Library Books 18 June 2022

It’s time for another Library Books post – here are my current library loans. From the bottom up they are:

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker – the continuation of the story of Troy following on from The Silence of the Girls (which I have, but have not read yet). It is a retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women of Troy who endured it. I hope I’ll be able to read both before I have to return it.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, one of my favourites of his plays. I’ve seen it performed on stage twice, once at the Barbican in London and then at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors, so I’m expecting this will be good.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Now, this is a book I’ve wondered about reading ever since I saw other book bloggers’ reviews. It seems to be a book that some people love and others don’t, varying from five to one star ratings. I started to listen to the audiobook, but had to return it unfinished. It’s described as ‘part murder-mystery, part coming-of-age novel’ set in the North Carolina marshlands.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, a Poirot murder mystery. I have read this book, but I fancied reading it again, even though I do know who murdered Mr Ratchett, an American tycoon who was murdered in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. I really like the cover of this book!

What have you been reading from the library recently?

Library Books 24 February 2022

I love libraries – here are some of the books I have on loan at the moment. I had made a few attempts to take a photo of these books and wasn’t happy with any of them. I’d left the books in a pile on the floor and was delighted to see this photo that my husband had taken – much better than any of my attempts.

Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz – because I enjoy his books, but I’m not sure I’ll like this one as much as his crime fiction books. It’s a James Bond thriller set in 1957 re-inventing the golden age of Bond, incorporating previously unseen Ian Fleming material.

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell, a Wallender thriller, again because I’ve enjoyed other books by him. This is a novella in which Wallender makes an offer on a house, and then discovers the skeleton of a middle-aged woman in the garden. What a nightmare!

Prague Nights by Benjamin Black. Black is the pen name of John Banville, another author whose books I like. This is historical crime fiction set in Prague in 1599, when the mistress of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, is killed and her body found thrown upon the snow in Golden Lane.

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, the first book in his Kindle County series, because I enjoyed the last book in the series, The Last Trial so much. This is a courtroom drama in which prosecutor Rusty Sabich stands accused of killing Carolyn with whom he had been having an affair.

Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow, historical fiction set in World War Two, described on the front cover as ‘part mystery, part thriller, this is a quietly powerful piece of fiction.’ A courtroom journalist researches the experiences of his grandfather during the War.

Library Books: February 2022

The mobile library service is back to normal now and I borrowed these books this week:

From top to bottom they are:

A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré. It’s the 9th book in his George Smiley series. I’m not sure about reading this one yet as I’ve only read 2 of the series, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. But whilst it was there on the shelves I decided to borrow it and at least start it to see if it reads like a standalone. And according to this article on the Penguin website all five of novels in the Smiley series are easily read as standalones. You do not need to read them in order but they do suggest a reading order.

Book description: Peter Guillam, former disciple of George Smiley in the British Secret Service, has long retired to Brittany when a letter arrives, summoning him to London. The reason? Cold War ghosts have come back to haunt him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of the Service are to be dissected by a generation with no memory of the Berlin Wall. Somebody must pay for innocent blood spilt in the name of the greater good . . .

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates. I’m not sure I want to read this book – it’s described on the back cover as ‘Six terrifying tales to chill the blood’.They may be too terrifying! But I have enjoyed her books before, so maybe this one will be OK.

Book description: .

In the title story, a young boy becomes obsessed with his cousin’s doll after she tragically passes away from leukemia. As he grows older, he begins to collect “found dolls” from the surrounding neighborhoods and stores his treasures in the abandoned carriage house on his family’s estate. But just what kind of dolls are they?

In “Gun Accident”, a teenage girl is thrilled when her favorite teacher asks her to house-sit, even on short notice. But when an intruder forces his way into the house while the girl is there, the fate of more than one life is changed forever.

In “Equatorial”, set in the exotic Galapagos, an affluent American wife experiences disorienting assaults on her sense of who her charismatic husband really is, and what his plans may be for her.

The Hour of Imagination by Katharine McMahon. I borrowed this because I’ve read two of her books and enjoyed them.

Book description: Estelle never really knew her mother, Fleur, but is haunted by her legacy. A legendary resistance heroine in the Great War, she had helped Allied soldiers escape from Belgium – and was not alone in paying a terrible price.

Christa’s father was one of those Fleur saved – but he returned home a ruined man. So, when Estelle arrives on Christa’s doorstep hungry for information about her mother, an intense and complex friendship is ignited.

In 1939, as conflict grips Europe once more, Estelle follows her mother’s destiny. Then Christa discovers that Fleur was betrayed by someone close to her and the truth may destroy them all…

Walden of Bermondsey by Peter Murphy. I’ve not read any of his books, so this is unknown territory for me. Peter Murphy spent a career in the law, as an advocate, teacher, and judge. He has worked both in England and the U.S., and served for several years as counsel at the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. This book is the first in his Judge Walden series.

Book description: When Charlie Walden takes on the job of Resident Judge of the Bermondsey Crown Court, he is hoping for a quieter life. But he soon finds himself struggling to keep the peace between three feisty fellow judges who have very different views about how to do their jobs, and about how Charlie should do his. And as if that’s not enough, there’s the endless battle against the “Grey Smoothies”: the humorless grey-suited civil servants who seem determined to drown Charlie in paperwork and strip the court of its last vestiges of civilization. No hope of an easy life for Charlie then, and there are times when his real job – trying the challenging criminal cases that come before him – actually seems like light relief.

I’d love to know what you think – have you read any of these books, if so did you enjoy them? If not, do they tempt you?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Servant of Death by Sarah Hawkswood

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.

Servant of Death is one of the books I’ve recently borrowed from the library. It’s historical crime fiction set in 1143 in Pershore Abbey, the first in the series of Bradecote and Catchpoll Mysteries set in the twelfth century, in Worcestershire.  

The Book Begins:

Elias of St Edmondsbury, master mason, stood with the heat of the midsummer sun on broad back and thinning pate, rivulets of sweat trickling down between his shoulder blades. The wooden scaffolding clasped the north transept of the abbey church, close as ivy.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

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:

‘He dropped to his knees, careful to avoid the dark, sticky stain, and slid his hand beneath the corpse. Feeling around tentatively, he was relieved to find the cords of the monk’s scrip, and followed them to the leather bag, which was still full. Whoever had killed him had not had time or inclination to investigate it.

Summary:

The much-feared and hated Eudo – the Lord Bishop of Winchester’s clerk – is bludgeoned to death in Pershore Abbey and laid before the altar in the attitude of a penitent. Everyone who had contact with him had reason to dislike him, but who had reason to kill him? The Sheriff of Worcestershire’s thief taker, wily Serjeant Catchpoll, and his new and unwanted superior, Undersheriff Hugh Bradecote, have to find the answer. And as the claustrophobic walls of the Abbey close in on the suspects, the killer strikes again.

This is the first book by Sarah Hawkswood that I’ve come across.

About Sarah Hawkswood, a pen name.

Sarah Hawkswood read Modern History at Oxford University and specialised in Military History and Theory of War. She turned from writing military history to mediaeval murder mysteries set in the turmoil of The Anarchy in the mid 12thC, all located in Worcestershire, where she now lives. The Bradecote & Catchpoll series began with Servant of Death (previously published as The Lord Bishop’s Clerk) and the ninth, Wolf at the Door, was published in August 2021 with the tenth, A Taste for Killing, due out in 2022.

~~~

What have you been reading lately?

Recent Loans from the Library

Guilty Creatures: A Menagerie of Mysteries edited and introduce by Martin Edwards. I like these anthologies as much, if not more, for Martin Edwards’ introductions than for the actual stories. I often find that they’re too short for my liking, but I’m hoping there will be some that will prove me wrong. This collection includes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, G K Chesterton, Edgar Wallace, Josephine Bell and Christianna Brand, among others.

The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry. During the fist lockdown I loved watching Grayson’s Art Club, Channel 4’s documentary series hosted by him and his wife, psychotherapist Philippa Perry. In this book he is looking at masculinity, particularly examining how men dominate much of our world, how men dress and act, how men resort to crime and violence, and how men feel.

Black Sheep by Susan Hill, a novella about a brother an sister who grew up in a coal mining village and yearn to escape. Neither can break free and their decisions result in brutal consequences. It sounds a bit grim!

Rescue by Anita Shreve. The last few books by Anita Shreve I’ve read haven’t been as good as her earlier ones, so I’m hoping this one won’t be disappointing. It’s about a paramedic who rescues a troubled young woman from a car crash. They start a love affair and have a daughter. Eighteen years later he is raising the girl on his own,

Servant of Death by Sarah Hawkswood, historical murder mystery set in the 12th century, the first in the Bradcote and Catchpole mystery series. The Lord Bishop of Winchester’s clerk – is bludgeoned to death in Pershore Abbey and laid before the altar in the attitude of a penitent. Who hated him enough to murder him?

The Long Way Home by Louise Perry. I thought it looked familiar and when I got home and checked my blog I realised I’d borrowed this book before – in 2018! But I took it back unread, thinking I’d try to get the first one. It’s the 10th Chief Inspector Gamache novel – and I still haven’t read any of the previous books, so maybe I’ll read this one this time.

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 I’m featuring one of my library books, Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver.

‘The simplest thing would be to tear it down,’ the man said. ‘ The house is a shambles.’

Barbara Kingsolver, who has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read The Poisonwood Bible and these opening sentences certainly drew me into the book.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

Page 56:

Willa’s mother had always promised Tig would ‘settle out’, but she hadn’t survived to see it, and now Willa wondered who among them would live long enough to stop being flabbergasted by the girl.

Set in Vineland, New Jersey, this is a dual timeline novel, about two families living in the same house – one in the present century and the other in the nineteenth.

From Amazon:

Meet Willa Knox, a woman who stands braced against a world which seems to hold little mercy for her and her family – or their old, crumbling house, falling down around them. Willa’s two grown-up children, a new-born grandchild, and her ailing father-in-law have all moved in at a time when life seems at its most precarious. But when Willa discovers that a pioneering female scientist lived on the same street in the 1800s, could this historical connection be enough to save their home from ruin? And can Willa, despite the odds, keep her family together?

Books from the Mobile Library: July 2021

I borrowed three more books from the Mobile Library last Tuesday, all by new-to-me authors. The first two books in the photo below are books I picked from the shelves at random, so they’re in the nature of a lucky dip – I may or may not enjoy them. The third book is one I reserved.

Postcards from the Past by Marcia Willett. I have never come across her books before, even though I see she has written many books. The description on the back cover of a family with a mysterious past appeals to me.

From the back cover:

Siblings Billa and Ed share their beautiful, grand old childhood home in rural Cornwall. Their lives are uncomplicated. With family and friends nearby and their free and easy living arrangements, life seems as content as can be.

But when postcards start arriving from a sinister figure they thought belonged well and truly in their pasts, old memories are stirred. Why is he contacting them now? And what has he been hiding all these years?

The Beekeeper’s Promise by Fiona Valpy. I don’t read much romantic fiction, so this book may not be for me, but the opening paragraph appealed to me. I wrote about this book in My Friday post.

The Borrowers and The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton. I’ve never read these children’s stories, although I vaguely remember watching a TV adaptation years ago.

From the book jacket:

Deep within the floorboards in the nooks and crannies of a quiet old house, live the tiny Borrowers, Pod, Homily and Arrietty Clock. They own nothing and borrow everything from the human ‘beans’ above them. And they have just one rule: they must never be seen.

Have you read any of these books? Are you tempted?

My Friday Post: The Beekeeper’s Promise by Fiona Valpy

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 one of my library books, The Beekeeper’s Promise by Fiona Valpy.

Eliane; 2017

She knew this would be her last summer. The warm caress of the late-spring sunlight couldn’t roll back the fog-like weariness that crept through her bones these days. But then there had been so many summers. Almost a hundred.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

Page 56:

That night, as the girls lay in their attic bedroom at the mill listening to the owls softly declaring their territory in the darkness, Mireille whispered, ‘Eliane? Are you awake?’

‘Yes,’ came the reply from across the room.

‘It’s been a good Easter, hasn’t it?’

There was a pause. ‘One of the best.’

Set in France at the Château Bellevue, this is the story of two remarkable women, generations apart, who must use adversity to their advantage and find the resilience deep within.

Prophecy by S J Parris

Harper Collins| 2011| 448p| Library book| 4*

Prophecy by S J Parris (a pseudonym of Stephanie Merritt) is the second book in her Giordano Bruno series of historical thrillers. Giordano Bruno was a 16th century heretic philosopher and spy. On her website Stephanie Merritt has written about how she first discovered him. Her version of Bruno is a fictional creation, though many of the situations he encounters are based on historical fact.

Bruno started out as a Dominican friar in Naples, but fled his order to escape the Inquisition, went on the run through Italy, found work as an itinerant teacher and within three years had ended up in Paris as personal tutor to the King of France. By 1583 he was in England, working for the Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham.

Prophecy begins in the autumn of 1583, when Elizabeth’s throne is in peril, threatened by Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch. I wrote about the opening of the book together with an extract from page 56 in this post. After a young maid of honour is murdered, with occult symbols carved into her flesh, Bruno is assigned to infiltrate the plotters and secure the evidence that will condemn them to death.

I think this description on the Fantastic Fiction website summarises the book very well:

It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align – an astrological phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.

When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that something far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.

Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?

In this utterly gripping and gorgeously written novel, S. J. Parris has proven herself the new master of the historical thriller.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt I was back there in 1583, in the thick of the intrigue and danger that characterised the period. I loved all the details of the court life and the interaction between the various factions, with rivalry between Catholics and Protestants, whilst the involvement of Dr John Dee intrigued me. Bruno, himself, fascinated me and now I want to know more about him and also about Stephanie Merrick’s books as well as those written under her pen name, S J Parris.

Books from the Mobile Library: June 2021

On Tuesday I borrowed three books from the mobile library, all by authors whose books I’ve read and enjoyed. I often can’t decide which books to borrow, but this week I picked these books off the shelves straight away and knew I wanted to read them:

The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier, one of my favourite authors. The first book of Daphne du Maurier’s that I read was my mother’s copy of Rebecca, which I first read as a young teenager and I loved it. Since then I’ve read most of her books, but there are a few that I haven’t read including this one. It’s a fictionalised reworking of her own family history. She was a descendant of a French master craftsman who settled in England during the French Revolution.

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, who has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read The Poisonwood Bible. It’s a long book of over 500 pages, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to renew it as I doubt I’ll managed to read it by 13 July. Set in Vineland, New Jersey, this is a dual timeline novel, about two families living in the same house – one in the present century and the other in the nineteenth. Just reading the first two sentences made me to know more – ‘The simplest thing would be to tear it down,’ the man said. ‘The house is a shambles.’

Love Without End: A Story of Heloise and Abelard by Melvynn Bragg. It was reading his Soldier’s Return trilogy that first made me want to read more of his books. This is another novel with a dual timeline. It’s set in Paris in 1117 about the love affair of Heloise and Peter Abelard and nine centuries later about Arthur as he writes a novel about the couple, aiming to bring Heloise out of history’s shadows. I’ve never read the medieval story of Abelard and Heloise, so this will all be new to me.

Have you read any of these books? Are you tempted?