Top Ten Tuesday: Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences

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 Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences.

These are all books I’ve read.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Come Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie – a memoir about what life was like when she accompanied her husband Max Malloran on his excavations in Syria and Iraq in the 1930s.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie – a detective story set in on the West bank of the Nile at Thebes in about 2000 BC. 

Death Comes to Pemberley by P D James, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice set in 1803, when Elizabeth and Darcy have been married for six years. 

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah – Melody was seven when she disappeared and although her body had not been discovered her parents were tried and found guilty of murdering her. What really happened to her?

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – Maud has dementia – but she knows her friend Elizabeth is missing. I enjoyed the TV adaption with Glenda Jackson as Maud much more than the book.

Jacob’s End is on the Landing by Susan Hill – describing the books she read, reread, or returned to the shelves over the course of a year, as well as her thoughts on a whole variety of topics. It’s fascinating, rambling and chatty.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré – a story of love and betrayal at the height of the Cold War. Back from Berlin where he had seen his last agent killed whilst trying to cross the Berlin Wall, Leamas is apparently no longer useful. 

They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie – set in 1950 this is a story about international espionage and conspiracy. The heads of the ‘great powers‘ are secretly meeting in Baghdad.

 When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson. The 3rd Jackson Brodie book – in a quiet corner of rural Devon, a six-year-old girl witnesses an appalling crime. Thirty years later the man convicted of the crime is released from prison.

20 Books of Summer

Cathy at 746 Books is hosting her 20 Books of Summer Challenge again this year. The challenge runs from June through August. There are options to read 10 or 15 books instead of the full 20. You can sign up here.

During previous summers I’ve taken part in this challenge and never managed to read the books I’ve listed, although I’ve read over 20 books during the summer months. It seems that listing books I want to read somehow takes away my desire to read them – or it maybe that other books demand to be read when the time comes. The solution seems to be don’t list the books – but that’s not the challenge!

So here are 20 books that I might read this summer. They’re a mix of NetGalley books, books for various other challenges I’m doing and books from my TBRs that came to mind as I made the list.

I’ve included The Killing Kind by Jane Casey, but maybe I shouldn’t count this one as after I made the list I started reading it – I made the mistake of ‘just looking’ and couldn’t stop reading on. So I’ve listed 21 books.

  1. The Railway Children by E Nesbit
  2. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
  3. Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K Jerome
  4. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
  5. Sing, Jess, Sing by Tricia Coxon
  6. Blue Moon by Lee Child
  7. Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi
  8. The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge
  9. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  10. The Killing Kind by Jane Casey
  11. The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson
  12. True Crime Story by Joseph Knox
  13. Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas
  14. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
  15. Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger
  16. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
  17. Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine
  18. A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry
  19. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
  20. : Katheryn Howard, The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir
  21. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Wish me luck!

Inland by Téa Obreht

Weidenfeld & Nicolson| 13 August 2019| 386 pages| Review copy| 3*

Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life, biding her time with her youngest son – who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home – and her husband’s seventeen-year-old cousin, who communes with spirits.

Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West.

Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht’s talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely – and unforgettably – her own.

My thoughts:

Inland by Téa Obreht has had many accolades, including being named one of the best books of the year by The Guardian, Time, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and The New York Public Library. I love the cover and the description made me keen to read it. It’s a book that has been on my NetGalley shelf for far too long, I’m sorry to say, mainly because each time I began reading it I struggled to understand what was going on.

It is a book of two halves really, alternating between the two storylines as the blurb outlines. I found the Lurie narrative difficult to follow at first. It’s vague – at times I didn’t know who was who, who was talking, who was a camel and who was a person. I did work it out eventually! Lurie is a former outlaw, who sees and talks to the dead. He is haunted by the spirit of Hobb, a kid of four or five. But Lurie’s story is slow and meanders. I was losing interest, and often the location was unclear as he moved from place to place. However as I got further into his story I did form a clearer picture of his life as he joined the Camel Corps and became a cameleer. (I was fascinated to discover that camels were used in the American West as pack animals.)

But it’s the second story of Nora Lark and her family, which is much clearer and easier for me to understand. It saved the book for me and made me keen to read on. They are living in Arizona in a homestead. There’s been no rain for months and their water supply is nearly exhausted. Emmett, her husband has gone to get more water and has not returned . Her two sons have gone to look for him, and Nora is left at home with her youngest son, Toby, who is terrified by a mysterious beast he sees around their house at night, and Josie, her husband’s seventeen year old ward and cousin, who see spirits. Nora’s daughter, Evelyn died before her sons were born, under mysterious circumstances, and she is constantly in Nora’s mind as she imagines her growing up and having conversations with her.

Several times as the narrative turned from Nora back to Lurie, I was about to give up on the book, but I wanted to know what happened to the Larks and to find out how the two strands would interlink, or if indeed they ever did interlink (they do). As I read on I began to understand more about Lurie and his life, but it was hard work. If I re-read it I think I would enjoy it more, but I don’t feel inclined to right now. But I really liked Nora’s story and the depiction of life in the American West during the mid-to-late 19th century.

In her acknowledgements Téa Obreht explains that Inland is a work of imagination based in part on the journals, letters and reports of the men who were part of at least one aspect of this history and on the work of the historians of the American West.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy, with apologies for taking so long to read the book.

My Friday Post: The King’s Justice by E M Powell

On Fridays I often join in with two book memes:

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires. 

This week I’m featuring The King’s Justice by E M Powell one of my TBRs. It’s the first in her Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series, set during the reign of Henry II. Aelred Barling is a senior clerk to the justices of King Henry II, and Hugo Stanton, his assistant are sent to investigate a brutal murder in a village outside York.

The City of York, 12 June 1176

Pit or punishment: Hugo Stanton couldn’t tell which excited the folk of these hot, crammed streets more.

Three men accused of vicious murder but who would not confess. Innocent, they’d claimed to King Henry’s travelling justices, sitting in the court in the high keep of the city’s castle.

The men were to be judged by water: lowered into a pit of water if they sank they were innocent, if they floated they were guilty and strung up on the gallows to die.

Also on a Friday The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

‘The glow of the setting sun fell on his face. A glorious evening, one for lying in the long grass with his lost, beautiful love. Not standing facing a circle of angry, shouting people, people who wanted to take a man’s life. And wanted to take it now.

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

Chatto & Windus| 18 February 2021| 294 pages| Review copy| 5*

It was a complete pleasure to read A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson. I loved the clarity of the narrative, focused on three main characters, each perfectly distinct and finely described and the sense of location in a small town is excellent.

It’s set in 1972, but looks back to events thirty years earlier when Elizabeth Orchard first met Liam who was then a small boy of 3 when he and his family lived in the house next door. The last time she saw him he was still only 4 years old. It was not a happy time for either of them, and thirty years later, when she is dying she wants to make amends and gives him her house.

Clara lives next door to Elizabeth, who she loves, and she is alarmed when she sees Liam moving into Elizabeth’s house. Elizabeth had given her a key and she goes in every day to feed Moses, Elizabeth’s cat. She has no idea that Elizabeth is dying and is furious when she discovers that Liam is moving Elizabeth’s things and packing them in boxes. Her life is in turmoil in any case as she is devastated that Rose, her 16 year old sister has gone missing.

The narration moves between these three people, seeing events through their eyes. Elizabeth, in hospital looks back over her life, remembering her despair at not having a child of her own, and her love for little Liam that ended badly, despite her good intentions. Clara spends the time before and after school at the window looking out for Rose’s return and Liam, whilst remembering his sad childhood, is trying to rebuild his life after his marriage ended in divorce.

I loved this book. It’s about families, the things that go wrong, about memories and about friendships and the care that people have for each other. It’s moving and sad, but also filled with hope. And it’s beautifully written.

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.

Back to Barter Books!

On Tuesday I went Barter Books in Alnwick (this is a secondhand bookshop where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves). The last time I went there was in January 2020. Since the pandemic began I’ve only been out to a few places and not been around many people at all, so I was a bit nervous.

These are the books I got (the descriptions are from Amazon):

After the Crash by Michel Bussi – because I’d enjoyed reading Time is a Killer by Bussi a couple of years ago.

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Crédule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl’s hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything – then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone . . .

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – this has been on my wishlist for years!

It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

Fire by L C Tyler – I’ve never read any of his books. I chose it because I like historical fiction and I’m interested in the Restoration period, having read Andrew Taylor’s Marwood and Lovett series also set in the same period. Fire is the fourth book in the John Grey Historical Mystery series.

1666. London has been destroyed by fire and its citizens are looking for somebody, preferable foreign, to blame. Only the royal Court, with its strong Catholic sympathies, is trying to dampen down the post-conflaguration hysteria. Then, inconveniently, a Frenchman admits to having started it together with an accomplice, whom he says he has subsequently killed.

John Grey is tasked by Secretary of State, Lord Arlington, with proving conclusively that the self-confessed fire-raiser is lying. Though Grey agrees with Arlington that the Frenchman must be mad, he is increasingly perplexed at how much he knows. And a body has been discovered that appears in every way to match the description of the dead accomplice.

Grey’s investigations take him and his companion, Lady Pole, into the dangerous and still smoking ruins of the old City. And somebody out there – somebody at the very centre of power in England – would prefer it if they didn’t live long enough to conclude their work…

The Librarian by Salley Vickers – I’ve read a few of Salley Vickers’ books and enjoyed them, especially  Miss Garnet’s Angel and Mr Golightly’s Holiday, which I read before I began this blog.

In 1958, Sylvia Blackwell, fresh from one of the new post-war Library Schools, takes up a job as children’s librarian in a run down library in the market town of East Mole.

Her mission is to fire the enthusiasm of the children of East Mole for reading. But her love affair with the local married GP, and her befriending of his precious daughter, her neighbour’s son and her landlady’s neglected grandchild, ignite the prejudices of the town, threatening her job and the very existence of the library with dramatic consequences for them all.

The Librarian is a moving testament to the joy of reading and the power of books to change and inspire us all.

There was a queue outside when I got there as entry to the bookshop is limited to a maximum of about sixty people at a time to ensure enough space for social distancing. Although I was pleased to be able to go to Barter Books again, there were too many people there for me, especially around the counter and the crime fiction bookcases near the counter. So I didn’t linger and went to back of the main hall, which is the largest room in the shop where there were only a few people browsing the shelves. Even so I felt nervous, so once I’d found four books I decided it was time for me to leave. I’ve never been comfortable in crowds, even before the pandemic.

My Friday Post: Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh

On Fridays I often join in with two book memes:

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires. 

This week I’m featuring Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh, one of my TBRs. I remembered I’d got this book when I saw the author on Pointless last Saturday.

It begins with a Prologue:

At ten after five on a raw December afternoon, Joshua Kane lay on a cardboard bed outside the Criminal Courts Building in Manhattan and thought about killing a man.

Also on a Friday The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

‘There’s no real security here, Mr Flynn. I’ll be outside for tonight. In the morning I’ll arrange for a safe to be delivered to your office. The laptop is to be kept in this safe when you’re not in. That okay with you?’ said Holten.

Blurb:

THE SERIAL KILLER ISN’T ON TRIAL. HE’S ON THE JURY…

To your knowledge, is there anything that would preclude you from serving on this jury?’

Murder wasn’t the hard part. It was just the start of the game.

Joshua Kane has been preparing for this moment his whole life. He’s done it before.

But this is the big one.

This is the murder trial of the century.

And Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house.

But there’s someone on his tail. Someone who suspects that the killer isn’t the man on trial.

Kane knows time is running out – he just needs to get to the conviction without being discovered.

~~~

This is the fourth Eddie Flynn novel and I haven’t read the first three, but apparently they are standalone books that can be read in any order, so that’s okay. The description reminds me a bit of John Grisham’s books. What do you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Ten Most Recent Reads

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: My Ten Most Recent Reads The links are to my reviews, where they exist.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville – historical fiction inspired by the lives of Elizabeth and John Macarthur, who settled in Australia at the end of the eighteenth century. 

The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor – historical fiction set in 1670, the 5th book in the Marwood and Lovett series, murder, spies and conspiracies.

A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and Vision for the Future by David Attenborough, in which he writes about the spiralling decline of our planet’s diversity and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.

Ice Bound: One Woman’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole by Jerri Nielsen – autobiography of Dr Jerri Nielsen, a doctor working at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station in Antarctica, who discovered a lump in her breast.

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie – a Poirot murder mystery on an archaeological dig. A seemingly impossible murder.

The Mirror Dance by Catriona McPherson – a Dandy Gilver mystery set in 1937, in which a Punch and Judy man is killed, told with plenty of red herrings and impossibilities.

The Pact by Sharon Bolton – novel about a group of five teenagers. It’s summer and they are waiting for their A level exam results. It’s the night before the results come out, the night before all their lives were changed for ever. 

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville – historical fiction, set in Australia at the end of the eighteenth century, based on the journals of William Dawes. This is a parallel book to A Room Made of Leaves, about a a young astronomer, serving as a lieutenant in First Fleet.

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal – historical fiction set in Victorian England in which a young girl is sold by her father to Jasper Jupiter’s travelling circus to perform as Nellie Moon, a leopard girl because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin.

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson – set in Northern Ontario in 1972, seven-year-old Clara’s teenage sister Rose has just run away from home. This is not a thriller but a heart-warming and heart-breaking story of the lives of ordinary people, whose lives have been touched by tragedy.

A Reading Plan for the Coming Week?

Last weekend I planned posts for the week ahead. I managed to stick to the plan, but I did find it a bit stressful. So, this week I’m taking it as it comes. I may do a Top Ten Tuesday post and a review post of The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, but that is by no means a definite plan. I’ll be busy next week in the garden, now that the grass is growing along with everything else!

And I may pluck up courage and visit Barter Books – that will be exciting!

Do you plan your posts, I’m wondering? Do you find it helps or hinders?

The Pact by Sharon Bolton

Trapeze | May 2021| 355 pages| e book| Review copy| 4 stars

I was completely gripped by The Pact. It’s a fast-paced novel about a group of five teenagers. It’s summer and they are waiting for their A level exam results. It’s the night before the results come out, the night before all their lives were changed for ever. They were all expecting to get the grades they need to go on to university and to have the brilliant careers they envisaged. But that night was the last carefree night for all of them as it ended in disaster.

For Felix, Talitha, Amber, Daniel and Megan the summer had been glorious – they gone to festivals, lazed around Talitha’s parents’ pool, drinking and enjoying life. That night they decided that Daniel should take the rite of passage the other four had already done that summer. And so it was that they were driving at 80 miles an hour in darkness the wrong way down the M40. The others had had heart-stopping near misses, although Megan had proved to be the coolest of them all. Daniel’s drive was the worst. He drove badly and out of the darkness another car appeared headed towards them and they crashed. A mother and her two young daughters were killed.

What happened next took my breath away. – they drove back to Talitha’s house and after a lengthy discussion when they realised the consequences of what they had done Megan announced that she would take the blame, on the condition that they agree that they owe her a ‘favour’, once she has been released from prison. The ‘favour’ is to do whatever she asks them individually and if they renege she will tell the truth about what had happened that night.

Twenty years later she is released from prison and the time for the calling in her favours begins. The other four have all done well for themselves and hope Megan’s experiences in prison have blotted out her memory about the ‘favours’ they owe her. But Megan is out for revenge and has no mercy for the ‘friends’ who had left her to rot in prison and is determined that they should pay. And so their nightmares begin.

This is a book full of suspense and tension, that just kept building as I read on. It is compelling reading but I didn’t like any of the characters, and I don’t think you are meant to. At times I did feel sorry for Megan – up to a certain point. All the way through I couldn’t understand why Megan had taken the blame. She was from a different background than the others. Their families were privileged, rich and successful, whereas she was from a poor single-parent family. She was a scholarship girl at their private school. She saw it as a token appointment from a posh school declaring its progressive credentials. The others saw her as not really one of them, but she was the head girl and the cleverest of them all. I didn’t think it could be for the power she held over them, surely that wouldn’t compensate for spending time in prison?

It is not my favourite of Sharon Bolton’s books. The ending felt rushed and surprised me and I think it wasn’t really believable, but then I found the plot as a whole difficult to accept. Even so, I just couldn’t stop reading it and managed to suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy it.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.