Book covers of the week

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The pursued- C S Forester 

I picked this book up at random from the library just before Christmas and I’ve only just got round to reading it. I’ve read a few of Forester’s Hornblower books, but because I never enjoyed them as much as Alexander Kent’s Bolitho series I never really made an effort to seek his books out.

This one caught my attention because it wasn’t a Hornblower book. I wasn’t aware that Forester had written several crime novels. This one was referred to as his ‘lost novel’ as a variety of circumstances meant it wasn’t published until 2011, a good many years after it was first written in 1935.

It’s quite a brutal, chilling novel. Marjorie arrives home to find her sister dead’ apparently it’s a suicide. But their mother suspects differently and eventually they realise Marjorie’s husband is responsible. The book chronicles how they deal with this.

The storytelling is interesting, in that whilst it’s told through Marjorie’s point of view it’s actually the story of her mother that you are reading.

This is not for the feint hearted, there are some quite disturbing scenes in the book. However it’s a fascinating read and an interesting glimpse into middle class life in the 1930s.

Winter Holiday – Arthur Ransome 

This was my own choice for January reading and it was a bit of light relief after The Power.

This was also the first time since childhood that I have read one of Arthur Ransome’s books and I remembered how much I enjoyed them as a child. Winter Holiday never came my way before, so the story was new to me, although of course some of the characters weren’t.

At 484 pages this is not a young child’s book although there is a strong feel of the famous five about it at times. Children going off and having adventures by themselves, or in this case sometimes with Captain Flint, and getting into all sorts of trouble.

Like the famous five it is very much a book of its time with a certain amount of innate sexism (the girls are there to do the cooking etc) bit less so I think than the famous five.

I don’t think this would be my favourite book of the series, although Dick’s character’s fun, I’m less fond of Dorothea, it almost seems like she was added to the story to show what real ‘little girls’ are like, to highlight how much better Susan, Nancy etc are.

There’s also quite a lot of hanging around in the book. Whilst they do get up to some excitement in the meantime the main part of the adventure is all in the last few chapters, and the tests consists of them waiting for it to happen. This is mostly due to a rogue case of mumps, but does slow the book down a bit.

Despite all this I found the story thoroughly enjoyable and it awakened my love of Swallows and Amazon’s. At some point soon I need to read the series again and discover the few books I didn’t read the first time around.

It does help that I’ve seen some of the books with the most beautiful covers. Whilst I try not to judge a book by its cover it’s hard not to want to read one that looks like this:

January reading

I have a list of five books lined up for January currently:

Work book club -a group of us in my work place recently set up a bookclub and Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman was chosen out of a hat (M&S extra strong mint tin). I have read this once before but as a child and I don’t remember the story, although I do remember being engrossed by it at the time so I am looking forward to revisiting this one.

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I am joining in with the Mumsnet book club this year for the first time ever, reading the books at least, I always seem to have problems logging in to talk on their forums. This is their fiction book for January, I have no idea what its about, I didn’t even read the blurb, I just decided to go in with an open mind.

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This is the Mumsnet non fiction book for January. I’m not really a non fiction reader but I figured there was no harm in giving this one a go. I have heard of it and its sounds less out there than the Kondo does an item give you joy stuff thats out there, personally my ironing board does not give me joy, but I’m not sure that’s good grounds to get rid of it! I’ll see if this is any more useful, although in fairness I am a fairly neat organised person anyway, but its always good to pick up a few extra tips and tricks.

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I’ve found a few websites with prompts for this year, and I’ve combined several to create a list of 12, some challenging, some easier for me to follow this year. January’s is to read a book you like the cover of, and as I have been collecting the Penguin F scott Fitzgerald books recently, and this one is on its way to me courtesy of my annual Waterstones voucher off my Mil (one of my favorite Chrsitmas presents as always) I am going with This side of paradise. I am hoping to do a collection review on this set soon, I only have one more to buy, but I need to finish some of the others first. If you haven’t seen this Penguin collection it’s worth looking them up, the covers are simply beautiful, some of the nicest books I have in my collection.

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Finally I am going to try to throw in a wild card/own choice book each month, and January’s is going to be Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome. I recently had a bundle of Christmas books turn up from the Book People and this was in here. I know Christmas will be properly over and done with by the time I get chance to read this but I am looking forward to it. This is one of my favorite childhood authors so I am pretty sure I will at least enjoy this book out of my January reading, and its probably going to be the light relief thats needed!

I’m planning on using this set up to read five books a month this year, which is 60 books guaranteed, although I tend to read more like 100-150 a year, but I might not review everything I read, some will be old, well read favourites.

Is anyone else planning their book club reading this year, or following along with Mumsnet or a book prompt?

More Christmas books

I’ve been reading more Christmas books over the holiday, starting with the rest of the collection from last time:

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This one begins with one of my favorite chapters out of Little Women, and then goes on with some short stories from this author, one of my childhood favorites, that I hadn’t read before. These are all simple stories, well told, with sweet morals and full of old fashioned charm. They might not appeal so much to everyone nowadays but they brought back a childhood Christmas nostalgia for me and I found it a very enjoyable read.

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This is the ‘real’ story of the night before Christmas apparently, and whilst these books are aimed at children, this one is less sweetly old fashioned and innocent than some of the others. It’s a familiar story, poor b0y meets rich girl, falls in love, then throw in a prostitute, the devil and a fabulous pair of shoes, and have a happy Christmas eve! Despite not being what I expected I possibly found this the most enjoyable of the books, but I would vet it first if you plan on giving it to younger children.

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Whilst I have seen the ballet (Moscow City Ballet years ago) I’d never actually read the story of the nutcracker before. This was an enjoyable read although a bit preoccupied by peoples looks and I could never quite tell if all the people in the book were in fact toys. I enjoyed it but its probably my least favorite out of the set, I think I preferred the ballet version.

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This is a charming story, all about the ‘real’ Santa Claus. Its a nice easy read, suitable for younger ones and ready to make us all believe in Santa again. I found it slightly slow starting, but a quick read once it got going.

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I definitely enjoyed some of the stories more than others in this collection, not that any of them dragged, but some flew by, especially the title story. This one seemed aimed at slightly older children, and has more involved stories that were less sweet and simple, but very interesting and varied. A good read although not my favorite.

So there you go some of my Christmas reading, there was more and not all of it was children’s books I promise! I did really enjoy the chance to read some old favorites and make some new ones though. This set is very aesthetically pleasing to read and has a good, quite random, selection of Christmas stories. Definitely worth the purchase and ones I will probably re read each Christms time.

 

A Christmas Carol (Penguin Christmas Classics)

Penguin Christmas Classics
Penguin Christmas Classics

With how close it is to Christmas I’ve been reading some Christmas literature recently, some of it new to me, and some of it very familiar.

When I saw the Penguin Christmas Classics collection I fell in love with their beautiful covers and illustrations and indulged in a pre-Christmas splurge.

These books look and feel beautiful. They work together as a collection, but still shine as individual books. Whilst I know the adage says not to judge a book by its cover, there is still something so enjoyable about reading a book this pretty.

Penguin says of the collection:

‘Beautifully designed hardcovers—with foil-stamped jackets, decorative endpapers, and nameplates for personalization—in a small trim size that makes them perfect stocking stuffers, Penguin Christmas Classics embody the spirit of giving that is at the heart of our most time-honored stories about the holiday.’

My first read from the collection was A Christmas Carol, which will probably be a familiar Christmas story to most people even if just the muppets version.

From the first sentence: ‘Marley was dead to begin with.’ which is a well-known, yet still intriguing start, this book held all the familiar comfort of Christmas for me.

The descriptions on a Victorian Christmas are rich and detailed, transporting you into the scene and leaving you a little bit sorry that Christmas doesn’t seem to be quite so grand or joyous any more.

The moral of the story is obvious without being laboured, the storytelling keeps a deeply emotional, typically Victorian story light and easy to read. It’s a good introduction to Dickens and a must for anyone who loves Christmas or needs to get in the Christmas spirit.

The beauty of the book makes it the perfect gift, even if it is just a gift to yourself!