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

Top Ten Tuesday new

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

The rules are simple:

  • Each Tuesday, Jana assigns a new topic. Create your own Top Ten list that fits that topic – putting your unique spin on it if you want.
  • Everyone is welcome to join but please link back to The Artsy Reader Girl in your own Top Ten Tuesday post.
  • Add your name to the Linky widget on that day’s post so that everyone can check out other bloggers’ lists.
  • Or if you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment.

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

New Releases coming in October

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

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

Review copies (some are new releases)

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

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

Library books

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

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

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth retold

5*

He’s the best cop they’ve got. 

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.

He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past. 

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach. 

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.

Unless he kills for it.

I haven’t read any of Jo Nesbo’s books so I wasn’t sure what to expect from his version of Macbeth, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. And it’s been a long time since I read or saw a performance of Macbeth, one of my favourite plays, but it seems to me that Jo Nesbo’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth sticks well to Shakespeare’s version (which itself wasn’t original!) – it has the same themes and plot lines.

I loved the opening of Nesbo’s version describing the rain falling on an industrial town, the second largest after Capitol. The setting is rather vague – it is somewhere in the 1970s in a fictional Scotland in a lawless town full of drug addicts, where there is a titanic struggle for control between the police force, corrupt politicians, motorbike gangs and  drug dealers.

All the characters are here, including Duncan, the new police Chief Commissioner after Kenneth was killed, Malcolm his deputy, Banquo, Macbeth’s friend and his son, Fleance, Inspector Duff (Shakespeare’s Macduff, Thane of Fife), head of the Narcotics Unit, Caithness, the three witches, Lennox and so on. And watch out for Nesbo’s version of Great Birnam Wood – I don’t want to give any spoilers here!

It’s a tragedy, like Shakespeare’s, a tale of political ambition and the destructive power it wields, a tale of love and guilt, and of enormous greed of all kinds. Inspector Macbeth, an ex-drug addict is the head of the SWAT team, ruled by his passions, violent and paranoid. He is manipulated by Hecate, Shakespeare’s chief witch, here one of the drug lords, a man with a friendly smile and cold eyes, called by some the Invisible Hand; his ‘brew’ has made him one of the town’s richest men. Macbeth is corrupted by his renewed dependency on brew and fuelled by his passion for his wife, Lady, a tall, beautiful woman with flame-red hair who whispers seductively to Macbeth that he has to kill Duncan. And there’s a mole in their midst.

This is a dark, gritty and violent tale that had me completely enthralled and I loved it. It is the first book by Jo Nesbo that I’ve read – but it won’t be the last.

Thank you to Random UK/Vintage and NetGalley for my copy of this book for review.

  • Paperback: 624 pages (also available on Kindle and in Hardcover)
  • Publisher: Vintage (20 Sept. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009959806X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099598060
  • Review Copy
Note: Macbeth was first published  March 15th 2018 by Hogarth as part of  the Hogarth Shakespeare project that sees Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today. The series launched in October 2015 and to date will be published in twenty countries.

 

Appleby’s End by Michael Innes

3*

Appleby’s End was first published in 1945.

Description

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder

Canongate Books|30 August 2018|417 pages|Review copy|5*

The Way of All Flesh is the debut novel from Ambrose Parry: co-written by best-selling crime writer Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman.

I knew as soon as I began reading The Way of All Flesh that I was going to enjoy it – it’s historical crime fiction at its very best.

Full of atmosphere and historical detail, I could easily believe I was there in Edinburgh in 1847 as Dr James Young Simpson, a professor of midwifery, discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform. It combines fact and fiction most successfully, the social scene, historical and medical facts slotting perfectly into the plot.

It begins with the death of Evie, a prostitute in Edinburgh’s Old Town, found by Will Raven, a young medical student about to start his apprenticeship with Dr Simpson. Will, Evie’s friend is suspicious, the place was reeking of drink and Evie’s body was in a state of contortion. He flees the scene, not wanting to be implicated in her death. There is a mystery surrounding Will – he has a past that he wants to conceal, and he is in trouble with a couple of villains who beat him, slashing his face when he is unable to repay his debt to a moneylender.

Will is anxious to fit in with the more genteel society of the New Town, where Dr Simpson has his surgery, a place where people from all levels of society congregated – the poor who attended his clinics, the wealthy who also wanted treatment, and the medical students and colleagues experimenting with new drugs and medical techniques. When Will comes across similar deaths during his work with Dr Simpson he is determined to find out who is responsible  – was it the same person who had killed Evie?

Sarah, Dr Simpson’s housemaid is an ambitious and enterprising young woman who would love to have a career in medicine just like the male medical students. Initially she dislikes Will, but eventually they join forces to uncover the killer in the depths of Edinburgh’s dark underworld . Through Sarah’s eyes we see the frustrations and limitations that all women experienced and through Will’s eyes we see the grim realities and danger that women at all levels of society faced with childbirth and unwanted pregnancies, and the brutally primitive state of the medicine of the period. The medical scenes are indeed gruesome and the attitudes of some of the clergy with their opposition to the use of anaesthetics is deplorable. The authors have combined their specialities to provide a compelling murder mystery interwoven with the exciting discovery of chloroform and how it transformed surgery.

This is without doubt an impressive and well written book that gripped me throughout – definitely one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year.

And I am so pleased that this is not the end of Will as Chris and his wife, Marisa are planning more novels revealing the development of medicine and the part that the Simpson household played. Also, I see that Benedict Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch production company has secured the TV rights to The Way of All Flesh.

Thank you to Canongate Books and NetGalley for my copy of this book for review.

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

 

The Story Keeper

4*

The Story Keeper is historical fiction set on the Isle of Skye in 1857 where Audrey Hart has been employed by Miss Buchanan to collect the folklore and fairy tales of the local community. The Highland Clearances have left their mark on the crofters leaving them suspicious and fearful, unwilling to talk to Audrey as both the clergy and schoolmasters have condemned their practice of the old traditions – the stories are being lost.

The novel stresses the importance of folk tales – stories that have been told to make sense of the world and reflect people’s strengths, flaws, hopes and fears. Such stories are interspersed throughout the book. When one by one young girls go missing from their homes  the locals believe they have been taken by the spirits of the unforgiven dead. For these are not tales of good fairies, but of malign spirits that torment the girls they have stolen, sometimes returning them, ‘sorely changed’.

This is a novel full of family secrets and unfulfilled desires. There is a mystery about Audrey, her background and why she wanted to come to Skye. At first she believes there is a rational explanation to the girls’ disappearance but gradually she comes to fear that there may be something more supernatural behind it – linked maybe to the mystery of her mother’s disappearance years earlier on Skye.

It is beautifully written with vivid descriptions of the island, the flocks of black birds that whirl above the house that stands like an enchanted castle or a fortress on the coast. From a slow start the pace of the book rises to a crescendo in a dramatic and horrific ending combining the supernatural with reality, and tales of cruel fairies with the brutality of human beings. I loved the setting, the characterisation and the mix of history with folklore and fairy stories.

Thank you to the publisher, Tinder Press for my copy of this book for review.

By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea

By Sword and Storm (The Munro Scottish Saga Book 3)

Two of the best historical fiction books I’ve read in recent years are Margaret Skea’s Munro Scottish Sagas, Turn of the Tide,  and A House Divided, both of which transported me  back in time to 16th century Scotland and France, specifically to the world of the feuding clans of Cunninghame and Montgomerie.

By Sword and Storm is the third book in the Munro Saga. It stands well on its own but I recommend reading the earlier books to get the whole picture of what happened in the years before. It is now 1598 and the Munro family, Adam, his wife, Kate, and children, Robbie, Maggie and Ellie  are living in France. Adam and Robbie are in the Scots Gardes, serving Henri IV of France: Adam is a colonel  and Robbie is a sergeant.  The Scots Gardes were an elite Scottish regiment whose duties included the provision of a personal bodyguard to the French King.

The story is well grounded in research and based on historical facts, seamlessly interweaving fact and fiction. It is  complex novel with several plot lines, locations and characters, some based on real historical figures and others fictitious, such as the Munro family. There’s a useful list of the main characters and a map at the start of the book and a glossary and historical note at the end.

As the story begins the French Wars of Religion are drawing to an end and the Edict of Nantes has established religious freedom, placating the Catholics whilst making concessions to the Huguenots – but not in Paris or at the French court, where Protestants are still banned from openly practising their religion. When Adam saves Henri’s life as a shot is fired from the crowd, he and his family are summoned to live at the French court, despite their religious beliefs. Life in Paris holds many dangers for the Munros, especially for Robbie when he falls in love with a girl from a Huguenot family.

Back in Scotland some members of the Cunninghame and Montgomerie factions are still feuding, notably Hugh Montgomerie, the Laird of Braidstane and William, the son of the head of the Cunninghame clan, whilst other clan members try to maintain the peace.  James VI has banned duelling but that doesn’t deter Hugh and William. Meanwhile, Hugh’s wife, Elizabeth, pregnant and left on her own in the depths of winter with only her children and a servant for company, faces her own dangers.

There is so much to enjoy in this book – first of all the story itself, expertly narrated, full of tension and surprise, and also the characters. But I also loved the personal touches, revealing what life was like in the 16th century,  how both ordinary people and royalty lived, and the dangers that faced them in their daily lives, particularly for women in childbirth and sickness and for those who dissented from the established religion.

I loved all the details about the French court, in particular about Henri’s mistress and the relationship between her and Kate. As in the earlier books Margaret Skea writes such beautifully descriptive passages, bringing to life the details of the French court and of the landscape in both Scotland and France as well as the dangers of travelling by sea.

This is ostensibly the end of the Munro saga – but Margaret Skea has revealed on her blog that she is hoping to revisit the Munro story at a later date. I hope she does, but if not this is an excellent end to the series.

  • Format: Kindle Edition – also available in paperback
  • File Size: 1339 KB
  • Publisher: Corazon Books (Historical/Saga) (11 July 2018)
  • Source: Advance copy from the publisher
  • My rating 4*

The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

Harper Collins|9 August 2018|416 pages|Review copy| 2*

Nova, an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, has been blind from birth. When she undergoes surgery to restore her sight her journey is just beginning – she now has to face a world in full colour for the first time. Kate, a successful architect and wife to Tony, is in hospital after a blow to the head. There, she meets Nova and what starts as a beautiful friendship soon turns into something more.

Nuanced and full of emotion, The Rules of Seeing poignantly explores the realities and tensions of a woman seeing the world for the first time – the highs and lows, the good and bad.

I thought from reading the blurb that this would be a book I would enjoy reading. The idea of a book about a blind woman whose sight is restored sounded enlightening – how she learned to interpret what she can see, having been born blind. And I did enjoy that aspect of this book. It does give an excellent insight into Nova’s struggle to cope emotionally with a world she can now see as well as hear and touch, and learning what it all means. And I liked the Rules of Seeing that she compiles from her experiences, although I think they are only loosely linked to the main story.

But, this isn’t just the story of a blind person learning to see and it’s not the main focus of this book which is Kate’s relationship with her husband and with Nova, and I didn’t like Kate’s story; the violence and anger of her husband, Tony was hard to read. If this had been referred to in the blurb I wouldn’t have chosen to read this book. I also found the pace very uneven and by the end of the book I thought it was too drawn out and I just wanted it to end.

One of the drawbacks of reading a review copy prior to publication is that you can’t read the beginning of a book. And if I had read the opening pages I wouldn’t have chosen it. It is in the present tense – there are some books that work well for me in the present tense and it certainly helps if I like the plot, but this isn’t one of them. I didn’t like the constant changes of scene -a bit like watching a drama or film where the action is filmed with a hand-held camera constantly changing focus, zooming in and out. It makes me feel claustrophobic. The use of the present tense in this book made me feel I was watching TV with the audio description turned on, explaining what is happening on screen.

It’s a pity as the basic concept is good and the characters came over as real people. I’m sorry I just couldn’t like it.

Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for my copy of this book for review.