Change of Focus

When I started this blog, I envisaged writing about books as well as gardens (and anything else I found interesting).

Gardening, nature and photography have given me plenty to write about though, and comments on books have been somewhat sidelined. So, I’m going to use my other blog katkarradz.wordpress.com ,  which is still in its infancy, for comments about books and reading, as well as (I hope) some of my own writing. Gardening books will be an exception; they belong on these pages.

See you there!

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Read or Save?

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’ve finished ‘Love Story, with Murders’, the DC Fiona Griffiths crime novel I mentioned in my last coffee share post. You might tell me that it took a long time, and I’d reply that there were reasons for that, but they were nothing to do with the book itself. I like the unusual character that Harry Bingham has created in Fiona, as I now feel I can call her, this being the second in the series. And precisely because it is the second in the series, I can’t reveal too much about her, for fear of spoilers if you haven’t read the first. Suffice it to say, then, that she has an intriguing, if not bizarre, personality and background, as well as a somewhat unusual set of friends. Oh, and her investigative methods are unorthodox, to say the least.

As the title of the first novel, ‘Talking to the Dead’, suggests, the deceased feature significantly, but perhaps not in quite the way you’d expect. ‘Love Story, with Murders’ kicks off with a gruesome discovery in a freezer; the icy theme continues as South Wales is gripped by freezing weather. That’s significant too. If you yearn every Christmas for deep, white, fluffy snow, one incident will probably change your mind about it for ever. Tense moments mingle with some mildly unsettling ones; there’s menace, but humour too. And the question of where Fiona came from is always, troublingly, there in the background.

So far, I’m really enjoying this series and will definitely be reading the next one; ‘The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths’. But wait… there is only one more to go after that (and one more coming soon, I believe). So the question is: read or save? What would you advise me to do?

 

 

Too late for the coffee share?

Well, we’re not having coffee, unfortunately, because I couldn’t get myself organised in time.

However, I did want to record a couple of things this week, mainly to follow up on some of my recent posts.

The first piece of news, if you like, is that I’ve finished ‘Night After Night’, the third Phil Rickman novel in the series I’ve been immersed in (and I do hope not the last). This time, the spotlight falls on Grayle Underhill and Cindy Mars-Lewis; the setting is a particularly unpleasant building called Knap Hall. I love the way the author builds up tension and creates an unsettling atmosphere.

In case anyone is wondering, I’ve used a one of my own photos of a gargoyle to illustrate this post, in honour (if that’s the right word) of the Winchcombe Grotesques – enough to frighten any reader!

Gargoyle

Still in a somewhat sombre vein, I’m now reading ‘Love Story, With Murders’, by Harry Bingham. More on this at a later date, possibly…

***

Just a note to confirm, more to myself than anything, that I have been wearing my Fitbit and making more of an effort to exercise. So far, so good. A slight blip though… one evening, after I’d made a special effort to go for a walk after work, it wouldn’t give me a reading. Turned out it needed a reset. which it promptly received. It then informed me I’d taken eight steps all day!

I’ve forgiven it, though, and the battle for fitness continues…

Can’t Stop Reading…

Last autumn, a midweek television series caught my attention. ‘Midwinter of the Spirit’, it was called, and a creepy affair it was: an excellent choice for a dull evening with nothing much on the horizon but getting up for work the next morning. I read a couple of reviews, hoped there might be another series in the offing, and somewhere in my mind, without even being consciously aware of it, filed the name Phil Rickman away. He’s the author of the Merrily Watkins Mysteries, from which ‘Midwinter’ was adapted.

Nothing for a while… although I did buy two of Phil Rickman’s novels (from another series). Then forgot about them.

Less than two weeks ago, recovering from a flu virus, I needed something exciting to read, and remembered my Kindle purchases. Perfect! ‘The Cold Calling’ hooked me in immediately, with its chilling and relentless Green Man murders and assorted slightly-odd characters. Odd? Well, that’s how I interpreted ‘Holy’ Grayle Underhill, a New Age journalist from New York; Bobby Maiden, a policeman who doesn’t quite fit the usual pattern; Marcus Bacton, irritable ex-schoolteacher and proprietor of ‘The Phenomenologist’ magazine; Sister Andy, a formidable Glaswegian nurse. Oh, and best of all, Cindy Mars-Lewis, a creation so wonderful I’m not prepared to reveal anything about him at this stage. (Or perhaps I just did.) The novel is mostly set around the border between Hereford and Wales – a part of the world I absolutely love – with a prehistoric monument as a powerful focal point. Phil Rickman manages to combine crime, psychic phenomena, unlikely relationships, excitement, menace – and even humour- with some genuinely unsettling moments. Yes, it’s a cliche but I couldn’t stop reading!

The beauty of Kindle, of course, is that it’s easy to move seamlessly from one novel in a series straight into the next. ‘Mean Spirit’, therefore, followed without further ado. The same eccentric characters are involved, including the intriguing Cindy (you really have to meet him for yourself). A new character, Persephone Callard, leads us into the world of spiritualism and seances, and Cindy has a problem with a celebrity hypnotist. Also featured: ‘Britain’s only purpose-built haunted house’ and a disturbing undercurrent of crime. Again, there are some unsettling sequences. But I think what Phil Rickman does really well is pace, along with the occasional chiller sentence. Eventually, but all too soon, the plot elements slot into place without (for this reader at least) being too predictable.

So now I’ve only got one book left to read. ‘Night After Night’. (Someone please tell me if there are any more in this particular series that I don’t know about). Part of me doesn’t want to read it – I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t already devoured 25% of it – but I can’t stop myself. Am I in some kind of hypnotic trance?

All is not lost though: there are still, I believe, Merrily Watkins Mysteries to go at!

 

 

Eclectic? Or just chaotic?

I’ve started the long, painful process of decluttering my bookshelves.

Incidentally, it seems irreverent to describe this process as ‘decluttering’, when books mean so much. Culling? It has to be done though: I have thousands. Some of them are deteriorating and some just forgotten. I think I’ve mentioned before that books are like time capsules for me (or if I haven’t, I meant to). Sifting through stacks of dusty and mouldering tomes (well, my paperbacks, mainly) has unearthed many a memory and continues to do so. Future posts beckon.

For now, here are some of the books I’ve passed on to charity shops. These pictures have already appeared on Instagram (@kkarrad2). Parting with some of them has been a bit of a wrench; the particularly troublesome ones have been replaced on Kindle, which has certainly made the task easier.

Books, Books, Books…

I’ve collected and hoarded books for ages. Now I think it’s time to start tidying my bookshelves and giving some of them away to charity shops. Spread the words, you might say.

I’m starting with books I can replace cheaply on Kindle if I need to, or that I know I won’t read again. It’s difficult to get rid of any book, of course, and I think I’m going to find it helpful to record their leaving in some way. So… an occasional post on here and more frequent, shorter posts on a new Instagram account: kkarrad2.

Wish me luck!

‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins

I love travelling by rail (despite the expense). Even on routes I use regularly, there’s always a new and unexpected sight: never humdrum, never dull. Trains have featured in some of my favourite films – think ‘Brief Encounter’ – and provided me with a strong network of memories. They’ve even inspired me to write poetry. Inevitably, given the title, a train journey is also the starting point for the best-selling novel ‘The Girl on the Train’.

I finished reading it last weekend – on a train journey, as it happens. It wasn’t exactly the Orient Express: the carriage was bursting with beery cricket fans. My escape route was the plot, which was more than interesting enough to keep me glued to the screen of my Kindle! So what’s it all about?

Rachel drinks too much. That much is clear from the start. Every day, she travels, by rail, past the house she used to live in before her divorce; now, though, her ex-husband lives there with his new partner and their baby daughter. Bad enough. But every day, she sees another couple. She is drawn into making up names for them and imagines what their lives must be like. Then she sees something that doesn’t seem quite right, and one of the characters goes missing … but Rachel’s heavy drinking means she is labelled as an ‘unreliable witness’.

The plot develops through the narrative of three women: Rachel, Megan and Anna. None of the main characters, men or women, could be described as likeable; they’re all flawed, all somehow lost, all hiding something. Rachel lurches around (often literally) in search of the truth. Her suburban commuter-world is recognisable to all of us, yet it is peopled with characters who have slipped between the cracks, lost to drink, drugs or loneliness. Marginal people, who don’t quite fit, like Rachel.  People who exist on the lonely edges of life, places like the long ribbons of waste land at the sides of railway tracks.

This could all make ‘The Girl on the Train’ sound somewhat depressing, and I suppose some aspects of it are a little bleak, but I found it hard to tear myself away at times, and found myself reading it far too late at night more than once! Rachel’s unwavering determination to find out the truth behind what she glimpsed from the train certainly kept my interest.