Books I’ve enjoyed 001

The Aerialists by Katie Munnik is a fictionalised account of a true event which happened in Cardiff at the Fine Art, Industrial and Maritime exhibition in 1896. I was unaware of this exhibition despite it being on a scale to rival England’s 1851 Great Exhibition, held at Crystal Palace. It’s such an interesting story, but I do not want to give any spoilers. At it’s heart this is a story about Laura, we find out about the journey that brought her to the streets of Paris and her life with the Gauldrons. Her story, as you’ve probably guessed, involves flying!

I have to be honest and say that I felt there were some weaknesses in the writing and depiction of the behaviours and dialogue of the characters, particularly as it is set during Victorian times, but overall the story is a good one.

When you’ve read it look up the BBC article published on 24/07/21, 125 years after the festival. (Not before, because it will ruin the book for you.)

French Braid by Anne Tyler follows one family from the 1950s up to the pandemic present day.

The Garrett family take their first and last family holiday in the summer of 1959. They hardly leave their home city Baltimore, but despite this are not a close family.

I love Mercy, the mother of the family. She is definitely a free spirit!

As an Anne Tyler fan I read everything that she publishes, this was definitely a five star read, one of my favourites, alongside Breathing Lessons.

The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the fictionalised account of the real life and work of Eliza Acton, while she wrote her famous cookery book in England in 1837. The story also focuses upon Ann Kirby although no facts about her are known, beyond that she worked for Eliza and her mother. But her story helps to round out the book and is a good device to compare and contrast the differing lives and opportunities of the two women.

The Language of Food explores women’s freedoms (or lack of) and limited opportunities to work creatively under their own name. I felt the author successfully conveys the frustration and difficulties which must have been felt by so many.

And finally of course; the food! Luscious descriptions and well written passages illuminate Eliza’s process of developing and testing recipes. (Perhaps luscious is the wrong word for the recipe for brawn featured at the end?!)

Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley is written by a new-to-me author, but I will certainly look out for more of her books.

Set in Minneapolis in the 1970s, it tells the story of two women who meet in a cafe. Marge is a bus driver and Peg is training to be a psychotherapist. You find out about their relationship, the challenges and surprises they face over the next twenty years. Then one day things drastically change. It’s a story about family, love and loss.

I really enjoyed it; the style of writing and low-key tone reminded me of an Anne Tyler novel.

If you read this and don’t fancy making meatloaf (veggies excepted) by the end I’ll be really surprised!

One Day I Shall Astonish the World by Nina Stibbe. Have you read any of Nina’s books? If not, then do! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Love Nina. And seen the TV adaptation. That’s one of my comfort reads / watches.

I also really liked Paradise Lodge, that’s great fun, with laugh out loud moments. I recommend the Audible version with Helen Baxendale narrating. She really cracked the Leicestershire accent, that isn’t easy.

Anyway, back to One Day I Shall Astonish the World; it focuses on the friendship between Susan and Norma. They are thrown together in a haberdashery shop in Leicestershire in the 1990s. Thirty years later Susan begins to wonder about the choices she has made in her life.

I’m sure all of us can agree that female friendships are weird, brilliant and challenging, when they’re good they can be one of the best things, but strange and stressful when they go awry. I think Nina Stibbe has captured this complex mix extremely well.

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin. I have a confession to make; this was my first book by Rankin, although I’ve heard him interviewed about every new John Rebus crime novel for years.

It was a bit mad to start with this one, because it is his latest. Number 23 in the series! I haven’t stayed up reading and chanting ‘just one more chapter’ for a long time, but found myself still reading this at 1 AM a few weeks ago. I just couldn’t put it down. I will look out for others in the series now.

Rebus is now retired, but definitely not planning on avoiding looking into other people’s secrets and crimes, he has kept hold of a large pile of folders of unsolved cases…

Before he evens finishes unpacking from downsizing his home, his daughter calls to say that her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst and knows that his daughter will be prime suspect. He has to decide if he’s going to go to her as a father, or a detective.

The Keeper of Stories by Sally Page I read last week. It’s such a goody! I felt a little bereft at the end.

Janice is a cleaner and notices people always tell her their stories. (I’ve always experienced that too, so I was drawn to Janice.) Her rule is that she can save one story from each person, but she is very clear: she is the Keeper of Stories and doesn’t have a story to tell about herself. But when she meets Mrs B (who is no fool) things begin to change. Set in Cambridge this is a really lovely story about supporting other people, while finding yourself and realising what you do and do not want. There’s much empathy and masses of everything practical, including DIY. If Janice’s skills don’t leave you feeling a tad inadequate, then I’ll be surprised. There is lots of humour, I laughed out loud often. Look out for the dog. (Warning for the faint-hearted…he swears. A lot.)

Let me know if you decide to read any of the books I’ve recommended. Or maybe you’ve already read some of them? I’d love to know your take.

Time to make a G&T (it’s not Dry Lent anymore woohoo!) and quickly sort out what I want to watch. Someone is fishing with a friend this evening, so I shall make the most of the P&Q. New Grace & Frankie eps are now on Neflix, or do I rewatch The Split’s third series and cry all over again? Or…?

Yarn Along

I get this real urge to knit sometimes. I’m not great at it and even more so since I’m trying to use another technique. I look like a beginner and have dropped stitches*, had them slide off the end of the circular needle** and keep stabbing my hand***. It never used to happen before, but I’m determined to try holding the right needle underneath and have a go at sliding my hand along the needle, rather than on top and throwing the wool. It’s not easy when I’ve knitted the other way since childhood, albeit sporadically.

I thought a washcloth/dishcloth would be a useful thing to make as it’s small and fast to complete. Well it would be if I didn’t do *, ** and *** but I’ll get there!

The pattern’s here.  I really like the raised box stitch, it’s amazing what you can do with a simple knit and purl combo.

20130723-162130.jpgI think I saw this book on someone else’s yarn along post last week, when I caught sight of it at the library yesterday I grabbed it. As you’d imagine it’s no literary masterpiece and I have made predictions a third of the way through about what’s likely going to happen. I’m sure I’ll be right too. That’s ok – it’s relaxing and not in the slightest demanding. My brain can slowly continue morphing into custard!

Basically the story centres around four female characters who been drawn back to the inn (B&B?) one runs. None of them are particularly close but because of the news the inn keeper shares and Meryl’s films they’re beginning to finally bond and become suportive of each other. If you’ve read The Reading Group, The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club (aka Divas don’t Knit,) The Jane Austin Book-club or The Friday Night Knitting Club then you’ll know what to expect.

I really like Meryl Streep. There’s a few films from the book’s list I haven’t watched yet:  Heartburn, though I have read the original book by Nora Ephron, and Defending your Life which doesn’t ring any bells.

20130723-162316.jpg

I’m still listening to The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K Rowling.) It’s going to take me a weeks to listen to it in chunks. I’m really enjoying it so far, Robert Glenister (of the tv prog Hustle, brother of Philip – who was the brilliant Gene Hunt in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes) reads superbly. I can’t recommend it enough so far. Check it out on Audible.co.uk or Audible.com.

I’m joining in again with Ginny this week. What are you reading, crocheting or knitting?

PS: Are you following Cat of the Slugs on the Refrigerator blog and her Crochet Camp? Did you – *~*cough! cough! *~*- see the guest post on Sunday?

Yarn Along

20130710-133200.jpg
It’s summer this week in England and the weather’s beautiful. Last night we walked around the village inhaling the scent of roses climbing cottage walls, elderflower and many BBQs!

I’ve started to crochet a very unseasonal item – a swirly scarf from Nicki Trench’s Cute and Easy Crochet book. The yarn is King Cole ‘Wicked’ which I bought last week. It was a reduced bargain price so I bought two balls, as you do. I like not knowing what colour’s going to appear next as I crochet (living life on the wild side.) It’s a bit of a different choice for me but I like the tweedy but bright mix.

The books are new today, from the library, and look like pretty good Summertime reads. ‘Everything and Nothing’ is a thriller and described variously as chilling, suspenseful and disturbing on the blurb. It seems a super-nanny has come to look after a family’s two children, but all is not as it seems. The other novel drew me because of the cover recommendation from Kate Atkinson, she’s one of my favourite authors. It’s the tale of two girlhood friends who are inseparable, until one goes missing. I must be in a mystery frame of mind this week, maybe influenced by my audio book. I’m three-quarters of the way through  Sweet Tooth  by Ian McEwan, it’s a great book to crochet or sew along to (I’ve been x stitching lately.) As a wanna-be be spy it’s a fantastic book and the 1972 London setting to the story is interesting.

Am I going to get (another) urge to knit?

I borrowed the Friday Night Knitting Club from my cousin and read it last weekend, but it left me so wanting more of the characters and shop that I immediately ordered the next in the series and it’s just arrived.

Grin

Cosy rainy day reading.

20120926-152554.jpg

It’s the embroidery workshop tomorrow and I’m meeting my friend for lunch and a mooch around the shops too. Exciting girly day ahead.

I’ve just had a message from the friend who is redecorating: her Mum has more crochet patterns to give away, including more vintage ones, and would I like them? With bells on!

And the birthday present that keeps on giving (every month for a whole year, until the next birthday!) has just arrived. I’m hibernating for the rest of the day.

20120926-162051.jpg