Have Books; Will Survive Winter. Maybe

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I am so sick of winter. Tired of being cold. Tired of wind. And snow. Of trying to convince myself that spring is just around the corner. Tired of pretending that I’ll be wearing spring jackets and sneakers any day now. I give up, people. I’m waving the white flag. I’m retiring to my couch to whimper by the fire with a cup of tea and a good book. Or five. 
This is what I’ve been reading lately. Mostly mysteries and crime fiction. I haven’t had the patience for anything more literary. And as I’ve always contended, there are many fine and literary mystery writers out there from which to choose.
Three books on a table
Recently finished and currently reading.

I finished Val McDermid’s Splinter the Silence a while ago. I like McDermid’s writing, although I find myself becoming exasperated at times with the ongoing backstories of her characters, the Carol Jordan and Tony Hill saga being one example. But I enjoyed this one. Recommended it to my Mum, and to Hubby, who both liked it as well. 
For the past week, I’ve been on a Peter Lovesey binge. I can’t remember who recommended his work to me, someone who reads this blog, so thanks for that. Hubby and I have read a number of his books now. We both like them. I enjoy Lovesey’s irreverent, overweight, frequently exasperated, and sometimes exasperating main character Peter Diamond. He’s a bit like Reginald Hill’s Andy Daziel. Not as funny or as finely crafted as Daziel. But never mind; few writers can be favorably compared to Hill in my opinion. Lovesey’s plots are well crafted, and the fact that they’re set in Bath is an extra enticement for me. I loved Bath when I visited there last fall, and I love being reminded of the city and its landmarks. So all that, plus the fact that each book has a couple of laugh out loud moments, keeps us coming back for more. 
I’ve also been on a bit of a Jim Kelly kick this past month. When I was at my Mum’s, I read two of his Inspector Shaw/ DS Valentine series set in the ancient seaport town of King’s Lynn in Norfolk.  Kelly’s books are sometimes hard to get in Canada; the library has only a few on its shelves. So, I’ve been reading them on the Kindle ap on my i-pad. Easier for travel anyway. I really like Kelly’s work. His characters are great, especially DS George Valentine. Valentine is a heavy-smoking, hard-drinking, loner, who can’t sleep, and haunts the cemetery where his wife is buried, sitting and smoking into the wee hours when he is troubled. He could easily become a crime-fiction cliché. Except he doesn’t seem cliché at all. Just very real. 
Jim Kelly's book Death's Door.     Jim Kelly's book At Death's Window.


If you haven’t read Jim Kelly’s books, and you like moody mysteries where landscape is so important that it’s almost a character in the novel, you should try them. I’m very fond of his Philip Dryden novels, set in the flat and watery Fenland area around Ely. The main character in this series is journalist Philip Dryden. Stranded in the fens because his wife is in a coma in a local hospital, following a tragic car accident where he was driving, Dryden ditches his big time job in London and finds another writing for a small local paper, so he can stay close to his wife. He is so traumatized by the accident, he’s unable to drive. And he relies on a local underemployed cabby named Humph, who seems to do little but sit in his car, eat take-out food, wait for Dryden, and listen to foreign language tapes. Humph has his own problems, estranged from his wife and missing his two young daughters, he eats, and plans foreign trip after foreign trip, but never leaves home. 


I think I like Kelly’s Dryden series even more than the Shaw/Valentine books. Partly because they are so quirky. Partly because the setting is so evocative. Even Dryden comes to love the Fenlands. And partly because Dryden’s wife’s condition gradually gets better and better with each book. Phew. If Kelly had killed her off I would have been right royally pissed at him. 


So that’s what I’ve been reading. And this is what’s waiting for me on my bookshelf. 


My book club buddy, Rachel, lent me Linda Grant’s novel The Clothes on Their Backs about a family of Jewish-Hungarian immigrants who arrived in London in 1938 with nothing but the proverbial clothes on their backs. Apparently it’s a novel about identity and belonging… and clothes. I took a verrry, verrry quick look at a review to get that much, mostly squinting with one eye so I didn’t read any more than absolutely necessary. Ha. I hate reading reviews of books I’m about to read. I don’t want to be told too much too soon. Weird, eh? 


I’ve also used my trusty Christmas Chapters/Indigo gift card to order Tobi Tobias’s Obsessed by Dress, which was recommended as required reading by Grant in her book The Thoughtful Dresser. I’m sure that most of you have probably already read Grant’s novel, and Tobias’s book. I’m behind the curve here, I know. 


And when I’m done those two, I’ll be going to Paris with Mrs. Harris. On Dottoressa’s recommendation, seconded by Frances over at Materfamilas Writes, I’ve ordered from our library Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico. Ha. Are you spying a theme here, folks? 

Linda Grant's book The Clothes on Their Backs.
First on my “To Read” list
Winter can be murder. So to while away the hours and hours when it’s too freaking cold to walk, and too icy to ski, it’s best to sublimate one’s fruitless anger and frustration by reading about murder. Or about clothes. Don’t you think?
I mean it’s going down to -15° C tonight. Sheesh. Does that sound like spring to you? 
I don’t know why I’m so tired of winter this year, why I am wishing and hoping for spring so darned soon. It’s not officially spring until next week. And two years ago we even had snow in April. But I shouldn’t say “we,” Hubby and I were in South Carolina when that event happened. Soaking up a little sunshine and eating lots of great food. Sigh. Not this year, though. 
Still. Mustn’t grumble. I think I’ll survive. Especially when there are great books to read. And a nice fire to curl up beside. And a lovely Hubby to make dinner while I’m doing all that. 
Ha. It could be so, so much worse.
How about you folks? How are you staying sane until spring arrives? Any good books you want to recommend? Or other helpful coping strategies?


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36 thoughts on “Have Books; Will Survive Winter. Maybe”

  1. Wow,so many new books and writers,thank you!
    I can understand you-winter is too long ( to specify: the real winter,with snow and ice-a lot!-started in February,I've thought we've creeped out ,but no,no
    I am restless waiting,although in the months ahead we expect a lot of rain
    What I've needed were some nice mysteries,although I ended with books like Judas by Amos Oz .
    I've read Jane Harper's The Dry lately (and a lovely novel situated in Italy around 1500 ,The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi by Jacqueline Park-recommended by Frances-a story about the young Jewess and lot of italian history,art and politics ,as added value. It is over 700 pages-longer,when you google people and events :-)-,but she did her research very well)

    1. I'll order the Jane Harper book. Thanks. I love novels set in Australia. Did you enjoy it?
      I'll leave the 700 page one for when I'm less likely to pitch it in a fit of impatience:) I get cranky this time of year…as you can tell. Ha.

    2. The Dry has very good reviews and I was curious to read the mystery set in Australian small city and farms around it
      I've liked it,maybe will order the second one ,but I didn't fall in love 🙂

  2. Hi Sue! I’ve woken up to snow this morning, not as cold as with you -2, feels like -9. 🙂 Having said that, walking home last night, after meeting my daughter for drinks, I honestly thought it didn’t feel that different from the -23 I experienced in Zermatt!! Rekaxing by the fire reading, whilst hubby cooks dinner does sound pretty good! 🙂 I’m curled up in bed with a coffee contemplating making some cinnamon and nutmeg porridge with apricots! Followed by a walk in the snow, then (the worst bit) clearing and defrosting the car to drive to meet my husband at the station …
    You write such enticing reviews of the books you’re reading… I’m particularly keen to read the Peter Lovesey ones, due to their setting in Bath! “Mrs ‘Arris goes to Paris”, definitely sounds like one to try, based on the topic and all the recommendations!
    Soon all the snow will have melted, temperatures risen and you’ll be feet up, sitting on your deck in the sun!! … remembering the crazy temps when we visited Ottawa … you really do experience both extremes!!

    1. A walk sounds wonderful. We've no where to walk at the moment. All the trails are knee deep in snow or ice. Hopefully soon. Once the sun comes out the cold is manageable when you're dressed for it. But oh… I am so tired of my winter boots!

    2. Interesting you mentioned your boots! I’d planned on wearing one of my smarter and higher pairs when I went out last night and “dressing up” a little … …. but ended up wearing my “Swiss snow boots” 🙂 grey jeans and a black cashmere roll neck … being warm and not slipping on the ice was priority!!

  3. Come visit us on the West Coast. Snowdrops, crocuses, and daffs all out together today. And the first cherry blossoms. If you can't get here, then have you tried Margaret Maron's Bootlegger's Daughter series? I lived one year in Ottawa. Didn't love the ice but did love all the blue sky compared to the Vancouver grey and wet.

  4. We have snow here again in England, not a huge amount but it is now very cold and grey. I do not care for unseasonable weather and realised yesterday that, had this appeared on Christmas Eve, we would all have been delighted. Now, merely a chore. Some of these sound fascinating so I shall trudge off to my local library – lucky to have one here in our village – and see what can be selected. Mysteries suit the season, it seems to me. I am waiting to buy myself the latest Neil Gaiman for an Easter trip to Sussex, am toying with reading The Book of Dust, still have The Pickwick Papers on standby next to the bed, a book on Roman Britain by the bath and a good history of the East End next to the loo. To say nothing of China Mieville down in the sitting room. I am nothing but a tart when it comes to reading. Faithless.

  5. We too have snow again when we should have daffodils by now . Plus such a nasty wind , cruel for us dog walkers . So it’s not just you getting weary of the weather . But aren’t we lucky to have our books . I’m on book 12 of D & P , Dalziel is seeming more like a cuddly but bad tempered teddy bear & I'm worried about Peter & Ellie . Peter Lovesey is a favourite too & I’ve been to the fens with Jim Kelly ( Ely is a lovely little spot in real life ). The Paul Gallico book is on the list . A book I can recommend to cheer you up , & laugh out loud even , is Delete This At Your Peril by Neil Forsyth .
    Wendy in York

    1. How I envy you your reading of Hill's novels. His later ones are simply wonderful. I loved the ones with the Franny Roote character. And Weild is my special favourite! I will look for that book at the library. Thanks, Wendy.
      P.S. I don't envy you your daily dog walks in that weather.

  6. Susan, so many good recommendations by you and your readers. Thanks to all. 🙂

    I'm currently enjoying Gabrielle Zevin's 2014 novel, "The Storied Life of AJ Fikry." I bet you have already read it, since it received positive review buzz when it was released. After I recently failed to slog through to the end of an earnest book club selection that was an exercise in suspense — and, sadly, more exercise than suspense — I am appreciating the snappiness with which Zevin has written/edited her novel. When winter hangs on like this, I am not in the mood for backstories that never shut up and prose that drones on forever. As our writing teachers told us, "Show, don't tell!"

    And in the super-lightweight reading class, I recently schussed rapidly through "Crimes Against a Book Club" by Kathy Cooperman. It's definitely not literary, but it tickled my fancy because it's based on an adorable scam-scheme wrought against some untypical victims. I'm making it sound weirder than it is. 😉

    Ann in Missouri

    1. I haven't read the Zevin book, so thanks for the suggestion. And the book club one. Over the years I've found myself being ornery when a book is recommended as a good choice for book clubs…. a description which garners a groan more often than not. I know… so shallow:)

    2. P.S. Just checked out my first Reginald Hill Andrew Dalziel novel today at the local public library. It's "Recalled to Life" published in 1992, which has a good chance of being the earliest Dalziel book in my local library, even if it's not THE first. Thank you so much for pointing me to this author — about whom I'd never, ever heard. Jeez! The stuff I don't know yet is infinite.

      Ann in Missouri

  7. I love your book posts and have gotten so many good recommendations from both you and your readers. I just finished "An American Marriage" and it's the best novel I've read in years. Absolutely stunningly fantastic. A real "don't miss" book. I'm looking for something different to read now – like a mystery, so I'll be taking a look at some of these that you just read and other commenters too. For a good page turner, I really enjoyed "The Woman in the Window" – couldn't put it down.

  8. Ha! (Says the woman under a blanket, surrounded by The New York Times, a long novel (halfway through) and newly purchased Trumpocracy waiting in the queue.)

    I alternate between current events (skyrocketing my blood pressure, which warms me, I suppose) and soothing take-me-away fiction to cool me down.)

    Jeez… Hot and cold. It’s like menopause all over again. !?!#@!!


  9. I've been feeling exactly the same way! For some reason this winter seems endless. I recently finished reading The Nazi Officer's Wife, How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn and I've just started Rising Sun, Falling Shadow, a novel by Daniel Kalla, set in the same era but in Shanghai. I'm a couple of curves behind you, so I'm going to have to have my library bring in Obsessed by Dress and The Thoughtful Dresser!

    1. Hope you like The thoughtful Dresser. It's lighter fare than what you've been reading! Although the opening deals with a pair of red shoes that Linda Grant saw at a museum at Auschwitz. So it does have its serious moments.

  10. Like you will be so glad to see the back of winter. We have had so much snow and it's taking its time to go although the weather is warming up.

    Always enjoy these book posts and your thoughtful insights. Also appreciate the comments as well and have learnt about new authors through you all. I am a book addict and always have to have at least one book on the 'go' at any one time. I like to mix it up between light and more thoughtful and deep reads. I have just read A Lady in Arabia which is a compilation of the diaries and letters written by Gertrude Bell. Although sometimes a challenge to understand time and place as a result of the way the book is structured it gives an insight into the political situation in the middle east today. Have also recently read I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh – a psychological thriller that was a real page turner.

    1. That Gertrude Bell book sounds really interesting. I just Googled her to see if she was any relation to Vanessa Bell's husband, and could find no link between the two women. I've always been fascinated by the Bloomsbury group.
      Gertrude Bell sounds like a formidable woman. I may look to see if our library has that book. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.

    2. I find these intrepid Victorian women explorers fascinating . Isabella Bird is another one . To leave their often restricted home life to travel alone apart from a handful of servants – so different to the usual image of Victorian ‘ ladies ‘.
      Wendy in York

  11. I just finished The Nightingale, which two friends recommended. It was good, but I need something lighter after reading about WWII. Going to pick something from my pile that has no Nazis in it.

    I went out on my 3 mile walk today because the sun was out, but the wind made it SO cold. At least it's light longer now — that's what keeps me going in March.

    1. I hear you. I was on a WWII kick a while ago. I needed a break. Your walk sounds good, except for the wind. Stu and I walked today on a trail where we usually ski. Too icy to ski, and the trees cut the wind, and it was sunny … so it felt great!

  12. Have you read British Golden Age Mystery writer Margery Allingham? She wrote wonderfully eccentric characters. Albert Campion is her detective, in some books, particularly the early ones he is a central character, in others he is more on the periphery and the mysteries are a vehicle for writing about people and places. The Fashion in Shrouds was hailed at the time of publication as being her most literary novel, but my favourite of her books is The Tiger in the Smoke. It's set in fifties London (the Smoke, named for the pea souper fogs) with evocative descriptions of a place and people still feeling battered by World War 2.
    Brrrr, I can't imagine the cold of -15 degrees. We're heading into Autumn here in southern Australia after a dry summer and what we hope will be the last of the bushfires for this season at the weekend. No human lives lost thank goodness, but many houses and livestock burned. The fire authorities are saying fires this late in the season are another manifestation of climate change but we still have politicians who deny it!

    1. I haven'r read any Margery Allingham in years. I must have a look at the library to see what is on their shelves. I'll bet I can also get it in audio… Audible.com has a really good selection.
      Good that the fires are winding down for this year. We were in an area in Victoria which was hit hard by the wildfires in 2003. Only months after the fires it was amazing to see the regeneration. Hard to believe what politicians everywhere will deny, eh?

  13. An extended winter is the perfect time to sit back, slow down and read or re-read a book from the shelf. At the moment the novel 'Queenie' by Michael Korda is keeping me entertained while waiting patiently for the snow to melt…a Roman-a-clef about movie star Merle Oberon and later made into a movie starring Kirk Douglas and Mia Sara the story moves from the Calcutta slums to London to Hollywood during its Golden Age.
    Have bought bouquets of spring flowers to brighten the house and the smell of hyacinths is doing wonders to make me feel spring is not that far away….nibbling on a chocolate truffle Easter egg before a long walk in the sunshine helps the winter doldrums wonderfully too! Cheers, Alayne

    1. I will look for that book. I remember reading about Merle Oberon's performance as Titania when I was researching A Midsummer Night's Dream one year. Think it was in a very old book of my grandmother's… Shakespeare's plays, with photos of various productions.

  14. Just wanted to suggest Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache books which take place in the beautiful Eastern Townships of Québec… We just returned from our second visit to Le Manoir Hovey in North Hatley where the action takes place in a few of the books. Ms. Penny has quite a cult following, among them Hilary Clinton who made the trek en famille to Le Manoir last summer. It's a 3.5 hour drive from Ottawa so doable as an overnight stay…high heels in the wilderness meets haute cuisine on the lake!!

  15. Have been a reader of your blog for a while – first time to comment. I have been reading the "Outlander" series by Diana Gabaldon. I truly did not expect to be so captivated- I normally do not care for "romance" novels…. but these are SO much more than that – fantastic characters and story-telling. The history of the Jacobite rising in Scotland is particularly interesting to me since my highlander ancestors emigrated to Nova Scotia after the Scots were put down.
    Oh, and the mini-series that STARZ is producing is amazingly well-done. Casting is spot on – hard not to love the main characters!

    1. Welcome to the conversation, Christine! Always lovely to see a fellow Maritimer on my blog. I have a Diana Gabaldon sitting unread on my shelf. It was given to me by a graduating student, an avid reader, who adored Gabaldon. I should dig it out and read it! Thanks for reminding me:)

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