Friday, 6 January 2017

December reading



You would have thought with two weeks off work I'd have a chance to write about my literary exploits! I swear that time speeded up during this two week break, hours seemed like minutes and the holidays passed far too quickly.

I finished three books in December, all of which I enjoyed. I mentioned 'Paying guests' by Sarah Waters in my November reading post. I was reading this a page at a time whenever I a free minute coincided with me being in the same room as the book. I am not sure if reading a book one page at the time is the best approach to a good story, it took me quite a long time to get into it. There is a long buildup that some readers my find boring. It is a slow burner that suddenly explodes. I don't want to give anything away but the bare essentials so you can enjoy the plot. Mind you, it is a bit grim at times so maybe enjoyment is the wrong word. The book is set a few years after the First World War, the economy is at a low point and life is difficult for many. Frances and her mother need to sublet rooms in their family home to make ends meet and at the beginning of the story, Lilian and Leonard Barber move in. Over time, we see relationships form and disintegrate, societal benchmarks challenged and lives changed forever. I was not quite satisfied with the ending but I guess I can rewrite it in my head.

I listened to the latest instalment of the Rivers of London crime series, 'The hanging tree' by Ben Aaronovitch. I enjoyed the first five books and also this last one, where once more Peter Grant, a trainee 'practitioner' employed by The Folly, a division of sorts of the London Metropolitan Police, is called to investigate a suspicious death. It is a fast paced book with plenty of magic. I don't think the plot is as carefully planned as it could be but it is entertaining. I am not that keen on magic (says the fantasy and sci fi reader). Harry Potter grows up to be a detective, that sort of thing and I don't think I would have picked up a second book if I wasn't hooked by the narrator. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is amazing. I could listen to him talk all day long and it is real shame that there are not a vast number of books narrated by him. I love his voice and wouldn't mind listening even if he spoke in a foreign to me language. If I wasn't a respected middle aged matron one might suggest that I am slightly infatuated with this voice...

My favourite read has to be 'All the light we cannot see' by Anthony Doerr. I was enchanted by this book, loved every minute of it and wished I could speed the narration up to move through the story quicker. It is of course possible to increase the narration speed but this makes the voices sound weird. At the same time I wanted the book to last much longer. The story is about the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner before and during World War II, and how their life stories finally converge towards the end of the war in St. Malo. Marie-Laure grows up in Paris with her locksmith father. He works for the Natural History Museum, where Marie-Laure spends large parts of her early childhood. She is blind but her doting father builds perfect replicates of their neighbourhood to help her navigate town. When Paris is occupied, they leave for St. Malo, to leave with an uncle who becomes involved with the resistance movement. Meanwhile, in a small mining town in Germany, orphan Werner develops a love and skills for repairing radios. He wins a place at an academy for Hitler Youth and is later assigned to track resistance movements. He grows more and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, an awareness that eventually protects Marie-Laure and her uncle. I have received another book by this author and look forward to reading it.

I have of course not even touched the book that I wanted to read in December, 'Bedlam' by Christopher Brookmyre. I'll get to it at some point.

My reading has been very escapist in 2016. I have read few books that are about 'real life' and have mostly indulged in science fiction and fantasy, with some crime fiction sprinkled on. I felt the need to have a place in an imagined world where nothing is like my own life. There isn't anything inherently wrong with my own life of course but a lingering discontent and a good deal of anxiety in general meant that I just couldn't relax with books that largely played in our real world. I am not sure what genre I will gravitate towards in 2017 but I think a small dose of reality is in order. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Thanks for stopping by! I love to read your comments, every single one is highlight in my days. x


19 comments:

  1. I have the Ben Aaronobitch books on my radar for 2017 - they're all on the shelves, belonging to Dave - he has enjoyed them and said I might like them too. I've read quite a bit of sci-fi and fantasy in 2016 too, favouring that over classics it seems... this year I want to get back to classics as I do enjoy them!

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  2. I like to escape as well. I have heard nothing but rave reviews about All The Light We Cannot See, must give it a try. I'm hoping to read more this year, maybe some extra time will materialise from somewhere. Wishing you a good weekend, with a little cosy reading time. CJ xx

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  3. I liked The Paying Guests, not a comfortable read, but well written.

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  4. I greatly enjoyed Paying Guests too, i have read several Sarah Waters books and liked them all. I'd stay well away from real life if you can, and keep on escaping in to that fantasy world in 2017! X

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  5. Sadly I seem to prioritise other activities and reading always comes secondary, I am going to try and change this over the next few months. Time will tell.

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  6. I loved All the Light we cannot See, I think it was my favourite book of 2016. I've just finished A Ma Called Ove which I was pleasantly surprised by. I warmed to it as I went along.

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  7. I agree with you on paying guests, I felt I needed to rewrite the ending too. Very bad month for me readingwise. Just finished Belgravia by Julian fellowes ( Downton Abbey). A fairly predictable romp through Victorian England. Lightweight. Need to get my teeth into something more. Will check out your titles. B x

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  8. Holiday time has a way of evaporating before our very eyes. So many good intentions, and never enough time to get them all accomplished. I've read All the Light We Cannot See and really enjoyed it except for the ending. I felt like the author wasn't sure how to finish it and just threw that part together.

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  9. Hello.I love reading your blog.Please could you tell me where you got the bird lampshade from? Thanks x

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    1. Hi Trace. I bought it on Etsy, if you search for 'Copper Birdcage Pendant Light Chandelier' you should find it. The seller is called Kekoni.

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  10. Hey Christina,
    I adored 'All The Light We Cannot See' What did you think of 'Nutshell?' I wasn't hugely impressed tbh, and I am a McEwan fan. I've just find After Me Came The Flood by Sarah Grace Perry. She also wrote a The Essex Serpent. Both great. I've just started 'The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall' my favourite Bronte book.
    Leanne xx

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    1. Hey Leanne and Christina - I loved ''All the Light We Cannot See' too. Husband read 'Nutshell' and didn't like it much either Leanne and I'm about to start ToWFH after watching Bronte's drama at Christmas. Miss your blog. Christina I love your new spacious kitchen - can't remember if I've commented on it yet. X Doris

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    2. I haven't read 'Nutshell' yet but hope to do so soon. I really like McEwan and maybe I'll be in a forgiving mood when I am reading it. xx

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  11. Love these book posts. I'm a fan of Sarah Waters and recently read The Little Stranger which I can recommend. Have already read three books this year, which is good going for me, and have just started Different Class by Joanne Harris, she of Chocolat fame who I've actually met in real life (get me!).

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  12. I really loved All The Light We Cannot See. It was a brilliant book. Thank you for the other suggestions.

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  13. You write about the books you have read so well, it is a pleasure to read your reviews. I have been reading Bill Byrson's The Road To Little Dribbling over Christmas and it's very good, very funny. John grumbles that I laugh too loudly while reading it in bed at night. :-) xx

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  14. I always enjoy reading about what you read - I'll have to follow some of these up. I have a great image of you sat there listening to 'helium voices' of the sped up audio books :) x

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  15. All The Light We Cannot See was a great book, I agree I wanted to speed through it yet slow it down too, I completely understand that! x

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  16. Book talk is becoming an escape in itself.. quite interesting to know of the different opinions. Lunch with friends usually involves book talk...at our wonderful home owned little bookstore with its own sandwich and soup deli. Books cost more there but supporting locally owned is extremely important. Bedtime reading for me is often some sort of cookbook, especially M F K Fisher.

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Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx