1

Lit Titbits (1)

I read so many lovely pieces on the Internet, all related to literature, and thought that I would start grouping them together into a little series which I am calling ‘Lit Titbits’.  Each will be made up of five or six different links, and will, I hope, be the perfect things for you to read over a well-deserved tea break, or when you have a few minutes to relax during your day.  They make perfect, brief stops from thesis research too (trust me, I speak from experience).  Without further ado, I hope you enjoy this new series.

  1. ‘Ali Smith: How I Write’ in The Daily Beast is a wonderfully insightful interview about the woman behind some of my favourite books.  Read it here.
  2. The Guardian posted this fascinating study, based on stats from http://www.audiobooks.com, of when exactly we give up on audiobooks here.
  3. The Bookseller talks of how the world, and our reading, has changed upon the tenth anniversary of the Kindle.  Read it here.
  4. Back in November 2017, Jane of Beyond Eden Rock wrote this absolutely wonderful review of Emile Zola’s The Fortunes of the Rougons, which has made me want to get to the rest of the series as soon as I possibly can.
  5. ‘The Persephone Post’, by one of my favourite publishers, is updated regularly, and is wonderful for a browse.  Find it here.
2

Book Haul: 2017

I have vowed not to buy any books whatsoever in 2017, choosing instead to read everything on my to-read shelves, and all of those tomes which I optimistically downloaded onto my Kindle a couple of years ago and have yet to get to.  Of course, if I do manage to finish everything, I will begin to replenish my shelves, but it looks highly unlikely at this juncture.

With that said, there are many books which I bought or received at the end of 2017 which I have yet to include in a haul post such as this.  Without further ado, I shall therefore detail every book which has come into my possession since my last haul post.

9781447294894I shall begin with my new Kindle books.  I saw a very favourable review of Lionel Shriver‘s The Standing Chandelier: A Novella on Goodreads, and ended up buying myself a copy for around £1; I’m very glad I did, as the idea is both original and inventive, and I certainly enjoyed the reading experience.  I took advantage of one of the daily deals, and got myself a copy of A Manual for Cleaning Women, a short story collection by Lucia Berlin which I have had my eye on for ages.

On Instagram, a fellow reader whom I follow had hauled a copy of Otto Prenzler‘s The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, which they found in The Works for just £4.  Whilst I was unable to find a copy in store, I ordered it and picked it up the next day, along with a copy of Ghost: 100 Stories to Read with the Lights On, which is edited by Louise Welsh.  I also couldn’t resist ordering a copy of The Morlo by L.A. Knight, a travelogue about seals, which I randomly came across on a vintage bookshop on Etsy.

I took a trip to a local charity shop which sells four books for 99p, and chose a few to add 9780099478980to my to-read shelf at University.  I ended up getting 12 Days by Shelly Silas, which was a collection of rather mediocre Christmas stories; Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres in a lovely hardback edition, which I will be reading during my Around the World in 80 Books challenge this year; A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which I enjoyed, but not as much as most others seem to have; the very enjoyable, and very quick to read, The Girls by Emma Cline; and The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel.

9781786573353Another travel guide also made its way onto my to-read list.  My boyfriend and I have booked a holiday to Canada at the end of January, and so it was exciting to order a copy of Lonely Planet Canada.  They are definitely my favourite range of travel guides, and I’m very excited to dip in and see what Toronto has to offer.

Of course, I received some wonderful Christmas books this year, three of which were signed, which was very exciting.  My parents got me copies of Pablo Picasso’s Noel, Carol Ann Duffy‘s festive poem for 2017; Turtles All the Way Down by John Green; Winter by Ali Smith; Here Is New York by E.B. White; and I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell.  I have 9780241207024already read and loved all of these.  Those which I have outstanding are Mythos by the wonderful Stephen Fry, and a random choice from one of my dearest friends, The Seven Noses of Soho by Jamie Manners, as she knows how much I am currently missing London.

I made the decision to order the 34 books which I needed for my Around the World in 80 Books challenge from AbeBooks.  I have scoured my Kindle and bookshelves for tomes which I could include, but there were many which I did not personally own, and which I was unable to find in either of my local library systems.  I ordered so many books, in fact, that the poor postman had to deliver them using a crate.  Whilst this enormous order sounds very greedy, I thought that ordering all of the books which I needed during 2017 would help me stick to my book-buying ban (fingers crossed!).  I shall detail them, along with the countries which they will be included for, in a bullet pointed list below, as this seemed the easiest way to organise such a big list of books!

  • Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood (Cuba) 9781447226888
  • The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (Colombia)
  • Broken April by Ismail Kadare (Albania)
  • The Sojourn by Andre Krivak (Slovakia)
  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child by Imre Kertesz (Hungary)
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene (Vietnam)
  • The Bondmaid by Catherine Lim (China)
  • Resistance by Anita Shreve (Belgium)
  • Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell (Cyprus)
  • First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (Cambodia)
  • The Night Buffalo by Guillermo Arriago (Mexico)
  • Train to Trieste by Domnica Radulescu 9780307388360(Romania)
  • Solo by Rana Dasgupta (Bulgaria)
  • Mosquito by Roma Tearne (Sri Lanka)
  • Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera (Brazil)
  • The Silence and the Roar by Nihad Sirees (Syria)
  • The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas (Norway)
  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (Switzerland)
  • Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra (Chile)
  • Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras (Argentina)
  • Death of a Prima Donna by Brina Svit (Slovenia)
  • The Colour by Rose Tremain (New Zealand)
  • The Diviners by Margaret Laurence (Canada)
  • A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov (Georgia) 9781408843161
  • The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
  • Lies by Enrique de Heriz (Guatemala)
  • The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna (Croatia)
  • Ours are the Streets by Sunjeev Sahota (Pakistan)
  • Burmese Days by George Orwell (Myanmar)
  • The Beach by Alex Garland (Thailand)
  • The Hacienda by Lisa St. Aubin de Teran (Venezuela)
  • Landfalls by Naomi J. Williams (Pacific Islands)
  • Ali and Nino by Kurban Said (Azerbaijan)
  • Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel (Saudi Arabia)

 

Have you read any of these?  Which were the last books that you bought?

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1

November Book Haul

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted that I haven’t published any book haul posts since August.  This is because I have been very restrained with adding to my TBR, focusing instead on reading books which I already own, as well as many tomes which are still unread on my Kindle.  I have caved a little in November however, and thus have a few different titles recently added to my shelves, both literal and virtual, to talk about.

9781474604796I shall detail those which I have bought for my Kindle first.  I tend not to buy books from Amazon, whose morals are not up to scratch in a lot of ways, but wanted a few things to read both over Christmas, and on future holidays.  Everything which I purchased was rather cheap (under £2 per book), and they are largely tomes which I have found it difficult to get hold of in physical editions.  I thus chose four titles by the wonderful Celia Fremlin, whose work I have recently discovered: Don’t Go to Sleep in the Dark: Short Stories, The Trouble-Makers, Uncle Paul, and The Jealous One, all of which have been recently reissued by Faber Firsts.  I took advantage of two Kindle daily deals to buy a rather lovely-looking novel, The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer, along with a shortlisted title from this year’s Man Booker Prize, The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund.

I have been a big fan of Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire, for rather a few years 9781477819456now, and am starting to actively choose and seek out those titles which she has recommended, and which appeal to me (which, to be fair, is most of them).  I saw a copy of Susan Richards Shreve‘s Plum and Jaggers on the Kindle store for just £1, and couldn’t resist purchasing it.  To appease a bout of nostalgia, I also chose to download a copy of Christmas Tales by Enid Blyton, one of my favourite childhood authors.  I’m very much looking forward to snuggling up with it next month!

I saw a wonderful review of Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman, and decided to sneak a secondhand copy into my AbeBooks basket, which I purchased soon afterwards.  It’s a memoir of her experience with breast cancer, and whilst not the most cheerful tome, I’m hoping to read it over the Christmas holidays.  I have also been 9781509813131keen to undertake a year-long reading project for a few years now, and have finally found what I hope is the perfect book with which to do so – Allie Esiri‘s beautiful A Poem for Every Night of the Year.  I am gifting myself a lovely hardback copy for Christmas, and shall be savouring one poem every day (or, rather, night) in 2018.

As some of you may have seen, I am taking part in the Around the World in 80 Books challenge next year, and have been busy preparing lists, and finding tomes on my to-read pile which fit.  There are several countries I wish to read about which were proving difficult to find books from, at least with regard to my existing titles and those which I can find in the library, and I thus bought five from AbeBooks to prepare myself well.  I chose Two Under the 9781870206808Indian Sun by Jon and Rumer Godden, Spanish author Mathias Malzieu‘s The Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Sigrid Rausing‘s memoir of working on an Estonian farm, entitled Everything is Wonderful, Welsh author Eiluned LewisDew on the Grass, and Marguerite Yourcenar‘s Coup de Grace, which is set in Latvia.

Going forward, for ease of admin more than anything else, although with a little sprinkling of hope that I will gain enough willpower not to buy any new books, I will be grouping two or three months into each of these book haul posts.  They will thus be far more infrequent, but rather larger than detailing one or two new books each month.

Which books have you bought this month?  Are there any on my list which pique your interest, or which you would like to see full reviews for?

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2

Book Haul: July 2017

All of the self-restraint which I have demonstrated rather well this year has flown out of the window.  I welcomed twenty six new books into my life over the course of July, and whilst that sounds relatively ridiculous, I have already managed to read several of them, and therefore don’t feel (quite) as bad as I could have done about it.  As ever, I shall split this haul into physical books (ones which I have purchased in person, and then a secondhand book haul thanks to the Internet), and Kindle books.

At the beginning of the month, I was browsing in Urban Outfitters, and found an absolute gem – a Taschen copy of Photographers A-Z, which was marked down to £3.  I then got student discount on top, and couldn’t have been happier with my bargain.  I started to read it immediately, and have added a few new photographers to my favourites.

I then came across a charity shop selling four books for 99p.  I wasn’t expecting great things, as the rest of the shop had rather a jumble sale air to it, but on my first trip, I ended up finding eight books.  I chose rather a rare travelogue by Freya Stark entitled 9781845029821The Lycian Shore, which I hadn’t been able to find very cheaply beforehand, as well as a second printing hardback of Pamela Frankau‘s The Willow CabinThe other novels which I hauled are The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne by Andrew Nicoll, which is set in the gorgeous Scottish town of Broughty Ferry; The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, which was purchased solely for my love of Mary Poppins, and was actually better than I was expecting; Have the Men Had Enough? by Margaret Forster; Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman, which I am about to begin reading; Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas, an author I’ve heard good things about; and The Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota, which looks right up my street.

When one of my best friends came to stay, we popped into the same charity shop, and I found four more books to add to my shelf: Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, which I have wanted to read since my parents praised the television adaptation a few months ago; The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Fry, which looks like a sweet 9781860496929and amusing choice for summertime reading; Daughter Buffalo by Janet Frame, whose novel Faces in the Water I very much enjoyed; and my final Sarah Waters novel, Affinity, which I’ve heard mixed things about, but appeals to me regardless.

We then had an hour-long browse in Waterstone’s on a bright Sunday evening, and I picked out the following from the sale racks: Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov, which was a lovely single-sitting read; An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender, which I am very much excited for; and Ariel’s Gift by Erica Wagner, which is a Sylvia Plath/Ted Hughes biography I’ve not yet read.  I picked up all of them for £5, which I am very impressed with.

9781594634888I succumbed and purchased six tomes for myself online after writing 10,000 words of my current thesis chapter.  I realise that this is something I could repeat ten times over by the time I’ve finished my PhD, but will certainly try not to!  Regardless, I am incredibly excited to be united with all of the following: Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel, which is coming all the way from the USA; Reading the World by Ann Morgan; May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks; Malinche by Laura Esquivel, which I am going to read whilst in the Caribbean in September; The Little Girls by Elizabeth Bowen; and The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan.

With regard to new books for my Kindle, I have been relatively restrained, downloading just four.  I chose The Wonder by Emma Donoghue because it sounded fascinating; 9781509818402whilst historically it was rather interesting, I did find a few issues with it, and only gave it three stars overall.  Merlin Bay by Richmal Crompton, however, was absolutely darling, and the perfect choice to read in bright sunshine.  The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking was a lovely book to curl up with on a raining evening, with candles lit; it certainly did add something to the slew of hygge books which I have read over the last year or so.  Finally, I have yet to pick up Why the Dutch Are Different by Ben Coates, which sounds like rather an inspired travelogue.

I am hoping that August will see no new books added to my TBR, and will give me the chance to actually get through some of these!

Which books did you purchase in July?  How many of these have you read, and which would you suggest that I start with?

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3

Book Haul: May 2017

I have decided that I need to refrain from telling myself that I won’t buy any books in any given months.  It rarely (if ever!) works, and I just end up feeling a little disappointed that my willpower so easily crumbled.  In this frame, I told myself that I wouldn’t add anything new to my shelves in May, and I inevitably did.   Without further preamble, here are the purchases which I made during May.

9780857524430The first book which I just couldn’t resist was, contrary to what I normally buy, a new release in hardback format.  I so enjoyed Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train, and headed to Waterstone’s on the release day of her second novel, Into the Water.  In my defence, it was half price, and I did read it immediately; I also wasn’t at all disappointed with it, which is always a bonus on tomes which have been so hyped up!  Later on in the month, I also took another trip to Waterstone’s in order to buy a travel guide for a wonderful holiday which my boyfriend took me on for an early birthday treat at the end of May.  They had very little available in store, so I plumped for a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Bulgaria.  It was largely useful, but not quite up to the standards of my beloved Lonely Planet Guides.  I also ended up buying three of the latter for future holidays, after receiving an email saying that they were all three for two from the Lonely Planet website.

I’m on a quest to read all of Anita Brookner‘s work, even though she probably isn’t an 9781840226812author I’m going to include in my thesis.  My sister managed to find three of her tomes in old orange-spined Penguin editions in a secondhand bookshop for me: Providence, Falling Slowly, and A Closed EyeTalking of my thesis, I had to buy a physical copy of Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts and The Years.  I plumped for a Wordsworth Edition, as I really like their designs, and find their introductions quite informative.  Plus, you can’t scoff at the price!

I also added a few more books to my Kindle this month.  I spotted 9781509810116that several Mary Stewart tomes which I did not already have were priced at just 99p, and couldn’t resist.  I chose Touch Not the Cat, Nine Coaches Waiting, and Madam, Will You Talk?.  I also decided to purchase a copy of Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve‘s The Beauty and the Beast, as I had never read it before.  My final choice was one of Richmal Crompton‘s non-Just William books, The Holiday, which I absolutely adored.

Which new books have you welcomed onto your shelves of late?  Do you find that book-buying bans ever work?

8

Digital December

I completely missed Poppy’s wonderful Novella November month due to University commitments, so I thought I would write a little post entitled ‘Digital December’, featuring the best Kindle books which I have read to date.  Whilst I still do most of my reading from physical books, I do very much enjoy owning a Kindle, and find it invaluable, particularly for lectures and holidays.

1. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
‘Published in 1864, Notes from Underground is considered the author’s first masterpiece – the book in which he “became” Dostoevsky – and is seen as the source of all his later works. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, whose acclaimed translations of The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment have become the standard versions in English, now give us a superb new rendering of this early classic. Presented as the fictional apology and confession of the underground man – formerly a minor official of mid-nineteenth-century Russia, whom Dostoevsky leaves nameless, as one critic wrote, “because ‘I’ is all of us” – the novel is divided into two parts: the first, a half-desperate, half-mocking political critique; the second, a powerful, at times absurdly comical account of the man’s breakaway from society and descent “underground.” The book’s extraordinary style – brilliantly violating literary conventions in ways never before attempted – shocked its first readers and still shocks many Russians today.’

2. Starter for Ten by David Nicholls 9780340734872
‘The debut bestseller from the author of the phenomenally successfully ONE DAY and Man Booker longlisted US. STARTER FOR TEN is a comedy about love, class, growing-up and the all-important difference between knowledge and wisdom. It’s 1985 and Brian Jackson has arrived at university with a burning ambition – to make it onto TV’s foremost general knowledge quiz. But no sooner has he embarked on ‘The Challenge’ than he finds himself falling hopelessly in love with his teammate, the beautiful and charismatic would-be actress, Alice Harbinson. When Alice fails to fall for his slightly over-eager charms, Brian comes up with a foolproof plan to capture her heart once and for all. He’s going to win the game, at any cost, because – after all – everyone knows that what a woman really wants from a man is a comprehensive grasp of general knowledge …STARTER FOR TEN is a comedy about love, class, growing-up and the all-important difference between knowledge and wisdom. Are you up to the challenge of the funniest novel in years?’

3. The Happy Foreigner by Enid Bagnold
‘Fictional account of the author’s experiences working as a volunteer driver in France during the First World War. Contrasts the duties and demands of the heroine’s external life, with the freedom and excitement of her internal life during a whirl-wind romance with a French officer.’

97818483162184. The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth
‘In an age unhealthily obsessed with substance, this is a book on the importance of pure style, from the bestselling author of The Etymologicon and The Horologicon. From classic poetry to pop lyrics and from the King James Bible to advertising slogans, Mark Forsyth explains the secrets that make a phrase – such as ‘Tiger, Tiger, burning bright’, or ‘To be or not to be’ – memorable. In his inimitably entertaining and witty style he takes apart famous lines and shows how you too can write like Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde. Whether you’re aiming for literary immortality or just an unforgettable one-liner, The Elements of Eloquence proves that you don’t need to have anything to say – you simply need to say it well.’

5. Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman
‘Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision are the collected stories of an award-winning author who has been compared to Alice Munro, John Updike and even Chekhov Tenderly, observantly, incisively, Edith Pearlman captures life on the page like few other writers. She is a master of the short story, and this is a spectacular collection.’

6. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn 9780385722438
‘Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram, * The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere. *pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet”.’

7. The Complete Works of Katherine Mansfield
Says it all.  Absolutely stunning.

97800995296518. Bright Star by John Keats
‘John Keats died in penury and relative obscurity in 1821, aged only 25. He is now seen as one of the greatest English poets and a genius of the Romantic age. This collection, which contains all his most memorable works and a selection of his letters, is a feast for the senses, displaying Keats’ gift for gorgeous imagery and sensuous language, his passionate devotion to beauty, as well as some of the most moving love poetry ever written.’

9. Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
‘In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a “Neohelix albolabris” a common woodland snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Intrigued by the snail s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. Told with wit and grace, “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.’

10. Florence and Giles by John Harding 9780007315048
‘In a remote and crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence is neglected by her guardian uncle and banned from reading. Left to her own devices she devours books in secret and talks to herself – and narrates this, her story – in a unique language of her own invention. By night, she sleepwalks the corridors like one of the old house’s many ghosts and is troubled by a recurrent dream in which a mysterious woman appears to threaten her younger brother Giles. Sometimes Florence doesn’t sleepwalk at all, but simply pretends to so she can roam at will and search the house for clues to her own baffling past. After the sudden violent death of the children’s first governess, a second teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives, and immediately strange phenomena begin to occur. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against this powerful supernatural enemy, and without any adult to whom she can turn for help, Florence must use all her intelligence and ingenuity to both protect her little brother and preserve her private world. Inspired by and in the tradition of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Florence & Giles is a gripping gothic page-turner told in a startlingly different and wonderfully captivating narrative voice.’

Are you a believer of the ebook?  Do you prefer reading physical books or digital copies?  Which are the best electronic books which you have read to date?

0

Four Christmas Stories

Last night, to mark the excitement of ‘six weeks until Christmas!’, I decided to read four short Christmas stories on my Kindle, all of which I downloaded for free from Quercus’ online shop.  I abandoned one of them due to a distinct lack of interest, but of the three I read, two were just okay, and one stood out to me as a great little tale, which had been carefully plotted.  Without further ado, I shall let you know of the first Christmas books I have read in 2013.

The Snow Globe by Kristin Harmel ****
I had never heard of Kristin Harmel before, but I rarely say no to a Christmas story.  The Snow Globe takes place in Paris during the Second World War, and opens in quite a lovely way: ‘Darkness was falling quickly, too quickly, as the boy stood in the Jardin du Luxembourg beneath his favourite statue, awash in a flurry of snowflakes.’

In her story, Harmel tells of a young boy who meets a girl named Rose during the Nazi curfew: ‘In an instant, reality crashed back in, and the boy remembered where they were and what they were.  Jews in Paris.  At twilight.’  The snow globe of the story’s title was given to the boy by his grandfather before he passed away, and is subsequently passed to Rose as a reminder of the boy’s love for her.  Their story begins on Christmas Eve, and is both sad and poignant.  I really enjoyed Harmel’s writing, particularly her descriptions, and will certainly be reading more of her work in future.

In a New York Minute by Eleanor Moran *
This is the story which I abandoned.  I was expecting great things after so enjoying The Snow Globe, but was more than disappointed with this.  It is typical chick lit really, which I am not at all a fan of.  It was not a badly written story, but it lacked substance.  The characters were rather vapid and the storyline utterly predictable.

The Resolution by Linda Green **
This is a New Year story rather than a Christmas story, and involves three middle-aged friends all setting the resolution of seeing one another more away from the demands of their lives as mothers.  I found that there were a few too many characters introduced in one go in The Resolution, and again, it was a little too chick lit for my liking.

The Christmas Bake Off by Abby Clements **
This seemed rather a lot like ‘Calendar Girls’ from the outset, beginning as it does with a baking competition held in a Yorkshire Women’s Institute.  There is sabotage at their yearly Christmas competition.  Even for a short story, the plot here felt a little drawn out.  The recipes were a nice touch, however.

Have you begun to read Christmas books yet?  Which are you planning to start with?

0

Flash Reviews (8th October 2013)

40 (Canongate) by Various Authors **
2013 has marked the fortieth anniversary of several publishing houses, two of whom have already released celebratory volumes (Picador and Virago).  Within the responses to the theme of ‘forty’ in this volume, there are fragments of memories, lists, illustrations, poems, reminiscences of fortieth birthdays, and even a couple of comic strips and a recipe.  There is also rather a nice section which includes the first lines of the forty bestselling Canongate books of all time.  Some of the authors are familiar (Charles Schulz, Margaret Drabble, Margaret Atwood), and some are not.  <i>40</i> is an interesting amalgamation of forty inspired art, but sadly there is nothing very outstanding within it.

The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green ****
I feel, after finishing this absorbing murder mystery, that I should have read it some time ago.  This is the first of Green’s books which I’ve encountered in my foray into crime fiction, and I found it a very enjoyable book on the whole.  The writing throughout matches the unfolding storyline perfectly.  Although it is not original to the modern reader, per se, the mystery itself and the way in which it has been carried out was, I imagine, relatively ‘never before seen’ to its original Victorian audience.  The plotlines which carry less emphasis combine wonderfully to produce the coherent whole, and everything is neatly tied together.  The story kept me guessing throughout, which is a must to me with such novels.

The Four-Chambered Heart by Anais Nin ***
I am always so excited when I receive or buy a new Nin novel, enamoured as I am with her stunning writing and often quiet but memorable plots. The Four-Chambered Heart, particularly in its beginning, is a beautifully written novel, particularly with regard to its Paris setting. Nin captures her characters so well. Whilst none of the protagonists – Djuna, Rango and Zora – are likeable for the mostpart, they have a marvellous depth to them, and are made up of a complex mixture of emotions. Their relationship with one another, tumultuous as it often is, is portrayed with such clarity on the part of the author.

Sadly, The Four-Chambered Heart is by no means my favourite of Nin’s books, and it pales entirely in comparison to Collages and Under a Glass Bell, which are both incredible works of art. I very much enjoyed the writing, but as I was in no way sympathetic towards the novel’s characters and did not find much of worth in its plot, I feel I cannot award it more than three stars.

Recommended playlist:
‘The Everglow’ by Mae
‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ by The Smiths
‘Think I Wanna Die’ by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin