Can't believe it's taken me three months to read five books, although I have been doing a load of professional reading for work, which hasn't helped...
#1 John Pritchard How to pray
Borrowed this one from the church reading club, mainly because it looked interesting, short(!) and accessible, and I wasn't far off. It's actually taken me several months to read, mainly because all of the chapters look at a different way of praying and I needed time to absorb them, and to try some of them out. It's the kind of book I wish had been around about 20 years ago, as I'd have found it incredibly helpful as a new Christian. It still is incredibly helpful (there were a few, aha moments as I read it, when something I'd not understood before suddenly became clear - Ignatian prayer, for instance). A lot of it is about establishing a routine, finding out what works for you and slowing down enough for it to take effect. Highly recommended.
#2 Frances Hodgson Burnett The shuttle
I've owned this book since it was published in 2007, but have just never got round to reading it. It's quite chunky, and, as I usually have several books out from the library at a time, I frequently find it hard to fit in books I actually own. Originally published in 1907, it's a fictional account of an American heiress, Rosalie, who marries a minor member of the British aristocracy, principally so that her fortune can restore his house (think Cora's fortune and Downton Abbey). Except it doesn't turn out like that, as her new husband is distressed to discover that her money is under her control, rather than his. What follows is what would now be called domestic abuse. The shuttle in question is the shuttle weaving closer together both sides of the Atlantic, as these marriages become more common. Eventually her sister, Bettina, is old enough to travel to Britain to find out more, and much of the story is taken up with what happens next. I found it a compelling read, contrasting the dynamism and energy of the Americans, with the fairly useless and impoverished British upper classes. It's published by Persephone books, so is a very nice book to look at too!
#3 Elizabeth Jane Howard Marking time
The second book in the Cazalet Chronicles takes us into the Second World War, and the action shifts to follow the new generation of Cazalets, who are mostly in their teens. They all have their own worries, Christopher is a pacifist, Louise is desperate to be an actress, Polly is worried about what the adults aren't telling her, and Clary is worried about her father, after he goes missing in France. I love the detail that is observed in these books, from the details of dinners (particularly catering for a house of that size) to the difference the war makes to everyone's lives, the petty inconveniences, combined with moments when it comes closer to home.
#4 Margaret Attwood Maddaddam
The final part of the trilogy, started in Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, it fleshes out the story in the other two novels by giving a different perspective, and then moving the action on a little bit. I struggled a bit initially with what was happening, as it's a while since I read the first couple of novels (2004 and 2010 respectively, thanks LibraryThing!), and, although there is a short recap at the beginning, it still took quite a lot to jump into the dystopian world and have a vague idea what was going on. I did eventually get into it properly. It follows what happens after most of the population of the earth has been wiped out by a mysterious illness, and the few people who are left have to work out what they're doing. I didn't enjoy it as much as the other two - the idea is good, but it feels like it's now been overdone?
#5 Amy Bratley The girls' guide to homemaking
Chick-lit, with added sewing! ;-) This was being passed around at knitting group and I grabbed it to read as a bit of a change after the last book(!). It follows the usual chick-lit type saga, newly single girl can't work out what she's doing with her life, discovers a talent for making aprons (OK, that doesn't happen in most of them), falls over the man of her dreams (why does that always happen?) although she doesn't realise it at the time (again, they never do) and it all gets resolved in the end. Still, a fun read, although I get annoyed when they are so so unrealistic - since when has a single woman supporting herself by making aprons been able to buy a flat in Islington, even with a deposit?! But it's chick-lit, I'm not supposed to think about things like that!