Saturday, 11 June 2011

An Unexpected Lull

Woman Lying on a Bench - Carl Larsson (1913)

I am so sorry for the quiet that has descended upon Rochester Reader recently and rather unexpectedly.  Studies and other distractions were in full flow at the end of last month and the beginning of June and I have lately developed a particularly nasty cold which has had me confined to bed.

As a result I have been unable to respond to your comments or visit your blogs but I hope to very soon.  The May Roundup will be posted in the next few days and I hope to get back into the swing of things with a few reviews of some fantastic books.

I hope that June turns out to be a wonderful month for you all.  Happy reading!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Shooting in the Shop

I read this Christmas-themed murder mystery shortly before Christmas last year.  It's nice on occasion to read books that reflect a current season or holiday as it helps to get you into the spirit of things... especially when you're having a hot South African Christmas after having years of cold (and occasional snowy) English Christmases.

Jude and Carole, our unconventional amateur sleuths, find death on their doorstep when the body of a young woman is found in the cinders of the new boutique shop in the village of Fethering.  The Police think the death was an accident but when it is revealed that the victim was shot, our intrepid sleuths' noses start twitching.

There is a host of interesting and nasty characters in this novel and Simon Brett's writing appears to be taking a turn for the contemporary.  I've noticed in this and the previous novel that certain expletives have crept in and that a few unattractive loutish characters are being included.   Is Mr Brett trying to reflect current day reality a little more, I wonder?  Personally, I could do without the extra grit and grime (however small it may be) in the narrative but it doesn't detract from the overall style of the series, which is a nod to golden age mysteries.

I have been a fan of the Fethering mysteries for a few years so this book did not disappoint but I do feel that the last couple of books lacked a certain warmth.  I have the next instalment lined up and look forward to revisiting Fethering soon.  If you're fond of English mysteries with a cosy feel to them and with intelligent prose and sympathetic characters, I heartily recommend this series. 

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for kindly providing a review copy.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Enthralled (and Terrified) by Miss Brodie

"'It has been suggested again that I should apply for a post at one of the progressive schools, where my methods would be more suited to the system than they are at Blaine.  But I shall not apply for a post at a crank school.  I shall remain at this education factory.  There needs must be a leaven in the lump.  Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life'

The Brodie set smiled in understanding of various kinds.  Miss Brodie forced her brown eyes to flash as a meaningful accompaniment to her quiet voice.  She looked a mighty woman with her dark Roman profile in the sun.  The Brodie set did not for a moment doubt that she would prevail.  As soon expect Julius Caesar to apply for a job at a crank school as Miss Brodie.  She would never resign.  If the authorities wanted to ger rid of her she would have to be assasinated."

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Blogger Glitch when Leaving Comments

Waiting for the Writer by Sharon Kearns
I have had an infuriating problem with leaving comments on my own blog and on that of other blogs (Blogger only) since last night.  A quick Google search confirmed that there is something amiss with Blogger and that they are working on it but I, along with many others, were still unable to leave comments.

The problem is that Blogger doesn't recognise you when you try to leave a comment and puts you down as Anonymous.  When you try to sign in to your Google account, so that you can leave a comment with your details, you end up in a login loop from which there is no escape.

For anyone who tried to leave a comment since yesterday, I am sorry if this has inconvenienced you and even more sorry if you are unable to reply to comments on your own blog...

But I think I have hit upon a temporary solution, garnered from the many Blogger Help posts.  When you log in to Blogger, UNTICK the Stay Signed In box and hey, presto, Blogger recognises you again and you can post your comment.

I hope this helps.  Fingers crossed they'll sort this out properly soon.  If you need any help please do not hesitate to e-mail me at and I'll do my best.

Given what happened to Blogger not so long ago, I am now making weekly backups of my blog by using the Blogger export function and storing it on my PC.  Just in case.

UPDATE: The problem continues and it seems that it is particular to embedded commenting on Blogger.  So, as an extra measure, I have changed the way you add a comment to the page; instead of comments appearing embedded below the post, it will now take you to a separate page.  This seems to solve the problem without you having to do anything else on your side.  Thanks to Bev for passing this on.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Conspiracy of Friends

This is happily the third installment in Alexander McCall Smith's charming online serial novel, Corduroy Mansions, that is published around September each year in the Telegraph.  McCall Smith already had a very successful serial going in The Scotsman which centred around a handful of Edinburgh inhabitants and he has replicated the formula and set it in Pimlico, London - where, happily, anyone with Internet access can enjoy his daily chapters online.

I must admit that I was not as in love with the inhabitants of Corduroy Mansions as I was with those of 44 Scotland Street but that changed after reading the second book, The Dog Who Came in from the Cold.  The more time you spend in their company, the more invested you become and I look forward to following their everyday - and in some cases extraordinary - lives as I would with old friends.

A Conspiracy of Friends reintroduces us to the Corduroy Mansions inhabitants and the people in their world: William French, Master of Wine (Failed) and his (formerly vegetarian and MI-6 agent) Pimlico terrier Freddie de la Hay; the only unpleasant Lib-Dem, Oedipus Snark; Barbara Ragg (of the Ragg Porter Publishing Agency - publishers of the Yeti's Biography); Berthea Snark (psychotherapist and reluctant mother of Oedipus) and her New-Age, Porsche-driving brother Terence Moongrove...  to mention a few.

This book is filled with McCall Smith's light and sympathetic touch with dashes of humour and human observation.  I found it engaging and fun, especially since a large dose of interesting new situations are foisted upon our group of friends.  Perfect pick-me-up or calm-me-down reading.

Thank you to Birlinn/Polygon for kindly providing a review copy.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

In My Book Bag (2)

[In My Book Bag highlights library loans and book purchases (second-hand, new or e-format) that make their way into Rochester Reader HQ.]

Since acquiring a Sony Reader in March, I have been steadily building up an e-library of various books that I have been wanting to read for a while, along with a few obscure titles that appealed.  I am especially happy to be able to access humourous books from the early 20th century as well as lesser-seen classical works.  Darlene kindly reminded me about Girlebooks who have a mouth-watering range of ebooks written by women, many of which I haven't been able to find in paper format in my neck of the woods.  Books like Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women' series (I had no idea there were quite a few sequels) as well as books by American and British humourists.

So my current book bag is virtually laden with a number of e-books and a smaller selection of hard/paperbacks. 

A few weeks ago I received a lovely new edition of Mary Stewart's first novel, Madam, Will You Talk?.  I ordered this from the Book Depository as soon as I learnt of the stylish new publications from Lyn.  I read a handful of Stewarts in High School and enjoyed then immensely.  I haven't read this one and hope that it'll be great escapist literature for a rainy day.

The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens is a free e-book version I found on the Web so sadly not a luxurious Persephone edition. I'm looking forward to reading this especially after all the great reviews I've read by fellow bloggers.

Roast Beef, Medium by Edna Ferber is not a title that would usually appeal to a vegan but the write-up was humourous and entertaining and how could I refuse a book about a travelling saleswoman in the early 20th century with a wry sense of humour?

Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers is the third novel in the Lord Peter Wimsey series and my next read on the road to advancing in the As My Whimsy Takes Me Challenge. I've loved the previous two so can't wait to visit Lord Peter's London again.

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith has been in my wish list for a few years and it's now residing in my Reader, patiently awaiting my attention.  I love books with illustrations and these look promising and entertaining.

I have a few classic comic novels in reserve for days when I need a lift.  They include well-known works as Three Men in a Boat... books that I have heard about all throughout my life but that, for some reason or other, I haven't yet read.  There's a great sense of anticipation and expectation with these books and it gives me a warm feeling to know that I'll finally have read them and be 'in on the joke'.

Bones under the Beach Hut by Simon Brett is the latest book in the Fethering Mysteries set on the beautiful West Sussex coast.  This series has become an annual staple after I discovered it a few years ago and made my way through all the then available books in order.  The detecting duo consist of two ladies in their fifties who have a keen nose for murder...

That's all for now...  I have a couple of books winging their way to me from the Book Depsitory and I am seriously considering buying my second Whipple soon... but can I stand the two-week wait?!  In the meantime, there's thankfully plenty to read but sadly less time to devote to it whilst I am in the midst of studying for next month's exams.  Oh for more reading hours in the day!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four... and Five...

Simon over at Stuck in a Book has come up with a fun little game surrounding the status of five books that have come into your life recently.  My response is as follows:

1 - The book I'm currently reading:
Miss Buncle Married by D. E. Stevenson - I'm nearing the middle and certainly enjoying it so far.  It is a little different from the first book but Miss Buncle is exactly the same (except better dressed, a little more confident and happily married).  It's been fun to meet her and her husband again and it makes a snuggy read in the chillier Autumn nights over here... especially when I'm nursing a hot cup of tea and a biscuit.

2 - The last book I finished:
The Eliza Stories (a.k.a. Eliza) by Barry Pain - I came across a free e-book copy of this collection of short stories on Project Gutenberg and thought it might be a delightful read as it had glowing reviews spanning a number of decades.  It is a short book published in 1904 with stories narrated by Eliza's husband - a self-satisfied, pompous man whose observations about life and marriage can be quite funny, especially as he is usually unaware of his wife's sarcasm and wit.  I found it quite a pleasant read - humourous in places - although not laugh-out-loud funny as you can forsee some of the outcomes (which I guess are familiar to us now as modern comedy may have borrowed from it).  It was still enjoyable and a light, urbane read - and heartily recommended.

3 - The next book I want to read:
Aunts aren't Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse - Lyn at I Prefer Reading wrote an excellent post about this book recently and it got me hankering after some more Wodehouse.  I think this later Jeeves and Wooster novel will be perfect and it will be my first J&W read.  I'm really looking forward to it!

4 - The last book I bought:
Angel with Two Faces by Nicola Upson - I purchased this today!  It is the second instalment in the Josephine Tey murder mysteries (where she is the main character) and I hope that it will live up to the first.  I quite like the cover and the different shades of blue.

5 - The last book I was given:
Bones in High Places - Suzette A. Hill - My dear friend T. treated me to this book very recently and I can't wait to read it.  This series is a real gem of a find... it always puts a smile on my face.

Thank you Simon for coming up with such a great game!  I had fun putting my responses together and it makes you think about where your book tastes (or moods) are at the moment.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

April Roundup

Woman Reading in a Garden by Richard Emil Miller (1875 - 1943)
April was a more productive month reading-wise with the majority of the books completed by the middle of the month.  I kicked off the month with my first Read Cornwall challenge book, Manna from Hades which I I quite enjoyed and was very pleased with being transported back to Cornwall after such a long time.

I also attempted a couple of new-to-me M. C. Beatons with mixed results.  You can read my thoughts on Emily goes to Exeter here and I hope to put up a short review of the latest Hamish Macbeth mystery.

I also finally managed to read an Edith Wharton for the first time, which also counted as my first completed classic for the Classics Challenge 2011The Age of Innocence was a rewarding read and set in a time in America that I don't usually encounter.  I enjoyed it but felt that the ending was bitter-sweet and left me unsatisfied.  I shall definately be searching out more Wharton though as her prose is rich and her observations of upper-crust New Yorkers at the turn of the last century biting yet slightly sympathetic.

I felt like reading something a little lighter after that and who better that Suzette A. Hill to cheer me up and give me a warm, comforting feeling?  Bone Idle is the third book in the Francis Oughterard series and I continue to be delighted with it.  I hope to post something about this unusual, humourous and thouroughly English series soon.

And now I'm on an extended visit to Corduroy Mansions in Pimlico, London.  I completed the second book in the series and enjoyed it so much that I proceeded onto the third, A Conspiracy of Friends, which is officially released today in the UK.  Although the Scotland Street books by Alexander McCall Smith is my favourite of his series, I find that the Corduroy Mansions serials are fast becoming a favourite too.

I hope everyone had a comfortable and peaceful Easter and holidays.  How was your April?

The books:

1. Manna from Hades - Carola Dunn
2. Emily goes to Exeter - M. C. Beaton
3. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
4. Bone Idle - Suzette A. Hill
5. Death of a Chimney Sweep - M. C. Beaton
6. The Dog Who Came in from the Cold - Alexander McCall Smith