Tag Archives: PD James

Incoming! The Memoirs Edition

Incoming! is a regular feature at Ms. Bookish that chronicles some of the recent new book arrivals at the Ms. Bookish household.

Initially I had planned these posts to focus on one book at a time, but have just realized that writing up individual posts for each book was just too overwhelming – in some cases, by the time I got to the Incoming! post for a book I’d either already read it, or had to return it to the library (in the case of library books)!

So I’ve decided to group books related in some sort of way together for each of my Incoming! posts. Today, I bring you: memoirs!

Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy, by G. G. Husak

Passeggiata: Strolling Through ItalySynopsis (from the back cover):

Ms. Husak’s memoir of travels to Italy with her husband will appeal to those who love travel in general and Italy in particular. Their journeys are both personal and universal. From their first shared trip to Italy in 1993, which marked the first of their empty nest years, their annual passeggiata reflects the shift in their lives through the next decade.

On their spring pilgrimages to major tourist centers, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples, they develop appreciation for Italy’s art, music and architecture. Wandering together along out of the way paths in tiny hill towns and seacoast villages, they explore breathtaking scenery. By traveling light and learning the vagaries of Italian life, they have become Italian in spirit. The book provides many practical hints on how to travel like the locals, reminding us that even novice travelers can learn valuable lessons from immersion in another way of life, and that one’s companion can be an essential part of the pleasure of a journey.

First line(s): We left Houston on a sunny spring day in March. Al had been working long hours, which was nothing new, and I was ready for a break from teaching. Although pulled between the excitement of visiting one daughter and the worry of leaving our younger one behind, we were energized by the anticipation of our Italian adventure.

Where I got this book: Sent to me by the author.

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 355

Ms. Bookish says: Travel memoirs are among my favorite types of memoirs. In Passeggiata, I’m looking forward to exploring more of Italy; I’m hoping there will be a lot of talk about food, too!

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Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography, by P. D. James

Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of AutobiographySynopsis (from the back cover):

Taking to heart Samuel Johnson’s advice that at age seventy-seven it is “time to be in earnest,” the much-loved and internationally acclaimed author of mysteries undertook a book unlike anything she had written before. Beginning on her 77th birthday in August 1997 and ending in August 1998, P.D. James engaged the daily events and reflections of the present as a springboard into her extraordinary, sometimes painful and sometimes joyful, past.

Here are vivid accounts of school days in 1920s and 1930s Cambridge, of the war, of the tragedy of her husband’s mental illness, and of her determined struggle to support a family alone. Along the way, with insight and warmth, she offers views on everything from author tours to the problems of television adaptations, from book reviewing to her obsession with Jane Austen.

First line(s): I am writing this sitting in an almost empty first-class compartment of the 3:32 train from Newton Abbot to Paddington, and staring out at the red Devon Countryside, now blurred and seeming to dissolve in rain; even the eagerly awaited stretch of coast at Dawlish and Teignmouth failed in its usual magic.

Where I got this book: Library

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 259 pages

Ms. Bookish says: Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that P.D. James is one of my favorite mystery authors. I’m really looking forward to sitting down with this one!

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Don’t Call Me a Crook!: A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky and Crime, by Bob Moore

rook!: A Scotsman's Tale of World Travel, Whisky and CrimeSynopsis (from the back cover):

In your hands is a lost literary treasure and a tribute to one man’s triumph over the police, morals, and sobriety.

The 1920s didn’t roar for this Glaswegian: They exploded. Sailing around the world seven times as a marine engineer (among other, less honorable vocations), Bob Moore was in the thick of high-society orgies, ship disasters, and pitched battles with bandits on the Yangtze. Cheeky, charming and larcenous, Moore “swiped” (but not stole) whatever he wanted, drank like a fish, and always kept one step ahead of the law, Prohibition, and the women he conned. Clearly, he loved life.

Originally published three-quarters of a century ago, Don’t Call Me a Crook! is an overlooked gem. Just a few seem to have known of it. What became of its author after its release is uncertain. Don’t Call Me a Crook! is a lost confession of a youth lawlessly lived that will be crowned a classic.

First line(s): It is a pity there are getting to be so many places that I can never go back to, but all the same, I do not think it is much fun a man being respectable all his life.

Where I got this book: Sent to me by the publisher.

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 255 pages

Ms. Bookish says: Moore sounds like quite the conman charmer, doesn’t he? This will be an interesting read, I think.

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French Milk, by Lucy Knisley

French MilkSynopsis (from the back cover):

Through delightful drawings, photographs, and musings, twenty-three-year-old Lucy Knisley documents a six-week trip she and her mother took to Paris when each was facing a milestone birthday. With a quirky flat in the fifth arrondissement as their home base, they set out to explore all the city has to offer, watching fireworks over the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve, visiting Oscar Wilde’s grave, loafing at cafés, and, of course, drinking delicious French milk. What results is not only a sweet and savory journey through the City of Light but a moving, personal look at a mother-daughter relationship.

First line(s): During January of 2007, my mother and I lived in a small rental apartment in Paris to celebrate my mother’s turning fifty (and my turning twenty-two). The following is the Drawn journal that I kept in the course of the trip.

Where I got this book: Library

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 193 pages

Ms. Bookish says: A travel memoir, in graphic novel format! I discovered this gem recently on another blog (I can’t remember whose – I really must start keeping track) and knew I just had to read it. I was in luck – my library had a copy, so I put in a request for it right there on the spot. Now that I have it in my hands, I have a feeling I might want to buy myself a copy, too. For those of you in the States who are interested in this book, it looks like Amazon has it on right now as a bargain book!

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Confessions of a Bad Mother, by Stephanie Calman

Confessions of a Bad MotherSynopsis (from the back cover):

Read Confessions of a Bad Mother … You have nothing to lose but your guilt. Are you a super-duper, totally fulfilled mother 24 hours a day? Do you give your children home-made risotto, help them with their homework, read them a fairy tale and sing them to sleep? Or do you give them chicken nuggets in front of the telly, herd them into bed and slump down exhausted with a drink?

Do you feel that other mothers are Doing It Properly while you’re getting it All Wrong? Do you wish there could just, please, be a little less pressure? If you try your best but frequently feel a failure, if you – or your children – are in any way imperfect, then join the club: the Bad Mothers Club. Stephanie Calman has broken every rule and done it All Wrong. From giving birth with her pants on to making her kids watch more telly, she has persistently defied all accepted wisdom and professional advice. Outrageous, funny, and hideously true, Confessions of a Bad Mother is her story. Read it, and know – at least – that you are Normal.

First line(s): I wasn’t going to have children. I was too frightened to have them, and I was sure I was physically and emotionally incapable of looking after them. Following the terrifying assault of birth, it would be one long, ever-repeating loop between the A&E department and the washing machine. And anyway, I wasn’t the Maternal Type.

Where I got this book: Bought this one at Costco.

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 306 pages

Ms. Bookish says: I ask you, how could I resist?? Obviously, I couldn’t. And in case anyone is wondering, Costco also sneakily had a copy of Confessions of a Failed Grown-Up, the sequel, right next to the copies of Confessions of a Bad Mother, and yes, I picked that one up, too.

Book Review: The Private Patient, by P.D. James

The Private PatientThe Snapshot Review

What I Liked: Commander Adam Dalgliesh and all the much-loved regulars are back; the suspects and victim are well-characterized as usual; the mystery is complex and intelligent.

First Line: On November the 21st, the day of her forty-seventh birthday, and three weeks and two days before she was murdered, Rhoda Gradwyn went to Harley Street to keep a first appointment with her plastic surgeon, and there in a consulting room designed, so it appeared, to inspire confidence and allay apprehension, made the decision which would lead inexorably to her death.

Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: Another Adam Dalgliesh novel from P.D. James is always cause for celebration, and this one definitely does not disappoint.

Read the Full Review of The Private Patient

Library Loot: Mostly Mysteries – and BBC Audio

library-lootIt’s time for Library Loot, where book bloggers share what they brought home from the library this past week.

I love going to the library, although these days, because I’ve been very efficiently using the library’s request holds system, I normally just pop in, grab my on hold books off the hold shelf, take a quick look at the “New” section and come right back home.

I kind of miss just wandering around, not having any goal except finding interesting-looking books. My work schedule will be much easier after the next two weeks, so I will probably be doing more treasure hunting at the library after then. But I did manage to get to the library for an afternoon of browsing this past week, as well as having some requested books come in.

My husband likes to say I’m the library’s biggest financial supporter; he bases this on the amount of library fines I’ve paid in all the time that he’s known me. I actually don’t feel embarrassed about the amounts anymore – not when people are getting charged $1 a day for overdue DVDs!

Here’s what I picked up from the library this past week:

Mystery: A Cure for All Diseases, by Reginald Hill. I actually borrowed this late last year, but wasn’t able to get around to reading it until it was due back. I couldn’t renew it because someone else had it on hold, so I requested it again. I love Dalziel and Pascoe, and have been wanting to read this one ever since finishing up Death Comes for the Fat Man early last year.

Contemporary fiction: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I put in a hold request for this a few months back – it’s a book that I probably would never have discovered if it weren’t for book blogs (I have a lot of books on my TBR and i-want lists that are a direct result of hanging around other book blogs). I’m looking forward to this one.

I only picked up two books this past week, but I took an afternoon to hit the shelves specifically in search of audiobooks. I dislike abridged versions of audiobooks, and will always opt for the unabridged version (or not get the audiobook at all if there is no unabridged version) but there’s an exception to this: BBC Radio Collection (BBC Audio) audiobooks!

These audiobooks are simply wonderful. There’s a full cast of characters, all with rich, plummy British accents, and lots of background sounds to get you right into the mood of the story. When you’re ready for something light and dramatic, but you don’t really want to watch a movie, these are extremely fun listens.

So far I’ve just been listening to mysteries from the collection, but there are audio presentations of lots of other kinds of novels too: see the selection here and here.

I picked up the following BBC Radio Collection audiobooks this past week:

Cover Her Face, by P.D. James, starring Robin Ellis, Siân Phillips, Beatie Edney and Hugh Grant. Yes, Hugh Grant! I don’t know if this is THE Hugh Grant (haven’t listened to the CDs yet), but anyway, this Hugh Grant plays the role of Felix, one of the major characters (not Dalgliesh, so he’s probably one of the main suspects).

Three Act Tragedy, by Agatha Christie, starring John Moffatt (as Hercule Poirot), George Cole, Michael Cochrane and Clive Merrison. I remember the plotline (but not who-done-it) so I know I’ve read this one before, but definitely not under this title (for a brief second there, I was quite ecstatic, thinking here was finally an Agatha Christie title I hadn’t read before).

Peril at End House, by Agatha Christie, starring John Moffatt (as Hercule Poirot, once again). No other actors are listed on the back, and there’s no little booklet inside, so I don’t know who plays the rest of the main characters. I have read Peril at End House numerous times, so I know that by midway I will have remembered who-done-it, but the dramatization will keep it interesting, I’m sure.

Lord Edgware Dies, by Agatha Christie, and starring, of course, John Moffatt as Poirot. Other actors include Simon Williams and Nicola Pagett.

Each of these audiobooks runs for about two hours or so, so they don’t require a huge investment of time. And have I mentioned how much fun they are?

What did you get from the library this past week? And have you tried the BBC Audio (BBC Radio Collection) audiobooks? What did you think of them?

TSS – Currently Reading: Fowler, Springer & Berry

Time for The Sunday Salon again! Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:

Ten Second Staircase, by Christopher Fowler. I finished Full Dark House, the first book in the Bryant and May Peculiar Crimes Unit series, a few days ago (review coming soon), and I loved it so much I picked up the next Peculiar Crimes Unit book in my TBR, Ten Second Staircase, right away. I’m right at the beginning, and so far, so good.

The Charlemagne Pursuit, by Steve Berry. This is the first book by Steve Berry that I’ve picked up – it stars ex-Justice Department agent Cotton Malone, and I’m finding Malone likeable enough to want to pick up the earlier books featuring him. I’m about midway through this book, and it’s a fun and exciting read – except that I’m finding the motivation for one part of the plot to be kind of weak. (More on that when I finish the book and write the review.) Despite this, though, I’ve been enjoying this book a lot.

The Case of the Missing Marquess, by Nancy Springer. I’m still reading this one – haven’t had a chance to pick it up again since the last time I was reading it last week. I have two other books in this series in my TBR pile, so I’m hoping this one is as interesting as the first chapters indicate.

And in audiobooks: last night I was feeling a bit under the weather, and even the thought of picking up a book to read was enough to make me feel kind of dizzy. So I took to my bed (I’ve always wanted to say something like that!) and started listening to an audiobook of PD James’ Skull Beneath the Skin. I’m not sure if the version I’ve linked to is the actual version I’m listening to. Mine isn’t so much an audiobook as an audio production – lots of lovely British actors saying the lines; it feels like listening to an old-time radio show.

So that’s what I’m currently reading. What books are enticing you these days?