Monday, 9 September 2013

My August Reads

The nights are definitely drawing in, the teen is back at school and soon the lazy, sunny days of August will be a distant memory.....

I found "The Shops" by India Knight in Oxfam and at £1.69 I thought I'd give it a go. India loves to shop and this book is full of her recommendations interspersed with vignettes from her ( very interesting) family background. Although its ten years since it was published, it still seems relevant and most of the shops are still around! I like India's chatty style of writing, and I do prefer her non-fiction to her novels.

Book club choice this month is "Miss Savidge Moves Her House" by Christine Adams. I didn't really fancy this book about a lady who, when faced with her medieval house being earmarked for demolition in the 1960s, dismantled the whole thing and moved it 100 miles to Norfolk. However, I could not put it down. May Savidge spent the rest of her life putting  the house back together and left the unfinished project to her ( initially very unwilling) nephew and his wife, Christine. This is a book about resilience, love and loss, family ties and a very remarkable lady who literally never threw anything away. Christine becomes intertwined with May's world and I won't give away the ending, but it is a delightful tale and all the more remarkable for being true.

I really can't make up my mind about Sophie Hannah. I've read all her books now, and some I really enjoy and others leave me a bit cold. This is her latest psychological thriller and I'm sure if you hadn't read the others you wouldn't have a clue who all the police characters are. This book follows Amber Hewerdine, who is accused of a crime she did not commit after seeing a psychologist and muttering the words "kind of cruel" which were written on a note at the scene of an unsolved murder. The book is a good read, the character of Amber is well written and I didn't really guess who had "dunnit" until near the end. However, I am getting a bit tired of the same setting and police characters in all her books, they are just very uninteresting and as I say, could put off someone who picks up her books as a "one-off".

I enjoyed "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown, a tale of three sisters who grow up as passionate readers with a Shakespearean scholar for a father. In adulthood, they all follow very different paths but after their mother falls ill, they return home to their small mid-western American college town. This reminded me in some way of Anne Tyler in that nothing much happens but the characters are very well written and do elicit our sympathy. I loved the tag-line on the book's cover, "there is no problem a library card can't solve", I totally agree!

Finally, "A Secret Alchemy" by Emma Darwin was a book I was really looking forward to as it intertwines a modern day plot with the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the subject of the recent BBC series, "The White Queen". However, I was rather disappointed. The modern day story concerns a family who own a threatened printing press in London, Una returns to London following the death of her husband and is researching the lives of Elizabeth and her brother, Anthony. I simply could not engage with the plethora of characters who popped up in the present day story, there were so many I lost the thread of who was who. I preferred the subplot of what happened to Anthony, but I do like that era of history very much. Anthony's tale is deeply tragic and I did like the way it linked to Una in the end. This was not as densely written as a Hilary Mantel historical fiction nor as light as, say, Philippa Gregory, but I thought the modern day plot could have been a lot better and so I can't really recommend the book overall.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Very last "first-day-back-to-school"

It was back to school for my daughter this week and as she set off into Year 13 ( Upper Sixth in my world) I took my usual photo. She started school at the age of three and I now have fifteen pictures of her setting off at the start of the school year. However, this is the last "first day", next year she will have left school behind forever. Oh heck, I appear to have something in my eye.......