Hunkering Down With My Book

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I’ve been doing a lot of hunkering, lately, my friends. Curled up in front of the fire at home. Or, when I was at my mum’s, stretched out on the bed with a pillow under my knees and the heating pad at my back. In both cases I had, and have, my nose stuck in a book. Even without the back and hip issues, it’s hunkering down with a good book season.

Saint John river in New Brunswick in early winter
Hunkering down weather, in New Brunswick

When I was at my mum’s place I read Peter Robinson’s latest Superintendent Banks mystery, Many Rivers to Cross. I really enjoyed it, despite the occasional spout of exasperation at Robinson’s infatuation with music. I am not adverse to background description. In fact, I love an author who uses the details of sky and sea and rolling hills to set the mood. But I think that Robinson overdoes the musical name-dropping sometimes. Still, that might just be me, since based on my ignorance of most of the artists, albums, and songs he mentions, I’m a total musical cretin.

Otherwise I loved the book. Especially since it started out in Croatia, with two characters sipping wine on a hillside overlooking the Adriatic and gazing out at the views of the Istrian peninsula. The main plot, however, takes place back in England and involves the murder of a young refugee boy, drug runners, and slimy rich bastards (if you’ll forgive the profanity) who care only about money, not human lives. The secondary plot involves a returning character named Zelda, a woman who was once the victim of sex-traffickers, and now helps the authorities bring them to justice. We met Zelda in Robinson’s last book when she moved in with Annie’s artist father, Ray. I like that Robinson is expanding his stock of returning characters to include Annie’s extended family. I find the relationship between Ray and Zelda interesting and quite endearing.

Overall, I was captivated by this latest installment in Robinson’s Superintendent Banks series. Which was great considering that I was in pain at the time. Tea and a good book definitely are the cure for most evils, I think. Even if only temporarily.

Rideau River in early winter
And in Ontario.

Both Hubby and I are loving Peter May’s China series. These aren’t new books by any means, and I can’t figure out why we’ve never read them. Too engrossed in the Lewis trilogy and what followed, I guess, to reach back to an earlier series. Peter May is one of the best crime and mystery writers around, in my opinion. His Lewis trilogy is one of my all time favourites, which you’ll know if you’ve been reading my book posts for a while.

The first installment of the China series is The Firemaker. Set in Beijing, the story centers around Chinese police detective Li Yan, and Margaret Campbell a visiting American forensic pathologist, and involves corruption, murder, and a love story. This all sounds like the cliché thriller which I guess is why I’d never picked it up before. I am not a fan of classic thrillers, preferring my chase scenes to be more cerebral than vehicular. Ha. What convinced me to read this book was the introduction, written by Peter May himself, in which he describes his many visits to China and to Beijing, and his growing fascination and love for the country.

Let’s just say you will not be disappointed by this book. I wasn’t. I spent a ton of time while I was reading it following up on various events and places mentioned in the book, and reading about the cultural revolution and Chinese history. Talk about falling down a reading rabbit hole. I’m now listening to the second book, The Fourth Sacrifice, on Audible, and I can’t decide if I will listen to or read the third one. There are six in total. Oh, happy day. Too bad that Hubby has read the first book already, I could have bought him the box set of the whole series for Christmas.

small tracks in the snow on the river
We’ve had a visitor, it seems.

I’ve been reading some “best of” lists lately, and found a few names of writers I thought I’d try. I subscribe to an on-line journal called Crime Reads. Mostly because my former student Sara Weinman, who I’ve mentioned before on the blog, writes for them sometimes. When she’s not writing her own books that is. Crime Reads recently published a list of the best crime fiction of the decade. The Crime Reads list is a little too American-centered, in my opinion, with not enough representation from other countries. I guess this is understandable since it is an American publication, but I still feel they might make a bigger effort to look further afield. But I did find a few names of writers whose work I intend to try.

Hubby and I both read Unravelling Oliver by Irish writer Liz Nugent. Nugent is a new writer for me. Unravelling Oliver is not a murder mystery, but an unravelling of why a crime took place, not about who did it. Why does “handsome, charismatic, and successful” Oliver, writer of award-wining children’s books, beat his wife almost to death? Why indeed? Nugent unravels the truth of Oliver’s unravelling through first-person narrative from several perspectives which jump back and forth in time between Oliver’s childhood and adolescence, and present day. While not a classic murder mystery, there’s still lots of mystery. This book is what Sara would call an example of domestic noir… creepy things happening on the home front, people. Ha. Neither Hubby nor I could put the darned book down once we started. I’ll be looking for more from this author in future.

our garden all ready for winter
Hubby’s garden has been put to bed for the winter.

So it’s that time of year my friends. Not time yet for feverish Christmas preparation. At least not at our house. Although we did go to cut our Christmas tree earlier this week. We met this lovely fellow, below. I am a sucker for a draft horse, growing up on the farm as I did with my step-father’s two horses. His team, as he always called them. There’s just something so …well… kind looking and noble about a work horse, I’ve always thought. Ours at home on the farm did not do so much work as they did stand in the field and wait to be petted. But my step-father did take the team to the woods each year around this time, to haul the wood he’d cut. And we always hitched Myrt to the sled to go and get our Christmas tree.

lovely Clydesdale horse
Parker has his winter coat on.

Hubby is also cutting and stacking wood these days. Although without the aid of a horse. He loves doing this. Good thing we have somewhere to burn it. We’re enjoying nightly fires, now that the winter weather has come. And I’ve been doing some Christmas shopping although we don’t really do the big gift-y thing anymore. More like the little gift-y thing. Since according to Hubby I have everything any woman could possibly want. Ha.

woodpile all ready for winter
Hubby’s wood pile. Time for early darkness and wood fires.

For us Christmas preparations will begin in earnest in a week or so. The baking and decorating, and feverish outfit planning. Right now we’re enjoying the lull. When darkness falls in late afternoon, you’ll find us hunkering down in front of the fire with a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, and a good book. Or three.

What about you, my friends?

You can find all the books I’ve recommended on Amazon. If you buy a book after clicking on my link, I’ll earn a small commission at not extra cost to you.

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36 thoughts on “Hunkering Down With My Book”

  1. I second hunkering down with a good book by the wood stove, best way to pass these long winter nights. It gets even better when the dog decides to share the couch with me. I always enjoy your recommendations, so will have to check these out.

  2. Oh good , a book post . I’ve had my eye on that Peter Robinson but the reviews have been poor . I’ve been a little disappointed in his later books but if you say it’s worth reading it can’t be bad . I always like the characters – & the setting of course . Will look at the Liz Nugent book . I’m still in the fens with Jim Kelly . I’ve started the Shaw & Valentine series & I’m really enjoying it . Always good to find a new series of murders to go at . I’ve just finished the three Phillipe Georget books that Frances recommended & they were very good too .
    Interesting to see the working area of your garden even if it is asleep . Could we see a pic of it wide awake sometime ? Love Parker & that’s a beautifully composed photo of him . We will be having a quieter Xmas season this year. Hubby has an operation next Monday , nothing life threatening , which will take a few weeks to get over . So there is lots of hunkering down planned here . On the plus side we’ve got out of entertaining the family & my sisters are taking it on . Hope your back picks up for your partying .

    1. I really liked this latest Robinson. Better than the last. The subplot around the character of Zelda is great, I think. I love the Jim Kelly books. Wish he’d add to the Kelly and Valentine series soon. I really like Valentine’s character.
      P.S. I’ll try to remember to take a shot of the garden when it’s a bit more lively.
      P.P.S. Hope Max is over the hardest part of recovery by Christmas.

  3. I feel much the same way. Currently reading Middlemarch, very slowly. Never read it but promised to do so for a friend whose favourite book it is and I said I’d give it 50 pages. So far have given it almost 100. And re-reading Lord Peter Wimseys. And a biography of poor Isabella Blow, socialite, muse and general hot mess, who died a few years ago. It’s an interesting variety, I must say. On the one hand comforting and interesting, on the other rather like taking a brisk walk for the good of one’s health. Spoiler: I dislike Dorothea Brooke very much. And yes, tea and a book is an excellent temporary measure because both allow the brain to formulate a longer term plan.

    1. Isabella Blow was definitely unique, wasn’t she? I remember when she died. I must try to read the occasional “good” book from the long list which I have been avoiding for years. Not sure I can bring myself to do that, though.

  4. Hunkering down…sounds wonderful and I love your mindset. I can almost imagine your cozy spot near your fireplace, reading late day or anytime for that matter. In my case it’s usually 5:00 am. I can’t sleep and I keep toddler hours. 😉 I have a quiet house, no CNN or CBC blaring …grrrrr.
    I’m sitting by my Dickens Village which is displayed for Xmas and I’m enjoying my first cup coffee. I’ve started reading the third book of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. I think, I picked up this author from your blog.
    We are having snow today in my area…a good reason to finish my Xmas decorating …or read!

  5. I got so excited when I saw on IG that you had a new post up on books, I couldn’t decide whether to read the post last night, or this morning. Decided on the morning and just ordered 5 books – for my husband and me.
    Your recommendations have been outstanding. My husband is a huge Peter May fan, but I haven’t read him – Coffin Road is on my nightstand. I know what you mean about a “good” book, but I’m just hooked on mysteries…Thanks!

  6. Very happy to receive your book suggestions. Just in time for Christmas. A hubby who loves crime series will be overjoyed at “my choices” for his Christmas gifts !

  7. Just picked up Lindsey Hilsum’s book In Extremis – The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin.

    Love the photo of Parker. Work horses are often so noble looking. Perhaps my affinity for them is because my grandfather made horse-drawn deliveries in London. While out on a delivery with his horse (1939), he suffered a stroke while in his wagon. At its own direction, crossing a bridge over the Thames, the horse returned to its work stable with my grandfather’s body. I’ve always found that terribly poignant.

  8. Oh,happy day indeed! You’ve introduced me to Peter May and I love,love his books. And new Peter Robinson’s book-for the obvious reasons!Looking forward to January,when is my usual hunkering time of the year-I don’t know why is this time of year so busy,not just socializing,but really busy and overwhelming
    Hubby did an amazing job for “sitting down by the fire and read” thing!
    I’ve finished Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt-sometimes politically incorrect,I don’t know if other professions would find it funny (and sad at the same time)
    Dottoressa

    1. We are trying to delay the overwhelming part of the season until next week. I think that This Is Going to Hurt sounds like a great book. I read the reviews when you mentioned it in your e-mail.

  9. Thank you for the recommendations. I’m off to my book group at my local library this morning and I will see what they have by Peter May. I’ve also found Unravelling Oliver as an audiobook on BorrowBox and I’ve reserved it.

  10. As always really enjoy your book posts and always pick up some new to me books/authors. There is nothing like sitting by the fire on a cold evening with a good book. I am about to start a Patricia Wentworth book whose name I picked up from your blog. I have just read a new to me author, Abir Mukerjee. A detective story set in Calcutta in 1919. Not heavy reading but enjoyable.

    1. I’m reading a Patricia Wentworth myself this week. It’s a necessary gentle read after having just finished a difficult book. I will look for that book set in Calcutta in 1919. Sounds like it’s right up my street.

  11. I am so bad about books lately. I tend to read news, news and more news. By its nature, daily news is incremental. So I am spending huge amounts of time keeping up with details that won’t matter in the long run, yet I want to be informed. Must find a better way.
    I have two books I want to read: Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi, the Man Booker winner, and Chanson Douce, by Leïla Slmani, which I want to read in the original French. But somehow an orange-haired clown takes up all my attention.
    For an adrenalin rush, I recommend the Spanish Netflix series “Casa del Papel,” or “Money Heist” in English.

    1. I try very hard to get away from the 24 hour news cycle… Hubby is now addicted to MSNBC as well as CBC news network here in Canada. I listen for a bit then bury myself in a murder mystery. Not sure if the two events are related. Ha.

  12. I wanted to thank you for your book recommendations. I have very much enjoyed all of the books I’ve read on your suggestion.

  13. Strange, I had to switch to google chrome browser to see comments.
    I’m just starting the Louise Penny series. (Inspector Armand Gamache) I heard they need to be read in order. Also just finishing up The German Midwife.
    Thank you for the new titles I will look into.

    1. Hmm. Not sure why that happened, Kelly. I just checked and I could see the comments on my i-phone without Goggle Chrome. What browser were you were previously using?

  14. Microsoft Edge that comes with Win.10
    I did do a little research on a MS forum, it seems Edge does not work well with WordPress blogs. Not sure if that is what you use.

    1. Thanks Kelly. I will look into that. I know when I got my computer with Windows 10, I downloaded Google Chrome and use it exclusively as my browser now, even on my i-pad. I’ve never heard of “Edge” but I’ll ask my tech guys about it.
      P.S. I received your earlier comment, but Word Press popped it into the “moderation” folder. Probably because of the links. I just now saw it. 🙂

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