Friday, 21 February 2020

After the Party - Cressida Connolly

This was not recommended, I had read no blurb, no reviews on Good Reads.  I just spotted it in Waterstones bookshop and it looked interesting.  Oh! readers - it was!!  This is the story of a youngish wife and mother, married to a British businessman 20 years older than she, who returns to England when her husband's postings to places afar stop.  Soon the company pays him off, and he has nothing to do.  It will not be long before the three children are off to boarding school (as most upper class children were, back a few years (this particular books starts in 1938, a year before the beginning of WW2.  So very soon she will have nothing to do either.  One of her sisters runs Summer Camps for the group she belongs to, but until page 70 or so we have no idea of the who what and where of the group in question.   She's delighted to help out, and her children will have a lovely summer at the camp, and then all hell will break loose.  A great insight into the manners and snobbery of the English upper classes at that time, a glimpse of very real British history, and every two or three chapters, a look back at what happened that summer told in the first person fom a distance of 40 years. 

Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

This one was very popular a few years ago, and I even had it on my shelf ready to read. Then, in a fit of "who wants to read about a dog who likes racing cars?" I gave it away.   Silly girl, because some time last year I spotted a comment that made me want to read it, so I put it back on my wish list, and last Summer a kind book fairy sent it to me. So Glad!    Some years ago I read Fluke, by James Herbert which I liked - again because the dog told the story, but this is the superior read, I feel.

Enzo is a dog who believes in reincarnation, and in his next life he is certainly coming back as a human.  To this end, he explains why he understands human speech whilst most other dogs just have the usual (sit, fetch, bad dog etc.).  Denny his owner,  has a day job, but when he can, races cars. He and Enzo have spent a lot of time watching movies about racing and recordings of Formula 1 races. Denny also has a wife and a little daughter, and Enzo tries to look after all of them - sometimes it's not possible and thereby hangs the tail (sorry, tale!). And then something very sad occurs, and circumstances change.   Enzo is always there, showing support as best he can, which is sometimes difficult when all he can manage is a tail wag or a bark. But inside his head, his vocabulary is massive! He'll tell you all about his and his family's life, and you may need to blow your nose towards the end. I loved this. Enjoyed the read so much.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Mrs Mac Suggests..... what to read in February 2020

Busy, busy me!  Stuff to do, stuff done, and more stuff.  However, still time to pop on today and amidst all the Brexit furore which I am totally ignoring,  to suggest a read for February.

So for this month, find yourself   

               A book written for children.

I really enjoyed The Boy at the Back of the Class by this author last year, and so look forward to

The Star outside my Window -
Onjali Q Rauf

John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley

I don't read many non-fiction books a year, but I do really like Steinbeck, and so when this one crossed my radar, I took a chance on it.  That man had a wonderful way with words, and I was pleased to travel across the USA with him, on a trip when he got itchy feet and wanted to take that journey, and have a look at America, and acquaint himself with some fellow-Americans.  What he found, back in the 1960s, forms the basis for this short (just over 200 pages) and very readable book.

He had a early form of recreational vehicle made, a sort of caravan (trailer) on a flat-back truck which he christened Rocinante (with a nod to Don Quixote) and off he went.  His descriptions of the geography he passed through, and the folk he met, made this first an entertaining read, second, a book with a few home truths, and third, a book which was excellent for reading aloud - which I did whilst Mr Mac did the driving.

From the East Coast across to the West, including his hometown Salinas, California, and then down to Texas and then the  deep South.  He and Charley mostly slept in Rocinante, stopping every few days at a motel or hotel so that a bath could be had.  His laundry was done on board, a miracle of DIY is described..... and a bottle whiskey always available in case he met someone who he could be neighbourly to - and he often did.  He found out things about himself.  He found out things about fellow Americans, and he made me think, hard!  How towns grow and sprawl, how highways get ever busier, how little town high streets die and why.  He could be describing the UK right now, even though his journey was 60 years ago.  And I had to keep reminding myself that it was 60 years ago and not last week.  Some sad stuff, some funny stuff, and some bad stuff too (I remember that first little black girl attending a white school,  and remember Norman Rockwell's painting at the time).  Do find a copy, and enjoy the journey with John, as I did.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Junk Jewellery and a Neglectful Blogger ....

I am aware that I have neglected you all of late... and you've probably gone off somewhere else altogether!  So sorry, life has been busy, particularly at my dining table of late.  Why?  Well....

At some point in early December, I was delivering some unwanted clothing to the charity shop I support.  Usually Mr Mac does this job, but I happened to be in town at the same time as he was and I did the charity shop run whilst he did something else.  Because we are gift aiders (i.e. we pay tax and so any stuff gifted to a charity they can claim tax back).  So I said I was a gift aider and gave my postcode... "Mrs Mac!  Hello!   we hardly ever see you!.  Would you like to do some volunteering?"  "Well, no, I wouldn't".  "Not even an hour a week?"  "No, sorry".

She then went on to tell me they had stacks of old jewellery that needed sorting, cleaning, remaking.... and I said I would do it at home for her.  I haven't stopped except over Christmas!

 If I count the price tags I have used, I am up at  300+ items now, and a friend gave me years and years of accumulated stuff last week to add to it all.  As well as old jewellery there were two full carrier bags of loose glass beads of all kinds and sizes - nearly every one gone now - made into necklaces or  memory wire bracelets.

I have to say it's just the job for winter days when you are not going out and the sky is grey.  I've found no treasure, really, but I have made a lot of junk saleable - surprising what you can do by cutting up old dirty necklaces and using the beads in a different way.

That's not a good pic, but it's the only one I have currently.  All that stuff was made from other stuff except for the black necklace which I only had to wash in soapy water.

We are around 25 miles from Glastonbury, and the shop manager tells me that they sell loads of junk jewellery the week before the festival so I'm going to keep my eyes open when there are bits of the festival on TV, in case I spot one of my glorious creations!!

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge

Oh. My. Goodness.   What an imaginative read this was! The first of Frances Hardinge's  I've read, but will be looking out for more because it's a long time since I was so gripped by a story. I didn't see the significance of the title for at least a quarter of the book, but that's all to the good.

This creepy and twisty tale of a child interfered with by the "Besiders".  The Besiders are those who come from other places, seeking a safe new home place.  They have to come in disguise, for they are different and they need somewhere settle - and land is being eaten up at a rate of knots.  Are these Besiders faeries, other creatures?  Who knows, but their leader, and the  controller of their movements is a man who gets his own way at all times, and usually by using magic of some kind. 

When Tris awakes and finds that she has been very ill, her mind is playing tricks. She doesn't feel real, exactly, her parents seem overly concerned, and her little sister hates her with a vengeance. If I say more there will be spoilers, so I won't, except to say that this may have been aimed at a YA audience, but whatever your age, if you believe in any kind of magic at all, I think you may race through this like I did. I was reminded of how I felt reading the first Harry Potter - although this story is nothing like any of those and there is no Hogwarts! Brilliant, very readable, and recommended!

After the Party - Cressida Connolly

This was not re...