Friday, 24 March 2023

Catching up - a couple of crime titles

A couple of crime titles to catch up on today and a couple of good'uns too!

First up, Murder in the Mill-Race by E.C.R Lorac, this is one of the BLCC reissues dating from 1952 so just a little bit older than me. I wonder which of us has aged best. (No need to answer that...)

So, a young doctor, Raymond Ferrens, moves to a small village in North Devon, very close to Exmoor. With him goes his wife of four years, Anne. The village is Milham-in-the-Moor and lies on a hilltop about ten miles from the nearest town. It's a stunningly pretty place but it doesn't take long for the couple to realise how isolated it is and how insular the villagers are. The new neighbours trot along to introduce themselves, among them Sister Monica, the nun who has run a small orphanage for many decades. Anne takes an instant dislike to the woman although she's not really sure why, something about her feels malign. So it's no surprise when, some months later, Sister Monica's body is found floating in the mill-race at the bottom of the hill, below the village. The local policeman, Sergeant Peel, does his level best with the villagers but he's from the local town and therefore 'not one of them'. It's decided to call in Scotland Yard and Chief Inspector MacDonald is consequently dispatched to Devon, along with Sergeant Reeves, to find out who could possibly want a nun, so beloved of the village, dead. And it's no easy task for them either. All they can get out of people is, 'Her come over dizzy, poor soul. That be it. Terrible dizzy Sister's been these weeks past'. That and how wonderful she was, what a saint and so on. But somebody clearly did not agree... So this is actually book 37 of Lorac's Inspector MacDonald books and I have not read the previous 36 in order, I've read 4 or 5 completely out of order. It doesn't matter, MacDonald is not a tortured soul and neither is Reeves, so there's no backstory to keep up with. I love how down to earth both of them are too and most of the humour that runs through the book is down to those two, particularly as regards the villagers and their, 'Her come over dizzy, poor soul'. I laughed quite bit having lived in Devon for many years. The village is a beautiful setting and it jumps off the page at you, and Lorac clearly knew her village mentality 'very' well. Parts of the book are almost creepy, taking place as they do in the dark and one scene near the end in a dark house was really quite edge-of-your-seat. E.C.R. Lorac (Edith Caroline Rivett) was a top-notch crime writer and why she was ever forgotten is as much of a mystery as you'll find in any of her books. A really excellent read.

Next, Camino Island by John Grisham. I thought he only wrote court-room, lawyer type books until Lark mentioned that she might read this for the Bookish Books challenge, back at the beginning of January. Intrigued, I looked it up and then reserved it from the library. It then languished on the shelf and I forgot what it was about and was very pleasantly surprised when I found it was about 'books'. *Head-desk* I'm 70 in May... that says it all really.

Anyhoooo. Mercer Mann is an author who's had one literary book published that did very well and a book of short stories that did not. She's been working in a uni, teaching, but is losing her job due to cuts. She's approached by a mysterious woman who knows all about her, even down to the fact that she spent a lot of her summers as a child on Camino Island off the coast of Florida. Why is that of interest? Well, five valuable original manuscripts of the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald have been stolen from the vaults of Princeton university. The woman, Elaine, works for an insurance company and is conducting her own enquiry into the whereabouts of the stolen manuscripts. She thinks a bookseller, Bruce Cable, who lives on Camino Island has them and she wants Mercer to return to the island on the pretext of trying to finish her next book and of having writer's block, which she actually does have. But really she wants Mercer to infiltrate the writing and book-selling community on the island to try and find out if Bruce actually does have the stolen works. So, John Grisham is not an author that generally appeals to me as I'm not a huge fan of court-room, lawyer types of books (although The Client is a great film so I should probably try the book). This is nothing like that. I wasn't sure what to expect of his writing and found it spare, not many frills, although the island is very real and I could picture it beautifully so the writing is not that spare. I absolutely loved the authors on the island, especially the couple, Myra and Leigh, one of whom writes sexually charged pot-boilers which have made a fortune and the other, literary novels, which have not. It was also an excellent glimpse into the world of rare book selling and the wheeler-dealing which goes on in a very shadowy sort of underworld. The heist at the start of the book was exciting and ruthless and I didn't know I liked that sort of thing so there you go... you never can tell. A pageturner, I read it in two sittings and ignored pretty much everything yesterday until I'd finished it. The end fizzled out a bit weakly I thought but no matter, I thought this was an excellent read and there is a another book about Bruce Cable I gather, Camino Winds. I'll get that as soon as my library reopens after renovations. If anyone has any other Grisham recommendations that are not set in court-rooms I would welcome them.

Saturday, 18 March 2023

I have been reading...

I fully admit I've been a bit AWOL lately but thankfully it's not down to anything nasty... I've been reading a book that's 900 pages long and concentrating on it fully rather than reading something else alongside it, as I would normally do. So, lots of reading going on but no posts so I'll try to make up for that today.

So, after A Killer Read by Erika Chase I finished off A Year of Living Simply by TV presenter, Kate Humble.

The author is quite famous in the UK as a sort of wild-life TV person who also did travel docs on the side. She used to present programmes such as Springwatch, but over the last few years she's taken more to documentaries about walking stretches of UK coastal paths and about people who've upped sticks and gone to live in the wilds of, say, the Welsh countryside or Orkney, to start small holdings or holiday lets. She's very personable and I thought this book, with ideas of how to simplify your life and live greener, might be interesting. And it was, to an extent. She talks a lot about going out walking for your mental health, starting a garden, moving to a quieter area, in her case rural Wales. She's also bought a house in a remote part of France. These are not things most of us can do to be frank. Even going out for a walk is not easy for some. The other thing is that I'm not sure jetting off to New Mexico to look at Earthship houses is particularly carbon footprint-friendly. All that said, I did find this gentle book, about simplifying your life, quite interesting, and Kate Humble's writing is delightful: I've already bought her book about walking, Thinking on My Feet, for my Kindle. 3.5 stars upped to 4 for the writing. 

My fourth book for March was a 900 page door-stopper of a book, The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb. This is book two in her 'Liveship Traders' fantasy trilogy: I reread book one last month.

Not sure how to make this spoiler free, it being a second book in a trilogy. Basically this continues all of the stories featured in book one, Ship of Magic, which concentrated heavily on the doings of the Vestrits, a family of Traders based in Bingtown on The Cursed Shores. Ronica is the matriarch, when she lost her husband it was thought his live-ship, The Vivacia, would go to Althea, their youngest daughter, because she's been sailing with him for years. But it doesn't, it goes to her sister and her horrible husband, and Althea goes off to prove herself elsewhere. She's back in Bingtown in book two, for a while, patching things up with her family. The ship, meanwhile, with Althea's nephew, Wintrow, a novice monk, aboard, is having plenty of adventures of its own. And then there's Malta, Althea's neice, whose antics in book one brought her all kinds of trouble especially with the Rainwild Traders who live up river in a city in the trees where the water is so poisonous it has 'changed' these humans in some very odd ways. Very hard to describe these epic saga type books in a cohesive manner, but I can assure you they're not hard to read, in fact quite the opposite. 900 pages fair cracks along, I had it read in 8 days and loved every single page. This is very much a book about family, what people will do to protect them and also how certain members are prepared to sacrifice other members for gain or as a result of jealousy. Hobb's first connected trilogy, 'Farseer' is about Fitz, a royal bastard, and his life is all you hear about - the Liveship Traders trilogy is a sea-going romp and you get all kinds of points of view, even down to sea serpents and dragons. It's suspenseful, wierd, political, completely adventurous, one heck of a journey to be honest. And the writing is sublime. A five star read for me, no question whatsoever. I want to read book 3 very soon but think I should give myself a couple of weeks to get my breath back first!

Here's a brilliant graphic showing all of the Realm of the Elderlings books in order of pubication, which is how I'm reading them:



 So, my current read is this which is slightly less of roller-coaster ride.

Murder in the Mill-Race by E.C.R. Lorac is set in a very small, isolated village in North Devon, close to where I live as a matter of fact. A young doctor and his wife move to the village and, although friendly enough, find it ruled over by Sister Monica, the nun who runs a small orphanage. They don't like her one little bit and they're not alone... but most of the village inhabitants call the woman 'wonderful', 'a saint'. But is she? I love E.C.R. Lorac's murder mysteries, so well written and convoluted.

Anyway, I hope you're all well and finding loads of good books to read.

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

A Killer Read by Erika Chase

So, I would not call myself a cosy mystery fan. When it comes to murder and mayhem I fall somewhere in the middle between cosy at one end and gritty at t'other. Authors such as Louise Penny, Elly Griffiths, Nevada Barr attract me, not too much grimness in there to disturb my equilibrium but enough to thrill me a bit. That said, occasionally I do read a cosy and occasionally I get a surprise. 


Lizzie Turner lives in Ashton Corners, Alabama, where she was born and grew up. She's a reading specialist at a local school, helping teachers and helping pupils who're struggling  to read and not interested in books. Along with Molly, an elderly lady who's connected to Lizzie by being a friend of her mother's, she decides to start a new book club in the area - The Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society. Joining the club is Bob, a retired police chief, a lawyer friend of his, Jason, Sally-Jo, a teaching friend, several of the reluctant teen readers Lizzie's been coaching and so on. 

On the night of the first meeting at Molly's home all goes well until Molly and Lizzie suddenly realise they have an intruder. They go out into the hall and a man is there having just walked straight in. He asks to use the phone because his car has broken down. Neither of the women feel comfortable having him in the house as his behaviour is odd and this is borne out when he's killed within ten minutes of leaving - shot dead with a pistol. 

Chief of police in Ashton Corners is Mark Dreyfuss, he was Lizzie's crush at school and this makes her feel rather awkward. She has to get over it though as he's assuming a connection between the dead man and the book club, or, because it's Molly's house he came to, 'her' and the deceased. Lizzie doesn't think this is so and decides to move the investigation along by making enquiries of her own. Which of course makes her a target as she starts getting anonymous phonecalls in the middle of the night, asking her if she knows what story her journalist father was working on when he was killed years ago. And then someone starts to leave parts of a manuscript in her mailbox and the story therein reads like a memoir and is a real tragedy. What's going on? How can Lizzie and the group draw the threads of this complicated enquiry together and get some answers?

Ok, so A Killer Read  is my second book for March. I expected to love the first book and didn't, it was dull. So coming out of that I was looking for something with lots of characters of both sexes with different life experiences, different points of view and of varying ages. Real life! And I got it when I wasn't sure I would. 

How refreshing to have a main character whose love of books leads her to a career with books and young people. Her life is settled but not perfect, after her father died her mother went into a decline, neglecting Lizzie, still a child, and is now in a nursing home with dementia. The scenes where Lizzie and Molly visit are touching. So there is sadness in this book, and challenges. One of the teens Lizzie is trying to help is pregnant and clearly very afraid of something. Lizzie's male neighbour and landlord is clearly lonely, baking and looking out for her, and she realises this and is kind to him. It's nice. 

There's romance, a couple of them actually, but they don't overwhelm the main plot of the search for answers as to who the dead man was and what his connection to the town was. The dialogue is snappy and amusing, I loved all the baking going on and just the sense that these people supported each other and were trying to make life better for everyone. Uplifting, I would call the book. And I liked Lizzie and how she interacted with her friends, trying always to do her best but not always succeeding.

I gather the author, Erika Chase, is Canadian. How someone from Alabama would view the dialogue and its accuracy I wouldn't like to say. But as I'm not, I couldn't tell the difference and thought it was fine. I thought there was a decent but not strong sense of place, enough that I was content though. It did start rather slow and it wasn't until I was about a quarter of the way in that I thought, 'Oh... this is actually not bad!' I liked the mentions of other crime series, some of which I will look up, and I liked how each chapter started with a quote from a crime book by another author.

Of course, A Killer Read  being a book about books never harms and this is my fourth book for the Bookish Books Reading Challenge which is being hosted by Susan at  Bloggin' 'Bout Books. Book 2, Read and Buried, is already on my Kindle, it's set just before Christmas so that's probably when I'll read it. 

I hope you're finding some good books to read in March.

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Books read in February

It's amazing how your reading months can vary. In January I was up and down like a yo-yo, anything from 2 star reads to 5. February has been much more on an even keel, mainly 4s and certainly no 2s! 

Anyway, the books. I read 11 last month - given February is a short month that's quite surprising for me but there you go, if life actually made sense where on Earth would we be...

9. The Pavilion in the Clouds - Alexander McCall Smith

10. Midwinter Murders - Agatha Christie which I briefly spoke about in that link. 

11. Blind Descent - Nevada Barr

12. To Be Taught if Fortunate - Becky Chambers 

13. The Willows in Winter - William Horwood. Delightful sequel to The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

14. Murder Before Evensong - The Reverand Richard Coles

15. Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen - Fay Weldon. This novella length non-fiction book features letters Fay Weldon sent to her, non-existant niece, Alice, after said niece had told her she found Jane Austen 'boring'. I must admit I thought Alice was a real person, but she's not, so it's a bit confusing. Regardless, I enjoyed these essays on Jane and her life, there's a lot of background on what life was like for middle and upper-class women in the early 1800s and I found it fascinating. 

16.The Nonesuch - Georgette Heyer. This was a reread of one of my favourite Regency romances by Heyer, this is probably my third reading of it but it still felt fresh and delightful.

17. Washington Black - Esi Edugyen

18. Red Sauce Brown Sauce - Felicity Cloake. Non-fiction about a journalist who cycles around the UK looking at what we Brits eat for breakfast, regional variations that kind of thing. Very enjoyable, I have another book by her where she goes to France for the same reason so I look forward to reading that. 

19. Ship of Magic - Robin Hobb. A reread of book 1 of Hobb's 'Liveship Trader' series which I read 10 years ago. I want to read book 2 and didn't think I'd remember enough about it to understand what was going on. Loved it all over again and can't wait to start on book 2 now. The review I did of The Ship of Magic, back in 2013, is HERE.

So those are my 11 books... 9 fiction, 2 non-fiction. There was one 3 star (Washington Black), seven 4 stars, and three 5 star reads (Blind Descent by Nevada Barr, The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer, and Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb). I mainly stayed in the UK this month but did several forays to Sri Lanka, New Mexico in the USA, and Barbados, Canada and Morroco in Washington Black. So that's not bad really. 

Favourite book? Not easy when I consider February to have been an excellent month for books, much better than January. But if pushed it would be this:

Blind Descent by Nevada Barr had me on the edge of my seat following claustrobic Anna Pigeon into the depths of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Fantastic. Honorable mentions, well both of my 5 star rereads, but also Murder Before Evensong by Richard Coles, To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers and The Pavilion in the Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith. 

I hope February was a good reading month for you, and that you're keeping well and staying sane in these crazy times. 


Wednesday, 22 February 2023

A couple of short reviews

So, two short reviews today, and the first of those is Murder Before Evensong by The Reverend Richard Coles. This is the first book in his new 'Canon Clement' series of murder mystery books.

It's 1988 and Canon Daniel Clement has been the Rector of St. Marys in the village of Champton for eight years. He lives with his mother, the acerbic Audrey, and two dachshunds. The patron of Champton is Bernard de Floures who lives in the stately Champton House along with his son and daughter; living nearby is a cousin, Anthony, down on his luck a bit who is doing historical work in the archives. Life is never simple for a vicar and the battle he's presently fighting is his project to install toilets in the church for the use of parishoners. Various factions are for and against and things are about to turn nasty. When Anthony is found dead in the church, viciously stabbed with a pair of secateurs, the police look to Daniel for information about the village and villagers. Who on Earth would want this rather sad and blameless man dead in such a horrific manner? So, Richard Coles is a bit of a media personality. He broadcasts on the radio I believe and is seen regulary on TV, a couple of years ago he was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing for instance. He comes over as a very amiable, gentle person and a very good communicator. (He's actually famous twice over because he had a number one hit with a group called The Communards back in the 1980s.) All this he brings to his writing, even though the book is about dead bodies galore! I hesitate to call this a cosy crime novel even though it probably is. There's a delightfully rich strain of humour running right through the book, some excellent observations on human behaviour and I loved the various anecdotes slotted in and wondered if they came from personal experience as a vicar or perhaps those of friends. If you like old fashioned 'English villagey' type crime stories then this might be up your street. I found it well written, rich in background detail, and fun to read: I didn't guess the culprit. So, I think book two is out this year and I'm sure I will read it at some stage because I do have rather an inexplicable weakness for churchy crime books.

Next up, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. This book was short-listed for the Man Booker prize in 2018.

George Washington Black, known as 'Wash', is a young slave on a plantation in Barbados in the 1830s. The plantation is run by two brothers. The elder, Erasmus, is a cruel man whose word is law, the younger brother, known as 'Titch', is a scientist trying to perfect a flying machine. For this he needs an assistant and he chooses ten year old, Washington Black, from the slaves on the plantation. The boy's life changes completely as he comes to terms with not being treated as property, because Titch is an Abolutionist. He begins by teaching Wash to read but where the boy's real talent lies is in art, he is an amazing artist able to reproduce plants and animals beautifully. But Titch's main interest is in flying machines and he's busy building one atop a hill on the plantation. Things come to a head when a tragedy occurs. It's not Washington's fault but Titch knows he will be blamed. And so the adventure begins: the two put their trust in the flying machine and take off into the wild blue yonder. Ok, so this was one of those books which sounded fascinating, full of potential, but which didn't quite live up to that promise. The first third takes place on the plantation and is quite gruelling as you will imagine. The elder brother is appalling and it's hard to square his treatment of slaves with that of his brother's. After that it became a reasonable adventure story, ending up by the side of Hudson's Bay in the winter. But then I found Titch's behaviour towards Wash extraordinary and didn't buy it. Then we have a whole section about Wash's time in Nova Scotia. I think my problem was that everything about the novel was 'OK'. Not fascinating or intriguing or anything else, just 'all right'. For a book about slavery, friendship, abandonment, coming of age, it lacked real depth for me. I never really felt completely invested in the characters. But that's just me, Your Mileage May Vary as they say and it 'was' short-listed for the Man Booker Prize so what do I know? LOL!


Sunday, 12 February 2023

I have been reading...

It's been a week or so since I last posted, which isn't a lot but I still seem to have four books to mention or review. So let's crack on...

First up, a short story collection, Midwinter Murders by Agatha Christie. I actually started this before Christmas when I was reading a few seasonal short stories and had I picked a couple from this book. It's a very good collection of wintery and Christmas tales which feature Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple and Mr. Quin and there're also couple of standalones. I liked the Miss Marple stories best, The Christmas Tragedy and Sanctuary but also a Tommy and Tuppence story, The Clergyman's Daughter, which I talked about  HERE. But really this is a very solid collection of excellent stories. 

And, for lovers of Agatha Christie's short stories, another seasonal collection has been compiled for publication on the 2nd. March, Sinister Spring.


Next up, Blind Descent by Nevada Barr. This is my book for this month's 'Read Around the USA challenge' which is to read a book set in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah or Wyoming. 

This is book six in the author's 'Anna Pigeon' series of crime novels. Anna works as a National Park warden and doesn't seem to be able to avoid murder and mayhem wherever she goes. (And don't us avid crime readers just love these people?) This time she's sent to New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns NP to help rescue a friend of hers, Frieda, who is trapped, injured, in a mainly unexplored part of the cave system called, Lechuguilla. There's only one problem with this: Anna suffers from claustrophobia. It takes a while for her and the guides to get to her friend, when she does Frieda tells her that she thinks her injury was not an accident and that someone has tried to kill her. It not Good News. Now Anna is faced, not only with the trials of getting an injured person out through some very tight spaces, she also has no idea who she can trust any more. Well goodness me, I think if you're claustrophobic yourself you might want to think twice before reading this. I'm not particularly but it certainly gave me the shivers in a lot of places. The atmosphere of suspense and danger in the underground scenes was superb and nothing goes well so this is not a cosy mystery! I think this might be my favourite of this series so far, although they have all been good and I always love the NP settings and learn a lot about areas I had not previously heard of. I happily gave this 5 stars on Goodreads because I thought it was fantastic.

Next, To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers.

This is a science-fiction novella by an author who is very popular at the moment, one of the new breed of sci-fi authors who have suddenly come to the fore. It's about four astronauts surveying four planets fifteen light years away from Earth. They've been put to sleep before they arrive at the first planet and once they finish with each planet they are put under again. This of course means that when they get back to Earth eventually, many years will have passed and their loved ones will no longer be alive. The book charts what they find on each planet, how they interact with each other and how they deal with communications from Earth. Many years into the project they start to realise all is not well with their home planet. That's all I'm going to say. For a book that's only 135 pages long this packs a punch. To start off it's full of the science of the flora and fauna they find on the planet. It tells how their bodies are subtly altered with supplements to cope with different environments as they sleep. It sounds dry but it's not, it's fascinating. Quite character-centric too. Ariadne is the narrator and she has with her two men and another female and it was really interesting to read about their relationship to one another and how they supported each other in times of stress. I liked this a lot. I haven't loved everything I've read by Becky Chambers but I think she's a very talented new name in the science -fiction genre. 

And the last book I want to mention today is The Willows in Winter by William Horwood. This is the author's first sequel to The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. All of the characters are back, Mole, Ratty, Badger, Toad of Toad Hall and are joined this time by Mole's nephew who is staying with him. Mole gets himself lost in a blizzard while on an errand of mercy and they all think he's dead. Meanwhile Toad has a new hobby, planes, and that leads to all kinds of craziness. Great stuff and I'll be reading the next book, Toad Triumphant, in May when the actual book begins. 

So that's what I've read. The books I'm reading at the moment are these three:

Murder Before Evensong by the Reverand Richard Coles is a church based murder mystery set in 1988. Red Sauce Brown Sauce by Felicty Cloake is a travelogue charting the author's cycling odyssey around the UK looking at what we Brits eat for breakfast. And Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen  by Fay Weldon is a novella length chat to her niece, Alice, (I presume she actually existed) about Jane Austen, her life and her books. All three of these are, so far, excellent. 

So, that's me up to date bookwise. I hope you're all keeping well and enjoying lots of good books.

Saturday, 4 February 2023

A couple of library books

I'm the first to admit that my library usage dropped drastically during Covid, as it did for a lot of people, but for me it hasn't really recovered. So this year I thought I'd make an effort to use the library a bit more and see if I can up the number I read, which has been pretty poor (12 to 15 a year) for several years now. 

So the next two reviews are both library books. First up, On Basilisk Station by David Weber. This book is also part of my personal challenge to read more science fiction in 2023.

Honor Harrington is a captain in the Manticoran navy. Her planet is top-dog in a system where there're wormholes that provide easy travel to other places - a sort of hub - but of course all is not well in the state of Denmark. Another planet, Haven, has armed itself to the hilt and is busy trying to increase its influence everywhere, including the primitive planet, Medusa, which is overseen by the Manticoran, Basilisk Station. And this sleepy outpost is where Honor and her new ship, Fearless, are banished after she makes a superior officer and his ship look foolish in a mock battle. When the ship normally in charge of the station returns home for a refit, Honor suddenly finds herself in charge of a system which is broken. Smuggling prevails and everyone has been turning a blind eye. Until now. Honor has no intention of letting this state of affairs continue. Can she put things right while trying to gain the confidence of her disillusioned new crew, especially her second in command? Well, this story is a lot more complicated than I've been able to explain. There's quite a lot of interstellar politics in the region, it's not always clear who's working for whom and it can get a little difficult to keep track. Plus the author, David Weber, does like to go into minute detail about pretty much 'everything', particularly all the tech. The trick is to just go with it and, as others have said in reviews, it doesn't really matter if you're not one hundred percent with it, the basic story is excellent and perfectly understandable. I liked it a lot, especially Honor who is exactly as her name suggests, 'honorable' and determined to do the right thing even if she puts some very powerful noses out of joint. I think this sub-genre is known as 'military science-fiction' which might not be exactly my thing, despite me being a huge Star Trek fan. I probably wouldn't go for anything that was 'hard' military sci-fi but this one hit just the right note for me and I enjoyed it a lot.

And next for something 'completely' different, The Pavilion in the Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith. This was a random grab from one of the library tables. I'm not even sure if it was a themed display, I just saw it there, was attracted by the cover, read that it was set in the former Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and popped it in my bag.

Bella is eight and lives with her parents on a tea plantation in Ceylon. The year is 1938. Her father, Henry, runs the plantation and her mother, Virginia, tries very hard to occupy herself in this isolated outpost of the British Empire. They hire a governess for Bella, Miss White, who has moved from Calcutta and feels that Ceylon is a real come-down, that she's far more educated than her employers, and doesn't hesitate to let them all know about it. It's an incredibly quiet life, especially for wives. Gossip keeps them going and various women find various ways to stop themselves going crazy with boredom. Bella is too young to understand the machinations of the adult world but can't help but get dragged in, leading to misunderstandings and worse. Well, I've read a fair few books by McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and Isabel Dalhousie mainly, but I'm not sure I was aware of his standalone books. Which is daft but there you go. This is a very insulated world he's getting to grips with here and it seems to me he does it very well. The stultifying boredom of British lives in these regions, at that time, oozes off the page, little things assuming massive proportions, small remarks agonised over until something is made of them that isn't there. The writing is beautiful, lyrical and almost as languorous as the lives he's portraying. And also McCall Smith is one of those male authors who do women very, very well, perhaps better than he does men. What the book reminded me of very strongly was Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacot, aka Agatha Christie. Both books have a great deal of gentle introspection within their pages, allowing the reader to get right inside the head of whoever is narrating at the time. The last couple of chapters take place in Scotland when Bella is grown up and at uni. I found these immensely satisfying as we find out what really happened and finishing off the book perfectly. When I picked this book up at random in the library I had no idea what a little treat I was in for. 

So, this is my current library pile. (Click for a bigger view.)

Quite a preponderance of science fiction but only because they had some new ones when I was in there last week. The top two are to go back and I have three more reserved books to pick up soon. Hopefully I can continue with my plan to use the library more this year.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Books read in January

I can't believe January is behind us already, but there you go. I've even noticed that the evenings are starting to draw out just a 'little' bit and the light is also changing. I like winter a lot as a season but I also like spring and there's so much flu, covid, bugs, colds, coughs etc. around at the moment that I'm hoping as spring approaches it will ease off a bit. *Fingers crossed*

Anyway, books. I read eight in January and they were a varied bunch, not only in theme and genre but also in quality.

1. The Starless Sea - Erin Morgenstern (2 stars)

2. Lagoon - Nnedi Okorafar. This is a science-fiction story set in Nigeria. Aliens have arrived and taken up residence in the ocean off the coast of Lagos. A female marine biologist finds herself involved with first contact, along with a rapper and a soldier. It's mayhem and I found the book a bit too chaotic for my taste and somehow the depiction of Nigeria and Nigerians felt very one-sided. A few people were decent but mostly they weren't and I wondered how an actual Nigerian would feel reading this book. Not a great success for me. (3 stars because unlike The Starless Sea it wasn't 500 pages long and I liked the female marine biologist, Adaora.)

3. The Broken Girls - Simone St. James (5 stars) 

4. The View from Mary's Farm - Edie Clark (Very brief review.) (4 stars)

5. Two for Sorrow - Nicola Upson (4 stars)

6. The Pleasure of Reading - ed. by Antonia Fraser (Very brief review.) (3 stars)

7. There's a Seal in My Sleeping Bag - Lyn Hancock. A book from the 1970s by the wife of Canadian naturalist and film maker, David Hancock. This recounts Lyn's life as a sidekick to her husband as they go on expeditions to count eagles, seals, various sea birds and so on along the coast of British Columbia and once or twice down to Washington state. They also end up with quite a menagerie themselves at their home near Victoria. This had a really strong sense of BC, the coastline and the people who live there but, for some reason, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. (3 stars)

8. On Basilisk Station - David Weber. To be reviewed but a good, solid sci-fi read. (4 stars)

So, five fiction books and three non-fiction. Of the fiction reads there were two science-fiction, one magical realism, one historical crime yarn and one gothicky, supernatural, historical crime story. Quite a mix and also quite a mix of ratings. This was my favourite book of the month:


The Broken Girls by Simone St. James was an exciting, creepy, well written, ghostly crime yarn and I absolutely 'loved' it. Honorable mentions: The View from Mary's Farm by Edie Clark which was delightful and Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson which taught me a lot about the sad history of baby farming.

I travelled around a fair bit in January too: Nigeria, Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the USA, and BC, Canada. Oh, and into outer space with Captain Honor Harrington. 

So, a variable reading month, I did begrudge a whole week spent at the start of the year on a two star book. That did make me mutter darkly about hyped books. No matter, I will get over it... in a year or three. And it didn't help that the second book for 2023 was less than stellar too. But that's the way it goes with this great obsession of ours, you win some, you lose some. Onwards and upwards.

I hope you're all well and had a good reading month in January. What were your stand-out reads?

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Just finished and currently reading.

So, it's been quite a good reading month so far. This week I finished two non-fictions I've been reading for several weeks and a crime fiction novel that didn't take me quite as long.

First up, the crime novel which was, Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson. This is the third book in the author's 'Josephine Tey' series in which she imagines the famous crime author investigating murders in the 1930s, alongside her friend and Scotland yard detective, Archie Penrose.

Josephine is staying at her club in London and, to her delight, no one knows she is there so she has a few days of freedom. Her club, The Cowdray, is for women only and is being run by a former nursing teacher of Josephine's, Celia Bannerman. It's also attached and connected to a teaching hospital for nurses. Archie's cousins, Ronnie and Lettice Motley, who make costumes for West End theatres, are currently working on costumes for a gala night which will raise money for the nursing hospital. Tey is currently working on a fictional account of a notorious baby farming case from the early 1900s, the result of which saw two women, Amelia Sachs and Annie Walters, hanged for the murders of babies who were mainly illegitimate. Celia Bannerman has a connection to one of the hanged women, she was a prison warder at the prison where she was being held and looked after Amelia Sachs on the eve of her death. The Motley sisters employ female ex-convicts and Marjorie Baker is one of them. When she is murdered in a particularly brutal manner, Archie, with some help from Josephine, has to somehow untangle this convoluted mess to see who is connected to whom and where Josephine's historial case fits into it. I don't think I've made a very good fist of explaining this complicated story and plotline. I lost track about two thirds through, trying to remember who was connected to whom and why. That said, the book was quite gripping and Upson's writing is always top-notch. You might even call this book a historical with a crime element, 'maybe'. There is also quite a lot of Josephine's backstory, romance-wise. Will she plump for a lesbian relationship with her friend's ex, Marta? (Having already read book 9, I know the answer to this of course.) All in all, a decent read, if very complicated and full of baby farming detail some might find disturbing, so beware if that's not your thing... but I learnt an awful lot about a subject I previously did not know much about. 

The two non-fictions were, firstly, The View from Mary's Farm by Edie Clark, which was kindly sent to me by Nan from Letters from a Hillfarm. This is a delightful book of essays which have appeared as columns in the Yankee Magazine. In each one she tells stories of how she bought and went to live on an old farm in New Hampshire that was built in 1762, before the USA actually came into being. She talks about so many varied things, mainly country life and what it's like living out in the wilds of the New Hampshire countryside. I particularly loved hearing how she prepared for winter, the awful storms they got and how she hunkered down inside, warm and cosy by the fire. But there was also cooking, the neighbours, the vagueries of her tractor, painting her Adirondack chair (I saw some of those in the Blue Ridge mtns.), Thanksgiving and so on. This collection is beautifully written and I absolutely loved it. I'll be reading it again someday. 

And secondly, The Pleasure of Reading a collection of bookish essays put together by Antonia Fraser. This is pretty much what it says on the tin, the great and the good talking about how they learnt to read and developed their reading tastes. It was interesting in parts but I couldn't help getting the feeling that for many it was a place to display their cleverness and taste for classics that a lot of people will not even have heard of. There also seemed to be a conspiracy to look down on the likes of Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis and so forth. A few were interesting to me, such as Ruth Rendall, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Wendy Cope, Catherine Cookson. Sue Townsend amused me with this;

The first erotic book I read was about a Spanish bullfighter. I don't recall the title or the author but I certainly remember the delicious anticipation it aroused in me. I couldn't wait to grow up and have a sexual experience. Though Spanish bullfighters were thin on the ground in Leicester.

All in all a bit of a hit and miss collection but not a bad bedtime read.

So current reads. This first of all:


On Basilisk Station by David Weber is a piece of space opera science-fiction. It's the first in the author's Honor Harrington series: Honor is a fairly new captain of a star-ship belonging to the planet Manticore.  For one reason or another, mainly political, the ship and crew end up with a duff assignment in the middle of nowhere but I'm assuming things turn interesting. I'm only 100 pages in and it's good so far. The book is part of my personal aim to read more science-fiction this year. 

And then this:

William Horwood is the author of the Duncton Wood series of books but he also wrote four sequels to The Wind in the Willows. This is the first of them, The Willows in Winter, and a reread for me - I plan to read all four ending with The Willows at Christmas (which I have not read) hopefully some time in December. Please don't throw rotten tomatoes at me for discussing next Christmas in January...

I hope you're all keeping well this cold January and finding lots of good books to read.

Monday, 16 January 2023

The Broken Girls - Simone St. James

So... after two rather average books to start the year off with (The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and Lagoon by Nnedi Okorofar) I finally hit on a really good book to wallow in. That book was The Broken Girls by Simone St. James.

Idlewood Hall, near Barrens in Vermont, is a school for unwanted girls. 'Unwanted' for various reasons, some are illegimate and therefore inconvenient, some are damaged, others have no one and belong nowhere and just end up there somehow. It's 1950 and four girls, Sonia, Rebecca, Cece and Katie share a dorm at this charmless school. They stick together, slowly sharing the intimate secrets of how they ended up in this God forsaken place and why no one is coming to rescue them from it. The place is haunted of course, no one disputes that, 'Mary Hand' is reputed to have had an illegitimate child before the place was a school and it's said her baby is buried somewhere in the grounds and Mary torments the girls because of it. The four girls are surviving, barely, until the weekend Sonia is invited to stay with an aunt and uncle who previously did not want her, and disappears off the face of the Earth,

In 2014 Fiona Sheridan is living in the town, working as a journalist on a small newspaper. She has a boyfriend who is a cop but otherwise not much of a life because twenty years ago her sister, Deb, was found murdered in the grounds of the then abandoned Idlewild Hall. Fiona has never got over the death of her big sister and although they caught the man who did it, is still picking at the wound, convinced there is more to discover about the place. Her opportunity arises when she discovers that someone has decided to renovate the derelict building. What she nor anyone else is prepared for is a grisly discovery in the grounds that will change everything. 

Oh my goodness, what a ride this one was! I was not expecting that. The Broken Girls is a supernatural crime story and it really is 'supernatural', not one of those where everything is explained away in the end as being the work of some nutter who can apparently be in three places at once or whatever. This is the genuine article where there really is a vindictive ghost and I'm glad it's a book and not a film because I would probably not be able to watch it on TV. 

The story has a dual-timeline plot where I actually enjoyed 'both' timelines. That's unusual for me, I nearly always prefer one over the other. The historical sections about the four girls in 1950 was really rivetting, their situation so dire that your heart bled because they were full of character and deserved better than to be incarcerated like that. Fiona's quest was also fascinating as she fought against everyone wanting her to just forget what happened to her sister and move on. I thought she was admirable for continuing with her search for answers regardless of the pressure that was heaped upon her. 

This is a very well written book, full of creepy atmosphere with a very strong sense not only of Vermont but of the school for abandoned girls, it felt like a character in its own right to be honest: chillingly awful. I don't want to say too much for fear of spoilers but I loved how satisfying the ending was in tidying up loose ends and explaining everything. One or two interesting surprises etc. This is my first book by Simone St. James but I have seen her books talked about on other blogs and and on Booktube, always in a positive light, so I had an idea I would like this one. My first 5 star read of the year and I'll be reading more by this author.

The Broken Girls is my first book for the Read Around the USA challenge I'm doing and covers the category of  a book set in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont. I also have a delightful non-fiction on the go for it, The View From Mary's Farm by Edie Clark, which was sent to me by Nan from Letters From a Hill Farm a few years ago and is based in New Hampshire. To be honest, I could cheerfully spend the whole year reading books set in New England! 

Monday, 9 January 2023

I have been reading...

But not reviewing! Not since mid-December in fact and as I'm not going to try and do proper reviews of all of them, what I'll do is talk about my most recent read first and then list the others, mainly read in December.

So first up it's The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. This is my first book for the Bookish Books reading challenge which is being hosted by Susan at Bloggin' 'Bout Books. It's also my first book for Mount TBR 2023 which is being hosted by Bev at MY READER'S BLOCK.

So, this book was a Christmas present from several years ago, it's beautiful thing quite honestly and I was looking forward to making it my first read of 2023. Briefly, the main character, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, is at uni somewhere in New England and comes across an odd book in the library. It describes underground cities full of libraries and the people that live there and run the place. And then he finds himself mentioned in this book along with an incident that happened to him as child where he came across a painted door on a wall in an alley, which was in fact a real door: he could've opened it and gone in but he didn't. Fast forward and Zachary is at a masquerade ball at a secret club in New York city because there he will find out more about the book. He meets Mirabel who takes him through another doorway and into this underground world which, it turns out, is real. I wish I could say that my experience with this book was as wonderful as the physical copy of the book I own. I will say that it is beautifully and lyrically written, no question of that, the author can write: her book, The Night Circus, was a massive success which at one time was all over the book blogging world. But for me The Starless Sea was a book that spent 500 pages never getting to the point. Zachary spends the whole book wandering around this place looking for first one person, then another, then something else. There are other characters who arrive, do something to him, disappear off and then come back later to repeat the performance. Mirabel is quite interesting and the back story of another man who disappeared down this rabbit hole, met someone, lost them but never came back is intriguing. But all of the pointless meandering and minute detail of said wanderings just bored me to tears. I've no idea how I got to the end - I think I was hoping it would get to some kind of interesting point. It didn't, or maybe by the time it did I'd lost the will to live and missed it. 2 stars on Goodreads and I don't give books star ratings like that lightly... lot of people dish those out willy-nilly... I probably give out two or three 'a year'. A sad disappointment but there you go, it happens and I will add that a lot of people love this book!

So, back in December I think the last book I reviewed was Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley (I didn't like that much either, perhaps I'm getting too picky). 

After that I read A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, which is the first in her 'Veronica Speedwell' historical crime series. This is set in 1887. Veronica has been brought up by two aunts but there's a secret about her birth which she's determined to discover. The last of the aunts dies and Veronica is free to follow her passion for butterflies but someone tries to abduct her and she ends up with 'Stoker' an artist/sculptor/natural history sort of chap. Then they're on the run... This was an enjoyable romp, somewhat unbelievable but well written and great fun. I'll read more as I like books about women who're into science and natural history in Victorian times. 

Then came, The Maid by Nita Prose. I liked this story of a maid in a huge hotel in a big city. I thought it was New York but it's never confirmed and I don't think it matters. Molly Gray is 'the maid' in question. She finds the world difficult to navigate after her gran died, possibly because she's on the spectrum and people either take advantage or don't know how to treat her, and Gran always helped her with that. Molly's job is everything to her but when she finds a dead body in one of her rooms that job and her whole world is turned upside down. I found this a very touching book and gained a lot of insight into how people who are a bit different are treated. My heart bled for her as she tried to deal with trauma without the aid of her grandmother but I thought Molly was a wonderful character, determined to stand up for herself. An excellent debut novel.

So then I read The Accidental Adventurer by Ben Fogle who is a British TV personality who's done a lot of daring stuff like rowing across the Atlantic with Olympian James Cracknell, but has also been an explorer and leader of expeditions and so forth. He's on TV these days seeking out people who have left the rat race and are living in remote regions around the world. Quite an enjoyable autobiographical book about what seems to be a very likeable chap.

And my last read of 2022 which I finished on New Year's Day was, Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews. This is a husband and wife writing team who have a lot of series on the go so it clearly works well for them. Clean Sweep is the first in their 'Innkeeper Chronicles' and the main character is Dina who runs a B&B in a small town in Texas. It's no ordinary B&B though as the inn is magical and the establishment is like a way station for intergalactic travellers or people who're looking for a place to hide out. Someone or some'thing' is viciously killing dogs in the local vicinty. Dina is trying to investigate but an annoying alpha-strain werewolf is imposing his help upon her whether she wants it or not and then things really get out of hand when a load of vampire soldiers also arrive to 'help'. This was completely bonkers but very enjoyable and I already have the second book on my Kindle. Excellent when you want something weird but not too challenging. 

So that's my reading progress up to date. I hope you're all doing ok and finding some good books to read for the start of 2023. 

Friday, 6 January 2023

The Bookish Books reading challenge

So my final (I think...) challenge that I'm going to participate in this year is a new one and it's being hosted by Susan at Bloggin' 'bout Books.


This challenge is called 'The Bookish Books Reading Challenge' and Susan has all the info here in this POST.

And there is another post about it HERE with the Mr. Linky widget to log your reviews. 

Susan says: 

This is a laidback challenge designed to encourage the reading of all those bookish books that are still lingering on our shelves and TBR lists. Any book counts as long as one of its main themes is books (reading them, writing them, hoarding them, stealing them, eating them, burning them, decorating with them, organizing them, sniffing them, selling them, etc.). Any book that is essentially bookish in nature counts. All formats are acceptable. Since this challenge isn't about pages read, length doesn't matter either. Picture books are totally fine.

There are of course various levels to choose from and these are they:

Toe in the Door: 1-10 books read
Picking and Perusing: 11-20 books read
Lost in the Stacks: 21-30 books read
Living in the Library: 30+ books read
I'll be going for The Toe in the door, 1-10 books but who knows, I might do better as I have quite a few on my bookshleves and Kindle and also have a Goodreads shelf, HERE. Rather surprised to find I have 69 books on it... 

Some of the books I would like to read: 

The Last Bookshop in London - Madeline Martin
The Giver of Stars - Jojo Moyes
The Book Collectors of Daraya - Delphine Minoui
Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen - Fay Weldon
Once Upon a Tome - Oliver Darkshire
The Last Library - Freya Sampson
The Book Lovers - Emily Henry
The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco - Laura DiSilverio
The Reading List - Sara Nisha Adams
The Library - Bella Osborne
The Little Bookshop on the Seine - Rebecca Raisin
The Murder Bookshop - Merryn Allingham
A Thing of Beauty - Peter Fiennes (need to check whether this actually fits the challenge)
Ghostland - Edward Parnell
Lives for Sale: Biographer's Tales - Mark Bostridge

I think that's enough to be going on with though I have a feeling I have more...

The other thing is that the book I'm currently reading, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern qualifies so that will be my first book when I finish it.

I honestly think this is going to be one the most fun challenges of this year so many thanks to Susan for coming up with it. 

Thursday, 5 January 2023

Wanderlust Bingo 2023/24

I have 2 more challenges I want to join (making far too many for this year but what the heck... in for a penny etc.) and the first of them is Wanderlust Bingo 2023/24, which is being hosted by Fiction Fan's Book Reviews.


As is obvious, this is another Bingo challenge, I'm a real sucker for them it seems! 

The place to go for more information is HERE on Fiction Fan's blog. 

This is a two year challenge which suits me quite nicely as it's less pressure with all the other challenges I'm doing, but it's also been stressed that we should not be too bothered about deadlines. Excellent!

I'm an avid armchair traveller and am really looking forward to taking part in this challenge. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Books of 2022

So, I've never done a Top Ten Tuesday post before but it seemed like an excellent way to do my 'favourite books of last year' post so here we go. (And who knows, I may continue to do Top Ten Tuesday posts after this as they always seem like a lot of fun.)


This weekly meme is hosted by That Artsy Reading Girl.

Today's theme is My Favourite Books from 2022.  It'll be a miracle if I can restrict this to 10 because I have 107 books to choose from this year.

Well here goes, and in no particular order.

First up, The Search by Nora Roberts. I read three books by Roberts last year and enjoyed them all far more than I thought I would. It was hard to choose between them but in the end the lovely dogginess in this book won the day.

Next, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. This book reminded me how much I love good science-fiction and this year I want to read a lot more. Best character in this: Rocky!

Another science-fiction book I loved was The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I read a couple by this very popular author this year, A Psalm for the Wild-Built didn't work quite so well for me but I thought this one was wonderful, a real feel-good, StarTrekky type sci-fi yarn but without the uniforms.

Another crime yarn with a dog was Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima. This one had the mountains of Colorado as a setting which I absolutely adored, and I also loved reading about the start of Mattie and Robo's journey as dog handler and police tracking canine.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow imagines how the life of Mary, the bookish sister from Pride and Prejudice, could've panned out. I thought this was fantastic, so beautifully written and so poignant.

Another Austen spin-off I absolutely loved was Miss Austen by Gill Hornby. This imagines the story of how Jane Austen's sister, Cassandra, goes about finding the possibly incriminating letters Jane wrote to a relative. Beautifully written and very much underlining the plight of single women of very little means in Austen's time.


Next, The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths. This excellent crime yarn features the detective, Harbinder Kaur, as she goes about trying to discover why an elderly resident of a retirement complex has been murdered, aided and abbetted by the old lady's carer, an ex-monk and an elderly ex-BBC employee. I loved this so much! 

The Necessary Aptitude by poet,  Pam Ayres seems to be the only non-fiction that's made the top ten list this year. Strange when I read rather a lot, none of it bad, but there weren't many that really stood out. This autobiography blew me away with its brilliant account of a childhood in Berkshire in the 1950s. Pam's poetry is so funny, especially when she's reading it, but this is on another level and I loved it.

My next choice is Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher an exquisitely written book that's as much about a house in Scotland as it is about the people who gravitate towards it. My first book by Pilcher but certainly not my last.

And last but by no means least is Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce. This story, set during World War two, is narrated by Emmy who wants to work for a national newspaper but ends up with a women's magazine instead 'helping' people via an agony column. It's hilarious and very sad all at the same time. Emmy shines off the page and reminded me very strongly of Sam from Foyle's War. 

So those are the ten books that made the cut. But there're loads of honourable mentions:

The 4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie

Because of Sam and Dear Hugo by Molly Clavering

After by Bruce Greyson (non-fiction about near-death experiences)

Mansfield Park and Persuasion by Jane Austen

Death Walks the Woods by Cyril Hare

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

I could go on and on, it was a good reading year for me: I hope it was for you too.

Sunday, 1 January 2023

The My life in Books 2022 meme and some Christmas books

I nabbed this from Margaret at Booksplease, whose answers are HERE. The idea is simple: Using only books you have read this year, answer these prompts. Try not to repeat a book title. 

In high school I (had): The Necessary Aptitude (Pam Ayres)

People might be surprised by: Squashed Possums (Jonathan Tindale)

I will never be: Away with the Penguins (Hazel Prior)

My life post-lockdown was: Wintering (Katherine May)

My fantasy Job is: The Dalai Lama (Dalai Lama)

At the end of a long day I need: A Body in the Village Hall (Dee MacDonald)

I hate being: Rushed (Aurora Rose Reynolds)

I wish I had: Mansfield Park (Jane Austen)

My family reunions are: The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Michael Booth)

At a party you’d find me (being):The Greedy Queen (Annie Gray)

I’ve never been to: The Sunny Side of the Alps (Roy Clarke)

A happy day includes: The Hygge Holiday (Rosie Blake)

Motto I live by: An Elderly Lady is Up To No Good (Helene Tursten)

On my bucket list is: Northern Lights (Nora Roberts) 

In my next life, I want to have: Fur Babies in France (Jacqueline Lambert)

Anyway, after that random piece of insanity - Christmas books! 

I didn't actually get a lot of books for Christmas, two in fact, but I bought myself a couple as pressies to myself. 

High by Erika Fatland - A Journey Across the Himalayas Through Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Nepal and China, is pretty much what it says on the tin - a journey across a mountain range focussing on the communities in Himalayan valleys. This was a gift from one of my daughters.

Wild Women edited by Mariella Frostrop, A Collection of First-hand Accounts from Female Explorers is again what it says on the tin, a collection of epic journeys made by women over the centuries. I bought this for myself because of the cover quite honestly.

But that's not to say I'm not excited by its contents...

The Doors Open by Michael Gilbert was sent to me by a friend because she knows how much I like the author's writing. This is #3 in his Inspector Hazelrigg series which I love.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky is another book I bought for myself. This is a science Fiction story by an author I haven't tried but whose books seem to be all over the Sci-Fi nerd section of Booktube. This book is about the remnants of the human civilisation out in space looking for a new home. They find the perfect place but it's already occupied by a race who have turned the planet into mankind's idea of a nightmare. Sign me up for that one! 

Anyway, I hope you're all well, enjoying the Christmas break and finding lots of good books to devour.