New-to-me books this week are Naming the Bones by Louise Welsh,Â and The Sisters who would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle.
Louise Welsh is the author of The Cutting Room, a dark mystery, which I read several years ago and thought was good, if rather scary. Naming the Bones looks promising:
Knee-deep in the mud of an ancient burial ground, a winter storm raging around him, and at least one person intent on his death: how did Murray Watson end up here? (Blurb on the back cover)
Dipping into the book I see that the story moves from Edinborough and Glaslow to the Isle of Lismore a small island off the west coast of Scotland. I’m tempted to start reading at once and as I’m nearing the end of Barbara Vine’s A Dark Adapted Eye I think this will be my next book.
I seem to be drawn these last few months to the Tudor period. Having read fiction – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Thomas Cromwell)Â and currently reading Portrait of an Unknown Woman (Thomas More’s family) I also bought a book of non-fiction, namely The Sisters who would be Queen: the tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey by Leanda de Lisle. This is the story of the tumultuous lives of Lady Jane Grey, known as the “Nine-Day Queen”, Â and her sisters. I nearly didn’t buy this book as I don’t like pictures of headless women on book covers!Â But the blurb by Julian Fellowes attracted my attention:
An enthralling story of tyranny and betrayal … meticulous history that reads like a bestselling novel.
I bought these books in a real bookshop – Main Street Books in St Boswell’s. I first found out about this shop from Cornflower’s blogÂ (where she has lovely photos of the shop)Â and it is a real find – not only books, but a cafe and gift shop and they also sell antiques. We’d been to Melrose and stopped in Main Street Books on the way home (just a short detour), where we browsed and had lunch.
Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading.
I have just one ‘find’ this week. I’ve only recently discovered how good Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie novels are. There are seven in the series and I’ve read just two of them so far. The latest one in the series is due out in September. It is:
The Charming Quirks of Others
Description from the publishers Little, Brown Book Group:
Isabel Dalhousie, Edinburgh philosopher and curious observer of the behaviour of her fellow man, is approached by a friend at a local boarding school that is planning to appoint a new headmaster; an anonymous letter has arrived suggesting that one of the shortlisted candidates has a compromising past. But which one is it? Isabel is once again drawn into an investigation, and finds herself exploring dilemmas of human weakness and forgiveness. She turns to her fiancÃ© Jamie for advice, but he too appears to have something to hide . . .
That gives me time to catch up reading the others in the series before this one is published (links to Alexander McCall Smith’s website):
The Sunday Philosophy Club
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
The Right Attitude to Rain – read
The Careful Use of Compliments – read
The Comfort of Saturdays – waiting to be read
The Lost Art of Gratitude
I went shopping today and found these three books in my local secondhand bookshop:
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens, his unfinished last novel. I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I read Drood by Dan Simmons. Dickens’s daughter called this a tale of ‘the tragic secrets of the human heart.’
- Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot investigates Emily’s death from falling down the stairs, apparently caused by a rubber ball left there by her dog. I’m slowly reading my way through Christie’s books.
- Elizabeth Gaskell: a Habit of Stories by Jenny Uglow, described in the blurbs as an’absorbing book’, portraying ‘Gaskell’s hectic life so richly that you feel lost when the story suddenly stops’, ‘a long book you wish longer.’ I like both literary biographies and Elizabeth Gaskell’s books. I have high hopes for this book.
I also went to the library and borrowed:
- The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction by Barry Forshaw. This looks an excellent source of information on the various sub-genres of crime fiction, from the Golden Age of classic mysteries through to Crime in Translation. I may have to buy a copy of this book.
- Family Album by Penelope Lively, her latest novel (the 16th) about the secrets that lie beneath the surface of a seemingly ordinary family. I haven’t read all of her other books, but have greatly enjoyed the ones I have read. I hope this one will be as good.
We had to take a CD back to the library today, so I thought I’d just see what was on the shelves, not intending to borrow any more books as I already have more than I can read for months ahead.
But when I saw The Breaking Point, short stories by Daphne du Maurier was on the “new in” stand I wanted to read it so I thought I might as well see if there were any more books I’d like to borrow. The blurb on the back cover tells me that The Breaking Point is a collection of “suspenseful tales in which fantasies, murderous dreams and half-forgotten worlds are exposed … often chilling, sometimes poignant, these stories display the full range of Daphne Du Maurier’s considerable talent.”
I felt it would be good to know more about the local area, so I looked in the Local History section and came away with 100 Days on Holy Island: a Writer’s Exile by Peter Mortimer. Holy Island, off the coast of north-east England is not far from where I now live. This book is an account of Peter Mortimer’s time on the island, cut off twice a day by the tides, exploring the landscape, people and myths. Peter Mortimer is a playwright and poet.
I’ve recently been reading King Arthur’s Bones by The Medieval Murderers and enjoyed the stories by Philip Gooden, one of the authors. So I looked to see if there were any of his Shakespearean Murder Mysteries, featuring Nick Revill. There was just one on the shelf – An Honourable Murderer. I see from Fantastic Fiction that this is his sixth Nick Revill book – ah well, maybe the library has his earlier books too. This one is set in 1604, with James I newly on the throne. Nick’s theatre company, the King’s Men, are part of the ceremonial celebrations. Nick investigates a number of suspicious deaths.
Books I’ve come across recently that I’d like to read, from three favourite authors:
Isa and May by Margaret Forster.
Amazon: The curiously named Isamay, a would-be academic, is trying to write a coherent thesis about grandmothers in history – from Sarah Bernhardt and George Sand to the matriarchal Queen Victoria and other influential grannies – while constantly ambushed by the secrets her own family has been keeping. An only child, she is named after her grandmothers, Isa and May, who were there at her birth and who have formed and influenced her in very different ways. Jealous of each other, they both want to be first in their granddaughter’s affections. … this is an unusual story about grandmothers and their potentially powerful role in family life, about nature vs nurture, bloodlines and bridges across generations.
The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble.
Amazon: This is a beautifully written and deeply personal book on the jigsaw puzzle and the part it plays in the puzzle of its distinguished author’s life. It is a mix of memoir, jigsaw history and the strange delights of puzzling. … In “The Pattern in the Carpet”, she describes the history of this uniquely British form of meditation, from its earliest incarnation as a dissected map, used as a teaching tool in the late eighteenth century, to the other cut-outs and mosaics that have amused children and adults from Roman times until today. … an original and moving personal history about ageing and the authenticity of memory; about the importance of childhood play; and, how we rearrange objects into new patterns to make sense of our past and ornament our present.
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ Myths by Phillip Pullman.
Amazon: In this ingenious and spell-binding retelling of the life of Jesus, Philip Pullman revisits the most influential story ever told. Charged with mystery, compassion and enormous power, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ throws fresh light on who Jesus was and asks the reader questions that will continue to resonate long after the final page is turned. For, above all, this book is about how stories become stories.
Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at You Should Be Reading.
This week I received a copy of The Widow’s Tale by Mick Jackson, via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers’ Programme.
I’ve never read anything by Mick Jackson before, but I’m hoping this will be good. It’s described on the back cover as
The long awaited third novel from the Booker Prize shortlisted author of Five Boys and The Underground Man.
A newly-widowed woman has done a runner. She just jumped in her car, abandoned her (very nice) house in north London and kept on driving until she reached the Norfolk coast. Now she’s rented a tiny cottage and holed herself away there, if only to escape the ceaseless sympathy and insincere concern.She’s not quite sure, but thinks she may be having a bit of a breakdown. Or perhaps this sense of dislocation is perfectly normal in the circumstances. All she knows is that she can’t sleep and may be drinking a little more than she ought to.
But as her story unfolds we discover that her marriage was far from perfect. That it was, in fact, full of frustration and disappointment, as well as one or two significant secrets, and that by running away to this particular village she might actually be making her own personal pilgrimage.
By turns elegiac and highly comical, The Widow’s Tale conjures up this most defiantly unapologetic of narrators as she begins to pick over the wreckage of her life and decide what has real value and what she should leave behind.
This meme is hosted by MizB at Should be reading.
This week I came across these books:
Love All by Elizabeth Jane Howard. This is her first new novel in nine years! I’m a bit late “discovering” it as it was published in hardback last October, but the paperback is due out on 7 August. It’s set in the West Country in the 1960s with a group of people orgainsing an arts festival. I loved her Cazalet books and have her memoir Slipstream (tbr), so I’ll be looking for Love All in the bookshops.
We Are All Made of Glue by Monica Lewycka was published a couple of weeks ago. I heard her talking about the book with Mariella Frostrup last Sunday on Open Book. It sounds good, covering some serious issues with added comedy and romance. Georgie, a failed novelist becomes a contributor to an adhesives publication. Her husband has left her and she meets her elderly Jewish neighbour Mrs Shapiro. Mrs Shapiro lives in a crumbling, filthy house along with a load of incontinent cats. We Are All Made of Glue combines together such disparate strands as the Arab-Israeli conflict, care for the elderly and different types of glue that binds us all together.
I’m a map addict, so I like the look of Mike Parker’s book Map Addict: a Tale of Obsession, Fudge and the Ordnance Survey. According to the product description this combines history, travel, politics, memoir and oblique observation in a highly readable, and often very funny, style.
Then there is The Book of Weeds by Ken Thompson. I really need help getting rid of the ground elder that’s threatening to take over our garden. Maybe this will help.
And finally, Hatfield’s Herbal: the Curious Stories of Britain’s Wild Plants, which “describes the properties of over 150 native plants, and the customs that surround them: from predicting the weather with seaweed to using deadly nightshade to make ladies’ pupils dilate appealingly, and from ensuring a husband’s faithfulness with butterbur to warding off witches by planting a rowan tree. Filled with stories, folklore and remedies both strange and practical, this is a memorable and eye-opening guide to the richness of Britain’s heritage.”
I’m not too sure about even picking deadly nightshade let alone using it on my eyes!
Yesterday The BookPeople catalogue came, with some good offers. If I didn’t already have Anita Shreve’s books I’d have to buy this set – 10 books for £9.99. You’ll get:
The Weight of Water
All He Ever Wanted
The Pilot’s Wife
Strange Fits of Passion
Light on Show
Where or When
A Wedding in December
This doesn’t include the first one of hers I read which is Fortune’s Rocks, the first one in the series of books set in a large beach house (that used to be a convent) on the New Hampshire coast. The other books in the series are The Pilot’s Wife and Body Surfing. I think Fortune’s Rocks is the best one of these three.
Nor does it include The Last Time They Met which I loved. I was completely surprised by the ending – I just hadn’t seen it coming. I’ve since read reviews where people say it’s predictable, but to me it was totally unexpected. If you look at the end of a book before you’ve finished it – don’t with this book! I’m glad I didn’t. This is one I definitely want to re-read because I want to know how I read it knowing the ending.
On Thursday I received Beachcombing by Maggie Dana. Maggie had emailed me about her new book and a copy was with me almost immediately. I like the cover picture – it looks so summery. It’s her first novel and is described on the back cover as
Funny, sophisticated and wise, Beachcombing is a coming-of-age-middle-age story about girlfriends when you’re no longer a girl, about growing up when you’re alread grown up, and the price you’re willing to pay for the love of your life.
Earlier in the week I was chatting to our librarian and she mentioned The Clatter of Forks and Spoons by Richard Corrigan, which I must borrow from the library. I think I have too many cookery books already but I do like to browse new ones and I may even be tempted to buy this one!
I always like watching Great British Menu and Richard Corrigan has previously won three of the competitions – one to cook for the Queen on her 80th birthday when he cooked the starter – smoked salmon with Irish soda bread, woodland sorrel and cress – one to cook for the Ambassadors at the British Embassy in Paris – the fish course €“ whole poached wild salmon and duck egg dressing with wheaten bread and country butter. He was also the winner of the Great British Dinner Christmas Menu in 2006.
The current series of The Great British Menu (click on this link gets you to the recipes) is on BBC2 – cooking for the British Forces returning from the war in Afghanistan. It’s the final next week and we, the public, can vote for each course. I have my favourites and maybe I’ll even pick up the phone to cast my vote.
Have a look over here for more Friday Finds.
Today I received newbooks magazine full of details of new books, articles and interviews.
I’m particularly interested in this book due out in paperback on 1 June:
Corvus: a Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson – about sharing a house with birds. Not just any birds – these are a rook called Chicken, a magpie called Spike and a crow called Ziki.
The Possession of Mr Cave by Matt Haig – a dark and scary story about an over-protective father, “a demented, controlling patriarch ruled by snobbery and prejudice who despised just about everything in the modern world.” This book is to be published in paperback on 7 May.