What I Really Read on the Beach – Summer Reads

There was quite a bit of uproar on Twitter about the extremely worthy and ever-so-slightly pretentious beach reading promoted by The Guardian. Why can’t people admit that they crave chick lit or the latest Harlan Coben instead? They don’t have to be trashy airport novels (although most recently I’ve noticed a vast improvement in terms of variety being offered at airports), but they have to be able to withstand great heat, sun cream, the odd splash of water, and fried holiday brain. Can your expensive hardback of Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir, written by John Banville, with beautiful photography by Paul Joyce, withstand that? Perhaps one to buy and keep at home as a coffee table book, rather than shlepp to distant beaches…

Of course, I won’t actually be going to any beach this summer, but I hope to get a few nice days of sitting in my deck chair in the garden and worrying about nothing else but reading. And I readily admit that I look forward to a nice dose of escapism to mix in with my literary education. So this is what I would really read if I were on a Greek beach.

Image from olimpia.rs

Crime

Michael Stanley: Dying to Live

I’m a great fan of the Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu series, and the Kalahari Desert setting fits in perfectly with the beach. Also, it’s a really intriguing tale about the death of a Bushman, who appears to be very old, but his internal organs are puzzlingly young. Could a witch doctor be involved?

Linwood Barclay: Too Close to Home

Another author that I would rather read on the beach than alone at night in a large house, as his nerve-wracking twists are prone to making me jump. The strapline on this one goes: What’s more frightening than your next-door neighbours being murdered? Finding out the killers went to the wrong house…

Helen Cadbury: Bones in the Nest

Like many other crime readers, I was very saddened to hear about the recent death of Helen Cadbury. I had read her debut novel in the Sean Denton series reviewed and marked her out as a talent to watch in 2014 on Crime Fiction Lover. This is the second in a series set in Doncaster, which unfortunately never had the chance to grow to its full potential.

Sarah Vaughan: Anatomy of a Scandal

The perfect novel for those who can’t quite take a break from politics: this is the story of an MP whose affair is made public, his wife who tries to stand by him in spite of her doubts, and the barrister who believes he has been guilty of rape. A searing look at privilege, hypocrisy and the social justice system.

YA literature

Not my usual kind of reading at all, but I like to keep abreast of what my children are reading.

G.P. Taylor: Mariah Mundi – The Midas Box

Mariah is a young orphan, fresh out of school, who is employed to work as an assistant to a magician living in the luxurious Prince Regent Hotel. But the slimy, dripping basement of the hotel hides a dark secret. I’ve heard of the author’s Shadowmancer series, but never read anything by him. Described as the next Harry Potter, this book promises to take the reader into a world of magic and fun.

Paul Gallico: Jennie

Peter wakes up from a serious accident and finds himself transformed into a cat. Life as a street cat is tough and he struggle to survive, but luckily stumbles across the scrawny but kindly tabby cat Jennie, who helps him out. Together they embark on a bit of an adventure.

#EU27Project

This is not only worthy reading, but highly enjoyable into the bargain! Although seeking out translations from some of the countries on the list is not that easy or cheap.

Hungary – Miklos Banffy: They Were Counted (transl. Patrick Thursdfiel and Katalin Banffy-Jelen)

Satisfies any cravings for family saga and historical romance, as well as looking at a part of the world which is very close to me (Transylvania). Plus a society bent on self-destruction – what more could one want?

Romania – Ileana Vulpescu: Arta Compromisului (The Art of Compromise)

This author’s earlier book The Art of Conversation was an amazing bestseller in the early 1980s in Romania, partly because it went against all the expectations of ‘socialist realism’ of the time and was quite critical of socialist politics (of an earlier period, admittedly). This book, published in 2009, continues the story of the main character, but this time set in the period after the fall of Communism in 1989. Critics have called it a bit of a soap opera, but at the same time an excellent snapshot of contemporary society. Sounds like delightful light reading, with a social critique, perfect for reconnecting with my native tongue.

Spain – Javier Marias: The Infatuations (transl. Margaret Jull Costa)

Another story with a murderous aside by an author I’ve only recently discovered and whose baroque sentences mesmerise me… Every day, María Dolz stops for breakfast at the same café. And every day she enjoys watching a handsome couple who follow the same routine. Then one day they aren’t there, and she feels obscurely bereft. She discovers that the man was murdered in the street – and Maria gets entangled in a very odd relationship with the widow.

Women in Translation Month

Another project which has the merit of being both worthy and great fun. I plan to read several of the Keshiki project of Strangers Press – beautifully produced slim translations of Japanese short stories and novellas. There are plenty of women writers represented: Misumi Kubo, Yoko Tawada, Kyoko Yoshida, Aoko Matsuda and the improbably named Nao-Cola Yamazaki. I expect the strange, unsettling, disquieting and sexually heated… Phew!

 

 

 

What Got You Hooked on a Life of Crime, Rebecca Bradley?

RebeccaBradleyTime to introduce the founding member of our online crime book club to you, the ever-busy and delightful Rebecca Bradley.  If you haven’t yet discovered Rebecca’s goldmine of a blog – a fun blend of book reviews, interviews, writerly news and really interesting video links – then please be sure to visit and say Hi. Rebecca is a writer herself, as well as an omnivorous reader. You can also find out more about the Crime Fiction Book Club on her site, a virtual book club which meets on the third Wednesday of every month via Google Hangouts. I always enjoy exchanging views with Rebecca about the latest crime novels we have both read, and I hope you will enjoy finding out more about her reading preferences.

How did you get hooked on crime fiction?

I started reading from a young age. Like many, I loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books and the sleuthing of the kids to solve whatever mystery had come their way. I then progressed to Nancy Drew and was in awe of her independence. My next stop was Agatha Christie. It seemed like a natural progression and I haven’t stopped reading crime fiction since.

Are there any particular types of crime fiction or subgenres that you prefer to read and why?

I tend to like series and am pretty anal about starting at the beginning of the series. For instance, when I was recommended Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta books, she was already nine books in, but I started with the first book ‘Postmortem’. The reason for this is I like to follow the character arcs. Characters keep me glued to books and to series. Outside of series, I like police procedurals. They can be UK, US, or the more currently popular Scandinavian books. Location doesn’t matter as long as the story is good and I’m invested in the characters.

What is the most memorable book you’ve read recently?

That’s easy. Cry Baby by David Jackson. It’s a brilliant US based series book with a New York Detective called Callum Doyle. Jackson writes brilliantly, with humour and with a real and deep understanding of people, which is capable of touching you when he really needs to.

I did answer that question based on the fact that we are discussing crime fiction. I do read outside the genre and have recently read some great books that have also stuck with me. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and Wonder by R. J. Palacio. I know you said only one book, but… these are one book – from different genres!

If you had to choose only one series or only one author to take with you to a deserted island, whom would you choose?

Only one? Did you see my last answer?! OK, it would be Karin Slaughter. Her books are so character driven I love them and just can’t wait for the next one to find out what is happening to them. It’s like waiting for your favourite TV series to air again. And she’s not gentle with them either. Just because they’re a part of the series, nothing is out of bounds.

KindleRBWhat are you looking forward to reading in the near future?

Ha! I have nearly 300 books on my Kindle and my bookshelves are nearly bending in the middle with the weight. There are so many books that I am desperate to read, I just wish I could read faster. I am looking forward to reading The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths though. It’s the second in a series, of which I read the first one at Christmas time last year. It’s something different for me. It’s not police procedural as the protagonist is not a police officer but an archaeologist. Nowadays I spend so much time trying new-to-me writers that I don’t spend the time I’d like to with series any more.

Outside your criminal reading pursuits, what author/series/book/genre do you find yourself regularly recommending to your friends?

I am becoming more and more interested in the YA genre. I initially thought it was for kids and had some negative preconceptions about it until I read one, and then another and found I loved it. YA can fit any genre that a writer wants to write in, and the books I’ve read have covered some pretty heavy topics, but have done it brilliantly well and have usually had me in tears at some point. And this brings us around the characters again. It’s a belief in the characters that draws me in and has me sobbing and I think YA can do that really well.

I generally think we should read as widely as we can. Try new things. Experiment with our reading habits. I’ve been surprised this past year with what I’ve read and what I’ve enjoyed. It’s all about the reading. Just love the reading.

Wise and beautiful words, Rebecca, thank you very much indeed for sharing your reading passions with us! Over the next few weeks, every fortnight or so, I look forward to chatting to other great readers and bloggers about their criminally good reading pursuits.