Books #16-#20

Book #16 “Agent Running in the Field” by John Le Carre. This was a gripping book set in (almost) current times, BREXIT features, but given it was published at the beginning of 2020 not the pandemic! I loved the way the plot unfolds from the protagonist’s point of view. The characters are believable and the scenarios well described – I was sorry to reach the end.

Book #17 “The Watchmaker of Filgree Street” by Natasha Pulley was recommended to me by a friend. It has a very clever plot set largely in Victorian London, but with sidelines in Oxford and Japan. The author has well researched her topics showing knowledge of clock making, Victorian Britain, as well as Japan – both at the time and historically. I loved the fantasy elements and the way the heroine avoided becoming predictable. the author has written other novels and I certainly will try to read them.

Book #18 “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is set in a coffee shop in Tokyo. Where customers can time travel. But there are many rules majorly that you can only time travel from one seat that you can only take if it is unoccupied and you must remain in the seat, and you must return by finishing your coffee before it goes cold; and as with many time travel tales you can’t change the best. The book consists of four interconnected short stories and I found very engaging. There is a second book I am wondering if to buy it or whether it may spoil the jy of the first.

Book #19 “Rodham” by Curtis Sittenfeld, has a cover that tells the would-be-reader that this is A NOVEL – the reassurance is because the book is based on Hillary Clinton and what may have become had she not married Bill. One of my favourite writers Kate Atkinson said of it “Startlingly good. One of my favourite writers” – so when I saw it on my online library I had to borrow (having waited for the previous reader to return it). It is well written and the way that Hillary describes her life and the twists and turns is very engaging. Lots of real people feature not least Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as Hillary – must be very strange to read about oneself in a novel – but maybe these people do not read novels.

Book #20 “Floodland” by Marcus Sedgwick. My daughter lent me this, and I expect she saw it as something suitable for her Year 6 class. The book predicts global warming and has led to wide-spread flooding, including East Anglia where this story start on the dystopian island of Norwich. The story is harrowing and includes many dangerous situations, but the book does offer hope and I am so many 10 year olds would enjoy it, I did.

Books #13-#15

Book #13 “Izzy the Indigo Fairy” by Daisy Meadows. My 7 year old grandson lent me this book, he said because the fairy on the cover looked like me; she has dark hair, a fringe and page boy cut – I certainly had that style a long time ago. The book is part of a set of reading books and within this are a number of series, my grandson loves reading and he enjoys getting involved in a series, the last book he lent me was from the Pokemon series. This book is really well written and tells an engaging story of two girls searching for a missing fairy, linking it to the tale of The Nutcracker. The tale developers over several chapters and has twists in the plot making a good story.

Book #14 “The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes. This is a captivating story of an English girl in small town Kentucky, trapped in a loveless marriage, who becomes involved in a project called the Packhorse Library. The book captures many strands and aspects of rural America in the 1930s, including abject poverty, cruelty and injustice. I really enjoyed this.

Book #15 “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett. Post op I had arranged a Zoom knit and natter with a friend, she reads widely and mentioned the author Ann Patchett and recommended her to me. I ordered the particular book she mentioned, and saw my library had an e-copy of one book by Ann Patchett, I put it on “hold” and three days ago it arrived on my phone. I really loved this book and completed it this morning. The story is a mix of an international thriller, romantic comedy and tragedy, all set at the scene of a hostage situation in an unnamed South American country. The cast includes an opera singer, high powered international men of business, a translator, priest and the guerrillas: three generals and a number of young soldiers including two girls. the translator is much in demand as he has many languages, and few of the others have languages in common. The story was so engaging it kept me turning the page. I am going to wait a while before reading the next Ann Patchett book as I would wanting a second chocolate!

Books #11 and #12

Sebastian Faulk’s “Paris Echoes” I felt started slowly, and after a couple of pages I wondered if I would enjoy it. But then I got drawn in and the intertwined lives of the characters both present day and earlier kept drawing me back to the book. I was sorry to reach the end.

Joanna Trollope’s “Mum and Dad” hooked me from the start. It tells of three generations of a family in the almost present day, and their troubled lives. But still it is up lifting and I really enjoyed it.

Books #7 to #10

In the last few weeks I have read four really good books.

Book #7 “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep”, by Joanna Cannon, initially made me think of a children’s fiction I read recently – “The Goldfish Boy” by Lisa Thompson – about someone missing. However this tale had many layers and intertwining plots, essentially mixing a whodunit with the everyday life of friends and neighbours. I really enjoyed it – it was only at the end I realised the author had also wrote “Three Things about Elsie” – I wonder if she has written other books?

Book #8 “The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman has topped the best seller lists for weeks and it is a brilliant read. It reminded me a little of “Three Things about Elsie” given it was a set in a community for old people, but the characters were different with a leading quartet living in an upmarket development and meeting on Thursday to look at unsolved murders. With two murders linked to the development of their homes – they soon have a “live” case to solve. Apparently a film is to be made of the book, and a related novel is due out in September – I will be helping that into the bestsellers.

Book #9 “A Single Thread” by Tracy Chevalier is completely different a book about needlepoint and bell ringing, in Winchester in the 1930s – which written like that doesn’t sound promising – but it is a brilliant book. It tells of the life of women post World War 1, many of whom lost their men to to that war. The author most certainly has done her research and links vivid descriptions of the kneelers produced along with the life challenges of Violet and her circle.

Book #10 “The Girl who Lived Twice” by David Lagercratntz is the sixth book in the Millennium series which started with Steig Larsson’s “Girl with Dragon Tattoo”. It was an exciting read following a similar structure to other books in the series – including a climatic clash near the end, but the plot and setting were novel and believable. When the next book in the series comes out I will be reading it.

Books #5 and #6

“Troubled Blood” by Robert Galbraith is a mammoth book with over 900 pages, developing characters from early novels in the Strike series. The whodunit plot has plenty of twists, including the final one. A very readable book.

“The Secrets of Strangers” by Charity Norman. Takes the reader along the journey of a hostage situation, developing the characters (and their history) as the plot progresses. Another very readable book.

Reading in 2021, Books #1 to #4

Well I decide to continue trying to read more, and have started 2021 reasonably well, if I can remember the first 4 books I have read:

Book #1 Pokemon’s “Ash’s Big Challenge” Over the last year all four of the older grandchildren have got into Pokemon. At various times I have talked to each of them about Pokemon, and when possible played Pokemon with them. Mr 6 got this book for Christmas and let me read it. Nicely written and I have bought a set for his cousin’s birthday when he turns 6. I now know people can be a Pokemon Watcher, I will take that role when next I am playing, should save me have to lure reluctant Pokemon to be caught!

Book #2 Dilly Court “Tilly True”. I read an article about Dilly Court saying she was a best selling author, but often ignored. Her books are described as family sagas, and are aimed at an audience who like romantic fiction. This story about a poor East End girl, takes the reader from the East End to India and back, with Tilly getting into a number of scrapes. It was an easy read and kept me engaged. It reminded me of serials that used to appear in my mum’s weekly copy of the magazine “Woman”. I will probably read more, particularly if I don’t want something too challenging.

Book #3 Robert Harris “The Second Sleep”. Robert harris is one of my favourite authors. His books are very different from each other. This book took unexpected turns along the way, and certainly the final reveal was not what I expected. The tag line of the cover is “What if your future lies in the past?” is really a good summary. My husband is now reading and other family member waiting their turn!

Book #4 Matt Haig “The Midnight Library”. Like some other of Haig’s books this is sad in place. But the plot is original and takes us through many possible lives. Really gripping, and while I was sorry to finish it, I was satisfied with the ending, although it wasn’t quite a happy ever after.

Book #22, #23 and #24

So in the end last year I read 24 books. The final three were:

“Machines Like Me” by Ian McEwan. A brilliant book set in a slightly alternative world, in which Alan Turing was lauded and became Sir Alan Turing, and we lost the Falklands War. Artificial Intelligence had developed to a stage were robots had man-like intelligence. This book explores what might happen. I really enjoyed it.

“The Little Book of Embroidery” by Lazy May. Arguably this is not book – more a booklet – but a useful introduction to embroidery stitches.

“The Bee Keeper of Aleppo” by Christy Lefteri. A harrowing story of a refugee couple fleeing war torn Aleppo, and their arrival in the UK. A difficult read.

Book #20 and #21

Book #20″The House with Chicken Legs” by Sophie Anderson: another example of children’s literature lent to me by my daughter. This book sat on the “to read” pile for a while – I think the title didn’t engage me. But when I read it I found it gripping. The plot was different to any book I had read before, the tale unfolded (rather like the house’s legs) and took me to new places. Brilliantly written,

Book #21 “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. Another book loaned by my daughter, this time adult fiction and recently among the best sellers. The book it is set in marsh lands of US in the 1950s and 1960s. It is about poverty, prejudice and the marshes, anti is a murder mystery. I was sorry when I reached the end of the book – hopefully the author will write more fiction,

Books #15-#19

Book #15 “Three Weeks to Say Goodbye” by C.J. Box. My library’s online version (RBDigital) recommended this. I found it very small town US centric, with what seemed like stereo-typical characters. So I am afraid I gave up on it, and returned it early.

Book #16 “The Silence of Girls” by Pat Barker. Another recommendation – and this time it was gripping. The Trojan war from a woman’s perspective, who started off as a wealthy wife and then became a slave to Achilles. A story brilliantly told.

Book #17 “The Art of Being Normal” by Lisa Williamson. A story of two children – born as the wrong gender and the challenges they face. Gender reassignment of children has received a lot of negative press, but this explains why for some it is what they want.

Book #18 “This is Going to Hurt” by Adam Kay. My daughter lent me this – which she hasn’t read. It is an account of an ex-doctor’s early days working in hospitals. There are plenty of funny stories, but there is also heartbreak. I do not think anyone who is pregnant should read this.

Book #19 “Ten Poems about Knitting” – the author of each poem is given, and the introduction is written by Di Stanley, but no editor is given. My friend gave me this to celebrate my recent knitting successes (I have taught myself Fair Isle and made 3 of the grandchildren jumpers – now working on 3 for the others). Beautiful poems celebrating knitters male and female.

Books #10-14

#10 “Sword of Kings” by Bernard Cornwell. I usually enjoy books by Bernard Cornwell but recently I have found them formulaic – however this book was very readable. He continued to use his formula of building up to fights in great details – and even more detail of the battle – but this story had sufficient plot that the fights weren’t the main emphasis. I am not sure how many more battles the hero Uhtred can face he is definitely ageing. But I enjoyed this book and hope Cornwell can extend the life of his hero by a few more years!

Book #11 “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackery. My daughter lent me this, and then I saw a friend quoting from it – and so i was intrigued to read it. The book is beautifully written and the text is all handwritten. One reviewer described it as “A book of hope for uncertain times” – which sums it up nicely. I am glad I have read it.

Book #12 “Back to School After Lockdown: How to prepare your child” by Dawn Willoughby, Angela Buckley. Dawn Willoughby is a neighbour and former colleague, with lots of experience of education across age ranges, and so I was intrigued when I saw she had written this with the help of her sister. It was a timely book coming out in August with UK children due to start back at school i September. It was well written full of common sense advice for a situation none of us had imagined last year. I bought copies for my grandchildren’s parents and recommended it for friends. I hope a second edition isn’t needed!

The other two books both belong to my 6 year old grandson and he is lending them to his 5 year old cousin and I am acting as courier. So while I had them I thought I would read them

Book #13 “Caterpillars and Butterflies” by Stephanie Turnbull. This is a well illustrated book about the subject of the title. I have often walked the children around our local lake and there are some “interpretation boards” with facts about the natural life in the area, including one about caterpillars and butterflies, this book provides an excellent resource to provide even more details. The publishers have three sets of related books on topics relating to: science, nature and history. The 6 year old has all of these, and so i have now bought the 5 year olds family the set on science.

Book #14 “Sophie Squirrel” by Lily Small. This book is part of a series about Fairy Animals. the 6 year old has read all of them and has previously offered to lend me one. The story is well told and uses a range of vocabulary, there are quite a lot of words to each page but they are designed to be readable by a child. I may read a few others because it will help in talking to the children.