Reading Groups and Musing Mondays

musingmondays51I have been away far to long, have missed these Mondays. Visitors, the garden, colds and coughs all led to a shut down of on-line activity during August. Many apologies.

I have throughout this time read and read – so many books since I was last here. A wonderful word fest and escapism. So the last book I commented on was The Earth Hums in B Flat a book for one of the reading groups I attend each month. Since then I have had more reads for the groups.

The Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant #5)

Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to a heinous villain — a king who killed his brother’s children to secure his crown? Grant seeks what kind of man Richard was and who in fact killed the princes in the tower.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey an old old favourite of mine. I think I first read it between 1956 and 1960 – I know I was still at school and arguing with the teachers! It was when I fell for Richard 111 and became one of his champions. It is, reading it now, very much of it’s time in writing and structure , delivering a quiet read and sometimes these books just hit the right spot in our hectic lives. I know many do not like quiet reads, but this blood thirsty old lady does:)

Another book group read was A Case of the Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif. The title intrigued but I wasn’t sure when I read the blurb, but highly recommend this one. I find it difficult to remember names at the best of time but foreign ones even more so, but I manage, I manage. This is not a book to dip in and out of, every seemingly insignificant action has a huge meaning in the climax. Concentrate and enjoy this great tale.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes

There is an ancient saying that when lovers fall out, a plane goes down. This is the story of one such plane. Why did a Hercules C130, the world’s sturdiest plane, carrying Pakistan’s military dictator General Zia ul Haq, go down on 17 August, 1988? Was it because of:

1.Mechanical failure

2.Human error

3.The CIA’s impatience

4.A blind woman’s curse

5.Generals not happy with their pension plans

6.The mango season

Or could it be your narrator, Ali Shigri?

Teasing, provocative, and very, very funny, Mohammed Hanif’s debut novel takes one of the subcontinent’s enduring mysteries and out if it spins a tale as rich and colourful as a beggar’s dream.

I also had to read Merivel by Rose Tremain. This could have been, for me, an enjoyable read – Charles the 11 reign is one I find very interesting but I have a great dislike in reading fiction in which the author takes a real person, in this case Charles, and invents scenes and dialogue for them, posits motives and reactions for which there are no historical facts. Ruins a perfectly good book for me. Don’t mess with dead people and change them. Don’t invent and present as fact. Its disrespectful. It is not a book I will willing read again. However, having said that, Tremain is a good writer, for those who do not have the same scruples as myself it will be a very enjoyable read.

Merivel: A Man of His Time
The gaudy years of the Restoration are long gone. Robert Merivel, physician and courtier to Charles II, loved for his gift for turning sorrow into laughter, now faces the agitations and anxieties of middle age. Questions crowd his mind: has he been a good father? Is he a fair master? Is he the King’s friend or the King’s slave?
In search of answers, Merivel sets off for the French court. But Versailles—all glitter in front and squalor behind—leaves Merivel in despair, until a chance encounter with Madame de Flamanville, a seductive Swiss botanist, allows him to dream of an honorable future.
Yet will that future ever be his? Back home at Bidnold Manor, his loyalty and medical skills are tested to their limits, while the captive bear he has brought back from France begins to cause havoc in his heart and on his estate.With a cascade of lace at his neck and a laugh that can burst out of him in the midst of torment, Merivel is a uniquely brilliant creation—soulful, funny, outrageous, and achingly sad. He is Everyman. His unmistakable, self-mocking voice speaks directly to us down the centuries.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
 Now in case I wasn’t reading too much already, I decided to try out two new book groups. They are being held in a nearby town. The first to catch my eye was a sci-fi/fantasy one – sounded interesting, the two I already belong to don’t have these two genres in their remit.
The first book was Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence,  – very enjoyable. I’m not sure if I was supposed to like the ‘hero’ but I did – okay – a nasty piece of work really but no worse than everyone else in the book it really was a violent tale! However, he has reasons – perfectly understandable reasons, for his behaviour even if magic in the way of mind control isn’t factored into the story, which of course it is (it’s fantasy) Its a dystopian take on this world a thousand years + into the future, which seems to have put us back into medieval type living conditions. I had a few reservations in the time line, not altogether sure enough time has elapsed since the catastrophe which has overtaken us for this setting. But that is really my only quibble. And it is book one of a trilogy so more delights to come:)
 Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1)
Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother’s tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that’s true enough, but there’s something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.

From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father’s castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.

 

Mark Lawrence’s debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, and sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.

I haven’t been to the second group yet but I have read the book Time and Time again by Ben Elton. I have to my shame not  read any of his books before -I will be reading more of them to be sure. I liked his style very much. This story is a time travel one. I have never been a fan of ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ in life. Changing something in one’s past is not a recipe for happy ever after. So its great to read books which play with this theme. Time and Time Again seems a straight forward event avoidance. Hugh Stanton, sent back in time to stop the beginning of the First World War. Save the world from the future terrible events the war put into place.

Yeah!
Well.
No.

Of course the changed events become worse! So can this  new future be changed. Try again. However, Hugh is not the only one meddling with the events of the 20th century. There is a nice twist at the beginning and the end. Very satisfactory.

Time and Time AgainIt’s the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.

Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.

Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century?

And, if so, could another single bullet save it?

Nothing to do with book groups Elton’s book was made more interesting by the fact I had just finished The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – which was about never dying but being reborn time and time again, time travel in the quest through time to discover and destroy the man killing off these born again people and who is bent on destroying the world itself.

For me the discovery that Claire North was the self same Kate Griffin one of my favourite urban fantasy authors. A double pleasure.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustNo matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.

Until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

These were only five of the books I have spent August with, I have been reading Urban Fantasy,with Ben Arronvitch Foxglove Summer and Benedict Jacka – Chosen and Hidden; Fantasy with Rebecca Alexander The Secrets of Life and Death, Charlie Fletcher and The Oversight. Managed to read and enjoy The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross despite not understanding any of the computer ‘thingies’; Non fiction with Martin Manser with his Scapegoats, Shambles and Sibboleths, gardening books as well. A month when no writing was achieved but a refreshed mind indeed.

As to the random question – which I would prefer if I had to live my whole life in one place – it is of course a library. Museums are interesting but tend to concentrate on one thing, so which would one choose. . . And I disapprove of zoos but a library – what a dream come true:)

1) In an old fashioned one – books only – well, there we have entertainments, knowledge, facts and a chance to learn
2) In a modern one with computers as well as books all of the above plus the Internet to keep up with the present.
3) One could learn new stuff, research old. Read so many new authors, new genres, stretch beyond a comfort zone or two. Explore so many new worlds, science, nature, history, geography, politics etc etc.

A no brainer for me – give me the Library any time – but not one without books in reality as well as electronics:)

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

 + a random question of the week – If you could only stay in one place which would you choose A Library, a Museum or a Zoo?

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