Book Review: The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri


The Shape of Water is the first in Andrea Camilleri’s wry, brilliantly compelling Sicilian crime series, featuring Inspector Montalbano.

The goats of Vigàta once grazed on the trash-strewn site still known as the Pasture. Now local enterprise of a different sort flourishes: drug dealers and prostitutes of every flavour. But their discreet trade is upset when two employees of the Splendour Refuse Collection Company discover the body of engineer Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers, apparently deceased in flagrante at the Pasture. The coroner’s verdict is death from natural causes – refreshingly unusual for Sicily.

But Inspector Salvo Montalbano, as honest as he is streetwise and as scathing to fools and villains as he is compassionate to their victims, is not ready to close the case – even though he’s being pressured by Vigàta’s police chief, judge, and bishop.

Picking his way through a labyrinth of high-comedy corruption, delicious meals, vendetta firepower, and carefully planted false clues, Montalbano can be relied on, whatever the cost, to get to the heart of the matter.

The Shape of Water is followed by the second in this phenomenal series, The Terracotta Dog.

 

Whilst this is the first of the book series, it is not the first in the TV series. My review of the exact episode can be found here.

Anyway, the events of the book are very similar to that of the TV episode, so I wont repeat here.  The books is translated from the Sicilian-Italian (a feat in itself, apparently). One of the things i struggle with with the TV episodes, is that not everyone gets named. Turns out, the same happens in the books. There are also things/inference in the show that doesn’t happen in the book.

Also: The relationship with Ingrid happens much earlier in the tv show than the book, with a seemingly different over tone in the book than in the book. In the book it’s Fazio, not Ingrid that takes the car down the waterway.

In Summary: the book is similar to the TV episode (something you should expect when Camilleri writes the screenplay too) but there are enough differences to make it worth the read.  Neither is better than the other, so feel happy in reading this book, and the series as a wole

 

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge – The Results!

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I found this Reading Challenge from Passages to the Past a while back, and decided that I should and could sign up. I read a lot of historical fiction, right?

I went in low with my numbers, based on my reading over the last few years and went with a Medieval level of 15 books.

Some people may argue/be surprised with my definition of “Historical” fiction, but to me “Historical Fiction” is “A book set in a period significantly earlier than the time the author was writing in”.  So if the author is writing in 2015, and sets a tale in the 1970s, then I class that as “historical”. It’s a loose definition, but I’m sticking with it.

 

A list of the books I read, with links to reviews, is as follows:

As you can see, I didn’t *quite* meet my objective of 15 Historical fiction books in the year. I will admit that I can’t actually remember when I picked up a book to read, never mind write a review. As ever I will attempt to do better in 2020!

 

 

 

 

2019 Blogger Resolutions – the results!

It’s now becoming traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done by the end. Following my failure to achieve these the last few years, I’ve significantly dropped my numbers, in the chance of actually meeting a couple!

Book pages text
Patrick Tomasso via Upsplash
    • Increase subscribers to this blog to 980, excluding twitter followers

    I managed to get to 950, so am considering this a win!

    • Increase annual page hits to this blog (to 6500)

    Not quite there, though my numbers have increased on the last few years to over 6100 views.

    • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 950)

    Not there, hovering around the 760 mark

    • increase twitter followers to @bxbrum (to 250)

    Nearly there, hovering at the 230+ mark

    • Read and review 60 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks. I’m going to take part in 2 challenges this year, keeping m6 numbers low, but I see the two tying in together quite nicely.

    Not even close. LOL. See other posts

    • Get my Netgalley ratio into the 70% range (from 65%).

    Upped to 66%

    • To aid in reading the books that I already have there will be a moratorium on requesting books from Netgalley or LibraryThing, and reviewing books I already have

    I Haven’t requested stuff of netgalley or librarything for a while (except the stuff I’m auto approved for).

    • Make better use of twitter, including the analytics, scheduling content.

    Something I must do better at. I’ve been capturing analytics data for a year now, I just need to take time to digest what the numbers are telling me.

    • Take part in twitter chats such as #ContentHour, #BrumHour

    My participation dropped off in the second half of the year, but I feel I did get a level of support when i did take part

    • Ensure about and contact details are maintained and up to date

    The new Unconvention twitter feed is as up to date as I can make it. .I’m still not accepting submissions, so I’ve not reintroduced my email address on my blog

    • Make use of scheduling and planning software

    Because of taking part in the 2019 and 2020 Bookcrossing Uncon, I’ve paid to upgrade my scheduling software, and have been making use of the service more. I’ve also set up google alerts to help me find different content to share, which I hope people are finding interesting. I’ve also started to make more use of my Pinterest boards

    • Do more posts about sewing, my cross stitch and quilting in particular. I’m not putting numbers on this.

    I’ve done few personal posts about sewing, but I have tried to be a bit more vocal in sewing groups and sharing other people’s content.

    • Comment more on other people’s blogs – I’m not going to put a number on this as it’ll be a nightmare to track. Just “do more”.

    I’ve commented on a couple of posts, “Pinned” a few more, but that’s about it

    • Release more books via Bookcrossing, either in OBCZs or via RABCKs.

    Certainly doing this! My flat currently looks like a second hand book store with all the books that need to be taken to various shelves around the place.  Telford Train Station and Moor Street Station seem to be the most voracious.

     

 

 

 

 

 

Print Only Reading Challenge – The Results!

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2018 found me wildly missing my reading targets, whilst bringing yet more books into the house.

I needed to shift them, so I chose 2 reading challenges this year. This one covers Print Only books and is hosted by As Told By Tina. The image above is from her challenge page.

Only books that I have read that are in paper form counted for this challenge, and should tie in nicely with my other reading challenge, which is for Historical Fiction.

I went for the “2nd printing” level, which means I set myself the aim to read between 21 and 30 books in paper over the year.

The results, with links to reviews,  are as follows

 

Murder in the Museum by John Rowland

The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa

Master and God by Lindsey Davies

The Overman Culture by Edmund Cooper

The Ghost by Robert Harris

As you can see, I didn’t read paper books to the level I wanted, with the Bookcrossing events (going to the uncon, and looking after the shelves), and the fact I’ve signed up to the Persephone books 12 months thing, I’ve actually had more books coming in rather than going out….boo!

 

 

2020 Blogger Resolutions

It’s now traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done by the end. Following my failure to achieve these the last few years, I’ve significantly dropped my numbers, in the chance of actually meeting a couple!  The post for 2019 results will be out soon so here are the 2020 resolutions

Book pages text
Patrick Tomasso via Upsplash
  • Increase subscribers to this blog to 1000, excluding twitter followers
  • Increase annual page hits to this blog (to 7000)
  • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 950)
  • increase twitter followers to @bxbrum (to 280)
  • Read and review 50 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks.
  • Get my Netgalley ratio into the 72% range (from 66%).
  • To aid in reading the books that I already have there will be a moratorium on requesting books from Netgalley or LibraryThing, and reviewing books I already have,
  • Make better use of twitter, including the analytics, scheduling content.
  • Take part in twitter chats such as #ContentHour, #BrumHour
  • Make use of scheduling and planning software
  • Release more books via Bookcrossing, either in OBCZs or via RABCKs.

 

 

Book Review: The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris takes the reader back to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, and the now accepted chocolatier, Vianne Rocher, continuing to practice her own brand of chocolate magic. How things have changed, even Francis Reynaud, the priest, once her fiercest critic is now a friend. Vianne has lost her summer child, Anouk, to Paris and the man she has fallen in love with. She finds some comfort that her winter child, the special Rosette will never leave her. Rosette doesn’t attend school, does not speak, has a companion that only few can see, Bam, the monkey, and has a special gift for art and drawing. Snow makes an unexpected appearance, and the winds of change are blowing, heralding death, unstoppable chaos and a confrontation between different forms of powerful magic, that of chocolate and ink. Vianne has a desperate sense of foreboding, the tarot cards, Death, The Fool and The Tower, promise a future that is to test and challenge her.

The death of Narcisse, the florist, triggers conflict and the entry of a newcomer with no feet taking over his shop premises. The mysterious Morgane and her reception by the village carries uncanny echoes of Vianne’s experiences on first settling in the village. Whilst many do not get Rosette and belittle her, Narcisse becomes close to the child after catching her stealing strawberries. He bequeaths his wood to Rosette, the strawberry thief, to be held in trust for her until she is of age. Whilst Rosette is overjoyed, Narcisse’s daughter is less than happy, looking for ways to challenge the bequest. Narcisse had rejected the church and was not fond of Reynaud, but he leaves behind a confession for Reynaud that tells of his heartbreaking background and history, particularly his close relationship with his beloved sister, Mimi, afflicted with seizures. Reynaud carries a heavy burden of guilt from his actions as a child that had such tragic outcomes, events he has never dared to speak of, which he is certain will see him roundly condemned by all. He is afraid that Narcisse knew of his secret. Morgane appears to wield a power over the community and Rosette that makes Vianne so afraid that she will do anything to make her leave.

Joanne Harris is a remarkably beguiling storyteller, infusing dark fairytales in the narrative, of Rosette, the snow child, with her own magic, her ‘accidents’, and her ability to influence the winds. She focuses on human insecurities, frailties and fears, of a casting of magic that disturbs the natural order of things and how natural forces will inexorably topple such unnaturalness. The magic of ink takes hold of a village and community, giving them what they need rather than what they want, including the mark of Cain, and with it comes the inevitable changes that life brings. This is a beautifully written and immersive read, and it is such a pleasure to return to this village and all its diverse characters, even the unlikeable ones! If you are drawn to the whimsical, the bewitching, and glorious storytelling, then this is a novel for you. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Orion for an ARC.

Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her ‘special’ child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.

But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray. The arrival of Narcisse’s relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist’s across the square – one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own – all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence – even, perhaps, a murder…

The 4th – and nominally the last – book in the “Chocolat” series, this follows the Peaches for Monsier Le Cure book previously reviewed on this blog. The writing style has changed slightly, so there are now multiple voices – Vianne, Reynard (Le Cure) and Rosette (BAM! from previous books) in particular.

Vianne still has the Chocolate Shop and continues to feel uncertain, even when she has been accepted; Anouk is now in Paris, coming back to Lansquenet with a secret, just in time to share it for Easter; Reynaud is still haunted by what he believes is true (and we get to hear more of how and why he fears the boat people).

Vianne still believes that her “winter child” (Rosette) – the one who rarely speaks – will stay with her forever. Meanwhile Narcisse dies, leaving various legacies to people – most of his estate to his daughter; his strawberry patch to Rosette (the Strawberry Thief of the title); and a confession (of sorts) to Reynard…..the latter which goes around various people of the community, so we all get to hear a peace.

Narcisse has left a “confession” for after his death that is essentially a history of why he is a bit of a git.  This narrative/diary is read mainly by Le Cure, but, as part of the story, is passed around various characters in the story.

Meanwhile, the florist’s shop is let, to a tattooist called Morgane (her of the two artificial feet). She reminds Vianne too much of the usurper she encountered in The Lollipop Shoes, and therefore Vianne doesnt trust her, especially when Rosette seems all too enamored of the new woman across the street.

So the story has multiple threads, and multiple timelines for what is, essentially, an entwined story. Everyone is important. All threads come together (I wont provide spoilers so I will be knowingly vague). In essence: i enjoyed this book, especially as part of a series. It can be read on it’s own, but is always helpful to read in order/context

 

FYI the “Strawberry Thief” is referred to in the book as a design by William Morris, and more information (Including an image) can be found here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Embroidered Kitchen Garden by Kazuko Aoki

Embroidery artist and avid gardener Kazuko Aoki shares her newest collection of exquisite designs inspired by her very own kitchen garden. This bountiful assortment of embroidery motifs includes everyone’s favorite garden treats. From humble tomatoes and radishes to show-stopping figs and Brussels sprouts, this collection features over 30 edible plant designs. Stitch up a sampler to decorate your kitchen, create a one-of-a-kind farmers market tote, or just pore over the pages forendless inspiration. Each design features artfully illustrative details yet are made with just a handful of simple embroidery stitches. Embroidery enthusiasts will delight in this cornucopia of lush and sweet designs to stitch and savor. Instructions and templates for all designs are included, along with personal embroidery tips and expert advice from the author.

 

I got a copy of the ebook version of this from Netgalley, and quite honestly, even the ebook version is delicious.  The first half of the book has both images and text about certain food stuffs.

The second half has descriptions of how to stitch the images from the first half.  To be fair, this is the point where I would want the physical book in front of me. Not only to be able to switch easily between the instructions and the image, but the instructions do rely on you having a  certain level of stitching knowledge (this is not for the beginner!).

I will be on the lookout for the physical version of this book, to add to my collection!