Friday, 31 August 2007

August's booklist

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Outmoded Authors Challege

I've joined a reading challenge - my first - and I’m very excited about it. I’m envious of people who have found authors in their local libraries – ours is officially useless, though they’ve managed to come up with a Fr Brown collection. So I shall read some books off my shelves and I’ve spent next month’s book allowance on additions. There’s a rather English bias, as a result, but I’ll try to find some others.

Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children: this was on my shelves, I started it before and got stuck. I’ll finish it this time.

Freya Stark: my mother should be useful here, she’s a great admirer. I shall raid her collection.

G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Napoleon of Notting Hill and Father Brown stories. I read and liked TMWWT and Fr Brown before, in my distant youth and I look forward to re-acquainting myself with them.

G.B. Shaw: knew these well in my drama student days, might have another go at Saint Joan.

Ivy Compton-Burnett: another old favourite, I’ll find as many as I can and do some re-reading. A Heritage and Its History is on my shelves and will make a good place to start.

Malcolm Lowry: Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid. One of my “must get round to” authors and I found this one cheap, so will start with it.

Marian Engel, The Bear and Lunatic Villas. Both off my shelves (if I can find them!) I was just a smidge shocked by The Bear first time round. Also The Glassy Sea and The Honeyman Festival, which are completely new to me, and I’ve had to order from Canada.

W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage. I read this more than once when I was young, so it will be very interesting to go back see how it fares. I’d like to re-read Cakes and Ale, too, which I remember liking very much.

Anything else depends on what I can get hold of: I’d like to finally read all of The Forsyte Saga. If I have time I might try to a bit of Scott, but it won’t be Ivanhoe, which we had to read at school (I managed up to Chapter 3, which meant that the subsequent exam was a bit of a disaster!)

I foresee lots of late nights and a serious dent in the whisky supply - must remember I have to more than just read everything!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Life in the country

The Country Wife by Lucy Pinney: I covered this on Cat Musings, though may return to it when writing about Firbank.

I Bought a Mountain by Thomas Firbank: I am still reading this and plan to write a long review on this and his other books.

The Country House in Perspective by Gervase Jackson-Stops: this is a fascinating book which covers eleven National Trust properties in England and one in Co. Fermanagh. Discussion of each property includes a plan, a cutway perspective drawing, paintings and photographs of the house, and a description of its history. I spent hours with the chapter on Castle Drogo (a Lutyens house in Devon) comparing the perspective drawing and plan, working out additional details of the design, which I was then delighted to find confirmed in the text. A full range of historical period is covered, starting with Bodiam, a "proper" castle, through late medieval to early twentieth century, with a good deal of social detail. I would have liked an exterior photograph of all of the houses but, where they are missing, there is enough information contained in paintings to make this a relatively minor quibble.

Crime and fantasy

Never the Bride by Paul Magrs: this was set in Whitby, a fairly amusing, noir twist on the Dracula story. The story was rather episodic, though it did draw together at the end. The author left the possibility of a series open; more supernatural PI, with an English setting and a nice take on the the elderly female investigator?
Myrren's Gift by Fiona McIntosh: I wasn't sure at the outset that I would like this, and although I found some of it quite derivative (for instance, the parts set in the mountain kingdon reminded me of Robin Hobb's first series), by the end I thought I would probably persevere and read the whole trilogy.
The Folk of the Air by Peter S. Beagle: loved this. Realised as soon as it arrived that I had read it before, but no matter. The combination of early dance, riotous patchwork of folklores, good characterisation and dog, drew me in from the start. Not great literature (and not as good as The Last Unicorn) but very satisfying.
Prospero's Children by Jan Siegel and The Greenstone Grail by Amanda Hemingway: since these are both by the same author it makes some sense to group them together. If there's a negative, it is that there are too many similarities between the opening volumes of two separate trilogies (for instance the woodwose/house goblin). On the other hand, I don't really mind, since I enjoyed both and they do seem to be set in the same alternative reality, so they may depict facets of the same story being played out across worlds. Bartlemy and Caracandal may be the same person; the Earth gods are certainly the same (Hexate, etc) though the Chthulhu character in Prospero's Children wouldn't quite fit in The Greenstone Grail? I look forward to completing both trilogies and will write about them further on LibraryThing.
The Gay Phoenix by Michael Innes: a patchy one from Innes, bliss when he's being joky and doing English country village dialogue between Appleby, Judith and various others - back to Appleby's End mode - but downright boring, I thought, in the exposition and development of the crime. Not likely to be re-read in the way that some of the Appleby books are.
Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs: the usual combination, I felt, of a fairly gripping story and a prissy and irritating protagonist. Brennan seems to have managed zero personal growth in a lengthy series of books, as usual I wanted to kick her. Also, I find Reichs' characters and plots almost indistinguishable from those of Patricia Cornwell - Scarpetta is every bit as emotionally retarded as Brennan. On the other hand, I like it when Reichs strays up to Montreal, and they do pass the time, so no doubt I'll keep reading both authors.
The House Sitter by Peter Lovesey: haven't read Lovesey for a long time. Liked the Bath setting for this one, and will happily read the earlier books from the series if they have them in the library, but I'm not tempted to buy them.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher: first of The Dresden Files. Yes, this will do - witty, noir, like the protagonist. The usual procession of witches, demons, vampires and snippy cops, a back story that is still unfolding. Altogether pretty acceptable, and I'm looking forward to the next.
Sleeping with the Fishes by Mary Janice Davidson: slight, mildly amusing story about a mermaid, with a slight nod towards environmentalism. Fine for a rather short train journey.