Friday, March 21, 2014

February Reading

February's books were as stellar as January's.  

9. My Turquoise Years 
by M.A.C. Farrant
nonfiction 2004
Kindle
finished 2/1/14

I wrote about this book here.

10. Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death - book 1 in the Grantchester Mystery series
by James Runcie
mystery 2012
library book
Kindle
finished 2/11/14



11. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night - book 2 in the Grantchester Mystery series
by James Runcie
mystery 2013
Kindle
finished 2/18/14


I feel like I’ve been waiting for the Grantchester mysteries my whole reading life. For me, they are perfect. I loved every minute I spent inside the books. There’s a little feeling of Agatha Christie, a strong sense of England in the 1950s, a very human Anglican priest, and characters that aren’t caricatures or silly.

When I went searching for photos of Grantchester in the 1950s to add to these book notes, the page for the series came up. These pictures give the reader a sense of the place in those years. And on the site, you may take a walking tour along with Canon Sidney Chambers. This is one of the true wonders of the internet for a reader so far away. I can ‘see’ where the book takes place. This is a particularly wonderful website. Please do visit and find out about the series, the background, British history.

I read these books on my Kindle, but I’ve ordered them in paperback, and plan to buy the new one in the same form when it comes out. Some books I just have to have in the ‘real’ version.


12. Park Life
by Katharine D'Souza
fiction 2012
Kindle
finished 2/24/14



The only other time I’ve read a book set in Birmingham was Catherine O’Flynn’s What Was Lost. I thought it presented quite a gloomy view of a city that had seen better days. It was published five years before Park Life, and set a few years earlier. Birmingham seems transformed into a vibrant, appealing city. I think that if I were British, and younger, I might want to move there myself. 
The café stands on Poplar Road; perhaps why they've called it Tall Trees. The other businesses are an interesting, independent mix ranging from the niche market of Caribbean delicacies to the practicality of a launderette. A steady stream of cars and pedestrians flowed to and from the High Street and back.
I liked the road. Something about the atmosphere has elements of the familiar small town scale, but then there are hints of spice, undercurrents of exoticism: the contemporary, cosmopolitan attitude I want for myself.
Near the end of the book a park is described.
"What I like about parks like this, is they're one of the few places in the city where you see Birmingham's diverse population all in one space." ...
I looked around. He was right. All races were represented. All of the families were out enjoying the park in the same way - they wanted some space, some air, some greenery around them. In such a landlocked city, it made sense that everyone congregated there.
Often in the book, Birmingham was referred to as Brum. From wikipedia:
People from Birmingham are called 'Brummies', a term derived from the city's nickname of 'Brum'. This originates from the city's dialect name, Brummagem, which may in turn have been derived from one of the city's earlier names, 'Bromwicham'.


The two main characters are Susan and Craig. She is a woman in her mid-forties who has left her husband and a ‘cushy’ life in the suburbs, and he is a man of 25, who has quite a good job and his own flat. Their stories are told in alternating chapters. 

I was amazed at how Katharine D’Souza could get inside the head of such disparate characters. One might expect that a woman could imagine and express the thoughts and feelings of Susan, but she describes Craig as easily as if she were this young man. She’s got the language, and the seemingly shallow lifestyle, and the often hidden deeper concerns of Craig and so many like him down pat. If you are offended by swearing, you might be put off but the reality is that most people that age use particular words as just part of their lexicon. As I read once of the Irish, the ‘f’ word is expressed as all parts of speech - noun, verb, adjective. With Craig, it works and the story would be false without it. 

Like Mr. Lynch’s Holiday, Park Life is a new book with a cheerful spirit and a happy ending. Not that everything is pleasant or easy for the characters, but they are not overwhelmed with horrible life stories. The characters are people like most of us. 

I found out about this book here. I’ve also bought Katharine D'Souza's newest one Deeds Not Words.

And every time I read the title I’m reminded of the old Blur song which I love. Not that it has anything to do with the book, but it is great fun. The lyrics follow.


Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur
Of what is known as
(Parklife)
And morning soup can be avoided
If you take a route straight through what is known as
(Parklife)

John's got brewers droop he gets intimidated
By the dirty pigeons, they love a bit of him
(Parklife)
Who's that gut lord marching?
You should cut down on your porklife mate, get some exercise

All the people
So many people
They all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their parklife
Know what I mean?

I get up when I want except on Wednesdays
When I get rudely awakened by the dustmen
(Parklife)
I put my trousers on, have a cup of tea
And I think about leaving the house
(Parklife)

I feed the pigeons I sometimes feed the sparrows too
It gives me a sense of enormous well-being
(Parklife)
And then I'm happy for the rest of the day safe in the knowledge
There will always be a bit of my heart devoted to it

All the people
So many people
And they all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their parklife

Parklife
(Parklife)
Parklife
(Parklife)

It's got nothing to do with
Vorsprung durch Technik you know
(Parklife)
And it's not about you joggers
Who go round and round and round
(Parklife)

All the people
So many people
And they all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their parklife

All the people
So many people
And they all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their parklife


13. Fancy Nancy 
by Jane O'Connor; illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser
children's book 2006
library book
finished 2/24//14

I wrote about this here.

14. The Violets of March
by Sarah Jio
fiction 2011
library book
Kindle
finished 2/28/14


I began this near the end of February, sure that I would be reading it in the month of March, but it was so enjoyable, I finished it before March even began. A lovely book. Life is not turning out as Emily expected it might. She wrote a highly successful book many years ago, and hasn't been able to write another one. Her husband had an affair, and the marriage ended in divorce. She's at what the British call, 'a loose end.' Her great-aunt Bee invites her to come spend the month of March on the beautiful Bainbridge Island in Washington state. 


Would that we all had such a place to go to when things weren't going our way. She finds inspiration for a new book, a decades old mystery to solve, and of course, romance. But the book is not facile. There is depth in the characters, and I found each of them interesting and appealing in their own ways. I love books that have connections between past and present. The Violets of March was wonderful, and I look forward to the other books Sarah Jio has written.

19 comments:

  1. I love the Sidney Chambers books, they are delightful, not least because Sidney has a Labrador!
    I like the sound of The Violets of March, so thank you for the recommendation, Nan - off to look it up.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, Dickens! I think you'll like the Violets book. Nice details and descriptions.

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  2. The Grantchester series sounds exactly like my type of book, thank you for recommending them!

    Birmingham is a vibrant place indeed. I went visiting there in the late 1990s, when I was in love with a Brummie and for a little while we had a long-distance relationship. It didn't work out, which is OK, but it gave me fond memories of the place.

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    Replies
    1. They are really lovely books.
      Great story about Birmingham. Thanks for telling me.

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  3. Nan, thanks for a delightful post. I liked the books you read, the pictures you posted, and the way you put the whole thing together. The Grantchester Mysteries sounds interesting.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate them.

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  4. Hi Nan, Sarah Jio is one of my favorite authors, I've read mostly all of her books. Your photo of Bainbridge Island brought a tear because I've spent many happy hours there. Sarah's most recent book, "Morning Glory" is set on a houseboat in Seattle; The Bungalow is about an army nurse on a Pacific Island in 1942 (and much later as a 90-year old). Love these stories that go back and forward in time. Her new book will be out in May this year, "Goodnight June", and I'm waiting eagerly.

    Just ordered "Park Life" on my Kindle.

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    Replies
    1. You are the reason I read this! And I've got Morning Glory on my list of downloadable books. I also love those kinds of books. I'll be looking out for all of her work now.
      You'll like Park Life, I'm quite sure.

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  5. Nan, apologies for the mix-up. All I wanted to say is that I really like the two Grantchester Mysteries covers. Sometimes that's all it takes. :) But the fact that you liked the books too (not just the covers) makes me think this might be a winning series. Why haven't I ever heard of them? Oh well, can't know everything no matter how hard I try.

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    Replies
    1. No apology necessary! I wondered the same thing - why hadn't I heard of them. Then I thought maybe I had but didn't jot them down. I just happened onto the first one on my state library's downloadable books list. You'll like these books, I'm quite sure. Intelligent, great setting and characters, interesting time period. And the site is tremendous.

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    2. I have the first Grantchester book waiting to be read, it looks so good. I enjoyed how you described that you had been waiting all your life for them, it feels like! You've made me interested in reading Park Life, which is quite a feat since I don't read much ordinary fiction right now :-) I am really enjoying your book reviews and the way you do them, Nan.

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    3. They are really the perfect mysteries for me.
      I loved Park Life. I've just begun her second book.
      And thank you for saying that. I appreciate it.

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    4. Nan, just finished reading the two Sidney Chambers mysteries and really enjoyed them. Loved the time and place. But jeez it took him so long to walk down the aisle. :) P.S. Thanks for introducing me to Canon Chambers.

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  6. I love Bainbridge Island and after spending time there last summer, I can easily picture living there. My husband would move there tomorrow if I said we could! Unfortunately, I didn't care for The Violets of March quite as much as you. You probably read my review last fall, but here's the link, just in case. Fun looking back at the photos I took from our trip. Can't wait to return next September!

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  7. I wouldn't want to live there or on any island! From the book, it sounds like regular folks wouldn't be able to buy a house or land there because of the price. I'll go read your review now.

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  8. I'll have to give those mysteries a try!

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    Replies
    1. They are really great, and I SO love Park Life!

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.