A Year in Books – January to March

I thought I would give a little update on how I am progressing with the challenge, A Year in Books. As I was displaying some of the books I’ve read for a snap-shot Artie came over to give me his approval.

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It was a slow beginning to the challenge. All I read in January was two books. Since then I have managed to read more frequently, even taking the Kindle with me on the bus to work. Reading while travelling usually tires me, which is why I have only just started up again.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

This novella featured as part of a short Open University course I took last year. David kindly bought it for me for Christmas. The theme is of grief and survival. After a sudden death of a wife and mother, two son’s and a father are visited by a crow (personified from the Ted Hughes book of poems Crow.) The narrative is quite fractured and erratic. The story just features short scenes of the family in states of ‘coping/or not coping’. Crow is depicted as a wild, untamed creature with bad manners and equally bad language. I think I need to read the story again as a lot of the message was lost on me.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

In Parenthesis – David Jones

David Jones was a survivor of the First World War. I came across his work featured in a documentary on the writers of WW1. In it’s time, In Parenthesis was hailed as a classic, but now sadly seems to have been forgotten. I managed to get a cheapish copy on eBay. The writing can be difficult to understand at times as Jones dips into Welsh and Arthurian legend. The narrative is his own experiences in the British Expeditionary Force and of one attack during the Battle of the Somme, at Mametz Wood. Some of Jones’s writing of trench warfare can only be described as lyrical, even his depictions of disemboweled men and decapitated heads smiling back from the crook of trees like Cheshire Cats is somehow horrifyingly captivating. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history.

H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald

Yet another book on grief, though totally different in it’s approach to Max Porter’s book. I think this has been one of my favourite reads so far. I thoroughly enjoyed Macdonald’s description of Mable and how her relationship with this wild bird became cathartic to her wound gaping grief at the loss of her father. The chapters featuring her inspiration, T.H.White made me feel a little uneasy in his behaviour to his Goshawk, though he was writing from a different time period, still doesn’t make the reading any the easier.

Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas

One of Thomas’s last works, commissioned for BBC radio. This play for voices is a day in the life of a small Welsh village. An omniscient narrator introduces each character and a second narrator tells more about their hidden thoughts and desires. Each character has their own vignette, though written in prose the language is poetic, sometimes lewd, often humorous and occasionally poignant. I found though that my reading lacked the power of a TV or radio production. Perhaps I would benefit from a second read?

The English Girl – Katherine Webb

I reviewed this book in my Sunday Sevens #24.

The Haunting – Alan Titchmarsh

All I know of Alan Titchmarsh is from his gardening programmes and his Saturday show on Classic FM. When I saw one of his books, The Haunting on the shelf in WHSmith I was curious. The story is a dual narrative, historical drama set in 1816 and 2010 respectively with a hint of ghosts and a splash of romance. The book is an easy read but the narrative won’t tax the mind. The story is a little contrived and could have been better but it is what it is. I enjoyed it enough to buy another of his novels. Folly.

The Red Letter (short) – Kate Riordan

If I had known this was only 30 pages long I wouldn’t have bought it, however the writing was good and I enjoyed it. The characters were from a previous novel by Riordan, The Girl in the Photograph. Though reading the novella I couldn’t remember the original novel. I had to read the blurb to get any recall. Set in the 1930’s the story is of Marjorie who finds out her husband is having an affair. During the too few pages Marjorie awakens and becomes self aware. The novella ends with Marjorie riding on her bike with her future stretched out with many possibilities.

Birdcage Walk – Kate Riordan

If I like a book by an author I usually seek out other works by them, this was the case with Birdcage Walk, Riordan’s first published work, and you can tell it is! It’s very different in style to that of her later works, The Girl in the Photograph and The Shadow Hour. The story is based on a true tale of murder, mystery and a possible miscarriage of justice. Sadly, Riordan spends too long setting up the back story. Both protagonists are rather quarrelsome and two dimensional, and I didn’t bond with either of them. The narrative only improved after the subsequent murder and trial. There wasn’t much evidence of a miscarriage of justice, but that’s up to the reader to decide. The inevitable wasn’t much of a surprise when it finally arrived.

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David has chosen the next book for me to read. Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing, I have no expectations on what to expect within it’s pages.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

 

 

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Sunday Sevens #16

No sooner had I published Sunday Sevens #15, when more pet news occurred.

It was a lovely start to the week, with bright warm sunshine (much needed if you ask me!) When it is warm I like to sit out in the yarden, I take Artie with me. Being outside gives him more stimulation than being stuck inside the house. However I have created a nature yarden, meaning I have lots of visiting bees and butterflies, lots of stalking opportunities for Artie! While I was digging up my second crop of maris bard potatoes for my vegetarian roast dinner that evening, Artie was sitting amongst the flowers watching the bees.

I acted too slowly. I was busy marvelling at all the potatoes I had grown! From the corner of my eye I saw Artie lunge at a bee who had entered a foxglove. He must have knocked the poor bee down into the foliage as I couldn’t see her. I left Artie sniffing in the undergrowth while gathering my harvest.

On coming back into the yarden, Artie suddenly darted from the greenery, rubbing his paw against his nose. Jumping about like a jack in a box ‘You’ve been stung!’ I cried, scoping him up and taking him into the house. I called for David’s assistance. Then proceeded, a half hour long endurance, of trying to hold Artie down while David tweezed the bee sting from his nose. I got covered in scratches for my endeavour.

Afterwards when Artie was sting-less and enjoyed some cooked chicken, seemingly none the wiser for the upset. I stood shaking like a leaf. My nerves had been shot! ‘Pets are worse than kids!’ David exclaimed while I tried to regain my spirits.

Needless to say Artie is back to his ‘wild’ self again. He is siting in the last rays of the Sunday sunshine.

Have you had a pet who has had a too close encounter with a bee?

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Forgive me for returning to the great British obsession, the weather, but the UK saw its hottest day of the year (so far) on Tuesday! In the NW of England the temperatures soared to a very sweaty 31°c! The Spanish Plume the meteorologists had predicted had finally arrived! Though only for three days! On Tuesday evening as I wrote my post about the numerous animal sculptures that have graced the UK’s cities, David and I sat in the hottest room of the house. Outside the window I watched as the sky darkened as the last rays of the sun dipped beyond the horizon!

During this little snippet of summer, I was out counting the butterflies that visited the yarden, in the Big Butterfly Count. The count runs from 15th July to 7th August 2016! I don’t know whether it is because the alleyway between the houses has become overgrown with wild flowers/weeds but I have seen more butterflies flutter past this year, then any other! Predominantly the most common butterfly has been the small white. There has often been two (I don’t know if it’s the same couple) twirling in their dance of attraction before the male attaches himself to the female! They are a joy to watch!

One evening David and I were giving sugar water to this tired bee when in quick succession a small white and a red admiral fluttered crazily past! I quickly noted my sightings on the phone app before watching the satisfied bee fly off energised!

26842491This week saw me finish my latest book, Sam Baker‘s The Woman Who Raninspired by Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. At first I struggled to get into the story. It seems to me that many published novelists nowadays are or were journalists. I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not! I persevered and soon the story warmed up. The narrative was atmospheric in its description of the Yorkshire Dales. The characters were a little difficult to understand but you got to like them in the end. The finale, touted as being explosive, ended more like a whimper. I didn’t understand why the main character would act like she did in the face of opposition! Anyway, it was enjoyable. I’ve not read this author before, perhaps I will in future?

Have you read this novel? Any thoughts?

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I was going to end today’s blog with an update on Troy but there hasn’t been much improvement. Then I remembered the lovely selection of bramley apples given to us by one of David’s friends. So I decided to finish with them. I have acquired all the ingredients so next week I shall be busy cooking apple pies, or variants on a theme!

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #15

Phew! These past seven days have felt like a long week! I was thankful for the weekend!

TroyDavid and I have been worrying about our owl finch, Troy. He became ill on Sunday last, sitting on the floor twisting his head. The phenomena is called twirling. It is very upsetting to witness. All week I have felt helpless. We have put him on a course of anti-fungal medication in the hope that it is an ear canal infection. Troy seems to rally of a morning but come nighttime he relapses again. We have isolated him, in the hospital cage and will try anti-mite treatment next week. His mate, Tux has joined him in his cage for company. The picture featured is of Troy in good health.

I think I’ll get all the sad news out of the way first! One of the main events on the world stage this week, has been the attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice. In Liverpool, in a recurrent display, the iconic St Georges Hall was sadly lit up with the colours of the tricolour in solidarity.

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41dd4ZhCx5L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I finished the latest book I’ve been reading, Rachel Kelly’s Black Rainbow. I read it for an online book group. It was only 99p, which was a positive. The prose is about the author’s two bouts of depression and how ‘words healed’ her, though I think it was prescription drugs and support by health professionals and her family who contributed to her recovery. I was not enamored with the book. I drew nothing from the narration, indeed halfway through the book the author’s attitude really alienated me and I grew quite hostile! The many interjections of ‘supportive’ poems really didn’t call to me, highlighting that depression is an individual illness. My own mental state may have caused my severe reaction to the book, but on completion, I felt empty, devoid of any feelings, not even relief in finishing the book. Have you read the book? Perhaps you gained more insight than I did.

And now for the good stuff!

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On Friday, David and I attended the Liverpool Playhouseto see the Globe Theatre’s touring production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce. I was amazed to have acquired tickets as the play was a sell out! It’s not a play that sits easy with me. I find the antisemitism hard to watch. The Globe’s production relies heavily on the play being classed as one of William Shakespeare’s comedies, as the comic scenes starkly juxtapose the heavy drama. From the outset the play is performed with gusto by the cast. The musicians and ensemble came onto the stage singing and dancing 10 minutes before the billed start. David and I had just found our seats when the music struck up! The actors encouraged audience participation, to the extent that Launcelot (Stefan Adegbola) even dragged up two willing members of the audience to grace the action on stage. It made me think of how very different Shakespeare’s audience was to that of our own modern audience who silently watch voyeuristically from the darkness.

At times I felt I had travelled back in time as the stage design, lighting and costumes all gave the stage a kind of authenticity. There was much gravitas to Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock. I liked the interchanges in Hebrew between his onstage (and off) daughter Jessica, (Phoebe Pryce.) Rachel Pickup’s Portia was another highlight for me, she graced the stage elegantly yet her diction commanded you take note of her character! She had many a wise word to say.

Overall it was an enjoyable two and a half hours. David even treated me to Cheshire Farm ice-cream during the interval, scrumptious!

Saturday, we arose early. I dragged a reluctant David to Sheffield, to tour the streets in search of their herd of colourful elephants. We visited the Crucible where I recited tales of when I visited in 2013 to see my favourite actor, Jonathan FirthWe took in sights such as the Winter Gardens, Cathedral and railway station. We saw 31 of the 58 elephants in the two hours we walked. Below we pose with our favourites!

Have you been to the theatre recently? Seen any interesting art installations?

I hope you have a joyous week ahead. See you next Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.