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Madeleine's 2014 reads

What did you read in 2014? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Madeleine's 2014 reads

Postby Madeleine » Sun January 12th, 2014, 6:03 pm

January

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris - number 11 in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series, which concentrates mainly on Sookie and her vamp friends' battle with the new head vampire in Louisiana. I enjoyed it, not the best in the series but by no means the worst. 7.5/10

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell - a mystery/thriller sent in 2 time periods: the present day in which Lila is trying to recover from the loss of a much-longed for baby - both she and her husband are finding it difficult to move forward, so when she inherits a cottage in the Peak District from an anonymous benefactor, she's keen to take it on as a restoration project. In the other part of the book, we're taken back to 1980, where 5 students are preparing to leave university, and one hot summer's day, one of the group takes them to an idyllic lake with a nearby cottage, and they decide to drop out and try to live as self-sufficiently as possible, and keep away from the outside world as much as they can. For a while everything is lovely, but then the sister of one of the women turns up, and inevitably the dynamics of the group start to fall apart. Gradually, as Lila herself also tries to find out more about the history of the cottage (and who left it to her!), the story of the group starts to dovetail with Lila's own life, and there are revelations and twists galore, especially towards the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it; it was a compelling read and very well-written and evocative, and although some of the characters aren't very likeable, it's certainly a page-turner and I was keen to find out what really happened in the early 1980s. 8/10

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris - penultimate novel in the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series, with Sookie's world beginning to cave in as her lover is framed for murder (and looks like he'll be leaving her), her recently-discovered fae brethren start to outstay their welcome, disappear or threaten her, her boss's shifter girlfriend also has it in for her, and she comes home to find a werewolf in her bed (as you do!). Another enjoyable read, setting things up nicely for the final book. 8/10

White Nights by Ann Cleeves - the second in the Shetland series of novels in which detective Jimmy Perez investigates what looks like a suicide, but then turns into a murder, after an unfamiliar man disrupts a local art exhibition and is then found hanged. When another death occurs, it looks like there is a link to the disappearance of a local man several years ago, and Perez once again finds himself having to investigate people he knows, and in some cases grew up with, and also discovers a couple of uncomfortable home truths. I enjoyed this, it was a good read and the landscape is beautifully described, and the case is intriguing (and I didn't guess whodunit). 8/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri January 31st, 2014, 1:59 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Wed February 12th, 2014, 10:28 am

February

The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson - excellent thriller set in Paris in 1909/10, in which a young Englishwoman, Maud Heighton, is studying art in the city and, trying to improve her situation, is introduced to brother and sister Christian and Sylvie Morel, supposedly as a companion to Sylvie and to help improve her English. From hereon the book twists and turns - I'm not saying anymore but as the flood waters rise in the New Year of 1910 Maud and her friends find themselves in increasing danger. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I thought it was very well-written and the characters were all quite believable - the 3 main female characters could have turned out to be a bit like Nancy Drew and her cohorts, but to the author's credit they are all convincing, vivid people in their own right. I also liked the descriptions of the paintings at the beginning of each chapter, and it's a shame there isn't a real exhibition of them! There's also an excellent review of this book under the "reviews by members" section, with an interesting link to the Paris floods, with some great, albeit rather chilling, pictures from that time. 9/10

Dead ever After by Charlaine Harris - and so, the last book in the Southern Vampire series....after some bad reviews, I approached it with trepidation, but actually I really enjoyed it. I think the main reason for a lot of the bad press it's had is because Sookie doesn't end up with the person most people want to see her with, but to be honest I don't think that was going to happen anyway, and I'd already suspected who the lucky guy would be around book 10. So in Sookie's final adventure she is yet again in peril, this time from some faces from her past, and her love life isn't looking good either. But eventually most of the loose ends are tied up, and although it did feel a bit flat and rushed in places, I don't think it was that bad an ending. I still think books 1-4 are the best in the series - I could read them again and again. A fun, comfort-read style series. 8/10

Acqua Alta by Donna Leon - 4th in the Brunetti series of crime novels set in Venice. In this instalment Brunetti finds himself investigating when a visiting historical expert/archaeologist is beaten up in the apartment where she is staying, and is told not to attend a meeting at the Accademia museum, but it's when the museum's director (and the man she was meant to be meeting) is found dead that Brunetti is brought in, and finds himself in the murky world of ancient artefacts, and the possible involvement of the Mafia. It's an easy to read novel, with some humourous moments and lots of twists. Thoroughly enjoyable. 8/10

Shakespeare's Trollop by Charlaine Harris - 4th instalment in the Lily Bard crime series, in which Lily, a cleaner in the small town of Shakespeare in Arkansas, stumbles on yet another murder victim, and once again it's someone she knows - a neighbour and cleaning customer of Lily's, who had a reputation as the local er, good-time girl. Initially the police think her murder is the result of a liaison gone wrong, but gradually the layers are pealed back to reveal dark pasts, family entanglements (it's not giving anything away to say that most of the town's residents are related to each other) and awkward moments for Lily as she finds that, once again, she is forced to confront some home truths about her neighbours, and at one point is a suspect herself. Lily is getting to be a bit self-righteous, and there's too much detail of her gym classes and work-outs, but at least she finally moves on a bit in this story. Not bad, and well-plotted, although I did guess whodunit. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri February 28th, 2014, 3:33 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Fri March 21st, 2014, 12:20 pm

March

Sophia's Secret by Susanna Kearsley (aka The Winter Sea) - dual time-frame novel in which a writer, Carrie, finds herself drawn to the ruined Slains Castle, near Aberdeen, and decides to rent a cottage in the nearby village whilst she works on her next novel, which will be about the early days of the Jacobite plots to restore James (who's currently sheltering in France and planning his comeback) to the Scottish throne, and rebel against the union between England and Scotland. She decides to use as her narrator a fictional female character, named after one of her ancestors (Sophia), but as she works, she finds it's almost as if she's living Sophia's memories and the book is practically writing itself. When she discovers that Sophia, who she thought lived in the west of Scotland, did actually visit Slains during the period she's writing about, she truly begins to believe that she is re-living Sophia's life. Meanwhile, in the present day, Carrie has her own love triangle involving the two sons of her landlord. I enjoyed this - it's a gentle, well-written story about a period of which I know very little, and the historical sections are very evocative; the modern part of the story is perhaps a bit hastily written, and a little too easily wrapped up, but it's a nice, involving and enjoyable book, and I loved looking at the author's photos of the area on her website, which really helped to imagine the setting. 8/10

A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin - 4th in the Song of Ice and Fire series and this book is less eventful than the previous one! A lot of it deals with the fallout from the events of the third book, and several characters are missing, although it's great to see Brienne getting her own storyline, and Jaime and Cersei also feature prominently too. It's probably the most "talky" of the books so far, I did speed-read some chapters and several new characters are introduced, meaning that I had to keep referring to the family trees. Probably not the best of the books but I still enjoyed it overall, it was very readable, and leaves the reader on a couple of cliff-hangers! 8/10

The Winter Folly by Lulu Taylor - dual time-frame novel with chapters which alternate (until the last quarter of the book) between the mid 1960s and the present day. In the 60s, naive Alexandra Crewe, whose mother died when she was young and was subsequently raised by a cold, domineering father, is pretty much forced into marrying an equally naive Army officer, Laurence (her father's choice). The marriage is a disaster, and a chance meeting with a dashing young society photographer leads to an affair for Alex, and when the affair is discovered, she joins her lover Nicky in travelling the world, before marrying and settling down to a new life at his family home in Dorset. In the present day, Delilah, who works in the fashion industry, meets John, the heir to a stately home in Dorset and, after a whirlwind romance, they marry and Delilah gives up her London life and moves into Fort Stirling. But the house and it's history weigh heavily on John, and marital bliss gives way to unhappiness and virtual estrangement, so Delilah decides to find out just what ghosts live in the house, and why John is so reluctant to talk about his past. It was an OK read, fine for a holiday and whilst the settings were very evocative, the characters weren't really that convincing, especially Delilah, who seemed very naive, to me at least, for a modern woman working in the cut-throat fasion industry, and at times she was downright irritating. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri March 28th, 2014, 9:56 am, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Sat April 5th, 2014, 5:17 pm

April

Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt - an enjoyable, Jane Eyre-lite sort of read in which Martha Leigh goes to an old house called Mellyn to be governess to the widowed owner's young daughter. After a shaky start with the wilful child, gradually things settle down and Martha starts to enjoy herself, even finding that she has a couple of suitors. But what really happened to the lady of the house, and what other secrets are kept within the house's walls? I enjoyed this; no great surprises and I thought it finished rather suddenly, but it was an easy bit of escapism, and I look forward to reading more of her Gothic yarns. 7.5/10

Madonna of the Almonds by Marina Fiorato - a young widow, Simonetta, is in mourning for her husband, believed killed in the war, but she's also desperate for money, and reluctantly agrees to pose as model for a series of frescoes to be painted by arrogant artist Bernardino Luini - inevitably, the pair fall in love but scandal forces them apart and Simonetta has to find new ways of making money, which comes from an unexpected source, and involves her making unexpected friendships. I enjoyed this, it was beautifully written and the descriptions of the art (and amaretto!) were wonderful. it's quite a quirky book, although there is some horrific religious persecution and some sad scenes. However, I did guess the twist, bit it didn't spoil my enjoyment (it's pretty obvious anyway) and the book has a lovely upbeat ending. 7/10

The Whole World by Emily Winslow - 2 Cambridge students - Liv and Polly - are helping an old lady, Gretchen, who is nearly blind, collate her family photos and find out her family history, with the help of their friend Nick. Inevitably there's a it of rivalry between the girls for Nick's attention, but when he disappears people react in different ways, for both girls have something in their past. The book is told from 5 different points of view - the 4 named above, plus the policeman, Morris, who is investigating Nick's disappearance.
I thought this worked well until I got to the last 2 sections - Liv and Gretchen's - when it all seemed to fall apart. Liv was too irritating to really care about, and Gretchen's section was vague, and I still wasn't quite sure what really happened. However I thought it was quite well-written and gripping up to that point, and I'd try the author's next book, which features the same policeman. 6.5/10

Devoured by D E Meredith - first in a new series of Victorian London crime dramas, in which Professor Hatton and his assistant Albert Roumande help the police investigate crimes, using the new science of forensics. They find themselves with a bizarre series of murders, first of specimen-collectors (exotic animals etc), but then more gruesome discoveries lead them to a possible seditious plot which could destroy many reputations. And the discovery, with depressing regularity, of the bodies of young girls point to something even more chilling - and it becomes increasingly obvious that all the crimes could be linked. I thought this was a well-written, easy read, a bit gruesome at times but not too salacious, and the two investigators are both likeable, believable characters. 7/10

Shakespeare's Counsellor by Charlaine Harris - final book in the crime series in which Lily Bard finds herself unofficially investigating murders in her chosen home-town of Shakespeare in Arkansas. In this instalment, Lily finally decides to go to a rape counselling group to help her lay the ghosts of the time when she was horrifically attacked, but inevitably it's not long before a murder takes place in the counsellor's office. The counsellor herself also has problems, in that she is being stalked, and once again practically the whole town seems to be under suspicion. There are also a couple of new police officers to contend with, plus Lily's developing relationship with PI Jack Leeds is moving at quite a fast pace. It's not a bad book, it's a fast easy read but I've always found Lily quite unlikeable - she's a serious control freak and quite cold towards most people - and not really that convincing, some of it might be understandable given her traumatic background, but why does she still insist on going for late night walks through a deserted town when she can't sleep? Not a bad series of books (there are 5 in all) and they're very quick reads. 6.5/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri April 25th, 2014, 4:01 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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Misfit
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Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sat April 5th, 2014, 6:26 pm

I like Holt in small doses. Skip on the Night of the Seventh Moon. So predictable.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Sun April 6th, 2014, 11:10 am

"Misfit" wrote:I like Holt in small doses. Skip on the Night of the Seventh Moon. So predictable.


haven't got that one, but thanks for the tip ;) The gothic genre does tend to be a bit predictable.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Sun May 4th, 2014, 11:10 am

May

Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch - third in the series of Peter Grant mysteries and the best one so far, in which Peter investigates the murder of a young man found dead in a London tube tunnel. This leads him into a whole sub-culture involving magic and a possible strange race of underground dwellers, and more problems start when the FBI get involved, as the murder victim was the son of a US senator. Great fun. 8/10

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death - 1st in a series of adventures set in the mid 1950s in the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester, where Canon Sidney Chambers finds himself unwittingly investigating various crimes such as a jewel theft, a couple of murders and a kidnapping - along the way he acquires several female friends and a black labrador! This is a very amiable, gentle book, and once I got used to the fact that, rather than a novel, it's a set of inter-connected short stories, I really enjoyed it. Sidney is a believable character, coming across as very human and slightly bewildered at times, and other likeable characters are introduced throughout the book. Apparently it's being made into a TV series, and it would certainly fit the cosy Sunday evening "Downton Abbey" slot. 7/10

Hiss and Hers by M C Beaton - another instalment in the cosy crime series featuring private detective Agatha Raisin. The local Casanova, George, is brutally murdered (by possibly one of the most inventive methods I've come across) and practically every woman in Agatha's village of Carsely is a suspect, including Agatha herself who has been making a complete fool of herself over him. And when one of his conquests is also found murdered, Agatha and her team find themselves in danger - and for once it looks like the killer might actually get away with it. As usual it's a fast, fun read - it feels a bit rushed but still an enjoyable light mystery, with a fair bit of humour too. 7.5/10

Airs above the Ground by Mary Stewart - this book starts with the main character, Vanessa, having a blazing row with her husband after he has to go abroad for work rather than take a second honeymoon with her; he walks out and she is left fuming. Then a distant cousin, Carmel, asks Vanessa if she'll escort her son, Timothy, to Austria to stay with his father (who Carmel divorced years ago, and who hasn't seen or spoken to Timothy since he was a child). At first Vanessa refuses point blank, but when she discovers that her husband, Lewis, is in Austria and not Sweden where he originally told her he was going, she decides to find out what he's up to, and agrees to escort Timothy. Once in Austria Vanessa and Timothy find themselves caught up in the world of a travelling circus, the Lipizzaner stallions (who give the book it's title) and discover more excitement than they thought possible, and Vanessa finds out that her husband hasn't quite been as honest about his work as he should have been. I enjoyed this book, although it took a while to get going and perhaps there was a bit too much information about the Lipizzaners, but the last section turned into an exciting page-turner, with a fair bit of humour as our unlikely heroine and hero find themselves doing things they thought they would never have to do. Great fun. 7.5/10

Like this, for ever by Sharon (also S J) Bolton - this is the third (or 4th if you count a Kindle-only novella) in the series featuring Detective Lacey Flint and her superior officer, Mark Joesbury, and finds Lacey still on sick leave following the events of the previous book. She's become friendly with her young neighbour, Barney, and has noticed he's often on his own in the evenings when his father is working late at a London college. Young boys of Barney's age are being abducted and murdered, and the police have no idea who the killer could be, and someone with inside knowledge is taunting them on social media which means they have a "mole" on the team. As the investigation continues, several suspects emerge and to be honest the killer could be any one of them. I found the first 60 or so pages dragged a bit, and felt there was too much concentration on Barney and his friends who, in the way of adolescents, are morbidly fascinated by the murders and do a bit of searching of their own, which made it a bit too Scooby-Doo like at times. But things get more sinister when it looks as if the killer is someone local, and as the book went on I was gripped, and still had no idea who the killer could be, there were so many twists and turns. I thought this was much better than her previous book, and it was good to see the police working as a team, with the various members fleshed out, making the book more of an ensemble piece, and we also get to know Joesbury's family too, which I thought made him much more human. 7.5/10

The Chessmen by Peter May - final book in the Lewis Island Trilogy in which former police inspector Fin MacLeod takes a new job as a security officer on a large estate. Once again faces from his past re-surface and there are flashbacks to his teenage years and time at college when he worked as a roadie for a group of friends who formed a band who became very successful, until their lead singer Roddy vanished one night in his private plane. 17 years later, a freak occurrence during as wild storm reveals the wreck of a small plane in a loch, with a body inside. The story is told in alternate flashbacks, and Fin has certainly had an eventful life, and things aren't much easier in the present either, with old feuds (and girlfriends) returning. It's another beautifully written book, with real flawed but appealing characters trying to deal with various events, and once again the isle of Lewis is a character in it's own right. I hope we see more of Fin MacLeod, and May is an excellent writer. 8.5/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Thu June 5th, 2014, 10:57 am, edited 9 times in total.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Tue June 17th, 2014, 3:54 pm

June

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman - Jane Hudson has recently taken up a post as Latin teacher at her old school, Heart Lake, and moved into a cottage in the grounds, with her small daughter Olivia (she's separated from her husband). Heart Lake is isolated, and has a famous (or infamous) legend of three sisters who drowned themselves in the eponymous lake and were turned into the 3 standing stones that rise out of the lake, and supposedly tempt others to their doom. It's all a recipe for teenage hysteria; when Jane was a pupil her two room-mates and the brother of one of her friends all met their fate in the lake, and now it seems that history is repeating itself. Plus, pages from Jane's journal from her own time at the school keep turning up whenever something strange happens, possibly implicating her in the events that befall some of her students. It's all very gothic and dark, and although I found some of the teenage angst slightly wearing, it was very atmospheric and quite gripping - everyone, even the principal, seems to be governed by some sort of moon-madness. I did suspect (correctly) who the real culprit was, but it's a lively, entertaining read, and well-written. 8/10

Music and Silence by Rose Tremain - I'm afraid I've ditched this one around halfway through - the tale of the Danish King, his Consort and his English lutenist just hasn't grabbed me - at best I've found the characters boring, and at worst irritating. So unfortunately it's a DNF.

Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham - 3rd in the saga and Ross finds himself on trial for wrecking, assault, and pretty much anything else you can think of, but it's not giving much away to say that he's found not guilty. Life goes back to normal, although there are still feuds to resolve (or get worse), business deals and family incidents to cope with. There's some light relief from the country folk (which reminded me a lot of Thomas Hardy) but, more seriously, there are definite rifts in the Poldark marriage. It's another beautifully written read, with wonderful characters that you really care about. 8/10

The Shadow Collector by Kate Ellis - another instalment in the detective series featuring Wesley Peterson, and based in the fictitious Devon town of Tradmouth, in which Lilith Benley is released from prison on parole after serving 18 years for allegedly killing two teenage girls, who had been teasing and bothering Lilith and her mother, who were both suspected of witchcraft. Lilith returns to her old home and almost immediately a woman is found dead nearby, and when it is discovered that the woman was a journalist, Lilith is the obvious suspect. She always claimed her innocence of the girls' murders (and in fact, the bodies were never found) but it looks as if someone is out to finally make sure that Lilith goes away - forever. More murders ensue, and when Wesley's friend, archaeologist Neil, is seriously injured in a car accident it looks as if things may be getting personal. There's also a link to an old case of suspected witchcraft, which is revealed when Neil is working on an old house dating from the original witch hunts in the 17th century, and whilst this isn't exactly a dual time-frame novel, the author handles the two storylines well. It's an enjoyable read, with believable characters and I like the historical links too. 8/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Thu July 10th, 2014, 9:00 am, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Fri July 11th, 2014, 10:42 am

July

The Sanctuary Seeker by Bernard Knight - this is the first in the series about Crowner John, who tried to keep justice in Exeter in the late 12th century. The book opens in 1194, as winter approaches and new laws have been made giving various powers to crowners, or coroners. The local sheriff isn't too happy about this, and what makes matters worse is that John is married to the sheriff's sister Matilda - it's a stormy marriage with John making no secret that he has a mistress, and there's a fair bit of amusement to be had with John's arguments with his wife (she can hold her own in a quarrel, that's for sure) and with his brother-in-law. But John and the sheriff have to work together when the body of a Crusader is found in nearby Widecombe-in-the-Moor, and inevitably not long after another body, with similarly suspicious wounds, turns up on Dartmoor. The two are obviously connected, but when everything seems to point towards the involvement of a prominent local family, John finds himself under pressure from all sides to find the culprit, but hopefully not one that will spoil the sheriff's social standing and undermine his authority. I enjoyed this, it's the first I've read in this series and John is a likeable figure, and I even liked his wife Matilda, and also his sidekick, Gwyn. It's my favourite period of history too, and I found this a solid read, with believable characters and not too much heavy-handed historical background as well. 7.5/10

The Windermere Witness by Rebecca Tope - another first in series, this time a modern "cosy crime" set in the English Lake District. Persimmon "Simmy" Brown moves to the Lake District following a personal tragedy and subsequent marriage break-up, and takes over a florist business. One day she arrives at an expensive local hotel to set up the floral displays, bouquets etc for the wedding of the daughter of one of the most prominent local families, but everything is marred when the bride's half-brother is found dead in Lake Windermere. As Simmy was one of the last people to speak to him (a brief conversation as she was leaving the hotel) his family are interested to find out if she saw or heard anything that might give a clue to his killer, and next day his father is also killed, this time shot dead right in front of Simmy, with whom he'd arranged a lunch meeting. And when Simmy befriends the bride, who is desperate to know who killed two of her dearest relatives, she finds herself inextricably drawn in to the case, and becomes unwittingly involved with the rather strange group of men who were closely involved with (and in some cases related to) the dead men. It's fairly obvious who the killer is, and it bowls along at quite a fast pace, with lovely use of the locations, but Simmy's involvement does seem rather unconvincing, and she herself is so naive as to be irritating (she's 37, been married etc, although it's not clear what she did before she moved to the Lake District), and the ending does feel rather rushed. However it's not a bad introduction to the series, and hopefully other characters, such as Detective Moxon, will be expanded in the next book - there was also a silly, unbelievable sub-plot involving Simmy's parents, their B & B and an incident involving the bride's little sister which detracts from the story a bit, unless it will be followed up in the next book. 7/10

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier - my recent brief visit to Lyme Regis inspired me to finally read this book, which tells of two real-life residents of this small, lovely town in the early 1800s, and of how two women turned the world of science on it's head. At a time when many believed that the world was only about 6000 years old, Mary Anning in particular confounded that received wisdom when she discovered the fossilized remains of creatures no one knew existed - ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs and, later, the first pterosaur ever found. Although she was paid for her discoveries, the men to whom she sold them didn't always give her the credit at first but, thanks to the tenacity of her friend Elizabeth Philpot, the situation changed and she rightly became renowned. Many of Mary's discoveries are still in London's Natural History Museum, and also in the Paris equivalent, and there is a Philpot Museum in Lyme Regis to this day. But above all the book is a story of female friendship, and in this it works beautifully, with the friendship between two very different women touchingly described. Another lovely, beautifully written book from this author. 8/10

Natural Causes by James Oswald - first in a new crime series set in Edinburgh in which newly promoted Detective Inspector Tony McLean finds himself investigating the brutal murders of some of the city's prominent citizens, some bizarre suicides, plus a cold case involving the body of a young girl found in a derelict house, which seems to be some sort of ritual murder. Tony can't shake the feeling that they are somehow all connected, and that everything goes back to the girl's murder, but proving it seems to be impossible, and as well as clashing with his superiors, he also finds himself in danger as he tries to save another life. I enjoyed this, it's quite gruesome and the ending is a bit ambiguous, but I like the central character, and his background which is hinted at looks very interesting, and will hopefully be covered in later books. A promising start to a new series (there are 4 books so far). 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri August 1st, 2014, 10:34 am, edited 10 times in total.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Fri August 15th, 2014, 8:41 am

August

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths - number 6 in the excellent Ruth Galloway series set in Norfolk, where Ruth finds herself exhuming the body of a supposed murderess from Victorian times, who was rumoured to have killed the children in her care. Whilst trying to prove her case, and indeed discover if the body is actually that of the infamous "Mother Hook", Ruth is also caught up in a couple of child abduction cases, as well as juggling motherhood, and what seems to be a blossoming TV career when a documentary team decide to follow the Victorian exhumation. It's another entertaining read, with lots of funny comments and dialogue, but I didn't find it quite as gripping as it's predecessor (Dying Fall) and a subplot involving a mother whose children have died mysteriously feels tacked on. Worth reading though if you're a fan of this series. 7.5/10

The Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick - set in the late 12th century, this book tells the story of Ida de Tosnay, who caught King Henry II's eye at court and became his mistress, bearing him a son. But she has become attracted to Roger Bigod, and he to her, and the King agrees to release Ida to marry Roger, but she must leave her son behind at court, to grow up away from her. This almost breaks her heart, but she and Roger love each other and gradually start to build a family of their own, although her first-born son is always there (they see him at court and eventually introduce him to his half-siblings) and causes tension in the family. There's other tension too, with Roger contesting his lands against claims from his own half-brothers and step-mother, and trying to win the King's favour (the book is called For the King's Favour in the US, and I can see why the title was changed) so that he can regain the lands that his father lost. It's a convincing story of a marriage, with it's usual ups and downs as well as the added pressure of being so closely involved with mercurial Kings (there's Richard I's ransom to be raised, and then King John too!) and Ida is also unhappy at Roger's increasing absences, either on business for the King, or visiting his own estates. I liked the characters, and thought the book was well-written and touching ,with a believable description of a marriage and growing family, and it was great to see William Marshal, a contemporary and friend of Roger, taking a fairly strong supporting role, and helping to provide some of the humour too - and yes, the river joust, as mentioned in another review, would have been well worth seeing. 7.5/10

Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri - my first Inspector Montalbano novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's one of the later books in the series, but I've been watching repeats of TV versions of the earlier books, so it's interesting to catch up with the characters later on in their "lives". In this one Montalbano finds himself in a race against time to find one of his own officers who gets caught up in a dangerous investigation - the case takes several bizarre turns and at one point Montalbano finds himself in some very compromising situations. There's a lot of humour though, and the book is more whimsical than the TV series, with most of the characters even more eccentric than they are in the TV show (at which the author has a couple of nice little digs during the book). An enjoyable, easy read wih likeable, if slightly bonkers, characters. 7.5/10

Secrets of the Sea House - Ruth and her husband Michael move to the Isle of Harris after buying a run-down house which they intend to re-vamp and turn into a guest-house. Ruth's mother was from the island, and moved to London when Ruth was young, but Ruth never knew her father, and her mother committed suicide when Ruth was small, resulting in her growing up in a succession of foster homes and children's homes - a terrible childhood which still haunts her. She believes that returning to her mother's homeland will help her, but instead she seems to be worse, suffering panic attacks and finding that her fear of water is worse than ever. But she's also fascinated by the tales of Selkies (seal-people) which her mother used to tell her, and which are still popular in the islands today, and when she's given correspondence belonging to a former owner of their new home, Reverend Alexander Ferguson, she find that he, too, was fascinated to the point of obsession with Selkies and mer-people, and we gradually get to learn Alexander's story, as Ruth and the house begin to grow and change. I enjoyed this - it was well-written and atmospheric, with the island a character in it's own right. The 3 main characters - Ruth, Alexander and Moira, his maid - are all sympathetic and believable, although I did find Ruth a bit too self-pitying - but all 3 did grow and develop, and there's also some Scottish history too, with reference to the Clearances of Victorian times. I think I preferred the historical parts, but it is worth reading if you like this type of book. It's her first novel and she's a promising author. 8/10

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay - when Ray Kilbride returns to the family home following his father's death, he finds that his brother Thomas has turned one landing of the house into a virtual walk-through guide to the world, for Thomas suffers from schizophrenia, and has made it his mission to memorize every building on every street in every city in the whole world, using a website similar to Google Man, for the time when, so he believes, a computer virus will wipe out all electronic navigation systems and computers, and government agencies such as the FBI will come to him for advice. Ray reluctantly indulges him, but one day Thomas thinks he's seen a murder in New York, and Ray agrees to try to find the relevant building so that he can reassure Thomas that nothing has happened (he once got very distressed when he witnessed a minor road accident, so Ray wants to pacify him), but it turns out that someone else is watching Ray, and before long the brothers find themselves in danger. After a slow start, this built up to an engrossing read, with lots of twists, some of which I guessed, and although it's pretty preposterous if you think about it too much, it's a good holiday/commuting read. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Tue September 16th, 2014, 1:31 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland


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