Category Archives: Thoughts and other Miscellany

The Sunday Salon – Slumpy


Really, really tired. I don’t know how I could have gone back to work this week – so I have no idea how anyone keeps working to 38 weeks of pregnancy or similar!

Have read a little bit… kept listening to Dreams from my Father, which has slid into a political bit that I’m not so interested in. Can’t quite bring myself to pick up Death on the Cherwell again (I’m about 60 pages in), even though I know I should just make a decision, either keep reading it or give up on it. And started on Steven Saylor’s Roman Blood which is ok, though a bit over-detailed for my liking. I think part of the problem with my reading at the moment is me – my concentration span is close to zero.
Other stuff this week… really not very much. I went to some classes at the hospital and the local NCT group. We played our usual pub quiz and came 3rd like we often do (no prize). I’ve watched a lot of cricket (the 4th Test match between Australia and India, endless Big Bash games…). I’m hoping to see Mockingjay Part I with a friend tonight but it depends on both of us staying awake until 8.10pm, which is in doubt.
I spilt water on my laptop just after Christmas and it seems to have mostly recovered, but some of the keys are still a bit uncooperative, like the Z key. Which means I occasionally have to remember how to type on a German keyboard setting (the easiest way to get to a Z is to change the keyboard setting to German, which switches the Y and Z from an English setting). Might have to go into work next week for an hour or so to get it fixed!

Linky stuff for Saturday

Because… why not.

Jamie has some thoughts on the Sacrificial Lamb Book – you know, the one you read after you read a brilliant book, that you know you’re not going to love. At time of writing this, I read The Patron Saint of Liars in a day yesterday and am scared to open another book because I know I won’t love it as much. So naturally I’m blogging loads and listening to The Physicist watch Transformers 4 (obviously I’m not going to watch it…)

Amanda has some thoughts on “Have Babies, Keep Reading“. It’s a bit sweary for me, but I totally agree with the sentiment. Someone please remind me of it in February when I’m losing my mind about socks.

Over at the Worm Hole there are some thoughts on planning out your reading for the month. I’ve never really managed to do this although I would like to – I’m sort of the opposite of the opinion being expressed here. What do you think?

I love to read while on public transport. Particularly something really engrossing for when I have to get in a Flying Tube of Doom (the rest of you call them aeroplanes), but a really long train ride is the best. I read the first Hunger Games book on the London to Lancaster train (2 hrs and 20 minutes, since you ask) and was barely coherent when I got off. I have relished train travel to visit Ma and Pa Physicist because it’s 4 1/2 hours of uninterrupted reading time. Particularly if I splurge on First Class – then they bring you unlimited tea as well. People don’t normally try to talk to me on planes and trains (do I give off a particularly unfriendly vibe?) – but Book Riot has some tips on how to be left alone if people often bug you while you’re trying to read.

And finally – 35 Things To Do with All Those Books. The title says it all. I am a huge fan of #8, #15 (particularly the reading nook), a little bit of #28, and #34 is standard in this house.

Harry Potter by people who’ve never read it

This is too good not to be shared around the internet.

(I originally found it here)

Looking back on December, looking forward to January

I read 35 books in 2014. I was aiming for 100 when I started the year, which is obviously ludicrous; I think 35 isn’t bad.

In December, I read 3 books:

The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy – Vicki Iovine – unconvincing.

The Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett – I read this straight through in one day!

Lizzy and Jane – Katherine Reay – light but really enjoyable.

I totally failed to read or do anything at all for Advent with Alcott. Bad blogging event host.

I also started two books but didn’t get anywhere near finishing either of them: Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay and Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama (audiobook). I’m very close to giving up on the former but really enjoying the latter.

I wrote about my winter TBR a while ago, but specifically in January, I am hoping to read:The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace, One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore and The Foundling Boy by Michel Deon. My concentration span is waning so I’m needing to move towards the lighter end of the fiction on my shelves!

Some of the best books from the past few years

As I try to get caught up on all those reviews from the last few years, I’ve been looking at my reading spreadsheet. Thought it might be fun to link to some older reviews of books I really enjoyed! 2013 was a really good year for reading.

Dances with Wolves – 7/10

The Fault in our Stars – 8/10

Quiet – 7/10

Looking for Alaska – 8/10

The Paris Architect – 8/10

Mister Pip – 9/10

The Happiness Project – 8/10

Ex Libris – 8/10

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls – 7/10

Attachments – 9/10

I am Half Sick of Shadows – 8/10

The People in the Photo – 9/10

What Santa brought

I mentioned we did a spot of book shopping before Christmas. This is what turned up under the tree for me… (click for bigger pictures)


Which contained…

RWT books


A couple of books I’ve heard loads about (Capital, Stoner), a couple by favourite authors (OffshoreSycamore Row and The Watcher in the Shadows), and lots of new mysteries, with a slight tendency to the cozy rather than the gory. I particularly liked the look of Death on the Cherwell and The Shadow of Death, being set in Oxford and Cambridge respectively!

My parcels under the tree also included an Audible membership and some wireless headphones for the imminent middle-of-the-night wakefulness expected to arrive in February!

And what Santa brought The Physicist:

Physicist books(not that there’s a theme here or anything!)


The Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett – 8/10

“There was a weight to missing. It was as heavy as a child.”

Patron Saint

Rose never stays anywhere for long. First she marries suddenly, then she spends days and weeks driving around California, then she runs away to Kentucky. She settles and brings up her child in the strange surrounds of nuns and pregnant girls at a home for unwed mothers.

Rose is a surprisingly unsympathetic character with a lack of motive for being so – it’s never really explained. Nevertheless, her reluctance to invest emotionally in other people makes for an interesting counterpoint to the warmth of the characters around her, especially Son, who is so caring and gentle. She constantly pushes everybody else away, and Cecilia is the only one we see really examine that.

I guess there’s a recurring theme here of religion and vocation – Rose marries her first husband feeling that it’s her vocation, then that she must have been wrong. She stays at St Elizabeth’s for years, cooking three meals a day for twenty years – clearly she feels some kind of vocation to be there. The assorted religious attitudes of the nuns at the home, of the girls in their varying states of faith… it wasn’t until I finished the book that it hit me that this was a theme. It didn’t really seem to go anywhere though – just a thread through every character.

There’s no denying Patchett writes beautifully. I read this 400 page novel in a day with no trouble at all. While I never felt totally sucked into the plot, the writing is smooth enough that you just keep turning the pages without noticing. I liked the way this book moved from one narrative point to the next about every hundred pages – from an initial third person narrator in Habit, to Rose to Son to Cecilia. It dealt with the passage of time neatly and gave us the chance to move through different characters without having that irritating back-and-forth that plagues the modern crime novel.

The setting (and I’ll ignore anything that’s not Habit, Kentucky, because that’s where 90% of the book is set) is evocatively enough written without ever becoming a character of its own. The huge hotel could easily have become a character of its own (as the house does in The Thirteenth Tale), and we feel Cecilia’s frustration through the long, hot summers, the pitchers of iced tea, the swimming hole, without ever really having a strong sense of place.

This lost 2 points out of 10 from me – one for the fact that it was good but didn’t reach out of the page and grab you by the throat (the way that Bel Canto did) and one for the ending. I won’t say much for fear of spoilers, but a deeply difficult and uncomfortable situation is engineered, without any kind of resolution. After 380 pages of stunning writing, this was so dissatisfying I didn’t know whether to think the book was 20 pages too long (i.e. it should have ended before the twist) or 40 pages too short (the twist was unresolved – particularly with Cecilia having stumbled onto a big clue shortly before the end).

One other thing – I’ve never heard of Mariner Books, the publisher, before… just looked them up and it seems to be an imprint of Houghton Miffler Harcourt. But worth a mention, because this was a really beautiful edition, considering it was just a standard paperback; there was something about the softness of the cover, the type of paper used for the pages… I don’t know what it was. It was nice not to have to break the spine to lay it flat on the table while I ate my slow cooker beef stroganoff (yum).

Additional info

Bought at McNally Jackson Books in downtown Manhattan on a recent trip to New York.
Publisher: Mariner Books, 392 pages (paperback)
Order The Patron Saint of Liars from Amazon* or Waterstones
* 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

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