Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Pre-Blog

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 Gladly Throw in the Ocean, but as I’d never throw books into the ocean, my topic is Books I Read Pre-Blog (pre April 2007) and are all books I enjoyed! Some are my own books and others I borrowed from the library. The descriptions are from a number of sources.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood – the first book of hers I read. Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for 40 years.

The Sea by John Banville – Max Morden visits the seaside town where he spent his summers as a child after the death of his wife. There he remembers the Graces, the family that introduced him to a world of feeling he’d never experienced before. Interwoven with this story are Morden’s memories of his wife, Anna–of their life together, of her death.

Poet in the Gutter by John Baker – Sam Turner has always had a romantic yearning to be Sam Spade. So he tells his men’s group in York that he’s a private eye – it’s better than admitting he’s an unemployed alcoholic. But then one of his friends asks for help in tracking an erring wife. So suddenly Sam is a P.I. And the next thing he knows, he’s on the track of a serial killer – with the help of a street-liver and an ex-English teacher pensioner. . .

March by Geraldine Brooks – I loved the March family in Louisa May Alcott’s books and wondered about Mr March away at war, not knowing as a child which war that was. It was of course the American Civil War, and this book is about his life as an abolitionist and chaplain in the Union Army. During this time, John March writes letters to his family, but he withholds the true extent of the brutality and injustices he witnesses on and off the battlefields.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle – when Sir Charles Baskerville is found mysteriously dead in the grounds of Baskerville Hall, everyone remembers the legend of the monstrous creature that haunts the moor. The greatest detective in the world, Sherlock Holmes, knows there must be a more rational explanation — but the difficulty lies in finding it before the hellhound finds him.

Matilda by Roald Dahl – Matilda Wormwood is only five years old, but she is a genius. Unfortunately her parents are too stupid to even notice. Worse, her horrible headmistress Miss Trunchbull is a bully who makes life difficult for Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, and her friends. But what Miss Trunchbull doesn’t know is that Matilda has a trick or two up her sleeve… I loved the film too.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans – A forty-ton truck hurtles out of control on a snowy country road, a teenage girl on horseback in its path. In a few terrible seconds the life of a family is shattered. And a mother’s quest begins–to save her maimed daughter and a horse driven mad by pain. It is an odyssey that will bring her to The Horse Whisperer. He is the stuff of legend. His voice can calm wild horses and his touch heals broken spirits. For secrets uttered softly into pricked and troubled ears, such men were once called Whisperers. 

Haweswater by Sarah Hall – set in 1936 in a remote dale in the old county of Westmorland, and tells of the flooding of the dale to make way for a reservoir, against the wishes of many of the local hill farmers. It is a story of love, obsession and the destruction of a community.

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler – One hot summer day Maggie and Ira drive from Baltimore towards Pennsylvania, to the funeral of the husband of Maggie’s best friend. During the course of that journey, the author shows all there is to know about a marriage.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Places In Books I’d Love to Live

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 :Places In Books I’d Love to Live.

Lothlorien, the Elf Kingdom in The Lord of the Rings – between the Misty Mountains and the River Anduin, the fairest realm of the Elves remaining in MiddleEarth It is ruled by Galadriel and Celeborn from their city of tree-houses at Caras Galadhon.

Heidi’s grandfather’s mountain in the Swiss Alps above the hamlet of Dorfli in Heidi by Johanna Spyri and the sequels, Heidi Grows Up and Heidi’s Children, written by Charles Tritten.

Hundred Acre Wood in Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne – we stayed in a cottage near Five Hundred Acre Wood in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, where the Winnie-the-Pooh stories were set and played Pooh Sticks on the bridge.

Pemberley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the home of Mr Darcy, located near the fictional town of Lambton, and believed by some to be based on Lyme Park, south of Disley in Cheshire. I’ve been there too.

Oxford in Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse books. In his poem ‘Thyrsis’ the Victorian poet Matthew Arnold called Oxford ‘the city of dreaming spires‘ after the stunning architecture of its university buildings We used to live near Oxford, so often visited. One of my favourite Morse books is The Dead of Jericho.

The Lake District as in Martin Edwards’ Lake District mysteries, featuring Hannah Scarlett and the historian Daniel Kind. I love the Lake District, and have been there many times. The first book in the series is The Coffin Trail.

Tuscany – as in Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes – about the abandoned villa she restored and life in the Italian countryside. Tuscany is one of my favourite places in Italy and I’d love to go there again.

Atlantis’ – the fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva in The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley a a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, the home of the D’Aplièse sisters.

And finally two English fictional villages:

Fairacre in the Miss Read books (the real-life Dora Saint), with its thatched cottage, church, and school,. The first one is Village School.

St Mary Mead in Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books. It was first mentioned in a Miss Marple book in 1930, when it was the setting for the first Miss Marple novel, The Murder at the Vicarage.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR

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 theme this week is: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR. Some of these books are physical books, others are e-books. They are just the tip of my TBR mountain and when the time comes to start a new book it might be one of these – or anyone of my other TBRs, but I hope I do get round to reading at least some of these books this spring.

First the physical books:

The Prophecy by S J Parris (library book) – historical fiction, 1583 – the second in her Giordano Bruno series set in the reign of Elizabeth I. Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. Elizabeth’s throne is in peril, threatened by Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch.

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman, set on a lighthouse keeper’s island, where the Indian Ocean washes into the Great Southern Ocean. A boat washes up on the shore of the island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.

Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor – historical fiction set in 1847 when the Star of the Sea sets sail from Ireland bound for New York. On board are hundreds of fleeing refugees, among them are a maid with a devastating secret, the bankrupt Lord Merridith and his family, and a murderer hungry for vengeance. It has the look of a Victorian novel but was first published in 2004.

Death in Berlin by M M Kaye – crime fiction set in war-scarred Berlin in the early 1950s. Miranda is on the night train when she discovers a dead body. Years ago I read The Far Pavilions and it is only in recent years that I discovered she wrote the Death in … series. This is the 2nd book in the series first published in 1955.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel – the final book in her Wolf Hall trilogy. I bought this when it was published last year and started it just before the first lockdown. But for a variety of reasons I put it to one side for ‘a while‘, where it has stayed! So I’m determined to read it this year. I loved the first two books – this one traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbed to the heights of power under Henry VIII, before he fell.

Next the e-books:

The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths – the 12th Dr Ruth Galloway Mystery, Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway. She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried – but only if Ruth will do the digging.

The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis – set in 1950s/60s America this is a novel about chess. Orphan, Beth Harmon, addicted to tranquillisers, becomes a top chess player, competing for the US Open championship at the age of 16. There is a Netflix mini series of the book – we’ve watched the first episode, which made me want to read the book.

The Driftwood Girls by Mark Douglas-Home, the 4th Sea Detective book, with investigator Cal McGill who uses his knowledge of tides, winds and currents to solve mysteries. In this book when Flora Tolmie disappears her twin sister Kate asks Cal for help to discover what has happened to her and also to look into the disappearance of their mother,Christina, who had vanished without trace from northern France, 23 years earlier.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lipton – set in rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, where a school is under siege. Pupils and teachers have barricaded themselves inside the school and the headmaster lies wounded in the library, Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.

Mountains of the Mind: a Fascination by Robert Macfarlane, an investigation into our emotional and imaginative responses to mountains and how these have changed over the last few centuries. He describes his own climbing experiences, inspired by reading The Fight for Everest when he was twelve. It won the 2003 Guardian First Book Award, the 2004 Somerset Maugham Award and the 2004 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and has been filmed by the BBC.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had

This week’s topic is: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had:

  1. Bookseller – The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovatt
  2. Genealogist – Rachel in In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward
  3. Historian – Mathias, Marc and Lucien in The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas
  4. Art historian – Robert Langdon in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code
  5. Author – Ariadne Oliver in Agatha Christie’s books eg Cards on the Table
  6. Editor – Isabel is a philosopher and editor in Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series eg The Sunday Philosopher Club.
  7. Photographer – Rose Trevelyan in Janie Bolitho’s Cornish Mystery books eg Snapped in Cornwall
  8. Lawyer – Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  9. Singer – Penny Cartwright, a folk singer in some of Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks’ books eg A Dedicated Man
  10. Actress – Clara Vine in Black Roses by Jane Thynne

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

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 That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza). There aren’t many books that make me laugh out loud, although plenty make me chuckle or smile. Maybe that’s because most of the books I read are crime or historical fiction.

Gone Fishing by Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse is probably the only book recently that has made me laugh out loud – well, actually it was the audiobook, although I have also got the e-book version. But listening to the two of them is so much better than reading the book. I loved the BBC’s Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing series, which made me want to get the book. It’s a joint memoir and about life and the love of fishing all rolled into one hilarious laugh-out-loud book.

The rest of the books didn’t make me laugh out loud but made me chuckle or smile and were entertaining.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend. I read this years ago but remember it and the other Adrian Mole books as very funny. ‘Adrian Mole is a hapless teenager providing an unabashed, pimples-and-all glimpse into adolescent life. Writing candidly about his parents’ marital troubles, the dog, his life as a tortured poet and ‘misunderstood intellectual’.

Remembering Sue Townsend’s books made me think of Adrian Plass, who writes really funny books about Christianity and he’s even funnier in person. I went to a talk he gave at a local church and he had the whole church in hysterics. I was laughing so much that tears were running down my face. I can’’t remember any other time when I have laughed so I cried – my face was aching. He hardly ever cracked a smile and delivered his talk in such a deadpan way that made it even funnier. A link to his website is here. He’s written many books, perhaps the most well known is The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass aged 37 1/2 and I think my favourite book is Alien at St Wilfred’s. It’s very funny, about a small alien, calling himself Nunc who comes to live in a parish church and learns to speak Prayer Book English. His effect on the vicar and the congregation is hilarious.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. When Jerome began writing this book he intended it to be a serious travel book about the Thames, its scenery and history, but, as he wrote, it turned into a funny book. The Thames remains at the centre of the book but it is also full of anecdotes about the events that happened to him and his friends whilst out on the river, interspersed with passages about the scenery and history. It’s a gentle, witty book that kept me entertained all the way through.

Reading The Third Pig Detective Agency by Bob Burke was a complete change of genre for me. It’s funny, a bit silly, a pastiche of American gumshoe crime fiction, and a fantasy  – indeed it’s a fairytale detective story. I did enjoy recognising all the fairy tale characters Bob Burke throws into the mix.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It tells the story of Her Majesty, not named, but she has dogs, takes her summer holiday at Balmoral and is married to a duke. She comes across the travelling library, thanks to the dogs, parked next to the bins outside one of the kitchen doors at the palace and ends up borrowing a book to save the driver/librarian’s embarrassment. It’s not a laugh out loud book but it is very amusing and did make me chuckle. My favourite story by Alan Bennett is a novella, The Lady in the Van, the true story of Miss Shepherd who lived in her van in Alan Bennett’s front garden. A sympathetic and amusing account of an eccentric old lady.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam. It’s funny, warm and tells the story of a retired QC. I became very fond of him. Sir Edward Feathers, variously known as Eddie, The Judge, Fevvers, Master of the Inner Temple and Teddy. Not a dirty old man, he is ‘spectacularly clean. You might say ostentatiously clean.’ Filth is his nickname standing for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. 

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson – about his trip around Britain in 1995, described as ‘laugh out loud funny’ and ‘a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie’s Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey.’ I didn’t laugh out loud, but I did find his observations and wit amusing and it did make me smile! I read this years ago and since then I have bought but not read yet The Road to Little Dribbling and Notes from a Big Country.

Top Ten Tuesday: Purple, Yellow and Green Covers

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 it’s all about Purple, Yellow, and/or Green Book Covers (in honor of Mardis Gras, which is today!) These books are all ones I own. Some I’ve read (some pre-blog), others are still on my TBR shelves. The links where I have reviewed the books are to my posts, the others are to Amazon UK.

Purple:

The Visitor by Lee Child – this is the 4th book in the Jack Reacher series, in which he is under suspicion for the murder of two ex-Army women. (I haven’t read this one.)

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier – set in Cornwall in 1820. It was inspired by du Maurier’s 1930 stay at the real Jamaica Inn, which still exists as a pub in the middle of Bodmin Moor. The plot follows a group of murderous wreckers who run ships aground, kill the sailors and steal the cargo.

Caesar by Colleen McCullough – the 5th book in the Masters of Rome series. Julius Caesar sweeps across Gaul in 54 BC as his enemies in Rome are plotting his downfall, and so he marches on the city after crossing the Rubicon.

Yellow:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – one of my favourite books of all time. Set in 1327, when Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

Springwatch Unsprung: Why Do Robins Have Red Breasts? by Joanne Stevens – this provides answers to the most-asked wildlife questions to the Springwatch team. I always watch this BBC2 programme and Autumnwatch and Winterwatch. They’ve still been on during the COVID-19 pandemic, but not coming from a central base. Instead each presenter appeared from a location near their home.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – a beautiful book moving between the early 1940s and 1986, mainly in Seattle. The Panama Hotel has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered personal belongings stored in the basement by Japanese families sent to interment camps during World War II. Henry Lee is flooded by memories of his childhood and the girl he lost his heart to so many years ago.

Green:

All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard – the last in her Cazalet series. This is an old fashioned family saga, with both happy and sad events as the Cazalets move forward, and not successfully for all of them, in post-war England.

Caesar’s Women by Colleen MacCullough – the 4th book in the Masters of Rome series. 64 BC as Julius Caesar battles for political power using the powerful Roman noblewomen, Servilia, Brutus’s mother, the Vestal Virgins and his daughter, Julia.

Normal People by Sally Rooney – the story of Connell and Marianne who grow up in a small town in the west of Ireland, who try to stay apart, but find they can’t. This is described as ‘an exquisite love story’. (I haven’t read this one.)

Mercy by Jodie Picoult – another book I haven’t read yet and one I’ve had for a long time, hesitating about reading it. It’s a novel about euthanasia – Jamie has killed his terminally ill wife. But was it murder, or mercy? It’s a question that will divide the town as a heated murder trial blazes on, forcing them to face the hardest questions of the heart: when does love cross the line of moral obligation? And what does it mean to truly love another?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Written Before I Was Born

The topic this week is Books Written Before I Was Born (These can be books you’ve read or want to read!) (submitted by Davida Chazan @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog).

My list is of crime fiction I’d like to read (linked to Goodreads for descriptions of the books).

  1. Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay
  2. The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude
  3. The High Window by Raymond Chandler
  4. The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin
  5. Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers
  6. The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
  7. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
  8. Checkmate to Murder by E C R Lorac
  9. Rope’s End, Rogue’s End by E C R Lorac
  10. Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020

The topic this week is New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020. I read 28 new-to-me authors in 2020 – some were debut novels and others were books I’d wanted to read for years. These are 10 of them:

!. Kathryn Aalto – Writing Wild – nonfiction, highlighting the work of 25 women writers, covering two hundred years of women’s history through nature writing. I already knew some, but others were new to me and I would like to read several of their works, such as Andrea Wulf’s book The  Brother Gardeners in which  she explores how England became a nation of gardeners

2. Miles Burton – The Secret of High Eldersham – a Golden Age crime classic, first published in 1930. The landlord of the Rose and Crown Inn in the village of High Eldersham was found dead slumped in a chair, having been stabbed in the neck. The local police don’t feel able to deal with the murder so call in help from Scotland Yard.

3. Patti Callahan – Becoming Mrs Lewis – a novel about Helen Joy Davidman and C S Lewis, written as though Joy herself is telling their story it is intense, passionate and very personal and I felt very uncomfortable reading it – as though I was eavesdropping on the characters. 

4. Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries – historical fiction set in New Zealand in the 1860s, during its gold rush and it has everything – gold fever, murder, mystery and a ghost story too. I became fully absorbed in the story during the week it took me to read. it

5. Raymond Challoner – The Big Sleep – first published in 1939, an excellent example of ‘hardboiled’ crime fiction, which generally featured a private eye with a whisky bottle in a filing cabinet, a femme fatale, and rich and usually corrupt clients. I enjoyed it and will probably read more of the Philip Marlow books.

6. Takashi Hiraide – The Guest Cat – a novella about a cat that made itself at home with a couple in their thirties who lived in a small rented house in a quiet part of Tokyo and how that changed their lives. As a cat lover how could I resist this book? It is only short, 146 pages but it packs so much within those pages. And there was a lot that struck chords with me.

7. Andrew Taylor Murray – The Last Day – the story of a world coming to an end and the effects that had on the planet and the population. It presents a totalitarian world, and gives a vivid picture of what life has become for the people who live on the burning sun side of the planet. 

8. James Patterson – Private Moscow – the 15th book in James Patterson’s Private series, this is a change from the type of books usually read – an action packed, fast paced mystery thriller. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I want to read the other books in the series.

9. Valérie Perrin – Fresh Water for Flowers – I loved this novel, a story of love and loss – and hope. Violette, the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne, is a character I really warmed to; she is optimistic, brave, creative and caring. I do want to read more of her books!

10. Raymond Postgate – Somebody at the Door – another Golden Age murder mystery, first published in 1943. It’s set in 1942 and it gives a vivid picture of what life was like in wartime England. Henry Grayling was on the 6.12 train from Euston, travelling home to Croxburn from work in London – but when he arrived home he was seriously ill and died later that evening.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Still Waiting on My Shelves To Be Read

The topic this week is Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To (You could take this opportunity to tell us what’s left on your seasonal TBRs from last year. Or books you were super excited about and then you didn’t get to them.)

I don’t like to plan what I’m going to read next as when I do I hardly ever stick to my plan. I have hundreds of unread books to choose from, so for this topic I just picked out ten of them from the shelves. These aren’t books I wanted to read specifically in 2020 – they’re are just ten of the books that I really wanted to read when I first got them – but have still not got round to reading them. These are all used books from Barter Books in Alnwick.

The Mouse Trap and Selected Plays by Agatha Christie is a book I’m really keen to read, particularly as it is now extremely unlikely that I’ll be able to see it on stage. It ran continuously from when it first opened in 1952 and ran continuously until March 16, 2020, when the stage performances had to be discontinued due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Croft, a Golden Age of British Crime Fiction. I’ve read several of these British Library Crime Classics, so this appealed to me. Dr James Earle and his wife live near the Hog’s Back, a ridge in the North Downs in the beautiful Surrey countryside. When Dr Earle disappears from his cottage, Inspector French is called in to investigate. At first he suspects a simple domestic intrigue – and begins to uncover a web of romantic entanglements beneath the couple’s peaceful rural life.

Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith are books I’ve been meaning to read for years! In Strangers on a Train Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno are passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. The Talented Mr Ripley, is the first novel to feature, anti-hero, Tom Ripley. He wanted money, success, the good life – and he was willing to kill for it.

The White Family by Maggie Gee. I read one of Maggie Gee’s books years ago, The Cleaner, and wanted to read more. She’s published 12 novels and The White Family is her seventh. On the back cover it’s described as a novel on the subject of racial hatred as it looks at love, hatred, sex, comedy and death in an ordinary British family.

Longbourn by Jo Baker is a book I’ve dithered about reading for ages, finally I decided that I do want to read it. I wasn’t sure as it’s about the Bennet family (in Pride and Prejudice) but from the servants’ perspective. I dithered as I’m often disappointed by modern versions of classics, sequels and prequels etc. But this has so many good reviews that I’ve been persuaded to read it.

I’ve added Rory Clements to my list of favourite authors. He writes historical fiction and The Heretics is one of his John Shakespeare series of Elizabethan mysteries. Spanish galleys land troops in Cornwall in 1595 – is this a dry-run for a new invasion (seven years after the Armada) or something more sinister – a threat to Queen Elizabeth I’s life?

I loved Henning Mankell’s first Kurt Wallender mystery, so the second book, The Dogs of Riga is another book I’m really keen to read. Two bodies wash ashore on the Swedish coast in a life raft. The dead men were criminals, victims of what seems to have been a gangland hit. But what appears to be an open-and-shut case soon takes on a far more sinister aspect.

Rule Britannia by Daphne du Maurier. I’ve read a lot of her books, so when I saw this at Barter Books I picked it up immediately. However, when I got it home I looked it up in Margaret Forster’s biography of du Maurier and my enthusiasm fell, because she described it as the poorest novel du Maurier had ever written. Still, I want to read it to see for myself. Du Maurier described it to her granddaughter as ‘very funny, at least I think so … it takes the mickey out of everything, including as a family.’ First published in 1972 in this novel the UK has withdrawn from the Common Market (as it was then called) and has formed an alliance with the United States – supposed to be an equal partnership but it looks to some people like a takeover bid. Was du Maurier able to foresee the future, I wonder?

Another Agatha Christie novel I really want to read is The Complete Parker Pine, as I haven’t read any of the Parker Pine stories. Plump and bald, Christopher Pyne (although he is always referred to as J Parker Pyne) is a retired civil servant. Having worked as a government employee for 35 years, during which time he tirelessly compiled statistics, Pyne decides to set himself up as a private investigator, describing himself as a ‘heart specialist’.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021

This week’s topic is Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021. My list includes only 8 books or rather advance review copies from NetGalley. I’ve listed them in their release date order. Links from the titles will take you the book descriptions on Goodreads.

  1. The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood – 7 January. Judith, Suzie and Becks, recently retired, form the Marlow Murder Club investigating murders in Marlow, Bucks.
  2. The City of Tears by Kate Mosse – 19 January. The second historical epic in The Burning Chambers series set in France in 1572.
  3. The Mirror Dance by Catriona McPherson – 21 January. Something sinister is afoot in the streets of Dundee, when a puppeteer is found murdered behind his striped Punch and Judy stand, as children sit cross-legged drinking ginger beer.
  4. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles- 9 February. Based on the true Second World War story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is a novel of romance, friendship, family, and of heroism found in the quietest of places.
  5. We Are Not in the World by Conor O’Callaghan – 18 February. Heartbroken after a long, painful love affair, a man drives a haulage lorry from England to France. Travelling with him is a secret passenger – his daughter. Twenty-something, unkempt, off the rails.
  6. A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson – 18 February. Set in Northern Ontario in 1972, this explores the relationships of these three people brought together by fate and the mistakes of the past. 
  7. The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson – 29 April. When Una sees an advert seeking a teacher for two girls in the tiny village of Skálar – population of ten – on the storm-battered north coast of the island, she sees it as a chance to escape.
  8. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – 18 March. A World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.