Three completely different reads in November.

While on holiday in New Zealand I read two books that I had downloaded on my Kobo and the third I read when I arrived home.

The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen was one I had read about on Twitter when someone had posted about her latest book. It sounded interesting and I thought I would try her first book.

The book is the story of Amanda’s life, obviously as a shepherdess in Yorkshire, as the title would suggest. 🙂

“In The Yorkshire Shepherdess she describes how the rebellious girl from Huddersfield, who always wanted to be a shepherdess, achieved her dreams. Full of amusing anecdotes and unforgettable characters, the book takes us from fitting in with the locals to fitting in motherhood, from the demands of the livestock to the demands of raising a large family in such a rural backwater. Amanda also evokes the peace of winter, when they can be cut off by snow without electricity or running water, the happiness of spring and the lambing season, and the backbreaking tasks of summertime – haymaking and sheepshearing – inspiring us all to look at the countryside and those who work there with new appreciation.”

I really loved this book as it painted such a wonderful picture of farm life in the Yorkshire dales.

How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid

I love the writing of Val McDermid and have read almost all of her books and this is her latest and certainly was a thriller.

If you have watched the Wire in the Blood series on t.v. you will be aware of the character Tony Hill.

In the book prior to this one I thought we had seen the last of this character but that is not the case.  This is the eleventh book in the series but can be read as a stand alone

‘We are all creatures of habit. Even murderers . . .’
When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an old convent, it quickly becomes clear that someone has been using the site as their personal burial ground. But with the convent abandoned long ago and bodies dating back many years, could this be the work of more than one obsessive killer?

The investigation throws up more questions as the evidence mounts but, after their last disastrous case, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan can only watch from afar. As they deal with the consequences, someone with a terrifying routine is biding their time – and both Tony and Carol find themselves closer to the edge than they have ever been before . . .

A great read that left you with some unanswered questions.

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

I have read several of Tracy Chevalier’s novels and enjoyed them.  This one was also an enjoyable read.

“It is 1932, and the losses of the First World War are still keenly felt.

Violet Speedwell, mourning for both her fiancé and her brother and regarded by society as a ‘surplus woman’ unlikely to marry, resolves to escape her suffocating mother and strike out alone.

A new life awaits her in Winchester. Yes, it is one of draughty boarding-houses and sidelong glances at her naked ring finger from younger colleagues; but it is also a life gleaming with independence and opportunity. Violet falls in with the broderers, a disparate group of women charged with embroidering kneelers for the Cathedral, and is soon entwined in their lives and their secrets. As the almost unthinkable threat of a second Great War appears on the horizon Violet collects a few secrets of her own that could just change everything…”

I enjoyed the insights into the work of the broderers and the bell ringers, something I have not thought about before but nonetheless found very interesting. A rather thought provoking story but enjoyable.

No so many books in November but I was busy bike riding in New Zealand.

October reading

Here are my reads in October.

Good Girl Bad Girl by Michael Robotham.

“One needs saving. The other needs justice.

Six years ago, Evie Cormac was discovered, filthy and half-starved, hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a shocking crime. Now approaching adulthood, Evie is damaged, self-destructive and has never revealed her true identity.

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, a man haunted by his own past, is investigating the death of champion figure-skater Jodie Sheehan. When Cyrus is called upon to assess Evie, she threatens to disrupt the case and destroy his ordered life. Because Evie has a unique and dangerous gift – she knows when someone is lying. And nobody is telling the truth.”

This is a crime/police-procedural story that introduces Cyrus Haven, a psychologist with a disturbing and heart-breaking past and the two cases that Cyrus is dealing with, come together in an explosive ending.

This one kept me guessing.  I would recommend this to fans of crime fiction that enjoy a gritty subplot.

The reat World by David Malouf  This is a Miles Franklin Award winner 1990

“Every city, town and village has its memorial to war. Nowhere are these more eloquent than in Australia, generations of whose young men have enlisted to fight other people’s battles – from Gallipoli and the Somme to Malaya and Vietnam. In The Great World, his finest novel yet, David Malouf gives a voice to that experience. But it is more than a novel of war. Ranging over seventy years of Australian life, from Sydney’s teeming King’s Cross to the tranquil backwaters of the Hawkesbury River, it is a remarkable novel of self-knowledge and lost innocence, of survival and witness.”

This book is probably not for everyone.  It was fairly slow-paced but the descriptive writing is beautiful.

The heart of the Ritz by Luke Devenish

“This WW2 saga, following the lives of some very colourful characters at the Ritz in Paris, during German occupation, was a long, complex but ultimately satisfying experience. Woven around the tale of young Australian orphan Polly, her three guardians’ convoluted story lines add drama and chaos to an already gripping read. The women of Paris won’t be squashed, the occupying forces will be humoured, but ultimately defeated, and the years will pass rapidly moving towards a final thrilling finale.”
Fans of historical fiction will devour this page turner with all the elements of romance, fashion, history, Paris, secrets, subterfuge, intrigue and wealth to capture the imagination.

Coco’s Secret by Niame Greene

“The story begins with the eponymous Coco at home and her mother in France, tragically being killed. It then jumps ahead 20 years to Coco as an adult and we pick up the story with her discovery of a Chanel bag, featured on the gorgeous cover and her hunt to reunite the bag (and it’s contents) with its opener. The wonderful thing about this book is that, whilst Coco is searching for the bag’s owner, and anyone connected with the bag, she actually discovers herself.”

A wonderful joyous read. This was a gripping story and yet a totally easy read.

Extraordinary People by Peter May

“This is the first book in a six-part series with Enzo MacLeod the main character. He grew up in Scotland, son of an Italian mother and a Scottish father and had a successful career as a Forensic Scientist with a wife and young daughter. A series of events led him to France where he was Professor of Biology in an institute in Cahors, near Paris.

Twenty years later, a wager throws him head first into a 10-year-old mystery involving the disappearance of a well-known, highly intelligent, and very popular man with connections in high places in government.”

Another book by Peter May, one of my favourite authors. This book is set entirely in France and I loved all the references and place names used in the storyline. The plot of this book reminded me a little of the Da Vinci Code in that there are lots of puzzles to solve in order to solve the mystery.

This book I borrowed from the library but I have managed to get my hands on the next two books in the series, one from the second-hand bookshop and the other on Kobo.

Devil’s Lair by Sarah Barrie

“After the violent death of her husband, Callie Jones retreats to a cottage in the grounds of an old mansion in Tasmania. The relative remoteness of the place and the wild beauty of the Tasmanian landscape are a balm to her shattered nerves and the locals seem friendly, particularly horseman Connor Atherton and his siblings at the nearby property, Calico Lodge.

But all is not well: the old mansion has a sinister past, one associated with witchcraft and murder. As Callie is threatened by odd events in the night and strange dreams overtake her sleep, she begins to doubt her own sanity. What’s really going on beneath the surface of this apparently peaceful town? Are her friends and neighbours really who they seem? As events escalate, Callie starts to realise that the mansion may hold the key to unlocking the mystery, but the truth might have as much power to destroy as it does to save.”

A gripping and suspenseful tale. It leaves you guessing until the very end, even when you think you have it all figured out she throws in a curve ball. I love that there is the romantic element in there too. A good read.

Interesting that this month three of my books had links to France and the one I am reading at the moment, The Critic by Peter May, is also set in France.

 

Some recent reads in September

Persuader by Lee Child

This is book #7 in the Jack Reacher series.   I find this series is very easy reading and this one was no exception.  The one thing that stood out for me in this novel was the amount of technical information that was included about guns – not my cup of tea but the story was thrilling nonetheless.

“Jack Reacher.

The ultimate loner.

An elite ex-military cop who left the service years ago, he’s moved from place to place…without family…without possessions…without commitments.

And without fear. Which is good, because trouble–big, violent, complicated trouble–finds Reacher wherever he goes. And when trouble finds him, Reacher does not quit, not once…not ever.

But some unfinished business has now found Reacher. And Reacher is a man who hates unfinished business.

Ten years ago, a key investigation went sour and someone got away with murder. Now a chance encounter brings it all back. Now Reacher sees his one last shot. Some would call it vengeance. Some would call it redemption. Reacher would call it…justice.”

The story breaks into two plots at some point but this doesn’t detract from the main plot.

The Moscow Sleepers by Stella Rimington

 “The latest thriller in Stella Rimington’s bestselling espionage series sees Liz Carlyle investigating a sinister Russian plot.

A Russian immigrant lies dying in a hospice in upstate Vermont. When a stranger visits, claiming to be a childhood friend, the FBI is alerted and news quickly travels to MI5 in London.

Liz Carlyle and her colleague Peggy Kinsolving are already knee-deep in conspiracies, and as they unravel the events that landed the man in the hospital, Liz learns of a network of Russians and their plot to undermine the German government. Liz and Peggy set out to locate and stop this insidious network, traveling the world from Montreal to Moscow.

The latest expertly plotted thriller is a white-knuckle ride through the dark underbelly of international intelligence, simmering political animosities, and global espionage.”

I have read six of Stella Rimington’s novels plus her autobiography.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

I love all Ann Cleeves’ work in the Shetland and Vera series.  Ann has now introduced a new detective in her latest novel set in Devon.

“In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.”

I devoured this in one sitting.  Already looking forward to the next book when published.

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

This novel did exactly as it says on the cover.  “It sucked me in.”

Beautifully written and compelling reading.

“It is 1945, and London is still reeling from years of war. Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel, seemingly abandoned by their parents, have been left in the care of an enigmatic figure they call The Moth. They suspect he may be a criminal and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect and educate (in rather unusual ways) the siblings. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And how should Nathaniel and Rachel feel when their mother returns without their father after months of silence—explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand during that time, and it is this journey—through reality, recollection, and imagi­nation—that is told in this magnificent novel.”

This novel was long listed for the Man Booker Prize.  I highly recommend this one.

 

Tuesday Travels. . . Wigtown

On our way back to Glasgow we spent some time in the Scottish border country. We visited Wigtown which is known as Scotland’s National book town.  The fact that it is a booktown was planned as a way to regenerate the town after the demise of the creamery and distillery which closed in the 1990s.  The distillery has since reopened.

The town has certainly been revived and we were lucky to visit just as the Wigtown Book Festival festival was about to begin.  The festival is in its 21st year and it is held every Autumn.

The houses and shops are decorated with temporary art work and it adds to the festive feeling of the place.

There are many enticing bookshops in which to wander but our favourite was the Old Bank Bookshop, crammed to the rafters.

I loved the exterior columns of this shop.

Apart from being a booktown there was also some very interesting history to the town.

“This marks the traditional site of the martyrdom.”

We first read about the martyrs when we visited the churchyard in Wigtown and it prompted us to find out more.

I thought you would be able to read this if you clicked on the photo but that doesn’t work so I have done a screen shot so you get some of the story. (I have since been able to fix the click on the photo so you don’t need the screen shot.)

There were some truly awful punishments relating to religion.

Wigtown was well worth the visit and we then continued our journey to Newton Stewart where we stayed at Creebridge Lodge.

 

More August reads

The Women in Black by Madeleine St John

What a delightful story set in the 1950s in Australia.

“Sydney in the late 1950s. On the second floor of the famous F.G. Goode department store, in Ladies’ Cocktail Frocks, the women in black are girding themselves for the Christmas rush. Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns.

With the lightest touch and the most tender of comic instincts, Madeleine St John conjures a vanished summer of innocence.”

The Women in Black is a classic.  A happy read.

There is a movie and stage show “Ladies in Black” based on the novel.

 

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

This book is about the mysterious 1986 fire that gutted Los Angeles’ landmark Central Library. “The Library Book” re investigates the fire and recounts the rescue efforts by hundreds of Los Angeles residents who raced to the stacks to save books from smoke and water damage.

The author brings to life legendary characters from the library’s past and present, and reveals L.A.’s passions and obsessions.

“The people in shipping know all the trends, they can tell when a book was recommended by Oprah, because they will pack dozens of copies that have been requested all over the city.”

“They know that the day after any holiday, the load will be heavy: Apparently everyone in Los Angeles gets on the computer right after Thanksgiving dinner and makes requests for diet books.”

That is just a couple of examples of the anecdotes included in the book.  This is an informative book and as a retired librarian I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The aspect that sticks with me most is the fact that the library is used as a safe haven by those who are perhaps homeless or have nowhere to base themselves during the day.  Also the role of the library is constantly changing and it continues to be extremely relevant in today’s world.  The sad part is that governments in some countries continue to cut funding to libraries and also close down libraries.  So sad.

A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill

I last read a Sulari Gentill book in 2014, Gentlemen Formerly Dresed.

I found two of her books, which I haven’t read,  in our library when I was browsing the shelves.  I have read them in quick succession.  I will leave the second one until my next book posting.

A Murder Unmentioned

“The black sheep of a wealthy grazier dynasty, gentleman artist Rowland Sinclair often takes matters into his own hands. When the matter is murder, there are consequences.

For nearly fourteen years, Rowland has tried to forget, but now the past has returned.

A newly-discovered gun casts light on a family secret long kept… a murder the Sinclairs would prefer stayed unsolved.

As old wounds tear open, the dogged loyalty of Rowland’s inappropriate companions is all that stands between him and the consequences of a brutal murder… one he simply failed to mention.”

This is the sixth book in this series and I am still thoroughly enjoying the characters and the plots. Gentill has the historical facts, the atmosphere of the time, the mix of fictional and real characters all written beautifully. She obviously spends a great deal of time on research. Her husband is a history and English teacher and he helps edit and research her work.

If you haven’t read any of her books I suggest you start with number one in the series. A Few Right Thinking Men

Some of my reads for August

I managed to read a few this month, seven to be exact.  Two books by Mick Herron,  Down Cemetery Road and London Rules.

London Rules

“London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one.

Cover your arse.”

The book is full of witty dialogue and black humour.  I found myself laughing out loud in places.

“Eight months of anger f**king management sessions, and this evening she’d officially be declared anger free. It had been hinted she might even get a badge. That could be a problem – if anyone stuck a badge on her, they’d be carrying their teeth home in a hankie. . .”

Parts are reminiscent of Yes Minister.  A thoroughly enjoyable spy thriller/ espionage one of the Slough House series set in London.

Down Cemetery Road was the debut novel of Mark Herron and is the first in a series called Oxford Investigations.

“When a house explodes in a quiet Oxford suburb and a young girl disappears in the aftermath, Sarah Tucker—a young married woman, bored and unhappy with domestic life—becomes obsessed with finding her. Accustomed to dull chores in a childless household and hosting her husband’s wearisome business clients for dinner, Sarah suddenly finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew, as her investigation reveals that people long believed dead are still among the living, while the living are fast joining the dead. What begins in a peaceful neighborhood reaches its climax on a remote, unwelcoming Scottish island as the search puts Sarah in league with a man who finds himself being hunted down by murderous official forces.”
This was another, “child missing” book, of which I have read a few.  The main character, a bored housewife certainly transformed into someone else during the novel.
Another good crime fiction novel.
The Tea Gardens and Nightingale, both by Fiona McIntosh were escapist adventure/romance novels for me and very easy reading.
The Tea Gardens

“Dr Isla Fenwick has a life that most modern women of 1933 might envy – her career gives her status, her pedigree adds freedom, and her oldest crush, Jovian Mandeville, has reappeared in her life with a marriage proposal.

Her life is beginning to feel complete. However, she insists on keeping a private promise she made to her late mother to work at the coalface of medicine in India before committing to life as a dutiful wife. With Jove’s blessing, Isla sails to Calcutta to set up a new midwifery clinic. What she can’t anticipate is how India will test everything she relies upon within, challenging her professionalism and her loyalties”

A good romance story set in Brighton and India.
Nightingale
A heart-soaring novel of heartbreak and heroism, love and longing.
This was romance and historical fiction in one.  Set During the First World War and involving the ANZAC troops. A heart-breaking tale but well worth the read.

“Amidst the carnage of Gallipoli, British nurse Claire Nightingale meets Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren. Despite all odds, they fall deeply in love. Their flame burns bright and carries them through their darkest hours, even when war tears them apart.

Jamie’s chance meeting with Turkish soldier Açar Shahin on the blood-stained battlefield forges an unforgettable bond between the men. It also leaves a precious clue to Jamie’s whereabouts for Claire to follow.

Come peacetime, Claire’s desperate search to find Jamie takes her all the way to Istanbul, and deep into the heart of Açar’s family, where she attracts the unexpected attention of a charismatic and brooding scholar.

In the name of forgiveness, cultures come together, enemies embrace and forbidden passions ignite – but by the breathtaking conclusion, who will be left standing to capture Nurse Nightingale’s heart?”

A must read, particularly if interested in Gallipoli.
I will record the remaining three novels in another post.