Archive for the ‘books’ Category

London Under

London Under by Peter Ackroyd

In books read on June 30, 2015

This is an interesting book all about the goings on underneath London, delving into archeology, underground rivers, the Tube, sewers and all kinds of other subterranean bits and pieces. I remember hearing rumours (and probably spreading them too) of there being various secret tunnels connecting government buildings and other institutions when I was a student in London and this would have been great to read then (long before it was published however) which was why I snapped it up to read when I saw it in the bookshop. It took me ages to read it because every chapter sent me off to commune with a search engine and find out more using the things Ackroyd had just informed me about as the start of a search. Ultimately that's my only disappointment with the book - it's brief and a jumping off point for doing your own research, not a fully researched historical volume in itself.

This was a paperback.

A God in Ruins

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

In books read on June 20, 2015

Where to start? This is a sort-of follow up to Life After Life in which Ursula Todd kept going back through bits of her life until she got it "right". Which was also a masterpiece of all-over-the-place what-on-earth-is-the-author-doing-here fiction which I loved. In this book the story is given to Ursula's brother Teddy, which incidentally has me wondering if there are any other bear related names that could come to the fore to make a trilogy. Teddy was a bomber pilot in the second world war and this book goes back and forth in his life from his youth to his old age bringing in the stories of his descendants too. It's less of a wild ride than Life After Life in many ways, but Atkinson still has plenty of authorial magic up her sleeve to twist things around so that you are never sure quite what is going to come next. A really interesting book, and one that could be read with or without having read Life After Life first, indeed you could read it afterwards. As always I'm left intrigued to find out what Kate Atkinson will come up with next!

This was a kindle eBook.

Tell No Tales

Tell No Tales by Eva Dolan

In books read on May 27, 2015

I've read the book, but not yet written anything down about it. Check back later (maybe!).

This was a kindle eBook.

Some Luck

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

In books read on May 12, 2015

This is the first volume of the Last Hundred Years Trilogy, it starts with newlyweds Walter and Rosanna Langdon on an Iowa farm welcoming their first child, Frank, into the world on New Year's Day 1920. This volume runs up to 1953 and I presume that Smiley's plan is to eventually finish the three books on New Year's Eve 2019. By the end of this first book the Langdon's children are mostly grown and dispersed into the world beyond Iowa. It's obviously a way to tell the tale of America over a century as well as a family saga. If I have a complaint it is that the fingerposts of history loom up out of the mists of the story and point you from one big historical event to another in a manner that is a bit too obvious in places. But it's a decent family saga underneath that even if it doesn't seem to have quite as many layers to it as I felt it needed. It's not on the same level as something like A Thousand Acres which is a bit disappointing, but only because that book was so good, so deep, so meaningful, and even second best to it is better than a lot of fiction (I also read it numerous years ago and it may have elevated itself in my memory since). I'm very much looking forward to finding out what happens to the Langdon family over the next sixty-seven years.

This was a kindle eBook.

A Place Called Winter

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

In books read on April 11, 2015

Ah, this was wonderful, I didn't want it to end, but when it did I was so glad with how it ended. Although I don't think I've read a book of Patrick Gale's that I haven't liked this is certainly the only one that I felt could compete with the first one I read: Notes from an Exhibition. It has the same kind of sweeping through a life story vibe to it. At the beginning of the book we meet Harry in some kind of early twentieth century lunatic asylum kind of place, not where you'd want to be. And then we go back to his childhood and work forward again. Often I hate this kind of device but here it is used very well. Each time we revisit the Harry we met at the beginning of the book we have a bit more idea how he came to be there and the pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place. A fabulous read.

This was a kindle eBook.

Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #13)

Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #13) by Laurie R. King

In books read on March 29, 2015

One of those series where I know I'm pretty much going to love the story no matter whether it's actually any good or not. And fortunately it isn't losing it yet. This story takes Russell and Holmes off to Japan by boat for the first half of the story, and then back to Oxford for the second. A nice balance of home and away with some great characters along the way.

This was a kindle eBook.

Long Way Home

Long Way Home by Eva Dolan

In books read on March 12, 2015

I'm delighted to find a fabulous new mystery series. Great story and characters that don't feel like a rehash of something that I've read before. Nice to find some cops in the UK who aren't misanthropic old men with failing relationships. Yes, I've enjoyed plenty of stories of misanthropic old men with failing relationships! I'm just ready for something else. The only thing I can mark this down for is for having a prologue that I didn't see the point of, and didn't realise where it came in the story until I got to the end and flicked back to it. Apart from that it was top class. I'm looking forward to more.

This was a kindle eBook.

Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

In books read on March 1, 2015

This was great. I wasn't at all sure that a mystery narrated by an old lady with dementia was going to work at all but it did. There's a modern day storyline where Maud is sure that her friend Elizabeth has gone missing, and it gets tangled up in her head with the story of her sister Sukey who went missing when Maud was a child. There are times when you want to scream at Maud to get it all sorted out, which isn't at all fair, and I think it gives you an insight into what it must be like to live with dementia. The plot was very clever though and I really enjoyed reading it despite finding it upsetting and frustrating at times.

This was a kindle eBook.

How To Be Both

How To Be Both by Ali Smith

In books read on January 25, 2015

I can't say I enjoyed this half as much as I would have liked to. Which is because I love Ali Smith's way of writing like no one else does and though I did enjoy it a lot I would have liked to have enjoyed it more. I think I was just expecting too much of it really. The copy that I read had the modern day story first, and I liked the historical one better. It feels like a book that ought to want a second closer reading, but from previous Smith books I know I'll enjoy it better at full tilt. Can't win that one really!

This was a hardback. This was borrowed.

All Change (The Cazalet Chronicle, #5)

All Change (The Cazalet Chronicle, #5) by Elizabeth Jane Howard

In books read on January 5, 2015

This is the fifth in a family saga that begins in 1938 with a group of cousins - well the whole family but the focus is always on the young girls - going to their grandparents big house in Sussex where they end up spending most of the war. The first four volumes cover the war years and just beyond and sees the girls into young adulthood. This last volume picks up the story in the mid-1950s and sees them in their 30s with families of their own.

At first this book is heavy on the nostalgia with the characters spending a lot of time reminiscing about things that happened in the previous books. It's a bit too sugary sweet but no one who has got this far through the series will really object to this though it doesn't make for a good story. But the world is changing in the 1950s and the Cazalet family must change with it. When things start to go awry for them it becomes a much better book, and knowing the characters as well as you do by this point means that you know it is not going to be that bleak, there are some tough cookies here and there are also characters you are pleased to see get their comeuppance.

In the end the whole series adds up to a lovely, often sentimental (and often in a good way), portrait of the life of an upper middle class family across a twenty year span in which I think Britain changed as fast as it ever had done and yet people, on the whole, managed to keep up and change with it. For once I am not sorry that this is the end of the series, the series would probably have seemed complete at four books but this one does cap off the story well without tying up every loose end and I can use my imagination to guess where the characters go from here.

This was a kindle eBook.