Library Loot

The mobile library came yesterday and I borrowed three books:


You Are Dead by Peter James – this is the 11th in his Roy Grace series. I’ve only read two (the first and the third) of the earlier books. I know I should probably read them in order but sometimes you have to take what’s available at the time and fill in the gaps later. I’m hoping it reads well as a stand-alone.

It’s set in Brighton and it’s about current cases of missing women and the discovery of the remains of women who went missing in the past. Are these events connected and if so how?

Duchess of Death: the Unauthorised Biography of Agatha Christie by Richard Hack, drawing on over 5000 unpublished letter, documents and notes. I’m not at all sure I shall actually read this book, but I thought I’d borrow it just to have more time to look at it. I’ve read Agatha Christie’s Autobiography, which is an excellent book that took her 15 years to write, and a few other biographies about her, some better than others.

I don’t like the title, Duchess of Death, which I suppose Hack chose for its alliteration. The jacket cover blurb says it is ‘as full of romance, travel, wealth and scandal as any whodunit she crafted.’ I have a feeling this will not be one of the better biographies.

And finally I borrowed Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, one of the Austen Project series (in which six bestselling contemporary authors write their own take on Jane Austen’s novels). I’ve been wondering whether to read any of these books for some time now and also meaning to read Val McDermid’s books, so when I saw this sitting on the mobile library’s shelves I thought why not at least have a proper look at it.

I first read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey many years ago (it could have been in the second year at Grammar School) and as far as I remember, despite loving Pride and Prejudice, I wasn’t too taken with it. I’ve been thinking of reading it again for some while now. I didn’t watch the TV adaptation a few years back, so I’m coming to both books with fresh eyes.

This is my copy with its awful cover:


Library Loot

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. 

I’m trying to reduce my TBRs, but I can’t resist borrowing library books, especially when the mobile library van stops down the road, which it did last week. I was quite restrained though and only borrowed three books. They are all books in different series, that I’m reading totally out of order:

Library bks June 2016

  • The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This is part of a cycle of novels set in the literary universe of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books of which The Shadow of the Wind, which I read before I began this blog, and The Angel’s Game, which I have not read, are the first two instalments. I wondered whether it would matter that I haven’t read The Angel’s Game but a note at the beginning of The Prisoner of Heaven assures me that the cycle of books can be read in any order as each work presents an independent, self-contained tale, connected through characters and storylines, creating thematic and narrative links.

Blurb from Amazon:

It begins just before Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from THE SHADOW OF THE WIND have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel’s father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him.

Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival …

From the back cover:

London, 1933. Two months after Usha Pramal, is found murdered in a South London canal, her brother turns to Maisie Dobbs to find the truth about her death, as Scotland Yard have failed to conduct a proper investigation.

Before her murder, Usha was staying at an ayah’s hostel, a refuge for Indian women whose British employers had turned them out. But nothing is as it seems and soon another Indian woman is killed before she can speak out. As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet alluring subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case. And at the same time her lover, James Compton, gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore …

  • Pray for the Dying by Quintin Jardine, a Bob Skinner Mystery. There are 26 books in the series set in Edinburgh and previously I’ve read just one – Fallen Gods, the 13th book. Pray for the Dying is the 23rd. I’d been meaning to read more of these books before now as I did enjoy Fallen Gods, but quite simply other books got in the way, as they do …


‘After what happened, none of us can be sure we’re going to see tomorrow.’

The killing was an expert hit. Three shots through the head, as the lights dimmed at a celebrity concert in Glasgow. A most public crime, and Edinburgh Chief Constable Bob Skinner is right in the centre of the storm. The shooters were killed at the scene, but who sent them? The crisis finds Skinner taking a step that he had sworn he never would. Tasked with the investigation of the outrage, he finds himself uncovering some very murky deeds…The trail leads to London, and a confrontation that seems too much, even for him. Can the Chief solve the most challenging mystery of his career…or will failure end it?

And now I just need to find time to read them.

Library Loot

I’ve picked up several books from the library recently (both from the mobile library van and from my local branch library) and here is a selection that I’m looking forward to reading.

Lib bks Aug 14 From top to bottom they are:

  • Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan. I’ve had this book on my wishlist since I read about it on Barbara’s blog, Views from the Countryside, so I was really pleased to see this on the library shelves. It’s a novel about Robert Louis Stevenson (who liked to be called Louis) and his American wife Fanny. Barbara thought it was wonderful and recommended it highly.
  • The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson. I chose this book because I think I’ve seen it mentioned on a few book blogs – and it has the same title as the Edgar Allen Poe story. It’s a novel about a heart transplant and I thought it would be interesting to compare it to Hazel McHaffie’s book, Over My Dead Body, also a novel about organ transplants, which I read last October.
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (a new-to-me author) – this book and the one below are both on the Longlist for the Man Booker Prize this year. Rosemary had a sister and a brother, but now she’s an only child. They’ve vanished from her life and she doesn’t know why.
  • The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt – when I saw this was on the Longlist I immediately wanted to read it because I’ve read other books by her and loved them. This one is about an artist whose work had been ignored and is described as an ‘intricately conceived diabolical puzzle’.
  • Entry Island by Peter May. I’ve borrowed this book because I loved May’s Lewis Trilogy and I want to try some of his other books. This is a standalone crime novel about the murder of a wealthy man on an island in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Detective Sime Mackenzie is sent from Montreal to investigate the murder but what had initially seemed an open-and-shut case takes on a disturbing dimension when he meets the prime suspect, the victim’s wife, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.

Library Loot

I like to support the mobile library that comes round once a fortnight. I am always amazed that in such a small selection of books I always find such a wide variety – apart from the Art books that is, the choice in that section is very limited, but I suppose most people want to read fiction.

These books are ones that I’ve borrowed recently:

Library Loot Brodrick

From top to bottom:

  • The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle – I fancied a cheerful book and as the quote on the front cover says this is ‘a feel-good book for the summer over a glass of vintage rosé’ I thought it may be just the book to read right now.

First sentence:

Shock has a chilling effect, particularly when it takes the form of an unexpected meeting with a man from whom you have recently stolen three million dollars worth of wine.

  • The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin – I’ve never read any books by Toibin, so I thought this short book, about Mary the mother of Jesus, might be the place to start. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year.

First sentence:

They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world.

  • Off the Record: a Jack Haldean Mystery by Dolores Gordon-Smith, crime fiction, described on the front cover as ‘eccentric, unusual, suspenseful and gripping’. Gordon-Smith is a new-to-me author and I came across her on Cath’s blog Read-Warbler.

First sentence:

It was the summer of 1899 when Charles Otterbourne first came to Stoke Horam.

  • The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier – I’ve liked the two books by Chevalier that I’ve read, so on the strength of that I thought I’d have a look at this historical fiction, set in Ohio in the 1850s.

First sentence:

She could not go back.

  • Four Sisters: the Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses by Helen Rappaport. A big book of biography about the tragic fate of the sisters in the dying days of the Romanov dynasty. It appeals to me, especially after seeing a programme a short while ago on the BBC The Royal Cousins at War, George (England), Willie (Germany) and Nicky (Russia).

First sentence:

The day they sent the Romanovs away the Alexander Palace became forlorn and forgotten – a palace of ghosts.

  • The Discourtesy of Death by William Brodrick, the fifth Father Anselm book. I didn’t have to think at all about whether to borrow this book as Brodrick is most definitely one of my favourite authors. His books always give me lots to think about and this one promises to do just that.

The book begins with a Prologue, but I’m quoting the first few sentences of chapter 1:

‘There is no God’, murmured Anselm.

‘You’re going a bit far there’, replied Bede, Larkwood Priory’s tubby archivist.

‘No, I’m not. This is one of those moments of insight that sent Nietzsche over the edge.’

Anselm stared in horror at the open pages of the Sunday Times, laid out for all to see, on the table in the monastery’s library. The title ran: ‘The Monk who Left it All for a Life of Crime.’

I can’t wait to read this last book, but I have to finish another library book first – Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice, a fascinating biography of twin sisters, Agnes and Margaret and their amazing travels in the 19th century to Cairo, taking a trip down the Nile and later to Mount Sinai, where they discovered one of the earliest copies of the Gospels written in ancient Syriac. This is another book recommended by Cath on her blog, Read-Warbler.

Sisters of Sinai

Library Loot/Saturday Snaphot

After my last post about reading from my own shelves I’m almost ashamed to write about the library books I’ve got out on loan at the moment.

Mobile Library Van

But you see they’re from the mobile library and if we don’t use it the service will close down and that would not be a good thing!  The library van comes once a fortnight and is an invaluable resource. And it’s so convenient as it stops just a short walk from our house.

Lib Loot Nov 13 P1090297

The books from top to bottom are:

  • In the Woods by Tana French – a book I’ve read about and have been hoping to find in the library. It’s crime fiction, a psychological thriller, a murder mystery about a little girl’s death in an Irish wood. It has very mixed reviews on Amazon UK so I’m not getting my hopes too high.
  • Below Zero by C J Box. I keep seeing Box’s name on other book blogs and have wondered about reading one of his books. This is the 9th in his Joe Pickett series – Pickett is a Wyoming game warden. Below Zero is another book about a young girl who had been killed years earlier – or had she?
  • Perfect by Rachel Joyce. This book looks intriguing – in 1972 two seconds were added to time and the question that bothers James Lowe is ‘how can time change?’ I still haven’t read Joyce’s first book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (I have a copy which will be a TBR next year), but as they are two stand-alone books that isn’t a problem.
  • The Day of the Lie by William Brodrick. I’ve read two of his earlier Father Anselm books, so I’m hoping this one is just as good. It’s yet another murder mystery – this time with a monk as the detective, described on the book cover as ‘an unforgettable tale of love, death and redemption.’

For more of this week’s Library Loot posts see The Captive Reader.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Library Loot

Library LootLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. To participate, just write up your post and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

It’s been a while since I did a Library Loot post and as I’ve got quite a pile of books out right now I thought I’d do one today.

Libr Loot Oct 13

There are three books I have on loan that I’m thinking of taking back to the library without finishing reading, all of which I’ve renewed a few times – Dominion by C J Sansom, The Assassin’s Prayer by Ariana Franklin and The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville. It’s a shame because I’ve enjoyed other books by these authors, but each time I start reading these books I lose interest and put them down and am in no hurry to pick them up again. Of course, it could just be that it’s not the right time for me to read these books.

I have actually got up to page 154 in The Assassin’s Prayer, which has 414 pages and maybe it’s just me at the moment but it seems so boring, with Adelia, Henry II’s anatomist accompanying his daughter to Sicily, lusting after Bishop Rowley and once more regretting refusing to marry him.

I haven’t read much of Dominion, but have gone off the idea of reading an alternative history of what could have happened if Britain had made peace with Germany in 1940. Similarly with The Idea of Perfection, the beginning chapters are just not interesting me – too much about bridges. It may be the large print edition that’s putting me off too.

I have finished Elly Griffith’s Dying Fall which I enjoyed despite its being written in the present tense. It’s the fifth of her Ruth Galloway books. In this book Ruth travels from her home in Norfolk up to the north of England – Lancashire, to be precise Blackpool, Lytham, Pendle, Preston and Fleetwood – because Dan Golding a friend from university has died in a house fire. He had written to her just before his death with news of an amazing find. It turns out that Dan was murdered and Ruth and Inspector Harry Nelson are instrumental in discovering the truth. It’s yet another book I’ve read about the whereabouts of King Arthur’s Bones – this time it seems he’s the Raven King. A satisfying if undemanding read.

Then there are the books I haven’t started yet, although I have dipped into them. They are:

In the Woods by Tana French – a while back book bloggers were writing enthusiastically about this book, so when I saw it on the shelf I thought I’d see if I like it too. It’s a psychological thriller, so I hope it’s not too scary!

Two Cornish mysteries by Carola Dunn – Manna from Hades and Valley of the Shadow, Cornish village murder mysteries, featuring Eleanor Trewynn recently widowed who runs a charity shop from the ground floor of her house. They’re set in Port Mabyn a fictional village sometime in the 1960s and 70s. I’ve read and enjoyed a few of the Daisy Dalrymple books set in the 1920s, so I’m hoping these will be good too.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, described on the jacket as Waugh’s most celebrated novel mourning the passing of the aristocratic world Waugh knew in his youth. I missed this when it was serialised on TV and I’ve not seen the film either, so I thought I should read this.

And last but not least a non-fiction book –  Britain’s Last Frontier: a Journey along the Highland Line by Alistair Moffat. The Highland Line marks the furthest north the Romans advanced, dividing the country geologically and culturally, marking the border between Highland and Lowland, Celtic and English-speaking, crofting and farming. This won’t be a quick read as it includes history, myth and anecdote as Moffat makes a journey both in imagination and geographically tracing the route of the Line.  I hope I’ll be able to renew this book.

Library Loot

It’s been ages since I did a Library Loot post. These reflect the variety of books that I enjoy. For more details about the books click on the links which take you to Amazon UK:

  • D H Lawrence – Daughters of the Vicar. This is a novella written in 1911. I’d never come across this before and thought it looked interesting. It has a foreword by Anita Desai – she writes that ‘here in the little story, Daughters of the Vicar (could any title be more redolent of the England of its time?) we have the essential D H Lawrence – the little contained world in a mossy valley of coal-veined hills from which that D H Lawrence grew’.
  • Kate Atkinson – Started Early, Took My Dog. This is the fourth Jackson Brodie book, described by The Times as ‘A comic novel of great wit and virtuosity.’ I’ve been meaning to get this since it came out a couple of years ago.
  • Edna O’Brien – The Country Girls. This was first published in 1960 and it’s set in a country village in Ireland in the early 1960s – a period piece now. Her books then were both successful and scandalous. In her native Ireland she was considered irreligious.
  • Guilty Consciences: a Crime Writers’ Association Anthology, edited by Martin Edwards (himself a successful crime fiction writer and blogger). I had to borrow this collection of short stories from some of my favourite crime fiction authors.
  • Peter James – Looking Good Dead. Even though I’ve had a couple of Peter James’s books for a few years I’d never read them, until I started Dead Simple (the first Detective Superintendent Grace book) this week. I’m hooked – it’s really good. So when I saw this in the library today I was delighted – it’s the second of his Roy Grace books!
  • M R Hall – The Flight. Another series of crime fiction that I like – this is the fourth in Hall’s Coroner Jenny Cooper series. I’ve read the first and the third – Jenny Cooper is a coroner who acts as a detective. Again, another series that has me captivated.

And finally, two books on a subject that is equally as absorbing as reading and blogging – painting:

Both books include demonstrations and advice on techniques, types of paint and pastels, and composition. I just need to get painting – and reading!

Library Loot/Teaser Tuesday

It’s been a while since I wrote a Library Loot post and as I went to the library today I thought I’d combine it with a Teaser Tuesday post.

I’ve dipped into each book. From top to bottom they are:

Follow Your Heart by Susanna Tamaro, translated from the Italian by Avril Bardoni. I fancied reading something different from my usual type of book – this book won the Premio Donna Citta di Roma in 1994. From the book jacket – ‘it reflects on feelings and passions and how failure to communicate leads to futility, misunderstanding and tragedy – a meditation on existence.’ An old woman writes to her granddaughter:

As I have wandered aimlessly through the empty house these last few months, the misunderstandings and bad temper that marred our years together have vanished. The memories surrounding me now are of you as a child – a vulnerable, bewildered little creature. (page 3)

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. A book I’ve known of for so many years and never read. I had no idea that it is a detective story! I love the way it begins:

Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical and nervous, anybody could tell he didn’t belong – belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind of the sea, the holiday crowd. (page 1)

I can just see the scene!

White Nights by Anne Cleeves. I’ve been looking out for this book, the second in her Shetland Quartet, ever since I enjoyed reading the first one – Raven Black. Shetland detective Jimmy Perez investigates what seems at first to be a straightforward suicide. This is my teaser:

‘I don’t know my name’, he said flatly. No drama now. ‘I can’t remember it. I don’t know my name and I don’t remember why I’m here.’ (page 16)

Sister by Rosamund Lupton. More crime fiction, a psychological thriller. I’d read about this book on a blog (sorry, can’t remember which one – it may have been more than one blog) and thought it sounded good. Beatrice’s younger sister Tess is missing. She refuses to give up looking for her and  is determined to discover the truth about Tess and what has happened to her.

For a moment, amongst the crowd, I saw you. I’ve since found out it’s common for people separated from someone they love to keep seeing that loved one among strangers; something to do with recognition units in our brain being too heated and too easily triggered. This cruel trick of the mind lasted only a few moments, but was long enough to feel with physical force how much I needed you. (page 26)

I have high hopes of all four books.

My Sunday Selection

Today I’m looking at my recent selection of library books.

When I went to my local library this week the librarian had just finished processing a pile of new additions and passed them over to me to look at. I love new library books, so clean and fresh. I chose two out of the pile and then browsed the rest of the books. These are the ones that I brought home:

The two new books are:

Great House by Nicole Krauss. I have her earlier book, The History of Love in my to-be-read piles and I’ve read one or two reviews of this book on book blogs recently and thought it sounded interesting. It’s a story centred around ‘a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or give it away‘ (taken from the book cover).

Being Polite to Hitler by Robb Foreman Dew. I’ve never heard of this book, or the author but the title caught my attention and I wondered what it could be about. It’s set in Ohio in mostly the 1950s and follows the experiences of a widowed schoolteacher and those around her. Described on the book cover as a ‘moving, frank and surprising portrait of post- World War Two America.’

I had gone to the library, specifically to look for books by Nigel Tranter, a Scottish author whose books I’d read many years ago. Reading Katrina’s post on Pining for the West about Right Royal Friend by Nigel Tranter reminded me how much I’d enjoyed them and I wondered if I’d still like them. Tranter wrote very many books, mostly historical fiction based on real people and events. There were several of his books on the shelves and I chose Envoy Extraordinary, set in the 13th century following the lives of Patrick III, Earl of Dunbar and Alexander III. Patrick played a major part in Scotland’s affairs, although he was more interested in the welfare of his people and ‘encouraging the wool production of his sheep-strewn Lammermuir Hills‘. I chose this book because the Lammermuir Hills are not too far from where we live.

The other two books I chose are:

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, a book that had Annie of Senior Common Room ‘hooked’. She wrote:

Aaronovitch brings just the right amount of cynicism about both the police service and the current social climate to his writing and as a result the book is not only very funny but also, despite the magic, recognisably about the world in which we live.  It is also, if you happen to know the parts of London about which he is writing, very well researched.

It’s a mixture of crime and fantasy – Detective Constable Peter Grant is also a trainee wizard, dealing with ‘nests of vampires, warring gods and goddesses of the River Thames and digging up graves in Covent Garden.

A Kind Man by Susan Hill, another one of her novellas, described as ‘a parable of greed and goodness and an extraordinary miracle.’ It’s set in an unspecified time period, but before the National Health Service was set up. I know from the book cover that it is the story of the marriage of Tommy Carr and his wife Eve. Tragedy strikes when their little daughter dies.

Library Loot

This is a sign that I’m a hopeless bookaholic. Despite listing books I’ve had for ages and still haven’t read – not mentioning all the to-be-read books all around the house – yesterday I went to the library and came home with these books:

  • The Fanatic by James Robertson is historical crime fiction, described on the back cover as ‘an extraordinary history of Scotland: a tale of betrayals, stolen meetings, lost memories, smuggled journeys and disguised identities.‘ I’d enjoyed his second book The Testament of Gideon Mack a few years ago. And how could I resist bringing this book home when I saw it began in Bass Rock, which is just up the coast from us – see my photo here.
  • Stories of the Railway by V L Whitechurch. From the book cover I learnt that V L Whitechurch was a celebrated crime writer and an expert railway enthusiast. He wrote a large number of crime short stories set in the golden age of Britain’s railways – this selection was originally published in 1912 as ‘Thrilling Stories of the the Railway‘. I’d read about him on Martin Edward’s blog and was pleased to find a copy on the library shelves.
  • The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez. I’d read about this book, a mix of murder and maths and wondered whether my elementary grasp of maths would be enough for me to follow the equations  and cryptic symbols involved in solving this mystery.
  • The London Train by Tessa Hadley. There seems to be a theme here in my choice, following on from the Stories of the Railway. In this book, the London train between Wales and London, connects two stories that are interlinked through ‘a single moment concerning two lives stretched between two cities’.

And last but by no means least two books on watercolour painting, because this is now taking up some of my reading time. On Thursdays I go to a local art group and dabble in paint. I mentioned this a while ago on my blog and people asked to see some of my paintings. Here are two I don’t feel too embarrassed to show: