A kitten, rather than a book

Because I saw this gif at Books I Done Read. And it made me think of Mini-Me, who will think it is cute.

kitten facepalm

 

That’s all today folks.

A Respectable Trade – Philippa Gregory – 3/10 (DNF)

“He did not know that for the first time and painfully, Frances was feeling emotions stir and warm into life.”

respectable trade

Josiah Cole needs cash and a socially connected wife. Frances Scott needs a husband. Once married, they find themselves dependent on sustaining a particular sort of lifestyle in order to keep moving upwards. They overpay for a house, over-furnish the house, all under the resentful eye of Josiah’s maiden sister.

I know very little about slavery, at any point or place, really. Only after watching Amazing Grace did I know anything about William Wilberforce and the abolitionist movement here in the UK; only after watching and reading The Help did I really know anything about racial politics in 1960s southern USA, plus drawing on reading To Kill a Mockingbird at school (and I’ll admit to still not knowing very much). And I know even less about 1780s Bristol, the sugar trade or rum.

But I abandoned this after 370 pages out of 500 – so close to the end and yet I did not want to spend more time wasted on these insipid, fearful characters so bent on destroying their own lives.

I wanted to like this; I know very little of the topic and feel that I should know more. But I found the characters too irritating and undeserving of more of my time.

Additional info
Copy from Bookmooch, I think. Given that it seems to have been published in Canada.
Publisher: Harper Perennial, 501 pages
Order A Respectable Trade from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

Some recent abandonments

In keeping with recent resolutions to decrease the number of books in my house, I’ve been pretty brutal on a couple of books recently. I didn’t stick with them long enough for them to get proper DNF reviews, so I’m just recapping here briefly.

The Last Refuge by Craig Robertson – I read the starts of his earlier novels, which are set in the tough parts of Glasgow; this thriller set in the Faroe Islands just didn’t get going for me. It’s quite Scandinoir, so might appeal to fans of that.

Savage Magic by Lloyd Shepherd – this arrived unsolicited from the publisher and was therefore on shaky ground (or shaky ice as the extended RWT family like to call it) before it plopped onto the doormat. It seems to be a cavort through Georgian London and Surrey in the context of witchcraft and madness and magic. Perhaps a good book for November or January? Not July in a heatwave.

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler – I’ve had this for more than a year now and haven’t made it more than 20 pages in. It’s the intertwined stories of the youngest daughter of a family who goes off on a gap year and comes rushing home when her family are finally able to reach her, to tell her their father has a few weeks to live from pancreatic cancer, and some unknown homeless man who has some connection to Alice. The chapters in each viewpoint were just too frustratingly short.

A Study in Revenge by Kieran Shields – a sort of Sherlockian tale in Portland around 1900, in which a police deputy and his off-beat offsider try to figure out why a petty criminal was dug up from his grave and burnt brutally in a staged murder. Meanwhile the offsider is supposed to be solving a mystery for a local wealthy family, but by page 80 we didn’t know the connection of the wealthy family to the main story (there will be one, presumably), nor did we know what mystery it was he was solving. Readable, but slow.

All of these have gone to the local Tube stop bookswapping shelf (whose coming into existence has made me deliriously happy), so if any of them sound fantastic, get yourself to Oval Tube in the next day or two!

book exchange

Links are affiliate links.

 

Sunday Salon – speedy Jack!

TSS

So… despite Halfords’ best attempts to waste all of my weekend with both corporate and staff incompetence, this is the newest addition to the RWT stable… meet Jack!

Jack

OK so Jack looks a little different from this picture (credit: Halfords website), because

a) he has pedals

b) he has a pannier rack to help him carry all my stuff.

Notes on a name: my first car, the beloved white Nissan Micra, 10 years old at date of acquisition, was called Algernon. My current car is called Bunbury. My lovely trusty bike which has carried me thousands of miles around London and specifically 100km around London overnight a few months ago, is called Cecily. If you can’t spot the theme, go read some Oscar Wilde.

Notes on a purchase: I did the Nightrider on Cecily, and didn’t have too much of a problem with the distance, but the hills nearly killed me*. As the German, my cycling buddy, whizzed off into the distance up Alexandra Palace hill on her beautiful road-bike, Cecily and I chugged up the first quarter of each hill and then I gave up and walked. Cecily is lovely, but a heavy, large, entry-level hybrid. While I’m not going to throw Cecily out or sell her, it was time for an upgrade for special occasions and long cycles to work.

*OK I’m exaggerating.

Work re-opened their cycle to work scheme, so £430 of bike and bike stuff is going to cost me £360 over a year, pre tax so really that’s about £250 of take home income. Plus the service was so appalling that they threw in a bunch of accessories for free so I ended up with a serious lock and a bike cleaning kit that I wasn’t expecting. Which is a win (considering the 2.5 hrs it took me to pick up the bike today and the 40 mins of a wasted trip yesterday).

I know this has nothing to do with books.

Can Anybody Help Me – Sinead Crowley – 7/10

“With consciousness came distress. Her eyes flickered open and met his. but her thirst was greater than her feat and she moved her hand feebly on the blanket, her fingers flickering in the direction of the bedside locker.”

Can anybody help me FINAL

(adapted from Goodreads) Struggling with a new baby in a new city with a new husband, Yvonne turns to an online support group for help and support. When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne is concerned but dismisses her fears. She doesn’t know the woman, after all. But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?

This felt quite slow to get going (despite the nearly first-page murder), as two apparently separate storylines took their time to intermingle. Once we did get going though, there was no stopping our twisty-turny plot. Relatively straightforward to children of the internet age, some of it might be confusing to older readers. I loved it.Writing? So standard, so good, right? for a police procedural? I’ve got nothing to say on the writing – nothing exceptional, but certainly nothing that got in the way or in any way detracts from the book.

As I always do, I really like the lead police character in this one; and of course she’s a single-minded five-months-pregnant go-getter determined to absolutely get this bad guy right now. Yvonne came across as a bit pathetic, but on the whole totally believable and rounded. I was unconvinced by Eamonn as a character – he seems overly charming, too nice. But for me the most skilful bit of character-building was the online chat – Yvonne’s character chatted online in a manner that fitted her offline personality, and the other online voices were easily distinguishable and well-built up.

My knowledge of Dublin is zero (never having been), and Crowley sets the scene well with the run-down estate, the dingy pub, the pleasant terrace houses, the surety of rain at an Irish funeral. There’s a smattering of Irish dialect to make absolutely sure that you know you’re in Ireland – I didn’t mind it, and I imagine it makes the dialogue more authentic. It certainly doesn’t get in the way.

And I most definitely did not see the identity of the bad guy coming. I had a couple of indications in that general direction, but it was a huge surprise to me when it was revealed. A quick, thrilling read, and a slightly scary look into online forums (fora?) and life.

Additional info
Copy from publisher through NetGalley (which I have not used in a while!)
Publisher: Quercus Books, 400 pages
Order Can Anybody Help Me?from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

Fielding in the rain

(languishing in the drafts folder, I thought this deserved to see the light of day. I’m at the cricket today – watching MCC v Rest of World, it’s essentially an exhibition match for the stars of yesterday – so it seemed appropriate)

As you may know, I like to play a bit of cricket. I also normally work too hard. So on the day when I got up at 3am because my body thought it was midday, it clearly made sense for me to go to cricket training in a corner of London which is not near where I live.

And it didn’t occur to me until we got to the club that it might rain on our training (that’s in England, in April). And then we couldn’t find a way into the club house because no one had a membership card. Finally got in, changed from work clothes, and walked through to the oval… Into drizzle.

As we went from short catches to longer range throwing, the heavens opened. We got soaked. We squealed, and laughed, and got even wetter. It did make learning to do sliding stops easier… Not sure I’m going to want to try those on a non-muddy day though! Eventually it was bad light that stopped play, not rain (even with daylight saving time, it’s still pretty dark by 7.45pm in early April).

I write this on the train, feet slowly drying outside my soaking drenched trainers, jumper drying on the seat next to me. The other passengers are kindly not staring at my t-shirt and bare feet in 10C at 9pm, and not muttering about the smell of wet dog emanating from my sodden jumper.

Fun!

Recent DNFs

A couple of DNFs from the last few weeks which I thought were worth rounding up, but not worth full reviews (I didn’t give them the 100 pages / 25% that I set myself as a minimum to write a DNF review).

THE SEA CHANGE – Joanna Rossiter

This was a review copy from Penguin, I think, although it has the look of a free book with a magazine. Anyhow, I got 45 pages into this and in one storyline, there was a woman frantically searching for her husband in a tsunami, in 1970s India, and in the other story, her mother was reliving her childhood as the parson’s daughter in an idyllic English village. i.e. loads was happening in one storyline but we weren’t staying there long enough to figure out what was going on, and in the other, nothing was happening.
DNF. And leave in the hotel lounge somewhere.

NAGASAKI – Eric Faye

A middle-aged man in Japan is convinced that a person or some other presence is helping themselves to the contents of his kitchen while he is at work every day. This is a very slim volume, not even 160 pages of large text, but 60 pages in nothing was really happening, so out it went.

THE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO BROKE ALL THE RULES – Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

Bought this because it looked very similar to The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared – and it was, after a sense. Martha is tired of sub-standard service in her retirement home and is determined to break free to a better life. With a group of friends (The League of Pensioners), they go in pursuit of the wealth of the rich and famous. It really was a lot like The Hundred-Year-Old Man (I’m not typing out that whole title again), but not as funny, and it felt very much copied. 65 pages in and I wasn’t really invested in the story. I think the author made a difficult task for herself having 5 major characters – they became impossible to develop separately.

BORN IN SIBERIA – Tamara Astafieva

This is a very personal account of life in Stalinist Russia as a child – the text is collected from notebooks and poems left behind by Astafieva and edited into a memoir of sorts by a friend. If you’re interested in life in twentieth century Russia, this could be right up your street. It wasn’t for me.

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