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19 books taking the wheels off my wagon

 

 

New Book Acquisitions June 2019

 

After months of self- restraint the wheels are in danger of coming off my book wagon. 

I’m now on the cusp of a freefall…

The last two months saw a splurge of book purchases and acquisitions, sending my TBR count to its highest level for three years.

It’s giving me a nudge that it’s time to do a cull of the bookshelves (more on that shortly).

But for now let me tell you about the 19 titles that have made it through the BookerTalk doors. They’re a mix of:

  • birthday gifts
  • advance copies from publishers
  • passed on by other bloggers
  • new titles from Welsh authors
  • hard-to-ignore bargains at book sales

Birthday gifts

Mythos by Stephen Fry: I’ve been complaining for years about my shaky knowledge of  Greek and Roman mythology.  There are plenty of books around on the topic of course though lots of them are rather heavy going.  Fry is an appetiser in a sense, an entertaining way to begin getting acquainted with all those gods and goddesses. This could come in very useful when I’m reading Circe by Madelaine Miller which is the book club choice this month.

Two more titles to add to my collection of books by Émile Zola”

Le rêve (The Dream) is the sixteenth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series. It’s about a poor embroideress who falls in love with the son of a wealthy aristocratic family. This being Zola, it doesn’t of course end happily ever after.

La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret (The Sin of Abbe Mouret) is the fifth novel in the series. It’s anticlerical in tone and scope, focussing on the experiences of an obsessively devout priest sent to a remote Provençal backwater village whose inhabitants don’t share his enthusiasm for the church.

Review copies from publishers

I’ve been very restrained in accepting review copies and even more restrained with NetGalley. But these were titles I couldn’t resist:

The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis (that’s the one you can see in the photo with September 2019 written on the spine. It’s being published by Honno in that month. Caryl is a former winner of the Wales Book of the Year and her new novel sounds different. It’s about a woman who  acquires trinkets by clearing houses after the occupiers have died. In her tiny coastal cottage she surrounds herself with photographs and letters of these complete strangers.

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg. This is a fantasy novel for children which comes out in July. Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, it’s about a fantasy theme park here the rule is “happily ever after.” This isn’t my usual kind of book but I’ve decided its time to get out of my comfort zone periodically and I’m intrigued by the description that this story is told through court testimonies and interrogation records

The Fast Spell Breather by Julie Pike. Another fantasy novel for children. The main character is a girl who uses magic to protect her village. All works fine until the day she slips up. Published by Oxford University Press.

From other bloggers

The Innocent Wife and One More Lie by Amy Lloyd: I won both of these thrillers in a giveaway hosted by Kath who blogs at NutPress. 

The Innocent Wife is Amy Lloyd’s debut novel, She won the Daily Mail Bestseller Competition with it in 2016.  One More Lie is her second novel.

Kath’s enthusiastic reviews are here and here.

Are You the F**king Doctor by Dr Liam Farrell. This was passed on by Susan who blogs at Booksaremycwtches

She thought it would be a good companion read to This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay which I’ve just finished reading. Kay was a senior house doctor in an NHS hospital where he specialised  in obstetrics and gynaecology. Farrell’s book which is  subtitled: Stories from the Bleeding Edge of Medicine, reflects on his work as a general practitioner. So both people are the front line of care but working in different circumstances.  Susan’s review is here.

New Titles from Welsh Authors 

West by Carys Davies. I read Carys’ short story collection The Redemption of Galen Pike in 2015 and though I’m not generally a fan of short stories, this books was superb. West is her first venture into novels and it’s been described as ‘stunning.’

In Two Minds by Alis Hawkins. This is the second in the Harry Prober-Lloyd series of historical crime novels  set in Wales. I read the first, None So Blind, earlier this year and was so engrossed in the tale of a man suffering a degenerative eye condition who becomes a coroner, that I was glad I didn’t have to wait long before the follow up was published.

Human, Being by Gareth Davies. This has been described as the male version of Bridget Jones’ Diary. That comparison would normally have me racing out of the bookshop door faster than Usain Bolt. But having heard Gareth read some extracts at the launch, I don’t think the description really does justice to this tale of a middle aged comedian who’s been abandoned by his wife and has lost his comic mo-jo.

A Song of Thyme and Willow by Carole Strachan . Published by Cinnamon Press, this is the mysterious disappearance of a successful opera singer. Two musicians facing life-changing crises of their own, decide to look for her.  Although the mystery is a key aspect of the novel, this is very much a novel about character.

Riverflow by Alison Layland. This was published in the last two weeks. It’s Alison’s second novel and takes the theme of a community protest about the impact of fracking. Alison is the latest guest in my Cwtch Corner series.

Hard-to-ignore bargains at book sales

Who can resist a bargain? Not me for sure.

Perhaps it wasn’t the best of ideas to volunteer to help at a book sale at a National Trust property? Though I picked out plenty of books for visitors to my staff, there were also more than a few that caught my eye. I think I was remarkably restrained in buying just two.

Actually it was just one purchase initially but then I had to call into the property on day two of the sale, and saw two other books I had to have…..

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler . I read loads of her books in the past but haven’t done so for quite a few years now.  This book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2015 but lost out to A History of Seven Killings (one of the books I failed to finish this year). 

A Rising Man by Abir Mukerjee. If I was being disingenuous I wouldn’t count this book since I already have an e-version. But it was only 50p and I find it much easier to read in paper format. It’s the first in a series about a British policeman seconded to Calcutta.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper. A friend has been raving about Harper’s novels and promised to pass on her copy of the first The Dry. But I’m still waiting…. In the meantime  this was at the book sale. I know many other bloggers have recommended Harper, so maybe one of them can tell me whether to hold off from reading Force of Nature until I’ve read the two previous novels from this Australian author???

Having bought all of these my next problem is….. 

Where can I find room to store them all???? Anyone have some spare shelving I can rent??

Back on the acquisition wagon

At the start of this year I decided my goal would be to read the books I already own and to rein back on new acquisitions. I’t’s not a book ban by any stretch of the imagination – I know that would be impossible for me since the minute I declared such a ban I’d be itching to get to the bookshop. It’s more of a restraint on buying/acquiring. And I’ve astonished myself by just how restrained I’ve been. Until this week that is. Four new books have mysteriously made their way into my home. I can’t imagine how they got there – perhaps the book fairies placed them there when I was asleep??

These are the four new acquisitions which are now in the pile I categorise as “waiting for a space in the shelves”.

Our nearest Tesco supermarket recently introduced a book donation shelf so of course I had to take a peek when I was in the store. Mostly the donated items were the usual crime fiction/romance/thriller titles but oh joy, there was a Virago Modern Classic in amongst them. I’d never heard of Maura Laverty but for the price of a donation to charity it was mine. I’ve since discovered she was an Irish author writing in in the early 1940s but whose first four novels (of which Never No More is the first) were banned in Ireland until the 1960s.

Flush with this success I called in at a second hand bookshop in Cardiff with a mind to buy some of the Virago Modern Classics I’d seen on my last visit. There wasn’t much of interest this time around though. But in browsing the shelves my eye was drawn to the familiar grey colour of one spine; sure enough this was a Persephone edition in excellent condition. I’ve never come across a Persephone in any second hand store before now so of course I had to have it, even more so because it was by Dorothy Whipple, an author who comes highly recommended by Ali at HeavenAli but whom I’ve never read. They Knew Mr Knight, Whipple’s second novel, is the story of a family who encounter and fall foul of a crooked financier.

After that moment of excitement I just had to celebrate with a visit to a coffee shop that just happens to be a bookcrossing zone.And they just happened to have Lewis Man by Peter May, an author I’ve heard about via Cleopatra at Cleopatralovesbooks. I took it home in the belief this was the first title in his crime fiction trilogy set on the remote Isle of Lewis in Scotland that features a former policeman who has returned to the island of his birth. Turns out I was wrong and The Lewis Man is book number 2. So now I have to hope the library can furnish me with book number 1 The Blackhouse. 

And finally, a few years ago I read Alex by Pierre LeMaitre which was a fast-paced, superbly written novel about a girl’s abduction. The beginning was so horrifying that I didn’t think I could continue reading but I did and it turned out to be a riveting story about revenge. So taken was I with LeMaitre that I planned to read more from him so when his publishers ran a giveaway recently of course I could not resist. Which is how I come to be the new owner of his latest novel Three Days and  Life which will be published in July. It begins in  1999, in a small provincial town of Beauval, France, where a twelve-year-old boy called Antoine Courtin accidentally kills a young neighbor girl in the woods near his home. He conceals the body and to his relief- is never suspected of any connection to her disappearance.  More than a decade later Antoine, now a doctor, moves back to Beauval and discovers there was a witness to his crime, a person who has the power to destroy his life. Based on what I experienced with Alex, I’m sure this is going to be a dramatic psychological thriller.

And now I have to pull in those reins again otherwise all the progress I’ve made on reading through my personal library will be undone.

 

 

Bang goes the book ban

sundaysalon At the start of the year I pledged to cut down on buying new books because — like so many other avid readers — I already had far too many unread titles hanging around the house. According to my calculations I had 135 physical books yet to be read (I ran out of fingers and toes so there may have been a margin of error in that figure) plus an untallied number of e-books.

I’ve been good for most of the year with only one or two purchases of books needed for the local book club meeting. But all those good intentions have now gone by the wayside since August saw somewhat of an explosion in the purchasing department.

It was the perfect convergence of three factors…..

Reason Excuse #1: The Booker long list had been announced at the end of July and I wanted to read at least a few of the 13 titles before the winner is announced in October. I did try getting them from the library but had only marginal success so to make sure I had at least something to read until my requests came through, I ended up buying e-versions of Niall Williams’ History of the Rain and Karen Joy Fowler’s We are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

Empress Dowager Cixi.  Source: Wikipedia commons licence.

Empress Dowager Cixi.
Source: Wikipedia commons licence.

Reason #2: I had to hang around for a few hours in the city center one day and of course, gravitated to the bookshop and a number of books just leapt into my arms. I became the owner of:

Reason #3: Speaking of which, I am about to embark on an Open University module in early October and needed to buy a few of the set text books. I’m doing this purely as a way of keeping the brain cells ticking over but it still involves a lot of reading and some essay writing.  It’s a multi disciplinary course in which we look at philosophy music of Shostakovitch and the art of Cezanne. Some of those hold more interest than others for me (I have very little ear for music and Shostakovitch is certainly not a composer I appreciate) but I’m looking forward to the art sections and the history. And of course there are some literature components which is why I’ve bought:

  • Two plays: Christopher Marlowe’s Faustus and Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes
  • a book of poetry (The Faber Book of Beasts by Paul Muldoon) and
  • A World of Difference: an Anthology of Short Stories from Five Continents edited by Lynda Prescott. This last one sounds a treat since it includes work by leading writers such as V S Naipul, Zadie Smith and Peter Carey. Their contributions are all on the theme of difference.

Even with all these purchases I’ve still got a TBR list of 134 which is smaller (fractionally) than when I started the year which is progress of a sort. Now I’ve got the book buying bug out of my system I should be able hold on for another three months without any more purchases.

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