Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (February 21)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

Well at the moment I’m reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton which is the second of my Classic Club reads.

Blurb

‘He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface’

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a ‘hired girl’, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio towards their tragic destinies. Amazon

That was after finishing The Image of You by Adele Parks, a compulsive read that had me entertained throughout with a surprising amount of perception.

Blurb

Can you ever trust someone you meet online?

Anna and Zoe are twins. Identical in appearance, utterly different in personality, they share a bond so close that nothing – or no one – can rip them apart.
Until Anna meets charismatic Nick.
Anna is trusting, romantic and hopeful; she thinks Nick is perfect.
Zoe is daring, dangerous and extreme; she thinks Nick is a liar.
Zoe has seen Anna betrayed by men before. She’ll stop at nothing to discover if Nick is as good as he seems.

Lies may hurt. But honesty can kill.

Next I’m going to be reading the psychological novel by one of the mistresses of the genre; Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris.

Blurb

The Disappearance
Twelve years ago Finn’s girlfriend disappeared.

The Suspicion
He told the police the truth about that night.
Just not quite the whole truth.

The Fear
Now Finn has moved on.
But his past won’t stay buried… NetGalley

Having made a big effort to read some of my own books as well as joining The Classics Club has really mixed up my reading this year which means I’m approaching each new book with even more enthusiasm than previously. It was one New Year’s resolution that has been worth sticking to.

So what do you think? Do any of these titles take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (February 20)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

This week my opener comes from another book that is waiting patiently on my TBR; And The Birds Kept On Singing by Simon Bourke.

Blurb

Pregnant at seventeen, Sinéad McLoughlin does the only thing she can; she runs away from home. She will go to England and put her child up for adoption. But when she lays eyes on it for the first time, lays eyes on him, she knows she can never let him go.

Just one problem. He’s already been promised to someone else.

A tale of love and loss, remorse and redemption, And The Birds Kept On Singing tells two stories, both about the same boy. In one Sinéad keeps her son and returns home to her parents, to nineteen-eighties Ireland and life as a single mother. In the other she gives him away, to the Philliskirks, Malcolm and Margaret, knowing that they can give him the kind of life she never could.

As her son progresses through childhood and becomes a young man, Sinéad is forced to face the consequences of her decision. Did she do the right thing? Should she have kept him, or given him away? And will she spend the rest of her life regretting the choices she has made? Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Manchester, 1984

“This is not the kind of thing you should face alone, love. Is there someone you could ring? A friend?”
The nurse scanned the patient’s face in search of an answer, but was met with the same blank expression the girl had worn since admission.
“No one?”
A slight shake of the head, a mumbled response, and then back to staring out the window.
“Very well,” the nurse muttered, scurrying off to find someone more worthy of her attention.

I just realised quite how rare it is for a book to launch straight in with dialogue. I’ve read many great reviews of this book and so, despite being warned there may be tears involved, I’m looking forward to finding out how the two stories end up for myself.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Girl in the Woods – Camilla Läckberg

Crime Fiction
4*s

Camilla Läckberg has provided this reader with another meaty read in this the tenth in the Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck. This story is lengthy and involved. Readers won’t be able to stop themselves remembering some real-life crimes, especially those involving child-killers with the most obvious inspiration being drawn from Anne Perry and her friend Pauline Rieper, not a comfortable subject at all.

The main story is that set in the present day of the disappearance of four-year old Nea Berg from the same farm that another four-year old child went missing from thirty years before. Then Marie and her best friend Helen were accused of murder at the tender age of just thirteen. This is therefore in true Camilla Läckberg style a crime in the past with parallels in the present.

What makes the disappearance of Nea Berg all the more chilling is that Marie Wall had returned to Fjällbacka in her role as Ingrid Bergman in a new film. Marie had used the crime she was accused of thirty years ago to help propel her into Hollywood stardom, and it had worked but she had not set foot back in the small Swedish town since she left all those years before. Helen meanwhile had married a local man aged eighteen and lived a quiet life now mother to a teenage son she is fearful that Marie’s return will encourage the story to come to life again.

The chapters each cover many viewpoints each including scenes at the police station as our old favourites interview witnesses, pour over forensic reports and the ever dependable station chief Bertil Mellberg gives television interviews and interferes in Patrik Hedström’s handling of the case. As always it was great to catch up with everyone in Fjällbacka’s Police force and it does provide some much needed light relief in this dark and disturbing tale.

Erica already had a book in the pipeline about Stella Strand and her two accused killers and so when parallels are drawn between the crimes she is on hand with her notes so far, and the interviews she continues to hold with key people from the time.

Interspersed with the current investigations and happenings are chapters on The Stella Case giving the reader insights that haven’t necessarily been discovered, including those thoughts of the lead investigator. Intriguingly there is also a far older tale to be told that of Elin Jonsdotter in Bohuslän in 1671, what relevance this strand has remains a mystery for much of the book. If all that wasn’t enough the author includes another strand about Syrian refugees.

I enjoyed this greatly although I was reminded why I normally save these novels as holiday reads; The Girl in the Woods is a whopping 592 pages long and packed full of information which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to short bursts of reading. For the first time in this series I did have moments where I wondered if the author had been slightly over-ambitious in the amount of different strands that run through the book, not that it was confusing, far from it, but the read felt far darker overall than the previous books in the series, and they were hardly laugh a minute reads. However, if you are a fan, as I am, there is much to feast on not only while you are reading this book but there are bigger themes and philosophical questions to ponder long after you finish the last page.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to HarperCollins UK who allowed me to read advance copy of The Girl in the Woods before publication on 22 February 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 22 February 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 592
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books in Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck series

The Ice Princess (2002)
The Preacher (2004)
The Stonecutter (2005)
The Gallows Bird (2006)
The Hidden Child (2007)
The Drowning (2008)
The Lost Boy (2013)
Buried Angels (2014)
The Ice Child (2016)

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (February 18)

Apart from being visited by a sickness bug courtesy of dear old Saint Valentine, this week has been relatively uneventful on any other front so without further ado…

This Week on the Blog

I posted four reviews this week, all of very different types of books starting with a review of a Non-Fiction book by one of my favourite authors; Margaret Forster with her memoir My Life in Houses.

My excerpt post was for an upcoming classic read, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton which I aim to have read before the end of February.

This Week in Books featured the authors Reginald Hill, Lucy Mangan and Kelly Rimmer.

On Thursday I posted my review of Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns which was the first book read and reviewed for The Classics Club. A review that sparked a lot of interest proving once more that us book lovers are interested in the old as well as the new.

This was followed by another Non-Fiction review, this time The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by the oh so knowledgeable Martin Edwards, full five stars from Cleopatra Loves Books.

My final review was some contemporary fiction, The Last Day by Claire Dyer that nearly poleaxed me because it had far more depth than might be assumed when you learn it is the story about a man moving in with his ex-wife with his young girlfriend in tow. I was lucky enough to receive an author post explaining why she wanted to explore the love triangle in this novel.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell which was one of my favourite reads in 2017. This book is set in 1920s Brooklyn during the Prohibition period. Rose our narrator is a typist in the Police Precinct there and we hear her thoughts on the other typists who she feels superior to. And then Odalie joins the typing pool and Rose’s life is thrown into disarray. In my review I comment that Rose isn’t so much an unreliable narrator as a nebulous one, even at the end of the book I found it hard to pinpoint exactly where the truth ended and the lies began… A superb character study in a time-period and place I know far too little about so all I can say is it had me hooked and oh, that ending!

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover

Blurb

New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition and the whole city swims in bathtub gin.

Rose Baker is an orphaned young woman working for her bread as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. Every day Rose transcribes the confessions of the gangsters and murderers that pass through the precinct. While she may disapprove of the details, she prides herself on typing up the goriest of crimes without batting an eyelid.

But when the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct Rose finds herself falling under the new typist’s spell. As do her bosses, the buttoned up Lieutenant Detective and the fatherly Sergeant. As the two girls’ friendship blossoms and they flit between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the precinct by day, it is not long before Rose’s fascination for her new colleague turns to obsession.
But just who is the real Odalie, and how far will Rose go to find out? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

No NetGalley additions and I still haven’t bought any books in 2018 but still some books arrived through the letter box; what’s a girl to do?

I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise from No Exit Press as I’d seen this book on social media and was longing to find out more. The Emperor of Shoes will be published in July 2018.

Blurb

Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line.

When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow labourers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite?

Deftly plotted and vibrantly drawn, The Emperor of Shoes is a timely meditation on idealism, ambition, father-son rivalry and cultural revolution, set against a vivid backdrop of social and technological change. Amazon

From The Dome Press I received a copy of Twin Truths by Shelan Rodgers which will be published on 15 March 2018.

Blurb

What is the truth? And how do you recognise it when you hear it?

Jenny and Pippa are twins. Like many twins they often know what the other is thinking. They complete each other.

When Pippa disappears Jenny is left to face the world alone, as she tries to find out what happened to her other half. But the truth, for Jenny, can be a slippery thing. Amazon

From the Borough Press I have a book of short stories by none other than Lionel Shriver called Property. I was a fan of We Need to Talk About Kevin and I greatly enjoyed her sliding doors style novel The Post Birthday World so perhaps this mixture of short stories and a couple of novellas will reignite the spark.

 

Blurb

This landmark publication, the first collection of stories from a master of the form, explores the idea of “property” in both senses of the word: real estate, and stuff. These sharp, brilliantly imaginative pieces illustrate how our possessions act as proxies for ourselves, and how tussles over ownership articulate the power dynamics of our relationships. In Shriver’s world, we may possess people and objects and places, but in turn they possess us.

In the stunning novella “The Standing Chandelier” (‘a brutal treat’: Daily Mail), a woman with a history of attracting other women’s antagonism creates a deeply personal wedding present for her best friend and his wife-to-be.
In “Domestic Terrorism,” a thirty-something son refuses to leave home, resulting in a standoff that renders him a Millennial cause célèbre.
In “The ChapStick,” a middle-aged man subjugated by service to his elderly father discovers that the last place you should finally assert yourself is airport security.
In “Vermin,” an artistic Brooklyn couple’s purchase of a ramshackle house destroys their once passionate relationship.
In “The Subletter,” two women, both foreign conflict junkies, fight over claim to a territory that doesn’t belong to either.

This immensely readable collection showcases the biting insight that has made Lionel Shriver one of the most acclaimed authors of our time. Amazon

And from the author Jane Davis I have a copy of her upcoming novel Smash all the Windows which will be published on 12 April 2018.

Blurb

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of metafiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Amazon

So what do you think?

Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have  read 5 books and since I have gained 4  my TBR has fallen to a respectable 185

Physical Books – 108
Kindle Books – 54
NetGalley Books –23

I have banked another third of book token this week and as I haven’t bought any books I’m now 2 whole books in credit!

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Last Day – Claire Dyer #BookTour #GuestPost #BookReview

I was delighted to be invited to take part in this blog tour especially as the author generously offered to write an exclusive post.

Read what Claire Dyer has to say about polyamorous relationships!

The love triangle bug

Like many authors, I’ve caught the love triangle bug.

It all started when I took part in one of those ‘sum up your book in three words’ things on Twitter. I’d just begun the novel that was to become The Last Day and replied, ‘Crazy Love Triangle’ but I didn’t really know at that stage how this particular love triangle would play out.

I’d also been aware of features in the press about polyamorous relationships which seem, on the face of it, supremely glamorous but, being a monogamous type, I do struggle to understand how these might actually work out.

But, in the spirit of tapping into the zeitgeist, I wanted to blend the two and so in the novel I have my three main characters living in the same house as one another and all loving each other in slightly different ways, the result of which is that decisions get made and choices are taken that change their lives forever.

And, what I also decided to do in The Last Day was to alter the standard dynamics of the love triangle and make my two heroines like each other. As Vita says about her husband’s new lover, ‘… it would have been easier if I’d hated her’ but she doesn’t. What I wanted to do in this book was to talk above love in its many colours and so in my love triangle, there are no clear lines. In fact, it’s less of a triangle and more of a Venn diagram with a number of interlocking sections.

However, let’s just think about some other love triangles. There’s Scarlett, Ashley and Rhett in Gone With the Wind; Ilsa, Rick and Victor in Casablanca; Bella, Edward and Jacob in The Twilight Saga; Bridget, Mark and Daniel in Bridget Jones’s Diary and the huge array of triangles in Jane Austen’s novels, including: Elizabeth, Darcy & Wickham; Marianne, Brandon and Willoughby; Elinor, Edward and Lucy, and let’s not even get started on Shakespeare! The list, it seems, is quite endless.

What is it that makes love triangles so beguiling? Personally, I love writing them because they’re a challenge: can I write from three different points of view and make each one so that the reader believes in them and wants what they want, so that if there is a ‘happy ever after’, even if someone has to lose out in the end, the reader is on the side of all three?

The plot possibilities of love triangles are infinite and that’s what makes writing them such a wonderful thing to do.

 

My Review

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

The Last Day is a poignant and beautifully written novel and although it is quite different to my normal choice of reading matter, I loved it.

The synopsis had me wondering what I’d let myself in for. We have Boyd in his forties moving in with his wife along with his twenty-seven year old new girlfriend. The cynic in me doubted whether this was really a likely scenario but what Claire Dyer excels at is characterisation, and boy did these characters get under my skin.

Boyd and Vita have been separated for six years and the reader has to wait quite a while to find out what their last day consisted of before the decision was made to go their separate ways. Honey the young girlfriend works with Boyd at his Estate agency along with the steadfast Trixie. Honey is far more likeable than I’d imagined she would be but like all of the protagonists in the book has secrets. As the book progresses I wondered which one of these was going to blow the roof off the set-up. Boyd, Vita and Honey are people with faults and pasts, but they are also incredibly real and ultimately ‘nice’ people. If you are looking for a tale of discord, this isn’t the book for you.

The story is told from different viewpoints with each chapter devoted to one or other of the characters. This is done so very well as we slowly get to know all the different aspects to each one. I’ll admit I was drawn in by the excellent writing; this was one of those books that I started and knew that I would enjoy whichever direction the book followed. This isn’t a typical tale of dysfunction, it is actually a sympathetic portrayal of marriage, love the way life changes and grief. Now I usually steer well clear of books concerning grief because this is a topic I don’t like to dwell on but perhaps because the grief in this novel is not raw and the characters concerned have an understanding of the journey they’ve been through, I found it in accordance with my own experiences in some of the smaller details. I certainly think it helped that the author somehow manages to acknowledge that everyone grieves differently.

This is a reflective book which if I were reading those words in another person’s review I’d take to mean slow, but this book isn’t. Instead it is one of those rare novels book that allows you to think about what you’ve read, sometimes by reading between the words, a difficult skill to pull off but so very effective when it is done as well as it is in The Last Day. I doubt whether there will be many readers that don’t happen upon a situation or characteristic that they recognise either in themselves or someone close to them.

As I said earlier the characters make this book, there is a certain amount of looking back which I think is common once we get to a certain age, but plenty to keep the reader entertained with the emotions that lie behind the characters actions. There is a mystery, a secret – or two or three – and a bit of danger to spice things up so there is no time to get bored. I was very sad to say goodbye to all the characters but particularly Vita and her pet portraits as she entertained me with her no-nonsense attitude, one that hides a multitude of complexities.

I’d like to say a big thank you to The Dome Press who provided me with an advance copy of The Last Day. This unbiased review is my thank you to them. Even better I realised that I have one of this author’s previous books The Perfect Affair on my kindle and it now won’t be long before I read that one too.

First Published UK: 15 February 2018
Publisher:The Dome Press
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books – Martin Edwards

Non-Fiction
5*s

There are many of us that are lovers of crime fiction and I’m sure quite a few of us cut our teeth on Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie but did the genre of crime fiction suddenly jump from these writers to the modern proliferation of serial killers and psychological novels which will ensure none of us trust any type of girl, EVER.

This comprehensive look through the first half of the twentieth century of crime fiction gives us insight into the authors who gave our ancestors what my grandmother would call the ‘willies’ which I can absolutely assure you she didn’t mean what those of you sniggering at the back are thinking.

Not only has Martin Edwards ably and coherently filled in the gaps, he has arranged the book under a number of headings making it the ideal book for using as a reference guide. We have the obvious chapters covering the birth of crime fiction, with A New Era Dawns followed by The Birth of the Golden Age followed by some that deal with humour in crime fiction; Making Fun of Murder, those that deal with Justice, The Justice Game and my favourite; Fiction from Fact. This means that although the book runs in rough chronological order the books that appear under one heading may have a cross-over date wise with previous chapters. Be warned there are 102 books listed as actual titles with a synopsis and where they fit into the headings but many more books are referred to in passing so it really is like going down the rabbit hole and filling up your reading lists for years to come!

The books that are described more fully are those that Martin Edwards feels are the ones that on the whole have been forgotten gems. Many of the titles I’d never heard of as was the case with author’s names. Some of the authors included have large lists of titles but there is a special slot for those who only published one book too. Martin Edwards is the master of whetting the reader’s appetite without spoiling the story, if you are looking for a book that tells you what the solution to a puzzle is, you are in the wrong place.

Fortunately, many, although not all, of the books can be bought from the British Library Crime Classic Series which is a bonus as these attractively packaged books will make one very smart collection on any crime fiction lover’s bookshelf and of course these books also include a foreword by Martin Edwards too. But as much as I am almost as big a fan of book lists as I am books, this isn’t just a book list. This is a book that informs us of the history of the genre, it is a book that talks about the authors who contributed and one that reveals the changes in taste as the country went through the turbulence of both World Wars and the needs of the population at that time to escape into a puzzle, one that had an answer to provide certainty when everything around seemed very uncertain indeed.

This is an absolute gem of a book that I can easily see will be referred to time and again, not only when I read a piece of classic crime fiction but to remind myself of the roots of the genre. It has already informed me of some books that I included on The Classic Club listing under this sub-genre and when they are done, I know where to look for some more!

I bought my copy of The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books in June 2017 making it eligible for one of my TBR 2018 reads. It also gains me another third of a book token!

First Published UK: 28 June 2017
Publisher: British Library Publishing
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, The Classic Club

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths – Barbara Comyns

Classic
4*s

What a brilliant way to kick off my first read for The Classics Club with the voice of a young woman who tells her story as a young mother in 1930’s London. The poverty is almost overshadowed by this young woman’s grit and her conversational tone when underplaying with a light touch some equally delightful and heart-wrenching events. I couldn’t help feeling that she would be appalled by the social media age where every day occurrences seem to be blown into a major drama.

Here the part which is used for the title perfectly sums up the style used throughout the novel:

I had hoped they would give us a set of real silver teaspoons when we bought the wedding-ring, but the jeweller we went to wouldn’t, so our spoons came from Woolworths, too.

We start with the young, and she was very young only twenty-one, woman embarking on married life, against the wishes of practically everyone, to Charles who is an artist. Sophia is a commercial artist but of course Charles needs to concentrate on his art rather than actually find a job and bring some money into the household. That’s Sophie’s job which she does with good humour. In the early days their love gets them through but at a time when contraception is not discussed Sophia soon discovers she’s having a baby.

I had a kind of idea if you controlled your mind and said ‘I won’t have any babies’ very hard they most likely wouldn’t come. I thought this was what was meant by birth-control, but by this time I knew that idea was quite wrong.

The problem was that Charles did not want babies as they would disrupt his life and so Sophia is apologetic and fearful of how he will react.

As readers we know that this is a fictionalised autobiography of the author’s first marriage and that the events in chapters ten, eleven and twelve really happened. This covers the birth of Sophia’s son Sandro in a charity hospital in 1930’s London. It is horrific! Sophia is pulled from room to room having to lug her suitcase with her. Alone with the rude nurses she is as ever stoical about the experience which simply serves to make the revelations all the more horrifying from the perspective of eighty years later.

As the book goes on, the poverty bites and Sophia is in a constant battle between trying to keep Charles happy, to give Sandro what he needs and to keep the family’s head above water. Sometimes she is more successful than others. Inevitably the book takes a darker turn although the book’s tone never does as our protagonist continues to talk about events in an almost unnerving even voice.

There was no point being good or bad; everything was so dreadful in any case.

What a heart-breaking sentence! No major drama but those few words conjure up a whole level of misery that my longing was for someone to give this young woman some hope to keep her going. Of course all I could do was to keep reading and see where Sophia’s life led her…

I loved the book and I’m glad to say Sophia’s life does improve and we are reading about something she relayed to her friend Helen after the events.

I told Helen my story and she went home and cried. In the morning her husband came to see me and bought some strawberries, he mended my bicycle, too, and was kind, but he needn’t have been because it all happened eight years ago, and I’m not unhappy now.

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths is number 10 on The Classics Club list and the first one of my fifty reads that I’ve read and reviewed. A cracking start which had me riveted to this semi-biographical novel and one that makes me truly grateful that I was born when I was.

 

First Published UK: 1950
Publisher:Virago 
No of Pages: 209
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (February 14)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

So onto the good stuff! At the moment I am reading A Clubbable Woman by Reginald Hill the very first of the Dalziel and Pascoe stories first published way back in September 1970!



Blur
b

Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel investigates murder close to home in this first crime novel featuring the much-loved detective team of Dalziel and Pascoe.

Home from the Rugby club after taking a nasty knock in a match, Sam Connon finds his wife more uncommunicative than usual. After passing out on his bed for a few hours, he comes downstairs to discover communication has been cut off forever – by a hole in the middle of her forehead.

Andy Dalziel, a long-standing member of the club, wants to run the murder investigation along his own lines. But DS Peter Pascoe’s loyalties lie elsewhere and he has quite different ideas about how the case should proceed. Amazon

The last book I finished was Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan which will be published on 1 March 2018.

Blurb

When Lucy Mangan was little, stories were everything. They opened up new worlds and cast light on all the complexities she encountered in this one.

She was whisked away to Narnia – and Kirrin Island – and Wonderland. She ventured down rabbit holes and womble burrows into midnight gardens and chocolate factories. She wandered the countryside with Milly-Molly-Mandy, and played by the tracks with the Railway Children. With Charlotte’s Web she discovered Death and with Judy Blume it was Boys. No wonder she only left the house for her weekly trip to the library or to spend her pocket money on amassing her own at home.

In Bookworm, Lucy revisits her childhood reading with with, love and gratitude. She relives our best-beloved books, their extraordinary creators, and looks at the thousand subtle ways they shape our lives. She also disinters a few forgotten treasures to inspire the next generation of bookworms and set them on their way.

Lucy brings the favourite characters of our collective childhoods back to life – prompting endless re-readings, rediscoveries, and, inevitably, fierce debate – and brilliantly uses them to tell her own story, that of a born, and unrepentant, bookworm. Amazon

Next I plan to read Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer which will published on 22 February 2018.

Blurb

Your sister needs you. But her child needs you more…

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar-and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out-she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby-maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhood, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path? NetGalley

So what do you think? Do any of these titles take your fancy this Valentine’s Day?

Posted in The Classic Club, Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (February 13)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

This week my opener comes from Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton which is one of the books on my Classics Club list.

Blurb

‘He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface’

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a ‘hired girl’, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio towards their tragic destinies. Amazon

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First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.
If you know Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the post-office. If you know the post-office you must have seen Ethan Frome drive up to it, drop the reins on his hollow-backed bay and drag himself across the brick pavement to the white colonnade: and you must have asked who he was.

Well I’m not sure how much of a taste you get from that but I know I’m looking forward to the tragic destiny part!

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Life in Houses – Margaret Forster

Non-Fiction – Memoir
4*s

In hindsight so many of Margaret Forster’s books contain autobiographical detail but it was Hidden Lives which first really opened my eyes to the link between this talented story teller and her own background, although cleverly only ever apparent by reading between the lines. In My Life in Houses we learn more details about Margaret’s first house, the one on the Raffles estate which she was so ashamed of, preferring those on the better side of town. And though the book’s pages, we learn that from the tender age of seven this author began her own game of choosing another house to live in.

Of course, as an adult with a number of ‘important’ houses in her life, she realises that what she started with could have been so much worse, and so she explains how it defined her. How a house with only room for Margaret and her younger sister to sleep together in an alcove in their parent’s bedroom left her yearning for her own space. Even when the girls got older they had to share a bed even if they did have their own room because their older brother was off doing his national service at the time.

Having read Hidden Lives I was already aware that Margaret’s mother had aspirations and so eventually, through her hard work, although the money to fund the move and the increased rent was down to her husband working overtime, the family moved to the better side of town.

From here we follow Margaret to her student digs, her first house as a young married woman on the edge of Hampstead Heath, and beyond, including holiday homes both abroad and nearer her native Carlisle.

This is a fairly slim novel and the houses described are littered with personal details about the way she felt about neighbours, builders, her writing and sadly her illness. Sadly the cancer had already spread by the time she wrote this, her last piece of non-fiction, and more than likely is the explanation for the brevity and the matter of fact way she touches on her options is probably even harder to read in retrospect. Margaret Forster died on 8 February 2016 aged 77 having left a wealth of books behind to entertain and enlighten new generations of readers.

The most fascinating part of this book of however has nothing to do with the author and everything to do with how life changed so considerably between 1938 when she was born and 2014 when the book was published. Her early memories include the black-leading of the fireplace and not without a certain amount of wryness does she delight in this once hated job being integral in her second home in Carlisle. Of course Margaret Forster was more affluent than most but as she references sitting-tenants and shared bathrooms in the past she is describing the lives that certainly were the options open for my ancestors if they wanted to leave home. Life is very different with so many household gadgets nowadays but here is a woman describing the novelty of a home telephone.

For a different type of memoir this method is incredibly effective although I’m not sure I would have loved it quite so much had I not already had an insight not only into the author’s life but those important beliefs around feminism and socialism which seem to have featured long before they might have been expected to surface.

This copy of My Life in Houses was from the local library in my bid to support this wonderful community lifeline which has previously been such a huge part of my life. I would not be the reader I am now if it hadn’t been for libraries to keep me stocked up with books.

First Published UK: 6 November 2014
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
No of Pages: 272
Genre: Non-Fiction – Memoir
Amazon UK
Amazon US