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Madeleine

Madeleine's Book Log - ongoing

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No I haven't. I've got Howards End...... but haven't read it yet.

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16 hours ago, Little Pixie said:

Ooh, Susan Hill. Have you see Jacob`s Room is full of books, the follow up to Howard`s End is on the landing ? :)

 

I hadn't heard there was a follow-up, thanks :)!

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7 hours ago, Athena said:

 

I hadn't heard there was a follow-up, thanks :)!

 

It`s recently been in the book reviews here ; I read the first one, and will probably get the second one at some point too. :)

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Latest purchases:

 

The Mistletoe Murder and other stories by P D James
Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield
Need you Dead by Peter James

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The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick - first part in the trilogy about Eleanor of Aquitaine, this focuses on Eleanor's early life and marriage to Louis, about whom the only things I was aware of was that he was possibly gay, and the marriage was a disaster, although it lasted for several years and started with promise. The story moves along briskly, with the author keeping it subtle and only hinting at Louis's sexuality by suggesting that it was rumoured, but not proven, and not sensationalising it. But Eleanor was an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life, by the end of this book she's only around 30, and with her marriage to Henry, there is so much more still to come. I really can't believe that her story hasn't been filmed; apart from the Lion in Winter, she appears very rarely as a main character, so come on TV companies, do something different to the Tudors and Elizabeth I! As usual, a very well-written and easy to follow novel about real people and real history from this author. 8/10

Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine - Andy (Miranda) agrees to house-sit Sleeper's Castle, in Hay-on-Wye whilst it's owner visits her native Australia. The house is full of history and soon Andy finds herself, at first unwittingly, caught up in the lives of a family who lived there in 1400, namely Catrin, her father Dafydd and trusty housekeeper Joan, whose brother Edmund, is fond of Catrin, whilst Andy finds herself strangely attracted/repelled by Bryn, the gardener. But she's too interested in seeing history through Catrin's eyes, and gradually finds herself literally walking alongside her - only difference is, Cat can also appear in the present, which is even more unnerving. Andy has also been pursued to Hay by her late partner's ex-wife, Rhona, who in typical Erskine fashion is a hissable villain who is suitably demented and is convinced that Andy took everything away from her, despite the fact that she was the one who left Graham years ago. As the past and present collide, Andy finds herself in danger, both from ghosts and present day menaces. I enjoyed this overall, it was as usual very atmospheric with a great setting, and the historical aspect (the story of Owain Gryffydd's - apologies for the spelling - battle for Welsh independence) was fascinating and not one I've come across very often in novels. But I could have done without the Rhona storyline altogether, although it mirrored the toxic relationship between Cat and her father, it felt superfluous and frankly, rather silly. I also felt that the book dragged a bit in the middle, so not one of her best, but by no means one of her worst either , and I liked the idea of various characters being able to visit each other remotely. 7.5/10
 

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Also just got "Foreign Bodies", short stories set abroad ie not in the UK!

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Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert - Gabriel used to be a remote viewer, who could enter people's minds and access their thoughts, until he gave it up to become a computer hacker instead, stealing rival firms' secrets for their competitors. Then an old flame and fellow remote viewer, Frankie, comes back into his life when she asks him to find out that happened to her husband's son Robbie, who vanished after becoming involved with the alluring Monk sisters. He manages to enter Robbie's mind and has a terrifying experience, but finds himself drawn to the two sisters, who naturally are both stunningly beautiful and multi-talented. After he hacks into their diary, it becomes apparent that one of them is a killer, but which one? During an idyllic summer he tries to find out, with horrific results for those around him. This was a fast-paced, slightly trashy read, a bit overlong and enjoyable enough but instantly forgettable, and not really very witchy either! 6.5/10

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley - this is an odd one, it won the Costa Book of the Year award in 2015 but to be honest I'm not sure why, it's very well-written and atmospheric but felt very unfinished and I wasn't sure what exactly happened, but given that religious faith, or lack of it, plays such a big part of the story I suppose that's why several things aren't explained. An unnamed narrator starts to reminisce about a family holiday, or rather pilgrimage, to the Loney - a wild area in Lancashire which is beautifully evoked - with his parents, including his fanatically religious mother, and his mute brother Hanny (Andrew) who we know at the beginning has somehow recovered his speech, and the book charts the events leading up to his recovery. Now adults, we're taken back when the narrator hears of a baby's body being discovered in the ruins of a house that he and his brother visited during that fateful holiday. His brother had been very taken with a young pregnant woman who they saw arriving at the house, and it's obvious that something is going on, only we never really find out what it is. There are also strange locals (inevitably) and we also hear of the former priest, who these days would be had up for physical abuse. But of course the boys' mother will hear nothing against him; the priest has since died and this is the first visit to the Loney with the new, more amenable priest. And that's it really, as I said a strange book and I'm not really sure what it was all about! 7/10

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Hmmm, I haven't heard many good things about The Loney. I bought it a few months ago for £0.99 but the negative reviews have been putting me off. 

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I got it cheap in a discount book shop, so I'm glad I didn't pay full price for it!

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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

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I got another set of Christmas short stores yesterday - Murder on Christmas Eve, by authors old and new.

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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

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Great reviews :)! I have To the Bright Edge of the World on my TBR, I'm glad you liked it for the most part :). I liked Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child so I bought her new book earlier this year.

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I'm planning to read all of Anita Brookner books and Hotel Du Lac is next on my list!  Glad to see a good review of it and I'm looking forward to reading it soon. :)

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Interesting review of To The Bright Edge of the World.  I read this back in June, loved it (review here), and felt the supernatural aspects to be more down to magical realism built into the book, linking in with Native American mysticism and the wildness/inaccessibility of the location.  Normally, I am not a fan of things slightly fantastical like that, but for me it worked in this context.

 

It's a long while since I read Hotel du Lac - before I started rating and reviewing books.  My memories of it are that I enjoyed it, but found it just a bit too coolly clinical to be a favourite.  That's only the long distance aftertaste though - I'm tempted to revisit it in the light of your review!

 

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It's interesting going back isn't it? 

 

I thought the supernatural elements didn't really sit with the rest of the book, although I understand what you mean about  the magic realism, personally I thought they were probably hallucinating/dreaming due to the cold and lack of food etc, plus some of the images reminded me too much of the White Walkers from Game of Thrones, which made it even more fantastical.  I remember you really liked it though - her research must have been phenomenal. 

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11 minutes ago, Madeleine said:

It's interesting going back isn't it? 

 

I thought the supernatural elements didn't really sit with the rest of the book, although I understand what you mean about  the magic realism, personally I thought they were probably hallucinating/dreaming due to the cold and lack of food etc, plus some of the images reminded me too much of the White Walkers from Game of Thrones, which made it even more fantastical.  I remember you really liked it though - her research must have been phenomenal. 

 

Yes, I thought her research excellent too.

I've never seen any of Game of Thrones, so things wouldn't have struck any chords in that context.  I never thought about hallucination through cold etc.  Could be, but I thought it was being used to underline the fact that they were not in the Westerner' world but, rather, somewhat out of their depth in that of the native Americans.  Different angles - would definitely be a good book for a reading group to analyse and discuss.

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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

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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

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my top 10 of 2017:

 

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
A Death at Fountains Abbey by Antonia Hodgson
The Dry by Jane Harper
The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny
A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Holy Island by L J Ross
The Evidence of Ghosts by A K Benedict
Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves
Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine

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