Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Now is the Time by Melvin Bragg

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 Now is the Time by Melvyn Bragg. I loved his Soldiers Return quartet amongst some of his other books, so I’m hoping this historical fiction set in 1381 at the time of  the Peasants’ Revolt will be as good. Richard II was on the throne of England when a vast force of people led by Wat Tyler and John Ball demanded freedom, and equality.

The Book Begins:

The accused priest stood before the court. He was dressed in the cheapest cloth. From his scuffed and shabby habit, from his spare frame and plainness of manner in the ornately, hierarchically dressed company of the ecclesiastical court, he seemed to be just another casualty of the harsh laws of the Church. But there was about him a self-composure, which threw out the challenge of his independence too arrogantly for the taste of the court.

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. 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:

Armies in Normandy, Ireland and the north and the English garrisons abroad had not been paid for months. The uprising in Flanders had ruined the rich English wool trade. Aristocrats were accused of corruption and vanity campaigns; Plantagenet heirlooms and jewels had been pawned to city merchants. It was said that it was now the city; not the government, that controlled policy.

Summary (from Amazon):

At the end of May 1381, the fourteen-year-old King of England had reason to be fearful: the plague had returned, the royal coffers were empty and a draconian poll tax was being widely evaded. Yet Richard, bolstered by his powerful, admired mother, felt secure in his God-given right to reign.

Within two weeks, the unthinkable happened: a vast force of common people invaded London, led by a former soldier, Walter Tyler, and the radical preacher John Ball, demanding freedom, equality and the complete uprooting of the Church and state. They believed they were rescuing the King from his corrupt ministers, and that England had to be saved. And for three intense, violent days, it looked as if they would sweep all before them.

Now is the Time depicts the events of the Peasants’ Revolt on both a grand and intimate scale, vividly portraying its central figures and telling an archetypal tale of an epic struggle between the powerful and the apparently powerless.

~~~

I vaguely remember learning about Wat Tyler and the Peasant’s Revolt at school. This book should fill in the gaps in my memory!

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Fludd by Hilary Mantel

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 Fludd by Hilary Mantel, described as’ a dark fable of lost faith and awakening love amidst the moors.’ It’s very different from the other books by her that I’ve read. For one thing it’s short!

The Book Begins:

On Wednesday the bishop came in person. He was a modern prelate, brisk and plump in his rimless glasses, and he liked nothing better than to tear around the diocese in his big black car.

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. 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:

That afternoon, Father Fludd undertook a parish tour. Father Angwin accompanied the curate to the front door. ‘They may ask you into their houses’, he said. ‘For God’s sake don’t eat anything. Be back before dark.’ He hovered, anxious. ‘Perhaps you shouldn’t go alone?’

‘Don’t fuss, man’, Fludd said.

Summary (from Amazon)::

Fetherhoughton is a drab, dreary town somewhere in a magical, half-real 1950s north England, a preserve of ignorance and superstition protected against the advance of reason by its impenetrable moor-fogs. Father Angwin, the town’s cynical priest, has lost his faith, and wants nothing more than to be left alone. Sister Philomena strains against the monotony of convent life and the pettiness of her fellow nuns. The rest of the town goes about their lives in a haze, a never-ending procession of grim, grey days stretching ahead of them.

Yet all of that is about to change. A strange visitor appears one stormy night, bringing with him the hint, the taste of something entirely new, something unknown. But who is Fludd? An angel come to shake the Fetherhoughtonians from their stupor, to reawaken Father Angwin’s faith, to show Philomena the nature of love? Or is he the devil himself, a shadowy wanderer of the darkest places in the human heart?

Full of dry wit, compassionate characterisations and cutting insight, Fludd is a brilliant gem of a book, and one of Hilary Mantel’s most original works.

~~~

What do you think – does this book appeal to you too?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas

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 The Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas. I’ve read three of Claire Douglas’s books before and loved each one, so I have high hopes for this one. They are dramatic, tense, and full of atmosphere and suspense.

The Book Begins:

I’m in the front garden pulling at weeds that spill out from the borders of the driveway, like gigantic spiders, when I hear yells. Deep and gutteral.

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. 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:

Lorna had envisaged the day she’d become a grandmother. She knew she wouldn’t be old, because she’d been such a young mother. But she’d expected to be older than forty-sodding-one. What will Alberto think?

Summary::

When Saffron Cutler and boyfriend Tom move into 9 Skelton Place, they didn’t expect to find this.

Two bodies, buried under the patio over thirty years ago.

When the police launch a murder investigation, they ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – Saffy’s grandmother, Rose, whose Alzheimer’s clouds her memory.

But it is clear she remembers something . . .

What happened thirty years ago?
What part did her grandmother play?
And is Saffy now in danger? . . .

~~~

What do you think – does this book appeal to you too?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Another Journey through Britain by Mark Probert

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 the latest book I’ve just started reading, Another Journey Through Britain by Mark Probert, which was free on Amazon UK, although it’s currently on offer for 99p.

In this book Mark Probert follows the route taken by John Hillaby in his 1960s book Journey through Britain, telling the story of his 1,100 mile walk from Land’s End in south-west England to the north-east coast of Scotland at John o’Groats. It had captured Probert’s imagination and when he entered semi-retirement in 2018 he decided to repeat Hillaby’s book, looking out for the things he wrote about in his original book and comparing how today’s Britain differed from that of fifty years earlier. He didn’t walk, though but he did it on a motor bike, a Royal Enfield Classic 500.

The Book Begins:

The visitor car park at Land’s End was almost empty and ghostly silent. It was just after 10 am on a chilly May morning.

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. 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.

Pages 55-56:

Beside the National Parks there are thirty four Areas of Outstanding National Parks (AONB) in England and Wales, less than half of which were in existence in 1966. Being British, we have to make things complicated. In Scotland they have two National Parks, forty five National Nature Reserves, three UNESCO GeoParks and two UNESCO Biospheres. The original purpose of the Parks was to conserve and preserve, but also to open the areas up for people to enjoy. Nowadays, the National Parks cover approximately 10 percent of England, 20 percent of Wales and 7 percent of Scotland.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu

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 The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu, the first book in the Edinburgh Nights series. It’s fantasy, set in a future or alternative Edinburgh, with a wealth of dark secrets in its underground. Teenager Ropa, has dropped out of school to become a ghost talker and when a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, Ropa investigates his disappearance.

I’m really not supposed to be doing this, but a girl’s gotta get paid. So, here we go.

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. 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.

Pages 55-56:

‘Please find Oliver quickly. You should see what they’ve done to his friend Mark. The two boys were together when they disappeared. Only one came back.’

‘Okay, I’ll poke my nose around. Sniff the wind. Try to figure out what’s going on,’ I say.

About the Author:

T. L. Huchu is a writer whose short-fiction has appeared in publications such as Lightspeed, Interzone, AfroSF and elsewhere. He is the winner of a Nommo Award for African SF/F, and has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize and the Grand Prix de L’Imaginaire. Between projects, he translates fiction from Shona into English and the reverse.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas

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 extracts are from This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas. This is the 9th in the Commissaire Adamsberg series. When three elderly men are poisoned by spider venom, everyone assumes that the deaths are tragic accidents. But at police headquarters in Paris, Inspector Adamsberg begins to suspect that the case is far more complex than first appears.

Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, sitting on a rock at the quayside, watched the Grimsey fishermen return with their daily catch, as they moored their boats and hauled up their nests. Here, on this tiny island off the coast of Iceland, people called him simply ‘Berg’.

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. 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:

And that very day, a local newspaper reported that a woman, Jeanne Beaujeu, who had just returned from three weeks’ holiday and heard about the deaths, had gone to hospital in Nimes, asking to have her own wound, now healing, to be examined. She stated that she had been bitten by a spider on 8 May, but since the bite had not spread beyond a slight irritation, she had merely taken the medicine prescribed by her doctor. She was forty-five.

Adamsberg stood up and went to gaze at the lime tree outside his window. So it wasn’t just old people.

I’ve read 5 of Fred Vargas’ books. They’re quirky and original and I like Adamsberg, an expert at untangling mysteries, a thinker, who doesn’t like to express his feelings, but mulls things over. I bought this book a couple of years ago and fully intended to read it at that time – but it got buried in my Kindle!

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

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.

I’ve been looking through my TBR books on my Kindle and came across The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths, the 12th in her Ruth Galloway series. I’ve read most of the series, so, I think I’ll read this next.

It begins with a Prologue:

10 July 2007

She has been walking for a long time. It’s funny but she hadn’t thought that there was so much space in England.

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. 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:

It’s a note, scrawled on a folded piece of lined A4 paper.

‘If you want to know more about Ivor March meet me at The Hanged Man on Newnham Rd tonite at 7.30. Ask for John.’

Blurb:

Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway.

She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried – but only if Ruth will do the digging.

Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travellers to their deaths.

Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over?

Of course, now I want to know more. Do you?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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.

Today I’m featuring The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. It’s set in Amsterdam in 1686/7. Nella Oortman marries a rich merchant, but life in her new home is unfulfilled. Even her cabinet house brings a mystery to the secretive world she has entered as the lifelike miniatures somehow start eerily foreshadowing her fate.

I watched the TV series a few years ago and thought I’d like to read the book – just getting round to reading it!

The Old Church, Amsterdam: Tuesday 14th January 1687

The funeral was supposed to be a quiet affair, for the deceased had no friends. But words are like water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot, and the church’s east corner is crowded.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

  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:

In daylight, it now seems ridiculous, but the rules of this house are written in water. I must either sink or swim, Nella thinks. Her bruise, day-old, like a small splash of wine, truly hurts when she presses it.

I was struck by the use of water imagery in both these extracts.

My Friday Post: Book Beginnings & The Friday 56

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 my book is one of the books I’m currently reading, The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant, a dual time period novel set in Elizabeth England in 1584 and in the present day.

June 2021

The loud noise as she exhaled sharply, a violent ‘pssw’ of air and spittle, echoed around the almost empty, cavernous border control area. A cathedral of modern age, welcoming all to its hallowed halls. Or possibly not all, Mathilde thought as she stood before the sour faced man in front of her. Incongruously, behind him a dusty sign announced: ‘Welcome to England’.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Page 56, set in 1584 :

Tom shuddered as what Hugh had explained, sank in. Being at court had felt like an honour but the memory of fleeing to France when his adopted father fell foul of the monarch reminded him of exactly how precarious it could be.

From Amazon:

1584: Elizabeth I rules England. But a dangerous plot is brewing in court, and Mary Queen of Scots will stop at nothing to take her cousin’s throne.

There’s only one thing standing in her way: Tom, the queen’s trusted apothecary, who makes the perfect silent spy…

2021: Travelling the globe in her campervan, Mathilde has never belonged anywhere. So when she receives news of an inheritance, she is shocked to discover she has a family in England.

Just like Mathilde, the medieval hall she inherits conceals secrets, and she quickly makes a haunting discovery. Can she unravel the truth about what happened there all those years ago? And will she finally find a place to call home?

My Friday Post: Book Beginnings & The Friday 56

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 my book is Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge, a novel about the four days of Titanic’s doomed maiden voyage in 1912.

15th April 1912

He said, ‘Save yourself if you can,’ and I said firmly enough, though I was trembling and clutching at straws, ‘I intend to. Will you stand at my side?’ To which he replied, ‘Remember, Morgan, not the height, only the drop, is terrible.’ Then he walked away, gait unsteady, the cord of his robe trailing the deck.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

Page 56 – 57:

Since I was nineteen my uncle had been trying to fix me up with employment. How often had I heard him thunder that it was the duty of the wealthy to work? A poor man without a job, he held, was less despicable than a rich man who became idle.

Morgan is the nephew of J.P. Morgan the American financier.

From Amazon:

For the four fraught, mysterious days of her doomed maiden voyage in 1912, the Titanic sails towards New York, glittering with luxury, freighted with millionaires and hopefuls. In her labyrinthine passageways the last, secret hours of a small group of passengers are played out, their fate sealed in prose of startling, sublime beauty, as Beryl Bainbridge’s haunting masterpiece moves inexorably to its known and terrible end.