Posted in Challenge

My Name In Books

I saw this tag on many blogger’s sites in the summer and decided to have a go for myself – I decided to pick favourite reads of all time – I confess, my biggest problem was finding four books that started with the letter O, but I finally located those that deserved a place!

So without further ado I give you CLEOPATRA LOVES BOOKS, in books

Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

One of my favourite books from childhood

Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

My favourite read by this author who injects so much humour into this dark tale

Emil and the Detectives – Erich Kastner

Possibly my very first introduction to crime fiction where Emil and his friends catch a thief

Out of the Silence – Wendy James

A fantastic combination of fact and a historical crime

Precious Thing – Colette McBeth

One of those books I simply couldn’t stop reading

A Judgement in Stone – Ruth Rendell

The best opening line – “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write“.

Thursday’s Child – Noel Streatfeild

My favourite book from childhood – Margaret was my heroine, I read this book hundred’s of time although it sadly out of print now.

Rubbernecker – Belinda Bauer

A sensitive piece of crime fiction featuring a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome

Asta’s Book – Barbara Vine

My favourite of the psychological fiction books written by Ruth Rendell under the name of Barbara Vine which depicts Asta’s life from the turn of the twentieth century.

Cleopatra

 

Like This Forever – S.J. Bolton

The third in the brilliant Lacey Flint series

Only the Innocent – Rachel Abbot

A relatively new addition to my must read list of authors and a fellow channel islander, this is the author’s first novel

Victorian Murderesses – Mary S Hartman

Although published in 1976, this is a fascinating look at the social lives of women during the late nineteenth, early twentieth century as well as detailing some historical crimes.

Evil Games – Andrea Marsons

A fabulous new series which has a complex plot and is backed up by well-formed characters.

Shadow Baby – Margaret Forster

Probably the book I have re-read most as an adult, a well told dual time-line tale, well researched and totally captivating.

Loves

Burnt Paper Sky – Gillian McMillan

A fresh and innovative debut

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe – Agatha Christie

There simply can’t be a list which doesn’t feature the amazing Agatha Christie so while this isn’t her best novel, it did start with an O

One Last Dance – Judith Lennox

A historical saga set during the First World War, this is a story of sibling rivalry and a grand house.

Keep Your Friends Close – Paula Daly

Domestic noir at its best

Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the sheer brilliance of this book

Books

Posted in Books I have read

Cleopatra’s Top 10 Books published in 2014

2014 was a fantastic reading year for me although even I was shocked to see that I’d marked a whopping 42 books as 5 star reads this year!  Yes that’s quite a lot but to be honest I award stars on instinct when I review and (conceitedly) assume those who look at my reviews read the words, rather than depend on this arbitrary system.  One reason I enjoy choosing my Top 10 is because it is interesting to see whether on reflection this instinctive scoring holds true for me.  Surprisingly it does and I didn’t feel I had to downgrade any of my choices this year but for those of you who assume I ponder and deliberate and weigh up the merits of one five star read against another, I’m sorry, I don’t.

Fortunately as this post concentrates on books published in 2014, I’ve been able to remove a few of my choices, but as you can imagine it was quite a task to get the list whittled down to just 10.  As a compromise some books that I love were featured on my blog post Reading and Reviewing in 2014 !

As regular visitors are aware I read a lot about crime fiction although I dip my toes in other genres from time to time. To help with the decision making I have decided to pick the best from some other genres too starting with Historical Fiction. The winner this year is my most recent five star review

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests

What can I say, beautiful engaging writing, three-dimensional characters, great period detail and…. a crime! This book has a slow start but don’t let that fool you, I had to slow down my reading towards the end as I didn’t want the story to end. Set in the early 1920’s Sarah Waters captures the herald of change with the classes and the genders having to adapt to a new way of life.

My Non-Fiction choice isn’t strictly a book that was published in 2014, that originally occurred back in 1974 but it was republished in 2014 (and this is my blog so my rules!)

Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman

Victorian Murderesses

This book looks at Middle Class Victorian Murderesses in the United Kingdom and France during the Victorian period. It is far more than a recap of the crimes as the author makes a link between the time, place and class of woman to commentate on women’s lives during this period. A fascinating and far more scholarly work than I anticipated.

My Surprise Find of the year:

Interlude by Rupert Smith

Interlude

I don’t know what made me choose this book, but I’m so glad I did. Told between past and present this has a book in a book, historical details and a cast of characters whose actions are at times reprehensible but who are entirely human made up of good points as well.

A Slow Burner of a novel award goes to:

That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler

That Dark Remembered Day

This superbly written book invites the reader to absorb every word as it lays the groundwork for what happened on the day in question. The groundwork begins in 1983, the year I became a teenager and the details took me right back to that era. It’s no coincidence that Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within made my top ten listing for 2013 with this almost understated but perceptive writing.

Best Debut Novel:

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver

One of my favourite types of novel that concentrate on the why of a mystery rather than the who. Unravelling Oliver peels back the layers of the man who starts this book by saying ‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’ The multitude of narrators that have interacted with Oliver through his life create a satisfactory background to the man and it isn’t as straightforward as you may imagine.

Favourite book from an established Crime Series. This was a tough one as all the latest books from series I follow, especially Sharon Bolton’s and Peter James’ produced great books this year, however my final choice for this category features Maeve Kerrigan

The Kill by Jane Casey

The Kill

DC Maeve Kerrigan is caught up in a spate of police killings in the fifth in this series. Once again Jane Casey gets the balance of the police investigation to the personal lives of the characters we know and love (I admit to a little crush on DI Josh Derwent) with a story that is told at the perfect pace. If you haven’t read this series I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Best Start to a New Crime Series goes to a series that features another woman, Detective Grace Fisher, a crime reporter and missing students.

Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey

Good Girls Don't Die

There was so much to love in this book, a great plot multiple storylines, well-rounded characters all backed up by a decent plot, in fact there was so much going on in this book to enjoy I felt like I’d read a banquet of a book by the time I’d finished.

There were two New to me author’s whose books were so good I had to read more – and after tossing a coin between the winner and Colette McBeth I award this one to:

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

Keep Your Friends Close

This choice is another book peopled by well-rounded, if flawed characters. Natty’s husband Sean falls in love with her friend Eve but it appears that this isn’t the first time Eve has behaved in this way, the fallout is spectacular.. After reading this book I immediately bought a copy of Just What Kind of Mother Are You? which was equally as good.

My final two choices are simply two excellent books that I loved and have recommended far and wide ever since I read them.

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place

When a boy is found murdered in the grounds of an exclusive girl’s school the police need to penetrate the secretive world of teenage girls, not a task for the faint-hearted. Not only does this book have all the requisite ingredients for a great read; characters, plot and pace, it is also an enormously fun read, so much so I dubbed it ‘Mallory Towers for Grown Ups’

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Little Lies

Another book set in a school, this time in a primary school and the action takes place at a fund-raiser. Liane Moriarty has created such wonderful characters, brilliant dialogue and the most bizarre murder scene ever. This is a book that packs a punch with much more lurking beneath the seemingly light exterior.  This author also made my 2013 top 10 list with The Husband’s Secret.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at my personal favourites of 2014 and I hope you all find books to love in 2015.

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

Victorian Murderesses – Mary S. Hartman

Historical Crime 5*'s
Historical Crime
5*’s

There is something quite fascinating about women who murder, and judging by the amount of contemporary reporting of the details about the cases featured in this book, nothing much has changed over time. In this book the author has selected an Englishwoman and a Frenchwoman for each chapter based upon the circumstances, rather than the method of their crimes. All the women featured are from the middle-classes and a certain amount of conjecture is used to paint a picture of this class of women from the details of their cases the reasoning of the author being that these women’s lives weren’t documented or studied in the way of the lower classes and so using these cause celebres can give us a glimpse behind the drawing room curtains of their lives. I’m not completely convinced by this argument but for some of the broader details it works, for instance the chapters that touch upon contraceptive gives us an idea of how widespread or acceptable this was in Victorian England for the middle-classes.

The beauty of this book is threefold; the details of the crimes committed the resulting investigation and if appropriate trial, the popular opinion at the time of the guilt or innocence of those accused using contemporary media and lastly the particular social issues that may have led these women to act outside the law and kill another person. Each case presented was interesting and appeared to be well-researched, although one of the downsides of reading this kind of book on the kindle is that following the notes as you go along is very time-consuming so I tended to wait until I’d finished a chapter to catch-up on these. The fact that there were two women per chapter means that the reader does need to concentrate once the initial setting of the scene has happened, as the author switches between the two subjects to compare and contrast the difference between the two societies in a number of different spheres, including popular opinion and expectations.

The author states in the preface:

These accused daughters, wives and mothers have little to teach any would-be twentieth-century practitioner about the art of murder; nearly all of them bungled badly in the ac, and those who got away with it relied upon methods that required special circumstances and relations between the sexes which no longer obtain.

And that is precisely what makes this study so interesting, women can no longer act coy in the witness box, but they could, and were expected to, in Victorian England and so many of the more salacious details are hinted at rather than baldly stated both at the trial and the resultant reporting.

The cases cover the years 1840-1890’s and the subjects covered are:
Marie Lafarge and Euphemie Lacoste which covers the use of arsenic in matriomony
Madeline Smith and Angelina Lemoine who were both between school and marriage when they were accused of killing their lovers
Celestine Doudet and Constance Kent who were both spinsters when they murdered
Florence Bravo and Henriette Francey the so called new women who were defying the old order of society
Gabrielle Fenayrou and Adelaide Bartlett both wives of shopkeepers who were reported to have committed adultery
Florence Maybrick and Claire Reymond who were allegedly victims of the double standards held at the time.

I found this book both interesting and informative although the language at time is quite dry, this is a study rather than a book for entertainment but one that I will be seeking a physical copy of on my bookshelf to supplement my Victorian crime selection.

This book was originally published back in 1976 but has been re-released in 2014 for a new generation of readers by Dover Publications who were kind enough to give me a copy of this book in return for my honest review.

My recommended further reading:

The Suspicion of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale – Constance Kent is the chief suspect in the The Murder at Road Hill House and features in chapter three of this book.
Death at the Priory by James Ruddick – The murder of Charles Bravo is the subject of this non-fiction book which explores all the possible culprits to this horrific murder by poison. (chapter four in this book)
A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley – an excellent look at the fascination that we have with a ‘good murder’ and the reporting that fed this desire.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Teaser Tuesday (October 14)

Kindle,jpg

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman a book that is so much more than a simple re-hash of the true-crimes committed, this book also addresses the issues facing middle-class women in Victorian England.

Victorian Murderesses

Blurb

This riveting combination of true crime and social history examines a dozen cases from the 1800s involving thirteen French and English women charged with murder. Each incident was a cause célèbre, and this mixture of scandal and scholarship offers illuminating details of backgrounds, deeds, and trials.
“The real delight is that historian Mary S. Hartman does more than reconstruct twelve famous trials. She has written a piece on the social history of nineteenth-century women from an illuminating perspective: their favorite murders.” — Time Magazine

My Teasers

Madeline Smith was seventeen in 1853 when she returned home to Scotland from boarding school near London; she was nineteen when she met and established a secret liaison with a poor but ambitious twenty-six-year-old Jerseyman of French extraction named Emile L’Angelier

These letters, over sixty of which were introduced in evidence during the nine days’ trial, chronicle a relationship which captivated a Victorian public with an already keen appetite for crime and illicit sexual adventure in high places.

No prizes for guessing why I chose this particular murder to select my teasers from!

Please leave the links to your teasers in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (July 11)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

Well I was feeling smug having knocked 15 books off the TBR whilst on my holidays and the internet access was so poor that no new purchases were possible and then it all went wrong…

From NetGalley I have the following new finds:

I couldn’t resist Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman and published by Dover Publications on 14 June 2014.

Victorian Murderesses

Blurb

This riveting combination of true crime and social history examines a dozen cases from the 1800s involving thirteen French and English women charged with murder. Each incident was a cause célèbre, and this mixture of scandal and scholarship offers illuminating details of backgrounds, deeds, and trials.
“The real delight is that historian Mary S. Hartman does more than reconstruct twelve famous trials. She has written a piece on the social history of nineteenth-century women from an illuminating perspective: their favorite murders.” — Time Magazine. NetGalley

I’m also delighted to have a copy of Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards having recommended his solo debut novel The Magpies to everyone I know.  This novel will be published by Thomas & Mercer on 2 September 2014.

Because She Loves Me

Blurb

When Andrew Sumner meets beautiful, edgy Charlie, he is certain his run of bad luck has finally come to an end.
But as the two of them embark on an intense affair, Andrew wonders if his grasp on reality is slipping. Items go missing in his apartment. Somebody appears to be following him. And as misfortune and tragedy strike his friends and loved ones, Andrew is forced to confront the frightening truth…
Is Charlie really the girl of his dreams – or the woman of his nightmares? NetGalley

I came across a review for The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson at The Book Musings and Orion Publishing Group were kind enough to let me have a copy ahead of the publication date of 28 August 2014.

The Sea Garden

Blurb

Present day. On a lush Mediterranean island off the French coast, Ellie has accepted a commission to restore an abandoned garden. It seems idyllic, but the longer Ellie spends at the house and garden, the more she senses darkness, and a lingering evil that seems to haunt her.
Second World War. Two very different women have their lives irrevocably changed: Iris, a junior intelligence officer in London and Marthe, a blind girl who works in the lavender fields of Provence and is slowly drawn into the heart of the Resistance. As secret messages are passed in scent and planes land by moonlight, danger comes ever closer…NetGalley

Lastly I have a copy of Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas from the Random House UK. This book is due to be published on 14 August 2014.

Your Beautiful Lies
Blurb

Annie Howarth is living a restless life in a restless town. It’s 1987 and for a mining community in South Yorkshire, the strikes mean tensions are running high. Then a murdered girl is found on the moors and the anxiety levels are pushed to a dangerous breaking point.
Married to the Chief of Police, Annie should feel safe – William can be secretive, though surely whatever he’s hiding is for her own good.
But Annie is keeping her own secrets. Ten years ago the man she loved was ripped from her life in a scandal that still haunts the both of them, and now his return will put her family, her marriage, even her life, at risk. NetGalley

I also had a birthday while I was on holiday and my lovely brother sent me two new books for my return. Rather meanly he also wrapped and posted a collection of scouring pads which I can’t even think about without pulling a face that looks like I’m sucking a lemon (I know a strange phobia but it does mean I can’t do any cleaning with this particular product!) Needless to say they were unwrapped and scattered as I shouted an impressive array of expletives.
Scouring Pads

So back to the books!
I have a copy of The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson which details the period following the First World War from 1918 to 1920.

The Great Silence

Blurb

The euphoria of Armistice Day 1918 vaporizes to reveal the carnage that war has left in its wake. But from Britain’s despair emerges new life. For veterans with faces demolished in the trenches, surgeon Harold Gillies brings hope with his miraculous skin-grafting procedure. Women win the vote, skirt hems leap, and Brits forget their troubles at packed dance halls. The remains of a nameless soldier are laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey. “The Great Silence,” observed in memory of the countless dead, halts citizens in silent reverence.
Nicolson crafts her narrative using a lively cast of characters: from an aging butler to a pair of newlyweds, from the Prince of Wales to T.E. Lawrence, the real-life Lawrence of Arabia. The Great Silence depicts a nation fighting the forces that threaten to tear it apart and discovering the common bonds that hold it together. Goodreads

..and I have a copy of Stranger In The House by Julie Summers which explores the effects of the Second World War.

Stranger in the house
Blurb

‘It is as if I have been waiting for someone to ask me these questions for almost the whole of my life’
From 1945, more than four million British servicemen were demobbed and sent home after the most destructive war in history. Damaged by fighting, imprisonment or simply separation from their loved ones, these men returned to a Britain that had changed in their absence. In Stranger in the House, Julie Summers tells the women’s story, interviewing over a hundred women who were on the receiving end of demobilisation: the mothers, wives, sisters, who had to deal with an injured, emotionally-damaged relative; those who assumed their fiances had died only to find them reappearing after they had married another; women who had illegitimate children following a wartime affair as well as those whose steadfast optimism was rewarded with a delightful reunion. Many of the tales are moving, some are desperately sad, others are full of humour but all provide a fascinating account of how war altered ordinary women’s lives forever. Amazon

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of The Arsonist by Sue Miller based on the fact that I haven’t read any of her books for a few years. I don’t know why she dropped of my radar.

The Arsonist

Blurb

Troubled by the feeling that she belongs nowhere after working in East Africa for fifteen years, Frankie Rowley has come home—home to the small New Hampshire village of Pomeroy and the farmhouse where her family has always summered. On her first night back, a house up the road burns to the ground. Then another house burns, and another, always the houses of the summer people. In a town where people have never bothered to lock their doors, social fault lines are opened, and neighbors begin to regard one another with suspicion. Against this backdrop of menace and fear, Frankie begins a passionate, unexpected affair with the editor of the local paper, a romance that progresses with exquisite tenderness and heat toward its own remarkable risks and revelations. Amazon

Lastly I had a delivery of two more of Margaret Yorke’s books, fortunately I enjoyed A Small Deceit which I read on holiday (review will follow but I have something of a backlog now) and can’t wait to sample more from this author.

False Pretences by Margaret Yorke was originally published in 1998 but has been reissued in 2013.

False Pretences
Blurb

When Isabel’s god-daughter Emily turns up after years of no contact and in need of help she feels duty-bound to take her under her wing. To her surprise Emily is determined to be independent and takes a job as nanny. Emily’s charge turns out to be the illegitimate child of the naïve daughter of a well-to-do couple and a ne’er-do-well conman who disappeared before the baby was born. And now he is back intent on exploiting his parental status in return for cash.
Before she knows it Emily is caught up in his botched attempts at blackmail trying desperately to protect her charge from harm while also shielding Isabel from becoming entangled in the drama. But when events beyond her control force her to act instinctively with horrendous effect all their lives are put terribly at risk. Amazon

While my last find The Small Hours Of The Morning by Margaret Yorke was originally published nearly 40 years ago in 1975!

The Small Hours of the Morning

Blurb

Lorna couldn’t stop spying on Cecil Titmuss. His life was her idea of perfection – a loving family and spouse, and respect in the community. But when she finds out Mrs Titmuss’s secret – which threatens Cecil’s security – Lorna must do something to save the family. How far will she go? Amazon

So by my reckoning my impressive 15 book reduction has rapidly reduced to 6 in the space of a few days!

What have you found to read?