram)
>46 charl08: Aw, the iris is so beautiful! I noticed I'm seeing them more this year, are they having a comeback or am I just payng more attention? Hm.... Anyway, happy new week to you! :)
>82 Deern: Maybe the weather is good for them think year? I have no idea Nathalie, I'm just glad to see them! Wishing you a good week too. It seems there may be change in the works in my workplace, so hoping this week is not too stressful.
>83 BLBera: I was so glad to see the Strout turn up at the library, Beth. I have to be patient if I'm going to wait for Xmas. Although I am rather assisted by the lack of shelf space at home, and Paul has reminded me that books have to be moved when a person move house. It's not on the cards anytime in the near future, but definitely a possibility in the next few years, so...
Now reading Helen Dunmore's latest Birdcage Walk.
Out of Bounds sounds interesting. I wonder how the series started?
Apparently the first one (listed as 0 by the LT series tracker) features Karen Pirie but only as a side character. There have been two before this one with her as a lead character. More than that, I don't know!
>86 charl08: I wonder why the author adopted the main character after the first book - I will have to remember to check the series out.
It's good so far, Beth. She's very good at making a historical period seem tangible, I think.
I've just read Hostage by Guy Delisle - a grim account of an NGO worker who was taken hostage by Chechen rebels in the 90s. The repetitive, dark illustrations do a good job of conveying how both dull and terrifying the experience must have been.
>91 banjo123: I'm not sure Rhonda. I don't think so though.
Reading update -
I'm reading about the gardening year, a fictional famly in a real property crash in late 18c Bristol, some devastating poetry about child trauma and the history of birth cohort studies in the UK.
Name that book?!
>92 charl08: Ooh! *raises hand* - the last one is The Life Project, but what is the second one? At first I thought they were all the same book :-)
Great reading you've been doing. I've never read Elizabeth Strout, so I'll probably read Lucy Barton first and then Anything is Possible.
I've read a number of Guy Deslisle's books and liked them (Pyongyang is my favorite so far); Hostage sounds like he's tried something different, that's not autobiographical.
>93 susanj67: Good stuff Susan. For some reason, I had it in my head that this was about the Mass Observation Survey, not cohort studies, so I was pleasantly surprised. I know nothing about these cohort studies, and would like to know more. Fingers crossed (early days yet).
>94 jnwelch: Joe, you have to read Olive Kitteridge! Right now! It's AMAZING. I liked Lucy Barton, and Anything is Possible is up there, but Olive Kitteridge just blew me away. One of those cases where the hype is entirely justified, imho.
The only copy I've found of Pyongyang was in Swedish.
I didn't try to read it.
Drawn and Quartered agrees with you re the change in approach, even his early book that I read set in China was about a work trip he had made. There is a reference in the book to him working with Christophe André for twenty years, so sounds like a labour of love.
Books have come in at the library -
Gravel heart - thanks to the Guardian
The long dry thanks to Rachel aka aktakukac
The Hawkshead hostage (me on a search for some new crime fiction)
Was so tired last night barely managed to read anything: about ten pages of The Life Project, and then spent an annoying amount of time not being able to sleep. Time to sign up for the gym I think.
>100 charl08: Yes to physical activity for helping to get sleep. Gym is good, Fitbit is also good especially trying to keep up with the LT Fitbit group!
From the garden this evening...
In even more exciting news, two other buds on the Iris have emerged :-)
From Milk and Honey
No books have
The spine to
>104 charl08: Yay for the next Iris, Charlotte!
And the picture, is it Verbena?
Two books finished: Husband by the Hour, which I skimmed a bit because it felt a bit uninspired. In contrast I was pleasantly surprised by Milk and Honey which started out as very grim poetry about abuse but then moved into recovery and some rather lovely stuff about female friendship and being an artist, which I liked. The apparently simple line drawings, many of female figures, are beautiful.
She has an instagram account with poetry and illustrations -https://www.instagram.com/p/BUVJ4nwAWj3/
>95 charl08: I'm in 100% total agreement with you on the Olive opinion with your advice to Joe. Absolutely!
Bugs, (what are they????) voraciously consuming my cleome. Argh.
>63 charl08: Sorry about the grumbly assistant. I wonder what happened to the idea that the customer is always right? Once I returned a swim suit I had bought for my daughter. After one wear, the lining had separated from the suit. The shop assistant told me it was because it was too small for my daughter. That was pretty unbelievable.
>111 charl08: Keeping up with the aphids is full time. Have you got a packet of ladybugs? Your flowers are gorgeous.
>112 nittnut: Thanks for the sympathy. I really like the shop, but that particular branch is not the best run I've come across. I think I'd have been too gobsmacked to respond to the shop assistant you mention. What a thing to say!
I've tried moving ladybirds, but they don't seem to like my aphids. I moved two and they both flew off. I tried not to take it personally... :-)
It's national fish and chip day today (totally a made up thing - this is only the second year) but totally using it as an excuse to avoid cooking tonight and pour on the vinegar.
>113 charl08: National Fish and Chip Day sounds marvelous — my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Please have some for me, Charlotte.
>113 charl08: - It's National Donut Day here in the US. I did my patriotic duty....
Enjoy your fish and chips, Charlotte.
I've heard good things about Milk and Honey. I must hunt for a copy.
Happy Friday. Have a lovely weekend. Good luck with the pests.
Oh. I didn't realize that today was National Fish & Chip Day! I would have ordered that for room service if I'd known.
My daughter gave me a copy of Milk and Honey for Mother's Day. I'm hoping to get to it soon.
>90 charl08: I am loving the graphic novel thing, it seems to be really taking off. Pity my library doesn't seem to stock too many adult ones, they get a few YA ones though. The Vietnamese one sounded good too (from farther up).
>114 rosalita: Julia, the portions our local place does mean that we freeze left over chips, so there are plenty to go round.
>115 katiekrug: Now there's a day I can support in full.
>116 BLBera: Thanks Beth. The pests are winning. At this rate I think I'm going to dig up the lupin, it's driving me nuts that I squash a load of the critters and two hours later they're back and feasting away...
>117 kidzdoc: Darryl, for me they taste better after they've been wrapped in paper and taken home, I don't know what it is!
>118 RidgewayGirl: Oh, I hope you do. Your daughter has *excellent* taste.
>119 LovingLit: Me too Megan, I had no idea there were so many of them about until Kerry and Joe and Mark started warbling away. I'm not sure I'd get to many without my library: my brother bought me The Gigantic Beard that was Evil for my birthday, and I've bought a couple myself, but mostly loans.
Guardian Reviews Fiction
In full via https://www.theguardian.com/books
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy reviewed by Natasha Walter
"...there are dangers inherent in the attempt to become everybody and everything, and her clashing subplots and whimsical digressions can become rather unwieldy."
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney reviewed by Claire Kilroy
"almost post-Irish. In earlier Irish fiction, the narrative would have focused on the social tensions surrounding a gay relationship – and a female one at that. In Conversations With Friends, Frances’s mother describes it as “a real shame” when the girls break up. Similarly, that great stalwart of Irish writing, the alcoholic father, is present, but he is a spent force..."
An English Guide to Birdwatching by Nicholas Royle reviewed by Melissa Harrison
"...hovers uncomfortably between arch postmodern exercise and mid-life fever dream, never striking a consistent note."
Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett reviewed by Stephanie Merritt
"... an ambitious and accomplished debut that follows four centuries of English life through the eyes of an ensemble cast, in a narrative that switches between historical periods and characters and from first to third person, intercut with letters, newspaper articles and snatches of dialogue arranged like a play script. At its centre is Wychwood, an Oxfordshire country house and estate remodelled after the Restoration..."
Phone by Will Self reviewed by Jon Day
"The final instalment in what has shown itself to be one of the most ambitious and important literary projects of the 21st century. Its style, as well as many of its characters, will be familiar to Selfians. "
19551122::Flights by Olga Tokarczuk reviewed by Kapka Kassabova
"...central recurring tropes are physical movement, the mortal body and the meaning of home. It is a novel of intuitions as much as ideas, a cacophony of voices and stories seemingly unconnected across time and space, which meander between the profound and the facetious, the mysterious and the ordinary, and whose true register remains one of glorious ambiguity. Olga Tokarczuk is a household name in Poland and one of Europe’s major humanist writers, working here in the continental tradition of the “thinking” or essayistic novel. Flights has echoes of WG Sebald, Milan Kundera, Danilo Kiš and Dubravka Ugrešić..."
I don't think I fancy any of these. Harumph. Maybe the last one.
Guardian Reviews Non-Fiction
The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson reviewed by P D Smith
"First published in 2007, The Red Parts is a memoir of the trial and revisits her feelings about her aunt’s murder. Powerful and seeringly honest, it is a deeply personal account of a family’s grief..."
The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John by Michael Holroyd reviewed by Lara Feigel
"she wrote wistfully, two years into her marriage, wondering “whatever are we all training for that we have to shape ourselves & compromise with things all our lives?”"
Al-Britannia, My Country by James Fergusson reviewed by Christopher de Bellaigue
"...a travel book about home – the Muslim enclaves of Sparkbrook, Govanhill and Luton are pretty alien to this long-time foreign correspondent...Yet Fergusson, an Edinburgh Scot who voted for Scotland to remain British and for Britain to remain European, and who has written extensively about Muslims around the world, turns out to be well placed to discuss the issues of identity, inclusion and the state that are central to the Muslim predicament."
The Transferred Life of George Eliot by Philip Davis reviewed by John Mullan
"any reader expecting a conventional biographical narrative will be disappointed. Certain episodes from Eliot’s life – her conflict with her father over Christian observance, her unrequited tendresse for the austere intellectual Herbert Spencer – are prominent, but only because they have their “transferred life” in her novels."
In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli reviewed by Robert McCrum
"He identifies several key areas of recent research, from cerebral renewal (the implantation of iPS cells) and parabiosis (“reversing the pathological changes in an old animal by bathing its tissue in the blood of a young one”), to the pioneering study of Kuru (a shaking disease found in Papua New Guinea) and the latest research into PCA (posterior cortical atrophy), the variant of Alzheimer’s that afflicted the late Terry Pratchett. In Jebelli’s optimistic summary, “the web of treatment is widening”. At the end of his “pursuit”, he declares: “We are closer than ever to the abolition of Alzheimer’s.
Not everyone agrees with him...'
Queer City by Peter Ackroyd reviewed by Simon Callow
"...droll, provocative and crammed to bursting with startling facts and improbable names (Constable Obert Pert and the trinket vendor Samuel Drybutter, to name but two of many outrageous monikers that dance across the pages). It is also strangely impersonal. Was ever an author so present in, and yet so absent from, his own work? It is always unmistakably Ackroyd, just personally uninvolved. He peeps through his own sprightly prose just once: “It has been suggested that in the 1960s, London became in many respects a sexually liberated space,” he says. “It did not seem like that at the time.” A tiny glimpse of the author, a glum figure on the edges of the phantasmagorian carnival ...'
Quite fancy the last four. Kind of makes up for the fiction.
>122 charl08: I escaped the fiction, but just reserved The Red Parts :-) Currently you have three NF ones in your post - I hardly dare to refresh!
Sorry the pests are pestering you. Maybe there's something you can plant that will keep those particular ones away from the tasty plant? (dimly remembering an OU biology short course that I did).
I think I'm going to start Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit next week. Interested?
>123 susanj67: Others may have been added Susan. I fell into a black hole of geeky cataloguing when I found that the author of Al Britannia was one of four authors with the same name, and had to drag myself back.
>124 BLBera: Thanks Beth. I will try to keep on the pests. As Susan points out, something ought to be eating them! I'm not sure about Peculiar ground I feel like I've read a few books about gardening and gardeners in this period. and >125 BLBera: yes, definitely.
Okay, first of all, I need no excuse to eat fish & chips. It's one of my favorite dinners! I don't indulge in the combo much since the stroke but it remains a favorite (if done well).
I read another review of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and now with this one it looks quite compelling. I never read The God of Small Things; I started it once and was not in the mood. Maybe Utmost Happiness will be a better start for me.
I console myself on the health front by only eating a little bit of batter. Let's not talk about the amount of mayo I like to add...
I read her first one so long ago I can't even remember it from the reviewer's comments, so one that needs to go in the reread pile... I'll be watching the reviews with interest.
This is the work in progress that is the shady side of the garden:
Happy Sunday, Charlotte. I've finally made my way over to your place. RL was/is busy.
Mmm, fish & chips. I didn't know they have a special day although they deserve it and the day is just in time for halibut season - yum!
It's a new thing, apparently, but any excuse here :-)
Reading wise this has been an uneventful weekend, slowly plodding through East West Street, which is fascinating but in places legally complex. Lots of gardening, some weeding at the allotment (still no running water) and a whole pile of ironing...
I just finished Hostage a couple of days ago and enjoyed it, thought he did a great job of depicting the monotony while not making it monotonous to read.
I've got The Red Parts out from the library, had it home for a while and haven't picked it up as yet. I think it was that GN about the Yorkshire Ripper that made me aware of it.
>133 avatiakh: Hi Kerry, yes, it was a great read, I thought. The Red Parts doesn't really appeal, but I'll watch for your comments on it.
Three books have come into the library
The wandering earth - Chinese sci fi
A rising man - crime fiction set in the Raj period.
Bookshops a short book about books, which I was tempted by!
I'm still reading East West Street although the unrelenting pouring rain has rather put me off going to read outside. Samsung's health app has added a monthly challenge, where you have to try and complete a 200,000 step route (and you see where you are compared to everyone else: I'm about 1,900,000...!) I might have to stop the thing because it's bringing out my competitive streak :-)
Also reading Walking through Spring which wins pretty much on the cover alone, for the non-fiction nature challenge. So far, stuff about hedge destruction and woods. He's not quite Robert Macfarlane though.
Nice additions to your library, Charlotte. I'll watch for comments when you get to them. I'm reading The Essex Serpent, which I love. I've loved all four of the Bailey's books I've read this year, and none made it to the short list. The ones they chose must be truly amazing. Have you read them?
Hi Beth - I wish they were in my library (maybe there was some freudian phrasing going on there?!) just temporary loans from the library reservation list.
Re Baileys - I liked The Power and Do Not Say We Have Nothing. First Love took me ages to remember and the main thing I so remember is that it seemed miserable. I love some of Linda Grant's other books but this one didn't work for me so much.
Rachel! Good to see you here. Have you got any time for reading yet? Last time I was over at your thread you seemed very busy. I must head over.
Via Katie's thread, news of the death of Helen Dunmore.
From her recent article about her cancer diagnosis:
Most of us die in silence and leave silence behind us. There is no visible mark, no written record and very often no grave to visit. Ancestors have shifted about in search of work, or been unable to write, or have never had the cash to pay a stonemason. They leave behind a story, perhaps, or an anecdote that is handed down from child to grandchildren, and then is heard no more.
Helen Dunmore: facing mortality and what we leave behind
I spent a lovely couple of days in the Gladstone library when I was writing up my thesis, and I have been thinking about going back to enjoy the peace and quiet (apart from anything else, it's great country for walking). Anyhow, I found they have their own literary festival 'Gladfest' coming up in September.
I am quite tempted!
Spending a few days at the Gladstone Library is on my bucket list...
I want to go deluxe next time: the rooms they show are not the ones they offer at the student discount, for obvious reasons!
>138 charl08: Thanks for sharing the link to the Helen Dunmore article, Charlotte. I didn't know her, but am tempted to read after reading this.
Still reading East West Street - a great read but a bit too much for my frazzled brain this week.
That shady side of your garden is lovely! And Gladfest sounds wonderful and certainly tempting.
Thanks Nathalie. It's definitely a work in progress - a colleague has very kindly just given me another tall leafy thing so I'm going to have to squeeze it in somewhere...
I may have just ordered some books. I really need to clear some shelves before they arrive! A new Penguin Modern Poets, Butterfly Burning and Just Mercy.
I am reading Walking through Spring but finding it a poor comparison to some other nature books I've read. His literature references seem so obvious and he's somehow managed to segue from an argument about the rich owning most of the land in the UK to arguing that no immigrants should be allowed into the country, with a brief stop off at compulsory birth control measures. Argh. I'm reluctant to give it up but writing this out has made me realise I'm going to.
I see that Naomi Alderman's book won the Bailey's Women's Prize which I'm happy about as it was the only one on the shortlist that I've read.
>129 Ameise1: I should probably go to bed. That penguin really gave me a start just now. Lol
Hi Charlotte! Happy weekend, happy reading. :)
I finished East West Street, which I recommend.
It's a fascinating look at the legal ideas that shaped the Nazi warcrimes trials, but rather than through dry legal texts the story is told through the lives of one of Sands' own relatives, and two legal academics who all fled the same area of Poland and survived the holocaust. Alongside them are the stories of people who helped them escape, 'the butcher of Poland' Hans Frank, and the memories of the protagonists and some of their children.
It's not a book I think a historian would have written, and in a very small number of places I found some of the language he used a little odd, but I'm not sure if that was me, tbh. I liked the archival stories but some of them were a bit of overkill - describing spending hours in a picture library looking for people. I felt a bit like 'what did you think historical researchers do?' But that's me being a bit unfair: he doesn't make a claim for this being a standard historical text. I'd seen the film he refers to briefly in the book - they make for an interesting pairing.
Just catching up. Your flowers are lovely. Our irises are just about to open. It's an in-between time in our garden with the early spring flowers, lilacs, appleblossoms, all done and the June batch of iris, peonies not out yet. We do have bleeding hearts though, which I love.
Peggy thought it was Mamie who raved about the Serpent and now I see someone else thinks it was you! I wonder who it was????
>154 sibyx: Nice to see you! I was so pleased when the iris finally turned up. I don't know what bleeding hearts are, will have to look those up.
I know I've read a rave review recently, but suspect that was Beth, so that's no help!
>155 BLBera: Not guilty! I'm tempted to get myself a shirt with 'Beth's default LT recommender' on though. I want to go see my auntie in Cape Town - she is 75 years young this year! Fortunately my leave year starts again in Sept.
>156 SandDune: Take the credit Rhian - go for it!
Am I the only one immature enough to get a chuckle out of that title?
Nope. I giggled about it over on Susan's thread last year: Susan's snort-worthy comment
Thanks for joining me in a glass.
I am feeling a bit sad today, as one of the refugees has been given notice she has to leave the country in really horrible circumstances. I don't think it's right for me to put anything else here and I feel powerless. I am so angry with my state for putting people who have already been through so much through even more, so that someone can stand up and use people's lives as stats to make the case that they have stopped refugees from thinking Britain is a 'soft touch'.
When did it become a bad thing for people to be compassionate?
I'm reading Just Mercy which is on similar issues. Injustice and state authorities acting as if they have no responsibility to minorities and poor people.
"When did it become a bad thing for people to be compassionate?" Great question, Charlotte. More relevant now, than ever.
Happy Saturday, Charlotte. I hope Just Mercy doesn't get you down. If you can find the doc, Thirteen, try to watch it. It makes a nice companion to the book.
Just ordered The Sad Part Was at the library, from a Litsy comment / mini review. I don't think I've read a Thai author, and this one comes with an English Pen award.
So sorry to hear about your refugee client, Charlotte. This whole immigration thing is so screwed up. It's impossible to see how it can be fixed.
Me, too, Charlotte. When did it become a bad thing for people to be compassionate?
It's still a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. That's a shame. As you say, this is someone who's already been through so much.
I hate the whole immigration thing. I absolutely believe people should come legally, and I understand that government has a different kind of responsibility, which sometimes conflicts with what seems compassionate. But either way, once people are here, they need help. So, I comfort myself with doing what I can, as a private person, to help refugees here and elsewhere. There's a great local organization here called World Relief that helps refugees find homes and provides the basics to set up house. I am sure there are similar organizations other places.
>170 msf59: I missed your post Mark - not sure if I criss-posted. I should remember that there is compassion too, I guess Mark. One of the moving parts of Stevenson's book is when a couple sponsor one of the children convicted of murdering an abusive stepfather.
>172 BLBera: The more I learn about it, the more crazy it seems. I wondered about applying to be a case officer and seeing how many people I could unilaterally give the right to remain before I got sacked. I guess it doesn't work that way though.
>173 jnwelch: It amazes me how people are so resilient Joe. I met one guy who has just got told his leave to remain after a very stressful process (the British government, in their wisdom, think that they can assess whether someone is a 'real' convert to Christianity, still a cause in some countries for persecution and flight. I'm not religious, but the idea an official can assess faith just makes me want to shake someone). He looked like a different person, shoulders lifted and a massive grin. No free handouts - he'll have to move within a month and somehow find a job and a deposit in that time... (rant over, sorry)
>174 nittnut: One of the hardest things is to see the impact on the kids of such a stressful process. I am glad that there are similarly minded people in my community to you Jenn, who give their time, their cash and in some cases open up their homes. I've seen it make such a difference, and it has restored my faith in people. In government, not so much.
Reading Gravel Heart a novel about growing up in Zanzibar
'You can't imagine what that time was like,' my mother said, trying again to describe it. 'You cannot imagine the terror of it, the arrests, the deaths, the humiliations. People were driving each other mad with rumours of new outrages, new decrees, with news of further sorrows. But yes, you can imagine, you must try. Nothing stands between us and atrocities but words, so there is no choice but to try and imagine.
>176 charl08: Got me with that one.
Regarding immigration, I saw Jose Antonio Vargas speak at my composition conference. He was brought to the US when he was twelve, and he didn't know he was undocumented until he went to get his driver's permit when he was 15. He's in his 30s now, and is still undocumented. What's crazy is that there is no legal way for him to fix it unless he leaves the country and applies for a green card. Which he would probably never do. That's just nuts.
Just stopping by to try to catch up! Am I too late for the beverages? ;-)
Hi Charlotte, I hope you are having a great week end and get some time out in your garden. I love to read outside and today was a perfect day for it in the heartland of the U.S. I have a picture of Bleeding Heart as one of my opening pictures on my current thread. I think ours was blooming in March. Spring comes early here. I just have the memories of iris, lilacs, and daffodils blooming. Our roses looked good until the Japanese Beetles came to visit. They are only here for about a month but they can do a lot of damage in that time.
I enjoy visiting here and reading The Guardian reviews. Also like to see what you are reading. I concur that Olive Kitteridge is a wonderful book. I haven't gotten my hands on Anything is Possible yet but Lucy Barton was disappointing to me. Someone said I might appreciate it more after reading Strout's latest book that gives some of the backstory.
Hi, Charlotte. This whole immigration things is a nightmare. Sorry about your refugee.
I will drink to better times!!
>177 BLBera: That is bonkers Beth. I don't understand why children are dragged into the immigration mess.
>178 rretzler: There are always beverages (well, it's 9am here, so maybe just fruit juice !)
>179 Donna828: Very little sunshine here. I did some shopping for the garden though - stiff protective netting for the veg and some tomato feed. There's been so much rain everything is collapsing in the border. Plenty of work to do!
>180 Berly: That's a good idea Kim. I am hoping some legal loophole emerges.
>181 PaulCranswick: Thanks for the good wishes Paul - hope you have been able to get lots of hugs from your family in this stressful time.
I finished The Hawkshead Hostage this morning (couldn't sleep - need some black out curtains I think!). I expected to really like this crime story set in the Lakes but despite knowing the village which is at the heart of the novel it felt like a cardboard cutout version rather than being written by someone who knew the community well. Partly this fits her lead character, who has recently moved to the area. But I don't think she has a grasp on the community: it didn't match my experiences of my gran's friends when she lived there (very close knit, very active and assertive approach to life). I didn't find the characters interesting and it was definitely not a series to jump into half way through!
Thumbs down from me. Visit the lake district instead - much more fun. Or read Westmorland Alone.
Guardian Fiction Reviews
A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert reviewed by Helen Dunmore
"her spare, beautiful prose is a joy to read."
Prague Nights by Benjamin Black reviewed by Clare Clark
"As crime fiction tradition demands...opens with a dead body. It is the winter of 1599 and Christian Stern...is newly arrived in the city..."
Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett reviewed by Katy Guest "...a novel for music lovers who pay attention to the words. "
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist reviewed by Ian Sansom
"...clearly understands that a voice most clearly expressing pain is often a voice refusing to register pain."
Crimes of the Father by Thomas Keneally reviewed by Michael Arditti
"...a provocative and powerful study of abusers and the abused. It captures the honourable priests determined to expose the outrage and the church hierarchy equally determined to discredit them. Most poignantly, it depicts ordinary Catholics caught in the crossfire..."
The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer reviewed by Suzi Feay
"William is more lighthearted, seeing time travel chiefly as a means to ogle women, while John's attempted to do good deals are continually thwarted. "
Oh I hate it when that happens. I usually end up preordering and then forgetting about it, so when the book turns up I'm shocked...
>184 charl08: Interesting that the Seiffert book was reviewed by the late Helen Dunmore. Doubtless her last review.
It's a reminder of just how far ahead these reviews get put together. I have Seiffert as an ARC, although will look for it when it is in paperback. I really like her writing. I also have Prague Nights but have been distracted. The review mentions a book the author wrote about Prague history and his time there - I rather fancy that.
So frustrated- have been looking for a southern set crime novel, which I read the sample and thought I would read later. Later has arrived, but the sample has gone Awol and all I can remember was that it was a cracker of an opener featuring a small town guy finding a body in a river. Argh.
Hi Charlotte - Thanks for the reviews. The Seiffert and Black caught my attention this week.
>190 BLBera: Those are the ones I have on ARC and should read!
It might be crooked letter. That would explain why I can't find it, as I read it two years ago it should be in the already read file on the kindle...
>192 susanj67: Very sensible. I might do something similar!
I think that would be my campaign placard for a March. 'Can't we just all calm down?!"
Reading Beartown which for some reason is being published in the UK as The Scandal. No, I've got no idea why.
...late one night he told her the truth: ‘I know it’s only a game, Kira. I know. But we ’re a town in the middle of the forest. We ’ve got no tourism, no mine, no high-tech industry. We ’ve got darkness, cold and unemployment. If we can make this town excited again, about anything at all, that has to be a good thing. I know you’re not from round here, love, and this isn’t your town, but look around: the jobs are going, the council’s cutting back. The people who live here are tough, we ’ve got the bear in us, but we ’ve taken blow after blow for a long time now. This town needs to win at something. We need to feel, just once, that we ’re best. I know it’s a game. But that’s not all it is. Not always.’Kira kissed his forehead hard when he said that, and held him tight, whispering softly in his ear: ‘You’re an idiot.’Which, of course, he knows.
Reading Teresa Cremin, Building Communities of Engaged Readers preparing for attending a seminar held at work. Fascinating stuff based on a project that created ‘reading teachers’, focusing on giving primary school (5-11) teachers support for their own reading and for sharing this in class with the aim to encourage children to read for pleasure.
Some highlights from the sample I’ve read so far –
A teacher coming across a heated discussion in breaktime about the rights and wrongs of a particular book…
Creative work based on books children didn’t finish (based on Pennac’s ‘rights of the reader’) – encouraging teachers to talk about the books they didn’t finish, to give children a chance to think that it might not be their skill that is at fault (ie that they might just not like the book!)
Talking about the empowerment of choice – examples of children who gave up a book they didn’t enjoy and then steamed through many they did.
An interview with children where they quote from four or five different poems that they weren’t asked to learn – they’ve just taken them in because they found them catchy.
OH, dear! I thought I was just here, but I must have been on Susan's thread. *smacks head* Well, anyway, Good Morning, Charlotte!
>201 Berly: I fear you are one of these glass half full people Kim...
>202 susanj67: That sums it up perfectly.
>204 Crazymamie: Mamie - did you mean >199 Crazymamie:? Nice to see you :-)
>203 scaifea: >205 Oberon: Not only was it an interesting read, but she was a really good speaker, and had some new research to report. Win win for us.
(And Quentin Blake is lovely, Amber! I'm a fan...)
Nope. The grin was for your enjoyment of A Rising Man.
I had gone to Susan's thread this morning, but the post I was on was from you, and somehow that got things turned around in my head, so I wished you a good morning over there. Then, when I came here, I realized what I had done, so I had to go back to Susan's thread and edit. I was having a mental moment.
>207 Crazymamie: Never mind, clearly happens to the best of us. Just ask Kim. Or maybe Beth...
I finished, er, completed (no, that's worse), er got to the end of... (climbs out of large hole I had dug for myself)
Anyway, I returned A Rising Man to the library having read to the last page (that's safe, isn't it?) - what a great book. I know only the bare bones of Indian colonial history and to me this felt like a great look at what it might have been like to arrive in India in the 1920s and wonder what the *** you were doing there. I'm not so sure about the social reform idea of empire this early (discuss, with reference to educational reforms across the empire) - and as opposed to the 19c civilising mission but frankly, with a story this good, it's easy to forget that sort of thing and just go with it. I liked the doubt of the characters at the heart of the book - rather than taking the easy option of people taking distinct sides.
Charlotte, good news that you read the book all the way to the last page and returned it to the library. I also thought it was a very good book and I'm looking forward to the second book. I hope there is a series of books planned.
>200 charl08: One day closer to the weekend, Charlotte. Why does this week seem extra long?
*waves at Mamie*
And continuing the international crime spree, I'm in Australia reading Crimson Lake. It's all very sweaty so far, which is appropriate, as after what feels like weeks of rain this evening feels like I'm stuck in a greenhouse. Oof.
Reading the second mystery by Abir Mukherjee now -- great fun. The audio arrived here ahead of the print book -- long before -- as sometimes happens, so I listened to that last year, and greatly enjoyed the first one, so I pounced on the second.
I also picked out Outcasts of Time, on the whispering of a friend of mine. Not counting on being able to snaffle an ARC of that. I DID get a NetGalley version of the Benjamin Black novel, and it's on deck for me to read on the plane to Chicago next week.
Re the latter author and his book about Prague, it was written under his real name, John Banville, and published about 10/15 years ago as part of the "author and city" series, a short series of nice little books by Bloomsbury. It's called Prague Pictures. My fave in that series is The Flaneur by Edmund White, about Paris, which is utterly delightful.
I used one of my remaining audiobook credits to get the Keneally novel. At some point, I'm going to have to pull the plug on my Audible subscription for financial reasons, but that's a book I'll be glad to have in my library when the day comes.
I reserved The Rising Man from the library, Charlotte. I hope it comes in soon. There's a second one?
The author and city series sounds good.
>214 Chatterbox: I've ordered the second book from the library Suzanne, thanks to reminders here. The library catalogue tells me there's a copy winging it's way to me. I guess the first book has done well amongst Lancashire patrons, as there's nearly 30 copies on order.
Outcasts of Time sounds really good. I'm hoping to find a copy. I've requested it. That walking city book sounds great.
>215 BLBera: I enjoyed it Beth - seems to be a winner here on LT as well as more widely. Hope Scout is enjoying the jam!
I finished Crimson Lake and have told my mum she has to read it (this is high crime confidence). The story focuses on an ex policeman who has recently moved to small town Australia having been accused of attacking a small child. Everyone is convinced he's guilty, except for his lawyer. Hes hit rock bottom, and vigilantes start to attack his new home.
Fox takes the story in an unexpected direction, which reminded me of Robert Galbraith. Great read.
>217 charl08: - That one sounds good. It's not out here until next March :(
I had some time to kill before a meeting yesterday so went to a shopping mall I haven't been to in years. I went into the bookstore and there it was front and centre on the shelf, The Essex Serpent. This thread is directly responsible for its finding its way into my bag.
>221 Familyhistorian: And I haven't even read it! Impressive work there I think :-)
>220 charl08: - That's a thought... We'll see what my luggage looks like :)
>219 katiekrug: Katie, you need to buy a UK Kindle, and see if some kind individual will let you use their address to register it. Then just fund your account with gift certificates that you buy for yourself via your regular Amazon UK account, and you won't have to worry about bookshelf space or publishing delays again... (Just how much you are willing to spend on books, and a bigger TBR list.)
That said, annoyingly, Amazon UK just slapped ads on my screen saver for my own UK Kindle. I hate it. I would pay to remove them but I can't, because I don't have a UK credit card. ARGH.
>223 katiekrug: This is why I fly with a coat with large pockets...
>224 BLBera: Hope you enjoy it Beth.
>225 avatiakh: Ahead of the game there Kerry. There is only one copy in our library system but I imagine that will change.
>226 Berly: Thanks Kim. What a title!
>227 Chatterbox: That does sound like a good way to double the temptation on attractive books, Suzanne!
Happy Friday, Charlotte! Hope the week went well for you. How are those current reads coming?
You got me with Crimson Lake, Charlotte - specifically, "...which reminded me of Robert Galbraith." Onto the list it goes!
>222 charl08: Ha, dangerous just talking about other people reading a book. Pretty good, Charlotte.
>229 msf59: Thanks Mark. The current reads are treating me well, thank you, although I'm still impatiently waiting for the Alexie to turn up...
>230 Crazymamie: Hope you like it as much as I did Mamie. I am hoping she writes some more though it wasn't clear there would definitely be a second.
>231 Familyhistorian: Hope it's helpful...
Had one of those days today, very glad to be home.
A list of books I want to read. Also bookshops I want to visit. Now hiring chauffeur. Will pay in books.
ETA I must have been tired .- forgot to add link!
The Masuda Affair
Set in 11th c Japan, the seventh book in the series, this was a touching piece of historical crime, as
Guess what came in the mail yesterday, Charlotte - A Necessary Evil!! Really looking forward to the second installment, but of course, all my library holds came in, too, so now I have to choose. I might have also ordered Crimson Lake from Book Depository. *grin*
Hoping that your Saturday is full of fabulous!
Ooh, good luck with those choices Mamie. I have some books on the reservation shelf competing with my own books, plus the Netgalley ones. I'll get there eventually...
Guardian reviews non-fiction
Reviews to come (for now, I'm sleeping) eta no longer sleeping...
Lenin the Dictator and The Dilemmas of Lenin reviewed by Daniel Beer
"The “personal is political”, Victor Sebestyen claims in his engagingly written biography."
"His purging of dissenting groups within his own party was, Ali concedes, “intemperate”, but he is dismissive of recent archival discoveries of Lenin’s enthusiasm for executing hostages and for lynching those branded “bloodsuckers” and “enemies of the people”. Civil wars, Ali assures the reader, “are never pretty affairs”."
Collecting the World by James Delbourgo reviewed by Kathryn Hughes
" Sloane packed his cabinets with gnats’ blood, Inuit sun visors, a stick to put down your throat to make yourself sick, a cyclops pig, a silver penis protector and a bit of coral that looked just like someone’s hand. Out of this jumble of natural and manmade scraps he fashioned a legacy for the nation. In 1759 the British Museum was opened..."
The Moor’s Last Stand and Blood and Faith reviewed by Giles Tremblett
"Drayson does a splendid job of putting flesh on Boabdil’s story. The Nasrid dynasty’s spectacular home in the Alhambra palace complex overlooking Granada had long been a place of intrigue and bloodshed.....Boabdil was a magnificent sight, riding into battle on a white horse, dressed in brocade and velvet, with a dark red and gold helmet. But he was a bad general, who was twice captured by his Christian opponents.... “These are the keys to this paradise,” Boabdil said as he surrendered Spain’s most sophisticated city."
"Matthew Carr, whose magnificent Blood and Faith charts the tragic end of the moriscos, sees clear parallels with current “bitter, acrimonious, and often bigoted debates”. The morisco expulsion of 1609 was “a monumental historical crime” from which he seeks lessons for today."
Big Capital: Who Is London For? by Anna Minton reviewed by Rowan Moore
"London’s current problems are the results not only of idiocy and greed but, sometimes, of responses to what were genuine problems. No one should be so nostalgic for the pre-Thatcher era as to forget the oppressions that came when local authorities were the biggest landlords in the city"
(I want all the books, but probably won't get to the Lenin ones)
More reviews at www.guardian.co.uk/books
More via www.guardian.co.uk/books
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson reviewed by Adam Roberts
"The acronym of the title stands for “Department of Diachronic Operations”. Tristan Lyons, overseeing this quasi-governmental department on a shoestring, recruits Melisande Stokes, a Harvard linguist, to translate various suspiciously well-preserved documents, all to do with magic..."
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips reviewed by Alison Flood
"This is the sort of book that, by virtue of its horrific premise, is impossible to put down until its resolution. And beware, there is a scene that is really too disturbing to read: not for its goriness – Phillips doesn’t do gore – but for its sheer awfulness. It is also – and this was unexpected, in such a page-turning, adrenaline-soaked read – an eloquent and meditative insight into motherhood..."
A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates reviewed by Erica Wagner
"This is a gripping novel, full of unexpected twists that make what could be a political treatise into a page-turner. And it is as honest as its author can make it, or so the reader must believe; but that’s an honesty that only goes so far"
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer reviewed by Neel Mukherjee
"No one writes a post-apocalyptic landscape like VanderMeer, so detailed and strange in all its lineaments and topography, at once a wasteland and yet seething with the weirdest kind of flora, fauna and biotech, that last category manifesting yet again his abiding interest in the cross-pollination between the human and non-human. It may seem an odd connection to make, but VanderMeer’s recent work has been Ovidian in its underpinnings..."
Missing Fay by Adam Thorpe reviewed by Anthony Cummins
"Some maniac with uncontrollable urges. Or maybe she has just run away,” someone thinks early on, seeing Fay’s image on a poster appealing for information about her disappearance. This rich novel of loose ends never leaves us in doubt that the two possibilities aren’t mutually exclusive."
New Sci fiction and fantasy roundup
I think Missing Faye is the only one that appeals right now.
Although I reserve the right to change my mind!
The Long Dry
This was recommended by Rachel (whose user name I can't spell: atakuac? Eta aktakukac) I shall go and check. It's short but packs a powerful punch. A man is looking for a lost cow on his farm. His teenaged son enjoys driving a van load of ducks to a new pond. His wife has a terrible migraine and regret. The vet comes to put down their elderly dog, suffering with an inoperable tumour. It sounds very humdrum but the writing is beautiful, the characters (and the farming couple's marriage) beautifully observed, full of cracks and rough places. The natural world of the farm, from swallows to the hedges is described in quiet detail. And humour there too. I want to quote the whole book but shall try and settle for just a few.
The harder mountains to the north stood out then, like knuckles at arm's length in front of your eyes and the mist ran down from them, rolling onto the log sea until it turned to cloud and lifted into the sky. The sea was like wet glass in the sun.
>241 BLBera: They were very big on the Sci fi this week Beth, some interesting books but nothing has really shouted to me.
Reading Meetings with Remarkable Trees which had some lovely photos of big trees around the UK, accompanied by a short essay (just a page) about why the author chose it.
He includes some trees from the Botanical Gardens at Cambridge, which my mum took us to as kids (free plus nature= we went there often).
>184 charl08: the designs of these covers are amazing- the top two don't appeal so much, but the others are gorgeous. Especially presented all together like that.
>240 charl08: ditto!
>244 charl08: that sounds wonderful! Ive seen some incredibly tree books before, and love a little wrap-up of why the tree is seen as significant.
>245 avatiakh: I ordered that one from the library when I finished The Long Dry. Great to get your vote of confidence. I want to read more about Spanish history and thee books sound good.
>246 drneutron: Sounds like a fun read, Jim.
>247 LovingLit: I enjoy the cover art a lot Megan.
I like the tree book a lot - plenty I didn't know and in some cases just enough info. to make me want to find out more.
Thanks for the reviews, Charlotte. None of the fiction grabbed me, but it did prompt me to go to the Guardian site, where I read about the Hans Sloane book, and reserved it :-) I think my NZ friend might like that one for a forthcoming Big Birthday, so you may just have solved my gift problem!
Happy to help Susan. It's time for a new thread, but I'm reading about bookshops in Bookshops so it might not happen until later on...
This topic was continued by Orange is not the only Penguin (book) - charl08 reads #9.
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