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vodkafan

Vodkafan's 2017 reading experience

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Shame April was such a mixed bag for you. I hope you'll enjoy your reading more in May :).

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Thanks Athena. It doesn't hurt to read outside my normal boundaries once in a while. But I really need to make a dent in my proper TBR pile next month!

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1 hour ago, Little Pixie said:

 

Ooh, I think I might like that ; I have a bit of a thing for vintage mysteries and academic mysteries. Off to take a peek on Amazon. :D

 

I think I would read another Margaret Yorke murder mystery if it came into my hands. I will check your blog in future to see if you have read any!

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54 minutes ago, vodkafan said:

 

I think I would read another Margaret Yorke murder mystery if it came into my hands. I will check your blog in future to see if you have read any!

 

I`ve ordered Silent Witness by Margaret Yorke, which takes place in an enticing Austrian Alps blizzard. :D

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2 hours ago, Little Pixie said:

 

I`ve ordered Silent Witness by Margaret Yorke, which takes place in an enticing Austrian Alps blizzard. :D

 

Very promising! It must be almost compulsory for someone to be murdered during a blizzard.

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I can read any number of ` murder in snowstorm`, `murder in hurricane`, `murder in isolated country house`, etc. :lol:

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3 hours ago, Little Pixie said:

I can read any number of ` murder in snowstorm`, `murder in hurricane`, `murder in isolated country house`, etc. :lol:

 

Just so long as you don't start to feel the need to have a go at a murder yourself next time you are in similar circumstances :unsure:

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18 hours ago, vodkafan said:

 

Just so long as you don't start to feel the need to have a go at a murder yourself next time you are in similar circumstances :unsure:

 

:hide: I`d be even too scared to investigate.:eek::lol:

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A Gull On The Roof                  3/5

Derek Tangye

 

This is subtitled "Tales from a Cornish Flower Farm".  It is the true story of the author and his wife, celebrated socialites in 1950s London, who were sick of the  false emptiness of  their lifestyle and wanted to get away from it all.  It was always a pipe dream  to move to Cornwall and live a more rural life, and one year on holiday they saw a 500 year old derelict cottage on a clifftop and decided to go for it.  They persuaded the owner of the land to rent it to them and some adjacent clifftop fields.  They knew full well that the owner believed that they would give up before a year was out  and he would get a renovated cottage out of the bargain, which made them determined to succeed. 

The land was fairly useless and was open to the salt laden air from the sea and at the mercy of the weather, but they decided to become potato and flower growers. This first book of a series documents the ups and downs (mostly downs !) of their first year. They had no children but their red cat Monty was a full member of the  family.  Anyone who likes animals (or Cornwall) will like this book. It was strangely gripping in a  gentle quiet way. I only picked this up because I had nothing else to hand and thought I would read a few pages, but I had to keep reading for the next small victory or catastrophe, and to see if they were accepted by the peculiar insular Cornish people, who seem hardly English at all . 

 

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Necropolis  London and its Dead     4/5

Catharine Arnold

 

A pretty informative and exciting read about  London and how it dealt with disposing of its dead over the ages. I was most interested in the part dealing with the Victorian age but the whole book was good. It made me think about our  modern relationship with death  (we are now basically afraid of it and ignore it) and how it was different in times past.

Some of the stuff is so surreal you could not make it up: dravediggers dropping dead in deep graves because of the gas from bodies in the soil, and the weird story of  poor Catherine De Valois, wife of Henry V, who was left laying about as a mummy in a corner of Westminster Abbey for a couple of hundred years (Samuel Pepys picked her up and kissed her on the lips  in 1669!) I have only a couple of criticisms: one is that the author made a mistake with dates at one point in the text (which should have been corrected by the proof reader, as the error was so obvious) and the other is that three times she referred to the Black Death as a virus .

This is really very sloppy,  it is very well known that  the vector of Bubonic Plague is a  Bacterium, Yersinia Pestis.

But, aside from this, the book is a good addition to round out my collection of books both about London and of Victorian times. 

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My mojo has come back with a vengeance, and I am reading loads at the moment. The trouble is, they are not books off my TBR pile, they are just ones I keep finding laying around places. So far this week I have devoured  Mrs Jefferies Reveals Her Art   by Emily Brightwell , Stir Fry by Emma Donohue and Man Walking On Eggshells by Herbert Simmons.

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7 hours ago, Little Pixie said:

I`ve toyed with trying those Emily Brightwell books. Is there something you`d compare them with ? :)

 

Hmm. Not too much I can compare them with. The one I read is very lightweight and extremely improbable (if you know anything about Victorian times), but fun. 

I guess I would compare it with the Amelia Peabody series or the Miss Anna Dean whodunnits

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22 minutes ago, vodkafan said:

 

Hmm. Not too much I can compare them with. The one I read is very lightweight and extremely improbable (if you know anything about Victorian times), but fun. 

I guess I would compare it with the Amelia Peabody series or the Miss Anna Dean whodunnits

 

Ah, I like both of those . :)  Thanks, I shall investigate further.

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The Sealed Letter                     5/5

Emma Donoghue

 

I have only recently came to Emma Donoghue's books. A few years ago when everybody here was reading Room I never got around to it for some reason, and then when the film came out the trailer gave away practically the whole story so I didn't want to bother seeing the film or reading the book. Then last month I found Stir Fry  and thought this was OK but not outstanding, probably one of her early works. Then last week, with only a moment to make a choice before my bus went, in the charity shop my eye fell on The Sealed Letter.    The blurb said it was set in Victorian times so that was enough. I grabbed it quick. On the bus I read the first few pages which started off with a meeting between two women on a street in London I know well.  Suddenly a name jumped out at me and I sat bolt upright. A real life, historical name. Emily Faithfull.  I turned back to the blurb and read it more carefully. No way! It was a novel about that  famous  divorce case. And, indirectly, about Langham Place and the famous women associated with it.  I was almost afraid to read any further. Would this be on a level with the  fluffy escapist "Victorian" novels of Dilly Court? How could this writer play with these real people and get away with it? 

Well I read the book and it was amazing. There is no fluff y writing here. All the period details are correct.  The story is engrossing and the writer's interpretation of historical events rings completely true. The dialogue between the characters is naturalistic and she is sympathetic to all the three main characters.

As for all the Langham place women, there is a scene in the book where the author has all these famous females in the same room; Emily Davies, Bessie Parkes, Isa Craig, Sarah Lewin and Faithfull herself.   Reading that part I was in a state somewhere between extreme joy and a cold sweat.  These women  have come down to us through history as giants but of course at the time they did not know  how they would be remembered, they were just women united with a mission. Emma Donoghue  carries the scene off masterfully and imbues it with business as usual ordinariness.  But she also manages to get over part of the character of each participant and make them realistic. I was in awe. 

I am going to check out if this writer has written any more historical fiction set in Victorian times.   

 

Edited by vodkafan

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The Sealed Letter sounds very good, I think I might add it to my to-read list! I was actually looking at a book by Emma Donoghue a couple of weeks ago titled The Wonder. It sounded interesting but I'm not sure what time period it was set in.

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Really like the sound of that "Gull on the Roof" book. I've had a bit of a love affair with the place since I first went there in my early 20's, but I'd not heard of this.

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I think I have The Sealed Letter somewhere so I was glad to read your  review, I work round the corner from Langham Place so that makes it more interesting!  Ashamed to say I don't recognise any of those women's names though.

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On 6/25/2017 at 10:36 PM, ian said:

Really like the sound of that "Gull on the Roof" book. I've had a bit of a love affair with the place since I first went there in my early 20's, but I'd not heard of this.

 

I am sure you would enjoy this then Ian. Funny enough, this week another two books in the series turned up on the table in the canteen. 

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On 6/26/2017 at 10:12 AM, Madeleine said:

I think I have The Sealed Letter somewhere so I was glad to read your  review, I work round the corner from Langham Place so that makes it more interesting!  Ashamed to say I don't recognise any of those women's names though.

 

They were the original First Wave Feminists who were organised and together, rather than individual women like Mary Wollstonecroft who had tried to bring attention to women's situation in their writings in the past. I liked the history parts in The Sealed Letter, but it was also a very human story and also very well crafted. 

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Heap House                5/5

Edward Carey

 

This might be my book of the year!  One of two books one of my daughters  bought me for Fathers Day. 

It is so surreal and yet makes a kind of sense. It is set in an alternative 1875 London. The things that humans throw away have got out of hand and London is drowning in heaps of rubbish and discarded objects that are piled high and threaten to engulf the city. It is everyone's full time job to clear the heaps, but especially if you are  poor and an orphan like Lucy Pennant.  Her destiny is to wear a leather cap and be "married" to the heaps.

Clod  has a different destiny. He is an Iremonger, one of the elite family that are feared and hated and who live shut up in the huge mansion out in the outskirts. But Clod has always been a bit different to the rest of his family, because he can hear the objects talking.... there is a lot of very subtle cleverness here, because Victorians had a huge fetish for "things" and objects of all kinds. Their houses (to our eyes) were cluttered with knick knacks just for the sake of having them.

I cannot  praise this book enough! One one level it is a fantastic children's book. Kids 6-12  will love it. On another level it is a very humorous novel for adults. Some of the chapters had me in stitches.

I don't think it is a YA novel though. In my opinion it just doesn't contain the things that interest  teenagers , but I could be wrong of course. 

I intend to start reading this to my youngest kids for bedtime.

  

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I'm glad you enjoyed Heap House, but I couldn't even finish it!  It was such slow going and I didn't feel a connection with any of the characters, and although I realise it was fantasy, it was so unbelievable I gave up after about 150 pages. 

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1 hour ago, chesilbeach said:

I'm glad you enjoyed Heap House, but I couldn't even finish it!  It was such slow going and I didn't feel a connection with any of the characters, and although I realise it was fantasy, it was so unbelievable I gave up after about 150 pages. 

 

 That's amazing Claire! It just shows how different readers react differently . I found it quite fast paced, something happened  in every chapter, and some of the chapters are only a few pages long. I raced through it very quickly..

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Foulsham                         3/5

Edward Carey

 

Eagerly devoured the second book in the series in one day.  Sadly, it was not as good as the first one for me, mainly because now I know what is going on and the mystery has gone out of it. It is now more of a straight children's adventure, albeit very weird!

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