Back to Barter Books!

On Tuesday I went Barter Books in Alnwick (this is a secondhand bookshop where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves). The last time I went there was in January 2020. Since the pandemic began I’ve only been out to a few places and not been around many people at all, so I was a bit nervous.

These are the books I got (the descriptions are from Amazon):

After the Crash by Michel Bussi – because I’d enjoyed reading Time is a Killer by Bussi a couple of years ago.

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Crédule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl’s hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything – then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone . . .

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – this has been on my wishlist for years!

It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

Fire by L C Tyler – I’ve never read any of his books. I chose it because I like historical fiction and I’m interested in the Restoration period, having read Andrew Taylor’s Marwood and Lovett series also set in the same period. Fire is the fourth book in the John Grey Historical Mystery series.

1666. London has been destroyed by fire and its citizens are looking for somebody, preferable foreign, to blame. Only the royal Court, with its strong Catholic sympathies, is trying to dampen down the post-conflaguration hysteria. Then, inconveniently, a Frenchman admits to having started it together with an accomplice, whom he says he has subsequently killed.

John Grey is tasked by Secretary of State, Lord Arlington, with proving conclusively that the self-confessed fire-raiser is lying. Though Grey agrees with Arlington that the Frenchman must be mad, he is increasingly perplexed at how much he knows. And a body has been discovered that appears in every way to match the description of the dead accomplice.

Grey’s investigations take him and his companion, Lady Pole, into the dangerous and still smoking ruins of the old City. And somebody out there – somebody at the very centre of power in England – would prefer it if they didn’t live long enough to conclude their work…

The Librarian by Salley Vickers – I’ve read a few of Salley Vickers’ books and enjoyed them, especially  Miss Garnet’s Angel and Mr Golightly’s Holiday, which I read before I began this blog.

In 1958, Sylvia Blackwell, fresh from one of the new post-war Library Schools, takes up a job as children’s librarian in a run down library in the market town of East Mole.

Her mission is to fire the enthusiasm of the children of East Mole for reading. But her love affair with the local married GP, and her befriending of his precious daughter, her neighbour’s son and her landlady’s neglected grandchild, ignite the prejudices of the town, threatening her job and the very existence of the library with dramatic consequences for them all.

The Librarian is a moving testament to the joy of reading and the power of books to change and inspire us all.

There was a queue outside when I got there as entry to the bookshop is limited to a maximum of about sixty people at a time to ensure enough space for social distancing. Although I was pleased to be able to go to Barter Books again, there were too many people there for me, especially around the counter and the crime fiction bookcases near the counter. So I didn’t linger and went to back of the main hall, which is the largest room in the shop where there were only a few people browsing the shelves. Even so I felt nervous, so once I’d found four books I decided it was time for me to leave. I’ve never been comfortable in crowds, even before the pandemic.

New Additions at BooksPlease

I’ve been lucky with some of the 99p e-books on offer on Amazon recently and bought three books, well five actually as one is a trilogy.

First a nonfiction book, Winds of Change: Britain in the Early Sixties by historian, Peter Hennessy. The centre of the book is 1963 – the year of the Profumo Crisis, the Great Train Robbery, the satire boom, de Gaulle’s veto of Britain’s first application to join the EEC, the fall of Macmillan and the unexpected succession to the premiership of Alec Douglas-Home. Then, in 1964, the battle of what Hennessy calls the tweedy aristocrat and the tweedy meritocrat – Harold Wilson, who would end 13 years of Conservative rule and usher in a new era. It’s the final book in Hennessy’s Post War trilogy.

Then three novels – all historical fiction: The Regeneration Trilogy: Regeneration; The Eye in the Door; The Ghost Road by Pat Barker, three novels set during the First World War. I already had the third book, but hadn’t read it because I wanted to read the trilogy in order. It tells the story of three men, shell-shocked soldiers, who were sent back to the front. It’s based on the experiences of poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wifred Owen who met at Craiglockhart Hospital near Edinburgh.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – A few years ago I borrowed this book from the library but had to return it unread. Later on I watched the TV series and thought I’d like to read the book. So, when it was on offer for 99p I bought it. It’s set in Amsterdam in 1686. Nella Oortman marries a rich merchant, but life in her new home is unfulfilled. Even her cabinet house brings a mystery to the secretive world she has entered as the lifelike miniatures somehow start eerily foreshadowing her fate.

This last book is my choice this month from Amazon First Reads free books:

Tears of Amber by Sofía Segovia – a novel set during the Second World War in East Prussia between 1938 and 1947. In her author’s note Sofia Segovia says her novel was inspired by the story of Ilse and Arno Schipper, who established a factory in Monterrey, Mexico, her home town. It is a mix of fact and fiction. Publication date 1 May 2021. I have started reading and it’s looking good so far.

Additions to My TBRs

I am missing going to an actual bookshop, but I have been book shopping online. These are all books I’ve bought this year:

  1. The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley – the sixth book in Lucinda Riley’s series, The Seven Sisters, which tells the story of adopted sisters and is inspired by the mythology of the famous star cluster. This one is about Electra D’Aplièse, who seems to have it all: as one of the world’s top models, she is beautiful, rich and famous.
  2. Infinite by Brian Freeman – my Kindle First choice in February, a thriller about parallel universes.
  3. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore – the true story about dial-painters, girls and women who painted the numbers on clocks, watches and other instruments using radium-infused luminous paint in the 1920s and 1930s. The girls shone brightly in the dark, covered head to toe in dust from the paint.
  4. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh – the story of Charles Ryder’s infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. This is a book I’ve wondered about reading for years, so when I saw it was 99p on Kindle I bought it.
  5. Virginia Wolf: a Biography: 1882-1912 (vol 1) by Quentin Bell. Reading Woolf’s Orlando recently made me want to know more about her, so I bought this secondhand copy of her biography from AbeBooks.
  6. The Pembrokshire Murders by Steve Wilkins and Jonathan Hill -the true story of a brutal murderer and the detectives who worked the cold case for six years in order to bring him to justice. I bought this after watching the ITV mini series in January.

Now, the questions are –

Which one to read first?
Or should I read one of my older TBRs first?
What do you do?
And how do you decide which book to read next?

New Additions

We went to Barter Books in Alnwick yesterday and I came home with this pile. I didn’t realise until I took this photo that they’re all a variation on a black/white colour scheme! It wasn’t intentional.

I go armed with a notebook listing books and authors to look for and so I was delighted to find two books by Truman Capote as I enjoyed reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s recently and am keen to read more of his books – and two more of Reginald Hill’s books that are on my list of his books to find.

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From the bottom up they are:

  • The Collaborators by Reginald Hill, a standalone novel of wartime passion, loyalty – and betrayal. Set in Paris from 1940 to 1945, when Janine Simonian stands accused of passing secret information to the Nazis that led to the arrest and torture of several members of the French Resistance.
  • A Pinch of Snuff by Reginald Hill – the 5th of his Dalziel and Pascoe novels, this was first published in 1978. When Peter Pascoe’s dentist suggests that one film in particular shown in the Calliope Club is more than just good clean dirty fun, the inspector begins to make a few discreet inquiries and ends up with a homicide to investigate.
  • Beneath the Surface by Jo Spain, the second novel in the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. I’ve read three of her books and am always on the lookout for more of hers. Set in Dublin, DI Tom Reynolds and his team investigate the murder of Ryan Finnegan, a high-ranking government official in Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament.
  • Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas. I’ve read two of her books previously and loved them. This one is about the disappearance of twenty-one year old Sophie Collier. Twenty years later a body has been found and her friend Francesca goes back to her home town to discover the truth about what had happened to Sophie.
  • The Weight of Angels by Catriona McPherson. I’ve read several of her Dandy Gilver books and enjoyed them. This book is a standalone psychological thriller, in which Alison McGovern takes a job as a beautician in a private psychiatric facility near her rented cottage and the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey.  A body is discovered in a shallow grave by the abbey on Ali’s first day at work.
  • Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote, a collection of his writings, both fiction and nonfiction – a book of reminiscences, portraits and stories, including ‘A Beautiful Child’ an account of a day with Marilyn Monroe and ‘Handcarved Coffins: a Nonfiction Account of an American Crime’.
  • In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences by Truman Capote, probably one of the best known ‘true crime’ books. Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers of four members of the Clutter family on November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas.

~~~

So, seven more books added to my TBRs and I’d love to start reading them all – now!

Have you read any of these? Do they tempt you too?

New-To-Me Books

These are some books that I’ve recently added to my shelves, all Christmas presents:

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From top to bottom they are:

The Pocket Detective: (British Library Crime Classics) compiled by Kate Jackson –  including word searches, anagrams, snapshot covers, and crosswords based on the series of British Library Crime Classics and Golden Age Detection authors. I love word puzzles of all sorts, so this is just right for me.

The Inner Life of Animals: Surprising Observations of a Hidden World by Peter Wohllenben. This book looks fascinating as it is about what goes on aside animals’ heads with insights into their behaviour, emotions and instincts. In his Introduction Wohllenben says that the more he closely paid attention the more he noticed ‘our pets and their woodland relatives displaying what are supposed to be exclusively human emotions.’

The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places by Neil Oliver – described on the book jacket inside cover as ‘a broad sweep of British history and landscape’. I’ve enjoyed watching Neil Oliver’s TV documentaries and his book looks just as informative, encompassing our earliest history, via Romans and Vikings, civil war, industrial revolution and two world wars, looking at the places that he considers to be the most characteristic of our history, with many colour photographs.

Sea Change: The Summer Voyage from East to West Scotland by Mairi Hedderwick. This is a beautiful book with watercolours and pen and ink illustrations. It describes Marie Hedderwick’s journey in an antiquated 26-foot long yacht through the Caledonian Canal to the fjords of the west: Lochs Linnhe, Etive, Ailort, Moidart, Nevis and Leven.

Leonardo Da Vinci: the Biography by Walter Isaacson – A biography that brings Leonardo Da Vinci to life, a man of science and engineering, just as much as an artist and a man of endless curiosity about a vast range of subjects. I think this book could take me most of the year to read.

And finally a novel:

Love is Blind by William Boyd, set at the end of the nineteenth century about a Scottish musician, who leaves Edinburgh and his tyrannical father when he is offered a job in Paris. ‘A tale of dizzying passion and brutal revenge; of artistic endeavour and the illusions it creates; of all the possibilities that life can offer, and how cruelly they can be snatched away’.

Do any of any these books tempt you too?

New-To-Me Books

Another visit to  Barter Books in Alnwick means I’ve added 5 more books to my TBRs.

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From top to bottom they are:

Fair Stood the Wind for France by H E Bates – a Penguin modern classic. It was first published in 1944 and is about a British pilot, John Franklin, whose plane was shot down in occupied France, and Francoise, the daughter of a French farmer who hid Franklin and his crew from the Germans. I haven’t read any other books by Bates (1905 – 1974) – he was a prolific writer.

Recalled to Life by Reginald Hill, the 13th Dalziel and Pascoe book.  Dalziel reopens the investigation into a murder that took place in 1963 – the year of the Profumo Scandal, the Great Train Robbery and the Kennedy Assassination. I should be on safe ground with this book as I’ve enjoyed all the other Dalziel and Pascoe books I’ve read.

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. Three boys’ lives were changed for ever when one of them got into a stranger’s car and something terrible happened. Twenty five years later they have to face the nightmares of their past. I’m not sure what to expect from this book, not having read any of Lehane’s books before, but a reviewer in the Guardian described it as one of the finest novels he’d read in ages.

The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Willis Crofts, first published in 1933 during the Golden Age of detective fiction between the two world wars. It’s an Inspector French murder mystery set in Surrey, where first one person then others disappear. Have they been murdered? I’ve read just one of Crofts’ books before, Mystery in the Channel, which completely baffled me – will this be just as complicated?

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, the story of two women, born centuries apart and the ancestral legacy that binds them. This was Tracy Chevalier’s first novel. I’ve read and enjoyed some of her later books, including The Girl with a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels, so I’m looking forward to reading this book.

Please let me know if you’ve read any of these books and whether you enjoyed them – or not.

New To Me Books

This post is about the books I’ve recently added to my TBRs and about the library books I’ve recently borrowed.

Paperbacks from Barter Books in Alnwick:

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Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee.  I’ve only read one of her books, The Hours of the Night, and that was years ago, and pre-blog, when I just noted that it was ‘good overall’ and ‘could be shorter’. But the blurb interested me – set in the aftermath of the First World War it’s ‘about life’s fragility, and the power of love and painting to disturb, renew and reveal us to ourselves.

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly, based on the story by series creator Chris Chibnall. i loved the TV series, so I’m hoping I’ll love this too. I’ve only read one other book based on a TV series and that was Tenko broadcast in the 1980s (about women in a Japanese prisoner of war camp). The book was terrible, such a let down as I had loved the TV series.

Die Trying by Lee Child, the second Jack Reacher thriller. I haven’t read the first one yet, but I’ve found it’s best to get the books from Barter Books when I see them – they might not be there next time I go. I enjoyed the only Jack Reacher book I’ve read, The Midnight Line and have decided to read the earlier books.

Library books:

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Goodbye Piccadilly: War at Home 1914 by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. I’ve been seeing her books in libraries and bookshops for years, but have never read any. This is the first in a series about the First World War – I decided to start with this rather than her Morland Dynasty series (now 34 books).

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns and I’m expecting this to be just as good! It’s described on the back cover as ‘a deeply moving epic of heartache, hope and, above all, the unbreakable bonds of love.

Dandy Gilver and the Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson – historical crime fiction. I’ve read a few of the Dandy Gilver books and enjoyed them. This one is set in 1930s Scotland – in a fishing village on the Banffshire coast where unusual items are turning up in the herring barrels.

I’m looking forward to reading these books in the coming months!

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

Yesterday I went to my favourite bookshop Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. This is where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves.

These are the books I brought home:

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A Killing of Angels by Kate Rhodes (a new-to-me author) – the second book in her Alice Quentin series. I haven’t read the first book but I thought this looks good – it’s a psychological thriller. At the height of a summer heatwave, a killer stalks the City of London.The avenging angel leaves behind a scattering of feathers with each body – but why these victims? What were their sins?

Winter Garden by Beryl Bainbridge – described on the back cover as ‘surreal’ (TLS) and ‘very funny as well as a frightening book’ (Guardian), I’m not sure what I’ll make of this book about a womaniser who begins an extra-marital affair, but I’ve liked other books by Beryl Bainbridge.

The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell. I’ve enjoyed a couple of his books before, so this Inspector Wallander book caught my eye. A little raft is washed ashore on a beach in Sweden. It contains two men, shot dead. They’re identified as criminals, victims of a gangland hit. Wallander’s investigation takes him to Latvia.

The Widow’s War by Sally Gunning – another new-to-me author. This is historical fiction set in 1761 about a whaler’s wife in the Cape Cod village of Satucket in Massachusetts, living with the daily uncertainty that her husband Edward will simply not return. And when her worst fear is realised, she finds herself doubly cursed.

Have you read any of these? Do they tempt you too?

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

Yesterday I went to my favourite bookshop Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. This is where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves.

These are the books I brought home:

River of Darkness by Rennie Airth – I was hoping to find this book as Cafe Society recommended it. It’s the first book in his John Madden series. Inspector John Madden of Scotland Yard investigates the murder of a family in the post-World War I British countryside. A veteran of the war, Madden immediately recognizes the work of a soldier, but discovering the motive will take longer.

Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill. I always check to see if there are any of his books on the shelves that I haven’t got/read, so I was pleased to find this one. It’s the third Dalziel and Pascoe book in which Pascoe finds his social life and work uncomfortably brought together by a terrible triple murder. Meanwhile, Dalziel is pressuring him about a string of unsolved burglaries, and as events unfold the two cases keep getting jumbled in his mind.

Beryl Bainbridge is another author whose books I always look out for, and this visit I found Every Man for Himself. This novel is about the voyage of the Titanic, on its maiden and final voyage in 1912.

Sirens by Joseph Knox. I wasn’t looking for this book, or for books by Knox, but it caught my eye as I browsed the shelves and I remembered that earlier this year I’d read  and thoroughly enjoyed The Smiling Man. Set in ManchesterSirens is Knox’s debut book featuring DC Aidan Waits. Young women are lured into enigmatic criminal Zain Carver’s orbit and then they disappear.

Once more I’m torn between reading these as soon as possible, or reading from my TBR shelves and review copies from NetGalley. It’s a dilemma 🙂

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Do they tempt you too?

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

On Tuesday it was time for another visit to my favourite bookshop Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. This is where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves.

These are the books I brought home:

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Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. I first read this many years ago and want to reread it – and hope I still like it as much. It won the Booker Prize in 1984. From the back cover: ‘Into the rarefied atmosphere of the Hotel du Lac timidly walks Edith Hope, romantic novelist and holder of modest dreams. Edith has been exiled from home after embarrassing herself and her friends. She has refused to sacrifice her ideals and remains stubbornly single. But among the pampered women and minor nobility Edith finds Mr Neville, and her chance to escape from a life of humiliating spinsterhood is renewed . . .’ 

Now is the Time by Melvyn Bragg. I loved his Soldiers Return quartet amongst some of his other books, so I’m hoping this historical fiction set in 1381 at the time of  the Peasants’ Revolt will be as good. Richard II was on the throne of England when a vast force of people led by Wat Tyler and John Ball demanded freedom, and equality. 

Then, three books by Belinda Bauer that I’ve been wanting to read for some time now:

Blacklands, her first novel – this tells the story of a game of cat and mouse between a 12 year old boy, Steven, and Arnold Avery, a serial killer and an abuser of children, who murdered Steven’s Uncle Billy, when he was 11 years old, twenty years ago.

Her second book, Darkside is set in the middle of winter time, when the people who live in a peaceful place, Shipcott, are shocked by the murder of an old woman in her bed.

The Beautiful Dead is about Eve Singer, a TV crime reporter, who will go to any length to get the latest scoop. But when a twisted serial killer starts using her to gain the publicity he craves, Eve must decide how far she’s willing to go – and how close she’ll let him get.

I’d love to start all these books straight away but I think I’ll begin with Belinda Bauer’s books, especially as I also have a review copy of her latest book, Snap which is due to be published as an e-book on 3 May 2018, with the hardback and paperback editions coming out later this year.

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Do they tempt you too?