I appear not to have written a post on my reading since September last year! And that, my friends, is not a good thing.
In September of 2020, I remember saying it might be good, with my birthday and Christmas approaching, to receive book vouchers for my favourite stores. But no, it was not to be.
Instead, but just as appreciated, I received garden-nursery vouchers, which I have started to use this last week. Gardening for me is as much a passion as reading.
But also, summer came and I try never to go near the city during summer – a waste of my time, so I stay happily ensconced in our coastal garden by the sea. Which of course makes my Kindle and the all-important Amazon and Audible bookshops vital. Here, by the sea, where I can hear the waves and watch the seabirds, I have no need to drive into the city, park the car, walk through crowds to get to a bookshop. It’s all done with the click of fingers and buttons.
That’s not to say I won’t venture into the bricks and mortar stores soon to buy an armful of books. Of course I will. But gosh Kindle and Audible make it easy.
But more than anything, I have been head down tail up, writing and reading research (notes and books) for the novel Reliquary, which I finished not long since. The novel is in the UK as we speak…
So, not in any order, but showing my reading interests.
Monty Don The Road to Le Tholonet
I’m a great fan of Monty Don, as I may have said elsewhere. I’ve almost finished reading this title. Monty writes as he sounds and I can hear his voice guiding me through these gardens which are also filmed in the Monty Don video, French Gardens. This e-book though, fills in the gaps in a most picturesque and conversational way.
Monty and Sarah Don The Jewel Garden
I read this before Le Tholonet and was quite in awe of Monty’s warts-and-all approach to his early life and times. Brutally honest about mental health and the role gardening played and plays in his continued good health.
MK Tod Paris in Ruins
A recent read and reviewed in an earlier blog
Kathryn Gauci The Secret of the Hotel Grand Du Lac
Continuing my dalliance of last year in WWII fiction. Vastly well researched on the French resistance.
Doherty and Turney Sons of Rome
Ah! Two of my favourite hist.fict writers of all time, even though I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool devotee of Roman hist.fict. A fabulous collaboration of energy, pace and story. Five stars. Turney never fails to pull it off, leaving a reader gasping with exhaustion at the end and I’ve decided that he and Doherty were brothers in arms in a previous life as they truly share the same modus operandi.
Gordon Doherty Empires of Bronze Sons of Ishtar
Doherty again and introducing me to a timeframe I have never read about. Gritty and fast-paced. Recommended for its complete freshness.
Matthew Harffy A Time for Swords
Another of my favourite hist.fict writers. Harffy introduced me to the Dark Ages in a way that tugged at my heartstrings and had me forming bonds immediately with his protagonists. I grab everything he writes, as I do with Doherty and Turney.
This is the first in a new series and one I think will prove a bestseller. I bet I’m not wrong!!
Robert Dinsdale – The Toymakers
This is a bit out of left field as I normally only read fantasy from the pen of Juliet Marillier. This recommendation came from Marillier herself and I loved it. I can’t recommend this strange journey into a strange toyshop in London more highly. It’s very definitely an adult book and set on the cusp of war.
I’ve become a real audio fan. Because I do a lot of distance driving and because I’m often alone in the house, audio has completely shoved ABC Radio 936 and ABC Radio National out the door. My feelings about 936 deserve a whole post on their own but perhaps it’s a rabbit hole not worth venturing down.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not keen on women voicing men whereas I have no problem with men voicing women. So it was with trepidation that I listened to Jilly Bond read Mary Stewart’s Thornyhold. But all was okay, and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Interesting too that it hasn’t dated one bit and Stewart is still a writer I respect and enjoy.
Amor Towle’s A Gentleman in Moscow was actually my book of 2020. LOVED the reading (Nicholas Guy Smith), the story, the characters and thought what a shame it is that ‘Manners no longer Maketh the Man.’ I also notice that the Duchess of Cornwall has it on her Clarence House reading list currently. Good choice.
Michael Hordern’s rendition of Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows was superb. Five stars plus, not least because Hordern IS Badger!
And then, having been thoroughly and enticingly Arthur-ed with Giles Kristian’s brilliant series The Arthurian Tales last year, I began Cornwell’s Arthurian saga, The War Lord Chronicles read by one of the best, Jonathan Keeble, who also voices Turney’s books (lucky man – both the narrator and the writer!)
The Winter King was everything I hoped for and more. Arthur’s legend is tweaked away from the oft-repeated canon with which we’re familiar. Arthur is a deep-thinking conscience-driven man, set on uniting Britain with the best intentions, blind to the rot surrounding him. Lancelot is ghastly – a self-indulgent, shallow, lying prig and so on – I’m not going to reveal any of the detail because it’s worth the listen – a story told by the main protagonist, Derfel Cadarn. Lord Derfel’s story continues in The Enemy of God. What intrigues me is that the story is written from Derfel’s point of view and that point of view retrospective. He writes his story as a Christian monk, having spent his life as a pagan warlord for Arthur. I am keen to find out when he became a Christian and why. Marvellous ballad – as if I’m seated by a great hall fire, spindle in hand, a basket of fleece beside me, whilst a bard tells the history to his listeners. I’m more of a Cornwell fan than ever.
So that’s it, my friends.
My varied list for the summer just past. Quality right through and what a blessing it is to have books in which to become lost.
Simply, I love a good story…
I loved A Gentleman in Moscow, Prue! I imagine it would have been excellent as an audiobook. It looks daunting in print (long and dense) but was a most wonderful read. The humility and insights of the central character really shone through.
I’m also delighted that you loved The Toymakers. If you feel like a darker and more challenging title by Robert Dinsdale, Gingerbread is a magnificent novel. He’s also written some straight historical fiction.
Juliet, Robert Dinsdale is certainly a ‘must find’ now. I thought The Toymakers was so skilful – I loved his style and as your last suggestion was filled with merit, I shall read Gingerbread and let you know what I think. I’m a slow reader these days though… 😉