Top Five Tueday: Book Covers with Plants

Top Five Tuesday was originally created by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, but is now hosted by Meeghan @ Meeghan Reads. To participate, link your post back to Meeghan’s blog or leave a comment on her weekly post.

This is my first attempt at a Top Five Tuesday post. This week it’s about books with plants on their covers, so here are mine. I’ve read all of them except for one.

Heat Wave by Penelope Lively, with its cover full of summer flowers, reflecting the long hot summer in the English countryside.

Blurb:

Pauline is spending the summer at World’s End, a cottage somewhere in the middle of England. This year the adjoining cottage is occupied by her daughter Teresa and baby grandson Luke; and, of course, Maurice, the man Teresa married. As the hot months unfold, Maurice grows ever more involved in the book he is writing – and with his female copy editor – and Pauline can only watch in dismay and anger as her daughter repeats her own mistakes in love. The heat and tension will lead to a violent, startling climax.

In Heat Wave, Penelope Lively gives us a moving portrayal of a fragile family damaged and defined by adultery, and the lengths to which a mother will go to protect the ones she loves.

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson – a striking cover for this historical fiction about the early years of Henry VII’s reign.

Blurb:

My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive. 

A Month in the Country by J L Carr. I loved this quiet novel, in which not a lot happens and yet so much happens as Tom describes the events of that summer month in the country. And it has a gorgeous cover too!

Blurb:

A damaged survivor of the First World War, Tom Birkin finds refuge in the quiet village church of Oxgodby where he is to spend the summer uncovering a huge medieval wall-painting. Immersed in the peace and beauty of the countryside and the unchanging rhythms of village life he experiences a sense of renewal and belief in the future. Now an old man, Birkin looks back on the idyllic summer of 1920, remembering a vanished place of blissful calm, untouched by change, a precious moment he has carried with him through the disappointments of the years. Adapted into a film starring Colin Firth, Natasha Richardson and Kenneth Branagh, A Month in the Country traces the slow revival of the primeval rhythms of life so cruelly disorientated by the Great War.

The Overstory by Richard Powers. This was recommended to me by a friend and I bought this last year but I still haven’t read it yet. I love its cover.

Blurb:

An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. An Air Force crewmember in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan.

This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.

The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter – an Inspector Morse book. An atmospheric cover for this mystery that Morse solves from crossword type clues, with plenty of twists and turns and vivid descriptions of the scenery and locations.

Blurb:

They called her the Swedish Maiden – the beautiful young tourist who disappeared on a hot summer’s day somewhere in North Oxford. Twelve months later the case remained unsolved – pending further developments.

On holiday in Lyme Regis, Chief Inspector Morse is startled to read a tantalizing article in The Times about the missing woman. An article which lures him back to Wytham Woods near Oxford . . . and straight into the most extraordinary murder investigation of his career.

20 Books of Summer Starts Today

Today is the start of Cathy at 746 Books20 Books of Summer. I previously listed the books I thought I’d read, but I’m already making a change and substituting Blue Moon by Lee Childs for An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris.

So, these are the 20 books that I’m hoping to read this summer:

  1. The Railway Children by E Nesbit
  2. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
  3. Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K Jerome
  4. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
  5. Sing, Jess, Sing by Tricia Coxon
  6. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
  7. The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge
  8. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  9. The Killing Kind by Jane Casey
  10. The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson
  11. True Crime Story by Joseph Knox
  12. Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas
  13. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
  14. Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger
  15. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles ** – as Rosemarykay pointed out in the comments I’ve duplicated this one, so I’m changing it to Heresy by S J Parris
  16. Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine
  17. A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry
  18. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
  19. Katheryn Howard, The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir
  20. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

WWW Wednesday: 26 May 2021

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

The Three Ws are:

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

I was reading Jane Casey’s latest book, The Killing Kind until I realised that I was running out of time to read Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, which is my Classics Club Spin book to be read by 31 May. So I switched to Little Dorrit. So far I’ve only read 25% and it’s not a book I can read quickly, but I am enjoying it. The main characters are Amy Dorrit known as Little Dorrit and Arthur Clennam, newly returned from China where he had lived for the last 20 years.

It begins with a scene in Marseilles between two prisoners with the murderer Rigaud telling his prison cellmate John Baptist Cavalletto how he killed his wife, just prior to being released from prison. Arthur Clennam is also in Marseilles, detained with other travellers in quarantine.

I’ve recently finished Prophecy, historical fiction set in 1583, the second in S J Parris’ Giordano Bruno series. I’ve not read any of her books before, but I’m certainly going to read more. It’s the 25th year of Elizabeth I’s reign and the Catholics are plotting to remove her from the throne of England in favour of Mary Queen of Scots. I’ll write more about it in a later post.

What to read next? I don’t know …

I’d like to read the first book in the series – Heresy, in which Bruno is 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. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.

I’d also like to get back to reading The Killing Kind, so I think I’ll probably read that next. It’s a standalone novel about barrister Ingrid Lewis who is being stalked by a former client, John Webster.

But it could be something completely different – there are so many books I want to read …

A Reading Plan for the Coming Week?

Last weekend I planned posts for the week ahead. I managed to stick to the plan, but I did find it a bit stressful. So, this week I’m taking it as it comes. I may do a Top Ten Tuesday post and a review post of The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, but that is by no means a definite plan. I’ll be busy next week in the garden, now that the grass is growing along with everything else!

And I may pluck up courage and visit Barter Books – that will be exciting!

Do you plan your posts, I’m wondering? Do you find it helps or hinders?

Six Degrees of Separation from Shuggie Bain to The Secret Life of Bees

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Shuggie Bain is by Douglas Stuart and it won the Booker Prize in 2020. I haven’t read it.

This is a story of a young boy growing up in poverty in a dysfunctional family in the 1980s. Shuggie’s mother, Agnes, is an alcoholic, and his father, Shug, is a taxi driver who despises his wife’s addiction to ‘the drink’, cheats on her whenever the opportunity arises, and ultimately abandons her to a low-income housing development called Pithead, a depressing colliery where residents survive on government handouts. It’s Douglas Stuart’s first novel.

My first link is to another Booker Prize winning book, The Gathering by Anne Enright, the winner in 2007. It’s a dark and disturbing novel also about a dysfunctional family. The narrator is Veronica Hegarty and it is through her eyes that the Hegarty family story is told as they gather at her brother’s wake in Dublin. Liam, an alcoholic, had committed suicide by putting rocks into his pockets and walking into the sea at Brighton. 

My second link is from a fictional character who put rocks in his pockets to drown himself to a real person who committed suicide in the same way -Virginia Woolf. In his biography of her, Quentin Bell described how she made her way to the river bank, slipped a large stone into her coat pocket and drowned herself.

My third link is from a suicide to a death that seemed at first to be a suicide but then turned out to be murder, in Gallows Court by Martin Edwards, set in 1930s London. There’s tension and suspicion about who is telling the truth, and who is not who they appear to be. You just cannot believe anything as it’s full of illusions and tricks to baffle and mislead.

Fourth, there’s another apparent suicide in The Serpent Pool, a Lake District Mystery, by Martin Edwards. Bethany Friend drowned in the Serpent Pool, a lonely, isolated place below the Serpent Tower, a folly high on a ridge. DCI Hannah Scarlet, in charge of the Cumbria’s Cold Case Team, investigates her death with the help of historian, Daniel Kind.

Fifth, from the Serpent Tower my chain moves on to the Eiffel Tower in Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner. It combines crime fiction and historical fiction, as Eugénie Patinot takes her nephews and niece to the newly-opened Eiffel Tower in 1889. They sign the visitors’ book, and then Eugénie collapses and dies, apparently from a bee-sting.

And the final link is to bees in Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Lives of Bees, (I’ve had this book for 6 years and it’s been hidden in my Kindle ever since – unread!). It’s a coming of age tale set in 1960s South Carolina’. It tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. This book also links back to Shuggie Bain as both are their authors’ debut novels.

My chain began in Glasgow, moved to Dublin, various places in England and then Paris before ending up in South Carolina. The links include Booker Prize winners, dysfunctional families, suicide, murder and bees.

Next month’s chain (May 1, 2021) will begin with Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, a book I’ve never come across before.

Novellas in November: Short Classics

It’s the final week of Novellas in November and the focus is on classic literature.

Animal Farm by George Orwell, first published in 1945, is an allegorical novella, of the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. It tells the story of a farm where the animals rebel against the farmer, Mr Jones, and throw him off the land. They hope to create a society where they are all equal, free and happy. Ultimately, the farm ends up in a state that is as bad, if not worse than it was before, under the dictatorship of a pig named Napoleon. It begins as the old boar Major tells the animals about his dream of overthrowing the human race when the produce of their labour would then be their own and he incites them to rebel. In the story that follows the Major is based on Marx, Farmer Jones on the Tsar, the pigs Napoleon and Snowball are based on Stalin and Trotsky respectively. Their revolution began by declaring that all animals are equal and ended with the added phrase but some animals are more equal than others.

This is one of those classics that I knew the story roughly, but had not read the book, until this month. I was surprised, although I shouldn’t have been, at the violence of the deaths in it and the pathos of Boxer’s story. Boxer, a cart horse is described as an enormous beast. He is hardworking, but naive and ignorant, struggling to learn the alphabet, representing the Russian working class who helped oust the Tsar. He is shown as the farm’s most dedicated and loyal worker – convinced that ‘Napoleon is always right‘, but eventually he is betrayed by him.

It is a deceptively easy read that can be read on two levels either as a simple fairy tale style story – initially Animal Farm had a subtitle, A Fairy Story – or as a satire against Stalin. It is thought provoking and moving.

~~~

I’ve read several short classics since I began writing this blog. These are some of my favourites:

Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon by Jane Austen. Lady Susan is a finished novella, whereas The Watsons and Sanditon are two unfinished fragments. I loved these stories. Told in a series of letters, Lady Susan is the  story of an unscrupulous widow who plans to force her daughter into a marriage against her wishes. Lady Susan is an attractive and entertaining and totally wicked character, who nevertheless almost manages to fool people for some of the time at least. She is also trying to captivate her sister-in-law’s brother, whilst still holding on to the affections of a previous lover.

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’. Hannay is a remarkable character, resourceful, and a master of disguise. As well as fleeing for his life he is searching for Scudder’s notebook, which contains clues to the international conspiracy.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, a quick read and very entertaining. The narrator is not named, although Holly Golightly calls him ‘Fred’ after her brother. He’s a writer and at the beginning of the book he is reminiscing about Holly with Joe Bell, who ran a bar around the corner on Lexington Avenue. They hadn’t seen or heard from Holly  for over two years. She used to live in the apartment below Fred’s in a brownstone in the East Seventies in New York. Her past is almost as unknown as her present whereabouts. She’s a free spirit, charming and carefree, but craves attention.

Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Even though Ethan Frome is a tragedy there is light to contrast the darkness, and there is love and hope set against repression and misery. It’s a book where I hoped the ending would be a happy one, although I knew it couldn’t be. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, Ethan’s life had changed when his father died and he had had to give up his studies to work on the farm. His wife Zeena had always been ill and needing help in the house, which was why her cousin Mattie came to live with them. At first it worked out quite well, but Ethan couldn’t shrug off a sense of dread.

Classics Club Spin

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin You create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period. On Sunday 22 November, the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. I’ve just made it as the result hasn’t been posted yet! The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that numb er on your Spin List by 30th January, 2021.

I have just 7 books left on my list, so I’ve repeated the list twice (minus the 7th book for second repeat).

  1. The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter
  2. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  3. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  4. The Big Sleep by Raymond Challoner
  5. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  6. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  7. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  8. The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter
  9. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  10. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  11. The Big Sleep by Raymond Challoner
  12. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  13. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  14. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  15. The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter
  16. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  17. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  18. The Big Sleep by Raymond Challoner
  19. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  20. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollop

Classics Club Spin

63269-classic2bspin

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin.  I was wondering if one was due, so I’m pleased to find it is, especially as I haven’t made much progress with reading any off my list recently.

    • Before Sunday 19th April 2020, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. This is your Spin List.  I only have 9 unread books left on my list so I’ve listed them twice and added two more books that I’d like to read.
    • You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.
    • On 19th April the folks at The Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 1st June 2020.

 

      1. The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter
      2. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
      3. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
      4. Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert
      5. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
      6. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
      7. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
      8. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
      9. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
      10. The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter
      11. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
      12. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
      13. Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert
      14. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
      15. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
      16. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
      17. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
      18. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
      19. I’ll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier
      20. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Have you read any of these and loved them? Any that you didn’t enjoy?

The Lost Man by Jane Harper: Blog Tour Review

He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.

The Lost Man

Little, Brown|7 February 2019 |384 pages|e-book |Review copy|4.5*

As I loved Force of Nature by Jane Harper I was absolutely delighted when Caollin Douglas at Little, Brown Publishing asked me if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for Jane Harper’s latest book, The Lost Man. I wasn’t disappointed – I loved it.

Blurb:

Did Cameron walk to his death under the unrelenting sun of the Australian Outback? If not, what happened? Set in the unfamiliar, isolating and disorientating landscape of the Outback, The Lost Man combines intrigue, surprise and intellect to create a gripping and thrilling narrative.

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

My thoughts:

This is essentially a family drama and is very much character-driven, set in an isolated part of Australia hundreds of miles from anywhere and revolving around the death of Cameron Bright. There are three Bright brothers – Nathan the oldest, then Cameron and the youngest brother, Bub. They have a vast cattle ranch in the Queensland outback. 

The book begins with the discovery of Cameron’s body lying at the the base of the headstone of the stockman’s grave – a headstone standing alone, a metre high, facing west, towards the desert, in a land of mirages. It provides the only bit of shade for miles around. He had obviously died an agonising death in the intense forty-five degrees of heat, crawling round the headstone in search of its shade as the earth rotated around the sun. Nathan and Bub meet at the site and can’t understand why he was there – his car was found several kilometres away and at first they assumed he had just walked away to end his life, but that didn’t seem to make sense. Nathan just can’t believe Cameron would do that. There is little actual police investigation and so Nathan delves into the past on his own looking for answers. He is astonished at what he finds.

Nathan is a solitary man, divorced and living alone, a three hours’ drive from the rest of the family. There is a mystery surrounding his isolation not just from his family but also from the small town, three hours drive away. Whereas, Cameron, who took over the ranch after his father died, is well liked, married with two little girls. The youngest brother, Bub, meanwhile is an angry young man, resentful of the way Cameron runs the business, mainly because he thinks his views are being ignored. As Nathan tries to fathom what had happened hidden passions and resentments begin to surface and it becomes clear that this is a dysfunctional family. He realises there was a lot about his family he had never known.

Throughout the book the Australian outback looms large, a huge and isolated territory, red earth stretching for hundreds of miles, with its unbearable heat, dust and, at times, the threat of flood. But it’s the characters, as their past history and relationships are exposed and they became real personalities, that made the book such compelling reading for me. I liked the storytelling, the details of the legends surrounding the stockman, the drama of the family grieving over Cameron’s death – and the mystery of his death – was it suicide or murder, and if it was murder who had killed him and why?

It’s a powerful and absorbing book and after I finished it I wondered about the title – just which one of the men was the ‘Lost Man‘. I’m still not sure, maybe they all were …

Blog tour banners

Source: Review copy as part of The Lost Man blog tour, via NetGalley– Thank you.

About the Author

Australian Jane Harper, author of The Lost Man, The Dry and Force of Nature

Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry and Force of Nature.

Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and now lives in Melbourne.

You can find out more by visiting Jane’s website and finding her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter @janeharperautho.

Challenges: