The Classics Club Spin Result

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin was announced yesterday. It’s number …

4

which for me is Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by December 31, 2017.

I’m pleased with the result as I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since I saw a TV version. I’ve just checked and it was shown in 1994 with Paul Scholfield as Old Martin Chuzzlewit – that’s 23 years ago! It really is time I read it.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

While writing Martin Chuzzlewit – his sixth novel – Dickens declared it ‘immeasurably the best of my stories.’ He was already famous as the author of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist . Set partly in America, which Dickens had visited in 1842, the novel includes a searing satire on the United States. Martin Chuzzlewit is the story of two Chuzzlewits, Martin and Jonas, who have inherited the characteristic Chuzzlewit selfishness. It contrasts their diverse fates of moral redemption and worldly success for one, with increasingly desperate crime for the other. This powerful black comedy involves hypocrisy, greed and blackmail, as well as the most famous of Dickens’s grotesques, Mrs Gamp. 

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

My Friday Post: Call the Dying by Andrew Taylor

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’s first paragraph is from Call the Dying by Andrew Taylor, crime fiction set in the 1950,  the seventh in Taylor’s Lydmouth series.

Call the Dying (Lydmouth, #7)

It begins:

 

I saw a ghost today. It was very foggy, I know, but I’m sure I wasn’t mistaken. He was coming through the door of Butter’s, and he looked like a ghost because of the fog. But he really was a ghost from a time that’s dead and gone.

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.
  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 55 (page 56 is blank)

I’ve done nothing wrong. Not really. So it’s not fair. It’s as if everyone’s ganging up against me.

Or is it just me? Am I going mad? did I really see him?

I’m afraid. I’m lonely, too. Keep busy that’s the answer. Make my self tired. You don’t have time to feel afraid when you’re deadbeat, you just sleep instead.

I like the thought of sleeping. I can’t remember when I last had an unbroken night.

From the back cover:

Love and need make unexpected bedfellows, and both are blind. As the grip of a long hard winter tightens on Lydmouth, a dead woman calls the dying in a seance behind net curtains. Two provincial newspapers are in the throes of a bitter circulation war. A lorry-driver broods, and an office boy loses his heart.

Britain is basking in the warm glow of post-war tranquillity, but in the quiet town of Lydmouth, darker forces are at play. The rats are fed on bread and milk, a gentleman’s yellow kid glove is mislaid on a train, and something disgusting is happening at Mr Prout’s toyshop.

Returning to a town shrouded in intrigue and suspicion, Jill Francis becomes acting editor of the Gazette. Meanwhile, there’s no pleasure left in the life of Detective Chief Inspector Richard Thornhill. Only a corpse, a television set and the promise of trouble to come.

I bought this book a couple of years ago, keen to read it as I’d enjoyed Taylor’s Roth trilogy so much.

My Week in Books: 15 November 2017

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

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A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Now:

Victoria: A Life

I’m still reading Victoria: a Life by A N Wilson and have just finished Part One, ending with the death of William IV at 2.20 on the morning of 20 June 1837. Victoria is woken to the news that she is now Queen.

The Skeleton Road

I’ve also started The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid, the third  of her DCI Karen Pirie novels.  So far I’m finding it a bit slow going with rather a bewildering number of characters introduced one after the other. When a skeleton with a bullet hole in its skull is found at the top of a crumbling, gothic building in Edinburgh Karen and her Historic Cases Unit is called in to identify the body and investigate how long it has been there.

Then:

I’ve just finished The Corpse in the Snowman by Nicholas Blake, first published in 1941 as The Case of the Abominable Snowman. This is a manor house murder mystery  in which it first appears that Elizabeth Restorick has committed suicide. Or was it murder? Nigel Strangeways and Inspector Blount investigate.

Next:

Call the Dying (Lydmouth, #7)

I’m not sure, but Andrew Taylor’s Call the Dying caught my eye this morning when I passed the bookshelves in the hall. It’s set in the 1950s in the grip of a long, hard winter when dark forces are at play – a dead woman calls the dying in a seance, in a town shrouded in intrigue and suspicion. This is the seventh in Taylor’s Lydmouth series. I haven’t read any of the earlier books and I’m hoping that won’t matter.

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

A Pile of Books

I had a lovely surprise yesterday when a friend gave me this pile of books – which another friend had given to her.

Pile of Bks Nov17 P1020312

Some are by authors I’ve never heard of before and am not sure what to expect. From top to bottom they are:

  • The Lake House by Kate Morton (on of my favourite authors), historical fiction spanning different time periods and characters, centred on the disappearance of a baby boy from his home in 1933.
  • The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley, historical fiction and book three in The Seven Sisters series. I haven’t read the first two books. There’s an antiquarian bookshop, and links with Beatrix Potter and Alice Keppel.
  • The Cornish Guest House by Emma Burstall, the second book in the Tremarnock series (I haven’t read the first book), set in a small fishing village, crowded with holidaymakers.
  • My Map of You by Isabelle Broom, set on the Greek island of Zakynthos (Zante), where Holly has inherited a house.
  • The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachel Hore – different characters seeking refuge in Leonie’s house in a tranquil London Square.
  • The Light Behind the Window by Lucinda Riley, in which Emilie inherits a chateau in southern France and an old notebook of poems that leads her in search of Sophia and a web of deception in occupied France in 1943.
  • I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, a book already on my list of books I want to read, about Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident, haunted by her fears and grief.
  • The Nightingale by Kirstin Hannah, another book on my list of books I want to read. This is also historical fiction about two French sisters during World War 2 and in 1955.

These should keep me going for quite a while – before I pass them on to another reader.

If you’ve read any of these books please let me know what you thought of them!

 

 

My Week in Books: 8 November 2017

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

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A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Now: I’m currently reading two books from my TBR shelves:

Victoria: a Life by A N Wilson. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a couple of years and watching the BBC’s version of Daisy Goodwin’s Victoria made me get this down from the shelves and start reading. My copy is a hardback book, long (over 650 pages) and rather awkward and heavy to hold so I’m taking my time reading it in short sections.

Victoria: A Life

 

I’m also reading  The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson, a novel of jealously, rivalry and the dangerous power of obsession. Looking through my TBR shelves this one caught my eye. I’ve only read a few chapters and it’s looking good.

The Other Side of the BridgeBlurb:

Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, are the sons of a farmer in the mid-1930s, when life is tough and another world war is looming. Arthur is reticent, solid, dutiful and set to inherit the farm and his father’s character; Jake is younger, attractive, mercurial and dangerous to know – the family misfit. When a beautiful young woman comes into the community, the fragile balance of sibling rivalry tips over the edge.

Then: I’ve recently finished reading Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore, her final novel. My review will follow soon.

Birdcage WalkBlurb:

 

It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence.

Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war.

Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants.

But as Diner’s passion for Lizzie darkens, she soon finds herself dangerously alone.

Weaving a deeply personal and moving story with a historical moment of critical and complex importance, Birdcage Walk is an unsettling and brilliantly tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror from one of our greatest storytellers.

Next:  The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid, the third Karen Pirie novel. See the blurb and opening paragraph in my post yesterday.

The Skeleton Road

 

 

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? And what have you been reading this week?

Six Degrees from Less than Zero to The Book of Dust

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.

This month the chain begins with a controversial bestseller by a member of the eighties ‘literary Brat Pack’ – Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero.

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I haven’t read this book and can’t say that it appeals to me at all. Filled with relentless drinking in seamy bars and glamorous nightclubs, wild, drug-fuelled parties, and dispassionate sexual encounters, Less Than Zero – narrated by Clay, an eighteen-year-old student returning home to Los Angeles for Christmas – is a fierce coming-of-age story, justifiably celebrated for its unflinching depiction of hedonistic youth, its brutal portrayal of the inexorable consequences of such moral depravity, and its author’s refusal to condone or chastise such behaviour. (Amazon UK)

Towards Zero

So, the first link in my chain is to an another book with the word ‘zero‘ in the title – Towards Zero by Agatha Christie.

It’s one of my favourite of Agatha Christie’s books, first published in 1944, with an intricately plotted murder mystery featuring Superintendent Battle. The hypothesis is that murder is not the beginning of a detective story, but the end. It is the culmination of causes and events bringing together certain people, converging towards a certain place and time – towards the Zero Hour. The idea presupposes that there is an inevitability – that once events have been set in motion then the outcome is determined. Agatha Christie dedicated this book to Robert Graves, author of I Claudius, who was her neighbour in Devon during the Second World War and the two had become friends.

I, Claudius & Claudius the God by Robert…

I read I, Claudius and Claudius the God  by Robert Graves many years ago after watching the TV adaptation with Derek Jacobi playing the role of Claudius. Set in the first century A.D. in Rome, this is the life story of the Roman Emperor Claudius. A lame man and a stammerer, he was despised and dismissed as an idiot. He recorded the antics of the imperial household as its members vied for power; a story of murders, greed and folly. He had a disastrous love affair with the depraved Messalina but his reign as Emperor was surprisingly successful.

22740513My next link is to another book I read after first watching the TV adaptation – it’s A Game of Thrones by G R R Martin, fantasy fiction. I loved both the book and the TV series. It’s complex and multifaceted, and it’s full of stories and legends, set in a grim and violent world full of tragedy, betrayals and battles; a tale of good versus evil in which family, duty, and honour are in conflict, the multiple viewpoints giving a rounded view of the conflicts the characters face. It’s a love story too.

The Sunne In Splendour

Just before I read The Game of Thrones I’d read The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman, historical fiction about the Wars of the Roses and had noticed the similarities between that and A Game of Thrones, the battles between the Houses of York and Lancaster paralleled by those between the Houses of Stark and Lancaster for example. This is one of the best historical novels that I’ve read. It is full of detail, bringing Richard III’s world to life. It’s a long book, nearly 900 pages and it took me a while to read it, but never once did I think it was too long, or needed editing. I loved it.

Another very long book is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It has 1,076 pages and is historical fiction set in 12th century England during the time of the civil war between Stephen and Matilda/Maud (she’s known by both names – in this book she’s called Maud, but at school we were taught her name was Matilda). It’s also the story of the building of a cathedral.  It is really a medieval soap opera – in essence a family saga. Parts of the novel came to life more than others and it is rather long-winded and repetitive, terrible things happen, the characters overcome them and recover only to be knocked down again by more terrible events.

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1)Earth‘ made me think of ‘dust to dust’ which in turn made me think of Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, volume one of The Book of Dust. This is his latest book – I haven’t read it yet – set ten years before His Dark Materials, telling the story of Lyra Belacqua’s early life. Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. A baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua.

The next two books in the series, Pullman has said, will take place after the events of His Dark Materials – he describes this trilogy as neither a prequel nor a sequel but as an ‘equel’.

My chain began with a book I haven’t read and don’t want to read and ended, so far from where it began, with another book I haven’t read, but a book I’m looking forward to reading. It has travelled through time and space, taking in ancient Rome, medieval England and the fantasy worlds of G R R Martin and Philip Pullman.

Next month (December 2, 2017) the chain begins with Stephen King’s It – where that will end I have no idea yet.

A – Z of TBRs: J, K and L

I’m now up to J, K, and L in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. These TBRs are all physical books – I’ve not included e-books. Previously I’ve just chosen books for these posts by using the titles, but this time I’ve also chosen books by using the authors’ last names.

I’m enjoying searching my shelves – finding books I’d forgotten were there (the disadvantage of shelving books behind others).

TRBs jkl

– is for The Journeying Boy by Michael Innesa book I’ve had for three years. This is a green Vintage Penguin, first published in 1949, and in this edition in 1961. Humphrey Paxton, the son of one of Britain’s leading atomic boffins, has taken to carrying a shotgun to ‘shoot plotters and blackmailers and spies’. His new tutor, the plodding Mr Thewless, suggests that Humphrey might be overdoing it somewhat. But when a man is found shot dead at a cinema, Mr Thewless is plunged into a nightmare world of lies, kidnapping and murder – and grave matters of national security.

I’m not sure now that I do want to read this book. It looks quite daunting, with lots of description and  literary allusions as shown in this extract – the cinema goers had been watching a film, Plutonium Blonde:

Another squalid crime … Circumstances had made Inspector Cadover a philosopher, and because he was a philosopher he was now depressed. This was the celebrated atom film. This was the manner in which his species chose to take its new command of natural law. Fifty thousand people had died at Hiroshima , and at Bikini ironclads had been tossed in challenge to those other disintegrating nuclei of the sun. The blood-red tide was loosed. And here it was turned to hog wash at five shillings the trough, and entertainment tax five shillings extra. That some wretched Londoner had met a violent death while taking his fill seemed a very unimportant circumstance. To track down the murderer – if murderer there was – appeared a revoltingly useless task. Mere anarchy was loosed upon the world – so what the hell did it matter? (page 51)

K – is for Ghost Walk by Alanna Knight (on my TBR shelves for four years), the fourth in the Rose McQuinn series. This is historical crime fiction set in 1897 in Edinburgh three years after Rose McQuinn’s husband, Danny, disappeared in Arizona. Believing him to be dead, she returned to Scotland to start her life afresh. Now a ‘Lady Investigator, Discretion Guaranteed‘, she is about to marry her lover, Detective Inspector Jack Macmerry of the Edinburgh Police when a nun from the local convent claims to have received a letter from Danny, and after two suspicious deaths, it seems that a ghost is about to walk back into her life…

I’ve read and liked the first book in this series, The Inspector’s Daughter, and am hoping it won’t matter that I’ve not read the second and the third books.

I had no idea what were the views of Edinburgh City Police on the subject of female detectives or the milder term ‘lady investigators’, but I could guess that that they regarded criminal investigation as a ‘men only’ province.

I felt so impatient with authority. Would a day ever dawn when women ceased to be regarded as playthings or breeding machines, when they would be given equal rights with men. My hackles rose in anger at the suffragettes’ gallant struggles as portrayed in a recent pamphlet which I had been at pains to keep concealed from Jack.  (page 34)

L – is for The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson, a book I’ve had for 10 years! I was so keen to read it when I first bought it after loving her first novel, Crow Lake. It’s about two brothers, Arthur and Jake.  Arthur is older, shy, dutiful, and set to inherit his father’s farm. Jake is younger and reckless, a dangerous man to know. When Laura arrives in their 1930s rural community, an already uneasy relationship is driven to breaking point…

Arthur’s earliest memory was of standing in the doorway of his parents’ room, looking at his mother as she lay in bed. It was the middle of the day but nonetheless she was in bed, and Arthur didn’t know what to make of it. The bed was very large and high and Arthur could only just see her. She had her face turned towards the window. Then Arthur’s father called from the bottom of the stairs that the doctor was coming, and she turned her head, and Arthur saw that she was crying. (page 25)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?