Sunday, December 21, 2014

merry christmas!

I've not been around much here (understatement) 
but have been reading a lot 
and enjoying following everyone else's posts. 

Hopefully I will wrap up what I have enjoyed reading soon

Merry Christmas! 

(from me & from George the Christmas Pudding):


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

{housekeeping}

Yes, yes, slackest blogger IN THE WORLD.

Time for some housekeeping:

(Nancy's terrible tap-dancing summons a 50 foot demonic cat. Only kidding.)

  • I've just read 48 Nancy Drew books in a row. I think there is probably a future blog post in there somewhere. There are a scant handful of references to pineapples in these books, so I think you'll escape more pineapples for a bit. But isn't that a great cover?


  • I've put together a post of pictures for Paris in July over on my other blog skiourophilia. Hint: Paris is actually a synonym for "cake" in my world.

  • I'm adding this book to my informal "Wow, who thought that was a good name for a book?" list.


  • Even though I am the slackest blogger in the world, this has not stopped me starting another blog where I can collect all the lovely quotations about food and eating from the books I read and which I would otherwise forget: so, introducing reading feeding.


  • I feel a particularly naughty blogger as I was given such a nice surprise by Barb of the oh-so-tempting-I-want-to-read-everything-she-reads-and-am-so-a-stalker leaves and pages blog, who has nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Thank you very much Barb! The rules are:
Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
List the rules and display the award.
Share seven facts about yourself.
Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts
 to let them know they have been nominated.
Optional: display the award logo on your blog 
and follow the blogger who nominated you.

So, SEVEN FACTS:

1. So far this year I have bought 10 egg coddlers on ebay. I may have a problem. But I can stop anytime... maybe at 12? 



2. I love Arnold Schwarzenegger films.



3. I can whistle really well. Tunefully. Annoyingly. Painfully. Endlessly.


4. Related to 3., all cats have a song of their own to which they will respond. I agree that this may not necessary be a fact, but I have (fact) spent a lot of time testing this theory. George [left] adores 'Hey, Big Spender'. I think I've finally nailed Roger [right] down to the William Tell overture. I wonder what the neighbours think?


  


5. I live with these two cats.


6. I enjoy eating in posh restaurants by myself. It's like a naughty secret enjoyment. (I love to share a great food experience too. I'm not weird, just comfortable with my own company. And single.) Sometimes it actually helps not to have anyone's eye to catch when your amuse-bouche is served in a cigar box. One of the great joys of food is how silly it can be.

(This was at Cutler & Co in Melbourne: crispy thin pastry rolls
 filled with a cheese curd and with 'ash' (olive tapenade) at one end 
and white balsamic jelly at the other.)


7. I spent Christmas Day 2012 on the Great Wall of China.


(Obviously I forgot to dress like Santa and carry a Christmas tree, 
but I think the very red nose proves that it is Christmas.)

And 15 other amazing blogs? Well, this is tricky, as every single name I thought of has been nominated already, so I am going to cheat here and just list 15, and you, dear reader, should go and check them out. Go on!


Bloggers who inspire me: Danielle at A Work in Progress; Anbolyn at Gudrun's Tights; Lyn at I Prefer Reading; Simon at Stuck in a Book; Brona at Brona's Books; Ali at Heavenali; Hayley at Desperate Reader; Teresa & Jenny at Shelf Love; Thomas at My Porch (I'm also infatuated by his home renovation blog); Lisa at TBR 313 (who was kind enough to mention my in her own VIB post); Tamara at Thyme for Tea (co-organiser of Paris in July); Moira at Clothes in Books; Jane at Fleur in her WorldKaggsy's Bookish Ramblings; and Bernadette at Reactions to Reading. I could go on and on and not only with book blogs (I note that I have 178 book blogs in my reader and 627 subscriptions in all. I need to get out more.) 


And, again, thank you Barb for your kind nomination!

Monday, June 9, 2014

{review} a week of pineapples

*dusts off blog cobwebs*
'Georgy,' Mr Pasmore asks, 'may we come in?' He was already in. 'I’ve brought you two delightful visitors. They have been exploring the possibility of the pineapple. Do you like that? The possibility of? I mean we all know the positivity of, don't we? What we want, oh, what we all so want want want is the possibility of? Georgy, do you believe in the possibility of the pineapple?' (Thea Astley, Hunting the Wild Pineapple)
Last week I only read books with 'pineapple' in the title. This offered a wider variety than one might expect, and I think I did rather well and read some things I might not otherwise have tackled. So what did I read?


 

M. C. Beaton At the Sign of the Golden Pineapple (1987)
Charlotte Webster awoke during the night and lay shivering under her thin blankets. Food. Mountains of food. That’s what she had been dreaming of. A confectioner’s. She could see it now, the golden pineapple over the door, the piles of oranges and pineapples and dainty cakes. The smells of hot chocolate and coffee. Her stomach growled ferociously.
M. C. Beaton is terrifyingly prolific. This Regency series was originally published under the pen name Marion Chesney. I discovered this series thanks to Another Look Book's review of Beaton/Chesney's Minerva, which I thought could fill a Heyer-sized gap in my reading life. It was less-mannered, more overtly - perhaps one might suggest 'unbelievably' - socially boundary-pushing, and rather more risqué than a Heyer, but a fun - and quick - read. Likewise At the Sign of the Golden Pineapple: our heroine ("We are all kept in chains by the fact that we are genteel women") decides to make her own way by opening a confectionery shop/ices-and-tea-room in London with two lady acquaintances from unhappy homes - but can "ladies" ever resume their previous social and marital ambitions after working in a shop? 

The pineapple connection is that a pineapple was an emblem of the confectionery trade in the Georgian era (lots more on this here and a wonderful recreated pineapple 'ice' here). This is a (hmmm... tries to think of some relevant analogies...) wafer-thin read, stuffed sugarplum-like with sweet historical details, and easily digestible in one sitting. Not sure I'm hungry for more of the genre though, but that might be a result of the sugar overdose of read number two...

Betty Neels Pineapple Girl (1977)

  

And Mrs White, with a swift movement worthy of a magician, heaved at something under the blankets and produced a pineapple. ‘Oh!’ said Eloise, startled, and then: ‘Mrs White, what a simply lovely present—thank you, and your husband. I’ve—I’ve never had such a delightful surprise.’ She clasped the fruit to her person...
I've actually read this Mills & Boon before, and written briefly about it. Nurse falls down steps onto handsome foreign doctor while holding a pineapple; doctor replaces pineapple with THREE from Fortnum & Mason; coincidentally, poor nurse meets handsome doctor in foreign parts while on a job; does he love her or is he a bastard ("How could he talk about kippers when only a moment ago he had been kissing her as though he really enjoyed it?")? Will her clothes be good enough ("an elderly velvet dress the colour of a mole")? ... yada yada yada... You get the picture. I'm here for the pineapples, mostly, I guess. The period details (grimy 70s London) are great, and often rendered rather funny by time-passed:
‘Someone gave me a pineapple,’ she informed the table at large, and added apologetically: ‘I would have brought it down with me, but I thought it would have been nice to take home…’ There was a chorus of assent; everyone there knew that Eloise lived in a poky little flat behind the Imperial War Museum—true, it was on the fringe of a quite respectable middle-class district, but with, as it were, an undesirable neighbourhood breathing down its neck...
My favourite line is when the heroine is tossing and turning at night thinking about the mysterious doctor: "a fruitless exercise". I think NOT!

But I haven't only read pineapple 'fluff':

 


Thea Astley Hunting the Wild Pineapple (1979)
Once in Fixer’s cabin, one hour, one year, Fixer and I worked out the new coat of arms - a beer can rampant on a social security form couchant. Do we make it different, the people up here?
I don't read as much Australian literature as I feel I ought: I think this is a combination of the feeling that I "ought" (which makes me irrationally stubbornly resistant to doing so); a lack of empathy or resonance with the "bush" (I blame family camping holidays and a loathing of tropical weather), and a love of reading about places not as familiar as the home turf. Perhaps there's a bit of a block too because of difficult reading experiences with Australian lit at school and university? But I do keep trying. 

I can't say that I felt any sense of breakthrough after reading Thea Astley's take on Far North Queensland - hot, wet, uncomfortable, primitive, dangerous - a "soft porn" of a landscape - and filled with the lost and those not wanting to be found. This is a land where social boundaries break easily: "Carl’s fingers have been scratching the spines of Mac’s books. He wants to borrow a couple. I explain they’re not mine, but he’s oblivious to the protocol that goes with possession."

Astley's writing is absolutely superb, although sometimes one feels on the verge of drowning in it. (Whispering Gums discusses why Astley's language can also be confronting.) The book is a series of interlinked short stories about the inhabitants of the tropical Far North. Her descriptions of place can be claustrophobia-inducing - small artificially created physical and metaphorical spaces within which we imprison ourselves, and then the equally terrible world without: "a postcard tropadise (the greens are too green! the blues too blue!)". 

Then there are moments of pure comedy (like the 'hunt' for the wild pineapple of the title) or the little vignettes of everyday life such as the blind date: "He was much older than she had expected. So was she." Elsewhere: "She always appeared formidably silked and hatted and her bust was frightening. ‘Breasts’ is somehow too pretty, too delicate a word to describe that shelf of righteousness on which many a local upstart had foundered."
Mr Waterman was, also, a foundation member of the metric society. He was the first in the district to think in millimetres of rain, kilometres of road, kilograms of body fat and the metric statistics of wanted criminals. When he and Mrs Waterman did their biennial culture junket to Europe, he took enormous pleasure in supplying details for his passport. ‘One point eight five four three metres,’ he wrote against ‘height’; ‘eyes’ – ‘blue’. He would chide his wife mildly. ‘No, dear. No, no. You are one point six four one two metres.’ Against ‘colour of eyes’ she wrote ‘glazed’.
A difficult but valuable read.

Kaori O'Connor Pineapple: A Global History (2013)


Pineapple is great. She is almost too transcendent - a delight if not sinful, yet so like sinning that really a tender conscienced person would do well to pause - too ravishing for mortal taste, she woundeth and excoriateth the lips that approach her - like lovers’ kisses she biteth - she is a pleasure bordering on pain, from the fierceness and insanity of her relish. (Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia [1823])
I have a copy of Fran Beauman's The Pineapple on my shelf, but I decided to read this shorter history first. It's part of a series of books devoted to single foodstuffs - nuts, pancakes, pies, soup, offal, etc. (Incidentally, Pie is by the always fascinating blogger Old Foodie.) Pineapple is basically all you need to know about the pineapple in the short form: where it came from, how it got everywhere, its role as a prestige and royal object, the craziness of growing it in England, the popularization of the fruit through canning, and so on.
Indeed, the gulf between the pineapple’s fame and the difficulty in satisfying curiosity as to its taste came to epitomize the nature of knowledge itself for the serious-minded. In his On Human Understanding, published in 1690, the empiricist philosopher John Locke used the pineapple to argue that true knowledge can only be based on experience. In Locke’s words: If you doubt this, see whether you can by words give anyone who has never tasted pineapple an idea of the taste of that fruit. He may approach a grasp of it by being told of its resemblance to other tastes of which he already has the ideas in his memory, imprinted there by things he has taken into his mouth; but this isn’t giving him that idea by a definition, but merely raising up in him other simple ideas that will still be very different from the true taste of pineapple.
I thought this a very readable book, although I think it dealt rather tentatively (but without omission) with some of the unpleasant aspects of the pineapple trade, for instance the connection with the slave trade. It was also weak, I thought, on the place of the pineapple in Australia. I am looking forward to finding out if Fran Beauman's book is better on this. I am also looking forward to an exhibition on the pineapple's importance to Queensland that will open in Brisbane this year. *plans a little holiday*

So, what did I get from my week of 'pineapple' reads? Predictable romance is enhanced by pineapples. Pineapple skin demonstrates the Fibonacci sequence. "In organoleptic terms, the pineapple’s great contribution has been the unique ‘sweet-and-sour’ taste." Pineapples have permeated all levels of society, and now I know why and how. Isn't abacaxi a great word? Pineapples feature in philosophical discourse. I can never holiday anywhere north of Brisbane. I'd really like a pineapple upside-down cake now. Here's one I made earlier...



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

{review} helen macinnes: the hidden target & cloak of darkness

Helen MacInnes The Hidden Target (1980)
Helen MacInnes Cloak of Darkness (1982)

I love Helen MacInnes' books, but I hadn't read (well, re-re-re-read) any for ages as they were packed in a box in the shed. Then I saw there were quite a few available for kindle -- but not, of course, the one about the hippie-trail that was teasing my memory. So, out to the shed... 


(these are the actual, badly photographed covers of my copies: 
the blueish one is foil-striped in silver, blue and white. 
These books have smallest writing I have read for years. 
Almost smaller than this writing...)

These two are actually part of a trilogy featuring the same character, Robert Renwick, and it is probably worth reading them in order, but as a re-reader I didn't feel it mattered this time around. The first one in the trilogy (Prelude to Terror) is very good indeed and has that amazing chest-squeezing mix of espionage terror and romantic torment that MacInnes is magnificent about carrying off. You're never quite sure with MacInnes about whether her protagonists will make it to a happy ending, and she is good at revealing glimpses of absolute darkness that wrack up the tension for the reader. 

Robert Renwick is one of the sort of old-school espionage champs that you really want on your side if you are stuck in the middle of Europe somewhere and something bad is going down. Because the books are set at the end of the 70s and early 80s there's still enough good ol' Cold War villainy around (and some leftovers of WW2), as well as problems with travelling through the continent (anyone nostalgic for when everyone had a different currency? - no, personally not), crossing all those frontiers, and just getting everywhere SO SLOWLY. Then there's the leftovers of the 70s to play with: relics of Baader-Meinhof and anarchists and terrorists plus NATO and Interpol and so on. 

Renwick, American but mostly Europe-based, has set up an agency, tacitly supported by various western intelligence organizations, to gather and analyse intel on terrorism which can then be sent to the relevant agencies. But Renwick is unable to shake off his field agent past, and always ends up out in the field and in great danger. He is a brilliant analyst and it is remarkable that his omniscience never makes one want to shake him until his teeth rattle: he just comes across as remarkably good at his job. 

I love these sort of 'hunt down the baddie' books where there's a real lo-tech feel: no pulling up a satellite -- you've got to get off your bum and go to deepest where-ever and use your binoculars and your bare hands. 

MacInnes is great on detail: in Prelude to Terror, there's a great art history plot going on under all the spy stuff, and plenty of lovely spots like Vienna take centre stage. In The Hidden Target we set off on the hippie-trail from Amsterdam, across Europe, Turkey and over to India in a camper (my idea of hell) with a very smart young woman who finds herself rapidly out of her depth -- could she really be the unwitting companion of one of the most dangerous terrorists of the time, and why does he need her? And in Cloak of Darkness we jump from the Africa to the US then Europe in a race against time to save Renwick from assassination by mysterious forces intent on trafficking weapons to anyone who can pay. Renwick is supported by some great colleagues, and there is always the well-planted seed in MacInnes' plots that someone here is not all they seem. 

If you're looking for a classic go at Cold War espionage, then she's well worth a read. You have to take on board that women -- despite female authorship -- have relatively secondary roles and often these are painfully traditional (they are pretty and they need saving, for instance), but certainly in the trilogy some of the woman do have significant roles in the plot (as they do in other of MacInnes' books). The Hidden Target is the most appealing in that sense, and also I think for its really varied scene-setting. It is also fascinating because it is set at a time when the hippie-trail is breaking down: the route is by the end of the 70s particularly dangerous, indeed deadly in parts, and the Afghanistan region is about to entirely disintegrate as the Russians move in. The (presumed) innocence of earlier journeys has been lost forever. 

Surely the hippie-trail is due a revival as a narrative theme: or have I missed this? There is one book that I would compare with The Hidden Target in this regard and that is Charles Mccarry's brilliant take (and astonishingly accomplished debut novel) on a carload of are-they-aren't-they-spies travelling from Europe to the Sudan in the 50s in The Miernik Dossier, one of the best spy stories I have ever read (his Tears of Autumn could well qualify as the best).

Anyway...: Helen MacInnes - great spy-craft, great settings, a spot of romance (but not as soft or happy as Mary Stewart, for instance), and that slight ambiguity about whether good really ever fully vanquishes evil without itself becoming tainted. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

{review} dumps: a plain girl

L. T. Meade Dumps: A Plain Girl (1905)


I am going to tell the story of my life as far as I can; but before I begin I must say that I do wonder why girls, as a rule, have a harder time of it than boys, and why they learn quite early in life to be patient and to give up their own will.
I'm not sure this is a review; more of an extended laugh at one of the best book titles I've encountered for ages. I mean, REALLY, "Dumps: A Plain Girl"? One almost doesn't need to read the book - surely it is quite plain (ho ho) what happens in this one.
...but he said the true name for me ought not to be Rachel, but Dumps, and how could any girl expect to rule over either boys or girls with such a name as Dumps? I suppose I was a little stodgy in my build, but father said I might grow out of that, for my mother was tall.
This is my second read of an L. T. Meade book: I started with A Sweet Girl Graduate, because I am interested in the history of women's colleges (having attended one), and I was hooked on Meade's blend of sickly sentimentality and sober evangelism for educating girls. I chose Dumps because of the title, though I was tossing up about Polly: A New Fashioned Girl. Happily there are plenty of Meade titles out there to keep me going forever (she wrote over 300 books).

So, poor little Dumps. Yes, Dumps is a plain girl. And she lives a rather plain life with her widowed father, who is a genius, but quite poor --
He was also somewhat of a saving turn of mind, and he told me once that he was putting by money in order to help the boys to go to one of the ’varsities by-and-by. He was determined that they should be scholars and gentlemen; and of course I thought this a very praiseworthy ambition of his, and offered to do without a new summer dress. He did not even thank me; he said that he thought I could do quite well with my present clothes for some time to come, and after that I felt my sacrifice had fallen somewhat flat.
-- and her brothers and a faithful but slovenly servant.

Dumps' life is a lonely one:
"And a girl's little brain is meant to keep a house comfortable."
"But, father, I haven't such a little brain; and I think I could do something else."
"Could what?" said father, opening his eyes with horror. "What in the world is more necessary for a girl who is one day to be a woman than to know how to keep a house comfortable?"
"Yes, yes," I said; "I suppose so." I was very easily stopped when father spoke in that high key.
Given Meade's support of feminist causes, I was hopeful that he would be struck by lightning at this point, but no such luck.
I really was a very stranded sort of girl. Hitherto I had had no outlets of any sort; I was just Dumps, a squat, rather plain girl, who knew little or nothing of the world—a neglected sort of girl, I have no doubt; but then I had no mother.
And then... one day a mysterious lady comes to visit, then invites Dumps to stay with her for a holiday, and easily wins the poor girl over with nice clothes and plenty of food and gentle kindnesses. But what lies behind this kindly lady's unexpected generosity? I'm not going to tell you any more, but Dumps has her world-view considerably widened and learns some important lessons about life and herself. Also, we are happy to learn, getting enough to eat really helps with her looks.

And I don't think I can end without mentioning Dumps' first friend, the blue-stocking Augusta:
"Do let us walk about," I said, “and let us be chums, if you don’t mind."
"Chums?" said Augusta, turning her dreamy, wonderful eyes upon my face.
"Yes," I said.
"But chums have tastes in common," was her next remark.
"Well, you are very fond of books, are you not?" I said.
"Fond of books!" cried Augusta. "Fond of books! I love them. But that is not the right word: I reverence them; I have a passion for them." She looked hurriedly round her. "I shall never marry," she continued in a low whisper, "but I shall surround myself with books - the books of the great departed; their words, their thoughts, shall fill my brain and my heart. I shall be satisfied; nothing else will satisfy me but books, books, books!"
So, not great literature by any means, but an entertaining, often sad, rather sentimental bit of fiction. Dumps was a bit whingy (though she certainly had grounds for that!), and I didn't think it was as satisfying as A Sweet Girl Graduate - where there is also a lot of rather melodramatic and silly action but the theme of the importance of educating girls is never lost. 

Incidentally, Jane at fleur in her world has also recently reviewed another Meade title, A World of Girls. I have also been following a couple of blogs which constantly offer new lost wonders to explore, and I'd single out redeeming qualities and leaves and pages - there are so many great free e-treasures out there that I many never need to buy a book again. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

{reviews} her father's name & the golden child

I have just read two really enjoyable books in a row, and it would certainly be remiss not to share these. They were quite different books, but both made me laugh and reminded me why I love books.

Florence Marryat Her Father's Name (1876)

Leona Lacoste was a woman who would never give in—until she died.
I chose this one because I read a tantalising blog post on it by Catherine Pope, who has published the Victorian Secrets edition of the text. The novel is available free (e.g., archive.org), but this edition is well worth having - actually, I'd say indispensable - for the absolutely wonderful Introduction by Greta Depledge, in which she provides all sorts of contextualization on the author and the varied and often kooky themes of the novel. 

Basically, if you like 'sensational' novels and you admire a strong heroine (with admirable bosoms, "body supple as a cat-o'-mountain's" and "eyes of burnished bronze, like... the eyes of a spotted panther in repose") who scorns the conventions of polite society in order to escape a fate worse than death ("Bah! In a country where the girls marry at fourteen! But were she twelve it would make no difference. She is old enough for me." Ew.) AND clear her father's name of a heinous accusation, then this is for you.
"I am quite determined, father. I shall never marry. Marriage is slavery, and I was born free. I will never be such a fool as to barter my birthright for any man."
But wait, there's more: cross-dressing...
She commenced to stroll leisurely in the direction of the cabin as she spoke, and as Valera followed her, he could not help wondering at the easy grace with which she filled her part, and the admirable disguise it was, to which, however, the effeminacy of many of the men in those southern climates much assisted her.
... hysteria, sweaty sickbeds, effeminacy, a touch of Sapphism on the chaise-longue, duelling, travel, disguises, faint downy moustaches, guitar playing, ethnic stereotyping ("I shall not faint, doctor, I have too much European blood in me for that") and really tall women who smoke cigars. What more could you ask? 

This is my second Marryat, and I'm loving her more and more. I previously reviewed The Blood of the Vampire (1897), which was one of my 'best of 2012'. 

*

My second recommendation is by an author who made it onto my 'best of 2013', although I never managed actually to review that book. That was Penelope Fitzgerald's The Bookshop (which all lovers of independent bookshops should read: what could possibly go wrong with one woman's ambition to bring a bookshop to her country town?). 

I'll try to do better with my second Fitzgerald: Penelope Fitzgerald's The Golden Child (1977):

       
'Three minutes to go... We are all quite clear, I take it. Slight accidents, fainting, trampling under foot — the emergency First Aid posts are indicated in your orders for the day; complaints, show sympathy; disorder, contain; increased disorder, communicate directly with my office; wild disorder, the police, to be avoided if possible. Crush barriers to be kept in place at all entries at all times. No lingering.'
What made me love this? I did wonder if my list of things that I love might only be applicable to me, but I hope not! The British Museum, a golden treasure from a lost civilization, a group of highly eccentric curators and academics, a quick trip to Russia, and a murder or two. No, surely there's universal appeal there?
Half over the sill, the eminent maniac was holding Untermensch by his two thin wrists, hanging him down outside while he sawed the wrists to and fro on the frame. The Professor’s voice came only faintly: ‘Spare me! I alone can read Garamantian!’
Waring Smith is the naive but practical assistant curating a huge British Museum exhibition (inspired by the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition of 1972) of golden treasures from the mysterious civilisation that was Garamantia in Africa. 

Few know anything about the artifacts which were discovered by Sir William Simpkin many, many years ago: there is Professor Untermensch (Fitzgerald's names are brilliant) who has written the definitive study of the Garamantian script, Garamantischengeheimschriftendechiffrierkunst; there is "Tite-Live Rochegrosse-Bergson from the Sorbonne - the distinguished anthropologist, anti-structuralist, mythologist and paroemiographer" (anti-structuralist - still giggling about that; he also believes in "the irresistible impulse to stop thinking at all"); and there is, of course, Sir William himself, who refuses to visit the exhibition. Is this because of an alleged curse? The museum's Director sees the exhibition as a cash-cow, and Sir William as another source of funds which can all go towards his love of French "dix-septième" objets: "He particularly hated Oriental rugs, which took up an immoderate amount of display space." 

But then things start to go awry and Waring Smith is dragged in well over his head:
And the Museum, slumbrous by day, sleepless by night, began to seem to him a place of dread. Apart from the two recent deaths, how many violent ways there were in the myriad rooms of getting rid of a human being! The dizzy stairs, the plaster-grinders in the cast room, the poisons of conservation, the vast incinerators underground! And the whole strange nature of Museum work, preserving the treasures of the dead for the curiosity of the living, filled him... with fear.
The Golden Child is black humour at its best - gentle, ridiculous and wonderfully well written. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

{misc.} 2013 in review



2013 in numbers: 145 books read

Kindle: 110 ~~ Tree-books: 35
Crime/mystery/espionage: 63
Other fiction: 59
Fiction for younger readers: 18
Non-fiction: 10 (needs work)
Australian writers: 9 (hang head in shame)
Graphic novel: 1 (not my thing)
Short story collections: 2
Christmas-themed books: 4 (and one short story)
Re-reads: 38
Agatha Christie re-reads: 15
Georgette Heyer re-reads: 7
Female authors: 99 ~~ Male authors: 46


On the whole it would seem that I love e-books by women writers and tended to get carried away with re-reading the same.

Favourites? 

I excluded re-reads from this, but I couldn't get it down to 10:




Brat Farrar - Josephine Tey (1949)
A brilliant story of a young man who may or may not be a long-lost relative returned to reclaim his place - and a fortune - in the family. Tey is one of my favourite writers - I also read Miss Pym Disposes this year {REVIEW}, which is entirely different to Brat Farrar and just as magnificent.

Excellent Women - Barbara Pym (1952) {REVIEW}
I read this for Barbara Pym Week, hosted by heavenali, and it was my first Pym and, oh, what an impression it made. Single women of the world, unite! (Cats optional.)



Tampa - Alissa Nutting (2013) {REVIEW}
A controversial book on a controversial subject - but so wittily done. (Also, cover of the year.)


  

Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary - Ruby Ferguson (1937) {REVIEW}
This was like watching a classic B&W 1930s weepy film. An absolutely charming book.

The Home-Maker - Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1924)
This may be my absolute favourite of the year. Another Persephone title: the story of a woman trapped by domestic expectations who gets a chance to shine.


  

Miss Cayley's Adventures - Grant Allen (1899)
A lost classic: whipsmart Cambridge graduate takes on the big bad world on a bicycle and triumphs.

Heartburn - Nora Ephron (1983) {REVIEW}
The book for lovers of food and NY-style romantic agony.


  


Hit Man - Lawrence Block (1998) {REVIEW}
Funny, wry episodes from the life of a stamp-collecting hit-man.


Desert of the Heart - Jane Rule (1964) {REVIEW}
Remarkable and painful journey of lesbian self-discovery set in a vintage Las Vegas.


  


Under the Skin - Michel Faber (2000) {REVIEW}
Wow. Do not hitchhike. Ever. You never know who - or what - may be out there. Faber seems to reinvent himself with every book, and this one was superbly bizarre.

Lazarus is Dead - Richard Beard (2011) {REVIEW}
Writing Lazarus back into the Jesus narrative: a wonderful play on pseudo-scholarship. I described it as "rich and imaginative and funny and playful (and brutal, stomach-turning and occasionally utterly horrifying)"


  

The Fortune of Christina M'Nab - Sarah Macnaughtan (1901){REVIEW}
A find! A canny young Scotswoman inherits a fortune and sets out to reinvent herself as a lady with the assistance of her helpful ex-fiancé (who bears a startling resemblance to the Apollo Belvedere).

Come Out of the Kitchen! - Alice Duer Miller (1916)
Another lost classic (rediscovered by fleur in her world): a rich young man rents a house from an impoverished family, only to discover a host of servant problems - such as the world's prettiest cook.


 


The Bookshop - Penelope Fitzgerald (1978)
Gorgeously melancholic but humorous book about a widow who only wants to start a bookshop in what turns out to be a bookshop-shy town.

The Good Soldier - Ford Madox Ford (1915)
An excellent recommendation from stuck in a book: a slow start as the odd style rather threw me, and then - bang! - unputdownable story of absolute tragedy about the disintegration of all one's loves and illusions.

I really enjoyed my 2013 reading year, and I have no other reading aims for 2014 than to read everything that catches my fancy.


Happy New Year!

{READ IN 2017}

  • JUNE
  • 55.
  • 54.
  • 53. Hit & Run - Lawrence Block
  • 52. Hit Parade - Lawrence Block
  • 51. Hit List - Lawrence Block
  • 50. Six Were Present - E. R. Punshon
  • 49. Triple Quest - E. R. Punshon
  • MAY
  • 48. Dark is the Clue - E. R. Punshon
  • 47. Brought to Light - E. R. Punshon
  • 46. Strange Ending - E. R. Punshon
  • 45. The Attending Truth - E. R. Punshon
  • 44. The Golden Dagger - E. R. Punshon
  • 43. The Secret Search - E. R. Punshon
  • 42. Spook Street - Mick Herron
  • 41. Real Tigers - Mick Herron
  • 40. Dead Lions - Mick Herron
  • 39. Slow Horses - Mick Herron
  • APRIL
  • 38. Everybody Always Tells - E. R. Punshon
  • 37. So Many Doors - E. R. Punshon
  • 36. The Girl with All the Gifts - M. R. Carey
  • 35. A Scream in Soho - John G. Brandon
  • 34. A Murder is Arranged - Basil Thomson
  • 33. The Milliner's Hat Mystery - Basil Thomson
  • 32. Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? - Basil Thomson
  • 31. The Dartmoor Enigma - Basil Thomson
  • 30. The Case of the Dead Diplomat - Basil Thomson
  • 29. The Case of Naomi Clynes - Basil Thomson
  • 28. Richardson Scores Again - Basil Thomson
  • 27. A Deadly Thaw - Sarah Ward
  • MARCH
  • 26. The Spy Paramount - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 25. The Great Impersonation - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 24. Ragdoll - Daniel Cole
  • 23. The Case of Sir Adam Braid - Molly Thynne
  • 22. The Ministry of Fear - Graham Greene
  • 21. The Draycott Murder Mystery - Molly Thynne
  • 20. The Murder on the Enriqueta - Molly Thynne
  • 19. The Nowhere Man - Gregg Hurwitz
  • 18. He Dies and Makes No Sign - Molly Thynne
  • FEBRUARY
  • 17. Death in the Dentist's Chair - Molly Thynne
  • 16. The Crime at the 'Noah's Ark' - Molly Thynne
  • 15. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
  • 14. Night School - Lee Child
  • 13. The Dancing Bear - Frances Faviell
  • 12. The Reluctant Cannibals - Ian Flitcroft
  • 11. Fear Stalks the Village - Ethel Lina White
  • 10. The Plot - Irving Wallace
  • JANUARY
  • 9. Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • 8. Give the Devil his Due - Sulari Gentill
  • 7. A Murder Unmentioned - Sulari Gentill
  • 6. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
  • 5. Gentlemen Formerly Dressed - Sulari Gentill
  • 4. While She Sleeps - Ethel Lina White
  • 3. A Chelsea Concerto - Frances Faviell
  • 2. Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul - H. G. Wells
  • 1. Heft - Liz Moore

{READ IN 2016}

  • (K = Kindle; rr = re-read)
  • DECEMBER
  • 92. Richardson's First Case - Basil Thomson [K]
  • 91. The Alington Inheritance - Patricia Wentworth [K; rr]
  • 90. Orphan X - Gregg Hurwitz [K]
  • 89. The House of Godwinsson [Bobby Owen 24] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 88. Music Tells All [Bobby Owen 24] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 87. Helen Passes By [Bobby Owen 23] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • NOVEMBER
  • 86. It Might Lead Anywhere [Bobby Owen 22] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 85. There's a Reason for Everything [Bobby Owen 21] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 84. Secrets Can't Be Kept [Bobby Owen 20] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • OCTOBER
  • 83. Night's Cloak [Bobby Owen 19] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 82. The Conqueror Inn [Bobby Owen 18] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 81. The Diabolic Candelabra [Bobby Owen 17] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 80. The Dark Garden [Bobby Owen 16] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • SEPTEMBER
  • 79. Picture Miss Seeton - Heron Carvic [K]
  • 78. Down Under (Benbow Smith 4) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 77. Walk with Care (Benbow Smith 3) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 76. Danger Calling (Benbow Smith 2) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 75. Fool Errant (Benbow Smith 1) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 74. The Annam Jewel - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 73. Mr Zero - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 72. Will o' the Wisp - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 71. Red Shadow - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 70. Pursuit of a Parcel (Lamb 3) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 69. Who Pays the Piper (Lamb 2) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 68. The Blind Side (Lamb 1) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 67. Outrageous Fortune - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 66. The Amazing Chance - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 65. Red Stefan - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • AUGUST
  • 64. The Coldstone - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 63. Anne Belinda - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 62. The Black Cabinet - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 61. Hue & Cry - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 60. The Skin Collector - Jeffery Deaver [K]
  • 59. The Kill Room - Jeffery Deaver [K]
  • 58. Nothing Venture - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 57. Kingdom Lost - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 56. Beggar's Choice - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 55. Hole and Corner - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 54. Touch and Go - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 53. The Red Lacquer Case - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 52. Run! - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 51. Fear by Night - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • JULY
  • 50. The Dower House Mystery - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 49. The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 48. Weekend with Death - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 47. Blindfold - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 46. Silence in Court - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 45. Acts of the Assassins - Richard Beard [K]
  • JUNE
  • 44. Hack - Kieran Crowley [K]
  • 43. The Portable Veblen - Elizabeth McKenzie [K]
  • 42. The Spirit Murder Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • MAY
  • 41. The Ginger Cat Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 40. The Pleasure Cruise Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 39. The Polo Ground Murder - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • APRIL
  • 38. The Outsider - Jason Dean [K]
  • 37. The Hunter's Oath - Jason Dean [K]
  • 36. Missing or Murdered - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 35. The Beetle - Richard Marsh [K]
  • MARCH
  • 34. A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell 1) - Deanna Raybourn [K]
  • 33. The Chimera Vector - Nathan M. Farrugia [K]
  • 32. An Infamous Army - Georgette Heyer [K]
  • 31. Mr Bazalgette's Agent - Leonard Merrick
  • 30. Don't Tell - Karen Rose [K]
  • 29. Say Goodbye - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 28. Gone - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 27. The Killing Hour - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 26. The Next Accident - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 25. The Third Victim - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • FEBRUARY
  • 24. The Perfect Husband - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 23. Find Her - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 22. Fear Nothing - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 21. Catch Me - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 20. Love You More - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 19. Live to Tell - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 18. The Neighbour - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 17. Hide - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 16. Alone - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 15. The Humans - Matt Haig [K]
  • 14. Utopian Man - Lisa Lang
  • 13. Love Insurance - Earl Derr Biggers [K]
  • JANUARY
  • 12. The Ignition Effect - Viv Ronnebeck [K]
  • 11. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin [K]
  • 10. Dangerous & Unseemly - K. B. Owen [K]
  • 9. In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward [K[
  • 8. Half a Crown - Jo Walton [K]
  • 7. Ha'penny - Jo Walton [K]
  • 6. Hilda Wade: A Woman with Tenacity of Purpose - Grant Allen [K]
  • 5. The Case of William Smith - Patricia Wentworth [K; rr]
  • 4. Blue Murder - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 3. Bleeding Hooks - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 2. Knock, Murderer, Knock! - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 1. Ten Star Clues [Bobby Owen 15] - E. R. Punshon [K]