Category Archives: Reading

A web well woven…a review of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith.

the-cuckoos-callingAs with every other J. K. Rowling book I’ve read, I couldn’t put The Cuckoo’s Calling down. I suppose I should clarify, for anyone who doesn’t know, that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling. Rowling definitely has a way of writing that seems to increase my reading speed. Her writing flows incredibly well, there are no hard to fathom sentences, no unnecessary additions. It is written economically and simply – and it works.

Illustration: Matt Blease

Illustration: Matt Blease

I’ve never really read a crime novel before, assuming, perhaps wrongly, that they weren’t really my cup of tea. I think the closest I’ve ever come to the crime genre is Daphne du Maurier or, perhaps, An Inspector Calls or To Kill A Mockingbird both of which I studied for my GCSEs aged just sixteen. I really enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, it is written with a very matter-of-fact tone, there’s no sensationalism and the characters seem very ordinary. I think what I’d always been nervous about where crime fiction is concerned is that it wouldn’t seem real. You watch crime dramas on  television and the people in them often seem very two-dimensional. Much as I enjoy and am entertained by dramas such as Midsomer Murders and Jonathan Creek they have never seemed particularly credible to me. Thankfully, I did not find this with The Cuckoo’s Calling. Continue reading

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Filed under 21st century, Books, Fiction, J.K. Rowling, Novel, Reading, Robert Galbraith

On Jane Austen’s doorstep…

Austen doorIt’s been roughly two years since I posted about having moved to a new town and, surprise, surprise…I’ve done it again. This time I have moved south to the beautiful Georgian city of Bath. Those of you who are familiar with my love of Jane Austen can imagine, I’m sure, how excited I am to be walking the same streets she walked.

Austen plaque Bath

Not a stroll goes by without me spying a street name mentioned in Northanger Abbey or recognising a location from Persuasion. And I’ve become rather a pain when it comes to spotting and reading the little historical plaques that adorn the buildings in Bath  in which famous men and women have lived or stayed. Only the other day I made my long-suffering other half cross Great Pulteney Street in excess of four times in order to check if any of the plaques mentioned anything about Austen.

Great Pulteney Street © Charlotte Jones, 2014I thought, therefore, with the landscape, literally, on my doorstep that it was only polite to re-read Austen’s two novels which are largely set in Bath. Naturally, there is no self-interest whatsoever in my having to read two Austen novels. Cough cough. Continue reading

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Filed under 19th century, Books, Fiction, Jane Austen, Novel, Re-reading, Reading

Words well spent…reading Penguin’s Poems for Love.

book heart 2I was supposed to be doing the ironing today. That hasn’t happened. Instead I’ve sat and read a book I was given for Christmas, Penguin’s Poems for Love compiled by Laura Barber. I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether or not my time would have been better spent ironing.

It’s a long time since I’ve read any poetry, a prose-geek by nature, I spend most of my time reading novels. I studied poetry a lot at school and University and took some creative writing poetry modules as part of my degree. Like a lot of people, I have my favourite poems and, upon opening this book, I had high hopes as Barber uses Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s How do I love thee? as the basis for categorising this collection of poetry. I’ve always loved Barret Browning’s poem and consider it one of my favourites, so, as I have said my hopes were high. Continue reading

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Excavating our language…a review of David Crystal’s The Story of English in 100 Words.

crystalI have finished reading David Crystal’s The Story of English in 100 Words, hooray! It’s been rather a disjointed read, with me picking it up and reading a few sections at odd times over the last few months; but that doesn’t really matter with this book as it is very much a compendium of words and their etymology and evolution.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this book. As I mentioned in a post many months ago, I have only ever been a student of English Literature and never English Language and so, for me, this book has been my first real foray into the realms of linguistic analysis. I have had fun. I’m not sure, however, if I would have enjoyed this book as much were it not for David Crystal’s simple and straightforward style of writing. I imagine that, if he wanted to, Mr Crystal is infinitely capable of writing a great, dense and humongous tome about the evolution of the English language (in fact, he probably has), but that would not be the book for me – or, indeed, for most casual readers. The Story of English in 100 Words, however, I would recommend to anyone. It’s easy-reading, simple, uncomplicated, informative and entertaining.

words 2I have already bought a copy of this book for my Mum and can readily foresee me recommending it to other family members and friends. For those of you who’d like a little more detail on the format the book takes…well, the title tells all really. In one hundred sections or chapters, Crystal explores the evolution of the language through one hundred varying and diverse words. From chapter sixteen and the word ‘swain’ to chapter ninety-seven and the word ‘muggle’ – there are a vast range of linguistic treasures to explore.

I’ve already mentioned that this book is easy-to-read and simply but effectively written, it is also not very long. I suppose you might imagine that a book exploring one hundred words might be rather hefty. It is not, in fact, Crystal fits a great deal of information into just over 200 pages.

english-wordsI think this book is ideal for those of us who find language interesting as an entity in itself, but one of the great surprises is how interesting it is to explore the ‘journey’ of each word from its first usage right up to its present day meaning. It’s also surprising how old some of our words really are. Words which I had considered fairly modern introductions to the language frequently turned out to have been coined by Shakespeare, the Georgians and those canny vikings and celts have much to answer for too. I am especially fond of a new word I encountered, the Anglo-Saxon word ‘medu-wang’, meaning ‘the land surrounding the mead hall’ – it seems many Anglo-Saxon places, objects and experiences were described chiefly by their association to mead!

&2As I’m sure you’ve come to realise, I would recommend this book to most readers. It’s also a good read in the sense that it’s easy to pick up in those odd moments where you don’t have time to get engrossed in a weighty narrative, you can simply read a section (usually a couple of pages) and put it down to return to at the next opportune moment.

As for Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, I’m still very much mid-read. Strangely I’m finding it a little more heavy-going than I’d anticipated, having not, perhaps, allowed for its Victorian authoress’ musings and sermons!

Until next time, I’ll be reading, thinking and, of course, drinking tea.

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Filed under 21st century, Books, David Crystal, Non-fiction, Reading