Sunday, 16 July 2017

Sicilian Crime stories

Two Sicilian based crime novels today. First up, Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano:

Isolde Oberreiter, more commonly known as 'Auntie Poldi', is a German lady in her sixties who's decided to move to Sicily to be near her relatives in her retirement. She has a nephew who's trying to be a writer and he lives with her from time to time. He's the narrator of the tale and describes how eccentric his aunt is having lived a very colourful life indeed. She has a sort of odd-job man who works for her now and then, who disappears one day. Poldi is worried, but no one takes her seriously until she discovers his dead body on the beach. The police are on the case but Poldi decides to look into the murder herself as her father had been a detective in Germany. It's naturally a dangerous undertaking and the investigating officer, DCI Vito Montano, is not amused with her interference but is struggling with his attraction to Poldi. Unfortunately for him she also has more success with her investigations than he does...

To be honest I wasn't at all sure what to make of this. It was a fun murder mystery, I will say that, with a really nice setting on the island of Sicily. Nice sense of place and of the eccentricities of the inhabitants of that island. The problem for me, I think, was that I felt the author made Aunt Poldi just a bit too eccentric. I do actually like a bit of weirdness here and there, enjoy it in fact, but I almost felt the author had gone overboard just for the sake of it. I struggled to identify with Poldi and that's a shame as middle-aged female protagonists are very few and far between. I say 'middle-aged'... the author refers to her as 'elderly' and she's in her sixties... like me... I do not think of myself as 'elderly'! Surely these days elderly is late eighties or ninety. Anyhow, hit and miss with this book I think, but cheap to buy on Kindle and a fun read so I have no complaints whatsoever.

Next, Excursion to Tindari by Andrea Camilleri:

A young man, Nené Sanfilippo, is shot dead outside his block of flats in Vigata, Sicily. Inspector Montalbano and his team are assigned the case. Then another man turns up at the police station, very worried about his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Griffo, who have not answered their phone for several days. Montalbano naturally makes no connection between these two occurrences... *until* he finds that the murdered man and the missing couple lived in the same appartment block. It turns out that the Griffos were last seen on a coach which was taking its passengers on an excursion to the Sanctuary of the Madonna in Tindari. On the way back the coach stopped for a comfort break and no one remembers seeing them after that. Then a local Mafia chief asks to meet up with Montalbano. What on earth is going on?

Another enjoyable episode in the detecting life of Salvo Montalbano... number five as a matter of fact. I can't claim that this is one of my favourite series, because it's not. I like them, I don't love them, and I'm not sure why that is. I do enjoy the taste of Sicilian life the author brings to his stories. The island is very real... the people, their addiction to food, the history, the oppressive heat, the organised crime, the eccentricity of the police force. There's a good natured, earthy humour I like and Montalbano's love of good food is endearing. His love life not quite so much. I read these books very intermittently, so as there're are rather a lot it'll take me while to get through them. But that's ok, I have several series I read like that, dipping in and out when the mood takes me. It's all good.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Two books about the water

Two watery books today. First, Waterlog by Roger Deakin.

This book is a celebration of wild swimming in the UK. It's quite a popular pastime apparently, which is something I was unaware of, although I have seen scenes of people swimming along rocky coasts on programmes such as the BBC's Coast. Roger Deakin set out, in 1996, to swim as many rivers, lakes, beachs, canals, aquaducts, you name it, of the country as took his fancy. He lived in Norfolk, near Diss, so East Anglia takes centre stage for a lot of the book. His home had small stretch of moat around it which apparently at one time, centuries ago, was not that unusual. But of course there are not many of them left, aside from a few stately homes and castles, Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk being a notable one. (It's owned by the National Trust and is a wonderful place to visit.)

He actually started his journey in the Isles of Scilly, off Cornwall, and thence into Cornwall itself. I was particulary interested in his swim in the outdoor lido in Penzance because this is where I swam as a child. The pool has recently been refurbished after being virtually destroyed by yet another Atlantic storm. Its triangular shape is apparently unique in the UK, something I didn't realise.


Photo: Penzance Jubilee pool

After that he swum all over the place, a lot in East Anglia as previously mentioned but also Scotland, Devon and Dorset, Sark in the Channel Islands, the Leeds & Liverpool canal, Lidos in London, remote mountain lakes in Wales, to name but a few.

It's quite hard to review books like this which meander almost as much as the rivers Deakin was swimming in. That's because his thoughts on all kinds of things take up as many pages as the actual swimming. We get a lot of history, topography, and musings on all kinds of topics, plus interesting bits on the people he meets, things that have happened to them and so on. The book is fascinating... it took me a month to read and I'm quite pleased about that as it meant I could savour it in detail and enjoy the wonderful laid back, contemplative nature it exudes. The sad thing is Roger Deakin died in 2006 aged 63. A sad loss to British nature writing.

Next: Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat hardly needs any introduction from me. This is my second or even third time of reading it, although I did't own it. Not even sure what did happen to my copy but when I saw this lovely Oxford World Classics edition advertised by them on Twitter I decided it was time for a reread and this was the one I wanted to read. It involves of course, three men, Henry, George and the narrator 'J', deciding to row up the river Thames from Kingston to Oxford, along with the dog, a fox terrier, Montmorency. It catalogues their fictional adventures and misfortunes, their ineptness despite them all being men who've been out on boats on various rivers in the past. What struck me was what a popular pastime 'messing about on the river' was back in the 1890s when this book was written. It was crazy popular, not so much for the pleasure it seemed to me, but for the act of being seen out and about and taking part. The river could get so crowded at the weekends it could take hours to get through particular locks of which there are many on The Thames. Of course, the joy of this book is not necessarily the boat trip itself. It's the author's cogitations on everything under the sun. Hilarious stuff so beautifully put that it had me it fits of laughter. And I loved how self-deluded the narrator is when it comes to his own character. To be honest he's deluded about *most* things. The book is a joy, if you haven't read it, please do, you won't regret it.

One parallel I must draw between Waterlog and Three Men in a Boat is that both sets of travellers found access to some parts of the rivers difficult due to private ownership and *signs* up all over the place. It drove Roger Deakin mad and also the three men in the boat. You might have thought things would've improved in a hundred years but no, apparently *not*. Interesting.

I'll be reading the second book, Three Men on the Bummel very soon... think I've already read that too but honestly don't remember it so I'm hoping it too will be a joy.

~~~oOo~~~

Friday, 7 July 2017

Mount TBR checkpoint #2

We're now more than halfway through the year so it's time for the 2nd. Mount TBR checkpoint.


I signed up originally for Pike's Peak which is to read 12 books off your TBR pile.

First up, Bev wants us to:

1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read). If you're really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you've read correlates to actual miles up Pike's Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc. And feel free to tell us about any particularly exciting adventures you've had along the way.

Well, I'm there... at the top of Pike's Peak. I finished my 12th. book just a couple of days ago. What to do now? Well, I think I'll move on to the next mountain, Mont Blanc, which is to read 24 books. I've no idea whether I'll manage it but nothing ventured...


2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:

A. Choose two titles from the books you've read so far that have a common link. You decide what the link is--both have strong female lead characters? Each focuses on a diabolical plot to take over the world? Blue covers? About weddings? Find your link and tell us what it is.

My link is between Bill Oddie Unplucked by Bill Oddie and Waterlog by Roger Deakin. And the link is both authors' love of wildlife, in Oddie's case specifically 'birds'. It shines like a beacon out of both books and is delightful to read and learn from.


Next:

Use titles from your list to complete as many of the following sentences below as you can. If you haven't read enough books to give you good choices, then feel free to use any books yet to be read from your piles. I've given my answers as examples. Feel free to add or change words (such as "a" or "the" or others that clarify) as needed.

My Life According to Books:

1. My Ex is/was Waterlog(ged) - Roger Deakin (To be reviewed)

2. My best friend is The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (on tbr pile)

3. Lately, at work (It feels like) The Haunted Library - Edited by Tanya Kirk

4. If I won the lottery (I'd take to) The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells

5. My fashion sense (resembles) Bill Oddie Unplucked - Bill Oddie

6. My next ride (Leaves from) The Way Station - Clifford D. Simak

7. The one I love is The Lewis Man - Peter May

8. If I ruled the world (I'd be) William the Conqueror - Richmal Crompton

9. When I look out my window (I see) Dragonsdawn - Anne McCaffrey

10.The best things in life are On the Shores of the Mediterranean - Eric Newby

So, onwards and upwards... Mont Blanc!

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Second update on my Where Are you Reading? challenge

Well, here we are... six months into 2017 and it's downhill all the way to Christmas. *Dodges sundry rotten veg* I wanted to pop an update on the Where Are You reading? challenge up here, mainly for own benefit so I don't have to go too far back when updating it. Also it's one I like keeping an eye on as I'm enjoying it quite a bit.




This one is all about places. There's one about states but this one counts cities, countries, and fictional locations too. Read a book set in a location for each letter of the alphabet. West Virginia only counts for W, Bowling Green only counts for B, but the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey that is on a fictional planet counts as P ;-)

The sign up post is here: Where are you Reading? and is being hosted by Book Dragon's Lair.

You don’t need a blog to participate. Feel free to link to a Goodreads shelf or another public profile where everyone can see your books.

There is one hard rule, one just for general courtesy, and several guidelines. There are no levels, unless you want to do a second set of letters.

Hard Rules
The book in question must have an ISBN or equivalent. If you can buy it or borrow it, it counts -

General Courtesy
When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post. That way we can find it.

Guidelines

1. You can list your books in advance or as you read them. You can also change your list.

2. Any format, any genre or length of book counts but it must be the complete book, individual books in a collection do not count separately.

3. Anyone can join, you don’t need to be a blogger, just let me know in the comments.

4. Reviews are not necessary but a list of books you read is. There will be a link up for reviews if you wish to post them. You can make a list of books you want to read and change them if you'd like.

5. Crossovers for other challenges count.

6. Books started before January 1st, 2017 don’t count - unless you start over. ;-)


My list:

A: (Alaska, USA) Blood Will Tell - Dana Stabenow (January '17)

B:

C: (Cote D'azur, France) Jacquot and the Fifteen - Martin O'Brien (Feb '17)

D: (Devon, UK) North Face - Mary Renault (March '17)

E:

F: (France) Best Foot Forward - Susie Kelly (May '17)

G:

H:

I: (Italy) Excursion to Tindari - Andrea Camilleri (July '17)

J:

K:

L: (Lewis - The Outer Hebrides, Scotland) The Lewis Man - Peter May (January '17)

M: (Minnesota, USA) The Lost Girls - Heather Young (Feb '17)

N: (Norfolk, England) The Woman in Blue - Elly Griffiths (May '17)

O: (Oxford, England) Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay (June '17)

P: (Philadelphia, PA, USA) The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert (February '17)

Q: (Quebec, Canada) The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny (Mar. '17)

R:

S: (St. Denis, Perigord, France) Bruno, Chief of Police - Martin Walker (June '17)

T: (Three Worlds, The) The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells (March '17)

U: (Utah, USA) To Helvetica and Back - Paige Shelton (Mar. '17)

V:

W: (Wisconsin, USA) Way Station - Clifford D. Simak (Feb. '17)

X:

Y:

Z:


Sooooo, that's 14 letters filled, 12 to go. I have books to cover a few of the vacant letters, B, G and H for instance, and probably others if I care to search properly amongst the TBR mountain. Quite pleased with some of the destinations... various lovely US States, nice parts of France, Canada, Scotland, England and so on. Possibly I should vary the countries a bit more but those are the places I like reading about so it's a very much a list which reflects me and I can't think that that's really such a bad thing.

~~~oOo~~~

Friday, 30 June 2017

Books read in June

Seems I haven't had a bad reading month in June, after a bit of a lull for a couple of months where my enthusiasm wasn't what it might have been. Six books read and most pretty good, which is about all you can ask for really.

These are the books:

30. Flirting With French - William Alexander. The author's endless struggle to learn French.

31. The Saint-Fiacre Affair - Georges Simenon. Maigret solving the murder of a countess in his home village.

32. Bruno, Chief of Police - Martin Walker. Chief of police, Bruno Courréges, endeavouring to discover who in his peaceful French town killed a North African war hero.

33. Extraordinary People - Peter May. Enzo McCleod whizzing around France trying to solve the cold case of a missing academic.

34. Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay. Female Oxford undergrads from the 1930s try to solve the murder of the their college's bursar.

35. Confession - Martin O'Brien. To be reviewed. Marseilles detective, Daniel Jacquot, working undercover to find a missing teenage girl from Paris.


These were all excellent books. I see they're nearly all crime stories which is about typical of me these days. Also, all but one set in France, which is also typical of me at the moment. It seems there are a few good French crime series out there... if anyone has any other recs of good French crime series please do feel free to recommend them.

As to a favourite, well the two that jump out are, Extraordinary People by Peter May and Confession by Martin O'Brien. Except... I really *really* enjoyed this one:

Because, well basically because it made me laugh a lot. Plus, I learnt quite a bit about language and how we learn... the optimum age for learning to speak a new language and so on. I don't own this book, it was a library book, but I'm very tempted to buy a copy in order that I can reread it at some stage, it was that interesting and informative.








So, onwards into July. Half the year has now come and gone and if that's not scary I don't what is. Happy reading!

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Death on the Cherwell

It seems I can't resist these lovely BLCC books. Each and every one is so beautifully presented, a delight to read, and I love the nostalgia of them. Even though many of them were written in the 1930s and 40s, before I was born, things hadn't changed much come the 50s and 60s when I was around, so they take me back to a time when modern life was not as frantic as it is today. I love them to bits. Today's review is Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay.


The first meeting of The Lode League takes place on the roof of a boathouse somewhere on the river Cherwell, in Oxford, on a gloomy February afternoon. Four girls, Sally, Daphne, Gwyneth and Nina have formed a society for the express purpose of cursing the bursar of their Oxford college, Miss Denning. Except that proceedings hardly have a chance to get underway before a canoe floats into sight and lying in it is, shockingly, the dead body of the said Miss Denning. The girls all attend Persephone college, an Oxford women only college, and this kind of scandal is not at all welcome to The Principal, Miss Cordell or 'Cordial' as the girls call her.

The police, of course, begin investigations but, worried that knowledge of The Lode League might cause the police to think they had something to do with the murder, the girls decide to investigate for themselves. It seems there are two main suspects - the elderly owner of a large house who has crossed swords with Miss Denning over a right of way across his land, and a farmer who wanted to sell the college some land but the deal doesn't interest them. A fellow student, from Yugo-slavia aslo seems implicated by her rather erratic behaviour.

The case is further complicated by the secretiveness of Miss Denning's life. She has a niece that she seems determined to keep away from Oxford at all costs. Why? Sally's sister and husband, who solved a previous murder case on the underground in London (Murder Underground), arrive to help solve the puzzle. It's a tricky one and no mistake, one in which the police appear quite happy to allow the undergraduate group to help solve.

Muriel Doriel Gray wrote only three crime novels, one of which I've read and enjoyed, The Santa Klaus Murder. (The other is Murder Underground which I've not read.) It seems a shame that she didn't write more as this was a very enjoyable read.

I quite enjoy books set in schools or colleges and there aren't that many of them so I always appreciate finding new ones. (One I can highly recommend is Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey.) The girls in this book are thoroughly Jolly Hockey Sticks and none the worse for that. I wasn't sure of ages but imagine they're eighteen to nineteen... but seeming younger as of course back in those days children matured much later into adults. It wasn't until one of them was driving a car that I was brought up short and realised how old these girls were. Before that it was almost like reading an Enid Blyton book for mid-teens. Huge fun, to be honest. There's a nice vein of humour running through the whole thing, I found myself chuckling quite a lot, not only at the dialogue but also at the antics of the girls themselves. I liked how the detective in charge enjoyed their enthusiasm and found ways for them to help.

The mystery itself, of who killed The Bursar, was solid... various secrets to discover and various blind alleys you're led up. I didn't know until the end who'd 'dun it', so to speak, though some of the details are easy to guess if you read a lot of this sort of thing. To be honest, the real joy of this book is the river and college setting and 1930s period detail.

In all, a thoroughly enjoyable BLCC book. I have heaps more - around ten - to read and heaps more that I would love to own. They're all much too tempting!

~~~oOo~~~

Friday, 23 June 2017

New books!

Quite a few new books have mysteriously found their way into the house. I wonder where they're coming from... *coughs* So I thought I'd do a post as I haven't done one in quite a while. I have to say, some super, super covers on display here. Publishers seem to be really going out of their way these days to make books very attractive so well done them.

Anyhoo... these are the books bought, or given to me, or even *free*, over the last couple of months.



From the bottom:

To Oldly Go: Tales of Intrepid Travel by the Over 60s, Can't find an editor for this but basically the title says it all. Birthday present.

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid. Scottish crime. Haven't read anything by this author, time I did. This one was free as Tiverton is having its literary weekend and a local shop is doing a book swap event. I took a load and came away with two.

The Olive Harvest by Carol Drinkwater. Very famous French 'olive growing' set of books. Love Carol's writing. This one was also free.

I'll never be French (no matter what I do) by Mark Greenside. My France thing continues unabated...

Three Men on a Boat & Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K Jerome. I have actually read these but don't own them. Then I saw this copy advertised on Twitter and literally bought it for the cover. See it properly below.

To say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Sci-fi, time travelling, somehow connected to Three Men on a Boat because of course the full title of that book is: Three Men on a Boat to Say Nothing of the Dog




Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne. Vintage BLCC crime yarn. Scottish setting so it'll do for the Scottish challenge I'm doing. Birthday pressie.

A Scream in Soho by John G. Brandon. Another BLCC. London during WW2. Looks good. Another birthday pressie.

Continental Crimes edited by Martin Edwards. Short crime stories set on The Continent.

Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs. Village based crime yarn, coveted this for a while because of the cover so when I saw it in Smiths... (Fully paid up member of Sucker-for-a-lovely-cover-anonymous.)

Death on the Riviera by John Bude. Crime story set in the south of France.

And because the covers are too nice not to see, here they all are:








~~~oOo~~~

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Extraordinary People

Having already enjoyed two of the three books in Peter May's 'Lewis' trilogy, I spotted book one of his Enzo McCleod series in the library and thought I'd give that a go too.




A Scot living in Toulouse in the south west of France, Enzo McCleod is a biologist at the university in the historical city. He's taken a bet with a colleague that he can solve a cold case murder which is over ten years old, using modern techniques. Jacques Gaillard was a brilliant professor, destined for high places, when he disappeared off the face of the Earth. No one has any clue what happened to him and the police seemed to have lost interest in the case pretty quickly.

Enzo joins forces with journalist, Roger Raffin, who has investigated various cold cases and has copious notes which he's only reluctantly willing to share. Then a metal box is discovered in the catacombs below Paris after a tunnel collapse, which turns out to hold the skull of the missing man. Also in the box are various bits and pieces, clues perhaps to the whereabouts of the rest of skeleton? They piece together a theory and the hunt begins for the next box, neither of the men having any idea what they are getting themselves into or the danger which will present itself both to themsleves and to Enzo's family.

Well, I whizzed through this like a bat out of hell... unable to put it down unless someone was actually dying. Peter May has written this book for people who like puzzling things out, searching for answers in obscure records or books via the internet, gathering clues and figuring out the answers. And it works, or it did for me. I thoroughly enjoyed Enzo's tour of France, dragging along sundry companions, getting into a spot of bother at every turn, it was, to coin an over-used term, a real roller-coaster ride.

Enzo himself is a pony-tailed, middle-aged Scot with personal problems. He has two daughters by different mothers, one of whom won't have anything to do with him... he lives with the other who has a boyfriend Enzo doesn't approve of. I don't always care for these back stories of detectives in mystery books but this one struck a chord with me so I had no problem with it. And I did actually like him for recognising his own flaws and understanding why he had such problems in the first place.

One of my 'likes' shall we say, in books is 'tunnelling underground'... any books which go underground and do it well get the thumbs up from me. And this does just that. The last few chapters feature The Paris Catacombs, (which I was, rather stupidly, completely unaware of) and it is creepy and frightening. I'm assuming most of the info in the book is true and of course now I'd like to know a bit more! Maybe I can find a book in English as my French is not quite good enough for reading a text book I suspect.

As to the final culprit, it wasn't a surprise as I'd already guessed but that was not a problem at all. The joy of this book is in the journey and in that respect it was a hugely fun experience. I shall definitely read more in this series.

Extraordinary People is my book 2 (lagging behine a bit with this reading challenge) for Peggy's Read Scotland 2017, because Peter May is a Scottish author.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Catching up

I don't seem to be in the mood for long reviews of books at the moment. I'm even contemplating a blogging break for the summer, but have not definitely decided. In the meantime a couple of short reviews of crime yarns.

First up, The Sait-Fiacre Affair by Georges Simenon.

When an ominous note predicting the time and place of a death finds its way to Maigret's desk in Paris, his investigation brings him to Saint-Faicre, the place of his birth. It isn't long before a darkness descends on Maigret and the town, as the prediction becomes a brutal reality and the Inspector discovers he is not welcome in the place he once called home. (Synopsis from Goodreads.)

I've read quite a few Maigrets over the past two or three years and mostly enjoyed them. I haven't given any a two star rating on Goodreads as far as I remember but I did this one. Why? Well I found myself bored by it. I'm in the minority, there're loads of four stars on GR, which leads me to wonder what I missed. I certainly 'missed' the usual excellent French atmosphere to these books. Simenon's Maigret yarns are normally steeped in it but I got nothing. Nor did I care who did away with the countess or why... or about 'anyone' in the entire book to be frank. A shame really but I have a few more promising Maigret titles on my Nook to try (this was a library book) and will certainly do so. I recently really enjoyed ITV's adaption of one of the books, Night at the Crossroads, with Rowan Atkinson. I wasn't sure at first but his portrayal is growing on me quite nicely. Hope they make more.


Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker.

Chief of Police in the town of St. Denis in the Perigord region of SW France is Captain Bruno Courréges. An ex-military man he has settled in the area and is very content with his life... he has good friends, a nice house, good food, good wine. There is little crime in the area, one of the main preoccupations is to try and stop EU inspectors from swooping on the local markets and enforcing their hygiene rules. Bruno is complicit in these shenanigans. Then the rural idyll is shattered when the body of a very elderly North African man is discovered. He's head of a family of immigrants who have settled in the area. Many forces come into play. The body was marked with a swastika so is this the work of Le Front National? A young man is arrested but Bruno is convinced there's more to it than meets the eye. The old man was a veteran of several wars so could there be a connection there?

I thought I would absolutely love this and there were elements I enjoyed, for instance I thought the town itself and its surroundings sounded lovely. I liked the quirky people and it seemed to me the author had got French quirkiness spot on, from what I remember from when my late sister-in-law lived in France... not all that far from this region funnily enough. And there was a good mix of characters even including some interesting Brits. Rather surprisingly I think it was Bruno himself I was was a bit 'bleugh' about. And I think it was because he seemed a bit too good to be true, to the point of blandness. I kept thinking that the author had written Bruno, not a as a 'real person', but specifically to appeal to women. The author's idea of what women want in a man. But what's wrong with that? I honestly don't know but it just didn't feel right to me. Comparing him to Martin O'Brien's Daniel Jacquot there's absolutely no contest. Jacquot feels real (and no less attractive) whereas Bruno, for me, does not. I have a feeling this is just me. Goodreads has many positive reviews and I did give it three stars as I didn't *not* enjoy it, I'm just fairly certain I won't seek out out any more in the series. Which is a shame, but there you go.

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Reading France

So. I'm on rather a French kick at the moment, and it shows no sign of abating, so this naturally involves books set in La Belle France. First up, book 4 of Martin O'Brien's series, Jacquot and the Angel.


The death of an entire German Family, elderly father and mother, their daughter and her daughter, living in Provence involves Daniel Jacquot in one of the most complicated cases of his career. The elderly father, Dr. Martner, is a grower and authority on orchids. He is also old enough to have been involved in WW2 and many older local French villagers have very long memories. A young local man is arrested for the murders but something nags at Jacquot about the arrest. Into the picture comes Marie-Ange to run the florist shop while the the parents of the arrested man support him during his trial. Who is she really? And she help Jacquot solve this most brutal of cases?

Funny how the first one or two of most new crime series can be a bit iffy... it's only natural for an author to need to get into his or her stride. It's not always the case though and it's not here. Martin O'Brien hit his stride from the start of the very first book, Jacquot and the Waterman and has simply not wavered at all. This is book four and wow is it superb read. I loved the WW2 connections, details about the French Resistence seemed spot on and life in France during the war was very much brought to life. But the author is also fantastic on modern-day France. Lots of detail about the countryside, the seasons, the food, the villages, the idiosyncracies of its people. Wonderful. I honestly can't praise the series enough and happily gave Jacquot and the Angel a five star rating on Goodreads - no question about it at all. Jacquot and the Angel is my book 11 for Bev'sMount TBr 2017 challenge.


Next up a non-fiction, A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle.

I think I must be last person on the planet not to have read this hugely famous book by Peter Mayle. I've had plenty of time to ignore it as it was written in 1989! I do believe though that your time to read certain books is not always the same as everyone else's and clearly now was my time for A Year in Provence. The format is very simple, a chapter is devoted to every year of the author's first year living in France. The trials and the tribulations include the work on his house and difficulties getting workmen to finish a job, the bureaucracy, the language, The Mistral. But of course these are all outweighed by the joys of the landscape, the food, getting to know his neighbours and learning about the French culture. I have to say, like many others before me, I loved this book to bits. And I didn't expect to. It's so famous, iconic really, and I often don't care for these iconic books that everyone loves. I've heard it's the first book about Brits going to live in France, though I'm not sure that's actually the case. Certainly I gather it began a huge migration of Brits to France, beguiled by Mayle's descriptions of the rural Provence lifestyle. Oddly, both this book and the previous Jacquot book are set in the same area - Cavaillon - I think I'm going to have Google the town and see some actual pictures of it and the surrounding Luberon mountains. Anyway, super super book, atmospheric, descriptive and very funny. I think there are more books about Provence by Peter Mayle so will definitely keep an eye out. Another five star book.


Next, Flirting with French: Adventures in Pursuit of a Language by William Alexander.

The author, William Alexander, is American but he would desperately like to be French. The key, he believes, is becoming fluent in the language of the country he is so in love with. But this is easier said than done - naturally. French is not known as one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn for nothing. All that conjugating of verbs and loads of rules to be learnt. And everything but everything is masculine (le) or feminine (la), even inanimate objects, so all these have to be learnt as well. He gets himself into a right pickle and despairs of ever getting a handle on the language. He tries everything, various online language tools, audio courses, adult classes, social networking, immersion classes and two weeks at a language school in Provence. The results are very interesting indeed. He's quite hard on himself I think, although he does make a bit of a meal of the whole process... I did find it a trifle agonising *but* extremely funny and rather informative about language and how we learn. I had to give this yet another five star rating as it was so entertaining quite frankly.

~~~oOo~~~

Sunday, 14 May 2017

More catching up...

Yet again I'm behind on reviews. Since the beginning of May I've read three books and not had a moment to review any of them... admittedly I have been away for a week in Cornwall so that explains it a bit. So, this is yet another catch up post from me.

First up, The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths.

Ruth Galloway's new-age, Druid friend, Cathbad is cat sitting in the historical village of Walsingham in Norfolk. Out searching fot the cat one dark night he sees a vision of a woman in blue in the graveyard. Cathbad being Cathbad this doesn't bother him much until a body is discovered in a ditch and it's a woman, or 'the' woman in blue. DCI Nelson is brought in to investigate and it's not long until Ruth is brought in too via a friend who's a female priest who's been recieving hate mail. Ruth's not thrilled about this: Ruth and Nelson's daughter, Kate, is now five but Ruth has still not really come to terms with her feelings for her married daughter's father. Why does life have to be so damn complicated? Yet another superb instalment of Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series. I've loved every single one and this was no exception. I love the humour in them, the mysteries are always historically based, which suits me, and although I find Ruth and Nelson's relationship a bit frustrating... it's real. Life is messy like that for some, there are no easy answers and Ruth's struggles make me feel so sorry for her. Long may this series reign.


Next, Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuval.

A young girl, Rose, is desperate to try out her new birthday present, a bike. She rides it into the woods at Deadwood, South Dakota, and literally falls through the ground, into a giant metal hand. Many years on and Rose is a prominent scientist in charge of the project to recover the separate parts of what turns out to be a giant robot, buried thousands of years ago... but by whom? Not saying any more about this book as it would involve spoilers and for my money it would be shame to know too much about this unusual book before starting it. It's written, rather oddly, in the form of interviews by an unknown person with the main characters in the book. It's quite original and makes for a pacey read, I found it to be quite the pageturner. This is the first book in what I think is going to be a trilogy. Book two, Waking Gods, is just out I believe. I shall be reading it.


Lastly, a non-fiction book, Best Foot Forward by Susie Kelly.

I seem to have been in a bit of a French mood for some months and having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying the Jacquot murder books set in the south of France and various other books set in France have crossed my path recently. Including this non-fiction account of the author's walk across France from La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast to Lake Geneva. Susie Kelly was in no way a hiker or camper when she decided to embark on this epic journey, she pretty much suffered every step of the way and her descriptions of the state her feet got into were quite harrowing. But this was a really enjoyable recounting of the people she met, the landscapes she walked through, and how much she got lost. I really enjoyed it all, the author writes engagingly and honestly about her failings and triumphs. I shall look for more books by her.

~~~oOo~~~

Monday, 1 May 2017

Catching up

A couple of short book reviews today. First up, A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders.


Samantha Clair is a publishing editor at a firm of book publishers. She's in her forties, single by choice and has a mother, Helena, who's a high-flying lawyer. She normally deals with contemporary fiction of the light, romantic kind but her friend and fashion writer, Kit Lovell, has written a book about the death of fashion designer, Rodrigo Alemán. Reading the manuscript, Sam realises that what it contains could be explosive and sets about passing it through their team of libel lawyers. Then Kit disappears and Inspector Jake Field comes into her life. It soon becomes apparent that there's a lot more going on than just Kit's disappearance that may or may not be because of his unpublished manuscript. Sam, Jake and Helena set about investigating, Sam soon finding herself going further than Jake has authorised because all she really wants to do is find Kit - whereas the others seem to have developed quite another agenda.

It's so nice to have a protagonist who's not young and glamorous and twenty-something. Sam is a very ordinary woman in her mid-forties, funny, intelligent, realistic about the world. She's also a loyal friend who is doggedly determined. I loved her dry, sarcastic wit usually aimed at the realities of the publishing world. Interesting to read about that, we readers have very little idea how the books we love get published and this book gives a small glimpse into that hidden world. The spotlight was also turned on the fashion world, which is not really my thing but nevertheless it kept my interest. This is a light, amusing crime read, very much London based, 'different' in that it's not police procedure based at all. Oh and I loved Sam's lawyer mother, Helena, whom Sam is convinced is a Martian. There are three in this book series so far so I'm hoping to come across more on my travels.


Lastly, Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor.


Madeleine Maxwell, known to all as Max, is recruited to a department of Thirsk University known as St. Mary's. It's an Institute of Historical Research... but with a difference: the historians who work there can travel in time. Their purpose is to "investigate major historical events in contemporary time." To find out the truth of incidents that are in question. It takes months of training before Max and her fellow trainees are ready to make their first jump. Several drop out but Max is determined to succeed, not only that but to be the best. Eventually she and her fellow students are ready to take their place as fully fledged historians. Max travels to 11th. century London and joins the medical team at the front in World War 1. Then she lands a 'big one'... she's sent back sixty five million year to the Cretaceous Period. This assignment changes everything, for Max, for St. Mary's, and possibly the world.

Well this one was recommended to me by book blogger, Geranium Cat, on Facebook. I have to admit for the first 50 - 60 pages I was a bit so-so about it and then it suddenly took off like a bat out of hell and was non-stop action and intrigue until the very end. And I mean 'intrigue'... all kinds of double-crossings and unexpected twists... I was exhausted come the end. It was huge fun, a lot humour in the dialogue and first person naration. Interesting and entertaining characters - Max herself is a complicated and frustrating sort of person but I suspect there's a backstory there the reader may learn about in future books. There're quite a few of them, nine I think, with a lot of short stories and novellas in between. I'll certainly read more if I can get my hands on them.

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Pern books

It seems ages since I last posted. It is ages! Easter and the school holidays seem to have got in the way of everything this month so my book count for April is going to be well down I suspect. But there's no harm in that... it's been a fun couple of weeks with the grandchildren, they grow so quickly you must enjoy every moment with them.

Another reason for less reading is that I've become terribly addicted to the TV series, The Game of Thrones. We bought the boxed set a few weeks ago to see if we would like it... various people I know love it so I thought we might too. And goodness me we really do. I wasn't sure at first. It's very adult... quite a lot of sexual content and heaps of violence. But if you can get beyond that the storylines, acting and sets are amazing. We're on season three at the moment and fair galloping along. Plus... the books are calling to be read after I've finished with the TV series.

Anyway, books!

Anne McCaffrey's Pern books have long been a favourite of mine. I read the first two, Dragonflight and Dragonquest, in the early 1970s when I was in my early twenties and I remember being totally smitten with the fabulous world McCaffrey had created. It was many years after that that I finally got back to Pern with The White Dragon and The Harper Hall trilogy. Since then I've been slowly catching up with the many other dragon books Anne McCaffrey has written.

No sooner had I started All the Weyrs of Pern when I realised the book I should be reading was Dragonsdawn. This is because at the beginning of All the Weyrs it talks a lot about the original settlers but doesn't actually tell their story. Dragonsdawn does just that. The settlers were originally from Earth, all looking for a peaceful, agrarian way of life. They set up a settlement where they land, call it 'Landing', and for around eight years things go well. People gradually move out of Landing to set up their own farms or craft centres - life is idyllic. Small dragon-like animals have been discovered and many taken as pets. Then comes the day when thread falls from the sky like rain. People die, land and crops ruined. What is this horrific 'thing' which eats everything in its path? Where is it coming from? How long will it last? Questions need answers but in the short-term the settlers must find a way to fight the thread in the air before it can hit the ground and do tremendous damage. Is it possible the dragonettes might harbour an eventual solution?


Jump forward 2,500 years and we have the events of All the Weyrs of Pern. The inhabitants of present day Pern have discovered the remains of Landing where their ancestors first settled. The computer system, AIVAS, is still working and it doesn't take the likes of Jaxom and Piemur long to get it up and going. It seems that AIVAS is the font of all knowledge and the inhabitants of Pern have a lot to learn. Their ancestors slowly lost all of their technical know-how as they concentrated on fighting thread with dragons. They have to relearn what their forebears knew and quickly. AIVAS thinks they could eradicate thread forever but there is much to learn and only a short period of time in which to do it.

Thoroughly enjoyed these two connected books, particularly Dragonsdawn. When I first read the two initial dragon books all those years ago it didn't occur to me that there was a real back story to the tales of Lessa and F'lar and their dragons. I thought I was reading fantasy when in fact I was reading science fiction. I've just about made the adjustment! Because Dragonsdawn is pure sci-fi with its Earth settlers arriving on Pern to start a new way of life... the start of thread... and their use of the little dragonettes to find a way to fight the dreaded scourge. It's all fascinating stuff. When I'd finished that I went back to All the Weyrs of Pern which updates the story of the rediscovering of 'Landing' and how AIVAS has the current population relearn the knowledge that's been lost for 2,500 years. Again, fascinating. Towards the end one bit upset me to the point of tears. Pern fans will know what I'm referring to. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable couple of weeks with the dragons of Pern and I'm not going to stop as I'm reading a book of short stories that lead on from Dragonsdawn... Chronicles of Pern. Although I do plan to move onto to something crime based alongside that, as I miss my mysteries.

These two books are my books 9 & 10 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017 reading challenge.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Mount TBR: Checkpoint 1

Three months of 2017 have whizzed by so it's time for the first checkpoint for Bev's Mount TBR 2017


These are the questions Bev wants us to answer:

1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read).

Well I'm doing Pike's Peak which is to read twelve of your own books in a year. I've read eight so far. Which means I'm two thirds of the way up the mountain already and way ahead of where I should be. It looks like I might be moving on to the next level at some stage. We'll see.


2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following: I shall do three.

A. Post a picture of your favorite cover so far.

This is mine.


B. Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.

That would be 'Moon' from the above book, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells. Despite the sadness of his past life and how hard his present life is for him he still manages to be brave, honourable and hopeful for the future.

D. Title Scrabble: See if you can spell a word using the first letter of the first word in the titles of some/all of the books you have read so far. Feel free to consider "A," "An," or "The" as the first word or not as it helps you with your word hunt.

I thought I had a 5 letter word but no... I have heaps of 4s instead. So I'm choosing 'BOTH'.

Blood Will Tell - Dana Stabenow
On the Shores of the Mediterranean - Eric Newby
The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells
Haunted Library - ed. by Tanya Kirk

~~~oOo~~~

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Books read in March

March was an average reading month for me... six books tends to be my default number and if I manage that then I'm quite happy. Not that it bothers me, I read what I read... it's whether I enjoy the books that's the main factor. So when that is taken into account then it's actually been quite a good month.

Anyway, these are they:

15. To Helvetica and Back - Paige Shelton

16. The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny

17. The North Face - Mary Renault

18. L'Auberge - Julia Stagg

19. The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells

20. On the Shores of the Mediterranean - Eric Newby

My usual mixed bag... two crime stories, two general fiction, one fantasy and a non-fiction travel book. Two were a bit so-so and four very enjoyable. A month where two thirds of the books you read are good to very good is about as much as you can ask for really.

I'm struggling with a favourite. Two books *just* have the edge and those are The Brutal Telling and The Cloud Roads.


















Two very different books but both absolutely superb. Two things they have in common is a wonderful sense of place and the kind of paciness I enjoy. Always something happening in both books. I don't think I will choose between them... I'll award them joint first place in my affections.

So now it's almost April and the year is slipping away. This 'time speeding up' thing as you get older is scary. It makes me feel that I really *must* read what I like, when I like. So, on that note I suddenly felt like reading some Pern books by Anne McCaffrey so that's what I'm going to do. I shall spend a couple of weeks indulging in one of my favourite science-fiction series of all time and read these two books:



















And then maybe this:

















*What* a gorgeous cover! So that's my reading plan for the first part of April. What are yours? Tell all. :-)

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A few short reviews

As is often the case I'm a bit behind with book reviews so this is a 'catching up' post.

First up, L'Auberge by Julia Stagg

Gosh, what a hideous cover but that aside I rather enjoyed this light, fun read set in the French Pyrenees. An English couple, Lorna and Paul, have bought The Auberge (hostel, B&B type affair) in the mountain village of Fogas. The local mayor rather wanted his brother-in-law to have it and sets about making life very awkward for the couple in the hope that the business will fail and they'll have to sell it cheaply. All kinds of shenanigans ensue but along the way certain of the French villagers decide they don't like The Mayor's rum doings and set out to thwart him by helping the English couple out. Very nice sense of place in this one, nice descriptions of mountainous scenery and wintery conditions. My late sister-in-law lived in France for a while and also ran a B&B so this was quite familiar territory to me. I was quite aware of how much power French mayors wield, although hopefully most are not as corrupt as the one in this book. This is a series of five books, I'm not sure if I'll read any more, possibly if I happen to see any more in the library, but not otherwise.


Next, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells.

Moon has no idea what he is... he only knows that he can shape-shift at will into a winged, flying creature. As far as he is aware there is nothing else like him anywhere, his small family having been killed by The Fell, another race of flying beings - but vicious - when he was a small child. He has been nomadic since this happened, living for spells with groundlings, here and there throughout The Three Worlds, but they always find out about his shape-shifting eventually and banish him from their commmunities. Then one day, expelled from yet another village, Moon is astonished to encounter Stone, an individual exactly like himself, albeit much, much older. Stone explains a little about what he is and offers him sanctuary at his colony some way away. Used to being independent, Moon is reluctant but decides to go with Stone for the duration, having nowhere else to go. It's probably just as well that he has no idea of the challenges ahead and how much danger his life, and that of his new friends, will be in.

I've owned this for four years now, always meaning to get around to it but never actually managing to. I'm so glad I made the effort at last as it really was an excellent fantasy read... well written, amazing world-building and interesting characters. Martha Wells has packed this book full of beautifully imagined beings, especially the Raksura, of which race Moon is a member. The Fell, who seem to be trying to take over the world, are vicious and frightening... genuinely scary. I loved the travelling element, naturally, and I think this continues through the next books of which there are five altogether. Delighted and plan to read all of them as and when I can. Thrilled with this new to me fantasy series. This is my book 7 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017.


Lastly, On the Shores of the Mediterranean by Eric newby.

Oh, how I wish I'd enjoyed this as much as I hoped to. I quite like Eric Newby's travel writing and this book about his trip to most of the countries surrounding The Mediterranean sea, with his wife, Wanda, should have been right up my street. And parts of it were. Where he concentrated on what they got up to it was fine, although I don't think I really needed quite so many names of streets in Naples. Where I got bogged down was in the history. Which is very odd because I like history, really like it, but it was all so dry and he didn't make any of it come alive. Carol Drinkwater's, The Olive Route, also about The Med, knocked spots off it quite frankly. A real shame, but there you go... you can't win 'em all. This was my book 8 for Bev's Mount TBR 2017.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Secondhand book buys

Sometimes you come across the best book buys when you're least expecting it. We had to visit a local small town on Monday for my husband to have his hearing aid adjusted. They have a Health Centre there, one to which we'd never been before. As soon as I walked in I sensed books. LOL! And there they were, quite a few of them, 50p each in aid of the Health Centre and being looked after by a lovely volunteer. We chatted while I picked out books. And what books!


First I spotted one of the delightful British Library Classic crime reissues, then another... eventually I had SIX.

From the bottom:

The Cheltenham Square Murder - John Bude
Death on The Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay
Antidote to Venom - Freeman Wills Crofts
Thirteen Guests - J. Jefferson Farjeon
The Poisoned Chocolate Case - Anthony Berkeley
The Cornish Coast Murder - John Bude

New, these are £8.99. I got six for £3. Fantastic bargain! Plus, several are books I wanted to read as I'd already read books by those authors and liked them.

On the other pile:

Mysterious Air Stories - edited by William Pattrick. An AM buy.
A Book of Railway Journeys edited by Ludovic Kennedy. Also an AM buy.
The Christmas Collection - Mary & Carol Higgins Clark. Bought at the Health Centre.
The Girl In Blue - P.G. Wodehouse. Also from the Health Centre.
Best Foot Forward - Susie Kelly. A walking in France book, AM buy.

Hubby's face when I approached him carrying a bag of books rather than one or two, was a picture... wish I'd taken it on my phone. I left a fiver in the honesty box and thought the fiver very well spent... and a good cause.

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 18 March 2017

North Face

So I'm standing in the Post Office queue yesterday afternoon... four or five people in front of me, my mind wandering, as it does, cogitating on books I want to read and those I'm reading at the moment etc. etc. North Face was going round my head, where it's set, its characters and so on, when I suddenly focussed on the woman standing in front of me. She was wearing a dark grey quilted anorak type of thing and there on the back of it in the right hand corner was a maker's logo. And what did it say? The North Face, that's what. This kind of thing happens to me all the time...

Anyway, enough about coincidences, North Face by Mary Renault:


A group of people converge on a quiet B&B on the North Devon Coast, just a few years after World War Two. Miss Searle is an academic, a teacher, and a bit on the snooty side. Miss Fisher is a nursing sister, very down to earth, seen it all. Neil Langton is also an academic and teacher, he likes climbing and walking and is nursing a tragedy in his past and has yet come to terms with his grief. The two women try to communicate with him but he's not forthcoming, keeping himself to himself. Two more guests arrive. A young girl, Ellen, about 19, and a young man, Phillip. They arrive separately and affect surprise to see each other telling everyone that they are acquaintances at work. The nursing sister puts two and two together...

Next morning, Phillip takes off in a hurry. Something clearly wasn't right. The guests assume the girl will go too but she doesn't. She stays. Out one day, Neil comes across her, stuck on a rockface and has to rescue her. From then on the two slowly become friends and more, but naturally nothing is ever straightforward especially when the two people involved both have a lot of sadness in their past.

This was a random grab from the library. Well, not that random as I've felt for a while that I should read something by Mary Renault. What I want to read is actually her Alexander trilogy but naturally my library doesn't have it so I just sort of grabbed North Face to sample the author's writing.

I wish I'd liked it as much as I wanted to. On paper it should have been perfect, set in North Devon, an area I've lived in or around for over twenty years, and involving a bit of rock climbing which I don't do but like to read about. It *should* have been right up my alley. So, what was wrong?

Well firstly, to be positive, there was an excellent sense of place. The sleepy, summery atmosphere of the North Devon coast and countryside in the late 1940s was spot-on as it hasn't actually changed all that much. I recognised various places... even if one or two were actually over the border in Somerset, no matter, that aspect of the book was delightful. I also enjoyed the rock climbing bits, the danger was very well portrayed... edge of seat stuff towards the end. Brilliant.

What I'm ambivilent about is all the internalising of emotions that was going on in the book. The author clearly had a good grasp of psychology, people's selfish motives for what they think and do was nicely put over and I found that interesting. But at times I got so bogged down in the writing of it that I had to read some sections several times and still didn't really know what she meant or sometimes what had actually happened! It was quite frustrating to be honest and I had to face the fact that I might not be intelligent enough to understand parts of the book, which is quite sobering. LOL!

The one thing that did come over very well was how damaging to people's personal lives the war was. Even if you didn't lose someone, the effect on marriages and children was often catastrophic. The other thing I was struck by was the social mores of the period. I recognised all of them in my parents and grandparents, especially as regards the behaviour of women and how a reputation could be ruined in moments. Men had a lot more leeway of course and it was interesting how Neil thought of the two women in the B&B as unmarriageable old spinsters when they were around the same age as him... mid forties. This was very much a book of its time. Attitudes were very entrenched and the idea that anyone should have sex before marriage was so unthinkable that not only did it cause terrible gossiping, it made sensitive ladies like Miss Searle quite ill and write 'letters'. Fascinating stuff from our perspective in the 21st. century.

So, I was a bit hot and cold about this one. Gave it three stars on Goodreads when plenty of others would probably give it at least a four. I'm glad I read it and will try a few more of Mary Renault's book, especially the Alexander & Theseus trilogies if I can find them.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Update on my book series.


I haven't updated my list of the series I'm reading in quite a while, not since 2015 in fact. I find it very useful to do this as every now and then I peer at it to see which series I haven't read in a while and should get back to. Or maybe don't want to get back to at all... this happens quite a lot with me as I'm quite fickle. Embarrassed to admit it but I am. Extremely subject to moods in reading, like a butterfly flitting from one theme or place to another... vintage crime, ancient Rome crime, US based crime, Scottish crime... The Lake District, Canada, France! It seems there's no end to my finickyness. Ah well, never mind.

Anyway,the books:

Crime - modern and historical:

Charlie Parker - John Connolly - (read 11... up to book 12)
Matthew Shardlake – C.J. Sansom (read 3)
Flavia de Luce - Alan Bradley (read 6)
Daisy Dalrymple - Carola Dunn (read 21)
Rizzoli and Isles - Tess Gerritsen (read 8)
Ruth Galloway - Elly Griffiths (read 7)
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes – Laurie R. King (read 5)
The Lewis trilogy - Peter May (read 2)
Lord Peter Wimsey - (read 6)
Gordianus the Finder - Steven Saylor (read 2)
Medicus - Ruth Downie (read 2)
Kate Burkholder - Linda Castillo (read 2)
Reverand Clare Fergusson - Julia Spencer-Fleming (read 3)
Temperance Brennan - Kathy Reichs (read 2)
No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency - A. McCall-Smith (read 11)
Kate Shugak - Dana Stabenow (read 6)
Sea Detective - Mark Douglas Home (read 2)
Hannah Scarlett - Martin Edwards (read 6)
Jacquot - Martin O'Brien (read 3)
Armande Gamache - Louise Penny (read 5)
Dangerous Type - Paige Shelton (read 1)


Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror - both adult and young adult:

Mercy Thompson - Patricia Briggs (read 6)
Jackelian - Stephen Hunt (read 2)
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch (read 4)
Liveship Trader - Robin Hobb (read 1)
Astreiant - Melissa Scott - (read 2 1/2)
Hyperion - Dan Simmons (read 1)
Pern - Anne McCaffrey - (read loads but need to get back to them)
Books of the Raksura - Martha Wells (read 1)


Series I want to read: (mainly fantasy)

The Wit’ch series – James Clemens
Alpha and Omega - Patricia Briggs
Worldmaker trilogy - Lucy Hounsom
Lady Trent - Marie Brennan
Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
All Souls trilogy - Deborah Harkness
Todhunter Moon - Angie Sage
The Tawny Man trilogy – Robin Hobb (in fact all of the rest of her books.)



The Coldfire trilogy – Celia Friedman
The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy – Guy Gavriel Kay
Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner

As I noted back in 2015, what's really striking is how I've moved from being a fantasy/horror/sci-fi reader to being a reader concentrating on all kinds of crime stories. I never ever thought this would happen. I did read a bit of crime years ago, I used to love Ellis Peters' Cadfael books for instance, but converting to crime as a main genre, no I didn't anticipate that at all. Never say 'never'.

~~~oOo~~~

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A couple of crime titles

Two crime books to review today. First up, To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton.

Clare Henry lives and works in Star City which is a winter ski resort in the mountains in Utah. Along with her grandfather, Chester, she run a business mending typewriters and restoring old books. A friend and neighbour, Mirabelle, brings her antique typewriter into the shop for Clare to mend the L, which doesn't work. A man they later refer to as 'leather-man', because of his clothes, comes into the shop and demands to be given said typewriter. He gets very angry when Clare refuses point blank to hand it over. Next day the man's dead body is discovered in the alley behind her shop. Because Clare had worked late that night and fallen asleep in the shop she finds she's a suspect... not good when your best friend, Jodie, is a police woman. It's up to Clare to try to establish her innocence by discovering what secrets an old typewriter holds that are worth killing for.

Paige Shelton is a new author to me, I don't think I'd even noticed the author on Goodreads. Then a friend whose whose opinion I trust recommended To Helvetica and Back and I'm so glad she did because I really enjoyed it. It was quirky and fun and the Utah setting attracted me as it's not generally a place where books are set. (Well, there must be a few but they're not so noticeable here in the UK.) There's a bit of history about the mining in the area, a bit of geology, a little bit of romance, and a good mystery, the background to which kept my interest well. I also liked the restoring of rare books angle and details about how it's all done. There's one more book in this series, Bookman Dead Style, which I'll read but I also downloaded to my Kindle, The Cracked Spine: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery by the same author. Books and Scotland... what's not to love about that?

Lastly, The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny, book five in the Armand Gamache series.

Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in when a body is discovered in the bistro in the village of Three Pines in rural Quebec. The dead man has been bludgeoned to death but no one has any idea who he is or how he came to be there. Gabri and Olivier, the gay couple who run the bistro, certainly have no idea. Gamache has no clue where to start with solving this murder but slowly he begins to realise that several of the villagers are holding something back, keeping secrets. People he thought he knew, considered friends, are perhaps not what he thought they were. But could they be murderers?

This is my favourite Gamache book so far, and that's not to denigrate the first four books either. This one was just a bit special. The cast is the usual one of Gamache's team, Beauvoir, Lacoste and a new young chap, Morin, and the various villagers we've come to know, husband and wife artists Peter and Clara, Gabri and Olivier who own the bistro, book shop owner, Myrna, eccentric Ruth and her duck, Rosa, and so on. A couple of new families have moved into the village so they add to the mix... and suspects. What's interesting about this book is the complicated plot. Who was the dead man? What's his story? Gamache really struggles to find answers. There are literary connections, cold war connections, Gamache even ends up on Queen Charlotte Island off the coast of British Colombia at one point. I felt Louise Pennty created a wierdness about the story that was almost supernatural, the creepy atmosphere quite got to me but I loved it. It's full of secrets and hidden histories and motives... so many layers. I hadn't a clue who the culprit was until the end. And the writing, well that was just sublime. I wish I could have given it more than five out of five on Goodreads. LOL

Both these books qualify for the Where are you Reading? challenge that's being hosted by Book Dragon's Lair. To Helvetica and Back under 'U' for Utah and The Brutal Telling under 'Q' for Quebec. Two quite difficult letters covered there. I'm still eyeing up that X though...

~~~oOo~~~

Thursday, 2 March 2017

World Book Day

Happy World Book Day! How wonderful that such a thing exists. So often I think books and readers are left behind in the mad rush that is modern day life and also in the belief that all should be sporty. We're not! Some of us are bookish and we're not fairly represented on TV or elsewhere in the media in my opinion. Anyway, I'll stop pontificating, here're a couple of truly beautiful books that have somehow made their way into my home over the last couple of days.


The Writer Abroad is a book of literary travels covering the entire world, from Austria to Uzbekistan, as it says on the cover. The selections were made by author, Lucinda Hawksley. The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers by Ted Jones is... A literary and entertaining journey along France's fabled Riviera, illuminating the lives and work of the great literary figures who found inspirarion there. The covers are stunning and well worthy of representing World Book Day.

~~~oOo~~~

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Update on Where Are You Reading? challenge

This post is really for my own reference so when I come to update it I don't have to go further and further back looking for the post. (But please feel free to comment with any book recs.) Plus, I'm nerdy enough to want to keep close tabs on a challenge I'm enjoying so much.




This one is all about places. There's one about states but this one counts cities, countries, and fictional locations too. Read a book set in a location for each letter of the alphabet. West Virginia only counts for W, Bowling Green only counts for B, but the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey that is on a fictional planet counts as P ;-)

The sign up post is here: Where are you Reading? and is being hosted by Book Dragon's Lair.

You don’t need a blog to participate. Feel free to link to a Goodreads shelf or another public profile where everyone can see your books.

There is one hard rule, one just for general courtesy, and several guidelines. There are no levels, unless you want to do a second set of letters.

Hard Rules
The book in question must have an ISBN or equivalent. If you can buy it or borrow it, it counts -

General Courtesy
When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post. That way we can find it.

Guidelines

1. You can list your books in advance or as you read them. You can also change your list.

2. Any format, any genre or length of book counts but it must be the complete book, individual books in a collection do not count separately.

3. Anyone can join, you don’t need to be a blogger, just let me know in the comments.

4. Reviews are not necessary but a list of books you read is. There will be a link up for reviews if you wish to post them. You can make a list of books you want to read and change them if you'd like.

5. Crossovers for other challenges count.

6. Books started before January 1st, 2017 don’t count - unless you start over. ;-)


My list:

A: (Alaska, USA) Blood Will Tell - Dana Stabenow (January '17)

B:

C: (Cote D'azur, France) Jacquot and the Fifteen - Martin O'Brien (Feb '17)

D: (Devon, UK) North Face - Mary Renault (March '17)

E:

F: (France) Best Foot Forward - Susie Kelly (May '17)


G:

H:

I:

J:

K:

L: (Lewis - The Outer Hebrides, Scotland) The Lewis Man - Peter May (January '17)

M: (Minnesota, USA) The Lost Girls - Heather Young (Feb '17)

N: (Norfolk, England) The Woman in Blue - Elly Griffiths (May '17)

O: (Oxford, England) Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay (June '17)

P: (Philadelphia, PA, USA) The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert (February '17)

Q: (Quebec, Canada) The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny (Mar. '17)

R:

S: (St. Denis, Perigord, France) Bruno, Chief of Police - Martin Walker (June '17)

T: (Three Worlds, The) The Cloud Roads - Martha Wells (March '17)

U: (Utah, USA) To Helvetica and Back - Paige Shelton (Mar. '17)

V:

W: (Wisconsin, USA) Way Station - Clifford D. Simak (Feb. '17)

X: The Xibalba Murders?

Y:

Z:


So that's 10 books read out of 26 and just 2 months into the year so that's not bad. I haven't quite finished the book for 'U' but when that's finished it'll be reviewed and a proper link added. Looking at these titles the big surprise to me is just exactly how many books I've read this year that're set in the USA! I had no idea. It probably illustrates how much I like that country and enjoy reading about it. And what's nice is that all these books add to my list of books for my personal challenge to read a book from every US state... and I still have plenty of those that are blank at the moment. Apparently I like a challenge!

~~~oOo~~~