Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Literary catch up

I am acutely aware that I'm a bad blog-mother (or whatever you'd call someone who should be caring for her readers but forgets to post anything for weeks or months) and haven't given you any 'sustenance' for some time.

To be honest, it has been a pretty awful few months for us recently and crafting hasn't been very high on the agenda.  Finding the emotional energy and concentration for it has been beyond me too.  I've tried to carry on with household crafting, but the sewing machine stitch length regulator packing up hasn't helped much either!!  The machine is now back on its feet, so hopefully I can tell you all about that soon.

In the meantime, following a chat about books with a colleague, I thought I'd at least fill you in on my reading this year.  It was January when I last updated you.  As I say, I've not had much patience or concentration for crafts or reading over the summer, but I'm gradually getting back into things again now and I'm going to try and work my way through the pile of books I've had next to my bed and cluttering up the front of the bookshelves over the next few months.  So, since January ...

Llwyth - Bethan Gwanas (a Welsh language book for teenagers - I know, I'm well past that stage now, but I met the author and this was the only book I hadn't got that I could get her to sign. It is about tribes (hence the title, which is Welsh for tribe) in a sort-of prehistoric, mystical Wales where the tribes have animal attributes - crows, wolves, bears and dragons - and they have to overcome their fear/prejudice of each other to fight a common enemy. Enjoyable even as an adult!)
Martha, Jac a Sianco - Caryl Lewis (a novel set in rural Wales, on a farm where two brothers and a sister live together after caring for their parents. Are they still 'young' enough to start afresh, or is it too late for them now? Not an unusual situation in rural communities where the children (or at least one child) remains at the family home caring for the aging parents. Quite a poignant and sad tale.)
O'r harbwr gwag i'r cefnfor gwyn - Robin Llywelyn (Like Martha, Jac a Sianco, this is an award-winning novel. According to (Welsh book council's website/shop) "a fantasy love story about the quest of the hero for his love against many odds".  I must admit, I found it hard going and struggled to persevere with it.  But I hate being beaten by a book!)
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton (My MIL was given this as a gift and I'd intended to borrow it, but when I was looking for something to read on holiday I threw caution to the wind and bought myself a copy. I loved it! I'd visited the Rijksmuseum and had seen the doll's house that had inspired it, so I simply couldn't resist.  Well worth a read if you like historical novels - this is a good HN, but with a difference.)
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton (We had two weeks on holiday and two long flights to fill, so when there was BOGOHP or something at Waterstones I had to choose something to go with The Miniaturist.  There was another book in competition, but for whatever reason (possibly because it was a Man Booker prize winner) this is what I bought. It is a who-dunnit of sorts, but a historical novel too. Quite puzzling - I found it hard work, but also couldn't put it down.  I think the ending disappointed me a little, but quite a good read.)
An Equal Music - Vikram Seth (This was DH's holiday reading choice.  He loved it and recommended that I read it too.  We both like music, so it was pretty certain to appeal.  Another poignant story, but also a page turner.  It left me wishing that I was a better musician - again.)
Excursion to Tindari - Andrea Camilleri (This was the start of a bit of a 'binge' read and a clear out at the same time.  I'd bought an unboxed 'boxed' set of Inspector Montalbano books from the Book People, so having read the first four, I wanted to finish the set.  So, how better than to 'binge' in them, one after another? All the Montalbano books are atmospheric and full of mouth watering descriptions of his favourite foods!  I can't imagine that the Sicillian tourist board need anything more than these books to tempt people there!  It is certainly high on our list of places we want to holiday in soon.  There are common themes running through them too - including, topically (or not as these books actually prove) the problems mediterranean destinations face with the influx of refugees.  Despite the obvious distress and concern the recent news items have caused, I got quite angry that the media made it sound as if it was a 'new' problem.  The Snack Thief was first published in Italian in 1996 and deals with the son of a refugee who is being traficked - so the problem has been around for at least a decade! Anyway, these are great 'light reading' books, with plenty of atmosphere, humour, serious themes and drama - so I won't write about each one individually.)
The Scent of the Night - Andrea Camilleri
Rounding the Mark - Andrea Camilleri
O! Tyn y Gorchudd - Angharad Price (I actually read this a while ago, but only realised it wasn't on my list in the midst of my Montalbano binge! It is tells the story of Rebecca Jones and her life in rural Montgomeryshire.  another award winning book - and well worthy of the prize.  There is a translation available, which DH found fascinating.)
The Patience of the Spider - Andrea Camilleri
The Seville Communion - Arturo Perez-Reverte (This is another 'throw back' that somehow missed getting on my list. If you enjoy mystery/thriller type books, but fancy one that is a little different, I'd recommend any of Arturo Perez-Reverte's books.  This one is about "murderous goings-on in a tiny church draw the Vatican into the dark heart of Seville. A hacker gets into the Pope's personal computer to leave a warning about mysterious deaths in a small church in Seville that is threatened with demolition".)
The Paper Moon - Andrea Camilleri
August Heat - Andrea Camilleri
The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory (After a crime binge I needed a bit of a change, so reverted to my other 'love' - historical novels.  Philippa Gregory is difficult to beat too.  I'd already read her Cousins' series about the Wars of the Roses and had dipped into her Tudor series, but I've decided now to read them in chronological order (rather than the order they were written). As it happens I'd got as far as 'dear ol' Ann Boleyn, so the 'aftermath' was next.  As usual, Philippa doesn't disappoint.  Luckily, the next novel chronologically has just come out, so I'll be moving on to that soon.)
he Captive Queen - Alison Weir (This and The Boleyn Inheritance have been my way of getting back into reading after a horrible summer, so thank you to Philippa and Alison for tempting me back. This is about Eleanor of Aquitaine.  I remember reading the Plantagenat series by Jean Plaidy when I was still at school.  I've enjoyed the Plaidy books over the years, but this gives a bit more flesh to the bones, and probably more historical fact too, although there isn't much about Eleanor apparently. I've only read one other book by Alison Weir before, but I may 'pinch' my DM's copy of Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess in the future.)

Since then I've completely changed direction.  As I've promise (!), I am going to work my way through the pile of books blocking the other books on our bookshelves and the pile next to my bed.  So, as good as my word, the top of one of those piles was Good Ideas - How to be your child's (and your own) best teacher by Michael Rosen. In short, it is about making every day experiences fun and educational for children. The introductory part was hard going (but I was tired and run down at the time), but it is fun reading it.  A lot of it is probably stuff you'd do without thinking, but it may well open your mind to doing something different (in my case, despite LOATHING mushrooms, the thought of going foraging in woods with an expert - obviously! - and seeing nature, the life cycle of plants ... AND getting something tasty (for some people) to boot, sounded like fun.  So I may well give it a go one autumn - as long as none of you make me eat the results!!!

So, what have you been reading recently?  Any recommendations?  Have you read any of the books I've been reading?  If so, what do you think of them - and do you agree with me?! 
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