New-To-Me Books

Another visit to  Barter Books in Alnwick means I’ve added 5 more books to my TBRs.

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From top to bottom they are:

Fair Stood the Wind for France by H E Bates – a Penguin modern classic. It was first published in 1944 and is about a British pilot, John Franklin, whose plane was shot down in occupied France, and Francoise, the daughter of a French farmer who hid Franklin and his crew from the Germans. I haven’t read any other books by Bates (1905 – 1974) – he was a prolific writer.

Recalled to Life by Reginald Hill, the 13th Dalziel and Pascoe book.  Dalziel reopens the investigation into a murder that took place in 1963 – the year of the Profumo Scandal, the Great Train Robbery and the Kennedy Assassination. I should be on safe ground with this book as I’ve enjoyed all the other Dalziel and Pascoe books I’ve read.

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. Three boys’ lives were changed for ever when one of them got into a stranger’s car and something terrible happened. Twenty five years later they have to face the nightmares of their past. I’m not sure what to expect from this book, not having read any of Lehane’s books before, but a reviewer in the Guardian described it as one of the finest novels he’d read in ages.

The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Willis Crofts, first published in 1933 during the Golden Age of detective fiction between the two world wars. It’s an Inspector French murder mystery set in Surrey, where first one person then others disappear. Have they been murdered? I’ve read just one of Crofts’ books before, Mystery in the Channel, which completely baffled me – will this be just as complicated?

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, the story of two women, born centuries apart and the ancestral legacy that binds them. This was Tracy Chevalier’s first novel. I’ve read and enjoyed some of her later books, including The Girl with a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels, so I’m looking forward to reading this book.

Please let me know if you’ve read any of these books and whether you enjoyed them – or not.

Rebus Returns! In My Friday Post

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.

In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin was published yesterday. It’s the 22nd book in Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series. 

In a House of Lies (Inspector Rebus #22)

It begins:

The car was found because Ginger was jealous of his friend Jimmy.

Description (Ian Rankin’s website)

IN A HOUSE OF LIES

Everyone has something to hide
A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still – both for his family and the police – is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.

Everyone has secrets
Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now – after a decade without answers – it’s time for the truth.

Nobody is innocent
Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

~~~

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.

I ‘m not up to 56% yet and my e-book doesn’t have page numbers, but by my reckoning page 56 is between 14-15% –  here DI Fox is talking about Rebus:

‘Rebus retired at the end of 2006. Well sort of.’

‘Sounds like you have come across him, though?’

‘John Rebus has a way of turning up. Anything in particular blot his copybook on the Bloom case?

‘He was mates with the boyfriend’s dad, a cop from Glasgow. Word was they kept meeting for a quiet drink.’ (14%)

~~~

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book as I’ve read all the previous 21 books. So, I had to start reading this as soon as it appeared on my Kindle yesterday even though I have plenty of books lined up to read next!

What about you? Does it tempt you or would you stop reading? 

 

WWW Wednesday: 3 October 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:

A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale. It’s not a sequel to Notes from an Exhibition, which I loved, but is set in the same area of Cornwall. I’m well into this book now and loving how the story is developing. It’s not a straightforward narrative but moves between the characters showing them at different ages in their lives.

A Perfectly Good Man

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When 20-year-old Lenny Barnes, paralysed in a rugby accident, commits suicide in the presence of Barnaby Johnson, the much-loved priest of a West Cornwall parish, the tragedy’s reverberations open up the fault-lines between Barnaby and his nearest and dearest – the gulfs of unspoken sadness that separate them all. Across this web of relations scuttles Barnaby’s repellent nemesis – a man as wicked as his prey is virtuous. Returning us to the rugged Cornish landscape of ‘Notes from an Exhibition,, Patrick Gale lays bare the lives and the thoughts of a whole community and asks us: what does it mean to be good?

I’m also reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – see yesterday’s post for the opening paragraph and synopsis. And I’ve also started to read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, a collection of essays. It’s a new publication (August 2018) one of a few review copies from NetGalley, that I’m behind in reading.

I’ve recently finished:  

Down to the Woods (Helen Grace #8)

Down to the Woods, the 8th DI Helen Grace thriller by M J Arlidge, crime fiction about gruesome murders in the New Forest. See this post for my review – I did want to know the outcome, but I got rather tired of all the violence and chase scenes throughout the book and was relieved to finish it.

My next book could be:

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)In a Dark, Dark Wood

I have all sorts of ideas about which book to read next and as usual am undecided. It could be one of my NetGalley review books such as Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller, historical fiction set in 1809 in England, Scotland and Spain. It  looks very good.

Or it could be one of my TBRs that I featured in my Monday post. I’m leaning towards Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Book One of the Farseer Trilogy – several people commented on how much they enjoyed it.

Or one of the books I’ve borrowed from the library – In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. I’ve renewed this book a few times and will have to return it soon. It’s crime fiction – a weekend hen party in a remote cottage (actually a glass house) that goes from bad to worse and someone is killed.

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

A-Z of TBRs: E-Books: A, B and C

Earlier this year I looked through my TBRs – the ‘real’ books – and as it did prompt me to read more of them, I’ve decided to take a fresh look at some of the TBRs on my Kindle. I have a bad habit of downloading books and then forgetting all about them – it’s as though they’ve gone into a black hole.

So here is the first instalment of my A – Z of my e-book TBRs – with a little ‘taster’ from each. I’ve picked books from different genres – fantasy fiction, crime fiction and non-fiction – a biography.

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)

A is for Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Book One of the Farseer Trilogy  (On my Kindle since September 2014.)  It’s fantasy fiction set in the  imaginary realm of the Six Duchies and tells the story of the illegitimate son of a prince, assassin FitzChivalry Farseer. He is raised in the stables, rejected by all his family apart from his uncle Chade, who trains him as an assassin.

My memories reach back to when I was six years old. Before that, there is nothing, only a black gulf no exercise of my mind has ever been able to pierce. Prior to that day at Moonseye, there is nothing. But on that day they suddenly begin, with a brightness and detail that overwhelms me. Sometimes it it seems too complete, and I wonder if it is truly mine. Am I recalling it from my own mind, or from dozens of retelling by legions of kitchen maids and ranks of scullions and herds of stable-boys as they explained my presence to each other? Perhaps I have heard the story so many times, from so many sources, that I now recall it as an actual memory of my own. (page 2)

The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe, #1)

B is for The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, with an introduction by Ian Rankin. It’s been on my Kindle since July 2017. Crime fiction is one of my favourite genres – I read a lot of it, but have never read any of Chandler’s books. This is his first book featuring Philip Marlowe. Rankin writes that is ‘a story of sex, drugs, blackmail and high society narrated by a cynical tough guy, Philip Marlowe‘ and that it is ‘such fun to read that you won’t notice how clever its author is being.’

The the old man dragged his voice up from the bottom of a well and said: ‘Brandy, Norris. How do you like you like your brandy, sir?’

‘Any way at all,’ I said.

The butler went away among the aboriginal plants. The General spoke again, slowly using his strength as carefully as an out-of-work showgirl uses her last good pair of stockings.

‘I used to like mine with champagne. The champagne as cold as Valley Forge and about a third of a glass of brandy beneath it.’ (page 4)

The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

C is for The Churchill Factor: How One Man made History by Boris Johnson, on my Kindle since June 2016. The extract below is from the Introduction in which Boris explains why he wants to convey something of Churchill’s genius in this book, and asking what made up his character.

I knew that he had been amazingly brave as a young man, and that he had seen bloodshed at first hand, and had been fired at on four continents, and that he was one of the first men to go up in an aeroplane. I knew that he had been a bit of a runt at Harrow, and that he was only about 5 foot 7 and with a 31-inch chest, and that he had overcome his stammer and his depression and his appalling father to become the greatest living Englishman.

I gathered there was something holy and magical about him, because my grandparents kept the front page of the Daily Express from the day he died, at the age of ninety. … So it seems all the more sad and strange that today – nearly fifty years after he died – he is in danger of being forgotten or at least imperfectly remembered. (page 3)

If you’ve read any of these please let me know what you think?

Books Read in September 2018

How my reading habits have changed! It was only a few years ago that I read mostly paper books, but these days I read mostly e-books – six out of the nine books I read in September are e-books. Another major change is the amount of review copies I read. This month I read five review copies that came to me via NetGalley. I also read one library book and the other three books are all my own books – but only one of those is an actual physical book! And only one of the nine books is non-fiction.

They range from 5 star to 2 star books and are a mix of crime and historical fiction plus one biography. My ratings are based solely on my reactions to the books.

I’ve written about five of these books – click on the links to read my reviews:

  1. The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry 5* – historical fiction set in Edinburgh in 1847 as Dr James Young Simpson, a professor of midwifery, discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform.
  2. The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin by Georges Simenon 3.5* – one of the early Maigret books, set in Belgium not France.
  3. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Karen Morton 3* – historical fiction set over multiple time-lines and with multiple narrators. I loved parts of it and it’s richly descriptive, but found it hard to keep track of all the characters and separate strands of the story.
  4. Appleby’s End by Michael Innes 3* – an Inspector Appleby book. It’s surreal, a macabre fantasy with a  complex and completely unrealistic plot and strange characters.
  5. Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge 2.5* – crime fiction, a DI Helen Grace murder mystery, tense and dark with several twists and turns. Not my favourite book of the month!

Here are some brief notes about the remaining four books:

Dead Woman WalkingDead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton 5* – Sharon Bolton is a brilliant storyteller and this is a brilliant book – complex, very cleverly plotted, full of suspense and completely gripping with great characters and set in Northumberland. It begins with a balloon flight that ends in disaster and only Jessica survives as the balloon crashes to the ground, but she is pursued by a man who is determined to kill her.  I loved this book.

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match

Wedlock:  How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore 4* – a biography of Mary Eleanor Bowes, who was one of Britain’s richest young heiresses. Her first husband was the Count of Strathmore – the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, was a direct descendant of their marriage. Her second marriage to Andrew Robinson Stoney was an absolute disaster. He was brutally cruel and treated her with such violence, humiliation, deception and kidnap, that she lived in fear for her life. This is non-fiction and is full of detail, but even so it reads like a novel.

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck 4* –  the story of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly re-enact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. I enjoyed this beautifully written book, which begins slowly, but not as much as The Grapes of Wrath, which I thought was amazing. It’s long – too long really – and to my mind it reads like a morality tale of good versus evil. There are many parallels to the Bible stories, with surely one of the most evil characters ever in Cathy. I liked the way Steinbeck set out the moral dilemmas and gave the characters choice using the Hebrew word ‘timshel‘, meaning ‘thou mayest’.

The Gaslight Stalker (Esther & Jack Enright Mystery #1)The Gaslight Stalker by David Field 2* – historical crime fiction set in London in 1888. This was a disappointing book, that provides a new solution to the Jack the Ripper murders. There are two elements to the plot and I don’t think they mixed well. I liked the historical facts based on the evidence in the Jack the Ripper case and thought they were well written, if a little repetitive. But the romance between Esther, a young seamstress and Jacob Enright, a young police officer, felt out of place and is too simplistically narrated.

Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge

If you go down to the woods today, you’d better not go alone …

Down to the Woods (Helen Grace #8)

Penguin UK – Michael Joseph|20 September 2018|480 pages|Review copy

Synopsis – Amazon UK:

There is a sickness in the forest. First, it was the wild horses. Now it’s innocent men and women, hunted down and murdered by a faceless figure. Lost in the darkness, they try to flee, they try to hide. In desperation, they call out for help. But there is no-one to hear their cries here…

DI Helen Grace must face down a new nightmare. The arrow-ridden victims hang from the New Forest’s ancient oaks, like pieces of strange fruit. Why are helpless holidaymakers being targeted in peak camping season? And what do their murders signify? Is a psychopath stalking the forest? Is there an occult element to the killings? Could the murders even be an offering to the Forest itself? Helen must walk into the darkness to discover the truth behind her most challenging, most macabre case yet.

My thoughts:

Down to the Woods is the 8th DI Helen Grace thriller by M J Arlidge. I haven’t read any of the earlier books and it’s obvious that Helen has a particularly dramatic and traumatic backstory, but enough explanation is given for me to read this book as a stand-alone. It’s tense and dark with several twists and turns and red herrings, that seemed obviously so to me. It’s on the grisly side of gruesome with graphic descriptions of violence and death and details of information on the dark web, all of which I find off-putting.

I don’t intend to retell the plot as I think the synopsis gives as much detail as you need to know to begin the book. It’s fast-paced in parts, but in others it’s slowed down considerably by the amount of description of the location and characters. Having said that I did like the description of the New Forest, with its ancient woodland, beautiful glades and of course the New Forest ponies.

However, I think the characters aren’t very credible, with maybe the exception of DS Charlie Brooke who has her own problems at home. DS Joseph Hudson is a new character to the series and there are several questions to be answered about his background that seemed rather dubious to me. The reporter Emilia Garanita is the stereotypical journalist with all the unlikable journalistic traits rolled into her character and you’re meant to dislike her. I expected Helen to be the main character but for most of the book she on the sidelines until the final section when she ends up close to death. The chapters are very short with cliff-hanger endings, designed to keep you turning the pages. I did want to know the outcome, but I got rather tired of all the violence and chase scenes throughout the book and was relieved to finish it.

2.5 stars rounded up to 3 stars on Goodreads. Other people liked it more than me – there are many 5 and 4 star reviews on Goodreads.

Thank you to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and NetGalley for my copy of this book for review.

First Chapter First Paragraph: Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge

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.

Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge is one of the books I’m currently reading.

Down to the Woods (Helen Grace #8)

She reached out and found only emptiness. The silky fabric was cool to her touch, which confused her. Where there should be a warm sentient being, there was just … a void.

Blurb:

There is a sickness in the forest. First, it was the wild horses. Now it’s innocent men and women, hunted down and murdered by a faceless figure. Lost in the darkness, they try to flee, they try to hide. In desperation, they call out for help. But there is no-one to hear their cries here…

DI Helen Grace must face down a new nightmare. The arrow-ridden victims hang from the New Forest’s ancient oaks, like pieces of strange fruit. Why are helpless holidaymakers being targeted in peak camping season? And what do their murders signify? Is a psychopath stalking the forest? Is there an occult element to the killings? Could the murders even be an offering to the Forest itself? Helen must walk into the darkness to discover the truth behind her most challenging, most macabre case yet.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

This is the 8th DI Helen Grace thriller. I haven’t read any of the earlier books but although it’s obvious there’s a lot of back story, it doesn’t seem to matter as I’m following this fast paced mystery with no problems. And it’s scary, set in the depths of the New Forest where evil is at large.