TBR Thursday 316…

Episode 316

Woohoo! A small drop in the TBR this week, down two to 183! No idea how that happened, given that I’m still suffering from extreme exhaustion caused by the Australians’ unaccountable habit of scheduling tennis matches for the middle of the night! I’m still looking for an apprentice to train up as my hero for when Rafa ret… reti… no, can’t say it! Anyway, the shortlist is narrowing and this chap is the current frontrunner….

Félix Auger-Aliassime, for the uninitiated – Canadian, 21, being coached by Rafa’s Uncle Toni. Of course, he got beaten in the quarterfinals, but still, I have high hopes for him! He’s a pleasure to watch, and fights every point, just like Rafa. And he’s awfully pretty, though of course I’d never be shallow enough to notice such things… 😇

(I feel like one of these old rich men who pick their new young trophy wife before they divorce the old one…)

I’ll always love you best, Rafa!

Anyway, back to the books! Here are a few more I’ll be reading soon…

Factual

Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long by Richard D. White, Jr.

Back when I read and loved All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, I mentioned that I’d like to know more about Huey P. Long, the American politician whom some people think Warren used as his template for his anti-hero, Willie Stark. Kelly promptly headed me in the direction of this biography – thank you, Kelly!

The Blurb says: From the moment he took office as governor in 1928 to the day an assassin’s bullet cut him down in 1935, Huey Long wielded all but dictatorial control over the state of Louisiana. A man of shameless ambition and ruthless vindictiveness, Long orchestrated elections, hired and fired thousands at will, and deployed the state militia as his personal police force. And yet, paradoxically, as governor and later as senator, Long did more good for the state’s poor and uneducated than any politician before or since. Outrageous demagogue or charismatic visionary?

In this powerful new biography, Richard D. White, Jr., brings Huey Long to life in all his blazing, controversial glory. White taps invaluable new source material to present a fresh, vivid portrait of both the man and the Depression era that catapulted him to fame.

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Scottish Classic

Children of the Dead End by Patrick MacGill

The very last book on my first Classics Club list comes from the Scottish section. I myself am of Scottish and Irish stock, with itinerant workers, extreme poverty and appalling living conditions a major part of my own not too distant family history. So this should be an interesting look at a subject I’m already well aware of on a personal and political level…

The Blurb says: Peopled with extraordinary characters, suffused with humour and yet unflinching in its portrayal of the near slavery of the poor in Scotland and Ireland, Children of the Dead End sold 50,000 copies a year in the 1920s. It was as influential in its own way as the work of social investigators such as Rowntree in bringing about change in British and Irish attitudes to poverty and destitution. Starting with an account of his childhood in Donegal, Ireland at the end of the 19th century, the story moves to Scotland where, living as a tramp, then working as a gang labourer, and for some years as a navvy at Kinlochleven near Fort William, Dermod Flynn (as he calls himself) begins to discover himself as a writer.

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Crime

Soft Summer Blood by Peter Helton

Courtesy of Severn House via NetGalley. This is one of the last few ancient NetGalley approvals that I let slide after my trigger finger pressed that Request button too often in the early days, and has been lingering on my TBR since 2015! I’ve enjoyed previous books by Peter Helton so it’s annoying that I never got to this one. Time to put that right!

The Blurb says: It all seemed so simple: a murder; an obvious suspect; a shaky alibi: DI McLusky never had it so good. Until a second killing challenges all his earlier assumptions. With every new piece of evidence McLusky brings to light, the case becomes more complicated. Does it have its roots in a disappearance eighteen years earlier, or is it firmly based in the present?

Meanwhile, DI Kat Fairfield and DS Jack Sorbie are tasked with finding the daughter of a prominent Italian politician, who has disappeared while on a student exchange programme at Bristol University. Neither is overjoyed to be lumbered with a routine missing person’s case while McLusky heads a high-profile murder investigation. Until they find a dead body of their own…

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Crime

Killing Rock by Robert Daws

I enjoyed the first two books in this Gibraltar-set series and again have let this third one linger too long…

The Blurb says: A wealthy household massacred in Spain.

Unidentified mummified remains found at the foot of The Rock. 

A US Congressman’s run for President hangs on events in Gibraltar.

What’s the connection?

Detectives Tamara Sullivan and Gus Broderick face the most dangerous and elusive murder investigation of their lives, and for Broderick, it’s about to become all too personal, with his career in real peril as his past comes back to haunt him.

Will Sullivan and Broderick’s partnership survive this latest case, as killers stalk the narrow streets of Gibraltar?

Killing Rock is the third thrilling novel in the bestselling Sullivan and Broderick crime series from Robert Daws.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 315…

Episode 315

Oh, no! The TBR has gone up again, by another 3 to 185! What’s going on?? Well, actually what’s going on is the Australian Open, which means I’ve had to go nocturnal, which means I’m an exhausted stupefied zombie most of the time, which means I’m hardly reading, which means I’m falling behind! So, in short, it’s this man’s fault!

Here are a few more I’ll be reading soon, if I can stay awake… 

Winner of the People’s Choice

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

There were only two books in the running right from the off this time and although Nine Coaches Waiting ran a good race, the winner took an early lead and stretched it throughout, romping home with several lengths to spare. I’m looking forward to this one which, as well as being the People’s Choice for April, is one of the books on my brand spanking new Classics Club list. Excellent choice, People!

The Blurb says: It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

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English Classic

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

The last of the English classics on my first Classics Club list, I’ve been saving this re-read for a special reward to myself for reaching the end. (I still have three others to read, but because this one is the longest and I plan to read it slowly and savour it, I anticipate it’ll be the one I finish last.) I know this one isn’t a favourite for a lot of Austen fans, but I love it…

The Blurb says: Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawfords arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation.

Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen’s first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound.

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Scottish Classic

No Mean City by A. McArthur and H. Kingsley Long

The second last of my Scottish classics, and one of those books I don’t expect to enjoy at all but feel I ought to have read. (*sigh* I wish I could stop feeling that way about books – I blame John Knox.) However, my low expectations mean that if it surprises me, it can only be in a good way!

The Blurb says: No book is more associated with the city of Glasgow than No Mean City. First published in 1935, it is the story of Johnnie Stark, son of a violent father and a downtrodden mother, the ‘Razor King’ of Glasgow’s pre-war slum underworld, the Gorbals. The savage, near-truth descriptions, the raw character portrayals, bring to life a story that is fascinating, authentic and convincing.

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Vintage Crime

Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley

Courtesy of the British Library. I’ve had a mixed reaction to Anthony Berkeley, but more positive than otherwise, so I’m looking forward to this one. I don’t think I’ve read any of his “inverted mysteries” before – a subgenre that can be great… or not great! We’ll see…

The Blurb says: At a costume party with the dubious theme of ‘famous murderers and their victims’, the know-it-all amateur criminologist Roger Sheringham is settled in for an evening of beer, small talk and analysing his companions. One guest in particular has caught his attention for her theatrics, and his theory that she might have several enemies among the partygoers proves true when she is found hanging from the ‘decorative’ gallows on the roof terrace.

Noticing a key detail which could implicate a friend in the crime, Sheringham decides to meddle with the scene and unwittingly casts himself into jeopardy as the uncommonly thorough police investigation circles closer and closer to the truth. Tightly paced and cleverly defying the conventions of the classic detective story, this 1933 novel remains a milestone of the inverted mystery subgenre.

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Scottish Crime

Still Life by Val McDermid

I really enjoyed the first few in McDermid’s Karen Pirie series, but the last couple have been too full of pro-separatist polemics and sycophantic adulation of her personal friend, our First Minister, (an adulation I do not share). (Isn’t it annoying when people who have chosen to be educated outside their country and then live outside their country and write about another country for most of their lives feel they have the right to tell those of us who have actually made our lives here how we should vote?) This one is make or break time – if it’s more of the same then it’ll be the last McDermid I read, but if she’s taken note of the criticism that many other Scots as well as myself have made over her thumping her political views at us, then I’ll be delighted to continue. It’s up to you, Ms McDermid… 

The Blurb says: When a lobster fisherman discovers a dead body in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, Karen is called into investigate. She quickly discovers that the case will require untangling a complicated web—including a historic disappearance, art forgery, and secret identities—that seems to orbit around a painting copyist who can mimic anyone from Holbein to Hockney. Meanwhile, a traffic crash leads to the discovery of a skeleton in a suburban garage. Needless to say, Karen has her plate full. Meanwhile, the man responsible for the death of the love of her life is being released from prison, reopening old wounds just as she was getting back on her feet.

Tightly plotted and intensely gripping, Still Life is Val McDermid at her best, and new and longtime readers alike will delight in the latest addition to this superior series.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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As promised, here is your reminder of the forthcoming Review-Alongs

16th February 2022 – Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Kelly and I have also agreed to do a mini Review-Along in March, which you are more than welcome to join if you fancy it…

23rd March 2022 – The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

And after that, the next Review-Along is…

20th April 2022 – Notre-Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 314…

Episode 314

Well, the New Year resolution to reduce the TBR has got off to a fine start – it’s gone up three to 182! Still, eleven and a half months to go…

Here are a few more I’ll be reading soon. A couple of Scottish writers this week, and all four books are from writers I’ve enjoyed before…

Factual

Unlocking the World by John Darwin

Courtesy of Allen Lane. John Darwin won the 2013 FF Factual Book of the Year Award for his excellent Unfinished Empire. The prize is that I will read the author’s next book. It’s taken a while for a new one to come along, and happily it looks just as interesting…

The Blurb says: Steam power transformed our world, initiating the complex, resource-devouring industrial system the consequences of which we live with today. It revolutionized work and production, but also the ease and cost of movement over land and water. The result was to throw open vast areas of the world to the rampaging expansion of Europeans and Americans on a scale previously unimaginable.

Unlocking the World is the captivating history of the great port cities which emerged as the bridgeheads of this new steam-driven economy, reshaping not just the trade and industry of the regions around them but their culture and politics as well. They were the agents of what we now call ‘globalization’, but their impact and influence, and the reactions they provoked, were far from predictable. Nor were they immune to the great upheavals in world politics across the ‘steam century’.

This book is global history at its very best. Packed with fascinating case histories (from New Orleans to Montreal, Bombay to Singapore, Calcutta to Shanghai), individual stories and original ideas, Darwin’s book allows us, for better or worse, to see the modern age taking shape.

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Scottish Historical Crime

The Heretic by Liam McIlvaney

Courtesy of HarperCollins. I’ve only read one of Liam McIlvanney’s books before, and found it a good read, though it suffered from my inability to stop comparing it unfairly with the great Glasgow-set crime novels of his dad, William McIlvanney. I’m happy to have a second chance and hopefully will be able to judge him on his own merits this time – I’ll try, anyway!

The Blurb says: Set in 1976, seven years after the murders recounted in Liam McIlvanney’s breakout novel, The Quaker, this new Glasgow noir novel is a standalone mystery featuring serial character, Detective Duncan McCormack.

McCormack has returned to Glasgow after a stint with the Metropolitan Police in London. The reason for his return is left a lurking mystery throughout. He is investigating a series of murders that seem at first to be the result of random bouts of violence among Glasgow’s poor and destitute. McCormack, however, has insight into Glasgow’s underground that many of his colleagues don’t. He has a secret of his own that he guards carefully but that takes him places and introduces him to people that prove essential to his investigations.

Mcilvanney’s The Quaker was named the Scottish Crime Fiction Book of the Year and a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. The Guardian called it “a solidly crafted and satisfying detective story.” McIlvanney is known for his well crafted plots, his deep characterization, and his stylish prose. The Heretic is no exception.

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Scottish Historical Fiction

Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig

Courtesy of Quercus via NetGalley. I’ve loved Greig’s writing in the past but have been less enamoured by the subjects he has chosen to write about – his books can be a bit too grief-laden for my tastes. This one, however, sounds right up my street, and my hopes for it are stratospheric! (Any blurb that includes the line “John Knox is dead” is already singing my song… 😉 )

The Blurb says: Embra, winter of 1574. Queen Mary has fled Scotland, to raise an army from the French. Her son and heir, Jamie is held under protection in Stirling Castle. John Knox is dead. The people are unmoored and lurching under the uncertain governance of this riven land. It’s a deadly time for young student Will Fowler, short of stature, low of birth but mightily ambitious, to make his name.

Fowler has found himself where the scorch marks of the martyrs burned at the stake can be seen on every street, where differences in doctrine can prove fatal, where the feuds of great families pull innocents into their bloody realm. There he befriends the austere stick-wielding philosopher Tom Nicolson, son of a fishing family whose sister Rose, untutored, brilliant and exceedingly beautiful exhibits a free-thinking mind that can only bring danger upon her and her admirers. The lowly students are adept at attracting the attentions of the rich and powerful, not least Walter Scott, brave and ruthless heir to Branxholm and Buccleuch, who is set on exploiting the civil wars to further his political and dynastic ambitions. His friendship and patronage will lead Will to the to the very centre of a conspiracy that will determine who will take Scotland’s crown.

Rose Nicolson is a vivid, passionate and unforgettable novel of this most dramatic period of Scotland’s history, told by a character whose rise mirrors the conflicts he narrates, the battles between faith and reason, love and friendship, self-interest and loyalty. It confirms Andrew Greig as one of the great contemporary writers of fiction.

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The Wolf Hall Trilogy on Audio

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

We waited so long for the final part of this trilogy that I felt I really needed to re-read the first two books before tackling the third. So since I’d heard that Ben Miles does a wonderful job of the narration, I decided to listen to them all. They’re incredibly long and as regulars will know I’m incredibly slow at listening to audiobooks, so this will be a kind of mini-challenge to listen to the whole trilogy this year. I’ve started this one and totally agree about Miles’ narration so far…

The Blurb says: Listen to the exciting new rendition of Wolf Hall, read by Ben Miles, who was personally cast by the author and played Thomas Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The winner of the Man Booker Prize and captivating first book in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk and later his successor.

Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events.

Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of character and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday (on a Wednesday) 313 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 313

(A reminder of The People’s Choice plan. Once a month, I shall list the four oldest books on the TBR, then the next four, and so on, and each time you will select the one you think I should read, either because you’ve read and enjoyed it, or because you think the blurb looks good. And I will read the one you pick within three months! If I begin to fall behind, I’ll have a gap till I catch up again. In the event of a tie, I’ll have the casting vote.)

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OK, People, time for the next batch of four, all from 2018 and an interesting list this time, I think.  I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a April read. The Cottage at Hope Cove is the only romance novel on my list, added because it was highly recommended by another blogger I followed back then, who specialised in romance. I added Picnic at Hanging Rock because I loved the film and wanted to read the book, and it’s now on my new Classics Club list. Mrs Ritchie was added because I enjoyed another book by the same author. And Nine Coaches Waiting is another that was added on the basis of a fellow blogger’s recommendation, this time Helen at She Reads Novels. There are a couple here I’d really like to read and a couple I’ll be happy to move off my TBR, so you really can’t go wrong! 😉

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Romance

The Cottage at Hope Cove by Hannah Ellis

Added 9th August 2018. 4,822 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.34 average rating. 337 pages.

The Blurb says: Lizzie Beaumont has it all: a great career, a wealthy fiancé, and the wedding of her dreams just months away. But when her fiancé puts work before her again, she sets off for a week in the picturesque town of Hope Cove. She’s hoping for time away from the chaos to find herself.

Instead, she finds Max.

When the gorgeous guy next door asks her for decorating help, Lizzie finds herself all too eager to please. The week she expected to drag suddenly flies by, and before she knows it, she has to return to her other life. The life with the impending marriage and the fiancé she loves.

Or does she?

One week with Max has left her questioning her life choices. Is her fiancé the man of her dreams, or just the man who asked? Now Lizzie must decide what her life will be. Will she go for the safe and predictable route, or take a chance on a man she hardly knows? No matter what she does, someone’s heart is going to break. She just doesn’t want it to be hers.

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Classic Historical Fiction

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Added 17th August 2018. 18,008 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.69 average. 189 pages.

The Blurb says: It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

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Scottish Fiction

Mrs Ritchie by Willa Muir

Added 6th October 2018. 1 rating on Goodreads, with a 5.00 average! 338 pages. 

The Blurb says: [FF says: For the first time ever, I can’t find a blurb for this book. Here’s an extract from the introduction in my copy instead.] Johnny and Annie’s marriage in Mrs Ritchie is also born out of deceit and disguise. The young Annie Rattray’s mask of gently wooing womanhood utterly blinds Johnny to the terrifying harridan within – and ultimately traps him into the baleful hell of a loveless and soul-destroying marriage. [FF says: Gosh! Despite this, Muir’s reputation is of a strong feminist, and that was certainly the feeling I had from her other novel.]

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Historical Suspense

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

Added 26th October 2018. 14,037 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.04 average. 342 pages.

The Blurb says: A governess in a French chateau encounters an apparent plot against her young charge’s life in this unforgettably haunting and beautifully written suspense novel.

When lovely Linda Martin first arrives at Château Valmy as an English governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, the opulence and history surrounding her seems like a wondrous, ecstatic dream. But a palpable terror is crouching in the shadows. Philippe’s uncle, Léon de Valmy, is the epitome of charm, yet dynamic and arrogant, his paralysis little hindrance as he moves noiselessly in his wheelchair from room to room. Only his son Raoul, a handsome, sardonic man who drives himself and his car with equally reckless abandon, seems able to stand up to him. To Linda, Raoul is an enigma, though irresistibly attracted to him, she senses some dark twist in his nature. When an accident deep in the woods nearly kills Linda’s innocent charge, she begins to wonder if someone has deadly plans for the young count.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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VOTE NOW!

(Click on title and then remember to also click on Vote, or your vote won’t count!)

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TBR Thursday 312 and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

I usually include a summary of how I’m progressing (or not) towards the targets I set myself for the year, but since I’ll be looking at my New Year’s Resolutions old and new tomorrow, I’ll leave that for then. So just a round-up of the books I’ve read and reviewed for my various ongoing challenges this time.

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The Classics Club

I’ve read four from my Classics Club list this quarter, but have only reviewed one so far…

81. The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw – This story of three young men and their experiences serving in the Second World War is wonderful – harrowing, thought-provoking, emotional and beautifully written. 5 stars.

I abandoned The Drowned World by JG Ballard, since death by drowning began to seem preferable to death by boredom. Rather than search out yet another SF “classic”, I’ve decided to swap in a book I’d already read and enjoyed…

82. The Society of Time by John Brunner – A trilogy of stories set in an alternative history where the Spanish Armada won and Britain became a colony of the Spanish Empire, this provides an interesting look at how our present is very much determined by our past. 4 stars.

Only a couple of reviews then, but The Young Lions by itself made it a great quarter for classics!

82 down, 8 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

I’ve read two from this challenge this quarter and reviewed them both…

47. Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare – Hare takes us into the even then rather archaic and now defunct world of the Assizes – a system of travelling justice – for this very enjoyable mystery. 5 stars.

48. Tracks in the Snow by Godfrey R Benson – Dull, plodding, repetitive and riddled with plot holes, apparently this was the only mystery novel Benson wrote, and I can only say that I am heartily glad of that. 2 stars.

48 down, 54 to go!

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Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge

I’ve only read one for this challenge this quarter, which I haven’t yet reviewed. However I had two still to review from the quarter before…

7.  Franco: A Personal and Political Biography by Stanley G Payne and Jesús Palacios – All-in-all, I learned a lot from this about Franco’s life, personality, politics and the powerful people in his court, but rather less about Spain under his rule than I had expected to. Although I felt sure the book was factually accurate, I found it hard to discount the obvious pro-Franco bias and this made me dubious about some of the authors’ interpretations. 3½ stars.

8. Nada by Carmen Laforet – In this story set in Barcelona under Franco’s post-war dictatorship, Laforet creates an atmosphere of almost hallucinatory, slightly nightmarish unreality which I felt was very effective in symbolising a city coming to terms with the after-effects of a war where the citizens had fought and killed each other in the streets only a few years earlier.

Hoping to pick up the pace on this challenge next year with lots of fiction to come.

8 down, indefinite number to go!

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The People’s Choice

People's Choice Logo

I’m up to date with this challenge! I read three this month and still had one to review from last quarter. Did You, The People, pick me some good ones…?

September – Knock, Murderer, Knock by Harriet Rutland – Set in a Hydro hotel, this is quite a fun mystery in the typical Golden Age style. The setting means there is a small circle of suspects, each with secrets and possible motives, while the police detective soon has to give way to a talented amateur. 4 stars.

October – Blackout by Ragnar Jónasson – Set in Iceland, the basic plot of the book is quite interesting and the last third is comparatively fast-paced as all the different strands finally come together. But oh dear, it’s hopelessly repetitive and it took all my willpower to stick it out to the end. 2½ (generous) stars.

NovemberGorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith – By 19%, three unidentified corpses, no suspects, no plot, two beatings, one naked woman, and endless lectures about Soviet history and how awful life is under Soviet rule. Abandoned because they still haven’t invented a vaccine for boredom. 1 star.

DecemberWe Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. When you start fantasising about the main character being murdered, then it’s probably time to stop reading. Abandoned at 35%. 1 star.

Well, okay, from one perspective Your Choices may not have been hugely successful. But on the other hand, look at all the awful books You’ve helped get off my TBR! Way to go, People!

12 down, 0 to go!

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Wanderlust Bingo

I’ve read several books for this challenge this quarter, some of which didn’t quite fit the boxes as I’d hoped and a couple of which I didn’t enjoy and abandoned. But with a bit of juggling I’ve still managed to fill five boxes and have another two reviews to come. So much better, but still way behind, and in conjunction with Margaret at BooksPlease, who’s also doing this challenge, we’ve agreed to forget the official end date of the end of 2021 and simply leave it open – we’ll finish when we finish! I have books lined up for every missing box, so fingers crossed for no more abandonments! The dark blue boxes are books from previous quarters, and the orange are the ones I’m adding this quarter. I still might shuffle them again before the end so this is all quite tentative at this stage. (If you click on the bingo card you should get a larger version.)

New Zealand – Pūrakāu edited by Witi Ihimaera and Whiti Hereaka – 3 stars. What could be more appropriate for the Oceania slot than this collection of updated Māori myths?

Universe – Spaceworlds edited by Mike Ashley – 4½ stars. A collection of vintage science fiction stories based on the theme of living in space, either on space stations or ships, neatly fills the Space slot.

AustriaSnow Country by Sebastian Faulks – 5 stars. The main setting of this novel is the Schloss Seeblick, a kind of mental health sanatorium in a mountain valley in Carinthia, so perfect for the Mountain slot.

GreenlandSeven Graves, One Winter by Christoffer Petersen – 4½ stars. A murder mystery set partly in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, and partly in a small village in the very north of the island ticks off the Polar Regions slot.

IsraelThe Twisted Wire by Richard Falkirk – 4 stars.  This is an action thriller set in Israel at the height of the Middle East conflict of the late 60s/early 70s, so a nice fit for the Middle East slot.

Still a long, long way to go, but still travelling hopefully…

15 down, 10 to go!

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A better quarter, making progress on all my challenges for once! Thanks as always for sharing my reading experiences!

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

TBR Thursday 311…

Episode 311

For the third week in a row the TBR has remained steady on 182. Have I found the secret of perfect balance?

Here are a few more I should be tripping over soon…

Winner of the People’s Choice

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

One of the reasons I love the People’s Choice is that I never have any idea which book You, the People, will choose. If I’d had to bet on how You’d vote in the March poll, The Chrysalids wouldn’t even have been in the running. But it went into an immediate lead and gained strength all the way through the voting, winning in the end with a massive majority – more than twice the votes of the next contender. It’ll be a re-read so I’m in the happy position of knowing I’ll enjoy it, and it’s one from my new Classics Club list! Good choice, People!

The Blurb says: First published in 1955, The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world, which tells of the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.

David Strorm’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realize that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands…

Historical Fiction 

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Courtesy of Random House Cornerstone via NetGalley. I’ve enjoyed Towles’ previous books, and this one sounds as if it should be just as good. Plus I’m hoping it will fill a box on my Wanderlust Bingo card. Plus gorgeous cover!

The Blurb says: The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America.

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.

* * * * *

Classic Crime

The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

The final book from the Crime section of my first Classics Club list, this one has been recommended to me by many as the best of Allingham’s Campion books. I’ve never yet managed to become a huge fan of Allingham, but maybe this will be the one that finally does the trick…

The Blurb says: A fog is creeping through the weary streets of London—so too are whispers that the Tiger is back in town, undetected by the law, untroubled by morals. And the rumours are true: Jack Havoc, charismatic outlaw, knife-wielding killer, and ingenious jail-breaker, is on the loose once again.

As Havoc stalks the smog-cloaked alleyways of the city, it falls to Albert Campion to hunt down the fugitive and put a stop to his rampage—before it’s too late . . .

* * * * *

Memoirs

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee

One for my Spanish Civil War challenge. I may be the only person on the planet who has never read Cider with Rosie, and now I’m bypassing it completely to jump straight to the second volume of Lee’s autobiographical trilogy (though there appears to be some debate over just how accurately autobiographical it is). Accurate or not, I’m hoping it will be beautifully written…

The Blurb says: ‘The stooping figure of my mother, waist-deep in the grass and caught there like a piece of sheep’s wool, was the last I saw of my country home as I left it to discover the world.’

Abandoning the Cotswolds village that raised him, the young Laurie Lee walks to London. There he makes a living labouring and playing the violin. But, deciding to travel further a field and knowing only the Spanish phrase for ‘Will you please give me a glass of water?’, he heads for Spain. With just a blanket to sleep under and his trusty violin, he spends a year crossing Spain, from Vigo in the north to the southern coast. Only the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War puts an end to his extraordinary peregrinations . . .

* * * * *

Thriller

Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer

Courtesy of HarperCollins. Way back when the world was young, I used to enjoy Jeffrey Archer’s books. They were usually nonsense, but good nonsense! Then he committed perjury over a rather sordid incident and went to jail, and I boycotted him. So when this one turned up unsolicited from the lovely people at HarperCollins, I swithered over whether I should stick to my principles or go with the flow. Looks like my principles lost… 😉

The Blurb says: The clock is ticking in this rollercoaster ride of a thriller…

In London, the Metropolitan Police set up a new Unsolved Murders Unit—a cold case squad—to catch the criminals nobody else can.

In Geneva, millionaire art collector Miles Faulkner—convicted of forgery and theft—was pronounced dead two months ago. So why is his unscrupulous lawyer still representing a dead client?

On a luxury liner en route to New York, the battle for power at the heart of a wealthy dynasty is about to turn to murder.

And at the heart of all three investigations are Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick, rising star of the department, and ex-undercover agent Ross Hogan, brought in from the cold.

But can they catch the killers before it’s too late?

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

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MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY!

TBR Thursday 310 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 310

(A reminder of The People’s Choice plan. Once a month, I shall list the four oldest books on the TBR, then the next four, and so on, and each time you will select the one you think I should read, either because you’ve read and enjoyed it, or because you think the blurb looks good. And I will read the one you pick within three months! If I begin to fall behind, I’ll have a gap till I catch up again. In the event of a tie, I’ll have the casting vote.)

* * * * *

OK, People, time for the next batch of four, a genre week, bit of crime, bit of sci-fi, still all from 2018. Finally I’m back to running three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a March read. Background for Murder is one for my on-going Murder, Mystery, Mayhem challenge. I’m ashamed to say Don’t Let Go is a NetGalley book that fell by the wayside when I took more review books than I could fit in. The Chrysalids will be a re-read of an old favourite, and is now on my new Classics Club list. And The Craftsman is from an author whose thrillers I usually love but sometimes don’t. I’d be happy for a variety of reasons to get any one of these off my TBR and onto my reading list, so you really can’t go wrong! 😉

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Vintage Crime

Background for Murder by Shelley Smith

Added 30th June 2018. 31 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.35 average rating. 204 pages.

The Blurb says: Dr Maurice Royd, the head of a psychiatric hospital, is found slumped over his desk with his skull caved in. But a lack of hard evidence leaves the local police stumped. The difficulty is that there are too many people who could have murdered Dr Royd, too many people who wished him dead. Any one of that ‘bunch of crazies’ might have yielded to the impulse to do it.

Private Investigator Jacob Chaos is given the case by Scotland Yard. Now time is of the essence for Chaos as he tries to get the job done discreetly, hushing up any possibility of a scandal. But it seems there is quite a lot of funny business concerning the late Dr Royd and digging any deeper seems to start stirring up trouble.

Before he knows it, Chaos inadvertently kick-starts a killing spree. Racing against the clock with an ever growing list of suspects, Jacob Chaos must work to unravel the twisted skeins hiding the truth and catch the audacious murderer…

Background for Murder is a classic whodunit and stark exposé of human horror in the tangled worlds of sanity and insanity.

* * * * *

Thriller

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Added 4th July 2018. 54,445 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.05 average. 351 pages.

The Blurb says: Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he’s been looking for.

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

* * * * *

Classic Science Fiction

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Added 16th July 2018. 48,172 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.93 average. 200 pages. 

The Blurb says: First published in 1955, The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world, which tells of the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.

David Strorm’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realize that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands…

* * * * *

Thriller

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

Added 18th July 2018. 5,739 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.01 average. 431 pages.

The Blurb says: Old enemies . . . New crimes

Thirty years ago, WPC Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she arrested coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook for three shocking murders. Larry confessed; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past are repeating themselves.

The town Florence left behind still has many secrets. Will she finally uncover the truth? Or will time run out for her first?

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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VOTE NOW!

(Click on title and then remember to also click on Vote, or your vote won’t count!)

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TBR Thursday 309…

Episode 309

I nearly had another drop in the TBR this week, but a couple of late NetGalley approvals shoved it back up – staying steady on 182…

Here are a few more I’ll be reading soon…

Vintage Horror

Chill Tidings edited by Tanya Kirk

The porpy and I will be settling down to enjoy our last anthology for this spooky season with some appropriately festive fare. Between all the Christmas murders and Christmas ghouls it’s quite understandable why we all feel a need for copious amounts of sherry and cake at this time of year…

The Blurb says: The gifts are unwrapped, the feast has been consumed and the fire is well fed – but the ghosts are still hungry. Welcome to the second new collection of dark Christmas stories in the Tales of the Weird series, ushering in a fresh host of nightmarish phantoms and otherworldly intruders bent on joining or ruining the most wonderful time of the year. Featuring classic tales alongside rare pieces from the sleeping periodicals and literary magazines of the Library collection, it’s time to open the door and let the real festivities begin.

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Classic Crime

The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr

Trying desperately to get to the end of my first Classics Club list so I can get started on my new, shiny, second list! When I made my first list I didn’t know John Dickson Carr at all, but in the five years since he has become a firm favourite, so I’m looking forward to this one!

The Blurb says: The murderer of Dr Grimaud walked through a locked door, shot his victim, and vanished. He killed his second victim in the middle of an empty street, with watchers at each end, yet nobody saw him, and he left no footprint in the snow. It is left to the gargantuan Dr Fell, with his rumbling laugh and his bandit’s moustache, to solve this most famous and taxing of locked-room mysteries.

* * * * *

Classic Science Fiction

The Drowned World by JG Ballard

And another from my first Classics Club list – the last of the science fiction section. To the best of my recollection, I’ve read nothing by Ballard before, not even a short story, so this is a leap in the dark, based purely on the book often appearing on “best of” lists…

The Blurb says: When London is lost beneath the rising tides, unconscious desires rush to the surface in this apocalyptic tale from the author of ‘Crash’ and ‘Cocaine Nights’.

Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows up the walls of the Ritz and primeval reptiles are sighted, swimming through the newly-formed lagoons.

Some flee the capital; others remain to pursue reckless schemes, either in the name of science or profit. While the submerged streets of London are drained in search of treasure, Dr Robert Kerans – part of a group of intrepid scientists – comes to accept this submarine city and finds himself strangely resistant to the idea of saving it.

First published in 1962, Ballard’s mesmerising and ferociously imaginative novel gained him widespread critical acclaim and established his reputation as one of Britain’s finest writers of science fiction.

* * * * *

Dickens at Christmas

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Yes, it’s time for my usual festive immersion in the works of the greatest writer of all time. This year I’m revisiting Dombey and Son, and as well as having the Oxford World’s Classics edition complete with notes, I have an Audible version read in the gorgeous voice of Owen Teale, so when I say immersion, I mean immersion! This is the first book from my second Classics Club list – I’m having a classical time this week!

The Blurb says: ‘There’s no writing against such power as this – one has no chance’ William Makepeace Thackeray

A compelling depiction of a man imprisoned by his own pride, Dombey and Son explores the devastating effects of emotional deprivation on a dysfunctional family. Paul Dombey runs his household as he runs his business: coldly, calculatingly and commercially. The only person he cares for is his little son, while his motherless daughter Florence is merely a ‘base coin that couldn’t be invested’. As Dombey’s callousness extends to others, he sows the seeds of his own destruction.

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 308…

Episode 308

Another massive drop in the TBR since I last reported to 182 – down 4! Which is almost exactly the same number as my abandoned heap has grown by. An odd coincidence, eh?

Here are a few more that will discover their fate soon. Exciting, isn’t it?

Christie Shorts 

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

Courtesy of HarperCollins. Another of the HarperCollins series of special edition hardbacks of some of Christie’s short story collections, and again much more gorgeous than the cover pic makes it look. I’ve read this collection before but it must have been a long time ago since I haven’t reviewed it on the blog, so I’m looking forward to revisiting it. I also received a copy of The Tuesday Club Murders, which I’ve quite recently listened to on audio and reviewed, under its alternative title, The Thirteen Problems. So I’ll probably save it for a while before reading it again, but do recommend it – I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Blurb says: First came a sinister warning to Poirot not to eat any plum pudding… then the discovery of a corpse in a chest… next, an overheard quarrel that led to murder… the strange case of the dead man who altered his eating habits… and the puzzle of the victim who dreamt his own suicide.

What links these five baffling cases? The little grey cells of Monsieur Hercule Poirot!

Contains the stories:
• The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
• The Mystery of the Spanish Chest
• Four-And-Twenty Blackbirds
• The Under Dog
• The Dream

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Murder in the Basement by Anthony Berkeley

Courtesy of the British Library. The last Berkeley novel the BL re-issued was a standalone, but this one stars his regular amateur ‘tec, Roger Sheringham, whom I’ve encountered before in a few short stories. I’m looking forward to seeing him in action in a full length novel.

The Blurb says: Roger and Molly Dane have something of a surprise in their new house. When Roger explores the basement on return from their honeymoon, he discovers something odd with the flooring. Hoping to find buried treasure, he digs up the body of a woman instead. Chief Inspector Moresby and Roger Sheringham are then left with the task of discovering who the lady was, how she came to be there, and who shot her in the back of the head.

* * * * *

Thriller

The Chateau by Catherine Cooper

Courtesy of HarperCollins. This is another of the unsolicited thrillers they send me from time to time, some of which end up quite quickly on the abandoned heap, and some of which I unexpectedly enjoy! I’m hoping this one will fall into the latter category… 

The Blurb says: They thought it was perfect. They were wrong…

A glamorous chateau

Aura and Nick don’t talk about what happened in England. They’ve bought a chateau in France to make a fresh start, and their kids need them to stay together – whatever it costs.

A couple on the brink

The expat community is welcoming, but when a neighbour is murdered at a lavish party, Aura and Nick don’t know who to trust.

A secret that is bound to come out…

Someone knows exactly why they really came to the chateau. And someone is going to give them what they deserve.

The Sunday Times bestseller is back with a rollercoaster read, perfect for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

* * * * *

Dalziel and Pascoe on Audio

The Wood Beyond by Reginald Hill narrated by Jonathan Keeble

Continuing my slow re-read of my favourite crime series of all time. A new narrator has taken over, so I’m hoping I’ll like him as much as I’ve grown to like Colin Buchanan who did most of the earlier books. My memory of this one is that I wasn’t as keen on it as most of the others in this middle section of the series, but it’s a long time since I last read it so we’ll see…

The Blurb says: A ravaged wood, a man in uniform long dead – this is not a World War One battlefield, but Wanwood House, a pharmaceutical research centre. Peter Pascoe attends his grandmother’s funeral, and scattering her ashes leads him too into war-torn woods in search of his great-grandfather who fought and died in Passchendaele. Seeing the wood for the trees is the problem for Andy Dalziel when he finds himself fancying an animal rights activist, despite her possible complicity in a murderous assault and her appalling taste in whisky. A mind-bending puzzle leading us on the wild side of the pastoral.

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 307 – Review-Along and The People’s Choice

Episode 307

A special edition this week, announcing the results of the Review-Along discussions and The People’s Choice Poll, so let’s dive straight in…

* * * * *

Review-Along

Some great suggestions from Christine and Kelly provoked lots of interest and discussion – thank you, ladies!

One book quickly emerged as the front-runner and stayed that way, so it’ll be the February read. However there was another book that lots of people were interested in reading too, so I thought we could put it on for a later Review-Along. Obviously no one should feel obliged to read both, or indeed either, of the books, but anyone is welcome to join in whether you took part in the discussions or not.

For newcomers, the idea is simple – everyone will read the book in their own time and at their own pace, and we’ll all review it on the same day. For non-bloggers or anyone who doesn’t want to review the book on their own blog, you’re invited to leave your reviews/opinions in the comments section of my review on the day.

Here they are then…

Review-Along 16th February 2022

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

12 people expressed an interest in reading this one! This is relatively short – my copy has 256 pages.

The Blurb says: Go Tell It On The Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a semi-autobiographical novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.

* * * * *

Review-Along 20th April 2022

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame/Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

8 people said they might join in on this one, if they could fit it in. I’ve suggested 20th April 2022, but if that date doesn’t suit anyone let me know in the comments and we can change it. The book is chunky but not quite as chunky as I’d thought – my copy comes in at 592 pages.

The Blurb says: Victor Hugo’s Romantic novel of dark passions and unrequited love.

In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmerelda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destroy her, that only Quasimodo can prevent. Victor Hugo’s sensational, evocative novel brings life to the medieval Paris he loved, and mourns its passing in one of the greatest historical romances of the nineteenth century.

* * * * *

I’m looking forward hugely to reading all the reviews of both of these books, and the books themselves, of course – hope you are too! I’ll remind of the dates nearer the time, on my regular Thursday TBR posts.

* * * * *

The People’s Choice Poll

It was a close race for most of the way this time, but then one book gradually pulled ahead by a few votes, so it’ll be my January read. Regulars will know I’ve been struggling to get back to running three months ahead with these since I fell behind during my long hiatus in the middle of the year, so I’ve decided that, rather than run a separate poll for February, the second choice book will get that slot. So we have two winners, and I think they both sound as if they could be great – fingers crossed!

January Winner

The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell

The Blurb says: India, 1857–the year of the Great Mutiny, when Muslim soldiers turned in bloody rebellion on their British overlords. This time of convulsion is the subject of J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, widely considered one of the finest British novels of the last fifty years.

Farrell’s story is set in an isolated Victorian outpost on the subcontinent. Rumours of strife filter in from afar, and yet the members of the colonial community remain confident of their military and, above all, moral superiority. But when they find themselves under actual siege, the true character of their dominion–at once brutal, blundering, and wistful–is soon revealed.

The Siege of Krishnapur is a companion to Troubles, about the Easter 1916 rebellion in Ireland, and The Singapore Grip, which takes place just before World War II, as the sun begins to set upon the British Empire. Together these three novels offer an unequalled picture of the follies of empire.

Winner of the Booker Prize.

* * * * *

February Winner

The Chink in the Armour by Marie Belloc Lowndes

The Blurb says: Wealthy widow Sylvia Bailey is idling around Europe when she befriends another widow, Madame Wolsky, who is a gambling addict. As they are spending their last days together in Paris, two friends decide to go to a fortune teller, but the visit leaves them anxious.

However, despite a psychic’s warning that they will find themselves in a grave danger from which at least one of them will not escape, Sylvia and Madame Wolsky decide to go to the gambling town of Lacville in order to test their fortune.

* * * * *

Thanks to everyone who participated in either the Review-Along discussion or the People’s Choice Poll. You’ve made some excellent choices! 😀

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday (on a Friday) 306 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 306

(A reminder of The People’s Choice plan. Once a month, I shall list the four oldest books on the TBR, then the next four, and so on, and each time you will select the one you think I should read, either because you’ve read and enjoyed it, or because you think the blurb looks good. And I will read the one you pick within three months! If I begin to fall behind, I’ll have a gap till I catch up again. In the event of a tie, I’ll have the casting vote.)

* * * * *

OK, People, time for the next batch of four, a mixed bunch, all from 2018. I’m still trying to get back to being three months ahead with these polls, so excuse the frequency of them at the moment. The winner of this one will be a January read, in theory! The first couple – The Chink in the Armour and The Red Thumb Mark – are two vintage crimes I added because I’d enjoyed other books by those authors. The Scarlet Letter is a hangover from back when I was doing the Great American Novel Quest – I’m kind of ashamed that I’ve still never read it. And The Siege of Krishnapur is on there just because I liked the blurb. I reckon all of these sound as if they could be good or terrible, so it’s up to you to find a good one for me! 😉

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Vintage Crime

The Chink in the Armour by Marie Belloc Lowndes

Added 3rd April 2018. 61 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.43 average rating. 230 pages.

The Blurb says: Wealthy widow Sylvia Bailey is idling around Europe when she befriends another widow, Madame Wolsky, who is a gambling addict. As they are spending their last days together in Paris, two friends decide to go to a fortune teller, but the visit leaves them anxious. However, despite a psychic’s warning that they will find themselves in a grave danger from which at least one of them will not escape, Sylvia and Madame Wolsky decide to go to the gambling town of Lacville in order to test their fortune.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

The Red Thumb Mark by R Austin Freeman

Added 13th May 2018. 818 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.73 average. 235 pages.

The Blurb says: In all of London, there are few who know more about science than Dr. John Thorndyke, and fewer still who know more about crime. A “medical jurispractitioner” equally at home in the lab or the courtroom, he has made his name confronting the deadliest criminals in England with irrefutable proof of their guilt. In the case of the red thumb mark, however, Thorndyke must set his singular mind to saving an innocent man.

A cache of diamonds has been stolen out of a shipping firm’s safe, and the only evidence is a perfect thumbprint left in a pool of blood. The print is a match to Reuben Hornby, nephew of the firm’s owner. Hornby insists that he had nothing to do with the theft, however, and asks Dr. Thorndyke to find the real culprit. With all the evidence pointing in one direction, only he is brilliant enough to look the other way.

* * * * *

American Classic

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Added 19th May 2018. 758,294 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.42 average. 279 pages. 

The Blurb says: Hailed by Henry James as “the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in the country,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter reaches to our nation’s historical and moral roots for the material of great tragedy. Set in an early New England colony, the novel shows the terrible impact a single, passionate act has on the lives of three members of the community: the defiant Hester Prynne; the fiery, tortured Reverend Dimmesdale; and the obsessed, vengeful Chillingworth.

With The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne became the first American novelist to forge from our Puritan heritage a universal classic, a masterful exploration of humanity’s unending struggle with sin, guilt and pride.

* * * * *

Fiction

The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell

Added 17th June 2018. 6,791 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.91 average. 344 pages.

The Blurb says: India, 1857–the year of the Great Mutiny, when Muslim soldiers turned in bloody rebellion on their British overlords. This time of convulsion is the subject of J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, widely considered one of the finest British novels of the last fifty years.

Farrell’s story is set in an isolated Victorian outpost on the subcontinent. Rumours of strife filter in from afar, and yet the members of the colonial community remain confident of their military and, above all, moral superiority. But when they find themselves under actual siege, the true character of their dominion–at once brutal, blundering, and wistful–is soon revealed.

The Siege of Krishnapur is a companion to Troubles, about the Easter 1916 rebellion in Ireland, and The Singapore Grip, which takes place just before World War II, as the sun begins to set upon the British Empire. Together these three novels offer an unequalled picture of the follies of empire.

Winner of the Booker Prize.

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

* * * * *

VOTE NOW!

(Click on title and then remember to also click on Vote, or your vote won’t count!)

* * * * *

TBR Thursday 305…

Episode 305

I’ve found the secret of perfect balance!  Two in, two out – The TBR remains on 186!

Here are a few more to which I’ll be gibbon my attention soon… 

Vintage Horror 

I Am Stone by R Murray Gilchrist

Courtesy of the British Library. Another new release in the BL’s Tales of the Weird series. I don’t think I’ve come across this author at all before, not even with a short story in an anthology, so this will be a true leap into the unknown…

The Blurb says: Through vampiric trysts, heady visions of ghostly processions, and metaphorical tales of murdering one’s own psyche, the portrait of a truly unique writer of the strange tale emerges.

R. Murray Gilchrist was lauded for his imagination and florid, illustrative style during the fin-de-siecle period, and this new collection showcases the very best of his short fiction. Despite being admired by H. G. Wells and described by Arnold Bennett as “almost the peak of perfection in that difficult genre [of short fiction],” Gilchrist and his works are now largely forgotten. Packed with thrilling encounters and unforgettable descriptions from the weirdest ebb of the writer’s mind, this anthology aims to introduce a new readership to Gilchrist’s entrancing and influential oeuvre.

* * * * *

Historical Fiction

Learwife by JR Thorpe

Courtesy of Canongate via NetGalley. I picked this on the basis of the blurb, which I think sounds great. However reviews have made me wonder if I’ll get along with the writing style, which people are calling “lyrical”, “abstract” and “metaphorical” – not three of my favourite words! However, they’re also calling it “unique” and “unforgettable”. We’ll see…

The Blurb says: Inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, this breathtaking debut novel tells the story of the most famous woman ever written out of literary history.

Word has come. Care-bent King Lear is dead, driven mad and betrayed. His three daughters too, broken in battle. But someone has survived: Lear’s queen. Exiled to a nunnery years ago, written out of history, her name forgotten. Now she can tell her story.

Though her grief and rage may threaten to crack the earth open, she knows she must seek answers. Why was she sent away in shame and disgrace? What has happened to Kent, her oldest friend and ally? And what will become of her now, in this place of women? To find peace she must reckon with her past and make a terrible choice – one upon which her destiny, and that of the entire abbey, rests.

Giving unforgettable voice to a woman whose absence has been a tantalising mystery, Learwife is a breathtaking novel of loss, renewal and how history bleeds into the present.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Murder After Christmas by Rupert Latimer

Courtesy of the British Library. Another author I’ve never come across before, but this sounds like it should be a fun romp designed to get us in the mood for mince pies, though preferably not poisoned ones…

The Blurb says: Good old Uncle Willie – rich, truculent and seemingly propped up by his fierce willpower alone – has come to stay with the Redpaths for the holidays. It is just their luck for him to be found dead the morning after Christmas day, dressed in his Santa Claus costume, seemingly poisoned by his favourite chocolates. Or was there something sinister in the mince pies? If so, was it the ones stashed in his room or those sent to him mysteriously by post? More importantly, since his will was recently redrafted, who stands to gain by this unseasonable crime?

First published in 1944, Murder After Christmas is a lively riot of murder, mince pies and misdirection, cleverly playing with beloved murder mystery tropes to create something pacey, light-hearted, and admirably suited for the holiday season.

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Thriller

The Cottage by Lisa Stone

Courtesy of HarperCollins. I enjoyed Stone’s previous book, Taken, even though it didn’t sound much like my kind of thing. So I’m hoping I might enjoy this one too, even though it doesn’t sound much like my kind of thing!

The Blurb says: An isolated cottage…
After losing her job and boyfriend, Jan Hamlin is in desperate need of a fresh start. So she jumps at the chance to rent a secluded cottage on the edge of Coleshaw Woods.

A tap at the window…
Very quickly though, things take a dark turn. At night, Jan hears strange noises, and faint taps at the window. Something, or someone, is out there.

A forest that hides many secrets…
Jan refuses to be scared off. But whoever is outside isn’t going away, and it soon becomes clear that the nightmare is only just beginning…

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

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Review-Alongers! 

I decided to do a separate post for the options for our next review-along, so if you missed it here’s the link. All welcome!

TBR Thursday 304…

Episode 304

The seesaw has sawed. Or seed. Or seesawed. Yeah, I’ll go with that – the seesaw has seesawed! What I’m trying to say is the TBR has gone down again, by two to 186! Perfect reason to recycle this gif…

Here are a few more that should tip the balance even more soon… 

Fiction 

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Ondaatje is one of those many authors I feel I should have read, but haven’t. He’s Karissa’s favourite, and her praise for him eventually brainwashed me into adding this one to my TBR! I’m also hoping it might fill another box on my Wanderlust challenge…

The Blurb says: With unsettling beauty and intelligence, this Golden Man Booker Prize–winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an abandoned Italian villa at the end of World War II.

The nurse Hana, exhausted by death, obsessively tends to her last surviving patient. Caravaggio, the thief, tries to reimagine who he is, now that his hands are hopelessly maimed. The Indian sapper Kip searches for hidden bombs in a landscape where nothing is safe but himself. And at the centre of his labyrinth lies the English patient, nameless and hideously burned, a man who is both a riddle and a provocation to his companions—and whose memories of suffering, rescue, and betrayal illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

These Names Make Clues by ECR Lorac

Courtesy of the British Library. Always delighted to see ECR Lorac’s name pop up in the BL’s Crime Classics series, and this one sounds like she was having fun at the expense of her writing friends!

The Blurb says: Chief Inspector Macdonald has been invited to a treasure hunt party at the house of Graham Coombe, the celebrated publisher of Murder by Mesmerism. Despite a handful of misgivings, the inspector joins a guestlist of novelists and thriller writers disguised on the night under literary pseudonyms. The fun comes to an abrupt end, however, when ‘Samuel Pepys’ is found dead in the telephone room in bizarre circumstances.

Amidst the confusion of too many fake names, clues, ciphers and convoluted alibis, Macdonald and his allies in the CID must unravel a truly tangled case in this metafictional masterpiece, which returns to print for the first time since its publication in 1937.

* * * * *

Crime

Still Life by Louise Penny

Another one that’s been hanging around my TBR for years, added originally because of all the glowing reviews I’ve seen around the blogosphere for this series. And another one that might fill a Wanderlust box!

The Blurb says: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

* * * * *

Fiction

Stamboul Train by Graham Greene

I think I read this during my major Graham Greene phase many years ago but I don’t have a clear memory of it, so it sounds like a re-visit is overdue. Plus… it might tick off a square on my Wanderlust card! (You can tell it’s getting towards the end of the year and I’m getting desperately worried about my challenge failures, can’t you? 😉 )

The Blurb says: Published in 1932 as an ‘entertainment’, Graham Greene’s gripping spy thriller unfolds aboard the majestic Orient Express as it crosses Europe from Ostend to Istanbul.

Weaving a web of subterfuge, murder and politics along the way, the novel focuses upon the disturbing relationship between Myatt, the pragmatic Jew, and naive chorus girl Coral Musker as they engage in a desperate, angst-ridden pas-de-deux before a chilling turn of events spells an end to the unlikely interlude. Exploring the many shades of despair and hope, innocence and duplicity, Stamboul Train offers a poignant testimony to Greene’s extraordinary powers of insight into the human condition.

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Review-alongers!

Now that we’ve had a chance to recover from Vanity Fair, it’s time to pick a new book, with a view to reviewing February-ish. Alyson and Christine, I nominate you to select two or three books each and stick the titles in the comments below. I’ll list your selections on next week’s TBR Thursday post and we can see which takes the popular fancy!

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 303…

Episode 303

I knew it couldn’t last! After a few weeks of dramatic drops, the TBR is fighting back and has regained some lost ground – up 3 to 188! It’s not my fault – I’m clearly suffering from mind control by aliens experimenting to discover the limits of human endurance…

Here are a few more they’ll be making me read soon…

Winner of the People’s Choice

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

The voting was pretty close for a while but then We Need to Talk About Kevin pulled out in front and gradually built up a decent lead. I’m delighted it did, because no other book in any previous poll has provoked so many strong opinions, with nearly as many people expressing a desire to vote against it as for it, all of which made me very keen to read it and see why it’s so divisive! I might hate it or I might love it, but either way I can’t wait to find out. Good one, People!

The Blurb says: Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not of the boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband. Uneasy with the sacrifices of motherhood, Eva fears that her dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so drastically off the rails.

Winner of the 2005 Orange Prize, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a brilliant, controversial, unsettling book.

American Classic 

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

One for my Classics Club list. (This is a replacement for The Last of the Mohicans, which sadly I didn’t get along with at all and abandoned too early to review.) I’ve read Rabbit, Run before but don’t remember much about it. I have a feeling I neither loved nor hated it – they’re the ones I usually forget quickest. However, I’ve read far more American fiction since then, so am hoping I may be more in tune with it now and be able to appreciate it more. I also have the Audible version, narrated by William Hope, so will be switching between print and audio…

The Blurb says: Rabbit, Run is the book that established John Updike as one of the major American novelists of his—or any other—generation. Its hero is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a onetime high-school basketball star who on an impulse deserts his wife and son. He is twenty-six years old, a man-child caught in a struggle between instinct and thought, self and society, sexual gratification and family duty—even, in a sense, human hard-heartedness and divine Grace. Though his flight from home traces a zigzag of evasion, he holds to the faith that he is on the right path, an invisible line toward his own salvation as straight as a ruler’s edge.

* * * * *

Classic Science Fiction

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

And another Classics Club one. I know nothing about this book or author and picked it from various “best of” lists when compiling my list of classics. It sounds as if it could be brilliant… or awful! But I love the cover…

The Blurb says: In this pulse-quickening novel, Alfred Bester imagines a future in which people “jaunte” a thousand miles with a single thought, where the rich barricade themselves in labyrinths and protect themselves with radioactive hit men – and where an inarticulate outcast is the most valuable and dangerous man alive. “The Stars My Destination” is a classic of technological prophecy and timeless narrative enchantment by an acknowledged master of science fiction.

* * * * *

Thriller

The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Courtesy of Little, Brown Book Group via NetGalley. I’ve loved several of Abbott’s earlier books, so have high hopes for this one. However, its lowish ratings on Goodreads have me a little concerned. I’ve avoided reading any reviews though, so I don’t know what it is about it that people are objecting to. We shall see…

The Blurb says: Ballet flows through their veins. Dara and Marie Durant were dancers since birth, with their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, homeschooled and trained by their mother. Decades later the Durant School of Dance is theirs. The two sisters, together with Charlie, Dara’s husband and once their mother’s prize student, inherited the school after their parents died in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago. Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, back broken after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around each other, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school’s annual performance of The Nutcracker, a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration, an interloper arrives and threatens the delicate balance of everything they’ve worked for.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.

* * * * *

Psychological Thriller on Audio

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine narrated by Harriet Walter

The Kindle version of this has been lingering on my TBR for far too long so when I spotted it on Audible narrated by the wonderful Harriet Walter, I couldn’t resist! I may flick back and forwards between Kindle and audio, or I may simply immerse myself completely in the narration…

The Blurb says: Faith Severn has grown up with the dark cloud of murder looming over her family. Her aunt Vera Hillyard, a rigidly respectable woman, was convicted and hanged for the crime, but the reason for her desperate deed died with her. Thirty years later, a probing journalist pushes Faith to look back to the day when her aunt took knife in hand and walked into a child’s nursery. Through the eyes of a woman trying to understand an unspeakable, inexplicable family tragedy, Barbara Vine leads us through a shadow land of illicit lust, intimate sins, and unspoken passions—to a shattering and illuminating climax, as inevitable as it is unexpected. In this enthralling masterpiece, a great crime writer has achieved both a flawlessly crafted novel of psychological suspense and a deeply probing work of literary art.

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 302…

Episode 302

Partly because I’m reading up a storm, partly because I’m abandoning enough books to fill my very own landfill pit, and partly because I haven’t received many review books recently, the TBR is continuing to plummet – down another 5 to 185! Of course, my wishlist has grown dramatically now that I’ve posted my second Classics Club list, but we won’t talk about that…

Here are a few more that I should be reading (or ditching) soon…

Winner of the Classics Club Spin #28 

The Young Lions edited by Irwin Shaw

Aaarghhh! As usual the Spin Gods have lasered in on the lurking monster! 815 pages about war! The chances of me finishing this in time for the deadline are roughly the same as the chances of me winning gold in the Men’s 100 Meters at the next Olympics. But I have dutifully begun it already. (And so far it’s stonkingly good! 😮) So much book, so little blurb…

The Blurb says: The Young Lions is a vivid and classic novel that portrays the experiences of ordinary soldiers fighting World War II. Told from the points of view of a perceptive young Nazi, a jaded American producer, and a shy Jewish boy just married to the love of his life, Shaw conveys, as no other novelist has since, the scope, confusion, and complexity of war.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime Anthology

Murder by the Book edited by Martin Edwards

Courtesy of the British Library. This is turning into a vintage crime shorts autumn – I seem to have acquired more crime anthologies than horror this year. The porpy may have to buy a deerstalker and pipe! Bookishly-themed stories are always fun…

The Blurb says: A bookish puzzle threatens an eagerly awaited inheritance; a submission to a publisher recounts a murder that seems increasingly to be a work of non-fiction; an irate novelist puts a grisly end to the source of his writer’s block.

There is no better hiding place for clues – or red herrings – than inside the pages of a book. But in this world of resentful ghost writers, indiscreet playwrights and unscrupulous book collectors, literary prowess is often a prologue to disaster.

With Martin Edwards as librarian and guide, delve into an irresistible stack of tales perfect for every book-lover and armchair sleuth, featuring much-loved Golden Age detectives such as Nigel Strangeways, Philip Trent and Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. But readers should be warned that the most riveting tales often conceal the deadliest of secrets…

* * * * *

Crime

Seven Graves, One Winter by Christoffer Petersen

Searching for something to fill the Polar Regions spot on my Wanderlust Bingo card, I came across this one. I’ve never heard of the series or author, but it sounds good! And if challenges aren’t for encouraging random picks, what are they for??

The Blurb says: In the remote Arctic community of Inussuk, seven graves are dug at the end of each summer, before the ground freezes. As winter approaches, the question is, will they be enough?

When Constable David Maratse is invalided off the force, he moves to a remote Arctic island to live the life of a subsistence fisherman. But when his long line hooks the body of a politician’s daughter, he finds himself both prime suspect and lead investigator in Greenland’s most sensational murder case.

“Petersen brings Greenland to life, and death to Greenland. A tale of extraordinary people in an extraordinary setting. I was gripped from the first grave.” Michael Ridpath

Seven Graves, One Winter is the first full novel featuring Greenlandic Police Constable David Maratse.

* * * * *

Mythology

Pūrākau edited by Witi Ihimaera and Whiti Hereaka

Also for my Wanderlust challenge, this one was recommended to me ages ago by Christine from New Zealand, a regular commenter here on the blog. One of the joys of blogging is getting to know people from around the world and picking their bookish brains! I know nothing about Māori mythology, so this will be an expedition into virgin territory…

The Blurb says: Ancient Māori creation myths, portrayals of larger-than-life heroes and tales of engrossing magical beings have endured through the ages. Some hail back to Hawaiki, some are firmly grounded in New Zealand and its landscape. Through countless generations, the stories have been reshaped and passed on. This new collection presents a wide range of traditional myths that have been retold by some of our best Māori wordsmiths. The writers have added their own creativity, perspectives and sometimes wonderfully unexpected twists, bringing new life and energy to these rich, spellbinding and significant taonga.

Take a fresh look at Papatūānuku, a wild ride with Māui, or have a creepy encounter with Ruruhi-Kerepo, for these and many more mythical figures await you.

Explore the past, from it shape the future . . .

The contributors are: Jacqueline Carter, David Geary, Patricia Grace, Briar Grace-Smith, Whiti Hereaka, Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera, Kelly Joseph, Hēmi Kelly, Nic Low, Tina Makereti, Kelly Ana Morey, Paula Morris, Frazer Rangihuna, Renee, Robert Sullivan, Apirana Taylor, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Clayton Te Kohe, Hone Tuwhare, Briar Wood.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

The Wintringham Mystery by Anthony Berkeley

Courtesy of Collins Crime Club. I’ve enjoyed a few of Anthony Berkeley’s short stories in various anthologies, and loved his ingenious novel, The Poisoned Chocolates Case, so I’m looking forward to this one. Apparently it was originally serialised in a magazine with a prize offered if anyone could get the solution before it was revealed. No one could, not even one entrant we might have expected would… Agatha Christie!

The Blurb says: Republished for the first time in nearly 95 years, a classic winter country house mystery by the founder of the Detection Club, with a twist that even Agatha Christie couldn’t solve!

Stephen Munro, a demobbed army officer, reconciles himself to taking a job as a footman to make ends meet. Employed at Wintringham Hall, the delightful but decaying Sussex country residence of the elderly Lady Susan Carey, his first task entails welcoming her eccentric guests to a weekend house-party, at which her bombastic nephew – who recognises Stephen from his former life – decides that an after-dinner séance would be more entertaining than bridge. Then Cicely disappears!

With Lady Susan reluctant to call the police about what is presumably a childish prank, Stephen and the plucky Pauline Mainwaring take it upon themselves to investigate. But then a suspicious death turns the game into an altogether more serious affair…

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday (on a Wednesday) 301 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 301

(A reminder of The People’s Choice plan. Once a month, I shall list the four oldest books on the TBR, then the next four, and so on, and each time you will select the one you think I should read, either because you’ve read and enjoyed it, or because you think the blurb looks good. And I will read the one you pick within three months! If I begin to fall behind, I’ll have a gap till I catch up again. In the event of a tie, I’ll have the casting vote.)

* * * * *

OK, People, time for the next batch of four, an odd bunch this time I think, finishing 2017 and taking us into 2018. I’m still catching up after my mid-year hiatus, so this won’t be the usual three months ahead pick – the winner will be a December read, if I can fit it in! The first couple – The House by the River and The Grell Mystery – are two of the more obscure ones for my Murder, Mystery, Mayhem challenge. At Night We Walk in Circles was recommended to me by occasional commenter Matthew Geyer long ago, when I was trying to expand my then almost exclusively Anglo-Saxon American reading into other ethnicities. We Need to Talk About Kevin is on my list just because I liked the sound of it. I have fairly mixed enthusiasm about all of these, so I’m relying on you to pick a good’un!

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Vintage Crime

The House by the River by AP Herbert

Added 26th August 2017. 13 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.28 average rating. 236 pages.

The Blurb says: After the inquest, The Chase had plenty to talk about. Mrs. Ambrose and Mrs. Church were kept very busy. For few of The Chase had been actually present in the flesh—not because they were not interested and curious and indeed aching to be present, but because it seemed hardly decent. Since the great Nuisance Case about the noise of the Quick Boat Company’s motor-boats there had been no event of communal importance to The Chase; life had been a lamentable blank. And it was an ill-chance that the first genuine excitement, not counting the close of the Great War, should be a function which it seemed hardly decent to attend: an inquest on the dead body of a housemaid from The Chase discovered almost naked in a sack by a police-boat at Barnes.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

The Grell Mystery by Frank Froest

Added 26th August 2017. 98 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.55 average. 304 pages.

The Blurb says: Robert Grell is a daring explorer who has also enjoyed success in the worlds of finance and politics in the United States prior to settling in England as a gentleman of leisure. He spends his ‘last night of bachelordom’ prior to marrying the lovely Lady Eileen Meredith at his club. When he tells his friend Sir Ralph Fairfield that he needs to keep an appointment, his evasiveness about what he is doing puzzles Fairfield. Two hours later, ‘a wildeyed breathless servant’ is reporting to the police that Grell has been found murdered in his study, and it emerges that another servant, a Russian called Ivan, has vanished. All is not, however, as it seems. The police quickly establish that the dead man is not Grell, but someone who bears him a close resemblance…

* * * * *

Fiction

At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón

Added 6th October 2017. 2,669 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.62 average. 384 pages. 

The Blurb says: Nelson’s life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another man, his brother has left their South American country and moved to the United States, leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can’t seem to get off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot President, a legendary play by Nelson’s hero, Henry Nunez, leader of the storied guerrilla theater troupe Diciembre. And that’s when the real trouble begins.

The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he’s never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.

* * * * *

Crime

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Added 1st January 2018. 187,436 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.04 average. 478 pages.

The Blurb says: Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not of the boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband. Uneasy with the sacrifices of motherhood, Eva fears that her dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so drastically off the rails.

Winner of the 2005 Orange Prize, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a brilliant, controversial, unsettling book.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads, Amazon UK or extracted from Martin Edwards’ The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

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VOTE NOW!

(Click on title and then remember to also click on Vote, or your vote won’t count!)

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TBR Thursday 300 – Joining the Classics Club 2.0

The Second List

Now that I’m very close to completing my first Classics Club list, I’ve hit a little problem in that I’ve used up all my Dickenses and, as regular blog buddies will know, I like to read a Dickens novel over the Christmas period each year. So I’ve decided to post my second list early, although other than a Dickens I won’t be reading any of these till my first list is done – probably around February or March next year.

Plus, adding a zillion extra books to my TBR/wishlist seems like a suitably dramatic way to mark the fact that this is my 300th TBR Thursday post! 😱

For people who aren’t familiar with the idea of the Classics Club, the rules are simple. Basically, a list of at least 50 books is required, along with a commitment to read and post about them within 5 years. The Club leaves it up to each member to come up with their own definition of “Classic”. I’m sticking with the same definition as I used first time round, namely, that any book first published more than 50 years ago counts, so my cut-off this time is 1971. Happily the Classics Club Gods don’t punish us if we run over time or swap books as we go along. As far as I know…

Because I generally read and re-read a lot of classics, I’ve decided this time to list 80, divided into four categories. Here goes…

The Scottish Section

The Adventures of Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett (1748)
The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides/A Journey to the Western Isles by James
….Boswell/Samuel Johnson (1785)
Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott (1815)
The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott (1816)
Old Mortality by Sir Walter Scott (1816)
The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott (1818)
The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott (1819)
Hester by Margaret Oliphant (1883)
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)
Doom Castle by Neil Munro (1901)
Gillespie by John MacDougall Hay (1914)
Open the Door! By Catherine Carswell (1920)
John Macnab by John Buchan (1925)
The Quarry Wood by Nan Shepherd (1928)
The Shipbuilders by George Blake (1935)
The Land of the Leal by James Barke (1939)
Young Adam by Alexander Trocchi (1954)
Tunes of Glory by James Kennaway (1956)
A Song of Sixpence by AJ Cronin (1964)
Consider the Lilies by Iain Crichton Smith (1968)

The Bride of Lammermoor
Henry Gillard Glindoni (1852–1913)
The New Art Gallery Walsall

The English Section

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766)
Evelina by Frances Burney (1778)
Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (1848)
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (1848)
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)
Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853)
Hard Times by Charles Dickens (1854)
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1854)
Silas Marner by George Eliot (1861)
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens (1870)
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874)
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)
She by Henry Rider Haggard (1886)
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (1907)
The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett (1908)
Howard’s End by EM Forster (1910)
The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham (1925)
Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (1936)
The Third Man by Graham Greene (1949)
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (1969)

The Foreign Section

Written in English

Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth (1800)
Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu (1864)
The Story of a New Zealand River by Jane Mander (1920)
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929)
Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton (1948)
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1955)
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh (1956)
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (1967)
A Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1967)
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (1970)

In Translation

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki (1810)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (1831)
Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac (1835)
The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni (1840)
The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas (1850)
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
Germinal by Émile Zola (1885)
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada (1947)
In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse (1949)
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)

The Genre Section

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)
Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy (1888)
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1912)
The Land That Time Forgot Trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1918)
Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth (1928)
The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett (1931)
The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (1939)
Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (1940)
Laura by Vera Caspary (1942)
Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper by Donald Henderson (1943)
Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie (1944)
In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B Hughes (1947)
Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar (1952)
A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (1953)
Gideon’s Day by JJ Marric (1955)
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (1955)
The Guns of Navarone by Alastair MacLean (1957)
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (1959)
The Chill by Ross MacDonald (1963)
The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout (1965)

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Thanks to all the many bloggers and commenters who have inspired me to add one or more of these books to my new list. The list will undoubtedly change over time but, meantime, what do you think? Any on there that you love? Or that you think doesn’t deserve a place?

Thanks for joining me on my reading travels!

TBR Thursday (on a Wednesday) 299…

An eleventh batch of murder, mystery and mayhem…

This is a challenge to read all 102 (102? Yes, 102) books listed in Martin Edwards’ guide to vintage crime, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. (100? Yes, 100.) Because of all the other great vintage crime being republished at the moment, I’m going very slowly with this challenge and they’ve proved to be a bit of a mixed bag so far, though with more winners than losers. Here’s the second batch for 2021 and the eleventh overall…

Tracks in the Snow by Godfrey R Benson

I’ve never come across Godfrey R Benson before, which isn’t too surprising since apparently this was his only venture into crime fiction. The blurb sounds quite appealing…

The Blurb says: Robert Driver is temporarily fulfilling the post of parson at Long Wilton, a position he finds tedious in the extreme. But the monotony is relieved in terrible fashion when, one snowy evening, his friend Peters is found murdered at his country house, Grenville Combe. Driver takes an interest in the case, and when a chance discovery leads him to suspect that the police’s suspicions about the culprit’s identity may be entirely incorrect, he is determined to see that justice is done. He finds he must proceed with caution, however, if he is to avoid bringing down further tragedy upon himself and his family.

Originally published in 1906, this vintage detective story will delight all fans of classic crime fiction.

Challenge details

Book No: 4

Subject Heading: A New Era Dawns

Publication Year: 1906

Martin Edwards says: “…Benson’s thoughtful, well-crafted prose, his insights into human behaviour, and the way in which the story touches on issues such as free will and the ramifications of Britain’s imperial past combine to make his brief venture into the crime genre notable.”

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Max Carrados by Ernest Bramah

I’ve read a couple of Max Carrados short stories in various anthologies and also the only novel he features in, The Bravo of London, and enjoyed them without loving them. Maybe this collection of eight stories will finally win me over…

The Blurb says: Max Carrados is the greatest detective you’ve never heard of. He may be blind, but what Carrados lacks in sight he more than makes up for in perception. He can pick out a voice in a crowded room and read a book by running his fingers over the print. Those who underestimate his abilities are soon surprised by the keen Carrados.

In one story, Carrados tracks down a criminal by analyzing a coin without ever leaving his study. Another finds him solving the mystery of a train accident that has far more to it than anyone expected. Bramah’s stories of Carrados regularly appeared in The Strand magazine, receiving top billing even over those of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

Challenge details

Book No: 11

Subject Heading: A New Era Dawns

Publication Year: 1914

Edwards says: “George Orwell, a critic with stern opinions about the genre, said that Carrados’ cases were, together with those of Arthur Conan Doyle and R Austin Freeman, ‘the only detective stories since Poe that are worth rereading’.

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Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare

Again I’ve come across a couple of Hare’s short stories in anthologies and enjoyed them, particularly for the quality of his writing, so I’m looking forward to seeing how his style translates to novel form…

The Blurb says: Tragedy at Law follows a rather self-important High Court judge, Mr Justice Barber, as he moves from town to town presiding over cases in the Southern England circuit. When an anonymous letter arrives for Barber, warning of imminent revenge, he dismisses it as the work of a harmless lunatic. But then a second letter appears, followed by a poisoned box of the judge’s favourite chocolates, and he begins to fear for his life. Enter barrister and amateur detective Francis Pettigrew, a man who was once in love with Barber’s wife and has never quite succeeded in his profession – can he find out who is threatening Barber before it is too late?

Challenge details

Book No: 66

Subject Heading: The Justice Game

Publication Year: 1942

Edwards says: “For this unorthodox variation on the concept of a crime novel set in a realistically evoked working environment, Cyril Hare drew on his own experience. Fifteen years spent practising at the Bar, and a spell as a judge’s marshal, meant that he was ideally suited to describing life on a judicial circuit. 

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The Z Murders by J Jefferson Farjeon

I’ve read one novel by Farjeon in the BL’s Crime Classics series, Thirteen Guests, and wasn’t overly thrilled by it. However I didn’t hate it either, and I’ve had more success with a couple of his short stories in anthologies, so I’m keen to see if this novel will turn me into a fan…

The Blurb says: Richard Temperley arrives at Euston station early on a fogbound London morning. He takes refuge in a nearby hotel, along with a disagreeable fellow passenger, who had snored his way through the train journey. But within minutes the other man has snored for the last time – he has been shot dead while sleeping in an armchair. Temperley has a brief encounter with a beautiful young woman, but she flees the scene. When the police arrive, Detective Inspector James discovers a token at the crime scene: ‘a small piece of enamelled metal. Its colour was crimson, and it was in the shape of the letter Z.’

Temperley sets off in pursuit of the mysterious woman from the hotel, and finds himself embroiled in a cross-country chase – by train and taxi – on the tail of a sinister serial killer. This classic novel by the author of the best-selling Mystery in White is a gripping thriller by a neglected master of the genre.

Challenge details

Book No: 71

Subject Heading: Multiplying Murders

Publication Year: 1932

Edwards says: “…Farjeon cared about his prose, and liked to spice his mysteries with dashes of humour and romance. Time and again, imaginative literary flourishes lift the writing out of the mundanity commonplace in thrillers of this period”

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All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.
The quotes from Martin Edwards are from his book,
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 298…

Episode 298

Another meteoric drop in the TBR this week – down 5 to 190! Still more to do with culling and abandonment issues than reading, I fear, but every little counts! 

Here are a few more that are rising to the top of the heap, and I’m almost certain that none of these will end up on the abandoned pile… 

Vintage Crime Shorts 

Bodies from the Library 4 edited by Tony Medawar

Courtesy of HarperCollins. The idea of this series is to bring together stories which have never appeared in book form before. While I very much enjoyed the second book (I haven’t read the first one), in my review of the third one I felt the quality of the stories had dipped and suggested that “there is bound to be a finite number of great stories that fall into that category”. We’ll see if this fourth collection can make me eat my words…

The Blurb says: Mystery stories have been around for centuries—there are whodunits, whydunits and howdunits, including locked-room puzzles, detective stories without detectives, and crimes with a limited choice of suspects.

Countless volumes of such stories have been published, but some are still impossible to find: stories that appeared in a newspaper, magazine or an anthology that has long been out of print; ephemeral works such as plays not aired, staged or screened for decades; and unpublished stories that were absorbed into an author’s archive when they died . . .

Here for the first time are three never-before-published mysteries by Edmund Crispin, Ngaio Marsh and Leo Bruce, and two pieces written for radio by Gladys Mitchell and H. C. Bailey—the latter featuring Reggie Fortune. Together with a newly unearthed short story by Ethel Lina White that inspired Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, and a complete short novel by Christianna Brand, this diverse mix of tales by some of the world’s most popular classic crime writers contains something for everyone.

Complete with indispensable biographies by Tony Medawar of all the featured authors, the fourth volume in the series Bodies from the Library once again brings into the daylight the forgotten, the lost and the unknown.

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Fiction

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

Courtesy of Penguin via NetGalley. I adored Shafak’s last book, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, and fully intended (intend) to read her earlier books. But she’s beaten me to it by producing another new one. My hopes are astronomically high!

The Blurb says: Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. The taverna is the only place that Kostas and Defne can meet in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic and chilli peppers, creeping honeysuckle, and in the centre, growing through a cavity in the roof, a fig tree. The fig tree witnesses their hushed, happy meetings; their silent, surreptitious departures. The fig tree is there, too, when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns – a botanist, looking for native species – looking, really, for Defne. The two lovers return to the taverna to take a clipping from the fig tree and smuggle it into their suitcase, bound for London. Years later, the fig tree in the garden is their daughter Ada’s only knowledge of a home she has never visited, as she seeks to untangle years of secrets and silence, and find her place in the world.

The Island of Missing Trees is a rich, magical tale of belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker-shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World.

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Fiction

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy

Courtesy of Faber & Faber via NetGalley. I can’t remember if I saw a tempting review of this one or if I was just attracted by the blurb, but it sounds like it should be fun! And at last – a short blurb!

The Blurb says: Cornwall, Midsummer 1947. Pendizack Manor Hotel is buried in the rubble of a collapsed cliff. Seven guests have perished, but what brought this strange assembly together for a moonlit feast before this Act of God – or Man? Over the week before the landslide, we meet the hotel guests in all their eccentric glory: and as friendships form and romances blossom, sins are revealed, and the cracks widen … A wise, witty fable, The Feast is a banquet indeed.

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Dalziel and Pascoe

Pictures of Perfection by Reginald Hill

The 14th book in my slow re-read of my favourite contemporary crime series of all time, and this is one of the very best! Although the blurb doesn’t mention him (who writes these things?), this is the one where Wieldy comes into his own as an equal star of the series alongside Dalziel and Pascoe, and it has one of the most memorable prologues ever written…

The Blurb says: High in the Mid-Yorkshire Dales stands the traditional village of Enscombe, seemingly untouched by the modern world. But contemporary life is about to intrude when the disappearance of a policeman brings Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel and DCI Peter Pascoe to its doors.

As the detectives dig beneath the veneer of idyllic village life a new pattern emerges: of family feuds, ancient injuries, cheating and lies. And finally, as the community gathers for the traditional Squire’s Reckoning, it looks as if the simmering tensions will erupt in a bloody climax…

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday (on a Friday) 297 and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year, as I do every year, I set myself some targets for my various reading challenges and for the reduction of my ever-expanding TBR. This has been a terrible quarter, reading-wise, with me taking a break of five or six full weeks from reading, so I’m expecting the worst for my poor targets!

Here goes, then – the third check-in of the year…

Aarghh! Well, it’s just as bad as I expected and there’s no way I’ll be able to retrieve the situation in the last quarter of the year. I might catch up with the People’s Choice and fit in a few more classics, but the rest are pretty hopeless. I needed that break though and hey! Who’s counting? 😉

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The Classics Club

I’ve read just one from my Classics Club list this quarter, and had another still to review from the previous quarter…

79. My Ántonia by Willa Cather – I enjoyed this excellently written novel telling of the coming-of-age of the title character and the narrator, Jim, together with the story of the pioneering days in the fledgling USA. 4 stars.

80. I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane – One from the pulpy end of hard-boiled crime, complete with every ‘ism of its time. Violence, sex and guns galore – and yet oddly I enjoyed it! 4 stars.

Two books from the US that couldn’t really be more different, but both enjoyable in their own way!

80 down, 10 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

I’ve managed to read precisely none from this challenge this quarter! However I had one left over to review from the previous quarter…

46. Darkness at Pemberley by TH White – White throws just about every mystery novel trope into this preposterous story, but manages to pull it off! Hugely entertaining, and not to be taken too seriously. 5 stars.

46 down, 56 to go!

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Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge

I’ve only read one for this challenge this quarter, and had another still to review from the quarter before. Unfortunately I haven’t reviewed either of them yet, so the sum total for this round-up is…

Reviews will follow soon though, I promise!

6 down, indefinite number to go!

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The People’s Choice

People's Choice Logo

I’ve only read two this quarter but hope to catch up before the end of the year. Did You, The People, pick me some good ones…?

JulyHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I found this tale of privileged members of the Igbo caught up in the Biafran War surprisingly flat in tone despite the human tragedy it describes. However I learned a good deal about the culture of that time and place, and overall am glad to have read it. 4 stars.

AugustThe Black Cabinet by Patricia Wentworth – A highly entertaining mystery from the Golden Age, starring a charming heroine meeting peril after peril in her attempts to do the right thing. Just the right combination of mystery, humour and romance to make for perfect relaxation reading. 5 stars.

One I’m glad to have read and one I thoroughly enjoyed, so take a bow, People – you chose well! And they’re off my TBR at last – hurrah!

8 down, 4 to go!

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Wanderlust Bingo

I haven’t filled many boxes this quarter, and I’m kinda kicking myself because I’ve got great-looking books lined up for every space now – it’s just a matter of finding time to read them! I have a few coming up on my reading list soon, but this challenge is definitely going to drift into next year (unless I grow an extra head). The dark blue ones are from previous quarters, and the orange are the ones I’m adding this quarter. I might shuffle them all around at the end so this is all quite tentative at this stage. (If you click on the bingo card you should get a larger version.)

SwedenTo Cook a Bear by Mikael Niemi – 5 stars. I’ve slotted this into Village, since the village setting is an important factor in the story.

France – The Man from London by Georges Simenon – 4½ stars. Simenon’s settings are always one of his main strengths, and here he gives a great picture of the working life of Dieppe as the background to his story. I’m putting this in the Europe box.

Biafra/NigeriaHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – 4 stars. I can’t imagine a more appropriate book to fill the Africa box than this story of the short-lived existence of the Biafran nation.

Still a long, long way to go, but ’tis better to travel hopefully than to arrive…

10 down, 15 to go!

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A slightly shorter post this time, for which I’m sure you’re all very thankful. 😉 Thanks as always for sharing my reading experiences!

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀