Clearing The Decks: Introducing Ten More Books

I am creating a home library of the books that I think I can let go after reading, or maybe let go without reading at all for my Clearing the Decks Project

The project began last year with one hundred books. By the end of the year forty books had left the premises last year, and so I’m adding forty more for 2012.

I’m introducing the books ten at a time, and so here are ten more.

Do let me know if I have a book that you’ve loved and I’ll try to make it a priority. Or a book that you’ve hated and I should think twice about.

Funeral Music by Morag Joss

International cellist Sara Selkirk is apprehensive about the charity concert in Bath’s famous Pump Room. It’s the first time she will have performed in public since the death of her lover the previous year. But, in the event, Sara’s performance is overshadowed by the death of the concert’s organiser, Matthew Sawyer. In the ensuing police investigation, many secrets are uncovered including a stolen needlework collection, an immigration racket, a headmaster’s adulterous affair with his secretary. What, if anything, do any of them have to do with Sawyer’s death?

I spotted this one in the library back when I lived in Harrow, but I didn’t get around to borrowing it before I moved. My new library didn’t have a copy,  but a little later it turned up on ReadItSwapIt …

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Satiawan

Up in the house that sits on the hill, a strange spell is brewing… To Meridia, growing up with her father Gabriel, who vanishes daily in clouds of mist, and her bewitching mother Ravenna, the outside world is a refuge. So when as a young woman her true love Daniel offers her marriage, it seems an escape to a more straightforward existence. Yet behind the welcoming façade of her new home lies a life of drudgery and a story even stranger than that she left behind. Aged retainers lurk in the background; swarms of bees appear at will, and of course, there’s her indomitable mother-in-law, Eva, hiding secrets that it will take Meridia years to unravel. Surrounded by seemingly unfathomable mysteries, can Meridia unlock the intrigues of the past, and thus protect her own family’s future?

I’m not sure, but I think I picked this up in a Waterstone’s 3 for 2 on a daytrip to Truro. I liked the look of it at the time, but I didn’t pick it up to read straight away, and when I did I was less sure.

Blood Harvest by S J Bolton

NOW YOU SEE HER… Gillian is haunted by the disappearance of her little girl two years ago. A devastating fire burned down their home, but she remains convinced her daughter survived.
NOW YOU DON’T… Ten-year-old Tom lives by the town’s neglected churchyard. Is he the only one who sees the strange, solitary child playing there? And what is she trying to tell him?
NOW YOU RUN… There’s a new vicar in town – Harry – and he’s meeting the locals. But menacing events suggest he isn’t welcome. What terrible secret is this town hiding?

Another ReadItSwapIt book

The Catch: Prize-Winning Stories by Women

In 1996, the Asham Literary Trust organized a competition of short stories by women in honour of Asham House, the house in Sussex where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived. The competiton attracted over six hundred entries of which the judges selected thirteen which are published here together with commissioned stories by Kate Atkinson, Rachel Cusk, Louise Doughty, Candia McWilliam and Deborah Moggach. The result is a varied and sensuous collection of stories that successfully blends the work of established writers with new authors.

This one came from Any Amount of Books in Charing Cross Road years ago  – some interesting authors and a wonderful award.

The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushkin

Stepping out into the dusk of a warm Moscow evening, esteemed art critic Anatoly Sukhanov feels on top of the world: his career is glittering, his wife is beautiful and his children are clever. But the year is 1985 and the air is heavy with change. Sukhanov’s future will be haunted by doubt. Beset by heartbreaking visions of a past he gave up, he questions his choices: in swapping a precarious life as a brilliant underground artist for comfort and security did he betray his dreams? And if his dreams are lost, what does he have left?

I spotted this one in a charity shop; the title and the author’s name rang a bell, but I couldn’t think why. When I picked the book up I found that it had been longlisted for The Orange Prize, and that seemed to be a good reason to bring it home.

School’s Out by Christophe Dufosse

When a teacher is found dead, having apparently committed suicide, his friend Pierre Hoffman takes over class 4F and finds himself responsible for a group of strangely subdued, well-behaved and yet menacing pupils. Assuming their behaviour to be a response to the trauma of their teacher’s death, Pierre Hoffman at first takes it easy with the precocious class, refusing to embrace the hostility felt by other staff members towards the children. Over the weeks that follow, however, he receives a series of signals and warnings that cause him to question the motivations of his pupils and the circumstances of his colleague’s suicide. Refusing to believe that the situation can be any more sinister than his suspicious imagination, Hoffman applauds and supports class 4F’s decision to organise a school trip to the Normandy coast. Only once the trip has begun, however, does Hoffman begin to understand the extent of their bizarre solidarity and their ultimate goal…

I picked this one up in the Oxfam Bookshop in Falmouth. The synopsis was intriguing, there was a comparison to The Secret History, and so I decided to bring the book home.

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

This is a chilling story of friendship, first love and family secrets. Estrella lives in Spain, next door to her best friend Catalina. They used to be inseparable, but then Andres, Catalina’s cousin and the boy she’s planning to marry, starts to gaze at Estrella instead. And Catalina starts to plot…Estrella’s family have always done things slightly differently. Lighting candles on a Friday, for example. But these tiny things that Estrella has done all her life suddenly add up to something huge. She discovers that she and her family are Marranos – Spanish Jews living double lives as Catholics. And soon the outside world starts to intrude on her life – the world of the Spanish Inquisition, of neighbours accusing each other, of looting and riots. It is a world where new love burns and where friendship ends in flame and ash.

I’ve been reading Alice Hoffman’s books for years, but I’d never tried any of her YA titles. This one was on offer in exchange for a book that had been on my swap list for ages, so I thought I’d give it a try.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a ‘Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.

A freebie with NewBooks magazine

The Lie by Petra Hammesfahr

Nadia and Susanne have just met. They look uncannily alike, but one is filthy rich and has both a husband and a lover while the other is dirt poor and single. So, when Nadia asks Susanne to spend a weekend with her husband, how can she refuse the outrageous fee on offer? So Susanne changes her hairstyle and clothes and, one Friday afternoon, drives Nadia’s wine-red Alfa to her beautiful suburban villa. However, what appears at first to be a harmless game quickly turns into a deadly web of lies.

I read The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr a while ago, and it was a brilliant piece of dark crime fiction. And so I checked the library copy for this one, but there wasn’t a copy to be had in the country. I forgot about it until I spotted a familiar name in a charity shop …

Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson

London, June 1940. When the body of silent screen star Mabel Morgan is found impaled on railings in Fitzrovia, the coroner rules her death as suicide, but DI Ted Stratton of the CID is not convinced. Despite opposition from his superiors, he starts asking questions, and it becomes clear that Morgan’s fatal fall from a high window may have been the work of one of Soho’s most notorious gangsters. MI5 agent Diana Calthrop, working with senior official Sir Neville Apse, is leading a covert operation when she discovers that her boss is involved in espionage. She must tread carefully – Apse is a powerful man, and she can’t risk threatening the reputation of the Secret Service. Only when Stratton’s path crosses Diana’s do they start to uncover the truth. But as they discover Morgan’s connection with Apse and their mutual links to a criminal network and a secretive pro-fascist organisation, they begin to realise that the intrigues of the Secret Service are alarmingly similar to the machinations of war-torn London’s underworld.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages. I’ve liked Laura Wilson’s books in the past and this one in library stock. But it only ever seemed to be available when I lacked space on my ticket, reading time, or the inclination to read this sort of book. never when I looked for it. So I nabbed a copy on ReadItSwapIt.


And that’s it for this batch. Any thoughts?

12 responses

  1. I haven’t read any of these but I do have a copy of Blood Harvest which I hope to get round to soon. I’ve enjoyed S.J. Bolton’s other books, including her newest one, Dead Scared, which I’m in the middle of at the moment.

  2. I haven’t read My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece but I did make a note of it to possibly read with my son after reading a really good review in The Guardian.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Harvest, even though (or maybe because) it’s a dark, scary book and one that I found disturbing, but thoroughly absorbing . Each time I had to stop reading it I was eager to get back to it. Hope that helps you decide – if not I wrote about it on my blog –

    I also got My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and decided it wasn’t for me – I’ve given it away. I borrowed Stratton’s War from the library – but took it back unread – it was probably not the right time for me to read it, because it does look interesting. I hadn’t got very far when it was due back and I’d got (still have!) loads of other books to read.

  4. I liked Stratton’s War and Blood Harvest, though was not particularly expecting to like either as they aren’t my usual type of book. Stratton’s War is the first of a series which I think gets better and better (so far there are two more books). I thought The Lie was terrible, such a let down after the superb The Sinner. A sort of “lifestyles of the rich and famous” book. I haven’t read that Morag Joss you mention but I read Half Broken Things which was a sort of Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)-style novel- not bad but a bit predictable. Spinster lady suspense.

  5. I read Incantation based on my pre-teen daughter’s recommendation in May 2009. I don’t remember it myself, but in my book journal I noted that it was a very good YA historical fiction set in Spain during the Inquisition. My daughter remembers that she loved it, but it’s been too many books ago for me to recall specifics.

  6. I do want to try S.J Bolton, I like a good crime and she seems very popular with crime lovers, I don’t know if that helps.

    I had Of Bee’s and Mist on my TBR but culled it a few years ago, is it bad to say I hadnt thought of it since until this post? Oops.

  7. Blood Harvest and Stratton’s War are both very good and worth reading (although maybe not keeping afterwards).
    I love Alice Hoffman but I haven’t read Incantation – might have to remedy that though.
    I did get Of Bees and Mist out of the library a year or so ago, because it looked as though it would be very much to my taste, but I couldn’t get into it at the time. I might give it another go in the future though because I was in a funny reading mood at the time!

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