Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2015

Mount TBR 2015

It’s that time of year when next year’s challenges are being set. I’m not sure I’ll be taking part in many, but one I’ll definitely be doing is Bev’s 2015 Mount TBR Reading Challenge as I still have many unread books on my shelves (both physical and digital). 

Challenge Levels:

Pike’s Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from you the nr TBR pile/s

Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

With just 7 books to read I’m hoping to reach my target for this year - to reach Mt Ararat (48 books) and I’ll be aiming for the same target next year. If I get higher so much the better!

Bev has set a few rules:

*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2015.

*You may sign up any time from now until November 4th, 2015.

*Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2015. No ARCs (none), no library books. No rereads. [To clarify--based on a question raised last year--the intention is to reduce the stack of books that you have bought for yourself or received as presents {birthday, Christmas, "just because," etc.}. Audiobooks and E-books may count if they are yours and they are one of your primary sources of backlogged books.]

*You may count any “currently reading” book that you begin prior to January 1–provided that you had 50% or more of the book left to finish in 2014.  

*Books may be used to count for other challenges as well.

*There will be quarterly check-ins and prize drawings! 

Posted in Books, Mount TBR Challenge 2015 | 5 Comments

First Chapter, First Paragraph

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is:

Isa and May by Margaret Forster. It begins:

The hardest thing to tell Isa and May was where, and how, I met Ian. I thought seriously about lying. I could claim I’d met him at a party, which would have satisfied May but maybe not Isa. Isa is the sort of morally upright person who can sense a lie at once. She would have wanted to know who had given this party, where it had been held, and a load of other questions hinting at her suspicions. So I told the truth, but not the whole truth. I said I’d met him at the airport. I didn’t say I’d tried to pick him up. The meeting place was scandalous enough for them.

My copy is a library book and I borrowed it because I’ve read a few of Margaret Forster’s books and enjoyed them. Isa and May are the narrator’s grandmothers.

Posted in Books, Fiction, First Chapter | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Blue Heaven by C J Box

There are lots of things I like about reading e-books, but I’ve found that my Kindle has become a Black Hole – it sucks in books and once they are in there they may never see the light of day again. I don’t even know how many books are lost in there. It’s so easy to download books and just forget they are there. With print books they’re always around sitting on the shelves and even if they are in boxes they take up space and are visible. Not so on an e-reader, the books are invisible.

So it was with Blue Heaven by C J Box – it has sat in my Kindle for nearly three years an unread and indeed a forgotten book. And here is where my liking for reading challenges came into its own, because I was looking for a book with ‘blue’ in its title for Bev’s Color Coded Challenge and up popped Blue Heaven.

I loved it and will certainly look out for more books by C J Box.

The action takes place over four days in North Idaho one spring. It’s a story about two children, Annie and William who decide to go fishing without telling their mother, Monica, and witness a murder in the woods. One of the killers sees them and they run for their lives.

It’s set in a farming community which is changing as people move into the area – specifically retired police officers, about 200 hundred of them, which is where the book title comes from, as according to Fiona Pritzle, the mail lady and local gossip, ‘They call North Idaho ‘Blue Heaven at the LAPD ‘. So when Monica reports her children missing it’s natural for the ex-policemen to volunteer to search for them and as the local sheriff is new to the job, they soon take over the investigation.

Annie and William meanwhile have discovered that not everyone is who they seem to be and it’s not safe even to call home. Until they met Jess Rawlins, an old rancher, a lonely divorcee who is in financial difficulty and struggling to keep his ranch going.

This is really a straightforward story of kids on the run but just to complicate things a little there is a newcomer, Eduardo Villatoro, another retired police officer from California, who arrives in town trying to trace the money stolen from a Santa Anita racetrack several years earlier when a young guard was killed.

It all melds together in a fast paced chase to save Annie and William, the tension maintained until the end. There are several things that kept me gripped as I read Blue Heaven. It’s one of those books that I find myself thinking about when I’m not reading it and keen to get back to it. First of all it’s written in a style that appeals to me – straightforward storytelling, with good descriptions of locality and characters, secondly characters that are both likeable and downright nasty, but not caricatures, and finally the ending was what I hoped, and also dreaded it would be.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 731 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0312365705
  • Publisher: Corvus (1 July 2010)
  • Source: I bought it

Challenges: Color Coded Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge and My Kind of Mystery Challenge.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Color Coded Challenge, Crime Fiction, e-books, Fiction, Mount TBR Challenge 2014, My Kind of Mystery Challenge | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Bargain of the Day: The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge

 

One of today’s deals on Kindle is The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge – it was first published as Linnets and Valerians in 1964. I read and loved some of her books many years ago, but not this one. Geranium Cat reviewed it earlier this year so when I saw it this morning in the Kindle Daily Deals I bought it – it sounds a delightful story:

Her work has that classic blend of realism and magic, and the story of three runaway children finding their way by accident to their great uncle’s house in Devon and lifting a curse is beautifully told‘ Amanda Craig 

Posted in Books, Fiction | 3 Comments

R.I.P.IX Completed

RIP IX

(Art used for banners is the property of Abigail Larson)

During September and October Carl hosted his ninth annual R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) reading event (he doesn’t like to call it a challenge) over at Stainless Steel Droppings. 

It involved reading from the following categories: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I did:

ripnineperilfirst

Peril the First:

which was to read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

It was easier than I thought to find books to qualify and I read 11 books, some were much scarier than others.  The links to my posts on the books:

  1. Cauldstane by Linda Gillard
  2. Wycliffe and the House of Fear by W J Burley
  3. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  4. The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine
  5. Testament of a Witch by Douglas Watt
  6. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
  7. The Shroud Maker by Kate Ellis
  8. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie
  9. The Lake District Murder by John Bude
  10. Time’s Echo by Pamela Hartshorne
  11. She Never Came Home by Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

My thanks to Carl for this most enjoyable event.

Posted in Books, Fiction, RIP Challenge | 3 Comments

Books Read in October

October was a bumper reading month for me. I read 11 books and 1 novella and reviewed all of them except one - To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, which was a re-read. Two books are non-fiction, and 2 books are from my TBR shelves.

I’ve included a brief description of each book, for the full posts click on the book titles.

  1. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier – TBR – this is fantasy fiction set some time in the future, about a place between heaven and earth, and the people who end up there after they’ve died and what happens to them.  It didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
  2. The Lake District Murder by John Bude – first published in 1935, this is a police procedural, showing in intricate detail how the detectives investigate a crime. In this case a body is discovered in a car outside a lonely garage on a little used road.
  3. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie, one of the earlier of her books, first published in the UK in 1931 and in the US as Murder at Hazelmoor, featuring Inspector Narracott. It begins with a seance, or rather a table-turning session which tells of the death of Captain Trevelyan.
  4. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel – a collection of short stories that are brooding, somewhat melancholic, dark, disturbing and full of sharp and penetrating observations.
  5. A Short Book about Drawing by Andrew Marr – NF - not an instruction book, but it’s full of insight into what happens when you draw and it’s dotted throughout with personal information.
  6. Almost Invincible: a biographical novel of Mary Shelley by Suzanne Burdon – a remarkable novel about Mary Shelley’s life and relationship with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a story of scandal, love and loss. 
  7. Time’s Echo by Pamela Hartshorne - a time-slip story with an element of mystery and suspense set in York in the 1870s and the modern day.
  8. In Our Time by Melvyn Bragg – NF, TBR -transcript of the Radio 4 programme covering a wide variety of subjects including the history of ideas – philosophy, physics, history, religion, literature and science.
  9. Cauldstane by Linda Gillard - a ghost story, set in a Scottish tower house in the Highlands where a malign presence threatens the MacNab family and ghost writer Jenny Ryan.
  10. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – a review may follow.
  11. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson investigate the murder of Enoch J Drebber, an American found dead in the front room of an empty house off the Brixton Road,  with the word “RACHE” scrawled in blood on the wall beside the body.
  12. She Never Came Home by Dorte Hummelshøj Jacobsen (novella) - ghost story with a chilling atmosphere and shocking twist at the end.

With such a variety of books it’s impossible to pick a book of the month, but in particular both the non-fiction books are excellent:

In our time

and in fiction,  Hilary Mantel’s book of short stories and Suzanne Burdon’s autobiographical novel of Mary Shelley are two that still linger in my memory:

Mantel & Burdon

Posted in Books, Fiction, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

She Never Came Home by Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

She Never Came Home is a perfect little ghost story for Halloween. Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen spins a suspenseful story of Alice and her husband Peter and their little dog, Foxy as they move into an old farmhouse deep in the Danish countryside. Just why is Foxy nervous about the cupboard under the sink, what is in the bedrooms upstairs that are excluded from their tenancy agreement, and why has the house been empty for over thirty years?

Both Peter and Alice are out of work, but Peter still has to work out his notice in Germany and leaves Alice alone in the house… Alice slowly discovers the horrible truth.

I really liked this short story, with its chilling atmosphere and shocking twist at the end. In just a few pages Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen has written such a compelling and entertaining tale.

This is my last entry in this year’s R.I.P. challenge and another one for the My Kind of Mystery challenge.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Ghost stories, My Kind of Mystery Challenge, Mysteries, RIP Challenge, Short Stories | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Cauldstane by Linda Gillard

Linda Gillard describes her book, Cauldstane  as ‘a gothic novel in the romantic suspense tradition of Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart & Victoria Holt.‘ It is a ghost story, set in a Scottish tower house in the Highlands:

Cauldstane stood, heroic, long-suffering, defying all that the centuries had thrown at it. (Wet rot and dry rot have proved more damaging to many a castle than the depredations of enemy artillery). I saw an ivy-clad tower, much taller than it was wide, with more windows than I could easily count, the whole topped by conical-roofed turrets and looking, from a distance, like a toy. (page 6)

The narrator is Jenny Ryan who is employed by Sholto MacNab, a retired adventurer and Laird of the castle, to ghost write his memoirs. Cauldstane, a beautiful castle is fast falling into disrepair and the MacNabs are struggling to maintain or even keep it.

When he employs Jenny Sholto jokes that every castle should have its ghost. Cauldstane not only has a ghost, there is also the MacNab curse, which affects the women the McNabs marry, with three deaths (two accidents and a suicide) attributed to the curse, and the legend of the Cauldstane claymore, supposed to possess supernatural powers to protect the MacNabs from evil.

Jenny immediately falls in love with the castle, but as she settles in a few things begin to disturb her – her notes on her laptop disappear. As she learns more about the MacNabs and their history, family secrets begin to surface. But what is the truth behind these stories? It seems to hinge on Meredith, Sholto’s second wife who was killed in a horrific car crash.

Cauldstane is peopled by well drawn colourful characters, a beautifully described atmospheric setting and a wealth of story-telling, recreating the past seamlessly interwoven with the present. Jenny not only falls in love with the castle, but also with Sholto’s heir, his son Alec and as she does so more strange events occur and it becomes obvious that there is a malign presence in the castle that doesn’t want her there. And it makes its presence known in a modern way – through Jenny’s laptop. No ghostly visions or  spooky voices, but a thoroughly evil presence capable of writing on the laptop as well as moving objects and putting Jenny’s life in danger, along with the music that apparently only Jenny can hear.

As well as being a gripping tale Cauldstane is also about fear. The epigraph from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914) sets the tone: ‘Ghost: the outward and visible sign of an inward fear‘.  The MacNabs are not the only ones with things to fear in their past, for Jenny too has a troubled past and both have to learn how to overcome their fears. Cauldstane is also about loss and revenge, about good versus evil and the power of love.

Linda Gillard lives in the Scottish Highlands. She has written seven novels. I enjoyed this one very much but my favourite of hers is still Star Gazing. For more information about Linda Gillard and her books see her website, Linda Gillard – Author.

Reading challenges: Read Scotland 2014, My Kind of Mystery and R.I.P. IX.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Challenges, Fiction, Ghost stories, My Kind of Mystery Challenge, Mysteries, Read Scotland 2014, RIP Challenge | Tagged , | 5 Comments

She Never Came Home – FREE for Halloween!

She never came home

To celebrate Halloween, Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen has made her latest ghost story, She Never Came Home, free today and tomorrow.

Short story of 9,000 words – crime & ghosts. 

Grab it while you can, and feel free to share the news with your friends or blog readers –and remember to keep the lights on! 

Muhahaha!

http://authl.it/1zt

Posted in Books, Fiction, Ghost stories, Short Stories | Tagged , | 5 Comments

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This is the first Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson mystery, published in 1887. A Study in Scarlet is a novel in two parts. The first, narrated by Dr John Watson, begins in 1881 with Watson on nine months convalescent leave from the army, having been shot in his shoulder whilst in Afghanistan, followed by an attack of enteric fever. As a result he was weak and emaciated – ‘as thin as a lather and as brown as a nut.‘ He was looking for lodgings when he met a friend who introduced him to an acquaintance who was working in the chemical laboratory at the hospital – Sherlock Holmes, who he described as ‘a little too scientific for my tastes – it approaches to cold-bloodedness. … He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.’ 

They get on immediately and take a suite of rooms in 221B Baker Street, after Holmes astounded Watson by deducing that Watson had served in Afghanistan. Holmes describes his occupation as a ‘consulting detective‘ solving crimes for both private individuals and the police, using his intuition, observation and the rules of deduction. Tobias Gregson and Lestrade both Scotland Yard detectives regularly ask Holmes for his help.

Very soon they are soon involved in investigating the murder of Enoch J Drebber, an American found dead in the front room of an empty house at 3 Lauriston Gardens, off the Brixton Road,  with the word “RACHE” scrawled in blood on the wall beside the body.

A Study in Scarlet is a superb story introducing Conan Doyle’s characters – Holmes reminds Watson of

… a pure-blooded well-trained foxhound as it dashes backwards and forwards through the covert, whining in its eagerness, until it comes across the lost scent.

Holmes is his brilliant best, leaving the police officers behind as he discovers the killer. And there then follows a flashback, narrated in the third person, to Part II The Country of the Saints to America in 1847, specifically to a Mormon community, explaining the events that led up to to the murder, where John Ferrier and his adopted daughter Lucy are first rescued from death in the desert and then subjected to the community’s rules, specifically with regard to Lucy’s marriage. At first I just wanted to get back to the murder inquiry and find out how Holmes discovered the murderer’s identity, but soon I was engrossed in the American story. Eventually the two parts come together in Chapter VI as Watson resumes the narrative and  Holmes reveals how he solved the problem by reasoning backwards and from a ‘few very ordinary deductions‘ was able to catch the criminal within three days.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, written in a straightforward style with enough description to visualise both Victorian London and the American Wild West. I’d watched the TV version A Study in Pink in the Sherlock series, which although very different in some respects is surprisingly faithful to the book in others. I like both versions.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859 and died in 1930. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University, becoming the surgeon’s clerk to Professor Joseph Bell said to be the model for Sherlock Holmes’ methods of deduction. He gave up being a doctor with his success as an author and became involved in many causes – including divorce law reform, a channel tunnel, and inflatable life jackets. He was instrumental in the introduction of the Court of Criminal Appeal and was a volunteer physician in the Boer War. Later in life he became a convert to spiritualism.

See Fantastic Fiction for a list of works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Challenges: Read Scotland 2014, the Colour Coded Challenge and My Kind of Mystery.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Challenges, Color Coded Challenge, Crime Fiction, Fiction, My Kind of Mystery Challenge, Read Scotland 2014 | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments