Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Armful of Books




These books have little, if anything in common, other than the fact that they are all recent acquisitions. Every now and then I decide not to buy any more books and then along come some that I just can’t resist. They all look so enticing I want to read them all at once. As that’s not possible I thought I do quick summaries of each one (from information on the book covers) to help me decide which one to read next.

Remember Me by Melvyn Bragg. This is the latest book from Melvyn Bragg based on his own life. I enjoyed the others - The Soldier's Return, A Son of War and Crossing the Lines - so much that I couldn’t wait for this book to come out in paperback.
“A passionate but ultimately tragic love affair starts when two students – on French, one English – meet at university at the beginning of the sixties. From its tentative, unpromising early stages, the relationship develops into a life-changing one, whose profound impact continues to reverberate forty years later.”

The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart – bought in the Library Sale for 10p. I read and loved Mary Stewart’s trilogy of Arthur/Merlin books many years ago. The first two are The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills.
“The Last Enchantment is a richly woven story peopled by princes and soldiers, grave-robbers and goldsmiths, innkeepers and peasants and witches …”
As it's so long since I first read ths book I expect it will be like reading a new book.

Never On These Shores by Stephen R Pastore. Lisa Roe at the Online Publicist sent me this to review. Have a look at her site; she has a number of books available fo review. This is a “what if” book –
what if in 1942 “the Nazis had landed in Mexico and invaded the United States through Texas. The Japanese have conquered Canada and have captured and occupied most of the west coast from Seattle to the outskirts of Los Angeles.”
In a way this fits in with my current reading of books about the Second World War.

Admit One: a Journey Into Film by Emmett James, a review book also from Lisa. This book follows British born actor Emmett James on his numerous adventures
“as he jumps from forgery to pornography to crashing the Academy Awards under the alias of a nominated writer. All the while, the films that inspired each tale contextualize this humorous collection of stories. The narrator provides a unique insight into the fascinating industry of film, eventually himself stumbling into the biggest box-office grossing movie of all time.”
Discussion about films attracted me to this book.

Down To a Sunless Sea by Mathias B Freese, a review book from the author. This collection of short stories
“plunges the reader into uncomfortable situations and into the minds of troubled characters. Each selection is a different reading experience – poetic, journalistic, nostalgic, wryly humorous, and even macabre.”
This sounds so different and quite challenging.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, a bookshop buy.
“Set in the turbulent times of twelfth-century England when civil war, famine, religious strife and battles over royal succession tore lives and families apart, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the building of a magnificent cathedral.”
Historical fiction and family drama combined makes this very attractive to me.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I saw this in the bookshop at the same time. I bought it as Joanna had suggested it when I wrote about Garden Spells, another magical book. I was also influenced by the name of one of the main characters – “Sally Owens”, as that was the name of my Great Aunt, who I thought was magical. It says on the back cover that this book
“blends together the mundane and the mysterious, the familiar and fantastic”.
It promises to be good.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. From the same bookshop buying spree. I remember reading good things about this book on several blogs and it was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. There is very little information about this book on its cover so I looked on Wikipedia which summarises it :
"Gilead is the fictional autobiography of the Reverend John Ames, an elderly congregationalist pastor in the small, secluded town of Gilead, Iowa who knows that he is dying of a heart condition."
From the back cover:
“A visionary work of dazzling originality”.
I’m prepared to be dazzled.


Engleby by Sebastian Faulks, the final bookshop buy.

“This is the story of Mike Engleby, a working-class boy who wins a place at an esteemed English university. But with the disappearance of Jennifer, the undergraduate Engleby admires from afar, the story turns into a mystery of gripping power."
This sounds promising - a murder mystery set in a university and a "creepy central character".

Can Any Mother Help Me? By Jenna Bailey. This is a bargain buy from newbooks. It’s about a group of women and their magazine – the Cooperative Correspondence Club (CCC) which lasted 55 years.
“They wrote articles about the things that mattered most to them – children, work, love, politics – and commented on each other’s work."
The magazines are part of the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex, which also is the source for Our Longest Days - diary entries from ordinary people during the Second World War. The CCC began in 1935, so the war years are also covered in this book. I’ve already read a little of it and I may start it properly when I’ve finished reading Our Longest Days.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, bought in the Library Sale for 40p. I’ve been wondering about this book for some time whenever I saw it in the bookshops, but the title put me off for some inexplicable reason. But at 40p I thought why not? There are many quotes both on the back cover and inside singing its praises:
“The history of Love has perfect pitch and does its dance of time between contemporary New York and the wanderings of the Jews with unsentimental but heartbreaking grace [Krauss] also happens to write like an angel.” Simon Schama, Guardian.
He does make it sound very good.

7 comments:

J. Kaye Oldner said...

What a neat selection. My taste in books range, so much of my piles look like there isn't anything in common. :) You have great taste in books!

Les said...

I haven't read any of these, but I do have Practical Magic and The History of Love in my stacks, too.

Never On These Shores sounds like an interesting "alternative history" novel. I'll be interested to hear what you think.

Oh, wait! I've read The Pillars of the Earth. Fabulous book! I have the sequel in my stacks somewhere. Got it for Christmas. Ack! I need to dig it out. ;)

Good luck!

Lezlie said...

Pillars of the Earth is one of my favorite books ever! I read it probably 10 years ago, and I'm so happy to see all the attention it's getting now. I think it's well deserved. I can't wait to see what you think of it!

Lezlie

Tara said...

I just bought Can Any Mother Help Me? from thebookdepository. I keep paging through it but haven't started it yet. Karen wrote a great review of it awhile back - maybe a year ago.

Paula Weston said...

Are there many things more exciting than a stack of interesting books to read?

Your list is certainly eclectic. Look forward to reading your reviews.

Table Talk said...

I loved 'Gilead', but it is a book that has split opinions so I'll be very interested in what you make of it. Somehow, Melvin Bragg's fiction has passed me by. Is 'The Soldier's Return' the best place to start or should I be looking at earlier work as a way in?

Danielle said...

I've been very bad myself--but buying new books, not used!! I loved the Mary Stewart Arthurian books!