My Friday Post: And the Mountains Echoed

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.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is one of the books I’ve borrowed from the mobile library. It’s due back next week and I’m hoping I can renew it if I don’t finish it by the time the library van comes on Tuesday.

And the Mountains Echoed

It begins:

Fall 1952

So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one. But just the one. Don’t either of you ask for more.

How could a book lover not like this opening!

Description – Amazon UK

Ten-year-old Abdullah would do anything for his younger sister. In a life of poverty and struggle, with no mother to care for them, Pari is the only person who brings Abdullah happiness. For her, he will trade his only pair of shoes to give her a feather for her treasured collection. When their father sets off with Pari across the desert to Kabul in search of work, Abdullah is determined not to be separated from her. Neither brother nor sister know what this fateful journey will bring them.

And the Mountains Echoed is a deeply moving epic of heartache, hope and, above all, the unbreakable bonds of love.

~~~

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.

Today I’m quoting from page 55 instead of page 56 as it relates back to the opening sentences:

Lately he thought a lot about the story Father had told them the night before the trip to Kabul, the old peasant Baba Ayub and the div. Abdullah would find himself on a spot where Pari had once stood, her absence like a smell pushing up from the earth beneath his feet, and his legs would buckle, and his heart would collapse in on itself, and he would long for a swig of the magic potion the div had given Baba Ayub so he too could forget.

~~~

I borrowed this book because I loved Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, one of the most devastating and heartbreaking stories I’ve read.

What about you? Does it tempt you or would you stop reading? 

 

A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale

A Perfectly Good Man

5*

Having read Notes from an Exhibition earlier this year I expected to like Patrick Gale’s A Perfectly Good Man, so I’m delighted to say that I loved it.

I have read plenty of books that move backwards and forwards in time and move from one character to another, but not one like A Perfectly Good Man, that does it so successfully that you don’t experience any confusion or struggle to remember who is who – at least that was my experience with this book. It’s set in Cornwall, in particular in Pendeen and Morvah, north-west of Penzance, the setting for Notes from an Exhibition.

The ‘perfectly good man‘ is Barnaby Johnson, a parish priest, a man who always tries to do the right thing; needless to say he doesn’t always manage it. There’s his wife, Dorothy, who becomes known, not appropriately as ‘Dot’, his daughter, Carrie, his adopted Vietnamese son ‘Jim’, who, in the course of the book, reverts to his native name ‘Phuc’, pronounced to rhyme with ‘foot’ and not ‘luck’, and a particularly nasty character who calls himself ‘Modest Carlsson’.

But the novel begins with Lenny, aged 20, who is paralysed after an accident playing rugby and is in a wheelchair. He is unable to cope with the prospect of a life never being able to run or  walk again, a life of people making allowances for him, of charity; he had lived for nights out with his girlfriend,and for rugby. He asks Barnaby to be with him as a witness to his suicide and to pray for him.

I got to know these people very well over the course of the book and eventually understand their individual stories and how their lives interconnect. The significance of their actions not only on themselves but on the others around them became so real as I read on – for example, Dot’s anguish over her miscarriages and the consequences, not just on her and the boy, but on the whole family and community, of adopting a Vietnamese orphan is agonisingly plain. I was pleased to see glimpses of some characters from Notes from an Exhibition as they made fleeting appearances, and a return of Morwenna Middleton to the area, which explained what had happened to her after the events of Notes from an Exhibition. Modest Carlsson is the antithesis of Father Barnaby in his cruel and heartless behaviour in destroying what is a treasured possession and in revealing a devastating secret that he should have kept to himself.

A Perfectly Good Man is a beautifully written book about faith and the loss of faith, about love and cruelty and deception, about ordinary life and about everyday tragedies, and also sublime moments. It’s a quiet novel that left me feeling I must read more of Patrick Gale’s books. Fortunately I already have one more on my shelves, A Place Called Winter historical fiction described as a novel of forbidden love, secrets and escape and in The Times as a novel ‘written with intelligence and warmth’.

My copy:

  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate 2012
  • ISBN-13: 9780007465088
  • Source: Library book
  • My rating: 5*

 

Books Read in September 2018

How my reading habits have changed! It was only a few years ago that I read mostly paper books, but these days I read mostly e-books – six out of the nine books I read in September are e-books. Another major change is the amount of review copies I read. This month I read five review copies that came to me via NetGalley. I also read one library book and the other three books are all my own books – but only one of those is an actual physical book! And only one of the nine books is non-fiction.

They range from 5 star to 2 star books and are a mix of crime and historical fiction plus one biography. My ratings are based solely on my reactions to the books.

I’ve written about five of these books – click on the links to read my reviews:

  1. The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry 5* – historical fiction set in Edinburgh in 1847 as Dr James Young Simpson, a professor of midwifery, discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform.
  2. The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin by Georges Simenon 3.5* – one of the early Maigret books, set in Belgium not France.
  3. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Karen Morton 3* – historical fiction set over multiple time-lines and with multiple narrators. I loved parts of it and it’s richly descriptive, but found it hard to keep track of all the characters and separate strands of the story.
  4. Appleby’s End by Michael Innes 3* – an Inspector Appleby book. It’s surreal, a macabre fantasy with a  complex and completely unrealistic plot and strange characters.
  5. Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge 2.5* – crime fiction, a DI Helen Grace murder mystery, tense and dark with several twists and turns. Not my favourite book of the month!

Here are some brief notes about the remaining four books:

Dead Woman WalkingDead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton 5* – Sharon Bolton is a brilliant storyteller and this is a brilliant book – complex, very cleverly plotted, full of suspense and completely gripping with great characters and set in Northumberland. It begins with a balloon flight that ends in disaster and only Jessica survives as the balloon crashes to the ground, but she is pursued by a man who is determined to kill her.  I loved this book.

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match

Wedlock:  How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore 4* – a biography of Mary Eleanor Bowes, who was one of Britain’s richest young heiresses. Her first husband was the Count of Strathmore – the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, was a direct descendant of their marriage. Her second marriage to Andrew Robinson Stoney was an absolute disaster. He was brutally cruel and treated her with such violence, humiliation, deception and kidnap, that she lived in fear for her life. This is non-fiction and is full of detail, but even so it reads like a novel.

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck 4* –  the story of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly re-enact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. I enjoyed this beautifully written book, which begins slowly, but not as much as The Grapes of Wrath, which I thought was amazing. It’s long – too long really – and to my mind it reads like a morality tale of good versus evil. There are many parallels to the Bible stories, with surely one of the most evil characters ever in Cathy. I liked the way Steinbeck set out the moral dilemmas and gave the characters choice using the Hebrew word ‘timshel‘, meaning ‘thou mayest’.

The Gaslight Stalker (Esther & Jack Enright Mystery #1)The Gaslight Stalker by David Field 2* – historical crime fiction set in London in 1888. This was a disappointing book, that provides a new solution to the Jack the Ripper murders. There are two elements to the plot and I don’t think they mixed well. I liked the historical facts based on the evidence in the Jack the Ripper case and thought they were well written, if a little repetitive. But the romance between Esther, a young seamstress and Jacob Enright, a young police officer, felt out of place and is too simplistically narrated.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Fall 2018 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday new

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This is the first time I’m taking part.

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 Top Ten Books On My Fall 2018 TBR.  Autumn (Fall) begins on 23 September and I have so many books to choose from – new releases, review copies,  and library books. Here are just some of the books that I’m hoping to read before winter sets in. I’m not sure these are my top ten – only time will tell:

New Releases coming in October

In a House of Lies (Inspector Rebus, #22)Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)The Reckoning

  • In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin – the 22nd Rebus book. I’ve read all the previous books, so this is a must for me.
  • Tombland by C J Sansom – the 7th Shardlake book, historical fiction – also a must read, having read the previous 6 books.
  • The Reckoning by John Grisham – not too sure about this one. Years ago I read loads of his books and then stopped as I felt they became rather formulaic.

Review copies (some are new releases)

  • Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller – historical fiction set in 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars. A new-to-me author, but an award winning author.
  • Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge – the 8th DI Helen Grace thriller – another new-to-me author, with good reviews for his books.

  • Absolute Truth by Peter James – a standalone thriller. One of my favourite authors.
  • Timekeepers by Simon Garfield – non-fiction about our obsession with time,  promises to be fascinating.

Library books

In a Dark, Dark WoodHag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare)Destroying Angel (Damian Seeker #3)

  • In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware – a psychological thriller – I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it more than The Woman in Cabin 10.
  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood – The Tempest retold, one of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project novels.
  • Destroying Angel by S G MacLean – the third Damian Seeker book, historical crime fiction. I loved the previous two books.

My Friday Post: The Accordionist by Fred Vargas

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 Accordionist by Fred Vargas, a book I reserved at the library and collected yesterday. It’s the third book in her Three Evangelists series.

The Accordionist (Three Evangelists)

It begins:

Paris, July, 1997

‘PARIS KILLER STRIKES AGAIN! SEE PAGE 6.’

Louis Kehlweiler threw the newspaper down on the table. He’d seen enough and felt no urge to turn to page 6. Later maybe, when the whole business had calmed down, he’d cut out the article and file it.

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.
  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:

‘I want to know what the cops think about these two murders, what lines they’re following, and how far they’ve got.’

Description (Amazon)

When two Parisian women are murdered in their homes, the police suspect young accordionist Clément Vauquer. As he was seen outside both of the apartments in question, it seems like an open-and-shut case.

Desperate for a chance to prove his innocence, Clément disappears. He seeks refuge with old Marthe, the only mother figure he has ever known, who calls in ex-special investigator Louis Kehlweiler.

Louis is soon faced with his most complex case yet and he calls on some unconventional friends to help him. He must show that Clément is not responsible and solve a fiendish riddle to find the killer…

~~~

I’ve been looking forward to reading The Accordionist since I finished Dog Will Have His Day, the second book in Fred Vargas’ Three Evangelists series. I love her books. She writes such quirky crime fiction, with eccentric characters and intricate plots that I love and find so difficult to solve.

What about you? Does it tempt you or would you stop reading? 

 

Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas

Dog Will Have His Day (The Three Evangelists, #2)

I enjoyed the first book in Fred Vargas’ Three Evangelists series so much – see my review – that I decided to read the next one Dog Will Have His Day  and I’ve reserved the third book, The Accordionist at the library. I love Fred Vargas’s books. She writes such quirky crime fiction, with eccentric characters and intricate plots that I love and find so difficult to solve.

The three ‘Evangelists’ are thirty-something historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien, all specialists in three different periods of history, who live in a rambling house in Paris. Actually there are only two of the three Evangelists in Dog Will Have His Day – Marc and Mathias – who help ex-special investigator Louis Kehlweiler, to uncover the mystery surrounding a tiny fragment of human bone Louis had found.

Louis is another one of Vargas’ eccentric characters, known variously as Ludwig/Louis, the son of a French woman and a German soldier, he carries Bufo, a toad, around in his pocket and even talks to it. Even though he is retired he still keeps newspaper cuttings and files on any criminal activity of any kind, which is where Marc helps him. And he also still keeps watch on all his observation posts, numbering the public benches and even trees in the Paris parks.  Sitting on bench 102 one evening he had seen a pile of dog excrement on a grid around a tree. This annoyed him – he didn’t like his lookout posts to be fouled – but the next morning the rain had washed the grid clean and all that remained from the dog poo was the tiny bone. The bone, which turned out to be the top joint of a big toe, probably that of an elderly woman, convinces Louis that a murder has taken place. And, of course, he has to find out who it had belonged to and what had happened.

His search takes him and Marc to a small fishing village in Finistére in Brittany, where they are later joined by Mathias, in the hope of identifying the victim and the murderer. There Louis not only comes across an ex-girlfriend, discovers the answer to a mystery in his own family history, but he also discovers that an old woman, Marie had been found dead on the beach. It had been recorded as an accidental death but Louis is convinced she was murdered – but who killed her and why?

This really is a strange murder mystery, full of bizarre events and characters – plus an extraordinary machine that prints out vague answers to questions. I found it compelling reading. I see from the synopsis of The Accordionist that Louis is also in the third book in the series with the three ‘Evangelists’ – I’m hoping my reserved copy will be available from the library soon.

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (9 April 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099589885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099589884
  • Source: Library book
  • My rating 4.5*

The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

The Three Evangelists (Three Evangelists, #1)

I love Fred Vargas’s books. She writes such quirky crime fiction, with eccentric characters and intricate plots that I find so difficult to solve.

The Three Evangelists, set mainly in Paris, is an excellent example and the three title characters are thirty-something historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien, all specialists in three different periods of history and all down on their luck. Together with Marc’s uncle and godfather, Armand Vandoosler, an ex-policeman,  they have just moved into a ‘tumbledown disgrace’ of a house next door to retired opera singer Sophia Siméonidis and her husband Pierre. When a tree unexpectedly appears in Sophia’s garden she asks for their help in digging around the tree to see if something has been buried there. They find nothing but soil.

Then Sophia disappears and her body is found burned to ashes in a car. The evangelists and Armand use their expertise to find out what happened. Did her husband kill her, or her best friend; had she run off with an ex-lover and how does her niece figure in the mystery?

Sophia’s past life comes under scrutiny by the three historians, helped by Vandoosler and his friend, a current policeman. The trail leads back into Sophia’s past as an opera singer, a past full of intrigue, jealousy and desire. I loved all the characters in particular the three historians, each one unique, entertaining and completely eccentric. The clever plot had me completely bamboozled and the ending was so unexpected as the twists and turns had led me up the wrong garden path, so to speak.

Now, I’m keen to read the other two books in the series – Dog Will Have His Day and The Accordionist.

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Jan. 2007) (First published in 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099469553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099469551
  • Source: Library book
  • My rating 4.5*