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Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

What have you read in 2017? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5640
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper & "Cragside" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Post by Madeleine » Tue November 7th, 2017, 7:50 pm

November

Strange Magic by Syd Moore - this is the first in a new trilogy focussed on the Essex Witch Museum and it's new owner, Rosie Strange, who has inherited it. When she goes to see the museum, which she hasn't seen since she was a child, she finds a rather tired-looking establishment with shabby exhibits and a dated feel, but it's current curator, Sam, is keen to keep it going and has several ideas, not knowing that Rosie intends to sell it as soon as she can. But then they're asked to help a young boy who's been in hospital after falling out of a tree, and despite not having any sign of a head injury, not even a mild concussion, seems to be fading past and speaking in strange voices. An expert discovers that the boy, Max, may be possessed by the son of a famous Essex witch, Ursula Cadence, who was executed for witchcraft, and Rosie and Sam are enlisted to help recover Ursula's remains and re-unite them with her son's spirit, which will hopefully help Max recover, but other people want Ursula's remains as well. This was a fast-paced, enjoyable read, which breezed along, and although the spiky relationship between Ursula and Sam is predictable, it was a fun read and a bit different to the usual urban fantasy genre which can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously. I've ordered the second book which has just come out in paperback. 8/10


Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall - set in Australia in the late 19th century, this is based on a real-life incident and tells of the friendship between two girls, Kate and Harriet, whose fathers are lighthouse keepers on a small, windswept cape. Kate is in awe of the older, more sophisticated Harriet, especially when Harriet goes off to Melbourne for a few months, and comes back even more worldly. It's a tale of friendship and rivalry, especially after a new fisherman takes up residence in the area. It's well-written, but difficult to say anymore without giving anything away! 7.5/10

The Evidence of Ghosts by A K Benedict - this was one of my Halloween reads and was certainly chock full of ghosts! Some creepy, some friendly (I liked the lady taxi driver) and some sad. The main character is a detective, Jonathan Dark, who at first glance is a pretty standard figure eg his wife has left him but is leaving in the marital home with her new man, he's taken to sleeping in his office, hardly eating etc, then his cousin asks him to house-sit for him and he moves to the small house in London's Shoreditch, where strange things keep happening, but he's so pre-occupied with his latest case that he doesn't take too much notice. He and his team are trying to find out who's responsible for the murder of a young woman, Tanya, who was being stalked and eventually was killed - Jonathan feels responsible, so when another young woman, Maria, reports a stalker he's determined she won't suffer the same fate. But he and Maria become entwined - she was blind but surgery has restored her sight, but she's used to getting around blind that she wears a blindfold. Jonathan is fascinated and annoyed by her (so was I!) and as the case gets deeper he finds out that there is a lot more out there than he knew, and it turns out that he has the ability to see ghosts. This was a well-written mystery, with interesting characters (even though I could have slapped Maria at times as, like most women, in these books, she seems determined to put herself in further danger) and hopefully could be the first in a series. It's been compared to Ben Aaronovitch's books, but apart from the supernatural link, it's nothing like that series. 7.5/10


Pushing up Daisies by M C Beaton - latest in the series in which Agatha investigates when a local landowner is murdered, however he was so unpopular that no one seems that bothered at unmasking the killer! Meanwhile a new member joins her detective agency, and as usual she's on the look out for a new man, which causes even more trouble whilst she's supposedly on the case. An easy read. 6.5/10

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey - this is set in the 1850s and tells of an expedition to map uncharted territory in Alaska, led my Lieut Allen Forrester, and the story is mainly told via letters from Forrester to his wife, who is back home at their army barracks in Vancouver. She also writesto him of her mundane existence of lunch or tea with the other military wives ,the occasional shopping expedition and her pregnancy. Then she discovers the new art of photography... Meanwhile Allen's journey becomes more perilous, and both of them wonder if they'll ever see each other again. The book is interspersed with newspaper clippings, photos and entries for exhibits in a museum which is being set up by curator Josh, who has been contacted by one of Allen's descendants who wants to send on his memorabilia. I loved this correspondence, and it was touching as Josh tries to persuade the old man to come to see the museum for himself. The research taken on by the author must have been phenomenal, and at times I felt it bogged the narrative down slightly, there was almost too much to take in, and although Allen's adventures were fascinating, at times it felt a bit repetetive, and some of the more supernatural encounters (including at one point what seemed like an army of Game of Thrones's white walkers turning up) were a little odd, although maybe they were hallucinations brought on by hypothermia and starvation? A good read, albeit a little overlong. 8/10


Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner - I loved this, I thought it might feel a bit dated at first but apart from it's attitude to women ie giving up work after marrying etc, it was fine. Disgraced author Edith is despatched by well meaning friends to the titular hotel to let the dust settle after a disastrous love affair. Her fellow guests are mainly female - the strange mother and daughter, the beautiful but aloof Monica and an elderly lady, plus a few men attending a nearby conference make up the numbers as the season comes to it's close at the end of summer. Edith contemplates her future, and I found myself rooting for her. There's some gentle humour in the descriptions of the guests, and also Edith's friends back in London, and although a short book it was hugely enjoyable. I did find myself wanting to shout "don't do it" more than once! 9/10
Currently reading "Cragside" by L J Ross & "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5640
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper & "Cragside" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: Madeleine's Reading Log 2017

Post by Madeleine » Mon December 4th, 2017, 2:30 pm

December

The Mistletoe Murder by P D James - 6 short stories by the acclaimed and much-missed author, including two featuring her best-known detective, Adam Dalgleish. 7/10

Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith - this year's Christmas offering from the British Library Crime Classics series is a whydunit rather than a whodunit. Every Christmas, Adrian Gray gathers his 6 children at his lonely house for the festive season, which is anything but jolly as they all resent him for one reason or another, and this year (1931) he's found dead in his study, having been clobbered over the head with a heavy object. The killer's identity is soon revealed to the reader, but not the family and initially the wrong person is hauled off on suspicion of being the culprit. But gradually the background story is filled in, and hopefully justice will be served to the correct person. An enjoyable story, with lots of fascinating family dynamics (albeit with a now disturbing under current of anti-Semetism) 7/10

A Christmas Secret by Karen Shaw - Alex Hyde is an executive life coach, who sorts out the top people's business problems, and when she gets a call a few weeks before Christmas to try to deal with the mercurial head of a whisky distillery on the Scottish isle of Islay, she sets off, hoping to be home before Christmas. The man in question, Lochlan, doesn't want to be helped and most of their meetings end with him physically removing Alex from his office. But gradually (and of course not surprisingly) she starts to break through his carapace, and finds family secrets and people with their own agendas. A crystal ball isn't needed to predict how it will all turn out, but the setting was lovely and it was a nice escapist read, even if some of the characters were a bit clichéd. 7/10

Murder on Christmas Eve - another short story collection, this time from a variety of authors such as golden Age writers, like John Dickson Carr (in fact I'd read one story in a British Library collection), and current authors such as Val McDermid (whose story I wasn't sure about) and Ian Rankin (whose quirky story I really liked). The longest story was, I think a pastiche of the Nero Wolfe series - I've seen a couple of TV movies based on these, but not having read any of the books I think a lot of the references were lost on me, and the collection was rounded off with a short Campion story, and started with a non-Cadfael tale from Ellis Peters. An interesting mix of styles and eras. 7/10

Nigel, My Family and other Dogs by Monty Don - I hardly ever read non-fiction, but this is the lovely story of Monty Don, a famous TV gardener in the UK, and his dog Nigel, a lovely golden retriever who is the unexpected star of his dad's show, Gardeners' World (along with new recruit Nellie, another golden retriever). In the book Monty tells of all the dogs he and his family have ever had, and also gives a brief outline of his life and career, and how his current "garden", where his show is filmed, gradually evolved into all the different sections he has, and which of course, are still evolving. But it always comes back to Nigel, who is happy to pose for the camera at any opportunity! I must admit I found some of the earlier attitudes to pets a little hard to take, the family weren't cruel to their animals (they were farmers as well) but Monty's dad drowned some puppies from a large litter as he felt the mother, who was young herself, wouldn't be able to feed them all, and a beagle belonging to his mother was put down at only 5 years old as he was such a wanderer that the neighbouring farmer was always threatening to shoot him, and they felt it was cruel to keep him tied up, or confined indoors, all the time. But overall a lovely read, especially for dog lovers! 8/10
Currently reading "Cragside" by L J Ross & "The Lost Man" by Jane Harper

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