Friday, 15 November 2013

Bring out the books.

And sometimes, unlike in my last, things don't quite work out the way I meant them too.

Not done so well on the reading a new blog every day front, if the truth be told. It's hard enough keeping up with the ones I know already.

And I've done even worse on that promise I made way back at the beginning of 2010 - to write about every book I read as I finish it.

It's over six months since I last did so.  And that's not because I haven't read anything.  It just appears that once every six months is about my blogging about books rate.  Rubbish.

Anyway, here they are, all (or all the ones I could remember) stacked up on my lovely new floating shelves (nice aren't they - although the big one (on the left) annoyingly is clearly designed for American books and doesn't really fit British ones).

So from left to right, bottom to top:

Afternoon Tea: The only book I could find that would fit the annoying American shelf.   Not something I've actually read as such.

Bring out the Bodies: I called this post after it. How could I not? And not just because I'm dragging skeletons out of the closet and imprisoned men from the tower.  Better even than Wolf Hall.  Anne Boleyn made me cry.

Nothing to Envy: If you read one book out of this lot, make it this one.  I don't read non-fiction, and I couldn't put this down.  North Korea, in as far as we in the West can possibly know it (and before the recent escape of a prisoner from one of the labour camps).  Terrifying, amazing, made me want to get out there and do something. Though clearly I didn't. 

Instructions for a Heatwave: I love Maggie O'Farrell, and if you want to read one of her books, make it After You'd Gone, or The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox both of which will stay with me in a way this one won't (and hasn't, though I only read it last month).

Gone Girl: I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I'm still not sure

The House by the Sea: Picked up off someone else's bookshelf on holiday because everything else was in Dutch. I'd have been better off with the Dutch.

The Other Hand:  This has been sitting by my bed for about three years because the cover said it was so harrowing it would change my life, and I wasn't sure I wanted my life changed.  It wasn't that bad. It wasn't that good either.  

The Group: This was the first book this year and it's one I've wanted to write about ever since (why didn't I?).  It was written in 1963, but set in 1933 about a group of women who have recently graduated from an exclusive American college (Vassar) by a woman (Mary McCarthy) who herself graduated from Vassar in 1933.  I'll say 1933 again, because it still flabberghasts me.  These women have sex, they worry about contraception, they agonise about whether to work, to breastfeed, how to raise their children, how to maintain their relationships (both straight and gay).  It could have been written in 2003 and it makes me think of my grandmother in a whole new light.   It inspired Sex and the City.  Carrie Bradshaw of the 1930s.

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: More non-fiction and utterly beautiful.  An object of desirability in itself.  I loved holding it, almost more than I loved reading it.

In This House of Brede: The antithesis of The Group. In '60s London a woman leaves her career and joins an enclosed Benedictine Order.  The world it portrays (both inside and outside the monastery - not a convent, I learned) is a world away from mine.  It made me cry too.

Knackered Mother's Wine Club: Wine education for the blogging classes.  I got to meet Helen, the great and the good of Scottish letters (and Radio 4) and (sort of) Joanna Lumley.  I can't promise that for everyone who buys it, but really, it's great even without it - B's been using it for wine buying tips too.

Nicholas Nickleby: I've not been doing very well with my Dickens this year either.  I enjoyed this, but I couldn't tell you much about it now, although I think that says more about me than the book.

Best Friends Forever: Tosh.  Sorry, but it was.  She wrote one called Good in Bed  which is still one of my favourite chick-lit type books, but this wasn't a patch on it.

The Clerkenwell Tales: Too clever by half.  I kept stopping to admire how clever it was and never actually started to engage with it emotionally.  Probably my failing again.

Trains and Lovers:  I know lots of people love Alexander McCall Smith, but I just don't.  I heard him speak at the Borders Book Festival and so I bought this because I liked him more than I thought I would, but I just didn't get into it. It seemed to skate over the characters rather than drawing them out, if that isn't to mix metaphors.

The Shadow of Night: I love nonsense like this.  Vampires, witches, daemons and another book in the trilogy to come.  Hooray.

Noughts and Crosses: Malorie Blackman is the new children's laureate and this, her first book, is a dystopian, star-crossed lovers fiction set in a world where the black crosses are in charge and the white noughts are the oppressed underdogs.  I could see what she was trying to do and maybe I didn't get it because I'm not black, but I just thought this sort of thing had been done better elsewhere.  I can't be bothered to read the others in the series, which doesn't say much. It has got me interested in black history though, so maybe she's succeeded better than I realised at the time.

I read Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson too.  I don't think I was its intended audience. 

Not sure what's next...


  1. You've been doing a lot of reading!

    I read "In this House of Brede" years ago - enjoyed it a lot. That's the only one I've read from your list, though yes, I agree with you re Maggie O'Farrell is always a good read.

  2. Ah, thank you! Borders again next year :) x

  3. I love your book reviews. Disagree with you about Bring Up The Bodies though - it was good but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Wolf Hall.

    For me the main problem was the lack of a decent foil to Cromwell - Anne and Chapuys are the main candidates but there's not the same repartee as there is in the first one with Wolsey and More. It felt like a case of more-of-the-same; not really doing much different from WH. I'll still definitely read the next one though, as (a) they're still beautifully written and good stories, and (b) I got a feeling that she was saving some choice bits for the finale.

    1. I found Wolf Hall's moveable "he" too irritatingly confusing. She'd toned it down in this one.

      Better for those of us that no longer have a brain.


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