Showing posts from June, 2015

On the thorny issue of getting rid of books

Blasphemy, I know, but there are times when it is necessary to do some shelf pruning.  Often, it's because there just isn't room for any more lovely literature.  For me, it's the fact that I'm moving flat soon and it's going to be an ordeal in itself just to shift the books.  If I can get rid of a few tomes, it might just make my life easier.  

For those of you facing a similar situation, I've thought up a few strategies for helping you get through this arduous task:

1) Sentimental value is important...up to a point.  You might not like 'Little Women' at all, but the fact that it's the book your nan read to you when you were a child is still a prized memory.  I'd keep it. I was never very close to one of my grans, but she always put a little message in the front of the books she gave me.  I can't get rid of those.  However, just because a book was a gift does not mean you are obliged to keep hold of it for the rest of your life.  I'm looki…

..."that ends in a catastrophic act of violence."

So says Amazon's blurb about H. E. Bates' 'The Feast of July'.  

I think that's a very promising start.

Now, the only thing I know about Bates is that he wrote 'The Darling Buds of May', and I only know that because it says so on the front cover of my new arbitrary read.  Even worse, the only thing I know about 'The Darling Buds of May' is that Catherine Zeta-Jones was in the TV version.  Aside from her added glamour, I vaguely remember that it seemed pretty rural and twee.

Definitely makes me grateful for the promise of catastrophic violence.

There doesn't seem to be a huge amount to say about Bates, not according to Wikipedia anyway. He comes across as a decent British gent who enjoyed his family, his garden, and writing about the people and places he saw when he was out and about.  I imagine this means 'The Feast of July' will be peopled with very recognisable types, and that the events at the end of the novel will seem like a tragic but …

From one kingdom of men to another

I finished 'In the Kingdom of Men' by Kim Barnes in one furious reading session and enjoyed every last bit of it.

The negative reviews were not entirely wrong about the book.  When the story turns into a murder mystery/industrial espionage mash-up, it does get a bit messy.  Barnes had done a great job of visualising character and locations but is not as good at tying up the threads of an intricate plot.  The ending felt rushed and a little confused. However, and this is high praise, the characters remain consistent within this genre shift and the twists and turns of the final section.  They never become ciphers designed to further the plot; instead, they remain vital and honest.  And the reader therefore cares much more when tragedy does strike.

Sometimes it's nice to be wrong

I wasn't feeling particularly enthused about my latest arbitrary read, 'In the Kingdom of Men' by Kim Barnes.  The reviews weren't great and the plot synopses I had read seemed to point at a book that just wouldn't be for me.

Thankfully, my worries seem to have been unfounded.  I'm about a quarter of the way through the book and have really enjoyed it so far.  The writing is easy to read, unfussy but with a neat trick of developing the characters quickly and memorably.  One of the main complaints was that the book tried to straddle too many genres and I'm not seeing that so far, although there is a long way to go.

The way the plot was described by a few reviewers was very misleading.  Our heroine, Gin, is not taken to Saudi Arabia by a rich oil magnate, but by her solid and dependable husband Mason, who is there to work on the rigs rather than behind a desk.  The story of Gin's tragic religious upbringing and her relationship with Mason is beautifully wri…