My Friday Post: Checkmate to Murder by E C R Lorac

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week I’m featuring one of the books I’m currently reading, Checkmate to Murder: a Second World War Mystery by E C R Lorac, first published in 1944. One of the things I like about this book is the setting and atmosphere of wartime London, when details such as blackouts, fire-watching and air raid precautions were everyday events.

It begins:

The vast studio had two focus points of light; between two pools of radiance was a stretch of shadows, colourless, formless, empty. At one end of the long, barn-like structure, where the light was most strongly concentrated, was a model’s platform. A high-backed Spanish chair stood upon it, with a dark leather screen as background. On the chair sat a man arrayed in the superb scarlet of a Cardinal’s robe, the broad-brimmed Cardinal’s hat upon his head.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

“Deceased was a miser, one of the real old-fashioned storybook misers. I won’t say I haven’t met one before – I have, though they are getting less common than they used to be. D’you remember old Simple Simon, who was always getting run-in for begging on the Embankment – £525 we found under the boards in his bedroom when he died, and another fifteen pounds odd in his filthy bedding. He died of starvation at last.”

~~~

About the book:

On a dismally foggy night in Hampstead, London, a curious party has gathered in an artist’s studio to weather the wartime blackout. A civil servant and a government scientist match wits in a game of chess, while Bruce Manaton paints the portrait of his characterful sitter, bedecked in Cardinal’s robes at the other end of the room. In the kitchen, Rosanne Manaton prepares tea for the charlady of Mr. Folliner, the secretive miser next door.

When the brutal murder of ‘Old Mr. F’ is discovered by his Canadian infantryman nephew, it’s not long before Inspector Macdonald of Scotland Yard is called to the scene to take the young soldier away. But even at first glance the case looks far from black-and-white. Faced with a bevy of perplexing alibis and suspicious circumstances, Macdonald and the C.I.D. set to work separating the players from the pawns to shed light on this toppling of a lonely king in the dead of night.

What do you think – would you read this book?

The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve had this book for a while now and have just finished reading it. It is the 5th book in Lucinda Riley’s series, The Seven Sisters and as I’d only read the first book I thought I’d read the other three books first before this one, so that I could read them in order. But as the 7th book, The Missing Sister, will be published in May I thought I had better read The Moon Sister now. The books are based on the legends of The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades. Although this is just one in the series I think it reads very well as a standalone book.

I loved this book, about Tiggy D’Apilese, the fifth sister adopted by Pa Salt and brought up in their childhood home, ‘Atlantis’ – a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva. The sisters are all named after the stars in the Pleiades star cluster. Tiggy’s star name is Taygete. Pa Salt had died earlier in the year and had left clues for each girl so that if they want they can discover who their parents were and the circumstances of their birth. Tiggy is her nickname after the hedgehog Mrs Tiggy-winkle from the Beatrix Potter book – and because when she was born her hair stuck up in spikes.

The book description summarises this long and detailed (769 pages) book, and I don’t intend to go into much more detail about the plot. The story begins in the Scottish Highlands where Tiggy works as a wildlife consultant, then moves to Sacromente in Spain, then onto Portugal, South America and New York before moving back to the Highlands as Tiggy finds out about her birth and her family history.

Blurb:

After the death of her father – Pa Salt, an elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters from around the globe – Tiggy D’Aplièse , trusting her instincts, moves to the remote wilds of Scotland. There she takes a job doing what she loves; caring for animals on the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate, employed by the enigmatic and troubled Laird, Charlie Kinnaird.

Her decision alters her future irrevocably when Chilly, an ancient gipsy who has lived for years on the estate, tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense, passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home to Granada in Spain . . .

In the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra, Tiggy discovers her connection to the fabled gypsy community of Sacromonte, who were forced to flee their homes during the civil war, and to ‘La Candela’ the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation.

From the Scottish Highlands and Spain, to South America and New York, Tiggy follows the trail back to her own exotic but complex past. And under the watchful eye of a gifted gypsy bruja she begins to embrace her own talent for healing.

But when fate takes a hand, Tiggy must decide whether to stay with her new-found family or return to Kinnaird, and Charlie . . .

The modern day story is interesting, about her work on the Kinnaird Estate (based on Alladale Wilderness Reserve), but I felt that her relationship with the Laird was rather naive, and at the end of the book how that was resolved felt contrived. But I loved the episodes in which Tiggy meets Chilly, and those with the deer and the white stag. Chilly is the old gypsy, who she befriended. He calls her ‘Hotchiwitchi’, Romany for hedgehog, and tells her that she has a special gift in her hands to heal animals. He also tells her that she should go to the seven caves of Sacromente, where she was born. Tiggy sees a white stag, which she calls Pegasus and tries to protect him from poachers, when news got out he was on the Estate. White stags are revered; there a several myths about them – one being that Tiggy’s mythical counterpart, Taygete, who was a companion of the Greek deity Artemis, ‘the Mistress of Animals’, was being pursued by and to protect her Artemis turned her into a doe.

But the most interesting and fascinating part of the book for me is the story of Tiggy’s , grandmother, Lucia Amaya-Albaycin, who became a famous flamenco dancer. She is the dominant character in the book, and not a particularly likeable character as she was totally self-absorbed, and obsessed with furthering her career. Flamenco dancing was her passion and took priority over everything else.

Lucia was also born in in a cave in Sacromonte, the sacred mountain just outside the eastern city walls of Granada in Andalusia, within sight of the Alhambra. She was a ‘gitano’ and lived her life to dance. She was born in poverty and her family struggled to survive. During the Spanish Civil War their neighbourhood was devastated, suffering famine and hardship – one of Lucia’s brothers was imprisoned in terrible conditions. She and her father, together with their troupe of dancers fled to Portugal and then went to Argentina and eventually on to New York, where Lucia was forced to choose between her career and the man she loved. But the spirit of the ‘duende’, possessed her as it surged up from the soles of her feet as she danced, encompassing her whole body, and soaring out of her soul.

Lucinda Riley is a wonderful storyteller and her descriptions of the grandeur and beauty of both Granada and the Scottish Highlands entranced me.They are so beautifully and vividly described that I was transported back in time and place, seeing the events unfold before my eyes.

Many thanks to the the publishers via NetGalley for my digital review copy.

  • ASIN : B07F72TKSX
  • Publisher : Macmillan (1 Nov. 2018)
  • Language : English
  • File size : 1255 KB
  • Text-to-Speech : Enabled
  • Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
  • X-Ray : Enabled
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Print length : 769 pages

The seven books are:

  1. The Seven Sisters (2014)
   2. The Storm Sister (2015)
   3. The Shadow Sister (2016)
   4. The Pearl Sister (2017)
   5. The Moon Sister (2018)
   6. The Sun Sister (2019)
   7. The Missing Sister (2021)

Throwback Thursday: The Verneys

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for Throwback Thursday. It takes place on the Thursday before the first Saturday of every month (i.e., the Thursday before the monthly #6Degrees post). The idea is to highlight one of your previously published book reviews and then link back to Davida’s blog.

Today I’m looking back to 25 October 2007 when I wrote longer posts than I do now! This one, The Verneys of Claydon is about the Verney family who lived at Claydon House, a country house in the Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, England, near the village of Middle Claydon. It is now owned by the National Trust.

The Verneys: a True Story of Love, War and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England by Adrian Tinniswood.

This is how I began my post:

I became very fond of The Verneys as I read Adrian Tinniswood’s book The Verneys, shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2007. If you’re interested in seventeenth century England you simply must read this book, or if you like reading biographies and family histories read this book. I think it would make a fantastic film or TV series.

It is a tour de force, a mammoth of a book. It is huge, both in its scope, its extraordinary detail and its length. It is also heavy, but only in weight. It is impressive in its coverage of not only the lives of the Verney family but also of the seventeenth century itself.

Madness, piracy, murder and adultery – The Verneys tells the story of a unique English family in the seventeenth century. Based on the near-miraculous survival of tens of thousands of Verney family letters in an attic, Adrian Tinniswood explores the history of one family in the most intimate detail. By drawing on this wealth of personal correspondence, he reveals the private and public world of members of the Buckinghamshire gentry, offering extraordinary insights into 17th Century family life.

Click here to read the rest of my review

Adrian Tinniswood OBE FSA is the author of fifteen books on social and architectural history, including Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the Royal HouseholdThe Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House Between the Wars, a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller; His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren and The Verneys: a True Story of Love, War and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England, which was shortlisted for the BBC/Samuel Johnson Prize. He has worked with a number of heritage organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Trust, and is currently Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Buckingham and Visiting Fellow in Heritage and History at Bath Spa University. (Amazon)

~~~

I visited Claydon House in October 2007, which was when I found out about this book. One of the most interesting rooms is Miss Nightingale’s bedroom. Florence Nightingale was Sir Harry Verney’s sister-in-law and often stayed at Claydon House between 1857 and 1890. Sir Harry had first asked Florence to marry him but she declined and he married her older sister Parthenope. I wrote about the House in this post.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had:

  1. Bookseller – The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovatt
  2. Genealogist – Rachel in In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward
  3. Historian – Mathias, Marc and Lucien in The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas
  4. Art historian – Robert Langdon in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code
  5. Author – Ariadne Oliver in Agatha Christie’s books eg Cards on the Table
  6. Editor – Isabel is a philosopher and editor in Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series eg The Sunday Philosopher Club.
  7. Photographer – Rose Trevelyan in Janie Bolitho’s Cornish Mystery books eg Snapped in Cornwall
  8. Lawyer – Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  9. Singer – Penny Cartwright, a folk singer in some of Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks’ books eg A Dedicated Man
  10. Actress – Clara Vine in Black Roses by Jane Thynne

My Friday Post: The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week my Friday quotations are from The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley, the second book in her Seven Sisters series of books based on the legends of the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades. I read the first book, The Seven Sisters two years ago and loved it, so I’m hoping I’ll love this one too.

It begins:

I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard that my father had died.

I was lying naked in the sun on the deck of the Neptune, with Theo’s hand resting protectively on my stomach.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Ally, please forget about the other boat being there – it’s irrelevant. But the fact that you were there to see the place where Pa chose to be buried is actually comforting.

~~~

About the book:

Ally D’Aplièse is about to compete in one of the world’s most perilous yacht races, when she hears the news of her adoptive father’s sudden, mysterious death. Rushing back to meet her five sisters at their family home, she discovers that her father – an elusive billionaire affectionately known to his daughters as Pa Salt – has left each of them a tantalizing clue to their true heritage.

Ally has also recently embarked on a deeply passionate love affair that will change her destiny forever. But with her life now turned upside down, Ally decides to leave the open seas and follow the trail that her father left her, which leads her to the icy beauty of Norway . . .

There, Ally begins to discover her roots – and how her story is inextricably bound to that of a young unknown singer, Anna Landvik, who lived there over a hundred years before, and sang in the first performance of Grieg’s iconic music set to Ibsen’s play ‘Peer Gynt’. As Ally learns more about Anna, she also begins to question who her father, Pa Salt, really was. And why is the seventh sister missing?

~~~

What do you think – would you read this book?

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I hung back a while from buying The Thursday Murder Club because of all the hype it has received, but in the end I gave in to my curiosity and I listened to the audiobook (one of my Audible trial books) rather than reading an e-book or a paperback. Currently it is no.1 on the Amazon UK best sellers chart and it has been on the list for 26 weeks. When I started listening to it it had over 41,000 reviews and by the time I finished it there were 42,679 reviews – the vast majority being 5 and 4 stars reviews.Unfortunately, I don’t think it lived up to the hype and I can only give it 2 or maybe 2.5 stars.

Blurb:

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ finds themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing 80, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

My thoughts:

It’s read by Lesley Manville, who is so good at bringing the characters to life.The estimated listening time is 12 hours and 25 minutes, but I listened to it over 7 days with increasing impatience. It begins well but the labyrinth-like plot is expanded with so much unnecessary padding and digressions into the characters’ backstories that the story soon dragged. More murders follow the first and I was curious to find out who did what to whom, so I persevered. You do have to suspend your disbelief at the way the police, PC Donna De Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson, carried out their investigation and shared information with the four friends.

I did have to rewind several times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything as it’s so easy to get carried away, listening to the chatty style of narrative. There are 115 short chapters, alternating between a third person narrative and the diary of Joyce in the first person. This makes the narrative rather disjointed as it follows several storylines, with each chapter ending at the point where you want to know more, but you have to wait whilst Joyce reads from her diary or until another storyline continues, before you can back to each one. The action is far too slow for me, and the ending, when you finally get there, is a bit of an anti-climax.

I liked the characters, some more than others and in the main they are convincing and believable. But despite all the detail of their life stories I still wondered what Elizabeth’s job really was, although there are hints that she was a spy. She had travelled all over the world and had lots of useful contacts for solving a murder mystery, far too coincidentally useful I thought. She is the leader of the group, an organiser and very bossy. Elizabeth’s husband Stephen is a minor character. He is an enigma; he has dementia but plays a good game of chess.Then there are Penny, who is a retired police officer, now in a coma, and her husband, John. Penny could have explained a lot, but that’s not revealed until just before the end of the book. Joyce is quiet and unassuming, but the waffle in her diary hints that there is more to her than the obvious insignificant old lady she appears to be. She likes Bernard, another minor character, who sits on a seat overlooking the Garden of Rest. Finally, there is the enigmatic Polish builder, Bogdan, who I grew to like as the story progressed.

This is a ‘cosy’ mystery, quietly humorous in parts – not laugh out loud funny, but it did make me smile in a few places. The murder mystery element is over complicated with far too many twists and turns, suspects and false trails. I was glad to finish it. Except when you get to the end of the audiobook it hasn’t finally finished as there is chapter 116, which is a conversation between Marian Keyes, who loved the book and found it much funnier than I did, and Richard about the novel and his experience of writing his debut book.

Well, with so many reviews full of praise and glowing endorsements from numerous other authors and professional reviewers it certainly doesn’t matter much what I think. But I am left wondering just what Ian Rankin meant when he wrote: “So smart and funny. Deplorably good” – surely that’s an oxymoron? And why he is described as “Ian Rankin, New York Times bestselling author of Westwind“? What about his Rebus books ….

Sadly, this didn’t turn out to be as good as I’d hoped, but maybe a film would be better – Steven Spielberg has bought the film rights to the novel – that should be good.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza). There aren’t many books that make me laugh out loud, although plenty make me chuckle or smile. Maybe that’s because most of the books I read are crime or historical fiction.

Gone Fishing by Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse is probably the only book recently that has made me laugh out loud – well, actually it was the audiobook, although I have also got the e-book version. But listening to the two of them is so much better than reading the book. I loved the BBC’s Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing series, which made me want to get the book. It’s a joint memoir and about life and the love of fishing all rolled into one hilarious laugh-out-loud book.

The rest of the books didn’t make me laugh out loud but made me chuckle or smile and were entertaining.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend. I read this years ago but remember it and the other Adrian Mole books as very funny. ‘Adrian Mole is a hapless teenager providing an unabashed, pimples-and-all glimpse into adolescent life. Writing candidly about his parents’ marital troubles, the dog, his life as a tortured poet and ‘misunderstood intellectual’.

Remembering Sue Townsend’s books made me think of Adrian Plass, who writes really funny books about Christianity and he’s even funnier in person. I went to a talk he gave at a local church and he had the whole church in hysterics. I was laughing so much that tears were running down my face. I can’’t remember any other time when I have laughed so I cried – my face was aching. He hardly ever cracked a smile and delivered his talk in such a deadpan way that made it even funnier. A link to his website is here. He’s written many books, perhaps the most well known is The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass aged 37 1/2 and I think my favourite book is Alien at St Wilfred’s. It’s very funny, about a small alien, calling himself Nunc who comes to live in a parish church and learns to speak Prayer Book English. His effect on the vicar and the congregation is hilarious.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. When Jerome began writing this book he intended it to be a serious travel book about the Thames, its scenery and history, but, as he wrote, it turned into a funny book. The Thames remains at the centre of the book but it is also full of anecdotes about the events that happened to him and his friends whilst out on the river, interspersed with passages about the scenery and history. It’s a gentle, witty book that kept me entertained all the way through.

Reading The Third Pig Detective Agency by Bob Burke was a complete change of genre for me. It’s funny, a bit silly, a pastiche of American gumshoe crime fiction, and a fantasy  – indeed it’s a fairytale detective story. I did enjoy recognising all the fairy tale characters Bob Burke throws into the mix.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It tells the story of Her Majesty, not named, but she has dogs, takes her summer holiday at Balmoral and is married to a duke. She comes across the travelling library, thanks to the dogs, parked next to the bins outside one of the kitchen doors at the palace and ends up borrowing a book to save the driver/librarian’s embarrassment. It’s not a laugh out loud book but it is very amusing and did make me chuckle. My favourite story by Alan Bennett is a novella, The Lady in the Van, the true story of Miss Shepherd who lived in her van in Alan Bennett’s front garden. A sympathetic and amusing account of an eccentric old lady.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam. It’s funny, warm and tells the story of a retired QC. I became very fond of him. Sir Edward Feathers, variously known as Eddie, The Judge, Fevvers, Master of the Inner Temple and Teddy. Not a dirty old man, he is ‘spectacularly clean. You might say ostentatiously clean.’ Filth is his nickname standing for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. 

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson – about his trip around Britain in 1995, described as ‘laugh out loud funny’ and ‘a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie’s Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey.’ I didn’t laugh out loud, but I did find his observations and wit amusing and it did make me smile! I read this years ago and since then I have bought but not read yet The Road to Little Dribbling and Notes from a Big Country.

My Friday Post: Infinite by Brian Freeman

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week my Friday quotations are from Infinite by Brian Freeman which was my Amazon First Reads choice this month. I wasn’t sure which one to pick as none of them stood out, but in the end I went for this one because a bit different and I like the idea of parallel universes, even though it’s described as a ‘thriller’ and I’m not too keen on ‘thrillers’.

It begins:

‘We’re very sorry for your loss, Mr Moran.’

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘In other worlds, I’m not alive; I’m dead. And so are you. There are infinite copies of you in infinite worlds, making all of the choices you don’t make in this life.’

~~~

About the book:

One rainy night, the unthinkable happens: Dylan Moran’s car plunges off the road into a raging river, his beautiful wife drowning as he struggles to shore.

In the aftermath, through his grief, Dylan experiences sudden, strange visions: wherever he goes, he’s haunted by glimpses of himself. Dylan initially chalks it up to trauma, but that changes when he runs into a psychiatrist who claims he’s her patient. She says he has been undergoing a unique hypnotherapy treatment built on the idea that with every choice, he creates an infinite number of parallel universes.

Now those parallel universes are unlocked—and Dylan’s doppelgänger has staked a claim to his world. Can Dylan use these alternate realities to get a second chance at the life that was stolen from him? Or will he lose himself…to himself?

~~~

What do you think – would you read this book? If you choose Amazon First Reads what did you choose this month?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.

I love Andrew Taylor’s James Marwood and Cat Lovett series, historical fiction set during the reign of Charles II. So I was delighted when I was invited to read the latest instalment, The Royal Secret, due to be published on 29 April.

Description

From the No.1 bestselling author of The Last Protector and The Ashes of London comes the next book in the phenomenally successful series following James Marwood and Cat Lovett during the time of King Charles II.

Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate – but the task brings unexpected dangers.
 
Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells of blood and a captive Barbary lion prowls the stables. Then a prestigious new commission arrives. Cat must design a Poultry House for the woman that the King loves most in all the world.
 
Unbeknownst to all, at the heart of this lies a royal secret so explosive that it could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe…

~~~

The earlier books are – The Ashes of London (set in 1666, six years after Charles II was reinstated as King) and The Fire Court (set in 1667, eight months after the Great Fire of London), The King’s Evil (set seven months later), and The Last Protector (set in 1668 as the exiled Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver, heavily in debt, has returned in disguise to England.)

It is not necessary to read the earlier books as I think they all work well as standalones, but I think it really helps if you do.

Top Ten Tuesday: Purple, Yellow and Green Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week it’s all about Purple, Yellow, and/or Green Book Covers (in honor of Mardis Gras, which is today!) These books are all ones I own. Some I’ve read (some pre-blog), others are still on my TBR shelves. The links where I have reviewed the books are to my posts, the others are to Amazon UK.

Purple:

The Visitor by Lee Child – this is the 4th book in the Jack Reacher series, in which he is under suspicion for the murder of two ex-Army women. (I haven’t read this one.)

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier – set in Cornwall in 1820. It was inspired by du Maurier’s 1930 stay at the real Jamaica Inn, which still exists as a pub in the middle of Bodmin Moor. The plot follows a group of murderous wreckers who run ships aground, kill the sailors and steal the cargo.

Caesar by Colleen McCullough – the 5th book in the Masters of Rome series. Julius Caesar sweeps across Gaul in 54 BC as his enemies in Rome are plotting his downfall, and so he marches on the city after crossing the Rubicon.

Yellow:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – one of my favourite books of all time. Set in 1327, when Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

Springwatch Unsprung: Why Do Robins Have Red Breasts? by Joanne Stevens – this provides answers to the most-asked wildlife questions to the Springwatch team. I always watch this BBC2 programme and Autumnwatch and Winterwatch. They’ve still been on during the COVID-19 pandemic, but not coming from a central base. Instead each presenter appeared from a location near their home.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – a beautiful book moving between the early 1940s and 1986, mainly in Seattle. The Panama Hotel has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered personal belongings stored in the basement by Japanese families sent to interment camps during World War II. Henry Lee is flooded by memories of his childhood and the girl he lost his heart to so many years ago.

Green:

All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard – the last in her Cazalet series. This is an old fashioned family saga, with both happy and sad events as the Cazalets move forward, and not successfully for all of them, in post-war England.

Caesar’s Women by Colleen MacCullough – the 4th book in the Masters of Rome series. 64 BC as Julius Caesar battles for political power using the powerful Roman noblewomen, Servilia, Brutus’s mother, the Vestal Virgins and his daughter, Julia.

Normal People by Sally Rooney – the story of Connell and Marianne who grow up in a small town in the west of Ireland, who try to stay apart, but find they can’t. This is described as ‘an exquisite love story’. (I haven’t read this one.)

Mercy by Jodie Picoult – another book I haven’t read yet and one I’ve had for a long time, hesitating about reading it. It’s a novel about euthanasia – Jamie has killed his terminally ill wife. But was it murder, or mercy? It’s a question that will divide the town as a heated murder trial blazes on, forcing them to face the hardest questions of the heart: when does love cross the line of moral obligation? And what does it mean to truly love another?