Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, one of the greatest writers of all time, was born on this day in 1812.  I admire his writing tremendously and need to read a lot more of his work than I have so far, he was a genius.  His stories rise and fall in a whirlwind of drama, joy, sadness, silliness, seriousness, cruelty, tenderness, and much eccentricity and whimsicality.
Here I'll share some photos of my collection of his books, starting with the Oxford set: 
And various others:

Monday, 29 January 2018

Books Read In 2017, and Books Currently Being Read

A Good Read by George Bernard O'Neill
In 2017 I didn't read as many books as I would have liked to, but did read more than in the previous year; there were also various ones (not mentioned here) that were browsed through or begun but abandoned to be read at another time, because I'm a moody and sometimes fickle reader!   Many of them were mysteries. All of them are very good, and I do tend to have the problem of having so many enticing treasures to read that it's hard to settle, which is why there are usually several on the go at the same time. 
I've never posted my reading lists before, but here is my 2017 list:

The Shadow Guests by Joan Aiken 1980
She Fell Among Thieves by Dornford Yates 1935
Unicorn: Myth and Reality by Rudiger Robert Beer
Thornyhold by Mary Stewart (yet again) 1988
The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley 2011
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley 2011    
The Man Behind The Glass by Greg Howes 2014
The Hound Of Death and Other Stories by Agatha Christie 1933
The Lothian Run by Mollie Hunter 1970
Empty Pocket Blues:  The Life and Music of Clive Palmer by Grahame Hood 2008
The Stones of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston 1976
Robin Hood by J.C. Holt
Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry Volume 1
The Mabinogion, translated by Lady Charlotte Guest (not finished)
The Silver Bough by F. Marion McNeill 1956
The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude 1935
Appleby's Answer by Michael Innes 1973
Adele and Co. by Dornford Yates 1931
The Club Of Queer Trades by G.K. Chesterton 1905
The Crime At Black Dudley by Margery Allingham 1929
Look To The Lady by Margery Allingham 1931
The Book Without Words:  A Fable Of Medieval Magic by Avi 2005
The Apothecary Rose by Candace Robb 1993
Headlong Hall by Thomas Love Peacock 1816

Due to the pastime of researching books (when I really should just be reading from what I already have), I did add quite a large number of books to my library in 2017, and there's nothing wrong with that! I sold a few books and traded some as well.  Some of the kinds of arrivals include ones on the Pre-Raphaelites, mysteries, Scottish books, Irish books,  antique books, and Victoriana.  In December, via booksellers with very good and very cheaply priced books, I ordered a great bunch of Medieval history books that look fascinating, and have started on one of those (though already had plenty of other Medieval history books yet to read, but you have to get them when you find them...).  I was also given some books for Christmas that I'd selected, which included more Lady Gregory books and a big hardcover tome of delightful-looking stories by Washington Irving.

Along with previously wanting more books by Dornford Yates and John Buchan, last year I discovered that I need many of G.K. Chesterton's books; along with being a highly entertaining writer, he was a very wise man.

Finished books so far this year are: The Maidenswell Folly by Greg Howes, and The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. 

Currently reading:

Visions & Beliefs In The West of Ireland by Lady Gregory  (gathered superstitions and folklore)

Medievalism:  The Middle Ages In Modern England by Michael Alexander  (about the Medieval revivals in literature, architecture, etc...)

The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins

Drawn From Life by William Thackeray

Mystery On The Moors (Sons of the Wolf) by Barbara Michaels (vintage Gothic suspense)

It's tempting to set up a reading plan for the year, but that doesn't tend to work well for me, as interests can shift around and it can make it feel more of a chore to tie oneself down to only read from a list, no matter how wonderful a list it may be.  But there are a few I particularly want to read this year, including certain ones by Robert Louis Stevenson, John Buchan, Sir Walter Scott, and William Harrison Ainsworth; so have assembled a small list of a few titles, but leaving the majority of the reading to whatever I feel like. It would be good to pick up the pace a bit too, and get through more books this year (I'm a fast reader, but deliberately slow down to fully absorb stories, and generally read in somewhat short spaces of time).  I'm also continuing on with my own writing, and have various ideas in progress which I intend to get on with, along with my music and painting too; and also would like to be more frequent with my blog posts here if interest is shown, comments are very welcome.

What are you reading?  Do you make reading plans?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

 With this new year I could begin with an overview of books read last year, or show the many book hauls there have been, but for now I'd like to mention this fine Victorian book read years ago, 'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins, a very famous story written in 1868 which has been referred to as the first real detective novel.  This is a rather intriguing tale with a mysterious atmosphere that keeps one engaged and wondering, and with some surprises at the end.  The reader ponders on why Rachel Verinder behaves in such a perplexing way, and are people really as they appear?  In the beginning, what are the suspicious Indian conjurors lurking around the house up to?  The chapters consist of narratives by various characters in the story, beginning with good old Gabriel Betteridge, the House-Steward, who continually reads and quotes from his favourite book, 'Robinson Crusoe'.

Like with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story of  'The Blue Carbuncle', a unique and highly desirable gem that has been the cause of murder and mayhem in its history, the Moonstone is also the object of desire for some who will stop at nothing to obtain it. 

"The Moonstone, a priceless yellow diamond, is looted from an Indian temple and maliciously bequeathed to Rachel Verinder.  On her eighteenth birthday, her friend and suitor Frankin Blake brings the gift to her.  That very night, it is stolen again.  No one is above suspicion, as the idiosyncratic Sergeant Cuff and Franklin piece together a puzzling series of events as mystifying as an opium dream and as deceptive as the nearby Shivering Sand."  Penguin Classics 1998 edition

There have also been various adaptations of this story: a 1930s film, the 1972 BBC television series  with Vivien Heilbron, Robin Ellis, Martin Jarvis, etc...;  the 1996 television film with Keeley Hawes, Greg Wise, Antony Sher, etc...-all worth watching, though the last two mentioned are the best. Apparently there is a new version of it as well, which I've not seen. 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas

I've been to the cinema to see the utterly wonderful film 'The Man Who Invented Christmas', and am in Victorian mode (even more so after finishing the Christmas decorating the night before too). I recommend this film to everyone, a very fine story with excellent acting and such lavishly splendid sets and costumes, it was a treasure to watch and I didn't want it to end, it's beautiful. It is about Charles Dickens writing 'A Christmas Carol', with the fantastical device of each character coming to life as he creates them and gives them a name. It has happy bits, sad bits, funny bits, it's touching and fascinating and is a visual feast. Give yourself a treat and make sure to see it before Christmas, you will be so glad you did. It will make you want to don a paisley dressing gown and settle down by a crackling fire with an enormous Victorian novel and a hot mulled drink...

Monday, 30 October 2017

Spooky Books

This time of year, when it turns cooler and the nights draw in, is ideal for indulging in a bit of spooky reading.  Nothing too awful or gruesome, one just wants to that certain kind of atmosphere and a good story that perhaps sends a chill, but doesn't freeze the blood to ice!   So generally that means old tales (though there are modern writers such as Susan Hill, who fit in with the classics), such as classic ghost stories and stories of suspense, these tend to have everything you are looking for.  Modern settings and everything that comes with that do not do anything for me. 

M.R. James was a master of the ghost story and one can't go wrong in choosing him.

  An anthology of various authors in this genre is a good way to enjoy spooky tales too, as you can read through or pick and choose.   Despite not believing in ghosts, I enjoy reading ghostly tales and legends.

Two books I found this year on eerie Scottish tales:

Of course, with it being Halloween, 'Hallowe'en Party' by Agatha Christie, is ideal. 

Settle down comfortably and lose yourself in a thrilling tale or two, just be sure all the doors and windows are locked...

Saturday, 30 September 2017

September Reading: Getting Lost In Wonderful Vintage Fiction

September's reading for me this year was full of vintage fiction, mainly crime fiction; just getting a bit lost in stories after a rather stressful time around the middle of the month.   I finished John Bude's excellent, 'The Cornish Coast Murder' and then went on to 'Appleby's Answer' by the ever-witty Michael Innes (a most unusual mystery indeed).  Then onto the next three selections: 

Firstly there was 'Adele And Co.' from 1931 by Dornford Yates. Dornford Yates has become a favourite author of mine within the last two years, and this was his fourth book I've read, I'm collecting them. He was very popular in his time, but is not too well known these days. "Here is a superior blend of excitement, drama, danger, intrigue and nostalgia... When Jill, Duchess of Padua, had her priceless pearls stolen, along with Adele and Daphne's jewels (and Berry's cufflinks), Berry and Co. face an impossible task in their attempt to recover them-particularly when they discover that Auntie Emma, a ruthless professional criminal, hopes to beat them to it. Throwing caution to the wind, Berry, Jonah and Boy embark on a thrilling chase which takes them from Paris to the Pyrenees..." This is an amazing book with lots of humour (Berry is so very funny), following on from 'Berry and Co.' and 'Jonah and Co.'

After that incredible adventure, the next choice was 'The Club of Queer Trades' from 1905 by the great G.K. Chesterton, an incredibly entertaining and eccentric little book consisting of six short stories filled with mystery, humour, and intrigue. "Eccentric sleuth, Basil Grant is deftly portrayed by Chesterton: mystic, enigmatic and often considered mad by his brother Rupert-the over-zealous private-eye- and by Charles Swinburne, gullible narrator of the six tales... Like Chesterton's more famous hero, Father Brown, Basil Grant detects crime by intuitive rather than conventional means." I enjoyed this one tremendously and some bits were very funny, and I need to get many more G.K. Chesterton books; he was a writer of great wit and wisdom.

The third book of that particular week that I found hard to put down, was 'The Crime At Black Dudley' from 1929 by Margery Allingham, her first mystery to feature Albert Campion. This one concerns a house party of bright young things gathered in a remote, ancient house full of secret passages, who become trapped in the house by a gang of ruthless criminals. Try this if you are in the mood for a great vintage Golden Age crime classic. Vintage Books has republished Margery Allingham's books in an attractive softcover edition and, after buying three of them, I'd like to get them all in that edition.

It had been years since I'd read one of her books, and I enjoyed 'The Crime At Black Dudley so much that it was followed by another Margery Allingham one,  'Look To The Lady', which I'll finish reading in a day or so, another great one from a great mystery writer; and they are best read in order to get the most out of them.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Dorothy L. Sayers: The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries

Dorothy L. Sayers is of one of the greatest and most literate mystery writers of all time, prolific during the "Golden Age" of crime fiction along with Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and many more.  She created Lord Peter Wimsey, the famous aristocratic sleuth, and penned wonderful and highly intellectual mysteries that are popular to this day.  Being so familiar from having watched both excellent television adaptations with Ian Carmichael in the 1970s, and Edward Petherbridge in the late 1980s many times on television, video, and DVD, and reading some of the books many years ago before I had started keeping a reading record, I'm a bit muddled as to which ones I've actually read, and should probably just start from the beginning and carry on.

Featured here is my collection of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. I collected the large batch of secondhand paperbacks below many years ago, found a few and liked the cover design and artwork so much that the others in that edition were sought out.


A collection of all the Lord Peter Wimsey short stories:

A few titles in another edition, also with good cover design:

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Lothian Run by Mollie Hunter

'The Lothian Run' by Mollie Hunter was first published in 1970 and concerns the adventures of a young apprentice (by the name of Sandy Maxwell) in a lawyer's office in Edinburgh in 1736.  He is bored with his job and doesn't think he can stand it any longer, but his dull occupation soon changes when he gets involved in tracking down some dangerous smugglers when helping Deryck Gilmour, an officer of the Special Investigations branch of the Customs service.  There is spying, kidnapping, murder, mobs, Jacobites; plenty of intrigue and adventurous scrapes.   I enjoyed this lively historical fiction tale very much, found it hard to put down, and definitely recommend it.