On the Bookshelf – June

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Okay, it’s bookshelf time, so without further ado, here’s what was on mine in May.

The Ruin, The Scholar, The Good Turn, by Dervla McTiernan

I’d heard a lot about this series but had been a tad late to the Detective Cormac Reilly party, but I’m very glad that I joined and devoured all three books in the series during May.

I’ll be looking out for the next in this series for sure.

The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton

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This is a book that if I had a desert island list (which I’m seriously contemplating for blog purposes – thanks to frugal fixes) this one would be on it. I love this story and can’t believe it’s been so many years since I’ve read it.

There are scenes from books that stay with you forever. I was reminded the other day (in this post) of one such scene from Jude The Obscure that I’d prefer to be able to forget, although another from that book – where Jude sees the dreaming spires of (I assume) Oxford for the first time is one that I’m happy to remember.

With respect to The Buccaneers, there’s a moment where Nan tells Val to let Guy know that she’s there “before I lose heart” which never fails to make mine beat a little faster. 

This was the last of Wharton’s books and was unfinished at the time of her death in 1937 – yet published as it was. The novel was completed by Marion Mainwaring in the early 1990’s and ties in with a BBC mini-series– I have it on DVD somewhere, I think. Both the ending and the mini-series were criticised – largely because of the happy ending – but since when have I ever let a little detail like that get in the way of my reading pleasure?

Reading it, you can tell where Wharton stopped and Mainwaring took over, and perhaps the ending was not as Wharton may have envisaged it, but as far as I’m concerned it was highly satisfactory.

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

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I wanted to love this, I really did – and there were parts that I did love. There were also parts which made me feel deeply uncomfortable – which, I suppose, makes it successful (and the reason why this one appeared on so many of those must-read lists that I tend to avoid). I could feel her pain with her boots – been there, lost the toenails (on a track  or two in NZ as opposed to the Pacific Crest trail, of course) – and I felt the fear when she, as a lone female, came across groups of men on the trail.

While I suspect that parts of this book will stay with me, did I love it? No, I didn’t. Will I read Tiny Beautiful Things by the same author? Probably.

(I should at this point say that I hadn’t seen the movie at the time of reading…and now that I have seen the movie I might not have bothered with the book… just saying…)

A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair No. 10), by Sulari Gentill

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I’m a little biased on this one before I even start – I love this series; it’s one I buy as soon as its released.

Set in the 1930’s, Gentill weaves historical events and characters into her stories and Rowland Sinclair, and his little band are as irresistible as ever – with Rowly somehow managing to attract as much trouble as ever.

Loved it.

Audio Books

I’ve decided that what I’m enjoying about Audible is the opportunity to read more – and more widely…possibly the sign of a true addict. 

As I mentioned last month, I don’t read a lot of memoir and tend not to read much non-fiction, but I’ve found that I can listen to it. I can also listen to the classics – if the narration is right. I’m currently listening to Jeremy Irons read Brideshead Revisited…but that’s one for June’s list.

Anyways, I’m a different sort of reader on Audible. That aside, these books kept me company on my afternoon walks in May.

Persuasion, by Jane Austen and narrated by Greta Scacchi

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Sometimes I think this is my favourite of Jane Austen’s books, then I think my favourite is Sense and Sensibility, and then I think, no, it’s actually Pride and Prejudice. Occasionally, I lean towards Emma. One thing that doesn’t change is how these stories are transferable into today – in fact, I’d love to write a modern telling of this one.

Anne Elliott is a quieter protagonist, but no less present for that, and Austen’s wit is, perhaps, more pronounced because of it. Captain Wentworth is flawed, yet redeemable, others are flawed and not so redeemable, and Greta Scacchi’s narration is fabulous.

Any Ordinary Day, by Leigh Sales, read by Leigh Sales

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In this wise and layered book, Leigh talks intimately with people who’ve faced the unimaginable, from terrorism to natural disaster to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Expecting broken lives, she instead finds strength, hope, even humour. Leigh brilliantly condenses the cutting-edge research on the way the human brain processes fear and grief, and poses the questions we too often ignore out of awkwardness…
Warm, candid and empathetic, this book is about what happens when ordinary people, on ordinary days, are forced to suddenly find the resilience most of us don’t know we have. 

This is about the extraordinary events that happen on an ordinary day to ordinary people – the blindsides that life sometimes sends.

I truly don’t think I could have sat down and read this – somehow there seems a greater emotional connection when you read the words…

This book, though, has parts where it’s tough going and tough to hear. There are even a few sections where pragmatic Sales who, incidentally, couldn’t have written or read this book any better than she has done, has a faint quiver in her voice.

This gripped me – so much that the miles I walked while I listened sped by.

Your Own Kind Of Girl, by Clare Bowditch, read by Clare Bowditch

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Clare Bowditch is an Australian musician, actor and radio presenter. Now she’s written a book that she promised herself when she was 21 that if she got through what she was going through she’d write when she was really old, like when she was 42.

Clare’s story is about the stories we tell ourselves, the ones that others tell about us, the stories we believe and are ingrained within us – particularly those about our bodies and the relationship with them. I’m ashamed to say that listening to Clare talk about the internal monologue in her head was, at times, like listening to mine. Too big, too much, too dreamy, too emotional, too sensitive, too … you get the idea.

This story is so personal – there were times when I had no idea how she wrote it and even less how she managed to read it aloud. Throughout though, Clare’s warmth and positivity shines through.

So, that was what I read in May…what was on your bookshelf? Any must-reads (or must listens)?