Mount TBR 2017 Final Checkpoint


It’s time for the final checkpoint in Bev’s Mount TBR Reading challenge 2017:

My aim was to scale Mt Ararat (ie to read 48 books) but I only made it to the base of Mt Vancouver, reading 25 books, as once again I got side-tracked by reading books that I bought/borrowed during the year. I still have a few reviews to write.

The Words to the Wise According to Mount TBR: Using the titles of the books you read this year, see how many of the familiar proverbs and sayings below you can complete with a book read on your journey up the Mountain.

A stitch in time saves … The Taxidermist’s Daughter
Don’t count your chickens… [on] The Other Side of the Bridge
A penny saved is… The Kill Fee
All good things must come… [to] A Dedicated Man
When in Rome… [go to] The Gathering 
All that glitters is not… The Eagle of the Ninth
A picture is worth …  All the Light We Cannot See
When the going gets tough, the tough get…  Wives and Daughters
Two wrongs don’t make… A Necessary End 
The pen is mightier than… Caedmon’s Song 
The squeaky wheel gets… [to an] An Uncertain Place
Hope for the best, but prepare for… The Dead of Jericho
Birds of a feather flock… [to]  A Death in the Dales

My thanks to Bev for hosting this challenge!

Crime Fiction read in 2017

Crime fiction has made up a large section of my reading this year- 49 books, out of a total of 106. Most of them are by authors known to me, and some by new-to-me authors.

These are my top ten in A-Z author order:

Crime Fiction 2017(1)

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey, the seventh Maeve Kerrigan book and it is no less intriguing and complex than the earlier books. I loved it. These are police procedurals, fast-paced novels, with intriguing and complex plots and developing the relationships between the main characters.

Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas, in which the secrets and lies never stop coming, right up to the end of the book. Right from the beginning of the book I was hooked – I was never really sure who I could believe, and just who was telling the truth. It’s one of those books that keeps you guessing right up to the end and this one is excellent, dramatic, tense and so very, very twisty.

.Justice by Another Name by E C Hanes. I had no idea when I began reading just how much I was going to enjoy it. I had never heard of E C Hanes and had no expectations that a murder in the hog-producing industry would be so enthralling. But as soon as I began reading I had a feeling that this was going to be a good book as in a dramatic opening two boys are drowned in a violent storm. I was engrossed in the mystery, amazed that I found the details of the pig farming industry so interesting.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, a mystery full of red herrings and multiple twists. It’s a very clever and different type of murder mystery. I don’t think I’ve read anything like it before, one in which the author himself plays a major role. At first I was slightly confused – were the details about Horowitz fact or fiction (a lot of it is true), was Hawthorne a real person or a fictional character, what was fact and what was fiction? It really is one of the most complicated and bemusing books I’ve read.

Crime Fiction 2017(2)

Eyes Like Mine by Sheena Kamal, – everything about this book fascinated me from the characters and in particular the main character, Nora Watts, the gripping storylines that kept me racing through the book, to the atmospheric, gloomy setting in Vancouver and in beautiful British Columbia with its snow, mountains and plush ski resorts.

A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride, a gripping page-turner that kept me glued to the book – I didn’t want to put it down. I wasn’t at all sure that I would like it thinking it might be too ‘noir’ for me, but whilst it is dark with some violent and disturbing scenes I was soon hooked into the mystery. It’s a fantastic book, complex, compelling and it kept me guessing right to the end.

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid, this is the first Karen Pirie book. Karen doesn’t play a major role – only appearing in Part Two as a Detective Constable, re- investigating the murder described in Part One, 25 years later. A major twist completely threw me before the dramatic ending.

The Body in the Ice by A J MacKenzie – this is the 2nd Hardcastle and Chaytor Mystery set in Romney Marsh and the surrounding countryside in 1796-7, where a body is found frozen into the ice face down. Reading historical crime fiction is a different experience from reading modern crime fiction – no modern technology, just old-fashioned crime detection and deduction and a certain amount of intuition. I enjoyed it immensely.

Crime Fiction 2017(3)

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, this was my first venture into Icelandic Noir and the first in a new series – the Children’s House thriller series. I loved it and once I started reading I just didn’t want to put it down. It’s dark, mysterious and very cleverly plotted, full of tension and nerve-wracking suspense. Although I thought I’d worked out who the murderer is I was completely wrong, but looking back I could see all the clues are there, cunningly concealed – I just didn’t notice them.

A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas, the 9th Commissaire Adamsberg book. I had high expectations for this book and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s as quirky and original as the other Commissaire Adamsberg books I’ve read (I’ve read five of them, including this one). As in earlier books, Fred Vargas brings in elements of the supernatural, of folk tales, myths and legends, all of which is fascinating and intricately woven into the murder mystery. I loved all of it.

I loved all these books, but the one that stands out most in my memory; the one that gripped me most and kept me glued to the pages, full of suspense and tension, is

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Christmas at Windsor 1860

Victoria: A Life

I’ve been reading Victoria: a Life by A N Wilson and just before Christmas I read the section on Victoria and Albert’s Christmas in 1860:

The last Christmas before tragedy broke up the family was that of 1860, and it was a happy one. Even Albert and Victoria, everlastingly on the lookout for faults in the Prince of Wales, were pleased with their eldest son. He had just fulfilled his first major public engagement on his own – a four-month tour of Canada and the United States. (page 242)

In the United States Bertie had been an instant social success and Victoria acknowledged that he had qualities she would never possess. So Bertie was welcomed to Windsor that Christmas,

… where bright winter sunshine lit up castle windows thick with crystalline hexagons of frost, where the lakes were frozen so thickly that the young could play ice hockey, and where the Prince Consort, always at his happiest during these days of the year, supervised the hanging of giant Christmas trees from the ceiling, festooned with candles and decorations. (page 245)

(Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had popularised the German custom of decorating fir trees at Christmas time, which had originally been introduced into England by Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III.)

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle’, from Supplement to the Illustrated London News December 1848.

… the great German Christmas was celebrated, as it happened for the last time. The presents were arranged, each on a separate table for every recipient … the dinner was eaten … cold baron of beef, brawn, game pies, stuffed turkey, wild boar’s head, always the prince’s favourite, with a particular German sauce, which Öhm, the chef at Coburg, had invented – mince pies, bonbons of all kinds. (page 243-4)

In years to come Victoria, ‘in her bleak widowhood’, remembered that last happy Christmas with Albert. It was the last time they enjoyed thick snow together.

She tenderly listed the dates when he had taken her for a ride in a sledge – ‘in Brighton in ’45, in Jan and Feb 47, in 55 … and then for the last time December 27, 1860 at Windsor when Louis was still there. ‘My angel always drove me from a seat behind, sitting astride with his feet in large boots – he wore a fur coat with fur gloves – and he enjoyed it so much’. (page 244)

Historical Fiction read in 2017

Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and this year I’ve read 28 books. The majority are set in the 19th/20th centuries. I rated the starred books with 5 stars and my favourite book, ie the one I enjoyed the most is Days without End by Sebastian Barry.

Days Without End

I was spellbound, the storytelling is superb, the characters are unforgettable, and the setting comes across so vividly that I had no difficulty in imagining the locations. Add to that the narration written in Thomas McNulty’s own uneducated voice, fluent and richly descriptive, lyrical and so easy to read.

20th century: 

  1. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths
  3. The Buttonmaker’s Daughter by Merryn Allingham
  4. The Secret of Summerhayes by by Merryn Allingham
  5. Past Encounters by Davina Blake
  6. The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve
  7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  8. A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody
  9. The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith
  10. The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse

19th century

  1. Property by Valerie Martin
  2. Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft
  3. His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
  4. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd*
  5. At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
  6. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  7. The Good People by Hannah Kent*
  8. Days without End by Sebastian Barry*

18th century

  1. Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore
  2. The Body in the Ice by A J MacKenzie*

17th century

  1. The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown*

16th century

  1. Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell*
  2. Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn: a King’s Obsession by Alison Weir
  3. Katharina by Margaret Skea

14th century

  1. The Last Hours by Minette Walters

10th century

  1. Dunstan by Conn Iggulden*

Roman Britain

  1. The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff*
  2. Vindolanda by Adrian Goldsworthy

White Bodies by Jane Robins

A Tale of Obsession and Manipulation

Publication date 28 December 2017, HQ

Review copy from the publishers, via NetGalley

My rating:  2.5 stars (I’ve rounded this up to 3 on Goodreads)


‘He’s so handsome and clever and romantic. I just wished he hadn’t forced Tilda under the water and held her there so long.’

Callie loves Tilda. She’s her sister, after all. And she’s beautiful and successful.

Tilda loves Felix. He’s her husband. Successful and charismatic, he is also controlling, suspicious and, possibly, dangerous. Still, Tilda loves Felix.

And Callie loves Tilda. Very, very much.

So she’s determined to save her. But the cost could destroy them all…

Sometimes we love too much.

My thoughts:

Twins, Callie and Tilda are two very different people, both in appearance and personality. The blurb doesn’t give away much of the book but the idea interested me. It begins with Felix’s death and then goes back over the events that led to his death. So far, so good and I thought this was an interesting opening and that I was going to enjoy this book, even though it’s written in the present tense (not my preferred style). But very early on I realised what the eventual outcome would be when a certain film was mentioned and I know this is not unique – many other books are based on earlier books or plays and it is said that there are just seven basic plots in literature – but it really irritated and disappointed me. So it has left me in two minds about this book.

Parts of it fascinated me (I wanted to know how Felix died for example), the characters are certainly interesting/weird – not likeable, except for Wilf, Callie’s boyfriend. It’s really a story of obsession in various forms, manipulation and the dangers of the internet. Callie’s obsession with Tilda (eating her hair, teeth etc), Tilda’s obsession with herself and Felix’s obsession with OCD, control (re-organising Tilda’s flat), tidiness and neatness (aligning cutlery and wrapping crockery etc in clingfilm). The events are seen through Callie’s perspective and at times I felt sympathy for her in her desire to protect Tilda from the dangers she could see she was in from Felix. But is her view skewed? And her foray into an internet forum is the beginning of the end for her.  But overall, I wasn’t convinced by the book and I didn’t find it particularly tense or chilling, just rather strange. Maybe I’ve been reading too many books in this genre to be convinced.

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

Other people, however, have enjoyed this book far more than me – for example see Fanfiction’s review and this one from Cleo.

Amazon UK link
Amazon US link

My Life in Books 2017

I saw this on Reading, Writing, Working, Playing‘s blog and thought I’d do my own version, based on books I’ve read in 2017. It’s another way at looking back at the books.

  • In high school I was: The One That Got Away (Annabel Kantaria)
  • People might be surprised Sometimes I Lie  (Alice Feeney)
  • I will never be: An Artist of the Floating World (Kazuo Ishiguro)
  • My fantasy job is: (at) The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy)
  • At the end of a long day I need: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar (Chris Packham)
  • I hate it when: The Devil Rides Out (Dennis Wheatley)
  • Wish I had: (the) Missing Pieces (Heather Gudenkauf)
  • My family reunions are: Extraordinary People (Peter May)
  • At a party you’d find me with: The Man Who Climbs Trees (James Aldred)
  • I’ve never been to: Birdcage Walk (Helen Dunmore)
  • A happy day includes: A Dedicated Man (Peter Robinson)
  • Motto I live by: Don’t Let Go (Harlan Coben)
  • On my bucket list is:  How to Stop Time (Matt Haig)
  • In my next life, I want to have: The  Waters of Eternal Youth ( Donna Leon)

What’s your Year in Books been like? Do let me know.