15 books so far this year… And slowly making Bleak House progress

So as we get within touching distance of another half term a.k.a increased reading time for busy teachers, I thought I would update the world on my latest reading habits. No surprise here that Agatha Christie, Dick Francis and Sophie Hannah feature. I’ve also squeezed in a Harlan Coben book and two books about football! I finally read a book that has been big on my life for no reason other than our shared name Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and through the Looking Glass. 

 Bleak House update for you all first: I’ve read 21% of it according to Goodreads. That’s just over 200 pages and I have to say I am getting into in. Progress is slow because I have to be in the right mood to pick it up. That, and the fact that Dickens never used one word where twenty would make him happier, so some passages are rather wordy!

Now, to football, something I have rarely (if ever) mentioned on this blog but that is a huge part of my life. If you’re not a fan then skip this paragraph! As background for you, I support Blackburn Rovers, a decision I made circa 1996, when my Dad took us to Ewood park (a 500 mile round trip from our Norfolk home) for the first time to please my then Blackburn supporting little brother. In the intervening years I’ve watched them from afar and sometimes in the flesh at away games nearer me or on long treks north. It has sometimes been hard work sticking with them, but I’m in too deep now to step away. Anyway, I love football. It makes me happy as much as it makes me crushingly disappointed at times. The two football books I have read this year are both by Harry Redknapp. If you don’t know football, he’s a famous manager. Always Managing is his autobiography and my husband bought it for me for Christmas by mistake. I read it anyway and I loved it. It’s written so you can imagine Harry is talking you through it all himself. 7/10 Harry. I really enjoyed it. A Man Walks on to a Pitch is a series of anecdotes strung together by the theme of Harry’s top 11 players of each decade he has been involved in football. Not as good as Always Managing but an easy read and enjoyable.

Right, football talk finished. If you’re still reading and you like Agatha Christie but haven’t read them all then may I highly recommend Murder is Easy to you? It’s one of her stand alone whodunnits. I had great fun guessing who did it. 7/10 again. Reflex by Dick Francis is similarly a great, gripping mystery lead by a strong leading man. 8/10. Proof is by the same author and is one of the saddest I’ve read. Scrap that, it is devastating: an insight into a man’s lasting grief. Also 8/10 at least. 

I wasn’t keen on Alice’s Adventures… In all honesty, it’s a bit too random and nonsensical for me, especially the through the looking glass bit. Sophie Hannah’s Pictures or it Didn’t Happen was a quick read and enjoyable enough if a bit abrupt. Harlan Coben’s Six Years, while not his best work, was enjoyable and kept me guessing.

As for the other books on the pictured pile, I am currently reading N or M from the 1940s Agatha Christie collection. I’ve also started Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris. Tripwire could be next. I’ll keep you informed. 

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Progress! Books 1-7 of 2015 and a big announcement!

Hi everyone and a very belated happy new year! I wrote before the turn of the year of my expectations for my upcoming year in books. I haven’t been dedicated enough to update here but things are going smoothly so far, although I may have done something to sabotage myself.

So far in 2015, I have read 7 books; a number I am quite pleased with. I’ve been enjoying using twitter to complete Borough Press’ #bookadayuk, which is great fun and reminds me of a very short version of the challenge I did on here in 2013.

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My 7 books so far include three Agatha Christies, so I’m optimistic about my target of completing her complete works this year. The Moving Finger proved to be a very good read, and introduced Miss Marple extremely late on in the book, which, if you’ve read my reviews before, you know I like! Partners in Crime is a book of short stories about Agatha’s less well known detectives, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. I’m not a huge fan of Christie’s short stories usually, preferring a full on novel, but these were excellent. The writing style is easy going, and Tommy and Tuppence are a lot of fun. Destination Unknown, however, is one of Dame Agatha’s stand alone thrillers, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Where the previous book was fun, this wasn’t at all. The characters were moderately endearing and the plot was slow but ultimately interesting. So, not a complete waste of time, but quite low down my list of Christie favourites.

I’ve also read The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie by Charles Osbourne, which details all of the queen of crime’s prolific output in date order with details of her life at the time interspersed. I would only recommend this to hardcore Agatha fans, as it’s somewhat heavy going, but very enjoyable in places. Maybe one to dip into rather than read cover to cover like I did.

Making up the magnificent seven, I’ve also read one Dick Francis The Danger. It took me much longer to read than his others, but the characters were fantastic and the plot is brilliant despite being a little slower moving in places than the others I’ve read. (See Dead Cert here and Nerve here.)

Last but not least I’ve read two teen books this year. I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore and The Enemy by Charlie Higson. Both were good. Both led me to look up sequels on amazon. If you only bother with one though, I’d go with The Enemy. Higson writes in a very youth friendly way, about a zombie apocalypse. Well, that’s how it seems anyway. Basically, everyone over 14 years of age got ill. Some died but many went insane and still walk the earth trying to eat the intrepid survivors, the under 14s. There’s a lot of death in this book. It’s sad but there are great action scenes and very good characterisations. I will be keeping my eyes open for the sequels when I’m buying books again. I am Number Four is not as well written, and is far more sci-fi, and much more teen friendly I would say. Number four is an alien in a teenage boy’s body, exiled from his dead planet with only a minder and a friendly dog for company. He falls in love, but the evil aliens who killed his planet are coming for him. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if I came upon the sequels in the library I would like to know how it works out for four.

I seem to have written an incredibly long post. I’m currently reading Proof by Dick Francis which is amazing. But, hold the front page for this: yesterday I went to my shelf and picked up Bleak House by Charles Dickens. “Big deal!” I hear you cry! Well, those of you who have read any of this blog will know that this particular book of mine has sat on my shelf for years, and every year I say I’m going to take the plunge into the 932 page volume and read it. Reader, I’ve started it! It may well derail my attempts to read 52 books, it may well take up every waking hour that I’m not teaching, but I’ve taken the first baby steps. I’m on chapter three! This is my first ever foray into Dickens. To those of you who warned me about the pages of fog description, I’ve made it through those and past the first appearance of Lady Deadlock. I’ll let you all know how I get on…

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Book 9: Nerve by Dick Francis

My second Dick Francis of the year! [She said, hoping no-one had noticed her month long absence when she had resolved to post fortnightly.]

I read this straight after The Woman in White so you will have to excuse me if this is less than detailed.

Nerve was Dick Francis’ second novel about horse racing and crime. It’s very different from the first, which you can read about on my blog, here. This time, a jinx seems to falling on the jockeys. Nerve kicks off with one of them killing himself (gun to the head) in the middle of the show ring. Rob (our hero) blames the immense pressure on him and the fact he was going to lose his job. But even worse is to come. A leg break leads Rob to get some better rides than usual. Meanwhile, another of his friends is sacked for being late in freak circumstances, and another jockey suffers a mental breakdown.

For Rob, everything is going well, until his horses start to lose. All the time. Everyone says he’s lost his nerve. He investigates, and finds an interesting culprit. The ending is interestingly played out. My only problem with the story is that Rob is hopelessly in love with his cousin. I’m not sure why Francis chose this subplot but I found it rather weird.

Overall though, a very gripping, read in one sitting, type of book. I give Nerve 7/10.

Reading has taken a backseat to work of late, so I’ll return when I have read something else!

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Book 4: Dead Cert by Dick Francis

This is Dick Francis’ first of many novels, and the first I’ve read. In the summer, my mum bought me this 40th anniversary edition in a charity shop.

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Now, if you plan to start to read this book, clear your diary. It is that good. Dick Francis sets his books in the world of horse racing that he was so familiar with from his days as a jockey. If you’re not that interested on jockeys, horses and racing, do not let that stop you reading this gem of a book. I’m not keen on any of those three either (though I have nothing against them), but the way Dick Francis writes just makes you have to keep reading.

It’s a murder mystery, with a dead jockey, who most people think just died in a fall. His friend Alan York knows differently because he saw a wire bring down the dead cert horse, killing the rider. More deaths eventually ensue and Alan both falls in love and puts himself in terrible danger investigating. I could not put this down.

In summary, Dead Cert is gripping and very readable. You believe in the characters and desperately want them to stay alive. I would give this book 8/10 for sheer readability.