Sunday, 14 May 2017

More catching up...

Yet again I'm behind on reviews. Since the beginning of May I've read three books and not had a moment to review any of them... admittedly I have been away for a week in Cornwall so that explains it a bit. So, this is yet another catch up post from me.

First up, The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths.

Ruth Galloway's new-age, Druid friend, Cathbad is cat sitting in the historical village of Walsingham in Norfolk. Out searching fot the cat one dark night he sees a vision of a woman in blue in the graveyard. Cathbad being Cathbad this doesn't bother him much until a body is discovered in a ditch and it's a woman, or 'the' woman in blue. DCI Nelson is brought in to investigate and it's not long until Ruth is brought in too via a friend who's a female priest who's been recieving hate mail. Ruth's not thrilled about this: Ruth and Nelson's daughter, Kate, is now five but Ruth has still not really come to terms with her feelings for her married daughter's father. Why does life have to be so damn complicated? Yet another superb instalment of Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series. I've loved every single one and this was no exception. I love the humour in them, the mysteries are always historically based, which suits me, and although I find Ruth and Nelson's relationship a bit frustrating... it's real. Life is messy like that for some, there are no easy answers and Ruth's struggles make me feel so sorry for her. Long may this series reign.


Next, Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuval.

A young girl, Rose, is desperate to try out her new birthday present, a bike. She rides it into the woods at Deadwood, South Dakota, and literally falls through the ground, into a giant metal hand. Many years on and Rose is a prominent scientist in charge of the project to recover the separate parts of what turns out to be a giant robot, buried thousands of years ago... but by whom? Not saying any more about this book as it would involve spoilers and for my money it would be shame to know too much about this unusual book before starting it. It's written, rather oddly, in the form of interviews by an unknown person with the main characters in the book. It's quite original and makes for a pacey read, I found it to be quite the pageturner. This is the first book in what I think is going to be a trilogy. Book two, Waking Gods, is just out I believe. I shall be reading it.


Lastly, a non-fiction book, Best Foot Forward by Susie Kelly.

I seem to have been in a bit of a French mood for some months which for me is rather odd. I'm enjoying the Jacquot murder books set in the south of France and various other books set in France have crossed my path recently. Including this non-fiction account of the author's walk across France from La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast to Lake Geneva. Susie Kelly was in no way a hiker or camper when she decided to embark on this epic journey, she pretty much suffered every step of the way and her descriptions of the state her feet got into were quite harrowing. But this was a really enjoyable recounting of the people she met, the landscapes she walked through, and how much she got lost. I really enjoyed it all, the author writes engagingly and honestly about her failings and triumphs. I shall look for more books by her.

~~~oOo~~~

Monday, 1 May 2017

Catching up

A couple of short book reviews today. First up, A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders.


Samantha Clair is a publishing editor at a firm of book publishers. She's in her forties, single by choice and has a mother, Helena, who's a high-flying lawyer. She normally deals with contemporary fiction of the light, romantic kind but her friend and fashion writer, Kit Lovell, has written a book about the death of fashion designer, Rodrigo Alemán. Reading the manuscript, Sam realises that what it contains could be explosive and sets about passing it through their team of libel lawyers. Then Kit disappears and Inspector Jake Field comes into her life. It soon becomes apparent that there's a lot more going on than just Kit's disappearance that may or may not be because of his unpublished manuscript. Sam, Jake and Helena set about investigating, Sam soon finding herself going further than Jake has authorised because all she really wants to do is find Kit - whereas the others seem to have developed quite another agenda.

It's so nice to have a protagonist who's not young and glamorous and twenty-something. Sam is a very ordinary woman in her mid-forties, funny, intelligent, realistic about the world. She's also a loyal friend who is doggedly determined. I loved her dry, sarcastic wit usually aimed at the realities of the publishing world. Interesting to read about that, we readers have very little idea how the books we love get published and this book gives a small glimpse into that hidden world. The spotlight was also turned on the fashion world, which is not really my thing but nevertheless it kept my interest. This is a light, amusing crime read, very much London based, 'different' in that it's not police procedure based at all. Oh and I loved Sam's lawyer mother, Helena, whom Sam is convinced is a Martian. There are three in this book series so far so I'm hoping to come across more on my travels.


Lastly, Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor.


Madeleine Maxwell, known to all as Max, is recruited to a department of Thirsk University known as St. Mary's. It's an Institute of Historical Research... but with a difference: the historians who work there can travel in time. Their purpose is to "investigate major historical events in contemporary time." To find out the truth of incidents that are in question. It takes months of training before Max and her fellow trainees are ready to make their first jump. Several drop out but Max is determined to succeed, not only that but to be the best. Eventually she and her fellow students are ready to take their place as fully fledged historians. Max travels to 11th. century London and joins the medical team at the front in World War 1. Then she lands a 'big one'... she's sent back sixty five million year to the Cretaceous Period. This assignment changes everything, for Max, for St. Mary's, and possibly the world.

Well this one was recommended to me by book blogger, Geranium Cat, on Facebook. I have to admit for the first 50 - 60 pages I was a bit so-so about it and then it suddenly took off like a bat out of hell and was non-stop action and intrigue until the very end. And I mean 'intrigue'... all kinds of double-crossings and unexpected twists... I was exhausted come the end. It was huge fun, a lot humour in the dialogue and first person naration. Interesting and entertaining characters - Max herself is a complicated and frustrating sort of person but I suspect there's a backstory there the reader may learn about in future books. There're quite a few of them, nine I think, with a lot of short stories and novellas in between. I'll certainly read more if I can get my hands on them.

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Pern books

It seems ages since I last posted. It is ages! Easter and the school holidays seem to have got in the way of everything this month so my book count for April is going to be well down I suspect. But there's no harm in that... it's been a fun couple of weeks with the grandchildren, they grow so quickly you must enjoy every moment with them.

Another reason for less reading is that I've become terribly addicted to the TV series, The Game of Thrones. We bought the boxed set a few weeks ago to see if we would like it... various people I know love it so I thought we might too. And goodness me we really do. I wasn't sure at first. It's very adult... quite a lot of sexual content and heaps of violence. But if you can get beyond that the storylines, acting and sets are amazing. We're on season three at the moment and fair galloping along. Plus... the books are calling to be read after I've finished with the TV series.

Anyway, books!

Anne McCaffrey's Pern books have long been a favourite of mine. I read the first two, Dragonflight and Dragonquest, in the early 1970s when I was in my early twenties and I remember being totally smitten with the fabulous world McCaffrey had created. It was many years after that that I finally got back to Pern with The White Dragon and The Harper Hall trilogy. Since then I've been slowly catching up with the many other dragon books Anne McCaffrey has written.

No sooner had I started All the Weyrs of Pern when I realised the book I should be reading was Dragonsdawn. This is because at the beginning of All the Weyrs it talks a lot about the original settlers but doesn't actually tell their story. Dragonsdawn does just that. The settlers were originally from Earth, all looking for a peaceful, agrarian way of life. They set up a settlement where they land, call it 'Landing', and for around eight years things go well. People gradually move out of Landing to set up their own farms or craft centres - life is idyllic. Small dragon-like animals have been discovered and many taken as pets. Then comes the day when thread falls from the sky like rain. People die, land and crops ruined. What is this horrific 'thing' which eats everything in its path? Where is it coming from? How long will it last? Questions need answers but in the short-term the settlers must find a way to fight the thread in the air before it can hit the ground and do tremendous damage. Is it possible the dragonettes might harbour an eventual solution?


Jump forward 2,500 years and we have the events of All the Weyrs of Pern. The inhabitants of present day Pern have discovered the remains of Landing where their ancestors first settled. The computer system, AIVAS, is still working and it doesn't take the likes of Jaxom and Piemur long to get it up and going. It seems that AIVAS is the font of all knowledge and the inhabitants of Pern have a lot to learn. Their ancestors slowly lost all of their technical know-how as they concentrated on fighting thread with dragons. They have to relearn what their forebears knew and quickly. AIVAS thinks they could eradicate thread forever but there is much to learn and only a short period of time in which to do it.

Thoroughly enjoyed these two connected books, particularly Dragonsdawn. When I first read the two initial dragon books all those years ago it didn't occur to me that there was a real back story to the tales of Lessa and F'lar and their dragons. I thought I was reading fantasy when in fact I was reading science fiction. I've just about made the adjustment! Because Dragonsdawn is pure sci-fi with its Earth settlers arriving on Pern to start a new way of life... the start of thread... and their use of the little dragonettes to find a way to fight the dreaded scourge. It's all fascinating stuff. When I'd finished that I went back to All the Weyrs of Pern which updates the story of the rediscovering of 'Landing' and how AIVAS has the current population relearn the knowledge that's been lost for 2,500 years. Again, fascinating. Towards the end one bit upset me to the point of tears. Pern fans will know what I'm referring to. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable couple of weeks with the dragons of Pern and I'm not going to stop as I'm reading a book of short stories that lead on from Dragonsdawn... Chronicles of Pern. Although I do plan to move onto to something crime based alongside that, as I miss my mysteries.

These two books are my books 9 & 10 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017 reading challenge.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Mount TBR: Checkpoint 1

Three months of 2017 have whizzed by so it's time for the first checkpoint for Bev's Mount TBR 2017


These are the questions Bev wants us to answer:

1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read).

Well I'm doing Pike's Peak which is to read twelve of your own books in a year. I've read eight so far. Which means I'm two thirds of the way up the mountain already and way ahead of where I should be. It looks like I might be moving on to the next level at some stage. We'll see.


2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following: I shall do three.

A. Post a picture of your favorite cover so far.

This is mine.


B. Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.

That would be 'Moon' from the above book, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells. Despite the sadness of his past life and how hard his present life is for him he still manages to be brave, honourable and hopeful for the future.

D. Title Scrabble: See if you can spell a word using the first letter of the first word in the titles of some/all of the books you have read so far. Feel free to consider "A," "An," or "The" as the first word or not as it helps you with your word hunt.

I thought I had a 5 letter word but no... I have heaps of 4s instead. So I'm choosing 'BOTH'.

Blood Will Tell - Dana Stabenow
On the Shores of the Mediterranean - Eric Newby
The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells
Haunted Library - ed. by Tanya Kirk

~~~oOo~~~

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Books read in March

March was an average reading month for me... six books tends to be my default number and if I manage that then I'm quite happy. Not that it bothers me, I read what I read... it's whether I enjoy the books that's the main factor. So when that is taken into account then it's actually been quite a good month.

Anyway, these are they:

15. To Helvetica and Back - Paige Shelton

16. The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny

17. The North Face - Mary Renault

18. L'Auberge - Julia Stagg

19. The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells

20. On the Shores of the Mediterranean - Eric Newby

My usual mixed bag... two crime stories, two general fiction, one fantasy and a non-fiction travel book. Two were a bit so-so and four very enjoyable. A month where two thirds of the books you read are good to very good is about as much as you can ask for really.

I'm struggling with a favourite. Two books *just* have the edge and those are The Brutal Telling and The Cloud Roads.


















Two very different books but both absolutely superb. Two things they have in common is a wonderful sense of place and the kind of paciness I enjoy. Always something happening in both books. I don't think I will choose between them... I'll award them joint first place in my affections.

So now it's almost April and the year is slipping away. This 'time speeding up' thing as you get older is scary. It makes me feel that I really *must* read what I like, when I like. So, on that note I suddenly felt like reading some Pern books by Anne McCaffrey so that's what I'm going to do. I shall spend a couple of weeks indulging in one of my favourite science-fiction series of all time and read these two books:



















And then maybe this:

















*What* a gorgeous cover! So that's my reading plan for the first part of April. What are yours? Tell all. :-)

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A few short reviews

As is often the case I'm a bit behind with book reviews so this is a 'catching up' post.

First up, L'Auberge by Julia Stagg

Gosh, what a hideous cover but that aside I rather enjoyed this light, fun read set in the French Pyrenees. An English couple, Lorna and Paul, have bought The Auberge (hostel, B&B type affair) in the mountain village of Fogas. The local mayor rather wanted his brother-in-law to have it and sets about making life very awkward for the couple in the hope that the business will fail and they'll have to sell it cheaply. All kinds of shenanigans ensue but along the way certain of the French villagers decide they don't like The Mayor's rum doings and set out to thwart him by helping the English couple out. Very nice sense of place in this one, nice descriptions of mountainous scenery and wintery conditions. My late sister-in-law lived in France for a while and also ran a B&B so this was quite familiar territory to me. I was quite aware of how much power French mayors wield, although hopefully most are not as corrupt as the one in this book. This is a series of five books, I'm not sure if I'll read any more, possibly if I happen to see any more in the library, but not otherwise.


Next, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells.

Moon has no idea what he is... he only knows that he can shape-shift at will into a winged, flying creature. As far as he is aware there is nothing else like him anywhere, his small family having been killed by The Fell, another race of flying beings - but vicious - when he was a small child. He has been nomadic since this happened, living for spells with groundlings, here and there throughout The Three Worlds, but they always find out about his shape-shifting eventually and banish him from their commmunities. Then one day, expelled from yet another village, Moon is astonished to encounter Stone, an individual exactly like himself, albeit much, much older. Stone explains a little about what he is and offers him sanctuary at his colony some way away. Used to being independent, Moon is reluctant but decides to go with Stone for the duration, having nowhere else to go. It's probably just as well that he has no idea of the challenges ahead and how much danger his life, and that of his new friends, will be in.

I've owned this for four years now, always meaning to get around to it but never actually managing to. I'm so glad I made the effort at last as it really was an excellent fantasy read... well written, amazing world-building and interesting characters. Martha Wells has packed this book full of beautifully imagined beings, especially the Raksura, of which race Moon is a member. The Fell, who seem to be trying to take over the world, are vicious and frightening... genuinely scary. I loved the travelling element, naturally, and I think this continues through the next books of which there are five altogether. Delighted and plan to read all of them as and when I can. Thrilled with this new to me fantasy series. This is my book 7 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017.


Lastly, On the Shores of the Mediterranean by Eric newby.

Oh, how I wish I'd enjoyed this as much as I hoped to. I quite like Eric Newby's travel writing and this book about his trip to most of the countries surrounding The Mediterranean sea, with his wife, Wanda, should have been right up my street. And parts of it were. Where he concentrated on what they got up to it was fine, although I don't think I really needed quite so many names of streets in Naples. Where I got bogged down was in the history. Which is very odd because I like history, really like it, but it was all so dry and he didn't make any of it come alive. Carol Drinkwater's, The Olive Route, also about The Med, knocked spots off it quite frankly. A real shame, but there you go... you can't win 'em all. This was my book 8 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Secondhand book buys

Sometimes you come across the best book buys when you're least expecting it. We had to visit a local small town on Monday for my husband to have his hearing aid adjusted. They have a Health Centre there, one to which we'd never been before. As soon as I walked in I sensed books. LOL! And there they were, quite a few of them, 50p each in aid of the Health Centre and being looked after by a lovely volunteer. We chatted while I picked out books. And what books!


First I spotted one of the delightful British Library Classic crime reissues, then another... eventually I had SIX.

From the bottom:

The Cheltenham Square Murder - John Bude
Death on The Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay
Antidote to Venom - Freeman Wills Crofts
Thirteen Guests - J. Jefferson Farjeon
The Poisoned Chocolate Case - Anthony Berkeley
The Cornish Coast Murder - John Bude

New, these are £8.99. I got six for £3. Fantastic bargain! Plus, several are books I wanted to read as I'd already read books by those authors and liked them.

On the other pile:

Mysterious Air Stories - edited by William Pattrick. An AM buy.
A Book of Railway Journeys edited by Ludovic Kennedy. Also an AM buy.
The Christmas Collection - Mary & Carol Higgins Clark. Bought at the Health Centre.
The Girl In Blue - P.G. Wodehouse. Also from the Health Centre.
Best Foot Forward - Susie Kelly. A walking in France book, AM buy.

Hubby's face when I approached him carrying a bag of books rather than one or two, was a picture... wish I'd taken it on my phone. I left a fiver in the honesty box and thought the fiver very well spent... and a good cause.

~~~oOo~~~