VivienneR's reading in 2018 - part 2
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This is the lovely little town of Nelson in the region of British Columbia where I live.
Reading is going well this year with few duds and lots of great books. My plan to read the nine volumes of the Forsyte Chronicles is on track with six finished in the first six months of the year and looking forward to the remaining.
I can also be found over at the 2018 Category Challenge.
January 2019 reading...
102. Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante
103. The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin
104. The vanishing act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
105. The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal
106. Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy
107. The Summer before the war by Helen Simonson
108. The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
109. Cat out of Hell by Lynn Truss
110. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
111. The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott
112. Glass Houses by Louise Penny
113. Dead Souls by Ian Rankin
114. Quid Pro Quo by Vicki Grant
115. Ashes to Ashes by Barbara Nadel
116. The Scent of the Night by Andrea Camilleri
Read in August
117. The Hireling's Tale by Jo Bannister
118. Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer
119. Set in Darkness by Ian Rankin
120. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
121. Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody
122. Flowering Wilderness by John Galsworthy
123. Into the Silence: the Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis
124. The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore
125. The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith
126. The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
127. Full Circle by Michael Palin
128. Too much, not enough by Gina Perry
129. The Abbey Court Murder by Annie Haynes
130. Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray
131. Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet
132. Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
133. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
134. Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud
135. The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
136. The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
137. The Wycherly Woman by Ross Macdonald
138. Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon
139. The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain
140. Dead man's ransom by Ellis Peters
141. The Dramatist by Ken Bruen
142. Even money by Dick Francis & Felix Francis
143. Shades of Blue by Bill Moody
144. Star Trap by Simon Brett
145. Agent Zigzag: The true wartime story of Eddie Chapman: lover, betrayer, hero, spy by Ben Macintyre
146. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
147. If you knew her by Emily Elgar
Read in October
148. One More River by John Galsworthy
149. Aunt Bessie Assumes: An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery by Diana Xarissa
150. The little stranger by Sarah Waters
151. Call for the dead by John le Carré
152. Malcolm Orange Disappears by Jan Carson
153. The Tooth Tattoo by Peter Lovesey
154. The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth
155. Silent Victims by Lynda LaPlante
156. Ratlines by Stuart Neville
157. Angel with two faces by Nicola Upson
158. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
159. The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi
160. Force of Nature by Jane Harper
161. Goodbye things: the new Japanese minimalism by Fumio Sasaki
162. Sand Queen by Helen Benedict
163. Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan
164. The Big Snow by David Park
165. Buffy Sainte-Marie by Andrea Warner
166. How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston
167. Jackdaws by Ken Follett
168. Our kind of cruelty by Araminta Hall
169. We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
170. From a low and quiet sea by Donal Ryan
171. I am, I am, I am: seventeen brushes with death by Maggie O'Farrell
172. Imperium by Robert Harris
173. Blood pressure down by Janet Brill
174. Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien
175. Leaving Earth by Helen Humphreys
176. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
177. Great by Glen Gretzky
178. High Stakes by Dick Francis
179. After You by Jojo Moyes
180. The Lewis Man by Peter May
181. Christmas at High Rising by Angela Thirkell
182. Spy Story by Len Deighton
Read in December
183. The Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich
184. Goodbye Ms Chips by Dorothy Cannell
185. The boy who could see demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
186. The Vendetta Defence by Lisa Scottoline
187. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
188. Owls Are Good At Keeping Secrets: An Unusual Alphabet by Sarah O'Leary, Illustrated by Jacob Grant
189. The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
190. Murmuring the Judges by Quintin Jardine
191. Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
192. Spy of the first person by Sam Shepard
193. The adventure of the Christmas pudding by Agatha Christie
194. A tale for the time being by Ruth L. Ozeki
195. Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb
196. A Christmas Guest by Anne Perry
197. The Vanishing Box: the perfect chilling read for Christmas by Elly Griffiths
198. Revolution in the head: the Beatles' records and the sixties by Ian MacDonald
199. A noise downstairs by Linwood Barclay
200. Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan
Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante
One of those books that was originally written as a successful tv series. I enjoyed Helen Mirren's performance of a high ranking police officer at a time when female officers were hardly tolerated and she had to struggle against the hostility of her male colleagues. These attitudes from the 1990s made the story a bit dated (although I'm sure they still exist to some extent today), but not a bad police procedural nevertheless.
So far I'm loving her book.
My latest Early Reviewer win:
The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin
Not the typical gardening or nature book that offers basic advice and information. Instead this is a gorgeous book about one woman's observations of her extensive garden in each season. Martin shares the changes she experiences through each of the senses: the shapes, smells, sounds, and taste. Each is accompanied by an essay and beautiful photographs. Happily I discovered that I share some of Martin's practices, such as trimming the flowers off the spirea so that the sculptural form of the shrub can be appreciated more.
This is a book that can be dipped into anytime and is guaranteed to fire up the reader's gardening enthusiasm no matter what time of year.
I'll try After You'd Gone next. I was glad to find the library has quite a few titles.
Although I've only read one book, I agree that LaPlante's television work is better. As far as I remember the tv series came first, and the books created from the series.
Cat out of Hell by Lynn Truss
As anyone who knows cats will tell you, yes, a talking cat is entirely believable. This wacky, weird, horror story from Lynn Truss (author of Eats, shoots and leaves is fantastically entertaining right to the Author Notes at the end. I'll never see my cat in the same light again.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Hamid's beautifully written novel focuses on universal human needs and migration. He imparts a deep story with perception and understanding yet keeps the text elegantly minimal. By using the ingenious device of "doors" to transport Nadia and Saeed, Hamid is able to go to the heart of the story of two young people, without needing to detail the usual migrant conveyances. My heart goes out to people like Nadia and Saeed who must flee their home in order to survive. Highly recommended.
Maybe you’ll read Glass Houses again after you get better. I loved that one.
I finished Dead Souls by Ian Rankin another one that was started before getting sick.
And, Quid Pro Quo by Vicki Grant an Early Reviewer book that was a nice easy entertaining YA read, perfect for recuperation.
Ashes to Ashes by Barbara Nadel
Francis Hancock, the endearing undertaker from the East End of London, and still-traumatized survivor of "the first lot", was caught up in the worst blitz attack to hit the city on the night of December 29, 1940. Hearing of a little girl out in the middle of the attack, he thought a search for her would take his thoughts off the tumult in his mind. He followed her to St Paul's Cathedral where he discovered a despicable plot in progress.
Churchill declared that St Paul's Cathedral, a symbol of all the British people held dear was to be protected at all costs, while Hitler was determined to raze it to the ground with waves of incendiary bombs. Nadel's description of the attack that night highlighted the terrifying ordeal, when much of London was burning with white-hot flames. Her impressive knowledge of the building was able to impart the gripping events taking place on the inside. There is casual racism, sexism, and prostitution, common in the 1940s, but after looking at today's news, it appears to be just as common today.
A cathedral has stood on the site since 604. The current building was the masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren who rebuilt after the destruction of the Great Fire of London. This is a book worth reading for the events, atmosphere, and social culture of the era, as well as the mystery.
The Hireling's Tale by Jo Bannister
The dictionary definition of hireling is "a person hired for material reward". In this novel Bannister presents several who fit the description: an assassin, prostitutes, and police. This action-packed story takes place in the sleepy town of Castlemere, featuring dedicated police officers determined to find the murderer of a young woman. Her body crashed through the tarpaulin cover into a tourist narrowboat on the canal while an international business conference was taking place at the nearby hotel. The list of suspects is daunting and further complicated by odd, unexpected shootings in the area. Eventually a witness makes herself known and Detective Sergeant Donovan, the tall, lanky Ulsterman is sent to pick her up and deliver her to safety, not an easy task with a lethal assassin around. A mistake by Detective Inspector Liz Graham, who should have known better, brought disastrous consequences.
Unscrambling the puzzle pieces, a roller-coaster rescue in the Fens of eastern England, and the personal oddities of the characters combine to make this mystery a nail-biter. I'll be on the lookout for more by Jo Bannister, who hails from Northern Ireland.
Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer
Although it's been two years since I read the last book in the series, I was able to rejoin the story as if no time had elapsed. This one continues the family saga now in the 1970s with a good infusion of the Cold War. The despicable Lady Virginia Fenwick is my favourite character. Archer's usual cliffhanger ending was more subdued in this one, but still, I'm looking forward to the next one, the last in the series.
I found the first of the series in audio because it was narrated by Roger Allam (the inspector in Endeavour, the tv series featuring the young Morse) but then got hooked on the story.
ETA: Alison, I know we both enjoy Ian McEwan books and as I'm just finishing Enduring Love I keep thinking of you saying it "scared the bejesus out of you". Me too!
Set in Darkness by Ian Rankin
As usual a great mystery novel with three very different investigations and a return of Big Ger Cafferty. There is so much more to Rankin's books, especially the involvement of Scottish bureaucratic and parliamentary happenings. Edinburgh is just as much a character as Rebus or Siobhan Clarke, taking Rankin to a higher level than most police procedurals. The description of Hogmanay brought on a bout of nostalgia: first-footing, black bun, doing a turn, and more, although the bloody events that followed were even more shocking in comparison. Rebus's music choices are always of interest, often matching my own, from Wishbone Ash to Tom Waits, and of course his favourite, The Rolling Stones.
There wasn't a print version available at the library so I settled for the audiobook. Narration by Samuel Gillies was OK, but not noteworthy. As there was little differentiation between characters it was sometimes difficult to know who was speaking. I prefer Rebus in print.
My favourite line was the rebuttal to a claim for Scotland's first family status. Rankin states "Everybody knew Scotland's first family was The Broons". When I was a child, this was one of my favourite comic strips made famous in Scotland's Sunday Post, the other one being the companion strip Oor Wullie.
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
The only type of love that endures is that which is not reciprocated.
Unlike most novels whose story rises to a culmination, McEwan uses the big event as an opener. And what an unforgettable opener! The account that follows is a disturbing story of obsession: sinister, ominous, but utterly compelling.
Joe is a frustrated scientist, now reduced to writing popular science journal articles. His thought processes, of rationalizing in the scientific way is eluding him, and the occupational hazard of "popularizing" has taken over. Is Joe an unreliable narrator? There is so much that can be read into the story that the reader is never quite sure of the veracity of Joe's version. The scene where he tries to acquire a means of defence may be dark but is pure comedy, that somehow fits with the creepiness factor.
Another excellent, beautifully written tale from McEwan.
This is the second book in End of the Chapter, the final trilogy of the Forsyte Chronicles. The story centres on Dinny Cherrell and her engagement to Wilfred Desert who was once Fleur's admirer. Demonstrating how the social order has changed, Dinny is a strong woman, self-assertive and determined, unlike the simpering Irene. She is one of my favourite characters of the entire saga.
This one finished with a cliffhanger of sorts making me want to start the remaining volume right away.
Other films mentioned in the article were Enduring Love from 2004 which sounds fantastic - Daniel Craig and Rhys Ifans as the stalker (perfect casting!). The Comfort of Strangers is from 1990 with Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson. Atonement is in there, but that one's well known. The Cement Garden was made in 1993 and features Charlotte Gainsbourg. The last one was The Good Son, which was an original McEwan screenplay and not from a novel (Macaulay Culkin). Said to be 'camp and kitsch, it's also very dark'.
I've only seen Atonement out of all of those - I must see if I can find some of the rest of them on Netflix.
I've only seen (and enjoyed) A Child in Time that I believe was a library dvd. As soon as I've finished each book I'll search for the movie.
Interesting about the film adaptations. Wikpedia says that the film of The Children Act stars Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci, so sounds promising. Due for release in the UK towards the end of August, so you may get to see it. The premiere was at the Toronto Film Festival last fall. I think it may be my favourite of the McEwan books I have read to date.
Into the Silence: the Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis
A magnificent, exhaustive and well-researched chronicle of the three British Everest expeditions of the 1920s. Davis sets the era and tone of post-war sensibilities by devoting a sizeable portion - about the first third of the book - to the Great War and how the climbers came through it. Mallory and the other personages don't even enter the picture until after that, and actual climbing is still a long way off. The person I most admired was Australian George Finch who, against great opposition for his science as well as his colonial origins, introduced the use of oxygen in the second and third climbs. Tibet is not regarded kindly by the climbers, but then snobbery, racism, and the class system was rife, even among the members of the buttoned-down Royal Geographical Society and Alpine Club.
The 1924 attempt ended disastrously when George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared on the final climb to, or from, the summit. Mallory's badly injured body was found in 1999 still roped to Irvine until the fall broke the rope. After all their effort, I like to think they made it to the summit but that will never be known.
This is an excellent book if the reader is prepared for an major undertaking and wants all the nitty gritty details of each climb, climber, the politics of the times and of the associations involved. (For example, now I know the difference between Mummery and Whymper tents.) If you just want to read about the life of Mallory and his experience on Everest, then Jeffrey Archer's Paths of Glory, a fictional work that is nevertheless accurate, would be a better choice.
Read for August's historical mystery category over at the 2018 Reading Challenge group.
The Abbey Court Murder by Annie Haynes
A melodrama where the bad are very bad, and the silly are very silly. Was the murder committed to prevent a scandal? Oh the horror! There are many holes in the investigation by Furnival who just makes wild guesses and chats up a maid to get information. I can imagine this as an amateur stage production with the audience encouraged to make exaggerated oohs and aahs. And the amount of fainting and swooning makes me worry for the health of the women. When Judith tries to drown herself in the moat (where else?) she is dragged out and proclaimed ok, just fainted.
Fun, if you can take this sort of thing but Haynes is no Christie, not even close.
Interesting read, Vivienne....
Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud
Charles Rennie Macintosh is the Mr Mac in Freud's beautiful, sensitive story. By looking at Mr Mac through the eyes of an 11-year old boy Freud shows the architect's vulnerability following his rejection after completing the design of the Glasgow School of Art. He and his wife, Margaret MacDonald, also a gifted artist, retreated to Suffolk in 1914. The story yields an amazing amount of information about Macintosh, Margaret, and the the culture of the times. Freud's story also points to the moment in our history when craftsmanship was being replaced by mass production.
I've always been an admirer of Mackintosh designs but now I feel like I have known him for a short while. Wonderful, highly recommended.
The author notes at the end reminds the reader that the Glasgow School of Art, one of Mackintosh's great achievements, burned just as Freud's book was going to print.
The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
A London museum has installed a priceless exhibit, including a gold-covered mummy of a child, that is drawing thousands of visitors daily. This is a murder mystery laced with satirical humour mocking the eccentric or self-important staff of the museum. Written in 1977, this spoof of the Tutankhamen exhibition at the British Museum was Fitzgerald's first work of fiction, and very entertaining.
The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Double value in this mystery within a mystery. There are lots of familiar names, abundant clues, and the favourite locale of an English village. Highly recommended for mystery fans.
I don’t think I’ve read anything by Penelope Fitzgerald. You’ve piqued my interest.
I loved The Magpie Murders. It was so well done.
Fitzgerald didn't start writing until she was sixty, this was her first novel. I worked in a museum and can attest to the eccentric staff. I've enjoyed others by her. I hope you can give her a try sometime.
Agent Zigzag: The true wartime story of Eddie Chapman: lover, betrayer, hero, spy by Ben Macintyre
A very readable biography of a WWII spy who landed on his feet no matter how dire the circumstances. From a pre-war safe-breaking and burglary career to double agent, his story is as good as any adventure tale but the beauty of Macintyre's book is in the fascinating details of the double-cross and in the page-turning style of writing.
One More River by John Galsworthy
The ninth and last book in the Forsyte Chronicles. I'm sorry to say goodbye to the Forsytes and extended family. This was an excellent ending.
Aunt Bessie Assumes: An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery by Diana Xarissa
An entertaining cosy from the Isle of Man. Flawed but fun.
Malcolm Orange Disappears by Jan Carson
Northern Ireland author, Jan Carson, has the most imaginative writing style I've ever come across. That it's a debut novel makes it all the more awe-inspiring. Eleven year-old Malcolm, his parents, and baby brother travel around America living in their beat-up Volvo. Malcolm is worried about the holes that are beginning to form on his body although no one else notices. When the father abandons the family, Malcolm's mother finds a job and home at a Baptist retirement village in Oregon filled, of course, with fantastically colourful characters. Carson maintains the surprise factor throughout this ingenius story without once letting up. This is a wonderful, unforgettable story.
My thanks to Jackie_K for the recommendation.
We must have been reading The Little Stranger at the same time; what a nice thought.
The Tooth Tattoo by Peter Lovesey
An intriguing mystery featuring detective Peter Diamond, a classical music layman who must investigate a complex crime involving a chamber music quartet. Some interesting information on varied topics including netsuke, tooth tattoos, and patrons who allow musicians to play their valuable instruments. I always enjoy Lovesey and this one was no exeption. I especially liked how the music fitted so well with the story. Well done!
Ratlines by Stuart Neville
I was disappointed to discover that this wasn't directly about "Ratlines", the escape routes used by Nazis who hid out in Ireland after the war. The plot involves Albert Ryan, directorate of intelligence in Ireland in the early 1960s investigating ex-Nazis being bumped off. Ryan, eager to get out of Ireland went to Northern Ireland and signed up in the British Army to fight in WWII, making him very unpopular when he got back home to the anti-British republic. However, the writing was a bigger let down: short undemanding sentences that I suppose was meant to indicate a fast paced thriller but instead came across as rudimentary. I have another book by Neville, and although it is said to be better, it might be some time before I take it off the shelf.
The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths 4.5★
As well as the first-rate location on Norfolks saltmarsh I'm hooked on archaeologist Ruth Galloway. She is so confident in many areas yet insecure in others. The best part about starting this series so long after they were published is that I can go straight to the next one without having to wait for another to hit the bookstores. Interesting plot, great characters and a bit of a love interest: what more can you ask for?
The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi 2.5★
Mukta, a ten-year-old girl of a low caste is rescued from a life as a prostitute by a wealthy family who has a daughter of a similar age, Tara. Although Mukta is regarded as a servant the girls become friends of a sort, yet Tara eventually betrays Mukta and arranged for her to be kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. After a cursory search Tara and her father leave India for the United States. Eleven years later the adult Tara returns to India to search for Mukta. Does this seem familiar? Yes, the story is almost identical to The Kiterunner and although the writing is well done the story grates. Tara is obviously trying to soothe her guilty conscience but in my opinion, her action was unforgiveable and she deserves no redemption. The saddest thing is that even with many plot holes and predictablity, the story that describes prejudice, ancient traditions, and the chaos of India, is believable. However, I chose to speed-read through the second half of the book. This wasn't to my taste.
Sand Queen by Helen Benedict
Benedict describes combat in Iraq from a woman's point of view. Although compelling, it's a very difficult, frustrating read. Consider all you ever knew about war, well, it's worse. I hope conditions for female soldiers has changed in the 15 years that have passed since the setting of this book.
Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan
What a glorious book! The poetry, the stories, and the art, are simply stunning. Tan explores our relationship with animals in this world we share, giving the reader much to ponder. Each story is accompanied by unique art. Immensely creative and highly recommended. A book to be read over and over again.
This was an Early Reviewer win that I was very happy to receive.
The Big Snow by David Park
Park's book is made up of five stories loosely related by an unprecedented snowfall that happened in Northern Ireland in 1963.
A gently deceiving book, the shorter stories would be of little consequence without the snow that transfigured surroundings so much as to make it a different world, and making inconsequential events momentous. Snow muffles and silences, forming an insulation that reduces the world to a microcosm.
My favourite quote is from Snow Trails involving a young man who falls for an older woman. His father, the owner of a general store, also handles funerals and is arranging one for the woman of the previous story. The snow complicates matters and with the help of his son they use a sled to transport the coffin to the cemetery with as much dignity as possible.
"But if it gets any deeper it'll be no laughing matter driving over there to collect the body and then up to the church. The roads'll be mustard, and I bet you there won't be a snow plough to be seen for love or money".
"This country's not cut out for snow. Now if this was Canada they'd laugh at this - it'd be a spit in the ocean to them."
Park has a talent in invoking the reader's empathy. The title story is a police procedural featuring an old-school hard-line detective and a young detective learning the ropes and trying to do his job using newer methods. Possibly less subtle than the others but with the same moody undercurrent.
I can remember this specific memorable snowfall in 1963 and can attest to the atmosphere it created and which Park invokes so well. It was a nostalgic look back on a small segment of my youth when having to help my parents through the difficulty of being cut off from the world made me feel very grown up. I enjoyed this and will be looking for more by Park.
How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston
A story of friendship between two Irish boys, Alex, from a wealthy family and Jerry, a boy from a working class family in the village. Against all odds the friendship continued from youth into adulthood when they both enlisted to fight in WWI and served in the same unit.
It's an outstanding novel and although short, packs in a remarkable amount of detail in an understated way, all of which paints a much larger picture that takes in the Irish political scene of 1918, loyalty, love, as well as the fields of Flanders. It goes from the hopeful halcyon days of childhood to the tragedy that transpired.
Reading this in the month of the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI it occurred to me that in some ways not a lot has changed for combatants. Like Benedict's Sand Queen that I read recently, the enemy is not the only foe: comrades can be just as vengeful, in this case the ruthless CO, Glendinning.
An excellent book that I can highly recommend. I'll be on the lookout for more by this Irish author.
Our kind of cruelty by Araminta Hall 4★
A disturbing, fascinating, somewhat distasteful, yet utterly gripping novel. Like an accident has the abilty to draw the eyes irrestistably, Hall induces the reader to keep turning the page. Told from Mike's point of view, an unreliable narrator, but is Verity's any more reliable?
We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ★
A must-read. Adichie's opinions and the points she makes are widely known, recognized, yet it appears many (most?) people still haven't acted upon them to make any significant progress. This short work should be required reading for everyone and frequently re-read.
From a low and quiet sea by Donal Ryan 3★
Three stories about three men: Farouk, a doctor in Syria, desperate to find a safe home for his wife and daughter; Lampy and John in Ireland, each seeking their own type of peace. They are brought together at the end of the book. The first story was very moving but I found it difficult to connect with the other two.
Another one from a Northern Ireland author:
I am, I am, I am: seventeen brushes with death by Maggie O'Farrell
What sounds like a medical memoir is not the type of book that I would normally read, but having recently enjoyed one of O'Farrell's novels I opened this one and was immediately captivated. They are fascinating stories to begin with, but in O'Farrell's brilliant hand the book becomes a page-turner and without the slightest sign of self-pity. The incidents are not presented chronologically, or even recounted in a frame-by-frame manner, but in the expressive prose of a storyteller. Highly recommended.
Imperium by Robert Harris
Cicero, who became Consul of the Roman Republic in 63 BC, is a progenitor of the modern politician. The story was narrated by Tiro, Cicero's secretary, who is said to have invented a system of shorthand including the ampersand. Harris' series has a classical setting but with a contemporary style that made the characters and the times come to life. The similarity to modern politics was impressive. I enjoyed this, the first book in the series and look forward to those that follow as well as reading more about Cicero and Roman politics.
The Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien 4★
“On the 6th of April 2012, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the start of the siege of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb forces, 11,541 red chairs were laid out in rows along the 800 meters of the Sarajevo high street. One empty chair for every Sarajevan killed during the 1,425 days of siege. Six hundred and forty-three small chairs represented the children killed by snipers and the heavy artillery fired from the surrounding mountains.”
This is a harrowing tale of a clash of cultures. It is written from the perspective of women in rural Ireland and Bosnia. O'Brien introduces a mesmerizing psychopath into a rural community in Ireland. Just like the mysterious stranger in Irish folk tales, the inhabitants fall under his spell. The tenets of the Catholic church plays a symbolic role and adds to the mystic nature of the story. A brutal, yet astonishing story that never lets the reader sink into despair.
Leaving Earth by Helen Humphreys 3.5★
This story of two women trying to break an aviation endurance record in 1933 Toronto depicted the time and place very well. Aviation stunts were encouraged in the Depression years as a means of escaping harsh realities. Humphreys included a lot in this debut novel. Most of it worked well but some ideas were left unfinished. Although Humphreys' story is fiction it is based on the exploits of actual pilots.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
What can I say about this that hasn't already been said? I love the puzzle aspect of Christie's stories and this one is a classic. In 1939, when this was written, no one else came close to Christie's ability. I first read this when in my early teens. I enjoyed it just as much this time, maybe even more, because this time my version was an audiobook with outstanding narration by Dan Stevens. I'll keep it because I just might want to listen to it again even though I know the ending.
I hope you enjoy Imperium as much as I did!
The boy who could see demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
This is a suspense novel featuring Ruen, a supernatural being, a demon only seen by a young boy. The boy, Alex, has no other friends apart from Ruen and their conversations are vivid and imaginative. The setting of Belfast, after the "troubles" gives the demon some authenticity through the mental trauma that we expect to see in children of war. Told alternately by Alex and his psychologist Anya, it's a troubling dark story. It annoyed me that Anya, whose daughter was diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia, and who committed suicide at age twelve, is diagnosing another child with the same rare condition. Is she determined to find it everywhere? And there are many coincidences and details that seemed out of place that made me wary. A good psychological suspense story.
>117 NanaCC: I enjoyed that specific Peter May trilogy, two of three better than the other. I bought one or two of his other series but they are in the pile still unread.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Racism, bullying, child abuse, self-harming, neglect, drug addiction, adultery, sexual assault, extreme poverty: there is nothing likeable in this book. Rowling must have been trying for the 'most swear words per page' award when she wrote this. When the hoopla wound down soon after it was published, I realized it wasn't for me but I came across a copy at the bottom of a dusty heap in a used bookstore. I should have left it there. Abandoned about three-quarters in, I couldn't take any more.
Fortunately Rowling eventually redeemed herself with the Cormoran Strike series written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
I have Lethal White on the shelf but might delay it until next month when I've recovered. :)
Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
Wizard cop Peter Grant investigates the suspicious deaths of jazz musicians. An entertaining mystery with interesting jazz asides and with an excellent sense of location. I loved Peter's developing abilities with magic. The only downside, which downgraded my rating by a half star, is the explicit sex scenes that were completely unnecessary and added nothing to the story.
Best wishes to all my LibraryThing pals, it's been a lot of fun sharing your reading lives this year.
A Tale for the time being by Ruth L. Ozeki
When the dot.com bubble burst a Japanese family living in California are forced to go back to Japan as "returning immigrants". Their teenage daughter finds she is more American than Japanese and finding it hard to fit in. Her schoolmates bully her cruelly and relentlessly. The story jumps to a novelist living on Cortes Island, British Columbia who finds a barnacle-encrusted bag holding a "Hello Kitty" lunchbox filled with letters and the diary of the Japanese/American teenager, Nao (pronounced Now). The story is initially gripping but fades a little with the mind-bending treatment of time that was a little beyond my appreciation or understanding. Ozeki takes on a lot in this novel, often funny, sometimes gruesome, but undoubtedly intriguing. It's a curious view of time with a cultural, international, and historic slant. This is the kind of story a book club might spend days discussing.
This was an audiobook with excellent narration by the author. I can't think of anyone who could have done a better job.
The Vanishing Box: the perfect chilling read for Christmas by Elly Griffiths
One of my favourite writers with another Christmas mystery set in 1953 Brighton. It's hard to get better than this at Christmas.
Revolution in the head: the Beatles' records and the sixties by Ian MacDonald
For anyone interested in music, pop culture, or the fab four, this is a must-read! Whether you are fan or detractor you will find this interesting. After an introduction not only to the music, but to the culture of the decade, MacDonald then goes on to describe each song in detail: the inspiration, the process, the mood. The chronological order gives a feel for the progression of the group from their meteoric rise right down to the slow motion break up. But this book is more than just a discography, it is the ultimate book about how popular music changed in the Sixties and the four musicians from Liverpool who were the prime motivators.
Thanks to rabbitprincess for the recommendation. My son and daughter-in-law snagged this as soon as it arrived in my mailbox. They both raved about it. I agree with all of you, five stars!
A noise downstairs by Linwood Barclay
This was the most far-fetched, unconvincing murder mystery and not at all what I expected from Linwood Barclay who can do so much better. As well as everything else, he broke one of the mystery writer's rules by
I read a really interesting book many, many years ago called Waiting for the Beatles: An Apple Scruff's Story which is the true story of a group of super-fan girls (told from the perspective of the author Carol Bedford who was one of them) who dedicated their lives for a number of years to hanging around the Apple Studios literally waiting for the Beatles. Carol was from the US and came over to London just to feed her obsession with the group, and in particular George Harrison. They became known as the Apple Scruffs, and I think George wrote a song about them at one point. It's an interesting read if you ever come across it, as you really get the extent of the fan mania when you read about it from the perspective of someone who was in the middle of it, and of course they have very strong opinions about who is responsible when the band splits!
MacDonald's book is encyclopedic! While my son was reading it he phoned me asking for the lyrics of Savoy Truffle and everything I could remember about the chocolate collection Good News, which kind of puzzled me at the time. Now that I've read the book I understand. He also quizzed me on musical terms (apparently I passed) although there is a glossary included. I wondered what I was getting into. It's a book I'll be forever pulling off the shelf for some piece of information. What else was happening in June 1966? November 1968? It's all here.
Thank you for all of the wonderful recommendations this year, Vivienne. You’ve added many to my wishlist.
Happy New Year! May we all enjoy healthy, happy, peaceful days in the year to come.
Thank you, book buddy! I enjoyed sharing the recommendations that came from your direction too.
Wishing you and your family all the best in the New Year.
Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan
An enjoyable mystery first published in 1949. The story is set on Christmas Eve at a house party for friends of Benedict Grame, who enjoys Christmas as much as any schoolboy. This year for the first time amateur sleuth. Mordecai Tremaine, has also been invited. At midnight, a body dressed in a Father Christmas outfit is discovered under the Christmas tree. Tremaine's slow, pedantic method of investigation suited his sedate personality, although it makes the reader wonder how he got his reputation.
My thanks go to mathgirl for recommending this one.
My last book of the year. I read a record 200 this year, and although some were children's books, I'm pretty happy with the result. Fourteen of those rated 5 stars.
My best wishes to all my LT buddies for a wonderful New Year that is filled with good books, good health and peace.