2009: A Year in the Library … and a Year in the Pub

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Let’s start in the library.

J. Kaye from J. Kaye’s Book Blog hosted the 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge.

You could commit to reading 12, 25 or 50 library books in 2009. I went for the maximum, and I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.

Here are a few reasons why I love  libraries:

  • I am lucky to have a good public library service – I can order any book in the county or in a large reserve stock for just 50p.
  • I also belong to the wonderful Morrab Library. There are only 19 private subscription libraries in the UK and this one is just a few minutes walk from home.
  • I can still visualise where my favourite books were in the library when I was a child.
  • Without libraries I wouldn’t be able to read anything like as widely as I do.
  • I pass the library as I walk home from work. A little look around the shelves after a difficult day is wonderfully theraputic!
  • I like to think I can influence what the library stocks by ordering and borrowing books. I have been known to borrow under-borrowed books that I own to help their statistics.
  • Don’t book lovers have a duty to support libraries? If we don’t we can’t assume they will still be there and then how will people who can’t afford to buy books read and how will other people discover books?
  • I first met my fiancé in the library!

I’ve  read 106 library books this year.

Some wonderful new authors and a few books that I hadn’t heard of until I saw them on the shelves.

I’ve added some to my shelves since, there are more I’d like to.

And I’ve uncovered a few put of print gems.

The full  list is here.

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And so to the pub

The 2009 Pub Challenge was hosted by Michelle at 1morechapter.com.

Read at least nine books published for the first time in your country in 2009. I’ve done 3 rounds – 27 books.

Here they are:

ROUND 1

ROUND 2

ROUND 3

(There are a few more I’ve read but not written about yet and, I suspect, a couple I’ve missed.)

Some great books – the ones I’ve starred are la creme de la creme!

Hammer by Sara Stockbridge

Hammer

The framework of Hammer (or Grace Hammer if you are in the USA) is quite straightforward. Somebody has stolen something from somebody else. Now that somebody else wants their property back, and wants revenge. Yes, it’s a simple story, but the way is dressed, in rich, eye-catching, period attire, adds much interest.

And clothes and appearances are something Sara Stockridge knows much about. She is a model, turned muse to Vivienne Westwood, turned actress, turned writer. An interesting CV, but that what wasn’t what sent me searching for her first novel – it was hearing her on the radio speaking with so much enthusiasm about her choice of period, her subject matter and her delight at becoming a published author.

Grace Hammer is the thief. She wasn’t always – she was a servant in a country house, but when she was falsely accused and dismissed she took the mistress’s jewellery away with her. She went to London, and now she lives in Whitechapel with her three children. They survive – not uncomfortably – by picking the pockets of members of the gentry who pass through the Whitechapel streets.

That brings to mind Fagin’s gang, and certainly it is the same London underworld that Dickens saw first hand that Sara Stockbridge now recreates. And she does it well: the streets, the taverns, the homes, the class divide, the poverty, the perils, all vividly evoked.

Horatio Blunt, the man from Ruby whom she lifted a ruby necklace, cuts a menacing figure from his first appearance, sitting at home dreaming of recovering his jewels and slitting Grace’s throat. He is soon on her trail and a game of cat and mouse ensues. Eventally, of course, there is a resolution and a price is extracted – but not the price expected.

The period may be Victorian, but the style isn’t. It’s clear and straightforward with a strong forward impetus and just enough detail to paint the picture. And while the feel is definitely sinister it isn’t too chilling. I never quite believed that something drealful would happen to Grace and her children.

What you do have though is an entertaining diversion for lovers of the period and an accessible entry point for those less familiar with Victoriana.

And an very promising new author – the book jacket promises a London ghost story next, and I will certainly be looking out for it.