March 2015 To Be ReadWell, we’ll start with some book reviews – sense a theme here? I had to review these two together, even though I read them quite far apart, actually. But after the reviews, news of a fun thing to do that I wasn’t sure about then loved, and a HUGE book haul that happened when I stepped into the world of a different high street with a different batch of charity shops … OK, here goes …

Tony Allan – “Vikings: The Battle at the End of Time”

(05 Sep 2014 – The Works)

I picked this up cheap, not expecting that much of it, but it’s actually a nicely illustrated and, although fairly basic, accurate and fairly detailed account of the Vikings and their times, sociology and mythology, with plenty on the gods and, as hinted in the title, Ragnarok. The illustrations are very nice on the whole (sometimes it feels a bit small, as if this paperback is a reprint of a larger hardback), bringing together art and archaeology, drawings and photographs, and there are translated quotations from the sources where appropriate. A fair bit on Iceland, including some lovely pictures, and well worth the four quid I paid.

Nancy Marie Brown – “Song of the Vikings”

(25 June 2015 – from Matthew)

No, I’m not sure how these have got out of order, either. This is a book about Snorri Sturluson, Icelandic writer and law-speaker and generally somewhat argumentative chap, and his Edda and other poems and works that he wrote or brought together. It pulls together history, myth and literature in what aims to be an accessible manner.

It’s a complicated story, let’s face it, and gets all interleaved with the folklore and myths, a good idea in some ways but potentially a bit confusing. I do honestly think that I would have struggled with this book if I hadn’t already had something of an understanding of Snorri, the historical background and the Norse mythology. The author does make a good attempt at keeping it all straight, reminding us who is related to whom and providing family trees and maps. Original sources are quoted (although the author states that she mixes different translations and sources with some of her own translations, which feels a little odd to me), and sometimes the text itself starts to feel a bit like a saga text, which can get a bit disconcerting when you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with quoted or direct wording.

The references are the kind where there are no asterisks and footnote numbers, with the references in the back being linked to the text with a few words or expressions – I did get a bit lost trying to trace some references in this way, although maybe it’s aimed at improving the accessibility of the book.

I did find this enjoyable with a lot of good solid information – there are nothing but glowing reviews on Amazon, so I’d be interested to know what other people thought of this one.

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Escape QUest MacclesfieldOn Saturday, we had a trip to Macclesfield to meet up with Editor Laura and her other half, Mark. They’ve been doing these “escape rooms” recently, which is a thing where you’re “locked” into a room and have to solve puzzles and riddles to get a key to get out, working out chains of things along the way (oh look, Wikipedia has a page explaining them). The one we went to was called Escape Quest and is an independent one, run by a lovely couple – and although I wasn’t sure I wasn’t going to get frustrated, be unable to do it, or panic, I really did enjoy myself – as we all did – and had a fab time. And we escaped! Of course we did! You get an hour … Anyway, you can read more about the one we did here on their website, and there’s a Facebook page where you can find a photo of me, Matthew, Laura and Mark! I’ll also be featuring them on my Small Business Chat series on my Libro blog in due course – I’ll pop a link up here when I’ve done that.

Books from MacclesfieldThe other thing Macclesfield has, it turns out, is a nice big The Works and lots of charity shops. We didn’t even go in them all in the end – that’ll be for another visit. And they were ones I (obviously) hadn’t been in before, and look what happened!

Deborah Devonshire – “All in One Basket” – the last surviving Mitford sister who passed away quite recently – this is both of her lovely memoirs in one volume.

“Britain from the Rails” – railway journeys in the UK and what you can see from the train. Good for armchair and real-life travels, I think.

Michael Cunningham – “By Nightfall” – one of my favourite authors but I’ve dropped off from keeping up with his new ones. Excitingly, there were a few copies of this one, so Laura got one, too!

Georgette Heyer – “The Unknown Ajax” – I’ve got quite a few in this edition now, and who can resist a Heyer they haven’t got? Not me!

Debbie Macomber – “The Inn at Rose Harbor” – I’ve had the second book in this series on that special pile on my TBR for books in series that I’m waiting to get up to for aaages – now I can read both of them. Or whenever I get to this one.

Dorothy Richardson – “Pilgrimage 4” – And this one will replace the Macomber, as I’ve got Pilgrimage 1 (but haven’t read it for ages) and not 2 or 3. Ones to look out for – I’m sure they’ll appear at some stage! The only Virago Green in the pack, but not one I see often.

Harold Nicolson – “Diaries and Letters 1930-39; 1945-69” – We know that I’m a little obsessed with this family – how lovely to pick up these ex-library copies in the Oxfam books (along with the Richardson and Roy Jenkins books, and I had a lovely chat with the lady working there, who is reading ALL of the Booker shortlist books for each year, working her way backwards. No, she doesn’t have a blog). These will be a real treat, although I fear there are Other Volumes which I will need to find.

John Campbell – “Roy Jenkins” – And regular readers will know how much I like a political biography, and this is supposed to be a good one. So really all of these books fit my collection management policy and Don’t Count – right?

Have you read any of these?