Heading towards the New Year

cropped-booksmay14.jpgChristmas is over (the hottest Christmas Day in Melbourne since 1988) & fortunately the outlook for New Year’s Day is a lot milder. I’ve been finding it difficult to concentrate on reading over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been reading lots of short stories but can’t make a decision to start anything else.Which is probably why I’ve reread 11 books over the last couple of months (four Dorothy L Sayers, three Christine Poulsons, two Charles Dickens, Rumpole of the Bailey & Agatha Christie’s Autobiography) when I have over 1200 unread books on the tbr shelves.

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I am past the halfway mark in The Mysteries of Paris by Eugène Sue, which I’m reading in instalments with my 19th century bookgroup. It divides up very conveniently into ten Books of about 150pp each. The story is full of characters with multiple aliases; noblemen masquerading as workmen, prostitutes with pure hearts, plucky seamstresses living on the edge of poverty, cruel thugs who would kill you as soon as look at you. I’m enjoying it very much but, with cliffhangers galore it would be almost impossible to review without giving something away.

persephone3I’m also pondering a few reading plans for 2017. Not Simon’s Project 24! I’ve bought hardly any books for 3 months but I know that as soon as I made a pledge like that, I’d be on a very slippery slope. Reading Persephones (I think I only read one this year) & Slightly Foxed editions (read two but they’re piling up as I have a subscription) will definitely be there. Maybe one of each per month?

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I have a tottering pile of books on my desk (as you can see here with a guest appearance by Lucky) that I’ve pulled off the tbr when I’ve seen them mentioned on a blog or podcast or in my online reading group so it’s probably time I put them all back on the tbr & started again. Or, start from the bottom of the pile & read my way up?

I also idly scrolled to the bottom of my Kindle app the other day & was amazed at what’s there & how many books I’d forgotten I’d even bought. A Fine Brother : the life of Captain Flora Sandes by Louise Miller, Weeds by Jerome K Jerome, The Longest Dance by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Escape to Mulberry Cottage by Victoria Connelly, Anna by Norman Collins & Enid Bagnold by Anne Sebba – can anyone push me in the direction of one of those?

As always, when I look back at the year’s reading, I wish I’d read more Georgette Heyer, Nevil Shute,  R L Stevenson, D E Stevenson, Trollope, reread some Jane Austen for the anniversaries of the publication of her novels, started Angela Thirkell (!). I’m also pondering my Top 10 of the year. I’ll be back when the list is finalised.

I’d love to know your reading plans for 2017 if you have any. Do you like to have a plan or do you let serendipity be your guide?

Literary Ramblings

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I’ve started a ridiculous number of books in the last few days. Usually I have two or maybe three books on the go at once – a hardback at home, a paperback or e-Book for my lunchtime walk & coffee & an audio book. I’m about to begin The Mysteries of Paris by Eugene Sue with my 19th Century Bookgroup. This is a massive tome (almost 1400 pages in the new Penguin translation) that is going to take us two months to read.

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Then, my new-found interest in ancient history led me to a reprint of Dilys Powell’s book, The Villa Ariadne, about Crete, the discovery by Arthur Evans of the site of Knossos & the WWII history of the island. Thinking about Crete reminded me of The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart, which I haven’t read for years.

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I enjoyed Christine Poulson’s new book, Deep Water, so much that I’ve downloaded the eBook of her first Cassandra James novel, Murder is Academic which I read when it was first published. I’ve only read the first chapter but already I’m surprised by the differences between life then & now. Cassandra discovers the body of colleague Margaret Joplin in her swimming pool with the papers she was marking strewn around the garden & in the water. I was surprised that the college is so horrified by the destruction of the papers as they seem to be the only copies & the students won’t get their degrees if they’re destroyed. Nowadays everything’s on a USB if not in the Cloud. The book was only published in 2002 so hardly decades ago but how life has changed.

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I also read a sample of Conclave by Robert Harris, after reading an enthusiastic review by Mrs Miniver’s Daughter. I haven’t read any Robert Harris for years – Enigma was probably the last one – & I was drawn in immediately so I downloaded the eBook as I couldn’t wait to borrow a copy from work.

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I’m also reading & enjoying Winifred Peck’s Bewildering Cares, one of the Furrowed Middlebrow titles from Dean Street Press.

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I’m between audio books at the moment, having just finished listening to An Autobiography by Agatha Christie, a book I read over 30 years ago & enjoyed again. I was a little unsure about Judith Boyd’s decision to narrate the book in the voice of an old lady. Christie was in her 70s when she wrote the book but I found the choice a little off-putting. However, I got used to it & enjoyed all 28-odd hours of it. Since then, I’ve been listening to podcasts (mostly political ones after the events of last week) but one of the non-political ones was this Book Club program on Kidnapped that inspired me to pick up a Stevenson novel, Weir of Hermiston. I read The Master of Ballantrae a few years ago but I’ve never read this final novel.

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Speaking of podcasts, here is a fascinating discussion with Helen Rappaport & Catherine Merridale on their new books about the Russian Revolution.

I was also very excited to discover that the Dorothy L Sayers Society have allowed access to The Lord Peter Wimsey Companion. I’ve just reread the four Harriet Vane novels & it was wonderful to be able to look up all those quotes & obscure references that Sayers took such delight in. The Companion has been out of print for some time so it’s very kind of the Society to make it available to everyone. You do need to register but it’s free. The details are on the Society’s homepage.

A few other bits & pieces I’ve come across in the last couple of weeks. For fans of L M Montgomery, are you an Anne Shirley or an Emily Starr?

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An article on cats in bookstores.

A new T-shirt from Out of Print which I just had to have.

Mimi Matthews – a blog I’ve just discovered with the most beautiful images, mostly Victorian fashion & painting.

Finally, Open Road Media are making Rumer Godden’s novels available as eBooks. She’s one of my favourite authors so it’s good to have her books available.