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Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

What have you read this year? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick & The Snow Rose by Lulu Taylor
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Tue January 10th, 2017, 11:09 am

The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley - I found this book a bit of a clunker, and quite different to the blurb on the back, apparently it's a revised and re-written old book, which was re-issued just over a year ago with a lovely snowy cover, but it's not very Christmassy and the Angel Tree is only mentioned very briefly. It's the story of two women, Greta and her daughter Cheska, and starts with Greta working in a revue in Soho (London version), falling pregnant and being given shelter at the Welsh home of David, a comedian who works at the venue and who has befriended her. When her daughter is small, Greta returns to London and gets a job in an office, which she has to leave after her boss's wife finds out they've been having an affair! Desperate for money, things start to look up when David's agent puts Cheska forward for a film role, the little girl becomes a star and all Greta's money problems are over...obsessed with her daughter's career, she pushes her even when it becomes obvious that the child has serious mental health issue, but a few pills and she's back in the studio. Not surprisingly, she rebels as a teenager and soon falls pregnant by her co-star, a relationship which must be kept secret to protect both their careers. Like her mother before her, she's whisked off to Marchmont in Wales, has her baby and then flees to LA to resume her career, leaving her daughter Ava in the care of David's mother. Just before she left for LA, Greta had a serious accident in London and lost her memory, so basically we get Cheska's story of her career - the usual drink, drugs, divorce etc and very little of Greta as she tries to piece her past together when she returns to Marchmont 20 years later. I found it went on for far too long, and although I should have sympathised with Cheska (I think she probably suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and probably had psychopathic tendencies too, but back in the 1960s it was covered up - again, to protect her career, and I really disliked Greta for not seeing how ill her daughter was, and the poor woman became mired in drink and drugs) but she was so two-dimensional I just found her irritating after a while. And when she returns to Marchmont, supposedly to pick up her career and re-bond with her mother and daughter, who's now training to be a vet, all hell breaks loose. I've read one of this author's other books, which I quite enjoyed, which is just as well as this one would have put me off reading any more by her. It would be interesting to see what the original book was like. 5/10

Larkswood by Valerie Mendes - I thoroughly enjoyed this, like The Angel Tree, it tells of a woman trying to find out about her past, in this case her own family. It's 1939 and Louise is suffering from a bad bout of glandular fever and to her relief is sent to Larkswood, her grandfather's home in Hampshire. Once she is better, instead of returning to London and the endless round of parties and shopping which her sister thrives on, Louisa blossoms as she finds a love of gardening and becomes close to her grandfather Edward. But there's apparently something from the past which is troubling Edward, recently returned from a long stay in India - when Louisa finds an old painting which is obviously of Edward and his two sisters, he is furious and refuses to talk about them, which of course only makes her more determined to find out more about the family's secrets. We also get flashbacks to an idyllic summer in the 1880s, when Edward's eldest sister, Cynthia, turned 18, but fell pregnant which inevitably threatened to bring scandal on the family. Gradually the story is pieced together with several twists, one of which I guessed almost immediately, but the other one I didn't see coming at all. A nice, easy read with some likeable characters, although the ghastly parents were a bit two-dimensional, but I was rooting for Louisa and Thomas, her beau who also worked in the gardens at Larkswood. 8/10

End of the Roadie by Elizabeth Flynn - this is the third in a series of cosy crime novels set mainly in London, with the main detective being DI Angela Costello whose team are investigating the murder of a roadie immediately after a concert by current pop heart throb Brendan Phelan. One of her team, Gary, was at the gig and was first on the scene, and once they start probing into the dead man's background they find a very unsavoury character indeed, with a long list of suspects due to the various scams which he had operating. This was an enjoyable read, with for once some fairly happy detectives (as opposed to the usual maverick/alcoholic/divorced etc) who are part of a team which actually like each other and work well together. Having said that, I did find some of the dialogue a bit old-fashioned with the result being that some of the characters didn't quite ring true, and the dialogue seemed to belong to another era. However as a cosy crime it was fine. I was sent this book to review through Library Thing's Early Reviewers, and thanks to them and the publisher, Lion, for sending it. 7/10

A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor - despite the title, this is the 3rd instalment in the St Mary's series, and is just as madcap as ever, with Max returning from a day in Thirsk to discover chaos, and almost every member of the history department covered in blue paint - which won't wash off. It does get more serious, with trips to Troy and Agincourt being the high points, and there's sadness and tragedy too. Another hugely entertaining read, difficult to say more but suffice to say she plays with timelines a lot, and there are a few shocks along the way. 8/10
Currently reading "The Phantom Tree" by Nicola Cornick & "The Snow Rose" by Lulu Taylor

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick & The Snow Rose by Lulu Taylor
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Fri February 10th, 2017, 9:43 am

February

A cold death in Amsterdam by Anja de Jager - this is the first in a new crime series featuring Detective Lotte Merman, who is still reeling from the bad judgements she made during a missing child case, which eventually became a murder investigation. Now she finds herself investigating the murder of a prominent financier, shot outside his house, 12 years after his former business associate was killed. The new murder victim was a suspect in the first man's murder, but nothing could be proved, but now the police believe the two killings must be linked. So the reader is drawn into the world of finance - I must admit most of this went over my head, although I did generally enjoy the book. I would have liked more of the previous case, and also found it hard to believe that none of the police knew that Lotte's father was involved in the first murder case - they're meant to be detectives but didn't know they were related! I also found it hard to believe some of the things Lotte got away with - some instances which would be tantamount to entrapment and surely in the real world would render any evidence obtained inadmissible at trial. Despite that, not a bad start to a new series. 7/10

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes - this is the latest novel from the writer of "Downton Abbey", and has all the ingredients that will be familiar to that show's fans, except the house is in London rather than the country. It's the tale of two families, the Trenchards and the Brockenhursts, who are thrown together when their son (Brockenhursts) and daughter (Trenchards) become romantically involved, but tragically Edmund is killed at the Battle of Waterloo, and Sophia dies after giving birth to their son. The Trenchards, who have packed Sophia off to their country house to have the baby (to avoid the scandal of having people know that she had a baby out of wedlock) secretly have the baby adopted and don't even tell Edmund's parents. Fast forward twenty odd years, and the baby, now grown up, comes back to London, but only Mr Trenchard knows, and doesn't even tell his wife, although she does inevitably find out. From then on it's a story of secrets, unsuitable romances, cads, flighty women and domitable ladies, and whilst it's quite entertaining it's never more than a gentle bit of escapism. It has the same rather rushed feel that Downton had, although there is a bit of suspense towards the end, and whilst some of the characters are pretty two dimensional, I did like Anne Trenchard and the super snobbish Caroline, who was like a younger version of Maggie Smith's character (but not quite so acerbic). 7/10

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths - 2nd in the crime series set in 1950s Brighton, with policeman Edgar Stephens and his friend, stage magician Max Mephisto. Edgar and his team find themselves investigating one of the most upsetting cases of their careers, when two children are murdered just before Xmas, and when the teacher of one of the children is also killed, the case takes on an even more urgent edge. Max takes a bit of a backseat here, as he's busy in pantomime, but there could be a link to the current panto, involving the murder of a young actress in another panto several years earlier - some of the people who worked on the earlier production are working on the current one. I found this another enjoyable mystery, and Edgar and Max, and Edgar's team, are vey likeable. 8/10
Currently reading "The Phantom Tree" by Nicola Cornick & "The Snow Rose" by Lulu Taylor


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