2018 Books - updated Friday 3rd August

In Progress (poetry in blue)

(Actively Reading)

A Gentleman of Moscow - Amor Towles (Book Club)
St Paul's letter to the Romans (Bible Book Club)
Holding - Graham Norton
La Belle Sauvage - Philip Pullman (Christmas Present)


Other Books that I'm dipping in and out of;

Selected Poems - U A Fanthorpe
Flame and Shadow - Sara Teesdale
The English Witness - John Bailey
The Art Of Fiction - David Lodge
On Writing - Stephen King
The Cartographer Tries To Map A Way To Zion - Kei Miller
Cultural Amnesia - Clive James
Poetry Notebook 2006 - 2014 - Clive James
How to be well-versed in poetry - edited by E O Parrott
Three Men In A Boat - Jerome K Jerome
Letters to a Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke

Pending

Horse And His Boy - C S Lewis
The Lion, the Witch And The Wardobe  - C S Lewis
The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader - C S Lewis
Prince Caspian - C S Lewis
The Guernsey Literature and Potato Peel Pie Society
Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan
Religio Medici - Sir Thomas Browne

Miss Buncle Married - D E Stevenson
Mindfulness and Music - Mark Tanner
Miss Pym Disposes - Josephine Tey
The Once and Future King - T H White


In The Future (waiting to be bought!)

Greenery Street - Denis Mackail
The Two Mrs Abbots - D E Stevenson
The Four Graces - D E Stevenson
House-Bound - Winifred Peck
The Once and Future King - T H White
A Month in the Country - J L Carr
This is going to hurt - Adam Kay
A closed and common orbit - Becky Chambers
Record of a spaceborn few - Becky Chambers

Finished

End of July

The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim - written in 1922, gently delightful story of the transformation worked in the lived of four women as they spend a month in an Italian Villa.
The Bookshop - Penelope Fitzgerald - I wanted to shout abuse at Mrs Garmin or whatever her name was. A melancholy sort of story.
The Singing Sands - Josephine Tey - I read this years ago. Re reading, I discovered that although I remembered stray details, I had completely forgotten the plot.
Puck of Pook's Hill -Rudyard Kipling - Essential reading for mid-Summer.
The Art of Inheriting Secrets - Barbara O'Neal - very light romantic thriller 
The Hawk and the Dove - Penelope Wilcock - little morality stories linked to a community in a Medieval monastery. Gentle amusing and thought-provoking - easy reading.

June/early July

Only One You A View Of The Harbour: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 5)
Only one You - Linda Krantz
An inspirational board book. I have bought eight copies, one for each of the classes in the two small primary schools I will be leaving at the end of term. I should have bought nine - one to keep for myself. That can easily be rectified.  

The View of the Harbour - Elizabeth Taylor
An odd book; I downloaded it on a recommendation from some newspaper article on favourite books. The writing was descriptive, but I found myself disliking every single character in the book, except the two youngest children. Maybe there were all too true to life - warts and all, and perhaps too many warts. I finished it - there is a surprise ending in the very last line... leaving the whole story hanging.
I would have liked to like the book more - I thought "Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont" was very, very good.

Five Children and It (Vintage Children's Classics)Five Children on the Western FrontHimself

Five Children and It - E Nesbit
I thought I had read this before, but it must have been "The Phoenix and the Carpet", as although I had met the Psammead before, it wasn't in this book. Rollicking good read, but very, very dated now. I enjoyed it, but then I enjoy books of that period.

Five Children on the Western Front - Kate Saunders (follow-on to Five Children and It)
I enjoyed the follow-on much more - although it was sad - what book set in the period of the First World War wouldn't be? The children turned out well, and the Psammead's appalling behaviour of thousands of years ago was revealed and redeemed!


Himself - Jess Kidd (for July Book club meeting)
Oh yes, excellent. An "Irish" book, in that it is set in Ireland, and the voices are - Irish. I love the turn of phrase and unexpected way of describing things. I'd almost want to learn to speak Gaelic, to see if the way that English is used reflects those speech patterns. I'm saying no more... but it is a good murder mystery with a definitely fey twist.

The High Hills (Brambly Hedge)   Poppy’s Babies (Brambly Hedge)Sea Story (Brambly Hedge)

Sea Story, The High Hills and Poppy's Babies - Jill Barklem

The last three books in the series. Sweetly pretty in story and picture. I enjoyed them both.

The Book of Samuel - Old Testament, comprehensively abridged in The Street Bible by Rob Lacey - for Bible Book club in June

May

The Villa on the Riviera: A captivating story of mystery and secrets - the perfect summer escapeThe Villa in Italy: Escape to the Italian sun with this captivating, page-turning mysteryThe Secret Staircase (Brambly Hedge)Silvertongue: Book 3 (Stoneheart)A Spoke In the WheelWomen & Power: A Manifesto

A Spoke In The Wheel - Katherine Jowitt - I read her first book "Speak its Name" and was impressed, partly because although it is set in the current Christian Union at University world, I recognised the same issues and schisms from when I was involved back in the 1970s. Nothing changes! The wheel in this book is a racing bicycle wheel; the "spokes" are the various situations and difficulties that the characters experience. 

Women and Power - Mary Beard - I would never have read this but for it being a Book Club choice. Mary Beard makes her point excellently well. As you would expect, she starts back in ancient classical times, and shows how the western world defines power as a masculine preoccupation.

The Villa In Italy - and The Villa on the Riviera - Elizabeth Edmonson. The Italy one is better, in my mind, but they are both of their genre - light, romantic thrillers in the Mary Stewart style. HOWEVER, probably because I was reading "Women and Power" at the same time, I was struck by how much of the story concerned the struggles that the women had to live their own lives, rather than live the lives that their fathers and husbands and brothers expected of them. The Riviera book is set just after WWI - will Polly give up her art as her Doctor fiance assumes? The Italy book is set in the 1950s - and the same questions arise. 

The Secret Staircase - Jill Barklem - I was curiously unsatisfied - the story is sweet, the illustrations absorbing, but, having found "The Secret Staircase" what will happen next? The two little mice just keep their secret and pocket the key! Maybe there will be more in the next book.

Iron Hand - and Silver Tongue- Charlie Fletcher - the next two in the Stone Heart Trilogy. I wish I had thought of this as a series, I wish I had written it. The adventure became a bit "full on" in Silver Tongue, but maybe that's because I read the two in quick succession. And read them too quickly, to find out what would happen next.


April and May

When Breath Becomes AirEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Debut Sunday Times Bestseller and Costa First Novel Book Award winner 2017The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps: The Courage Consort by Faber, Michel (April 1, 2010) Paperback

Nehemiah and Ezra - for the Bible Book Club meeting on 9th April
I've read them. Not the books that grab me most from the OT. I felt sorry for the foreign wives and children that Nehemiah said should be sent away in order to maintain the uniqueness of the Israelites as a nation. I was impressed that they all built their section of wall - did they build to the same quality? Or were some bits better than others. I was very impressed that they were ever allowed to rebuild Jerusalem at all, considering they were a conquered people.  

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi
I've delayed quite some time between buying this book and reading it. It is a book that repays reading at a time when you have the energy and space in your life to absorb the text properly. I would highly recommend it, even though it is a tough read, and there is no "happy" ending, but endings is what the book is all about. Read, and be enriched. (As a consequence I have now added Sir Thomas Browne's "Religio Medici" and Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progess" to the pending pile - these titles have come my way from several directions recently, including this book.)

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman - for the book club meeting on 8th May
Interesting. Eleanor Oliphant is a difficult-to-like character, but that's not surprising in the circumstances. Do a hair cut and advice with choosing more suitable clothes make such a difference to how others perceive you? I expect they do. Will it have a happy ending? Hopefully.  
I'm enjoying the way that joining the book club means I'm reading books I wouldn't otherwise have considered.

The One-Hundred-and-Ninety-Nine Steps - Michel Faber
This is a re-read - and I was just as impressed second time around. A modern gothic ghost romance set in and around Whitby Abbey. Yes, maybe that describes it. It is startling and shocking and engrossing. Hard to know who the chief character is, but Hadrian sounds Wonderful. I can't remember if I read this before or after "The Courage Consort"; no matter, I'm going to have to dig that out and reread it as well. 

The Magician's Nephew - C S Lewis
Like "The Last Battle", there was a lot I had forgotten. The toffee tree, for instance. No, be serious - there was a lot to ponder in this creation story. 

Arrest The Bishop? - Winifred Peck
This was recommended as an early example of the Agatha Christie-style crime genre. I was also curious because of her family - be impressed - from wikipedia;
"Winifred Frances Peck (née Knox) (1882, Headington – 20 November 1962) (Lady Peck) was an author of literary fiction and biographies. She was a member of a remarkable family: her father was Edmund Arbuthnott Knox, the fourth Bishop of Manchester, and her siblings were E. V. Knox, editor of PunchRonald Knox, theologian and writer,[1] Dilly Knox, cryptographer, Wilfred Lawrence Knox, clergyman, and Ethel Knox. Peck's niece was the Booker Prize-winning author Penelope Fitzgerald who wrote a biography of her father, E. V. Knox, and her uncles, entitled The Knox Brothers."

April

The Indecent Death of a Madam: An Abbot Peter MysteryA Director's, Cut: An Abbot Peter MysteryThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: Booktrack Edition (Wayfarers Book 1)

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet - Becky Chambers
Science Fiction novel about a space crew embroiled in a mission to - oh, it is complicated. The interesting part is the different species all living and interacting - their customs, cultures, appearances, and the effect of this upon each other. It isn't deep and literature like Ursula le Guin, but still worth the read just for the ideas.

The Indecent Death of a Madam - Simon Parkes
A Director's Cut - Simon Parkes
Another couple of gruesome murders for Abbot Peter to solve. I enjoyed them both; they are all set in and around the town of Stormhaven (Seaford) and I feel a visit coming on.

Winter Story - Jill Barklem
No murders here, and no scariness like the Autumn Story either!  

January, February and March

To Love and Be WiseThe Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 7)The Graveyard Book

To Love and Be Wise - Josephine Tey
Traditional Detective Story. I read it again for nostalgia, and because I couldn't remember the plot at all, for this little verse which I blogged about here.

"My lot is cast in inland places,
Far from sounding beach
And crying gull,
And I
Who knew the sea's voice from my babyhood
Must listen to a river purling
Through green fields,
And small birds gossiping
Among the leaves."


I've just read a poem by Kerry Hardie called "Sheep Fair Day". There are gossiping birds there, too;

Sheep Fair Day

The real aim is not to see God in all things, it is that God, through us, should see the things that we see.
                - Simone Weil 

I took God with me to the sheep fair.  I said, 'Look
there's Liv, sitting on the wall, waiting;
these are pens, these are sheep,
this is their shit we are walking in, this is their fear.
See that man over there, stepping along the low walls
between pens, eyes always watching,
mouth always talking, he is the auctioneer.
That is the wind in the ash trees above, that is sun
splashing us with running light and dark.
Those men over there, the ones with their faces sealed,
are buying or selling.  Beyond in the ring
where the beasts pour in, huddle and rush,
the hoggets are auctioned in lots.
And that woman with the ruddy face and the home-cut hair
and a new child on her arm, that is how it is to be woman
with the milk running, sitting on wooden boards
in this shit-milky place of animals and birth and death
as the bidding rises and falls.'

Then I went back outside and found Fintan.
I showed God his hand as he sat on the rails,
how he let it trail down and his fingers played
in the curly back of an ewe.  Fintan's a sheep-man
he's deep into sheep, though it's cattle he keeps now,
for sound commercial reasons.
                                                    'Feel that,' I said,
'feel with my heart the force in that hand
that's twining her wool as he talks.'
Then I went with Fintan and Liv to Refreshments,
I let God sip tea, boiling hot, from a cup,
and I lent God my fingers to feel how they burned
when I tripped on a stone and it slopped.
'This is hurt,' I said, 'there'll be more.'
And the morning wore on and then sun climbed
and God felt how it is when I stand too long,
how the sickness rises, how the muscles burn.

Later, at the back end of the afternoon,
I went down to swim in the green slide of river,
I worked my way under the bridge, against the current,
then I showed how it is to turn onto your back
with, above you and a long way up, two gossiping pigeons,
and a clump of valerian, holding itself to the sky.
I remarked on the stone arch as I drifted through it,
how it dapples with sunlight from the water,
how the bridge hunkers down, crouching low in its tracks
and roars when a lorry drives over.

And later again, in the kitchen,
wrung out, at day's ending, and empty,
I showed how it feels
to undo yourself,
to dissolve, and grow age-old, nameless:

woman sweeping a floor, darkness growing.

The Last Battle - C S Lewis
Kindle had a special offer for downloading all seven books in the series for 99p each. So I did. I read this one first; it's one of those books where you read something new, catch a new plot twist, every time. So, although I was on the lookout for my favourite bits (the dwarves in the stable, the honourable soldier meeting Aslan) there were other passages which caught my attention; the children's parents waving to them from another part of Aslan's country, for example.

A Far Away Magic - Amy Wilson
This Young Adult novel was recommended on a blog I follow. I love books where the "real world" and the "magical world" collide. This is a good one, so I went on a downloaded

A Girl Called Owl - Amy Wilson
This has no connection with "A Far Away Magic" except that it is another real world/ magical world Young Adult. Some really interesting ideas on how these worlds interact.

Ballet Shoes: A Story of Three Children on the Stage (Puffin Books Book 1)A Girl Called OwlA Far Away Magic


Brambly Hedge Books;
Spring Story - Jill Barklem
Summer Story - Jill Barklem
These stories passed me by - I was more of a Beatrix Potter fan. A friend has lent me the whole set - the stories are gently endearing, and I wish the pictures were bigger as they are so details and intricate.

Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfeild
I had a week in bed in February (boring old chest infection). Some mention of the Cromwell Road lead me to "Ballet SHoes" which has lost none of its charm for me. I watched BOTH the videos as well, good, but too much added drama. The book remains the best.

Miss Buncles's Book - D E Stevenson
A book within a book - I read it again in hurry before lending it again to a friend. The next three in the series are on my "future" list - will they be as delightfully delightful?

 A Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
There was a quote from this book used in "The Artists' Way" by Julia Cameron, so I read the rest of the book to track it down "“You're always you, and that don't change, and you're always changing, and there's nothing you can do about it.”" Interestingly, Jack Frost is a Very Bad Baddie in this book; in "A Girl Called Owl" he is quite a different character. That's fiction for you.

The Children of Green Knowe (Faber Children's Classics)Days Without EndNine Coaches Waiting (Mary Stewart Modern Classic)


Days Without End - Sebastian Barry
It's a long time since I read any Serious Fiction written for Adults. I love this book. I can hear Ireland in the language, and the whole boom written in 1st person prose was a revelation.

A Far Cry From Kensington - Muriel Spark
Why did I read this? Recommended on a blog somewhere - It's very Barabara Pym in that not a lot happens, but the story is packed with incident. I particularly liked the way that the narrator, Mrs Hawkins, hands out advice to the reader all along the way. ("To lose weight, just set yourself to only ever eating half of what is on your plate.")

As Black As He's Painted - Ngaio Marsh
Last Ditch - Ngaio Marsh
Grave Mistake - Ngaio Marsh
A clutch of traditional, dated, "of their time", class-ridden and worse, traditional detective stories. I just love them as a comedy of manners. I've loads of them on my kindle... I rather fancy "A Clutch Of Constables" next.

Nine Coaches Waiting - Mary Stewart
Dated Rom-Com Thriller Suspense, with all the usual misunderstandings, and exotic locations and period manners that I love, but am so glad that I don't live in.

The Diet Myth - Tim Spector
This is an interesting read - the eating myths and sciences explained or exploded in turn. Apparently it comes down to the bacteria in your gut; I'm now drinking home-made kefir in the hope of assisting my guts to deal with the continuous antibiotics that I take... time will tell whether I am a gullible idiot or not.

Gospel of Luke
The book for January at the Bible Book per Month Supper Club I am in.

Joel Amos Obadiah - Old Testament
The books for February at the Bible Book per Month Supper Club




A Far Cry From Kensington (Virago Modern Classics Book 27)The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We EatThe Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

The Children of Greene Knowe - L M Boston
Why did I read this? We must have been talking about the book, or the house, and No1 Son said he had my copy and I asked if I could borrow it back. So I did, and read it. Whimsical, time-turning... I wonder what happened to the rest of the series? Did I have them? Or did I borrow them from the library?

The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron
A twelve-step program to nurture your inner artist - you follow the course, doing writing exercises and also writing three pages of anything every morning. She takes a different topic each week, and writes loads of self-help stuff, interspersed with quotations. I found quite a lot of it too, too, much, too fey, too - Pacific Coast of America? But there was enough in there each week to keep me going, and give me good ideas, or uncover a thought-patterns or processes which were worth examining and re-evaluating. So, worth the effort of doing the bits I did.

Autumn Story - Jill Barklem
In which Primrose gets lost, wanders into a tunnel system, is at risk of being caught and eaten, but is found just in time. Surprisingly scary.



A (Very) Public School Murder) - Simon Parkes
Not sure how much I like the characters and the story, but I'll read more in the series because I like Abbot Peter and the little snips and snaps of word play and mysticism. Did you know about Zen Painting? Neither did I.



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