Monday, 28 November 2011

These is My Words

I finished this book on Thursday but was so busy over Friday and the weekend that my review of These is My Words by Nancy Turner had to wait until today. This is another book that was recommended to me - a couple of years ago - by Kay at My Randon Acts of Reading and that has been languishing on my tbr mountain ever since. But I always think there's a 'time' to read every single book and this one's time had definitely arrived.

Sarah Agnes Prine is a teenage girl (around 16 or 17) who lives on a ranch in 1880s Arizona. She has four brothers but wants more than anything to have a sister -

It is good to have these brothers here but it's not the same as having a girl you can talk to and play with, and besides, they can be an ornery bunch and tease me no end. I am purely outnumbered.

The family own a spread near Phoenix, but up sticks suddenly at the father's whim and begin a journey to Texas because he thinks the living might be easier over there. Sarah is the keeper of a diary and charts the family's progress.

Almost immediately tragedy strikes and continues to strike. Indians attack. The Prines join forces with a couple of other families and the Indians continue to attack. There are deaths, rape, sickness, Sarah's mother suffers a breakdown and so forth. Sarah has to grow up very fast indeed. Luckily it seems she's the best shot in the family and she is the one who saves them more than once.

Arriving at their destination what's left of the family decide that Texas is not the place for them after all. They join a wagon train that is heading back to Arizona territory and Sarah meets, for the first time, Captain Jack Elliot, the army officer who is escorting the train. She's not impressed, finding him too rough and ready and too much inclined to speak his mind. The trip is long and arduous and, once again, Sarah's shooting skills are required. She gains the admiration of the captain but is scared of the effect he's having on her.

Eventually the family arrive back in Arizona and decide to settle near Tuscon where the army has a base and where Captain Elliot is stationed. They stake a claim and start building a ranch to raise horses but, although they are now settled at last, their trials and tribulations are very far from over.

The main thing to say about this book really is how much Sarah Prine's character shines. It practically jumps off the page at you and you just can't help loving her. She judges herself harshly. She feels she is not devout enough and not 'good' like her sister-in-law, Savannah, because she has uncharitable thoughts about people and often acts rashly. But the fact is, of all the family, it's Sarah who is the strong one. Time and time again the family rely on her quick wittedness in an emergency and she never fails them. She is intelligent, strong, and a staunch ally. Throughout the book various events test her to the limit but always she comes through.

I probably should stress that this book is a work of fiction... because... in fact it does read uncannily like a non-fiction diary. I have yet to read any of the several diaries of pioneers I have on my Kindle, but it will be interesting to compare the two when I eventually get to it. What may be missing is the romantic element. Somewhere on the net I actually saw this book described as a 'romance'. I laughed. Not sure how anyone could get it quite so wrong. There is romance, yes, but Mills and Boon/Harlequin this definitely is *not*. It's hard hitting, *tragic* in places... quite a few places in fact... and underlines what a tough life these people had forging a life for themselves in an alien environment, which had a native population that didn't want them there. (And you can understand *that* too.) But underlying the tragedy is a tale of great courage and hardship written with honesty and a great deal of humour. I adored Sarah... and Jack Elliot too. What a pair.

I've just discovered that Nancy Turner has written two more books about Sarah Prine, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden. I honestly can't wait to get my hands on them. These is My Words will make my top ten list at the end of the year, no question. Wonderful, wonderful book.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Track of the Cat & On the Banks of Plum Creek

A two-book post today, both of which qualify for my American states challenge. First up Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr.

Anna Pigeon is a park ranger with the National Park Service in the USA. Her current post is in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park on the borders of western Texas and New Mexico. Anna is out patroling one day when she comes upon a body in a very inaccessible part of the park. The body is another female park ranger and it looks like she's been mauled to death by a cougar. Anna's boss seems happy to accept this verdict and later a big cat is 'dispatched'. Anna is furious at this premature killing and begins to investigate more closely. She finds that the cat prints that were around the body are all wrong and other things are also not right, why would the dead woman have gone so far without water for instance?

The problem is, no one wants to hear that this could have been murder. They all think Anna's mistaken and ought to give it up. But it's clear, after a while, that the culprit, if there is one, is probably another park ranger. Unknowingly, Anna is putting herself into extreme danger, especially when she's out alone in the mountains...

Oh wow. I finished this book some days ago and still can't get it out of my head. It had everything. Firstly, the sense of place was amazing. The author describes the mountains, the terrain, the atmosphere, the heat, wonderfully. You're there with Anna. Well I was. Stunning, just stunning. It made me want to visit the area, except that I'm probably too decrepit (bad knees and arthritis) to enjoy it the way it should be enjoyed, ie. by getting out and walking. As I said in my previous post, I didn't know about this national park, in fact I know little about Texas as a whole other than it used to belong to Mexico. I need to put that right...

Leaving aside the sense of place - which to be honest is reason *enough* to read this book - everything else about the story was just right too. Anna is a thoroughly interesting main character. She lost her husband a while ago (I didn't catch how long) and is clearly still grieving. She has a boyfriend but he senses that Anna is still in love with her dead husband. Anna herself drinks a little too much but it's not hard to understand why. I liked her relationship with her sister in New York and hope we actually get to meet her in a future book.

The plot was also excellent. Truthfully, I would have to say, 'thrilling' and I don't use that word lightly, in fact I never use it. Things happen to Anna that had me on the edge of my seat. Not only that, the way one person dies literally had me sitting in my chair with my hand over my mouth. Oh, God. I had my suspicions who the murderer was but really I didn't know the who or the why for certain until the end. And I never mind knowing who did it anyway because, for me personally, the how and the why is often far more interesting.

To sum up: wonderful. Thank you so much to the people who recced this series - LizF and Kay I think; I'm going to be eternally grateful as I read my way through the 15 or so books. In fact, book 2 is on reserve at the library right now. They only have three or four so I'll be buying the rest... I thought I could get them for my Kindle but annoyingly Amazon only has that first book available in that mode. Never mind, I will *have* to read them so how I get hold of them is irrelevant.

Next up, On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Ma and Pa Ingalls and the three girls, Laura, Mary and Carrie are on the move again. The danger from Native Indians in Kansas was too much so they head away from there to Minnesota. The place where they decide to settle is called Plum Creek and is once again prairie-land. At first they live in a dug-out under a hill but Pa, borrowing against the prospect of a good wheat crop next summer, builds a lovely log-cabin.

This time they are only a couple of miles from a town and Laura gets a shock when she's told that her and Mary can go to school. A shock because although Mary can read and add up, she can't. Most of the children at school are friendly but Laura despises Nellie, the arrogant daughter of the store-keeper who is spoilt rotten and scornful of Laura's humble 'country' background.

Things take a turn for the worse when Pa has to leave home to go east to find work. Ma is left with the children in the midst of a terrible winter and they most cope or perish.

You can see Plum Creek on the Walnut Grove website here: Plum Creek. It looks idyllic, and would be now, but life was a great deal more dangerous and less predictable back then than it is for us now. We think of these books as cosy - well I did - but the harsh realities of life are actually more to the fore in this book than in the previous two. Things take a real turn for the worse when something very unpredictable happens to the Ingalls' wheat crop. They have debts and there is nothing for it but for the father to go and find work. And he has to walk several hundred miles in worn-out shoes because he's given the three dollars for new ones to the minister for the church bell fund! Life is incredibly hard. Laura and Mary have to stop going to school for fear they'll wear out their shoes and anyway, Ma can't be left alone with young Carrie, she needs help.

There are of course compensations. There is a very strong sense of community and neighbours are always there if help is needed. There's a lovely scene towards the end where it's Christmas and the church is full of gifts from a surprising source. And family is all. Laura adores her father to distraction and even though she finds it hard to be quite as selfless as Mary, family is definitely the most important part of her life.

I can't believe how much I'm loving this series of children's books. Although they're not as hard hitting as maybe adult books on the same theme, there is real hardship and Laura Ingalls Wilder in no way shrank from telling it like it was, whether her audience were children or not. If you've never read this series you really, really should.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Bookish meanderings

I usually only read one book at a time, possibly two if my main book is a bit too creepy or is perhaps a crime book that scares me half to death. (I would cite Tess Gerritsen's books as being typical of this category, love them as I do they do not make for a comfortable bedtime read.) Occasionally though, I get so swept away that I end up reading three. And that's the case at the moment. I started These is My Words by Nancy Turner last week for my American states challenge. It's superb but rather gruelling in places. Luckily its narrator, Sarah Prine, is wonderful and at times very funny, because otherwise it might even be unbearable.

So, as light relief from that I started Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr. This series about a park ranger was recommended by several people when I asked for titles for the challenge. Because it was so popular I bought the first book for my Kindle and am already halfway through as it's a bit unputdownable. Love it. And this is the whole point of my challenge. I had never heard of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in Texas. I feel ashamed to admit it. Look how beautiful it is:

Photos from the NPS. gov. site linked to above.

Now I have heard of it and read about it, albeit in a fictional book but... that said... the descriptions of the park are stunning and make me want to find out more. Which, in a nutshell, is why I'm taking on this Behemoth of a challenge. Some people must think I'm a penny short of a shilling to even try it but here I am, just a week or ten days in and I already know more that I did when I started. Who knew, for instance, that the 'ponderosa' was a pine tree? I didn't. I thought it was just the name of the ranch in Bonanza! But These is My Words informed me otherwise. It seems too that there may be two national parks of that name... I wonder if Anna Pigeon gets to either of them? Can't wait to find out.

And my third book arrived on Saturday, On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I wondered how long I would be able to resist starting and the answer was precisely one day. I'm about 20 pages in and have I learnt anything yet? Well, yes as a matter of fact. Minnesota has prairie. How could I not have known that? I thought it was all forests and lakes! My ignorance it seems, is unending.

Okay... I'll give it a rest now and talk about something else.

So far this month I've read four books and only reviewed one. So I'll say a little about what else I've read.

I started the month with The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley. This is the second book in the author's 'Flavia de Luce' series. In this story Flavia finds herself involved with a travelling duo of puppeteers who suddenly turn up in Buckshaw. They can't pay for their van to be repaired so the vicar suggests they put on a performance in the village hall. Of course, it's not long before someone turns up dead and, as in the last book, Flavia has a lot more success in solving the crime than the local police. *Huge* fun. Love this series to bits and have book three on my library pile at the moment.

Next up, Syren by Angie Sage:

After their last adventures in The House of Foryx, Septimus returns to The Trading Post (the descriptions of this imaginary coastline were stunning) on Spit Fyre the dragon to pick up Jenna, Beetle, Nicko and Snorri. He finds them ensconced on Jenna's father's beautiful ship and only Jenna and Beetle will return with him on the dragon. A storm takes them off course and they crash land on an island. Spit Fyre is badly injured so they can't leave until he recovers. Is the island uninhabited? No, it's not. Septimus, as usual, finds trouble where he has not actually looked for it. This is such a great series. Very readable, a lot of humour and with characters who act like normal people. The books are aimed at 10 to 14 year olds I would say but are also a good, fun read for adults.

And lastly, The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett:

I snuck in a quick reread of this little book after reading Danielle at A Work in Progress's review of it here. And it was every bit as much fun as I remembered. The Queen chases one of her corgis into the mobile library, parked outside the palace, and ends up borrowing a book because she doesn't like not to. (So English.) It's by Ivy Compton Burnett and she finds it hard going but goes back for something else. A lad who works in the kitchen, Norman, helps her with titles and the queen is suddenly addicted to reading, which doesn't go down well with everyone... Such a joy this little book. Alan Bennett's unique brand of humour is understated and wonderful:

As it was, with this one she soon became engrossed and, passing her bedroom that night clutching his hot-water bottle, the duke heard her laugh out loud. He put his head round the door. 'All right, old girl?'

'Of course, I'm reading.'

'Again?' And he went off shaking his head.

Joyous. Anyone looking for a nice little Christmas pressie for someone bookish could do a lot worse.

And, last but not least I have to give a virtual pat on the back for the book title that made me laugh the most. It was amongst the recs for my American challenge and the pat goes to Kay at My Random Acts of reading. Book one of the Alafair Tucker series she recommended by Donis Casey is called, The Old Buzzard had it Coming. I'm still tittering.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

My American states challenge - post 2

I had an excellent response to my request for books for my new, open-ended, challenge to read my way around the United States. With all the books I have lined up I could be doing this for a lot longer than two or three years: think ten!!! LOL. Several people thought that such a challenge would also apply very nicely to this country, the UK, and I was delighted to hear that Margaret at BooksPlease has actually decided to try it. Do check out her post, here.

I thought I'd use this post to list a few of the suggestions I've had and to stick up a few photos of the books I own that I think might be suitable to read. I tried to take one of all of them on the shelf first:

Not all that successful but it gives an idea of how many I already own - almost forty - that I can make a start on. Add to that around a dozen sundry titles downloaded to my Kindle and I'm starting with fifty it seems.

Anyway, photographing them in two piles seemed to be the way to go so this the non-fiction:

Quite a mixed bag there: Dickens, Mark Twain, Steinbeck, travel narratives, maps, essays and so on. Most of these are multi-stated but a few are specific such as This House of Sky by Ivan Doig (Montana) and True North by George Erickson which I think is mainly Alaska but may include some of the Yukon in Canada as well. Audubon might seem like an odd choice but this gorgeous little book is full of his paintings of North American birds with little accompanying essays and poems. Just beautiful.

Next up, the fiction. How many of these will turn out to be suitable, I don't know. The thing is, I want to read fiction that actually tells me something about the state it's set in, that furthers my knowledge. If it's set somewhere that could be anywhere, then it's no good. So we shall see.

States I have covered here include Arizona, Montana, Texas, New York state, Pennsylvania, California, Wyoming, Georgia, and several are multi-stated again. Authors I have downloaded to my Kindle include, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, Nevada Barr.

And here is a list of titles that people have come up with:

From a friend in Ohio:

Allan Eckert's series including Tecumseh
My Antonia and O'Pioneers – Willa Cather
Centennial - James Mitchener
Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass
Thoreau's Walden
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Glass Menagerie by Tenneesse Williams
The Little House series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
Harlem - Jonathan Gill
Go Tell It on the Mountain - James Baldwin
The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Jack London - The Call of the Wild
Profiles in Courage - John F Kennedy
Winesburg, OH - Sherwood Anderson
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Cloudsplitter - Russell Banks
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
Dream West by David Nevin
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
Early August - Louis Bromfield
Carl Sandburg - Lincoln the War Years
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair The Jungle
All the President's Men - Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
My Generation - Tom Brokaw
Once Upon a Town - the Story of the North Platte Canteen - Bob Greene
On the Road - Charles Kurault (or Charles Kurault's America)
Thomas Payne - Common Sense
the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution
The Federalist Papers - Alexander Hamilton
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Mississippi)
The Alex McKnight books by Steve Hamilton (Michigan)

From Carl (Blogger):

On the Way to Other Country – C.W. Gusewelle (Missouri)

From LizF (Blogger):

The Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr (multi-state)

From Yvonne at Fiction Books(Blogger):

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd (South Carolina?)

From Thomas at My Porch (Blogger):

Mainstreet – Sinclair Lewis (Minnesota)
Echo House – Ward Just (Washington DC)
O Pioneers – Willa Cather (Nebraska)
My Antonia – Willa Cather (Nebraska)
Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett (Kentucky)
Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather (New Mexico)
Bill Bryson’s non-fiction about the USA

From Lifeonthecutoff (Blogger):

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Wisconsin, Kansas and more)
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (Chicago, Ill.)

From Nicola at Vintage Reads (Blogger):

My Antonia by Willa Cather (Nebraska)

From Val at Erasmus Cat and Lifeonthecutoff (Blogger):

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

From Pat at Here There and Everywhere (Blogger):

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson

From Carol (Blogger):

The Deborah Knott series by Margaret Maron

From Nan at Letters from a Hill Farm (Blogger):

Murder Casts a Shadow by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl. (Hawaii)

From Kay at My Random Acts of Reading (Blogger):

The Deborah Knott series by Margaret Maron (North Carolina)
The Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow (Alaska)
The Lena Jones series by Betty Webb (Arizona)
The Anna Pigeon books by Nevada Barr (multi-state)
The Alafair Tucker series by Donis Casey (Oklahoma)
The Coffeehouse series by Cleo Coyle (NYC)
The John Creepak series by Chris Grabenstein (New Jersey)
The V.I. Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky (Chicago)
Sandra Dallas for books set in Colorado esp. Tallgrass.
The Joanna Brady series by J.A. Jance (Arizona)

From Margaret at BooksPlease:

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

From Nulaanne (Blogger) - all Washington State:

Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen (history)
The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald (biography)
Moon Called by Patrica Briggs (fantasy)
Greywalker by Kat Richardson (fantasy)
The Highest Tide By Jim Lynch (fiction)
Crimson Vengeance by Sheri Lewis Wohl (Vampire fiction)

From Margot at Joyfully Retired:

Falling to Pieces – Vannetta Chapman (Indiana & Amish mystery)

LJ suggestions:

Anything by Louis L’Amour.
Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Moosepath League books by Van Reid (Maine)
Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith (Virginia)
The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (Maine)
The Anna Pigeon books by Nevada Barr


The Hum and the Shiver – Alex Bledsoe (fantasy, Great Smoky Mountains)
Bill Bryson's autobiography

So there we go. I hope I didn't miss anyone! But an excellent choice of all kinds of books to be going on with. But... I suspect there are many states not spoken for here and even those that are I still welcome more suggestions. So if you have any, please leave them in the comments. And thanks to everyone who has already done so.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Little House on the Prairie

There can't be many people who've not heard of Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, Little House on the Prairie. Its fame may be due in part to the television series of the same name staring the chap who was in Bonanza... was it Michael Landon? Played Little Joe I fancy (gosh that ages me). I think I saw a few of those, but I'm pretty sure I never read the Little House series as a child, for what reason I don't know. They must have been in the library in Penzance but I probably had no idea how good they were. Librarians didn't tend to recommend books to children back in the 60s and my family wouldn't have known about them. So I missed out and it's a shame; as an adult I honestly don't think you experience the same kind of magic when reading as children do and I know for certain I would have adored this series of books as much as, say, C.S. Lewis's Narnia books which completely swept me away.

The story follows on from The Little House in the Big Woods, set around 1870. Pa decides there are too many people in the forests of Wisconsin.

Quite often Laura heard the ringing thud of an axe which was not Pa's axe, or the echo of a shot which did not come from his gun. The path that went by the little house had become a road. Almost every day Laura and Mary stopped their playing and stared in surprise at a wagon slowly creaking by on that road.

Animals kept away from the area and Pa liked a country where animals did not have to be afraid of humans. So they pack up and off they go - west. Pa has heard that the government is encouraging settlers onto the prairie and that the Indians who already live there will be pushed further west again. They travel for months in a covered wagon and come to a good spot at last, close to the Verdigris river, about forty miles from Independence, Kansas.

Of course, they have nothing and have to start from scratch. Pa has to build a house for them to live in, keep them fed by hunting, and Ma has to cook, look after the children and try to help Pa with the building.

Laura finds it a strange land, this place of endless grass and silence where the wind blows so hard they sometimes fear for their lives. And there are many frightening things. The possibility of illness, 'fever 'n' ague' as they call it, which they don't realise is caused by mosquitos along the river, the close proximity of the local Osage Indians, and wolves. They have brushes with all these things and more but find friendship and neighbourliness among the other settlers. Pa thinks it's a 'good place'.

I *think* it was Susan Hill in her book, Howards End is on the Landing, who said that if you want to know how to build a log cabin or your own bed look no further than Laura Ingalls Wilder. And she's spot on! All the details of how to do it are right here in these lovely little books. There are even illustrations (by Garth Williams) to guide you. Not only that there are minute details of exactly how they lived, what they ate, the utensils they had... cups were rare for instance so Laura and Mary had to share one mug.

But there's much more to these books than that kind of practicality. The prairie is a huge presence throughout the whole book. I've never seen it for myself but consider I now have a good idea of how the region looks and feels. And you can't help but admire the bravery and guts of these people who took off into the unknown like that, even though we now know they pushed the native population out. It's quite interesting looking at the rights and wrongs of that from the distance of so many years and hearing what the settlers actually tended to think. I didn't find myself judging but just reading the historical aspect with a lot of interest: somehow I find it easy to detach myself and I'm not sure how or why.

The book has some very intense scenes for a children's book. Laura wakes one night to the sound of a wolf howling in her ear. The house is surrounded by a pack of fifty wolves and all that stands between the family and the pack is a patchwork quilt slung up over the doorway. The decriptions and intensity of this scene are incredible. Likewise the day an Osage Indian turns up while Pa is away hunting, walks into the house and indicates he wants to be fed. The fear of Ma and the girls is tangible. And then there's a scene where the Indians move out and the family watch as hundreds of them pass the house on horseback. I read this with my mouth open!

I honestly did not expect to be quite as bowled over by this wonderful little book. My eldest daughter loved them as child and I can see why now. Every Christmas and birthday there would be a request for more and being the bookaholic I was I fed her appetite quite happily. These are her books and I should really pass them back to her for my grand-daughter - I did give her my copy of The Little House in the Big Woods but don't know if she's read it yet. If my daughter wants them I'll have to get my own, in fact I've had to send for the next book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, as we either never had that one or it got read so often it fell to pieces! I know I'll want to reread these at some stage and also I think I'll feel the need to read Laura Ingalls Wilder's diaries and letters.

So, a good start to my bookish travels around the United States and I've written it down in my little book (I'm such a nerd) under 'Kansas'. Hopefully the next book will come *soon*.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

My own USA challenge

A couple of days ago I came across a book challenge that I thought would suit me down to the ground. The idea is to read 50 books, one for each of the 50 American states, in a year, and you can read about it here. My first thought was to go ahead and do it and then I had a second one (I do occasionally). How on earth was I really going to devote about two thirds of my reading space next year to just one challenge? Even in a perfect world that's just not going to happen... A third thought was obviously required.

The third thought went like this: why don't I do this challenge on my own? Make it last over several years, maybe even five, and really explore the topic properly. It's no secret that I love the USA. We've been three times and hope to go again within the next couple of years (real life keeps getting in the way though). And there's *so* much of the country that I'm longing to see. So far we've stayed mainly to the east, only getting as far west as Memphis. It's not far enough, I truly want to see The Rockies before I pop my clogs... and many other places as well: too many to mention and the sad truth is that I likely will not get to them all - this could be a good way of 'seeing' some of these places while still sitting comfortably in my armchair.

I think doing a personal challenge like this would really inspire me for our next trip. Plus *educate* me. There's much to learn about this wonderful country and, for me, books are the way to do it (although TV docs are fantastic too.) I plan, not just to read one book for each state, but several. Fiction will hopefully include something historical and something modern. Non-fiction might be history, travel, or something modern. I honestly don't know for sure... I suspect I'll go where my nose takes me and what an adventure!!! I thought I 'should' start in January 2012, but phooey to that! It's a personal thing so I'm going to start right away, in fact have already started with a children's book, The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder of course.

This belonged to my eldest daughter, she had four or five in the series which she read and read and read and are still here now on the bookshelf in our grand-daughter's room. I read The Little House in the Big Woods a couple of years ago and have been wanting to read the rest for ages. Here's my opportunity. In The Little House, Ma and Pa and the three girls up sticks and move to Kansas from Wisconsin. I'm already fascinated by this amazing trip they undertook *without* the safety nets which we're used to in the modern age. So Kansas will be my first stop on this epic literary travel around the United States.

I will also probably read a few 'general' books about all of the states. On my shelves I have Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, my beautiful Atlas of North American Exploration, Colonial American Travel Narratives, Roughing It by Mark Twain, River Horse by William Least Heat-Moon, American Nomads by Richard Grant, and Stephen Fry's America. The possiblities are endless (and it's seems I already have half of them on my bookshelves, LOL.)

Here's a final map, my favourite as it happens as I'm keen on physical maps that show the lie of the land, the obstacles that people faced when exploring, and that make me wonder at their sheer audacity and bravery. (I don't think this can really be understated.)

The last thing to add is that I would love some help with titles. If you have a favourite book set in a particular state, or several, to recommend, please do. If you know which is the best book about Lewis and Clark, please say. *Or* if you just want to say that you think I'm completely barmy to take this on, feel welcome to say that too. Except that I already know it... and for some reason I'm not put off... just really, really excited.

Happy reading!


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

R.I.P. VI wrap up

Well, the 1st. of November is here and, bizarrely, it could easily be a summer's day if you disregarded the reds and yellows of the leaves on the trees and the dead leaves all over the lawn. It's clearly autumn but we have bright blue skies and mild temps and the fuchsia outside my window is still in flower, even though we have had a couple of frosts. Of course, one of the sad things that the 1st. November means is the end of R.I.P. VI which as always has been hosted by Carl.

It seems to whizz by in no time... bit like the years now that I'm getting older I think. Anyway, my self allotted task this year was to complete:

... which was to:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (my very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming or Edgar Allan Poe…or anyone in between.

I went past the four books way back in September in fact and eventually ended up completing nine books.

1. Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs
2. The Gates - John Connolly
3. The Blood Detective - Dan Waddell
4. Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer
5. The Small Hand - Susan Hill
6. The Wine of Angels - Phil Rickman
7. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
8. Wicked Appetite - Janet Evanovich
9. The Mephisto Club - Tess Gerritsen

Five of those were off my tbr pile and four from the library. Which might not seem too bad but of those five only three were from the pile I originally put aside! I either need to stop putting books aside for challenges or be a bit more focussed.

No matter, the main thing is I enjoyed the books I ended up reading. I usually say it's hard to pick a favourite but this year it isn't. Two books stood out as excellent, atmospheric and thoroughly enjoyable and those two are, The Wine of Angels by Phil Rickman and The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen. These are my two 'star reads' of this year's R.I.P. challenge.

I also managed to read a small clutch of short stories this year, less than I would have liked but there is always next year.

It's all been great fun and I would like to thank Carl for, as always, being such a good host.