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Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

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 Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

Postby Madeleine » Mon January 8th, 2018, 11:24 am

January

Death on a Longship by Marsali Taylor - this is the first in a new series of mysteries set in the Shetland Isles, which I came across in a discount book shop last year. Cass Lynch is a qualified sailor who has lived abroad (and on boats) ever since she left home at 16, after her parents split up and she was packed off to France to live with her mother, a well-known classical singer, leaving her father, a businessman, on Shetland. She's come back to be the skipper of a reconstructed Viking longship for a film being shot on the island, but when the leading lady is murdered (and found on by her on her boat), she's thrust into the media spotlight and is also a suspect. Further acts of sabotage follow and Cass finds herself trying to identify the killer before more harm is done to either herself or her friends and family. I found this an enjoyable read, and wonder if, in subsequent books, Cass will team up with the policeman, Macrae, with whom she seems to have an affinity. It'll be interesting to see Cass reconcile with her family, and how she adapts to living on solid ground! 7.5/10

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo - another Harry Hole novel in which, as with all long running series, the hero inevitably finds himself the main suspect when an ex-girlfriend is found dead from a gun shot wound. Everything points to suicide, but Harry had been with her the night before and can't remember anything about what happened, and it soon becomes clear that someone is out to frame him. And what's the connection with a series of bank robberies which are being committed in Oslo? Another solid, fast-paced read, although at times it seemed to ramble slightly, and I'm not sure if this is down to the translation, or the original intention of the author. It was an entertaining read, albeit a bit convoluted, with a bit of globe-trotting involved too! 8/10

Thin Air by Michelle Paver - another spooky tale, this time set during an expedition in 1935 to climb Kangchenjunga, a mountain in the Himalayas which is the meant to be the most dangerous of all. Stephen is the team's doctor, and he joins his brother Kits and several other ex-military types; feeling out of place, he is also often at loggerheads with his brother as their old sibling rivalry surfaces, although there are also lighter moments, including the arrival of Cedric, a stray dog who befriends Stephen. But as they climb higher, following in the footsteps of a previous expedition which ended in tragedy, Stephen starts to feel increasingly haunted; is it due to altitude sickness, the cold, his imagination or is there something else on the mountain with them? This follows pretty much the same formula as Dark Matter, which I loved, although there's not quite the sense of loneliness as Stephen is, for the most part, accompanied by the rest of the team, along with their Sherpas and porters. But there is a great sense of foreboding, and a few genuinely creepy moments. It's not quite as eerie as Dark Matter, but still very enjoyable. 8/10

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell - ten years after she disappeared one day on her way to the library, teenager Ellie Mack's remains, or some of them at least, are finally discovered. After her funeral, her family gradually start to live again, but the story focuses mainly on her mum, Laurel, who starts a tentative romance with a man called Floyd who she meets one day in a local cafe. He has two daughters from previous relationships, the eldest is a rather ethereal creature, but the younger one, poppy, who lives with him, reminds Laurel uncannily of Ellie. And as she gets to know the little girl better, a series of coincidences lead her to think that maybe this relationship wasn't such a chance event at all. We gradually find out what happened to Ellie, and also get the other sides of the story from other characters too, as Laurel finally finds out why and how her daughter really disappeared. For the most part this was an enjoyable, if slightly lurid thriller - I can't say too much without giving away all the plot twists, but I found the last part rather rushed, with a few plotlines seemingly almost forgotten about, or at best skimmed over, so it lost a mark for that! And Floyd was probably the least convincing character. 7.5/10
Currently reading "The Thief's Daughter" by Victoria Cornwall

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

Postby Madeleine » Sat February 3rd, 2018, 12:31 pm

February

Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne - this is a British Library crime classic and an old-fashioned locked room mystery. The unfortunate lady of the title is Mary Gregor, who lives in a castle on the shore of a loch with her widowed brother, his son, daughter-in-law and grandson. She's found murdered in her bedroom, with all the doors and windows locked from the inside, so where is the murderer, and how did he/she escape? Mary had a lot of enemies, as she seemed to have a talent for making people, especially her daughter-in-law, unhappy. Then the police detective assigned to her case is found dead, under exactly the same circumstances, so another detective turns up, along with a local doctor who both try to solve the case. All the family and the few staff are suspects, and all had cause to want the lady out of the way, but just when it seems that the case is solved, there's another twist and we're back to square one. It all gets a bit convoluted, with more murders, and the local people are convinced that a fish type creature is responsible, as herring scales are found on the victims. I did eventually guess what the murder weapon was, but the final denouement wasn't very convincing - it may have worked for one murder as a fluke, but the rest? Too much of a coincidence! So it lost a point for that, but was an entertaining bit of hokum, with much pipe-smoking and snuff-taking. 7/10

The Butcher Bird by S D Sykes - this is the second of the Oswald de Lacey crime series, and is set in the mid 14th century, when the country was still recovering from the horrors of the Plague. Oswald is trying to get used to running his estate, but his workers and tenants are insisting on higher wages and, whilst he'd like to oblige, he's forbidden by law to do so. Then a young baby is found in a hedge, and the villagers are convinced the Butcher Bird killed her. Oswald knows this is nonsense, but then another infant dies in similar circumstances, he's forced to take drastic action. But he has family problems too, and when his sister's stepdaughters run away to London, he's forced to go and bring them back, but it looks like the Butcher Bird is following him. This was another entertaining adventure, a bit gruesome in parts but with some light relief mosty provided by his hypochondriac, melodramatic mother who insists on accompanying him to London. 8/10

Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson - the second in the Dark Iceland series in which policeman Ari Thor is disappointed at being passed over for promotion when his superior relocates to Rejkyavik. However it's not long before his new colleague is shot and fatally wounded whilst investigating a derelict house on the outskirts of their small town. At first Ari is of course horrified, then he starts to wonder if maybe the shot was meant for him, as he was originally on duty that night, but was instead at home in bed with the flu. Soon it seems that the new mayor and his deputy could be implicated, and Ari is given an unmistakeable warning - basically, back off! It soon turns out that everyone, including the murdered cop, has secrets. This was another compelling story - set five years after the first book, Ari is now living with his girlfriend and their baby son, but the relationship is stalling, and the couple seem to be drifiting apart - but Ari has no time for this unfortunately, as he hunts a police killer. 8/10

Date with Death by Julia Chapman - thus is the first on a new series of Midsomer Murders style mysteries set in the Yorkshire Dales. Delilah Metcalfe is hoping that her Dales Dating Agency will flourish and solve her dire financial problems. Then Samson O'Brien, a local guy who has been in London for years serving with the Metropolitan Police, roars back into town and upsets everyone, for he is something of a black sheep. He sets up his Dales Detective Agency (despite being suspended from the Met on full pay) and rents his office from Delilah, and when men who are registered with the dating agency start dying violently, both Samson and Delilah :roll: join forces to find out what exactly is happening. This was enjoyable, and I look forward to more in this series. 8/10

The Body in the Ice by A J MacKenzie - this is the second in the Romney Marsh mysteries, and this time Rev Hardcastle and his friend, widow Amelia Chaytor, try to find out who killed a young black woman found dead in the pond of a local house, which had been more or less empty for years, and why was she dressed as a man? And why have the family who own the house suddenly returned to live there from the US, where they've been based for many years? I found it a bit convoluted, but the Reverend and Amelia are likeable characters, and there's some light relief from the Rev's sister, who comes to stay with him so that she can work on her latest novel. Another promising instalment in this series, which seems to be developing nicely. 7.5/10
Currently reading "The Thief's Daughter" by Victoria Cornwall

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

Postby Madeleine » Fri March 16th, 2018, 9:51 am

March

Her Frozen Heart by Lulu Taylor - this is a book set over two time periods, the present day and just after the end of WW2. In the present day we meet Caitlyn and her son Max, who are both devastated when husband and father, Patrick, is killed in a car accident. Caitlyn starts to suspect that Patrick and her best friend Sara were having an affair, as he was about to tell her something when the accident happened. Meanwhile, in 1947, a woman called Thomasina (Tommy) has also lost her husband, this time in the war, and is struggling to keep their house, Kings Harcourt, going. On a rare trip to Oxford she bumps into a couple of old school friends, and is persuaded to let one of them, Barbara, another widow, and her daughter Molly stay with them. Then a severe winter hits, and as Barbara starts to worm her way into the household, Tommy finds herself caught up between family politics, and trying to keep everyone warm and fed as supplies dwindle even more. Meanwhile, Caitlyn, fed up with trying to handle an increasingly hysterical Sara, has also renewed her acquaintance with an old school friend Nicholas, whose aunt was Tommy's sister, and he invites Caitlyn and her son to stay at Kings Harcourt, where his aunt still lives. No real surprises as to how the rest of both stories play out, and although I enjoyed the book, the stalker storyline was a bit overblown, and Patrick was such a manipulative, controlling character that I found it difficult to see how anyone could stay with him for long! But the setting was lovely, and the harsh winter and struggle to keep going were well evoked. 7.5/10

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney - This tells the story of two rival expeditions, one British, one US, attempting to reach the North Pole in the late 19th century. The British team is led by Flora, who undertook her first trip north as a young girl with her father, and caught the exploring bug and was determined to go back. To this end she marries fellow explorer Freddie Athlone, but the marriage is a disaster; despite this, they set off on their first expedition but when Freddie is seriously injured in an accident on board ship, they agree that Flora can carry on without him. Once there, she meets the American team and there is a definite spark between her and Jakob, the US geologist, but nothing happens until they meet again back in England when they begin a passionate affair, and it's at this point that the book fell down, for me anyway, as the rest of it seemed to be more about the affair than the expedition. There are some return trips, during which the rivalry between the US and the UK, as well as within the teams themselves, especially the Americans, is well described, but ultimately the seemingly endless sex scenes soon got quite boring (too much detail :o ) and the final mystery seemed to be dealt with rather hurriedly. A shame, as I loved Tenderness of Wolves by the same author, but I preferred To the Bright Edge of the World, which was slightly similar, by Eowyn Ivey. 7/10
Currently reading "The Thief's Daughter" by Victoria Cornwall

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

Postby Madeleine » Sat April 7th, 2018, 11:57 am

April

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley - archaeologist Verity Grey travels up to the coastal Scottish town of Eyemouth, just over the border with England, to help out with a dig in the grounds of a large house, Rosehill - supposedly looking for a Roman camp, but she instead discovers that the owner of the house, Peter Quinnell, is convinced that his estate is the last resting place of the famed 9th Legion. A surreptitious dig begins but once real evidence is found funding for a further dig is secured, and the search for evidence of the lost legion continues. Meanwhile Verity has to contend with a budding romance with fellow digger David Fortune, and also her ex Adrian, who is involved with the dig as well. Plus there's Robbie, the estate's cook's young son, who talks to The Sentinel, a Roman soldier who is said to stand guard over everything. It's a tale of mystery, romance and a bit of a ghost story too, and bowled along nicely. Very atmospheric albeit a bit predictable, but a nice comfort read. 8.5/10

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book, it's had lots of publicity, film option by Reese Witherspoon etc but a few things didn't really sit rightly with me - something awful has obviously happened to Eleanor when she was young; the reader does find out what this is quite early on, and the full story is gradually unravelled, but I didn't quite believe how naïve Eleanor was, bearing in mind that she'd been working for several years (she's 30) and therefore mixing with people, I found it a little strange how someone of her age was so out of touch with popular culture - she did after all live in a major city not a tiny village, but seemed oblivious to modern fads such as zumba classes. Her character does eventually evolve after she and a work colleague go to help an elderly man who collapses in the street, and I did like the way she did finally break out from her past, and her friendship with Raymond was very touching too. A huge crush on a local musician has a horrible inevitability as it runs it's course, and I did think there was something odd about her relationship wit her mother, although it turns out my suspicion was directed at the wrong person! An interesting read with a touching ending, although it did feel a bit rushed towards the end, which again didn't seem totally convincing to me. 7.5/10

How to stop time by Matt Haig - this is a time travel novel with a difference: Tom, currently in present day London working as a history teacher, is over 400 years old, suffering from a condition known as anageria, although the doctor who "discovered it" is found dead shortly afterwards, drowned in the Thames. Tom isn't immortal, he will eventually age fully and die of something (although an injury would carry him off sooner, and he seems immune to all diseases) but at present he only looks around 40-odd years old, instead of 400+ years. He has to keep moving on from various places - 8 years is recommended by the Albatross Society, a group formed to protect the identity of the so-called Albas. But Tom is tiring of this existence, and the main thing keeping him going is the search for his daughter, fathered in 16th century, who has inherited the condition. His search takes him all over the world, and at times becomes precarious and fraught with danger as he is given assignments to either bring in other Albas, or despatch them to prevent them revealing their secret, as several government agencies are already onto them. I enjoyed this, it was well-written and I preferred the historical sections, as Tom's childhood and gradual evolution into adulthood progress throughout the centuries, I particularly liked his time spent as a musician at the Globe Theatre during Shakespeare's time. The present day sections, by contrast, felt a little sluggish but eventually it all came togehter in a sweetly satisfying ending. I'd love to know more about Tom's earlier life, there must be lots more to tell! 8/10

The Miller's Dance by Winston Graham - this is the 9th instalment in the Poldark series and much better than it's predecessor, although I can now see how the author set things up in "The Stranger from the Sea" for what happens in this book. We get to know the "Stranger" much better as Ross and Demelza's daughter, Clowance, falls for him and the pair have a whirlwind romance, but to say he's unsavoury is putting it mildly, especially when he and the Poldarks' son, Jeremy, hatch a shocking scheme. In the meantime there's plenty going on, as George Warleggan carries on with his social climbing, and the fortunes of the various families rise and fall. There's less of Demelza's brothers in this book, which focuses mainly on Ross, Demelza, and their two eldest children, Jeremy and Clowance. One of the best books in the series. 9/10
Currently reading "The Thief's Daughter" by Victoria Cornwall

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

Postby Madeleine » Mon May 7th, 2018, 7:07 pm

The Riviera Express by T P Fielden - this is the first in a new cosy crime series set in the seaside town of Temple Regis, following the fortunes of a reporter on the local newspaper of the title. Judy Dimont is the intrepid reporter desperate for a story other than lost cats and the local flower show, and one day her dream comes true, when not one but two high-profile men die on the same day. One of them is a famous actor, who is found dead on the other Riviera Express - the train from London. It's first thought he had a heart attack, but when another local journalist falls to his death from nearby cliffs, although his death is put down to suicide, Judy thinks something must be going on, especially when the owner of the local theatre goes missing. But of course, the local townsfolk don't want a little thing like 2 murders tarnishing their image, and Judy is also faced with the actor's temperamental widow who, it turns out, has lots of secrets, but she's not the only one. This was an enjoyable story, and I look forward to more of Judy's adventures in the pretty seaside town. 7/10


A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri - this is the latest in the Montalbano series (although I don't think it's the latest chronologically) and the Inspector is feeling his age as he turns 58. A road rage incident takes on a more sinister turn when the young male culprit reports that he has found his girlfriend dead, but his story doesn't ring true and Montalbano is soon determined to get to the real killer, a difficult task as the young man's father is a prominent local politician. Meanwhile a burglary at a local supermarket is also giving the team a headache; again it seems that people much higher up than a supermarket manager (who reportedly hung himself after the robbery) are involved, and that the burglary was merely a distraction from a much bigger crime. This was another entertaining read, with Montalbano and his team a likeable albeit very eccentric bunch, and despite using unorthodox methods, they are a decent determined team. Very funny in parts as well, although the blurb on the back of the book gives the wrong name of a murder victim, which meant I spent half the book waiting for this character to get bumped off! 8/10

The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton - this is the first in a series of novels featuring amateur detective Merrion, and is one of the British Library Crime Classics. High Eldersham is rocked when the landlord of the local pub, Samuel Whitehead, is found dead one evening. Inspector Young is called in, but the locals seem reluctant to talk, and once the prime suspect has been cleared, Young finds himself having strange suspicions after he finds a doll with the murder victim's name on it in the house of the chief suspect. So he calls in his friend Merrion, who discovers that Young's hunch about witchcraft could be correct, when he sees many of the locals enacting a strange ritual in the woods, although initially it seems harmless enough. But then other dolls start appearing, and there are signs of smuggling in the local estuary. Who's behind the smuggling ring, and is it connected to the witchcraft? It all gets a bit convoluted, and Merrion becomes personally involved when he falls in love with the daughter of the man whom he thinks may be the self-styled Devil who leads the witchy services. It all builds up to an exciting climax and is a genuine ripping yarn, with the somewhat now outdated language giving it the feel of a real Boys' Own adventure. A fun read, and more fast-paced than some of others I've read in this series. More like an episode of Midsomer Murders in fact! 7/10

The Venetian Game by Philip Wynne Jones - this is the first in a new series of crime novels set, as the title suggests, in Venice, where the main investigator is the British honorary consul, Nathan Sunderland. Separated from his wife who's gone back to Edinburgh, he gets by translating boring instruction manuals, in between helping UK tourists who've had lost their passports or been robbed, or who simply want directions, plus the occasional drug dealing teenager. So when a strange man offers him a large sum of money to keep a small package safe for a few days, he's dubious about getting involved, but naturally of course his curiosity gets the better of him and he opens the package, which turns out to be a small book which may or may not be an original artwork by one of the famous Venetian artists, Bellini. But other people want the book too, and as he traces it's history (it was supposedly stolen many years ago) he comes across many shady characters and finds himself in increasing danger. This was an entertaining read, with a likeable main character, although the baddies were a bit stereotypical. However it was engrossing enough to make me buy the next one, and it looks like there are a couple of others too. It also has a nice sense of humour, especially where Nathan's psychotic cat is concerned! 7/10

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch - this is a novella in the Peter Grant series, and stands alone from the main thread of the books, but most of the old favourites are here - Toby the dog, Nightingale, Molly gliding around, and Peter's cousin Abigail and Jaget, his friend and contact in the British Transport Police, who is much needed here as the little team find themselves investigating ghost commuters on the Metropolitan Line (which is the oldest underground line in London). This leads them to something more sinister though, when it looks like a woman has been kidnapped and it becomes a race against time to find her whilst she's still alive. This was another entertaining read and a worthy addition to this series. 7/10

Sycamore Gap by L J Ross - this is the second in the DCI Ryan series, this time set near Hadrian's Wall when a woman's body is found hidden in the section of the wall near Sycamore Gap (which is a real place). It looks like she has been there for around a decade and was reported missing at the time. Then another much more recent body also turns up, again at the Wall in almost the same place, so the obvious question is - could these murders be linked? And there are also clues which link them to Ryan's nemesis, the serial killer called The Hacker, who murdered Ryan's sister and has been taunting him ever since. It was another very entertaining, atmospheric read with great settings and characters, despite a not particularly original story arc involving corrupt police and a mysterious group called The Circle, who we first met in Holy Island (and thought we'd seen the back of). But there's certainly enough to make me have the next books in the series lined up! 8/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri June 8th, 2018, 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
Currently reading "The Thief's Daughter" by Victoria Cornwall

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

Postby Madeleine » Fri June 8th, 2018, 8:38 am

June

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce - I haven't read any of this author's books before and read this as a BOTM read on another book forum. It's set mainly in the late 1980s and the main character is Frank, who owns a music shop in a run-down street in an unspecified English city. He claims to be able to match up any style of music with anyone who comes into his shop, so that a heavy metal lover might find his or herself being sent off with a Vivaldi album. One day a woman standing outside the shop faints, so Frank and his other customers bring her in to look after her, and Frank is instantly smitten. She turns out to be German, says she is engaged and has a job locally, and from then on a tentative friendship, in which she and Frank meet in a café whilst he tells her what music she should listen to, and why. He thinks she in unattainable as it becomes apparent that she has many secrets. Eventually, due to a misunderstanding, they part company and after this the book jumps forward to 2009 and circumstances have changed for everyone. I can't really say much more, and although many others rave about this week I found it quite twee and almost gave up a couple of times as I was so fed up with nothing happening, and the unbearable, almost child-like procrastination of the main characters, especially when the woman's secret turned out to be something relatively basic (is that it? was my immediate thought) and I really wanted to tell them to get a grip and get on with it! We also eventually gradually get Frank's background, brought up by a rather feckless, bohemian mother forms a lot of his character. It did remind me a bit of "Chocolat" with music, but that was much better. I would think of it as almost a modern fairytale, a bit like a frothy romantic comedy, especially given the ending. It didn't really do it for me, and my favourite character was the tattooist, Maud, who was the most vivid character for me. It did bring back memories of record shops though, the smell of all those records and the crackle which you don't get with CDs - the first part is set just as CDs where coming in and vinyl (which is now making a bit of a comeback) was on it's way out - Frank's stubbornness to stock CDs is part of his problem, but I think it does give a bit of a golden view of the recent past. 6/10

The Mermaid's Scream by Kate Ellis - the latest in the Wesley Peterson crime series set in Devon, this concerns the murder of a young man who is writing a biography of Wynn Staniland, a once famous author who wrote several bestsellers, but stopped after his wife committed suicide, in a manner which mocked the plot of one of his books. A couple are found dead in a caravan at a holiday park, and the woman was reading one of Staniland's books - a tenuous link but one which makes the police curious, as all their leads seem to lead back to the author, who lives in seclusion with his step-daughter. Meanwhile, Wesley's friend, archaeologist Neil, is excavating the garden of an old ruined house, where a notorious murder took place over 100 years ago, but the house's new owner's ancestor was accused of the murder, but he wants to clear his relative's name. The two cases went along nicely side by side, and although these books are pretty much familiar police procedurals, the main characters are engaging. The plot was very convoluted and it took me a while to get my head around it, so although these books are deceptively simple at first glance, they are very tightly plotted. There's also a bit of family trouble for Wesley, as his son befriends a wrong 'un, and gets into a bit of bother. The historical element is partly based on a notorious murder case, according to the author's note, and the ruined house still stands! 7/10
Currently reading "The Thief's Daughter" by Victoria Cornwall


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