WWW Wednesday: 13 June 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading:

The Grapes of WrathOn Beulah Height (Dalziel & Pascoe, #17)

I’m making good progress with The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and I’m still loving it.The Joads have arrived in California and it’s not what they expected – too many homeless, hungry people desperate for work being moved on from place to place. Steinbeck’s writing is detailed and richly descriptive. I feel as though I’m on the road with the characters.

I’m also reading On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill, crime fiction about missing children in a Yorkshire village. A little girl took her dog out for a walk early one morning and didn’t come home. Three little girls had disappeared 15 years earlier and their bodies were never found. I’ve read nearly half the book and as usual with Hill’s books I love the characterisation, the humour and his use of dialect. It’s the first of my 10 Books of Summer.

Recently finished: Come a Little Closer by Rachel Abbott – definitely creepy and disturbing. It’s the first book of hers I’ve read, but the seventh one she’s written. It reads well as a standalone. It’s described as a psychological thriller and the characters are certainly unstable, stressed and in complex and dangerous relationships. I gave it three stars on Goodreads – maybe that’s being generous, as I’m not at all sure I did ‘like’ it.

Come A Little Closer (DCI Tom Douglas #7)

Synopsis:

They will be coming soon. They come every night. 
  
Snow is falling softly as a young woman takes her last breath. 
  
Fifteen miles away, two women sit silently in a dark kitchen. They don’t speak, because there is nothing left to be said. 
  
Another woman boards a plane to escape the man who is trying to steal her life. But she will have to return, sooner or later. 
  
These strangers have one thing in common. They each made one bad choice – and now they have no choices left. Soon they won’t be strangers, they’ll be family… 
  
When DCI Tom Douglas is called to the cold, lonely scene of a suspicious death, he is baffled. Who is she? Where did she come from? How did she get there? 
  
How many more must die? Who is controlling them, and how can they be stopped?

I may write more about this book once I’ve sorted out my thoughts about it.

Reading next: Stalker by Lisa Stone, due to be published tomorrow 14 June.

Synopsis:

Someone is always watching…

Derek Flint is a loner. He lives with his mother and spends his
evenings watching his clients on the CCTV cameras he has installed inside their homes. He likes their companionship – even if it’s through a screen.

When a series of crimes hits Derek’s neighbourhood, DC Beth Mayes begins to suspect he’s involved. How does he know so much about the victims’ lives? Why won’t he let anyone into his office? And what is his mother hiding in that strange, lonely house?

As the crimes become more violent, Beth must race against the clock to find out who is behind the attacks. Will she uncover the truth in time? And is Derek more dangerous than even she has guessed?

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

10 Books of Summer

Cathy at Cathy 746 Books has an annual challenge, 20 Books of Summer, to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2017 and running until 3 September 2017. The aim is to read from your TBR books already on your shelves.

There are also the options to read 15 or 10 books and as I’m very good at listing the books I want to read and very bad at sticking to the list I’m going for the 10 book option. I’ve never managed to stick to my list before so here’s hoping this year I’ll manage it. But the beauty of this meme is that if you change your mind and even change your list!

So for now here are my 10 books:

10 Bks Summer 18

  1. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
  2. The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
  3. Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor
  4. On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill
  5. Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
  6. Dark Side by Belinda Buar
  7. Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
  8. Coffin Road by Peter May
  9. Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie
  10. End in Tears by Ruth Rendell

I’ve not listed them in any particular order but I shall start with reading On Beulah Height.

So, any thoughts on my choices? Have you read any of these books? Are you taking part too?

10 Books of Summer: Challenge Over

Cathy at Cathy 746 Books has an annual challenge, 20 Books of Summer, which ends today, 3 September 2017. I included e-books as well as paper books.

As I’m very good at listing the books I want to read and very bad at sticking to the list I went for the 10 book option, but even so I didn’t read all 10! I read 8 of the 10 books.

I read:

Here are my thoughts on the books I read. I enjoyed some more than others.

They’re all novels except for Long Road From Jarrow by Stuart Maconie, in which he describes how he retraced the route the Jarrow marchers took in 1936 and compared what Britain was like then compared to the Britain of today. It’s a mix of travel writing, social and cultural history and political commentary, with the main emphasis on the current social, cultural and political scene. I thought it was fascinating, thought-provoking and most entertaining.

The novels in A-Z order by author:

Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft -a story of love, secrets and betrayal. I had mixed feelings about this book. I liked the historical setting – Alexandria at the end of the 19th century when Egypt was under British rule. Basically it’s romance and I’d hoped for more historical content. So, not a great success.

Miraculous Mysteries edited by Martin Edward – Locked-Room Murders And Impossible Crimes. There are sixteen stories in the collection. Martin Edwards has prefaced each one with a brief biographical note, which I found useful as some of the authors were new to me. I’m not a big fan of short stories, often finding them disappointing. So I’m glad to say that I enjoyed this anthology.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig –  a story of love and loss and living in the moment. This book caught my imagination right from the start and I read it quite quickly, enjoying the trips through time. Tom Hazard’s condition means that he ages much slower than other people and he’s been alive for centuries. He tells his life story in flashbacks, switching back and forth in time between the present day and the past. I really enjoyed it.

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah – a suspense novel, but not one I found particularly gripping. Melody was seven when she disappeared and although her body had not been discovered her parents were tried and found guilty of murdering her. Then people report seeing her and as the details of what happened to her are gradually revealed the book picked up and I was keen to find out the truth. But I thought it was far-fetched, contrived and over complicated. And then in the last few pages I found something that really did send a little shiver down my spine – and left me wondering just what had really happened to Melody, and what would happen next.

Present Tense by W H S McIntyre – crime fiction with an edge of dark humour. Criminal lawyer Robbie Munro is based in Linlithgow and deals mainly with Scottish Legal Aid cases. He gets caught up in the mystery of what was in the box Billy Paris, ex-military had left with him.  It’s a legal drama, a tense and complicated mystery, combined with details of Robbie’s personal life and another book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

The One that Got Away by Annabel Kantaria, a story of loss and betrayal – I finished this a few days ago and haven’t reviewed it yet. It’s about Stella and George who meet at a school reunion. They last saw each other fifteen years – and they discover that there is still a spark between them. I’m still thinking about the book and will write about soon.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy – at once a love story and a provocation-a novel as inventive as it is emotionally engaging. Overall I found this a difficult book to read, good in parts only. In the middle section I was mainly bewildered. It is a heart breaking book about love and loss – and it doesn’t spare the details

The books I didn’t get round to reading are:

  • The King in the North by Max Adams – the life and times of Oswald of Northumbria in the 7th century
  • Mister Pip by Ernest Jones – a story within a story and a fable

Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

Publication Date: June 29th from Sphere

Source: Review Copy

When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls ‘“ impossibly and illicitly ‘“ in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her . . .

Beneath a Burning Sky is a novel of secrets, betrayal and, above all else, love. Set against the heat and intrigue of colonial Alexandria, this beautiful and heart-wrenching story will take your breath away.

My Thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft. I liked the historical setting – Alexandria at the end of the 19th century when Egypt was under British rule. It is a complex book but it is not so much historical fiction but more of a romantic story. Overall I enjoyed it but thought the book was melodramatic and I was hoping for more historical content.

There is a large cast of characters and although the main character, Olivia is convincingly described, many of the other characters are rather flat stereotypes – Alistair the sadistic older husband, Millicent, the wicked grandmother, and Edward, the ‘good’ character, the handsome, romantic lover.

From the start of the novel there is a lot that is not explained and the action moves swiftly from location to location, switching between different sets of characters. Olivia, trapped in an appalling marriage, is reunited with her older sister Clara from whom she was separated at a very young age after the death of their parents. She has no memories of her parents or her early life in Egypt, but throughout the book has tantalising flashbacks. I would have liked to have discovered what had happened to her parents, but this was only hinted at. I also wondered why Millicent, the wicked grandmother, had hated Olivia’s mother so much. And I was not convinced about the plausibility of Olivia’s forced marriage to Alistair.

But this is not the main mystery – that concerns Clara, because shortly after Olivia arrives, Clara disappears. The police investigation is completely useless, mainly because the chief of police is corrupt. What follows is Olivia’s frantic search for Clara with multiple twists as various secrets and passions begin to surface.

An added complication is the story of Nailah, an Egyptian woman, and her family. This shows the contrast between the ruling British class and the local people and the conditions they experienced and I think Jenny Ashcroft’s portrayal is the best part of her book. But I floundered to understand Nailah’s role in the novel and it was only towards the end that that became clear.

It is easy reading, and I was keen to know what had happened to Clara and why she disappeared. But for me it was too long with too many episodes that I sometimes found confusing. However, other people enjoyed it more than I did -there are plenty of 5 and 4 star reviews both on Amazon and Goodreads.

With thanks to NetGalley and Sphere, the publisher for a review copy.

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (29 Jun. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0751565032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751565034
  • My Rating: 3˜…

This is the second book for my 10 Books of Summer Challenge.

10 Books of Summer

Cathy at Cathy 746 Books has an annual challenge, 20 Books of Summer, to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2017 and running until 3 September 2017. The aim is to read from your TBR books already on your shelves.

There are also the options to read 15 or 10 books and as I’m very good at listing the books I want to read and very bad at sticking to the list I’m going for the 10 book option.

I’m including e-books as well as paper books. I like Cathy’s idea of counting the pages and working out how many pages I need to read each day. My total comes to 3585 pages which means I have to read 37 pages a day to complete my challenge. I should be able to do that … shouldn’t I?

Here are my 10 books in A-Z order by author:

  1. The King in the North by Max Adams – the life and times of Oswald of Northumbria in the 7th century
  2. Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft – a story of love, secrets and betrayal
  3. Miraculous Mysteries edited by Martin Edward – Locked-Room Murders And Impossible Crimes
  4. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – a story of love and loss and living in the moment
  5. Did You See Melanie? by Sophie Hannah – a suspense novel
  6. Mister Pip by Ernest Jones – a story within a story and a fable
  7. The One that Got Away by Annabel Kantaria – story of loss and betrayal
  8. Present Tense by W H S McIntyre – crime fiction with an edge of dark humour
  9. Long Road from Jarrow by Stuart Maconie – Stuart Maconie walks North to South retracing the emblematic footsteps of the Jarrow marchers to discover what Britain is really like today
  10. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy – at once a love story and a provocation-a novel as inventive as it is emotionally engaging.

Cathy has allocated 2 ‘spares’ and because I know that I could easily not fancy reading one or more of these books when the time comes I’m reserving the option of substituting 2 ‘spares’ as well. They are:

The Shadow PuppetThe Shadow Puppet by Georges Simenon – an Inspector Maigret mystery.

Maigret uncovers a tragic story of desperate lives, unhappy families, addiction and terrible, fatal greed.

and

The Last Kingdom by Bernard CornwellThe Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories, #1), the first in his Saxon series, set in 9th century Northumbria, about Uhtred an English boy, adopted by a Dane and taught Viking ways.

A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody

Last year I read and enjoyed Dying in the Wool, the first of Frances Brody’s series of historical crime fiction books set in 1920s Yorkshire and featuring Kate Shackleton. The second book, A Medal for Murder is even better and I was thoroughly immersed in the mystery.

A pawn shop robbery brings Kate and her assistant Jim Sykes, an ex-policeman,  their second case. It leads on to her discovery of a dead body, that of Lawrence Milner, outside a Harrogate theatre where Kate had been watching a production of a dramatisation of Arnold Bennett’s novel, Anna of the Five Towns. Then Captain Wolfendale, a Boer War veteran asks Kate to find his granddaughter, Lucy, who had starred in the play, as she has disappeared and he had received a ransom note. The murder  brings Kate into contact again with Inspector Marcus Charles of Scotland Yard (she had first met him in Dying in the Wool).

The book is told from the different characters’ perspective, but mainly from Kate’s, with flashbacks to the Boer War at the turn of the century. This is a detailed, complex plot which kept me guessing almost to the end about the identity of the murderer.  What is Captain Wolfendale hiding in his attic that he doesn’t want Kate to see? Just what is his relationship with Lawrence Milner who had also fought in the Boer War? How/is the pawn shop robbery connected to the murder? Will Lucy be rescued? And why doesn’t Dan Root, a watch maker, who also rents a room in the Captain’s house want to Kate to see inside his workroom?

There is so much going on in this book, and yet it was easy to read and each sub-plot fitted in so well with the main mystery that I didn’t get confused – I just couldn’t see who could have killed Milner. I had several suspects, all of whom turned out to be innocent of the crime. I liked the historical setting and the characters rang true. I’m left wondering whether Kate’s relationship with Inspector Charles will develop further, and whether she will ever hear what happened to her husband, reported missing in the 1914-18 War.

These are the books in the Kate Shackleton Mystery series:

1. Dying in the Wool (2009)
2. A Medal For Murder (2010)
3. Murder in the Afternoon (2011)
4. A Woman Unknown (2012)
5. Murder on a Summer’s Day (2013)
6. Death of an Avid Reader (2014)
7. A Death in the Dales (2015) to be published 1 October 2015

For more information about the author and her books see Frances Brody’s blog and website.

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR Reading Challenge, 10 Books of Summer, Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

The Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter

Chief Inspector Morse is one of my favourite fictional detectives (maybe even the favourite). I first ‘met’ him years ago in the ITV series Inspector Morse and so, just as Joan Hickson is forever in my mind as Miss Marple and David Suchet is Poirot, John Thaw is Morse. The series was first broadcast in 1987, but I don’t intend to write about the books versus the TV adaptations – I’ve enjoyed both. This post is just about the last book in the series – The Remorseful Day.

I’ve delayed reading this for so long (I watched the TV version when it was first broadcast, which was 15 years ago!) because it’s the last of the Morse books and sadly the end of Morse too. So if you’ve not read any of the Morse books I suggest that you don’t start with this one.

Needless to say that I loved it. The plot is detailed, complex and as usual with Morse a puzzle type murder mystery with plenty of challenging clues. Sergeant Lewis is left to investigate the murder of nurse Yvonne Harrison that had remained unsolved for a year – Morse initially refused to work on the case, despite Chief Superintendent Strange’s wishes. Sergeant Lewis is concerned as this looks just the sort of puzzle Morse excels in solving … and Morse’s behaviour has been worrying Lewis recently.  Lewis can’t believe that Morse could have a personal reason to keep out of the investigation. And when Morse phones to say he is feeling unwell Lewis is most concerned – Morse seldom mentioned his health, what is wrong with him?

The plot is complex, but the real focus of the book is on Morse and how he copes with his illness and his drinking habits and it becomes obvious just how alone he is in the world and how devastating his situation is to Lewis. The novel also reveals more about Strange’s character and also about his understanding of Morse. I found it both a most satisfying book and a very sad one.

There are only 13 Morse books. The links are to my posts on the books – I read some before I began to write this blog and I’m hoping to re-read those in due course.

  1. Last Bus to Woodstock (1975)
  2. Last Seen Wearing (1976)
  3. The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)
  4. Service of All the Dead (1979)
  5. The Dead of Jericho (1981)
  6. The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983)
  7. The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986)
  8. The Wench is Dead (1989)
  9. The Jewel That Was Ours (1991)
  10. The Way Through the Woods (1992)
  11. The Daughters of Cain (1994)
  12. Death is Now My Neighbour (1996)
  13. The Remorseful Day (1999)

As The Remorseful Day has sat unread on my shelves for so long it obviously qualifies for the Mount TBR Challenge 2015. I also included it as one of My 10 Books of Summer, which brings my total to 5.