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Madeleine

Madeleine's Book Log - ongoing

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And one more which I read over Xmas:

 

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

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First read of the New Year:

 

Death on a Longship by Marsali Taylor - this is the first in a new series of mysteries set in the Shetland Isles, which I came across in a discount book shop last year. Cass Lynch is a qualified sailor who has lived abroad (and on boats) ever since she left home at 16, after her parents split up and she was packed off to France to live with her mother, a well-known classical singer, leaving her father, a businessman, on Shetland. She's come back to be the skipper of a reconstructed Viking longship for a film being shot on the island, but when the leading lady is murdered (and found on by her on her boat), she's thrust into the media spotlight and is also a suspect. Further acts of sabotage follow and Cass finds herself trying to identify the killer before more harm is done to either herself or her friends and family. I found this an enjoyable read, and wonder if, in subsequent books, Cass will team up with the policeman, Macrae, with whom she seems to have an affinity. It'll be interesting to see Cass reconcile with her family, and how she adapts to living on solid ground! 7.5/10

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I like that series too, Ann Cleeves is probably a better writer, although the book wasn't badly written, so it looks a promising series.

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Nemesis by Jo Nesbo - another Harry Hole novel in which, as with all long running series, the hero inevitably finds himself the main suspect when an ex-girlfriend is found dead from a gun shot wound. Everything points to suicide, but Harry had been with her the night before and can't remember anything about what happened, and it soon becomes clear that someone is out to frame him. And what's the connection with a series of bank robberies which are being committed in Oslo? Another solid, fast-paced read, although at times it seemed to ramble slightly, and I'm not sure if this is down to the translation, or the original intention of the author. It was an entertaining read, albeit a bit convoluted, with a bit of globe-trotting involved too! 8/10

Thin Air by Michelle Paver - another spooky tale, this time set during an expedition in 1935 to climb Kangchenjunga, a mountain in the Himalayas which is the meant to be the most dangerous of all. Stephen is the team's doctor, and he joins his brother Kits and several other ex-military types; feeling out of place, he is also often at loggerheads with his brother as their old sibling rivalry surfaces, although there are also lighter moments, including the arrival of Cedric, a stray dog who befriends Stephen. But as they climb higher, following in the footsteps of a previous expedition which ended in tragedy, Stephen starts to feel increasingly haunted; is it due to altitude sickness, the cold, his imagination or is there something else on the mountain with them? This follows pretty much the same formula as Dark Matter, which I loved, although there's not quite the sense of loneliness as Stephen is, for the most part, accompanied by the rest of the team, along with their Sherpas and porters. But there is a great sense of foreboding, and a few genuinely creepy moments. It's not quite as eerie as Dark Matter, but still very enjoyable. 8/10

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On 27/10/2017 at 2:24 PM, Madeleine said:

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

 

I really like the look of that one, shall look forward to your review. :)

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Had a small spree at lunchtime:

 

Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Gyles Brandreth

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves (Vera novel)

City of Masks by S D Sykes

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Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell - ten years after she disappeared one day on her way to the library, teenager Ellie Mack's remains, or some of them at least, are finally discovered. After her funeral, her family gradually start to live again, but the story focuses mainly on her mum, Laurel, who starts a tentative romance with a man called Floyd who she meets one day in a local cafe. He has two daughters from previous relationships, the eldest is a rather ethereal creature, but the younger one, poppy, who lives with him, reminds Laurel uncannily of Ellie. And as she gets to know the little girl better, a series of coincidences lead her to think that maybe this relationship wasn't such a chance event at all. We gradually find out what happened to Ellie, and also get the other sides of the story from other characters too, as Laurel finally finds out why and how her daughter really disappeared. For the most part this was an enjoyable, if slightly lurid thriller - I can't say too much without giving away all the plot twists, but I found the last part rather rushed, with a few plotlines seemingly almost forgotten about, or at best skimmed over, so it lost a mark for that! And Floyd was probably the least convincing character. 7.5/10

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Shame this one wasn't so great. I've read and liked other books by Lisa Jewell, though those were more 'rom-coms' than thrillers. I haven't read any of her thrillers yet, though I do plan to read one some time.

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Bought today in a discount book shop:

 

The Plague Maiden and The Skeleton Room, both by Kate Ellis
The Darkness Within by Alannah Knight

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Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne - this is a British Library crime classic and an old-fashioned locked room mystery. The unfortunate lady of the title is Mary Gregor, who lives in a castle on the shore of a loch with her widowed brother, his son, daughter-in-law and grandson. She's found murdered in her bedroom, with all the doors and windows locked from the inside, so where is the murderer, and how did he/she escape? Mary had a lot of enemies, as she seemed to have a talent for making people, especially her daughter-in-law, unhappy. Then the police detective assigned to her case is found dead, under exactly the same circumstances, so another detective turns up, along with a local doctor who both try to solve the case. All the family and the few staff are suspects, and all had cause to want the lady out of the way, but just when it seems that the case is solved, there's another twist and we're back to square one. It all gets a bit convoluted, with more murders, and the local people are convinced that a fish type creature is responsible, as herring scales are found on the victims. I did eventually guess what the murder weapon was, but the final denouement wasn't very convincing - it may have worked for one murder as a fluke, but the rest? Too much of a coincidence! So it lost a point for that, but was an entertaining bit of hokum, with much pipe-smoking and snuff-taking. 7/10

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And the tbr piles continue to grow.... inspired by the reviews on here, I got 3 volumes in The Dark is Rising sequence - 2, 4 and 5.

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My "Little Women" books came yesterday, ordered from a British TV publication which had a special offer when the new version was shown over Christmas.

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The Butcher Bird by S D Sykes - this is the second of the Oswald de Lacey crime series, and is set in the mid 14th century, when the country was still recovering from the horrors of the Plague. Oswald is trying to get used to running his estate, but his workers and tenants are insisting on higher wages and, whilst he'd like to oblige, he's forbidden by law to do so. Then a young baby is found in a hedge, and the villagers are convinced the Butcher Bird killed her. Oswald knows this is nonsense, but then another infant dies in similar circumstances, he's forced to take drastic action. But he has family problems too, and when his sister's stepdaughters run away to London, he's forced to go and bring them back, but it looks like the Butcher Bird is following him. This was another entertaining adventure, a bit gruesome in parts but with some light relief mosty provided by his hypochondriac, melodramatic mother who insists on accompanying him to London. 8/10

Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson - the second in the Dark Iceland series in which policeman Ari Thor is disappointed at being passed over for promotion when his superior relocates to Rejkyavik. However it's not long before his new colleague is shot and fatally wounded whilst investigating a derelict house on the outskirts of their small town. At first Ari is of course horrified, then he starts to wonder if maybe the shot was meant for him, as he was originally on duty that night, but was instead at home in bed with the flu. Soon it seems that the new mayor and his deputy could be implicated, and Ari is given an unmistakeable warning - basically, back off! It soon turns out that everyone, including the murdered cop, has secrets. This was another compelling story - set five years after the first book, Ari is now living with his girlfriend and their baby son, but the relationship is stalling, and the couple seem to be drifiting apart - but Ari has no time for this unfortunately, as he hunts a police killer. 8/10

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I read your review of The Loney from 2017, and I agree, I couldn't see why it had won the prize. I didn't like it at all! I gave it 1/5 I think. Dreadful! It sounded like such an interesting read, going by the blurb, but it wasn't!!

 

I wish you an amazing reading year in 2018, Madeleine! :smile2::readingtwo:

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Thanks Frankie, same to you.  It's often the case with award-winning books isn't it?  I've lent it/given it to a couple of friends so it'll be interesting to hear what they think of it.

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Date with Death by Julia Chapman - thus is the first on a new series of Midsomer Murders style mysteries set in the Yorkshire Dales. Delilah Metcalfe is hoping that her Dales Dating Agency will flourish and solve her dire financial problems. Then Samson O'Brien, a local guy who has been in London for years serving with the Metropolitan Police, roars back into town and upsets everyone, for he is something of a black sheep. He sets up his Dales Detective Agency (despite being suspended from the Met on full pay) and rents his office from Delilah, and when men who are registered with the dating agency start dying violently, both Samson and Delilah :roll: join forces to find out /what exactly is happening. This was enjoyable, and I look forward to more in this series. 8/10

The Body in the Ice by A J MacKenzie - this is the second in the Romney Marsh mysteries, and this time Rev Hardcastle and his friend, widow Amelia Chaytor, try to find out who killed a young black woman found dead in the pond of a local house, which had been more or less empty for years, and why was she dressed as a man? And why have the family who own the house suddenly returned to live there from the US, where they've been based for many years? I found it a bit convoluted, but the Reverend and Amelia are likeable characters, and there's some light relief from the Rev's sister, who comes to stay with him so that she can work on her latest novel. Another promising instalment in this series, which seems to be developing nicely. 7.5/10

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Her Frozen Heart by Lulu Taylor - this is a book set over two time periods, the present day and just after the end of WW2. In the present day we meet Caitlyn and her son Max, who are both devastated when husband and father, Patrick, is killed in a car accident. Caitlyn starts to suspect that Patrick and her best friend Sara were having an affair, as he was about to tell her something when the accident happened. Meanwhile, in 1947, a woman called Thomasina (Tommy) has also lost her husband, this time in the war, and is struggling to keep their house, Kings Harcourt, going. On a rare trip to Oxford she bumps into a couple of old school friends, and is persuaded to let one of them, Barbara, another widow, and her daughter Molly stay with them. Then a severe winter hits, and as Barbara starts to worm her way into the household, Tommy finds herself caught up between family politics, and trying to keep everyone warm and fed as supplies dwindle even more. Meanwhile, Caitlyn, fed up with trying to handle an increasingly hysterical Sara, has also renewed her acquaintance with an old school friend Nicholas, whose aunt was Tommy's sister, and he invites Caitlyn and her son to stay at Kings Harcourt, where his aunt still lives. No real surprises as to how the rest of both stories play out, and although I enjoyed the book, the stalker storyline was a bit overblown, and Patrick was such a manipulative, controlling character that I found it difficult to see how anyone could stay with him for long! But the setting was lovely, and the harsh winter and struggle to keep going were well evoked. 7.5/10

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Her Frozen Heart by Lulu Taylor - this is a book set over two time periods, the present day and just after the end of WW2. In the present day we meet Caitlyn and her son Max, who are both devastated when husband and father, Patrick, is killed in a car accident. Caitlyn starts to suspect that Patrick and her best friend Sara were having an affair, as he was about to tell her something when the accident happened. Meanwhile, in 1947, a woman called Thomasina (Tommy) has also lost her husband, this time in the war, and is struggling to keep their house, Kings Harcourt, going. On a rare trip to Oxford she bumps into a couple of old school friends, and is persuaded to let one of them, Barbara, another widow, and her daughter Molly stay with them. Then a severe winter hits, and as Barbara starts to worm her way into the household, Tommy finds herself caught up between family politics, and trying to keep everyone warm and fed as supplies dwindle even more. Meanwhile, Caitlyn, fed up with trying to handle an increasingly hysterical Sara, has also renewed her acquaintance with an old school friend Nicholas, whose aunt was Tommy's sister, and he invites Caitlyn and her son to stay at Kings Harcourt, where his aunt still lives. No real surprises as to how the rest of both stories play out, and although I enjoyed the book, the stalker storyline was a bit overblown, and Patrick was such a manipulative, controlling character that I found it difficult to see how anyone could stay with him for long! But the setting was lovely, and the harsh winter and struggle to keep going were well evoked. 7.5/10

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney - This tells the story of two rival expeditions, one British, one US, attempting to reach the North Pole in the late 19th century. The British team is led by Flora, who undertook her first trip north as a young girl with her father, and caught the exploring bug and was determined to go back. To this end she marries fellow explorer Freddie Athlone, but the marriage is a disaster; despite this, they set off on their first expedition but when Freddie is seriously injured in an accident on board ship, they agree that Flora can carry on without him. Once there, she meets the American team and there is a definite spark between her and Jakob, the US geologist, but nothing happens until they meet again back in England when they begin a passionate affair, and it's at this point that the book fell down, for me anyway, as the rest of it seemed to be more about the affair than the expedition. There are some return trips, during which the rivalry between the US and the UK, as well as within the teams themselves, especially the Americans, is well described, but ultimately the seemingly endless sex scenes soon got quite boring (too much detail :o ) and the final mystery seemed to be dealt with rather hurriedly. A shame, as I loved Tenderness of Wolves by the same author, but I preferred To the Bright Edge of the World, which was slightly similar, by Eowyn Ivey. 7/10

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The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley - archaeologist Verity Grey travels up to the coastal Scottish town of Eyemouth, just over the border with England, to help out with a dig in the grounds of a large house, Rosehill - supposedly looking for a Roman camp, but she instead discovers that the owner of the house, Peter Quinnell, is convinced that his estate is the last resting place of the famed 9th Legion. A surreptitious dig begins but once real evidence is found funding for a further dig is secured, and the search for evidence of the lost legion continues. Meanwhile Verity has to contend with a budding romance with fellow digger David Fortune, and also her ex Adrian, who is involved with the dig as well. Plus there's Robbie, the estate's cook's young son, who talks to The Sentinel, a Roman soldier who is said to stand guard over everything. It's a tale of mystery, romance and a bit of a ghost story too, and bowled along nicely. Very atmospheric albeit a bit predictable, but a nice comfort read. 8.5/10

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book, it's had lots of publicity, film option by Reese Witherspoon etc but a few things didn't really sit rightly with me - something awful has obviously happened to Eleanor when she was young; the reader does find out what this is quite early on, and the full story is gradually unravelled, but I didn't quite believe how naïve Eleanor was, bearing in mind that she'd been working for several years (she's 30) and therefore mixing with people, I found it a little strange how someone of her age was so out of touch with popular culture - she did after all live in a major city not a tiny village, but seemed oblivious to modern fads such as zumba classes. Her character does eventually evolve after she and a work colleague go to help an elderly man who collapses in the street, and I did like the way she did finally break out from her past, and her friendship with Raymond was very touching too. A huge crush on a local musician has a horrible inevitability as it runs it's course, and I did think there was something odd about her relationship wit her mother, although it turns out my suspicion was directed at the wrong person! An interesting read with a touching ending, although it did feel a bit rushed towards the end, which again didn't seem totally convincing to me. 7.5/10

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I plan to read this book eventually, so it's nice to hear your thoughts on it :). I've seen a couple of glowing reviews so it's nice to read one that mentions a few 'negatives' too :).

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How to stop time by Matt Haig - this is a time travel novel with a difference: Tom, currently in present day London working as a history teacher, is over 400 years old, suffering from a condition known as anageria, although the doctor who "discovered it" is found dead shortly afterwards, drowned in the Thames. Tom isn't immortal, he will eventually age fully and die of something (although an injury would carry him off sooner, and he seems immune to all diseases) but at present he only looks around 40-odd years old, instead of 400+ years. He has to keep moving on from various places - 8 years is recommended by the Albatross Society, a group formed to protect the identity of the so-called Albas. But Tom is tiring of this existence, and the main thing keeping him going is the search for his daughter, fathered in the 16th century, who has inherited the condition. His search takes him all over the world, and at times becomes precarious and fraught with danger as he is given assignments to either bring in other Albas, or despatch them to prevent them revealing their secret, as several government agencies are already onto them. I enjoyed this, it was well-written and I preferred the historical sections, as Tom's childhood and gradual evolution into adulthood progress throughout the centuries, I particularly liked his time spent as a musician at the Globe Theatre during Shakespeare's time. The present day sections, by contrast, felt a little sluggish but eventually it all came together in a sweetly satisfying ending. I'd love to know more about Tom's earlier life, there must be lots more to tell! 8/10

Edited by Madeleine

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