Monday, 15 July 2019

TBRs and the library pile

I can't be the only one who loves piles of books. I regularly create them... 'books I want to read this coming month', 'some books about France', 'books for a particular challenge', 'books about walking'... 'my library pile'. I'm hopeless - but at least I know it. So here are several of my current 'piles' for your delectation (or something).

First up, the library pile:

I decided at the beginning of the year to try and keep my library borrowing to about 4 or 5 books at any one time. Ha-blummin-ha. Very funny. It worked for a few months but it's currently at nine with three books on reserve.

From the bottom:

Black Roses - Jane Thynne. A new author to me.
The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club - Marlena de Blasi. For the 'What's in a Name? challenge.
Sir John Magill's Last Journey - Freeman Wills Crofts. My latest book fad.
An Incomplete Revenge - Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs of course.
The Resistance Man - Martin Walker. Bruno.
Perfume from Provence - Winifred Fortesue. France.
The Old Straight Track - Alfred Watkins. Walking.
How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny. Armand Gamache.
Desert Noir - Betty Webb. My current read... crime in Arizona.

Next, the 'I fancy reading these this month, well soon anyway, until I change my mind...' pile.

From the bottom:

Backpacks, Boots and Baguettes - Simon Calder & Mick Webb. Walking in the Pyrenees.
Beyond the Footpath - Claire Gogerty. More walking.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost - Rebecca Solnit. Yet more walking.
Thrones, Dominations - Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh. Lord Peter Wimsey.
Bats in the Belfry - E.C. Lorac. Vintage crime.
Glimpes of the Moon - Edmund Crispin. Vintage crime - Gervase Fen.
Young Clementina - D.E. Stevenson. Delightful vintage fiction.
Beware of the Trains - Edmund Crispin. Vintage crime, short stories.
Death has Deep Roots - Michael Gilbert. Yet more vintage crime.

Next, my 'I love reading about France' tbr pile:

From the bottom:

Dickens on France edited by John Edmondson. What it says on the tin I assume.
Travels with Tinkerbelle - Susie Kelly. Round France in a van.
For Better, For Worse - Damian and Siobhan Horner. Round France by canal boat.
I'll Never be French - Mark Greenside. Longing to be French in Britany.
Notes from the Cévennes - Adam Thorpe. Exploring the Cévennes?
Narrow Dog to Carcassonne - Terry Darlington. More France in a canal boat. A reread.
Daughters of the House - Michéle Roberts. Fiction set in Normandy.

And last but not least, this came a day or two ago:

The Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts. Probably the first of many I shall be accumulating by this author... *coughs*.

I'm wondering if I have serious book problem. Should I be worried?


Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Six in Six 2019

The 'Six in Six' meme was started by Jo at The Book Jotter in 2012. I've never done the meme before, often intended to, but never quite got around to it. This year I thought I'd pull my finger out and actually do it.

Jo's 2019 post is here.

What is it all about?

The idea being that as the end of June approaches and we are then halfway through the year, let us share the books we have read in those first 6 months. In fact let’s share 6 books in 6 categories, or if time is of the essence then simply share just 6 books. Whatever combination works for you as long as it involves 6 books. Of course the same book can obviously feature in more than one category.

The categories are listed in Jo's post.

What do I need to post?

Simply choose six of the categories and list six books under that category. Some bloggers use pictures, some put excerpts of reviews. The main thing being it is six categories and six books. Of course if you want to do a shorter version, then just post something about six books you have read in the first six months of 2018.

I'm going to use pictures to illustrate my choices.

The first category I've chosen is:

Six books from the non-fiction shelf.

Six book covers I love:

(Strange that these are all murder mysteries.)

Six authors I have not read before:

Six trips to Europe:

Six books that are related to the Great or Second World war:

Six authors I read last year - but not so far this year

Well that was fun! I hope lots of other people will join in and share what they've been reading for the first 6 months of 2019.


Monday, 8 July 2019

The Hog's Back Mystery

The Hog's Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts is my 21st. book for Bev's Calendar of Crime reading challenge, qualifying under the October category of 'Primary action takes place in this month'.

Dr. Earle and his wife live in a beautiful house called St. Kilda in a lovely part of the county of Surrey, not far from Godalming. A school-friend of Jean Earle's, Ursula Stone, comes to stay and get's the feeling that all is not well with the couple. This is confirmed when Dr. Earle suddenly disappears. One minute he's comfortably ensconced in the sitting room reading the paper, the next - gone. Not one person in the house has any idea what could have happened.

Inspector French is called in and is faced with one of the most baffling cases of his career. Everyone who might know anything is questioned but to no avail, it seems Dr. Earle has disappeared off the face of the Earth. Eventually it emerges that there may have been a woman involved and that she has disappeared too. Have they run off together? Improbable because the doctor apparently went off in his slippers with no coat. Plus, people who know the woman, a nurse, are insistant that she was not that kind of woman. So where are they?

Not all books are ones that you want to keep picking up to read... sometimes, even though you do want to finish the book, it can seem like a bit of a chore. This was not one of those cases. Every time I had to put it down I was reluctant to do so and couldn't wait to get back to it. It's beautifully written and such a mystery. Very convoluted, full of dead ends and seemingly unsolvable conundrums. There was one person I had my eye on and that proved to be correct but there was a lot more to it in the end and what I'd thought wasn't even the half of it. Very clever indeed.

Freeman Wills Croft went on to write The 12.30 to Croydon after this, and later Antidote to Venom both written mostly from the perpetrator's point of view. You can see how he got to that stage from The Hog's Back Mystery as he shows great interest in the motivations of people who commit murder, especially the mess they get themselves into before murder becomes what they think is their only option. It's all fascinating. French is such a good foil to these people as he goes methodically about his business... this is very much a police procedural story and in places does drag a little with a bit too much repitition, but that didn't bother me as I tried to figure out what had happened. Plus the plot is so complex you do need reminding what's happened from time to time.

The other thing I loved about this book was its setting. We stayed in Godalming 5 weeks ago so I could picture The Hog's Back, ie. The North Downs, very easily. It's exactly as gorgeous as the author says and I could so easily picture myself happily cycling the tree lined lanes like Inspector French. These days it might not be so pleasant with all the traffic but back then it must've been idyllic.

I must read more by Freeman Wills Croft. I like the way he wrote, I like the fact that Inspector French is a very ordinary sort of chap who isn't a rebel or an alcoholic, he just wants to do the best job he can. I'm hoping the BLCC will bring out more of his books, if not I'll have to try and track some down via Amazon Marketplace or somesuch.


Friday, 5 July 2019

The Body in the Ice

My first book for July is The Body in the Ice by A.J. MacKenzie. This book qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the April category of 'Original publication month'.

It's Christmas Day in St. Mary in the Marsh, Amelia Chaytor is spending it with Misses Godfrey and Roper, two spinsters of the parish. Their maid interrupts their meal to say that she went up to New Hall to get wood and found a body frozen in a pond instead. The Reverand Hardcastle, who is now the justice of the peace, is called in and goes in freezing weather to investigate. He finds the body of a young black woman, but no one seems to have any clue who she is. Two things are very odd, a) she's dressed as a man and b) one of her boots has been pulled off and left to one side as though someone has tried, and failed, to pull her out.

New Hall is a large mansion now left abandoned after the smuggling and espionage events of the last book, The Body on the Doorstep. Hardcastle cannot understand what this young woman was doing there but discovers that she arrived at the hall with a companion. He still doesn't know who either of them were. The owners of New Hall went to live in America some years ago. Hardcstle takes steps to inform them of the tragic occurence at their house only to discover that the Rossiter family are now back in England. This seems like an odd coincidence. When the Reverand finds out that the dead woman had a brother who came from America with her and that they're connected to the Rossiters, he realises it's not a coincidence at all and he has a case on his hands, fraught with difficulty.

Britain and America are now at peace after The War of Independence but it's a fragile peace and French machinations are not helping matters, especially on the south coast. Hardcastle is told to tread carefully in order to avoid treading on sensitive diplomatic toes. Could Hardcastle's life be any more complicted? Well yes... his sister, a writer of lurid gothic romances, could arrive, foisting herself upon him, bringing with her an Irish wolfhound named Rodolpho...

I think I enjoyed this even more than the first book and that was very good. It's a complicated plot, you need your wits about you to keep track of who's who and what they're up to... generally speaking No Good... but it's well worth the effort. The two main protagonists, The Reverand Hardcastle and Amelia Chaytor are very well drawn and I love their interactions and how they've slowly come to trust and appreciate each other for common sense and intelligence. In a sea of people with either ulterior or self-serving motives it's refreshing to say the least. I shall be very interested to see how their relationship progresses in future books.

Hardcastle's sister has clearly been introduced for a bit of comic relief, it works a treat. I especially love her enthusiasm for her own Gothic writing... and other people's lack of it. The cowardly Irish wolfhound is also a nice touch and I loved a particular scene where four 'fragile' women fought off intruders in the house. Wonderful.

I found the political details fascinating, plenty of things I'd not previously been aware of. I love how fiction can easily teach the reader as much as non-fiction about history, such an easy way to learn. I've never been to the Romney Marsh area on the Kent coast but find myself wanting to now. Proof, if it were needed, that this is a series that works for me and has a lot of potential.


Monday, 1 July 2019

My reading challenges: the first 6 months

I took on rather more reading challenges than I intended this year. My thinking was that by doing them I should (haha) get quite a few books off the TBR mountain. Well I have but I'm also sure I've probably bought as many new ones as I've read old ones... too many temptations in the guise of shiny 'new' books! Guilty, M'lud!

Anyway, for my own benefit I thought I'd do a blog post charting how they're all going so far.

First up, Mount TBR 2019 which is being hosted by Bev at MY READER'S BLOCK.

I signed up to do 'Mont Blanc' which is to read 24 books off the TBR pile from before the 1st. January 2019, and so far I've read 15.


Next, Bev's Calendar of Crime 2019.

This is chart based and you just have tick categories off as you fill them in. You can read as many books as you want, when you want. So far I've read 19 books for this challenge.


Next, The 2019 European Reading challenge.

I signed up for the 'Five star' category which is to read 5 books set in different European countries or by different European authors. So far I've read six and the countries covered are: BELGIUM, FRANCE, ITALY, ICELAND, AUSTRIA and SPAIN.


Next, the World at War challenge which is being hosted by Becky at Becky's Book Reviews. This is a Bingo! based challenge and so far I've read six books for it.


Next, the What's In A Name? challenge which is being hosted by Carolina Book Nook.

There are six categories to fill with this challenge.

1. A precious stone/metal
2. A temperature
3. A month or day of the week
4. A meal
5. Contains the word “girl” or “woman” ow)
6. Contains both the words “of” AND “and”

So far I've filled two of the categories, 'Month or Day' and 'Temperature'.


Lastly, The 12th. Canadian Book Challenge which is being hosted by The Indextrious Reader.

This ran from the 1st. July last year to the 30th. June this year so has officially ended I presume. I started late, January I think, and only managed to read four books out of thirteen but enjoyed those I did read.


And so... six challenges, now down to five. Four going very well indeed, the fifth - What's In A Name? - needs a little work but I still have six months to fix that. I still need 'ticks' for three months on the Calendar of Crime, March, June and October. For The World at War I need one more book for a 'bingo'... 'A non-fiction book about the 1930s' and I have one on my Kindle for that. In essence I've finished the European reading challenge as I've read 6 books but I shall continue with that as I love it so much. All in all, I'm quite happy with my progress even though I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew when I took on the Canadian challenge. It's all good.