Posts Tagged ‘5/5’

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

I’m actually not sure where I got this recommendation from, I suspect it was LibraryThing because they usually are. I’ve had it from the library for a while now and hadn’t quite been in the mood for it, but picked it up last night when I needed something light and fluffy.

This book is the first in a series and is about the lives of four women who meet when one of them opens a yarn shop on Blossom Street and decides to run a beginners knitting class. The four women are very different, and the book explores the development of their friendship and their lives away from the knitting group.

I really enjoyed this, I was really drawn in and liked all the characters to the extent that it nearly made me cry on the train. The writing wasn’t always perfect, and there were a couple of bits that just wouldn’t happen in real life but I read for escapism so that didn’t bother me – I’ve given it 5/5 because I enjoyed it so much. I have the next one in the series on hold at the library, and have come away with the urge to learn to knit.

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A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

This book was strongly recommended a number of times by various LibraryThing members. It was a little awkward to get hold of – I’m not sure it’s been published in the UK, but Amazon came to my rescue. I’m glad I put the effort in to find it.

Helen has been Light – a ghost – for 130 years. In that time she has haunted a number of ‘hosts’ – people she attaches herself to in order to stay in this world. Her current host is a high school English teacher and one day she senses one of his students looking at her.

The story that follows describes the bond between Helen and this boy. I was captivated from the very beginning – in some ways I was less captivated as it went along but it pulled me right back in at the end. I think the setting you read this book in is important; it really deserves to be soaked up in one sitting and I couldn’t do that, and I think that’s the only reason I became less engaged. Overall though I loved it all and became really attached to Helen. I definitely recommend this.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

I’ve never read this, but saw it on TV with a friend when I was in my teens. I don’t remember much about it other than “I saw something nasty in the woodshed” but I do remember enjoying it immensely, so picked it up at the library.

Flora Poste’s parents die when she is 19, leaving her only a modest income. After staying with a friend for a while she decides on a plan; she will write to all of her relatives and ask to live with them for a while. She chooses to stay with the Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm, and sets about generally busybodying and fixing things.

I suspect I’ll be buying my own copy, and probably the DVD as well. The book is similar in some ways to Northanger Abbey but I enjoyed this much more. The characters were more engaging; still larger than life, and the book was still a parody, but I never actually wanted to slap any of them. Flora should be quite annoying but somehow she never is, and she definitely had more about her than Susan in Northanger Abbey. It was a very comforting (and fairly short) read, and very funny. Where else would you find cows called Pointless, Aimless, Graceless and Feckless? Definitely recommended.

Conjugal Rites by Paul Magrs

I’ve been waiting for this to come out in paperback for ages, and I rushed out to buy it at the first available opportunity, which was yesterday, and finished it today. It was definitely worth it.

Conjugal Rites is the third in a series of books starring Brenda and Effie, two formidable old ladies who live in Whitby and find themselves drawn into solving mysteries, usually involving supernatural goings on. Throughout the books you learn more about Brenda’s mysterious past along with the mysteries, and get to watch Brenda and Effie’s friendships develop, and there’s a lot of humour alongside the supernatural stuff.

The three books are very different. The first does have a story running through it, but each chapter is also a mystery in its own right. I often describe it as being structured a little like the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. It sounds disjointed but actually works very well to introduce Brenda, drop some hints about her and prove that Whitby really does attract some odd things. Books 2 and 3 revolve much more about one central story, with 2 delving much more into Brenda’s history and 3 more on her future.

This book has been my favourite with 2, although very good, probably the weakest in the series. There is the return of some familiar love-to-hate characters, some old friends and one long-awaited appearance. I can’t go into too much detail without giving a lot away but it’s a brilliant adventure and Whitby is the perfect setting, with Brenda (especially) and Effie being some of my favourite characted ever. I can’t wait for the next one (but I’ll have to).

Temeraire by Naomi Novik

I fell utterly in love with this book and will definitely be buying the rest of the series.

I’ve been looking at the series in the fantasy section for a while; it’s not a genre I’m hugely familiar with so, despite being attracted to the cover art (the basis for an alarming number of my book choices) I hadn’t bought it but decided to go for it, and I’m really bad I did.

The book is set during the Napoleonic War in an alternate version of history in which, along with the usual armed forces, there is also the Air Corps which uses dragons. They dragons are intelligent to varying degrees and can talk. There is no magic or other fantasy in the book so it all fits very well and you could almost imagine that dragons really did exist. It starts with a Navy captain taking possession of a French ship along with its cargo which happens to be a dragon egg. With dismay the crew realise it’s about to hatch – dismay because dragons will only imprint on one person who then has to remain as their handler, a role that pretty much giving up any life outside the force and is generally met with disdain by the rest of society. When the dragon hatches it imprints on the Captain (who names it Temeraire), and this first book in the series mostly tells the story of Laurence and Temeraire adjusting to their new lives.

I grinned almost the whole time I was reading, apart from one section that made me cry, and I defy anyone to get through the book without wishing for a talking dragon. I’m giving it 5 out of 5 despite the fact that it doesn’t have the same depth as, say, This Thing of Darkness. It’s a reasonably short and easy read but hugely enjoyable.

This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson

I really can’t say enough good things about this book.

It’s a fictionalised account of the life of Robert Fitzroy, the man who captained The Beagle while Darwin was a passenger. Darwin does appear in a large portion of the book, and there’s a lot about their friendship, but it does cover some of his career before that and up to the end of his life. Not the kind of thing I would usually pick up at all, but a friend from work was reading it and was so enthusiastic I thought it was worth giving it a go, and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

It’s a big book at around 750 pages, and took me almost two weeks to read (though I did read a couple of other books alongside it) – it never takes me more than a few days to read a book so that’s a long time for me – but I loved every minute of it and felt a bit bereft when it was finished.

I know shamefully little about that period in our history but there’s a reassuring bibliography and it appears to be very well researched. There’s an author’s postscript which is just as interesting as the rest of the book outlining what was real, what wasn’t and what happened to the people and places since.

It was fascinating to see the thought processes of both Darwin and Fitzroy (albeit fictionalised versions) as one developed his theory of evolution, and the other made significant, if ignored, advances in things like weather forecasting which. It’s a great inside into the culture and attitudes of Britain at the time and often made me quite angry at how we used to be – the attitude that all land was there to be taken, that the ‘savages’ were less intelligent, less than human and there to be used, that they could be ‘improved’ by teaching them English and saved by converting them to Christianity. Slavery has just been abolished but the culture is a long way from changing. The Old Testament is taken to be the literal truth of how the world was created.

There’s a lot of technical detail about the voyage, but not so much that it’s off putting. The language used by the author seems to be very faithful to the language of the time, but never becomes too heavy or overwhelming.

I’m recommending this to anyone who’ll sit still for long enough to listen at the moment, and if my To Read pile wasn’t so huge I’d already be reading it again.