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Thursday, 2 November 2017

Update on the book series I read

Goodness, time flies. It's well over 2 years since I updated my list of the series I read, June 2015. I thought it was last year! I always find it an interesting exercise. Some of the series I knocked off as I no longer have any interest in them, a few new ones have been added etc. Plus it's always fascinating to see which series I like to keep fairly up to date with and which ones I haven't touched in a couple of years but still want to read... at least... I think I do. Sometimes I fancy I kid myself. I also fine these posts serve to remind me of these neglected series and spur me on to to catch up with them. I'm missing Flacia de Luce for instance, I'm 3 books behind with that series. Kate Burkholder, the Reverand Clare Fergusson, Kate Shugak in Alaska... though I did read one of hers in January. I need to pull my finger out. Perhaps I should make 2018 'The Year of Catching up on My Book Series'. It's a thought.


Crime - modern and historical:

Charlie Parker - John Connolly - (read 11... up to book 12)
Matthew Shardlake – C.J. Sansom (read 3)
Flavia de Luce - Alan Bradley (read 6)
Daisy Dalrymple - Carola Dunn (read 21)
Rizzoli and Isles - Tess Gerritsen (read 8)
Ruth Galloway - Elly Griffiths (read 8)
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes – Laurie R. King (read 5)
The Lewis trilogy - Peter May (read 2)
Lord Peter Wimsey - (read 6)
Gordianus the Finder - Steven Saylor (read 2)
Medicus - Ruth Downie (read 2)
Kate Burkholder - Linda Castillo (read 2)
Reverand Clare Fergusson - Julia Spencer-Fleming (read 3)
Temperance Brennan - Kathy Reichs (read 2)
No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency - A. McCall-Smith (read 11)
Kate Shugak - Dana Stabenow (read 6)
Sea Detective - Mark Douglas Home (read 2)
Hannah Scarlett - Martin Edwards (read 6)
Jacquot - Martin O'Brien (read 5)
Armande Gamache - Louise Penny (read 6)
Enzo McLeod - Peter May (read 2)
Inspector Wexford - Ruth Rendall (read 2)


Sci Fi, Fantasy and horror - both adult and young adult:

Mercy Thompson - Patricia Briggs (read 6)
Jackelian - Stephen Hunt (read 2)
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch (read 4)
Liveship Trader - Robin Hobb (read 1)
Astreiant - Melissa Scott - (read 2 1/2)
Hyperion - Dan Simmons (read 1)
Lady Trent - Marie Brennan (read 2)
Cloud Roads - Martha Wells (read 1)
St. Marys - Jodi Taylor (read 1)


Sundry:

Barsetshire - Angela Thirkell - (read 5)
The Little House series – Laura Ingalls Wilder (read 5 up to book 6)
The Barchester Chronicles - Anthony Trollope (read 2)


Series I want to read: (mainly fantasy)

The Wit’ch series – James Clemens
Alpha and Omega - Patricia Briggs
Starborn - Lucy Hounsom
The Tawny Man trilogy – Robin Hobb



The Coldfire trilogy – Celia Friedman
The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Gardella Vampire Chronicles – Colleen Gleason
Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner

I wrote this 2 years ago:

I think what this post underlines more than anything is how much my reading tastes have switched from fantasy/horror to crime. I still read the former but am much more into crime stories these days, especially vintage and historical it would seem. And that's fine. Things change and I always believe in going with the flow.

Basically that still applies. I've become a serious crime fic reader, with a definite bent towards vintage crime and anything set overseas, especially the USA or France. I also seem to have shifted slightly from being a fiction reader to someone who also reads a fair bit of non-fiction. Given that I'm not a speedy reader that means something has to give and it's tended to be my series reading. And I actually don't mind that, it means I'm open to change and flexible as regards what I read.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Books read in October

Well, I knew October would be a slow reading month and so it turned out to be. I read four books which, all things considered, is not actually terrible. Plus... they were all good books and that's a real bonus. And perhaps four good books is better than dozens of average ones. Anyway, these are the books:

55. The Tropic of Serpents - Marie Brennan

56. Bury Your Dead - Louise Penny

57. Jacob's Room is Full of Books - Susan Hill.

I'm not a huge fan of the author's crime novels, but I do think she writes a cracking good ghost story and I do enjoy her non-fiction (The Magic Apple Tree is delightful) especially her books about books. I love Howards End is on the Landing, read it several times, and enjoyed Jacob's Room is Full of Books just as much. It's written on a monthly basis, covering one year, and meanders all over the place with bits about the countryside, the weather, the author's life and yes... books! Very enjoyable, even though I sometimes did not agree with her opinions.




58. Thirteen Guests - J. Jefferson Farjeon.

This is your classic Country House Mystery, the house concerned being Bragley Court. Lord Aveling invites twelve people for a weekend house party and they are joined by Jon Foss, a stranger who had an accident on the platform of the railway station, and was brought to the house by one of the female guests. That makes the number of guests thirteen of course, 'unlucky for some'. Foss is a keen observer of various shenanigans and then two dead bodies turn up and things turn interesting as the police are brought in and secrets are slowly revealed. This crime yarn was excellent, quite pacey once it got going, interesting characters - I always find 'motive' the most interesting part of a mystery like this and this one didn't disappoint. Very much of its time (the 1930s) but I'm always intrigued how these books often illustrate the old saying, 'The more things change, the more they stay the same'. Another excellent BLCC book.

So that's October almost done and dusted. Four good books so it's hard to choose a favourite really. If pushed I would have to go for:


This was a brilliant instalment of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache series set in Quebec. Loved the snowy Quebec City and Three Pines setting, the library, the history... it was perfect. Five stars on Goodreads, no quibbling.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A couple of titles

Not a lot of time to read or post here at the moment as my husband had his knee operation several weeks ago and has needed a fair bit of looking after. But I have been able to slowly read a couple of books and these are they:

Firstly, The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan:

This is book two in Marie Brennan's 'Lady Trent' series of fantasy books. In book one A Natural History of Dragons we saw how Isabella Trent grew up to love dragons, married, and then inveigled herself onto her first field trip to Vystrana (Russia?) to study dragons. In The Tropic of Serpents she's off again, this time to the country of Bayembe on the continent of Eriga, which I fancy is this alternate world's version of Africa. She's off to study swamp-wyrms in the company of Tom Wilker, who went with her before, and Natalie a runaway heiress. Bayembe is hot and humid, difficult, not only politics-wise, but also in the matter of femininity... things are very different for women here as opposed to Scirland where Isabella comes from. But most difficult of all will be living and surviving in The Green Hell, the swamp and forested area where she must go to study her dragons. This was a bit of a slow starter but picked up nicely as it went along. For me the most interesting aspect of these books is the travel. They read like Victorian travelogues quite honestly and as I love those, these books work for me. They might not work so well for people who don't like that kind of thing. I don't always find Isabella a particularly sympathetic character, perhaps I'm not meant to as she has to be tough in order to do what she wants with her life, ie. study dragons. The other thing I would say is that although these books are about the study of dragons, they don't actually feature dragons that much. Possibly this will come in later books. I liked these two books enough to order book three... after that, well, we'll see.


Next, Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny:

Armande Gamache is staying with a friend, Emile, in Quebec City, the old part, recooperating from a distastrous operation that went wrong. We're only told the whys and wherefores of this gradually as the book progresses. He's spending time doing some research in the Literary and History Society library, a place very few people know exist because it's run by the English of the city, not the French. When the body of Augustin Renard, a prominent French researcher into the whereabouts of the remains of Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec, is found in the basement of the library the city police ask Gamache for his help. Meanwhile, back in Three Pines, Gamache's last case (from the book The Brutal Telling and you do need to read that book before this one) is still festering. Olivier's partner, Gabri, does not believe Olivier murdered the hermit in the forest. Gamache asks his sidekick, Beauvoir, also injured in the operation that went wrong, to go to the village and quietly investigate. If this all sounds a bit complicted that's because it is... *but*... it's not at all difficult to keep track of. There are three cases going on here, that of the body in the library basement, that of Olivier - is he guilty or not? - and that of the operation that went wrong. It's brilliantly executed in my opinion, it all knits together perfectly and for me is one of the best Gamache books so far, if not the best. I loved the library and its English board of trustees. I loved learning about the antipathy between the English Quebecois and the French, sad though it seems to be from the point of view of an outsider. The details of the history of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham were fascinating - I learnt about it at school of course but it was nice to hear more. I loved the whole mystery surrounding the body of Champlain and where it is. And of course the settings are marvellous. Quebec city sounds wonderful and I love, love, love the Village of Three Pines deep in the Canadian forest and want to live there... along with thousands of other fans of this series I suspect. A fantastic series which gets better and better with each book.

~~~oOO~~~

Friday, 22 September 2017

Third update on Where Are You Reading? challenge

Almost three quarters of the way through the year and autumn is officially here: my favourite time of year. I'm doing this Where Are You Reading? update now instead of at the end of the month because my husband will have his second knee operation next week and for a couple of weeks after that I may not be around very much. I'm guessing there won't be much reading going on either but I may be wrong.




This one is all about places. There's one about states but this one counts cities, countries, and fictional locations too. Read a book set in a location for each letter of the alphabet. West Virginia only counts for W, Bowling Green only counts for B, but the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey that is on a fictional planet counts as P ;-)


My list of books read so far:

A: (Alaska, USA) Blood Will Tell - Dana Stabenow (January '17)

B: (Bayembe) The Tropic of Serpents - Marie Brennan (Oct. '17)

C: (Cote D'azur, France) Jacquot and the Fifteen - Martin O'Brien (Feb '17)

D: (Devon, UK) North Face - Mary Renault (March '17)

E: (Europe) Continental Crimes - edited by Martin Edwards (August '17)

F: (France) Best Foot Forward - Susie Kelly (May '17)

G: (Gaillac, France) The Critic - Peter May (July '17)

H: (Hilary Magna, UK) Death of a Busybody - George Bellairs (Sept. '17)

I: (Italy) Excursion to Tindari - Andrea Camilleri (July '17)

J:

K: (Kingsmarkham, Sussex, England) No Man's Nightingale - Ruth Rendell (August '17)

L: (Lewis - The Outer Hebrides, Scotland) The Lewis Man - Peter May (January '17)

M: (Minnesota, USA) The Lost Girls - Heather Young (Feb '17)

N: (Norfolk, England) The Woman in Blue - Elly Griffiths (May '17)

O: (Oxford, England) Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay (June '17)

P: (Philadelphia, PA, USA) The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert (February '17)

Q: (Quebec, Canada) The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny (Mar. '17)

R:

S: (St. Denis, Perigord, France) Bruno, Chief of Police - Martin Walker (June '17)

T: (Three Worlds, The) The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells (March '17)

U: (Utah, USA) To Helvetica and Back - Paige Shelton (Mar. '17)

V: (Vézére valley, France) The Caves of Périgord - Martin Walker. (August '17)

W: (Wisconsin, USA) Way Station - Clifford D. Simak (Feb. '17)

X:

Y:

Z:


Sooooo, that's 20 letters filled, 6 to go: B J R X Y & Z. I'm currently reading a book for B, leaving me with 5 letters to find books for before 2018. R shouldn't be a problem but the rest could be slightly problematical. I have a book set in Zimbabwe on my Kindle I think but we'll see what else emerges for the rest. Quite pleased with some of the destinations... various lovely US States, nice parts of France, Canada, Scotland, England and so on. Possibly I should vary the countries a bit more but those are the places I like reading about so it's a very much a list which reflects me and I can't think that that's really such a bad thing. I'm also pleased with the books I've read... there're some excellent titles on that list.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Catching up

I seem to spend half my life writing 'catch-up' book posts. These two couldn't be more different... I often look for similarities when doing multiple book review posts and it's fun when I find them, but there are none in these two - a non-fiction travelogue and a vintage whodunnit.

First up, Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew P. Sykes.

I saw this one on Goodreads, someone I follow reads a lot of travel books so I pick up loads of recs from him. I gather this is Andrew Sykes's third travel book, trust me to start on the last one but I honestly don't think it matters at all. He decides to cycle from the most southerly tip of Spain, Tarifa, to the most northerly tip of Norway, Nordkapp. This takes him through Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. My kind of book... I like cycling travelogues and have an interest in most of these countries, especially France, Sweden and Norway. The author is very good at describing the landscapes he's travelling through but not overdoing it with a load of purple prose. Naturally he meets a lot of different people. I sympathised with him over the English cyclist he met who was only interested in talking about himself and didn't ask a single thing about Sykes's journey: we all know people like that. He did, however, meet some really nice people including a German father and daughter who were friendly and helpful... although another lone German cyclist, Helmut, was a terrible misery and bore and Sykes had trouble avoiding him. It only goes to show I suppose that all kinds of people take to the road on bikes for all sorts of reasons, just like all walks of life. An excellent travel read and I'll definitely be searching out Andrew Sykes's other two books, Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie and Along the Med on a Bike Called Reggie... especially that Med one. Naturally, Devon Libraries hasn't got either.


Lastly, Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs.

Miss Tither is the village busybody in the English village of Hilary Magna. Nothing and no one escapes her interfering attention and religious zeal. Straying husbands, courting couples in the woods, athiests, all come under her scrutiny and are told to mend their ways according to the dictates of The Bible. When her dead body is discovered in the vicar's cesspit, no one is very surprised and the list of suspects is a long one. Inspector Littlejohn from Scotland Yard is called in to help the local constabulary discover exactly how many pies Miss Tither had her finger in and which of them helped kill her.

This British Library Crime Classic was an excellent whodunnit. The large cast of characters was at times difficult to keep track of but I managed well enough. The quintessential English village was a joy even if we weren't actually told which county it was in... pedants like me need to know these things! The gorgeous cover is from a railway poster of Suffolk and the accents portrayed seemed to back this up although Hilary Magna sounds more Somerset than Suffolk. Never mind. I had no idea until the end who the culprit was, this was mainly because this was a complicated little plot with revelation after revelation as you went along, keeping you constantly guessing and changing your mind. Clever. There's also a nice vein of humour running through the story, always a plus. I wouldn't mind reading more by George Bellairs, he was apparently a Bank Manager in real life who wrote over 50 books, most of them about Inspector Littlejohn. I know the BLCC has one other volume available, a double book edition entitled, The Dead Shall be Raised & Murder of a Quack. That sounds like as good a place to start as any.

It's pretty much autumn here in the UK, my favourite time of year. Hope you have some good autumnal reading matter to keep you happy.

~~~oOo~~~

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Caves of Périgord

My first review of September is actually the last book I read in August. It's The Caves of Périgord by Martin Walker.




Lydia Dean works for a London auction house as an expert in prehistoric art. Things are not going too well with her job, she's not getting enough customers in and thus not enough publicity for her employers. A piece of prehistoric cave art, 17,000 years old, is brought to her - the owner, Major Phillip Manners, has just inherited it after his father's death and wishes to sell it. It appears his father fought with The Resistance in France during World War 2, and must have acquired it while in Périgord, near the Dordogne in southern France. But where? It's a smallish piece of rock and doesn't resemble anything found so far in, for instance, the Lascaux complex of caves. An expert is called in from France but before the cave art can be studied it's stolen from the auction house. Lydia and Manners set off for France where they believe they can find people who knew Manners' father during the war and might be able to shed some light on the origin of the piece.

In the Vézére valley in around 15,000BC a young man, Deer, an apprentice artist, is smarting after being falsely accused of an accident in the caves where his male counterparts are painting the local wildlife. He's been banned from the caves and humiliated by being made to work with the women. Deer needs to get back into the cave to paint. He also wants to become the mate of Moon, the daughter of the Keeper of the Horses, who paints horses in the caves. But he has a rival... The Keeper of the Bulls who is rapidly becoming the most powerful man in the tribe. Somehow or other he needs to solve these two problems, but how?

Three allied soldiers are working with The French Resistance in 1944, an Englishman, 'Capitaine' Manners, Phillp Manners' father, an American, McPhee, and Francois Malrand a Frenchman with a future in politics. Their job is sabotage, the teaching of it to resistance fighters. It's testing and dangerous and made much more so by the rivalry of the various factions within The Resistance. Gaullists (as in General de Gaulle), communists, Spanish fighters who fled the Spanish revolution in the 1930s, all are vying for superiority and have plans to be the dominant force after the war is over. Manners is the peace-keeper, the one with the tricky task of preventing them from killing each other rather than the Germans. His main objective though is to stop the German Das Reich division from travelling north to help stop the imminent allied invasion. In order to achieve this aim he sometimes has to make some terrible decisions.

This book could well be vying for best book of the year for me. It really is superb. I'm sometimes not a fan of a story told from different points in history. I find you no sooner get interested in what's being told about one person's story than it comes to an abrupt end and you're swept off somewhere else with a whole new set of characters to try and remember. Here though it worked very well. The sections were not short and 'bitty' but quite long and came to a natural conclusion. The most difficult part to write must've been that of Deer and Moon in 15,000BC as we don't really know much about the cave artists, but it's very well done, a realistic scenario I thought, and I loved the panoramic feel to these sections with gorgeous descriptions of the landscape of southern France.

With my current interest in The French Resistance I found the 1944 sections the most interesting. A lot of it mirrored some of the non-fiction I've been reading recently, particulary the political elements Edward Stourton discussed in his book, Cruel Crossing. I do love it when books overlap in this manner. Fiction often teaches you as much as non-fiction in my opinion, but reading both on a subject can work extremely well if you can find the books to match, which luckily I have. (Another good fictional book on this subject is Jacquot and the Angel by Martin O'Brien.)

There are deaths in this story but it's not at all a 'murder' mystery. It's a mystery about who stole the cave art, where is it, and where did it come from in the first place. I found the history fascinating and everyone's story excellent, the weakest, for my money, being the modern-day one. That had plenty of interest but I didn't feel the romantic aspect worked fantastically well. This is nit-picking... this is a jolly good book and I truly wish there were more around like it.

~~~oOo~~~

Friday, 1 September 2017

Books read in August

August was rather a good reading month despite it being the school summer hols and thus a bit busier than usual, not to mention we're having the bathroom redesigned and thus chaos reigns... Despite all that I managed to read eight books with a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction. These are the books:

43. Gardens of Stone - Stephen Grady. WW2, the story of a teenage boy in the French Resistance, non-fiction book.

44. The 12.30 From Croydon - Freeman Wills Crofts. Unusual vintage crime story.

45. The Natural History of Dragons - Marie Brennan. Part one of a fantasy series that portrays dragons as real.

46. No Man's Nightingale - Ruth Rendall. An excellent Inspector Wexford crime yarn about the death of a female vicar.

47. Continental Crimes - edited by Martin Edwards. An anthology of short vintage crime stories.

48. Cruel Crossing - Edward Stourton. How the French Resistance helped escapees from Nazi Germany and allied airmen escape into Spain via The Pyrenees.

49. My Good Life in France - Janine Marsh. Non-fiction... a British couple buy a wreck of a house in France and settle there.

50. The Caves of Périgord - Martin Walker.

So, three non-fiction - a number I'm pleased with - and five fiction. Three decent crime books in there and one good fantasy novel which is a genre I've not read in quite a while. I need to rectify that as I do enjoy a good fantasy book and have quite a few on my tbr pile still. The three non-fictions were all excellent, all concerned France, and all got a five star rating from me on Goodreads.

Choosing a favourite is rather difficult because this was an especially good month, none of the books were disappointing or dragged and I haven't a bad word to say about any of them. I think I'm going to have to call it a draw between a non-fiction and a fiction:



I haven't reviewed The Caves of Périgord by Martin Walker yet, but I will soon as it was so good. Both of these books were excellent reads, both concerned the history of the French Resistance to a greater or lesser extent, and both taught me an awful lot.

And now here we are in September and autumn's on the way, my favourite time of year. Happy reading!

~~~oOo~~~