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Madeleine's 2012 Reads

Keep track of what you read in 2012. One thread per member, please.
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Madeleine
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Posts: 5753
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Sat August 4th, 2012, 5:49 pm

August

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan - Nastasya is an immortal who is tired of her hedonistic lifestyle in London with her reckless friends. After a particularly nasty incident, she flees to Massachusetts, where she seeks a woman called River, who runs a sort of commune/rehab centre for other immortals who are also tired of their lifestyle. Gradually, Nas starts to relax, but one of her fellow residents seem oddly familiar, someone else seems to want to get rid of her, and her friends from London seem to be closing in on her. I enjoyed this, although it's YA I think adults could safely read it (I did!) and it's slightly different to the usual urban fantasy - the main characters are immortal, but there's not a vampire in sight - they eat, breathe, drink and sleep just like a regular person - except several of them, including Nas, are hundreds of years old. First in a trilogy. 8/10

The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill - sixth novel in the Simon Serrailler detective novels, set in the fictional town of Lafferton. Standard police procedural, in which a killer is targeting prostitutes and then, when he attacks a housewife almost under the police's noses, the detectives are faced with questions from both the press and public, whilst Serrailler is also trying to cope with his own family tragedy. It's an easy to read book, quite enjoyable although Serrailler's character is still a little two-dimensional; however he is described as emotionally reticent (putting it mildly!) so perhaps that's why he comes across as a little bit flat. I also guessed the killer's identity quite early on, and felt the ending felt a bit rushed. Fine as a quick read. 7/10

A Room full of Bones by Elly Griffiths - fourth in the Ruth Galloway series, and once again set in Norfolk. The ancient coffin of a bishop is due to be opened in a local museum; however, when forensic archaeologist and academic Ruth arrives early, she finds the museum's curator dying on the floor next to the coffin. Then the owner of the museum also dies suddenly, and Ruth finds herself once again thrown into contact with Detective Inspector Harry Nelson, as both investigate the deaths in their own respective ways. Throw in a racing stable, a seemingly unconnected major drugs operation, Aboriginal relics, Ruth's old friend and fellow academic Cathbad, plus her awkward relationship with Nelson and you have another enjoyable entry in this series. Once again there's a strong sense of atmosphere, both in the Norfolk countryside and the dusty old museum, and a nice dry sense of humour, and the book moves at a fast pace. 8/10

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy - four tourists - one English, one Irish, one German and one American - are brought together one night on a Greek island, at a small taverna up on a hillside, from which they watch as a boat burns in the harbour below. The ensuing tragedy throws them together, and they get to know each other as the island comes to terms with the disaster. This is a book about people trying to heal themselves emotionally (although in several cases, their problems are of their own making) and deciding what to do with the rest of their lives. It was an OK read - I liked the lovely Greek island setting - but I found some of the characters irritating and a little two-dimensional. However it's a cosy holiday read, with some touching moments. I've heard it's not one of Maeve's best books, but it does pick up about halfway through, when the reader starts to find out more about some of the locals, and we get their stories too. 6.5/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri August 24th, 2012, 7:19 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5753
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Wed September 5th, 2012, 10:27 am

September

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd - well I'm not really sure what to make of this! It's a dual time novel; with alternating chapters set in the early 18th century and the present day. The "historical" chapters are about Nicholas Dyer, obviously based on the architect Hawksmoor himself, who has been commissioned to build 7 new churches around London (in reality there are only 6 Hawksmoor churches) but he seems convinced that each church needs a human sacrifice, and that the Devil is all around. In the present day, Detective Hawksmoor is investigating a series of murders, whose victims have each been found in the precincts of one of the Dyer churches - the present-day murders mirror the deaths from Dyer's time, and the police are mystified as there are no clues to be found anywhere - no fingerprints, footprints, fibres, nothing. In both "realities", each of the main protagonists seems to be heading for a complete breakdown. I found this a difficult read - the historical chapters are written, presumably, how people would have spoken at the time, and whilst I appreciate the work the author must have put in to this, it does smack slightly of showing off! The present-day parts are much easier, and gradually the two realities start to come together - I won't give away the ending, but it felt a bit flat to me. Apparently it's all about playing with time and what is real and what is happening now etc, but I've read other novels where I think this has been done to much better effect, and been more readable. Judging by the reviews it's a book which seems to divide opinion - nothing wrong with that I suppose but I found it very hard-going and skipped quite a bit of the historical sections. I also found Dyer's obsession with bodily fluids rather tiresome after a while! An interesting experiment, and it's a good story, but not quite to my taste. By the way, if you're ever in London, the churches are worth a visit - I've been in the Spitalfields one and it's beautiful. 6/10

Netherwood by Jane Sanderson - it's 1903 and Eve Williams is happily married with 3 young children; her husband is a miner at one of the local collieries. The entire area is owned by the Hoyland family who live at Netherwood Hall, as well as properties in London and Scotland. When tragedy strikes, Eve finds herself having to create a new life, one which has surprising consequences - she finds success beyond her wildest dreams, but also makes a few enemies. She also finds herself becoming more involved with the Hoylands, a relationship which definitely opens a few more doors. After a slow first part, the book picked up a bit but I found there was still too much description, and it didn't really take off until Eve went down to London with the Hoylands. However, it's well-written and the characters (most of them!) are likeable and I'm intrigued enough to want to find out what happens next. I liked the inclusion of many of the recipes (all very traditional, including Yorkshire puddings) at the back of the book. The sequel, Ravenscliffe, is out soon. 7/10

Red Bones by Ann Cleeves - 3rd in the so-called Shetland Quartet of novels featuring Detective Jimmy Perez (although there's a fifth book due out in the New Year, so I suppose it's now the Shetland Quintet) and this is centred around an archaeological dig taking place on the island of Whalsay, which unearths the red bones of the title, plus some other bones which look much more recent. When the old lady on whose land the dig is taking place is shot one night, her death is put down as a tragic accidental shooting. Then one of the archaeology students is found dead in one of the trenches on the dig; this death is put down to suicide as the girl had a history of severe mental health and depression. But Perez thinks two deaths, so close together and in the same place, are too coincidental and sets about trying to find a connection, and in the process unearths family feuds and wartime incidents. It's a case made harder by the fact that the old lady was the grandmother of one of his younger officers, who is torn between finding out the truth and not wanting to discover possible unsavoury dealings by his family, with whom he has a rather uneasy relationship. I thought the book was well-written if a little slower paced than usual, and it took a while to work out who was who in the various families, and the to and fro-ing between the island of Whalsay, and the bigger island where Perez and his colleague are usually based, was also a bit confusing. I also thought there was a bit too much of the younger police officer - although his character does go on a steep learning curve and develops greatly in the second half of the book - but not enough Jimmy Perez. A good read though, although maybe not for those who like their detective fiction fast-paced and eventful. It's also very atmospheric, and the islands are beautifully described and evoked. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Thu October 4th, 2012, 10:10 am, edited 3 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5753
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Thu October 4th, 2012, 10:19 am

October

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly - this is a well-written psychological thriller, and moves between the present day and the recent past; the summer of 1997 in fact. It starts with Rex being released from prison after serving time for murder, and then flips between the present day, with Rex and his family adjusting to his return to society, and the earlier period, which tells how the narrator, Karen, came to meet Rex and his sister Biba. Karen has led a fairly sheltered life until she meets Biba in college, and after that she is enchanted by her bohemian, chaotic lifestyle, and once she falls in love with Rex, she moves in to their ramshackle house and spends the summer in happy chaos. But it's inevitable that Biba's erratic lifestyle and attitude will somehow lead to disaster, and the story gradually unfolds throughout the novel. I enjoyed this as a fairly easy read; there's a fair amount of suspense as the story leads up to the murder, although I guessed the eventual ending. I did find it slightly far-fetched, and found Biba very unlikeable, even allowing for her youth and possibly inherited emotional problems, so it was difficult to care about her, and I thought Rex was also slightly too good to be true, although I could understand his motives. A promising debut novel, which is apparently being adapted for TV. 7.5/10

The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore - a period drama/ghost story set in 1952. Newly-married couple Philip and Isabel set up home in a chilly, dreary rented flat in a small town in Yorkshire, and whilst Philip is busy working, establishing himself as the new GP (doctor), Isabel finds herself becoming increasingly lonely and disillusioned. One night, after Philip has been called out on yet another emergency, Isabel rummages around looking for more blankets and comes across an RAF greatcoat, which she puts on top of the bedclothes for extra warmth. She starts to have strange dreams, and is woken by a tapping on the front window, and her visitor is a young man in RAF uniform. At first she thinks he's just lost his way after a night out (there are still some operational air-bases in the area) but when she discovers a disused airfield, she begins to wonder if there is a connection with her mysterious visitor. And then she starts hearing bombers coming in to land (which she remembers from her wartime childhood) and it soon becomes clear that another life is unfolding alongside her own. I found this a quick, easy read and quite enjoyed it, it was atmospheric but not that creepy! It's been compared to The Woman in Black, but that is much spookier. 7/10

The Haunting by Alan Titchmarsh - dual time-frame set in Hampshire in 1816 and 2010. In the present day, disillusioned and divorced teacher Harry decides to resign from his post as a history teacher, and buys an old cottage in the countryside. He's also looking into his family's past, in particular one ancestor callled Merrily. In 1816 the story of a young housemaid, Anne, gradually unfolds as her planned escape from her humdrum life backfires, and she finds herself in danger and has to hide. The two stories unfold, with connections between the past and present becoming clearer as it goes on. I found this an OK read; it's a gentle story but I thought it felt rather rushed (especially the modern story) and some of the dialogue was inconsistent and downright clunky! I enjoyed the historical story more, although it was all a bit predictable. 6.5/10

Sovereign by C J Sansom - 3rd novel in the Matthew Shardlake series and most of this story takes place in York, where Matthew and Barak are part of the massive Royal Progress, ostensibly to help the lawyers with various depositions, but after a glazier is found dead in bizarre circumstances, it soon becomes apparent that someone is trying to kill Matthew, especially as they seem convinced that he's had access to some documents which would reveal some shocking evidence to the validity of the Royal bloodline. It was a well-written story which brought the Progress vividly to life, and also depicted Henry's growing tyranny, coupled with the sheer tedium of hanging around for days whilst waiting for the weather to change (yes they had rainy summers back in the 1540s too!). Whilst enjoyable, I did find it a bit too long, which is why it loses a point. 7.5/10

Something Borrowed by Paul Magrs - 2nd in the eccentric but entertaining Brenda and Effie series, about two elderly ladies who are friends in Whitby. This time round, Brenda finds herself investigating a spate of poison pen letters, an escaped zombie woman from the first novel, and also a face from her past, and if that wasn't enough, she's also being kept awake at night by strange noises in her own home. Brenda's past well and truly comes back to haunt her (literally), and the truth behind all the mysteries lie much closer to home than she would like. Another fun read, although I don't think it was quite as involving as the first book. However I like the way the author brings in well-known figures from horror and merges them seamlessly with his own plots. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Fri October 26th, 2012, 4:12 pm, edited 4 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5753
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Mon November 5th, 2012, 2:33 pm

November

Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris - a Victorian mystery set in London in 1888, leading up to Christmas. Artist Henry Chester marries teenager Euphemia (Effie) and uses her as his model in numerous paintings; however, due to an incident in his past, the marriage is an uneasy one and gradually Effie becomes attracted to another artist, the rakish Mose Harper. As Effie becomes more and more unhappy and increasingly attracted to both laudanum and Harper, her relationship with her husband becomes more strained and soon various plots are set in motion. Meanwhile, brothel keeper Fanny (an old "friend" of Mose's) has her own reasons for wanting revenge, and starts to play her own game. This is a beautifully written novel, with a lovely dreamlike quality, especially towards the end, when heavy snow adds to the surreal atmosphere. The book is narrated in turn by the 4 protagonists, and although it took a while for me to establish the identity of the narrators (it changes from chapter to chapter), once I got to know the characters this wasn't too much of a problem. It's quite spooky in parts, and a little disturbing, and although none of the characters are particularly appealing, I wanted to know what happened to them all (even Horrible Henry!). The ending is a little vague, probably deliberately so, and the reader shares the characters' confusion and sense of distortion - well they are all so drunk or doped up on laudanum and various other concoctions that I found it hard to believe they managed to stand up sometimes! It has all the ingredients of a Victorian Gothic novel - wicked husbands, unhappy wives, deception, laudanum, madness and a few spooks too, plus a nod to the Pre-Raphaelites. 9/10

Tom-All-Alone's by Lynn Shepherd - more dark Victoriana, but with a Dickensian twist as this is the author's tribute to Bleak House, with several characters from that novel (and one or two others) making an appearance. The hero is Charles Maddox, a young man who was a policeman, but had to leave the force after a dispute with Inspector Bucket, and is now trying to establish himself as a private investigator. He takes on a new case for a lawyer called Tulkinghorn, who asks him to find the identity of the sender of some threatening letters to one of his own clients, but once this mystery is solved, Charles feels compelled to investigate further, and finds himself in very great danger indeed, as the case seems to be reach right into Society London. It's an exciting story, beautifully written with some wonderful, if unflinching, descriptions of London life in all classes, and Charles is an engaging and likeable hero, I was hoping he would have more adventures, so I was thrilled to discover there's another novel on the way early next year (there are a couple of tantalising loose ends). It doesn't matter if you haven't read Bleak House (I haven't, in fact it's made me want to read it now!) and although there are some shocking incidents as various secrets are revealed, I enjoyed it immensely. 9/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Wed January 2nd, 2013, 2:51 pm, edited 7 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel

annis
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Post by annis » Mon November 5th, 2012, 6:52 pm

Can definitely see the tangled relationships between Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Elizabeth Siddal and William and Jane Morris as inspirations in there :)

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5753
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Mon November 5th, 2012, 8:39 pm

[quote=""annis""]Can definitely see the tangled relationships between Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Elizabeth Siddal and William and Jane Morris as inspirations in there :) [/quote]

Yes definitely :)
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5753
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Tue December 4th, 2012, 12:58 pm

December

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer - last book in the Twilight Saga, and whilst it's a vast improvement on the previous one, it could have done with a bit of editing, and the final showdown is a bit of a damp squib. Basically, Bella and Edward get married and have a baby, and the Volturi aren't too happy and a final confrontation is inevitable, but it all falls a bit flat really. 7/10

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris - re-read of the first book in the True Blood series, and very enjoyable second time around. Good fun as we get to met Sookie and various supernatural characters, whilst at the same time her home-town is plagued by a serial killer - naturally, a vampire is the main suspect, but Sookie also finds herself at risk. 8/10

A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry - Victorian mystery set in a big country house on the outskirts of Whitby, where a group of actors have been invited to stage a production of Dracula. During a snowstorm, a man turns up seeking shelter, and he claims to know a lot about Dracula, and then he's murdered. Quite a nice, light read. 7/10

Fear Not by Anne Holt - Scandi-crime set in Norway; a female bishop, a teenage immigrant, an artist and a woman are all murdered just before Christmas - detective Adam Stubo and his wife, a psychologist, think the crimes are connected but how? An Ok read but very slow for the most part. 6.5/10

Marriage and Other Games by Veronica Henry - several people with various marriage problems - either divorce, separation or just simple differences try to work out their problems and start afresh. Quite a nice read, and set on Exmoor around Christmas. 7/10
Last edited by Madeleine on Tue January 1st, 2013, 11:49 am, edited 4 times in total.
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel

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