Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Reading progress update: I've read 52 out of 375 pages.

The Age of Light - Whitney Scharer

"Man [Ray] takes the sandwiches and turns away, then pauses and turns back to her. On his face is an expression she hasn't yet seen there, a sudden awareness mixed with gratitude. "Miss Miller," he says, "what did I do before you?"

"Got your own sandwiches, I imagine," Lee says, and feels his eyes on her as she walks away.

Well, so far so good. A little too much telling rather than showing for my liking but not bad for a first novel. 

I loved the introductory started as a sort of retrospective and immediately made me want to read more about Miller. 


I'm not getting a sense of of Paris in 1929, tho. 

So, erm, haul

So, erm, well, ... apparently I did some book hauling on Monday when I was down with that bug (I don't think it was a flu-y thing after all). So, let's just say, I will not run out of Golden Age mystery reads for quite some time...



But then, they are all second hand books. So I'm really doing a good deed here by giving them a new home.  


(And yeah, Death on the Cherwell, I know. In my defense, I was not really with it on Monday.)

The Rape of Lucrece

The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor



Much like with Titus Andronicus, I can't seem to get much out Shakespeare's treatment of Roman tales.

Ovid told it better.

Ovid always seems to have told it better, imo, but I guess that is why 2000+ years on, we're still talking about him and reading his books. 

Not that Shakespeare's works haven't proven their longevity. It's just that The Rape of Lucrece doesn't strike me as one of Will's works that people do remember, much less read.


Anyway, next up is another history which is bound to be more interesting to me. 



Booklikes-Opoly! - Roll & Book Selection - Please Vote!

The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf The Age of Light - Whitney Scharer William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner - William Hague The Lighthouse at the End of the World - Jules Verne

It's another roll day for me.


You rolled 2 dice:

5 6

Timestamp: 2019-06-12 07:47:57 UTC


... which takes me to:


35. We took the Ferry to France, crossing the English Channel.
Read a book set in Europe, or that was written by an author who was born in a Europe, or that involves travel by boat or that has a picture of a ship on the cover.


Oh, what to pick, what to pick???



My shortlist so far has:

1. The Voyage Out which has been sitting on my shelf for a while;

2. The Age of Light, which I picked up last month and which my bookseller loved; or

3. William Wilberforce which is the sort-of-sequel to Hague's biography of Pitt the Younger, which was a surprisingly fabulous book.

4. Or something by Jules Verne.


Tell you what: I'll use my Scottie Dog card for this and ask you all which the next book should be!

Please vote in the comments below!


-read more-

Reading progress update: I've read 43%.

Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier, Sally Beauman

Still one of the best creepy scenes ever.

Mrs Danvers came back and stood beside me. She smiled, and her manner, instead of being still and unbending as it usually was, became startlingly familiar, fawning even.

‘Why did you tell me the shutter was open?’ she asked. ‘I closed it before I left the room. You opened it yourself, didn’t you, now? You wanted to see the room. Why have you never asked me to show it to you before? I was ready to show it to you every day. You had only to ask me.’

I wanted to run away, but I could not move. I went on watching her eyes.

‘Now you are here, let me show you everything,’ she said, her voice ingratiating and sweet as honey, horrible, false. ‘I know you want to see it all, you’ve wanted to for a long time, and you were too shy to ask. It’s a lovely room, isn’t it? The loveliest room you have ever seen.’

She took hold of my arm, and walked me towards the bed. I could not resist her, I was like a dumb thing. The touch of her hand made me shudder. And her voice was low and intimate, a voice I hated and feared.


Flu Day Comfort Read

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

It's the middle of June and I'm wrapped in a blanket with tea and a comfort read. I'll get to Rebecca after a visit to Cold Comfort Farm. Both are perfect comfort reads for me, even if they are entirely different in tone.


The Flat Book Society: July's Vote Winner!

Skeletons: The Frame of Life - Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams



We have a new selection for July! With a narrow margin, Skeletons: The Frame of Life won the vote for July's Flat Book Society read.


Here's what the publishers say:

Over half a billion years ago life on earth took an incredible step in evolution, when animals learned to build skeletons. Using many different materials, from calcium carbonate and phosphate, and even silica, to make shell and bone, they started creating the support structures that are now critical to most living forms, providing rigidity and strength. Manifesting in a vast variety of forms, they provided the framework for sophisticated networks of life that fashioned the evolution of Earth's oceans, land, and atmosphere. Within a few tens of millions of years, all of the major types of skeleton had appeared. 

Skeletons enabled an unprecedented array of bodies to evolve, from the tiniest seed shrimp to the gigantic dinosaurs and blue whales. The earliest bacterial colonies constructed large rigid structures - stromatolites - built up by trapping layers of sediment, while the mega-skeleton that is the Great Barrier Reef is big enough to be visible from space. The skeletons of millions of coccolithophores that lived in the shallow seas of the Mesozoic built the white cliffs of Dover. These, and insects, put their scaffolding on the outside, as an exoskeleton, while vertebrates have endoskeletons. Plants use tubes of dead tissue for rigidity and transport of liquids - which in the case of tall trees need to be strong enough to extend 100 m or more from the ground. Others simply stitch together a coating from mineral grains on the seabed. 

In Skeletons, Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams explore the incredible variety of the skeleton innovations that have enabled life to expand into a wide range of niches and lifestyles on the planet. Discussing the impact of climate change, which puts the formation of some kinds of skeleton at risk, they also consider future skeletons, including the possibility that we might increasingly incorporate metal and plastic elements into our own, as well as the possible materials for skeleton building on other planets.


I'm intrigued already, and hope the book will arrive in time (my library doesn't have this one). 


On a related but different note of Flat Book Society housekeeping, should I clear the current list of nominations completely or should we automatically carry over the top three books for the next vote?


Booklikes-Opoly! - Roll & Book Selection

Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier, Sally Beauman

It's only just past midnight here, but it does mean that it is a new roll day for me, and I do like to know what my next book task is:


You rolled 2 dice:

3 6

Timestamp: 2019-06-09 23:07:18 UTC


(UTC is an hour behind BST)


... which takes me to:


25. I look forward to the summer blockbuster movie releases every year!
Read a book that has been adapted for a film.


And I know just what book to pick for this. I've been meaning to revisit Rebecca  for a while in the form of the excellent audiobook narrated by Anna Massey.

Reading progress update: I've read 213 out of 304 pages.

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine - Lindsey Fitzharris

I will finish this utterly riveting read shortly (there is a large reference section!), and of the many things I am impressed by - even tho this not actually connected to this book is that Lister's triumphant revolution of hospital care had been established for good (in Edinburgh and Glasgow in any case) only 5 years before Arthur Conan Doyle started attending Edinburgh Uni. So, a) he might have met Lister (still in Edinburgh when ACD started his studies), and b) ACD's medical training really would have been one of the most advanced in Europe.

It was easier for Lister to convince doctors in Glasgow and Edinburgh of the value of his antiseptic system because each of those cities had one hospital and one university at its heart. London’s medical community was far more fragmented and less scientifically minded. Clinical teaching was not yet as common in the capital as it was in Scotland. Lister railed, “If I turn to London, and ask how instruction in clinical surgery is conducted there, I find that not only according to my own experience as a London student … but also from the universal testimony of foreigners who visit there and then come here, it is, when compared with our system here, a mere sham.” These were obstacles Lister could not overcome unless he could reform the system from within.

 Oh, and then there was this one place...

Still, one nation remained unconvinced of the merits of Lister’s methods: the United States.

In fact, in several American hospitals, Lister’s techniques had been banned; many doctors saw them as unnecessary and overly complicated distractions because they had not yet accepted the germ theory of putrefaction. Even by the mid-1870s, understanding of wound care and infection had barely progressed, despite Lister’s theories and techniques appearing in American medical journals. The medical community had, for the most part, rejected his antiseptic methods as quackery.

Reading progress update: I've read 167 out of 304 pages.

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine - Lindsey Fitzharris

Lister tried diluting the carbolic acid with water for the following five days. Unfortunately, this did little to offset the irritation caused by the antiseptic. So Lister turned to olive oil to dilute the chemical compound. This appeared to have a soothing effect on the wound without compromising the antiseptic qualities of the carbolic acid. Soon, the redness on Greenlees’s leg faded, and the wound began closing up.

The new solution had done the trick. Six weeks and two days after the cart had shattered his lower leg, James Greenlees walked out of the Royal Infirmary.

Glasgow had olive oil??? I'm gob-smacked!!! ;P 

Reading progress update: I've read 147 out of 304 pages.

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine - Lindsey Fitzharris

Believing that puerperal fever was caused not by miasma but by “infective material” from a dead body, Semmelweis set up a basin filled with chlorinated water in the hospital. Those passing from the dissection room to the wards were required to wash their hands before attending to living patients. Mortality rates on the medical students’ ward plummeted. In April 1847, the rate was 18.3 percent. After hand-washing was instituted the following month, rates in June were 2.2 percent, followed by 1.2 percent in July and 1.9 percent in August.

Semmelweis saved many lives; however, he was not able to convince many physicians of the merits of his belief that incidences of puerperal fever were related to contamination caused through contact with dead bodies. Even those willing to carry out trials of his methods often did so inadequately, producing discouraging results. After a number of negative reviews of a book he published on the subject, Semmelweis lashed out at his critics. His behavior became so erratic and embarrassing to his colleagues that he was eventually confined to a mental institute, where he spent his final days raging about childbed fever and the doctors who refused to wash their hands.

Semmelweis' story is still, to me, one of the saddest. 

Reading progress update: I've read 87 out of 304 pages.

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine - Lindsey Fitzharris

I'm loving this book so far. That is all.


Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 304 pages.

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine - Lindsey Fitzharris

I've finally decided on my BL-Opoly non-fiction book: The Butchering Art

This comes recommended as I know that Lillelara enjoyed it. 



Reading progress update: I've read 11%.

Murder of Lydia: A Mr. Moh Mystery - Joan A. Cowdroy

I'm in a Golden Age mystery mood, so started another one this morning. I know nothing about this author or series, but it appears we have a Chinese MC who is a bit of an amateur sleuth...and it's not quite as as stilted as Mr. Moto so far even if it has the distinct feel of it. I've never read any of the Charlie Chan novels, so Mr. Moto remains my point of reference for now. And of course there are problems here for the modern reader, but overall, it's nowhere near as problematic as Christie's The Big Four for example.


Also, there is a young police constable by the name of ... wait for it ... James Bond. 




And one of the first scenes to feature Bond has him swim in the sea while a dog steals his clothes. 


Oh, if only the author could have known how this would make future readers smile.

But suddenly his cheerful grin faded. He pointed madly with a dripping hand, and emitted a yell of anguished horror.

“My bags, Mr. Moh! For the Lord’s sake see what’s happening to my bags!”

   Mr. Moh turned swiftly in the direction of his pointing finger. Under the impulse of some force invisible, he beheld the tail end of Jimmy’s raincoat vanishing from the further groyne.

   Stimulated to sudden activity by this frenzied appeal from his bereaved young friend, he raced across to peer over the fence. A large, rough-coated brown dog had got a corner of the coat gripped between firm teeth and, head held stiffly sideways, was dragging it at a gallop towards the wicket gate of the Colonel’s garden, the swimmer’s essential garments still entangled in its folds. But not Jimmy’s alone, unless P.C. Bond secretly indulged in underwear of silky jade-green. . . .

   The fence, five feet on one side, was four on the other, and loosely piled shingle at that. As Moh scrambled up and leapt down, the slipping stones sent him sprawling, though he clutched and held an inch of coat. The dog was a quick thinker. Feeling the tug on the coat, he decided to cut his losses. Abandoning it to his pursuer, he took a fresh mouthful and tore into the gate head up, trailing a whirling wake of flannel and towelling.

And shimmering green silk.

   Mr. Moh returned to fling the coat across the groyne to the young man whose wet shoulders and face of scarlet wrath were raised above the fence he himself could barely see over.

“That damned, unruly dog, I suppose?”

Shiveringly he draped the chilly covering round his dripping form.

“Look here, do be sporting and go and get back my pants and bags, old man! I can’t go chasing all over the garden after him in this with the chance of giggling females at every window. I mean—dash it—I’m not decent!”

   “Blushing modesty is highly commendable in young, pure-minded officer,” Mr. Moh observed with sympathy. “But as nefarious quadruped has also removed towel I advise instant marathon to home of maternal parent, while this unworthy, but fully clothed, person retrieves nether garments from military residence.”

In five days of acquaintanceship Bond had learned in a general way to detect the meaning that lay concealed within Mr. Moh’s vocabulary. This advice struck him as sound.

“Go while the going’s good, eh? Right ho!”

Reading progress update: I've read 129 out of 199 pages.

The Wind Blows Death - Cyril Hare

“I am Detective-Inspector Trimble of the Markshire County Constabulary. I have reason to believe that you may be in a position to assist the police in their inquiries into the murder of Mrs. Sefton, professionally known as Lucy Carless, on the evening of Thursday last. Would you have any objection to accompanying me to the police station and there making a statement in writing?”

   “Oh no!” said Mrs. Roberts, before Zbartorowski could reply. “You’ve got it all wrong, Inspector. That isn’t the idea at all.”

   “Jane!” protested her husband. “You really must not interrupt again. You’ve caused quite enough trouble already.”

   “I don’t know what you mean about causing trouble, Herbert. It seems to me I’ve been extremely helpful. This gentleman wanted me to find Mr. Zbartorowski and I’ve found him. But I never said anything about letting him be taken off in a Black Maria to the police station. It’s a ridiculous idea. If you want to ask him any questions, Inspector, you can do it here, where I can keep an eye on you and see that you keep your promise.”

   Keeping his temper with some difficulty, Trimble said, “I should prefer, Madam, to interview this gentleman in the ordinary way, at the police station. It would obviously be more convenient.”

   “It would be most inconvenient,” Mrs. Roberts retorted. “I can’t possibly spare him in the kitchen just now. Anyway, I don’t see that you have any choice in the matter. You asked him if he had any objection to coming to the police station and he has every objection. Haven’t you, Mr. Zbartorowski?”

   Zbartorowski’s large brown eyes turned towards her. He looked absurdly like a meek, devoted spaniel. “Yes, Madame,” he murmured.

   “That’s settled then,” said Mrs. Roberts, with a sigh of relief. She sat down again in her chair and folded her hands on her lap in an expectant attitude. “Now will you begin, please, Inspector? We’ve wasted a lot of time already.”

   Trimble acknowledged defeat.


Reading progress update: I've read 73 out of 199 pages.

The Wind Blows Death - Cyril Hare

“Mr. Evans, what do you say?”

Evans shook his head. “I am afraid I can’t help you there,” he said. “I couldn’t possibly recognize anybody at that distance. But I can say that the wood wind struck me as sounding rather thin during the playing of the National Anthem. 

Alright, we have a murder and we have a lot of highly-strung musicians who haven't a clue who-dunnit, even tho the murder took place right amongst them and while performing.


Far-fetched? You bet! But so far it is quite fun to follow the different squabbles between the musicians.

Currently reading

Scarweather by Anthony Rolls
Progress: 100/272pages
Woza Shakespeare!: Titus Andronicus In South Africa by Gregory Doran, Antony Sher
Progress: 23/303pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 257/1344pages