What else I read in October 2016

In my earlier post I mentioned that I had two library books.  I managed to finish reading both of them before the end of the month.  I did not find another book to borrow from the library.  Instead I decided to reread some books I have at home.  I read An Alien at St Wilfred’s by Adrian Plass from cover to cover on the last day of October.

The two library books I borrowed are A Walk along the Wall by Hunter Davies and The Making of Swallows and Amazons by Sophie Neville.  Both are non-fiction and relate to the 1970s.

Hunter Davies’ book has been republished several times. The issue I read had a new introduction and the appendix listing publications about Hadrian’s Wall had been brought up-to-date (about 10 years ago).  I chose the book because I have visited a few locations along the wall and Lanercost Priory, which was built from stones originally used for the wall.  Reading it gave me lots of background information.  I hope to be able to explore more of the wall in future.  The book is written in a conversational style by an author with an enquiring mind.  While it deals with history, archaeology and geography, it is a story of a series of meetings with people who live(d) or worked along the wall.  There is information about the landowning families of the counties of Northumberland and Cumbria.  I found it fascinating.

Sophie Neville played the part of Titty Walker in the film of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons in the early 1970s.  The Making of Swallows and Amazons is a very readable book compiled from her diary, that of the actress, who played Susan Walker, photos from the time and the memories of others involved.  An appendix includes information about what those involved in the film did subsequently.  There are many black and white photos and some in colour.  I am not sure whether I have watched the film of Swallows and Amazons on TV, but (as a child) I enjoyed the book and others by Arthur Ransome.  I also enjoyed The Painted Garden most of Noel Streatfield’s books.  It is the one about children making a film in Hollywood.  Technology has advanced, so that all sorts of special effects can be achieved nowadays.  In the 1970s there were many practical problems to be solved to achieve the desired effects.  I could go on, but I recommend that you read this book for yourself!

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An Alien at St Wilfred’s is fiction.  I have read it before, probably more than once.  I think it is my favourite of those books by Adrian Plass, which I have read.  Superficially it is about a vicar and organist, who do not get on well together.  But it is much more than that.  It is very funny in a gentle way.  Above all it is a hopeful book.

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What I read in June 2016

I have been reading fiction and non-fiction in June.

During Mental Health Awareness Week I retweeted a tweet from Lion Hudson and was surprised a couple of weeks later to learn that I had won a book.  The book I received at the beginning of June was Stress: How to de-stress without doing less by Dr Kate Middleton.  At least here in the UK The author’s name is memorable as it was also the maiden name of a young lady, who married into the royal family!

I reviewed Stress soon after I read it over on Sue’s considered trifles.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

I also read six works of fiction.  (Two before Stress and four after.)

Being Miss by Fran Hill is a light-hearted look at a day in the life of a teacher in a private school in England.  The link is to a kindle edition, but I read a paperback copy.

The Silver Chair is from the Narnia series by CS Lewis.  For some reason I have not found the story of this book as memorable as some of the others.  In the few days before writers met at Scargill House in Yorkshire, there had been a family event on the theme of The Silver Chair.  On my return home I reread it.  This time I enjoyed it more than I had previously.  Eustace (a character from my favourite of the Narnia series – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) features in this story along with a girl from the dreadful school he attended.

The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier is an earthy historical novel set in North America in the time of Queen Victoria’s reign.  I have read several of Tracy Chevalier’s earlier books and am going to look out for a couple I have missed.  She writes extremely well; her books are always well-researched and approach her subject matter from an unusual angle.

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells is not by the originator of the characters, Bertie Wooster and his man-servant, Jeeves, but by Sebastian Faulks.  This book is a tribute to P.G.Wodehouse.  It maintains the same light-hearted style and the scheming of the characters is likely to keep readers turning the pages.  The layout of the paperback copy I borrowed from the library has more white space between the lines than the Penguin books by P.G. Wodehouse on my bookshelf. One of the reasons for writing the book was to introduce new (younger) readers to the original.  This would seem to be an effective way of doing so. It is a very funny book.

Chosen? by Mel Menzies is the second of the Evie Adams books.  I was a little disappointed by the layout of this book, but once I became lost in the story I stopped noticing the minor irritations.  I reviewed the first of these books, Time to Shine, last year. This latest book looks at family relationships and has some unexpected twists in the plot. I enjoyed it.

Losing Face by Annie Try tells a story using emails with Word documents attached to them.  The authors of these are two teenage girls.  Although one of the girls has suffered severe injuries in a road traffic accident, she attempts to reassure her friend (and the reader) that nothing she is about to read will be too gruesome. It is a well-written book about peer-pressure, friendship and many issues of relevance to young people.  The unusual format keeps the sections short and makes it easy to keep turning the pages.  I found that it worked extremely well.  It is an emotional read, but well worth the effort.

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My head is full of spaghetti

Last weekend I did something I had been hoping to do for about a year.  I went away for a long weekend to meet with a large group of writers.  Many of them are members of the Association of Christian Writers.  The speakers for the weekend were Adrian Plass, Bridget Plass (his wife) and Tony Collins, a publisher of fiction and the author of a non-fiction book, Taking my God for a Walk.

I have come back so full of stories, ideas and experiences that it feels as if my head is full of threads of spaghetti, which need time to settle down and become untangled.

It would be worse if I had remained indoors for Saturday afternoon and attended more sessions of information.  Instead I went for a two hour walk in the hills with five other people – not all writers.  After that I did some singing with six other women of various ages.  It was very enjoyable and relaxing.

I travelled on five trains and was a passenger in three different cars.  The journey took me from one county into two others and back again by a different scenic route.  Almost the entire journey was through beautiful countryside in Northern England.  Part of it was along the coast.

View from the train

View from the train

At one point in Yorkshire looking at the small stations I recalled a memorable day in November 2010, when I was in a party of four people travelling on four trains each way to reach Gruyère.  “Look at that castle!” I said.

“That’s where we are going,” replied my daughter.

I was amused by the contrast in size of a station (in Yorkshire) named Clapham with another station I travelled through twice over a month ago, which has a two-word name.

How can I unravel the spaghetti?

Unless my readers have any better ideas, I intend to let it simmer for a while.  I shall continue with my usual routine, trying to do all the important things, being flexible enough to cope with any unexpected events and letting strands of spaghetti out in the form of blog posts and other literary endeavours.

Hopefully nothing will boil over, burn or explode.  Perhaps some of the strands may even be nourishing.