My Friday Post: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

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.

I’m currently reading The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths.

The Stranger Diaries

‘If you’ll permit me,’ said the Stranger, ‘I’d like to tell you a story.’

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 54 and page 56:

Ty could be drunk or on drugs for all I know. high on something, the modern equivalent of opium, like Wilkie Collins.

Blurb:

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Library Book Reservations

Liby Bks June 2019

Why is it that when I reserved these four books at separate times over a period of months they all arrive within one week? And I now have only until the beginning of July in which to read them?  I have a feeling I won’t make it, so I hope no one else has reserved them …

I think I’d better start with I Know Who You Are or The Stranger Diaries, as I suspect other library members will have also reserved them.

 I want to read I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney as I loved her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths is a standalone gothic thriller. Although I began by loving her Ruth Galloway books I’ve not read all of them, finding her use of the present tense jarring, but I’ve loved her Stephens and Mephisto books. I’m hoping The Stranger Diaries will be just as good.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case. Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary – writing that isn’t hers.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to renew The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan and The Riviera Set by Mary S Lovell.

I reserved The Scholar after I finished reading The Ruin as I wanted to know more about Detective Cormac Reilly and his girlfriend, Emma.

When Emma stumbles across the victim of a hit and run early one morning, Cormac is first on the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him. The dead girl is carrying an ID, that of Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company. Darcy Therapeutics has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own ground-breaking research. The investigation into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure. As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself.

When I read Cath’s review of The Riviera Set: 1920 – 1960: The Golden Years of Glamour and Excess on her blog Read Warbler I thought it sounded fascinating, not really expecting it to be such a hefty tome. The library copy is a hardback and it weighs a ton!  It’s social history and I’m hoping it’ll be a nice change from crime fiction.

The Riviera Set is the story of the group of people who lived, partied, bed-hopped and politicked at the Château de l’Horizon near Cannes, over the course of forty years from the time when Coco Chanel made southern French tans fashionable in the twenties to the death of the playboy Prince Aly Khan in 1960. At the heart of this was the amazing Maxine Elliott, the daughter of a fisherman from Connecticut, who built the beautiful art deco Château and brought together the likes of Noel Coward, the Aga Khan, the Windsors and two very saucy courtesans, Doris Castlerosse and Daisy Fellowes, who set out to be dangerous distractions to Winston Churchill as he worked on his journalism and biographies during his ‘wilderness years’ in the thirties.

After the War the story continued as the Château changed hands and Prince Aly Khan used it to entertain the Hollywood set, as well as launch his seduction of and eventual marriage to Rita Hayworth.

At least I’m not going to run out of anything to read now …

My Friday Post: The Greedy Queen by Annie Gray

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.

The book I’m featuring this week is The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria by Annie Gray, a library book.

Greedy Queen

 

In July 2005 a pair of extraordinarily large bloomers were auctioned in Wiltshire. They sold for £12,900, breaking the record for the previous pair of similarly generously proportioned underwear, which fetched £6,200 a year earlier, and the news of their sale was widely reported across the media.

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:

Once again she complains of headaches and lethargy, and turned to food as a solace. Creevey remarked that, ‘she eats as heartily as she laughs, I think I may say she gobbles.’

Blurb:

What does it mean to eat like a queen? Elizabeth gorged on sugar, Mary on chocolate and Anne was known as ‘Brandy Nan’. Victoria ate all of this and more. The Greedy Queen celebrates Victoria’s appetite, both for food and, indeed, for life.

Born in May 1819, Victoria came ‘as plump as a partridge’. In her early years she lived on milk and bread under the Kensington system; in her old age she suffered constant indigestion yet continued to over-eat. From intimate breakfasts with the King of France, to romping at tea-parties with her children, and from state balls to her last sip of milk, her life is examined through what she ate, when and with whom. In the royal household, Victoria was surrounded by ladies-in-waiting, secretaries, dressers and coachmen, but below stairs there was another category of servant: her cooks. More fundamental and yet completely hidden, they are now uncovered in their working environment for the first time.

Voracious and adventurous in her tastes, Queen Victoria was head of state during a revolution in how we ate – from the highest tables to the most humble. Bursting with original research, The Greedy Queen considers Britain’s most iconic monarch from a new perspective, telling the story of British food along the way.

~~~

With chapters on kitchens, cooks, and ordinary eating as well as extraordinary eating this is a different look at Queen Victoria’s life and reign plus an appendix of modernised recipes.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

 

The Broken Mirror by Jonathan Coe

A fable for all ages about a mirror which reflects an alternative world

The Broken Mirror

Unbound|November 2017|81 pages|Library book|4*

The Broken Mirror was first published in Italian in 2012. It is a collaboration between novelist Jonathan Coe and Chiara Coccorese, an Italian artist, and is described as ‘a political parable for children, a contemporary fairy tale for adults, and a fable for all ages.. It’s published by Unbound, a publishing house funded directly by readers  

The hardback book is lovely to hold and the coloured illustrations are beautiful. It tells the story of Claire, a little girl of eight, who finds a fragment of a broken mirror in a rubbish dump behind her house. This is no ordinary mirror, as what she sees reflected in it is a beautiful world so unlike the real world around her. It’s a world full of colour, where her house is transformed into a castle, just like the sandcastle she had built at the beach on holiday – a fairy tale world, so much more exciting and magical than the real world. As Claire’s father remarks, Claire lives in a dream world.

By the time Claire reaches her teens she doesn’t look in the mirror as often. But she is dissatisfied with her life and, seeing her home town being spoilt by property developers and how badly immigrants are treated, she begins to look into it more and more, where she sees a better way of life. Then Claire meets other people who also have a fragment of broken mirror  – she is not alone with her dreams of a better world.

It is well written and I enjoyed reading it. Coe shows a society in crisis and how it might be improved. It’s a simple story, simply told but presenting important issues, ending with the possibility of a better future.

Library Loans

These are just some of the books I’ve recently borrowed from the library:

Library bks April 2019

  • The Broken Mirror by Jonathan Coe, Illustrations by Chiara Coccorese. This little book looked a bit out of place on the adult fiction shelves so I picked it up and the blurb on the back cover made me even more curious – ‘a political parable for children, a contemporary fairy tale for adults, and a fable for all ages.’ It shouldn’t take me long to read – 81 pages, including the illustrations – so I hope to write more about it soon.
  • The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida with an introduction by David Mitchell. Naoki was only thirteen when he wrote this book. I’m sure I’ve read about this book somewhere, but I can’t think where or in what context, but I think that was why this book caught my eye.
  • After the Party by Cressida Connolly, historical fiction as Phyllis looks back at her life during World War Two. This is a book several bloggers have written about and I thought I’d like to read it. It’s on this year’s shortlist for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction along with A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey,  The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey and Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller. I’ve read the last two and enjoyed them both.
  • Faithful Place by Tana French. I couldn’t come away from the library without a crime fiction novel – this is the third  book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. It’s a psychological mystery focusing on the police force set in present day Dublin.

The Seeker by S G MacLean

The Seeker (Damian Seeker, #1)

Quercus/ 9 May 2016/Paperback/ 432 pages/ Library Book/ 4*

The Seeker by S G MacLean is the first book in her Damian Seeker series, historical crime fiction set during the Interregnum under Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector. This one is set in 1654. I’ve read the second and third books in the series and whilst I  was happy to read them as standalones now I’ve read the first one I think it would have better if I had read them in order.

Damian Seeker, Captain of Cromwell’s Guard, works for John Thurloe, Cromwell’s Chief Secretary and spy master, in charge of the security of the regime, running a virtual secret service. He is an enigmatic character, and very little is revealed about his background until very near the end of the book. In the later books, particularly in the third, Destroying Angel, I learnt a lot more about him.

Like the later books The Seeker transported me to another time and place. It was as though I was back in England in the 17th century, a place of unrest, teeming with spies, exiles and assassins. Agents, sometimes clergymen or merchants, working for Cromwell, infiltrated the Royalists abroad supporting the future Charles II; the universities too were useful with dons expert at deciphering coded messages, and there was a highly effective postal service intercepting mail to suspect individuals before being resealed and delivered. And in London, bookshops, taverns and coffee houses were places where conversations were overheard and reported to the authorities.

England in 1654 is a Republic in name only, Parliament had been dissolved in 1653 and Cromwell was appointed as Lord Protector – King in all but name, he lived in the former Palaces of Whitehall and Hampton Court and his generals imposed even greater restrictions on the freedoms of the public.

It’s a complex novel, as Seeker investigates the murder of Lieutenant John Winter, one of Cromwell’s favoured officers in his New Model Army. He had found Elias Ellingworth, a radical lawyer and journalist, and an outspoken critic of Cromwell’s regime, standing over the bleeding body clutching a knife. But Seeker is not convinced of his guilt and thus the search for the real culprit begins. It takes in royalist plots, the slave trade, dodgy merchants’ deals and an attempt on Cromwell’s life. There are many characters and I had little idea who had killed Winter until right at the end, so I read eagerly trying to work it all out.

Having read three of  the series I particularly like Damian Seeker. He is definitely a man to have on your side, a man both respected and feared, and a man to trust. The books are based on solid historical research (S G Maclean has an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Aberdeen) bringing the atmosphere and tenor of the 1650s to life before my eyes. I particularly liked all the detail about Kent’s Coffee House. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wanting to know more about the period and Cromwell I’ve bought Antonia Fraser’s book, Cromwell: Our Chief of Men.

The Bear Pit, the fourth book in the Seeker series, is due out on 11 July this year.

First Chapter First Paragraph: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

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.

This week I’m featuring Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This is one of those books that I’ve heard about but never got round to looking for it to read. A couple of weeks ago Fictionophile included it in her Wednesday Word post about books with the word ‘bitter‘ in the title.  It caught my eye, and I decided to look for the book in my local library.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

The Panama Hotel

(1986)

Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel. What had started as a crowd of curious onlookers eyeballing a television news crew had now swollen to a polite mob of shoppers, tourists, and a few punk-looking kids, all wondering what the big deal was. In the middle of the crowd stood Henry, shopping bags hanging at his side. He felt as if he were waking from a dream. A dream he’d once had as a little boy.

Blurb (Amazon)

1986, The Panama Hotel The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War. Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel, stands Henry Lee, and, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, he is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his young heart to, so many years ago.

~~~

Having wondered about reading this book for a while now, I’m hoping I’ll like it.

If you’ve read it I’d love to know what you thought of it. If you haven’t, does it tempt you too?