WWW Wednesday: 19 December 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

It’s been over a month since I last wrote a WWW post so I thought it was time for another one.

I’m currently reading: just one book – Great Britain’s Great War by Jeremy Paxman. I began it in November because it was the 100th  anniversary of the end of the First World War and I wanted to know more about it.

Great Britain's Great War

So far I’ve read just over half the book – now just starting to read about 1916 and the situation in Ireland. It’s written chronologically, analysing the causes of the war and why people at the time believed it to be unavoidable and even necessary. Paxman writes clearly and goes into detail which means it’s not a quick read and I’m taking it slowly. He writes about the people involved – the men who enlisted and those who were conscripted, the conditions they experienced from the trenches to the French brothels they frequented. It’s also about life back in Britain and the changes the war brought about. It is fascinating.

This morning I finished:

The Division Bell Mystery

Qnother fascinating book – The The Division Bell Mystery first published in 1932 by Ellen Wilkinson, a 1930s politician, about a murder in the House of Commons.  One of the reasons I enjoyed this so much is the setting in the House of Commons and the details it gives of not only the procedures and traditions, but a look behind the scenes and what it was like for the early women MPs. It’s a good murder mystery too!

My next book could be:

It’s time to start another novel but I am torn, as usual, and am trying to decide what to read next. It will probably be The Accordionist by Fred Vargas as it is a library book dues back at the beginning of January.

The Accordionist (Three Evangelists 3)

It’s the final novel in the Three Evangelists Trilogy – I’ve read the first two. This one has the same characters – three thirty-something historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien, all specialists in three different periods of history, who live in a rambling house in Paris.

I love Fred Vargas’s quirky crime fiction, with eccentric characters and intricate plots that I find so difficult to solve. This one is about the murder of two Parisian women killed in their homes. The police suspect young accordionist Clément Vauquer and it seems like an open-and-shut case.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

First Chapter First Paragraph: Rumpole by John Mortimer

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 Rumpole by John Mortimer, one of the recent additions to my TBRs. There are many collections of John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey stories. My copy was published in 1994 by the Folio Society and has ten of the Rumpole stories – they are longish short stories, thirty to fortyish pages long.

Rumpole

I must thank Margot (Confessions of a Mystery Writer)  for reminding me about both the books and the TV series in her In the Spotlight post on Rumpole. The same day I read her post I went to Barter Books in Alnwick and found three books by John Mortimer, including this one, a great find! The collection Margot wrote about includes the first story in my collection, but the rest are different.

Mortimer has chosen ten of his favourite Rumpole stories, saying that they are

the stories I enjoyed writing most, those which made me laugh a little when I was writing them (the only reliable test of a successful piece of work), and which drew some laughter from the actors when they read through the television versions.

It begins with an Introduction:

About eighteen years ago I thought I needed a character, like Maigret or Sherlock Holmes, to keep me alive in my old age. I wanted a sort of detective, who could be the hero of a number of stories but whose personality and approach to life were more important than the crimes with which he was concerned. He would have to be a comic character, as well as being courageous and more than usually astute, because I believe life to be best portrayed as comedy.

and the first story is Rumpole and the Younger Generation, which begins:

I, Horace Rumpole, barrister at law, sixty-eight next birthday. Old Bailey hack, husband to Mrs Hilda Rumpole (known to me only as She Who Must Be Obeyed) and father to Nicholas Rumpole (lecturer in social studies at the University of Baltimore, (I have always been extremely proud of Nick); I who have a mind full of old murders, legal anecdotes and memorable fragments of the Oxford Book of English Verse ( Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s edition) together with a dependable knowledge of bloodstains, blood groups, fingerprints, and forgery by typewriter; I, who am now the oldest member of my Chambers, take up my pen at this advanced age during a lull in business (there’s not much crime about – all the best villains seem to be off on holiday in the Costa Brava) in order to write my reconstructions of some of my recent triumphs (including a number of recent disasters) in the Courts of Law, hoping thereby to turn a bob or two which won’t be immediately grabbed by the taxman, or my clerk Henry or by She Who Must Be Obeyed, and perhaps give some sort of entertainment to those, who like myself, have found in British justice a life-long subject of harmless fun.

Phew! that is just one sentence! The rest of the story is not like that and the narrative moves along briskly and as Margot says in her post there’s a great deal of wit in the stories and courtroom repartee.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard

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 The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard, one of the books I’ve borrowed from the library.

The Twilight Hour

It begins:

Eleanor woke to what was not there. Outside, the wind still roared,dashing pellets of rain against the windows; inside it was too silent, not a breath or a heartbeat save hers. The darkness felt uninhabited. Before she reached out her hand, groping past the water jug and the vase of dying flowers to touch the bed and find it empty, the blanket thrown back and the pillow dislodged, she knew she was alone. She let fear seep through her, into every space in her body. She could taste the muddy, metal ache of it in her mouth; feel it in the palms of her hands and the base of her spine and in her throat like a rippling, oily snake; she could smell it on her skin, sour as spoilt milk.

That’s a terrifying feeling to wake up with – that image of a rippling, oily snake in her throat leaves me feeling sick –  and wondering why she is so scared.

Blurb:

Eleanor Lee has lived a fiercely independent existence for over ninety years, but now it’s time to tidy her life away – books, photographs, paintings, letters – a lifetime of possessions all neatly boxed up for the last time. But amongst them there are some things that must be kept hidden. And, nearing blindness, Eleanor needs help to uncover them before her children and grandchildren do.

Peter, a young man with a broken heart who feels as lost as Eleanor’s past, is employed to help with this task. And together they uncover traces of another life – words and photographs telling a story of forbidden love, betrayal, passion, grief and self-sacrifice, which Eleanor must visit one last time.

By speaking her memories out loud, and releasing the secrets of her past, Eleanor can finally lay them to rest. To honour them at last, and protect those who must never know.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Top Ten Tuesday: Backlist Books I Want to Read

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.

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: Backlist Books I Want to Read.

It’s hard to limit this to just 10 – this is just a snapshot of some of the books I own and still haven’t read. They’re all fiction.

An Advancement Of Learning (Dalziel & Pascoe, #2)Maigret's Holiday (Maigret, #28)The Song of TroyFall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1)Wednesday's Child (Inspector Banks, #6)

Family AlbumSea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1)The DryThe IslandThe Lady and the Unicorn

  • Family Album by Penelope Lively, a novel of family intrigue
  • Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh – historical fiction, Ibis Trilogy Book 1 set in the 1830’s just before the opium wars in China
  • The Dry by Jane Harper, crime fiction set in the Australian outback
  • The Island by Victoria Hislop, historical fiction inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony
  • The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, historical fiction, weaving together fact and fiction about the medieval tapestries

My Friday Post: I Am, I Am, I Am

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.

This week I’m featuring I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell, one of the books I’m currently reading.

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death

I chose this book because I love Maggie O’Farrell’s books and as soon as I read the description I knew I had to read it:

About the Book

I AM, I AM, I AM is Maggie O’Farrell’s electric and shocking memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated her life. The childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital.

This is a memoir with a difference: seventeen encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal to us a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. Spare, elegant and utterly candid, it is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger? How would you react? And what would you stand to lose?

It begins:

Neck 1990

On the path ahead, stepping out from behind a boulder, a man appears.

This opening sentence drew me in immediately, knowing from the title and book description that this was not going to be a happy encounter – this is the ‘terrifying encounter on a remote path.’

~~~

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.

Pages 55-56:

Suddenly the plane is falling, dropping, plummeting, like a rock fallen from a cliff. The downward velocity is astonishing, the drag, the speed of it. It feels like the world’s most unpleasant fairground ride, like a dive into nothing, like being pulled by the ankles into the endless maw of the underworld. My ears and face bloom like petals of pain, the seatbelt cutting into my thighs as I am thrown upwards.

~~~

The title is taken from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar:

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

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

WWW Wednesday: 24 October 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading: three books, one historical fiction in hardback, one crime fiction on my Kindle and one non-fiction that I’ve borrowed from the library.

Tombland by C J Sansom, the 7th book in his Shardlake series, set in 1549 two years after the death of Henry VIII.

Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)

I’m just settling into this book – Edward VI, is eleven years old and his uncle Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, rules England as Protector. Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer in the employ of Lady Elizabeth, the old King’s younger daughter, is once more called on to investigate a murder, that of Elizabeth’s distant relative, Edith Boleyn. 1549 is the year of Kett’s Rebellion, which began when a group of rebels destroyed fences that wealthy landowners had erected to enclose their land.

I’m also reading The Darkest Place by Jo Spain, the Kindle edition was published on 20 September 2018. It’s the fourth Inspector Tom Holland mystery. I’ve read nearly 70% and am really enjoying it.

The Darkest Place (Inspector Tom Reynolds, #4)

Synopsis:

Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on Oileán na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina’s. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.

But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead – one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.

As events take a sudden turn, nothing can prepare Reynolds and his team for what they are about to discover once they arrive on the island . . .

And I’ve also started to read Jacob’s Room is Full of Books, by Susan Hill in which she writes about the books she has read, reread or returned to the shelf during one year.

Jacob's Room is Full of Books: A Year of Reading

It’s a mix of reflections on the books, on writing and of observations about a variety of topics, month by month.

I’ve recently finished:  
The Ghost

The Ghost by Robert Harris. I quoted the opening paragraph and synopsis in this post. It’s a political thriller with an anonymous narrator who is the ‘ghost’ or rather a ghostwriter employed to write the autobiography of Adam Peter Benet Lang, recently retired prime minister of Great Britain. I’m writing my review and will post it in the next few days.

My next book could be:

I am torn, as usual, wanting to read several books at once. I so want to start Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton – I wrote a bit about this book in this post.  It’s crime fiction about a convicted murderer, Hamish Wolfe who tries to convince, defence barrister Maggie Rose that he is innocent.

Daisy in Chains

But there are many more books also crying out to be read, so when the time comes to start another book, it could be something completely different.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

WWW Wednesday: 17 October 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading:

The GhostTimekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time

The Ghost by Robert Harris. I quoted the opening paragraph and synopsis in yesterday’s post. It’s a political thriller with an anonymous narrator who is the ‘ghost’ or rather a ghostwriter employed to write the autobiography of Adam Peter Benet Lang, recently retired prime minister of Great Britain. And he has a month to do it, or rather complete the manuscript started by his predecessor McAra, Lang’s assistant who was found dead, drowned, after falling overboard on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.

The film, The Ghost (in the UK)/ The Ghost Writer (in the US) is an adaptation of this book, with Ewan McGregor playing the part of the unnamed ghostwriter.

I’m also reading Timekeepers by Simon Garfield, a book of short essays on different aspects of time. It’s full of facts, but still easy reading written in an entertaining style. But so far I’m finding it ‘interesting’ rather than ‘fascinating’.

I’ve recently finished:  

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by andrew Miller. See this post for my review – historical fiction set in 1809 Captain John Lacroix, home from Britain’s disastrous campaign against Napoleon’s forces in Spain.

My next book could be:

Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)

Although I have several books in mind to read next, it will most probably be Tombland by C J Sansom, which is to be published tomorrow. It’s the 7th book in his Shardlake series.

Synopsis:

Spring, 1549.

Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos…

The nominal king, Edward VI, is eleven years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, rules as Protector, presiding over a collapsing economy, a draining, prolonged war with Scotland and growing discontent amongst the populace as the old religion is systematically wiped out by radical Protestants.

Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is a lawyer in the employ of Lady Elizabeth, the old King’s younger daughter. The gruesome murder of Elizabeth’s distant relative Edith Boleyn soon takes him and his assistant Nicholas Overton to Norwich where he is reunited with Overton’s predecessor Jack Barak. As another murder drags the trio into ever-more dangerous waters, Shardlake finds his loyalties tested as Barak throws in his lot with the exploding peasant rebellion and Overton finds himself prisoner in Norwich castle.

Simultaneously, Shardlake discovers that the murder of Boleyn may have connections reaching into both the heart of the rebel camp and of the Norfolk gentry…

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you?