Archive for January, 2011

Remarkable Creatures

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

In books read on January 14, 2011

Tracy Chevalier is one of those authors that people ask me if I've read, who pop up on recommendation lists, who generally seem very popular despite seeming a bit literary, who sounds like someone I should like, and therefore, contrarily, I've never read. I picked this up in the library and fully expected to put it down by page 20 and send it back unread.

Of course I didn't do that, I loved it.

Set in Lyme Regis in the early nineteenth century this is the story of the friendship between Mary Anning, a young fossil hunter from the working classes, and Elizabeth Philpot, a slightly older fossil hunter from the upper classes. I knew that Mary Anning was a real historical figure as I knew of her from visits to Lyme, I was surprised to find that Miss Elizabeth was also drawn from life - the fossil museum in Lyme Regis is the Philpot Museum apparently, I didn't remember that.

It's a great story about the relationships between the classes at the time of Austen. Mary and Elizabeth really shouldn't be friends; neither of them should take gentlemen fossil hunters out onto the beach with them. There is also much revealed about the relationship of Elizabeth as a slightly down at heel spinster to the higher echelons of society. And also about women in scientific circles at the time: Mary Anning is now considered to be one of the most influential British women in the history of science but few of her contemporaries saw that.

I liked the book for the subject matter but it was a far smoother read than I was expecting and I'll have to try another of Chevalier's books and see if I enjoy it as much.

This was a library book.

A Corpse in Shining Armour (Liberty Lane, #3)

A Corpse in Shining Armour (Liberty Lane, #3) by Caro Peacock

In books read on January 14, 2011

I decided to read the third in the series shortly after the second before I forgot about it again. Disappointed to find no sign of a fourth book in the series yet.

Early Victorian London; jousting is the latest craze among young aristocrats & a paternity question arises between the two sons of a dying Lord. Liberty Lane steps in to investigate. Fun. I guessed one of the twists but it's well plotted and that didn't matter. Occassional anachronous-ish foresight by the characters - as when they think it would be nice to have a test for paternity like scientists test for acids & alkalis - just adds to the entertainment.

This was a kindle eBook.

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Block 6

Flickr Pics 13th January 2011

on January 13, 2011 by kirsty

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Stripyish SockJacketSpinach & Mascarpone SauceChelsea Buns IIIChelsea Buns IIChelsea Buns I

Flickr Pics 10th January 2011

on January 10, 2011 by kirsty

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The Perfect Lie

The Perfect Lie by Emily Barr

In books read on January 7, 2011

Chick-lit-ish kind of thriller. Nothing special, but not dreadful though predictable at times. Kept me entertained and turning the pages.

I got hugely annoyed by the enormous paragraph spacing though - I read it on the Kindle but I guess this feature is carried over from the print edition. The Kindle lets you adjust type size and line spacing but doesn't have a "Please remove the two blank lines between each paragraph" option. It's ok when there are long paragraphs, but quick dialogue sections - often one of the fastest moving bits of a thriller - get slowed down by page turning. I guess someone thought it made it "faster" that way. It doesn't!

This was a kindle eBook.

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Little ElfRainbow BlockDeer Leaping BaubleElephantHare & BellBlueberry Muffins

Flickr Pics 7th January 2011

on January 7, 2011 by kirsty

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The Very Thought of You

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison

In books read on January 6, 2011

I'll file this one under "quite good but could have been better".

The majority of the book is set in the second world war and told from multiple viewpoints. The major characters are Anna, an eight year old evacuee send from London to Yorkshire - shades of Carrie's War here for me (can't really remember it, must reread it with Miranda sometime!); Anna's mother, Roberta, who remains in London living a more or less single life without husband or daughter; and Thomas Ashton who runs the temporary country house school for evacuees where Anna ends up. Other characters appear and disappear from the narrative at various points: a Polish artist, a young schoolteacher, Thomas's unhappy wife, Thomas's diplomatic friends the Nortons who turn out to have been real people. On the whole it's a good story with a great sense of place but some of the characters never came fully to life for me - there's the occasional fabulous bit of characterisation but then a lot that seemed somewhat generic.

At the end of the story the war is over and the book quickly skips through "what happened next" to bring the surviving characters up to the present day. Although I could see how this tied the plot up by showing the effect of the wartime events on the rest of the characters lives it still felt a bit of an extended epilogue rather than a full part of the main book.

I think this is Rosie Alison's first book and I'd certainly try another even though this didn't quite deliver for me.

This was a kindle eBook.

A Passionate Man

A Passionate Man by Joanna Trollope

In books read on January 4, 2011

I've read Joanna Trollope's novels for years and generally think I liked the earlier ones more than the later books. When I was adding all my reading & book records to Goodreads & LibraryThing recently I was surprised to find this book popping up as unread as I thought I had read all of the earlier books at least. I expected to suddenly remember the story part of the way through and realise that I had read it before but I'm pretty certain this one was new to me. Or completely forgotten which is just as good!

Despite reading all of them I always start off these books thinking they are going to be rubbish... they are full of characters who appear at first glance to be rather stereotyped examples of the upper middle classes, people with big houses, good jobs, stable relationships, long family histories verging on the aristocratic, perfect children effortlessly kept in private schools etc. But what I enjoy is that things are never quite as they seem and that Trollope plays with the stereotypes and rather makes fun of her characters along the way. She nearly always writes about women and despite the title this book is mostly about the women surrounding the men. I never did figure out which man was supposed to be the passionate one, there are two obvious possibilities as far as I can see; and Liza Logan, wife of one of them, and daughter-in-law of the other was a far more interesting character than either.

Published in 1990 this feels rather like a period piece now.

This was a kindle eBook.

The House At Riverton

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

In books read on January 3, 2011

An enjoyable uncovering of secrets as a housemaid, Grace, employed at Riverton from the time of the first world war looks back at life at the house from her old age. I liked it despite finding it all a bit predictable in places. The characters aren't really the strong point here, some seem very cardboardy, marched onto the scene to display some aspect of early twentieth century history. I'd have liked to have cared more about the family and the servants. The slow realisation of what is happening is well written though. The device of having Grace looking back in time and being astonished by her own lack of knowledge about what is going on around her works well. And subtle hints of what happens after the main story are littered through the book to make the reading continually interesting, and the big reveal at the end of the book might be disappointing if the reader hadn't basically guessed it all long before.

Thinking about the book too much would probably ruin it, so I won't do, but it's an entertaining read.

This was a kindle eBook.


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