A Bookish Interlude

wpid-cam01528.jpgTime for another bit of some bookish goodness before I continue on with more photos from my trip to France.

So, here we go…. I managed to grab these from a recent book sales where everything was going for RM5 (that would be less than a pound, and slightly more than a US dollar each, based on the current exchange rate). As you can see, I have certainly gotten more than my money’s worth here.

Hidden Cities : Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises (by Moses Gates)
In this fascinating glimpse into the world of urban exploration, Moses Gates describes his trespasses in some of the most illustrious cities in the world from Paris to Cairo to Moscow.

Gates is a new breed of adventurer for the 21st century. He thrives on the thrill of seeing what others do not see, let alone even know exists. It all began quite innocuously. After moving to New York City and pursuing graduate studies in Urban Planning, he began unearthing hidden facets of the city—abandoned structures, disused subway stops, incredible rooftop views that belonged to cordoned-off buildings.

Sounds like something that is off the beaten track, but I think I’d prefer to do the ‘exploring’ from the safety of my home and leave the trespassing for someone else to do. 😉

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie (by Wendy McClure)
“… an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones—and find that our old love has only deepened.”
And I find the premise of this book rather appealing even though I have to admit that I have never read Little House on The Prairie before.

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse (by Thomas McNamee)
Described as ‘… the first authorized biography of Alice Waters (the mother of American cooking, and the person responsible for introducing Americans to goat cheese and cappuccino). Looking forward to this.

No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence (by Emily Herring Wilson)
I have not heard of Elizabeth Lawrence before but after coming across this book, I have a feeling I will be hunting down her books on garden writing as well as her correspondence with Katherine S. White, the legendary editor at The New Yorker, wife of E.B. White, and fellow garden enthusiast in Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence–A Friendship in Letters. (I can hear the shelves groaning already.)

Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small (by Rita Mae Brown)
I have been wanting to read her infamous Rubyfruit Jungle for some time now, but somehow have yet to do so. Maybe I’ll start with this instead.

The Last Days of Haute Cuisine: The Coming of Age of American Restaurants (by Patric Kuh)
Chef and food writer Patric Kuh offers an excellent, clear-eyed look at the death of old-fashioned American restaurants and the advent of a new kind of eating. Kuh takes readers inside this high-stakes business, sharing little-known anecdotes, describing legendary cooks and bright new star chefs, and relating his own reminiscences. Populated by a host of food personalities, including Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, and James Beard, Kuh’s social and cultural history of America’s great restaurants reveals the dramatic transformations in U.S. cuisine.
This should go well as a companion read with the Alice Waters.

Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley)
As most of you would have already known, I love reading letters. So, this was a no-brainer for me.

Same goes for Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (edited by Irving Stone).

The Memory Chalet (by Tony Judt)
A memoir in the form of essays, composed when the acclaimed historian was paralyzed with a devastating illness that finally took his life, this book seems like a poignant read. I love the book cover. Reminds me of Christmas. Or maybe something from Agatha Christie….

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Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride (by Alyssa Harad)
Perfumes are not something that I can enjoy in real life but in the realm of words, I think it should be more pleasurable.

I managed to bring home two very interesting books by Simon Garfield, one is about maps, On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks, and the other is about fonts, Just My Type: A Book About Fonts. Has anyone here read them yet?

The Beauvoir Sisters: An Intimate Look at How Simone and Hélène Influenced Each Other and the World (by Claudine Monteil)
This was an unexpected find, and is one that I am rather excited about.

Sprinkled with astounding fragments of conversations Monteil witnessed firsthand between Simone, Jean Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, and other luminaries, the sisters’ story is told by a woman who had the distinct privilege of belonging to their intimate circle of friends and who has been a leading figure in France’s women’s movement since the 1960s. Spanning the period between World War I and Helen’s death in 2001, The Beauvoir Sisters is also the story of an era, as Monteil immerses the reader in the artistic and intellectual life of twentieth-century Paris, the effects of the Cold War, and the feminist movement in France and in the United States.

Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s Past, One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time (by Lisa Tracy)
Am very thrilled with this find. Sounds just like the kind of book I’d love to read.
After their mother’s death, Lisa Tracy and her sister, Jeanne, are left to contend with several households’ worth of furniture and memorabilia, much of it accumulated during their family’s many decades of military service in far-flung outposts from the American frontier to the World War Two–era Pacific. In this engaging and deeply moving book, Tracy chronicles the wondrous interior life of those possessions and discovers that the roots of our passion for acquisition often lie not in shallow materialism but in our desire to possess the most treasured commodity of all: a connection to the past.”

One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces (by Ann Voskamp)
A devotional comprising of sixty reflections on how in the world do we find real joy and experience grace in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and all the daily duties.

Photos: Style Recipes (by Samantha Moss & David Matheson)
An inspiring volume that gives one plenty of ideas on how to tastefully decorate one’s living space with photos. Am looking forward to be inspired into action. 🙂

wpid-cam01533.jpgI don’t often read graphic novels but came across two really interesting volumes that look really appealing to me. Feynman by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick, and Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (whose works I’m fast becoming a fan of). While one is a biography of one the greatest minds of the twentieth century, the other is an honest, thoughtful and funny memoir of a talented young cartoonist who loves food. Being the daughter of a chef and a gourmet probably played a large part in fuelling that passion.

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The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World (by Sophia Dembling)
A book that’s just right up my alley.

I have read good things about Patrick Gale’s works before but have yet to read any until now. And amazingly, I have already actually finished reading one of the two books of his that I found at the sales, which is something that doesn’t happen very often. I seldom read my new purchases that soon (as I feel that it’s some sort of an injustice to the others who have been queuing in the long line of TBRs), but had simply found The Cat Sanctuary to be very readable and hard to put down. I loved it.

Now I am half tempted to move on to the next book of his, The Whole Day Through, a bittersweet love story, told from the events of a single summer’s day.

Calvin Trillin’s About Alice is a moving portrait of the writer’s devastating loss of his beloved wife Alice. The dedication of the first book he published after her death read, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.” I have only read some of his essays on food so far, this will certainly be something else.

I was really happy to spot a copy of the Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume Two, The Defining Years, 1933-1938 to add on to the first volume which I had gotten from last year’s sales.

William Trevor’s Two Lives is actually made up of two novels, Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria. Getting two for the price of one is certainly incentive for me to try Trevor again as I seem to have failed to get on with his writing before.

The Maine Woods is Henry David Thoreau’s account on the three trips that he made to the largely unexplored woods of Maine over a three year period. He climbed mountains, paddled a canoe by moonlight, and dined on cedar beer, hemlock tea and moose lips while taking notes constantly. This should be interesting.

The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Work
In this unique collection scores of these literary legatees from the U.S. and around the world take the measure of Twain and his genius, among them: José Martí, Rudyard Kipling, Theodor Herzl, George Bernard Shaw, H. L. Mencken, Helen Keller, Jorge Luis Borges, Sterling Brown, George Orwell, T. S. Eliot, Richard Wright, W. H. Auden, Ralph Ellison, Kenzaburo Oe, Robert Penn Warren, Ursula Le Guin, Norman Mailer, Erica Jong, Gore Vidal, David Bradley, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Min Jin Lee, Roy Blount, Jr., and many others (including actor Hal Holbrook, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, stand-up comedians Dick Gregory and Will Rogers, and presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Barack Obama).

The Maid and The Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc by Nancy Goldstone.
Having just been to view the site where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in Rouen during my recent trip to France, this book appeals much at the moment.

And last but certainly not least, Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. This one probably needs no introduction as most of you would have either read or heard of it. I am actually more interested in her Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby but until I get my hands on a copy of that, I think I should content myself with this first.

Any of these appeals to any of you? 🙂

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The Loot (part 1)

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So, the shutters have finally come down on the biggest book sale in the world, and after all the hustling and bustling (and trolley dragging) in the last 10 over days, here is the bounty that was gotten from the many hours of happy book hunting I had.

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The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 by Molly Peacock.
This book in itself is an object of beauty.  It is a treat just to hold the book and caress its pages while your eyes are being treated to the beautiful illustrations & inspiring story of Mary Delany, the artist who begins her life’s work at the ripe old age of 72, back in the 1770s. Guess there’s still hope for all of us then? :p

Christopher Lloyd’s In My Garden is a compilation of Lloyd’s garden prose collected from his weekly column in the “Country Life” since 1963. Although I am no gardener myself, and do not enjoy any form of physical gardening chores, somehow I seemed to have developed a fascination for reading about them. Strange, I know. Some sort of ‘armchair gardening’ perhaps?

Culinary Pleasures by Nicola Humble “takes a unique look at Britain’s culinary evolution – a journey expressed through the development of its cook books. This remarkably accessible book spans the diverse panorama of British cooking from Mrs. Beeton to nouvelle cuisine concluding with the rise of the celebrity chef and the emergence of cuisine in all its familiar modernity”. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Milan Kundera’s The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts is said to be a thought-provoking yet entertaining essay on the art of the novel. As yet, I have not read any of Kundera’s works and though I still feel a little intimidated, this one does seem like a not-too-bad place to start.

Just by reading the title of Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana would have left me thinking that it’s a fantasy or sci-fi book and not something that would interest me. Who would have thought that it’s actually about a “sixtyish rare-book dealer who lives in Milan, has suffered a loss of memory- he can remember the plot of every book he has ever read, every line of poetry, but he no longer knows his own name, doesn’t recognize his wife or his daughters, and remembers nothing about his parents or his childhood. In an effort to retrieve his past, he withdraws to the family home somewhere in the hills between Milan and Turin.There, in the sprawling attic, he searches through boxes of old newspapers, comics, records, photo albums, and adolescent diaries. And so Yambo relives the story of his generation: Mussolini, Catholic education and guilt, Josephine Baker, Flash Gordon, Fred Astaire. His memories run wild, and the life racing before his eyes takes the form of a graphic novel. Yambo struggles through the frames to capture one simple, innocent image: that of his first love.” 
Now, I am definitely interested!

Henry James: The Matured Master by Sheldon M. Novick is described as the definitive biography of one of the world’s most gifted but least understood authors. Using hundreds of letters only recently made available and taking a fresh look at primary materials, Novick reveals a man utterly unlike the passive, repressed, and privileged observer painted by other biographers. Henry James is seen anew, as a passionate and engaged man of his times, driven to achieve greatness and fame, drawn to the company of other men, able to write with sensitivity about women as he shared their experiences of love and family responsibility.

The English Lakes: A History by Ian Thompson is a good one for doing some armchair travelling around England’s Lake District. So is The Paris Book: Highlights of A Fascinating City, in which every page is filled with breathtaking images capturing the essence of the city. This is one real treat that is bound to make every Francophile squeal with delight. 🙂

Carol Drinkwater’s Return To The Olive Farm is part of her series of memoirs recounting her adventures in running an organic farm in Provence, France. I have not read any of her other memoirs yet, though.

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Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand (illustrated by Edward Ardizzone) was added into the bag simply because I fell in love with the pretty little edition it came in. And having it illustrated by Edward Ardizzone was probably part of the reason why it looked so pretty.

Another little book on travel – IDEO Eyes Open: London, filled with fresh new inspiring images of the city.

The Queen’s Agent: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England by John Cooper is ‘…. a story of secret agents, cryptic codes and ingenious plots, set in a turbulent period of England’s history. It is also the story of a man devoted to his queen, sacrificing his every waking hour to save the threatened English state.’ I’m intrigued.

The Real Jane Austen: A Life In Small Things  by Paula Byrne.
I have another one of her biographies on Evelyn Waugh which I have yet to read (as usual) but somehow know that I will regret if I don’t pick this up as well. It was also the one and only copy I managed to come across in the entire sale. So I guess it’s meant to be.

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle.
‘A new trend in biography is to profile the woman behind the man. In the case of the immensely talented and tragically infamous Oscar Wilde, that woman was the beautiful, intelligent, and forward-thinking Constance Lloyd Wilde.’ I have not heard of Constance Lloyd Wilde before, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to read her story. Has anyone here read this yet?

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A White’s Fine Edition of Sherlock Holmes: His Greatest Cases by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The reason for this purchase is mainly because it was ridiculously low priced. Only at RM8 (roughly at USD2.40?), the same price as all those other paperbacks I got from the sale. The acid-free pages also sounded very good, as it is rather hard trying to keep the pages of books from developing those dreaded yellow spots over time, due to the humid climate over here. I wonder if acid-free papers will help with that. I hope it does.

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H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to An Experiment in Autobiography by H.G. Wells
I am not into futuristic, sci-fi books and so have never felt compelled to read any H.G. Wells so far. ‘I was never a great amorist,’ wrote H. G. Wells in his Experiment in Autobiography in 1934, ‘though I have loved several people very deeply.’ This, however, I am very interested to read.

Death and The Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart by Chris Skidmore.
I got interested in this one because I read a review saying that it reads like an Agatha Christie mystery. Chris Skidmore takes a fresh look at the familiar story of a queen with the stomach of a man, steadfastly refusing to marry for the sake of her realm, and reveals a very different picture: of a vulnerable young woman, in love with her suitor, Robert Dudley.

I have been collecting several of Jan Morris’s books on travel writing, so it only makes sense to add this one to the stacks as well – Coast to Coast: A Journey Across 1950s America.

Next is a slim volume of Monet (Life and Times) by Matthias Arnold, followed by a Vintage Classics edition of Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day. I have so far only read one complete novel of Woolf’s, which is Mrs Dalloway, but have been collecting quite a few of her other novels, essays, letters and diaries. This one is going to feel right at home with the rest of them, no worries. 

Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition edited by Hemingway’s grandson, Sean Hemingway, is an edition which claims to ‘present the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.’ While some are of the opinion that the original version is better than this ‘restored’ edition, the real plus points for getting this restored edition would be the inclusion of new, previously unpublished chapters included after the main text, called “Additional Paris Sketches.”

Some time last year, I had listened to the audiobook of David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans In Parisand loved it. The story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, and others who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, hungry to learn and to excel in their work, is so skillfully told, and with such vivid details that the Paris of the 19th century, is brought to life within these pages. Many of the details and stories in the book have slipped me by, especially since I had only caught them by ear in the first instance, so acquiring a copy of this seemed like the only sensible thing to do. This is really one highly readable piece of history writing, and I can’t recommend it enough.

And with that, I think I should end the post for this first part of the loot. Too much of a good thing might end up being not so good a thing, although I don’t think this should apply to books. :p

Anyway, what I have just shared here are the books I picked up on the first three trips I made to the sale. I must say that the final two days of the sale were even more fun! So, stay tuned. 😉

The joy of new books!

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Behold, my latest batch of beauties to join in the stacks!

And they couldn’t have come at a better price, only RM5 each (equivalent to USD1.60 or £1) save the Orhan Pamuk, and they’re all new as well! These were all picked up from the recent Aftermath Sales of the same fantastic book sales I went to at the end of last year.

I was thrilled to find a copy of Raymond Carver’s collection of short stories Will You Please Be Quiet, Please as I have been really curious to try out his writing, ever since havong read a particularly convincing piece of review on one of his collections on a blog some time ago. And so having gotten my hands on it, I wasted no time in diving straight in, but only to find myself feeling somewhat disappointed with what I found. Maybe this being his first collection of stories, one could say that I should still give him another try, and maybe I will. But as it is, I am already struggling to finish the remaining stories in here. I don’t doubt that Carver is a good writer, it’s just that I didn’t quite like the taste I’m left with at the end of each story.

Doris Lessing is another writer whose short stories I have been wanting to sample. And from what I’ve managed to glean to so far, I think there’s a possibility that we just might get along much better. Anyway, here’s hoping for a more rewarding journey To Room Nineteen.

Next up, two biographies of two formidable & accomplished women, both of whom I am unfamiliar with but am highly interested to learn more about now. Charlotte Mew and Her Friends by Penelope Fitzgerald is said to be an “…. unexpectedly gripping portrait of Bloomsbury’s saddest poet”. The poet whom Thomas Hardy had once declared being ‘far and away the best living woman poet’ of the twentieth century, has a tragic tale to tell. “To all appearances, she was a dutiful daughter living at home with a monster of an old mother. The proprieties had to be observed and no one must know that the Mews had no money, that two siblings were insane and that Charlotte was a secret lesbian, living a life of self-inflicted frustration. Despite literary success and a passionate, enchanting personality, eventually the conflicts within her drove her to despair, and she killed herself by swallowing household disinfectant.” 
Would anyone here be familiar with her poetry, by any chance?

Norah Lindsay: The Life And Art of a Garden Designer by Allyson Hayward, is the other formidable personality I am curious to be acquainted with. This lovely coffee table book tells the story of famous English garden designer, Norah Lindsay’s life and work, who interestingly just began her career at the age of 51 after finding herself with “no husband, no money, no home…..” as she wrote a friend. Her commissions ranged from the gardens of quiet English manor houses to the grand estates of the country house set, to royal gardens in Italy, France and Yugoslavia. She gardened in different soils and varied climates across all of England and throughout Europe. All this time she managed to give the impression that she remained ‘a social butterfly, a gadfly’.  The truth is that although she dined at the tables of the rich, the next day she would be up at dawn to work with their gardeners.”  I am really interested to read about this esteemed gardener whose circle of upper-class friends included the likes of Winston Churchill, the Prince of Wales and Edith Wharton. The book also comes with a fair amount of photographs of the prized gardens. This had to be the bargain of the day (or year!) considering the price I paid for it!

I was also very pleased at finding a good few books on travel writing (one of my favourite genres) at the sale. Two Patrick Leigh Fermor  ‘A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods & the Water’, a Paul Theroux ‘The Tao of Travel’,  W.G Sebald’s ‘The Rings of Saturn’, Robert Byron’s classic The Road to Oxiana and an anthology of travel stories in Escape: Stories of Getting Away The anthology is made up of contributions from a rather impressive list of writers such as Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Parsons, Vladimir Nabokov, Issac Bashevis Singer, John Updike, Michael Chabon, Jamaica Kincaid, D.H. Lawrence, Sylvia Townsend Warner and a few others. ‘Who doesn’t dream of escape, whether to defy the strictures of a conventional or restricted life, to outrun the fates, to pursue an extraordinary goal, or, most inevitably, to distance oneself from the suffering, loss, and pain that unavoidably bear down on our lives. Now Escape is the first collection to bring together a wide array of the very finest stories about this universal impulse.’
I think there’s gonna be some really good stuff in there.

I also got myself a copy of Favourite Sherlock Holmes Stories handpicked by the author himself (Conan Doyle) and Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales which somehow appealed very much to me in that particular edition I found it in. Skimming through the pages, I realised just how little I had managed to retain of all those fairy tales I vaguely remember reading. It’s time for a refresher, I think.

I had been on the lookout for D.E Stevenson’s Mrs Tim of the Regiment for quite a long time now, and was naturally delighted to find a solitary copy among the stacks on that day. Jane Gleeson-White is new to me, but her Classics: Books for Life, both look and sound good to me and so it found its way home with me as well. And lastly, Orhan Pamuk’s Other Colours. Pamuk has been on my ‘intend to read’ list for some time now, and this collection of essays (and a story) sounds as good as any place to start with.

 
Oh, the joy of new books!

🙂

The Plan (or something like that….)

Looking at how my TBR pile is getting way out of control, I think it’s time I come up with a plan of some sort. I have never really had the habit of making lists of books that I plan to read, but I feel that it might be a good idea to do so now. It will  probably help me to have some kind of a structure whereby manageable “reading goals” can be better met, I think. So this year, here’s to giving it a try!

First In First Out or Last In First Out?

If it’s gonna be FIFO, then I should be well reading these few oldest occupants on the shelf :

  • The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
  • The Accidental by Ali Smith
  • Stiff by Mary Roach
  • The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton
  • Fresh-Air Fiend by Paul Theroux
  • My Sergei : A Love Story by Ekaterina Gordeeva

But if it’s LIFO (and you know how it is with current fascinations, you just can’t wait to dive into them), then this would be the stack to tackle :

  • Violet to Vita : The Letters of Violet  Trefussis to Vita Sackville West
  • The Secret Self : Short Stories by Women
  • In Tearing Haste : Letters Between Deborah Devonshire & Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • All Passion Spent by V. Sackville West
  • Wish Her Safe At Home by Stephan Benatar
  • The Reader by Ali Smith
  • On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad (bought on account of Danielle’s high praises)

And while I am deciding between the two, here’s also the ‘already-planned-to-read’ stack :

  • Life Mask by Emma Donoghue
  • The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  • The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
  • a couple from the Bronte sisters’ collection
  • The Hound of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Then there’s also the ‘already-started-and-stopped-but-need -to-get-back-to’ pile :

  • The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton
  • Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks & Micah Sparks
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • In Europe by Geert Mak
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by James Boswell

 

There are also a few tomes which I plan (& hope) to be dipping into regularly :

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  • Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker
  • Words In Air : The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop & Robert Lowell
  • Classics For Pleasure by Michael Dirda
  • Bound to Please by Michael Dirda
  • Seeing Further : The Story of Science & The Royal Society edited by Bill Bryson
  • The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

And last but not least, the stack of gems I am most looking forward to reading :

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  • The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
  • Prague Tales by Jan Neruda (already started)
  • Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker (highly recommended by Stuck in A Book’s Simon)
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (already started)
  • I’ll Stand By You : Letters by Sylvia Townsend Warner & Valentine Ackland
  • In Tearing Haste : Letters Between Deborah Devonshire & Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • Wait For Me by Deborah Devonshire

Just realised there’s two of them (The Odd Women & In Tearing Haste) which had appeared in one of the earlier stacks too. Guess this makes them definite must-reads, no? 😉

So there you have it, that’s the plan ……for now.