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.

The House by the Loch by Kirsty Wark

House by the loch

Two Roads|19 June 2019|384 pages|Review e-book copy|4*

I loved Kirsty Wark’s debut novel, The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle, so I was keen to read her second book, The House by the Loch. I enjoyed it very much. It’s a beautifully written family saga covering three generations. It has a strong sense of place and goes deep within the characters’ inner lives, hopes and fears. And as mysteries and secrets, losses and tragedy are gradually revealed I became totally absorbed by the story. At times immensely sad it is also uplifting. It’s set in Galloway in Scotland, south of Ayr near the Galloway Hills, mainly around Loch Doon.

The House by the Loch begins when ten-year-old Walter MacMillan witnessed a Spitfire crashing into Loch Doon in October 1941, based on a real incident. It was something he never forgot and he built a cairn as a memorial to the pilot. The narrative switches between the 1950s and the present day, telling of Walter’s marriage to Jean, a vibrant young woman when he first met her, his relationship with his children, Patrick and Fiona, and his grandchildren, Carson, Iona and Pete. They all have their problems and difficulties within their relationships, but matters come to a head one weekend when there is another tragedy in the loch.

This is a book that you need to take your time reading, a book to savour and reflect upon at leisure. It has a slow meditative pace as the beautiful scenery of the Galloway landscape unfolds in front of your eyes. But it is the characters themselves that kept me turning the pages, centred on Walter and his granddaughters Carson and Iona. Walter is an immensely patient man, but he was unprepared for the effect living in isolation in the house by the Loch had on Jean, who came to see it as a prison, and on their marriage and children.

Even the minor characters came across to me as real people – Edith, for example, Jean’s mother, an elegant beautiful woman who couldn’t leave her house and garden, feeling she might collapse, and her father brash businessman Billy. Then there are Marie, who helped Jean when she couldn’t look after Carson and Iona, Fiona, who struggled with her marriage, Elinor, Patrick’s wife and her sister, Meg and also Walter’s cousins who only come into the story in the latter part of the book.

Kirsty Wark’s love of Scotland comes over very strongly in this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it reminded me of family sagas I’d read years ago – books that swept me along as the secrets of earlier generations impact on their descendants. It’s about family relationships, happiness, love, loss and heartbreak.

About Kirsty Wark

She is a journalist, broadcaster and writer who has presented a wide range of BBC programmes over the past thirty years, from the ground-breaking Late Show to the nightly current affairs show Newsnight and the weekly Arts and Cultural review and comment show, The Review Show. Her debut novel, The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle, was published in March 2014 by Two Roads and was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award, as well as nominated for the 2016 International DUBLIN Literary Award. Her second novel, The House by the Loch, has been inspired by her childhood memories and family, particularly her father. Born in Dumfries and educated in Ayr, Scotland, Kirsty now lives in Glasgow.

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

Six Degrees of Separation: from Where the Wild Things Are to

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Where the wild things are

This month the chain begins with a book I haven’t read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurie Sendak. This is the summary from Amazon:

One night Max puts on his wolf suit and makes mischief of one kind and another, so his mother calls him ‘Wild Thing’ and sends him to bed without his supper. That night a forest begins to grow in Max’s room and an ocean rushes by with a boat to take Max to the place where the wild things are. Max tames the wild things and crowns himself as their king, and then the wild rumpus begins! But when Max has sent the monsters to bed, and everything is quiet, he starts to feel lonely and realises it is time to sail home to the place where someone loves him best of all.

Apart from the opening book I have read all the books in my chain and they are all crime fiction (the links on titles are to my posts on the books).

My first link is the word in the title, wild:

Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin – Rebus has retired but is asked to act in a ‘consultative capacity’ albeit not as a cop and with no warrant card or real powers and with no pay. It’s a complicated crime fiction novel and Rebus and retired gangster, Big Ger work together, although never fully confiding in each other.

My second link is also a word in the title – dog:

Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas, the second in her Three Evangelists series. It’s a strange murder mystery, full of bizarre events and characters  in which two of the three ‘Evangelists’, Marc and Mathias help uncover the mystery surrounding a tiny fragment of human bone found in a pile of dog excrement on a grid around a tree.

My third link is to another animal that features in a crime fiction mystery – a cat:

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun features Koko, a beautiful Siamese cat – who can’t actually read! Earl Lambreth, who runs an art gallery is found murdered and Joe Qwilleran, a newspaper reporter, with help from Koko, uncovers the identity of the killer.

There is also an art gallery in The Wych Elm by Tana French. Toby Hennessy, the narrator is a good looking and charming young man who works for an art gallery in the centre of Dublin. A human skull is found in the hollow trunk of a wych elm in his uncle’s garden.

And there is a human skull in Death at the President’s Lodging by Michael Innes – the President of the college has been murdered, his head swathed in a black academic gown, a human skull beside his body and surrounding it, little pile.

Finally, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers is also set in a college, Shrewsbury College at Oxford University. Harriet Vane attends the Shrewsbury Gaudy (a college reunion involving a celebratory dinner), not sure she can face meeting her fellow students and the dons. It doesn’t go well – there are poison pen letters, nasty graffiti and vandalism causing mayhem and upset.

Next month (August 3, 2019) is a wild card – start with the book you’ve ended your July chain with (for those playing for the first time, start with the last book you finished reading).

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries

Quercus |1 November 2018|410 pages|Hardback|Library Book|3*

I knew very little about The Stranger Diaries before I opened the book beyond the fact that it is a standalone novel by Elly Griffiths, a murder mystery with a Victorian Gothic feel. It sounded different from her other books that I’ve read, so I was intrigued. 

It begins with the opening of the Victorian Gothic writer R M Holland’s short story, The Stranger, a ghost story set at midnight at Halloween. Clare Cassidy, an English teacher at Talgarth High, where Holland once lived, runs short courses for adults on his work. She is also writing his biography, hoping to discover the truth behind the stories that his wife fell to her death down the stairs, (there are rumours that her ghost haunts the building). Was his wife killed, or was her death suicide or an accident? And was the mysterious ‘Mariana’ his daughter? There is no record of either her birth or her death. 

But the main plotline is the modern mystery – that of the murder of Ella,her friend and fellow English teacher. A line, ‘Hell is empty!‘ from Holland’s story is found in a note beside her body. Ella, however, is only the first murder victim and gradually it becomes clear that the motivation for the killings centres around Clare. Is she a suspect or a potential victim? The story has three narrators, each one clearly distinguishable – Clare, her teenage daughter Georgia, and Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, giving different perspectives on events. Excerpts from The Stranger are interspersed between the chapters along with Clare’s diary, in which she records her suspicions and fears that could hold the clue to the killings, and those about the police investigation. 

Overall, I did enjoy The Stranger Diaries. I liked the literary references to Victorian literature and the details about R M Holland (a fictional character).  I thought the characters were interesting, especially Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur. But I didn’t find either the short story, The Stranger, or the atmospheric setting particularly spooky and I thought the murder mystery was rather unconvincing, especially the ending. Maybe my expectations were too high – or maybe it’s the wrong time of year to read it, and Halloween and November would be more appropriate!

Reading Challenges: Calendar of Crime (the main action takes place in November) and the Virtual Mount TBR challenge.

 

My Friday Post: I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

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.

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney is one of the books I borrowed from the library. It was due back yesterday and as I’d only just started to read it I tried to reserve it – but couldn’t. Fortunately it is available at the moment for 99p on Amazon, so I’ve now bought the e-book.

I know who you are

London, 2017

I’m that girl you think you know, but you can’t remember where from.

Lying is what I do for a living. It’s what I’m best at: becoming somebody else.

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:

I close my eyes and see Ben’s face, I don’t need a photo for that. It feels as if the us I thought we were is being demolished, lie by lie, leaving little more than the rubble of a marriage behind.

Blurb:

Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

I shall! I wanted to read this book because I thoroughly enjoyed Alice Feeney’s debut, Sometimes I Lie.