Stacking the Shelves 40

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is marlene-stackingshelvesfinal-768x524-1.jpg

It’s Saturday, it’s a bank holiday weekend and the sun is shining. Can you believe that it’s the last day of April and we are a third of the way through the year???Welcome to the weekend and another Stacking the Shelves post. Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality and details are on her blog. The gorgeous graphic is also used courtesy of the site.

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

My STS posts are generally my library books. The library is where I get most of my books and I hope that maybe I can inspire other people to use their local library. Our libraries are constantly under threat of closure but the more people that use them, the less likely that is. My library is also how I manage to read a lot of newly released hardbacks as I can order them. Sometimes they can take quite a while to arrive if a title is really popular though.

This week I didn’t even bother to look at what was on the shelves as I had four books that I had reserved arrive since my last visit. That’s quite enough to keep me occupied for this week especially as I haven’t finished everything from last week yet.

This week’s library haul

Angel with Two Faces by Nicola Upson
I’ve just read Nicola Upson’s latest book through Net Galley and realised that I hadn’t read all of the earlier ones in this crime series featuring the classic crime author Josephine Tey. So I ordered this one and I’m going to work my through them as they are fantastic historical crime novels.

Beach Read by Emily Henry
I requested Book Lovers through after seeing so many reviews for it on different blogs and loved it so I thought I would read her earlier novel. Sounds perfect for this gorgeous weather.

The Shadow Man by Helen Fields
This one was recommended to me by Yvonne at It’s all about the books so I’m hoping that I enjoy it. Three people are being kept in a flat by the Shadow Man but have no idea why. To escape, they need to uncover a very dark truth. It all sounds very mysterious and I just hope that it isn’t too dark for me.

Hotel Portofino by J P O’Connell
I reserved this simply because I saw it on a list of new acquisitions in the county library and thought it sounded like an interesting read. It’s set in 1926 on the Italian Riviera and the British owner of Hotel Portofino is struggling to cope with the demands of her guests and the political situation.

I’m really looking forward to reading all of these as well as hopefully finishing the ones I haven’t read yet from last week.

What have you added to your bookshelf this week?


Book Blogger Hop – April 29

 The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer @ Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012. With Jennifer’s permission, it was relaunched on February 15, 2013 by Billy @ the Ramblings of a coffee addict. . Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end the following Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book related question. The hop’s purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to your own blog. 

This week ‘s question is:

Which do you think is more likely – clean utopia or frenzied dystopia? (Julie @ Stepping Stone Book Reviews)

Ooh, I love this question. I’ve read and watched Science Fiction for as long as I can remember. I was brought up on Doctor Who and Star Trek and loved reading dystopian fiction even as a child. Peter Dickinson’s Weathermonger series still stands out in my memory as well as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Science Fiction often looks at how society might evolve and it’s something that I have thought about.

Years ago, I think I might have said that Utopia was more likely. After the cold war ended, there was a time when things looked positive for our world and it seemed possible that we might grow to find some sort of utopian future.

Now though, I definitely think that we are far more likely to end up with a slow burning dystopian future. Whether by some sort of Pandemic, brilliantly depicted in Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise or through some sort of climatic disaster as in the film The Day after Tomorrow, I don’t know but I can’t see how we can avoid one of those. Especially after the events of the past two years. My real hope is that it happens way off into the future.

Which of these do you think is most likely to happen?

Miss Aldridge Regrets – a review

Happy Publication day to Miss Aldridge Regrets.

When I saw this book on Net Galley, the cover, the blurb and the author all appealed. I thoroughly enjoyed Louise Hare’s previous book, This Lovely City and the idea of a murder mystery aboard a trans-Atlantic cruise liner was something I was definitely eager to read.

The story opens in London in 1936. Lena Aldridge is a singer who has never managed to achieve the heights of success that she dreamed of and is singing in a dingy night club when she receives an almost too good to be true offer of a role in a new musical on Broadway. That night she witnesses the murder of her boss by her best friend and feels that she has no option but to take the job and sail for New York on the Queen Mary.

While on board, she comes into contact with the wealthy Abernathy family and is witness to another death. The story is told as a dual time line: one as she travels across the Atlantic and the other as we see the previous week  and the events that lead up to the voyage. There are also diary entries from an unnamed protagonist who appears to be present at all of the significant events and also pulling the strings of the characters.

I loved reading this story. The settings both in London and on the liner are well described. We go from the sleaziness of the night club to the sumptuousness of travelling first class and both come alive for the reader. The character of Lena was really well written. The issue of race and the treatment of non-white people isn’t such a big part of the book as in This Lovely City but it is still a major part of Lena’s character. She is the mixed race daughter of a black Jazz pianist but is able to pass for someone of southern European heritage and has not really been the subject of racial prejudice before this. Lena grows up in more than one way during this voyage and her understanding of her heritage is part of this.

The other characters cover a wide range: we have the wealthy but unpleasant Abernathys with their sense of entitlement; the corrupt night club owner Tommy who is married to her best friend; Will who is a black pianist on the ship and a host of other minor characters who all flesh out the setting. All of the characters came alive for me and the Louise Hare’s ability to show the different social settings is brilliant.

The plot is interesting and definitely has echoes of an Agatha Christie mystery as the limited cast of characters fall under suspicion one by one. I felt that the weakest part of the book was the conclusion of the mystery and I wasn’t totally convinced by the murderer. However, I did enjoy the journey and love the author’s writing style.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers Berkley Books for my ARC in exchange for my honest review. Miss Aldridge Regrets is published today, April 28th.

WWW Wednesday April 27th

I can’t believe that it’s the last Wednesday of April and we’re almost 4 months through 2022. The days seem to be zipping by so fast. Wednesday means that it’s time for WWW Wednesday. This is one of my favourite memes and I love taking part in it and reading everybody else’s posts. It’s currently hosted by Sam and it can be found on her blog Taking on a world of words which can be found here.

The most exciting thing that we have done this week is to finally complete and fill our new bookcases. It’s so nice being able to see all of our books and not have them stashed away in corners or at the back of wardrobes.

However, rather than celebrating my bookshelves, the idea of WWW Wednesday is just to answer three questions about what you are reading, have just finished and are about to read so here goes for this week.

What I’m currently reading

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

In June 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to live under house arrest at the Hotel Metropole by a Bolshevik tribunal. This novel is the account of his life and the characters he comes into contact with. I’m really enjoying this so far especially the friendship between Count Rostov and Nina.

The Midnight Bargain by C I Polk

This was recommended by Lisa at Bookworm fantasies and her review is here. I seem to have a run of books with women not being allowed to do things just because they are women. In this case, Beatrice can’t become a mage because she’s a woman. Even worse, if she marries, she will have to wear a collar which will cut her off from her magic completely. I’m loving the Regency style setting and the characters in this.

What I have recently finished reading

The Maid by Nita Prose
This was a mixed read for me. I loved the plot and many of the secondary characters. I just couldn’t quite get to grips with the character of Molly.

Windswept by Annabel Abbs
I enjoyed this non fiction account of the author retracing walks taken by some inspirational women and my review is here.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
This is a classic fantasy which I have read before but so long ago that I had forgotten much of it. I really enjoyed the reread over the weekend.

I couldn’t get on with the format of this book and didn’t really get a lot of the content. Life’s too short to struggle through a book if I don’t have to 😃

What I am intending to read next

That’s the current state of my reading this week. What does your WWW Wednesday look like?

Top 5 Tuesday – Top 5 books about a death

Welcome to this week’s Top 5 Tuesday post. Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm, and it is now being hosted at Meeghan reads!! For details of all of the prompts for April to June see Meeghans page here.

We’ve done births and marriages so far and this week, it’s time to look at books about a death so we can complete the Hatched, Matched and Dispatched trio.

My initial thoughts were that I would pick 5 of my favourite murder mysteries but then I began to think about how a death is often the catalyst for change for those left behind so my ideas changed a bit. After quite a bit of thought, here are my top 5 books about a death.

Under a Whispering Door by T J Klune

I wonder how many other people are going to feature this one in their top 5? It does seem like an obvious choice as it is all about a death, specifically the death of Wallace Price. Workaholic Wallace dies suddenly but he isn’t ready to pass over yet so has to spend time at the Charyon Tea Room where he meets Hugo, the ferryman and begins to learn about what actually is really important.

One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

Another book about death. This time it’s the impending death of 17 year old Lenni as she lives out her life in the terminal illness ward of the local hospital. In an art class, she bumps into 83 year old Margot and a bond is formed between them as they realise that they have lived 100 years between them. They decide to paint pictures to illustrate their lives and we learn about them through these including what it might be like to live, knowing that you don’t have long left. This is another amazing book and one of my best reads of 2021.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Death often means huge changes for those left behind. The death of the Emperor and his heir in a plane crash changes his youngest son’s life completely. As a half goblin child in a court of elves, Maia has been banished to an out of the way estate with just a guardian to care for him. Then he receives the news of his father’s death and finds out that he is the new emperor. This is definitely one of all time favourite books and I have reread it several times. The story of how Maia negotiates a hostile court is simply brilliant.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Another book where a death has a huge impact on others. The death of Mr Henry Dashwood has a devastating effect on the lives of his widow and daughters. They are forced to move out of the family home and into a small house belonging to a distant relation. This is one of my favourite Jane Austen novels and I love the relationship between the two sisters although I feel that I have far more in common with Elinor than Marianne.

The Night Singer by Joanna Mo

I couldn’t have a top 5 about death without including at least one mystery. This is the debut novel by Swedish Author Joanna Mo and is one of the best I have read this year. Detective Hanna Duncker returns to her childhood home to find that she has to investigate the death of her best friend’s 15 year old son. She has to deal with traumatic events that happened in the past as well a complex investigation in the present. Definitely a great debut.

Thanks Meeghan, I really enjoyed thinking about my choices for this week’s theme.

Windswept – Why Women Walk ….. a review

Windswept (Why Women Walk) by Annabel Abbs

I was inspired to read this book after seeing it mentioned in a magazine article a while ago. The article mentioned the book in connection with Georgia O’Keefe, an artist who I have loved after seeing an exhibition of her work at Tate Modern a few years ago and as I also love walking, it seemed like the perfect choice for my next non-fiction read.

The book is a combination of memoir and biography as the author retraces the steps taken by a collection of notable women on their walks. The subjects include Gwen John, Nan Shepherd, Simone de Beauvoir and of course Georgia O’Keefe and all of the women broke with convention to go on solitary hikes into the wilderness. As Annabel Abbs walks in the steps of those women, she reflects on her own feelings and experiences and how they compare to those who have gone before her.

The book wasn’t quite what I expected as I didn’t realise that there would be so much of the author’s own experiences. At first, I found this a bit irritating as I wanted to learn more about the women she had researched. However, as I read on, I became just as interested in the author’s experiences as in her subjects.

Some of the chapters appealed more than others. I loved the chapters on Gwen John, Nan Shepherd and Georgia O’Keefe especially and was inspired to find out more about the life and work of Gwen John who I had heard of but knew very little about. All of the women found that they needed to escape and walk on their own to cope with their lives and find who they really were when not constrained by the roles expected of them. Each of them broke the normal rules of female behaviour by doing this. Walking, especially serious walking of 10 miles a day and more, for many years was the preserve of men. Women were expected to stay at home and by breaking these rules, all of the women exposed themselves to unwanted attentions. Walking alone exposed them to curiosity at best and sometimes outright danger. Sadly, one of the things that hasn’t changed in all this time is that women are still at risk when out walking as the recent murder of a primary school teacher on a canal path has shown.

Frieda von Richthofen in particular gave up everything in 1912, a home, husband and three children to go on an walking adventure with her lover, the author DH Lawrence. This is the first of the walks that the author covers as she retraces Frieda’s steps through Germany and over the Alps into Italy. We get more details about the author’s own experiences than Frieda’s as Frieda doesn’t give much information in her own memoirs but Annabel Abbs tries to recreate the routes taken and find some of the places where not only Frieda and Lawrence but each of her subjects stayed.  

As well as details about the historical walks and her own thoughts, we also get a fair amount of the Science behind walking and the benefits that walking in the countryside, along rivers or up in the mountains can bring to you. There are many mentions of the mental health benefits of walking in areas such as this compared to urban areas and all of the women in this book certainly found that the act of walking for miles and miles had a beneficial effect on them. There were one or two places where I felt that the heavy emphasis on finding yourself and inner harmony was a bit overwhelming but I’m sure that other people will find that more interesting.

The landscapes that the women chose to walk in are very varied. We travel from the great European rivers, over the alps and Scottish Munros to the Texan desert and each one of these presents its own challenges and has its own rewards. I loved the Georgia O’Keefe chapter most, partly because of how the desert inspired the artwork that I love but also because this was a landscape that is totally alien to me. I loved being transported to the empty expanse of the desert and trying to imagine what that emptiness would feel like.

I really enjoyed reading this book and finding out about these different women and where they walked. It has certainly inspired me to take my walking a bit more seriously and venture further afield than I presently do.

The Non Fiction Reader Challenge is hosted by ShelleyRae at Bookdout and details can be found here This is the fifth non fiction book that I have read in 2022 so I have definitely achieved my aim of reading more non fiction this year 😃

Sundays in bed with …….. The Maid

Sundays in bed with is a meme hosted by Midnight Book Girl but I came across it recently on Jill’s Book Blog. It is simply a chance to share the book that is by your bed at the moment (or that you wish was by your bed). This week my book is The Maid by Nita Prose

I’ve been looking forward to reading this for ages and it finally arrived in the library this week.

Blurb from the book cover :
Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody.

She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?

But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can easily be cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

This is an entertaining read so far and I’m enjoying the plot. However, Molly is irritating me slightly as she seems to be portrayed inconsistently. She doesn’t cope well with social situations and finds reading social cues difficult. In the past she has been helped through situations by her Grandmother who is now dead. That’s fine and is reminiscent of other characters such as Eleanor Oliphant. However, there are times in the book when Molly seems very able to read quite complex social cues so I’m not sure which one is the true character. Is she that socially inept or is she an unreliable narrator and is actually more than she is portraying herself to be? I’m interested to see how all of this is going turn out.

What’s by your bed this weekend?

Stacking the Shelves 39

It’s Saturday and unbelievably, we only have one week of April left. Welcome to the weekend and another Stacking the Shelves post. Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality and details are on her blog. The gorgeous graphic is also used courtesy of Marlene.

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

We spent last weekend building book cases and yesterday we finished them off and then had the fun of filling the empty with books. It was very civilised and we didn’t argue about whose books were going on which shelves 😃I was able to fish out all of my books from their various hiding places and put them all out properly and there is still space. I think it must the first time ever that I have had more space than books. I don’t suppose that will last for long though. We were also quite ruthless in getting rid of books that we didn’t think either of us would reread. The charity book shop had four large bags of books this morning.

I still managed to find time to go to the library though so as usual, this post is all about the library books that I have picked up since my last library post. I’m a huge fan of libraries and really wish that more people used them. They are an incredible public resource of books that is accessible to everyone.

The Maid by Nita Prose
I’ve been waiting to read this book for ages and it finally arrived at the library for me. A maid discovers a dead body in a hotel bedroom and becomes involved in the hunt for the killer. I am definitely looking forward to starting this.

The Book of Sand by Theo Clare
I saw this book in Waterstones on Weds and thought it looked interesting and there it was just sitting on the shelf yesterday. It’s apparently a dual time line book with one set in modern USA and the other in a desert land where people are involved with search for a mysterious object. This might be a brilliant read or maybe not. That’s the beauty of getting a book from the library.

Running out of Road by Cath Staincliffe
A crime novel about a missing school girl, a middle aged recluse and an exploited teenager. I’ve never read anything by this author but the book is set in the Peak District which I know quite well so this one appealed to me.

A Year at the Hotel Gondola by Nicky Pellegrino
A nice light-hearted romantic novel set in Venice to get me even more excited about our long awaited holiday which is now less than 4 weeks away.

Book Blogger Hop April 22

 The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer @ Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012. With Jennifer’s permission, it was relaunched on February 15, 2013 by Billy @ the Ramblings of a coffee addict. . Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end the following Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book related question. The hop’s purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to your own blog. 

This week ‘s question is:

Do you finish reading every book that you have slotted for a review? (submitted by Elizabeth @ Silver’s Reviews)

I certainly try to. The only place that I get books for review is through Net Galley and it seems only fair that if publishers are giving me a book for free, then I really ought to finish it. There’s only been one book that I have requested for review and then not finished as I really couldn’t get on with it and I did say that I hadn’t finished it and why in my review.

On occasion, I have missed archive dates and haven’t been able to review a book as it’s been archived before I’ve got round to reading it. Now, I try to keep a much closer eye on archive dates as well as publication dates.

In general, I don’t like not finishing books. I’m far more likely to skim read through the whole book just to find out what happens at the end although this is much harder to do with e books

What about you?

The Toll Gate #1954 Club

The 1954 Club started this Monday, hosted by Karen and Simon, who ask everyone to read one or more books published in 1954 – in any language, format, or place – and share their reviews. Together, they will put together an overview of the year.

I’ve read several of the posts about previous years but haven’t actually written a blog post for it before. However, 1954 was such a great year for books that I felt I had to join in and reread one of my favourite books from that year.

I’m celebrating Georgette Heyer this month. With the release of Season 2 of Bridgerton, it seems appropriate to remember the all-time queen of Regency romance novels. I’ve read lots of Regency novels by more modern authors but none of them quite measure up to Georgette Heyer’s masterpieces.

“How can I know you are to be trusted? I never set eyes on you until yesterday?”

Blurb from the back of the Pan paperback:

Georgette Heyer is famous for her delightful Regency romances and there is a modern sophistication about her handling of them that makes the stories irresistible. This post-Waterloo adventure is no exception.
A handsome captain of Dragoon Guards becomes involved with an engaging highwayman, a taciturn Bow Street runner and a stolen hoard of golden coins whilst protecting the squire’s attractive grand daughter from black villainy.

Blurbs obviously had a very style back in the early sixties!! I used to scour the local market for my collection of Heyer books and this one cost me the grand sum of 30p sometime back in the 1970s. It’s very battered now and probably needs replacing as a page is now falling out 😢

Heyer is most famous for her London based Regency stories featuring balls and the London season but some of my favourites are the ones set in more traditionally Jane Austen setting of a small country house. This one is a variation of that setting as it’s set in a Toll House in the Wilds of the Derbyshire Peak District.

Captain Jack Staples is bored and when he stumbles on the mystery of the missing Toll Gate keeper as he travels to visit a friend, he can’t resist the temptation to stay and find out what is happening.

He then meets Nell Stornaway, the grand daughter (not the niece as stated in the blurb above!) of the local squire who is dying and immediately falls in love. The book is about their romance but this is set against a backdrop of the mystery of the missing gate keeper and Nell’s cousin having turned up with a decidedly dodgy friend in tow. Jack is sure that the arrival of Henry Stornaway and his friend are connected to Ned Brean’s disappearance and is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery as well as pursue his romance with Nell.

Jack Staples is one of Georgette Heyer’s gentle giant heroes and unusually, this story is told from his point of view. The book has a lot in common with another of my favourites, The Unknown Ajax whose main character is very similar. The romance between Captain Jack and Nell is quite low key but very tender. The main focus of the book really though is the mystery of where the gate keeper is and the situation that Jack has found himself in.

As always with Georgette Heyer, the secondary characters are brilliantly written. She does a great line in young boys and 11 year old Ben in this book is one of my favourites. I loved the character of Rose too, Nell’s old nurse who doesn’t stand for any nonsense from anyone. All of the characters come alive though from the dying squire to the landlord of the local pub.

The only downside to this book could be that there is a lot of thieves slang in it which could make it hard for someone who might not have read a lot of this type of thing before. Don’t let that put you off though, if you haven’t read this before, then give it a try.

There were many other books published in 1954 that I loved. Obviously the first two volumes of Lord of the Rings will always be a favourite but some of my others are below.

Katherine by Anya Seton
I just loved this historical novel about the affair between John of Gaunt and the wife of one of his knights, Katherine Swynford. The fact that he married her when he was free to do so and after so many years seems to me to show that it really was a love affair.

Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
This was the first of Asimov’s robot novels and is a murder mystery so that ticked two of my favourite genres, Sci Fi and Crime. I also loved the way that he eventually linked this series with his Foundation series.

The Horse and his Boy by C S Lewis
I always much preferred this book to the ones involving Eustace who just used to annoy me. I really enjoyed reading about the Pevensey children as adult rulers and I loved Bree.

The Chalet School and Barbara by Elinor M Brett Dyer
As a young teenager, I adored the Chalet School books and spent many happy hours day dreaming about becoming a pupil there. This one was always one of my favourites as I always felt that I could identify with Barbara. I still have my collection of over 50 Armada paperbacks up in the attic.

These are my favourite books that were published in 1954. What would yours be?