Wednesday 31 August 2022

Books read in August

Goodness me, August seems like an interminable month, possibly because I dislike it almost as much as I dislike July and am longing for autumn to arrive... or at the very least the month of September. I know that autumn doesn't officially start until the 21st. September but I personally go with meteorologists who apparently count the season from the 1st. September. 'Plus' the atmosphere has changed and it now feels like very early autumn as opposed to late summer. 'And' there're rumours of a storm coming in over the weekend - the first of the autumn gales?

Anyway, moving swiftly on. Books. Despite my dislike for August it has been an excellent reading month for me. 12 books read, none of them less than enjoyable and readable. Can't ask for more than that.

70. The Postscript Murders - Elly Griffiths 

71. Pride and Prescience - Carrie Bebris 

72. Naked in Death - J.D. Robb 

73. Killing Trail - Margaret Mizushima 

74. There's More To Life Than This - Theresa Caputo (very short review)

75. All Roads Lead to Austen - Amy Elizabeth Smith 

76. Haunted Shore - edited by Emily Alder, Jimmy Packham and Joan Passey.

77. Three Stripes South - Bex Band 

78. Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer - Molly Clavering.

Mrs. Lorimer and her husband live in The Borders region of Scotland. A local house she's long covetted, but not been able to persuade her husband to buy, has been sold. Her family come to stay for a few weeks in the summer holidays, various offspring, their husbands, wives and children plus her unmarried son who is in the navy. He's just been jilted, came back from a posting to discover his girlfriend had married someone else while he was away. The house Mrs. Lorimer wanted has been bought by a Mr. Smellie and his daughter, Nesta Rowena, and it's not long before the two families meet. Well this is one of those quiet, gentle books reminiscent of D.E. Stevenson and I gather the two authors were neighbours and friends. The story meanders along, introducing Mrs. Lorimer's adult children and we see how different they all are and decide who we like and who we don't like. Her best friend, Gray Douglas, takes centre stage quite a lot, she is also an author but not as popular as Lucy Lorimer. Things Happen of course and it's not such a quiet summer as Lucy anticipates and there's romance in the air and misunderstandings and so forth. I loved the book to bits. It was published in 1953 so it's the same age as me and as with me this does show at times: some attitudes reflect the times. I've read one other book by Molly Clavering, Because of Sam, and loved that too so it's obvious that Molly Clavering is an author I'm going to be reading more of. I have Dear Hugo on my Kindle and will probably read that in the late autumn as it's WW2 related.

79. The Runaway Wife - Dee MacDonald.

Connie is 66 years old and has been married for forty years. Their children are now grown, some of them with kids of their own and Connie spends most of her time either babysitting or ferrying her husband back and forth to the golf club. He's a moaner and the kids take it for granted that Connie will always babysit. Now she feels like she's had enough. Leaving a note, she packs her bags and takes off into the wild blue yonder in her little green car, Kermit. What follows is the tale of Connie's adventures and I absolutely 'loved' it. She meets people in strange places, gets to know them, usually helps them, or they help her. It's a real voyage of discovery as she makes her way from London to Scotland, thinking about her marriage, her children, and what her life has become. Is there more to life than this? she wants to know. I think quite a few older women will identify, if not with 'all' of this book, then certainly elements of it. I cheered her on and absolutely loved the people she got involved with and the way in which they all worked to solve problems and help each other. I didn't want it to end to be honest so when I discovered that Dee MacDonald has written a second book about Connie, The Getaway Girls, I grabbed it for my Kindle sharpish. The author also has a crime series on the go, the Kate Palmer books, set in Cornwall, and I've owned the first book in that series for a while and will read that this autumn.

80. Death of a Bookseller - Bernard J. Farmer. (To be reviewed but pretty good!)

81. The Dalai Lama: My Spiritual Autobiography - collected by Sofia Stril-Rever. Been reading this off and on for months. Not as interesting as I'd hoped but I learnt quite a bit about the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 1950s. 

So there you go, a bit of a mixed bag, 8 fiction, 4 non-fiction. I've done a bit of travelling - New York, Colorado, all over Latin America, Israel, Tibet and all around the UK. There were no real duds, a couple weren't quite as rivetting as I'd hoped but them's the breaks.

I have lots of reading plans for autumn, quite a few books sorted to read, mainly murder mysteries or spooky/supernatural books. I alway love and look forward to autumn and choosing what to to read. I shall do a separate post about that.  

I hope you're all well and finding some good books to devour. 


Tuesday 23 August 2022

I have been reading...

Well the first half of this month I spent binge-reading four crime novels and jolly excellent they all were too. Since then my reading's been a trifle mixed. My next four books were a bit hit and miss and what I take from that is that I'm excellent at choosing murder mysteries I will love, more hit and miss when I stray into other genres and non-fiction.

So, after I finished Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima I thought I should ring the changes a bit. So I read, There's More to Life Than This by Theresa Caputo. I had never heard of this American TV presenter who is a Medium from Long Island, New York. Mediums generally get a bad press and I have to admit I came into the, 'they're mostly frauds' category before I read this book. Caputo is very personable and convincing though (I've watched her on Youtube a bit) and me being curious and open-minded I found this book fascinating. Has it changed my mind about Mediums, probably not completely, but I now feel I at least know a lot more about the subject and that was the object of reading the book.

Next, I finished (because I've been reading this for several weeks) All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith.

The author is a professor of English Lit at a university in California. She takes it into her head to take a year off and visit various countries in Latin America to see whether or not Jane Austen's books are read and appreciated there. The idea is create temporary book clubs, get the members to read one of the books and then have a discussion. The author is really interested in how these quintessential English characters are perceived by people from countries whose culture could not really be much different. She's brushes up on her Spanish before she goes but finds language is always a barrier, partly because she just hasn't learnt enough but also each country has its own Spanish dialect. I liked this book, I didn't love it and that's partly because I didn't feel like I learnt very much from it. In all honesty I felt the book was more about the author and her illnesses, romances, relatives, quirks, than it was about Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it at all, the people she met were interesting and so was some of the history, but the book has not left a huge impression on me. One for the charity shop box.

Next up, Our Haunted Shores: Tales From the Coasts of The British Isles, edited by Emily Alder, Jimmy Packham and Joan Passey.

So, this collection of weird tales is from the British Library and is pretty much what it says on the tin - ghostly or macabre tales set around the coast. Authors include H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Hugh Walpole, Frances Hodgson Burnett and many more. I would describe this as another 'solid' collection. It begins with a couple of poems and then moves on to three 'anonymous' stories. Which is a shame as I marked one of those as 'excellent', The Strange Student, which is set on the coast of Scotland and tells of two holidaying students, one of whom is a bit fey and goes and falls in love with... well I won't say what but the beautiful descriptions of Argyllshire make the story come alive. Also excellent was, A Ghost of the Sea by Francis Prevost. This is a story about a chap who has an affair with a woman in Egypt, returns and, forgetting about her, gets engaged to someone else. Needless to say the first woman returns and weirdness ensues. This one is set on the North Cornish coast and is very atmospheric. Crooken Sands by Bram Stoker is another good'un, London family holiday in Scotland and Dad decides to get himself up in Scottish garb for the holiday, embarrassing the whole family. This one involves quicksand and doppelgangers. The Sea Raiders by H.G. Wells is an excellent giant squid yarn, as well written as you would expect from Wells. Seashore Macabre by Hugh Walpole lived up to my high expectation of his uncanny tales, but I think my favourite of the whole anthology was The Isle of the Blue Men by Robert W. Sneddon. Young couple living idyllically on a remote Hebridean Island for the summer. Locals say they should leave before winter sets in, 'nod, nod, wink, wink'. They don't of course and instead set sail for an island with a bad reputation, seven miles distant, where three lighthouse men live alone. They're horrified to see a woman arrive. Why? Well... :-) So, not a bad collection in all but folk tales and poetry are not really my thing, luckily some the short stories were excellent and made up for the bits and pieces that weren't really for me. 

Lastly I read, Three Stripes South by Bex Band. This was my Book Voyage read for this month covering the category of, 'The Middle East'.

There's a national trail that runs the length of Israel and it's known as the INT. Bex Band and her husband, Gil, himself an Israeli with family who live there, decide to give up their jobs and walk the length of it. The book charts their progress very nicely and there are other details such as Bex's awkward schooldays and then her search for a job she liked when she left school. Geographically speaking, I wasn't aware of how forested northern Israel is. That was a surprise. A lot of the south of the country is covered by the Negev desert... I knew that a lot of Irael must be desert but I had no idea what it was called and that the country is also very mountainous. I felt in awe of this couple as they trailed up and down mountain after mountain, constantly exhausted, constantly having to watch their water supply, constantly making sure they kept to the schedule to ensure they got to the designated camping areas and didn't end up having to spend a night on top of a mountain. As with most of these travel memoirs they met a lot of interesting and kind people and the nice thing is it all led to a massive career change for Bex and that was genuinely nice to read about.

So here we are almost at the end of the August and although it's not officially autumn until the 21st. September, I'm going with the meteorologists who judge the 1st. September to be the start of autumn. Thus I've already sorted a nice batch of books to read for the next three months - spooky reads and crime yarns mostly. I will do a post about that in a week or so.

Saturday 13 August 2022

Killing Trail - Margaret Mizushima

Continuing with my murder mystery binge reading, Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima is book 1 of her 'Timber Creek K-9' crime series. I'm fairly certain I read about it on Lark's blog ( Lark Writes... on books and life ), it's likely as we have such similar reading tastes but it could've been someone else, apologies if it was.


Soooo, this series is set in the mountains of Colorado in a small town named Timber Creek. Cop, Mattie Cobb, is newly qualified as a dog handler and the local police now has 'Robo', a German Shepherd on its force. They're still learning though, the two of them, and there is jealousy from another officer who thought he was going to win the covetted role and him being her superior makes life tricky. 

Mattie and Robo's first murder case involves a teenage girl found half-buried in the forest. Her beloved dog, Belle, is guarding the body but is also injured herself with a bullet wound. The local vet is Cole Walker, newly divorced with two daughters one of whom was friends with the murdered girl, Grace. Mattie and the prickly female detective brought in to investigate need to know more about Grace. Was she into drugs perhaps, as that problem in Timber Creek has definitely become more pronounced of late and someone is definitely running drugs. But Grace was not into that scene, so what's going on?

Well, this was another murder mystery that I found hard to put down. As is sometimes the case with me I had the perpetrator top of my list of suspects almost from the start. I didn't know if I was right though so it didn't matter. The setting here is gorgeous, lots of forests and mountains, rivers, walking trails and, well, you get the picture. It's idyllic but everyday life in these wonderful spots is not always what it's cracked up to be. They have exactly the same problems as we who live in more mundane areas, poverty, abuse, drugs, you name it.

I liked Mattie a lot, I groaned a bit that she was yet another main character with a troubled childhood but that seems to be par for the course these days and you wouldn't read anything at all if you ruled out all such books. I loved how devoted she is to Robo, determined to be a good dog handler, and cheered for her as she proved his (and her) worth to her colleagues. To be honest, the dog is pretty much the star of the show. LOL! I amuse myself as I don't own a dog, prefer cats really, but boy do I love a K-9 murder novel (The Search - Nora Roberts, Mercy Carr and Elvis by Paula Munier, Chet and Bernie by Spencer Quinn).

There is obvious romance on the horizon for Mattie although it will clearly not be straightforward. That's fine, I don't mind a bit of complicated relationship stuff as long as it doesn't overpower what is essentially a murder mystery series. And I don't think it will. 

All in all, a great start, this was published in 2015 I believe and there are now seven books in the series. I've already bought the next two, and this first book is only 99p on AmazonUK at the moment.

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Three crime titles

So, I'm on a mini crime reading binge at the moment, possibly due to the fact that I didn't read many murder mysteries last month and, feeling the lack, I'm making up for it in August.

So, first up, The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths which is the second book in her 'Harbinder Kaur' series. 

Shoreham is a seaside town on the south coast of England that plays host to quite a few retirement homes and complexes. Ninety year old Peggy Smith lives in one of the more expensive ones, keeping an eye on what goes on, making notes about people who go past on the prom etc., because this is what she's been used to doing all her life. When she's found dead in her flat no one thinks it's odd, she was very elderly after all. But Nakalka, one of the carers who comes in daily to see to her, is not happy and manages to convince DS Harbinder Kaur that Peggy might've been murdered. After all, Peggy's calling card has on it, 'Murder Consultant' and various murder mystery books in her flat have the dedication, 'To Peggy, thank you for the murders'... So this was 'huge' fun. And what was the most fun in my mind was the group of whacky individuals who set about investigating Peggy's demise together. There's Nakalka, the Ukrainian carer, Benedict the ex-monk and Edwin the ex-BBC employee, who was a friend of Peggy's and is himself quite elderly. Harbinder has to contend with this motley crew as she tries to discover whether Peggy was indeed murdered, and if so 'why?' I believe Elly Griffiths wrote this as a homage to crime writing, editors, bloggers, crime conventions, book signings, and it shows. It's a delight and as always Griffiths has her characterisations spot-on. Plus, it twists and turns like I don't know what as various crime writers become involved and under suspicion. Great stuff, I gave it a 5 on Goodreads.

Next, something completely different, Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris. This is part of my current Jane Austen 'thing', which started with 'Jane Austen July' and continues on because I loved it so much.

Jane and Lizzie Bennet have just got married and Caroline Bingley uses their wedding day, somewhat inappropriately, to announce her bethrothal to an American, Mr. Parrish. They marry but it's not long before Caroline's family start to notice some rather strange behaviour in her. It seems she's going downhill, mentally, and the family have a concerned conflab about what to do. Mr. Parrish wants to take her off to Louisana but the family are having none of it and it's decided to retire to Netherfield where it's quieter than London and the hope is that she might make a full recovery. Naturally, she doesn't, (well you all knew that) and things go from bad to worse. Attempts are made on people's lives by persons unknown and there's also a certain amount of weirdness in the shape of a Professor Randolph who has been called in by Parrish and believes in and studies the occult. Darcy is skeptical about it all but Lizzie is not so sure... Well this was also great fun. I don't think it's strictly necessary to have read Pride and Prejudice before you read it but it would help I feel. I felt that the author made a really good stab at keeping such iconic characters 'in character', only occasionally did I think the dialogue was not quite right for the time or country. But really this was an excellent mystery yarn, very pacey, I could easily see who the villain of the peace was but it didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. This is book 1 in Carrie Bebris's 'Mr. and Mrs. Darcy' murder mystery series and I liked it enough to read on... there are 7 books in all I believe. 

Lastly, and this is even 'more' different, Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts of course). 

Eve Dallas is a homicide detective in a futuristic New York. 2058 I think it is. Someone is knocking off high-class prostitutes, shooting them with guns which are now outlawed in the USA. One of the women killed was the grand-daughter of a senator who has chosen to leave her family behind and become a high-class call girl. It's because of this that Eve is assigned to the case and all is kept hush-hush. When another woman, very young, is killed all secrecy goes out of the window. During the course of her investigations Eve meets Rourke, a very wealthy business man. He's a suspect but she can't deny the physical attraction she feels for him and he sees a vulnerable woman with a lot of secrets and, loving a challenge, wants to know what she's hiding. Well. This is a 'hugely' popular series by Nora Roberts, writing as J.D. Robb. It's 50 + books long and plenty of people have read the lot! I found it very pacey, exciting, I enjoyed it but I had an idea who the culprit was and was partly right. I'm not a great fan of a lot of sex in my crime novels and this has quite a bit. If that's not your thing this might not be for you. I was also not certain how much I liked Rourke. I didn't feel he made much of an effort to understand Eve's considerable problems as a New York police detective, I felt he put his own desires first and his aggressive pursuit of her did not sit well with me. I, however, am old and cynical - your mileage may vary. Will I read any more? I honestly don't know. I found this in a bunch of books my cousin gave me and I'm not sure I have the stamina to search out 50 books and try to read them all in order. On the other hand, the world building was interesting enough for me to be intrigued as to where these books go. Hmm, decisions, decisions. 

So, three good crime mysteries. My favourite would definitely be The Postscript Murders, I loved its quirky Britishness and homage to crime writing, but all three were good in their own way. Happy reading! 


Tuesday 2 August 2022

Books read in July

I have to say that July is always my least favourite month of the year and I'm always glad when it's over. This year it truly lived up to my dislike of it by being the month my husband went down with a second bout of pneumonia. That pretty much took up 3 weeks but I'm pleased to report that he's well on the road to recovery. It'll probably take another month or more but progress is steady.

The first weekend of July, on the other hand, was absolutely delightful as Constance from 'Staircase Wit' came to visit and we did a flying visit to Cornwall. Constance has done two delightful posts about our trip:

Post 1

Post 2 

Well worth a read with some lovely photos.


Anyway. Books. I read 10 in July and these are they:

60. The Camino - Shirley MacLaine. I mentioned this book very briefly here.

61. Traitor King - Andrew Lownie 

62. The Mysterious Mr. Quin - Agatha Christie 

63. Walloon Ways - Val Poore. This is another of Val's delightful travel books about the canals of Europe. Val lives on a canal boat in The Netherlands but this books tells about her weekend trips into Belgium, the people they met, the places they visited. I always love Val's books, they have a kindness and a gentleness about them that is quite rare in this day and age. Highly recommended. 

64. Miss Austen - Gill Hornby 

65. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen 

66. Death Beside the Seaside - T.E. Kinsey. Book 6 in the author's Lady Hardcastle series wherein her and her maid/companion, Flo, go off to Weston-Super-Mare, in Somerset, for their hols. Needless to say they don't get much of a holiday as death and mayhem ensue. Excellent and fun.

67. Squashed Possums - Jonathan Tindale. Read for my Book Voyage challenge, the category being Australia and New Zealand. The book recounts how the author spent a year in a caravan in a wilderness area of New Zealand. Not bad but a bit odd as it's told from the pov of the caravan...

68. Away With the Penguins - Hazel Prior 

69. A Sky Painted Gold - Laura Wood. A coming-of-age story set in Cornwall. An eighteen year old girl, Louise, whose older sister has just married, finds herself lonely and at a loose end. She's been hiding away in a big neglected house on a nearby island, reading their books in the library, when suddenly the owners reappear. Thus begins the most exciting summer of Lou's life. Loved this to bits and read it in two sittings.

So, a fairly eclectic bunch of books last month, 6 fiction, 4 non-fiction and lots of worldwide travel - New Zealand, Antarctica, Belgium, Spain, The South of France etc. I've really enjoyed Jane Austen July, and will continue on with that as I have a huge list of books I now want to read connected with her.

I'm currently reading these two.

My problem with Elly Griffiths's books is that once I start one I end up gobbling it up far too quickly. I try to slow myself down but it doesn't work. The Postscript Murders is proving to be exactly the same as all the others!

Enjoying this very much, not just the Jane Austen discussions but also the travel aspect of Central and South America, not regions I tend to read very much about.

So, here we are in August and I have lots of reading planned and am looking forward to the end of summer and autumn arriving. I hope you're all well and have plenty of good books to read.