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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: Christmas Lights by Karen Swan & The Christmas Card Crime and other stories
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

Postby Madeleine » Mon November 12th, 2018, 10:32 am

November

Strange Sight by Syd Moore - this is the second in a sort of mash-up of ghost story/crime series in which Rosie Strange, who in the first book inherited a run-down Witch Museum in Essex, and her sidekick, Sam Stone, who is the curator of the museum, get involved in various scrapes as they try to solve a mystery. This time it involves the gruesome murder of a chef at a restaurant in London; the owner is a reformed "hard man" who knows Rosie's auntie Babs, so when it seems that a ghost murdered his chef, Rosie and Sam are called in. But as they investigate the dark history of the house, it looks like the living are more likely to be the culprits, and as they sift through the various suspects - the owner's daughter, who found the body, her boyfriend, the restaurant manager, plus various members of staff - they also find themselves in danger, not only from the owner either, who won't take no for an answer. This was an entertaining romp, which doesn't take itself too seriously, and Rosie and Sam's friendship/relationship is shaping up nicely, and is an enjoyable addition to the series. 7/10


Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor -this is a collection of 3 spooky shortish (around 80 pages each) stories which aren't conventional ghost stories as such, but are still quite chilling. In the first, two boys have to spend Christmas with one of their old schoolmasters; he is kindly but they're soon bored, apart from the large meals which they take at the curate's house, their time is pretty much their own, and when one of the boys, who is in danger of being expelled after a petty thieving incident, suggests going into the cathedral after hours to retrieve a forgotten music sheet, it can only end in disaster. The second story, The Leper House, is much creepier and is set in the present day - a man goes to her sister's funeral in rural East Anglia, and on the way back his car gets a puncture late at night, and he's forced to abandon it and seek shelter (no mobile phone signal!) which he finds at a lonely house, which he is directed to after he's called at yet another lonely house, and a young woman has recommended to him. Curious and unable to sleep, he decides to try to find the young woman's house, which he duly does and they spend the night together, but she's quick to send him home afterwards, saying she never wants to see him again. He returns to his lodging, but next day he tries to see the young woman again - only to discover that the house has gone. The third story, The Scratch, is about a mature couple whose children have both left home, but who take in their nephew, a young soldier who's returned from Afghanistan, after being injured in an explosion, in which his friend was killed and which has left him wracked with guilt. But whilst waiting for rescue, he thought he saw a big cat in the cave, and fired at it. Now he's home and there's a scratch on his arm which won't heal, and he becomes convinced that a large cat is living in the nearby forest. His aunt, left alone whilst her husband goes into London for work each day, becomes fascinated by him. These stories were all intriguing, and well-written, and I thought the second story was probably the best one, although the 3rd had a good twist. Good stuff for cold dark nights! 7.5/10

Angel by L J Ross - this is the 4th in the D C I Ryan series, and yet again a serial killer plagues Northumberland, as the bodies of women, arranged to look like they have angel's wings, are discovered in cemeteries in and around the Newcastle area. Ryan thinks there has to be a link to the Catholic church, as cards with blessings written in Latin are found with all the bodies, but his boss is worried about a backlash from the Church. As the net closes in, someone close to Ryan seems to be at risk, and the book ends on a suitable cliffhanger. Another good instalment in the series, with a bit of humour to lighten the dark tone. 7.5/10

Sleep no More by P D James - this is a collection of 6 short stories by the late great P D James, and I thought it was much better than last year's Xmas offering which was OK but nothing special. All these stories focus on some form of revenge, or come-uppance, and have a twist, including a man who takes his revenge on a rival who steals his secrets, a cuckolded husband (who nursed his grievance for far too long, I thought), a strange child who's obsessed with graveyards (my least favourite story), another man who wants his love (and work) rival out of the way, an unpopular uncle who's murdered on Xmas Eve whilst dressed as Santa Claus in a classic country house mystery with practically everyone a suspect, and my favourite, the final story in the collection which reads like an episode of "Midsomer Murders", and has a darkly humourous undertone and a neat twist. 7/10
Currently reading "Christmas Lights" by Karen Swan & "The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories"

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Christmas Lights by Karen Swan & The Christmas Card Crime and other stories
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2018

Postby Madeleine » Thu December 6th, 2018, 9:56 am

December 2018

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale - it's the beginning of the last century and Cathy Wray is her mid teens, pregnant and her mother has arranged for her to "go away" to have her baby, which will be given up for adoption. Cathy is having none of this, she loves her family but wants to keep the baby, and when she sees an advert in the paper for a job at The Emporium, it seems like the answer to her prayers, for a while at least. She duly gets a job, and the accommodation which comes with it, and moves in to the magical toy shop in Iron Duke Mews in London's Mayfair. It opens as soon as the first frost comes, and shuts when the first snowdrop blooms, but for a few magical months, it's a place of wonder for both staff and customers alike, as toys do everything except live and breathe. It's run by Papa Jack and his two sons, Emil and Kaspar, who are in constant competition to make the best toy, and of course impress, and maybe surpass, their father. And when Cathy turns up, an inevitable love triangle ensues, but then the First World War changes everything, including the Emporium and it's occupants. I thoroughly enjoyed this, at first it's reminiscent of The Night Circus, and for a while I did wonder where it was going, until the War came along, when the story became darker, and after that there were several twists and turns. It's a beautifully written, engaging tale with lots of magic (I want a patchwork dog!) and strong characters in Cathy and Kaspar, although I found Emil was a bit more of a cliche and his story almost seemed peripheral - I wondered why his sons were never named in the book for example. It's a lovely, Christmassy read, even if the ending is a tad whimsical. 8.5/10

House of Christmas Secrets by Lynda Stacey - this is a sequel to the earlier House of Secrets, which I've got but haven't read, however due to being constantly reminded of what happened in the first book I almost feel as if I don't need to read it now! Anyway it's a year on from those traumatic events and the owners and residents of the Wrea Head Hall Hotel are getting their lives back together and preparing for a busy Xmas, as well as a wedding at New Year when one of the two half-sisters, Jess, marries Jack,who also works at the hotel. But their plans are thrown into disarray when a man claiming to be Jess's father turns up, complete with his daughter from a relationship with a woman who has now become a drug-addicted prostitute, who decides that the only way to get rid of her pimp (to whom she owes thousands of pounds) is to sell her daughter to him. No prizes for guessing where it's all going, and although it does get a bit nasty at times for such a cosy sounding novel, there's a certain predictability about it as well. I found the characters a bit clichéd, and not totally convincing, and the author's constant use of questions to push the story along became annoying after a while. An ok read but nothing special. And the hotel actually exists (it's in Yorkshire) and sounds lovely. 6.5/10
Currently reading "Christmas Lights" by Karen Swan & "The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories"


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