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Madeleine's 2020 reads

What have you read in 2020? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5814
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "Black Run" by Antonio Manzini
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Tue November 3rd, 2020, 9:22 am

November

"Pine" by Francine Toon - a young girl, Lauren, lives in a small village in the Scottish Highlands with her father Niall - her mother disappeared suddenly when Laurel was tiny, and since then villagers have always wondered what happened to the strange, ethereal Christine who was into tarot cards and spells. Niall scrapes a living as a handyman, but spends much of his time drinking heavily, and although he somehow manages to just about keep their home together, he's failed to notice how unhappy Lauren is, being bullied at school and desperate to know what happened to her mother. Then whilst trick or treating on Halloween, they see a young woman by the side of the road - they take her home, but in the morning she has gone. Other people claim to have seen her too, but then seem to forget about it almost immediately afterwards. And then one of Lauren's friends, an older girl who babysits for her sometimes, disappears, and the last person known to have seen her is Niall. Despite the rave reviews I found this a bit disappointing, for a fairly short book (just over 320 pages) it took ages for anything to happen, so that consequently the last quarter or so felt rushed. I did like Laurel though, she was a great heroine and I felt very sorry for her. The spooky atmosphere was well sustained but ultimately I felt it didn't really follow through on the initial promise. However I would be interested to see what the author comes up with next, she's certainly talented but the book suffered a bit from a lack of pacing. 7/10

"The Beauty of Broken Things" by Victoria Connelly - Orla lives alone, except for her dog and an occasional visit from her mother, in a castle on the Suffolk coast - following a traumatic incident a few years previously, she has retreated from the world, buying and paying for everything online, even communicating with her gardener using handwritten notes. Luke lives in London, works as a builder and is devastated when his wife Helen is killed in a train crash. When he can bring himself to check her phone, he finds she's been communicating online with a fellow photography fan, Beautifully Broken, to the extent that Helen had promised to send her friend a present. Luke finds the package and decides to deliver it himself. And so begins an unlikely friendship, and a tale of healing, and confronting the past and your problems. It was a nice read, with a lovely setting and two appealing characters, although I'm not quite sure how Orla kept managing to find the money for her castle! It does enter cliché territory a little when her fearsome mother inevitably turns up and throws their friendship into turmoil, but the ending was satisfying without going completely the familiar "Hollywood" route. 7/10

The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths - things have moved on quite a lot since we last met Ruth Galloway, it's now 2 years since the previous book and she has moved from her beloved Norfolk to Cambridge, where she is a senior lecturer at a Cambridge college and living with her partner Frank. Just back from a writing retreat, her old life comes crashing back in the form of DI Harry Nelson, when a convicted murdered insists that Ruth excavates a site where he claims to have buried more of his victims. Reluctantly she agrees, and when it's discovered that there is also a connection to the writing retreat which she just attended, she is once more back with Nelson and his team. This was another enjoyable read, although I felt it did sag slightly in the middle, and taking Ruth out of her old familiar environment gave it a slightly disconnected feel. I did wonder occasionally if the series was starting to run out of steam a little, but the ending points to yet more developments. I did think it was a shame that the old team had been broken up - one of the other detectives has also moved on, although he does appear briefly in this story, but hopefully the gang will continue investigating. There is a great chase across the marshes though, which is very atmospheric, albeit slightly predictable as to how it plays out. 7.5/10
Currently reading "Black Run" by Antonio Manzini

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5814
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "Black Run" by Antonio Manzini
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's 2020 reads

Post by Madeleine » Thu December 10th, 2020, 9:47 am

December

The Infirmary by L J Ross - although this is the 11th book in order of publication, it's actually a prequel and the events of the official 1st book - Holy Island - follow on directly from the end of this one. So it felt a bit odd to be reading it after 10 books, which often refer to events in this book which meant there was no suspense as I knew how it ended. Having said that, it was still hugely enjoyable and it was interesting meeting DCI Ryan and his team in early days, although I think there is still a lot of back story which is hinted at in the other books (Ryan's time with the Metropolitan Police in London for example) which could be explored further perhaps? Anyway it was a fairly gripping read, a standard serial killer police procedural which also carries on into the main series for several books, and the ending in particular was a rollercoaster, with a foot chase through an underground tunnel system (not a spoiler as it's on the cover!) and the inevitable, shattering finale. One of the best books in the series so far. 8/10]

Together by Christmas by Karen Swan - I've enjoyed the last couple of Christmas books by this author, they've been undemanding, slightly predictable but with a nice setting, this one however seriously hit the buffers for me. It starts with a flashback to Syria in 2014, then comes to the present day, literally as it's November 2020 and in a parallel universe where COVID never happened. Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Lee is in Amsterdam, and the city is preparing for it's Christmas celebrations and other festivities, and her little boy is hugely looking forward to Sinter Klaas's visit. Lee is now working as a photographer for celebrity magazines and apart from the occasional one night stand is determinedly single. Then one day whilst doing a charity shoot for the local children's ward she gets chatting to Sinter afterwards, who turns out to be a writer called Sam who is naturally very attractive etc. In a sweet scene he agrees to play Sinter for her son, who is thrilled to get a personal visit, but draws the line when Lee wants to take things further ie for one night only. But Sam bless him wants more than that and bows out, however the pair continue to bump into each other - Amsterdam is small and Sam does have a book to plug, and by another coincidence Lee's friend Liam is working on the marketing for Sam's book which involves planting copies of the book around the city for people to pick up and presumably pass on, either literally or by word of mouth. No surprises for guessing that one such copy turns up in Lee's bike basket, but this on has a message "Help Me" scrawled inside, so she then tries to find out who left the message. Nothing wrong with any of this but halfway through the book and still not much has happened - her previous life has started to intrude as her friend and mentor also lives in Amsterdam but is now married with a baby on the way, and suddenly decides to go back to Syria, but unofficially. In between an occasional flashback to Syria we get endless celebrity parties where Lee and Sam bump into each other, but again not much else happens. I started to struggle around page 150 and gave up altogether at just over the 200 mark, which was roughly halfway through. I did read in the author's note that she had problems with this one and had a block, I'm not surprised, it shows, I don't know what the problem was - too many storylines maybe? Whatever, the book felt very disjointed, barely resembled the blurb on the back, but worst of all it was boring. Sorry but a disappointment, and it was very difficult to care about any of the characters. DNF

A Surprise for Christmas and other stories - this was another enjoyable collection of short stories - some very short, barely into a double figure page count - by the British Library, by well known authors such as G K Chesterton, Ngaio Marsh etc. one story was so long it was almost a novella, another by Julian Symons was good but I think I've read it in another collection, but the payoff was still great, and some were rather creepy. But a nice easy read for the Christmas season, although snow and goodwill was in short supply! 7.5/10
Currently reading "Black Run" by Antonio Manzini

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