Thursday 15 September 2022

Halfway through September

What a week it's been for the UK. Unless you've been living in a cave on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides (somedays it has its attractions) you'll know that The Queen died last week. I think pretty much everyone was taken by surprise. Yes, she was 96 but, apart from looking rather frail in that lovely photo with the cardy and the kilt, there was no real indication that we would lose her two days later. I am a monarchist... not of the fanatical kind... but I believe in it and am  very sad to lose her. I personally have never known another monarch. I was born in May, just a few weeks before her coronation in June 1953, and was given the middle name 'Elizabeth' after her. I saw on Facebook that the author, Louise Penny, is the same and realised with a jolt that there are probably quite a lot of us women out there, in our sixties, all named after The Queen! How odd. So now we have King Charles III. It's going to take some adjustment for all of us, not least for him. Good to see people rallying behind him but my goodness Queen Elizabeth II will be a hard act to follow, I don't envy him one little bit. Interesting times, as they say. But after the last few years I think there's a strong argument for a petition to whomever it might concern that times have got a bit 'too' interesting of late and could we possibly have a break now.

So, reading.  September's been a quietish reading month so far. My last book of August/first book of September was a lurid and unlikely romance set in Montana, Rushed by Aurora Rose Reynolds. It's superior Mills and Boon/Harlequin romance fare really. Woman is jilted by fiancĂ©, but they had booked an adventure holiday in Montana, hiking, learning to survive in the wilderness, that kind of thing. So she goes anyway, on her own, and falls for the chap who's running the course. Bit of conflict ensues but not a lot, it's quite explicit but not excessively so, and the setting was divine and well depicted. It's part one of a three part series, Adventures in Love, where each book deals with a particular male character who appears in book one. The book was fun, bit too much 'lifting of chins' going on (don't books get edited these days?), but I don't think I'll be reading any more.

My next read was, Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers, a not entirely successful read but it had its moments.

After that I picked up, Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block, this was on my autumn shelf which I posted about HERE.

Bernie Rhodenbarr's chosen profession is that of 'burglar'. He lives in New York city and just a few jobs a year keep him in a decent appartment with a decent life. Then he accepts an assignment from a man who looks vaguely familiar but Bernie can't put his finger on where he's seen him before. The job is to break into someone's appartment and steal a blue box from a desk. Except that the box isn't there and before Bernie can search elsewhere, in rush the police. But they know him and he pays them to keep quiet, except that one of them goes to use the bathroom and discovers a dead body in one of the bedrooms. Bernie, panicked, makes a dash for freedom and finds himself on the run. Holed up in a friend's appartment, afraid to go out, he must work out a way to find the real killer and clear his name. So this is book one in Lawrence Block's long running series about the New York burglar, Bernie Rhodenbarr. There are 13 books in the series but Block is quite a prolific writer so other series are available, so to speak. This was a light-hearted book, quite an accomplishment I feel to make a crime investigator of a burglar and make him a sympathetic and funny character into the bargain. The action is fast paced, always something going on, but this is New York so I rather expected that. The flavour of that city is very strong. I've never been lucky enough to go to New York (although I've flown over it and had a good view) but like a lot of people I've seen so much of it on the TV that I almost feel like I have been there and know the atmosphere. Not sure if there's another city that could claim that. Do people from other countries feel that way about London even though they may not have actually been there? Hmm. Anyway. Well written, light-hearted, clever, this is a good start to a 'new to me' series and I'll be trying to read more, I have book 3 so will be trying to find book 2 asap.

The book I've just finished is, The Pact by Sharon Bolton.

So this is another book about a group of students getting into trouble. I say 'another' because it brought to mind The Secret History by Donna Tartt and A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine. And I think Tana French also wrote a student based crime yarn too, The Likeness, but I have not read that. In this story a group of students have just finished their A levels and are enjoying one last summer of freedom before going on to university. There are six of them, aged around eighteen, five are from wealthy backgrounds, the sixth is a scholarship girl from a poor family. Basically they've been enjoying a summer of drink and drugs... and a dangerous dare which all six of them are expected to undertake. On the night in question there's one last person to do this thing and the result is that three innocent people, including two children, die. What to do? One person will take the blame that's what. That person will go to prison but when they come out the remaining five will owe him or her a favour each. What could possibly go wrong? Ok, so this is one of those modern compulsive reads you come across sometimes. Not so much that you actually love it or the characters, who are mainly awful I have to say... it's just that it's written so well that you're compelled to keep turning the pages at a great rate of knots to see what happens next to these horrible people and will they get their come-uppance. 'Pacey' I suppose one might call the book. I also loved how good the author is at gauging human nature, especially the selfish side. How far are people prepared to go to protect what is theirs? How do they go about convincing themselves that they haven't behaved appallingly? Interesting twisty stuff in the end scenes which were very 'edge of the seat' and compelling. An excellent read. 

I hope you're all enjoying your autumn reading.


Margot Kinberg said...

It has, indeed, been quite a month, Cath. Things are not going to be the same after Queen ELizabeth's death, and we will see what happens next. I think that uncertainty in itself can be disquieting. But, on to your reading... I'm very glad to see you liked Burglars Can't Be Choosers. I think Block is a very, very talented writer, and he's been quite prolific, so you've got lots waiting for you when you get to them! I hope the rest of your September goes well.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

Yes,I was shocked and saddened by the Queen's death although as you say she was 96. And I've been impressed by the funeral arrangements. My middle name is Elizabeth too, but after my grandmother and great grandmother, although I used to say it was after the Queen and Princess Margaret. I agree that The Pact is an excellent book, but I thoroughly enjoyed Five Red Herrings. I haven't come across the other books. I've had a weird summer with my reading as we've been away twice and I haven't read as many as I'd like and am very behind with writing reviews.

Lark said...

I cried when I heard about Queen Elizabeth...and I'm not even British. It's just she's been there for so long, and was so steadfast and stalwart and optimistic through everything. And her death seemed to come so suddenly. I watched her funeral procession on TV and thought about Princess Diana's own procession 25 years ago. I was always a fan of her. Not so much Prince Charles, but he's really stepped up as King Charles and I think he'll do a good job. Though no one will ever be able to replace his mother.

Cathy said...

For some reason, I was not surprised by QE2's death. Every time I saw a photo or video clip of her after Philip's death, she was a little more hunched, a little frailer. I think she just missed Philip too much.

That aside, I'm about a third of the way through The Pact, and those entitled brats are getting right up my nose. This is definitely one of those books to finish to ensure that they all get what's coming to them! LOL

Cath said...

Margot: Yes, I think you're right about uncertainty being disquieting. Change is not something everyone likes - I'm one who dislikes too much for instance - but we just have accept it's here and deal with it. The new king has no choice, poor man.

I'm really looking forward to reading more Lawrence Bloch. I read one of his short stories a while ago and at the time thought it was the best story in the anthology so I may look to see if he has any short story collections available.

Cath said...

Margaret: I've been very impressed by the funeral arrangements too. Yesterday's procession was very moving. Also I've been staggered by all the people wanting to go to the lying in state.

I liked The Pact a lot, although perhaps 'liked' is the wrong word. Very clever premise and the sort of book I couldn't put down. I'll be reading more by Sharon Bolton.

Cath said...

Lark: Everything you say is spot-on and why so many people all around the world are mourning. I think Charles will do a good job as he's had such an amazing example in his mother for so many years, plus he's ably supported by William and Kate.

Cath said...

Cathy: I agree that The Queen missed Philip too much to want to hang in there for much longer. If she was ready to go I'm ok with that, she gave pretty much her entire life to the country after all.

Look forward to hearing what you think of The Pact! Very interesting background and look at human nature.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I agree with you Cath, that there probably needs to be some changes to our system of Monarchy in the not-too-distant future. However, with Charles already having been proclaimed King, that's probably going to be quite some time away, but maybe something he should be planning ahead for.

What with The Queen's death; government having been at standstill for so many weeks; the both of us having been quite rough with Covid; having had no hot water for 10 days (fingers crossed for later today); then having to find £10,000 lying around within the week for a new heating system - reading has taken a definite back seat!!

I have read a couple of books:

'When We Were Young' by Dawn Goodwin
'The Dilemma' by Julia Roberts
'The Woman Outside The Walls' by Suzanne Goldring

Now all I need to do is get the reviews written up as they are all Blog Tours.

I like the sound of the Lawrence Block and Sharon Bolton books too, so no doubt those will make my list!

Here's to a quieter end to the month :)

TracyK said...

I was five when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned and I had a doll (adult, with a wardrobe) with a short brunette hairdo like hers and I called her Elizabeth. (I still have the doll.) I was born in November 1948 like Charles, so I watched him and Anne growing up. And I was very surprised when the Queen's death was announced, I did not expect it. I have been following events in the paper since then, remembering things I had forgotten and learning new things about the monarchy and the UK.

Glad to see that you liked the Bernie Rhodenbarr book. I had hoped to find more books by Lawrence Block in that series and others at the book sale, but no luck today. This was the first day of the sale.

Your comments on The Pact are interesting, a compulsive read about unlikeable people. That was how I felt about The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I did not love it but it sure held my interest.

I am currently reading Anna Karenina and A Killer in King's Cove by Iona Whishaw (set in British Columbia, right after WWII).

CLM said...

I am quite ashamed of wishing the Queen had died while I was there! But I don't think I could possibly have waited in a queue for more than 24 hours and I doubt my professor would have liked my disappearing either! And yet I would have been tempted and I will certainly get up at 5 am on Monday to watch on TV. Fortunately (and doubtless expensively) someone is coming to fix the refrigerator that morning which has started to turn everything inside to ice, although on the lowest setting. This gives me an excuse to work remotely that morning although no one at work will be fooled and my boss said, "Don't tell me!"

Nan said...

I'm with you. I am a monarchist, and one of my English blogging friends is amazed because I'm quite a liberal/socialist/rebel whatever, but I have no problem holding both ideas in my head!
The thing about King Charles is that his stance on the environment, organic growing, etc. makes me very hopeful.
I think I've written before about Tom's mother is only two years younger than the Queen. I was born the same year as the King. Margaret is a month younger than William. And the little ones are around the ages of my grandkids. I kinda love that.
I do wish I were there. I probably would have joined that long, long queue. It is broadcast live online on the BBC. Just now it says around 15,000 people are tuned in. I so love all the traditions, and wish I knew more about them.

Cath said...

Yvonne: I don't think I said I wanted changes in the monarchy. There will be some, without a doubt, and I'm quite happy about that, but I'm very much a 'go with the flow' sort of person and am quite content with the monarchy as it is at the moment.

Gosh, I'm sorry to hear about your heating system needing to have ten thousand spent on it. I can sympathise, we had an outlay of seven thousand on our drive in the summer, we'd left it and left it until it absolutely had to be done as we practically had trenches in it. And now our car's off the road, has been for over a week, and we don't know if it's fixable and if it is it's going to cost. There's always something it seems to me.

Oh dear, I thought you had a plan to cut down on Blog Tours... sorry to hear they're still piling up!

Yes, I wouldn't mind a quieter end to the month either.

Cath said...

Tracy: Princess Anne is the royal that I'm closest in age to, she's 72 I think, I'm 69. I didn't realise, daft as it sounds, that there is such a gap between Charles and Anne and Andrew and Edward. I thought it was 5 or 6 years... turns out it's 10.

I did like the Bernie Rhodenbarr book, far more than I expected to. The writing was good and the narrative fun. Sorry to hear you didn't find any at the book sale, you definitely wouldn't find them over here as many people would not even have heard of Lawrence Block... only us avid crime readers.

It's so odd the way some books about awful people hold your interest but others are unreadable. I think it must depend on the way the author writes the book. A Killer in King's Cove, set in BC, sounds good!

Cath said...

Constance: I know what you mean though. In fact I did think of you and wondered if you might be thinking that. LOL! To be honest if we were closer and I didn't have Peter to think about I would be sorely tempted to go to the lying in state. But luckily with the wonders of technology and so on, it's all available to us to watch and we'll definitely be tuning in to the funeral tomorrow. Coverage will start early in the morning I suspect. You clearly have a fridge that's very in tune with your thoughts!

Cath said...

Nan: Well here's the thing. I've read several articles about monarchies and freedom and there was also a poll about the best liberal 'free thinking' countries to live and six of the top ten were monarchies: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, the UK, with Belgium and Spain not far behind. I wish we could have a discussion about this over a cup of tea and a piece of cake, it's so interesting. I agree about Charles and although he will now have to tone that down a bit I have no fears because we obviously 'know' how he feels and that won't change, but Prince William will now take that on I'm sure. It was fantastic to see the two of them out shaking hands and talking to The Queue yesterday. So much love for them, it makes me tear up to be honest. It's hard to lose The Queen but I think we'll be ok with those two and their two excellent wives.

Cathy said...

Cath, I'm finding The Pact a very interesting listen indeed-- mainly because the narrator is giving all those entitled brats very posh accents-- perfectly in character! When I mentioned that to a friend yesterday afternoon, she was puzzled, and it dawned on me that many Americans may not know what I'm talking about when I refer to posh British accents.

Cath said...

Cathy: It's interesting isn't it? Most unlikeable characters, which is not a favourite thing of mine, but unputdownable nevertheless. Yes, they would all have posh accents, well I read them as so anyway, all apart from maybe Megan. I wasn't sure about her as her background is not moneyed like the others. LOL... yes, only Americans like yourself, and some friends of ours, people who have a lot to do with Brits, know that the amount of accents and posh non-accents are absolutely legion in the UK. My husband speaks BBC English (I don't, I'm a bit Cornish) so some American friends of ours had him record a message on their answer-phone in the style of a butler. They got some hilarious reactions.

Susan said...

The Queen's death is very sad. In spite of her advanced age, she seemed to have endless energy. I really thought she was going to live forever! She was a class act, for sure.

I'm a big Sharon Bolton fan, although I haven't actually read THE PACT yet. I have it on my Kindle, so I'll get to it eventually. I know what you mean about it being ANOTHER book about a group of students getting themselves in trouble. I've read A LOT of these lately, which is maybe while I'm putting off reading THE PACT for now. Bolton definitely knows how to write gripping books. My favorite of hers is LITTLE BLACK LIES.

Cathy said...

No, I haven't finished The Pact yet, and I just had to tell somebody about something that's bugging me about the audiobook version.

I was under the impression (and so was my Lancashire Lad here at home) that Magdalene College in Oxford was pronounced "Maudlin" College, yet every time the narrator mentions it, she says "Magdalene". Odd what bothers a person, isn't it? :-)

CLM said...

I've always heard "Maudlin" is how Magdalene College is pronounced so that *is* very annoying!

I haven't read The Pact yet but I definitely like her series about Lacey better than most of the standalone, although the one set in the Falklands was very good.

Vintage Reading said...

Yes the loss of our Queen made me sad. I don't think we will see her like again. BBC coverage of the funeral was exemplary I thought.

Cath said...

Susan: Yes, I think we all thought The Queen would live forever too and that's why there was so much shock. It seemed very sudden as she was up and about 2 days before.

I'll look up Sharon Bolton's Little Black Lies. I liked her writing a lot.

Cath said...

Cathy: Yep, 'Magdalene' college is definitely pronounced 'Maudlin' although I have no idea why. Like Beauchamp is usually prnounced 'Beecham'. It kind of passeth all understanding. LOL

Cath said...

Constance: I'll do a bit of investigating into more of Sharon Bolton's books. I don't think I could live on a diet of them though, I'd keel over with exhaustion!

Cath said...

Nicola: I'm pretty sure we will never see The Queen's like again. We've lived through an extraordianry reign really. And with three chaps now in direct succession I'm pretty sure that I'll not see another queen in my lifetime.

Vallypee said...

I’ve been away, Cath, so I’ve missed your blog of late. I agree about the Queen. She was crowned two years before I was born, so she’s always been there in my life. Although I’m now a Dutch citizen, I’m still English and I’ll miss her. She’ll be a very hard act to follow and I’m so glad she managed to see her jubilee. I’ve been reading a lot over the holidays, but I’ll have to add the Pact to my list. It sounds quite riveting!

Cath said...

Welcome back, Val! Yes, I saw on FB that you'd been on your travels on your barge again. I hope you get a new book out of your adventures.

The Queen will definitely be a hard act to follow and I don't envy the new king one little bit.

Hope you found some good books to read over your holidays, I think that's one of the nicest bits about being away to be honest. The Pact definitely deserves the description, 'page-turner'.