Library Loans

Here are some of my current library books

Lib bks July 2019

  • Dolly by Susan Hill, sub-titled ‘A Ghost Story’, a novella set in the Fens where two young cousins, Leonora and Edward spend a summer at Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, with their ageing aunt.  I’ll be writing more about this book soon.
  • Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear, a Maisie Dobbs novel. This is no. 12 in the series (I’m not reading them in order). This one is set in 1938 when Molly travels into the heart of Nazi Germany.
  • The Trip to Jerusalem: an Elizabethan Mystery by Edward Marston, the 3rd book in the Nicholas Bracewell series about a troupe of players travelling England – not  to Jerusalem but to an ancient inn called The Trip to Jerusalem – whilst the Black Plague rages.
  • The Last Dance and other stories by Victoria Hislop. Ten stories set in Greece, described on the book cover as ‘bittersweet tales of love and loyalty, of separation and reconciliation’. I’ve recently enjoyed reading her latest book, Those Who Are Loved, also set in Greece, so my eye was drawn to this book.

The library van used to visit here once a fortnight, but now it only comes once a month. I hope it continues coming, but I fear that its days are numbered, so I make sure I use it whilst I still can.

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

top-ten-tuesday-new

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: Auto-Buy Authors. These days I don’t automatically buy books by any of my favourite authors, but I do add them to a list of books to check with a view to buying or borrowing them. The ten authors listed below are just the tip of the iceberg of my favourites.

I’ve included a book for each author to illustrate their work, but I’ve enjoyed all their books! They are a mix of crime fiction and historical fiction.

  1. Kate Atkinson – When Will There Be Good News?
  2. Sharon Bolton – Blood Harvest
  3. Tracy Chevalier – At the Edge of the Orchard
  4. Ann Cleeves – Raven Black 
  5. Martin Edwards – The Golden Age of Murder
  6. Jane Harper – Force of Nature
  7. Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall
  8. Ian Rankin – Saints of the Shadow Bible
  9. C J Sansom – Tombland
  10. Andrew Taylor – The King’s Evil

Who Killed Ruby? by Camilla Way

Who killed Ruby

Harper Collins|30 May 2019|403 pages|Review e-book copy|3.5*

Ruby was murdered 32 years ago but her death still affects her family – Stella her mother, Vivienne her younger sister, and Cleo, Vivienne’s 13 year old daughter. Who Killed Ruby?  begins in a house in Peckham, London where the three of them are in shock, as a man lies dead on the kitchen floor. Whilst they wait for the police to arrive, Vivienne asks what they should tell them and Stella replies that they will tell them it is the man who murdered Ruby. This rather begs the question – is it?

The novel then rewinds two months describing the events that led up to that first scene and also reveals the events that led up to Ruby’s murder. It’s a complex tale told mainly from Vivienne’s point of view. She was just a child of eight when the murder happened and it was largely her testimony that convicted Jack Delaney, Ruby’s boyfriend. She had been alone in the house when she found her sister’s pregnant body splayed out on her bedroom floor. Jack has always protested his innocence and now he has been released from prison. But Vivienne is vague about the details of the murder, having blocked out her memories of what had happened and what she had seen. Plagued by nightmares ever since Ruby was killed, she is now terrified that Jack will come looking for her, wanting revenge.

The second viewpoint is Cleo’s. She is excited about the messages she’s exchanging online with Daniel, who she met on a gaming site. He tells her he is 14 and lives in Leeds. She lies to Vivienne about it and says that she is texting her friend Layla. Gradually Vivienne begins to remember what happened the day that Ruby died, but when Cleo disappears she becomes frantic, certain that Jack has taken her.

It is a tense and emotional mystery that kept me guessing to the very end. My suspicions about Cleo turned out to be partly correct, but as for who killed Ruby I was thrown off track by all the different characters who could be the culprit and I just couldn’t decide who I thought it could be. When the identity of the killer was revealed I was so surprised as it was someone I’d not even considered. I wasn’t convinced by some of the characters and thought they were too obviously there to confuse the reader. But overall I did enjoy the book. And I liked the emphasis on family relationships – particularly on the mother/daughter relationships.

Many thanks to the publishers, Harper Collins, for my review copy via NetGalley.

The Bear Pit by S G MacLean

Bear Pit

Quercus/ 11 July 2019/Paperback/ 416 pages/ Review copy/ 5*

S G MacLean is one of my favourite authors of historical fiction, so I was delighted to read her latest book, The Bear Pit.  It is the fourth book in her Damien Seeker series, set during the Interregnum under Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector. I’ve read the previous three books. Reading them takes me back to England in the 17th century, a time and a place full of danger and unrest, teeming with spies, exiles and assassins. Whilst I  was happy to read them as standalones, I think it would help to follow the progression of events if they are read in order.

This one begins in September 1656 as three men are waiting for Oliver Cromwell to emerge from Westminster Abbey on his way to the State Opening of Parliament in Parliament House. Their plan to assassinate Cromwell had been in preparation in Cologne and Bruges for a year and a half, but that day it was thwarted. However, they will not give up.

Damian Seeker, Captain of Cromwell’s Guard, works for John Thurloe, Cromwell’s Chief Secretary and spy master, in charge of the security of the regime, running a virtual secret service. Thurloe is floundering under all the reports from the Continent about plots against Cromwell’s life and to reinstate Charles Stuart as King. He tells Seeker until they have corroboration of the rumours they don’t have the time or capability to look into the matter. Not wanting to go against Thurloe’s orders, Seeker decides to take part in a raid on an illegal gaming house which ends with the discovery of the body of an elderly man chained to the wall by his neck and half eaten, obviously ravaged by a bear. But bear baiting had been banned and all the bears had been shot recently – or so it was claimed. Where had the bear come from and why was the man killed? And what connection, if any, does the murder have to the plots to kill Cromwell?

Like all good historical fiction The Bear Pit blends historical fact and fiction. There was indeed a plot to assassinate Cromwell in the autumn and winter of 1656 as described in the novel, whereas the mystery of the man killed by a bear and the subsequent search for the bear’s whereabouts are fictional. 

Some of the things I enjoy in this book are the return of characters from the earlier books -Sir Thomas Faithly, Lawrence Ingoldby, Manon, Marie Ellingworth, to mention just a few, and the glimpses we see of other historical figures – such as John Evelyn, a young Samuel Pepys, the poet Andrew Marvell as well as John Milton and one of my favourite historical figures when I was at school – Prince Rupert of the Rhine. I was fascinated by the details of The Cabinet of Curiosities, assembled by John Tradescant and his son, in Tradescant’s Garden in South Lambeth. In her Author’s Note S G MacLean states that these were indeed, very much in existence and were open for business as well as being a public attraction. The remains of the collection are held in Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. 

S G MacLean is a wonderful storyteller and her books are full of authentic detail skilfully interwoven in the stories without holding up the action. The Bear Pit is a fast-paced book, full of action and danger and wonderful characters, especially in the figure of Damien Seeker. He is the hero of the book – strong, dedicated to his work, indefatigable in his search of the truth and loyal to his friends and colleagues. The atmospheric setting complements the plot – the streets of London in winter, the cold, fog and damp and in particular Bankside in Southwark and the eerie atmospheric wastes of Lambeth Marsh. I was completely absorbed in the book. I found it compelling reading both the murder mystery and the assassination plot gripped me and I raced through it, eager to find out what happened. I was absolutely incredulous at the ending though, but it does give me hope that there may be fifth Damian Seeker novel.

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

Six in Six: 2019

I’m pleased to see that Jo at The Book Jotter  is running this meme again this year to summarise six months of reading, sorting the books into six categories – you can choose from the ones Jo suggests or come up with your own.

Here are my six categories (with links to my reviews):

Six books I have enjoyed (just some of the 5* books I’ve read this year)

Six Authors New to me

  1. The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
  2. The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons
  3. The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
  4. The Frank Business by Olivia Glazebrook
  5. Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce
  6. The Family Secret by Tracy Buchanan

Six books from the past that drew me back there

  1. The Seeker by S G Maclean
  2. Destroying Angel by S G MacLean
  3. The Man on a Donkey by H F M Prescott
  4. Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver
  5. The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley
  6. Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop

Six Crime Fiction

  1. Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves
  2. I Found You by Lisa Jewell
  3. The Island by Ragnar Jonasson
  4. A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody
  5. Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings
  6. Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

Six  Books I Read on Kindle

  1. The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong
  2. Greenmantle by John Buchan
  3. The Wych Elm by Tana French
  4. The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull
  5. The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
  6. Beneath the Surface by Fiona Neill

Six Physical Books I Read

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  2. The King’s Evil by Andrew Taylor
  3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  4. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  5. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
  6. The Broken Mirror by Jonathan Coe

How is your reading going this year? Do let me know if you take part in Six in Six too.

 

First Chapter First Paragraph: Who Killed Ruby? by Camilla Way

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’m featuring Who Killed Ruby? by Camilla Way, a book I hope to read very soon.

Who killed Ruby

They stand there, the three of them, looking at the dead man, his blood creeping slowly across the floor. Despite the savagery of his death the room is very still, almost peaceful after the violence that led to this.

Soon the police will come. They will charge into this nice expensive kitchen in this rather lovely London townhouse with their boots, their batons, their loud authority, and will want to know what happened, whom to hold responsible.

It’s Vivienne who speaks first. ‘What will we do?’ she asks, her teeth chattering with shock. ‘What will we tell them?’

The seconds slip by slowly until her mother at last replies. ‘We will tell them that this is the man who murdered Ruby,’ she says.

Blurb 

If you passed it on the street, you’d see an ordinary London townhouse.

You might wonder about the people who live there, assume they’re just like you.

But inside a family is trapped in a nightmare. In the kitchen, a man lies dead on the blood-soaked floor. Soon the police will come, and they’ll want answers.

Perhaps they’ll believe the family’s version of events – that this man is a murderer who deserved to die.

But would that be the truth?

~~~

I haven’t read any of Camilla way’s books, but I’m hoping this one will be good.

If you’ve read it I’d love to know what you thought of it. If you haven’t, does it tempt you too?

Beneath the Surface by Fiona Neill

Beneath the surface

Penguin UK – Michael Joseph|11 July 2019|403 pages|Review e-book copy|4*

I loved Fiona Neill’s novel The Betrayals, so I had high expectations for Beneath the Surface, another family drama. It’s set in the Fens, where Patrick and Grace Vermuyden and their two daughters, teenager Lilly and ten year old Mia, are living in badly built, damp and draughty house. Grace says it’s because the marshland beneath is reclaiming the land. It’s not just the land and the house that cause the problems the family face. They’re a dysfunctional family, all of them keeping their secrets well hidden from each other – as the subtitle indicates: Everyone Lies.

Patrick’s in debt, Grace keeps the tragedy of her childhood to herself, wanting her daughters to have the happy childhood denied to her, Lilly seems to have everything going for her, a clever girl who looks set to do well and go to university, until she suffers a seizure and collapses at school. Whilst Lilly spends time in hospital as they try to discover what is the cause of her illness Grace discovers to her great dismay that Lilly has been living a secret life.

As for Mia, she is a problem child and always in trouble at school. Her only friend is Tas, who lives in a caravan on the Travellers’ site.  She’s an eccentric child with a vivid imagination, who keeps an eel she calls Elvis, in a bucket in her bedroom and she has a knack of saying the most inappropriate remarks at the wrong time. At times I really didn’t like her much – especially for keeping the eel in captivity and also because of the barefaced lies she sometimes tells. And it is Mia’s actions, for ever wildly thinking up reasons for what is going on around her that add to their problems.  Even as she tries to put things right everything just seems to get worse.

Beneath the Surface is an emotionally charged novel about the burden of keeping secrets and the effects that misunderstandings and lies can have. In parts I found the story weighed down with words, but I was gripped by it and anxious for all the characters as it seemed they were in an ever decreasing spiral of disastrous events. After quite a slow start it gradually builds to a dramatic climax that took me totally by surprise. 

Many thanks to the publishers, Penguin UK – Michael Joseph, for my review copy via NetGalley.