Top Ten Tuesday: Hallowe’en Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is a Hallowe’en Freebie. I’m a reluctant reader of scary stories but I have read these books, some are more scary than others.

Dracula by Bram Stoker. knew the story of Dracula from film and TV versions – with most notably Christopher Lee and later Louis Jourdan as Dracula, but steered clear of reading Bram Stoker’s book – well, it’s not like the film versions I’ve seen. The opening surprised me a little, so matter-of-fact and such attention to detail. And the narrative continues composed of letters, journal entries, newspaper articles and transcripts of phonograph diary entries, from several characters, so the story is told from several different viewpoints It’s a very scenic novel, and I could easily imagine the locations and it’s also a very sensual and melodramatic novel, full of religious references; plus it’s an adventure story with a final chase scene and a love story – and not a bit like I expected from the film versions!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is not like the film version with Boris Karloff as the monster created by Victor Frankenstein. It’s not scary, but it is an improbable story with some interesting ideas about what it is to be human. It is a gothic tale about a scientist whose laboratory experiments produced fantastical results. The ‘monster’ learns by observation what it is to be human, but because of the reactions of the people he meets he is spurred on to take revenge on his creator.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – a novella together with Other Tales of Terror. The case of Jekyll and Hyde is well known through film and TV versions, but I think the book is much scarier. It reads at first like a mystery story as Dr Jekyll is trying to discover the identity of the evil Mr Hyde – it is only later than he discovers the truth.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, a dark and melodramatic tale about good and evil. There’s a story within a story, told as a ghost story to a group of people as they sit gathered round a fire in an old house. It tells of two children and their governess. She has been employed by their uncle who wants nothing to do with them. Their previous governess had died under mysterious circumstances (was it in childbirth?). There’s a dark foreboding of menace within the house where creepy, disturbing things are going on. in this dark and melodramatic tale.

The Shining by Stephen King. I saw the film with Jack Nicolson, which is terrifying before I read the book. I remember his crazed face as he rampaged through the hotel, the sense of evil and terror, and I decided that was enough – I wouldn’t read the book. But later on I did – I don’t know why. It tells the story of Jack Torrance and his family as they move into the Overlook Hotel in the Colorada Rockies. The Overlook is closed for the winter and Jack, a recovering alcoholic is the caretaker. Just what impels him towards murder is horrifyingly revealed as the winter weather closes in on the hotel and they are cut off from the rest of the world. Having read the book there is no way I’ll ever watch the film again,

As you can see from the cover of The Shining it contains an except from the sequel, Dr Sleep. It tells what happened to Danny Torrance (Jack’s son) later on in his life, when he worked in a hospice. He was known as “Doctor Sleep” by secretly using his special abilities to comfort the dying and prepare them for the afterlife. Truly terrifying, even the cover is enough to give me nightmares – that demonic looking cat!

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie, a Tommy and Tuppence story. As you would imagine from the title of the book (taken from Shakespeare’s Macbeth), ‘something wicked’ is afoot, there is evil about and Tuppence’s life is in danger. A dark and sinister tale.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu, a story about the Donner Party, comprising pioneers, people who were looking for a better life in the American West. Interwoven with hints of the supernatural and Indian myths it becomes a thrilling, spine tingling horrific tale. Many of them died of starvation, and some of them resorted to eating their animals and it is supposed, the deceased members of the group. It is a tense, menacing tale full of hope and also of desperation. 

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths. Something evil is waiting in the dark tunnels under Norwich, where boiled human bones have been found. The boiling might have been just a medieval curiosity – now it suggests a much more sinister purpose. The bones are found during the excavations when an underground restaurant in one of the tunnels is proposed. A homeless women, Barbara, disappears and there are rumours that she has ‘gone underground‘. Just what is the gruesome secret lurking in the tunnels?

Slade House by David Mitchell, a mixture of a ghost story, science fiction and horror. Something nasty happens every nine years at the end of October at Slade House. It’s down Slade Alley, which doesn’t normally exist and it only appears to those who have been invited, or are drawn to it. There is a door set into the right hand wall of the alley, a small black iron door with no handle or keyhole, that opens if you’re meant to enter. There you meet a stranger, are invited into the House, and find yourself in a strange and dangerous situation, and there is no way out – eventually you find yourself in a long attic at the top of the stairs – where something terrible happens to you.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was “Forced” to Read!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is a Freebie and I have chosen a past TTT topic from October 2013 which was before I took part in TTT – Top Ten Books I was Forced’ to Read. The definition of this topic was described thus: ‘Obviously, in most cases, you weren’t LITERALLY forced to read it but you know what we are getting at here. Those required reading books, book club picks, books for your job or those books that it simply feels like other readers were going to tie you down until you read it!!’

I’ve chosen books that were ones I read at my local book group. They are all books I would probably never have read if they hadn’t been for the book club – some of them I loved, some I disliked and some that I thought were OK, neither very good or very bad.

First the ones I loved:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I loved even more than the film. It takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 during the Civil Rights Movement. Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter are the three narrators and it is through their eyes that the book comes to life as they take turns telling their stories. It’s touching, poignant, funny, compelling and definitely thought-provoking. I loved the film too.

Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski – the story of Hilary Wainwright, who is searching for his son, lost five years earlier in the Second World War. Hilary had left France just after his wife, Lisa, had given birth to John. Lisa, unable to leave France, worked for the Resistance, but was killed by the Gestapo and her son disappeared. It is emotional, heart-wrenching and nerve-wracking, full of tension, but never sentimental.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck – it has everything I like, rich descriptions of locations, wonderful characters and a storyline, that grabs my attention and makes me want to know more. There is humour and tragedy, meanness and generosity, life and death all within Cannery Row‘s 148 pages. After reading this I went on to read more of Steinbeck’s books, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Of Mice and Men and Sweet Thursday.

The Long Song by Andrea Levy. It’s brutal, savage, and unrelenting in depicting the lives of the slaves in Jamaica just as slavery was coming to an end and both the slaves and their former owners were adjusting to their freedom. The narrator is July, at the beginning a spirited young woman, born in a sugar-cane field, telling her story at her son’s suggestion. It’s beautifully written too.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee set in the Deep South of  America in the 1930s. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) is the narrator, as she looks back as an adult to the Depression, the years when with her older brother, Jem, and their friend, Dill, she witnessed the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl. Scout’s father, Atticus, a lawyer defends Tom. It’s also the story of Boo Radley, their neighbour, a man who is never seen, who is said to only come out at night.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday by Paul Torday. The conditions in the Yemen are completely wrong for salmon fishing and that is the conundrum that Dr Alfred Jones has to solve when Sheikh Muhammad wants scientific advice on how best to introduce it into the Yemen. The sheikh has an estate in Scotland where he pursues his great love of fly fishing. This a light comic novel, much of it complete but enjoyable nonsense and I was actually hoping the project would be successful and that salmon would run up the waters of the Wadi Aleyn in the heart of the mountains of Heraz. I haven’t seen the film of the book.

Then the books I enjoyed, although I didn’t actually love them:

The Man on a Donkey by H F M Prescott, written in the form of a chronicle, from the various characters’ viewpoints. It’s as much about the ordinary people as the rich and powerful, and based on documentary evidence relating to the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 led by Robert Aske, a lawyer. It was a protest against Henry VIII‘s break with the Roman Catholic Church, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the policies of the King’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell. It transported me back to that time, with lyrical descriptions of the settings, both of the countryside and of the towns, of Marrick Priory and of the king’s court, of the people, and the mood of the times, both religious and political. 

I found Westwood by Stella Gibbons a slightly disappointing book. I liked it, but didn’t love it, as I’d hoped I would. I do enjoy descriptive writing, and there are some beautiful descriptive passages, particularly of London just after the Blitz. Margaret Steggles, a plain young woman finds a ration book on Hampstead Heath which provides her with an introduction into the lives of Gerard Challis and his family, his beautiful wife, Seraphina, his self-absorbed daughter Hebe and her spoilt children and Zita the family’s maid. Margaret idolises Gerard, who is a playwright. He in turn falls under the spell of her best friend, Hilda.

Full Tilt: Dunkirk to Delhi on a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy, first published in 1965, this  is an account of her journey in 1963, which took her through Europe, Persia (Iran), Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and into India. She travelled on her own, with a revolver in her saddle bag. It’s very much a personal account, but not so much about the actual cycling. I enjoyed it as much for her descriptions of the places she visited as for her thoughts along the way. I’m not sure that I would find her easy company though!

And finally a book that I disliked:

The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns about the disappearance and murders of three young teenage girls. It’s far too detailed and drawn out. I had trouble with the narrator, wondering how he  could possibly know all the detail of what other characters were thinking and doing. Described on Amazon thus ‘One after another, three girls disappear from a small American town. As the sleepy town awakens to a horrific nightmare, no one is safe from the rising epidemic of suspicion. Dobyn’s chilling novel is superbly written portrait of a little place seemingly at home with itself. The suspense builds to a magnificent climax.’ I did not like it at all.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Fall 2021 To-read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. This week’s topic is Books on My Fall 2021 To-read List.

Not easy when I have so many books I want to read. These are the first ten that came to mind, but this is not a reading plan and I could just as easily read other books this autumn:

First two novellas:

Another Part of the Wood by Beryl Bainbridge – 159 pages -literary fiction set In a remote cottage in Wales where two urban couples are spending their holiday with the idealistic owner and his protege. The beginning is idyllic but catastrophe lurks behind every tree.

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay 189 pages – a novel for the reader to decide if it’s fact or fiction. On St Valentine’s Day in 1900, nineteen girls and two schoolmistresses visit Hanging Rock. Some were never to return.

Two books from my NetGalley shelf:

Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas – standalone psychological thriller. Una Richardson’s heart is broken after the death of her mother. Seeking a place to heal, she responds to an advertisement and steps into the rich, comforting world of Elspeth McKenzie. But Elspeth’s home is not as safe as it seems.

The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson, a standalone novel. After the loss of her father, Una sees a chance to escape Reykjavík to tutor two girls in the tiny village of Skálar – population just ten – on Iceland’s storm-battered north coast. The creaky old house where they live is playing on her already fragile mind when she’s convinced she hears the ghostly sound of singing. Then, at midwinter, a young girl is found dead.

Two books from my TBR list:

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, the final novel in her Wolf Hall trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, tracing his final years. I wanted to read this so much when I bought it (in 2020) and it has sat around the house ever since, but it’s a hardback copy and I keep putting off reading it. If I don’t read this soon it will be 2022 before I get round to it.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, which I bought in 2013! It’s about Harold’s journey on foot from one end of the country to the other – from South Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed and I was intrigued. I wondered which places he went through. It’s definitely time I read this.

And finally two more recent acquisitions:

Another Journey Through Britain by Mark Gregory Probert. He follows the route taken by John Hillaby in his 1960s book Journey through Britain. The ride starts from rugged Land’s End in south-west England and ends up at the wild north-east coast of Scotland at John o’Groats. Buying this book is what made me remember I haven’t read Rachel Joyce’s novel, also about a journey through Britain.

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld, a novel that weaves together the lives of three women in three different eras, linked by the Bass Rock, an island in the Firth of Forth, north-east of North Berwick. There’s Sarah in the 1700s accused of being a witch, Ruth, newly married in 1955 to a widower, Peter, and Viv, Peter’s granddaughter, in the present day.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Numbers in the Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. This week’s topic is Books with Numbers in the Titles.

I did a top ten post in October 2019 on Book Titles with Numbers in Them, using the numbers 1 – 10, so for this week’s topic I decided to use different numbers. These are all books I’ve read.

The numbers are 0, 4.50, 11, 12.30, 13, 17, 39, 70, 100 and 1,000.

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie – an intricately plotted murder mystery featuring Superintendent Battle, in which a group of lawyers discuss a recent case at the Old Bailey. One of them puts forward the idea that murder is not the beginning of a detective story, but the end, that murder is the culmination of causes and events that bring together certain people, converging towards a certain place and time, towards the Zero Hour – ‘towards zero’. A thoroughly puzzling murder mystery.

4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie, another murder mystery, this time featuring Miss Marple. It’s an intriguing puzzle about a murder on a train, because you know there has been a murder, and that the victim was a woman but her identity is not known, until much later in the book. You also know that the murderer is a man and there are plenty of male suspects to consider. 

Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days by Jared Cade. In December 1926 Agatha Christie disappeared from her home, Styles, in Berkshire. She was found eleven days later in a hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire apparently suffering from amnesia. Jared Cade delves into the mystery of her disappearance and reveals how those eleven days and the events that led up to her disappearance influenced the rest of her life.

The 12.30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Croft begins with a murder but the identity of the murderer is known before he even thought of committing the crime. Set in the early 1930s when the country is suffering the effects of the ‘slump’, unlike the 4.50 from Paddington, the 12.30 from Croydon is not a train, but a plane. Charles Swinburne is on the edge of bankruptcy, and he is unable to raise the money to keep his business going, so he sets about murdering his uncle, Andrew Crowther, in order to inherit his fortune.

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer. Moving at a fast pace this book follows the events during the thirteen hours from 05:36 when Rachel, a young American girl is running for her life up the steep slope of Lion’s Head in Capetown.  DI Benny Griessel is mentoring two inexperienced detectives who are investigating these crimes. With a strong sense of location it reflects the racial tension in the ‘new South Africa’ with its mix of white, coloured and black South Africans.It’s tense, taut and utterly enthralling. 

The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War and Madness in Seventeenth Century England by Adrian Tinniswood is set in a period of political and social upheaval, revolution, war, plague, famine and fire. The book starts with the death of Sir Francis Verney at Messina in 1615 and moves through the seventeenth century to the death of Sir Ralph Verney at Claydon House in 1696. The Verney family history is told through from the family archives and tens of thousands of their letters and placing it within the national context.

The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan, a fast moving action-story, beginning with an international conspiracy, involving anarchists, financiers and German spies. Richard Hannay, having found Scudder, murdered in his London flat, fears for his life and goes on the run, chased by villains in a series of exciting episodes, culminating in the discovery of the location of the ‘thirty-nine steps’. 

When the Lights went out: Britain in the Seventies by Andy Beckett, a journalist, a very detailed book, using original material such as diaries, letters, personal memoirs as well as books written about the period. I particularly liked the personal, face-to-face interviews with some of the key figures such as Ted Heath,  and Beckett’s assessments of politicians such as Margaret Thatcher in 1975 when she was a contender for the leadership of the Conservative Party. He described the crises Britain faced then – the economic crises, the floods, food shortages, terrorism, and the destruction of the environment. So, what has changed?

100 Days on Holy Island: a Writer’s Exile by Peter Mortimer, a playwright and a poet. He went to Holy Island with the intention of seeing how he coped with living there for one hundred days and writing about it. His time on Holy Island was from January to April 2001, when foot and mouth disease swept through the UK, and although it never got to Holy Island it was affected by the closure of the countryside. The islanders were hit by the threat to the tourist trade. It was freezing cold, blasted by snow storms and afflicted by power cuts. 

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry, a sequel to Days Without End this continues the story of Thomas McNulty and John Cole, and Winona, the young Indian girl they had adopted. It’s set in the 1870s, some years after the end of the Civil War in Tennessee, about seven miles from a little town called Paris. The town was still full of rough Union soldiers and vagabonds on every little byway. Dark skin and black hair were enough to get you beaten up – and it wasn’t a crime to beat an Indian. After Winona was brutally attacked she set out for revenge. And in so doing she began to remember more about her early life and about her mother, a strong Lakota woman, full of courage and pride.

Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

These are all books I loved and that transported me to a different time and place. I would love to experience the same magic and pleasure I had when I first read them. They include murder mystery novels that I would love to read again without knowing the identity of the murderer. Some of them I read many years ago before I began this blog and I’ve linked those to Goodreads (marked with an *), the others I’ve read more recently are linked to my reviews.

*Dissolution by C J Sansom – the first book in his Shardlake series. It is 1537 and Thomas Cromwell has ordered that all monasteries should be dissolved. Cromwell’s Comissioner is found dead, his head severed from his body. Dr Shardlake is sent to uncover the truth behind what has happened. His investigation forces him to question everything that he himself believes. I’ve read each one of the following books in the series as they were published – 7 books in total.

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves – the first book in her Vera Stanhope series. It has a very intricate and clever plot, with plenty of red herrings subtly masking the important clues. Vera is a great character and even though I do like Brenda Blethyn’s portrayal of her in the TV series, I prefer her as she is in the books –  a large woman in her fifties, who looks like a bag lady!

*Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – with its memorable first line ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .‘ I first read this when I was a young teenager, this is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity. She is never named in the book. It’s one of those book where I was totally immersed in the story, lost in the plot.

Blood Harvest by Sharon Bolton – a modern Gothic tale about the Fletchers who have just moved into a new house, but someone seems to be trying to drive them away – at first with silly pranks but then with threats that become increasingly dangerous. It’s full of tension, terror and suspense and I was in several minds before the end as to what it was all about.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, a weirdly wonderful book, that sent shivers down my spine. The narrator is Merricat. She lives with her sister, Constance in a grand house, away from the village, behind locked gates, feared and hated by the villagers. Merricat is an obsessive-compulsive, both she and Constance have rituals that they have to perform in an attempt to control their fears. Four members of the family have died in mysterious circumstances. Just what did happen is only gradually revealed and Merricat is a most unreliable narrator. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan – It begins on a hot day in the summer of 1935 when Briony, then aged thirteen witnesses an event between her older sister Cecelia and her childhood friend Robbie that changed all three of their lives. Briony’s imagination takes over providing her with a version of events that may or may not be right. The film of the book is mostly faithful to the book, with minor alterations, except for the ending.

*An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan – I read this sometime after 1995 and thought it was one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s Keenan’s account of his captivity in Beirut by fundamentalist Shi’ite militiamen for four and a half years.

*The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – historical fiction set in 1327. Benedictines in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.”

*The Lord of the Rings by J R R R Tolkien – I first read this when I was at school and have since read it a few times, but would love to read it now for the first time. It’s a fantasy epic that tells of the quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – which one of the passengers in the Athens to Paris coach on the Orient Express killed the millionaire Simon Ratchett? None of them appear to have a motive for killing Ratchett or to have any connection with him or each other. It would be great to read it not knowing the answer.

Top Ten Tuesday: Titles that are Taken from Song Titles/Lines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. The topic this week is Titles or Covers That Made Want to Read/Buy the Book. I’ve tweaked the topic because neither the title nor the cover alone makes me want to read a book. It’s the content and/or the author.

So, my topic this week is Titles that are Taken from Song Titles/Lines. These are all from books I’ve read/want to read. They are all crime fiction.

The first six are Inspector Rebus books by Ian Rankin:

Let It Bleed by Ian Rankin – Rolling Stones – the 7th book in the series

Black and Blue by Ian Rankin – Rolling Stones – the 8th book

Exit Music by Ian Rankin – Radiohead – Rebus’s last case before he retired

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian ~Rankin – Jackie Leven, a Scottish songwriter and folk musician – Rebus is back on the force

Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin – Scottish group, The Associates – Rebus is on his second retirement, and then DI Siobhan Clarke asks for his help on a case as a consultant.

The Beat Goes On by Ian Rankin – Sonny & Cher. The Complete Rebus Short Stories.

All the Lonely People by Martin Edwards – Harry Devlin is a Liverpool solicitor. This is the first book in the series set in Liverpool. From the Beatles Eleanor Rigby.

Yesterday’s Papers by Martin Edwards – Rolling Stones – the 4th Harry Devlin book.

And finally two Agatha Christie titles taken from nursery rhymes:

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie – from Sing a Song of Sixpence – Miss Marple investigates a case of crime of by rhyme…

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie – Poirot investigates the apparent suicide of Mr Morley, Poirot’s Harley Street dentist, who was found dead in his surgery, shot through the head and with a pistol in his hand. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Desert Island Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. The topic this week is Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island. There are so many books I’d love to have with me that I’d really, really want to have my Kindle and an endless battery that never needs recharging, but failing that I’d want these ten books, mostly long ones that I’ve read and would love to re-read:

  •  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I’ve read this many times, but each time I still think it’s wonderful. It’s a novel based on character, plot and is a study of society in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, but above all it is a love story.
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens – I first read this years ago after being captivated by Charles Dance as Mr Tulkinghorn, Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock and Dennis Lawson as John Jarndyce in a BBC TV production and have been wanting to re-read it. It’s about the obscure case in the Court of Chancery of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
  • Pompeii by Richard Harris. The story of the eruption of Vesuvius, destroying the town of Pompeii and killing its inhabitants as they tried to flee the pumice, ash and searing heat and flames. Harris gives vivid descriptions of the luxury of the town – its villas and baths – the corruption of its leaders, the poor living conditions of the general population and the savage cruelty shown to the slaves. 
  • Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill, the 11th book in his Dalziel and Pascoe series. When Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel witnesses a bizarre murder across the street from his own back garden, he is quite sure who the culprit is. But is he right? 
  • The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman – one of the best historical novels that I’ve read. It’s about Richard III from his childhood to his death at Bosworth Field in 1485. And it’s a long book, nearly 900 pages that took me a while to read it, but never once did I think it was too long, or needed editing.
  • The Wolf Hall Trilogy by Hilary Mantel – I suppose I’m cheating here but these three books Wolf HallBring Up the Bodies and The Mirror & the Light belong together as they trace the life and death of Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son who climbed to the heights of power in Henry VIII’s Tudor England. 
  • Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin. I think this is one of his best – a realistic and completely baffling mystery, a complex, multi-layered case, linking back to one of Rebus’s early cases on the force as a young Detective Constable.
  • Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson – a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels about the countryside of north-east Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, England, at the end of the 19th century. I first read this years ago whilst I was recovering from a bad case of flu.
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I forgot that I don’t like reading about battles and war when I read this book, a vast epic centred on Napoleon’s war with Russia. Like all the other books on this list I loved it.
  • Charles Dickens: a Life by Claire Tomalin – an immensely detailed biography, that brings Dickens, his books, his work for the poor, downtrodden and ill-treated, and his world to life. It’s a ‘warts and all’ biography; nothing is left out.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Titles That Are Questions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. The topic this week is Book titles that are questions.

These are all books that I own. I’ve read the first six:

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie, a standalone mystery about a dying man found at the bottom of a cliff whose last words were Why didn’t they ask Evans?

N or M? (Tommy and Tuppence 3) following the publication of N or M? Agatha Christie was investigated by MI5 because she had named one of the characters ‘Major Bletchley’ and MI5 suspected she had a spy in Britain’s undercover code breaking centre, Bletchley Park.

When Will There Be Good News? by  Kate Atkinson, this is a case of bad news all round, beginning when six year old Joanna witnesses the murder of her mother, older sister and baby brother.  It goes from bad to worse.

Who Killed Ruby? by Camilla Way, Ruby was murdered 32 years ago, but her killer was never found. This is a tense and emotional mystery that kept me guessing to the very end.

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah, Melody was seven when she disappeared and although her body had not been discovered her parents were tried and found guilty of murdering her. But is Melody dead or not?

Is Anybody Up There? by Paul Arnott. This is easy reading, with information about a number of religious beliefs, but it’s not very enlightening. It’s more a biography or memoir than an exploration of why Paul Arnott calls himself a devout sceptic. 

These four books are TBRs, most of them books I’d forgotten I’d bought, and found buried deep within my Kindle:

Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers – the first of her Lord Peter Wimsey books, first published in 1923. Wimsey investigates the mystery of the corpse in the bath.

Can You See Me? by Lynne Lee, her first psychological thriller. Julia, a doctor grieving the death of her husband, worries about her daughter’s reaction.

Who Pays the Piper? by Patricia Wentworth, an Inspector Ernest Lamb murder mystery in a quiet English village, first published in 1940.

You Talkin’ to Me: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama? by Sam Leith in which he defines rhetoric and looks its history. Along the way, he tells the stories of its heroes and villains, from Cicero and Erasmus, to Hitler, Obama – and Gyles Brandreth.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books of the Second Half of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. The topic this week is Most Anticipated Books of the Second Half of 2021. I’ve chosen these 10 books because I’ve read other books by these authors and enjoyed them in the past. I’m expecting these to be just as good.

I’ve listed them in release date order:

8 July
That Night by Gillian McAllister. During a family holiday in Italy, you get an urgent call from your sister. There’s been an accident: she hit a man with her car and he’s dead. She’s overcome with terror – fearing years in a foreign jail away from her child. She asks for your help. It wasn’t her fault, not really. She’d cover for you, so will you do the same for her? But when the police come calling, the lies start. And you each begin to doubt your trust in one another.

15 July
Running Out of Road: A gripping thriller set in the Derbyshire peaks by Cath Staincliffe – A missing schoolgirl, a middle-aged recluse, an exploited teenager. Lives thrown into chaos and set on collision course. With the police in hot pursuit.

22 July
The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards – Lake District Cold-Case Mysteries Book 8. Hannah Scarlett is investigating the disappearance of a young woman from Bowness more than twenty years ago.

4 August
A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris – an explosive psychological thriller about one woman who, having carved out her own path to power, is now intent on tearing apart the elite world that tried to hold her back . . . piece by piece.

19 August
1979 by Val McDermid, the first book in the Allie Burns series. It is the winter of discontent, and reporter Allie Burns is chasing her first big scoop. There are few women in the newsroom and she needs something explosive for the boys’ club to take her seriously.

19 August
Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney. Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.

2 September
The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin. When McIlvanney died in 2015, he left half a handwritten manuscript of DC Laidlaw’s first case, a prequel to his Jack Laidlaw trilogy. Now, Ian Rankin has finished what McIlvanney started.

30 September
The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths, the sixth book in the Brighton Mysteries series, set in 1965. When theatrical impresario Bert Billington is found dead in his retirement home, no one suspects foul play. But when the postmortem reveals that he was poisoned, suspicion falls on his wife, eccentric ex-Music Hall star Verity Malone.

1 October
The Unheard by Nicci French. Tess’s number one priority has always been her three-year-old daughter Poppy. But splitting up with Poppy’s father Jason means that she cannot always be there to keep her daughter safe.

7 October
April in Spain by John Banville – the eighth book in the Quirke series. When Dublin pathologist Quirke glimpses a familiar face while on holiday with his wife, it’s hard, at first, to tell whether his imagination is just running away with him. Could she really be who he thinks she is, and have a connection with a crime that nearly brought ruin to an Irish political dynasty?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Summer 2021 To Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. The topic this week is Books On My Summer 2021 To Read List.

Some of these books are ones that have been on my shelves for ages and some are more recent additions from NetGalley.

The Mouse Trap and Selected Plays by Agatha Christie – the world’s longest running play, plus three other thrillers adapted from the novels (which I have read) – And Then There Were None, The Hollow and Appointment with Death. I haven’t seen The Mouse Trap, and doubt I ever will, so the next best thing is to read it.

Set in an manor house a number of people are isolated from the outside world by a blizzard and faced with the reality that one of them is a killer.

The Enchanter’s Forest by Alys Clare – historical fiction set in Midsummer 1195. A ruthlessly ambitious man has fallen deeply into debt, his desperate situation made even more difficult by the contribution he has had to pay towards King Richard’s ransom. To make matters worse the beautiful wife he tricked into marriage has tired of him and her mother hates his guts.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles set in Paris in 1939. Odile Souchet is obsessed with books, and her new job at the American Library in Paris is a dream come true. When war is declared, the Library is determined to remain open. But then the Nazis invade Paris, and everything changes.

Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas – standalone psychological thriller. Una Richardson’s heart is broken after the death of her mother. Seeking a place to heal, she responds to an advertisement and steps into the rich, comforting world of Elspeth McKenzie. But Elspeth’s home is not as safe as it seems.

The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald – In 1912, rational Fred Fairly, one of Cambridge’s best and brightest, crashes his bike and wakes up in bed with a stranger – fellow casualty Daisy Saunders, a charming, pretty, generous working-class nurse. So begins a series of complications – not only of the heart but also of the head – as Fred and Daisy take up each other’s education and turn each other’s philosophies upside down. 

The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachel Hore – Bellevue Gardens is a tranquil London square, tucked away behind a busy street. You might pass it without knowing it’s there. Here, through the imposing front door of Number 11, is a place of peace, of sanctuary and of secrets. It is home to Leonie; once a model in the sixties, she came to the house to escape a destructive marriage and now, out of gratitude, she opens her house to others in need.

The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson –

After her father’s tragic suicide, Una is desperate to get away from Reykjavik. So when an advert appears for a teaching position in a remote, northern Icelandic village, she seizes her chance. But with unfriendly residents, bleak weather and a population of just ten, it is far from what Una knows. And then, just before midwinter, a young girl from the village is found dead. Now there are only nine villagers left. And Una fears that one of them has blood on their hands . . .

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce – 1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need. Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind …

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox – a standalone murder mystery told as a true crime story. In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again. Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. .

The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe passengers boarding the 10.35 train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston are bound for work, reunions, holidays and new starts, with no idea that the journey is about to change their lives for ever, as one of the passengers, sitting in the middle of the carriage is Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . . .

In the aftermath, amidst the destruction and desolation, new bonds are formed, new friendships made… and we find hope in the most unlikely of places and among the most unlikely people.