Sunday, 1 October 2023

Books read in September

It seemed to me that September had no sooner arrived than it was gone. I'm sure time is speeding up! And now it really is autumn with leaves dropping and gales coming in from The Atlantic. Love it.

So, books read in September, by me, numbered 7. (Feel free to say that as Len Goodman would have. :-) )

75. Remarkably Bright Creatures - Shelby Van Pelt

76. Everyone in my Family Has Killed Someone - Benjamin Stevenson

77. Legends and Lattes - Travis Baldree 

78. The United States of Adventure - Anna McNuff. (This has an alternate title of 50 Shades of the USA.) I read this for the Read Around the USA challenge I'm doing, this category was 'a book that covers multiple states'. The author, a British cyclist, decides to cycle every state of the USA, taking 6 months to do it. Some states she really just passed into and out of an hour later but others she spent time in properly. I enjoyed this a lot especially reading about the people she met who were so kind to her. But my gosh, what an endeavour! Amazing. 

79. The Belial Stone - R.D. Brady. This was a Dan Brown type mix of adventure, archaeology, paranormal thriller - all life was there. There's an ancient source of power that needs to be found before someone or some'thing' gets hold of it and destroys the world. Enjoyable romp, first book in a series that's already 14 books long. I have book 2 as it's about a hidden library in Ecuador, but how much further I'll go after that I'm not sure.

80. The Mystery of 31 New Inn - R. Austin Freeman.

This is a London based novella published in 1912. R. Austin Freeman wrote a load of books and short stories featuring his detective Dr. Thorndyke, and this one of those. A friend of Thorndyke's, Dr. Jervis, takes a position standing in for another doctor while he's on holiday. He's called out in the middle of the night but the situation is very mysterious as he's not allowed to see where it is he's being taken in the enclosed coach. When he gets there the patient is clearly either suffering from sleeping sickness or an overdose of morphine and the two people whose care he's in are very odd indeed. Something is clearly not right and Jervis needs Thorndyke to help him solve the mystery. I always like the style in which these early 20th. century crime yarns are written, they're always well written with a nice sense of the macabre. The two drs. are very much in the vein of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with one of them knowing everything and the other not so much. I enjoyed this but thought it was more of a short story padded out than a book in its own right. Not bad though and I'll read more when I come across them.

81. The Night Hawks - Elly Griffiths.

So, this is book 13 in the author's well known Ruth Galloway series. Ruth is now head of archaeology at the fictitious University of North Norfolk after a brief foray in Cambridge. Metal detectorists who don't abide by the rules are known as Night Hawks, although the group who find a dead body on a beach are not in fact of that ilk, their leader has just called the group that. Alongside the dead body is found a bronze-age burial so Ruth is called in. Meanwhile Nelson is called to a lonely farmhouse where a murder/suicide of a man and his wife have taken place. Eventually, of course, the two cases collide in the middle. So, I loved this as I do every Ruth Galloway book but had the sense that Griffiths was coming to the end of her interest in the series and indeed she has said that book 15 is the last but possibly not forever. I find each instalment strangely addictive, once I start reading I simply can't stop and I think quite a lot of people are the same. Ruth's thoughts have always brought a lot of humour to the books but this time I found that humour to be not quite there. I still enjoyed the ongoing saga of her personal life with Nelson and the cast of extra characters, all different, all with their complicated lives... Cathbad the druid is a favourite and has been since the start. I shall miss Ruth when I have no more books in the series to read. 

So that was my month of September in books. Standouts were Remarkably Bright Creatures, Legends and Lattes, The United States of Adventure and The Night Hawks. I consider it to be a pretty good reading month when you have four really good books out of seven and the rest weren't actually terrible either.

At the moment I'm struggling to decide on another fiction book after setting aside two after 30 or so pages. I am reading this non-fiction though:

Outlandish by Nick Hunt is split into four sections all dealing with various wilderness areas that are sort of in the wrong place, Arctic tundra in Scotland, primeval forest in Poland, the only European desert in Spain and grassland steppes in Hungary. The writing in this is sublime and I'm absolutely 'loving' it. Will look for more books by him when I've finished this.

Happy October! I hope your families are doing better than mine healthwise, it seems to be one thing after another for us. Thank goodness for good books. I hope you all have an excellent reading month.

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

I have been reading...

Several books to talk about today, all of them to some degree 'hyped' books that I've seen around the blogging world and Booktube a lot. But did they live up to the hype?

 I'll start with, Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt.

Tova Sullivan, an elderly woman of Swedish descent, lives in the town of Sowell Bay, a couple of hours north of Seattle, WA. She's a widow who likes to keep busy so has a job as a cleaner at the local aquarium. It gets her out of house and also takes her mind off the loss of her son, Erik, some 30 years ago. He was 18, his body was never found and no one really knows what happened to him. Tova loves all of the sea creatures in the aquarium but has a special affection for Marcellus, the giant Pacific octopus. She stands and talks to him every day and can actually see him listening to her. One evening she finds him almost dead on the floor, and helps him back to his tank. Thus begins a unique friendship wherein Marcellus is instrumental in finding out what happened to Erik. This is one of those much hyped books that a lot of people seemed to have been reading lately, and no wonder as it really is a delightful read. I like books with older protagonists and lots of ordinary folk in them and this book has a nice interesting cast of characters. My favourite by far was Marcellus the octopus and I loved the chapters penned by him. My least favourite was Cameron, the young man drawn north to look for his unknown father in Sowell Bay: for at least half the book he was entitled and annoying. There was a lovely sense of a faded resort on Puget Sound and thus a good sense of place... it sounded wonderful to me anyway! An excellent read, lived up to its hype.

Next, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson.

Ernest Cunningham has been summoned to a family reunion in the mountains, somewhere in Australia. He's somewhat surprised as he doesn't have a lot to do with them having turned in his brother, Michael, for murder. The brother is now out of prison and due to meet them all in the mountains. Ernest has no idea what his reception will be. What he doesn't expect is a dead body in the snow, and for nobody to know who it is. The lone policeman immediately arrests his brother when he finally arrives, it seems he was out of prison earlier than they were told. Michael decides that Ernest should be the one to investigate and try to prove him innocent... but does Ernest himself believe that? So this was one of those tongue-in-cheek books, written in a style where the narrator - Ernest - chats away to the reader of the book telling her or him how it is that his family are a bunch of killers, be it by accident or intent. There wasn't a single person in it I liked and I must admit to finding the writing style tiresome. I thought the author was trying too hard to pay homage to Golden Age crime yarns. I did like the mystery itself and that's what kept me going until the end, which I thought was quite clever. One thing that did surprise me was the absence of any sense of 'Australia', it really could have been anywhere. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads so it was 'OK' but it should be said that a lot of people like it a lot more than I did. Did not, for me anyway, live up to the hype.

Lastly, Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree.

So, 'Viv' is an adventurer, an Orc in fact, who has tired of adventuring. She needs a new career so lands up in the city of Thune with a plan to bring coffee to the masses. Coffee is not known here, it's  Dwarfish thing Viv discovered while in one of their cities. She fell in love with it and thinks there must be a gap in the market and the possiblility of a new life here in Thune. She finds a shop to convert, a Hob for a carpenter, a Succubus as a barmaid and a genius baker in the shape of a Rattkin. Slowly but surely people are drawn to the new coffee shop. But all is not plain sailing, there's a protection racket going on and Viv has to decide whether she's left her former violent life behind her or not. I was reminded quite strongly of Terry Pratchett while I was reading this although his trademark humour and way with words is not present in this book. It's described as 'cozy fantasy' and that's pretty accurate. I thought it was absolutely charming and the cast of characters delightful. Not a lot happens  (that could be said of a lot of books) but somehow the author manages to make the setting up of a new business absolutely rivetting and that's quite clever in my opinion. Loved it and happily gave it 5 stars. Definitely lived up to the hype! 


So, I'm currently reading this:

The United States of Adventure charts the author, Anna McNuff's, cycling trip through every state of the USA (and part of Canada at the beginning). This is for The Bookgirls' USA challenge I'm doing and so far it's excellent. (NB this has an alternative title, Fifty Shades of the USA but I don't know if that's the American title or the British. The UK Kindle title is the former version, which I prefer.)

I hope you'e all well and enjoying some good autumn reading!

Sunday, 3 September 2023

Books read in August

Despite all that's been going on this last month, I still managed to read 10 books. Of course, it could be 'because' of it all I've read 10 books... they do make a good escape from reality!

Anyhow, the books:

65. My Sister's Grave - Robert Dugoni

66. The Murder of Mr. Wickham - Claudia Gray

67. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie (a reread and very good) 

68. The Left-handed Booksellers of London - Garth Nix

69. A Murder of Crows - Sarah Yarwood-Lovett 

70.  The People on Platform 5 - Clare Pooley. I've nabbed the synopsis from Goodreads for speed.

Every day Iona Iverson, a larger-than-life magazine advice columnist, travels the ten stops from Hampton Court to Waterloo Station by train, accompanied by her dog, Lulu. Every day she sees the same people, whom she knows only by nickname: Impossibly-Pretty-Bookworm and Terribly-Lonely-Teenager. Of course, they never speak. Seasoned commuters never do.

Then one morning, the man she calls Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader chokes on a grape right in front of her. He’d have died were it not for the timely intervention of Sanjay, a nurse, who gives him the Heimlich maneuver. This single event starts a chain reaction, and an eclectic group of people with almost nothing in common except their commute discover that a chance encounter can blossom into much more. It turns out that talking to strangers can teach you about the world around you--and even more about yourself.

I enjoyed this immensely. I'm rapidly developing a taste for this kind of character-based contemporary fiction. It's a 'found family' tale of unlikely people who slowly become friends and form a real support network. Secrets abound and personal decisions and discoveries need to be made. It's well written and I felt very involved in the lives of all of the characters. Nice one.

71. Holy Ghosts - edited by Fiona Snailham is another of the British Libraries' weird collections. There were several stand-out stories in this but quite a few others I'd already read or weren't that great so overall a bit disappointing but fine for anyone who hasn't read 'any' churchy weird fiction at all. 

72. Lady Susan by Jane Austen is not one of her main six novels of course, it's an epistolary novella about a woman who is pretty awful. She foists herself on family for long visits and then sets about scheming to make husbands fall in love with her, thereby causing as much chaos as she can. It was very, very good. 

73. Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke. 

This is classic science fiction, published the year of my birth, 1953. 

When the silent spacecraft arrived and took the light from the world, no one knew what to expect. But, although the Overlords kept themselves hidden from man, they had come to unite a warring world and to offer an end to poverty and crime. When they finally showed themselves it was a shock, but one that humankind could now cope with, and an era of peace, prosperity and endless leisure began.

These older, classic sci-fi yarns don't always work for me but this one did. I thoroughly enjoyed this speculation on what would happen if an alien race suddenly appeared and demanded we stop warring with each other. Things begin to happen of course and it's intriguing and makes you think. I wasn't mad about the outcome but there you go. Well written and very readable indeed.

74. The Accidental Detectorist - Nigel Richardson.

This, my only non-fiction read for August, was just delightful. The author, a travel writer, decides to take up metal detecting during lockdown. He joins other detectorists to learn what to look for, which equipment he needs, where to search (nowhere where you haven't got the relevant permissions in place) and so on. It was so fascinating to read about the various people he meets who do this, how welcoming they are are and how they go about the countryside digging it up. You can't say you're a detectorist unless you've found a 'hammered' appparently - this is a sort of handmade coin from before they started minting properly. Poor Nigel has awful trouble finding one while all around him are digging them up by the ton. There's a nice amount of history in the book, interesting facts about hoards that have been discovered, that sort of thing. This was my favourite read of the month and made me head to the BBC's iPlayer to try their series 'Detectorists' starring Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook and Rachel Stirling (Diana Rigg's daughter). It's charming and very British. This is a book I highly recommend if you like 'quirky British'.

Anyway, it' nice to be back after a two week blogging break and an odd two weeks it's been. When the medical profession describes something you have as 'interesting' it's never a Good Thing. Hubby's leg is now on the mend but although he had cellulitis we have no idea what caused it or where the open wound came from a week after he was diagnosed or why he needed 3 lots of serious antibiotics to rid himself of it. The theory is some kind of insect bite on the cellulitis area but, all in all, he feels like being 'interesting' is vastly over-rated and I'm inclined to agree!

I hope you had a good reading month in August? I'm delighted to welcome in September. Although it's not officially autumn until the 21st. I do think that once September arrives summer is more or less behind us and that's fine with me. Not a fan of summer. 

Happy September reading! I shall be thinking about what I want to read this autumn and perhaps do a post about it soon.

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

Blogging break

I've decided to take a blogging break for a couple of weeks while my husband's cellulitis heals. He has a nasty open wound on his leg now, it's worrying but he's on a second lot of antibiotics so hopefully those will do the trick. It doesn't help that diabetics don't heal as quickly as the rest of us of course and I can worry for England which also doesn't help. I will still probably be around commenting on blog posts but am just not in the mood at the moment to do book reviews. Take care and enjoy the rest of August!

Monday, 14 August 2023

I have been reading...

Yet another catch-up post from me. I've been reading but not enthusiastically for some reason. Possibly not finding books to suit my mood right now. 

I was almost halfway through The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie before I realised I'd read it before. Checking Goodreads, it was 2016, long enough for me to have forgotten whodunit so I carried on. Good book, even on the second reading.

Then I read a YA fantasy, The Left-handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, my 12th. book for  Susan's Bookish Books Reading challenge.

Susan Arkshaw has just turned 18. She lives with her airy-fairy mother in Somerset, a mother who will not talk about who Susan's father is. Longing to get away, she gets a place at an art college in London but sets off early with the idea of starting a search for her father. Going to see an uncle she's just in time to see him turned to dust by 'Merlin', a young man who is a member of a secret organisation, The Booksellers of London. They are guardians a of a sort, protecting the world from the dangerous creatures of myth and legend of The Old World. The Booksellers fall into two categories, left-handed or right and thus have different skills and abilities. It soon becomes apparent that there's something different about Susan and someone sees her existence as dangerous. Who, from The Old World, is after her? It's quite clear that her father really must be found. So, this was a fun read. A bit sort of 'Chosen One' in theme, but that's fine as I quite like that. I thought the world building - an alternate 1983 - was very good: Garth Nix is a seasoned author with a lot of experience of that, witness his 'Old Kingdom' series, which is terrific. There're a lot of bookish references in the story, so that's fun. I enjoyed the dash across England to The Lake District too. So, not a bad start to a new series, I think book 2, The Sinister Booksellers of Bath, is already out so I'll read that at some point. 

Lastly, A Murder of Crows by Sarah Yardwood-Lovett. This was free with Prime Reading, along with the next two in the series.

Dr. Nell Ward is an Ecologist. Bats are more or less her life apart from the secrets she doesn't share with her colleagues. She's surveying a tunnel that runs under a house when she hears an odd noise and leaves because it unnerves her. Next thing she knows she's a suspect in a murder case because a woman is found dead not far from where she was... the woman she was supposed to meet at the house a bit later in fact. She didn't know her but the police thinks she did and things begin to spiral out of control very quickly. Because she knows the police are barking up the wrong tree and that there's a murderer on the loose, Nell and her colleague, Adam, begin to investigate. It's not long before Nell begins to suspect she's been set up. So, this was another quite enjoyable crime yarn. The ecological aspect was different but I did feel the author wanted us to know how much she knew about bats. I felt like quite the expert by the time I'd finished the book. I also felt the triangular love interest thing was rather a distraction, two men after one woman is ok for a bit but I got the feeling this was going to drag on into subsequent books and could quickly become old. (I completely agree that I'm ancient and thus not the target audience for this kind of thing.) Anyway, not a bad first book, different enough to keep me reading the Prime Reading instalments but possibly not enough to buy a load.

Having talked briefly last time about my husband's various illnesses, he caught me on the hop last week and found a new one: Cellulitis. We've no clue where it came from but the angry, red inflammation on his leg turned out to be just that and I'm so glad we nipped to the doctor sharpish and caught it early. A lot of people worry about bothering the dr. unnecessarily, including 'me'. My advice is 'don't'. If something's doesn't look right, it probably isn't - get it looked at. Here endeth the first lesson...

Happy reading, August here in the UK continues to feel just like autumn and that's fine by me but I do feel for people around the world who're going through awful things at the moment, the island of Maui for instance. We live in challenging times. 

Thursday, 3 August 2023

Books read in July

I seem to have been a little AWOL recently. No particular reason, just busy, July seemed to be full of routine medical appointments for my husband, he's diabetic with heart problems, a newish tendency towards pneumonia and now cataracts that need operating on. Fun, fun. In better news it's our Golden wedding anniversary tomorrow, I'm not certain where 50 years went but 'went' it did... We'll be celebrating over the weekend with the family.

So, I have been reading but not as much as usual: I read just six books in July, although I've just finished two others started last month too, so it's more than 6 really but I will count those for August as it makes no difference whatsoever. 

These are the books:

59. The Fatal Flying Affair - T.E. Kinsey

60. A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Reasons Why We Can't Stop Reading Jane Austen, edited by  Susannah Carson. This is pretty much what it says on the tin - 33 essays by all and sundry about Jane Austen's books, characters, the settings and of course Austen's life. I've been reading this slowly for months and it was well worth the effort, very interesting indeed.

61. Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries - Heather Fawcett

62. The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires - Grady Hendrix

63. Every Dead Thing - John Connolly. I've read 13 of Connolly's 'Charlie Parker' books but never read book 1... now I have. Parker's wife and small daughter are brutally murdered and policeman, Parker, follows the trail to New Orleans to root out the culprit. Truthfully, I don't think I learnt anything I didn't already know but I'm glad I've now read the first book. I fancy subsequent books are better though.

64. Jane Austen: A Life - Claire Tomalin. An absolutely superb biography of Jane Austen. I learnt *so* much and found knowing these things helps make more sense of her books . Highly recommend.

Looking at Goodreads I see I gave every book I read 4 stars apart from Jane Austen: A Life to which I gave 5. So it was clearly a pretty good reading month despite being a bit on the slow side.  

Quick reviews of the two books just finished.

First up, My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni.

Tracy Crosswhite is a police officer working in Seattle but back on her home turf of a small town in the Cascades in Washington State. It's where her sister, Sarah, disappeared  20 years ago, driving home after a shooting match on a lonely road. Tracy has never forgiven herself for allowing Sarah to drive home on her own, in a snowstorm, while she went with her fiancĂ©. A man is in prison for the murder, despite the lack of a body. Tracy, however, feels the conviction was unsafe and convinces a childhood friend, now a lawyer, to reinvestigate with the aim of reopening the case. Of course, what she doesn't realise is that she'll also be opening a brand new can of worms. For those who like their crime books with a good dose of winter, lots of snow, mountains, back roads and so on, this is a perfct read. I enjoyed it despite the fact that there were a lot of courtroom scenes, which is not a favourite 'trope' of mine in murder mysteries. There was enough other action to keep me hooked and reading and not wanting to put the book down. I was sort of expecting the outcome, but that's fine, I'm always more interested in the journey than the destination and I loved the setting to bits. This is book one in the author's 'Tracy Crosswhite' series and I'll read more if I come across any. 

Lastly, The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray.

Mr. Knightley and Emma (from Emma of course) are having a house party and invited are various heros and heroines from Jane Austen's other books. Darcy and Lizzy for instance, plus their son, Jonathan, Captain Wentworth and Anne, now married, Marriane and Col. Brandon. Halfway through dinner one night they're interrupted by a new arrival, Mr. Wickham who ran off with Lizzie's sister, Lydia, in the plot of Pride and Prejudice. Absolutely no one is pleased to see him. It seems Wickham has involved some of the people present in some financial scheme that has failed and money has been lost. When he's found battered to death in the long gallery, the list of suspects is as long as your arm. Only two people have no motive and are likely innocent, Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney, daughter of the Tilneys from Northanger Abbey. Naturally the two set about trying to find out who's responsible for the murder of Mr. Wickham. If you're not keen on your favourite characters from favourite classics being mucked about with then this book is likely not for you. It does involve a bit of suspension of disbelief not least because I couldn't understand why anyone would trust George Wickham enough to plough money into his schemes. Regardless, I did enjoy this romp, daft as it is, it was fun to imagine what has happened to the various married couples after the books they appeared in, finished. The author created a timeline, working out how old people would be, so some are not long married, others middle-aged with older children. Jonathan and Juliet worked well together despite the difficulties and manners of the day and I gather their adventures continue in book 2, The Late Mrs.Willoughby. I plan to read it.

 I hope you had a good reading month in July and find lots of great reads for August!

Thursday, 20 July 2023

A couple of reviews, one fantasy, one horror.

Two books to review today, an unusual fantasy involving The Fae and a horror story with a nice touch of humour.

First up, Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett.

The events of this book take place around 1909 to 1910. Emily Wilde is a Cambridge professor (so we're talking alt. universe here) specialising in faeries, who, in this reality, are very much real. They exist all over the world but there are different races with different ways of life and culture. Emily is utterly obsessed with them. The most secretive race of faeries are The Hidden Ones who live in Norway. Emily travels to an island off the coast of that country in order to try and find out more for their entry in the encyclopedia she's writing. It doesn't go well at first because Emily's independent and prickly nature does not encourage the villagers to be helpful. Things change when someone else joins her... Wendell Bambleby... a colleague and rival of sorts but also one of her few friends. Much to her annoyance he soon sorts out the villagers, freeing Emily to concentrate on her investigations... and get herself into heaps of trouble! So, this was a lot of fun. I adored the snowy Norwegian setting first of all. Also the academic 'feel' to the story as Emily tells us, in diary form, about various kinds of faeries and how they interact, or don't, with humans. I was reminded a bit of Marie Brennan's 'Memoirs of Lady Trent' series where Lady Trent goes about studying dragons. There's a bit of reluctant romance in the book but it's a small part and the book concentrates mainly on what happens to Emily in the frozen wastes of Norway and whether or not she finds her 'Hidden Ones'. This is to be a trilogy, the next book out next January. Can't wait. 

Lastly, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.

The setting for this book is a village near Charleston, South Carolina in the 1980s and 90s. Patricia Campbell is married to Carter, a psychologist working in a hospital, and they have two teenage children. Also living in the house is Miss Mary, Carter's elderly and failing mother. Patricia looks after them all, pretty much unappreciated, but just gets on with it. She starts a new book club with four other refugees from another club and they read and enjoy a lot of true crime books. Their regular lives begin to change when James Harris moves into the neighbourhood. When Patricia hires Mrs. Greene to help look after Miss Mary, she discovers that children are disappearing from the black community that Mrs. Greene belongs to. By this time James has insinuated himself into her family's life and is especially close to her young son. Is the book club reading too much frightening true crime, or is there something really terrifying going on in their once safe and peaceful village? So, this one started out really quite light-hearted with a lot of comments and situations which made me laugh a lot. But I also really felt for Patricia whose husband clearly thinks she has too much time on her hands when in reality she never stops. The story slowly shifts from a narrative of 'southern moms' and their busy 'at home' lives to one of real horror. It was doubly shocking as the first few chapters were so benign. I believe Grady Hendrix is an author who is in vogue at the moment and I can see why. The writing is superb and although I don't know any southern moms it struck me that he'd got them down pat. I must emphasize that this is not a book for the faint of heart. There is real humour and real life in the story but gosh is it a scary read. And frustrating too, the husbands in this are not a pleasant lot in that they can't seem to take their wives' concerns seriously, turning this into a 'girl power' sort of book, or, more accurately, 'middle-aged moms' power'. As the author says:

"With this book I wanted to pit a man freed from all responsibilities but his appetite against women whose lives are shaped by their endless responsibilities. I wanted to pit Dracula against my mom.

As you'll see, it's not a fair fight."

I hope you're all well and finding some good books to read in July. I also hope no one is being too affected by the awful heat in places such as southern Europe and the southern USA.

Sunday, 9 July 2023

I have been reading...

I just DNFed a book I was really looking forward to reading. Isn't it disappointing when that happens? I'd waited for the Kindle price to come down, grabbed it when it did, and there it sat waiting for the right moment. 'Summer' I thought (and actually it turned out to be a 'winter' sea setting, not a summer one, 'duh'). But it turned out I 'really' didn't like one half of the detective duo, couldn't seem to recall who the heck was who and didn't care about them when I did. 31% in and I just had to give it up. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

On to more positive things. Two crime books I loved.

Dead Level by Damien Boyd is book 5 in his DI Nick Dixon series. This police procedural series is set here in the south west of England where I live, it covers the Bristol area, Somerset and creeps into Devon occasionally. So everything is very familiar and I really like that. This instalment starts with the brutal murder of the pregnant wife of Conservative candidate of an upcoming by-election. Is the murder politically motivated? If so, why kill the wife and not the candidate? Dixon is on suspension so another officer takes charge of the case but he sticks his oar in nevertheless because his partner is on the case. Making life difficult is that this was the year the Somerset Levels flooded, 2014: it did make for interesting reading to be reminded of all that happened that year. I gave this fives stars on Goodreads because it is very good indeed. Boyd has got into his stride with this series now, the last two were also very good. Dixon is very driven but not troubled or alcoholic and that makes a nice change. There's a lot of 'normal life' going on too, pizza in front of the telly with the dog, walking said dog on various beaches... The books are just great and this is another excellent instalment. 

Next, The Fatal Flying Affair by T.E. Kinsey.

This is book 7 of the author's Lady Hardcastle mysteries. Lady Emily Hardcastle and her companion/maid, Florence Armstrong, moved to the countryside in book 1 for a quieter life, ho ho. Murders ensued of course and now they're working for the government doing a bit of casual spying, as you do. It's 1911 and Lady Hardcastle's brother asks her to express an interest in buying an aeroplane from a company in Bristol. Not hard, as she is interested in cars, planes and so forth. There's been a death, a young man died when he jumped out of a plane testing the new fangled 'parachutes', but he shouldn't have done as they are now considered safe. Lady Hardcastle and Flo do some clandestine snooping of course and a great deal of excitement ensues. Another series I really love but in a different way. It doesn't take itself seriously, a lot of the action's a bit unlikely or completely bonkers and I'm sure two women would not've got away with what they get away with in 1911 but I'm fine with that because the dialogue is joyous as the two main characters rib each other endlessly and the brother joins in. Great stuff... I think there're 10 in the series now and I plan to read all of them. 

I've just finished a book I've been reading off and on for a year, A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Reasons Why We Can't Stop Reading Jane Austen (that rolls readily off the tongue...) edited by Susannah Carson. Essays by authors such as E.M Forster, Virginia Woolf, Martin Amis, Susanna Clarke, J.B Priestley, A.S. Byatt and lots more. Very good if you're a keen Jane Austen fan, I loved reading discussions of the 6 novels or of Austen's life, lots of opinions I'd not thought of, a keeper. 

So then I DNFed the book I mentioned at the beginning, a bit disgusted but not sure whether that's with myself or the book! LOL

And now I'm reading this one:

The premise of Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Fairies by Heather Fawcett is that they are real and that there all kinds of different ones around the world and there are scientists in 1924 studying them. One of them, Emily Wilde, is on an island off the northern coast of Norway looking to find out about The Hidden Ones, a race of faeries who are enigmatic, secretive and very dangerous as they're taking children. I absolutely 'love' it.

So, that's me all caught up. I hope you're keeping well and reading lots of excellent books.

Saturday, 1 July 2023

Books read in June

Looking purely at the numbers it might seem I spent the entirety of June reading books. Which is not true, so how I managed to read a dozen when I'm in no way a quick reader I just don't know. I'm trying to slow down but short of picking up several 900 pagers for the month of July I can't see that happening. I think the problem is that some of June's books were so good I devoured them in a day or two. Not exactly a terrible problem though is it?

Anyway, the books:

47. Death of an Author - E.C.R. Lorac

48. A Dark Matter - Doug Johnstone

49. How to Fail - Elizabeth Day 

50. The Hunt for Mount Everest - Craig Storti

51. The Bird in the Tree - Elizabeth Goudge 

52. The Midnight Library - Matt Haig

53. The Thirteen Problems - Agatha Christie.

54. Retreat to the Spanish Sun - Jo Thomas

55. Sea of Tranquility - Emily St. John Mandel 

56.  The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling - Lawrence Block. Good, solid, enjoyable crime yarn from 1979, set in New York. I had no idea how prolific Block was until I checked on Fantastic Fiction. I wouldn't mind trying some of his other series.

57. Marple - Various authors, can't see mention of an editor. This is a new collection of stories about Agatha Christie's 'Miss Marple'. While there were a few good stories in this one - the best in my opinion being Unravelled by Natalie Haynes and Murder at the Villa Rosa by Elly Griffiths - overall I found the collection to be nicely readable but not amazing. 

58. Dead Level by Damien Boyd. To be reviewed but I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads so that's how much I liked this crime yarn.

So, 12 books, 10 fiction, 2 non-fiction. I stayed mainly in the UK in June but with forays to Mount Everest, Spain and New York. Favourite books? Death of an Author by E.C.R. Lorac, A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone, Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas, The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge, The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie. But my overall favourite was this:

Dead Level is book 5 in Damien Boyd's 'Inspector Nick Dixon' series set in Bristol, Somerset and Devon. I think he hit his stride with book 3, Swansong, and now they're just getting better and better. I know it helps that I live in the same area but, regardless, this series is 'good'. And the series has quite a famous fan, Dana Stabenow, author of the Kate Shugak series set in Alaska.

So, we're now halfway through the year and the longest day is behind us. June flew by and I hope July does too as it's a month I don't particularly like. I hope you're all keeping well and finding some good books to read.

Sunday, 25 June 2023

Some catching up...

As usual I've been reading quite a lot but not doing much in the way of talking about said books on here. So... time for  a catch up via some quick reviews. 

First up, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

Nora Seed is in her mid thirties and feels her life to have been a failure. Currently estranged from her only family, a brother, over her unwillingness to start a band with him, her best friend doesn't speak to her as she decided against going to Australia with her and then Nora gets the sack for not being cheerful enough to the customers in a music shop. The last straw comes when someone knocks on the door to tell her her cat, her only company, has just died out in the street. Nora decides life is just not worth living and that she will end it all. Except the end isn't what she expected. She's now in a library that seems to contain books that have inside of them all the lives Nora could've lived if she had made different decisions. Can she find one amongst the thousands of alternatives that she actually wants to stay in? So this was interesting in that it dealt with all those 'What ifs?' that we all have in our lives. Those decisions we made that took us in one direction when a different decision might have taken us elsewhere and led to a happier more fulfilled life... or 'not'. I suppose it asks questions about alternate universes where we all exist but living different lives, with different people, different jobs etc. It's an interesting concept to consider. I like a book that makes me think and this was very good in that regard. 

Next, I read The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie. Thoroughly enjoyed this, one of the first Miss Marple books published after The Murder at the Vicarage. This is a series of connected short stories wherein a sort of murder club is formed over or after various dinners with friends that Miss Marple attends. People talk about various mysteries they've encountered and Miss Marple inevitably solves said mystery. I thought it was delightful. 

That was followed by a contemporary fiction story entitled, Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas. 

Eliza is a single parent with three grown-up children. Her husband left her when the kids were quite young and now they're adults and have flown the nest she's sold the family home and has a small 2 bed flat. Problem - for one reason or another they're all back and the place is bedlam. Eliza is taking a course and has an exam deadline but can't work in the chaos, so, on a whim, she answers a 'house-sitter required' ad and finds herself in Spain looking after a pig farm while the owner's away. The plan is to write her essay while it's quiet but Eliza reckons without the draw of the local ex-pat club who're learning Spanish, or trying to. This is one of those light books you get sucked into and I certainly did - starting and finishing in one day. I liked Eliza, in her mid-forties and just trying to better herself with a bit more education. The Spanish village setting was a delight and I learnt a bit about a local delicacy, Iberico ham. I've read three or four books by Jo Thomas and always enjoy her less than perfect heroines. 

Lastly, Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel.

This a science fiction story... it's as well I didn't know it was a time-travel yarn because I might not've started in the first place. It did actually begin quite well with a 'second and thus not inheriting much, son' travelling to Canada to start a new life in 1912. Something happens to him in the forests of British Columbia which is connected with some things which happen to others in 2020, 2203 and 2401. There are colonies on The Moon in this story, and I thought those were particularly well depicted. There's a pandemic involved (not ours). And the writing was very good indeed but as always I found the time travel aspect confusing no matter how clever the author was at bringing various timelines together and surprising the reader at the end. A solid 3 star read, I was slightly disappointed in this but bear in mind that reflects my dislike of time-travel stories, your mileage may vary. (A time-travel book I 'did' quite like - To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.)

I hope you're all keeping well and enjoying some good books. 

Thursday, 15 June 2023

I have been reading...

It's quite warm here in the UK at the moment. When I say 'quite warm' I mean 25 to 27C - high 70s Fahrenheit - kind of warm, not Aussie, Middle-Eastern, Saharan heat... those people would laugh at us saying we're too hot and where's the rain now please? That said, it did get much hotter than this last July, 35 to 40C... and that 'is' hot for the UK. I'm just really hoping it doesn't do that again this year but the signs are not good and we've already had warnings of Saharan waves of heat wafting our way this summer. Ugh. 

My solution to it all is to get the garden work done in the early morning and then spend the day quietly with lots of refeshment and lots of books. It's not a bad plan...

So, I finished three books over the last few days.

How to Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day.

I'm not actually sure what this was doing on my Kindle (please don't judge. :-D). Day co-presents the Sky Arts Book Club on Sky Arts so I'm familiar with her from that, so that could be why I grabbed it, possibly it was just cheap and I was intrigued. Anyway, this is very autobiographical and the author talks a lot about how her failures actually taught her more than her successes. Failure at friendships, failure at marriage, failure to be able to conceive, failure at sport and so on. I found it interesting in that I'm always curious about other people, how they live their lives (I think that means I'm nosy...), the decisions they make, their relationship to the people around them. I suspect Elizabeth Day is a delightful person - she seems to be on TV - but I did find this a bit hard-going in places as it is  bit relentless as regards her feelings of inadequacy, but it was always very readable. 


Next, The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti.

It might seem mad but we haven't always known that Everest existed. The Tibetans knew it was there of course, or some of them did, but none of them had any idea of climbing it until a load of mad Europeans turned up fresh from climbing in The Alps and looking for something else to get their teeth into. But the first attempt didn't happen until 1921, the Tibetans in the shape of the Dalai Lama kept us out until then despite some questionable machinations from the British in India. This book tells us all about it and quite interesting it is too, lots of history, politics, and information about the main people in alpine climbing in those days. Everyone knows about George Mallory but there were others who were just as fascinating whose names have been lost in the mists of time. My only complaint is that although all the politics was quite interesting it took a while to get around to really talking about the mountain, which is why I was reading it in the first place. But overall... a good read and what about that gorgeous cover?

Lastly, something fictional, The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge. This was first published in 1940, the author being a contemporary of authors such as D.E. Stevenson, Molly Clavering, Dorothy Whipple, Angela Thirkell etc.

So the story is set in 1938 (a date like that always makes me shudder) in a beautiful old house in Hampshire, Damerosehay. It's owned by Lucilla Eliot, widow, 78 year old grandmother and head of the family in every way. Mother to six adult children, she has living with her three small grandchildren whose parents have split up. Their mother, Nadine, (Lucilla's daughter-in-law) has started an affair with David who is the beloved adult grandson of Lucilla. David is on his way to visit and try to explain to Lucilla who will not be happy as she's never liked Nadine. And how will the children react too? The relationships are slightly complicated in this novel but I quickly got a handle on who was who and how they connected to the others. The house is absolutely centre stage, its history, the beauty of it and its wonderful gardens which are haunted. Goudge was fantastic at atmosphere, I'm not sure which part of the Hampshire coast it's supposed to be but it absolutely jumps off the page at you. I found it ever so slightly hard going with 'quite' so much description I must admit, I was more interested in the family dynamics and in that I wasn't disappointed. Every character was different with their own quirks, Lucilla and her elderly maid, Ellen, were brilliant, the single daughter who lived in, Margaret, only alive when gardening, didn't get a lot of air-time but her situation was rather poignant and I liked her, Hilary the bachelor vicar son was delightful and likewise the three small kiddies, all different with distinct personalities. I won't talk about the ending, only to say these were different times and long discussions could definitely be had. Overall, I liked this a lot and as it's part one of a trilogy I will read on. 

So now I'm not reading anything at all and am at that tricky 'choose a new book' or rather 'books' stage. I'm in a mountainy mood and fancy more reading about Everest, so I have this that I might start.

Or this:


We'll see. But as for fiction, I've no idea. I'm mood reading this summer and it's rather nice.

Friday, 9 June 2023

A couple of crime titles

So, I'm in the mood for a bit of a crime yarn binge at the moment. Always a fun thing to do as I seem to have no trouble finding three or four good mysteries in a row, whereas I'm struggling in other genres. For instance, I thought I would indulge in a personal challenge to read more science fiction this year and I have, but the books have been very variable and that's being 'kind'. Crime fiction doesn't do that to me, although it could also be that I've become very adept at judging which ones I'm going to like.

Anyway, first up, Death of an Author by E.C.R. Lorac. This is my 7th. book for Susan's Bookish Books Reading Challenge.

Author of popular crime fiction, Vivian Lestrange, is a recluse. Not just a 'bit' of a recluse, but an obsessive one, to the point where hardly anyone knows who he or she is. It's thought it's a man because of course only men can write really intense crime stories... And then his secretary, one of two people who know him, reports him missing. She's turned up for work and both him and his house-keeper have gone. But can her word be trusted? It's not long since she herself pretended to be Lestrange, sent by him to fool people. And is it a double-bluff? Is she in fact the author? The police, CI Warner and Inspector Bond, are completely at sea. They have no clue who's telling the truth and no idea how to proceed. As one of them stresses, what they could really do with is a dead body! It's only when Warner follows a lead to the beautiful countryside around the river Wye in Gloucestershire that things start to become clearer, or do they? E.C.R. Lorac is definitely my favourite of the authors that the British Library have 'rediscovered'. I honestly can't think how she disappeared as her books are so well written and so 'meaty'. This book was complicated and twisty. It's thought Lorac was poking fun at people who thought only men could write crime fiction although why they would've thought that back then when Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and so forth were so hugely popular is hard to say, but there you go. I so enjoyed this book and had no idea until quite near the end what was going on. Highly recommended along with her, Murder in the Mill-Race, Fire in the Thatch and many others.

Next, A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone. This was a book mentioned by Margot at Crime Writer Margot Kinberg wherein you will always find a lot of excellent posts about all aspects of crime fiction and loads of excellent recommendations. I highly recommend her blog and also her Youtube channel.

So this is an Edinburgh based story. Jim and Dorothy Skelf, both in their early seventies, run a funeral business and do private investigating on the side. When Jim dies, Dorothy, their daughter, Jenny, and grand-daughter, Hannah, feel completely adrift because he had handled most of the business side of things. Dorothy notices money has been going out of the account every month to a certain person, something she didn't know about. This forces her to wonder if she ever really knew her husband. Jenny, divorced and in her forties, has just lost her job so, reluctantly, moves back into the family home to help out. Hannah, at uni, needs help... her flat-mate has gone missing but the police will not help, citing anyone's right to go off if they want to. Hannah does not believe Mel would do this. The book is written from the pov of the three women and it's beautifully done, each woman having a very clear and succinct personality as portrayed by Doug Johnstone. Like all of us, they have life issues they're dealing with while trying to solve several cases at once, and all felt very real to me and representative of their own age-groups. I loved this one 'but' I think I should warn readers that there's a lot of detail of the work of funeral directors. 'Minute' detail. It will not be for everyone, in fact my husband picked it up off the library pile and after I had told him what it was about he quickly put it back again. Personally, I found it fascinating but then I am slightly weird. (Only 'slightly'?) This book has a twisty, convoluted, edgy feel to it, secrets abound, people are not what they seem and the women soon realise that jumping to hasty conclusions is not a good idea. I found the family dynamics endlessly fascinating too... three generations of women trying to get along and work together to solve cases. I loved it and will read on in the series, I think there're another three or four.  Thanks for the recommendation, Margot!

Two five star Goodreads ratings in a row! That doesn't happen every day! I hope you too are finding some good books to read in June. 

Thursday, 1 June 2023

Books read in May

May was quite an interesting month wasn't it? We crowned a king in the UK, I turned 70, and I read 10 books. :-) I'm sure other things must've happened... yes, we started the garden, seeds sown in the greenhouse and up and soon to be planted out, others sown outside and doing nicely. And Spring has turned very sunny and very dry... dare I say it, we 'could' do with a bit of rain now...

Anyhow, 'books'. These are they:

37. 14 - Peter Clines

38. The Bangalore Detective Club - Harini Nagendra

39. In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward 

40. Queens of the Abyss ed. by Mike Ashley

41. Killers of a Certain Age - Deanna Raybourn 

42. Soul Music - Terry Pratchett

43. Horse - Geraldine Brooks. This my book for my Read Around America challenge, featuring the states of Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Nebraska. 

This is a three timeline novel about a famous racehorse from Kentucky, 'Lexington'. The story concentrates on the early life of Jarret who is a black slave who ends up with the care of the horse from quite a young age, and a very strong life-long bond is formed. We follow as the horse is sold to another owner and Jarret sold with him. Civil war happens and we see how the two cope. The second main timeline is that of Theo and Jess in 2019. Theo is a black Brit who is a journalist, Jess a bone scientist from Australia. They meet in Washington D.C. over the search for the skeleton of a horse and the quest to find the origin of a painting of a horse. The third timeline is less prevalent and is that of a New York art gallery owner in the 1950s, Martha Jackson. It sounds a bit confusing but it isn't once you get into the story and chapters are well marked. I gave this 5 stars on Goodreads because I thought it was excellent. I have no interest in horse racing and not much in horses really, but I was captivated by Jarret's story and his devotion to Lexington. But it's not just that, the book is historical fiction at its best, I learnt a lot about life in Kentucky in the 1850s, for the well-to-do, yes, but mainly for slaves.What a huge deal the horse racing life was in 1850s America but the people it depended on for its survival, black slaves, were hardly acknowledged at all. It was sobering but not depressing, there was love and friendship and loyalty and also intellectual investigations which I love. 'Not depressing' apart from a real body-punch event towards the end of the book which knocked me for six. Regardless, this will likely feature in my top ten books of the year in December. Terrific book. 

44. Death in August - Marco Vichi. (Translated by Stephen Sartarelli.) This is the first book in the Commisario Bordelli series, set in Florence in the 1960s. I enjoyed this very much, the boiling-hot City of Florence in August was a character in its own right.

45. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy - Becky Chambers. Book 2 of the author's sci-fi Monk & Robot series. It was fine but not outstanding.

46. La Vie - John Sempel-Lewis. A year in the life of the author after he had moved to The Charente area of France. He's well known for his nature writing, birds and so forth, and I think it really shows in the beautiful, lyrical writing. I thought it was delightful and gave it 5 stars, no hesitation. 

So that was my May reading month. Nine fiction books, one non-fiction. The standout book was Horse by Geraldine Brooks, but to be honest it was a good reading month and nothing was terrible. 

So, on into June and, unusually, I have no idea what I want to read this month. So it's going to be very much a mood-reading month I think. We shall see.

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

I have been reading...

This is a rundown of the books I've read recently that I don't want to do a full review of. Starting with, Queens of the Abyss: Lost Stories From the Women of the Weird, edited by Mike Ashley.

This is precisely what it says on the tin, vintage weird stories written by women. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was only men who wrote these kinds of stories that went into magazines or collections but in fact women contributed too. Authors in this anthology include Edith Nesbit, Mary E. Braddon, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Majorie Bowen, Marie Belloc Lowndes and more. As with all collections there were stand-out stories. I liked The Revelation by Mary E. Braddon which recounts the story of a chap in India who keeps seeing visions of an old school chum and goes back to England to find out what's going on. He visits the man's wife who tells him his friend is abroad for his health and not seeing anyone... Christmas in the Fog by Frances Hodgson Burnett starts with a very foggy London and the narrator tells how this fog tends to dissipate a few miles outside the city but this time it did not. It follows the traveller to Liverpool and envelopes that city too. A very eerie, atmospheric tale. The Antimacassar by Greye La Spina is set in Philadelphia and concerns a young woman working in a department store whose friend and colleague has gone missing after going to stay on a farm for her holidays. The young woman goes off to the farm to look into matters. *Very* good, this one. White Lady by Sophie Wenzel Ellis was *so* wierd dealing as it did with experiments on exotic flowers on a Carribean island. I also liked Candlelight by Lady Eleanor Smith, a story about a dinner party where everyone is in love with someone who is not their actual partner. They discover a young gypsy girl in the garden and persuade her to tell their fortunes... All in all this is a strong collection of stories, none of them less than very readable and, of course, beautifully written.

Next, I read Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn.

So, there's a hidden network of assassins who call themselves The Museum. It was all men until Billie, Helen, Natalie and Mary Alice were recruited when they were young women and formed a sort of cell. It was found that the four of them working together  could often be more effective in certain areas than men. Fast forward forty years and the four are in their sixties and retiring. Off they go on a celebratory cruise, all expenses paid. Fantastic. Until they realise that someone from The Museum is aboard ship in disguise and come to the conclusion that they're marked women: someone wants them all dead. They go on the run. Not knowing who they can trust is their biggest problem but aging bodies don't help either. On the plus side, 'killers of a certain age' have learnt a lot in forty years and underestimating them would be a real mistake. I liked this without actually loving it. It was a fun, if slightly unlikely, romp which took me on a mad jaunt to various countries. I imagined Helen Mirren leading this disparate, motley bunch of four oap assassins, one of their partners, and a computer nerd. I didn't find characterisation to be that strong, the women blended a bit too much into one person sort of thing, not much to tell them apart. But it was fine and I did actually enjoy it.

Lastly, I read Soul Music by Terry Pratchett. 

I was in the mood for something by Terry Pratchett and this is one of the few books of his I haven't read. 'Death' is having a bit of a mid-life crisis wondering 'What it's all about?' and is it all worth it? He disappears and it's down to his grand-daughter, Susan, a teenager, to reluctantly take over for a while. She'll have to deal with the fallout from the new 'Music with Rocks in' phenomenom. A new pop group has emmerged... a troll, a dwarf, and a boy with a harp from the valleys are attracting some unfortunate attention because their new music is strangely addictive and alive somehow. This was not my favourite outing with Terry Pratchett's writing, it was slightly confusing somehow. 'But' it was still a great deal of fun with his usual trademark humour and way with words:

' Trolls disliked druids too. Any sapient species which spends a lot of time in a stationary, rock-like pose objects to any other species which drags it sixty miles on rollers and buries it up to its knees in a circle. It tends to feel it has cause for disgruntlement.'


So, my two current books are these: 

 Horse by Geraldine Brooks is a three-timeline story concerning a racehorse from the 1850s. I have no interest whatsoever in horse racing but this is a well written and engaging tale which I like an awful lot. 

And I've also just started this:

Death in August by Marco Vichi which I reserved from the library after reading about it on a blog I think. Possibly Margot's? It's set in 1960's Florence anyway, and I think I'm going to like it.

So that's me up to date with my reading and blogging. I hope you're all well and enjoying your May reading.

Sunday, 14 May 2023

A couple of crime novels

A couple of crime novels to review today and they could not be more different. One is set in 1920s India the other a modern dual-timeline mystery set in the Derbyshire Peak District in the UK.

First up, The Bangalore Detective Club by Harini Nagendra.

As the title implies, this book is set in the city of Bangalore in southern India. It's the 1920s and 19 year old, Kaveri, has moved to the city after marrying Ramu Murthy, a local doctor. It's a bit of a culture shock as all Kaveri ever really wanted was to study Maths and earn a place at college, which women are now allowed to do. She is fortunate though. Ramu likes having an intelligent wife and, for the times, allows her a lot of leeway. They're at a large dinner event one evening when a man is murdered. Kaveri has witnessed quite a lot of coming and going that night and finds herself drawn into the investigation, not at all against her will. There's a large cast of characters in what I suppose is a cozy crime series. Cozy isn't always my thing but I found the depiction of 1920s Bangalore to be absolutely fascinating. The author is Indian and lives there and this 'really' shows as we gets a warts and all description of a very crowded city with a lot of  poverty. I liked Kaveri who breaks all the rules about where she can go and what she can do as the wife of a quite well to do doctor. Said husband is a great character too, a man who appreciates his intelligent wife even if she can't cook. The neighbour, Uma Aunty, who aids and abets Kaveri and teaches her to cook in exchange for reading lessons is brilliant too and there's a very rich and varied cast of other well drawn extras. I did not guess the culprit until nearly the end as the whole thing was quite complicated. I liked this a 'lot'. It's book one in a new series and book two is just out I think. I'll definitely be getting it. 

Lastly, In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward.

It's 1978 and two eight year old girls are walking to school. A car stops and a woman offers them a lift. Rachel Jones does not want to get into the car but Sophie Jenkins is quite happy to do so, so rather than leave her friend, Rachel gets in too. She is later discovered wandering along the road by a wooded area, Sophie is never seen again. Fast forward thirty years and Rachel is now a genealogist. She goes into shock when the police approach her to tell her that Sophie's mother has committed suicide in a local hotel. The local police are suspicious enough to reopen the case of the missing girl and D.I. Sadler is put in charge along with D.S. Palmer and D.C. Connie Childs. It's thought the 1978 investigation was actually pretty thorough but is it possible something was missed? Some weeks later another body, a murder this time, and there is a connection between the two dead people. Many old wounds and secrets are about to be revealed. This was one of those 'can't leave it alone' kinds of book. Written to make you want to keep reading and reading and I did, devouring it in two sittings. The Derbyshire Peak District in winter setting doesn't do it any harm as I know the area a bit and it's quite stunning there. But as well as that, I do like a family secrets story. Mixed with a police procedural where you don't know any more than the police and it can be a heady mix. You do need to pay attention as there are a lot of characters and keeping track of them all and where they fit in is not straightforward. But it's worth the effort for this well-written book with a lot of intricate layers. Character-wise I found D.I. Sadler a bit remote and unlikeable. Connie Childs, whom the series is named after, is more fleshed out but really the person I liked the most was the grown up Rachel Jones, searching for answers using her genealogist skills, but I don't think she's actually in any more of the novels. There are four books in the series anyway and now Sarah Ward has started a new one The Mallory Dawson Crime Series, the first book of which, The Birthday Girl, sounds excellent. I think this author is well worth keeping an eye on.

Friday, 5 May 2023

A couple of titles

Two titles to talk about today, first up The Library by Bella Osborne. This is my 6th. book for the Bookish Books challenge which is being hosted by Susan at Bloggin' 'Bout Books.

Tom is sixteen and lives with his father, Paul. His mother died when he was eight and his father has never fully recovered, he drinks too much and Tom has had to learn to deal with this as well as preparing for his GCSEs, and falling for Farah Shah who is in some of his classes. His problems have made him chronically shy and in order to try and connect with girls he decides that as they seem to like reading he should try too and then he might have something to talk to Farah about. So off he goes to the local library where there's a book group in progress. Seventy two year old, Maggie, is in attendance. She lives on a small holding, farming sheep, on her own since her husband died. Outside, sometime later, Maggie is mugged and Tom tries to come to her aid. Thus a friendship is struck up and Tom becomes a fixture at the library, loaded up with romance books by a well meaning librarian that he's said are for his mother, and joining the book group. He sees Farah there too but is still tongue-tied. Then news arrives that the council are considering closing the library, 'cuts' being the excuse of course. Maggie, Tom and Farah head the campaign to stop this happening but real life often has a habit of getting in the way of the best laid plans. Parts of this must sound a bit grim and in truth it was a bit heart-breaking in places. Tom is a neglected teenager, struggling to cope with his father's drinking and exams. Maggie recognises this immediately because she herself is lonely, judging each day on whether she chatted to someone on the bus or the postman stopped to talk or she saw and spoke to no one and thus the day was not a good one. She takes Tom under her wing, he helps her on the farm and in return she feeds him properly and has the company she craves. It's heart-warming and delightful to have a depiction of two such disparate characters, not only in circumstance but also age, get along well and connect. There're up and downs of course. Maggie has secrets too, that she'd rather no one found out about. Tom wants to go to uni but his father wants him to work in the local factory to bring in some money. All life is here in this gentle but realistic tale and I challenge anyone not to enjoy this unlikely friendship and celebration of Maggie's simple life so close to the land. I loved it. Bella Osborne's books are usually a little different to this I gather, being more in the romantic vein than this one. She didn't know how this departure would go down, well I fancy it's gone down well and I for one hope she has more in the bag.

My second book is 14, a science fiction horror story by Peter Clines.

Nate has a poorly paid job he hates, no prospects, no girlfriend, no nothing really. He needs cheap accommodation in LA and is told about the Kavach building which has a vacant appartment. It's cheap and seems too good to be true but he's desperate and takes it. He learns that they can't keep tennants because people find the place odd and spooky and are unnerved by it. And Nate admits there are oddities, some appartments are padlocked up and not used, light bulbs don't work, the cockroaches are luminescent green and have an extra leg... and where does their electricity come from? He meets Veek a computer geek who also lives there - she's been investigating the weirdness of the building for some time and they join forces with several others willing to share their experiences and search for answers. Well, this comes under the heading of so weird it's Dead Peculiar. I, of course, loved it. It's a slow burner. Abut 40% of the book had passed before there was any real action, before that it's small investigations and conversations and I admit I was ready for something more concrete. I wasn't expecting what I eventually got though! The tie-in with a famous author's work took me by surprise, luckily I have read him extensively so it worked for me, I'm not sure if it would be the same for anyone who had not. The horror in the story is not of the gory variety, it's more based on ideas and concepts and more similar to a story by, say, Jules Verne (he's not the author concerned).  The sci-fi element was just as strong but also of an old-fashioned variety... adventurous and a bit mad. That's probably why I liked it so much. This is book one of Clines's 'Threshold' series but the books are loosely connected I think, not necessarily having the same characters. 14 very much stands alone but I like the sound of the other books and will read on with a great deal of interest. The next book, The Fold, sounds so good. 

I shall be busy now for a few days. It's The Coronation tomorrow and then a milestone birthday on Monday, family around, that kind of thing. I hope you're all well and finding some excellent books to read.