Well, we have had an eventful couple of years, and we have finally decided on our future. We are going to move to Mevagissey, in Cornwall, where we will open a bookshop. We should be there already, but we have been a bit delayed, so have decided to open Pilchard Books next year instead. You can catch our book reviews and other bookshop news, by going to our blog. Hope you come and visit, and please do recommend books!
I have been reading a lot of books lately, but have run out of time to write about them as I am also studying. So, I am going to have a break from writing this blog, and hope to come back to it when I have more time. Happy reading!
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness, an American historian, has been described as "Twilight for grown ups", and that is quite an apt description, although I would also say that there are similarities to the Harry Potter series too. I am a fan of all of them, and I did really enjoy reading this book, although I hadn't realised that it is the first in a trilogy, and I now have to wait until next June for the next installment! The story starts off in Oxford, and there are wonderful descriptions of the Bodleian Library. It focuses around a reluctant witch who is studying alchemy, and is desperately trying to avoid using her magic. However, she retrieves a book from the stacks, which is desired by daemons, vampires, and witches, and there the adventure begins. She gains a mysterious vampire protector, and as her magic struggles to reveal itself, other creatures come out of the woodwork. The story bounces from Oxford to France, from where the mysterious vampire hails, to America, where Diana, the witch comes from and where her Aunt and partner live in a wonderful house which has a personality of its own. This is a great story, really well told, and nicely researched. I think it is more of a cross between Twilight and Labyrinth, taking the illicit romance between creatures from other worlds, and linking it with the history of old France. There is a lot to enjoy in this story, and while I am disappointed that I have to wait for the next book, I am also glad that the author didn't try to cram all the adventure into the one book.
I finally got round to reading Joanne Harris's Chocolat, and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings. I loved all of it until it got to the story of the priest. I think it went down from there. I usually find that books are better than the films, but in this case I preferred the film. The book was really well written, and I loved the descriptions of the people and the town and the way the story was told from different viewpoints. However, the film gave more hope and was about a man who just wanted everyone to be pure and leads by example. The book is about a man who wants everyone to be pure, but is corrupt himself and hypocritical. It made me sad because there was no-one to believe in, and that seemed a shame. I think the author's style is similar to Alice Hoffman, and if the ending had been different, it probably could have become my favourite.
Rachel Hore’s books make great holiday reads, and this one is no exception, although it did go deeper than the other stories she has told in the past, and I did find that a bit difficult at times. It actually reminded me a little of Rosamund Pilcher’s “Coming Home. Anyway, “A Gathering Storm” starts off in Cornwall, where a young woman, whose father has recently passed away, is trying to work out why he spent much of his life in sadness. She has found out that his past was briefly linked to Cornwall and in particular, to a famous manor house, and she visits a museum nearby to find out more. The curator introduces her to an elderly lady, who over the week’s stay, she manages to unravel the mystery. It is a very complicated story and it moved me greatly because of the very well-told Second World War scenes. The way she explained what happened to people during WWII really made it clear to me. I could really feel what they went through, what they experienced, and it was very difficult to read at times. I imagined how I would have coped, and I am just full of admiration at how they never lost hope and always kept their pride. There is part of the story, which I have to say, I could not understand. It just did not make sense to me, the choices that the older lady made. But while the character is fictional it is based on real-life figures, and therefore those choices were made, which is sad, but you also cannot deny the courage of these women. Although it wasn’t perfect – there were some loose ends that I would have liked to have seen tidied up -it was a very thought-provoking read, though harrowing in place. The descriptions of Cornwall, however, were fabulous.
So, my second holiday read was The Listerdale Mystery, a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie, and once again she surpassed herself. So many twists and turns, pleasant endings, scary outcomes. The first and second stories were such contrasts and lulled me into a complete sense of security. The first was a lovely tale, very romantic, although with an element of mystery. The second was quite terrifying, and I noticed this tale and most of the others had very strong female characters. These short stories, none involving Miss Marple or Monsieur Poirot, chopped and changed between adventure, fear, excitement, romance. It was a lovely collection of characters and stories. One aspect I must check is the story that has a character called James Bond...which came first, Ian Fleming’s or Agatha Christie’s – these tales were originally published in 1934 - another mystery to be unveiled.
Thank goodness I had my Kindle, because with my two holiday books finished, and the sun shining outside, I needed more reading. I really enjoyed Lucy Diamond's The Beach Cafe, so I decided to read Sweet Temptation next. I have to admit, at first I didn't like it. It starts off about overweight people, and I am sorry to say that I wasn't sympathetic. I just wanted them to have some will-power. However, as I got to know the characters, I really felt for them and was rooting them. The book is called Sweet Temptation, but I think "Fat-busting and Friendship" would have been a better title. It is a great self-help book, really empowering. I am not overweight, although there is room for improvement, and I found this book really inspiring, providing ideas for losing weight. It also covered the issue of domestic violence and in places it was quite disturbing. It was a very pleasant surprise, and I would really recommend it, both as a romantic read and a motivator for losing weight.
Because Waterstones have stopped their 3 for 2, we decided to give Daunt Books a try. I love going to Daunt, but they don't have any bargains. However, we went to the branch in Marylebone High Street and had a lovely time browsing, and I eventually chose two Agatha Christies. The lady who served me was just so lovely, and I am looking forward to shopping there again. Anyway, I have finished Sleeping Murder, and it had me gripped and terrified to the end. I have to admit, I did guess the murderer early on, but as it was getting to the end of the story, just before the murderer was officially unveiled, I had completely decided that it was someone completely different, in fact one of three other professionals. So, once again, Agatha Christie has completely surpassed herself. It is a great read, so many twists and turns, and quite nail-biting. I am really looking forward to my other one now!
So, here it is, my final three for two. I have already talked about Laura's Handmade Life in a previous post, although despite my criticism, it did inspire me to buy myself a little sewing machine, and I have so far made about six lavender bags and two little jewellery bags. My sewing machine is fuschia pink and from John Lewis, and it is really great. Anyway, enough plugging for JL...my Mum works there, so I have an excuse. So my last two, bargain books were completely different. Both were authors that I had read before, so I was familar with their style. My favourite out of the two was The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen. I really like her style and this was a wonderful story, quite complicated, but really good. There is a mystery throughout, and the story is about diplomat's family, who following a tragedy, uproot themselves from a city in Germany to a remote Scottish island. The story tells how each of them copes with what has happened and how it all works out, especially when the mystery is solved. It is a beautiful book, full of sadness, love, both old and new, and hope, and young people discovering themselves. It is well worth a read, completely magical.
The second book I read was The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld. I have read the author's other books, Prep and American Wife, both of which are so different, they could have been written by different people. This book was written after Prep, and they are quite similar, in that they focus on youth and growing up. The Man of My Dreams focuses on the life of a girl who together with her Mum and sister has faced domestic abuse, with her father throwing them out of their house after years of bullying. This treatment clearly has an effect on her future relationships with men, and the book takes us through her life, the highs and lows, and how she finally comes to reconcile herself with her life. It was good, just a bit heavy in places, and sometimes you just want to give her a shake and say, "Why are you like this?" but of course she has her reasons. So, that is the end of my 3 for 2...how will I discover new authors now? Suggestions please?
I have to voice my disappointment that Waterstones are dropping their 3 for 2 deal, and I am also disappointed that they didn't let their loyalty card holders know. I haven't seen anything in my newsletters. It seems such a sudden decision, and sad, because I have discovered so many new authors this way, taking a gamble with my third book on someone who I had not read before. The excitement of discovering a different writer with a whole new collection of books for me to read. It is such a shame, as I really used to enjoy browsing through all the tables and shelves, spending ages choosing my three books and then heading off home with my pile of purchases. I hope they come up with a suitable alternative.
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I have been a medical librarian since 1999, working in academic, primary and secondary care settings, service improvement, knowledge management, and on several national projects. I have set-up and run several current awareness services, including QIPP Alert (http://qippalert.blogspot.com), and I am currently working on a PhD about improving access to good quality health information. You can also access good quality health information from my other blog Patients on the Net (http://patientsonthenet.blogspot.com).