Muriel Spark: The Biography by Martin Stannard

bookshelves: under-100-ratings, published-2009, nonfiction, lit-crit, biography, radio-4, summer-2014, books-about-books-and-book-shops, britain-scotland, edinburgh

Read from July 04 to 11, 2014


Description: Born in 1918 into a working-class Edinburgh family, Muriel Spark ended her life as the epitome of literary chic, one of the great writers of the 20th century. This book tells her story.

1/5 Hannah Gordon reads from Martin Stannard’s biography of the acclaimed Scottish novelist.

2/5 Marriage to an older man offers escape from the claustrophobia of Edinburgh society.

3/5 Spark’s literary voice is discovered when she wins an Observer competition in 1951.

4/5 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie earns Spark critical and commercial success.

5/5 Despite finding happiness, the vexations of Spark’s family life intruded into her old age.

Not too keen on Stannard’s style however this does make me want to go back and read Spark all over again. Three Edinburgh Castles.

Goldfish by Raymond Chandler

bookshelves: los-angeles, north-americas, noir, under-100-ratings, mystery-thriller, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, published-1950, seattle

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 22 to June 04, 2014



Description: The Leander pearls were stolen nineteen years ago. The thief was caught, but the pearls were never found, and there is still a $25,000 reward for anyone who finds them.

Episode 1/3: LA-based PI Carmady sets out to retrieve the valuable Leander pearls, stolen 15 years earlier. Read by Henry Goodman.

Episode 2/3: PI Carmady approaches the jittery Rush Madder about the stolen pearls, but gets in over his head.

Episode 3/3: LA detective PI Carmady is out in Westport hunting the stolen Leander pearls, but who is on his trail?

Goldfish by Raymond Chandler Short Story in “Trouble is My Business”

Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki, Anthea Bell (Translator)

bookshelves: one-penny-wonder, paper-read, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, under-100-ratings, published-2009, spring-2014

Read from May 02 to 18, 2014

Translated from the German by Anthea Bell

Opening: If only it hadn’t been for that smell. As if Doro had forgotten to change the water in the flowers, as if their stems had started o rot overnight, filling the the air with the sweet smell of decay.

Hah! I seemed to have liked this more than most, although I can see that the endi twist may have been a bridge too far. The existential point is that nobody knows anyone full-on, not even themselves, making all relationships unstable.

Squirmy, unpalatable truth, that!

Peirene Press Short Novels:

3.5* Next World Novella
4* The Brothers
WL Sea of Ink
TR Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman
4* The Murder of Halland

Fell Purpose by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

bookshelves: tbr-busting-2014, under-100-ratings, published-2009, spring-2014, mystery-thriller, series

Read from April 29 to May 06, 2014


Narrated by Terry Wale

Description: The brand-new Bill Slider Mystery – Bank Holiday Monday, and beautiful Zellah Wilding straight-A student, prefect, future Head Girl lies deadnear the famous Wormwood Scrubs prison in London. What was this good Christian girl doing out there, dressed to kill, when she was supposed to be at a sleep-over with schoolfriends? A secret boyfriend from a run-down estate and a recently-released rapist look tasty; or could the nearby fairground or prison have something to do with it?

Consistently good, solid encounters in this series. Recommended.

Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

3* Orchestrated Death (1991)
3* Death Watch (1992)
3* Death to Go (1993)
3* Dead End (1994)
3* Blood Lines (1996)
3* Killing Time (1996)
3* Shallow Grave
3* Blood Sinister
2* Gone Tomorrow (2001)
3* Dear Departed (2004)
3* Game Over (2008)
3* Fell Purpose (2009)

Three Brothers by Peter Ackroyd

bookshelves: published-2013, e-book, ipad, spring-2014, period-piece, london, lit-richer, britain-england, tbr-busting-2014, under-100-ratings, families, antarctica, author-love, betrayal, books-about-books-and-book-shops, bullies, casual-violence, christian, doo-lally, filthy-lucre, journalism, library-in-norway, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-crit, prostitution, recreational-homicide, religion, roman-catholic

Read from March 11 to April 18, 2014


description: Rapier-sharp, witty, intriguing, and mysterious: a new novel from Peter Ackroyd set in the London of the 1960s.

Three Brothers follows the fortunes of Harry, Daniel, and Sam Hanway, a trio of brothers born on a postwar council estate in Camden Town. Marked from the start by curious coincidence, each boy is forced to make his own way in the world, a world of dodgy deals and big business, of criminal gangs and crooked landlords, of newspaper magnates, backbiters, and petty thieves.

London is the backdrop and the connecting fabric of these three lives, reinforcing Ackroyd’s grand theme that place and history create, surround and engulf us. From bustling, cut-throat Fleet Street to hallowed London publishing houses, from the wealth and corruption of Chelsea to the smoky shadows of Limehouse and Hackney, this is an exploration of the city, peering down its streets, riding on its underground, and drinking in its pubs and clubs.

Everything is possible, not only in the new freedom of the 1960s but also in London’s timeless past.

Opening: IN THE London borough of Camden, in the middle of the last century, there lived three brothers; they were three young boys, with a year’s difference of age between each of them. They were united, however, in one extraordinary way. They had been born at the same time on the same day of the same month—to be precise, midday on 8 May.

John A. Parks, Camden Town

Wormwood Scrubs in the ’50s

Three boys, so very different on the surface:

Harry ‘Heck’ Hanway, the reporter
Daniel, lit-crit bitch
Sam, personal assistant.

At an early age these lads drifted away from each other, however, by the time they are late teens, early twentiers, they are so ‘Oh my giddy aunt-ishly’ connected in both business and personal matters that it is a wonder Ackroyd could keep this devilishly sly plot going. All the balls were in the air.

Three Brothers is a parable about conectivity: I drew parallels with Brothers Karamazov, Dickens, and The New Testament, however it is because London itself is a main character that these parallels only held a superficial similarity. Ackroyd himself alludes to connections on page 192.

I did not enjoy those brief hallucinatory passages and that is reflected in a star fall.

3* Three Brothers
3* Hawksmoor
4* Shakespeare: The Biography
4* Chatterton
4* Dickens
1* The Lambs of London
3* The House of Doctor Dee
3* Poe: A Life Cut Short
3* Venice: Pure City
2* The Plato Papers
5* Tudors (The History of England, #2)
3* The Fall of Troy
4* Wilkie Collins
5* The Mystery Of Charles Dickens

The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg

bookshelves: published-2010, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, finland, spring-2014, translation, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, historical-fiction, under-100-ratings, war, cover-love

Read from April 13 to 16, 2014


Description: Finland, 1809. Henrik and Erik are brothers who fought on opposite sides in the war between Sweden and Russia. With peace declared, they both return to their snowed-in farm. But who is the master? Sexual tensions, old grudges, family secrets: all come to a head in this dark and gripping saga.

Opening: I have barely caught the crunch of snow and I know who is coming. Henrik treads heavily and unhurriedly, as is his wont, grinding his feet into the earth. The brothers are so different. Erik walks fast, with light steps; he is always in a hurry and then he is gone.

It all began with a horse, a stallion, or rather, a colt: an unruly colt…

Having spent most* of the last weekend finishing up open reads that had laid on the currently reading shelf for too long I was looking for a short snappy paper read that fits into my jacket as palate cleanser and walking companion.

This fitted the bill splendidly, set at the end of the Russian, Swedish war, the brothers Henrik and Erik, who had fought on opposing sides, were united back at the ranch. Let me tell yah, things did not bode well.

* also watched films on youtube: love that films of books via ipad are available no matter where I am ♥ ♥ ♥

Asko Sahlberg (born 1964) is a Finnish novelist.

I can’t praise this series of European shorties highly enough, just look at the covers, scrumptious.

Peirene Press series:

4* The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg
4* The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul
WL Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe

Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

bookshelves: published-2013, spring-2014, biography, music, nonfiction, north-americas, fraudio, palate-cleanser, history, under-100-ratings

Read from February 23 to March 06, 2014

Read by Peter Francis James
Unabridged edition 2013 | 17 hours and 43 minutes

A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

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Description: Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century – and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm. As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington. Duke peels away countless layers of Ellington’s evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, “All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke.”

Does anyone else remember the Jazz Club se(le)ctions within the Fast Show? You do? NICE!

Black, Brown and Beige – D.Ellington.

Ellington doesn’t seem to have been a very nice man, but that said, why should we worry over whether he was affable or not. We do not have to personally like our authors, artists or peers, instead we judge the work that they produce.

Teachout is masterful here, showcasing the exciting history of black music in America. Well worth the read, or in my case, the listen.

50 Ellington songs



The Horns of the Buffalo

bookshelves: winter-20132014, tbr-busting-2014, published-2004, fraudio, historical-fiction, under-100-ratings, afr-s-africa, britain-wales, first-in-series, newtome-author, victoriana, series, palate-cleanser

Read from February 13 to 14, 2014

Book………………The Horns of the Buffalo
Author…………….John Wilcox
Series…………….Simon Fonthill
Narrator…………..Graham Padden
Source…………….20 Tapes

COVER BLURBS:In 1879, the British redcoats are universally regarded as the finest fighting force in the world. Among them is Lieutenant Simon Fonthill, dispatched to South Africa with much to prove: for Colonel Covington, his former Commanding Officer, has slanderously branded him a coward. In the Cape, tension is high. The Zulus, an independent nation of magnificently militant tribesmen, threaten the colonial government’s vision of a united South Africa. And Simon has been chosen for a particularly dangerous mission: to travel deep into Zululand to discover the intentions of the king. Simon encounters violence and imprisonment before he is faced with his greatest challenge. Escaping from the massacre at the Battle of Isandlwana, he must warn the tiny garrison at Rorke’s Drift of the threat posed by advancing Zulu impis. He has a chance to prove Covington a liar, but he may pay the ultimate price.

About The Author: John Wilcox. An inability to do sums and a nascent talent to string words together steered me towards journalism – that and the desire to wear a trenchcoat, belted with a knot, just like Bogart.

About The Reader: Graham Padden. Graham’s work on screen includes Doctor Who, Casualty, The Kindness of Strangers, Why We Went to War, Derailed, Casanova. He has been heard in many radio dramas, including David Edgar’s Playing with Fire, Lorna Doone, Blake’s 7, and The Archers. He has recorded 60 audio books. He has had 3 plays produced.

A story of Rourke’s Drift. Excellent writing, lovely narration and I especially liked 352 Jenkins.

3* The Horns of the Buffalo


Hedgehog in the Fog

bookshelves: film-only, published-1975, slavic, under-100-ratings, winter-20132014, kiddlewinks

Recommended for: For Esther; For Squirt xx
Read from February 07 to 08, 2014


Description: ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’ is an international bestseller which has already been published in many languages. The book is based on Francesca Yarbusova’s sketches to the award-winning animated film directed by Yuri Norstein. It is about the adventures of the philosophical little Hedgehog on his way to meet with his friend Bear. Along the way Hedgehog enters into a mysterious fog in which he encounters a horse, a dog, an owl, and a fish.

Film Only