My Friday Post: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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 I’m featuring In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, one of the books I mentioned in Top Ten Books On My Fall 2018 TBR.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

About the Book

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back. 

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen party arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage – the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her best friend, to put the past behind her. 

But something goes wrong. 

Very wrong.

And as secrets and lies unravel, out in the dark, dark wood the past will finally catch up with Nora.

This was Ruth Ware’s debut thriller. But, I’m not sure I want to read this book as I wasn’t impressed by the only other book by her that I’ve read, The Woman in Cabin 10.

It begins:

I am running.

I am running through moonlit woods, with branches tearing at my clothes and my feet catching in the snow-bowed bracken.

~~~

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:

At last I could see the road, a pale grey snake in the deepening shadows. As I broke out from he woods I heard the soft hoot of an owl, and I obeyed Flo’s instructions, turning right along the tarmac. I hadn’t been running for long when I heard the sound of a car behind me and stopped, pressing myself up against the verge.

~~~

What about you? Does it tempt you or would you stop reading? If you have read it what did you think?

Nonfiction November: Week 2 Fiction/ NonfictionPairing

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Week 2: (Nov. 5 to 9) – Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairing (Sarah’s Book Shelves): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

I couldn’t stick to just pairs of books because I read more fiction than nonfiction, so my pairings are trios.

The first three I’ve chosen are about Richard III – what is the truth about him, was he deformed, with a withered arm, a hunch back and a limp as Shakespeare portrayed him, was he a cold-blooded, evil villain? Or has he been maligned and been turned into a  monster who killed his brother’s sons in order to take the Crown?

The Princes in the TowerThe Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant #5)The Sunne In Splendour

Many years ago I read The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir, which examined the available evidence of the disappearance of the princes in 1483 at the time her book was first published in 1992. It has an extensive bibliography, her sources mainly supporting the view that Richard was guilty of their deaths. Alison Weir has since revised this book and published it as Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, published in 2014. I haven’t read this revised edition, but looking at Alison Weir’s website I see that she still holds the same views on Richard’s guilt.

Years later I came across The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, a novel in which Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III and investigates Richard’s role in the death of his nephews and his own death at the Battle of Bosworth. He concluded that Richard hadn’t murdered his nephews.

And two years ago I read The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman, probably the best historical novel that I’ve read. Penman portrays a very likeable Richard. From his childhood onwards he comes across as a kind, generous and brave man, a skilled leader on the battlefield, a loving husband to his wife, Anne, and devoted and loyal to his brother, Edward IV. I’m not going to reveal her solution to who killed the princes, but I was convinced by her version of events.

The discovery of Richard’s skeleton buried beneath a car park in Leicester in 2012 revealed that although ‘the curved spine on the skeleton does show he had Scoliosis, he did not have a withered arm or other details attributed to him in some characterisations’ (see the Incredible Discovery at the King Richard III Visitor Centre).

There are many books about Richard III, especially following the discovery of his remains, and in time I hope to explore more of them.

The next three books are about Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, Baron Cromwell of Okeham. He was born c.1485, Putney, near London and was executed on July 28, 1540.

Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies PBS Masterpiece E-Book Bundle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracy Borman’s biography of Thomas Cromwell and Hilary Mantel’s novels, Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies all cover the life of Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, who rose to become Henry VIII’s Chief Minister and was executed for heresy and treason.

Hilary Mantel’s books bring the Tudor world to life for me. They are beautifully written, full of colour and detail so that there is no doubt that this is 16th century England, with vivid descriptions of the people, buildings, fabrics, and landscapes of both town and countryside. Her Thomas Cromwell is not the saint I thought he was from watching ‘A Man for All Seasons’, and neither is he the hard-hearted, cold and stern character I’d read about before, but he is humane, kind and considerate, hardworking, generous and cultured. But tough and ruthless too. I haven’t read Tracy Borman’s biography yet, so I have yet to see how it compares to the novels (and the TV adaptation), which I loved.

My third trio of books are about Robert Scott’s 1912 Antarctic expedition, comparing Beryl Bainbridge’s novel with two nonfiction books.

South with ScottThe Birthday BoysRace to the End: Scott, Amundsen and the South Pole

Ever since I bought South with Scott by Edward Evans, Lord Mountevans when I was at school I’ve been fascinated by the race to reach the South Pole. Evans was the Second-in-Command of the British Antarctic Expedition under Captain Scott. He nearly lost his life on the return journey from the Pole, falling ill with scurvy and was rescued. Years later I was delighted to find that Beryl Bainbridge’s novel, The Birthday Boys is about the expedition. It’s narrated by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the other four men who died in the Antarctic having reached the South Pole. It gets inside each man’s mind, vividly describing the events as they progressed to the South Pole and the terrible conditions they had to endure.

I enjoyed it so much I wanted to find out more – which I did in Race to the End: Scott, Amundsen and the South Pole by Ross D E MacPhee, a beautifully illustrated account of each team’s trek to Antarctica and the Pole. Comparing the books I think Beryl Bainbridge’s fictionalised version is remarkable accurate, bringing the terrible hardships vividly to life.

I’ve enjoyed comparing these books – what books would you choose to compare?

Top Ten Tuesday: Backlist Books I Want to Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

The rules are simple:

  • Each Tuesday, Jana assigns a new topic. Create your own Top Ten list that fits that topic – putting your unique spin on it if you want.
  • Everyone is welcome to join but please link back to The Artsy Reader Girl in your own Top Ten Tuesday post.
  • Add your name to the Linky widget on that day’s post so that everyone can check out other bloggers’ lists.
  • Or if you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment.

This week’s topic is: Backlist Books I Want to Read.

It’s hard to limit this to just 10 – this is just a snapshot of some of the books I own and still haven’t read. They’re all fiction.

An Advancement Of Learning (Dalziel & Pascoe, #2)Maigret's Holiday (Maigret, #28)The Song of TroyFall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1)Wednesday's Child (Inspector Banks, #6)

Family AlbumSea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1)The DryThe IslandThe Lady and the Unicorn

  • Family Album by Penelope Lively, a novel of family intrigue
  • Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh – historical fiction, Ibis Trilogy Book 1 set in the 1830’s just before the opium wars in China
  • The Dry by Jane Harper, crime fiction set in the Australian outback
  • The Island by Victoria Hislop, historical fiction inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony
  • The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, historical fiction, weaving together fact and fiction about the medieval tapestries

Six Degrees of Separation: from Vanity Fair to Oliver Twist

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 with Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. I read this book in December 2004 (I know this as I’d written the date at the front of the book). I loved it. I didn’t watch the recent TV adaptation, not wanting to lose my own mental pictures of the characters and it always irritates me when adaptations move away from the original story.

Vanity Fair

 

The main character in Vanity Fair is Becky Sharp, an orphan who was brought up at Miss Pinkerton’s Academy for young ladies in Chiswick Mall, which leads me to my first link in the chain –

Pinkerton’s Sister by Rushforth. The main character is Alice Pinkerton who is most definitely eccentric. The book begins: ‘The madwoman in the attic was standing at the window.’  It’s a bizarre story, funny, even ludicrous at times, full of literary and musical references and I got lost in it for hours. It’s a very long and detailed book and I don’t suppose it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it.

Pinkerton's Sister

My second link followed on naturally to another book by Peter Rushforth, A Dead Language. I was disappointed with this book as it was so hard to understand what was going on – it’s about Alice’s brother Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, the young naval lieutenant who abandoned Madame Butterfly as he is about to set sail for Japan. It is strange and I didn’t finish it.

A Dead Language

It leads me on to another book with ‘dead’ in the title – The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer. This is about Eve Singer, a TV crime reporter, who will go to any length to get the latest scoop. But when a twisted serial killer starts using her to gain the publicity he craves, Eve must decide how far she’s willing to go – and how close she’ll let him get.

The Beautiful Dead

The fantastic TV drama Killing Eve is based on Codename Villanelle, a series of novellas by  Luke Jennings.  Eve Polastri, a desk-bound MI5 officer, begins to track down talented psychopathic assassin Villanelle, while both women become obsessed with each other.

Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle

In Worth Killing For by Ed James  DI Simon Fenchurch witnesses a murder when a woman is attacked by a young hoodie on a bike, who snatches her mobile and handbag. The hoodie is part of a phone-theft gang, run by the mysterious Kamal.

This reminded me so much of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, in which young boys are recruited by Fagan to ‘pick-a pocket-or two’. After running away from the workhouse  Oliver is lured into a den of thieves peopled by vivid and memorable characters – the Artful Dodger, vicious burglar Bill Sikes, his dog Bull’s Eye, prostitute Nancy, and the cunning master-thief Fagin.

Oliver Twist

I am so surprised at where this chain has ended – from one classic to another, both about an orphan, but very different in style. Both Vanity Fair and Oliver Twist were first published as serials, before being published as books – Vanity Fair in 1847-48 and Oliver Twist in 1837-39. In between it has passed through two rather strange literary novels and three books focusing on death and murder!

Next month (December 1, 2018), we’ll begin with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

The Darkest Place by Jo Spain

The Darkest Place (An Inspector Tom Reynolds Mystery, #4)

4*

Quercus Books|20 September 2018|352 pages|Review copy

The Darkest Place is Jo Spain’s 4th Inspector Tom Reynolds Mystery book and although I haven’t read the first three I was keen to read this book when I saw it offered on NetGalley as I’d enjoyed her standalone book The Confession. As I expected there are references to the cases Tom Reynolds and his team investigated in the earlier books and it’s probably best to read those first, but actually this didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book.

I was soon gripped by the mystery right from the opening lines of the book:

Forty years was too long to wait for somebody to come back from the dead.

But still, she liked to get  everything ready. Just in case.

The ‘somebody’ is Conrad Howe, who was one of the senior doctors at St Christina’s asylum on Oilean na Coillte,  known to locals as the island of lost souls, an island (fictional) off the south-west corner of Ireland. His wife, Miriam had never given up hope that he was alive and would return home.

The psychiatric hospital was closed down years ago, but now there are plans to build a retreat on the island, an exclusive hotel, and during the demolition work a mass grave for the patients had been uncovered. Conrad’s body was found, hidden beneath some of the body bags and it was obvious that he had been murdered.

The narrative alternates between the police investigation and extracts from the diary Miriam had found hidden in the attic, describing what was happening at the hospital and the horrific treatment some of the patients were subjected to by one of the doctors. A few of the hospital staff, including the former head of St Christina’s, Dr Lawrence Boylan and an ex-nurse, Carla Crowley, and it is soon clear that something evil is still going on at the asylum.

This really is a chilling book and in parts I found it disturbing and difficult to read. Jo Spain makes it clear in her Acknowledgements that although this is crime fiction it is based on fact – such terrible things really did happen in mental institutions, housing vulnerable people. They were patients with dementia, deformities, depression, epilepsy and homosexuals – people whose families could not deal with them and they were treated mainly as though they were suffering from a physical illness or disorder, that could be fixed. Those that couldn’t be fixed were kept locked up.

For most of the book I kept wondering what had actually happened to Conrad Howe and suspecting various people of killing him, mainly thinking it was one particular person until halfway into the book, then thinking it couldn’t be that one. I was right about that, but it was only just before the truth was revealed that I had the slightest suspicion of what had really happened, which makes it a very satisfying book indeed. I’m now on the lookout for more books by Jo Spain.

Thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for provided a review copy of this book.

The Ghost by Robert Harris

The Ghost

4*

I have enjoyed all of Robert Harris’s books that I’ve read and The Ghost is no exceptionThe ‘ghost’ in this novel is a professional  ghostwriter employed to finish writing the memoirs of recently retired prime minister of Great Britain, Adam Peter Benet Lang. McAra, Lang’s long-term assistant, had nearly completed Lang’s memoir when he was found dead, drowned. He had gone overboard during the ferry crossing to Martha’s Vineyard, where Lang and his wife, Ruth are staying.

The setting of Martha’s Vineyard in winter reflects Lang’s mood, it is out-of-season, closed down, practically empty – as isolated as Lang himself, disconnected from the world of power he once dominated and stuck on this bleak island with his volatile wife and his aide, the beautiful Amelia Bly, who Ruth suspects is having an affair with Lang. The ghostwriter soon discovers that Lang has secrets in his past that are returning to haunt him – secrets with the power to kill. And he suspects that McAra’s death was neither an accident nor a suicide.

This is fiction, but Adam and Ruth, do have similarities to Tony and Cherie Blair. Lang is charming, personable, full of restless energy, with an engaging smile and thick wavy hair. The narrator, an unnamed writer, who Adam calls ‘man’, is a likeable character more used to ghostwriting the memoirs of footballers than politicians, who has just one month to complete Lang’s memoirs. But soon after he arrives this is reduced to two weeks when news breaks that Lang is accused of war crimes. The International Criminal Court in The Hague are investigating the allegations of Richard Rycart, the former British Foreign Secretary, that Lang had ordered the illegal handover of suspects for torture by the CIA.

I liked the details about ghostwriting from the quotes heading each chapter taken from Andrew Crofts handbook, Ghostwriting. But what I liked most about The Ghost is that it is fast- paced, full of tension and written in a straightforward linear narrative – no flashbacks or fly forwards, or multiple narrators. As in his other books  I’ve read it’s written in such a way that I feel as though I’m there with the characters taking part in the action. And his characters are distinct people, easily distinguishable from each other. In so many books I’ve read recently I’ve come across a character and have been unable to place them and have had to backtrack to find out who they are and how they fit into the plot, or the characters have similar sounding names or all begin with the same letter. Not so with The Ghost the characters have depth, the structure is clear, and there is a twist at the end that revealed the menace implied through the whole novel. Harris is a great storyteller.

My copy:

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; Reprint edition (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-009952749
  • Source: I bought the book
  • My rating: 4*

 

WWW Wednesday: 24 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: three books, one historical fiction in hardback, one crime fiction on my Kindle and one non-fiction that I’ve borrowed from the library.

Tombland by C J Sansom, the 7th book in his Shardlake series, set in 1549 two years after the death of Henry VIII.

Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)

I’m just settling into this book – Edward VI, is eleven years old and his uncle Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, rules England as Protector. Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer in the employ of Lady Elizabeth, the old King’s younger daughter, is once more called on to investigate a murder, that of Elizabeth’s distant relative, Edith Boleyn. 1549 is the year of Kett’s Rebellion, which began when a group of rebels destroyed fences that wealthy landowners had erected to enclose their land.

I’m also reading The Darkest Place by Jo Spain, the Kindle edition was published on 20 September 2018. It’s the fourth Inspector Tom Holland mystery. I’ve read nearly 70% and am really enjoying it.

The Darkest Place (Inspector Tom Reynolds, #4)

Synopsis:

Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on Oileán na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina’s. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.

But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead – one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.

As events take a sudden turn, nothing can prepare Reynolds and his team for what they are about to discover once they arrive on the island . . .

And I’ve also started to read Jacob’s Room is Full of Books, by Susan Hill in which she writes about the books she has read, reread or returned to the shelf during one year.

Jacob's Room is Full of Books: A Year of Reading

It’s a mix of reflections on the books, on writing and of observations about a variety of topics, month by month.

I’ve recently finished:  
The Ghost

The Ghost by Robert Harris. I quoted the opening paragraph and synopsis in this post. It’s a political thriller with an anonymous narrator who is the ‘ghost’ or rather a ghostwriter employed to write the autobiography of Adam Peter Benet Lang, recently retired prime minister of Great Britain. I’m writing my review and will post it in the next few days.

My next book could be:

I am torn, as usual, wanting to read several books at once. I so want to start Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton – I wrote a bit about this book in this post.  It’s crime fiction about a convicted murderer, Hamish Wolfe who tries to convince, defence barrister Maggie Rose that he is innocent.

Daisy in Chains

But there are many more books also crying out to be read, so when the time comes to start another book, it could be something completely different.

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