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October in review

mde

Two months of the old year left – goodness – how the years fly by these days.

I began October reading The Ghostly Lover – a book which really deserves a better title – it was the first novel by Elizabeth Hardwick, a coming of age novel set in depression era Kentucky.

Strong Poison – by Dorothy L Sayers was a re-read, the October choice of my very small book group, which provided us with an enormous amount to talk about, perhaps surprisingly so.

The Librarything Virago group had selected Margaret Kennedy as the author of the month – and I found myself engrossed in The Oracles, a fairly unusual novel in some respects, but one in which I could see echoes of other Margaret Kennedy novels. It tells the story of a community wrangle over a piece of modern art, and a group of abandoned children who get caught in the cross fire.

Narcissa by Richmal Crompton was a fabulously compelling novel, with one of the most monstrous characters, I have read in a while, at the centre of it. A darker story than the other books by Crompton I have read, but quite unforgettable.

Reader, I married him – a collection of short stories edited by Tracy Chevalier – had been a gift I was really looking forward to reading. The stories, all inspired by that famous final line in Jane Eyre – were something of a mixed bag, but overall, I was a bit disappointed in the collection.

I have fallen out of love a little with the Booker prize the last two or three years, but I still keep my eye on it. This year I happened to read two of the longlisted books, and now two of those that were shortlisted. I can’t say I fancy the winner much – but I am open to persuasion. Elmet was the first of those shortlisted books, and I enjoyed it enormously. Not sure I understand why it was shortlisted and Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie wasn’t – but then what do I know?

Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen was the first of two books I read for the #1968club hosted by Simon and Karen. Bowen’s last novel – it has a simply unforgettable ending.

My second read for the #1968club was By the Pricking of my Thumbs, a Tommy and Tuppence novel – the couple are described as (a little tongue in cheek I suspect) ‘quite elderly’ by that I suppose about sixty. It might not be Agatha Christie’s best – but I enjoyed it enormously, finding very hard to put down.

I finished the month reading Autumn by Ali Smith – the second of those Booker Prize shortlisted novels. I haven’t read Ali Smith before – at least I haven’t finished one of her books before – having given up on The Accidental several years ago. This one -chosen by my very small book group as our November read, I enjoyed.

Those final two books of course will be reviewed soon.

I spent a week in my favourite seaside location during half term – and it really helped to re-charge the batteries, and while I was there I had a mooch in a little bookshop I like to pop in to each time I am there. I only came away with two books – a Persephone book The Gardeners Nightcap by Muriel Stuart (complete with matching bookmark) – not sure it’s a book I would have bought new – but I am happy to add it to my collection, and Wet Magic by E Nesbit, which looks perfect comfort reading. I admit, that one is already calling me.cof

November is a month that is perfect for curling up with a book and large pot of tea, but this year has been a very slow reading year so far – so I expect that will continue. However, I have one or two things set aside for the month. This month the Librarything author of the month is the wonderful Margaret Atwood – as well as several potential re-reads, I have three of her books tbr – Wilderness Tips, short stories from the early 1990s and more recent novels, Oryx and Crake and The Hagseed. I feel like the short stories are particularly calling to me – but I shall probably only decide which to read as I pick it up. A Facebook group I am a member of is having an Angela Thirkell reading week next week – beginning November 6th – so as I have a battered old copy of The Headmistress I shall be reading that.

cof

With December and the end of the year on the horizon, my thoughts have turned to possible reading challenges. I sort of had a year off in 2017, though I paricipated in a few as I knew I would end up doing.

 I am considering two for 2018. 

1. A century of books, I know Simon and others are doing it again. I have never done it before. I will attempt to do it over two years, however, and I won’t make a list before hand. I assume that’s how everyone else has done it?

2. Read the 16 books of the Jalna series by Canadian writer Mazo de la Roche. I will read in narrative order, not year of publication. I have very few expectations really, are these even books I will like? I have purchased the first one.  

Anyone have any thoughts, advice etc. Anyone like to join me? 

So how was your October for books? Any exciting plans for November?

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October in review

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Not quite as many books on the book pile picture this month as I read about four books on my kindle. The downward trajectory in my monthly reading totals continues, which I am trying not to get too fed up about, I think I just have to accept I won’t ever get back to those totals of a few years ago unless I give up everything else in my life including (and probably especially) this blog. My tbr is terrifyingly out of control, I can no longer see much of it – and so one of these days there will have to be a cull. I’m not very good at culls – I always imagine an enormous pile of thirty or forty books being consigned to the bookcrossing boxes – but when it comes to it I wimp out somewhere around seven or eight.

This month has seen me reading a real mix of old and new, as I started out on a pile of review copies and impulse buys from the new Foyles in Birmingham, as well as helping Karen and Simon celebrate the fantastic 1924 club. I began October a little over half way through the seventh Forsyte novel Maid in Waiting, which I enjoyed very much. I am hoping to get to number eight, Flowering Wilderness in the next few weeks. Leadon Hill by Richmal Crompton was something of a surprise, it is a light read – but has rather more about it than I had expected, the character development is particularly strong. The Sans Pareil Mystery, one of my Netgalley books was perfect for a tiring, stressful week, the second in a series I hadn’t read before, but that didn’t stop me enjoying a historical, regency set mystery with good characterisation. Despite its rather slow start, Yeoman’s Hospital by Helen Ashton was a good second hand book shop find, the 1944 novel from the author of Persephone books title Bricks and Mortar. The Classic women’s literature challenge was launched recently by the Classic Club – and I kicked off my reading with A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf’s famous extended essay in six chapters – which I found quite brilliant. My first read for the 1924 club was The Rector’s Daughter by F M Mayor, something of a forgotten classic, I loved it. Seducers in Ecuador, Vita Sackville West’s odd little novella was my second read for the 1924 club, rather different from other things I have read of her’s, it felt a little experimental, but is also strangely memorable. The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien – her first novel in some years, and another read courtesy of Netgalley – was a powerful novel inspired by the events of the siege of Sarajevo in 1992 and the subsequent disappearance of Radovan Karadzic. Unusually for me I went on to read two more brand new novels during the week I spent on holiday in Devon, reviews of these two to come – the fourth Neapolitan novel The Story of the Lost Child – and Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last. Each of these contemporary novels very different to one another – and I did enjoy them – but perhaps three ‘modern’ novels in a row were a bit much for me. As October 31st draws to a close I picked up my large collection of Shirley Jackson stories and essays, which I set aside having not read very much a few weeks ago, and read a few of those, her writing is excellent, and I do need to try and read more of them between books.
My Stand out reads for the month:

A room of ones own2015-10-13_21.47.05the rectors daughter

A Room of One’s Own, Yeoman’s Hospital and The Rector’s Daughter, old books almost always win for me it seems.

November feels oversubscribed with books already – A collection of feminist essays for a book group, another book group read I am not even sure I can face, some review copies which look great and I really must try to get round to and the next Forsyte book all on the horizon. Sometimes, however I do need to just be able to read according to my mood – so I hope I shall be able to do that. I have a strange yearning toward Persephone books and Jane Austen – but I may not squeeze Jane in this month. I also think I really need to get on with that cull. As always I would love to know what you will be reading during November. Long dark nights = lots of excuses to curl up with books.

bad feministmy mother riverflowering wildernesstrouble on the thames

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october

I started this month a little way into This Side of Paradise – which turned out to be a bit of a literary whimper and have ended it with a bang reading the massively talked about and reviewed The Luminaries (my review in a couple of days). 11 novels read during October – most of them fairly slight – made up for with the largeness of that final book.

103 This Side of Paradise (1920) F. Scott Fitzgerald (F)
104 Wild Strawberries (1934) Angela Thirkell (F)
105 The Clue of the twisted candle (1918) Edgar Wallace (F)
106 The Last September (1928) Elizabeth Bowen (F)
107 The Sugar House (1952) Antonia White (F)
108 The World is a Wedding (2013) Wendy Jones (F)
109 The Haunting of Hill House (1959) Shirley Jackson (F)
110 An Unsuitable Attachment (1982) Barbara Pym (F)
111 Sleepless Nights (1979) Elizabeth Hardwick (F)
112 The Five People you meet in Heaven (2003) Mitch Albom (F)
113 The Luminaries (2013) Eleanor Catton (F)

Aside from The Luminaries which is wonderfully literary, massive in scope and just wonderfully impressive – my standout reads for the month are:

The Last September – Elizabeth Bowen, a novel to be read slowly, the prose is beautiful, Bowen is always impressive and this only her second novel shows her early genius.
Sleepless Nights – Elizabeth Hardwick; an unusual but astonishingly well written novel – although there is little of the novel form about it.
Wild Strawberries – Angela Thirkell – 1930’s froth, cosy reading at its best, I can’t wait for the new Thirkell re-issues from Virago.

ausreadingAnd so on to November. I haven’t made any definite reading plans for November, although I have a couple of new books on pre-order I think may not be able to resist, including the new novel by Elizabeth Speller and there will of course be another Barbara Pym for the centenary read-a-long. I am also probably going to be taking part in the Ausreading month hosted by Brona’s books. For this I am going to be reading ‘The Three Miss Kings’ by Ada Cambridge and am considering re-reading My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. I hope some of the three miss kingsyou will be able to join in too.

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Nine books read during October, and quite a mixed bag of things I think. Some of them were slower reads, which is why despite one week off work and away on holiday I didn’t manage to read more than what is lower end of my average in a month. I continue to be even worse than usual with non-fiction at the moment and am going to trey and read one or two during November.

104 The Wedding Group (1968) Elizabeth Taylor (F)
105 The Casual Vacancy (2012) J K Rowling (F)
106 The Moorland Cottage (1850) Elizabeth Gaskell (F)
107 Umbrella (2012) Will Self (F)
108 The Children (1928) Edith Wharton (F)
109 A Treacherous Likeness (2013) Lynn Shepherd (F)
110 Lady Audley’s secret (1862) Mary Elizabeth Braddon (F)
111 The Limit (1911) Ada Leverson (F)
112 The penguin book of ghost stories (2010) Michael Newton (ed) (F)

So my Special mentions for October are:

1 The Children – Edith Wharton – one of Edith Wharton’s slightly less well known novels, about a middle aged man’s infatuation with a fifteen year old girl.

2. A Treacherous Likeness – Lynn Shepherd – not published yet _ I was lucky to read an uncorrected proof – loved it great atmosphere blending fact and fiction in the lives of the Shelleys.

3. Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary Elizabeth Braddon – a fantastic ninteenth century sensation novel – I loved every word.

 

I have gathered togther a nice little stack to read during November.  As I have been doing so badly reading non-fiction I have incuded two non-fiction titles. There are also reads for my Thomas Hardy challenge and the continuing Elizabeth Taylor centenary readalong. I am also doing my bit for libraries with my current read.

My reads for November then – hopefully – distractions permitting wil be:

1. To Bed with Grand Music – Marghanita Laski

2 Harriet – Elizabeth Jenkins

3 Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont- Elizabeth Taylor

4 Two on a Tower – Thomas Hardy

5 Tea by the Nursery Fire – Noel Streatfield

6 Brief Lives – Anita Brookner

7  Selected Letters – Jane Austen

8 Talking to the dead – Helen Dunmore

9 The Two Mrs Abbotts – D E Stevenson – which I am currently reading. (It’s the third “Miss Buncle book)

A set of books to be eagerly anticipated I think, and I am really looking forward to them. What will you be reading during November?

One thing about these chilly early winter evenings – they are perfect for reading. Unfortunatly work is a bit full on at the moment so I am being tempted away from my books by TV too – I need a bit of easy distraction sometimes. Early bedtimes with my book though, are very much the order of the day at the moment.

 

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October reads

97 Jamrach’s Menagerie (2011) Carol Birch (F)
98 Sense of an Ending (2011) Julian Barnes (F)
99 The Echoing Grove (1953) Rosamond Lehmann (F)
100 The Bloody Chamber (1979) Angela Carter (F)
101 Pigeon English (2011) Stephen Kelman (F)
102 Half Blood Blues (2011) Esi Edugyan (F)
103 Boy: tales of childhood (1984) Roald Dahl (NF)
104 Eight Cousins (1875) Louisa M Alcott (F)
105 Bring the Monkey (1933) Miles Franklin (F)
106 Mandoa Mandoa (1933) Winifred Holtby (F)

Some lovely books read this month – although only one non fiction, I must try to get better at reading NF.

Special mention must go to:

1. Jamrach's Menagerie – Carol Birch – brilliant page turner, and worthy booker nominee

2. Half Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan – another booker nominee, wonderfully evocative with a great narrative voice.
3 The Echoing Grove – Rosamond Lehmann – I love Rosamond Lehmann, and this is a brilliant complex novel, beautifully written.

4 Boy: tales of childhood – Roald Dahl – charming autobiographical tales from the childhood memories of the great children's writer

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October reads


96 Angel    Elizabeth Taylor  (F)
97 Justice Hall    Laurie R King (F)
98 In other rooms, other wonders    Daniyal Mueenuddin (F)
99 A Cotswold Ordeal     Rebecca  Tope (F)
100 violet to Vita    Mitchell A Leaska (NF)
101 The dream woman and other stories    Wilkie Collins   (F)
102 Cranford and other stories    Elizabeth Gaskell (F)
103 The book and the Brotherhood    Iris Murdoch (F)
104 Agatha Raisin & the Curious Curate    M C Beaton  (F)

Mainly fiction this month I seem to have read very few non fiction this year in the end.  Only 9 read – but some good ones among them.

Special mention should go to:

In other rooms other wonders – Daniyal Mueenuddin – excellent linked short stories set mainly in Pakistan.

Cranford and other stories – Elizabeth Gaskell – simply marvellous and should need no other description.

The Book and the Brotherhood – Iris Murdoch – a really good Murdoch with a marvellously memorable bit about a Parrot.

Odd that I should have read so many short stories this month when I don’t often bother with them

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October reads

OOh not many this month – but some were biggish ones – some cracking good books though.

103 The Mermaid and the Messerschmitt

Rulka Langer  NF

104 Crewel Yule

Monica Ferris F

105 The secret Scripture

Sebastian Barry F

106 The Sacred and Profane love machine

Iris Murdoch F

107 Tulip Fever

Deboragh Moggach F

108 Sand in My shoes

Joan Rice N F

109 The lady Elizabeth

Alison Weir F

110 The wasted Vigil

Nadeem Aslam F

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