My Friday Post: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman

Book Beginnings Button

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 Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman, one of my TBRs that I’ll be reading next. Set in 13th century Wales this is the story of Llewelyn, the Prince of North Wales, and his rise to power and fame and his love for Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of King John.

Here be dragons

It begins with a Prologue, describing Wales and the Welsh:

Prologue

Theirs was a land of awesome grandeur, a land of mountains and moorlands and cherished myths. They called it Cymru and believed themselves to be the descendants of Brutus and the citizens of Troy. They were a passionate, generous and turbulent people, with but one fateful flaw. They proclaimed themselves to be Cymry – ‘fellow countrymen’ – but they fought one another as fiercely as they did their English neighbours and had carved out three separate kingdoms out of their native soil.

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

30879-friday2b56These 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:

‘Think you that no man Norman-born can be a fool? As for his Norman knighthood, that’ll count for naught against a Welsh longbow.’

~~~

I loved Sharon Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour and so I’m expecting Here Be Dragons to be just as good. I love the title, conjuring up notions of what lies beyond the edge of the known world and I think the imagery of the opening sentence is wonderful. 

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Spring 2019 TBR

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 is Books On My Spring 2019 TBR. Some of these books have been on my shelves unread for a long time, some are new additions and others are e-books from NetGalley that will be published soon. I’d like to think I’ll read all these books soon but realistically I know that I’ll only read a few of them this Spring!

Broken Ground by Val McDermid – DCI Karen Pirie investigates the discovery of a body in the remote depths of the Scottish Highlands.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Capote reconstructs the crime and the investigation into the murders of the four members of the Clutter family on November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas.

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn – a story of life in a mining community in rural South Wales as Huw Morgan is preparing to leave the valley where he had grown up. He tells of life before the First World War.

On the Beach by Neville Shute – set in Melbourne, Australia this is a novel about the survivors of an atomic war as radiation poisoning moves toward Australia from the North.

Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas – the story of a teenage girl, Ruby, who runs away from home to live with her grandmother, Iris in Cairo.

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman – set in 13th century Wales this is the story of Llewelyn, the Prince of North Wales, and his rise to power and fame and his love for Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of King John. 

A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty – crime reporter Harper McClain unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy after a beautiful law student is shot in Savannah, Georgia.

A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody – set in Yorkshire in 1928, when  amateur detective, Kate Shackleton investigates a crime in Brontë country.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – on the day of Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true.

The Island by Ragnor Jonasson – Nordic noir, set on the island of Elliðaey,  off the Icelandic coast. Four friends visit the island during a long, hot summer but only three return. Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to investigate.

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

Picador|5 April 2018 |288 pages|Kindle edition |Review copy|3*

I wasn’t sure I would like Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce because, although it’s historical fiction and one of my favourite genres, it has received so much hype that made me wonder if it was over-hyped and whether I’d find it a bit of a disappointment. 

My Friday Post: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Book Beginnings Button

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 Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, one of my TBRs that I’ll be reading next.

Moriarty

The Reichenbach Falls

Does anyone really believe what happened at the Reichenbach Falls? A great many accounts have been written but it seems to me that all of them have left something to be desired – which is to say, the truth.

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

30879-friday2b56These 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:

‘It is a deliberate attempt to communicate something to Moriarty that will remain secret should it fall into the wrong hands.’
‘So there is a code!’
‘Exactly.’
‘And you were able to crack it!’
‘Through trial and error, yes.’ Jones nodded. ‘I take no credit for it, mind. Where Holmes has gone, I have merely followed.’

Blurb (Goodreads)

Sherlock Holmes is dead.

Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind who has risen to take his place.

Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction, Frederick Chase must forge a path through the darkest corners of the capital to shine light on this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace.

~~~

Anthony Horowitz is one of my favourite authors. This is his second Sherlock Holmes novel and I’m hoping, no I’m expecting it to be as good as his first, The House of Silk.

Years ago I read Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Final Problem, in which he meant to end Sherlock Holmes’ life as he wanted to write more literary works, but needless to say really, I have forgotten most of the details. 

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

The European Reading Challenge

ERC Map 2019

Each year Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts a European Reading Challenge. This year is the eighth year for this challenge and each year I’ve wondered about joining in. But this year I’m in, for the first time!

The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it’s supposed to be a tour.

These are the standard European countries:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

Looking at the books I’ve already read this year and the books on my shelves and Kindle I reckon I should be able to read at least five, maybe more.

So, I’m going to aim for the FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE) which is to: Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

New Additions

We went to Barter Books in Alnwick yesterday and I came home with this pile. I didn’t realise until I took this photo that they’re all a variation on a black/white colour scheme! It wasn’t intentional.

I go armed with a notebook listing books and authors to look for and so I was delighted to find two books by Truman Capote as I enjoyed reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s recently and am keen to read more of his books – and two more of Reginald Hill’s books that are on my list of his books to find.

BB bks March19

From the bottom up they are:

  • The Collaborators by Reginald Hill, a standalone novel of wartime passion, loyalty – and betrayal. Set in Paris from 1940 to 1945, when Janine Simonian stands accused of passing secret information to the Nazis that led to the arrest and torture of several members of the French Resistance.
  • A Pinch of Snuff by Reginald Hill – the 5th of his Dalziel and Pascoe novels, this was first published in 1978. When Peter Pascoe’s dentist suggests that one film in particular shown in the Calliope Club is more than just good clean dirty fun, the inspector begins to make a few discreet inquiries and ends up with a homicide to investigate.
  • Beneath the Surface by Jo Spain, the second novel in the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. I’ve read three of her books and am always on the lookout for more of hers. Set in Dublin, DI Tom Reynolds and his team investigate the murder of Ryan Finnegan, a high-ranking government official in Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament.
  • Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas. I’ve read two of her books previously and loved them. This one is about the disappearance of twenty-one year old Sophie Collier. Twenty years later a body has been found and her friend Francesca goes back to her home town to discover the truth about what had happened to Sophie.
  • The Weight of Angels by Catriona McPherson. I’ve read several of her Dandy Gilver books and enjoyed them. This book is a standalone psychological thriller, in which Alison McGovern takes a job as a beautician in a private psychiatric facility near her rented cottage and the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey.  A body is discovered in a shallow grave by the abbey on Ali’s first day at work.
  • Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote, a collection of his writings, both fiction and nonfiction – a book of reminiscences, portraits and stories, including ‘A Beautiful Child’ an account of a day with Marilyn Monroe and ‘Handcarved Coffins: a Nonfiction Account of an American Crime’.
  • In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences by Truman Capote, probably one of the best known ‘true crime’ books. Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers of four members of the Clutter family on November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas.

~~~

So, seven more books added to my TBRs and I’d love to start reading them all – now!

Have you read any of these? Do they tempt you too?

Printer’s Devil Court by Susan Hill

Printer's Devil Court

A short while ago I quoted the opening paragraph and an extract from page 56 of this novella in one of My Friday posts. I was hoping Printer’s Devil Court by Susan Hill would live up to the promise of its blurb of a chilling ghost story.

Blurb (Amazon)

A chilling ghost story by the author of The Woman in Black.

One murky November evening after a satisfying meal in their Fleet Street lodgings, a conversation between four medical students takes a curious turn and Hugh is initiated into a dark secret. In the cellar of their narrow lodgings in Printer’s Devil Court and a little used mortuary in a subterranean annex of the hospital, they have begun to interfere with death itself, in shadowy experiments beyond the realms of medical ethics. They call on Hugh to witness an event both extraordinary and terrifying.

Years later, Hugh has occasion to return to his student digs and the familiar surroundings resurrect peculiar and unpleasant memories of these unnatural events, the true horror of which only slowly becomes apparent.

Sadly, I don’t think it does live up to the blurb. I think it’s well written, but I didn’t find it chilling, although it does have a great sense of melancholy. Susan Hill is very good at setting the scene, although at times I was under the impression that this was set in Victorian times, especially as the illustrations give it a Dickensian feel. But in this scene when Hugh returns to London forty years later this is what he records :

… this corner of London had changed a good deal. Fleet Street no longer housed the hot-metal presses and many of the old alleys and courts had long gone, most of them bombed to smithereens by the Blitz. (page 68)

So, it’s not set in Victorian times, but in the 20th century.

Hugh is a junior doctor and shares his lodgings with three other medical students, Walter, Rafe and James and the story begins one evening as Walter asks what they all think about the story of raising Lazarus from the dead. It turns out that he and Rafe have been experimenting with the possibility of capturing the last breath and want Hugh to be a witness to what they find. From that point on  I could see almost exactly where the story was heading – it is too predictable.

It’s really a very short story padded out with several pages of illustrations, divided into three parts with an introductory letter, Postscript and Hugh’s Final Pages with blank pages between each sectionMaybe, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed with this book if I hadn’t just read Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s and three of his short stories at the end of that book, which I think are excellent.

  • Hardcover, 105 pages
  • Published September 25th 2014 by Profile Books Ltd (first published October 14th 2013)
  • Source: Library Book