Library Loot

It’s been a while since I wrote a post about my library books. I’m lucky as the mobile library van visits here once a fortnight, stopping nearly outside our house. So, I regularly borrow books both from the van and from the branch library. These are my recent library loans.

First three non fiction books:

Non Fic Lib Bks May 2018

  • Do No Harm by Henry Marsh one of the UK’s foremost neurosurgeons. I first read about this book on BookerTalk’s blog. She wrote: In Do No Harm he offers insight into the joy and despair of a career dedicated to one of the most complex systems in the body. This is a candid account of how it feels to drill into someone’s skull, navigate through a myriad of nerves that control memory, reason, speech and imagination and suck out abnormal growths. I thought it looks interesting, so I reserved the book to read it for myself.
  • And then I saw Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole by Allan H Ropper and B D Burrell sitting on the shelves. I admit that I was drawn to this book by its title on the spine, not realising until I took it off the shelf that this is also a book by a neurosurgeon, Dr Ropper, an American professor at Harvard Medical School. This is a glimpse into the ways our brains can go wrong, how a damaged brain can radically alter our lives.
  • Learn to Sleep Well by Chris Idzikowski. After reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker I thought it would be a good idea to read a book about getting better sleep as I don’t get the average of eight hours of sleep Professor Walker recommends. It’s sub-titled ‘get to sleep and stay asleep overcome sleep problems revitalize body and mind.’

And now the fiction:

Fic Lib Bks May 2018

  • A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale. It is set in Cornwall, about a parish priest Barnaby Johnson. Earlier this year I read Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition and found although this book is not a sequel it has some of the same characters and I want to know more about them.
  • Deadline by Barbara Nadel. I haven’t read any of her other books – this is an Inspector Ikmen Mystery set in Istanbul. I liked the blurb on the back cover – Ikmen is invited to a murder mystery evening at Istanbul’s famous Pera Palas Hotel where he finds himself embroiled in a deadly game of life imitating art. Halfway through the evening, one of the actors is found dead in the room where Agatha Christie used to stay when she was in Istanbul.
  • Sisters by Patricia MacDonald, another new-to-me author, (one of the reasons I like to borrow books is to check out new-to-me authors). This is described on the back cover as a ‘fast-paced novel of psychological suspense‘. Alex Woods is shocked to find out after her parents’ death that she has a sister that her mother had kept a secret from her. She decides to search for her.
  • How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. I’d reserved this one, a book I’ve been thinking of reading for a while. It’s a story of life in a mining community in rural South Wales as Huw Morgan is preparing to leave the valley where he had grown up. He tells of life before the First World War.
  • Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer – see my Friday post for details of the novel and the opening sentences.  I’ve already started reading it. It’s about  Patrick Fort, a medical student with Asperger’s Syndrome, studying anatomy and trying to identify the cause of death of a body he is dissecting. I borrowed this book as I loved her first book, Blacklands.

 

January’s Books 2018

I read seven books in January, six of them are fiction and one non-fiction, all of them good – some indeed are excellent. So far I’ve only reviewed three of them:

Turning for Home by Barney Norris, a beautifully and lyrically written novel. I loved this. It’s set on the day of Robert’s 80th birthday celebration and the narrative alternates between Robert’s and his granddaughter Kate’s stories, reflecting on their lives.

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin, historical fiction set in England in 1831 – a tale of wickedness and evil. Although this begins well, it drags in the middle and ends with a final twist I didn’t find convincing.

The Confession by Jo Spain, a standalone book, set in Ireland.  Banker, Harry McNamara, recently cleared of multiple accounts of fraud, is brutally attacked in his home in front of his wife, Julie. I was gripped by this story and I had to read it quickly to find out what really happened.

I didn’t get round  to writing reviews for the other books, so here are a few notes on two of them, both books that I enjoyed. Both are written achronologically which took a bit of getting used to, but it worked well. This meant that with both books you have to be on your toes, so to speak, to keep track of where you are and who is who. And I really should have made notes as I read – and written about them not long after I finished them!

Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale. It’s been a month since I finished reading this and unfortunately the details are rather vague in my mind now. Artist Rachel Kelly, a manic-depressive, subject to highs and lows is found dead in her Penzance studio, leaving her family with lots of unanswered questions. It becomes clear that her Quaker husband knew nothing about her early life. The narrative moves backwards and forwards from the past to the present and is told from different characters’ perspectives. It reminded me a bit of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar in parts. I enjoyed the sections on Quakerism and working out the puzzle of Rachel’s life and her relationships. But I wasn’t sure about the ending – I should probably re-read the book.

After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell – her debut novel. The main character, Alice is in a coma after being in road accident, which may or may not have been a suicide attempt. She has been grieving the death of her husband, John.

It’s quite a complicated story, following the life stories not only of Alice, but also those of her mother, Ann (who I didn’t like much),  her grandmother, Elspeth (who I did like very much), her two sisters and of John. What was it that Alice saw at Edinburgh station that shocked her so much? You don’t find out until the end of the book, although I did have an idea before that what it meant to her and why it was so upsetting. I’ve already started to re-read it as I’m sure there’s a lot I missed on my first reading, especially as some of it is written in the present tense. And I may write a more detailed post at some point.

And my reviews of these books will follow later:

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

Barter Books in Alnwick was looking very festive yesterday with a Christmas tree made out of books. It’s my favourite bookshop, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain with books galore, open fires and plenty of places to sit and peruse the books. (See this Picture Gallery for more photos)

I browsed the shelves to see which ones jumped out, shouting ‘read me’ And these are the books I brought home:

Where Roses Fade by Andrew Taylor – psychological crime fiction, one of his Lydmouth series, in which Mattie, a waitress drowns  – did she fall, or did she jump? Rumours circulate that her death wasn’t accidental – and then comes another death. I’ve read Andrew Taylor’s Roth trilogy, but none of his Lydmouth series.

You Made Me Late Again! by Pam Ayres – a collection of poems, anecdotes and short verses, covering a wide range of subjects from a nervous racehorse, a proud granny, to a dog reunited with his master at the Pearly Gates. I fancied some light relief after all the crime fiction I’ve been reading lately and this collection of witty poems appealed to me.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – a thriller set on a luxury cruise ship going to see the Northern Lights, a body overboard – but there are no missing passengers.  I was looking in the ‘W’s for a book by Louise Welsh (I didn’t find one I hadn’t read) but this book caught my eye. I haven’t read any of Ruth Ware’s books, but have seen her mentioned on other book blogs.

Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark – Would-be novelist Fleur Talbot works for Sir Quentin Oliver at the Autobiographical Association.  Mayhem ensues when scenes from Fleur’s novel-in-progress begin to come true with dangerous and darkly funny results. One of my favourite books is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, so I’m hoping to love this book too.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale –  after an illicit affair Harry Cane, is forced to travel from Edwardian England to the town of Winter in Canada  to start a new life. I’m currently reading and enjoying Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition, so when I saw this book on the shelf I had to get it.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – a Maisie Dobbs novel, set in 1932 when Maisie takes on an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service. I like the Maisie Dobbs books and began reading the several years ago, but I haven’t kept up with the series. This one is book 8.

What I love about Barter Books is that it’s not only filled with thousands of books, but it works on the swap system – you bring in books, they make an offer for them and your credit can then be used for books to bring home. I’m in credit, so I didn’t have to pay anything for these books – brilliant! Plus, it’s in a lovely building that was Alnwick’s beautiful old Victorian railway station and you can get tea, coffee, hot food (I love their macaroni cheese) and cakes etc in the Station Buffet. Yesterday we were there early and David had a Bacon Buttie from the Breakfast Menu – I had some of it too.

My Friday Post: Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week I’m featuring Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. This is one of the TBRs I featured in my last A – Z of TBRs. I’ve decided now is the time to read this book which has been on my TBR shelves for five years.

Notes from an Exhibition

The title of this book is taken from the notes displayed describing works of art in a gallery or museum or referring to Rachel Kelly’s art or possessions, and each section of this book is headed by one of these notes. This is the note heading the first chapter of the book:

Notes from an Exhibition P1020321

 

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56

She had less strength in her arms than in vigorous youth and hated asking for help in stretching canvases. Besides Anthony had arthritic wrists so was not much stronger than she. So she had taken more and more to working on convenient whiteboards rarely larger than a biscuit tin, sometimes s small as a piece of toast.

From the back cover:

Gifted artist Rachel Kelly is a whirlwind of creative highs and anguished, crippling lows. She’s also something of an enigma to her husband and four children. So when she is found dead in her Penzance studio, leaving behind some extraordinary new paintings, there’s a painful need for answers. Her Quaker husband appeals for help on the internet. The fragments of a shattered life slowly come to light, and it becomes clear that bohemian Rachel has left her children not only a gift for art – but also her haunting demons.

A – Z of TBRs: M, N and O

I’m now up to M, N, and O in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. These TBRs are all physical books – I’ve not included e-books. Looking at my books like this is encouraging me to read more of my own books as I’ve read two of the books I’ve featured in the earlier posts.

I’m enjoying searching my shelves – finding books I’d forgotten were there (the disadvantage of shelving books behind others).

MNO bks P1020320

– is for Mercy by Jodie Picoulta book I’ve had since 2008. LibraryThing predicts that I probably won’t like this book. Two cousins are driven to extremes by the power of love, as one helps his terminally ill wife commit suicide and the other becomes involved in a passionate affair with his wife’s new assistant.

I bought this book because I’ve read and enjoyed three other books by Jodie Picoult.

According to the sworn voluntary statement of James MacDonald, his wife had been suffering from the advanced stages of cancer and had asked him to kill her. Which did not account for the raw scratches on his face, or the fact that he had traveled to a town he had never set foot in to commit the murder. Maggie had not videotaped her wishes, or even written them down and had them notarized to prove she was of sane mind – Jamie said that she hadn’t wanted it to be a production, but a simple gift.

What it boiled down to, really, was Jamie’s word. Cam’s only witness was dead. He was supposed to believe the confession of James MacDonald solely because he was a MacDonald, a member of his clan. (page 39)

N – is for Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale (on my TBR shelves since 2011). LibraryThing predicts that I probably will like this book. When troubled artist Rachel Kelly dies painting obsessively in her attic studio in Penzance, her saintly husband and adult children have more than the usual mess to clear up. She leaves behind an extraordinary and acclaimed body of work – but she also leaves a legacy of secrets and emotional damage that will take months to unravel.

I haven’t read any of Patrick Gale’s books, but I was attracted to it by the blurb.

‘We are here to say goodbye to our dear Rachel, who was a regular attender since Anthony first brought her to Penzance a little over forty years ago. For those of you who have never been to a Friends’ Meeting before, this may not be the kind of funeral you’re used to. The proceedings take the form of a Quaker Meeting for Worship. This is based on silent contemplation. There are two aims in our worship: to give thanks for the life that has been lived and to help those who mourn to feel a deep and comforting sense of divine presence within us. The silence may be broken by anyone, Quaker or not, who feels moved to speak, to pray or offer up a memory of Rachel.’ (page 62)

O – is for An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris a book I’ve only had for nearly two years. LibraryThing predicts that I probably will like this book. A recreation of a scandal that became the most famous miscarriage of justice in history, this is the story of the infamous Dreyfus affair told as a chillingly dark, hard-edged novel of conspiracy and espionage. Paris in 1895. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of twenty-thousand.

I bought this on the strength of the other books by Robert Harris that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve heard of the Dreyfus affair but know very little about it.

Beneath the letters is a thin manilla envelope containing a large photograph, twenty five centimetres by twenty. I recognise it immediately from Dreyfus’s court martial – a copy of the covering note, the famous bordereau, that accompanied the documents he passed to the Germans. It was the central evidence against him produced in court. Until this morning I had no idea how the Statistical Section had got its hands on it. And no wonder. I have to admire Lauth’s handiwork. Nobody looking at it could tell it had once been ripped into pieces: all the tear marks have been carefully touched out, so that it seems a whole document. (pages 40 -41)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?