Library Love

October 31, 2009

I very rarely play the lottery, but I do frequently dream of winning it.  Not particularly because I want glitzy bathroom fittings, or a never-ending wardrobe, but I would love, love, LOVE this:

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Designed by Gianni Botsford for a writer (of course!), this wonderful space in Costa Rica has given me heart palpatations.

What is it about novelists and amazing private libraries?  Check out this one owned by another mystery writer:

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How cosy does that look?  Though my selection of tatty Agatha Christies might look out of place.

This library belongs to the owner of priceline.com:

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It’s not really my taste, but it’s full to the brim of amazing things.  Read the original article here.

There are, of course, a multitude of gorgeous public libraries.  If you have a slow afternoon and want a squiz and a drool, check out this article here.

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Title : The Bonesetter’s Daughter
Author : Amy Tan
ISBN : 978-0399146435
Rating : 9/10
Great for : discovering a hidden past

I have a strange, unnatural wariness of books of this genre: romanticised Asian historical fiction.   Where on the odd occasion I have read one or two novels like this, I’ve found them to be much of a muchness, all churned out from the same mould.  Maybe it’s because I’m half chinese that I find these stories a bit awkwardly and unconvincingly told, who knows.

Having said all that, I love this book.  And it’s not the first time I’ve read it either.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter is a novel rich in characters, relationships, sadness and humour.  It tells the story of Ruth Young and her mother LuLing, the latter having in America from China in the 1940’s.  I won’t really go into the plot, because the story unfolds beautifully and you don’t need me ruining it for you if you choose to read it.  Suffice it to say that LuLing and Ruth have a difficult relationship, difficulties which are somewhat resolved when Ruth takes the time to delve into her mother’s past and unearth the bloodlines that tie her back to her ancestors.

It’s really easy to read, but it is a dense book in terms of character and plot.  Credit has to go to Amy Tan here though because you never feel confused or perplexed.  You always know who’s who and what’s happening.  And, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Chinese culture, I can guarantee that the depiction of the chinese mind and society is pretty spot-on.   It may seem a bit far-fetched to some but trust me, she knows what she’s talking about  🙂

I wish I hadn’t left the book in France because I wanted to leave you with a truly lovely (okay, yes, and sentimental!) passage when two people fall in love, effortlessly.  If anyone reads this book, you’ll know what I mean!

Kx

Review : How To Be Good

October 24, 2009

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Title : How To Be Good
Author : Nick Hornby
ISBN : 978-0140287011
Rating : 7/10
Great for : when you need a giggle

This book made me chuckle.

Katie Carr, wife, mother, GP and generally “good person” is married to David (the “angriest man in Holloway” by trade).  Their marriage is already at breaking point when David meets DJ GoodNews, a retired DJ  faith healer, and their world is suddenly turned upside down.

It’s not a tough read, but it is entertaining.  And anyone who’s ever been in a relationship will enjoy Nick Hornby’s dissection of what makes a relationship tick, and what makes it go horribly wrong.

Kx

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Hello all, your discussion questions below! My answers are the bits not in bold.  Hope you enjoyed!

Kat x

1. Let’s kick of with an easy-peasy.  What would you rate the House at Riverton out of 10? I thought it was an absolute page-turner and I’d give it a 9.  Also can’t wait to read Kate Morton’s second book, The Forgotten Garden. Good choice, APOW!

2. Ursula comments that David is “not really a major character. He died a little too early to affect things”, but Grace thinks this is debatable. What impact do you think he made? I was quite perplexed by this for a while.  Why include a strong character like David, only to kill him off in such a quiet way?  I wondered if perhaps he was the stabilising force between Emmeline and Hannah (i.e. all that stuff about the three points of a triangle).  I also wondered if he was the reason why Emmeline and Hannah fall for Robbie – because he was David’s friend, and so they have some connection with him.  What did everyone else think?

3. Did you get much of a grasp on Hannah’s character?  If so, what did you make of her? If I’m being honest I found it quite hard to get under this character’s skin.  Why was she so desperate to get away from Riverton?  What were her motivations?  I couldn’t quite work it out (can anyone help me?).  And I should add that because I didn’t get her, I didn’t particularly like her. Not that I disliked her either, I guess I was just quite apathetic.  And I wish she’d stood up a bit more to Deborah!

4. If the events by the lake hadn’t happened as they did, do you think Hannah and Robbie’s relationship would have lasted? Nope.  Hannah and Robbie, alas, were the two characters I was least convinced by.  Their relationship was just a bit thin.  I never got any sense of Robbie’s great love for Hannah.  It was just a bit weird.

5. Was the actual scene at the lake believable to you? I’m still quite convinced that they could have worked something out without anyone having to shoot anyone else.  But perhaps I’m being too sensible.  I’m glad Hannah chose Emmeline over Robbie though.

6. Why do you think Grace can ultimately confide in her grandson, Marcus, but is unable to talk to her daughter? I feel a bit sorry for Ruth, the prim and proper daughter who Grace feels unable to speak to.  Maybe Ruth is such a stern character that Grace didn’t think she would understand all the underlying passions involved.  Also, there must have been a lot of resentment and estrangement when Grace got back together with Albert.  But then I suppose, by giving the story to Marcus, Grace has managed to bring Marcus home to Ruth so it worked out being a bit of a gift to her too.

7.Did you enjoy the setting of the Edwardian Riverton?  Do you think the author managed to bring it to life? I found the setting really believable – I love how she conjures up the images of dusty libraries and the whole upstairs/downstairs dynamic.  It worked really, really well. In fact it reminded me a lot of Gosford Park.  And I love any book that features Agatha Christie as a (very) minor character!!!! Brilliant!

Don’t Hate Me But….

October 20, 2009

book-9066I’m heading for sunnier climes again.  2 weeks in Cuba this time, spiritual home of Hemmingway and the Cuba Libre.  For lazy beach/long bus journey reading, I’ll be taking People’s Act of Love by James Meek and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. Reviews when I get back.

A handful of posts have been scheduled for when I’m away, though of course I’ll be leaving you in the capable hands of the lovely APOW.  Questions for the October Book Group will be on here tomorrow and I’ll pick a winner for the giveaway when I’m back….so be good until then!

Kx

Secondhand Bookshop Love

October 18, 2009

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There was a wee little article in the Guardian about the 10 best secondhand bookshops in the UK.  Barter Books, Alnwick Station, Northumberland (above) gets my vote.  Isn’t it wonderful?  Has anyone been?

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Title : The Mysteries of Udolpho
Author : Anne Radcliffe
ISBN : 978-0192825230
Rating : 2/10
Great for : working yourself up into a  temper

So, it is a strange thing dear blog readers.  I read The Mysteries of Udolpho once before, about twelve years ago.  I couldn’t remember much but I remembered enjoying it.  This time I got to page 140 and even that was a titanic effort.   The book – or at least the first 140 pages of it – is the most overly sentimental rambling piece of MEH I have read in a long, long time (or, I suppose, in 12 years).  And believe you me, I have read some waffle in my time.

It’s normally at this point that I give you the gist of what the book is about.  Well, a man and his daughter go travelling around France so that the man (St. Aubert) may recover from a spell of ill-health.  They go up mountains, down mountains, round mountains and every single night they have to rush to the nearest village and beg for accommodation because they are seemingly incapable of estimating travelling times to the next town.   Really.  Once is forgivable.  Twice shows a worrying stupidity.  Three times or more?  Someone needs to turn them around and take these two home.   I suppose it’s meant  to be some suspense-building device as they rattle on through some dark forest with the night rushing in yahda yahda yahda…but seriously, enough already.

When the St Aubert party aren’t travelling and ousting humble villagers from their beds, they are busy doing either one of three things.  These three things can be characterised thus: weep, tremble and simper.  A beautiful tree? Weep! Tremble! Simper!  Oh no, we can’t make it to town before nightfall? Weep! Tremble! Simper!  Oh these kindly villagers have had to give up their beds for us and are sleeping with their livestock? Weep! Tremble! Simper! You get the idea. I am sure it is to show St Aubert’s sensitive nature, and it is to show his daughter’s charming feminine qualities but good grief.  Somebody shoot me now. Or them, preferably.

There is a male love interest for the daughter (who of course does nothing but weep, tremble and simper at her delicate beauty – I kid you not. It is revolting) and I suppose at some stage there will be a mystery, though the far greater mystery is how I enjoyed this blathersome nonsense upon first reading.  In its defence, it is written I believe in the 16th Century and has to be taken in that context.

Apologies for the tirade.  I am quite put out, can you tell?

Kx

When I Was Small – Part 2

October 15, 2009

I was frittering away my time on Ebay the other day when I came across something that made my heart lurch.

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This was one of my first ever books.   Being overly sentimental about anything that reminds me of being 5 again, it just made me very nostalgic.

There were others in the series.   I remember Penelope Strawberry and Roger Radish, as well as Simon Swede and Avril Apricot.  I can’t really remember what happened to all these colourful characters – it’s been a while since I caught up with the Garden Gang.  Though rest assured, despite the dodgy titles and lingering looks on the front covers , I don’t think the fruit were ever romantically involved.

Kx

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Title : When Will There Be Good News
Author : Kate Atkinson
ISBN : 978-0316154857
Rating : 2/10
Great for : nothing

There isn’t much I can say about this book apart from FAIL!  I picked it up off the back off Behind The Scenes at the Museum which I’d enjoyed.  I got to page 121.  I just couldn’t get into it, didn’t like the writing style and when I feel like I’m being dragged through a book kicking at screaming at the boredom of it, it’s time to chuck it in the ‘return to library pile’

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Title : The Perfect Man
Author : Sheila O’Flanagan
ISBN : 978-0755343799
Rating : 7/10
Great for : reading on the beach and in the bath

I love Sheila O’Flanagan books.  I used to devour them in one day.  Typical chick lit mind you.

So two sisters end up on a cruise, a romance cruise no less.  One if there as a best selling author, the other as her assistant.  Lots of couples doing romantic stuff, two single sisters and one man who is on his honeymoon without his wife.

You know it’ll all end up happily ever after, but it did keep me guessing for a while.  Not quite the (chick lit) page turner I’m used to from Ms O’Flanagan, but it was good all the same.