My Week in Books – 25th February ’18


As I’ve been away on holiday, this update covers a period of three weeks.  Just in case you thought I’d got carried away with additions to my TBR.  Perish the thought, eh…?

New arrivals  

The Emperor of ShoesThe Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise (ARC, giveaway prize courtesy of No Exit Press)

Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line. When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow labourers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite?

Deftly plotted and vibrantly drawn, The Emperor of Shoes is a timely meditation on idealism, ambition, father-son rivalry and cultural revolution, set against a vivid backdrop of social and technological change.

Drift Stumble Fall 1Drift Stumble Fall by M. Jonathan Lee (ARC, courtesy of Hideaway Fall)

Richard feels trapped in his hectic life of commitment and responsibility. From the daily mayhem of having young children, an exhausted wife and pushy in-laws who frequently outstay their welcome, Richard’s existence fills him with panic and resentment. The only place he can escape the dark cloud descending upon him is the bathroom, where he hides for hours on end, door locked, wondering how on earth he can escape.

Often staring out of his window, Richard enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, his neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From the outside, Bills world appears filled with comfort and peace. Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. Beneath the surface, a family tragedy has left Bill frozen in time and unable to move on. As he waits for a daughter who may never return, Bill watches Richards bustling family life and yearns for the joy it brings. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other people’s lives are not always what they seem.

From a Low and Quiet SeaFrom a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan (eARC, courtesy of Transworld)

Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war.
Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe.
John’s past torments him as he nears his end.

The refugee. The dreamer. The penitent. From war-torn Syria to small-town Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.

We Were the Salt of the SeaWe Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard, trans. by David Warriner (eARC, courtesy of Orenda Books)

As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky.

The Black EarthThe Black Earth by Philip Kazan (ARC, courtesy of Allison & Busby)

It’s 1922. When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoë Haggitiris escapes with her family, only to lose everything. Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also list, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life.

Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoë.  But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

Things Bright and BeautifulThings Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam (eARC, NetGalley)

Mission House was not built for three people. Especially when one of them won’t stop humming.

1954, the South Pacific islands. When Beatriz Hanlon agreed to accompany her missionary husband Max to a remote island, she knew there would be challenges. But it isn’t just the heat and the damp and the dirt. There are more insects than she could ever have imagined, and the islanders are strangely hostile. And then there are the awful noises coming from the church at night.

Yet as the months go by, Bea slowly grows accustomed to life on the island. That is until an unexpected and interminably humming guest arrives, and the couple’s claustrophobic existence is stretched to breaking point.  Events draw to a terrible climax, and Bea watches helplessly as her husband’s guilt drives him into madness. It’s not long before Bea finds herself fighting for her freedom and her life.

Lady Helena InvestigatesLady Helena Investigates by Jane Steen (eARC, courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfil any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children…but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.

The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.

Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?

Force of NatureForce of Nature by Jane Harper (hardcover, giveaway prize courtesy of Little Brown Group)

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.  The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.  Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?

61c64yJM1nL._SY346_The King’s Exile (Thomas Hill #2) by Andrew Swanston (ebook)

Thomas Hill is arrested on charges invented by his old enemy Tobias Rush, whom he thought had been executed for treason. He is deported to Barbados where he is indentured to Rush’s business partners. When news of the King’s execution arrives, political stability on the island is threatened. Also in danger is Thomas’s sister and nieces back in England, and he knows he must return home to them. However when a fleet commanded by Admiral Sir George Ayscue arrives to take control of the island for Cromwell, his departure is blocked.

A coded message from Ayscue to a sympathiser on the island is intercepted, and Thomas is asked to decipher it. A potentially disastrous battle seems inevitable, and Thomas volunteers for the dangerous role of envoy to Ayscue. But with his sworn enemy hot on his heels, will Thomas ever find safety and make it home to his family alive?

The Vanished ChildThe Vanished Child (Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery #4) by M J Lee (ebook)

Every childhood lasts a lifetime.

On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and placing him in a children’s home. Seven years later she went back but he had vanished. What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go? Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets and one of the most shameful episodes in recent British history. Can she find the vanished child?

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Blog posts (no vacation break for my blog!)

Week ending 11th February

Monday – I published a spoiler free introduction to my Buchan of the Month for February: John Macnab.  I also took another trip Down the TBR Hole, trying to weed out some books from my humungous To-Read shelf on Goodreads.

Tuesday – I shared my Top Ten Tuesday list of books that have been on my TBR the longest.  I also published my review of The Optickal Illusion by Rachel Halliburton, a fascinating historical novel about a real life scandal in the art world.

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next.   I also featured a spotlight for The Once and Future Queen by Nicole Evelina, a book about literary renderings of King Arthur’s Queen, Guinevere.

Thursday – My Throwback Thursday post was my review of The Somme Legacy by M J Lee, a genealogical mystery.

Friday – I shared an excerpt from The Circumstantial Enemy by John R Bell.

Saturday – I published a Q&A with Rosie Clarke about her latest book, The Runaway Wife.

Sunday – I shared an excerpt from Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day.

Week ending 18th February

Monday – I started the week with an excerpt from a fascinating sounding memoir of life in China, Song of Praise for a Flower by Fengxian and Charlene Chu.

Tuesday – My Top Ten Tuesday had a romantic theme, focusing on the first encounters of ten fictional couples.

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next.   I also featured a Q&A with Wolfe Butler about his debut novel, Getting Home.

Thursday – My Throwback Thursday post was my review of the witty and stylish Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

Friday – I welcomed author Pankaj Giri to my blog for a fascinating Q&A about his debut novel, The Fragile Thread of Hope.

Saturday – I published a Q&A with John R. Bell about his WW2 historical novel, The Circumstantial Enemy.

Sunday – In homage to my wonderful holiday location, I shared A Barbados Reading List of books set in or about Barbados.

Week ending 25th February

Monday – I started the week by making another foray Down the TBR Hole.

Tuesday – I published my review of Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman, now an award-winning film.  It forms part of my From Page to Screen Reading project,

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next.   I also featured an excerpt from the intriguingly titled historical romance Whippoorwill by R L Bartram.

Thursday – My Throwback Thursday post was my review of the emotional, beautifully written The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak.

Friday – I published my review of lively historical mystery The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin.

Saturday – I shared my review of the compelling Brother by David Chariandy and, in complete contrast, my review of my Buchan of the Month, the lighthearted John Macnab.

Sunday – I published my review of In Strangers’ Houses by Elizabeth Mundy, a mystery set in London in which Hungarian cleaner, Lena, turns detective when her friend disappears.

Challenge updates

  • Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge – 29 out of 156 books read, 12 more than last update (covers 3 weeks)
  • Classics Club Challenge – 11 out of 50 books read, 2 more than last update
  • NetGalley/Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2018 (Silver) – 8 ARCs read and reviewed out of 25, 3 more than last update (covers 3 weeks)
  • From Page to Screen– 10 book/film comparisons out of 15 completed, same as last update
  • 2018 TBR Pile Challenge – 3 out of 12 books read, same as last update
  • Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2018 – 13 books out of 50 read, 3 more than last update (covers 3 weeks)
  • When Are You Reading? Challenge 2018 – 5 out of 12 books read, 1 more than last update
  • What’s In A Name Reading Challenge – 0 out of 6 books read, same as last week
  • Buchan of the Month – 2 out of 12 books read, 1 more than last update

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Blog Tour/Spotlight: Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley
  • Review: The Rain Never Came by Lachlan Walter
  • Review: The Fragile Thread of Hope by Pankaj Giri
  • Review: All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth Church
  • Review: Caligula by Simon Turney
  • Throwback Thursday: The Bell by Iris Murdoch
  • Blog Tour/Review: The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg
  • Review: Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
  • My Five Favourite February Reads
  • Blog Tour/Guest Post: The Study of Silence by Malia Zaidi
  • Blog Tour/Review: Killed by Thomas Enger

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