Incoming Books – Week of 16-22 October

My iron willpower may not match that of the legendary Fiction Fan, but I have tried to limit my spending on books, since I realised that my income is now a stable monthly affair, and cannot be supplemented by a few extra days of work.

So this week most of the books I’ve acquired have been sent for review or borrowed from the library. So there, ye doubters! I did have one momentary lapse of reason when I entered that fatal Waterstone’s near work and found their second-hand vintage Penguin section. I spent many a happy minute (hour?) in the sea of orange and emerged victorious with High Rising by Angela Thirkell. I’ve never read anything by this author, who was very popular in the 1930s/40s, but this book in particular has been discussed by several bloggers whose opinion I value, including Jacqui, Heaven Ali and Booker Talk (the last not very complimentary).

Plus, you can see why the premise of a single mother trying to make a living as a novelist in order to educate her sons might appeal to me…

Although I’m trying to pretend Christmas is still miles away, I was sent a Christmas anthology Murder on Christmas Eve by Profile Books. Classic Christmas-themed mysteries always make for popular presents for booklovers whose tastes you don’t quite know, so this should do a roaring trade. It includes stories by Ian Rankin, Ellis Peters, G. K. Chesterton, Val McDermid, Margery Allingham and many more. And you can’t fault the cover either for what it promises!

One I received this week and have already read (gasp! yes, I am occasionally speedy!) was Jenny Quintana’s The Missing GirlI was very touched by the fact that Emma Draude, the publicist for the book, actually sent me her own personal copy, as she had just run out of preview copies. So it’s a much-loved proof! And I found it very compelling – although perhaps the label of crime fiction does it an injustice. This is not the kind of book which you read for unfathomable twists (in fact, I figured out what was going on pretty early on). Instead, I enjoyed it for the pitch-perfect evocation of the 1980s, excellent writing and the psychological depth of sisterly love, family secrets and the lonely surliness of growing up.

My local library finally found a book I had reserved as soon as I heard that Kazuo Ishiguro had won the Nobel Prize, namely The Unconsoledone of the few which I haven’t read. I can feel another bout of Artist of the Floating World coming along, that is my favourite book by him, probably because of the obvious Japanese connection.

Last but not least, I ‘happened’ to pass by the Senate House Library at lunchtime and got lost in the Latin American section. I couldn’t resist Vlad by Carlos Fuentes, translated by E. Shaskan Bumas and Alejandro Branger. A Mexican take on the Romanian Vlad the Impaler? Yes, please! In this book, Vlad is upset by the shortage of blood in modern-day Eastern Europe and is looking for a new place to establish his kingdom. What country or city on earth could offer him a lot of people crowded in one place, where a few human disappearances wouldn’t even be noticed? Well, Mexico City, of course! And so begins this satire of the Mexican bourgeoisie…

I notice that, by some strange coincidence, all of the cover pictures above seem to be going for the monochrome look tinged with red. Luckily, the bright orange Penguin spoils that sober elegance!

So what lovely reads have you begged, borrowed, stolen or bought this week? Do tempt me if you can…


Friday Fun: Architectural Experiments

These modern villas are often an architect’s wet dream, although I am never sure how comfortable they are for the people who have to live there. However, there is no denying that they have the WOW factor!

Californian glass house, from
Villa on the beach, in
Incredibly romantic outdoor space at this villa, from Home Designing.
Unable to identify the location of this excessive villa, from Ecstasy Models on Tumblr.
Swiss villa with integrated pool, from
Giant conservatory in this villa, from South Shore Decorating Blog.
Treehouse-like villa but on a grander scale, from
House on stilts, from Adorable Home on Tumblr.

Friday Fun: Retreat to the Writing Havens

Any of these writing nooks seem like the perfect haven to hone your art and clarify your thoughts. Some are perhaps cosier than others, some may be more conducive to procrastination, while others are a no-no for tall people. But they all make me dream…

Traditional luxury desk with not enough space for computers and notebooks, from
A nod to craft workshops, from The Black Workshop on Tumblr.
The hidden chalet look, from
The mezzanine study, so you can see all the comings and goings and eavesdrop on conversations. From Pacific Home Studio.
The Sturm und Drang office, from Joachim Guanzon Photography.
The inside outside study, from
Beware of the beams, tall people! From

Friday Fun: Houses with a Quirky Touch

It’s all very well to buy traditional cottages or restore abandoned mansions, but what about these mainly newly-built houses with an extra touch of quirkiness?

Barn in Pennsylvania, from
How’s this for a swimming pool? From
Straight out of a Grimm fairytale, not surprising since it’s located in Germany. From
The blueness of this terrace just dazzles me, from Revista Living.
Hideaway cottage in Lake George, from Pinterest.
Updated farmhouse, by Truexcullings Architecture.

Friday Fun: Abandoned Beauties

It must be expensive to maintain manor houses and I’m sure we’ve all got better things to spend our money on, but my heart still cries out for these abandoned beauties. Like gracious old ladies, forgotten by family and friends.

Before and after picture of mansion from Niajeros del Misterioes.
Abandoned plantation home Bellegrove, from Historic Structures.
Chateau in France, from Pinterest.
Staircase in a mansion in Oppburg, former DDR. From Maestro Photography.
Another stunning staircase from Beautiful Portals on Tumblr.
This is what I imagined Tara to look like (in Gone with the Wind). From Pinterest.
Taunton State Hospital in Massachusetts from
Another American house boarded up, from



Friday Fun: Farmhouses Around the World

It’s harvest time, so my thoughts turn naturally to the farming communities. My farming ancestors would have felt right at home in some of these houses, and probably hopelessly intimidated by some of the others.

French peasant house, from
Farmhouse from the Pays de Gex on the Franco-Swiss border. from
Italian farm, now holiday villa, from
Traditional Japanese farm buildings, from
Wooden farmhouse in England, from
Traditional peasant cottage from Madeira, from Pinterest
German farmhouse from the Wolfegg Museum.
Farmhouse very similar to my grandmother’s old house, from Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.
Another typical German farmhouse, from Schwaben, from Wolfegg Museum
And the Swiss of course top the chalet look! From Pinterest.
American farmhouse, from The Plan Collection.


All Appeared New and Strange at First…

Although perhaps not quite at the level of the end of this quote from metaphysical poet Thomas Traherne: ‘… inexpressibly rare and delightful and beautiful’.

Yes, I am pushing out my little sailing-boat to new, unexplored shores. New job, new timetable, new way of presenting my book haul and a meeting with one of my living heroines: Herta Müller.

I thought I might save some time if I present my book haul in a one-take video and upload that on You Tube. I’m not quite convinced yet that it will be a time-saver, but perhaps this will get faster as I become more familiar with the settings. I rather cringe, though, when I see and hear myself speaking. Plus, my anonymity is gone now!

Here is the link to the video. Let me know if you have any problems viewing it.

I’m off to catch the train to see Herta Müller at the British Library and will write more about it when I get back.