?

Log in

Book addict

Another mixed bag of books

A real mixed offering today. I haven't posted in a little while and am three or four books behind, so this is a catch-up post of three very varied books that I've read over the last ten days or so.

First up a non-ficton, Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim. This is my book 29 for Bev's Mount TBR challenge.

German



May Beauchamp met and married her husband, the German, Graf Henning August von Arnin-Schlagenthin, at the end of the 1880s. She became Elizabeth von Arnim, the author of various books, including this, Elizabeth and her German Garden. The garden concerned was at Nassenhide, owned by her husband, about ninety miles north of Berlin and not far from the German coast on the Baltic. Elizabeth's husband took her there in 1896: she immediately fell in love with the huge schloss and its garden and decided the family should live there. The book describes how she transformed the garden from a wilderness to her idea of a perfect garden. It's also about the family and various people who visit them and these were the bits I enjoyed the most. Her husband is referred to as The Man of Wrath, the children by the months of their birth - the April baby and so on. She has the eternal problem of people who come to stay and then don't leave. A real problem for Elizabeth as she's a woman who enjoys her solitude, something I can indentify with. This is a charming book but I think I expected to like it more than I did. I never really felt completely involved even though I quite enjoyed parts of the book such as the expedition to the coast in the middle of winter. The writing was excellent however and I may try one or two of the author's fictional books at some stage, possibly, Enchanted April.

Next, Watson's Choice by Gladys Mitchell. This is my book 17 for Bev's Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge and covers the category, 'A book with a man in the title'.

Watson


Mrs. Bradley and her secretary, Laura Menzies, have been invited to a Sherlock Holmes weekend at the home of one of Mrs. Bradley's old friends, Sir Bohun Chantrey. Sir Bohun is a huge Holmes fan and is putting on competitions for his guests and wants them to attend dressed as characters from the stories. Sir Bohun has been telling Mrs. Bradley for a while that he fears for his life and she wonders, with the odd mix of people attending, whether things might come to a head this weekend. They do in fact, but not in quite the manner anyone expects.

This is my first 'Mrs. Bradley' book by Gladys Mitchell. I vaguely remember the TV series at the end of the 90s, which starred Diana Rigg, but don't think I watched it at the time. Perhaps that was a shame as I quite enjoyed this romp through 1950s country life. This is, I think, book 28 in a series that's about 50 books long. I generally start at the beginning of any 'new to me' series but the library is rarely that obliging with these long vintage crime series, so I just tend to grab what it has, and I don't think it made much difference in this case. Anyway, there was nice humour in this story, an excellent Sherlock Holmes tie-in with the appearance of a big black hound to play The Hound of the Baskervilles, and I liked the character of Mrs. Bradley along with her secretary Laura and Laura's fiancé, DCI Gavin. The dialogue between them was sparring and witty and great fun. I'll be reading more in this series and actually have another on the library pile, The Twenty-Third Man, set in The Canaries, involving mummies and corpses and so on. Sounds like it might do for the upcoming R.I.P. challenge!

Lastly, Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman.

Fortunately


Mum is away at a conference and Dad is left in charge of the children. But he's a bit of a distracted dad and forgets to get milk in for breakfast. There's nothing for it but to go and get some and the children, a brother and sister, wait at home. And wait. And wait. He's ages and when he returns and they want to know where he's been he tells them a story. The story involves him being captured by green, globby aliens who want to take over the Earth and redecorate it. He falls from the flying-saucer and is captured by pirates from whom he's rescued by Professor Steg, a time-travelling stegosaurus, in a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier (hot-air balloon). Thus begin many more adventures which become more bizarre by the moment. Will the children ever get their breakfast?

byslantedlight recommended this and I wondered if it would make a good book to read with my seven year old grandson on the days that he's with us during the school summer holidays. And so it turned out to be. A crazy adventure, coupled with stunning illustrations by Chris Riddell, made for a perfect book that my grandson and I could take turns in reading. The reading level suited him perfectly and we giggled our way through the story, sometimes laughing so much we couldn't stop. The book is pitched at younger children - perhaps 7 to 10 - but has another layer that can be enjoyed by adults as well. Grandson and I both loved this book and he awarded it the ultimate accolade when he said as we finished it, 'Can we read it again soon, Grandma?' Can't say fairer than that.

Comments

I felt the same about Elizabeth and her German Garden. It didn't help that I knew the marriage was a failure (and the one after that). Perhaps I was looking for something a little more idyllic. It's still sitting on my Kindle, partly read.
I'm glad it's not just me. This book seems to be universally loved and I didn't get it really. Bits of it were interesting but some of it was rather dull, tbh. I didn't know the marriage was a failure though I'm not remotely surprised. Mine's gone into the charity shop box.
I was trying to work out why your description of Elizabeth and her German Garden sounded so familiar, and realised that I'd come across it whilst considering Enchanted April as a book for my (apparently short-lived!) holiday-reading challenge. I didn't get hold of it in the end - interesting that you say it was well-written but didn't quite involve you (which for me is part of the definition of well written) - there's so much that goes into a good book, isn't there!

So glad you and Grandson loved FtM - it is rather good... *g*
One of these days I shall read Enchanted April. I've seen the film and loved it so the book ought to be equally as good. Yes, lots of things go to make up a good book. And it always seems odd to me that I can recognise a well written book but still not be that taken with it. Equally I can really like a book even when I can see the writing is average and the author could have tried a bit harder. Makes no sense...

FtM was huge fun, just exactly the kind of book I wanted to read with the grandson this summer. Thank *you* for coming up with it.
The reference to Enchanted April struck a chord... not that I've read it, but I love the 1992 film version so much I bought the DVD and every now and then I watch and enjoy it.

"Mrs. Bradley" sounds like a good series. I'll see if they're available at the local library.

I love children's books that have appeal for grownups too. There were several series that my son and I enjoyed together when he was a child, and Fortunately the Milk sounds like it fits the category entirely... but then, it's by Neil Gaiman, so of course...
Yes, I've seen that gorgeous film. Josie Lawrence was in it I think and a favourite of mine, Michael Kitchen.

Yep, the wonderful Neil Gaiman. It was like he knew exactly what to put in the book to appeal to my grandson. Perfect.
Thanks for the reviews; I really enjoyed reading them, the more so as these are not books I would be likely to pick up. To be honest, I am not sure they are books I shall pick up even now, but at least I know about them, and the point of reading reviews is to find out about them and what other people think.

'The problem of people not leaving' - you are too good a hostess, perhaps? I never have that problem! They all go, some early!
I completely agree about reading reviews of books you probably won't read. It never harms to have these books on your radar, plus it doesn't half help with answering quiz questions on show such as Eggheads and Pointless. LOL

I dunno about being too good a hostess. My problem was having relatives or friends to stay and not giving them a time limit, so they would stay and stay and... I learnt in the end to arrange beforehand when they would go home.