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?

Don’t Look Now and other Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier

I love Du Maurier’s books and her short stories are much better than others I’ve read. My copy of Don’t Look Now and Other Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier is a Virago Modern Classic. The other short stories in this collection are Not After Midnight, A Border-Line Case, The Way of the Cross and The Breakthrough, making this a collection of stories of suspense, mystery and slow, creeping horror.

I read the first story Don’t Look Now (52 pages) a few years ago. It’s a supernatural tale about a couple, John and Laura who have come to Venice to recover after their young daughter’s death. They encounter two old women who claim to have second sight and find themselves caught up in a train of increasingly strange and violent events, involving hallucinations, mistaken identity and a murderer.

I read the other four stories this month. They explore deep fears and longings, secrets and desires. In Not After Midnight (48 pages) a lonely teacher, Timothy Grey, investigates a mysterious American couple, the Stolls, whilst on holiday on the Greek island of Crete. The couple invite him to visit their chalet, with the warning ‘not before midnight’. What he discovers involves a jar or rhyton, shaped into the form of a head resembling Stoll, with dancing satyrs. The story gradually became more and more ambiguous and mysterious – I wondered just what was real and what was imaginary.

In A Border-Line Case (65 pages) a young woman confronts her father’s past after he died. She wants to know more about his early life. He was ex-British Army and she goes to Ireland to search for the man who used to be his friend. When she finds him, she falls in love with him and then discovers something that shocks her completely. This is very intense story.

In The Way of the Cross ( 67 pages) there’s a party of pilgrims who meet disaster in Jerusalem. This is a strange story about seven people from a cruise ship as they follow the Via Dolorosa and each experience their own humiliation, each one meeting the fate they most dread.

The Breakthrough (43 pages) is the oddest and most menacing story of this collection. It is set on the windswept coast of rural Suffolk in an isolated laboratory. It’s about a scientist, experimenting with the idea that when people die there is an untapped source of energy, as their ‘soul’, for want of a better word, leaves their body. He attempts to harness the power of the mind to the most chilling effect, by releasing this energy from a young man, dying of leukaemia, into the mind of a child of ‘sub-standard intelligence’.

I enjoyed these stories – or are they novellas? The longer length means these stories have more depth, characterisation and substance than the shorter stories. I find them more satisfying – and the ambiguity and supernatural elements in these makes them especially thought-provoking. Some are better than others and the one I enjoyed the most is Not After Midnight.

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Random House UK, Cornerstone| 6 August 2020|407 pages| Kindle review copy via NetGalley

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors and yet I struggled to read Invisible Girl. I struggled to get interested in it at first and at about 25% I nearly gave up. But I can’t give up on a book by a favourite author, so I carried on.

The book description below is what made me want to read it:

It is nearly midnight, and very cold. Yet in this dark place of long grass and tall trees where cats hunt and foxes shriek, a girl is waiting…

When Saffyre Maddox was ten something terrible happened and she’s carried the pain of it around with her ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides from him, invisible in the shadows, learning his secrets; secrets she could use to blow his safe, cosy world apart.

Owen Pick is invisible too. He’s thirty-three years old and he’s never had a girlfriend, he’s never even had a friend. Nobody sees him. Nobody cares about him. But when Saffyre Maddox disappears from opposite his house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at him. Accusing him. Holding him responsible. Because he’s just the type, isn’t he? A bit creepy?

I struggled because it is slow-going, the narrative jumps around between Saffyre, Owen and Cate (the long suffering wife of Roan, a child psychologist) and also between the present and the past tenses. I was never really sure where the story was going.

The blurb tells you the the bare bones of the plot. It’s a mystery revolving around secrets – what was the terrible thing that happened to Saffyre, what are the characters hiding, why does everybody shun Owen and are they all unreliable narrators? I was never really sure and didn’t trust any of them. It certainly doesn’t hold back on some of the most unsavoury aspects of life – sexual harassment, abuse, self-harm, in-celibates, on-line forums and so on. It’s the slow pace that made it drag for me and lessened any sense of tension about what was going to happen. All is explained by the end – apart, that is, from one final thread that is left hanging.

Lisa Jewell’s Acknowledgements are interesting, in that she explains how she writes. Until she has finished a book she writes it is ‘just me and my (three) typing fingers and my weird imaginary world.’ She doesn’t do research because it puts her off her stride and she doesn’t like editorial input when she is writing. But when she has finished then, as she describes it, all these magical people appear and fix her imaginary world. Of course, then she thanks all those people, her editors, sales and marketing and publicity teams.

Her methods have worked enormously well in all the other books of hers that I’ve read and I’ve been enthralled, mystified and captivated by them – but just not this one, I’m sorry to say.

My thanks to the publishers and to NetGalley for my copy and I wish I could have been more engaged and enthusiastic about this book.

My Friday Post: Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

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 morning I was browsing my shelves wondering what to read next and picked up Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh, an Irish author. It’s the fifth book in the Eddie Flynn series of crime thrillers, ‘serving up a delicious twist to the traditional courtroom thriller, where in this instance the real killer is not the one on trial, but a member of the jury!

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 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:

‘I’m not much good as a security detail if I’m asleep on the couch when someone busts down your door for that laptop. I’ll be outside. That okay?

~~~

About the book – from the back cover:

The murder trial of the century is here

A ruthless prosecutor
A brilliant defence lawyer
A defendant with a secret
And a serial killer on the jury