Thursday, 29 April 2021

Blog Blast


Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien (trans. Jamie Bulloch) Quercus Books

 (@QuercusBooks & @MacLeHosePress)

(eProof via NetGalley)

Books in translation are something I enjoy hugely and this one instantly appealed, both due to the setting (East Germany post reunification) and the translator - I've loved everything I've read in translation from Bulloch.

This book really wormed its way under my skin, in five stories (the Acts of the title) we learn about the lives of five women and how they interconnect. These women all have complicated lives and and various events in the present and past have shaped who they are.

What I most liked about this book was that the women felt real, they did feel like people you meet in daily life. They were fully rounded and you get to see all sides of them, no one is fully good or fully bad they just leap out of the page and into your life. The supporting cast weren't quite so well rounded but they definitely weren't cardboard cutouts, they had enough body to exist in their own right as well as in relation to the women.

My complaint with this book was that it ended - I wanted to spend more time with the five women and see where their lives went next.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Book gifts from friends


Unexpected gifts

Recently the postman has delivered three books that I wasn't expecting and it turned out that two friends had seen/read some titles and loved them so much that they sent me copies of them too.

It is always a risk actually sending physical books as gifts, I often wimp out and send book tokens and recommendations, but I've read 2 of the 3 books now and I think that my friends know me inside out as I loved them both.

First to arrive was Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden (John Murray Press)

This was a series of linked essays about how libraries and archives have been created and destroyed throughout the last 3000+ years and at times was a real eye opener. The bravery of some juxtaposed with the barbarity of others was breath taking, and the last couple of chapters about the future of archives gave me real food for thought. The book is incredibly readable and I am so grateful to my friend for sending a copy to me so that I actually read it rather than it languishing on my 'I'd like to read this at some point' list.

The second parcel of books contained  fiction and non fiction titles, and again the non fiction was one that has been on my radar for ages (and indeed I recommended it a lot during my WW1 project) but that I haven't actually read - yet. I plan on reading Where the Poppies Blow by John Lewis Stempel (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) once the Norfolk poppy fields come into bloom - just for atmosphere.

The second book was another republished classic - this time from Barbara Pym. Crampton Hodnet (Virago) was a real snapshot in time,  being set in an insular neighbourhood in North Oxford just pre WW2. 
As you're reading the book the events seem so all consuming and dramatic but by the end you come to realise just how unimportant they are - apart from for the people involved. 

I can see that some people might find the ending of the book a let down but for me it was a reflection of life - something exciting happens, but once time passes it becomes clear that it was unimportant and will just become another family legend. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

Unexpected post is always exciting and when it contains books rather than bills it makes me a very happy Norfolkbookworm. It is also nice to know that, despite having not seen one friend in over a year, and the other only once or twice, they know me so well they can send me books that I have to drop everything else on my list and just read!

Friday, 23 April 2021

Happy World Book Night!


Wishing all readers a very happy World Book Night 2021 - here's hoping you all find something new to read and love, it isn't often that you are actually encouraged to drop everything and read but today is for book worms everywhere!

I'll be dipping into the book specially put together for WBN21 which is free to download as either an eBook or an audio book! 

A seriously entertaining collection of feelgood stories guaranteed to put the smile back on your face written especially by ten bestselling novelists:
Jenny Éclair
Mark Watson
Veronica Henry
Eva Verde
Richard Madeley
Katie Fforde
Dorothy Koomson
Vaseem Khan
Helen Lederer
Rachel Hore

From a hilarious race against time to a moment of unexpected eavesdropping, from righting wrongs in rural India to finding joy in unlikely places, these stories are all rich in wit and humour, guaranteed to lift your spirits and warm your heart.

Stories to Make you Smile is a co-commission between The Reading Agency and Specsavers as part of World Book Night 2021.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Micro Review 20


A Hundred Million Years and a Day by Jean-Baptiste Andrea, trans. Sam Taylor (Gallic Books)

Free copy provided by Gallic Books

I've long been a fan of the quirky tales Gallic Books find and translate into English and this one is no exception.

It tells the story of one professor of paleontology and his quest to make the biggest fossil discovery of his life. 

Following on from what could easily be dismissed as a story told for children the unorthodox Stan draws together an unlikely band of helpers and makes for the high Alps to start his quest. The weather only allows a short window of exploration each summer so as well as financial pressures there are also serious time constraints. The isolation and impending sense of danger are almost characters in their own rights...

To say more would ruin the book, and I am pleased that I followed my instinct of a an enticing blurb and researched the book no further before reading:

When he hears a story about a huge dinosaur fossil locked deep inside an Alpine glacier, university professor Stan finds a childhood dream reignited. Whatever it takes, he is determined to find the buried treasure.

But Stan is no mountaineer and must rely on the help of old friend Umberto, who brings his eccentric young assistant, Peter, and cautious mountain guide Gio. Time is short: they must complete their expedition before winter sets in. As bonds are forged and tested on the mountainside, and the lines between determination and folly are blurred, the hazardous quest for the Earth’s lost creatures becomes a journey into Stan’s own past.

This breathless, heartbreaking epic-in-miniature speaks to the adventurer within us all.

The chapters are short, and almost breathless and I found myself eagerly turning the page to see where the story went next, in honesty I surprised myself by being less interested in Stan's back story - I was too eager to follow the progress on the mountain - but by the end I was reconciled to why it was needed.

Taylor's translation (strangely this is the 3rd translation from him that I've read recently) is brilliant and if you are looking for a quirky read then Gallic Books have come up trumps once more.

Many thanks to Gallic Books for offering copies to reviewers, the book is published at the start of May and I do really recommend it.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Busy month and book guilt



While the first relaxation of this lockdown's rules hasn't impacted on us much (we live too far from family to be able to meet up for an al fresco lunch) we have definitely been enjoying travelling a little further from home for our walks.

The upside to this is that we are spending more time outdoors than we were, and as the days get longer and the temperatures are in theory getting warmer (as I type this I can hear the sleet/hail hitting the window) I am spending less time curled up with a book. Right now this trade off is fine with me - it has felt a long dark winter and no longer having to travel by book is pleasing.

I have still been reading, and since finishing my World Book Night challenge I have spent some time catching up on some of the advance reading copies supplied by Net Galley - look out for reviews and thoughts on these as it gets closer to their publication dates, I've read through some of the library reservations that have come in for me, and I've also been reading for another of my projects.

The one pile of books I've been neglecting however is the stack of physical books that I've bought or been sent (by friends and publishers) over the past few months and I think that the time has come to set some discipline in my reading - for every advance copy pr ebook I read I should read one from the physical stack of books. 

I think that this challenge might be harder than any I've set before - but if I don't start making in roads into these physical piles there is a huge danger that one of them will fall over and crush me! I know that sounds a little like hyperbole but I was good recently and sorted all my books - the ones I've read are on shelves and the unread ones are in boxes/piles all over the house (and yes this is so Mr Norfolkbookworm doesn't work out just how many there are!) 

I justify these quantities by saying that I've been supporting independent publishers and bookshops but the truth is I have very little self control when it comes to books and the pleasure of a new book is one I cannot resist. Some people have taken up sensible projects during the pandemic - I've just grown stacks of books...

In my defence there is some evidence that I can show restraint. I use an app to list the books I hear or read about and want to read. Currently there are 312 books on that list and (only) 25 are marked as 'owned but not read' the trouble is every time I open a paper, magazine or Twitter I see more I want to read.

Now of course I will go an prevaricate over these piles of books and try to pick one to read, I am wondering about either getting Mr Norfolkbookworm to pick one for me or perhaps lining them all up with their spines hidden and picking one at random - who am I kidding first I need to look through the review sections in the papers to see what is published this week...

My name is Sarah and I suffer from tsundoku

Friday, 2 April 2021

World Book Night 2021: Thoughts


Reading Challenge Complete

Thanks to the third Covid-19 lockdown I have had more time for reading that I anticipated when I started my challenge, I thought that I would be hard pushed to finish the 21 books before the event, especially with other reading projects & non challenge books were taken into consideration.

However the lockdown meant more time at home, and the libraries being closed for a couple of months limited my access to new books a little (although I'm not quite sure that Mr Norfolkbookworm or our postman would agree!).

Reading books for a challenge like this is always interesting and a good way to be taken firmly out of my comfort zone, and this year was full of surprises - who'd have guessed that a book about football and a footballer would have been so interesting to a non-footie fan?

The choice of books overall was interesting. I did get frustrated that the teen appeal novels were both North American in setting - we have some great YA authors here, and in my opinion we should be supporting them more.

I liked the number of non fiction books on the list, and how many books featured short chapters or stories. 

I also liked how varied they were in exploring so many social aspects of life in the UK. I am guessing that the books were mostly picked in advance of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the  resurgence of the #MeToo but so many of the books tied into these themes that I felt I really gained an insight into these issues, but in a very natural way.

I found it interesting that there were some 'harder' books on the list - Shakespeare & Austen are not the easiest of authors to read, and so promoting audio books is great even if they aren't for me - one day I'll grow out of falling asleep as soon as someone reads to me - the bath, book, bed routine has stuck fast!

 A couple of the other books were also quite literary and this is a good reminder that World Book Night is about fostering a love of books - even good readers can get out of the habit and a free book is a good way to kickstart this again.

While on a personal level I was happy that there were no crime novels on the list, I find this a little odd - crime as a genre is incredibly popular in libraries and on the television after all.

Anyway these rambling thoughts are all things that have occurred to me as I've completed the challenge and they really aren't very profound at all!  

In the main I have enjoyed the variety of books and hope that many people discover a new favourite, or have the right book pressed in to their hand at just the right time.