Random honourable mention: The Poet’s Wife by Rebecca Stonehill

Without further ado, explanation or a long list of excuses for a lack of general posting, here is the first in a series of short posts of books once read, but yet to be mentioned, that I want to share.

The Poet’s Wife by Rebecca Stonehill

A sweeping family tale set during last century’s Spanish Civil War, The Poet’s Wife, is a truly enthralling story, populated with memorable characters and infused with emotion and drama. The strong female characters particularly appealed to me, as did the Spanish setting – most of the narrative takes place in Granada – as I have a special place in my heart for Spain and the Spanish culture. Well-researched and well-written, I was intrigued, entertained, thrilled and put to both despair and joy at different stages of the novel. It was also a book that after reading I felt as if I knew a little more about the world, and that is always a good thing in my view. I would thoroughly recommend this novel to historical fiction readers and those who enjoy a sweeping tale.

 

 

 

Towers, Stacks and Piles of Books

Dear Reader,

I feel it would be remiss of me to not make mention of this article by Susan Harlan read on Literary Hub last week, being pro-pile as it is. No matter that in reality I have as many digital towers as physical. A pile, is a tower, is a stack, is a pile.

http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/

Sincerely,

Lauren, Pile o’ Books

Sound all the trumpets! Jasper Jones film release

I’m so excited about the film release of Jasper Jones – based on the most wonderful of novels by Craig Silvey, and one of Australia’s favourite books. I have high hopes for the production and can’t wait to see it. Once I work out how I can see it over here in the UK… I foresee much googling for local releases come March after the Australian premiere. If you haven’t come across this tremendous novel I can only suggest you treat yourself and add it to your reading pile.

Where Falcons Fall by CS Harris

Each year I buy myself books as a birthday present. My financial situation at the time dictates whether I stroll out of the bookshop with a couple of novels nestled in my handbag or if I traverse carefully, knees bent, back braced, trying not to topple over under the weight of soon-to-be dusty volumes. In recent years it has been the former, but however many stories I manage to gift myself there is always a certain series included. For my birthday I always buy myself the latest Sebastian St Cyr novel.

falcons-fall-225-shadowThis blog is not devoid of Sebastian reviews. The series is one of my very favourite things to read – a thoroughly enjoyable experience I look forward to with giddy excitement. The books also rank in my mum’s favourites and even though we currently live very far apart (England and Australia) I still pop each finished ‘Sebastian’ in a bag and mail it across the seas for her to read. I know it would probably cost about the same to order her a copy, but the act of specially posting it is one that makes us feel connected; somehow the reading experience is more shared.

In Where Falcons Fall, Sebastian and Hero are outside London for once, and it gives the story a refreshing air. While staying in a small Shropshire village to try to discover more information about the man Sebastian believes could be his half-brother, and thus perhaps learn who is their shared mother, the Viscount and his wife become entangled in a rare local, and also particularly mysterious, murder. What at first appeared to be a quiet, harmless hamlet soon reveals itself to be a place hiding dark deeds and people with dark agendas.

I will have said it before, but I can’t recommend the Sebastian St Cyr series enough. They are well-written, well-plotted, romantic and exciting –  the perfect novels to give yourself for your birthday. Or  for Christmas. Or just because.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 14th August: Other Ways to Book

If we were having coffee and you asked me what I was reading at the moment (people always ask book editors —and sometime-book-bloggers—what they’re reading at the moment), I would tell you I’m reading a (slightly disappointing) thriller and also doing a lot of faux reading.

Yes. Fake. Reading. When you are short on spare time (I have mentioned toddler twins, yes?), us readers must find other ways to book. And while I can in theory sneak in 15 minutes on my commute, and another 5 while I meander (carefully) the streets of central London on my way to the office, and perhaps another 10 in bed before I pass out for the night, it’s not really enough. Plus in the multitasking fury that is my brain sometimes those train rides are for other things like the grocery order, the birthday message that is 3 days late, a really (un)important Facebook update or some mindless staring while said brain fails to latch on to any one thing for more than 10 seconds. I’m tired. And my brain is tired and sometimes even reading, to my utter disappointment, seems tiring.

And so I have found myself listening and watching ‘books’ instead. I know stories are stories but of late my radio listening and television watching is geared to the literary adaptation, and somewhere in my chaotic mind this ‘counts’ as book time. Not that I should have to justify it. Well, except that I’m a supposed book blogger who is too tired to read… In any case I have recently enjoyed some wonderful renditions of novels that have then inspired me to seek out the original material so that one day I can experience them again (properly—well, as intended) in their text-based form.

Radio 4 is one of the great joys of living in the UK and apart from hosting the only soap opera I care about, they broadcast the most wonderful radio dramas. It is from here that I have recently enjoyed the sheer fun and exquisiteness of Winifred Watson’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (thanks to a tip-off from a friend), and the rich, intense, ambitious novels of AS Byatt’s ‘Frederica Quartet’. On television we this week finished the third season of the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, a wonderful series based on Kerry Greenwood’s delicious novels set in the 1920s and featuring Phryne Fisher, the most fabulous lady-detective ever invented. Earlier in the summer a delightful adaptation of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals (one of those books I fear everyone else in the entire world has read except for myself), kept us both entertained and endeared.

So here we are now on our second coffee (it’s been a long week, right?) and I can tell you that even though I may be too tired and my brain too busy to devote the time to reading that I would like, I am at least finding other ways to ‘book’, to immerse myself in intriguing, clever and enjoyable literature—the type of stories that both cheer and inspire.

And very soon, in a mere few moments, I will be off to bed with the thriller I’m reading to squeeze in 10 more minutes of reading joy before I pass out. Goodnight, coffee drinkers and readers. Book well.

Burned, Pierced and Scarred – the Henning Juul series by Thomas Enger

My crime novel collection is varied in style and geography. I have American Jeffery Deaver for thrillers, Australiaburnedns Peter Corris for PI procedural and Kerry Greenwood for the most fabulous 1920s lady detective ever, Andrea Camilleri for Sicilian detection brilliance, CS Harris for Regency romance and murder, Elmore Leonard for noir, and many more. What had been missing from my shelves for some time was a regular Scandinavian crime writer, but now I have found one—Thomas Enger.

It may seem odd that it has taken me so long to commit to a Scandi crime novelist. It does to me. What with the explosion over the last decade or so of excellent Scandi crime and thrillers hitting the English-language world. I had intentions. Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Anne Holt… I think perhaps I was sated by the television: Unit One, The Eagle, The Killing etc. It doesn’t really matter, does it? I finally got there.

Henning Juul is a journalist with a knack for working out those things others don’t. A loner with a personal tragic mystery to solve—who set the fire to his home that killed his son, and why? In book one—Burned—we meet Henning as he returns to the workforce after he has recovered (physically) from the tragic fire. He is quiet, wearing scars and carrying a heavy heart. Each night he obsessively changes the batteries in his smoke detectors, and most of his thoughts are focussed on his son and his loss.

He starts work at an online newspaper in Oslo and covers the police rounds. He is an experienced journo—professional, eagle-eyed, able to get people to tell him things even if they didn’t want to.  Before long he is re-establishing contacts with the police, including a former school mate. And then there is the anonymous police source who contacts him piercedonline—who gives tips and helpful advice, and also seems to be able to assist in Henning’s quest to discover the truth surrounding his son’s death.

Meanwhile in Oslo, a young woman’s body is found on a frozen expanse. She has been stoned to death, whipped, and one of her hand’s is noticeably absent. Henning is sent to cover the story, and even though an arrest is made early on, something doesn’t add up for our protagonist and he finds himself continuing to investigate the crime.

In book two, Pierced, a former enforcer turned real-estate magnate has been found guilty of a murder he says he didn’t commit. He contacts our hero and promises information on the fire that killed Henning’s son if Henning helps clear his name. Henning understandably agrees, determined to get further in his personal quest, as long as he can avoid getting into deadly trouble himself.

In the latest book, Scarred, Henning is assigned to cover the murder of an elderly woman in a nursing home. At the same time his estranged sister Trine, the Minister for Justice, is accused of sexual misconduct and has the media at her door. Though the siblings rarely speak, for reasons of which even Henning is not clear, he believes his sister has been set up and seeks to discover the saboteur. As the two cases collide, we learn more of Henning and his childhood than we have before, and in some ways so does he. There is a family secret that is still not scarredperfectly clear but there is a sense our hero may be investigating his own background, along with discovering more about the deadly fire in his home, sometime soon.

I was recommended these books by their English translator, Charlotte Barslund. We sat next to each other at a dinner a couple of years ago and I asked her what were some of her favourite books to work on. She nominated Thomas Enger’s series and despite the generous wine pouring during the night I remembered them. And I’m very glad I did. They are some of the first novels I’ve turned to for holidays, a crime fix or when needing something different in tone after a great big sweeping novel.

Henning, despite his quiet intensity and personal distractions, is the kind of character who gets under others’ skin. In the books, this is partly due to his journalistic training, but for the reader it’s because he is a good man; a good, intelligent and sensible man who has lost a lot of himself due to his life’s tragedy but is capable of rebuilding over time, if he can get a few breaks, if he can find out who killed his son and learn to move on. He himself is a mystery we are keen to unravel, and at the same time we are happy and intrigued to join him as he unravels other crimes.

Thomas Enger’s novels are everything you need from your Northern crime stories—dark and mysterious, thoughtful and wry, with a protagonist we want to meet again and again, watching him solve crimes, avenge tragedy and grow as a person.

 

Weekend coffee share – April 23

If we were having coffee I would tell you how excited I was to be out of the house on my own having coffee with you. Somehow I am assuming my children aren’t with us. Not that I don’t love my children nor enjoy their company, but coffee without them is nice too. After the general excitement of adult coffee and cake selection (there is always cake) I would tell you how nice it was to have posted my first blog post in years. Years! How when I first moved to the UK, somewhat friendless and jobless, I expected to have loads of time (though back then I would have said ‘heaps’ of time) to tend to my blog, to nourish my writings. I’d be one of those hip but unassuming types sitting in a cafe banging out posts, paragraphs, chapters and tweets, paying too much for a flat white, wangling free cake out of the waiters I knew by name and birth order. But it didn’t work out that way. And that’s okay. Other things happened. Good things happened.

But now I have written one post. And I’m very much looking forward to writing more. On books and reading, editing and writing, readers and stories and all the balloon-shaped swell of reading joy that surrounds me. That surrounds us. And maybe some writings on other things too. Maybe in a different place. And certainly in some time to come. But the scratching and bubbling of thoughts and ideas to communicate are suddenly alive in my brain, and this and the previous post have flowed  from my fingertips like an ooze of letters that have been building up behind a dam. And all these things feel very good indeed.

#weekendcoffeeshare