Friday, 26 December 2014

2014 Reading Part 7 - The Final!

Yes, another eight books have gone through the careful scrutiny and inwardly digestive process and just in time to make it to the end of the year. Well to be honest, the book I'm reading now may well turn its final page before the year's end, but I'll carry it over to 2015 if that's ok with you. And whether or not...

I finished the last time with Britt Ekland's autobiography and I followed it with this biography (of sorts) of shopping magnate Harry Selfridge. I say "of sorts" because the book pretty much allows those promotional claims of Selfridge whether true or not, so words like "first", "only" etc. must be taken with a pinch of salt. The cover features actor Jeremy Piven from the TV series and it almost comes as a surprise when the various characters from the shop floor fail to make an appearance in the book. Interesting and enlightening, especially if you follow up reading it with a bit of research to see which bits are accurate.

Having read and loved all the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, I did wonder whether she could follow them up, moving out of the wizarding world. But this book is a cracker of a read. Right from the start which is dramatic and sets the scene for what follows, this is a really good exploration of various mentalities and a jolt to the sensibilities of those who have managed to keep poverty and the underworld of drug addicts and suppliers at bay. If this had been a concert I would have stood up applauding at the end, Miss Rowling. Bravo.

Our friend Matthew Bartholmew, the physician and fellow of Michaelhouse College at Cambridge this time has to deal with fisticuffs and worse between the different monastic orders at the university. With even his friend and Senior Proctor, Brother Michael coming under suspicion of murder, he must tread warily to solve this one! I always start one of these novels by Susanna Gregory with a sigh of relaxation, knowing I am in for a good time!

Ah yes...! The famous five have all been ill all over Christmas - they might clean it up later, but having been ill it's only natural that their parents kick them all out of the house to go on holiday (sorry, convalescence!) in the snow-covered hills of Wales all on their own. "Come with you?" cries Julian's dad, "Get lost - your Mum and I want to have some grown-up fun with the couple next door!"

A locked and scary quasi haunted mansion, a massive farmer with a foghorn voice, a kidnapping, almost a matricide and the illicit mining of radioactive metals - pah! All in a day's work for the Famous Five! Dick! How childish can you ge... hang on... that's George's handwriting...!

There isn't a new Bill Bryson book so I went for one of his editing efforts, a collection of short articles about English icons by well known people (and a handful I'd never heard of...) The icons vary from post boxes to oak trees to salt marshes to birdsong to King Alfred's burnt cakes. Some good stuff, some not-as-good-stuff!

The History Press are the publishers of my own book, Blackpool Then and Now, and I came across Paul Feeney via his book A 1950s Childhood, which has already featured in an earlier article on this blog. This time he takes us through the 1960s with an easy to read bunch of facts, reminders and lists of stuff we could see, experience, listen to, watch, and do to get us in trouble with adults... Oh yes... and the punishments they were liable to mete out... Well worth a read!

I know this isn't exactly a new book, but although I've read the Wilt books, I'd never read this one. It lifts the lid on the antics of Porterhouse - a (fictional this time) college of Cambridge University. The management and tutors have a long tradition of ignoring more academic pursuits for the delights of a lavishly laden table at the college dining hall, financed by the subtle selection of rich, but not very academically-minded students. Attendance at university costs, especially if the degree one must have is not necessarily earned... With a new Master bent on changing things drastically, things take a farcical turn as the tutors and staff strive for their traditions and a besotted student finds the attentions of his domestic help a little explosive...

The final book for this time takes Philippa Gregory's series about the Wars of the Roses and their aftermath into a new generation as Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward IV, is wed to the victor of Bosworth, King Henry VII, first of the Tudors. A brilliant series this, I've enjoyed every one of the books and they have taught me a lot about a period of history that turns out to be one of the more dramatic of this nation. Whilst not based on absolute known fact, this long tale throughout the books is a very likely possibility woven around gaps in the documented past but without denying that documented past. Particularly clever is the curse, uttered in the first book, that by the time of this book (the fifth in the series) looks like coming true and affecting one of the two people who set it. And for those that know their history, you can work out if it did come true or not... Brilliant books.

I very rarely buy magazines these days, but I bought this on a whim, having in the past on this blog and elsewhere scribbled enough of my own contribution to nostalgia.

For this though, my only excuse is that we were staying overnight somewhere and it was the best of what the shop had to offer. Bits are quite hilarious though - how to make a story out of nothing. Someone leaving the table to talk on a phone in a restaurant becomes a meal turned nasty... But hey, other diners saw her looking bored with the conversation beforehand... It could be true!

Meanwhile over Christmas I chopped into my finger with a knife whilst cutting a melon. A doctor (who doesn't know me and hasn't treated me) confirmed that septicaemia often starts with such an injury and can lead to gangrene and even death...

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