March 2018 Reading Summary

Another month has whizzed by and there has been quite a lot of crime reading going on, with a few unexpecteds cropping up on my planned list. 13 books, 6 of them by women writers, 6 of them crime, 5 of them foreign language books. All in all, 11 countries were visited in the course of the reading (if we consider Wales a separate country). Only one that I regretted spending time on and one DNF, but since the latter was short stories, I didn’t feel guilty about it at all.

Book igloo from Curious Mind Box.

Stuart Turton: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – ambitious, mind-boggling, unexpected

Stuart Evans: The Caves of Alienation Рinteresting concept, perhaps a bit long in execution, but enjoyable

Katy Mahood: Entanglement – what-if novel, love story over the years, not my cup of tea

Tom Hanks: Uncommon Type –¬†writes better than I expected (better than Sean Penn, for sure), but the stories are slight and feel like ‘so what’. DNF

Dan Lungu: I am an old Communist Biddy Рthoughtful humorous appraisal of post-Communist life, wish I could have translated it

Victor del Arbol: A Million Drops –¬†moving saga of idealogy, betrayals and survival, set in Spain and Soviet Russia. To be reviewed on Necessary Fiction asap.

√Ėd√∂n von Horv√°th: Tales from the Vienna Woods¬†– anything but pretty story of 1920s Vienna, will be taking a closer look at translation on my lbog

Spike Milligan: Puckoon –¬†farce which nowadays doesn’t seem quite so funny (and probably even less so in the 1980s).

Margot Kinberg: Downfall –¬†for fans of academic environments and less violent crime, a rather sad story of young people being let down by private interests

Karin Brynard: Weeping Waters Рreview coming up on Crime Fiction Lover, but an excellent new series about South Africa, which does not shy away from controversial topics such as race and land ownership

Rebecca Bradley: Fighting Monsters РHannah is back on form, trying to cope with new boss, new team member and a potential harmful leak within the police force

Iona Whishaw:¬†It Begins in Betrayal –¬†attractive feisty heroine is a retired¬† WW2 spy, with wholesome Canadian characters and unsavoury European ones – great period piece and fun. Review to come on Crime Fiction Lover.

Hanne √ėrstavik: Love – excellent build-up of emotion and dread

So, how has your reading been in March, and what are you looking forward to reading in April?

 

WWWednesday What Are You Reading? 7 February 2018

It has been a few months since I last joined in with this weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading! All you have to do is answer three questions and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

A similar meme is run by Lipsyy Lost and Found where bloggers share This Week in Books #TWiB.

Current:

Muriel Spark was born on the 1st of February 1918, so what better time to celebrate the #murielspark100 than this month? I have embarked the brief Symposium, one of her later novels – one that I hadn’t read before. It seems to be tour de force of characterisation through dialogue, something Spark does so well.

Just read:

The Asymptote Book Club’s January title¬†Aranyak¬†by the incredibly beautifully named writer Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, one of the greatest writers of modern Bengali literature. It is truly ahead of its time: a 1930s ecological novel, although it seems to stem from an older man’s regret for the events which he has witnessed and played a part in bringing about (the deforestation of Bihar to make way for agriculture and the disappearance of a traditional way of life).

To be read:

I will read two simultaneously, as is my wont. The two I’ve got my eyes on are from Croatia and Wales, respectively. Dubravka Ugresic’s Europe in Sepia¬†is a collection of what one might call travel essays (not just about Europe), full of sharp observations about populism and the hunger for imagined past glories. Meanwhile, Stuart Evans’ The Caves of Alienation¬†has been waiting for me since I reached Chapter 3 during my residence at Ty Newydd, but couldn’t¬† find the book anywhere outside Wales. I’ve got a rather mangled former library copy at long last and will probably have to restart it.

So, what are you reading this week? Anything that might tempt me? (Luckily, you know I have a will of iron, don’t you?)

Topple over, you charming little TBR pile…

Well, yes, thank you very much for asking, my TBR pile is nice and healthy. Growing taller by the day. It’s such a charming creature, in fact, that I cannot help giving it some delicious tidbits although I know it should go on a diet.

So this is what I’ve been feeding the greedy little creature lately:

Geneva-related chocolates

I bought one of Kathleen Jamie‘s older collection of poems¬†The Tree House in preparation for the masterclass in Geneva. Then I made the fatal mistake (or maybe it was deliberate?) of arranging to meet my friend at the well-stocked Payot bookshop at the railway station and indulged in two Swiss Romande women writers I have heard of, but never read: Alice Rivaz¬†– a contemporary of Simone de Beauvoir and equally feminist, with a collection of short stories entitled¬†Sans alcool (Without alcohol); Pascale Kramer’s L’implacable brutalit√© du r√©veil¬†(The Relentless Brutality of Awakening) –¬†prize-winning contemporary author with a novel about an expat spouse trying to make sense of motherhood and living abroad in California. Last but not least, I also have a copy of Offshoots 14, the literary journal published every two years by Geneva Writers Group. This edition was edited by Patti Marxsen and I am delighted to have a poem included in it.

Blogger Delights

From the Pandora’s box that is reading other people’s book blogs, I garnered an old copy of Letters from England by Karel ńĆapek, one of the foremost Czech writers.¬† Emma from Book Around recommended it as a delightful light read and how right she was! Although it is set in the 1920s, it describes many of the things which puzzles us foreigners about the UK (he also visited Scotland, Wales and Ireland, not just England) even now – and all done with great charm and affection (plus his own illustrations). Kaggsy and Simon Thomas also read this and really enjoyed it.

I can’t remember who mentioned Jonas L√ľscher¬†– it could have been Shigekuni, who is my source of wisdom in all things German language, or someone linking up to German Literature Month. L√ľscher¬†is a Swiss German writer who won the Swiss Book Prize this year for his second novel Kraft. However, I decided to get his first novel Fr√ľhling der Barbaren¬†(Barbarian Spring), about privileged English bankers and a Swiss trust fund man finding themselves in the middle of a financial crisis in the Tunisian desert.

Last but not least, I am a great Shirley Jackson fan and a kind soul on Twitter told me that the excellent recent biography Shirley Jackson. A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin is now out in paperback, so it seemed like the perfect Christmas present for myself.

I Spy With My Little Eye…

I came across these books on the shelves of libraries.

The first one was at Ty Newydd by Welsh author Stuart Evans:¬†The Caves of Alienation. I started reading it there and found it so enticing that I had to buy my own copy (not at all easy to find, incidentally). It’s about a well-known writer, the forces that shaped him, his controversial life and why he comes to a sticky end on an isolated Welsh island. It is very funny and clever, told from a variety of viewpoints (friends, lovers, teachers, documentaries, critics, biographers etc.).

Finally, I saw this children’s book at my local library and just couldn’t resist as a cat-lover.¬†His Royal Whiskers by Sam Gayton¬†is about the heir of the Petrossian Empire, Prince Alexander, who miraculously gets transformed into a fluffy-wuffy kitten… I don’t know if my children will read this – they might be too old for it – but I certainly will! And this proves why open shelf libraries are so essential: you find things you didn’t even know you were looking for. It jolts you out of your everyday and wearisome rote.

Now, greedy little monster, do behave and join your companions over there to digest your food on the night-table!

It is so nice to have a bedroom and two night-tables all to yourself. I have a set of crime fiction books and poetry on the right hand side, and the current books plus library books on the left hand side. These neat little skyscrapers are not so popular with Zoe, who tries to balance precariously on them as she joins me for some evening reading. Maybe she is jealous that the TBR pile gets fed more frequently than she does (or so she thinks). Maybe some day she will learn to jump up at the foot of the bed instead…