State of the TBR – August 2016 (yes, I know) #books #20booksofsummer

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Aug 2016 TBRYes, I know it’s not quite 1 August yet, but the TBR situation isn’t going to change in the meantime, and I’ve got a lovely book that’s on sale from tomorrow that I want to review tomorrow … so here we are with the State of the TBR.  It doesn’t feel tooo bad to me (there is another one on the left that you can’t quite see, see photo of upcoming books below) although a bit messy, as I photographed it after having a 90 minute ‘nap’ (is that a nap or a sleep?) and forgot to remove my book in Icelandic, notebook and dictionary.

I hadn’t been taking much off the TBR, reading some review books and Kindle books, but then I had a lovely long read yesterday of a fab Ann Bridge book I’ll be reviewing later in the week, and I’ve taken Freddie Flintoff to start this evening.

Aug 2016 currently

So, coming up soon / currently reading alongside David Kynaston’s “Modernity Britain” (nearly done!), we have these lovelies (refer to my previous post for a fuller image of the two blue ones), two of which arrived this week and didn’t actually make it onto the TBR. I’m running a marathon in August (my first – and my LAST long training run, completed this morning, was the reason for the ‘nap’) so I wanted to read the inspiring “Your Pace or Mine?” which is about another more ‘sedate’ runner who has completed lots of exciting runs, and Jo Pavey is about to appear in the Olympics IN HER 40s so her book had to be bought, too. Freddy Flintoff rounds off a set of sporting reads: I fished him out of a box of books a running club friend donated to BookCrossing and I think he’ll make a light, fun read before I settle into the joys of All Virago / All August (some … in some of …)

Aug 2016 coming upAnd after those, this is what’s on the front of the TBR, and handily a load of Viragoes I’ve acquired from various people have bobbed to the top of the TBR, although only two of these (the two Whartons) are on my #20BooksOfSummer list, and the rest of those are on the back row, so we’ll see how I do with those and some other Viragoes. I’ll also be re-reading Orlando for #Woolfalong in August, probably on my trip to Iceland for the marathon, as it’s a re-read, a comfort read and a slim volume.

What are you all up to in August? Read any of these?

Book reviews – A Mixture of Frailties and No Run Intended plus a small confession #20BooksOfSummer

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TBR July 2016Well, I’ve finished and reviewed both of my books for Shiny New Books and will link to them when they come out, and I’m reading away at my other books now. Although, looking at the picture to the left, I don’t seem to have chipped away at much of the actual TBR. How can this be? One of these books was from a pile on my bedside table (‘current reading’, which is a misnomer and a half, as I’ve been reading this Robertson Davies trilogy for ages!) and my Kindle, and the other book I’ve just finished (read all about that one on Monday) was on the Kindle, too. Anyway, here we go – one full review of a great book and one quick review of a not quite as wonderful one.

Robertson Davies – “A Mixture of Frailties”

(25 September 2014)

The last in the Salterton Trilogy and a great read. Solly’s dreadful mother has finally died, but she’s left a truly hateful will which has the effect of souring Solly’s genial and light-hearted nature and turning everything around it grim. It holds up everything, Solly’s inheritance, Miss Puss’s acquisition of the best tea service, the cathedral’s bequest, until Solly produces a male heir with the new young wife who his mother loathed. In the meantime, the interest from the capital must be used to provide an education to a young woman in the arts, and a sermon must be produced annually. The will must be processed within a year or the lawyer will lose the lucrative running of the trust to his bitter rival. Of course, this has the desired effect of panicking everyone and starting loads of nasty gossip.

Aspiring singer Monica is duly found and packed off to England, where we follow her for much of the book. She has all sorts of adventures and meets all sorts of eccentric musicians (this part reminded me of some of my beloved mid-century women authors, as well as good old Trollope), including Giles and his circle of misfit Bohemians. Her practical Canadian nature and naive artistic yearnings conspire to put her into a very rum position indeed, and it becomes unclear as to whether she will return home in disgrace or triumph. It’s also unclear how things will go with her family, who belong to a weird cult and cut themselves off from the rest of society.

It’s a delightful book with some dark happenings which aren’t dwelt on but do have an effect on the characters and story. Trollopian again and just a really good read. I wish more people read Davies, as he’s just so good at characters, plots, setting up the atmosphere of a small town or community and keeping it funny but not too funny.

This was Book Number 11 in my #20BooksOfSummer project

This book would suit … Those who love a big, involving, gossipy, small community novel that has an old-fashioned realist tendency and a biting wit at times. ANYONE!

Hannah Phillips – “No Run Intended”

(Ebook, bought 17 July 2016)

This was recommended in general chat by a running friend; it’s the warts-and-all story of how one lady started running and overcame a few disasters along the way. It’s a memoir rather than a how-to book, which is fine, and it is light-hearted and funny, but I had a few issues with it, unfortunately. First off, the gears change quite dramatically in the middle when family heartbreak comes along. This is of course awful and you feel for the author, but it makes for an uneasy mix, although I’m not sure how this could have been overcome. Secondly, she talks about personal disasters that she has (bodily fluids are involved) but in the main she doesn’t look at or explain how they happened. If I was a new runner learning that this could happen, I’d like to know how to prevent it! Lastly, and I try not to grumble about this sort of thing, there were lots of unfortunate typos (there was one in the book description, so I should have been warned). Some are really bizarre, and I’m not sure what’s happened there, as the author thanks an editor in the acknowledgements. *Edited to add: with horrible inevitability, I managed to spell the author’s name incorrectly in this review. I sincerely apologise and here’s a link to see all the lovely 5-star reviews on Amazon and buy the book.

So, she used an editor and cover designer, it’s funny and encouraging and lets people know about Run Mummy Run, which is a group a few of my friends belong to, and anything that helps people not fear starting to run has to be good. But perhaps not the right book for me right now.

This book will suit … new or would-be runners with a sense of humour who don’t mind the odd bodily fluid splashing around.

Running booksI’m still plodding on with the Kynaston, and hope to devote some time to it over the weekend, and I have picked Ann Bridge’s “A Lighthearted Quest” off the shelf to read as my next novel read, although I have some running books I need to read soon, too. Here they are, actually – I was recommended the Lisa Jackson one by someone in my running club who shared an article by the author, then the Jo Pavey one seemed to fall into my shopping basket … One good aspect of my marathon training is that I’m going up to bed earlier and spending more time reading; and both of these need to be read before the mara, really. Or before the Olympics start, in the case of the Jo Pavey one!

Book reviews – The Inn at Eagle Point and The Mill on the Floss #20booksofsummer

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TBR July 2016Two books read quite a long way apart. While both are about a place, and both are about large families, uncles and cousins, both have forbidden and long-lasting love and both were, in fact, page-turners, it did get me thinking about what makes a classic, because of course The Mill on the Floss is a recognised classic and The Inn at Eagle Point is a piece of summery, light reading. I haven’t really made my mind up – a classic is meant to be timeless of course, but as we move further into the 21st century, how much can we identify with a woman who is brought up to be an accessory to men and to be beholden to her family for her safety and morals? But it does remain that Mill on the Floss was the deeper and more satisfying read. Anyway, here are my reviews, plus a few notes and a sneak preview of the maximum I’ll do for All Virago / All August (not representative of what I will actually do, I’m sure)

Sherryl Woods – “The Inn at Eagle Point”

(9 August 2015)

First in a series and a good scene-setter for a Debbie Macomber-like small town community novel. Well, done, with family conflict as Abby O’Brien Winters comes home to Chesapeake Shores, the town her dad and uncles built, to help her younger, slightly wayward sister restore the inn back to being a lovely hotel. There’s conflict with old boyfriend Trace, but he’s essentially a good chap, trying to persuade his dad that his sister would be better off taking over the town bank. There are some family issues and some mild peril around Abby’s (very well done) small twin daughters and their father. A big party and set piece at the end both resolve most of the plot and set the stage for sister Bree to be the centre of the next novel – cleverly, this book has a large set of siblings and some cousins, allowing for a nice linked series to develop.

This was on my separate pile rather than my 20 books of summer pile. It was picked up when I was in a depressive slump after the Brexit vote. Fortunately, I’ve managed to get my normal reading going now, although it was a nice welcome and easy read.

This book would suit … fans of Debbie Macomber’s series set in small communities.

George Eliot – “The Mill on the Floss”

(26 September 2015)

After having spent decades only reading “Middlemarch” and then being given a copy of “Daniel Deronda” by a good friend and loving that, I’ve been gradually working my way through Eliot’s works, with a little rule that I can only buy a new one when I come across it in a charity shop. I’ve done “Adam Bede” since then and have a copy of “Silas Marner” bought earlier this month, so not many to go now.

So I’d never read this stunning novel, and it was a delight – and a page-turner – from start to finish. I thought I knew the ending just from that way that you absorb classics and almost think you’ve read them, but I’d actually got it almost completely wrong. While it is a rural tragedy with a moral underpinning, and very reminiscent of Hardy in these respects, it’s a deep and satisfying, character-based novel where the tragedy, while inevitable, is still shocking.

I loved the web of aunts and uncles which holds Maggie and Tom and their rather hapless parents in a sort of net of sisterly and in-law rivalry, discussions on parentage and family and disapproval / grudging approval. Although there’s not such a web of larger society as in “Middlemarch”, there is the incidental but gradually more and move pivotal character of Bob Jakin the packman, an attractive and charming character reminiscent of the Reddleman in “The Return of the Native”.

Maggie is a masterful portrait of the dangers of allowing a girl to grow up basically outside society and then thrusting her into it, outside her own comfort zone and area of knowledge: she brings the thrill of the exotic other – especially compared to her sweet, blonde, tiny cousin – into their limited society and attracts too much of the wrong kind of attention, then not knowing what to do with it. While she’s feisty and far from passive, the limited opportunities she has to decide her own fate, combined with her brother’s sour and hard view on life, mean that it’s inevitable that she will make a wrong step. Both try to deny their own characters, one more successfully than the other – the most rounded character is that of Philip, ‘deformed’ in body but following his artistic ways, although his fate is not a great one, either.

The two suitors are contrasted beautifully in a wonderful novel of pairs and echoes, where Maggie’s only real sin is perhaps caring too much what her brother thinks of her, and Eliot carefully dissects the effect of their father’s combative and aggressive personality and their family ruin on their own personalities and relationships with each other and their social milieu.

This was Book 10 in my 2oBooksOfSummer project.

Well, half way through 20BooksOfSummer, although I fear more than half way through the time period allowed. I have also read Philip Eade’s “Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited” but that was for Shiny New Books so you’ll have to wait for a link to that one later on. I’m now going to get back to the Kynaston book, as well as reading another review book for Shiny. But I think I’ve got a weekend off (shhh).

This represents the maximum I could read if I read nothing else and August was three months long.

This represents the maximum I could read if I read nothing else and August was three months long.

In other news, there has been discussion about All Virago / All August in the LibraryThing Virago group, so I’ve pulled out all the Viragoes and Persephones (well, the Persephone) in my TBR and made A Lovely Pile. “The Reef” and “Hudson River Bracketed” are on the 20BooksOfSummer list and of course one of the five books in “Pilgrimage 4” will be read in August. And I kind of have to read the Thirkell, don’t I, give its title. But it won’t be ALL Virago / All August this year, as I still have a fair few other books in the 20Books pile.

I know Kaggsy has “Hudson River Bracketed” ready to read, and I’m pretty sure Heaven-Ali has read both the Persephone (“London War Notes”) and “The Song of the Lark” – have any others of you read any of these?

Holiday reading and acquisitions roundup

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holiday reading

Reading by the sea without the sand

Mr Liz and I had an enjoyable short break in Bridlington over the last weekend. I took a pile of books and my Kindle – and once again, didn’t touch the Kindle: I do read things on it at home but I do wonder about just having it tag along unless there’s something I particularly want to read on it.

I took four books with me to read, one of which I’d started already, and ended up finishing three of them and starting the fourth, so I’m pretty happy with that. Also, almost half-way through July (and so through the project), I note that I’ve completed 9 books of my #20BooksOfSummer and am reading Books 10, 11 and 20 (I know I’ll finish that Icelandic children’s book last). However, I have got some big ones coming up, plus I’m in the middle of a couple of review books at the moment.

Ranulph Fiennes – “Cold”

(bought 22 August 2015)

The veteran explorer’s book about his own polar exploration and mountaineering challenges, interspersed with the history (usually bloody and miserable) of such endeavours. Lovely to read all about the Transglobe Expedition, which I remember very clearly from my youth and which was probably the thing that got me into my interest in reading about exploration in the first place.

He’s extremely laconic about danger and physical unpleasantnesses, which can end up being quite amusing to read, and is basically the hardest man alive: this isn’t a book to read at mealtimes or even just before sleeping, although my tolerance for such ickiness is higher than in novels and other books. It’s very up to date, having been published in 2013. I think there’s a “Heat” book that goes with it that I now want to read.

This book was Book Number 7 in my #20BooksOfSummer project

This book would suit … people who enjoy reading about danger and the horrors of expeditions, plus the history of polar and mountain exploration

Julia Strachey – “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding” and “An Integrated Man”

(given to me by blogger Jane from Beyond Eden Rock, 11 September 2015)

The only two novels Strachey wrote, almost 20 years apart. Both are what I would term cubist or modernist, describing life in terms of a set of shifting viewpoints and sudden sensations, inner lives and quite startling metaphors.

“Cheerful Weather” tells the story of a country wedding in Dorset. With a rueful bride swigging rum, brothers arguing about socks, strange aunts and an ex-suitor paralysed into not doing anything, it’s both a specific wedding and every wedding. Mother is worse than useless, annoying everyone and only caring about the view, and everything is full of portent and worry. The actual wedding happens off-stage, which seems typical and fitting in this odd but entertaining novella.

“An Integrated Man”, the longer book, opens with Ned Moon musing smugly on his bed about how organised his life is as he plans to set up a school with his best friend and has overcome any messy emotions and character flaws. Of course, this bubble is crying out to be burst, and burst it is: by the end, insufferable children have shrieked, housemaids have smashed china in fear at being lectured about Art by Ned’s well-meaning hostess, Gwen, and Ned himself has fallen violently and unsuitably in love.

I spent half of this book worrying that the animals with which it is full were metaphorical portents with horrors about to befall them (they might have been metaphors, but no actual horrors befell them), and there were some pretty strong erotic metaphors which gave the whole thing a rather over-heated feel, a bit like “The Go Between”. I’m not sure if it’s a roman a clef and people were busy being cross about it, but it was an interesting and of course very well-written read.

This book was Book Number 8 in my #20BooksOfSummer project

This book would suit … Bloomsburyites and the first novella is published by Persephone, which tells you most of what you need to know about it.

Nilanjan P. Choudhury – “The Case of the Secretive Sister”

(Acquired via BookCrossing 28 September 2015)

Removed from the shelves of a cafe that was closing for a refurb, I did fancy reading this and it was a light read, done with in an hour or so. A slim and quite silly Indian detective story, published by a publishing company in India and somehow finding itself in Birmingham. Mr Chatterjee has set himself up as a private detective but his agency isn’t really going anywhere, so he has to accept the job of getting a 4 year old with pushy parents into a posh school. Funny enough and the plot works, but not really long and complex enough to be absorbing.

This book was Book Number 9 in my #20BooksOfSummer project

I started reading George Eliot’s “The Mill on the Floss” and am finding that most absorbing, in contrast!

July 2016 2Not too many acquisitions, especially as I left all three that I finished in the hotel. These three came from the YMCA in Bridlington – Mr Liz and I want to read the Kingsolver soon, I am ‘allowed’ to buy George Eliots as I see them (only “Felix Holt” to go now, I think!) and the one about working as a checkout lady looked fun. I did also buy Earlene Fowler’s “Tumbling Blocks” in Whitby and came home to a copy of Tove Jansson’s “The True Deceiver” from the lovely Karen at Kaggsysbookishramblings (thank you!) so numbers are up but the TBR isn’t looking tooooooo bad still.

What have you been up to while I’ve been away? Read more than you acquired? Got on with your challenges? I will be reading other people’s blogs in time, but have some work to catch up with first!

Book review – The Trap (Pilgrimage)

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Dorothy Richardson - PilgrimageI seem to have been working, eating, sleeping and running and not really reading very much – argh! After going for Easy Books for a few days, I did manage to get myself through the next volume of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” – it was a short one, at just over 100 pages. I now seem to be reading the David Kynaston, Ranulph Fiennes’ “Cold” AND that new biog of Eveyln Waugh that I’m reviewing for Shiny New Books – oops. Anyway, here’s my latest Richardson review, and also some naughty purchases that could not be resisted …

Dorothy Richardson – “The Trap”

We’re up to Book 8 in Pilgrimage, and the last in the “Pilgrimage 3” volume you can see in the pic, with a bumper five in the final volume! This, as those will be, was quite a short one.

Miriam moves in with a Miss Holland (did I miss us meeting her before?) into a living arrangement that involves a curtained-off shared bedroom that we can see will soon lead to conflict for loner Miriam … which of course it does. Poor old Miss Holland, with her many layers of odd clothes, seems to act as Miriam’s wife, doing all the cleaning and tidying and shopping, while all Miriam has to do is face the weird landlord at rent-paying time. She seems to miss her old lodgings, and it’s not clear if she moved out for money-saving or independence reasons (or maybe because she turned down Michael once too often?). Unfortunately, they, as so often happens with housemates or couples, end up loathing even each other’s going-to-bed-routine noises, and fighting, as so many office-mates do, over whether to have the window open or closed. I’m sorry, but I found this quite amusing, as both are quite po-faced. A major falling-out leaves harsh words spoken and Miriam interestingly refusing to make things up in ‘the feminine way’.

There’s an odd group called the Lycurgans that Miriam belongs to but mocks secretly – is this supposed to be the Fabians, I wondered? She seems to be getting off-stage letters or some form of communication from Hypo, and while we should be used to this way of advancing the plot, it does get a bit frustrating. Miriam is found to be 28 now, and her doctor is warning her that she had better settle down to marriage and babies asap. But the book ends with conflict between the married couple in the flat downstairs (the unmarried couple seem happier – surely a comment) and it’s unclear, as is often the case, what will happen next with the living situation becoming ever more untenable.

Pilgrimage is mentioned – for the first time? – but confusingly (surprise!) – Dora is described as “The culprit of the wandering pilgrimage”. Hm.

July 2016

A few purchases to finish off – I was in our lovely Foyles in town at the weekend, with my book tokens for once. I’d been meaning to pick up Iris Murdoch’s letters for aaaages – for my poor old neglected research project. I’d been alerted to Sylvia Patterson’s “I’m Not With The Band”, which is a memoir about music journalism and the state of it through from the 80s by the fact that all of my music journo clients seem to know her and have read advance copies, and I saw “Eat, Sweat, Play” on the new books shelf and thought a book about the growing number of women doing sport more seriously looked interesting and apposite, so even though I’d gone over my book tokens by then, home it came. Not too bad seeing as I haven’t really acquired much since about April … Right?

I have an Easy Book to review but that will be later when I’ve read something to go with it. What are you reading? Have you read any of these new ones?

State of the TBR – July 2016

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TBR July 2016

Look! Look! My TBR is definitely going down! I think I only read five books from the actual TBR (plus two from the Pile and two (one DNF) that I bought specially within the month) and removed one large one (the Kynaston social history, which I’m half way through), but I didn’t add any. Well, sort of.

July 2016 coming up 1

I did add these two lovely hardback biographies. But they’re for review, for the lovely Shiny New Books, and they have to be read and reviewed by the end of this month, so they’re not exactly joining the TBR as such. They do look good: I wonder who else has review copies of them at the moment. It’s fortunate that I like a good biography, and especially a mid-20th century arts-and-letters sort of one. I’ll be starting these lovely treats soon.

July 2016 coming up 2

I’m also still working my way through Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series, and this will continue through the rest of the year. I do sometimes get a bit downcast, because they’re Quite Hard, so I took this photo to comfort myself. See that sliver of Volume 3 after my bookmark? That’s July’s volume, just over 100 pages. And then Volume 4, while quite a substantial-looking volume, contains ALL THE REST OF THE BOOKS! So that’s five – FIVE – books in one volume. We can cope with that over five months, can’t we?!

July 2016 current

I’m currently reading, alongside the Kynaston and a light novel I’ve just finished, my book on volcanoes in Icelandic – luckily, a children’s book, but with quite a lot of text still. Working my way on with my notebook and dictionary, it took me an hour to read the front cover, map legend and the first paragraph of the first page, but I’m getting there, and I’m remembering quite a lot of the grammar from Old Norse, which makes it easier for looking up (one day, if you’re lucky, I’ll share the wonderful order an Icelandic dictionary goes in – it does make sense, but it’s a bit hard to pick up!

July 2016 coming up 3These are the next books up on the front of the TBR (do you think I can read them all this month and reach One Shelf TBR? Not sure, as one is a George Eliot with thin pages and small print …). They’re all taking part in my #20BooksofSummer project – not all of the books on the back row are, so that might be interesting – and we’ve got a nice variety, I think, with two classic novels, two mid-century novels, a light mystery, a sports autobiography and an exploration autobiography. Read any of these? Anything catch your eye?

Before I go off and get on with my July reading, a quick mention of a resource that might be useful to some of my fellow book bloggers: over on my professional blog this week I published a piece on driving engagement with your blog. In other words, how to encourage people to read, comment on and share your posts. It’s written for everyone, not just full-time bloggers or business bloggers, and I hope it helps some of you in some way.