I love all sorts of genres- fiction (classic and contemporary), history and historical fiction, bios, children's literature and a dash of fantasy. From the past couple of years, I have been reviewing everything I read on goodreads.
I started this blog since besides reading, I enjoy writing about books and, at times, authors as well and this seemed a good way of sharing my thoughts instead of only writing away in my journal!
You can be merry with the king, you can share a joke with him. But as Thomas More used to say, it’s like sporting with a tamed lion. You tousle its mane and pull its ears, but all the time you’re thinking, those claws, those claws, those claws.
Wednesday, the 17th of July–Shelf Control time! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is all about the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains (Mine is currently at 261 including all the e-books I’ve downloaded). To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!
This month I’m reading sequels and next in series books, and those are also what I’m featuring (as far as possible) in my Shelf Control posts as well. This week’s pick is a mystery (yet again, my first Shelf Control this month was one too (here)), Death of a Pig in a Poke by Matthew Hole. This is book 2 in the Tarricone Murder Mystery series of which so far as I can see, there are only two as of now. The series features Tarricone and Son, probate researchers. There is also Tarricone’s ‘wily’ aunt Nelly. The first book was set in Agatha Christie’s country house ‘Greenway’ in Devon.
This book, published in 2014, sees Tarricone rushing off to Spyte Manor when Lady Clemency Breeze climbs uninvited into (or perhaps, breezes into) the back of his taxi in London. This leads Tarricone into a murder investigation where there is obviously a corpse, but also a vanishing gardener and a labyrinth in a garden. To add to it, the local detective inspector, it seems, has an agenda of her own. This one has been described by goodreads reviewers as a mix of a classic and new mystery, with plenty of twists.
I picked up this and the first title in the series last year I think, both on kindle when they were available for free. Mysteries are of course one of my favourite genres to read, and Agatha Christie one of my favourite writers in that genre (when it comes to the actual puzzles, there are few who can beat her, and she gets me every time–almost), so when I spotted these (someone mentioned them in a book group on Goodreads) mysteries which are inspired by and set on the lines of Christie’s books, I picked them up. There aren’t very many reviews of this series or much about the author anywhere though, so I will be diving in blind so to speak.
Have you read either of the books in this series? How did you find it/them? A good, gripping mystery or just ok? Or do you plan to read this or the first book? Looking forward to your thoughts!
The description and cover images as usual are from Goodreads.
‘The Diverting History of John Gilpin’ is a comic ballad written by William Cowper in 1782. This is, I learnt from Wikipedia, based on a real-life wealthy draper from Cheapside in London. Cowper, it seems, heard the story from Lady Anna Austen and was so amused by it, he decided to put it in verse, and this poem was the result. And well over 200 years later, this one continues to be a great deal of fun.
As the story opens, John Gilpin, ‘a citizen, of credit and renown‘ is speaking to his wife. His wife reminds him that while they’ve been married twenty years, they haven’t had a holiday. Since the next day is their wedding anniversary, she proposes that they and with them their three children, her sister, and her sister’s child go to the ‘Bell at Edmonton’. The two ladies and children will travel in a ‘chaise and pair‘, while Gilpin for whom there would be no room, ‘must ride on horseback after [them]’.
Gilpin readily agrees to this plan, and says that he’ll borrow a horse for the occasion from his friend the calendar, being also extra pleased with his frugal wife, who’s said they’ll carry their own wine ‘which is both bright and clear‘, for to buy it is dear.
The new day dawns, and as planned, the chaise arrives to pick up the travellers. But lest they be considered proud, it was not brought to their door,
So three doors off the chaise was stay’d,
Where they did all get in,
Six precious souls, and all agog
To dash through thick and thin,
As they set off, John Gilpin himself prepares to mount his horse, but as soon as he has got on all set to ride, he gets off again, having spotted three customers, for while loss of time ‘grieved him sore‘, ‘loss of pence, he fully well knew would trouble him much more’. Customers dealt with, he is about to set off once again, when Betty (the maid, I assume) comes rushing to remind him that he has left the wine behind. Mistress Gilpin has put the wine in two stone bottles which John Gilpin fastens to either side of his ‘leathern belt’, and now throwing on ‘his long red cloak, well brushed and neat‘, he is indeed ready to go.
And so he starts off finally, riding slowly and cautiously (as becomes his character), but unluckily for him, his horse has other plans. As soon as the horse feels the road get smoother under his feet, he begins to pick up speed, starting to trot, and before long, to gallop. So poor John Gilpin must hold on for dear life, grabbing onto it’s mane with both hands, leaving the creature,
…who never in that sort,
Had handled been before,
What thing upon his back had got,
Did wonder more and more.
As they speed on, Gilpin’s hat and wig fly off, the bottles swinging at his sides, dogs bark and children scream, while onlookers cheer him on, ‘Well done’. For seeing him ride at that pace, they’re convinced he’s riding a race, carrying a weight, and not any old race, but one ‘for a thousand pound‘. Under the same impression, the turnpike-men open the gates quickly as he approaches and Gilpin rides on, the bottles soon smashing and the wine pouring out, leaving only the bottle necks dangling from his belt. Soon he rides into Edmonton, his destination, where his loving wife, standing on a balcony tries to stop him and indicate where his family and his dinner awaits. But the horse does not relent, for his master, the calendar, has a house ten miles further at Ware. And it is there that he takes John Gilpin, flying like an ‘arrow swift…shot by an archer strong‘, finally coming to a halt.
Gilpin’s friend the calendar is naturally amazed to see him, enquiring why he is there unexpectedly, and bareheaded at that? Gilpin relates his tale and soon, the calendar brings him a hat and wig (his own and a little too big for Gilpin), and invites him in for a meal but Gilpin refuses wanting to join his wife for
…all the world would stare,
If wife should dine at Edmonton,
And I should dine at Ware.
Before starting again, Gilpin ‘tells’ the horse that he’s come here at his own pleasure but must head to back to Edmonton for Gilpin’s. But did he really expect the reckless creature to understand? For of course, as soon as Gilpin is on the horse, with a snort the creature takes off once again, this time galloping even faster than before. Soon enough go the hat and wig again, as Gilpin is carried past his destination. Gilpin’s wife, looking on what has taken place, now asks a young postboy to follow her husband and bring him back, for a reward of a crown.
Spotting this high-speed chase on the street, another misunderstanding develops, and some onlookers begin to shout, ‘Stop thief–stop, a thief—a Highwayman‘, and join in pursuit. But when they get to the turnpike again, the turnpike-men open the gates in the blink of an eye believing Gilpin to still be riding a race.
And so he did, and won it too,
For he got first to town,
Not stopp’d till where he had got up,
He did again get down.
And so came to an end Gilpin’s adventure, his outing that was and wasn’t, with Cowper hoping that ‘when he next doth ride abroad, May [he] be there to see!‘
This is such a fun little story, one that brings a smile to one’s face, when reading and picturing what befell the poor linen draper, who only wanted to enjoy a day out with his family, but couldn’t thanks to one very obstinate horse.
Have you read this poem? Do you find it fun or just so-so? Any other poems on the same lines that you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts!
Wednesday, the 10th of July–Shelf Control day again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains (Mine is currently at 262 including all the e-books I’ve downloaded). To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!
This month I’m focusing on reading next in series books and sequels waiting to be read on my TBR pile for the most part (July plans here), and so my Shelf Control posts too will feature some sequels or books from series other than book one, which are waiting on my TBR. This week’s pick is The Second Common Reader or The Common Reader: Second Series by Virginia Woolf.
The Common Reader: Second Series is a sequel of sorts to Woolf’s The Common Reader: First Series, and like this first is a collection of literary essays focusing on specific books, writers, poetry, and more generally on reading and its pleasures. Among others, this volume talks of the Elizabethans, Donne, Swift, Robinson Crusoe, De Quincey, Thomas Hardy, Mary Woolstonecraft, George Gissing, and Beau Brummel. This collection of twenty-six essays ends with Woolf’s reflections on ‘How to Read a Book’?
I read the first volume of her essays some years ago, and really enjoyed them. She talked of books and authors I knew like Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontes and Conrad as well as those new to me like Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle who’s point of view, albeit a touch eccentric, was one that interested me very much and made me want to look her and her writings up immediately. I also enjoyed reading Woolf’s views on these works, and on, in some cases, the circumstances in which the writers may or may not have written, their inspirations, and such, but mostly because (while she may have not been a ‘common’ reader), it is essentially the thoughts of a reader (and one reading at least some of the books that you do), and one certainly always enjoys reading those!
Since I enjoyed the first series so much, I picked up the second (downloaded via fadedpage.com), and am looking forward to some new insights into authors I’ve read before (and how it would impact my revisits), and certainly to discovering ‘new’ ones who I haven’t?
Have you read any of Virginia Woolf’s essays? How did you find them? And how about her books? Any you like or dislike? Which ones? Looking forward to your thoughts!
There’s an unwritten law of the universe which assures that the thing you seek will always be found in the last place you look. It applies to everything in life from lost socks to misplaced poisons. . .
June for me was once again a slow (very slow) reading month, and I read only five books, and didn’t end up finishing all the ones I’d planned (I didn’t manage to read two from my list–June plans here). Overall I finished three from the original list plus the review book I had planned plus one children’s book.
From the list I’d picked out for the month, I read Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, the first in a young-adult mystery trilogy. This is set in Ellingham Academy, a school where gifted students are allowed to study tailor made curricula, focusing on their interests. Stevie Bell has just come to attend the school and her interest is true crime, particularly the mystery that surrounds Ellingham itself, which is that in the 1930s, the founder’s wife and daughter were kidnapped never to be seen again. This was preceded by a mysterious threatening message signed ‘Truly Devious’. The killer apprehended was likely not the real one, and Stevie is determined to solve the mystery. But when things start going wrong in the present, she has more than one murder to solve. This was a really exciting read which keeps one hooked even though the mystery is not solved in this instalment (in fact won’t be till the third). (my full review is here).
Next was a book about books, or rather first editions and book-collecting, The Book Hunters of Katpadi, by Pradeep Sebastian. This is set in what is supposed to be the first antiquarian bookshop in the country in Chennai, which focuses on Modern Indian first editions. The two bibliophiles who run the store, Neela and Kayal find themselves with more than one book mystery, recovering valuable editions for a college library which a retiring librarian has been helping himself to, and a mysterious manuscript attributed to Richard Francis Burton which if real promises to shake the world of Burton collectors. While the storyline focuses on these two aspects plus the daily running of the store, it also goes into the history of collecting and first eds, some literary history associated with India, and also handprinting and paper and such, which makes it an interesting read for any bibliophile (full review here).
The Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is yet again the first of a trilogy, this time a fantasy-adventure but with themes that are very much relevant for our current world. In the kingdom of Orisha, magic has been destroyed and the magi it’s practitioners labelled ‘maggots’ and treated likewise. Here one young magi, Zelie finds herself helping Orisha’s princess Amari escape with the one artefact that can restore magic and with it the magis’ power to fight against those who have tortured, suppressed, and destroyed them. Told from the perspective of three characters, Zelie, Amari, and Amari’s brother, the prince Inan, who is on their pursuit and has secrets of his own this was an exciting read with interesting characters, each of whom is facing dilemmas of their own, torn at times between love and duty. (This one I still haven’t written my full review of, but I will link it here when I do–soonish).
My children’s book of the month was Superstar Tapir by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy, fourth in the Mango and Bambang series, which features teh adventures of a little girl, Mango Allsorts and her friend, a tapir, Bambang. This was a charming collection of stories about friendship but also with some adventure, and I also especially loved the artwork in the book. (full review here)
Finally I read The Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow, again a first in series, which is also a fantasy adventure but one with a definite twist. Her we start by following a few different groups, a motley group including a mage carrying a magic sword to a destination we don’t know, a group of troll bounty-hunters on their pursuit, and alongside, in the same Great Untame, a group of Kingswatch constables in pursuit of poachers. Unrelated are a young goblin heading to the city to try and become a successful minstrel and a young boy, a pig farmer, who finds destiny has much more in store for him, when an attempt to rescue his cousin who is in trouble, throws him into unexpected adventure. When their paths cross, one incident throws the expected course of events completely on its head, leaving us with an unlikely hero to lead the adventure. This one reminded me quite a bit of Terry Pratchett and was a great deal of fun as well (full review here).
Only when writing this wrap-up did I realise that I ended up reading mostly (3 of 5) first in series books last month, and this month’s theme (not deliberately picked) is sequels or next in series books that I have waiting on my TBR pile. I am keeping the list short though I hope to do better than I did in June, but so far I plan to read Winter in Thrush Green and News from Thrush Green by Miss Read (books 2 and 3 in the series), The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice (sequel of sorts) to The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets which I loved; Revelation by C.J. Sansom, the fourth Mathhew Shardlake book, and Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin, the fifth in the Gervase Fen series. Also, from NetGalley, one which I hope to start soon is The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal (This of course is not from my reading ‘theme’).
How was your reading month this June? What were some of your favourite reads last month? Any you’d recommend? What plans for July? Any books on my list/s that you’ve read or are planning to? Looking forward to your thoughts!
Wednesday, the 3rd of July–Shelf Control time once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains (Mine is currently at 263 including all the e-books I’ve downloaded). To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!
New month, new theme. Last month I’d simply been featuring random picks from my TBR pile in Shelf Control; this time (June review and July plans yet to be posted–probably this weekend) I plan to pick up sequels and series (books other than the first) that are on my TBR, and so for Shelf Control too, I’ll be featuring books from series or sequels. This week’s pick as you can see is Naked Heat by Richard Castle.
This is the second in the ‘Nikki Heat’ series of books by Richard Castle, which I’m sure you know are tied-in with the TV series Castle (wiki here). The book series features NYPD detective Nikki Heat and Jamison Rook a journalist who is following her (with permission from the Commissioner) for research on an article. Working with them are Detectives Ochoa and Raley. The characters are all based on characters from the TV series–Detective Kate Beckett, Richard Castle, and Ryan and Esposito. Other characters like Margaret Rook (Jameson’s mother) and the medical examiner Lauren Parry are also based on Martha Roger’s (Castle’s mother, and ME Lanie Parish from the show, respectively).
In this one, an infamous gossip columnist is stabbed in the back in a case involving a Yankees pitcher, an actor, and a pop star. Heat and Rook investigate.
I’m not sure who actually wrote these books but the Nikki Heat series (10 books) and Derrick Storm series (5 books) are both supposed to have been written by the TV character Richard Castle (who is a detective story writer in the show), and it is his picture and fictional bio that appear on the books (and on Goodreads-here).
I really liked the TV show for the most part (when they shift focus from Beckett’s mother’s mystery to Castle’s father, I lost a bit of interest)–I enjoyed the plots and mysteries, especially the fact that there were plenty of twists and turns and some witty dialogue as well. Added to this Castle and his family are likeable characters–clever and fun. From what I’ve heard (I haven’t read any yet), the books are pretty good and read like episodes from the show, and if that’s the case, I think they will be enjoyable reads for me. This one I picked up on kindle (last year, I think) when it was on sale. Looking forward to a fun read.
Are you a fan of the show Castle? Have you read any of the books in the series or any of the Derrick Storm books?Which ones and how did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts!
All the information on the book, TV series, and author is from Goodreads and wikipedia as always.
My thanks to the author for a digital review copy of the book.
This is (which I didn’t realise at first) the first in a fantasy–adventure series complete with a prophecy, magic, mages, a tyrannical king, goblins, and trolls and fairies, even a storybook ‘hero’—all the usual ingredients but with a fun twist. In the Kingdom of Lohr, we meet different groups on missions, a bunch of trolls—mercenaries on the trail of someone; the group of people there are trailing, a motley lot including a mage carrying a magic sword in secret somewhere; then a third group of Kingswatch constables on the trail of poachers in the Great Untame; and alongside a lone adolescent goblin, Griff of the title, who is travelling to the city, wanting only to make a name for himself as a minstrel in a kingdom not very friendly to those not human. Alongside, on a pig farm is a young orphan boy, Arn Propp, handsome, brave, ready to stand up for injustice, in short the perfect hero who is trying to his work well (he lives with his uncle, aunt, and cousins, who in this case (not stereotypical) actually like and appreciate him) and get along in life but who suddenly also finds himself thrown in the midst of adventure, when he goes to rescue his cousin from some thugs. The paths of these groups cross and stories collide with unusual results, especially when one event throws the entire course of things on its head, and we find ourselves with an unlikely hero who has to take on the reins.
This was a really fun read for me. A couple of other reviewers of this book have mentioned how like Pratchett this book is, and that was something that came to my mind as well—the humour, and the set-up of the story while original also reminded me a lot of Pratchett, and there were moments specifically that I found myself thinking of the city watch books in particular. I enjoyed how the author picked up the elements of a typical fantasy adventure and put his own spin on it making it a very entertaining journey. Also, it isn’t just the ‘main’ twist, but there was another along the way which took me by surprise and I’d love to see how that plays out over the course of the story. Like the discworld book it specifically made me think of, Men at Arms, this one too weaves in issues of diversity, people refusing to understand each other, even listen to each other merely because they are different, and the need to look at things from each one’s point of view before taking action (more often than not violent) recklessly (not a problem of the fantasy world alone, unfortunately). The characters were also very likeable, and I liked how the author made us see things from each one’s or each group’s pov. I am keen to see where their adventures take them next and what new twists and turns the plot takes. Great fun! Four and a half stars!