A Little Wintry Giveaway!


If it wasn’t so cold outside, I would find it hard to believe that it’s December already – but the weather has been freezing lately, and the darker nights leave me in no doubt! Reading wise, November was a month of mainly German Literature, and I’m still actually reading Germans! But I’m making no real plans about what books I’ll pick up as we get to the end of the year, and I’m happy to go where the mood takes me.

3 books giveaway

What I *am* going to do, though, is have a little Winter Giveaway. I haven’t done one on the Ramblings for a while, and I have three spare wintry books to offer. These are available worldwide so please do enter!

The three books in question are:

xmas carol

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens


“Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” by Peter Hoeg

gibbons comfort xmas

“Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm” by Stella Gibbons

All are new Vintage editions, with Christmassy covers, and if I didn’t already own copies myself (multiple copies in the case of the Dickens!) I would want to keep them…

To enter, just leave a comment saying which book you would prefer and maybe recommending me a good read for long, cold winter nights – I always like suggestions for what to read next! Good luck! 🙂

Synchronicity, Serendipity – and *why* can’t I stop buying books!!


Despite all my wonderful resolutions to read from my stacks and not buy any more books for a while, things are not going to plan – well, they never do with me and books and reading, do they? I have had a couple of volumes arrive via ReadItSwapIt this week, but things complicated a little today when I popped into the Big Town. I hadn’t been round the charity shops much recently owing to Christmas, family illnesses and visiting offspring. However, I was resolved not to do a big sweep, and even popped into the library to return some volumes – and happened to catch sight of a copy of Stella Gibbons’ “Nightingale Wood” for sale – a Virago volume I don’t have and for 40p found impossible to resist….

Nestling next to it in this unpleasantly fuzzy picture (I really must get my camera sorted out!) is a very nice old Penguin of Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” – I’ve seen the film many times but never read the book and since I love classic sci-fi so much, I thought it was a must.

The Verne came from the Oxfam book shop, which has unfortunately had a bit of a re-stock in its Modern Classics and Classics section – so I had to exert quite a lot of will-power not to come out with a bag full of books. However, I *did* make an exception for “A Pound of Paper” – written by John Baxter, whose “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World” I just read and reviewed, and subtitled “Confessions of a Book Addict”. Maybe it will have some advice to help me deal with *my* addiction?

Today’s last acquisition “All Saints Eve” is a collection of stories billed as the precursor to Agatha Christie – and I confess to never having heard of or read Amelia B. Edwards, but for £1.75 I’m prepared to take a punt. This last book came from the lovely Samaritans book cave, where I dropped in for a browse and chat with the friendly staff.

Unfortunately, all this has messed with the plans for reading and the little shelf of books I notionally had put aside for current reading. I’ve already gone off at a bit of a tangent, as there are a couple of books I just read awaiting review which weren’t planned for, and I’m now 100 pages into this:

I picked up “Life: A User’s Manual” last year at the Oxfam and decided I needed something unusual and substantial recently – so far it fits the bill admirably!

So, now the current pile of possibles looks like this:

Top is the Perec I’m currently reading. Then we have today’s acquisitions, followed by MacLaren-Ross’s “Of Love and Hunger”, “The Leopard”, Compton Mackenzie’s “Sinister Street”, Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” (I’m thinking of a readalong with jackiemania), “Manon Lescaut” (RISI) and Chekhov’s “The Russian Master” (RISI). Phew!

I really must try to concentrate on one book at a time… :s

Treats from Leicester!


We were lucky enough to have a visit from Middle Child this weekend, coming home from Leicester to check up on OH’s recovery, and that of course was the main treat!

However, she was lovely enough to bring me home some wonderful green Viragos she had picked up for my collection (I have raved about the Leicester charity shops before – it’s a close competition between here and there for the best!)


I was *very* pleased with these lovelies as you can imagine, as they’re not titles that turn up every day and they are in pretty good nick apart from a little fading on one and sticker damage on another – thanks, Middle Child!

We had a lovely girly shop on Saturday too and I found a few more treasures locally:

renaultThese came from a charity shop which prices its books as 2 for £1, so having found the Renault I had to get something else and the Dinesen seemed the ideal choice (and a Virago for 50p is not to be sneezed at!)

gibbonsThese two and the following came from the British Heart Foundation charity shop – slightly more expensive at £2 each but if I bought them online they’d cost more than that and the actually condition of online books is often so variable.

This, of course, is essential for the Pym read-along so I was happy to pick it up.

Finally this:

zweigA very sweet little Pushkin Press Stefan Zweig book I don’t have.

Enough reading matter to keep me going for ages – and to make the tbr mountain even more unstable……. :s

Recent Reads – A Round-Up


Having whizzed through several books on my recent trip away, I thought it might be best to do a quick round-up – if I try to review all these at length, I’ll be here forever!! So, off we go:

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

I’ve had this on my tbr for a long time, and to be honest never really grasped what it was about but felt it was one of those books I should read. However, Heavenali’s review here whetted my appetite and I finally picked it up, and found I couldn’t put it down! It’s funny, clever and surprising, and very beautifully written. I found the way she mixed rural drama (while sending it up wonderfully) and the futuristic elements remarkable, and it was worth the wait – I’m glad I finally got to read it.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

In the mood for Stella Gibbons after I picked up the book above, and found this volume sitting quietly in the Oxfam Book Shop waiting for me – joy! Only one story (the title) is set on the eponymous farm, but the rest of the stories stand up in their own right. They’re lovely – witty, well written and often with a sting in their tail. I liked this book a lot, but interestingly, reading them so closely after the Katherine Mansfield volume reinforced my feelings about Mansfield’s genius. Gibbons stories are very, very good but don’t have the depth of Mansfield – who is a remarkable writer indeed.

The Greer Case – David Peck

A vintage Penguin I picked up because I liked the sound of it on apenguinaweek. It was very readable too – demolished much of it on the train to Leicester! It’s a retelling of a real-life court case, which took place in the USA in the middle of last century. There is a contested will, an illegitimate child, mysterious past – the whole thing was very well told and readable and intriguing.

Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino

Another return to my beloved Calvino – Invisible Cities is reckoned by some to be Calvino’s best and it’s certainly a book that stays in the mind. It’s certainly not a heavily plotted action thriller – more a series of short meditations. The book is ostensibly a record of Marco Polo’s conversations with Kublai Khan, describing the cities of the empire which he has visited. However, each short piece has a beautiful poetic quality and it soon becomes clear that these are descriptions of the ideas of cities, rather than cities themselves – some are even perceivable as contemporary with the reader, and some obviously futuristic. Calvino seems to be exploring the whole nature of a city, its organic structure, its possibilities and potential. What I love about Calvino is his word pictures – he’s capable of putting the most amazing, unexpected images into your head and they stay there forever. A book I would recommend to everyone.

I Will Not Serve – Eveline Mahyere

A slim little Virago picked up on my travels, and Mahyere’s only book prior to her suicide in 1957. It tells the tale of Sylvie, forced to leave her convent school where she is in love with one of her teachers, Julienne (who is about to become a nun). The book is formed of diary extracts, letters and narration and paints an intense picture of Sylvie’s love and despair compared with Julienne’s calm acceptance of God. Sylvie drinks and hangs around in bars and dreams of becoming an artist with Julienne alongside her. Beautifully written, sad and touching.

Madame Maigret’s Friend – Simenon

I love a good Maigret, and this is one. Seemingly disparate strands come together to reveal a crime and as usual Simenon is in complete control of his characters, his plot and his readers! The involvement of Mme Maigret is masterly and adds an extra element to the story.

Maigret in Montmarte – Simenon

Another atmospheric visit to Paris where Maigret is investigating a murder which will reveal other crimes and also affects the police force a little more closely than usual. One of the things I love about Simenon’s books is the atmosphere they create. The reader is never going to be able to out-guess Maigret or his creator, but that isn’t the point about these stories. It’s the characters and the settings – the rainy Paris streets, the sadness and the seediness, the light and shade in the behaviour of the people. Simenon was a master of his craft and the books are authentic in their atmosphere through and through.

March Violets – Philip Kerr

Oh dear. The one dud for me in the recent batch of reads. I read about these online, with rave reviews and they sounded good – hard-boiled thrillers set in pre-War Berlin. I persevered with this one, although I actually skip read to the end just to find out the resolution. Problems? Well, a lot of them for me. The hard-boiled dialogue was so over-the-top and clichéd I actually got really fed up with it by the end. I hated all the characters – accepting that in pre-War Berlin there wouldn’t be that many nice people about, they were all pretty brutal cardboard cut-outs. The violence and misogyny were just too much and laid on with a trowel. I didn’t find the detective to be anybody I could care about. And having a sequence set in Dachau just seemed to me to be stepping over the line. I have 5 more in the series of these books and I have to say I unfortunately don’t feel like starting another one. I don’t have an issue with hard-boiled thrillers – I love Dashiel Hammett’s books to death – but this book was just nasty and left me feeling a bit tainted.

So – not a bad amount of reading for less than a week. I’m off to cleanse my palate with “Mrs. Miniver”!

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