Colour in the Flower Garden by Gertrude Jekyll

bookshelves: winter-20152016, dec-2015-free-for-all, e-book, gutenberg-project, reference, published-1908, gardening, nature

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from December 27 to 28, 2015

Opening: There comes a day towards the end of March when there is but little wind, and that is from the west or even south-west. The sun has gained much power, so that it is pleasant to sit out in the garden, or, better still, in some sunny nook of sheltered woodland. There is such a place among silver-trunked Birches, with here and there the splendid richness of masses of dark Holly.

I’m a gardener with lawns and woods, so of course this was going to appeal. A year through helpmate and a keeper.

Midwinter of the Spirit (Merrily Watkins #2) by Phil Rickman


Re-visit via miniseries.

Description: This series follows country vicar Merrily Watkins, who is one of the few women priests working as an exorcist in the UK. When a grisly murder takes place in her local area, the police come calling for her assistance.


Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor by John Cheever

bookshelves: radio-4, winter-20152016, dec-2015-free-for-all, north-americas, us-new-york, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, pecuniarilly-challenged, published-2009

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from December 17 to 26, 2015

Description: John Cheever’s classic yuletide story, Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor. On Christmas day Charlie, a down on his luck lift attendant, laments his lack of upward mobility. But the generosity of the residents in the wealthy New York apartment building where he works takes him by surprise. A cautionary tale of indulgence, generosity and the law of unintended consequences.

Man Who Made Things Out Of Trees by Robert Penn Warren

bookshelves: published-2015, radio-4, nonfiction, winter-20152016, dec-2015-free-for-all, forest, britain-wales, wales-black-mountains, how-to, art-forms

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from December 10 to 26, 2015



Description: In 2012, Robert Penn felled (and replanted) a great ash from a Welsh wood. He set out to explore the true value of the tree of which we have made the greatest and most varied use in human history. How many things can be made from one tree?

Over the next two years he travelled across Britain, to Europe and the USA, to the workshops and barns of a generation of craftsmen committed to working in wood. He watched them make over 45 artefacts and tools that have been in continual use for centuries, if not millennia.

Today, he begins his search for the perfect tree in woodland near his South Wales home. It’s a bitter, Elizabethan winter and snow lies on the forests. After a long hunt, he gets a call from a forester in Herefordshire.

This is a tale about the joy of making things in wood, of its touch and smell, its many uses and the resonant, calming effect of running our hands along a wooden surface. It is a celebration of man’s close relationship with this greatest of natural materials and a reminder of the value of things made by hand and made to last.

1: A search for the perfect tree in woodland in South Wales

2: Robert fells an ash and begins to make things from it

3: A piece of the ash is taken to the best of wood-turners

4: A sledge is made in Austia

5: After a year, Robert finally has his new writing desk

The King’s Justice: Two Novellas by Stephen R. Donaldson


Read by Scott Brick

Description: In The King’s Justice, a stranger dressed in black arrives in the village of Settle’s Crossways, following the scent of a terrible crime. He even calls himself “Black,” though almost certainly that is not his name. The people of the village discover that they have a surprising urge to cooperate with this stranger, though the desire of inhabitants of quiet villages to cooperate with strangers is not common in their land, or most lands. But this gift will not save him as he discovers the nature of the evil concealed in Settle’s Crossways.

The King’s Justice: And we open with ‘Black’ riding hard through torrential rain in the gloom towards Settle’s Crossroads.

“He’s full of holes!”

Oh my, what atmosphere Donaldson can build, I had forgotten just how good he is at the dark, the gory and the twisted. This almost felt like a gothic western.

Description: The “Augur’s Gambit” is a daring plan created by Mayhew Gordian, Hieronomer to the Queen of Indemnie, a plan to save his Queen and his country. Gordian is a reader of entrails. In the bodies of chickens, lambs, piglets, and one stillborn infant he sees the same message: the island nation of Indemnie is doomed. But even in the face of certain destruction a man may fight, and the Hieronomer is utterly loyal to his beautiful Queen–and to her only daughter. The “Augur’s Gambit” is his mad attempt to save a kingdom.

“…and to her lips she had purposefully
nailed a gleaming smile…”

A gothic tale of royalty and seersayers richly imbued by courtly language which only Donaldson can pull off in these modern sms speke times.

An awful amount of offal smeared through these two tales: great reading for the festive period.

4* The King’s Justice

4* Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #1)
4* The Illearth War (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #2)
4* The Power That Preserves (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #3)

4* The Wounded Land (The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant #1)
5* The One Tree (The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #2)
4* White Gold Wielder (The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #3)

4* Gilden-Fire

4* The Mirror of Her Dreams (Mordant’s Need, #1)
4* A Man Rides Through (Mordant’s Need, #2)

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín


Re-visit via the film. Sooooo good, fully recommended.

Description: Niamh Cusack reads Colm Toibin’s story of duty, love and a girl who moved from the south of Ireland to seek a new life in New York in the 1950s.

The novel opens in the small town of Enniscorthy in the south east of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who can find no work. Her three brothers have already left to seek their fortunes in England; she, her sister Rose and her widowed mother are all that remain at home.

Enniscorthy Castle

1/10: An Unlooked-for Offer: When a priest comes home from America for a holiday, he recognises both Eilis’ plight and her potential.

2/10: Farewell and Adieu: Prompted by Father Flood, home from America for a holiday, Rose sets about organising her younger sister. Almost before she knows it, or has had time to say goodbye, Eilis is crossing the Atlantic, heading for a job on the shop floor of a Brooklyn department store, lodgings with an Irish landlady and a brand new life.

3/10: Letters From Home: Eilis has lodgings with an Irish landlady and a job on the shop floor of a department store. Every day a whole world of things are new, but letters from home remind her of just what she is missing.

4/10: Christmas Comfort: Christmas looms, as Eilis struggles to adapt to her new life in a city far from home. But she is not the only member of the Irish diaspora feeling homesick – helping Father Flood tend to his flock brings comfort and cheer.

5/10: The Melting Pot: As Bartocci’s opens its doors to all customers, whatever their colour, Eilis fights the prejudice of her fellow lodgers. Even at Father Flood’s Irish dance night, not everyone is Irish.

6/10: Meeting the Family: As Eilis’ romance with Tony Fiorello blossoms, life in Brooklyn takes on a new rhythm and it is time for Eilis to experience her first Italian meal.

7/10: Coney Island: Tony takes Eilis for a trip to Coney Island to celebrate her exam success. But Eilis’ new found happiness is short-lived, as news from home turns her American life sour.

8/10: Too Far From Home: Eilis’ happiness in Brooklyn has been shattered by the news of her beloved sister’s death and Tony is the only one who can offer her comfort.

9/10: Being Rose’s Ghost: Following her sister’s death, Eilis returns to her lonely mother in Enniscorthy for a month’s visit. Once there it is hard to tell the truth about her last action in America, and harder still to resist the lure of the familiar.

10/10: Torn In Two: Home for a holiday and to comfort her grieving mother, Eilis has been unable to resist the lure of the familiar. Meanwhile, Tony waits for her in Brooklyn.

3* Brooklyn
3* The Blackwater Lightship
3* The Master
4* Nora Webster

The Martian by Andy Weir


Opted for the film

Description: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’s surface, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

Armed with nothing but his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–Mark embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Loved it!

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith


23.12.2015: Re-visit via the film

Had binned this but after such glowing reviews by trusted friends it went back on the shelves.

Read by Dennis Boutsikaris

Excellent mid three. #87 TBR Busting 2013

NEWS 15:04:2015 – Hollywood’s Child 44 pulled in Russia after falling foul of culture ministry: Fears of censorship in Russia as Ridley Scott film about serial killer, starring Gary Oldman, withdrawn over ‘distortion of facts and interpretation of events’. Source

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut


Description: Told with deadpan humour & bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut’s cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon &, worse still, surviving it …
Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding ‘fathers’ of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he’s the inventor of ‘ice-nine’, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker’s three ecentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Felix Hoenikker’s Death Wish comes true when his last, fatal gift to humankind brings about the end, that for all of us, is nigh…

When a turtle puts his head back into the shell, does its spine buckle or contract? I knew within ten minutes of listening that this was going to be waay too short.

The St Lorenzo National Anthem to Home, Home on the Range sent wine onto the screen.

No damn cat
no damn cradle

Science is magic that works.

There were no smells. There was no movement. Every step I took made a gravelly squeak in blue-white frost. And every squeak was echoed loudly.

5* Mother Night
Cat’s Cradle
3* Galápagos
3* Slaughterhouse-Five(wish to re-read)
3* God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
4* God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian