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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 Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
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 Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
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 Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Mon March 6th, 2017, 9:58 am

March

The Snow Rose by Lulu Taylor - when we first meet Kate, she is fleeing from a terrible tragedy with her young daughter, convinced that her estranged husband will take her daughter from her. In the past, a young woman, Arabella, is also fleeing, from an asylum where she claims her sister Cecily had her unjustly incarcerated, and forces her hapless sister Letty into going along with her plans. Back in the present, Kate becomes a sort of custodian of a large abandoned house in the countryside - she has taken on a false identity, and apart from a few brief texts and calls to her best friend, no one has any idea that she even exists any more. She seettles into life in the rather dilapidated but still liveable mansion, and gradually starts to feel a bit calmer. But she finds a mysterious locked room in the basement, plus freezers full of freshly bought food (she can tell by the sellby dates!) but for the time being lives fairly peacefully. Then she meets two elderly sisters who live nearby, who used to live at the house, and refer to it's mysterious occupants. Then she receives an email telling her that more will be arriving soon, and sure enough 2 young women turn up, and begin to clear and air the house in readiness for new occupants. As Arabella and Letty's stories unfold in the past, nearly 100 years ago, we start to find out what the house is really used for, and also what really happened to make Kate run away and go into hiding, although her husband and friend are beginning to hunt for her. After a rather sluggish start, I found this an engrossing read, although I did find Kate a bit annoying and selfish, but it certainly kept my interest, although it wasn't entirely convincing. But there were quite a few twists, plus a hint of the supernatural. Better than the first book I read by this author, Winter Folly, which started well but wasn't much of a story. 7.5/10

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick - this is another dual time frame novel, but with a difference, as the main character, Alison, is actually living in the present, and trying to get back to her past (the mid 16th century). We first meet her in Marlborough, Wiltshire, just before Xmas and she's now been in the current day for several years, having inadvertently time travelled after walking into an old inn, which is still there, but has now been so refurbished that the "portal" is no longer there. She grew up at Wolf Hall with her cousin, Mary Seymour, but fled when she and Mary were being removed to another location, and to prevent her being married off, but she's desperate to get back to find her son, Arthur, who was illegitimate and was taken from her as a baby. She meets up with TV historian Adam, a former boyfriend although the relationship ended badly. However 10 years later he's in the town to give a talk promoting his new book, on the discovery of a "lost" portrait of Anne Boleyn, only Alison knows who the subject of the portrait really is - because she was there when it was new. She eventually convinces Adam that he's wrong, and he reluctantly tries to help her find out what really happened to Mary Seymour, and also what happened to Alison's son. I enjoyed this, although it did seem to go on a bit, but I liked Alison's character, and the historical scenes were really well done. There was a dastardly but charming villain, and a few twists too, and it would definitely appeal to fans of Barbara Erskine - like Erskine's novels, there are some cosy scenes with cups of tea and a Labrador curled up in the background! Entertaining, and as usual I preferred the historical parts. 8/10

Some Veil Did Fall by Kirsty Ferry - this is the first in a series of dual time-frame novels loosely connected to the works of various Pre-Raphaelite artists, in this case the title is taken from a poem by Rossetti, and the book is set in Whitby, in the present day and also the 1860s. Becky is a journalist who is in the town covering the Goth festival, when she bumps into Jonathan, the brother of her best friend from school, neither of whom she has seen in years; he now has a photographic studio in the town, and takes her there, where she has great fun rummaging through his Victorian costumes, and has her photo taken in a particularly appealing dress. But as she's trying the dress on, she starts to feel she's not alone, as if another woman is in the room with her, and trying to communicate. And there seems to be further connections at her hotel, and also with some of the Victorian articles which Jonathan uses as props for his customers. They start to investigate the connections, and gradually the history of the previous occupants of Becky's hotel, which was once a large country house, start to tell their story. It's a familiar plot device, with the love triangle between Becky, Jonathan and her rather obnoxious (cliche alert!) ex Seb, echoing a similar situation from the past, but despite, or maybe because of, the predictability of it all I still enjoyed it; it works as a fairly cosy dual time-frame which would appeal to fans of Barbara Erskine and Pamela Hartshorne, and Whitby is nicely evoked too. 8/10

The Trysting Tree by Linda Gillard - Ann is recovering from the break-up of her marriage, and the fact that her soon-to-be ex is now expecting a baby with his new partner (they'd tried for years to have a baby, with no success) and moves in with her rather cantankerous mum, Phoebe, an artist who, having gone through treatment for cancer combined with general ageing, is becoming increasingly frail and not taking care of herself. So Ann comes to stay at her mother's home in the grounds of a former estate in Somerset, and when she finally persuades Phoebe to sell up and move to somewhere more practical for herself, a young man is the only prospective buyer. A garden designer by trade, he eventually confesses that he has a personal interest in the house, for his grandmother Ivy, who's died recently, lived and worked there. She'd been going through family papers at the time of her death (in fact, the fact that she was burning the papers, which accidentally started a fire, was a major factor in her demise) and the man, Connor, wants to find out more about her, and what caused her to try to burn every record of her family. Ann and Phoebe agree to help on the basis that he tidies up the garden, and when one of the beech trees is felled during a storm, and a box of seed packets which turn out to be mysterious letters is found concealed within it's trunk, Connor's family mystery deepens. So the story of Ivy and her family is gradually revealed, which goes back to WW1 and family secrets which by turns delight and shock Connor. In the meantime (naturally) there's also a sweet, tentative romance between him and Ann, and Ann finally finds out why her father left all those years ago, and why he's never tried to get in touch. This is a nice story, thoughtfully and touchingly told but written sparingly, and makes me wonder once again why this author isn't better known! And there's a nice nod to nature too, with the trees having their say as well. 8/10

The Body on the Doorstep by A J Mackenzie - first in a promising historical crime series set on Romney Marsh in Kent at the end of the 18th century. Smuggling is rife and despite the efforts of Customs and Excise men (who seemed to be on two different sides back then) many people tolerated a bit of "minor" smuggling, including Reverend Hardcastle, who's not at all averse to a bit of brandy or port, or both - in fact the amount he drinks is phenomenal! But he finds himself more involved than he'd like to be when a young man is shot dead on his doorstep, but not before gasping out a few words to the Reverend, who vows to find out what really happened. But there are many people, naturally, who don't want him sticking his nose in, which of course makes him all the more determined to find out what's really going on in the area, and it looks like many people, apart from those "supplementing their income" are involved - possibly all the way to Parliament in fact. A local widow, Amelia Chaytor, who's new to the area also wants to help, and she and the Reverend make quite a formidable team. This was an entertaining read, with shades of "Jamaica Inn" and lots of twists and turns, some dry humour, and some good cliffhangers, and looks like being a promising series. Very enjoyable, with an atmospheric setting and two likeable protagonists (plus a supporting role for a young artist whose surname is Turner!). 8/10

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak - DNF
Currently reading "The Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Wed April 5th, 2017, 8:23 am

April

To Catch a Rabbit by Helen Cadbury - this is the first in a new series set mainly in Doncaster and York, the main character being a Community Police Officer (PCSO as they're known in the UK) called Sean Denton, who stumbles on the body of a young woman at a shabby caravan on farmland. Initially it's brushed off as an accidental overdose, but Sean becomes suspicious and eventually she turns out to be part of a seedy, sad story involving drugs, human trafficking and police corruption. All these are becoming rather clichéd tropes now, but it's well-written and Sean (and some of the other officers, along with Human Trafficking social worker Karen, who has problems of her own) are decent characters trying to do their best in a horrible situation. The ending was quite gripping even though some of the baddies were a bit clichéd, it's a promising start to a new series but I hope next time it's a different theme, although it must be difficult to come up with original plot lines in crime novels. 7.5/10

The House of Eyes by Kate Ellis - latest instalment in the Wesley Peterson crime series, set in the picturesque Devon town of Tradmouth (in reality Dartmouth). When an estranged husband and wife are both murdered at an upmarket spa hotel, Wesley finds himself trying to find out why the family is being targeted, as their daughter is also missing. He also has to contend with his wife having a health scare, which is perhaps why I found this book to have a drier more serious tone than some of it's predecessors. There is also a link to the mysterious disappearance of one of the hotel's original owners, and some sinister events which happened whilst they were on the Grand Tour of Europe, involving a creepy painting, which gives the book it's title. It's a fairly standard police procedural, solid enough but a little bit flat, although the previous books were much better. 7.5/10

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim - this tells the story of 4 women who decide to spend a month at a beautiful villa in the Italian hills - Lotte Wilkins, whose husband Mellersh, an accountant, lets her have an allowance but that's about it; Rose Arbuthnot, whose husband, Frederick, writes racy biogs of long dead aristos and their scandals, which are very successful, but convince Rose that she is living off immoral earnings, and throws herself into her religion and charity work, whilst her husband spends most of his time in London, sometimes for days on end; the beautiful Lady Caroline, aka Scrap, who is fed up with men pawing and groping her, and just wants to be left alone, and widow Mrs Fisher, who also wants time alone. After the usual squabbles over the best room and favourite spot in the garden, the women start to relax and settle into a routine, and then the menfolk start arriving! They're furious when Lotte invites her hubby, then Frederick turns up, and then the house's owner, Mr Briggs, also arrives to see how they are getting on. It's a comedy of manners, with some gentle teasing and gradually a touching study of how the 4 women start to re-discover themselves and get out of the rut they've all found themselves in. I did find the constant references to Scrap's beauty, wonderful voice etc a bit tiresome after a while, but overall it was a nice read and I enjoyed it, and it was especially satisfying to see Lotte and Rose coming out of their shells. I only hope they kept it up once the holiday was over! 7/10

In a dark dark wood by Ruth Ware - this is a well-written psychological thriller (which I can see becoming a TV drama at some point) in which crime writer Nora is surprised to find an email inviting her to Clare's hen night, because she and Clare haven't spoken for 10 years, in fact both have made sure that their paths haven't crossed. So why is she being invited to the hen night, and not the wedding? Her friend Nina, who's also invited, persuades her to go, and so they arrive at a modern, glass house in the middle of afore-mentioned dark dark wood, and are joined by Clare, her friend Flo, who's organised the whole thing, and Tom, a gay man who is presumably treated as a honorary female! As usual the alcohol flows and the bitching starts, but apart from the fact that Nora discovers that Clare is marrying her ex, James, there's still no obvious reason as to why this group has been brought together. Then an intruder is shot on the last night of the weekend, and Nora and Clare are injured in a car accident, but Nora can't remember much after the shooting, and so the second part of the book is taken up with her recovery, and questioning by the police, as gradually her memory comes back in bits, and we finally find out what happened, and also what led up to the shooting. This is the bit which lets the book down a bit (as often happens in this type of thriller), and the more I think about the ending the more plot holes I can see! But it's a gripping page turner, and I liked Nora's resourceful character, even if her memory loss makes her an unreliable narrator at times, but I was rooting for her to come through, even if the eventual reveal was a bit melodramatic. 8/10

A Trail through Time by Jodi Taylor - 4th in the St Mary's Chronicles, in which Max finds herself hopping around the timeline to escape the Time Police, but finally giving into the inevitable, which ends in the battle of St Mary's. I did find all the jumping around a bit confusing, and the resurrection of an old character felt a bit lazy and repetitive, but there are still some funny moments, suffice to say I won't look at Matilda's escape through the snow in Wallingford in the same way again, and the battle at the end is gripping and suitably dramatic. Great fun overall, and a little bit darker than the earlier books. 7.5/10
Currently reading "The Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Fri May 12th, 2017, 8:24 am

May

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry - I finished this last night, and whilst I enjoyed it, I don't think it quite lives up to the hype and praise lavished on it (unlike say, The Miniaturist, which I think did live up to it's reputation). It's set in the late 19th Century, with newly widowed Cora Seaborne moving from London to the Essex village of Aldwinter, on the Blackwater estuary which is haunted by the legend of the titular serpent. The "creature" first surfaced, allegedly, a couple of hundred years previously, and now it's rumoured to be back, and the villagers are convinced it's punishment for their sins, and blame every bad thing that happens eg a crop failure, a dead sheep, a drowning (even though the victim was known to be a heavy drinker) on the serpent. When Cora arrives, accompanied by her strange son Francis (who by today's definition is probably on the autistic/Asperger's spectrum) and maid/companion Martha, people expect a middle-aged, frumpy widow, and instead get a vivacious young woman (who's been freed from a violent, domineering husband) who wanders around the estuary wearing men's trousers and coats, and collecting fossils. She meets the local vicar, William Ransome, who is trying to fight off the superstitious rumours by keeping his parishioners in check with his sermons, and sparks fly between the two, and Cora also befriends his wife, the ailing Stella, and their 3 children. More strange incidents occur, there's an outbreak of mass hysteria, odd things are seen in the local river, and the villagers become even more paranoid. Meanwhile Cora's attachment to William grows, and she's also lusted after by the doctor who tended her husband. It's very Victorian, with shades of "The Crucible" for it's paranoia, and ticks a lot of the standard Victorian gothic boxes, and although I enjoyed most of it, I felt the ending was a bit weak (thinking about it now, it was probably the only way it could have ended, but still feels a bit flat) and I also felt the scenes in London, especially the sub plot about Martha becoming involved with campaigning for better housing, rents etc for poorer people (nothing has changed since!) felt a bit superfluous and unnecessary. Personally I would have preferred it if it had stayed in Essex, but apart from these quibbles I thought it was a good, but not great, read. 8/10

Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves - seventh book in the Shetland series, in which Jimmy Perez becomes obsessed after an unidentified woman is found dead in the ruin of a house after a landslide. At first it's assumed that she died in the incident, but the post mortem reveals that she was already dead when it happened, and then the police think they have found out who she is, only to discover she's using a false name, so they have a murder on their hands, and no way of finding the culprit until they find out who the woman was, and why she had suddenly come to Shetland. It seems that the locals have things to hide too, including the family who live near the ruined house, and other islanders also seem to have a connection with the stranger. I found this a solid read, very much a standard police procedural with a great setting and, finally, a bit of a romantic storyline for poor old Jimmy, who's been suffering lately! 7.5/10

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris - 3rd and final part of the "Midnight, Texas" trilogy and the residents of the strange little town are increasingly disturbed when people begin arriving in the town and committing suicide at the intersection. Something seems to be stirring underneath the junction, and after Lemeul finally manages to translate some ancient texts, they realise that the key to it all seems to be the local witch, Fiji, who has family problems of her own. This was an enjoyable finale, which pretty much wrapped everything up, and saw the main characters develop further, with even a bit of romance for some of them, written with the author's trademark humour with a touch of darkness. 8/10
Currently reading "The Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Sat June 3rd, 2017, 7:57 pm

June

I Found You by Lisa Jewell - in this thriller, Alison, a single mother of 3 living in a small Yorkshire seaside town, is intrigued by a man who she sees sitting on the local beach during a rainy day. She takes pity on him, eventually taking him in for the evening as he's soaked to the skin and seems to be very upset about something - except he can't remember anything: how he got there, who he is or where he came from, although a soggy train ticket gives a bit of a clue. Gradually Alison helps him to remember, and their story unfolds, along with Frank's (as he decides he wants to be called) history as he slowly starts to recall how he came to be sitting on that bleak beach. I enjoyed this, although I did have to suspend belief at times, and felt that Alison was being rather reckless (although she does at least admit this) in taking in a strange man, especially as she has a rather chequered history to say the least. But the story unfolds to a satisfactory, if slightly rushed, conclusion, and although it sounds incredible there have been some real-life cases in a similar vein - I wonder if one of those inspired the author? I'd recommend this as fast-paced holiday read. 7.5/10

The Stranger from the Sea by Winston Graham - this is the 8th book in the Poldark series, and picks up 10 years after the shocking events of "The Angry Tide", and was in fact written several years after that book, and it shows; Ross and Demelza's eldest children are almost grown and beginning to make their own way, and much of the book is about them and, inevitably, their love lives. It also unfortunately, for this reader at least, spends a lot of time going into detail about boilers, steam engines and other technical things involved in running a mine, as the Poldarks' son, Jeremy, wants to re-open one of the old mines and find better ways of working it. I had heard that the later books aren't as good as the earlier ones, and this seems to be true, although Ross and Demelza are as incorrigible as ever, and overall it was still enjoyable. 7/10

Death wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver - second in the series set in the early 1930s in which Amory Ames and her playboy husband, Milo, find themselves caught in up in crimes involving high society, this time, the death of a young man at a masked ball (hence the title) which is at first thought to be suicide but soon turns out, of course, to be murder. Amory investigates whilst trying to keep her marriage together, as Milo is photographed in a clinch with a famous actress and she wonders how much more of his lifestyle she can take. It's a light-hearted romp but there are so many Americanisms I wonder if the author (who is American) has ever even been to England, eg cars being referred to as automobiles - I have never heard any British person refer to a car as an automobile. This does grate slightly but apart from that I like Amory and the books provide some light-hearted escapism. 7.5/10

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith - this is the second in the crime series written by J K Rowling, and better than the first (which wasn't bad). When a famous author is found murdered in the same style as the main character of his latest book, private detective Cormoran Strike is faced with a long list of suspects, for the author had written a thinly veiled attack on pretty much everyone he knew - fellow authors, agents, friends, who were all very upset by their treatment in the novel. So Strike, helped by his assistant Robin, who is about to get married, sets out to find out who the culprit is. We get more of Strike and Robin's relationship in this book, as it develops nicely, and we also find out more of Strike's background (chequered to say the least, with several half siblings thanks to his feckless parents) and meet Robin's fiance, Matthew, who isn't happy with her choice of career. I enjoyed this, although I wasn't totally convinced by the reveal of the murderer's identity. 7.5/10

The Seeker by S G MacLean - first in a new crime series set during the "reign" of Oliver Cromwell. Damian Seeker is one of Cromwell's main "agents", keeping a very close eye on anyone suspected of trying to bring down the self-styled Lord Protector. When a high ranking official is found murdered, a local lawyer, Elias Ellingworth, who is known for his rebellious views and writings, is the chief suspect, especially as he is found standing over the body, with a blood-stained knife in his hands. It looks like a simple case of convicting him, but Seeker, who is feared by pretty much everyone, doesn't think Elias is the culprit, despite the man's refusal to do much to help his own case. Meanwhile various plots against Cromwell are uncovered and thwarted, whilst Seeker desperately tries to find the real killer, and rescue Elias from execution, in an increasingly secretive London. I enjoyed this, it's a promising start and Seeker is be turns terrifying and likeable, (and there is a hint of romance too) and I'm sure he'll have plenty more adventures, with a rich, mysterious background of his own to be revealed as well. There's definitely a touch of James Bond about him, and there are modern resonances with the current security/surveillance issues of today. And the author's previous hero, Alexander Seaton (I have those books too but haven't read them yet!) also makes an appearance. 8/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Sat September 2nd, 2017, 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
Currently reading "The Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Sun July 9th, 2017, 11:13 am

July

The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon - this latest instalment of the Commissario Brunetti series is slightly different, in that it isn't, for the most part, about a murder. Instead it's a bit of a cold case - at a tedious dinner party given by his in-laws, Brunetti is introduced to an elderly friend of his wife's mother, who wants him to find out what really happened some 15 years ago, when her grand-daughter was allegedly pushed into one of the canals and, although she was rescued, sadly she was underwater long enough to suffer brain damage, and as a result was left with the mental age of a 7 year old. After all this time, it's difficult to prove it was anything more than an accident (and not a suicide attempt as some have suggested); the man who rescued her was a known drunk back then, and is even more so now, but he is the only definite witness. But Brunetti does his best, and despite being thwarted at pretty much every turn, he persists. This is another enjoyable book, with some nice dry humour, and plenty of food too! It's quite languid, but there are a few twists later on, and Brunetti and his family and colleagues (well some of them anyway) are likeable as ever. 8/10

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart - this is another enjoyable mystery, this time set in Northumberland near Hadrian's Wall. Mary Grey is visiting the wall when a young man approaches her, telling her that she is the image of his cousin Annabel, who ran away several years ago and is now presumed dead. Eventually they realise they are distantly related, but later when Mary is back in the café where she works she becomes aware of a woman who comes in every day and sits and stares at her. When she confronts the woman, she admits that she is the half sister of the man, Con, and is also interested in Mary for her resemblance to Annabel, mainly because their grandfather is very ill, and looks likely to leave their large house and estate to another cousin, Julie, who doesn't want it and lives in London. If Mary could impersonate Annabel and get the old man to change his will so that she inherits, well.... you can guess the rest. Naturally there would be something in it for her, and after much thought and several "training sessions" from Lisa she finally arrives at Whitescar in the guise of "Annabel". There's one major twist in this, which I did suspect, and although it dragged a bit in the middle, once the twist was revealed the second part was much more gripping. Enjoyable if a bit predictable! 7.5/10

Holy Island by L J Ross - this is the first in a series of crime novels (6 so far) also set in Northumberland, and almost entirely set on Holy Island, which gives it a slight locked room/country house feeling. When 2 young women, and then one of the local coastguards, are found dead in ritualistic settings, it looks like there is a serial killer around, and given the island's isolation, it has to be one of the locals. Detective chief Inspector Ryan, who has suffered a trauma of his own, is now living on the island and as a local is heading up the case, with his house being turned into a temporary police station. Another young woman, Anna Taylor, whose sister turns out to be one of the victims, is brought in to help as she is an expert on rituals, and no prizes for guessing what happens between her and Ryan. However their relationship is fairly convincing, and both are likeable, if flawed characters (and yes Ryan is quite a hunk ;) and both are in increasing danger as the investigation progresses. A good introduction to the series, with a great, atmospheric setting. 8/10

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths - unbelievably, this is the 9th book in the Ruth Galloway series, and as usual it starts with the discovery of some bones in a "secret" tunnel under the city of Norwich, found when a local architect has a survey done with a plan to build an underground restaurant. His plans are seriously thrown out when Ruth reveals that the bones are probably only about 10 years old, therefore work has to stop as it could possibly be a murder victim. Then 2 homeless men are stabbed to death, one on the steps of the police station, and women start to go missing, including one who is the partner of one of the police team investigating the cases. This was another enjoyable read, with Ruth's daughter Kate now growing up, and more developments in Ruth's already complicated private life. 7.5/10
Currently reading "The Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Tue August 15th, 2017, 11:53 am

August

Crowner's Quest by Bernard Knight - this is the 3rd in the Crowner John series, and again is a highly enjoyable tale set in late 12th century Exeter, where Christmas is put on hold after an elderly priest is found hanged. Initially suicide is suspected, but then John notices some suspicious features on the body which lead him to suspect murder, and duly finds himself being involved in a land feud, and also having his colourful love life dragged through the mud and, most worryingly of all, he's hauled off to prison on a trumped up charge of assault. But help comes from an unexpected quarter, which turns out to be rather touching. This is a solid mediaeval crime novel, set against the background of a country which is becoming increasingly disillusioned at having to keep paying out ransoms for it's absentee king (Richard I), whilst a rebellious attempt to put the King's brother, John, on the throne also seems to be brewing, and keeps John busy as well as all his other cases, and trying to stay on the right side of his brother-in-law, who also happens to be the sheriff, and who is highly ambitious and would love to see John fall. But there's quite a bit of humour too, with some amusing, albeit awkward scenes, between John and his wife. 7.5/10

The Dry by Jane Harper - this is the debut novel by a journalist, and is set in the small town of Kinnewara, which has been sweltering under a relentless heatwave and subsequent drought for nearly 2 years. Aaron Falk, who left the town after an incident during his teens, for which he took a lot of the blame, returns for the funeral of his best friend Luke, who reportedly shot his wife and son, and then himself. Aaron is now a cop, but is mainly involved with fraud and other financial crime, but finds himself drawn into finding out what really happened to his friend, and also finally laying to rest the ghosts of all those years ago. Some of the locals aren't that thrilled to see him either, but with the help of the local policeman, he gradually unravels the truth. I enjoyed this, it was very well-written, despite the story not being very original, and the characters were vividly drawn, although some of them were a little bit cliched. And the book became more gripping as the truth was slowly revealed. A very promising debut. 8/10


The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch - the 6th in the Peter Grant series, and just as amusing as the earlier instalments, with Peter becoming involved in the "demi-monde" yet again, this time following the investigation of an accidental drugs overdose. Lots of dry humour, and some good action scenes. And we finally learn more about the Faceless Man. Not sure where the title comes from though, as the titular tree is only mentioned very briefly, and doesn't play much of a part in the story. 7.5/10

The Muse by Jessie Burton - this is the eagerly awaited second novel by the author of The Miniaturist, and is very different, although there are still tragic overtones. It's a dual time-frame, and the more recent part is set in 1967, when a young woman emigrates from Trinidad to London. First Odelle finds work in a shoe shop, which she hates, but eventually she gets a job on the reception desk of an art gallery, which she loves. One day a young man, Lawrie, walks in with a painting which his mother had left to him (the only thing she left to him in fact) and the gallery owner believes it belongs to a lost Spanish artist, who disappeared mysteriously during the Spanish Civil War. So the other part of the book tells the story of the painting, and the artist, who became involved with the Schloss family, who fled Austria for the Spanish countryside near Malaga. Mr Schloss was an art dealer, but it's his daughter Olive who is the main focus here. It was an enjoyable story, although I felt it took a while to get going, and I think I would have preferred a continuous narrative, despite the fact that I love dual time frames, but none of the characters felt fully developed, and none of them were very likeable (especially Mr and Mrs Schloss), but it was very beautifully written, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes literary fiction. Can't wait to see what the author does next! 8/10
Currently reading "The Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick & Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Postby Madeleine » Sun September 10th, 2017, 11:16 am

September

The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny - 3rd in the Inspector Gamache series, and this time the investigation centres around the death of a newish resident in Three Pines (if it's so idyllic why do people keep getting killed ;) ) at a séance held at Hadley House, which holds terrible memories for everyone, including Gamache. At first it's thought the death was from a heart attack, but then a herbal substance, which has banned after several people died after using it as a slimming aid, is found in the woman's body. It turns out that many in the village didn't like this seemingly perfect woman, and the secret might lie in her past. Meanwhile Gamache finds his own past coming back to haunt him, as the press seem to be doing their best to discredit him, but he and his team soldier on, determined to find out the killer's identity. This was another, enjoyable, solid mystery, although Gamache does seem to be a bit too perfect and saintly. I would work for him though! This is definitely the Canadian equivalent of the UK's Midsomer Murders. 8/10

Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor - 7/10
Currently reading "The Summer Queen" by Elizabeth Chadwick & "Sleeper's Castle" by Barbara Erskine.


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