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Posts Tagged ‘february reads’

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The end of February always seems to take me by surprise – and so I find myself rushing to put this roundup together – and it is already March.

Eight books read in February – (and one more started) but it is a shorter month although I can’t help but know (I try not to care about this) that I am already two or three books behind where I usually am and my Goodreads target.

In My Own Time; almost an autobiography by Nina Bawden got February off to a good start. I like Bawden’s writing a lot – and in this collection of memoirs, Bawden tells us about her childhood, years at Oxford, her writing and the difficulties she and her family faced living with a son with schizophrenia.

Virago Press chose Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith for their February book club, and I was keen to join in, Deep Water was my first ever Highsmith, it certainly won’t be my last. I have now bought The Talented Mr Ripley.

Marghanita Laski’s first published novel Love on the Supertax – is a satirical novel of class during world war two. I really enjoyed it – though its humour is dated – I could see why this one has not yet been re-issued.

Names for the Sea; strangers in Iceland was the first of the two books I read on my kindle during February. With my holiday in Iceland on the horizon, I decided to read Sarah Moss’s account of her year living in Reykjavik in 2009. I felt I learned a lot about Iceland from the book, although her account can be a bit negative, and it’s worth remembering the experiences of a tourist and someone living and working for a year in a place will be wholly different.

Following the Nina Bawden memoir at the beginning of the month, I was keen to read The Birds on the Trees; Bawden’s fictional account of some aspects of her eldest son’s life. The novel was published in 1970 eleven years before her real life son’s suicide.

Toward the end of last year, I read The Magic Toyshop, it made me determined to read more by Angela Carter. Wise Children was recommended to me by several people, and I absolutely loved it. An extravagant, bawdy exploration of almost a hundred years of theatre.

The end of February of course saw me and three friends enjoying a short holiday in Reykjavik and I read Rebecca West’s The Fountain Overflows while there, finishing it about an hour after I got home. Rebecca West was the Libraything Virago group’s author of the month for February. (In March, it is Edith Wharton). I absolutely loved The Fountain Overflows, although I though it a little slow to get going. I have already ordered book two of the trilogy.

Another kindle read, Alys, Always by Harriet Lane which I read for my very small book group – we meet next week. I have still to review it – but although I found it a fairly engaging, easy diverting read, I thought, overall it was a little thin – lacking depth. I’m so often disappointed in modern novels.

I am currently reading The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning, the first novel in her Balkan trilogy – which I read once before in a large, unwieldy omnibus edition. I know I loved it but could remember virtually nothing about it. Determined to re-read it and no longer having the edition I read, I set about re-acquiring the trilogy – this time in separate volumes. I found a nice 1960 hardback of The great Fortune in a second-hand bookshop I always pop into whenever I am on holiday in Devon, The Spoilt City – book two I found in a small 1970s paperback edition, I am trying not to mind that they don’t match.

No definite plans for March, however I have just bought one of the Dean Street Press/Furrowed Middlebrow titles – Arrest the Bishop – and have agreed to have more sent for review. I may also read Edith Wharton, I have had Roman Fever (a collection of stories) tbr for ages – so I might just dig it out. The Women’s Room by Marilyn French is the #VMCBookClub book for March and I may have just ordered it.

So what have you been reading, and what are your plans for March?

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Just like last month I read nine and a half books – during February, which I think isn’t too bad for a slightly shorter month (that one or two days can make all the difference). As well as a roundup of my reading month – I am using this as a place to confess/celebrate my dreadful/delightful book buying of the last month.

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February began with me half way through Cider with Rosie – a classic memoir of great nostalgia – which was very different to what came next. My first full read of February – The Cleft by Doris Lessing was a book group read. A book I will probably not forget in a hurry – mainly because it is rather odd – though it certainly led to an interesting discussion. The Woman Novelist & other stories – a slim Persephone volume was the perfect antidote as was The Winter City – Mary Hocking’s first published novel, set in an unnamed country behind the Iron curtain – which I loved. Following a lovely evening at Waterstone’s in Birmingham, a book launch and author event for Birmingham writer Clare Morrall – I enjoyed reading When the Floods Came – a dystopian novel set in a future Birmingham. Crossriggs, a lovely old Virago green came highly recommended by Liz – and I’m so glad I read it because it was one of my booksish highlights of the month. My second book group (which I haven’t even attended since about September) were reading Wide Sargasso Sea – oh joy! It’s a book I had read twice already – though about fifteen years ago – and I was delighted to read it again. Re-reading is always such a joy – I got more from it this time around – things I had forgotten leapt off the page at me – such a beautiful novel. Don’t Look Now – is one of the books (see below) that I have bought this month – When the Floods Came fits into that category too; a beautiful edition of a superb collection of short stories by Daphne Du Maurier that I couldn’t help but gobble down. Winegarden; a novella my second Birmingham set read of the month, was a small unexpected delight, I have a couple of friends who I think might like it too – so my copy will end up well read. We Have always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson was a Christmas gift by a good friend and a book I have been meaning to read for ages. I will get around to reviewing it in due course – but as everyone said I would – I loved it. I am now a little more than 200 pages into Night and Day – for phase two of Woolfalong – very different from To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway – but I am very much enjoying it.

March is the start of #Woolfalong phase two – and read Ireland month – which I am definitely planning on joining in. I haven’t decided which books to read yet – but I have several to choose from. One of my books groups will be reading Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge – very much looking forward to that, but as I can’t attend book group number 2 – again – I think I will swerve that book (I can’t remember the title anyway).

As I hinted above I have been buying books – rather a lot of books. Some of the books I have bought are not even to read right away – they form part of a growing collection. I had a little bit of extra money come my way at the beginning of February – and so my thoughts turned to Persephone. IMG_20160204_200433

I ordered; A Writer’s Diary and Flush – for #Woolfalong later in the year – Greengates by R C Sherriff and The Victorian Chaise Lounge by Marganhita Laski.

2016-02-29_20.13.46When the Floods Came as mentioned above was bought at the author event I attended, I bought copies of the same book for my sister and her friend too. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson is for a book group read in a couple of months’ time, it looks really good, I haven’t read nearly enough of Winterson’s work. Good Behaviour, a book by Molly Keane – which I will probably read this month for read Ireland month – is a book I have wanted to read for ages – I couldn’t resist this VMC designer edition so pretty.

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Then I decided to treat myself to a few more of what I call pretty books (I know I’m shallow). I love the VMC designer editions and the Penguin clothbound editions – and have a few shelved together. I don’t really intend to buy them all – but there’s nothing wrong with a well-chosen shelf-full is there? I bought Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with the last of my Christmas vouchers – thank you Liz. The Tennent of Wildfell Hall I re-read a couple of years ago –and it is one of my all-time favourite classics. Then last week I succumbed to more of the pretty books – all old favourites I have read before; The Enchanted April, Rebecca and The tortoise and the Hare – all in beautiful VMC designer editions. I will probably want to re-read them all now.

IMG_20160220_094003Venturing into a rather good Oxfam bookshop during half term – I was very pleased with myself when I only came out with three books. There were a good number of green viragos, although I did already have most of them – I felt restrained indeed only coming out with three. Brown girl Brownstones by Paule Marshall, Love by Elizabeth Von Arnim and Union Street by Pat Barker which I later found I already had a copy of – a rather better copy as it turned out.

Oh and I bought some mugs too – which I am a bit nervous of using. So I’m staying out of certain kinds of shops this month – oh wait – another author event at Waterstone’s on Wednesday – I’m doomed!

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My February reading started with a remarkable novel – Suite Francaise by Irene Nѐmirovsky – a film of which, I have since been made aware is coming soon. I actually saw a trailer for the film, a couple of weeks ago, when I went to see the wonderful Selma – everyone should watch that – sorry, back to books. Helen Dunmore is a novelist it would seem that I have rather neglected. My second read was The Greatcoat, which I did enjoy very much and reminded me how good Dunmore is at characterisation and exploring the complex relationships between people – I am never very convinced by ghost stories – which is what The Greatcoat is, but it is very atmospheric. Next up was the first of my two book group reads – yes two book groups now – how will I cope? Orlando has been called Virginia Woolf’s most accessible novel by some, but I know Woolf fans disagree about that. I have always had a rather difficult relationship with Virginia Woolf, on the surface she would appear to be the kind of writer that I should love, indeed I have always wanted to, but I think I put myself off her when I was a lot younger and not quite ready for her writing. I absolutely loved Orlando – much more than I had expected to and it was a book I was looking forward to. Our book group met last Thursday to discuss it, and it seems several members found it tough going – a couple didn’t manage to finish it.

As a book lover and inveterate book buyer – I can’t help but to be endlessly charmed and a little heartbroken by the story Helen Hanff told us in the famous 84 Charing Cross Road, my fourth book of February was Letter from New York by Helene Hanff – a collection of the five minute broadcasts that Hanff made for the BBC in the late 1970’s and 1980’s – her Letter from New York to the people of Britain. This was a wonderful book, and has made me determined to re-read 84 Charing Cross Road again soon. Next was book two of the wonderfully readable Forsyte Saga, I loved In Chancery just as much as A Man of Property, in this novel Galsworthy concerned himself mainly with the realities of couples wanting to divorce at the end of the nineteenth century. The Awakening which I read for my second (a brand new) book group which will be meeting on Wednesday – was another outstanding book, evocative, with a surprisingly modern feel to the late nineteenth century writing. Ariel was my first poetry collection this year – the first poetry collection I have ever reviewed too. Tea with Mr Rochester – Persephone book 44 was the first of two collections of short stories I read toward the end of the month. Tea with Mr Rochester may be a book many people haven’t come across, the author died before her collected short stories were published in one collection, and then naturally there were no more books. Having read Orlando earlier in the month, sometimes described as a love letter to Vita Sackville West, I read The Edwardians by Vita Sackville West, published two years after Orlando. I knew my friend Liz was reading it so as it was on my #TBR20 pile anyway I thought I would read along. My second collection of short stories and the final book for February which I only finished on Saturday morning was A Jury of her Peers and other stories by Susan Glaspell, a writer I have come to love, but whose work can be hard to find.

So a total of ten books for February, and I know I am already a tiny bit behind last year, which was behind the year before – not sure I like that trend. I will, of course, be reviewing those last two books over the next week hopefully.

 

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I am glad to welcome March in quite frankly, I rather dislike January and February if that isn’t too monthist – I love daffodils, and the emergence of spring flowers, lighter mornings making the walk to work that much better. No particular plans for March really, except for a re-read of Frankenstein for one of my book groups – which is kind of freeing, and I do like that feeling. I am supposed to be working my way to the end of #TBR20 but I keep losing my way and reading away from that original pile. If you remember I began #TBR20 back at the start of January however just four books in and I bought two books – oops. Beginning again – I intended to read what was left on that pile of twenty books and four others – however although I have read fifteen or sixteen books since I fell off the wagon buying two books – many of them weren’t on that original pile – so here I am reading book number 21 of the year and it’s all got a bit confusing because that #TBR20 pile still has 8 books on it. Still I am pleased with my book buying restraint, amazed actually. Currently reading Loving by Henry Green from a collection of three of his novels – which I intend to read seperately – I have had them ages.

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February has been a great reading month for me. It’s very hard to pick my favourites, as favgodseverything has been so wonderfully memorable. Despite not often reading much non-fiction I read two amazing non-fiction books that are linked by poet Edward Thomas ‘The Old ways’ and ‘Under storm’s Wing’ which I can’t praise highly enough.
My two top fiction reads from this month then were:
A favourite of the Gods – Sybille Bedford – a beautifully written novel about three generations of mothers and daughters – I’ll be reading the sequel soon.
Guard your daughters – by Diana Tutton – which I finally got around to reading and loved every bit as many other bloggers before me had.

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I have gathered together a nice pile for March which includes one book I had originally planned to read during February but didn’t get around to.
My current read – which I am enjoying very much despite the sometimes brutal nature of the story is The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam, I don’t expect I’ll finish it until the weekend – the writing is glorious. I stumped up for the hardback when I realised it had been released as I have loved Aslam’s previous books.
Up next will be The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy for my Hardy reading challenge – I remember loving it the first time around which was a long time ago.
Jane and Prudence – Barbara Pym, another re-read I’ll be reading for our Pym read-a-long.
The Death of Lyndon Wilder and the consequences thereof – E A Dineley – sent by the publishers.
Mr Brigg’ Hat – Kate Colquhon, a true life Victorian mystery which I am looking forward to.
Ruby’s spoon – Anna Lawrence Pietroni – who’ll be talking to a local meet up group I sometimes attend toward the end of the month.
A Compass Error – Sybille Bedford, the sequel to A favourite of the gods.
Taking Chances – Molly Keane – which is the book I had selected for the classic spin
Nightingale Wood – Stella Gibbons, which was part of my Librarything Virago group secret Santa gift.
These all look so good – I do hope I manage to find time for them all.

What will you be reading in March?

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At the end of January I felt that I had a brilliant start to my reading for 2012 – I had read some lovely books and was looking forward to the ones I have still to read. Well February has also been great. I read 12 books in February only 2 non-fiction – and I see more than half of them published before the year 2000 – I really am reading fewer new books these days. However there are one or two recent books that have caught my eye – that I may be buying soon.

So in February I read:

12 Tom-All-Alone’s (2012) – Lynn Shepherd (F)
13 Palladian (1946) – Elizabeth Taylor (F)
14 The Corner that held them (1948) – Sylvia Townsend Warner (F)
15 Before I go to Sleep (2011) – S J Watson (F)
16 Counting my Chickens (2001) – Deborah Devonshire (NF)
17 Miss Buncle Married (1936) – D E Stevenson (F)
18 Debs at War (2005) – Anne De Courcy (NF)
19 Strong Poison (1929) – Dorothy L Sayers (F)
20 The Woman in Black (1983) – Susan Hill (F)
21 Fenny (1953) – Lettice Cooper (F)
22 Sovereign (2006) – C J Sansom (F)
23 The Heat of the Day (1948) – Elizabeth Bowen (F)

I usually pick three or four books for special mention at this point – only this month it could easily be six or seven- but I’ll stick to five though, in no particular order.

  1. Tom-All-Alone’s – Lynn Shepherd – a brilliant homage to Dickens and a massively readable novel, which I know will appeal to many readers.

 

 

2. Palladian – Elizabeth Taylor -a strange early little novel from Elizabeth Taylor, but brilliantly written as ever – with a couple of twists in the story.

 

 

3. Debs at War – Anne De Courcy – essentially what it says in the title, a great non fiction book about what those glamorous young Debs did for us during the years of the Second World War,  very readable and illuminating.

 

 

 

4. Fenny – Lettice Cooper – another Virago book – set in Italy during the 30’s – about a woman who goes out as a governess for a  short time but makes her life there, and grows considerably with her experiences.

 

 

5 Miss Buncle Married – D E Stevenson – the Sequel to Miss Buncle’s Book – and an absolute Joy I gulped it down and was bereft when it was finished.

 

 

Roll on March I say – I think I have some great books coming up – as well as a couple that may take me a little outside of my comfort Zone which is always worth doing.

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12 The River (1946)

Rumer Godden  FEB  (F)

13 Thomas Hardy: the time torn man (2006)

Claire Tomalin (NF)

14 Life of Pi  (2002)

Yann Martel (F)

15 The Poisoned Chalice (1998)

Bernard Knight (F)

16 The Hotel on the Roof of the world (1998)

Alec Le Sueur (NF)

17 South Riding (1936)

Winifred Holtby (F)

18 Our Exploits at West Poley (1883)

Thomas Hardy (F)

19 Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon (2005)

M C Beaton (F)

20 The Camel Bookmobile (2007)

Marsha Hamilton (F)

21 Where there’s Life (1985)

Kathleen Dayus (NF)

22 After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1931)

Jean Rhys (F)


11 books read in February – 8 Fiction 3 non-fiction. Some fabulous books this month Special mention though must go to:

  • Thomas Hardy: the time torn man – Claire Tomalin (NF) a wonderful biography, a must for Hardy fans.
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel (F) a brilliant book, hard to put down and though provoking,so surprised me.
  • South Riding – Winifred Holtby (F) A wonderful classic, a great feminist novel.

 

  • Where there’s Life (NF) a great memoir and social history of a Birmingham woman.

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12 The Golden Child

Penelope Fitzgerald (F)

13 The earth hums in B flat

Mari Strachan (F)

14 Pastors and masters

Ivy Compton-Burnett (F)

15 A lot to ask

Hazel Holt (NF)

16 Agatha Raisin and the terrible tourist

M.C Beaton (F)

17 Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel (F)

18 Unnatural death

Dorothy L Sayers (F)

19 Beyond the Narrow Gate

Leslie Chang (NF)

20 Motherland

Vineeta Vijayaraghavan (F)

21 Coromandel Sea Change

Rumer Godden (F)

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