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Madeleine's Reading Log 2016

What have you read in 2016? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2016

Postby Madeleine » Sat November 5th, 2016, 11:43 am

November

The Drowning Pool by Syd Moore - this is a fairly conventional ghost story, set in the Essex town of Leigh-on-Sea, in which newly widowed Sarah Grey is trying to get her life back together, working as a teacher and raising her young son following her husband's death in a road accident. Strange things start happening, at first it's little things like cockleshells and pine cones suddenly appearing in the middle of her lounge, but then she starts seeing the ghost of a woman, and having strange visions. Terrified she might have a brain tumour (hallucinations can be a symptom, and she's been under a lot of stress - and also drinks copious amounts of alcohol!) she starts to try to find out what is behind all this, and discover the legend of her namesake, another Sarah Grey, who was suspected of being a witch, and eventually killed for bringing up a storm at sea. Sarah believes that her ancestor (although Grey is her married name) wants the truth to be told, and she sets out to do so. I enjoyed this, it was quite creepy and the story was well told, and although not a time-slip as such there are two time frames with parallel stories, and it kept my interest throughout, despite the staggering levels of alcohol consumed! Better than her second book, Witch Hunt, which also deals with witches in Essex. 8/10

Conjugal Rites by Paul Magrs - third in the Brenda and Effie series, in which one of Brenda's old boyfriends comes to claim her as his own, only she doesn't want him, which results in him dragging her down into a hellish version of Whitby (similar to the real Whitby, but with worse weather) and her friends Effie, Robert and Sheila having to go into the depths to rescue her, and finding themselves in a strange alternate reality. Daft but fun. 7/10


River of no Return by Bee Ridgway - time travelling fantasy in which a man from the early 19th century finds himself catapulted into the present day, where he meets the Guild, who set him up with a nice lifestyle in America, which he's enjoying until he finds himself whisked back to 1812 and his family home, where he is sent on a mission to stop the possibly evil organisation called the Ofan from altering events to prevent a cataclysmic occurrence in the future. On the plus side, I thought this was well-written, and I liked the way it played with time, and the two main characters, Nick and his old crush Julia who, it turns out, can also manipulate time, were very likeable and convincing. On the down side, most of the other characters were very two dimensional - Count Arkady was a cross between a comedy Russian (in the past) and a Bond villain (in the present), and unfortunately ultimately it went nowhere. This is mainly because there was an awful lot of sittingaround in salons, bars etc with the characters telling each other what had just happened, but hardly any actual showing - eg Julia is captured by her wicked cousin (who naturally wants her estate) and hauled off back to Devon, but we don't see any of this - we just get told it, which I found tiresome after a while. And when it got to the end, when there should have been some sort of confrontation between the two sides - nothing happened - it finished! There's no sign of a sequel, and her blog hasn't been updated since 2013, so I hope nothing has happened to prevent the writing of the next book, as this feels very much like a prequel (although there is a prequel in the form of a novella). A shame as it feels like a missed opportunity. 7/10

Dishing the Dirt by M C Beaton - latest instalment in the Agatha Raisin series, and Agatha finds herself a suspect when a local woman, a therapist who's recently moved into the village, is found murdered. Not only that, but she's also in danger from the real killer, and not even a trip abroad can keep her pursuer away. It's another fast-paced adventure, easy read but with zero characterisation, and surely by now (after 20 odd books, Agatha should be older than her early fifties? 6/10

I do not sleep by Judy Finnigan - for those not in the UK, Judy Finnigan is a well-known TV personality who, alongside her husband, was a major part of daytime TV for many years; they had their own magazine show which started a hugely successful book club, which pretty much launched the likes of Jodi Picoult in the UK, and is still going strong today, albeit, somewhat inevitably, online. This is her second novel and tells the story of a woman whose son was presumed dead following a boating accident during a holiday in Cornwall five years previously - his wrecked boat was found but no body. Now, after all this time, her family have persuaded her to lay some ghosts by returning to the area for a holiday. But the pull of her lost son is stronger than ever, and she feels compelled to find him. Understandable, but she spent so much time vacillating and hesitating and generally whining that after all a while I found her very irritating. Anyway eventually she does finally realise that she has to do something, and starts to make some startling (although not really surprising) discoveries. I didn't find this particularly well-written, it was tedious and clunky and at times I almost gave up on it, and a subplot involving a girl with Down's Syndrome just felt emotionally manipulative and tacked on. As for the comparisons to Daphne du Maurier, well the only one I could find was the Cornwall setting, including a rather clomping scene set at Jamaica Inn, at times I just felt as if the author was ticking off place names in Cornwall to prove that she knew the area. As with many celebrity authors, I can't help wondering if this would have found a publisher if she wasn't a "name". 5/10
Currently reading "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2016

Postby Madeleine » Fri December 2nd, 2016, 9:37 am

December

Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris - third book in the Aurora Teagarden series, in which former librarian Roe is training as a real estate agent, but is somewhat put off when two of her fellow agents are murdered at houses they are selling. Naturally she wants to find the killer, as it's likely it''s someone they all know, but she's also distracted by a new man, but could he be the killer? A fast-paced enjoyable quick read. 7.5/10

Murder in Advent by David Williams - entertaining mystery set in a fictional cathedral city, where there is discontent amongst the cathedral folk as they hold meetings to discuss whether to sell their copy of Magna Carta to boost cathedral funds. When a fire destroys most of the cathedral's library, including the prized document, and the verger is found dead in the debris, everyone is under suspension. Naturally more deaths follow, and Inspector Pride and an insurance investigator, rather confusingly named Treasure, are brought in to investigate. 7/10


Moving by Jenny Éclair - this book is split into 3 sections, the first in the present day and tells of an old woman Edwina, who's finally decided to sell her rambling London house and, as she shows a young estate agent each room, we get a potted history of her life, which includes 2 marriages, twins and a stepson from her second husband's first marriage. The second part goes back to the 1980s, and to Manchester University, where a young girl, Fern, arrives to study drama. Living in a grimy room in a shared house is a bit of a shock to her, after coming from a house in the country with dogs and ponies, but she settles in and becomes involved with a fellow student, Charlie (who is Edwina's son from her first marriage, and is also "studying", or meant to be anyway!). Fern's relationship with the grubby, sleazy Charlie forms most of this part of the book, and after a while I found it dragged, with the sheer sordidness of it becoming boring after a while. Inevitably the reckless lifestyle ends in tragedy, and then we come back to the present for the final part, where the main character is Lucas, Edwina's stepson, who up until now has shouldered some of the blame at least for the tragedy, but we finally hear his side of the story. When Edwina married his father, he always felt an outsider, especially as her own children, twins Charlie and Rowena, had such a strong bond as twins often do, and Lucas has been painted pretty black throughout most of the book. I felt a bit sorry for him really, the tragedy was pretty much a direct result of the victims' dissolute lifestyles, and would probably have happened sooner or later. I thought the book was well-written (Jenny Éclair is a well-known comedienne in the UK) but the middle section could have been far shorter, and I'd actually have liked to know more about Lucas, as his section felt rather rushed. An OK read but not a brilliant one, but very amusing in places (and incredibly grubby in others!) and there was some nice 80s nostalgia. 7/10

Crimson Snow - short stories - another Christmas-themed collection of crime stories, and hugely enjoyable too, better than last year's Silent Nights. all set during the Golden Age of crime, a couple are almost ghost stories, some are long enough to be novellas, all are entertaining (and a bit politically incorrect too, with phenomenal amounts of smoking!). 8/10

Another Little Christmas Murder by Lorna Nicholl Morgan - travelling saleswoman Dylis is stranded in a snowstorm in a remote part of Yorkshire, when she is rescued by Inigo Brown, who takes her to his uncle's house to wait out the storm. But his uncle is supposedly ill upstairs, and his young, brittle wife doesn't want them to see him, even though he's specifically invited his nephew to stay. The servants seem to be a strange bunch too, and more people suddenly turn up, also seeking shelter from the blizzard. Then Dylis manages to visit the uncle. who isn't in the best of health but certainly not at death's door - until the following day when yes he's found dead. As events becoming increasingly bizarre, Dylis and Inigo find themselves in a race against time, and don't know who they can trust. This was an entertaining, albeit busy read, and a bit long-winded, but saved by a dry sense of humour, in fact at times, with so much coming and going, it did seem a bit farcical. A cosy read. 7/10

Murder under the Christmas Tree (short stories) - bit of a mixed bag of short, crime-based stories set at Christmas - my favourites were by Val Mcdermid, Ian Rankin (a Rebus story) and a Cadfael story by of course Ellis Peters. 6.5/10
Currently reading "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland


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