Category Archives: Thoughts and other Miscellany

Some recent DNFs

I’ve struggled with some books recently and a recognition that I have too many of them means I am abandoning them pretty quickly. I thought I’d make a note here of them.

Torn by Casey Hill. I really enjoyed Taboo, but something in the writing here just irritated me too much.

The Silversmith’s Wife by Sophia Tobin. This was a review copy that had been loitering in my house for a very long time, and when I finally cracked it open on the commute this week, I found the incredibly short chapters which constantly switched perspective and time (before and after a death) too much.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. Iris raves about Jansson, as do many others, but I’ve struggled with her before and again the slow, simple writing irritated me. I imagine she writes extremely well for children.

I’ve been depositing them at the Oval Tube bookswap shelf, which looks like it does a roaring trade (certainly in terms of people taking books from it). While I don’t permit myself to take books (I’ve got more than enough at home) it’s a very convenient place to drop them off! Plus I always get an enthusiastic thank you from the station staff, especially if I’m dropping off multiple books.

(pictures are affiliate links, if you really want to check the books out on Amazon…)

Sunday Salon – Sniffles


Atchoo! It’s been sneeze-central here at Maison RWT as I came down with my first bad cold of the year. Unfortunately, my normal method of “dose up on everything that might be helpful and proceed as normal” was stymied by the fact that pretty much every cold med I would normally take is not permitted during pregnancy. So I had to tough it out the traditional way. Which was less fun. I spent yesterday sleeping and watching BBC shows on iPlayer until 2pm, then made it as far as the sofa for a lot of episodes of Friends, then back to bed. It was an exciting day.

Today I feel MUCH better and have got as far as tea, the study, and actual thought again.

Quick recap of reviews that went up this week:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, an introspective, very personal account of grief

How It All Began by Penelope Lively, a study of inter-connected lives thrown into turmoil by a mugging.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff, the experience of being a 20-something working in the literary industry in New York.

Coming up this week:

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan (which has moved house with me at least twice)

and anything else I get around to reviewing today!


WHY has no one made a film of Code Name Verity? WHY?

Film industry, you are being remiss. Get to it.

New York everywhere!

Ever notice how things seem to theme themselves?

I went to New York, and bought quite a lot of books. And while I was there, I read a fair chunk of Colum McCann’s Let The Great World Spin, which despite assorted other faults, is extremely evocative of the city.

Then I came back and discovered that the Physicist had found a new TV series and SAVED it to watch with me! (this never happens) Or at least he did a reasonable job of pretending he’d not watched it before. And it’s set – in New York (and is rather good and highly entertaining). It’s called Forever and stars Ioan Gruffudd, for whom I have much sympathy for having a more-difficult-to-spell name than my own, and whom we have loved in both Fantastic Four and Amazing Grace. Let it not be said this is a mono-dimensional household in our viewing.

I digress. Forever is set in mid-town New York. So of course I sat there shouting “I was there!” all evening. The Physicist did his best to tolerate this as a sweet foible of mine rather than as something really annoying.

Then I read Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking and followed it up with My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff. The latter not only references the author of the former, but both have lots of references to mid-town New York. I particularly loved My Salinger Year for its references to ludicrously expensive Park Avenue lunches and the Waldorf Astoria and the subway station at Lexington and 51st (which I used a number of times when I was there).

Now I’m deliberately hunting for more New York themed books, I probably won’t find any. My latest read, How It All Began by Penelope Lively, is set in assorted places including bits of north London which might as well be in New York for how little I know them.

Any other geographical themes you can think of (with related reading and viewing, please) I might enjoy?

Sunday Salon – “Scusi!”


A couple of days’ holiday in Rome have done me a world of good. Not least because I’ve now finished 5 books in 5 days and am due to start on the 6th any minute at time of writing.

Couple of catch-up posts have covered what we’ve seen in Rome – days 1 and 2, days 3 and 4. In short, much old stuff, some gelato.

Books read by me while here:

All That I Am by Anna Funder

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

How It All Began by Penelope Lively

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

and next on the list is The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

(I finished Let The Great World Spin the day before coming on holiday).

Books read by the Physicist while here:

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

(has now started on Matter, also by Banks).

Assorted waiters and waitresses in Rome have thought we are a) insane b) terribly mannered or c) very happy ignoring each other while reading our books, as the books have come out at every meal while waiting for food. We read on the Metro, at the top of the monument to Victor Emanuel I (there were a lot of steps and I needed a rest at the top) and on a wall outside the Pantheon.

Reading makes a holiday.

Rome, days 3 and 4

We’re still here, so this blog is going to keep having holiday updates for now.

Day 3: A LOT of churches. Well, I suppose only 3, but they were all basilicas (basilicae? basilice?) so they took at least half an hour each to look around (in fact, we spent nearly 2 hours at one). They were St Paul’s Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore, and St John in Lateran (including a little stop to see the Scala Santa). Loads of photos but they are marooned on the iPhone so just this one which I put up on Instagram and totally doesn’t do justice to the scale and majesty of these buildings.

St Paul'sMore photos later, I suppose. There was clearly a fashion at some point for enormous, more-than-lifesize statues in white marble of the Apostles (lots of them at St John in Lateran). They were my favourite part of the day.

Also a nifty little fact – all three of these basilicas have extra-territorial status for the Vatican, i.e. they are in Italy, rather than the Holy See, but they have the same legal status as embassies. How cool is that?

Also I conquered the Metro ticketing machines. It was a hard-fought battle, but I won.

Day 4: got off to a rocky start with the water pressure in the hotel having gone entirely, but eventually we got underway on a day of a lot of walking: through the Piazza (I can’t type that without typing it as “pizza” first!) in front of St Peter’s dodging street hawkers to the Metro, over to the Colosseum for a quick peek at that and the Constantine Arch, then up to the monument to Victor Emanuel I (me: “I want a monument that impressive in my memory after I die,” the Physicist: “Then I need a job that pays more”).

Lots of stairs and pizza later, the church of St Ignatius of Loyola (another very fancy church), the Trevi Fountain (under scaffolding and now featuring a hideous plastic walkway – disappointing), the Spanish steps (also not hugely impressive absolutely covered in tourists and a massive advertisement at the top) and Santa Maria del Popolo, which has two famous Caravaggio paintings, but was otherwise a bit underwhelming compared to the other churches of the last few days. Gelato on the way home from the Metro, obviously.

Back home again tomorrow. It’s been a great couple of days!

Strange ways to get to this blog

Below is the list of things people searched yesterday to land at my blog:

a of witches book

funny comma mistakes

vowell writes, “i’ve always been more of a jeffersonhead”. what is the effect?

statue reading

The third one is definitely the most amusing. I assume it led the searcher to my review of The Partly Cloudy Patriot, (which I did enjoy and I would like to read more of Sarah Vowell’s work) but who knows!

Since my blog has been so much less active this year, the search terms have definitely got weirder.


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