New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

Barter Books in Alnwick was looking very festive yesterday with a Christmas tree made out of books. It’s my favourite bookshop, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain with books galore, open fires and plenty of places to sit and peruse the books. (See this Picture Gallery for more photos)

I browsed the shelves to see which ones jumped out, shouting ‘read me’ And these are the books I brought home:

Where Roses Fade by Andrew Taylor – psychological crime fiction, one of his Lydmouth series, in which Mattie, a waitress drowns  – did she fall, or did she jump? Rumours circulate that her death wasn’t accidental – and then comes another death. I’ve read Andrew Taylor’s Roth trilogy, but none of his Lydmouth series.

You Made Me Late Again! by Pam Ayres – a collection of poems, anecdotes and short verses, covering a wide range of subjects from a nervous racehorse, a proud granny, to a dog reunited with his master at the Pearly Gates. I fancied some light relief after all the crime fiction I’ve been reading lately and this collection of witty poems appealed to me.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – a thriller set on a luxury cruise ship going to see the Northern Lights, a body overboard – but there are no missing passengers.  I was looking in the ‘W’s for a book by Louise Welsh (I didn’t find one I hadn’t read) but this book caught my eye. I haven’t read any of Ruth Ware’s books, but have seen her mentioned on other book blogs.

Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark – Would-be novelist Fleur Talbot works for Sir Quentin Oliver at the Autobiographical Association.  Mayhem ensues when scenes from Fleur’s novel-in-progress begin to come true with dangerous and darkly funny results. One of my favourite books is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, so I’m hoping to love this book too.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale –  after an illicit affair Harry Cane, is forced to travel from Edwardian England to the town of Winter in Canada  to start a new life. I’m currently reading and enjoying Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition, so when I saw this book on the shelf I had to get it.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – a Maisie Dobbs novel, set in 1932 when Maisie takes on an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service. I like the Maisie Dobbs books and began reading the several years ago, but I haven’t kept up with the series. This one is book 8.

What I love about Barter Books is that it’s not only filled with thousands of books, but it works on the swap system – you bring in books, they make an offer for them and your credit can then be used for books to bring home. I’m in credit, so I didn’t have to pay anything for these books – brilliant! Plus, it’s in a lovely building that was Alnwick’s beautiful old Victorian railway station and you can get tea, coffee, hot food (I love their macaroni cheese) and cakes etc in the Station Buffet. Yesterday we were there early and David had a Bacon Buttie from the Breakfast Menu – I had some of it too.

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Earth Hums in B Flat

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

This week’s opening is from The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan.

The Earth Hums in B Flat

It begins:

I fly in my sleep every night. When I was little I could fly without being asleep; now I can’t even though I practise and practise. And after what I saw last night I want more than ever to fly wide-awake. Mam always says: I want never gets. Is that true?

Blurb (from the back cover):

Young Gwenni Morgan has a gift. She can fly in her sleep. She’s also fond of strawberry whip, detective stories and asking difficult questions. When a neighbour mysteriously vanishes, she resolves to uncover the secret of his disappearance and return him to his children. She truthfully records what she sees and hears: but are her deductions correct? What is the real truth? And what will be the consequences – for Gwenni, her family and her community – of finding it out?

Gwenni Morgan is an unforgettable creation, and this portrait of life in a small Welsh town on the brink of change in the 1950s is enthralling, moving and utterly real. Mari Strachan’s debut is a magical novel that will transport you to another time and place.

I like the idea of being able to fly.

What do you think – would you read on?

A Maigret Christmas by Georges Simenon

A Christmas Mystery

Publication date 2 November 2017, Penguin Books (UK). Newly translated by David Coward

Review copy from the publishers, via NetGalley

My rating: 4 stars

The review copy of A Maigret Christmas and Other Stories by Georges Simenon I received contains just one of the three stories in this collection, A Maigret Christmas which was first published in 1950 as Un Noël de Maigret.

It’s set in Paris on Christmas Day. Inspector Maigret has the day off and Madame Maigret, hoping to bring him croissants for his breakfast in bed, as she usually does on Sundays and public holidays, is disappointed to find that he had got up before she returned from the corner shop. Both Maigret and his wife are feeling not exactly depressed but rather melancholy, with no family to visit at Christmas.

Their plan to spend a quiet morning cocooned in their apartment is disrupted by the arrival of two ladies, Madame Martin and Mademoiselle Doncoeur, who live in the apartment opposite in the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Colette, a little girl staying with her aunt and uncle, Madame Martin and her husband, had woken in the night and seen Father Christmas in her room, making a hole in the floor. He gave her a present, a big doll and then held up his finger to his lips as he left. But who was he and why was he trying to take up the floorboards?

Maigret, concerned about Colette, decides to help and, phoning his colleagues at the Quai des Orfevres for information, he spends the rest of the day solving the mystery. As the mystery is unravelled it turns out to be anything but simple. I enjoyed this story for the mystery itself, but I also liked the light it throws on Maigret and his wife, their relationship and the sadness they feel at being childless, particularly so at Christmas.

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

Amazon UK link

My Friday Post: Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale

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 Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. This is one of the TBRs I featured in my last A – Z of TBRs. I’ve decided now is the time to read this book which has been on my TBR shelves for five years.

Notes from an Exhibition

The title of this book is taken from the notes displayed describing works of art in a gallery or museum or referring to Rachel Kelly’s art or possessions, and each section of this book is headed by one of these notes. This is the note heading the first chapter of the book:

Notes from an Exhibition P1020321

 

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 56

She had less strength in her arms than in vigorous youth and hated asking for help in stretching canvases. Besides Anthony had arthritic wrists so was not much stronger than she. So she had taken more and more to working on convenient whiteboards rarely larger than a biscuit tin, sometimes s small as a piece of toast.

From the back cover:

Gifted artist Rachel Kelly is a whirlwind of creative highs and anguished, crippling lows. She’s also something of an enigma to her husband and four children. So when she is found dead in her Penzance studio, leaving behind some extraordinary new paintings, there’s a painful need for answers. Her Quaker husband appeals for help on the internet. The fragments of a shattered life slowly come to light, and it becomes clear that bohemian Rachel has left her children not only a gift for art – but also her haunting demons.

Catching Up with Inspector Banks

Last month I read A Necessary End and Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson, books 3 and 5 in his Inspector Banks series. I’ve read a few of his books out of order and I’m now filling in the gaps in my reading.

In A Necessary End a policeman is killed at an anti-nuclear demonstration in Eastvale. With over a hundred people at the demonstration at first there are plenty of suspects, but it soon becomes apparent that the main suspects are the organisers of the demonstration and the people living at Maggie’s Farm, an old Dales farmhouse set on the moors above the dales, the home of Seth Cotton.

To complicate matters Banks’ friend, Jenny Fuller is in a relationship with Dennis Osmond, a social worker and one of the main organisers of the demonstration. Jenny can’t believe that Dennis could be the culprit as he’d told he the last thing they had wanted was a violent confrontation.

This is the first book to introduce Detective Superintendent Richard ‘Dirty Dick’ Burgess, a troubleshooter from London called in to help with the investigations. Banks had worked with him a couple of times when was working in London and is not happy to see him. Because of this Banks works independently of Burgess and eventually gets to the bottom of the mystery.

Past Reason Hated is set just before Christmas when Caroline Hartley is found brutally murdered in her home she shared with Veronica Shildon. Three people had been seen visiting the house separately that evening. Nobody could describe them clearly – it had been dark and snowing and the street was not well lit and the investigation into her death centres on identifying them.

There are a number of suspects, among them is Charles Ivers, Caroline’s ex-husband, whom she had left to live with Veronica. There are also the members of the Eastvale amateur dramatic society who are rehearsing for a performance of Twelfth Night at the community centre. Caroline had a small part. But Banks is also interested in the music that was playing  when Caroline was found – the Laudate pueri – and in identifying the woman whose photo was found in Caroline’s belongings.

Both of these books are enjoyable but I preferred Past Reason Hated, because it has so many strands, which of course all interlinked and because of Robinson’s descriptions of the scenery in a snowy December. I also liked the focus on Susan Gay, newly promoted to Detective Constable as she stumbles to find her way in the team.

I am now addicted to the Banks books, which I enjoy more than the TV series. Both these books are from my TBRs.

First Chapter First Paragraph: A Lovely Way to Burn

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

This week’s opening is from A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh.

A Lovely Way to Burn (Plague Times, #1)

 

It begins with a Prologue:

London witnessed three shootings that summer, by men who were part of the Establishment. The first  was the Right Honourable Terry Blackwell, Tory MP for Hove who, instead of going to his consistency as planned, sat in a deck chair on the balcony of his Thames-side apartment on sweltering Saturday in June and shot dead six holidaymakers.

Blurb:

It doesn’t look like murder in a city full of death.

A pandemic called ‘The Sweats’ is sweeping the globe. London is a city in crisis. Hospitals begin to fill with the dead and dying, but Stevie Flint is convinced that the sudden death of her boyfriend Dr Simon Sharkey was not from natural causes. As roads out of London become gridlocked with people fleeing infection, Stevie’s search for Simon’s killers takes her in the opposite direction, into the depths of the dying city and a race with death.

A Lovely Way to Burn is the first outbreak in the Plague Times trilogy. Chilling, tense and completely compelling, it’s Louise Welsh writing at the height of her powers.

I’ve borrowed this book from the library as I’ve read and enjoyed other books by Louise Welsh and I’m hoping it’ll be just as hypnotically compulsive reading as her other books.

What do you think – would you read on?

Six Degrees from It to The Vanishing Box

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 It by Stephen King – in the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurks, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT appears as an evil clown named Pennywise and sometimes IT reaches up, seizing, tearing, killing…

It

I haven’t read It but I have read  a few of Stephen King’s books including Joyland, which is a ghost story, a love story, a story of loss and heartbreak, set in a funfair. It’s also a murder mystery and utterly compelling to read. (my review)

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The next link in my chain is to an another ghost story – Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, a chilling book, very chilling, both in the setting in the High Arctic and in atmosphere.

Dark Matter

It’s a ghost story in the form of a diary – that of Jack Miller who in 1937 was part of an expedition to the High Arctic to study its biology, geology and ice dynamics and to carry out a meteorological survey. As the darkness descends, Jack is left alone at the camp and his nightmare really begins. And it is very scary! (my review)

I’m moving away from dark and scary stories to another book with ‘matter in its title – to Alive, Alive Oh! And Other Things That Matter by Diana Athill.

Alive, Alive Oh!: and Other Things that Matter

It’s only a short book but it covers a wide range of Diana Athill’s memories, many images of beautiful places, and the friends and lovers she has known. The chapters follow on chronologically but are unconnected except for the fact that they demonstrate her love of life. It was heart breaking to read her remarkably candid account of  the miscarriage she had when she was in her early 40s and she nearly died. (my review)

Katherine of Aragon also suffered from miscarriages during her marriage to Henry VIII. Antonia Fraser’s Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, the True Queen is fictional biography at its most straight forward, written in an uncomplicated style.

It’s a long and comprehensive study, told from Katherine’s point of view it follows her life from the time she arrived in England at the age of sixteen to marry Prince Arthur, the elder of Henry VII’s two sons, to her death in 1536. (my review)

Another Katherine living in the Tudor period is Lady Katherine Grey, who was one of the heirs to the throne and a rival to the Tudor Queens, Mary and Elizabeth I. Leanda de Lisle tells her story and that of her sisters in The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey. 

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen

 

Lady Jane Grey  is remembered in British history as the monarch with the shortest reign… just nine days. In 1553 after the death of her cousin, the protestant King Edward VI she was proclaimed Queen in place of his Catholic half sister, Mary Tudor. Mary overthrew Jane 13 days later, and she was tried for treason, found guilty and was executed. (this is one of my TBR books)

Lady Jane Grey features in The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths, the fourth book in the DI Stephens and Max Mephisto series.

Lily Burtenshaw was murdered. She was found in her room tied to a chair, leaning forward and pointing to an empty crate with ‘King Edward Potatoes’ written on the side. She had been posed to look like Lady Jane Grey in the painting by Delaroche, of her execution at the moment she was being helped to lay her head upon the block. (my review)

My chain began with a book  about a scary clown, moved to a scary funfair to yet another scary book set in the Arctic. It then travelled to a different matter – that of miscarriages, then to the sister of a short-lived queen and finally to a murder mystery in which the victim was posed as Lady Jane Grey.  From America to England in both the past and the present, from fiction to historical biography and then to a murder mystery – from horror to murder in six steps!

Next month January 6, 2018), the chain will begin with an international bestseller (that I haven’t read) – Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.