Can you count to seven?

I went back to England for a month, celebrating my mum's 90th birthday, enjoying the countryside, coast and castles of North Wales, and spending time with family in the north and south of England. It was a great trip and I read many books; I even wrote some book reviews. But I've not written any blogposts for ages, and I've not written any more chapters of Imaginary Numbers (which is fast becoming ever more imaginary as its predecessors have now all been unpublished), and I've not...

And now I'm back. I must:
  1. post book reviews
  2. buy ISBNs so I can self-publish more convincingly
  3. republish my novels (using those ISBNs, then I won't be at the mercy of publishers changing course)
  4. republish my Bible stories (which are also in the process of being unpublished, this time due to ill health)
  5. read (I'm always reading)
  6. write (I wish I had time)
  7. shop, clean, cook, wash, plant bushes, shop, clean, cook... etc.
If you've ever looked at my muse you'll know I have a thing about sevens. So maybe now I'll try to post seven book reviews. Let's see...

Books read while on vacation:

I read The Bertie Project by Alexander McCall Smith on the plane. It's a good plane read; like others in the Scotland Street series, the chapters are nicely independent, quickly recapped where necessary, and each have a completeness of their own. So it's easy to put down the book for a glorious view or a meal or a drink. It's also a very pleasing tale of tangled loves and lives, and has a generous sense of "home." Perfect for the trip. Perfect for a well-balanced cup of well-balanced three-star coffee.

When I arrived I soon found my mum was about to give away her copy of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan so I had to read it--if only I'd had more room in my cases! A fascinating novel filled with short short stories, quiet little mysteries, pleasing characters and relationships, and, of course, the question of those lost things we leave behind; will the protagonist rise to the challenge of a fuller life? Are these characters related? And who will welcome a stranger? The connections may be a little forced, but that doesn't stop the novel moving forward with a force of its own and I really enjoyed it. Just add complex four-star coffee.

She wasn't about to give away Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop so I borrowed it. Of course, I always love Victoria Hislop. I love the way she recreates a country, its light and shadows, the scents and sense of history, and the relationships of people. This one has the curious added attraction of black and white images and a blend of genres--novels, short stories (again), romance, mystery and more. Enjoy with some rich elegant four-star coffee.

From Greece to Manchester, my next review is of Salem Street by Anna Jacobs, another one borrowed from Mum. It evokes the language history and people of Lancashire beautifully, and I hear the dialects of my youth ringing from its pages, see the streets, and ponder my roots anew. Add some strong female protagonists, and the world of England's dark satanic mills truly comes to life. Enjoy with another rich elegant four-star coffee.

I bought a copy of The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards from one of those great English bookstores where you find random books from random series seriously discounted. A great introduction to so many great authors and places, and how could I resist a mystery set in the Lake District? Downbeat, evocative, with fascinating detail, great characters, and a wonderful small town feeling, the Arsenic Labyrinth is one to enjoy with a well-balanced three-star coffee.

Another book from the same store is The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves. I love watching Vera on TV and I was delighted to find the first book in the series she is drawn from. It didn't disappoint. Clever, complex, told from multiple points of view, and trapping the reader as surely as any of the characters or crows are trapped. Who will be victim and who is the lure? Enjoy with a dark five-star coffee.

Then there's Sole Survivor by Dean Koonz--a very different novel but it was in the same bookstore and I've always enjoyed his books. This one felt slightly manipulative toward the end, but the setup was fantastic and the protagonist, sitting alone on a California beach, is a stranger I feel I've almost met. Slightly paranormal after a seriously scary set, it's another one to enjoy with a dark five-star coffee.

And finally, because I need to stop typing and drink coffee, and I'm too jetlagged to count to seven, there's The eleventh hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Oddly enough, this one was in a collection of random items handed over to me on the death of my 100-year-old aunt. So, of course, I had to read it. It's the 11th in a series with female protagonists solving murders. Not having ready any of the previous books, I was pleasantly surprised to find the women all have good reason to be solving murders, and interesting characters and relationships with others as well as with each other. The mystery's well-plotted too, and it's a quick read to enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.


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