My Week in Books – 27th November 2022

MyWeekinBooksOn What Cathy Read Next last week

Monday – I shared Five Series Continuations I’m eagerly awaiting.

Tuesday – This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was a freebie on the theme of thankfulness. 

Wednesday – As always WWW Wednesday is a weekly opportunity to share what I’ve just read, what I’m currently reading and what I plan to read next… and to take a peek at what others are reading. 

Thursday – I published my review of short story anthology Night-Time Stories edited by Yen-Yen Lu.

Friday – I hosted a guest post by David Cairns of Finavon about his forthcoming historical mystery The Case of the Emigrant Niece

Saturday – I published my review of The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, one of the books on my list for the #NetGalleyNovember reading challenge.

New arrivals

The Bookshop of Second ChancesThe Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser (Simon & Schuster)

Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.

Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.

Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from…

Animal LifeAnimal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, trans. by Brian Fitzgibbon (eARC, Pushkin Press)

In the days leading up to Christmas, Dómhildur delivers her 1,922nd baby. Beginnings and endings are her family trade; she comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and a long line of undertakers on her father’s. She even lives in the apartment that she inherited from her grandaunt, a midwife with a unique reputation for her unconventional methods.

As a terrible storm races towards Reykjavik, Dómhildur discovers decades worth of letters and manuscripts hidden amongst her grandaunt’s clutter. Fielding calls from her anxious meteorologist sister and visits from her curious new neighbour, Dómhildur escapes into her grandaunt’s archive and discovers strange and beautiful reflections on birth, death and human nature.

For even in the depths of an Icelandic winter, new life will find a way.

The Scarlet PapersThe Scarlet Papers by Matthew Richardson (eARC, Michael Jospeh via NetGalley)

VIENNA, 1946 – A brilliant German scientist spirited out of the ruins Nazi Europe in search of a new life

MOSCOW, 1964 – A rising star of the British diplomatic service whose job is not what it seems

LONDON, THE PRESENT DAY – A once promising academic offered an opportunity to seal his place in history

Their stories, their lives, and the fate of the world, are bound by a single document: THE SCARLET PAPERS

The devastating secrets contained within teased by a brief invitation: Tomorrow 11AM. Take a cab and pay in cash. Tell no one.

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Book Review: The Night Ship by Jess Kidd 
  • Book Review: Mother of Valor by Gary Corbin
  • My Five Favourite November 2022 Reads
  • #NetGalleyNovember Reading Challenge Wrap-Up
  • #6Degrees of Separation


#BookReview The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, trans. by Lucia Graves

The Labyrinth of the SpiritsAbout the Book

As a child, Daniel Sempere discovered among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books an extraordinary novel that would change the course of his life. Now a young man in the Barcelona of the late 1950s, Daniel runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop and enjoys a seemingly fulfilling life with his loving wife and son. Yet the mystery surrounding the death of his mother continues to plague his soul despite the moving efforts of his wife Bea and his faithful friend Fermín to save him.

Just when Daniel believes he is close to solving this enigma, a conspiracy more sinister than he could have imagined spreads its tentacles from the hellish regime. That is when Alicia Gris appears, a soul born out of the nightmare of the war. She is the one who will lead Daniel to the edge of the abyss and reveal the secret history of his family, although at a terrifying price.

Format: ebook (832 pages)                     Publisher: Orion
Publication date: 18th September 2018 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The Labyrinth of the Spirits on Goodreads

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My Review

‘Stories have no beginning and no end, only doors through which one may enter them. A story is an endless labyrinth of words, images, and spirits, conjured up to show us the invisible truth about ourselves.’

It’s nearly ten years since I read The Shadow of the Wind and it’s taken me four years to get around to reading this one, the fourth and last book in the author’s The Cemetery of Forgotten Books ‘series’. The reason I put the word series in inverted commas is that the books do not unfold chronologically and in fact are designed to be read in any order.  The plots of the four books intertwine, going back and forth in time. For example, the second book, The Angel’s Game, is effectively a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind. The fact the books are designed to be read in any order is just as well as, although some of the names of characters were familiar to me, I can recollect very little of what happened in The Shadow of the Wind – apart, that is, from the fact I loved it. Although I rarely re-read books, I might just make this an exception.

At over 800 pages, The Labyrinth of the Spirits is the longest book I’ve read for ages. It also happens to be the oldest book on my NetGalley shelf and so I have the team behind the #NetGalleyNovember reading challenge to thank for finally giving me the motivation to read it.

The plot of the book is, to coin a phrase, labyrinthine. It’s so full of twists and turns it could make you dizzy. Reading the book is a bit like being in a maze in which, for a lot of the time, you have no idea where you are and you just have to keep going in the hope the author will eventually lead you to the exit. Don’t worry, he will but not before a lot of unexpected revelations and events that will take you by surprise, including making you wince a bit.

There is an extensive cast of characters who range from the vile to the virtuous. All are brilliantly imagined, even if they only play a minor role – a taxi driver, a caretaker, a morgue attendant. We learn how they dress, how they walk, their mannerisms, how they speak, what they like to drink or eat, even what newspaper they read or what music they like to listen to. And the author is not afraid to sacrifice his characters. Around two thirds of the way through the book I found myself cursing him for getting rid of one of my favourites.

Alicia Gris is the main character and focus of the book, second only to the exuberant Fermin Romero de Torres, one of my favourite characters. Orphaned during the war, Alicia’s experiences have left her emotionally and physically starred. The resilience and fortitude she demonstrated in overcoming these obstacles have brought her to the attention of ‘mentor and puppet master’, Leandro Montalvo, who has moulded her into a supremely effective agent,  renowned for getting results where others have failed.  I thought Alicia was a brilliant character. She’s intelligent, feisty, resourceful, observant, fiercely independent but is, by choice, a loner who leads a spartan lifestyle. Spiky at times, she is also utterly ruthless when the need arises.

It’s probably no surprise that books, authorship and storytelling are themes that run through the book. There are scenes in libraries, in the Sempere & Sons bookshop and in the fantastical Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  The author also take the reader on an insider’s tour of Barcelona in the late 1950s, revealing its historic hidden gems and secret places as well areas of the city you definitely don’t want to visit after night.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits has everything I look for in historical fiction: passion, intrigue, adventure and a completely immersive experience. It’s definitely a book to lose yourself in.

I received a digital review copy courtesy of Orion via NetGalley.

In three words: Epic, intricate, compelling

Try something similar: The Secret of Vesalius by Jodri Llobregat

Carlos Ruiz ZafonAbout the Author

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of six novels, including the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game, the first two books in a series of novels set in literary universe of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. His work has been published in more than forty different languages, and honored with numerous international awards.

He died in June 2020.

The Cemetary of Forgotten Books