Clearing the Decks: half way through the introductions!

A quick reminder of the project:

I have too many books. Books on shelves, books in boxes, books in piles on pretty much every available surface …

So I have rounded up one hundred books that I think I will be happy into pass on, once I’ve read them and written about them. They are now my home library, stacked in a corner that I will turn to whenever I think I have nothing to read.

It seems to be working – since Christmas I’ve read three books and ditched two more.

I’ve been introducing those books in batches of ten, and I’d love to know if there are any you could particularly recommend. Or if there is a book you would particularly like, and I’ll pass it on to you if I can.

And here are books 41 to 50 …

Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters

“A missing masterwork in wood, the last creation of a master carver who died in the violent tumult of sixteenth century Germany, may be hidden in the medieval castle in the town of Rothenburg. The prize has called to Vicky Bliss, drawing her and an arrogant male colleague into the forbidding citadel and its dark secrets. But the treasure hunt soon turns deadly. Here, where the blood of the long forgotten stains ancient stones, Vicky must face two perilous possibilities: either a powerful supernatural evil inhabits the place…or someone frighteningly real is willing to kill for what Vicky is determined to find. “

I read a lot of good reports about Elizabeth Peters, and so when the first book in one of her series turned up in a charity shop I snapped it up. Well, so often I pick up a book only to find it is part way through a series. This may well be letter E in my Crime Fiction Alphabet…

Lorelei’s Secret by Caroline Parkhurst

“Paul Iverson’s life is stable, orderly and dull – until he meets Lexy and her Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, Lorelei. From their first date, Lexy sweeps him off his feet and brings him passion, adventure and love. But one afternoon, Lexy climbs the apple tree in their backyard and falls to her death. Heartbroken, Paul cannot believe it was an accident and sets out to uncover the truth, with the help of the only creature who saw what happened, Lorelei.”

I think this one came courtesy of ReadItSwapIt. It’s one of the three books I’ve read and I’ve already swapped it again for a travel book for my fiance.

The Harvest by Christopher Hart

“In the heart of Wessex, 17-year-old Lewis Pike is the last of a tribe, refusing the lure of urban life, desperate to cling to his village birthright. But what does a village mean? Is it the microcosm of a wider dysfunction, as drunken poet Gerald tells him? Is it the imposition of alleged rituals like the corn dolly the “incomers” want to introduce into the harvest church service? Does it lie in the memories of his elderly grandmother? In the community forged by the illicit dogfights? Is it a family heritage, when the family is now a charity case, and Lewis can’t hold down a job?”

I bought this in a 3 for 2 offer in Waterstones ages ago. The cover is lovely, but when it was shelved the black spine never caught my eye.

Bing Banged My Lula by Frankie Park

“Standing by the school gates there are only two kinds of people: the smug marrieds and the single mums. You’re either with Charlie and her mates, Conka, Sharon and Tasha, or you’re against her, happy in your domesticity and financial security. As an escape from the constant demands of more money, kids and ex-husbands, Charlie and Conka decide to form a band. But their plans to secure a record deal the size of Kansas are thwarted by a series of life-changing events which include a miscarriage, a spot of head-butting and an outbreak of unexpected passion …”

This one has been hanging around for longer than I care to admit. I really don’t know why.

Down Among The Gods by Kate Thompson

“Two lonely people, a chance meeting at an adult education class, an almost instant attraction. But why do they keep misunderstanding each other, missing each other? What is it that conspires to keep Jessie and Patrick apart? Down among The Gods is an urban romance with a difference. A tale of mortals acted by immortals, it is an extraordinary, disquieting tale of human powerlessness in the face of the havoc wreaked by the Gods of classical mythology.”

Oh dear, another book that’s been sitting waiting for a long, long time. Now I pick it up again I do like the look of it, and it’s published by Virago which generally a good sign.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

“What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska — and not Israel — had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II? In Michael Chabon’s Yiddish-speaking ‘Alyeska’, Orthodox gangs in side-curls and knee breeches roam the streets of Sitka, where Detective Meyer Landsman discovers the corpse of a heroin-addled chess prodigy in the flophouse Meyer calls home. Marionette strings stretch back to the hands of charismatic Rebbe Gold, leader of a sect that seems to have drawn its mission statement from the Cosa Nostra — but behind Rebbe looms an even larger shadow. Despite sensible protests from Berko, his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner, Meyer is determined to unsnarl the meaning behind the murder. Even if that means surrendering his badge and his dignity to the chief of Sitka’s homicide unit — also known as his fearsome ex-wife, Bina.”

This was one of those books that everyone seemed to be blogging about a while ago.  I liked the look of it and so when I saw a good used copy I picked it up. I still like the look of it, but other books have been calling louder lately.

Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle

“Toby Lolness is just one and a half millimetres tall, and he’s the most wanted person in his world, the Great Oak Tree. When Toby’s father makes a ground-breaking discovery, tapping into the very heart of the Tree’s energy, he also realizes that exploiting it could permanently damage their world. Refusing to reveal the secret of his invention to an enraged community, the family is exiled. But one man is determined to get hold of the forbidden knowledge … and his plan is to destroy the Tree. Now Toby’s parents have been imprisoned and sentenced to death. Only Toby has managed to escape, but for how long?”

I saw this in the Oxfam shop towards the end of last year and I was intrigued. Well, I don’t come across many multi award-winning children’s books in translation!

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

“Martha Carrier was hanged on August 19th 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, unyielding in her refusal to admit to being a witch, going to her death rather than joining the ranks of men and women who confessed and were thereby spared execution. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and wilful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. In this startling novel, she narrates the story of her early life in Andover, near Salem. Her father is a farmer, English in origin, quietly stoical but with a secret history. Her mother is a herbalist, tough but loving, and above all a good mother. Often at odds with each other, Sarah and her mother have a close but also cold relationship, yet it is clear that Martha understands her daughter like no other. When Martha is accused of witchcraft, and the whisperings in the community escalate, she makes her daughter promise not to stand up for her if the case is taken to court. As Sarah and her brothers are hauled into the prison themselves, the vicious cruelty of the trials is apparent, as the Carrier family, along with other innocents, are starved and deprived of any decency, battling their way through the hysteria with the sheer willpower their mother has taught them.”

Another one of those books that was being written about everywhere, and it went on my wishlist long before it was published in the UK. So it was inevitable that when I saw a copy I would pick it up.

Sleep Pale Sister by Joanne Harris

“Henry Chester, a domineering and puritanical Victorian artist, is in search of the perfect model. In nine-year-old Effie he finds her. Ten years later, lovely, childlike and sedated, Effie seems the ideal wife. But something inside her is about to awaken. Drawn by her lover, Mose, into a dangerous underworld of intrigue and blackmail, she meets Fanny Miller, the brothel-keeper, and her shadowy daughter, Marta – murdered ten years ago on the day of Henry’s weekly visit…And as friendship becomes possession and Henry’s secret past is revealed, Effie and Marta plan their revenge together.”

I didn’t know this book existed until I spotted it in a charity shop. It was love at first sight!

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

“In Cambridge a child has been hideously murdered and other children have disappeared. The Jews, made scapegoats by the all-powerful Christian clergy, have been forced to retreat into the castle to avoid slaughter by angry townspeople. Henry, King of England, is displeased. The Jews provide a large part of his revenue and therefore the real killer must be found, and quickly. A renowned investigator, Simon of Naples, is recruited and he arrives in town from the continent accompanied by an Arab and a young woman, Adelia Aguilar. There are few female doctors in twelth century Europe, but Adelia is one of them, having qualified at the great School of Medicine in Salerno. What’s more, her speciality is the study of corpses; she is, in fact, a mistress of the art of death, a skill that must be concealed in case she’s accused of witchcraft. Adelia’s investigation takes her deep into Cambridge, its castle and convents and in a medieval city teeming with life, Adelia makes friends and even finds romance. And, fatally, the attention of a murderer who is prepared to kill again…”

I love the look of this one, but I haven’t been in the mood for the medieval lately. But when I am I’ll be ready!

… and now I’m half way through the introductions. And I need advice please!

7 responses

  1. Mistress of the Art of Death is superb, as are the rest of the books in the series – the sort of stories that are instantly absorbing. It was quite different when it came out although I think that there are one or two of a similar style now. The writer is Diana Norman who has written a lot of very good historical novels before turning to crime.
    I also enjoyed The Heretic’s Daughter although it is not a particularly comfortable read and makes it very clear just how grim life could be in those settlements if you didn’t completely fit in.
    I should have liked the Joanne Harris as I love her books and the subject matter would normally be just up my street but for some reason I couldn’t quite get into it and ended up skim reading it which is never a good sign.
    It is one of her earlier novels, pre-Chocolat, so she maybe wasn’t quite into her stride!

  2. I bought The Harvest in a sale somewhere, when a new acquaintance (now a very dear friend) told me it was the best book she’d ever read. Now I know her better, I realise that she says this about every book she reads… but I will read it one day!

  3. I read Sleep, Pale Sister with my book club, probably about three years ago now (or maybe even more!) I absolutely love Victorian, gothic, sensation novels, so this instantly appealed. Sadly, it didn’t quite match up to expectations. From what I remember it was quite slow-moving. It is so completely different to Joanne Harris’ latest novels and you do get a sense that she hadn’t quite found her authorial voice when writing Sleep, Pale Sister. But it is worth reading and you may well enjoy it more than I did – in fact, I might even enjoy it more if I was to read it again now!

  4. I would certainly recommend The Heretic’s Daughter – a really fascintation novely about the infamous Salem witch trials. To think what those poor men and women that were wrongfully accused of being witches went through! This certainly isn’t comfortable reading, especially as the court dialogue is actually taken from the witch trials.

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