Six Degrees of Separation: From The Dry to The Red House Mystery

It’s the first Saturday of the month which means it’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate of Books are my Favourite and Best. The idea is that Kate chooses a book to use as a starting point and then we have to link it to six other books of our choice to form a chain. A book doesn’t have to be connected to all of the others on the list – only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month we are beginning with The Dry by Jane Harper. I haven’t read that book, but I know that a lot of bloggers whose opinions I trust have enjoyed it so I would like to give it a try. The story is set in a fictional Australian community during a drought. The opposite of a drought is a flood, so for my first link I have chosen Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh. This was the third book – and probably my favourite – in Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy, set in India, China and at sea during the period of the First Opium War.

Opium provides the link to the next book in my chain, which is The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. In the opening scene of the book, we see Edwin Drood’s uncle, the choirmaster John Jasper, visiting a London opium den run by a mysterious woman known as Princess Puffer.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood was the novel Dickens was working on when he died and was unfortunately left unfinished. I enjoyed it and do recommend reading it, but the fact that it ends before the mystery is solved is as frustrating as you would expect! Another classic novel that was unfinished at the time of the author’s death is Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, although I found the ending of that one much more satisfying.

I want to move the chain away from classic Victorian novels now, so I have selected a very different type of book for my next link, but one which also has ‘Wives’ in the title: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin. The novel describes a polygamous marriage through the stories of Nigerian businessman Baba Segi and his four wives, who each take their turn as narrator.

I’ve read a few other books set in Nigeria, the most memorable being Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a beautiful, emotional novel which follows the lives of several characters before and during the Nigerian-Biafran War of 1967-1970.

To bring my chain to an end, I have chosen another book with a colour in the title, not yellow this time but red. That book is The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne. Although Milne is best known for the Winnie the Pooh stories, he also wrote this detective novel, published in 1922, which I thought was great fun to read!

And that is my chain for this month. My links included droughts and floods, opium dens, unfinished novels, wives, Nigeria and colours!

In June we’ll be starting with Murmur by Will Eaves, another book I haven’t read.

Top Ten Tuesday: Lines from Lymond

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is:

Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes

There are so many quotes I find thought-provoking or inspirational from various books that I really didn’t know where to begin, so I decided to narrow things down slightly by choosing ten from my favourite series, The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. I say ‘slightly’ because all six of these books are worth quoting in full, in my opinion! Anyway, here is a selection…

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1. “You cannot love any one person adequately until you have made friends with the rest of the human race also. Adult love demands qualities which cannot be learned living in a vacuum of resentment.”
Checkmate

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2. “I despised men who accepted their fate. I shaped mine twenty times and had it broken twenty times in my hands.”
The Game of Kings

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3. “Lack of genius never held anyone back,” said Lymond. “Only time wasted on resentment and daydreaming can do that.”
Queens’ Play

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4. “Man is a being of varied, manifold and inconstant nature. And woman, by God, is a match for him.”
The Disorderly Knights

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5. “I don’t like this war. I don’t like the cold-blooded scheming at the beginning and the carnage at the end and the grumbling and the jealousies and the pettishness in the middle. I hate the lack of gallantry and grace; the self-seeking; the destruction of valuable people and things. I believe in danger and endeavour as a form of tempering but I reject it if this is the only shape it can take.”
The Game of Kings

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6. “Man is not intellect only,” Guthrie said. “Not until you reject all the claims of your body. Not until you have stamped out, little by little, all that is left of your soul.”
The Ringed Castle

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7. “Remember, some live all their lives without discovering this truth; that the noblest and most terrible power we possess is the power we have, each of us, over the chance-met, the stranger, the passer-by outside your life and your kin. Speak, she said, as you would write: as if your words were letters of lead, graven there for all time, for which you must take the consequences. And take the consequences.”
Queens’ Play

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8. “The more modest your expectations, the less often you will court disappointment.”
Checkmate

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9. “I ask for no apology,” said Míkál. “I ask nothing but kindness.”
“I have learned,” said Lymond, “that kindness without love is no kindness.”
Pawn in Frankincense

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10. “Today,” said Lymond, “if you must know, I don’t like living at all. But that’s just immaturity boggling at the sad face of failure. Tomorrow I’ll be bright as a bedbug again.”
The Disorderly Knights

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What are your favourite lines from your favourite books?

Six Degrees of Separation: From How to be Both to Bitter Greens

It’s the first Saturday of the month which means it’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate of Books are my Favourite and Best. The idea is that Kate chooses a book to use as a starting point and then we have to link it to six other books of our choice to form a chain. A book doesn’t have to be connected to all of the others on the list – only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the chain begins with How to be Both by Ali Smith, which is a book I’ve never read or considered reading. It does sound interesting – a novel written from two perspectives, one a contemporary teenager and the other a Renaissance artist, where the two narratives are printed in a different order depending on which version you buy. I suspect it wouldn’t be my sort of book, though I could be wrong.

How to be Both won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2015. I don’t make a point of deliberately reading the winners of this prize, but I appear to have read quite a few of them over the years anyway. However, I haven’t yet read last year’s winner, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie – although I have read another of her books, A God in Every Stone.

A God in Every Stone is set mainly in Peshawar during and after the First World War and two of the main characters – Vivian and Najeeb – are archaeologists. Another book I’ve read about archaeologists is Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, the first in a series of mysteries featuring Amelia Peabody, a Victorian Egyptologist.

I have still only read the first two books in the Amelia Peabody series, although I really enjoyed them and have no idea why it is taking me so long to get round to reading the third. Another historical mystery series that I started a few years ago but have still only read the first two books is Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, which begins with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

The word apprentice in the title leads me quite naturally to Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – a very different sort of apprenticeship from beekeeping, but I suppose they could be equally dangerous! Assassin’s Apprentice is the first book in the wonderful Farseer Trilogy, which I highly recommend.

I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but I do always enjoy Robin Hobb’s books. Another fantasy author I’ve enjoyed reading recently is Katherine Arden. Her Winternight trilogy begins with The Bear and the Nightingale and is inspired by Russian myths and fairy tales. I loved the setting and the characters and thought each book in the trilogy was better than the one before.

Another book I loved that was inspired by a fairy tale was Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, which combines a retelling of Rapunzel with the story of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, the 17th century woman who wrote the original tale on which it was based.

So those are my links for this month: Prize-winners, archaeology, unfinished series, apprentices, fantasy and fairy tales. Have you read any of the books in my chain?

Next month we will be starting with The Dry by Jane Harper.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring 2019 TBR

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, asks us for ten books on our spring TBR. I have a lot more than ten books that I would like to read this spring, but I’ve chosen a selection of them to list below.

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1. The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins – I’ll be reading this soon for a blog tour on the 10th of April.

2. Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer – I have a few unread Heyer novels on my shelf, but this one is a library book so I will need to read it first.

3. The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb – Having read and loved Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, Liveship Traders Trilogy and Tawny Man Trilogy over the last few years, I think it’s time to move on to her next series, The Rain Wild Chronicles!

4. The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope – This is on my Classics Club list. I’m looking forward to reading it as it will bring the wonderful Palliser series to a close and will mean I can then try some of Trollope’s standalones.

5. The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley – I’ve received a review copy of Lucinda Riley’s latest novel, which is being published in May.

6. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay – On my NetGalley shelf. I can’t wait to read Kay’s new historical fantasy novel inspired by Renaissance Italy.

7. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes – There have been several retellings of the Trojan War from female perspectives recently and this is another one.

8. The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch – I’ve just finished re-reading Howatch’s Cashelmara and it has left me wanting to move straight on to a re-read of this one.

9. The Surgeon’s Mate by Patrick O’Brian – It’s been far too long since I last read an Aubrey/Maturin book. This will be my seventh.

10. The King’s Evil by Andrew Taylor – I enjoyed the first two books in Andrew Taylor’s Marwood and Lovett series, so I’m expecting to enjoy this one too.

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As well as these books, I will be continuing to take part in the Agatha Christie Challenge for which I’ve been reading one Christie novel every month, and I also need to choose something to read for the upcoming 1965 Club in April. I have lots of books to explore from this year’s Walter Scott Prize longlist too! I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be running out of things to read in the near future.

Have you read – or will you be reading – any of these books? What is on your spring TBR?

Six Degrees of Separation: From The Arsonist to Seven for a Secret

It’s the first Saturday of the month which means it’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate of Books are my Favourite and Best. The idea is that Kate chooses a book to use as a starting point and then we have to link it to six other books of our choice to form a chain. A book doesn’t have to be connected to all of the others on the list – only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month we begin with The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper. I haven’t read this book – in fact, it isn’t out in the UK until the end of May – but it does sound like an interesting Australian true-crime book about ‘Black Saturday’, the day in February 2009 when a man lit two fires in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.

For my first link, I have chosen another book on a fire-related subject, although this one is fiction: The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor, a historical mystery set in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London. This is part of a series featuring the characters of Cat Lovett and James Marwood (I used the first book, The Ashes of London, in a previous Six Degrees post) and the next book, The King’s Evil, is on my shelf waiting to be read soon.

My next link is to another historical crime novel written by an author whose name is Andrew. He is Andrew Hughes and the book is The Convictions of John Delahunt. Set in Dublin in the 1840s, this is a dark, atmospheric novel with an unusual and intriguing narrator. I remember loving it.

Another book set at least partly in Dublin – in the early twentieth century this time – is Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor, the story of the Irish actress Molly Allgood and her relationship with the playwright John Millington Synge. I thought this was a beautifully written novel, but I still haven’t read any of Joseph O’Connor’s other books yet.

Despite the title, Ghost Light is not actually a ghost story. A novel with the word ‘ghost’ in the title that really does feature ghosts is The Ghost Writer by John Harwood. The main character discovers that his great-grandmother, Viola Hatherley, was a writer of ghost stories and some of the tales she had supposedly written are incorporated into the plot.

This leads me to another book which uses the story-within-a-story concept, but in a very different way: the wonderful Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. The novel includes, almost in its entirety, an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery written by a fictional author called Alan Conway.

My final link is to Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye, the middle book in her Timothy Wilde trilogy which I loved and was sorry to see come to an end. It can be linked to the previous book in the chain in two ways – as well as having birds pictured on the cover, the title refers to the famous rhyme about magpies (One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told).

And that’s my chain for this month! Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned?

In April we will be starting with How to be Both by Ali Smith.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Fight Club to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

It’s the first Saturday of the month which means it’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate of Books are my Favourite and Best. The idea is that Kate chooses a book to use as a starting point and then we have to link it to six other books of our choice to form a chain. A book doesn’t have to be connected to all of the others on the list – only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month we are starting with Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. I’ve never read this book (or seen the film) and I’m not really interested in reading it, but I can see from Goodreads that it’s about an ‘enigmatic young man who holds secret after-hours boxing matches in the basement of bars’.

For my first link, I’ve chosen another book about a fighter – Warwyck’s Wife by Rosalind Laker. The protagonist (I refuse to call him a hero) is a boxer in the 1820s and although I have little interest in boxing, I did find it fascinating to read about what the sport involved in its early days.

At the beginning of the book he buys a woman at auction who has been put up for sale by her husband, a custom which, unfortunately, really did take place in the 19th century. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy opens with a very similar scene in which Michael Henchard sells his wife at a country fair, an impulsive act which he quickly regrets.

Like most of Hardy’s novels, The Mayor of Casterbridge is set in his fictional Wessex, based on the real landscape of south and south-west England. Another Victorian author who set several of his books in an imaginary region is Anthony Trollope. His Chronicles of Barsetshire take place in and around the fictitious English county of Barsetshire and its cathedral town of Barchester. The first book in the series is The Warden.

The warden of the title is the Reverend Septimus Harding (one of my favourite Trollope characters). Another novel with a clergyman as the main character is The Mysteries of Glass by Sue Gee, which I remember as a beautifully written, though very slow-paced, novel. Looking back at my review, I said at the time that “Although I was reading this book in July, I could still picture the cold, wintry landscape.”

Today, I don’t need a book to show me a snowy landscape – I can see plenty of snow just by looking out of my window! Thinking of other novels that have a wintry setting and atmosphere, though, leads me to the next book in my chain: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a magical story inspired by a Russian fairy tale.

Staying on the same theme, another book with the word ‘Snow’ in the title is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. This one is not a wintry read, though – it’s a novel set in 1820s China in which a girl communicates with her friend through messages written on a silk fan.

That’s my chain for this month! My links have included boxing, wife-selling, fictional lands, the church and snow.

In March we will be starting with The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten recent additions to my TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s perfect for those of us who have both a love of books and a love of lists! This week’s topic is…

The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List

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In no particular order, here are ten books I’ve acquired recently:

1. Bats in the Belfry by E.C.R. Lorac – All of the Lorac novels published as British Library Crime Classics sound intriguing, so I’m looking forward to trying this one.

2. The Binding by Bridget Collins – I’m reading this now. I’m a few chapters into it and although it sounded fascinating, I’m not sure that it’s really my sort of thing.

3. The Afterlife of King James IV by Keith J Coleman – This non-fiction book appealed to me when I saw it on NetGalley. I hope it’s good!

4. The Horseman by Tim Pears – This is the first in a trilogy, so if I enjoy it I’ll be looking for the other two.

5. A King Under Siege by Mercedes Rochelle – I’ve received a review copy of this new novel about Richard II.

6. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer – I’m gradually building up my Georgette Heyer collection and this is one I’ve been particularly looking forward to reading.

7. Eleanor the Queen by Norah Lofts – I’ve been interested in trying something by Norah Lofts for a long time and recently came across a copy of this book about Eleanor of Aquitaine.

8. Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik – I really need to make some progress with my Reading the Walter Scott Prize project and this book was on last year’s shortlist for the prize.

9. The Reckoning by Edith Wharton – Part of the Penguin Little Black Classics series, this book contains two short stories by Edith Wharton.

10. Casting Off by Elizabeth Jane Howard – This is the fourth book in the Cazalet Chronicles and I still have the third to read before I can start this one.

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Have you read any of these? What have you added to your TBR recently?