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      Late Autumn Supporter Giveaway   11/27/2020

      I know that winter is well on the way, but I'm sneaking the autumn giveaway in here, right at the end of the season...     I thought this giveaway seemed particularly appropriate for this year: Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink.  I'm sure some of you will have heard of this book. It came out in September and has had brilliant reviews. It's been described as a love letter to reading and I think all of us have truly appreciated 'the comfort and joy of books' this year.  It is also a really beautiful hardback. Please excuse my picture-taking skills, it's really hard to get a good picture of something that's shiny!   As always, patreon supporters will be automatically entered into the draw. If you're not a supporter but you'd like to join our patreon you can do so here:  bookclubforum.co.uk is creating a book community | Patreon
Madeleine

Madeleine's Book Log - ongoing

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Yes this one did feel a bit dated, although it was only set in the 1970s.  Great comfort reads though.

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"Dark Sacred Night" by Michael Connelly - this is the first book in a new series in which Connelly's most famous detective, Harry Bosch, joins forces with Renee Ballard, at LAPD, Bosch is sort of in the wilderness and working for the much smaller San Fernando PD, but he asks Renee to help him with a cold case, the murder of runaway Daisy Carlton nine years earlier. he's never forgotten this lost girl, to the extent that her mum, Elizabeth, has been staying with him following drug rehab. In the meantime he also has to deal with gangsters, and a hit on himself! Although I thought this got off to a slightly slow, pedestrian start, the pace picked up halfway through and the rest was pretty much a page turner (even though the final showdown was slightly disappointing in that Renee goes in all on her own.....) but it was well-written and overall I enjoyed it. 7.5/10

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Impostor by L J Ross - this is the first in a new series by the author of the DCI Ryan books. Dr Alex Gregory is a psychologist, based at a hospital in South London where he tries to counsel those who've perpetrated terrible crimes, and attempts to help them address their crimes and hopefully guide them towards a better life. His main patient is Cathy Jones, a woman who, due to Munchhausens' by proxy, has caused the deaths of two of her children. However she is convinced that she has done nothing wrong. Meanwhile, a murder in a quiet Irish village leads to him being called in to profile the killer of a young mother, and when another, this time older mother is murdered in similar circumstances, both Gregory and the local police are under pressure to find the murderer, fast. Alex feels helpless and also has his own past to try to deal with, and with hardly any evidence to go on, everyone is hoping for a breakthrough in the case. I enjoyed this, it was a well-written police thriller with an engaging character in Dr Gregory, although it wasn't difficult to guess the identity of his demon. A promising start to a new series (the 3rd book has just been published) and with a couple of mentions of "his friend Ryan", I'm sure a crossover story won't be too far away! 8/10

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"The Twisted Sword" by Winston Graham - this is the 11th and penultimate of the Poldark series, and I felt it was a book of two halves, a lot of time is spent catching up with the family and Ross is now a Sir (much to George's fury!) and as part of his new role he's sent to Paris to be an unofficial spy as to what's going on in French politics, as France is recovering from the first round of the Napoleonic Wars. So he sets off for Paris with wife Demelza and their two youngest children, teenage Bella and toddler Henry - the two eldest are now married, with one still in Cornwall, the other in the army and waiting for his next posting in Europe. At first it's a round of parties, balls and walks in the park etc, and to be honest not much happens and I felt it dragged a bit. Then Napoleon returns and starts to make his way back to Paris to claim back his leadership, the King is forced to flee, Ross is placed under house arrest and Demelza and the children, not knowing where he is, are forced to return to England. However, Ross being Ross is never one to be confined and eventually he finds himself with the military, as they preprare for a battle near the Belgian town of Waterloo.... Tragedy follows and once the family are reunited back in Cornwall they find themselves picking up the pieces of their lives. Meanwhile George Warleggan is still there, plotting and scheming against his old enemy, although he does provide some of the book's lighter moments as he too, also has a surprise in store. So after a clunky start I found this book really gripping, and back on form, and it was great to join the Poldarks again. 8/10

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"The Hermitage" by L J Ross- this is the 9th book in the DCR Ryan series and although it begins in the familiar surroundings of Northumberland, most of the story takes place hundreds of miles away in Tuscany. The book starts at Warkworth Castle, when the body of the ferryman is found in the castle's Hermitage. Ryan's capable team start to investigate, as the man himself is in Florence with his wife Anna, on the trail of a killer who gave them the slip in a previous book. But when the real identity of the castle murder victim is found, it's discovered that he has links to Ryan's case, and Frank and Denise head off out to Italy to help their boss bring in their latest serial killer. It's all very entertaining as usual, and we get to learn a bit more about Ryan's background. Enjoyable as ever. 8/10

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"The Julius House" by Charlaine Harris - this is the 4th in the Aurora Teagarden mystery series set in Laurenceton, in Georgia, and in this one Roe, as she is known, is preparing for her wedding to Martin Bartell. His present to her is a lovely house, which is notorious for the fact that it's previous owners, the Julius family, disappeared overnight 6 years ago and not a trace has been found of them since. but Roe is thrilled and sets about revamping the property, although she is more than slightly curious about the couple who Martin rents out the apartment over the garage to, supposedly an Army buddy of his who has fallen on hard times, but he and his wife are more like a SWAT team. And when Roe and the wife are attached by an axe man, she begins to wonder why Martin has to keep making so many trips to places like Guatemala. Meanwhile the house's past inevitably comes back to haunt them, and Roe finds herself, as usual, in great danger. It's all written in a breezy style and Roe, despite being somewhat dim at times, is a likeable heroine and this was an easy, fast read 7.5/10

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I’ve got the audio version of this one to listen to. Looking forward to it now, as listening (or reading) books of lighter styles are better at the mo.

4 hours ago, Madeleine said:

"The Julius House" by Charlaine Harris - It's all written in a breezy style and Roe, despite being somewhat dim at times, is a likeable heroine and this was an easy, fast read 7.5/10

:lol: . Exactly!

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"A Wedding at the Beach Hut" by Veronica Henry - Robyn Moss is 30, and has just discovered she's pregnant, she and her partner Jake are thrilled and decide to have a quick wedding. But Robyn was also adopted as a baby, and she decides that now is the time to track down her birth mother, so she opens the small box that her mother left for her, and manages to find her mother surprisingly easily. We then get the back story of how her mother, Emily, came to give up Robyn for adoption, and her life afterwards, as well as Robyn's story as she plans her wedding and works out how to break the news to her beloved adoptive parents, who are also planning changes of their own. There are surprises along the way, and I'd call this, a gentle, enjoyable comfort read, with the lovely setting of a beach hut on the North Devon coast. 7/10

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"A Death at Sea" by Andrea Camilleri - this is a collection of 8 short stories, all of which have been adapted for TV.  Most of the stories are the same length, more or less, of around 35 pages and it's interesting to see how a nearly 2 hour TV film has been made out of relatively little material.  All these stories have the trademark quirkiness and humour of the longer novels, and work well as a quick read. 7/10

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"Dead Man's Lane" by Kate Ellis - this is the latest in the Wesley Peterson crime series, set in the picturesque (and very dangerous!) town of Tradmouth.  Strangefields Farm is notorious for being the home of Jackson Temples, an artist who is currently serving time for murdering several young women who posed for some risqué paintings, but now the house is being redeveloped as a rather unlikely venue for a holiday resort.  But building work is halted when human bones are found, at first the police wonder if it's more of the alleged victims coming to light, but when  the skull and subsequent skeletons are discovered to be several hundred years old, they relax, for they have a more important investigation on their hands when a local florist is found murdered in exactly the same way as Temples' victims, which means ithere is either a copycat killer on the loose, or Temples was, as he's always insisted, innocent.  In the meantime, we also get the parallel story of some of the house's original inhabitants, back in the 17th century, and  find out the real story behind the remains found at the house. This is another solid police procedural, which includes a face from Wesley's past, more issues with his mother in law, and a possible miscarriage of justice. These books are enjoyable and very readable, but a little bit more humour would help occasionally!  Not to say that they're depressing, but some gentle humour would lighten them a little. 7/10

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"The Comforts of Home" by Susan Hill - in this novel detective Simon Serrailler is recuperating on his favourite Scottish island after suffering horrific injuries in his previous case. But murder is never far away and he finds himself investigating when another newcomer to the island is found dead on a beach. It turns out the victim had lots of secrets and as the islanders knew very little about her background it's almost impossible to find out what the motive was for killing the well-liked woman. Meanwhile back in Lafferton a series of fires leave the police baffled. Family life continues with Simon's nephew Sam playing a larger role, and when he returns to the small cathedral town he finds many things have changed as he tries to get back into his old life. This is another solid police procedural, well written and with a good setting in the Scottish island. However the characters are still a little thin, although Simon may at last be thawing just a little bit? 7/10

"Longstone" by L J Ross - this is the 10th novel in the Ryan series and has another fabulous setting, this time the Farne Islands. When a local academic who is also a keen diver announces to the local pub that he's found the wreck of a Viking Ship, there is great excitement and quite a bit of envy too. Then the man is found dead on the rocks of one of the islands - was someone trying to get to the wreck and claim it for themselves? Another murder raises even more questions, as Ryan and his team find themselves at sea - literally sometimes, with some great descriptions of riding through the waves - as they try to find out who the killer is in the small community of Seahouses. Again, great scenery and some nice humour (mainly involving food!) and intrigue as family secrets are revealed. 8/10

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Bone China" by Laura Purcell - this book is set in Cornwall in the early 19th century, and Hester Why has fled London after a disastrous incident, not only that, she has changed her name and does not want to be found. She thinks she is safe in Cornwall at the remote Morvoren House, perched on a rocky clifftop, when she takes up the post as companion to the lady of the house, Louise Pinecroft, who is almost mute and partially immobile, following some sort of stroke. Louise spends most of her time in the China Room, with it's collection of Willow pattern china, which she seems to watch intently, and if she does manage to get to her own bedroom she is locked in. The other resident of the house is Rosewyn, a young woman who has what we would now call learning difficulties, and who is also kept locked in her room most of the time, and is looked after by the strange servant Creeda, a woman who seems to be obsessed with fairies, convinced that they are everywhere. Hester at first thinks this is nonsense, but as strange events start to happen she begins to wonder if there is something supernatural going on. Meanwhile her past seems to be threatening to catch up with her, but more danger seems to be in the present, as she realises that she must protect both her mistress and Rosewyn, but from what or whom she isn't entirely sure. We also get Louise's story and find out about her own past, as we learn of her father's bathe to find a cure for TB - he's a doctor who's been disgraced in London, and whose own wife and other children have all succumbed to the disease - so he too flees to Morvoren House, where he tries out a radical treatment, using convicts as guinea pigs. Louise helps, but trouble brews when she finds herself attracted to one of the younger men. I enjoyed this, it was well written and very atmospheric and vivid, nice and gothic too without being too creepy! I thought all the main characters - Louise, Rosewyn and of course Hester/Esther - were believable and sympathetic, although Hester is a bit unreliable as she spends a lot of time dosed up on either gin or laudanum! One minor point is that I thought the ending, although gripping, did feel a bit rushed. But a great gothic read for Halloween. Purcell is becoming one of my favourite authors. Her books are very descriptive and this one in particular has a slight other worldly feel to it. I won't look at the Willow pattern in the same way for a long time! 7.5/10

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I have Bone China on my shelf, I'm really looking forward to reading it! I loved The Corset by Laura Purcell but I actually felt like the ending of that felt rushed too. 

 

I've seen it categorised as horror, would you say it is actually scary or does it just have a spooky atmosphere? 

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No not horror at  all, it does have a slightly creepy atmosphere but I don't think it's any creepier than The Corset.  So yes more atmospheric than scary!

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Good to see that you enjoyed Bone China, as it’s on my library list

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Fear on the Phantom Special by Edward Marston - Inspector Colbeck's latest assignment takes him to the Lake District in November, after a young man, Alexander Piper, disappears during an excursion he's arranged for his friends on a special train journey to a haunted wood on Halloween - when the train is suddenly brought to a halt by a fire, he dashes off to investigate, and is never seen again. But he was very unpopular - arrogant and conceited, he'd ruffled many feathers and broken a lot of hearts, and not many people are sorry to see the back of him. So Colbeck and Leeming, his sergeant, have plenty of suspects, as well as trying to unravel Piper's private and business life. This was an enjoyable, if slightly dry read, and a subplot involving Colbeck's wife, who is back home in London and trying to help her father when he claims that his long service medal on the railways has been stolen, felt rather pointless. 7/10

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The Beauty of Broken Things" by Victoria Connelly - Orla lives alone, except for her dog and an occasional visit from her mother, in a castle on the Suffolk coast - following a traumatic incident a few years previously, she has retreated from the world, buying and paying for everything online, even communicating with her gardener using handwritten notes. Luke lives in London, works as a builder and is devastated when his wife Helen is killed in a train crash. When he can bring himself to check her phone, he finds she's been communicating online with a fellow photography fan, Beautifully Broken, to the extent that Helen had promised to send her friend a present. Luke finds the package and decides to deliver it himself. And so begins an unlikely friendship, and a tale of healing, and confronting the past and your problems. It was a nice read, with a lovely setting and two appealing characters, although I'm not quite sure how Orla kept managing to find the money for her castle! It does enter cliché territory a little when her fearsome mother inevitably turns up and throws their friendship into turmoil, but the ending was satisfying without going completely the familiar "Hollywood" route. 7/10

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The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths - things have moved on quite a lot since we last met Ruth Galloway, it's now 2 years since the previous book and she has moved from her beloved Norfolk to Cambridge, where she is a senior lecturer at a Cambridge college and living with her partner Frank. Just back from a writing retreat, her old life comes crashing back in the form of DI Harry Nelson, when a convicted murdered insists that Ruth excavates a site where he claims to have buried more of his victims. Reluctantly she agrees, and when it's discovered that there is also a connection to the writing retreat which she just attended, she is once more back with Nelson and his team. This was another enjoyable read, although I felt it did sag slightly in the middle, and taking Ruth out of her old familiar environment gave it a slightly disconnected feel. I did wonder occasionally if the series was starting to run out of steam a little, but the ending points to yet more developments. I did think it was a shame that the old team had been broken up - one of the other detectives has also moved on, although he does appear briefly in this story, but hopefully the gang will continue investigating. There is a great chase across the marshes though, which is very atmospheric, albeit slightly predictable as to how it plays out.  7.5/10

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