Review: A Place for Us Parts 3 and 4

I have enjoyed this book so much – and contrary to my usual views about serialisations (and to my sleep-addled pleas after Part 1 of A Place For Us) I’ve really enjoyed having to wait for the next part, as it’s forced me to make the book last.  As a fast reader, when I find something I like, I gobble it up as quickly as possible – then it’s over.  As someone who finished each of the last 4 Harry Potter books by early afternoon the day that they came out, I can attest that this can leave you with a very long wait to find out what happened next and a sense of regret that it was over too soon.  But reading something spaced out over a period of time gives you a different perspective than eating it up in a big rush.  And this is a book that I would definitely have read in a hurry.  I was desperate to find out what happened next and how it was all going to work out.

The end of Part 2 left us with another major plot development.  Part 3 throws everything up in the air again – so that it falls down in different places and leaves the reader with some answers – but most of the characters are still in the dark.  Part 4 puts everything back together and by the end you can see the family walking forwards into a new future.

And I can’t say much more than that about the plot – because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone – particularly as part of the joy of this for me was not knowing where this was going and how everything was going to link up together.  Also because the book is going to be published as a proper book in early 2014, anything I say in this post is giving spoilers for the second half of the book – which I try not to do with books I’m reviewing.

This books has such a large cast of characters it is hard to pick a favourite.  Instead I’ll say that I liked the Grandchildren strands the best – if I was forced to pick – but it’s a really tough choice, because every part of the plot has something about it that makes me think that I like that one best.  Certainly the book wouldn’t be as good as it is if any one of them was missing.

This is a different sort of book from Harriet Evans I think.  I’ve read a couple of her books in the past (and as is standard for me, I have a couple waiting to be read as well) and although I enjoyed them and recommend them – I wouldn’t have lent them to my mum.  This one I would.  And that’s because she loves big family sagas spread across time – and even though this one is mostly set in the present so much of the story is because of what happened in the past.  I keep wanting to mention Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles in connection with this book and I can’t quite pin down why – except that they are both books about extended families with secrets which switch between characters as the stories continue and where a house is almost a character in its own right.

Anyway, if you haven’t started reading A Place For Us, you should try it – and now all four parts are available you won’t have the agonising wait that I did between parts 1 to 3 (the holiday meant I got to part 3 a bit later than intended and was able to go straight on to Part 4).  If you want a proper book copy – it’s not out until January 15th next year, which is a shame as I probably have bought it for my sister for her Christmas book if I could have done.  Here are the links to the kindle versions of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.  I got the first three parts through NetGalley (in return for an honest review) but bought myself Part 4 because I was so desperate to know how it all worked out.

The Week In Books: October 20 – October 26

Wow.  What a week!  And I was even at work for 4 days!

Read:

Shakespeare’s Champion by Charlaine Harris

Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith

Shakespeare’s Christmas by Charlaine Harris

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

A Place For Us Part 3 by Harriet Evans

The Reluctant Vampire by Eric Morecambe

Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson

Started:

Trent’s Last Case by E C Bentley

Still reading:

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

More Fool Me by Stephen Fry

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Sheila by Robert Wainwright

The Bride by Julie Garwood

 Only one book bought this week – the final part of Harriet Evans’ A Place For Us.  Progress…

The Week In Books: October 13 – October 19

Last week was never going to be topped was it!  For a start I didn’t spent this week on a beach or by a pool – I was at work for four days of it – and staying away from home for two nights of that making the most of the fact that my train company can’t get me to London from home for 6am at the weekend with a weekend with my theatre buddy (dinners! shows! cocktails!).  But this is particularly bad – and the still reading list is mounting up again too.  Still, at least I’m back on the paperbacks amongst this – because last week’s mammoth efforts had absolutely no effect on the physical pile!

Read:

The Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

Walking on Air by Christina Jones

Started:

Shakespeare’s Champion by Charlaine Harris

Still reading:

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

More Fool Me by Stephen Fry

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Sheila by Robert Wainwright

The Bride by Julie Garwood

I may have bought four books to cheer me up after having to go back to work after a lovely week in the sun…

Award-Winning Books: Update

Three months ago, I set myself a challenge to increase the number of award-winning and award-nominated authors that I’d read.  An examination of a list of Booker nominees and winners embarrassed me – although I did have a lot of books by authors on the list waiting to be read.  So I said I’d try and do better.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating – how am I getting on? And the week of the announcement of this year’s winner (Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North) seemed like a good time to check in.

Well it’s like a litany of failure on this blog.  I’m not bringing the to-read pile down, I’m not managing to curb my buying habits as much as I hoped and my literary fiction reading over the last quarter has been a bit patchy.  Back in July, the total was seven books that were nominated – of which two had won.  Here we are in October, and we’re up to… eight with two winners.  Drat.

So the new book on the list is NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names – one of last year’s nominees.  And to be honest, it didn’t do much to dispel my preconceptions about award nominated books being hard going.  And not hard going because of the subject matter (although that was fairly tough in places) but just hard to read.  But it deals with a very important topic and an area of life that I know I don’t know much about and really ought to.  So I’m glad I read it, even if it wasn’t the best book I’ve read this year.

It’s not all doom and gloom though (I’m frantically searching for bright sides).  I started Sarah Waters’ The Night Watch on holiday – although The Boy borrowed it off me when he ran out of reading material and I haven’t finished it yet.  And this year’s shortlist included Karen Joy Fowler – and whilst I haven’t read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (yet), I have read an earlier novel of hers – The Jane Austen Book Club.  So that’s another author who’s been nominated for stuff that I’ve read.  And I’ve read another Muriel Spark, so whilst she was already on the list of author’s I’d read, I have at least reduced the award-nominee backlog on the to-read pile slightly.

Another must do better for Verity.  Here’s hoping I grow some willpower and stick to a reading order in the next quarter…

The Week In Books: October 6 – October 12

Can you tell that I’ve been on holiday?  Long hot days spent lounging by the pool or laying on the bitch and evenings sipping cocktails mean that I’ve made inroads into my unread folder on the kindle.  I should have finished the Sarah Waters – which was one of my paperbacks – but The Boy only bought one book with him and so borrowed The Night Watch which took him most of the week to read.

Read:

Life is Sweet by Elizabeth Bass

Gently Does It by Alan Hunter

Gently By The Shore by Alan Hunter

Gently Down The Stream by Alan Hunter

Landed Gently by Alan Hunter

London Calling by Sara Sheridan

And Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander

A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander

Mrs Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger

Wicked Autumn by G M Malliet

The Path of the Crooked by Ellery Adams

Going the Distance by Christina Jones

King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard

Started:

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Sheila by Robert Wainwright

The Bride by Julie Garwood

The Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters

Walking on Air by Christina Jones

Still reading:

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

More Fool Me by Stephen Fry

And because I was on holiday – I haven’t bought any books this week.  I banned myself from buying any sequels to any of the books that I cleared from the backlog so that I reduced the pile.  And so now the unread list on the Kindle is now merely huge rather than gigantic!

Young Adult Reading Round-up

Welcome to my (roughly) quarterly round-up of what Young Adult and Children’s fiction I’ve been reading recently.

We start this time with Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage*, which is the first book in her Finishing School series.  Published 18 months ago – the third book is due out next month – it’s a steampunk school story which ticked quite a few of my boxes (Nineteenth century setting, school story, assertive female lead) and stayed on the right side of what I can get into when it comes to vampires and supernaturals.  I loved the premise – a finishing school which teaches its students espionage alongside social graces.  The cast of characters was interesting, the plot was pacy and you get the feeling there are lots more things still to be revealed in the rest of the series.  I think it would suit an early teen who was a Worst Witch fan and who likes Harry Potter – but it works for those of us who are Young Adult at heart with a thing for school stories as well.

In the last round-up I mentioned that Fools’ Gold by Philippa Gregory was on the to-read pile.  This is the third book Gregory’s YA series The Order of Darkness, which is set in the fifteenth century.  I suspect in coming to a middle book in this series I’ve probably spoilt the plots of the previous two – but hey, I wasn’t going to get books one and two just to read them in order because I happened to have bought book three.  That would be insane.  But this is an illustration (again) of why I prefer to read series in order.  Anyhow, enough digression.  Fools’ Gold is set in Venice where our intrepid heros Luca and Isolde are trying to track down the source of an influx of English gold that has hit the Venetian market, whilst also pursuing their own quests for various things.  It was fine.  Just fine.  It fell slightly the wrong side of my supernatural/paranormal limits – it’s more White Queen than Other Boleyn Girl – which may suit others but not me.  It filled an afternoon, but I won’t be hunting out the rest of the series.

In the last post I also mentioned that I was behind the curve with Rainbow Rowell’s work – and I have (finally) read Eleanor and Park.  For those who’ve missed it, set in the 1980s  Eleanor is the new girl in town with a troubled and chaotic home life; whilst Park is the boy in the headphones and black t-shirt at the back of the bus, busy trying to make himself invisible.  As the two get to know each other – through  mix-tapes and cartoons they fall in love.  But it’s not as simple as that of course.  Although I was worried for a while it was going to end up with me in tears on the train, it was all ok in the end (in that I wasn’t a weeping mess on the train) and I really enjoyed it.  I’m saddened (but not surprised) that this has been a bit controversial in areas of the US (swearing! sexuality!) but luckily that doesn’t seem to have dented the book’s performance. One for a mid-teenager I think – around the start of GCSE time.

Out next week is Oh Yeah Audrey* by Tucker Shaw – which is the story of 16 year-old Audrey Hepburn super fan Gemma and her meet-up with fellow fans who she met through her tumblr page dedicated to the Breakfast at Tiffany’s star.  I can’t say that I loved it, but it was perfectly fine whilst it lasted – although it did have a few issues, like a late plot development which I didn’t think was adequately resolved.  It’s set over the course of one day – so naturally there’s not a whole lot of scope for character development, but it does have a nice take on some of the best – and worst – bits of the social media revolution.

And a massively advance heads-up about Unspeakable* by Abbie Rushton – which isn’t actually out until February – which is bonkers.  I’m sure I’ll mention it closer to the time to remind you, but it’s really worth putting a note in your diary to look out for it because it’s really good. It deals with difficult issues, it’s powerful, it’s emotional and it’s gripping.  Unspeakable is the story of Megan.  She doesn’t speak.  She wants to – but the voices in her head won’t let her.  Then Jasmine joins her school and suddenly talkative Jasmine is unlocking things inside Megan – could she be the answer?  But what will happen if she rediscovers her voice?

So there you have it – the best bits of my latest Young Adult reading.  A quick mention should also go to the first Wells and Wong book* – which I reviewed in the Back To School post and is also well worth a look if you have someone to buy for who has read all of the Worst Witch, St Clares, Mallory Towers sort of books.  Book Two is due out early next year.  As usual – any more recommendations for what I should be reading in the YA world always welcome – pop them in the comments.

And thanks as always to NetGalley who provided me with my copies of the books which have asterisks (*) next to their titles in return for an honest review (as if I’d ever do anything otherwise).  All the others come from the pile of purchases!

Recent Reading Round-up

As you know, I don’t write reviews here for everything that I’ve read – for a variety of reasons including the fact that I read too much stuff for that, I have one of those full time jobs people talk about (and it’s shift work to boot), I have a theatre habit to maintain etc.  If you to know exactly what I’m reading – right-this-instant –  find me on Goodreads and you too can know what page I’m on of my latest book(s).  But sometimes there’s stuff that I’ve enjoyed, that I haven’t had a chance to mention on here – whether it’s because it’s not new, or because it hasn’t fit in with what I’m writing about, etc, so here’s me redressing the balance, with a few things that I’ve read recently – that I’ve enjoyed and would recommend.

You may have noticed from last month’s stats (and the weekly reading lists) that I’ve been on a bit of a Charlaine Harris reading jag at the moment.  Having finished the Sookie Stackhouse books, I’m working my way through both the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard series and have the first Harper Connelly book in the Harper Connelly series on the pile too.  I like them because they don’t really require much brain power – perfect for nightshift Verity – although the pre-Sookie series can be a bit old-fashioned/outdated in patches, and her sex scenes can be a bit… clunky.  Lily Bard is definitely the darkest series of hers that I’ve read so far, but it’s still not exactly horror territory.  Which is good because I get nightmares easily!  If you haven’t read any Harris – start with Sookie: it’s my favourite and although I know a lot of the die hard fans were unhappy with the final resolution, I was fine with the way it worked out in the end. Although I could’ve done without the final sex scene!

If you’re after something contemporary and you’ve read all the Charlaine Harris you can take (or you’re not a fan), thanks to NetGalley I got my hands on a copy of No Weddings – the first in a new series by Kat Bastion and Stone Bastion. Focussing on bar owner and entrepreneur Cade and his attraction to cake baker Hannah – one of the suppliers to his new party business.  It’s steamy rather than romantic (so far at least) and if it’s a bit of a cliche to have lots of privileged rich twentieI enjoyed it – it was a bit different to my usual thing – and I have the second book in the series, One Funeral, waiting for me on my Kindle.

Meanwhile, I think I’ve read all of the Angela Thirkell’s that Virago Modern Classics has re-released. This makes me sad – because I want to read more and yet I want my copies to match the ones that I already have.  They’re inter-war set comedies – I mentioned Summer Half in my post about School-set books and I’ve really enjoyed the six that I’ve read.  They remind me of Nancy Mitford, but with some of the harder, darker edges taken off or the Provincial Lady diaries but with more characters and wider plots. If Virago could see fit to release some more in their delicious retro-but-modern covers that would be lovely.  Otherwise I’m going to have to start trawling the second hand stalls for them – but I know that as soon as I start doing that, Virago will decide to bring out more!

Alexander McCall Smith is one of those authors who is really prolific, but who has somehow passed me by a bit.  I mentioned in my Scottish books post that I had 44 Scotland Street on the shelf waiting to be read, and inspired by the referendum I finally got around to picking it up and I really enjoyed it.  The second book was a naughty purchase the other week, and it’s waiting for me on my to-read pile.  I’ve tried the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency before and not got on with it, so I’m going to try some other series of his before I go back to that one and see how I get on.  As for 44 Scotland Street, it’s a bit like Tales of the City, except set in Edinburgh and with less bathhouses.

So, there you are – a snapshot of some of my recent reading – the only trouble is, I keep discovering new series that I like and then buying more of them, which of course doesn’t help reduce the pile…