The Week In Books: June 23 – June 29

Acutally a good week in the end – I’m not as tired as I was last week, but that’s because I’ve had a fair few days off and that means less commuting.  And a wedding at the weekend meant I didn’t have the traditional weekend sofa reading time either, so not bad considering all that!

Read:

The Liar’s Daughter by Laurie Graham

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark

No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

Started:

A Place for Us by Harriet Evans

Tiger Milk by Stephanie de Velasco

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin

Still reading:

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

A trip to Milton Keynes mid-week led to six book purchases for me (although a couple were books that I’ve already read on Kindle that I wanted hard copies of) and some picture books for some little cousins we went to visit. Add to that a book on the Kindle, an impulse purchase in Sainsburys and the next Meg Langslow and the to-read pile is multiplying again…

This week’s other excitement was getting pre-approved on Net Galley for Part One of the Harriet Evans book mentioned above.  I’m still quite new to Net Galley (and it’s not as if I need further encouragement to add more books to the pile!) and it’s the first time I’ve been pre-approved for something. It’s the simple things isn’t it.  I’ll let you all know what I think of the first installment as soon as I’m finished reading it.

From Page to Screen: When it works and when it doesn’t!

I always feel a sense of trepidation when I hear that a book or series that I like is being turned into a film or a TV series.  There have been some notable successes, but equally a number of failures too.  When I analyse it, I tend to prefer the adaptations where I’ve read the book after watching the TV show or movie.  So here for your delectation are some of my hits and misses.

Miss Marple

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple

To me, Joan Hickson was perfect

I’m fairly sure that I watched the Joan Hickson Miss Marple adaptations before I started reading the books.  I was 10 when I first watched them (as mentioned in my post on Lord Peter Wimsey), twenty years on I still love them wholeheartedly – and actually have a fair few of them on my TiVo box which I watch whilst ironing.  My favourites are Body in the Library, A Murder Is Announced, The 4.50 from Paddington and Nemesis (despite the fact that the murdered girl is called Verity!).  I’ve only seen a couple of ITV’s “Marple” adaptations – and I’ve loathed them – not only do they change the plot and sometimes even the murderer, but they are utterly unnecessary considering the perfection of the 1980s adaptations.

Hercule Poirot

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot

David Suchet gets it pretty much spot on

Moving from one Agatha Christie creation to another – I think my first encounter with the little Belgian detective was David Suchet’s audiobook version of Murder on the Orient Express, although I may have read a book or two first.  I think this means I was predisposed to like his TV version – and I forgive it the tweaks and alterations.  I don’t rewatch these the way I do with the Miss Marples, but if one happens to come on, I won’t turn it off.  I also love the film of Murder on the Orient Express with its starry cast and gorgeous music by Richard Rodney Bennett (if you’ve never heard it, spare a few minutes to watch the wonderful Proms performance below) – a rare occasion of my liking two different adaptations of the same property!

Pride and Prejudice

My much-loved TV tie-in edition of Pride and Prejudice

My much-loved TV tie-in edition of Pride and Prejudice

I started reading the book after I’d watched the first episode of the legendary BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.  I’d finished the book by the time the second episode aired.  Because I read it that way around, Ehle and Firth were Lizzie and Darcy in my head from the start – and that’s where so often it goes wrong with adaptations for me – when the actors just don’t look like the image you have in your head of the characters.  I’ve never managed to get past the first 15 minutes of the Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen version – possibly because I’m so attached to the 1995 adaptation and it’s so fixed in my head.

Harry Potter

German hardback edition of Chamber of Secrets

German hardback Harry on Chamber of Secrets doesn’t look like Radcliffe

The “image in your head” issue is at the heart of the problem with Harry Potter.  My sister was very angry when the first film came out – she wasn’t pleased with Daniel Radcliffe, but her bigger problem was Emma Watson – “Hermione’s not meant to be pretty and she’s about as convincingly plain as Rachel Leigh Cook is in She’s All That”.  I agreed – and there are also parts of the books that I’m sentimentally attached to that are left out (the last lines of Prisoner of Azkaban for a start – “He was my mum and dad’s best friend. He’s a convicted murderer, but he’s broken out of wizard prison and he’s on the run. He likes to keep in touch with me, though … keep up with news … check if I’m happy.”).

French editions of Harry potter

The look of the trio definitely “evolves” once the films start

But of course for children reading the book now (or anytime in the last decade) that’s not a problem – you can’t avoid the film versions, so you’re unlikely to have the same strong mental image of what Harry et al look like that those of us who were fans of the books before the movies appeared.  I read Harry in French and German to improve my vocabulary (for degree and A-Level respectively) and it’s noticeable that the cover illustrations of Harry grow more like Daniel Radcliffe as the books go by.  On a side issue, I’m still sad that children now won’t experience Harry we (my sister and I) did – today, if you read the first one and like it, you can read all the way through to the end of the series.  Never again will you have to wait a year to find out what happens next, or worry about how it’ll end.

Phryne Fisher

The cover of Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates

Book Phryne…

Back on the literary adaptations, we move on to the inspiration for this post. I love the Phryne Fisher books – but I have serious issues with the TV adaptations.  I have to try to view them as completely separate entities or I get ragey. Very ragey.  In the books, Phryne is in her late 20s, solves murders and gets a lot of action in the bedroom department.  She has two adopted daughters, Mr and Mrs Butler to run her house, her regular man (or as regular as any) is Lin Chung and she unofficially assists the happily married policeman Jack Robinson.  In the TV series, she still solves murders.  The actress playing Phryne is at least a decade too old (although, to be fair, she is a good actress and does her best), one of her daughters and Mrs Butler have disappeared, Lin Chung appears in one episode (and looks young enough to be Phryne’s son), they’re trying to work up a love interest with Jack Robinson (who is divorced from the daughter of a police bigwig) and Phryne’s lesbian socialist sister has been replaced with Miriam Margolyes as an uptight class conscious aunt.  On the plus side, the costumes and locations are gorgeous, although there have been some really shonky wigs.

Essie Davies as Phryne Fisher

…TV Phryne

I appreciate that for a family audience you can’t get away with what you can in a book, but the two are so different that it sometimes seems that the only thing they have in common is the names of some of the characters!  One of the reasons for my recent Phryne re-read was to banish the memory of the second series of the TV series – which I mostly watched whilst yelling at the TV over the character changes and the narrative alterations, much to the amusement of The Boy.  Still, so far, I’ve managed to keep my own mental image of Phryne going without it being overwritten with the TV version – I credit my rage for this!

 

So, there you have it.  Three good, and two not so good.  A couple of other snapshots for you:  I found the TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale deeply disappointing when we watched it during A-Levels, but I like the first Bridget Jones film (the second was a bit of a let down, but then the book isn’t as good either).  The Boy is a big fan of HBO’s True Blood and I’ve almost finished reading the books.  We have fun comparing the plots of the two – which seem to differ wildly (Typical conversation: Him “Has the governor appeared yet?” Me: “What governor?” Him “He does experiments on Vampires and starts poisoning True Blood”  Me: “That’s not in the book!”).  I’m also working my way through the Inspector Alleyn series – both the books and the TV adaptations (the latter being classic ironing fodder) and the jury is still out on those.

I’ve got the TV version of Tales of the City waiting to be watched next time I do some ironing so that I can see how it compares to the books and I’m currently debating whether to go to see The Fault in our Stars at the cinema – but that’s not so much because I’m worried it’ll upset my mental image of the characters, but because I’m not sure I can handle all that crying again so soon after the book – and this time in public!

If you’ve got any literary adaptations that you love or loathe – or think I ought to watch, leave your comments below!

Readers Block

I’ve come to a bit of a standstill.  This happens to me sometimes and it’s one of the reasons why I have such a large to-read pile.  Despite the pile(s) of books awaiting my attention, I just don’t fancy reading any of them.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll have noticed that last week’s What I Read list was somewhat low on new books – and it’s all because I’m having one of these moments.  I stare at the shelf of books waiting to be read and I can’t work up any enthusiasm for any of them. There are two usual outcomes to this – either I buy more books that I do fancy, or I go on a re-reading jag.

I don’t know what brings on these little moments, except that I’ve always been a re-reader and I have old friends that I can come back to again and again. But this is the third year that I’ve done the Goodreads Reading Challenge and I have a strict rule that I don’t count books I’ve already read towards the total – even if I haven’t already added them to my shelf.  This means I spend a lot of time reading new stuff, and less time reading old favourites – as I’m always trying to beat last year’s total.  In 2012 I read 202 books, last year I read 260 – and although I doubt I’ll better that this year, The Boy keeps asking me how I’m getting on and I get all competitive about it.  When I beat my 2012 total last year, he got all superior about it because I’d read fewer pages than the year before (there was a higher concentration of short stories in there than normal) so I kept going until I beat the pages total as well.

Ten days ago I hit 100 books for the year (my first target) meaning I’m on target to do 200 books again and I think this might be what’s triggered my current bout of malaise. So, I’m re-reading the Phryne Fisher books – which were my big discovery of 2013 – so I can enjoy them afresh and block out the memory of the second series of TV adaptations (which are the inspiration for a post about TV versions of books that I’m currently working on).  I also haven’t re-read Laurie Graham’s Gone With the Windsors for a while (I usually read it at least twice a year) so I bumped her latest paperback to the top of the to-read pile (The Liar’s Daughter) and I’m planning on getting GWTW out again after Phryne.

I think another factor maybe tiredness.  I’ve done a lot of hours at work over the past month and although it wants to read, my brain doesn’t want to contemplate anything new or taxing.  Well, I’m hoping that a lighter week at work because of a heavy weekend and an upcoming wedding will deal with the fatigue and get me back into the zone because I know that despite what I think at the moment, that pile of books is bound to be full of interesting books and new favourites.

The final factor (that I can think of anyway) is Titus Groan.  I started reading this damn book in January and it is lingering on.  The trouble is that it hasn’t really grabbed me and there is so much other stuff waiting to be read that I can ignore it.  Now you’d think that I’d take this as a sign and give up, but I’m a stubborn old thing and I hate admitting defeat, so this weekend just gone I took it with me to London (where I was staying for the weekend for work) to try to force myself to finish it.  I read another 75 pages, but then I got too tired to concentrate on it and I went back to Phryne.  I keep telling myself that I just need a bit more sleep and then I’ll get down to it and it’ll be fine – despite all evidence from the lingerers on the to-read pile that this is not the case.  Watch this space.

Do you have any tips for getting back your reading mojo?  Post them in the comments below.

The Week In Books: June 16 – June 22

Ok, so this doesn’t look like a very productive week reading-wise.  And you’d be right.  Sort of.  I’ve re-read two and a bit Phryne Fisher books this week – and I’m doing something very rare – I’m trying to pace myself and make a book last.  I love Laurie Graham’s books and Liar’s Daughter is her latest to be released in paperback (I valiantly resist the urge to buy them in hardback) and I’m trying not to gobble it up in one sitting.  I had about 80 pages to go when I left home for a weekend working on Friday night – which meant fell under my rule about not taking books with me when I have less than 100 pages to read (because it means I have finished it before I get to London and then have to carry it around with me for no benefit) – so I’m expecting to finish this on Monday.  On the bright side I did take Titus Groan with me for the weekend to try and finish it – as I’ve been reading it on and off for months now.

Read:

Owls Well That Ends Well by Donna Andrews

Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay

Started:

The Liar’s Daughter by Laurie Graham

Still reading:

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

Purchase wise – a good week – only one book bought – the next Meg Langslow which is coming from the States so may not arrive for another week yet.  I also won another Goodreads First Read book – which has already arrived – so I have two of those that need reading asap now.  Look for them on this list next week!

The Week In Books: June 9 – June 15

You can tell I worked four days this week and commuted each day can’t you?! A much better week for reducing the to-read pile – and a library book in there too!  I also finally got around to reading The Fault In Our Stars ahead of the film release.

Read:

The Valley of the Shadow by Carola Dunn

The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

High Rising by Angela Thirkell

The Temptress by Paul Spicer

The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Started:

Owls Well That Ends Well by Donna Andrews

Still reading:

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

On the purchasing front, I bought the next Meg Langslow book, my pre-order of Laurie Graham’s Liar’s Daughter arrived (I’d forgotten that was out this week – hurrah!) and that was it – apart from two children’s books from the New Foyles flagship store for The Boy’s nieces (Weasels and The Great Granny Gang if you’re interested). So progress on that front too!

Summer Reading Recommendations

A few friends have already asked me for ideas for books for their summer holidays, so I thought now might be the time to come up with a proper set of recommendations for holiday reads.  It is a tradition in our family that you get a holiday book – this was started by my mum back when I was small and I have various books on my shelves with neatly written notes in the front from my mum telling me which holiday she gave them to me for.  My sister and I have continued this as grown-ups – The Boy thought it was weird at first but I now have him so used to it that he starts to offer suggestions for what he’d like me to get him. I have terrible trouble deciding what to take to read on holiday (thank goodness for the kindle) so I’ve tried to include a range of options.

The One that Everyone’s Reading 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison – I know.  It really is everywhere.  But I read this on our trip to Rome earlier this year and laughed so hard that people on the plane started staring at me.  It has had a lot of hype, but it is very, very good.  I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but watching Don Tillman hunt for love is properly funny – and in places you’ll want to read through your fingers as you cringe at his mistakes.  I’m already looking forward to the sequel.

The One if you like “Chick Lit”

I guess this could be considered my home genre (unless you count historical novels.  Or cozy crime), anyway I read a lot in this sort of genre.  So I couldn’t just pick one.  Books I’ve recently really enjoyed are The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (which is definitely a holiday read – it’s set in Cornwall by the coast!), Trisha Ashley’s Every Woman for Herself (which has a full review here) and Sinead Moriarty’s Mad About You (although I think I’d have liked it more if I had read the other books about the characters) which all should be available in the sort of multi-buy offers you get at WH Smiths and the Supermarkets.

The One if You like Cozy Crime

It’s not really new, but try Manna from Hades by Carola Dunn if you like the sort of cozy crime that’s set in the past – this is in 1960s Cornwall where Eleanor Trewynn has retired to after a life working for charity abroad.  It’s as readable as the author’s Daisy Dalrymple series.  If you like your cozy crime modern, I reviewed Jenn McKinlay’s Death of a Mad Hatter a few weeks back which is fresh on the market – or you can’t go wrong with Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series – Death with Peacocks is the first one and as it came out 10 years ago, you can get it for cheap second hand.

The One if you like Non-Fiction

This is a tough one for me – because I’m very behind with my non-fiction pile.  Of books released recently, I enjoyed Neil McKenna’s Fanny and Stella which is the story of two young men who dressed as women in Victorian London and the scandal that ensued when they were caught.  Apart from that, all my recent non-fiction reads have been published some time ago.  I hesitate to recommend anything I haven’t yet read, but the excellent Helen Rappaport has a new book out (in hardback sadly) – Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses which has been picked out as a recommendation at various places.  If you haven’t read her Magnificent Obsession (about Queen Victoria’s relationship with Prince Albert) that is available as a paperback and is well worth a look – as is her Beautiful Forever which is about a cosmetician and con-artist in Victorian London – who coincidentally also gets a mention in Fanny and Stella.

The One if you like Thrillers

A Delicate Truth by John le Carré I got given copy of this a month or two back – you can see the long review here.  Its pacey, suspenseful and disturbing.  If you haven’t read any le Carré, go get yourself some of the Smiley series and try them out – they’re Cold War and this is modern, but all the ones I’ve read have been very, very good.

The One that’s a Kindle Bargain 

Vintage Girl by Hester Browne – This was 56p when I wrote this blog – which by any standards is a bargain, let alone when it’s as fun as this.  Valuer Evie gets sent to Scotland to asome heirlooms – romance, family secrets and Scottish Dancing ensues. (NB previously published as an e-book called Swept Off Her Feet – so don’t buy it twice!)

The One(s) if you want a series to start

The Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters. I have a terrible habit of starting a series and keeping going with it, ignoring all other claims from the to-read pile.  E-readers make this so easy and if you’re a quick reader, you may need more than one book for your week at the beach (hell I need more than on book for a DAY at the beach).  Amelia is a Victorian feminist who sets off for Egypt to do a spot of archaeology.  I can’t come up with the words to do her justice, but’s like a funny female Indiana Jones.  There are 19 books in the series (more than you could read on one holiday surely!) and the later ones feature various members of her family too – her son is a scream!

So there you are.  I hope there’s something for everyone in the list – I think most of them should be easy to find and in some cases as available in multi-buy deals. As usual most of my links are to Foyles – because I like independent bookshops and the name of their loyalty scheme Foyalty.  And if you’ve got any recommendations for books I should be reading this summer – please do put them in the comments below!

The Week In Books: June 2 – June 8

Scuppered by nightshifts and a hen party…

Read:

We’ll Always Have Parrots by Donna Andrews

Mr Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia McNeal

Mad About You – Sinead Moriarty

Started:

The Valley of the Shadow by Carola Dunn

The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

Still reading:

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

On the bright side only one book bought – the next Meg Langslow, which I couldn’t just resist in the end!