Monday, October 30, 2023

The Spirit Murder Mystery (1936) by Robin Forsythe #RIPXVIII

👻 Eileen Thurlow is what you would've called in 1930s as a spiritualist. She is an ardent supporter of spiritualism, and is learning to become a medium. She persuaded her uncle to do a séance to prove her theory that a faint music she had been hearing lately wasn't of this earth. Skeptical at first, John Thurlow eventually agreed. And he did hear a faint organ playing! He checked outside, the sound wasn't heard anymore.

👻 Still curious, John Thurlow decided that night to investigate the source of the organ sound, bringing his pistol for precaution. The next day he was nowhere to be found. Few days later his dead body was found on an empty corner, together with the body of another man who had been missing several days before. John's head was smashed with a heavy tool, while the other man was shot. The other man was known to have been jealous when his girl got intimate with John Thurlow. So, were they killed each other in an amorous duel?

👻 Algernon Vereker, a painter slash amateur sleuth, is sojourning in the same village. And he wastes no time to investigate alongside Inspector Heather, with whom, a sort of sporting competition is running. Can he beat his rival this time?

👻 This turn out to be highly entertaining. Séance, a mysterious music, even an apparition in the room where Algernon is alone, made this a perfect Halloween read. The crime itself is ingeniously crafted, I think. Because there are two murders at the same time. If John had shot the other man first, the man couldn't have been able to smash John's head after that. And vise versa, it's impossible for John to shoot the other man after his head was smashed.

👻 The solution is well thought and unexpected. The how, in this case, is the more interesting question than the whodunnit. After my second read of Antony (Algernon) Vereker's mystery, I admire Vereker's wonderful deducting ability. Similar to Christie's Hercule Poirot, Vereker doesn't do the detection alone. He gathers his facts through the helps of his easy-going womanizer friend Manuel Ricardo (Ricky) - with whom he enjoys some funny, witty banters - and his rival Inspector Heather (yes, they exchange facts during the investigation). And like Poirot, Vereker's strong point is, what Poirot used to say, his grey cells.

👻 All in all, this is a highly entertaining mystery. Eerie atmosphere: checked. Suspenseful actions: checked. Difficult mystery solving: checked. End result: a superb read!

Rating: 4 / 5

This is the 5th book of the series, re-published by Dean Street Press, and I read this for:


For Bingo Card: Spooky Mystery
For Monthly Theme: Spooky Mysteries

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Six Books Saturday #3: Bookish Books to Read Next Year

is my personal monthly bookish meme, inspired by Six Words Saturday, which I've stumbled upon Travel with Intent. It's basically to list six books of random category, which I'd decided on the spot. Anything is possible according to my whim. I post Six Books Saturday on last Saturday of each month. If you're interested, you are, of course, welcomed to join me. There's no rule, really. You can post six anything about books. 

This time around, I usually begin to make plans for the next year - reading wise. I've been having a soft spot for feel-good books-about-books lately, and so, that is theme I explore today:

Six Books-About-Books I Want to Read Next Year

What You Are Looking For is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa

The Door-to-Door Bookstore by Carsten Henn

The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Have you read any of them? Or do you have more suggestions for other equally good books with similar theme?

Next Six Books Saturday: 25th November 2023.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist, Ep. 10: #1962Club

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist is a feature where I post recent additions to my wish list, which had been inspired by reviews from my fellow bloggers. It includes some synopsis, as well as some excerpts of the review which have intrigued me, complete with a link to the blogger's original post. 

This episode is rather special. Last week I've had fun with #1962Club hosted by Simon and Karen. Not only I got to read three new-to-me authors, I have also found a lot of interesting books, read and reviewed by fellow participants. And today's episode is all about those books I'm adding to my wishlist, inspired by those amazing reviews!

Unlawful Occasions by Henry Cecil
Inspired by Mallika @ Literary Potpourri 

Mrs Vernay and her husband live in a flat above the Chambers of Brian Culsworth Q.C. in the Temple. One day Mrs Vernay receives a visit from a Mr Sampson and she gets the impression that he is a blackmailer. She then immediately seeks advice from Mr Culsworth in his chambers below. Mr Culsworth's client, a Mr Baker is bringing an action to recover his share on a win on the pools. The story of these people becomes inextricably linked in a brilliant novel of suspense and humour.

From Mallika's review:
"The answers to all these questions and the predicaments of the various characters provide the element of suspense in the book and keep one engaged and reading (and indeed guessing) right till the end. There is a fair bit of humour (wry humour) as we do this, mostly in Mr Baker’s thread, and many instances find the reader at least smiling even if not laughing out loud."

Birds (Poems) by Judith Wright
Inspired by Brona @ This Reading Life 

From Brona's review:
"Birds is Wright’s personal, reflective collection that evokes a similar response upon her readers. We all have our own experiences and memories of certain birds that these poems bring to life. By capturing such precise details and describing the mannerisms of each bird, Wright allows the reader to bring to mind the birds that they know intimately, finding their own connection through her words."

The Twelve and the Genii by Pauline Clarke

Max discovers that the wooden soldiers which once belonged to the Brontes are alive and determined to return home.

From Liz's review:
"Where nowadays we’d read of social media posts, in this fine book we’re treated to a brisk debate in the local paper’s letters pages about whether they are the soldiers and where they should go, and when Philip gets involved and sends off to let an American academic know, the peril increases. The whole village gets a sort of collective excitement about it all, with many of the inhabitants longing to see what there’s rumoured to be seen, not all for financial gain."

Hand in Glove by Ngaio Marsh
Inspired by Reese @ Typings 

The April Fool's Day had been a roaring success for all, it seemed - except for poor Mr Cartell who had ended up in the ditch - for ever. Then there was the case of Mr Percival Pyke Period's letter of condolence, sent before the body was found - not to mention the family squabbles. It was a puzzling crime for Superintendent Alleyn.

From Reese's review:
"Though not her best, still a pretty strong entry in the series, I thought. I find her later ones a bit weaker as a rule, but this was amusing, and the obfuscation worked on me--I'd picked the wrong person for the murderer."

Mine for Keeps by Jean Little
Inspired by CLM @ Staircase Wit 

Away at school, Sally Copeland has always dreamed of going home, but now that she’s there, she feels frightened and unsure of herself. Will her brother and sister accept her? Will she be able to do things for herself? And what will it be like to go to a regular school and be the only one with cerebral palsy?

From CLM's review:
"Mine for Keeps was Little’s first book and immediately established her as a talented children’s author, skilled at depicting young people with disabilities or other issues without sentimentality.  However, they weren't "problem books" per se because her characters were so universal. Mine for Keeps reflects her own experience transitioning from classes for the visually impaired to a mainstream school at about the same age as Sal."

The Wells of St. Mary’s by R C Sherriff
Inspired by Ali @ Heavenali 

The trouble began when Lord Colindale, millionaire newspaper-owner and ‘strong man’ of British politics, came down for a week-end to Colonel Joyce’s country house. For a year Colindale had been forced out of public life by crippling rheumatism which neither the specialists nor the watering-places of Europe had been able to alleviate. By chance they had visited the Wells of St Mary’s , once famed for their cures, now derelict on Joyce’s land. At Henry Hodder’s insistence Lord Colindale had drunk the flat, metallic water.
When it was announced in the newspapers that Colindale had been cured by the waters and Colonel Joyce had given the well to the town, there was no limit to the exploitation which the people, under Jim Blundell the mayor, could envisage. But Henry, who had come to regard the well as his own, knew the secret of its healing power. All set to put money in his purse, he waited until the Casino was half-built before demanding his share of the profits – as the price of silence.

From Ali's review:
"Although there is a murder in this novel it is not a crime novel – it has the pace of a thriller in parts but is also really quite funny. The committee is wonderfully portrayed – and various moral conundrums brilliantly explored. This was a real treat."

The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
Inspired by Rosemary @ Scones and Chaises Lounges 

Young, beautiful, and adventurous Nicola Ferris loves her life as a secretary at the British Embassy on the lush island of Crete. Then on her day off, she links up with two hiking companions who have inadvertently stumbledupon a scene of blood vengeance. And suddenly the life Nicola adores is in danger of coming to an abrupt, brutal, and terrifying end . .

*Actually, this book didn't impressed Rosemary much, but somehow, something tells me I might find it quite entertaining. So, I'll give it a try!

Apple Bough by Noel Streatfeild
Inspired by Gareth @ Somewhere Boy 

The Forums are a musical family, and one child, Sebastian, shines out as a prodigy. He is a brilliant violinist and when his talent is recognised, he is wanted the world over. Myra, Wolfgang (named after Mozart) and Ettie thought it was wonderful at first, but after four years of touring the world with their brilliant brother they've changed their minds. Now, what they long for, is a home of their own, not a hotel in Vienna or Venice or Moscow.
But to their mother and father, a life of travel is exciting - all any child could want. How can the children make the grown-ups see sense?
Myra makes a plan - 'Operation Home' - and is determined to make it succeed.

From Gareth's review:
"A tiny part of the appeal of The Growing Summer was that it centred around four children with the bizarre surname of Gareth, which made it special to me. Apple Bough is about four children with the no less bizarre surname of Forum. 
...If it seems unusual to name a book after a house that’s hardly ever glimpsed, it seems less so as you come to realise how closely the children’s dreams of stability are bound with the memory of their old house. Apple Bough is not just their home, it’s an emblem of home."

Have you read any of them? Spotted one or two of your favorites?

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Cornwall Sabbatical (2023) by Jonathan E. Cox: A Non Fiction

Thanks to The Book Guild and NetGalley for providing me review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

🔶️ Subtitled as 'Observations Through a Returning Pirate's Kaleidoscope', this is the debut book of Jonathan E. Cox, former journalist who returned to his mother land of Penzance, Cornwall, to study for a postgraduate writing degree at Falmouth University.

🔶️ Jonathan Edward Cox left Cornwall in his teens, and for thirty years he built a career in journalism and financial analyst abroad. Then, Covid-19 came, and, like for most of us, changed the direction of his life. As he returned to Cornwall with his Swiss wife, Cox realized that Cornwall had taken a huge change, some to the better, but some not so welcomed. This book chronicled his new view of his beloved changing Cornwall.

🔶️ The book opens with his first day at the university. It's a pity, that Cox doesn't explore more on this subject. I would have loved to get more glimpses - only tiny glimpses - of the university life. Cox mostly explores places - cities, villages, landmarks, beaches. During these travels, he reminisces his childhood, what the place had used to be, what it had meant to him, and how it becomes today. And with that, he would present some history and statistics on related subjects. I have nothing to complain about the travels - those are what I picked this book to read for, to get into places I've never been before, to breath in the atmosphere - but I would be more pleasant with less statistics; I never like statistics. One or two is okay, it is a non fiction anyway, but this book has too many for my taste.

🔶️ What I cherished most is the local folklore stuff like The Hal-an-Tow during Flora Day, a festive event in Helston. Flora Day is a spring festival to celebrate the end of winter and mark the arrival of the new vitality and fertility with the trees and flowers bursting into life. [] Tradition has it that early on Flora Day morning, youths go to the neighbouring woods to collect branches of sycamore. On their return, they are joined by other young people, dressed to represent the characters in the Hal-an-Tow song. [] I think it was the culminating moment of Cox's growing emotional re-attachment to Cornwall and his mother land. His two daughters visited Helston for this particular event, and it was an heartwarming family moment for them.

🔶️ Second of my favorites is when Cox explaining about some landmarks which have literary significance. Godrevy Lighthouse, for instance, was Virginia Woolf's inspiration behind To the Lighthouse. In Landewednack village, there is a cottage called The Mariners', whose window is the inspiration of E.M Forster's A Room with a View. And in Bolventor, we get the legendary Jamaica Inn, on which Daphne du Maurier had titled her book published in 1936. 

🔶️ All things considered, this was quite an exciting book to get to know Cornwall. Cox wrote it straightforwardly with some dry, sometimes wry, witty humor. You'll feel quite refreshed by the sea breezes after finishing the book. And if you plan to have a Cornish holiday, this book is the perfect guide for you, especially to warn you about the seagulls. What about seagulls? Well, you need to read the book to get at it, hint: they are quite funny! ;)

Rating: 3,5 / 5

**The Cornwall Sabbatical: Observations Through a Returning Pirate's Kaleidoscope was published on 28th September 2023.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Murder in Williamstown (2022) by Kerry Greenwood #AusReadingMonth

🧧 The Honorable Phryne Fisher is the most famous Australian female private detective. Live in St. Kilda, Melbourne in the 1920-1930s, she enjoys her aristocratic status, though never forgets her humble origin. In her 22nd case, Miss Fisher is assisted by her devoted assistant Dot, and her three adopted children: the twins Ruth and Jane, and Tinker. These three young persons have been taught by their adoptive mother to be a good detective.

🧧 The story begins with two separate mysterious occurrences. Threatening cards which have been found in Phryne Fisher's mailbox is one. The other is embezzlement of fund at the Blind Institute, where Ruth and Jane is volunteering. Then Phryne finds the murdered body of a Chinese man when she's taking a walk with her newest lover, Jeffry Bisset. I've kept wondering how these three would be made connected?

🧧 Meanwhile, at the end of each chapter, we follow the fate of two girls - one of them called Peony - separated from the main events. From the snippets of their dialogues, we could feel that they are in misery. But of what kind, we are kept in the dark. Perhaps this would be the binding element of the whole mystery? Peony is a common name for Chinese girls, right? Chinese girls in misery, a Chinese man murdered, there's something in it, surely.

🧧 Phryne's friend and former lover Lin Chung's secret reticent is also mysterious. Is there something fishy going on within the Chinese community in Melbourne, then? The climax comes at a party held by a prominent Chinese man called Hong, to which, Phryne and Jeffry Bisset are invited. Hong is killed at his own party. Phryne tries to catch the runaway murderer, but she is detained by several Chinese men.

🧧 This was my first Phryne Fisher mystery, and I had been excited to find another promising series of cozy mystery. I regret to say, though, that it wasn't as good as I've expected. I am a fan of Masterchef Australia, and this story reminds me of what Melissa Leong, one of the judges, used to say when she tastes a dish, where every single element is good by itself, but not that good when eaten as a whole; the dish lacks 'cohesiveness'. And that's what this story is lacking, cohesiveness. The case of embezzlement at Blind Institute and threatening letters turn out to be just detecting exercises for Tinker and the twins, respectively. Phryne works the deduction and solves the mysteries long before the climax of the main case begins. And that two cases don't have any connection whatsoever with the murder after all. That is so disappointing!

🧧 The murder itself is lacking complexity, Phryne does a minimum work of detection, there's not much of suspects, and all happen too quickly. The solution is disappointing too. When we reach near the end, there's a party held by Phryne, with everyone involved are invited, that feels like  deflating balloon.

🧧 My favorite element of this book, however, is the narration. I listened to the audiobook, narrated perfectly by Wendy Bos, a Melbourne based actor and voice over artist. After hours of watching Masterchef Australia, I've got to love Australian accent. And Wendy is everything that I expect in a narrator. I would like to try another Phryne Fisher, as long as it's narrated by Wendy Bos, who knows, it might be better than this one!

Rating: 4 / 5

I read this book for:

Friday, October 20, 2023

The Weather at Tregulla (1962) by Stella Gibbons #1962Club

💙 First published in 1962, The Weather at Tregulla is a charming book penned by Stella Gibbons, telling the story of Tregulla, a quiet little seaside town in Cornwall, and how the place influences its inhabitants' fate.

💙 Una Beaumont has lived in Tregulla since she was born nineteen years ago. She desperately wanted to leave the dull, stagnant town, and pursue her dream to be actress in London. But, alas, when the time of departure is approaching, her mother died; and with her, the inheritance money her parents had allocated for her, vanished. Una's hope is dashed, and now she might never leave Tregulla and its unchanged people, whom she had known since she was born.

💙 Enter Terrence and Emmeline Willows, who rent a cottage owned by the Trewyns, Barnabas and Hugo - Una's childhood friends - and their mother. The Willowses are brother and sister who live in Bohemian style. Terrence is a selfish moody painter, while Emmeline, an eccentric girl. Una is immediately infatuated with Terrence; more, I think, because she saw her chance of leaving her dull life in him, than actually attracted to him.

💙 As the story progressed, I could see what kind of person Terrence is - his carefree way of life, his dubious friends, his selfishness. Like most talented artists, he cares only about his paintings. Nothing is more precious than that. I was worried all along about Una. She isn't the kind of girl I would have befriended - she is a bit into herself. All she cares about is her needs; she doesn't even care about her grieving father. Still, Una doesn't deserve a man like Terrence. He will make her unhappy.

💙 Hugo Trewyn, the brooding younger brother, is also in love with Una. He never shows his feelings; I think he feels insecure about his deformity; that he's incapable of making the high-spirited Una happy. Una, of course, never treats him other than a childhood friend. If only her father isn't that apathetic concerning his daughter. I understand Mr. Beaumont's grief, but if he loves his daughter, he must have tried harder to step up from his cocoon and provide her more guidance.

💙 The other Willows, Emmeline, is falling in love with Barnabas Trewyn, which he reciprocates. However, unlike Una, he notices Emmeline’s eccentricities, her bohemian way of life, and her circle of friends. Emmeline herself is trying to break free from her brother, and to get more respectable life as young Mrs. Trewyns. But she's just a woman. Everything depends on Barnabas. If he proposes to her, her dream will come true. Her only chance is Barnabas. And Barnabas has doubts.

💙 This book might seem like an ordinary romance story, but it's much more than that. First and foremost, there's the helplessness of our female characters to pursue their dreams. As women, both Emmeline and Una, are depended on their relatives. Other people direct their fates, their lives. They can't choose for themselves. The only way to freedom is by marriage. But apparently, love, hardwork, and talent only aren't enough to secure a woman's happiness. Dozens external influences play the biggest part. And in this sense, 1960s wasn't much different than in the 19th century.

💙 What I loved most about this book is Tregulla itself. I am no fan of seaside town, but Gibbons portrayed Tregulla vividly and charmingly, that I really wanted to, at least, visit it. The numerous different events that lead to our heroines' fates are intricately woven amidst the changing landscape or weather of Tregulla. Una might feel Tregulla lifeless, but I think it's just because she has never experience living outside it, and so, cannot fully appreciate its beauty.

💙 All in all, it's a wonderful book, beautifully written by Stella Gibbons. Another satisfying read, made available again, thanks to Dean Street Press. And who wouldn't want to read the inside of that gorgeous cover?!

Rating: 4,5 / 5

This book counts for:

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Holiday at the Dew Drop Inn (1962) by Eve Garnett #1962Club

💐 Holiday at the Dew Drop Inn is actually the third and last book of the One End Street series by Eve Garnett. I found it accidentally while searching for books to read for the #1962Club. It contains some references of the adventures in the first two books, but it doesn't hinder us to enjoy this book as a standalone.

💐 The story is about Kate Ruggles, the second of seven children of Mr and Mrs. Ruggles. The Ruggleses is a working class family who live in No. 1 One End Street in Kent. Mrs. Ruggles is a washerwoman, while Mr. Ruggles, a dustman. Despite living in poverty, they are comparatively a happy, kind, and loving family.

💐 The story opens with an invitation for Kate to spend another summer holiday at the Dew Drop Inn, in the fictional country village of Upper Cassington. She had gone there the year before with her twin younger brothers, but now she's going alone. Preparations are made for the journey, including a brand new macintosh and a pair of boots, presents from Mrs. Beasley - a customer of Mrs. Ruggles. Kate never owns a shiny mackintosh before - being poor, her things are usually leftover from her older sister - and she, therefore, is very proud of these presents.

💐 Upper Cassington is a quintessential country village, and it's people are mostly simple and kind. The Dew Drop Inn is owned by Mr and Mrs. Wildgoose, who adores Kate. Kate arrives at the right moment too, only ten days before the Flower Show - an annual competition held for Lower and Upper Cassington, the Concert, and the Fair, begin. She is tasked by Mr. Wildgoose to enter all categories in competition for children, and also to participate in the Concert by reciting something. This naturally alarms Kate very much, but Mr. Wildgoose ensures her that they will work some of the competitions out together, while she can count on her old friend Mr. Shakespeare to help her in the flower growing category.

💐 And so, Kate's days are full of excitement from working, learning, and training. But it's not all hardworking, she's having fun too in learning new things. Few adventures during the preparation also add charm to this visit. But the best part of this holiday are, first, the fair and concert, then, her father and the twin's arrival to spend the holiday with her! Though the end of summer comes too soon, she leaves Dew Drop Inn with a swelling heart - full of happy reminiscences to enlighten the next dreary months to come.

💐 I love everything about this book, the flowers, the baking stuffs, every entry of the competition, and the fair, which cheer everybody up! But most of all, I loved the people - none of them are condescending towards a poor girl like Kate. Not even the handsome Lord Glenheather, he's so sweet and gentlemanly towards Kate - he never treats her like a child. Mr and Mrs. Wildgoose are a kind couple. I loved the way Mr. Wildgoose treated Mr. Ruggles like a pal, despite their different background.

💐 Some readers might think Kate is too good to be true as a character, and perhaps this story seems unrealistic, because there are too much good things, and all. But I still love it. In the world where we are confronted with ugly things every day, this kind of story is a perfect counterbalance to make us feel warm and contented, even for just a few days. Needless to say, I would often revisit this story in future.

Rating: 4,5 / 5

This book counts for:

Monday, October 16, 2023

Cover Her Face (1962) by P.D. James #1962Club

🔸️ First published in 1962, Cover Her Face was P.D. James' debut crime novel, introducing Inspector Adam Dalgleish, who would appear in 13 of other novels in the series. In this first case, he investigates the murder of Sally Jupp, a house maid at Martingale, who was strangled in her bed.

🔸️ Sally Jupp was recommended by the local St. Mary's refuge, an institution for unmarried mothers, to stay, with her infant son Jimmy, and work at Martingale, the manor house of the Maxies. The family consists of Eleanor Maxie, the matron, with severely ill husband Simon; the son, Dr. Stephen Maxie; and his sister Deborah Riscoe. Martha, a devoted servant, is another member of the household. On that fatal day, two guests are also staying: Catherine Bowers who dreams of marrying Stephen, and Felix Hearn, former lover of Deborah.

🔸️ Sally is ambitious, secretive, and insolent woman. With those qualities, she like to take power over others. At a fête, held at Martingale, Sally deliberately copied Deborah's outfit, and later at night she took Deborah's mug to drink her cocoa. But what astonished the family most was when, at dinner, she amusedly announced that Stephen has proposed to her – which was true.

🔸️ That night someone put sleeping pills into her cocoa, and strangled her to death. Who killed her? Are they from the family, or was it an outsider's job? What's the motive? Jealousy? Blackmail? Or it has something to do with her past?

🔸️ As a debut novel, this is not bad, but I wasn't overly impressed either. There are too many characters involved for my taste, which only made this quite simple a case became more complicated. The solution was clever and believable, though I still didn't understand why the fake incident should have staged at all. I could make assumptions, but it seemed foolish, and I think didn't fit the perpetrator's personality. Dalgleish's investigation and deduction wasn't highlighted enough, we didn't know what's going on most of the time, and he only revealed everything in the end. And I didn't know what's the use of including a subordinate who didn't add anything to the story. Like I said before: too many useless characters.

🔸️ All considered, I don't think I would continue the series. Perhaps I am just more comfortable with the earlier Golden Age writers, or the modern ones, not the in-betweens. Not a satisfying read, but quite enjoyable. I enjoyed this story by listening to the audiobook, narrated wonderfully by Daniel Weyman. I liked his deep voice and distinct articulation.

Rating: 3,5 / 5

This book counts for:

For Bingo Card: Death by Strangulation

Friday, October 13, 2023

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist Ep. 9: Eight Books from Six Remarkable Ladies

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist is a feature where I post recent additions to my wish list, which had been inspired by reviews from my fellow bloggers. It includes some synopsis, as well as some excerpts of the review which have intrigued me, complete with a link to the blogger's original post.

In this episode, six ladies has inspired me to add eight new books to my wish list!

The Great Summer Street Party by Georgia Hill

Ashley Lyddon arrives in the quaint coastal community of Berecombe feeling more than a little lost. The former art teacher desperately needs a fresh start after a car accident that cost her everything. How is it that the town’s older residents seem to have more zest for life than she does?
Ashley knows all too well, like the D-Day soldiers, that laying the past to rest is easier said than done although her new community seems to believe that tea and cake – lots and lots of cake – solves most of life’s problems. And as Ashley is forced to admit, they are nearly always right…

From Liz's review:
"So nicely done and very readable, with a good moral grounding (we face up to our issues, we make amends) and although some of the plot points are a little predictable, they’re lovely comfy reads you can feel safe with."

The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson

Meet Eve, who has left her thirty-year career to become a Free Spirit; Sally, who has waved goodbye to her indifferent husband and two grown-up children; and Anastasia, a defiantly independent narrowboat-dweller, who is suddenly landlocked and vulnerable.
Before they quite know what they’ve done, Sally and Eve agree to drive Anastasia’s narrowboat on a journey through the canals of England, as she awaits a life-saving operation. As they glide gently – and not so gently – through the countryside, the eccentricities and challenges of narrowboat life draw them inexorably together, and a tender and unforgettable story unfolds. At summer’s end, all three women must decide whether to return to the lives they left behind, or forge a new path forward.

Claudine by Marian Grudko and T.A. Young
Inspired by Emma @ Words and Peace 

Claudine is the story of a ladybug who wanted more than anything to live in Paris. Surely, she belonged there: her red and black ensemble was equal to any creation from the House of Dior. And surely she would be noticed by the greatest directors of film?
She sets out with naive certainty to live an enchanted life, when - of course, there are surprises. And terrible challenges. Can Claudine find the strength of soul to achieve her destiny? Will she really be helped by Pierre, a sometime-rooster who quotes Simone de Beauvoir?

From Emma's review:
"The book seems at first glance to be for children, but as the title highlights, this is actually a fairy tale for grownups – who may still need a few life lessons! It’s a really deep and fun book at the same time, with lots of hilarious remarks on the Paris world, cafés, Fashion Week, and many other things. There are also lots of plays on words, fun interjections, some in French, and several references to Simone de Beauvoir!"

Uncle Paul by Celia Fremlin
Inspired by @ JacquiWine's Journal 

Meg and Isabel were just girls when "Uncle Paul" married their older half-sister, Mildred, and he soon vanished from their lives upon his exposure as a bigamist and a murderer. Fifteen years later, Uncle Paul is about to be released from prison, and all three sisters are seized with dread at the prospect of his return. Their family holiday at the seaside village where Mildred and Uncle Paul once honeymooned becomes the setting for a tense drama of suspicion, betrayal, and revenge.

From JacquiWine's review:
"Fremlin is wonderfully adept at capturing the challenges of holidaying in the temperamental British summer, from the tension of being cooped up in a caravan with family members, to squabbles over what to do next, to the sense of pressure we feel to be outside enjoying ourselves at every moment, even if the weather is dreadful and all we want to do is to stay inside. There’s some marvellous humour here too, especially from the interactions between the various guests at the hotel, from the gallant Captain Cockerill to the stoic Mrs Forrester and her young son, Cedric – one of those insufferable little boys who knows everything and insists on getting his own way. In summary, Uncle Paul is an utterly brilliant novel, a very clever and skilfully executed exploration of fear and suspicion, very much in the style of Patricia Highsmith’s and Shirley Jackson’s domestic noirs laced with the social comedy of Barbara Pym."

Duncton Wood by William Horwood
Inspired by Mallika @ Literary Potpourri 

Bracken was born on an April night in a warm dark burrow deep in the historic system of Duncton Wood, six moleyears after Rebecca. This is the story of their love, and their epic struggle to find it.

From Mallika's post:
"A lovely emotional tale around a group of moles whose peaceful world is destroyed when a mole named Mandrake begins to tyrannize over them, the whole wood starting to see the spread of evil and the abandonment of all that was once held sacred. A mole named Bracken must with others work to save their land and traditions and restore it to what it once was."

The Queue by Alexandra Heminsley

Three strangers. Ten miles. One life-changing day... As the unlikely trio wind along the Thames, edging ever closer to Westminster and the Queen, it becomes clear that when they finally leave the queue their worlds will never be the same again...

From Liz's review:
"It’s really nicely done, not preachy or too obvious – of course there are themes of it being best to talk about things and that what seems on the surface like a good thing often isn’t, but there are subtler themes, too, about colonialism and Clause 28 that are woven in. I also liked the way the public art works along the walk are discussed in quite a lot of detail. By the end you hope the queuers will stay in touch and cherish the photo they have of each other."

The People on Platform 5 by Clare Pooley
Inspired by Cath @ Read-warbler

Every day at 8:05, Iona Iverson boards the train to go to work. Every day, she sees the same people and makes assumptions about them, even giving them nicknames. But they never speak. Obviously.
Then, one morning, Smart-but-Sexist Surbiton chokes on a grape right in front of Iona. Probably-a-Psychopath-New-Malden steps up to help and saves his life, and this one event sparks a chain reaction.
With nothing in common but their commute, an eclectic group of people learn that their assumptions about each other don't match reality. But when Iona's life begins to fall apart, will her new friends be there when she needs them most?

From Cath's post:
"I enjoyed this immensely. It's well written and I felt very involved in the lives of all of the characters. Nice one."

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
Inspired by Cath @ Read-warbler 

After Tova Sullivan's husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she's been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.
Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn't dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors--until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

From Cath's review:
"I like books with older protagonists and lots of ordinary folk in them and this book has a nice interesting cast of characters. My favourite by far was Marcellus the octopus and I loved the chapters penned by him. There was a lovely sense of a faded resort on Puget Sound and thus a good sense of place... it sounded wonderful to me anyway! An excellent read, lived up to its hype."

Have you own/read these books? If you haven't, which book appeals to you most?


Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Classics Club Spin (CC Spin) # 35

Yay… it’s time for the last Classics Club Spin of this year. I’ve been abandoning my Classics Club reading for a while, so it’s time to shake it off a bit!

It’s easy. At your blog, before next Sunday 15th October, 2023 create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period. On Sunday 15th, October we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by the 3rd December, 2023.

Since I am too lazy to choose twenty, here’s my list of ten titles, doubled, to make twenty:

UPDATE - no. 2 is chosen, and I'll be reading:
  1. Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
  2. The Foolish Gentlewoman by Margery Sharp
  3. Vittoria Cottage by D.E. Stevenson
  4. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
  5. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  6. Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson
  7. The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett
  8. Village School by Miss Read
  9. Three Men in A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  10. The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill
  11. Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
  12. The Foolish Gentlewoman by Margery Sharp
  13. Vittoria Cottage by D.E. Stevenson
  14. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
  15. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  16. Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson
  17. The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett
  18. Village School by Miss Read
  19. Three Men in A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  20. The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill

I don’t have any preference, though if numbers 2,3,12,13 were to be picked, I’d also be reading them for Dean Street December. Have you read them? Spotted any favorites?


Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Shelf Control #6: The New Teacher by Erin Lark Maples

Shelf Control is a weekly feature created by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. Since early January 2023, Shelf Control has moved base to Literary Potpourri.

Lately I've been collecting several cozy mystery e-books which I've got free from Google Playbook. They are usually the first book in a series, given free for tester, no doubt. I was skeptical at first – if the book is good, why offers it for free? But in the meantime, I have read two books with the same case: The Bookshop Murder and ChefMaurice and a Spot of Truffle, and they were both very nice. So, there’s no harm in reading more, is there? From several interesting titles on my shelf, this is my pick:

The New Teacher (The Sheridan County Mysteries #1) by Erin Lark Maples

Summary from Goodreads:
"Elizabeth Blau upended her life in the city to move to the Middle of Nowhere and start over. She reconnects with her estranged brother and begins her new life. First, Elizabeth lands a great job, then a date, and her luck seems to change for the better. But when the man’s body is found mangled in a ravine, the murder rocks the small town as fault descends upon the Blau Family.
Frustrated with the pace of local law enforcement, Elizabeth investigates loose threads among the ranchers. But when she starts to dig into the past, she gets a warning: folks don’t like outsiders poking around, and someone is on a mission to scare her out of town

It sounds like ordinary cozy mystery, but from several reviews on Google Playbook, I gathered that it is a fully entertaining book with a lot of actions. Quite promising, eh?

Have you read this book? Is it worth it?


Monday, October 9, 2023

The Belgrave Manor Crime (1935) by Moray Dalton, for #RIPXVIII

🔴 I must thank Dean Street Press for recommending this book for Halloween read; it is a wonderful crime story, and, with occultism and a satanist rite, made it a perfect read for Halloween.

🔴 Cosmo Thor is a psychic investigator (of course he is, with a name like that!), thus an authority in occult sciences. On board a train, he met Madame Luna, a downtrodden palmist who had been unjustly imprisoned, and now was going home to pick up her daughter, whom a philanthropist woman has been willingly taking care of. One day Madame Luna desperately sought Thor's help when he's not home. But when he knew about it, he couldn't find her. He confides in his friend, Inspector Hugh Collier, about this puzzling incident, and later find out that she was actually dead, murdered.

🔴 Tracing her footsteps, Thor visits the Belgrave Manor, where Mrs. Maulfry, a wealthy eccentric philanthropist, is keeping Allie, Madame Luna's little beloved daughter. She hires a governess, a Miss Kent, to look after the child. But the whole arrangement is hushed up and very suspicious to Thor.

🔴 Thor makes friend with Dennis Garland, the property agent who'd rented the Belgrave Manor to Mrs. Maulfry. The young man is infatuated with Miss Kent. Then a series of sinister things happen. Thor escaped a grave accident after having invited to dinner at Belgrave Manor, and is now unconscious. With no evidence of foul play, but only strong instinct, Inspector Collier decides to unofficially investigate the case during his holiday, without backup from Scotland Yard.

🔴 This was the 5th book in the series, and I found that Inspector Collier is none the wiser than in his first case in One by One They Disappeared. He talks too much about the case to persons involved, like he trusts them too much. Not the sign of a good detective, methink, but perhaps Dalton intended him to be more believable? With the vulnerability of a human being, and not a superhero?

🔴 But besides that, this is an unusual crime story. Belgrave Manor as the setting provides an eerie atmosphere to the case - the red pillars on the hall almost felt like a living being. It was quite suspenseful when Dennis entered it in order to save the woman he loves. I loved Dennis Garland, by the way. He is a brave, dependable, and loving person. I also liked Celia Kent, though I think she is too trustworthy to her employer. When your boss must conceal you from public eyes, there's got to be something amiss, despite all the boss' kindness or charities.

🔴 The villains are mostly honorable and high ranking people, and the Superintendent's first reluctance is quite understandable. The dilemma between saving your own career (and with it, people you loved most) and seeking truth and justice is often nerve wrecking. I admired the Superintendent's decision when revealing the true identity of the Master behind the Satanic occultism rites.

🔴 All in all, it is a fast-paced, eerie, sinister, suspenseful, but enjoyable crime story with a little hint of sweet romance. Another superb writing from Dalton!

Rating: 4 / 5

This book counts for:


For Monthly Theme: Spooky Mysteries

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation, from I Capture the Castle to The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme, now hosted by Kate @ books are my favorite and best.

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

This month we start from yet another book I haven't read:

0. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

A coming-of-age novel written from the POV of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, who, through her journal, tells the adventures of her eccentric and penniless family, the Mortmains, struggling to live in genteel poverty in a ruined castle during the 1930s.

My first chain would be another coming-of-age poignant stories I have read this year, also set around the 1930s:

1. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

It is a compilation of five coming-of-age novellas, telling about 10-year-old Jody Tiflin's journey to adolescence. Throughout the five novellas, he gets to now the pain and struggle of adolescent life, through loss and responsibility. [My review]

The next chain is still a coming-of-age story, with another Jody as the main character, who also lost an animal he loved:

2. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawling

Young Jody adopts an orphaned fawn he calls Flag and makes it a part of his family and his best friend. But life in the Florida backwoods is harsh, and so, as his family fights off wolves, bears, and even alligators, and faces failure in their tenuous subsistence farming, Jody must finally part with his dear animal friend.

Fawn is a baby deer, and in the book of my next chain, though no deer appears in the story, it appears in the title:

3. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

[My review] The Deerslayer is the second novel in Leatherstocking Tale series, being a sequel of The Last of the Mohicans. The Deerslayer refers to our protagonist Natty Bumppo, an American frontiersman in 19th century, who live in the wilderness side by side with several Indian tribes. It's a fast-paced suspenseful adventure with a lot of actions. While I loved the story, I was a bit disappointed by how Fenimore Cooper unjustly "treated" a strong-willed female protagonist. This treatment reminded me of the same view to women in this book:

4. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I need not to write anything about this book, you must have been familiar with Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and then struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity, during the 19th century Puritanism. [My posts on this book]

I will only pick the word Scarlet from the title this time, to link to the next book with same word in the title:

5. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This book is where Sherlock Holmes first met his would be longtime sidekick, Dr. Watson. Therefore, to close this chain, I'd pick another book where it's great detective also met his longtime sidekick for the first time:

6. The Mysterious Affair in Styles by Agatha Christie

This is where it all started; the first crime novel written in 1920 by Agatha Christie; with many more to come. It is also our first introduction to the Inimitable Hercule Poirot and his best friend Captain Arthur Hastings. [My review]

I seem to always include a Christie or two in my Six Degrees posts. I can't help it. The day will come when I might construct a chain containing of only Christie's novels. Who knows?

Have you read those books? If you do #sixdegree, how it worked out for you this time?