Friday, July 3, 2020

June Books: Mysteries

I am pretty sure that there is never a month in which my book list does not contain some mysteries (both short stories and novels), usually classic and/or cosy, but also some others. I started one last night that I'm enjoying so far. Here are the mysteries I read in June:
Offshore by Ann Cleeves
This is a collection of short stories all set on islands and featuring various detectives from the author’s various series. I am only familiar with the Vera series, which I love (new one coming out in a few months). There was a Vera story in here as well as a few Jimmy Perez stories, which are set on one also based in Shetland but with a different detective, and one that seemed to be by a different author but based on an earlier Cleeves series about George and Molly, an older couple who are really into bird watching. The Shetland series has concluded now, I think. I have been considering starting on that one from the beginning, and might do so soon. The author also has a new series, the first book of which was published a few months ago, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

Parting Breath by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Robin Bailey)
This is one of Aird’s Sloan and Crosby series. This one is set in a college. A student is found dying one autumn evening. His final words are ‘26 minutes.’ What does this mean? Why did someone want to silence him? While on standby in case they’re needed during the sit-in being staged by some students at the college, Sloan and Crosby proceed to figure it all out.

Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh
I couldn’t decide what to read next, so picked up my e-reader and jumped into book 20 of the author’s Roderick Alleyn series, in which he is on a cargo ship that takes a few passengers from England to South Africa. He pretends to be a relative of the shipping company big shot so he can investigate a series of stranglings and to prevent the next one. Due to one tiny clue, it is thought that the murderer is on that ship.

The Missing Diamond Murder by Diane James
I came across this in the e-book section of the library website and the blurb said it was a good choice for people who love British cozy mysteries, so I gave it a try. It was a good read. It’s part of a series (this isn’t the first book and I have not read any others) and contains a backstory in addition to whatever the mystery is. In this case, the mystery involved a family diamond that went missing after the death of the family patriarch, which was also suspicious. Did he manage to make his way to the cliff edge in his wheelchair and either deliberately or accidentally fall over, or was he pushed? Fran Black goes to investigate at the urging of her friend Tom Dod, both of whom are part of a literary society. This is where the backstory picks up—he urges her to go because they have become very close when solving previous mysteries. He is in a marriage that involves his dead brother’s former fiancee or something like that and she is in the middle of a divorce—her husband is living with his new partner and they are expecting a baby. But, in 1930s England, that would not be enough for Fran to be granted a divorce. If she was ‘carrying on’ with someone herself, she would not be ‘blameless’ and the divorce would not be granted. Someone has written a letter to the court insinuating that the relationship between Fran and Tom is ‘improper’ which jeopardises her divorce. He suggests she go to the country to investigate the case, where she can be isolated and away from suspicion. She goes and the story unfolds. I would read more of these books—the mystery itself was fine, but the cultural details were what made the book for me. I quite enjoyed that aspect of the novel.

Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (Phoebe Reads a Mystery podcast)
A few months ago, I learned of this podcast. At the time, Phoebe was reading The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Christie’s first book, one chapter per day. I caught up just as she was finishing the book. She moved on to Hound of the Baskervilles, which I also listened to and enjoyed. Then she began The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and there she lost me. I hated the book and after trying to hang on in the hopes it would get better or end, I gave up. I was glad I did, because it seemed to go on forever. I did not unsubscribe from the podcast, but just waited to see what book would be next. It was this one, so I happily started listening again. This is Christie’s third book and it features Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. Poirot gets and urgent letter imploring him to go to France immediately to help a man named Paul Renauld, who fears his life is in danger. Poirot and Hastings rush off, but arrive to find that Paul Renauld has been killed. Poirot investigates in spite of hostility from the French police detective assigned to the case. It’s no surprise who gets the right answer in the end. Phoebe is currently reading Anna Katherine Green's novel, The Leavenworth Case, which was apparently an inspiration for Christie.

Murder Takes a Holiday by various authors, edited by Cecily Gaylord
This is a collection of 10 classic crime stories that is new to the library e-book collection. There are a few more current authors included, but most are from the Golden Age era. Like the Christmas collections I’ve read in the same series, this is a great read. All the stories involve some sort of holiday/travel.

It's still weird for me to see things about 'the holiday season' because to me that's December. But here it means summer, when people go on holiday (instead of vacation)--at least they did before the pandemic.

Stay safe, wash your hands, cover your face in public, and happy reading!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Sheepy Watch: Sweet Dreams

The postman put something in the box this morning and when I brought it upstairs, Bill said it was for me. he said he saw it and decided I had to have it. He knows how I love sheep 🐑😀
Note the black sheep on the bottom right of the band. Being a black sheep myself, I particularly like that!

On the watch face, the sheep are cavorting among the stars and the text around the dge says 'sweet dreams' in various languages.
I love it!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

June Books: Classics

Another month begins, bringing with it a new stack of books to spend time with. Our library is still not open, even though they were able to reopen three weeks ago. In our county, they started a phased reopening last week, with a few branches. Another branch has opened this week. They're still not allowing requests and no books are being send from library to library, so it's all browse, borrow, return for the time being. We have no idea when our branch will open, but fortunately, between my e-reader, charity shop books and other acquisitions, library e-books and e-audiobooks, I am not going to run out of reading material anytime soon!

I've been getting into more classics lately and I have quite a collection of those on my e-reader, thanks to Project Gutenberg, a site that has e-books freely available for download. These are all out of copyright and in the public domain and they have various formats to choose from. Some of the classics are pretty long though, having originally been serialised in periodicals and I don't always want to read 700-800 pages or more on a screen, so we have picked up a few used books online lately, both from Book Depository and ebay.

Without further ado, here is the beginning of my June book list:

Odd Women by George Gissing
I learned of this book from a booktube video. It sounded good, so I went to Project Gutenberg, downloaded a copy and put it on my e-reader. I loved this book! After I finished, I went back and got more of Gissing’s work.

This book, published in 1893, revolves around various ‘odd women.’ The title can refer to the fact that the women are ‘odd’ in the sense that most of them do not fit into the roles society has created for them. The other (related) sense of ‘odd’ in the title has to do with the fact that there were more women than men and many women were unmarried, whether by choice or not. The book includes themes of marriage, respectability, the role of women, and early feminism. It’s set in England, and we first meet the Madden sisters. After their father dies, the sisters are left without much money and have to fend for themselves. Two of them end up in poverty, trying to find work as governesses and companions, renting a small room and eating sparingly. Their younger sister becomes a shop girl, but wants a different sort of life. She makes a decision that will have repercussions for a long time to come.

As youngsters, the sisters knew Rhoda, who they end up coming into contact with again as adults. Rhoda has no interest in marriage and works with Mary Barfoot to teach middle class women secretarial skills so they can support themselves. The story branches off from these people, but comes back to intertwine at various times.

Gissing does fall short when it comes to class issues, which seems a bit weird, considering that some of his other work deals with class in a very different way and in his personal life, he was not a fan of the class structure.

I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading more of Gissing’s work.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster
I’d heard about this novella before, but was reminded of it by Bill, who read something about it. I could not find it on Project Gutenberg and couldn’t request it from the library, since it’s still closed, but with a bit of searching, I found a LibriVox audiobook on youtube and listened to that. It is really good. Even though it was written in 1908, it sounds like he could have been writing about today. It’s a dystopian world in which people are forced to live underground with every need taken care of by ‘The Machine.’ At an eariier time, people thought they could control the machines they created, but of course, things did not go as planned. So people live in isolation in subterranean compartments and socialise via their screens. The main characters are Vashti and her son, Kuno. One day, Kuno appears on Vashti’s screen and asks her to come visit him in person. Travel is rare and frowned upon, but she gets permission and travels via airship to see him. This is terrifying for her. She is even more disturbed by what he has to tell her and is happy to get back to her compartment. Her relief is short-lived, however. Excellent story.

A Dark Night’s Work by Elizabeth Gaskell
This novel was published in 1863. It was first published as a serial in a Charles Dickens periodical. The main character of the novel is Ellinor Wilkins, who lives with her father, Edward, and various people who work for the family. The story begins when Ellinor is a very young child and ends when she is in her 30s. Edward inherits the family law practice, but he is unsuited to this work. The family is fairly well off, but does not have high social standing because Edward works for people who do. Things go downhill as the years go by, with serious consequences for many of the people involved. Class and gender roles are themes of the book.

I loved this book. I had it on my e-reader, having downloaded it from Project Gutenberg some years ago. I was recently reminded of it when listening to a booktube video.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
We recently ordered this book, along with a couple of other books by Dickens. I wanted to read this one first, so of course this one came last. The other two arrived together and this one a week later, even though they were all ordered from the same place at the same time. This one somehow travelled from the UK to France to Ireland, so it had a longer journey. As soon as it arrived, I dove in and loved it from the start. It's not perfect, but there is so much to enjoy in this book and so much that is relevant in our world today. The introduction to this edition was also excellent, although I read those at the end, so as not to have plot points divulged before I start the book. I haven't really read Dickens, except for A Christmas Carol, in decades, so it is fun to revisit his work.

I should note that I have tried to give a flavour of the plots, but without going into too much detail, because I don't like to give too much of the storyline away. There are Wikipedia entries for all of them if you'd like to get that detail, but like the introductions, I never read those until after I read the book either, because they give away the story.

I finished a book just before going to sleep last night, so I will have the fun of picking a new one today. So many books, so little time! I hope you're enjoying some good reading, too.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Clever Funny Videos

I always enjoy the Founders Sing videos--here's their latest:

And Randy Rainbow is another clever guy:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Wildflower Wednesday

We walked the river trail today and there were some lovely wildflowers blooming.

this thistle was quite tall and the bee was happy
The patches of ferns were pretty, too. I love the curls as they grow towards opening.

I hope there are many beautiful sights in your neck of the woods, too!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Happy Solstice!

At 22:43 tonight our time, summer solstice will arrive. Yay! From then on, ever so slowly, the seconds/minutes/hours of daylight will begin to dwindle a bit more each day. I am almost giddy thinking about it! I know there is plenty of yuck still to come as summer drags on, but I always feel just a little bit better knowing that at least I am heading towards my best time of year now.

Whether this day makes you happy because of the long hours of light or the upcoming journey towards the dark, I hope it's a good one where you are.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Finally! FO to FO

Just over a year ago, we visited Creeslough for a few days. As we always do, we walked around to various places, just to see what we would see. One day, we walked to Doe Castle. On the way, I spotted this on the side of the road and picked it up.
I knew this would be fun to use somehow, so I carried it to Doe Castle and back to our 'glamping villa.' Then I considered how I would carry it home on buses and in a full backpack. I didn't want to carry it lest the end stab myself or someone else and I didn't want it to punch through my pack, either. I ended up wrapping the bottom with a couple of cardboard cores from loo rolls and tying it with some yarn I had. Then I carefully placed this wrapped end in a yogurt jar and set this on the bottom of my backpack along the back before packing everything else. It worked well and I got it home with no damage to anyone or anything else. I poured boiling water over it a couple of times and wiped it down

Then I considered what to do with it. I knew it would be a plant poke, but went back and forth and round and round about what to put in the ring. Nothing settled, so I just stuck it out of the way. When we moved, I stuck it in a new out-of-the-way place until the other day, when I decided it was time to actually make this FO (found object) an FO (finished object). I opted for a small bit of crocheted lace with a pineapple design.

I'm happy with the end result and it looks nice in the window.
If I decide at some point that I want something else, I can remove the lace and add a different piece of work, but for now, I'm glad to have finally turned the FO into an FO!