Looking back at my week | 17 January edition

So this week we finally took down our Christmas tree. We normally do this around Twelfth Night (as is both traditional and difficult to spell) but self-care demanded that twinkling lights were required for a bit longer. Sad to see it go, but it did dominate the room and it is nice to be able to fully see out of our living room window again, even if it was only to look at rain bucketing down. But I’m from the west of Scotland and rain is a way of life.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

I did a lot of reading this week but only finished one book – Savage Spring by Mons Kallentoft; I’ve immediately started the next book in the series as Scandi noir is my thing at the moment, though after this one I might take a break and head off into other realms. In terms of what else I’m currently reading, no change from my last post. You can always see my Goodreads currently list in the side bar —>

New Books

The Poet by Michael Connelly – Mr B and I have been slowly working our way through the various Bosch series on Amazon Prime and on his recommendation I decided to expand into the wider Bosch universe; we recently watched The Lincoln Lawyer and I bought this book which is number 1 in the Jack McEvoy series.

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire – the sixth in the Wayward Children series; I am nothing ig not a completist.

Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar – my inner X-Files fan picked up this, apparently the untold story of the Dyatlov Pass incident, which is the kind of thing you will have heard of if this is the kind of thing you find fascinating.

Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan – “The devil’s daughter rows to Edinburgh in a coffin, to work as maid for the Minister of Culture, a man who lives a dual life. But the real reason she’s there is to bear him and his barren wife a child, the consequences of which curse the tenement building that is their home for a hundred years.” A new author to me and I’m intrigued by her previous novels.

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch – The Silence of the Lambs meets Interstellar say the blurb so how could I resist?

And then there was WandaVision – so weird but such fun and a good replacement for our previous ideal Friday night’s watching (The Mandalorian and Star Trek: Discovery – welcome to nerd-central)

Coming this week – several pre-orders, my blog’s anniversary and a trip to the dentist, a bit stressful during Current Times. Hope you guys have a great week and stay safe!

January 2021 so far

Here we are almost at the end of the first full week of January and given the events of the past week I’m not hopeful that this year will be much better than the one we’ve just endured, but I can be a bit of an Eeyore so let’s hope I’m wrong.

I often am 😀

This is the first post I’ve uploaded since early October. I just wasn’t in a blogging frame of mind for the last few months and I decided that I really wanted to start with a fresh slate, so I won’t be looking back at books read and movies watched in the last quarter if I haven’t already reviewed them.

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

A wee look back

Having said that, I thought I would share the results of my Goodreads challenge for 2020 – I had a target of 60 books and managed to reach 66, representing 21,320 pages. I’m really pleased by the result given that I had a couple of slumps; just goes to show what being stuck at home can lead to.

Where I am now

Currently reading:

  • Savage Spring by Mons Kallentoft – this is the fourth in the Malin Fors series; I read and thoroughly enjoyed but did not review the first three novels. Scandinavian noir still looms large in my TBR;
  • The Collected Ghost Stories of MR James – no new ghost story for Christmas on the BBC (sadly) but Mr B and I dipped into our DVD collection to watch some of the old adaptations, which led me to start a major re-read and I’m very glad that I did;
  • Death in the City of Light by David King – the story of the serial killer Marcel Petiot who was active in Paris during WWII and how he was caught. The guillotine might be involved….

Bought since the beginning of the year:

  • Marion Lane & the Midnight Murder by TA Willberg – “plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.” [Pre-order]
  • Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard – “When a mysterious corpse is found in the quarters of Vân’s student, Vân and Sunless Woods find themselves following a trail of greed and murder that will lead them from teahouses and ascetic havens to the wreck of a mindship
  • The Man Who Didn’t Fly by Margot Bennett – “Four men had arranged to fly to Dublin. When their aeroplane descended as a fireball into the Irish Sea, only three of them were on board. [..] Who was the man who didn’t fly?
  • Wintering by Katherine May – “a poignant and comforting meditation on the fallow periods of life, times when we must retreat to care for and repair ourselves.”
  • Cardiff by the Sea by Joyce Carol Oates – “a bold, haunting collection of four previously unpublished novellas.”

Hopefully I’ll be posting back here soon on my first completed book of the year. Hope you have a great week, stay safe!

October Monthly Round-Up

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

A week late, but what a week it’s been! So many distractions, but I did still want to come on here and register my reading progress for October.

Books read = 4

Number of pages = 1401

Drum roll, please………

I have hit my reading goal for this year – 60 out of 60 books with two full months to go. To early to say how many more I will read before the end of the year, but I will be reading more that’s for sure.

November pre-orders:

  • Fortune Favours the Dead by Stephen Spotswood – New York, 1946. Lillian Pentecost is the most successful private detective in the city, but her health is failing. She hires an assistant to help with the investigative legwork. Willowjean Parker is a circus runaway. Quick-witted and street-smart, she’s a jack-of-all-trades with a unique skill-set – and together they investigate the murder of a wealthy young widow. First in a anew series, couldn’t resist.
  • One by One by Ruth Ware – Snowbound thriller full of tense corporate shenanigans plus avalanche. I haven’t read any Ruth Ware before, so very much looking forward to trying her out.
  • The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie – survivors of a cult digging into their past, releasing memories and trauma that they have repressed for years. The answers will no doubt be found at Red Peak.
  • Last Stand in Lychford by Paul Cornell – Exploding fairies, the architect of the universe and a celestial bureaucratic blunder make this a satisfying conclusion to the ever-popular Witches of Lychford series.

That’s it from me! Hope you all have a great reading week.

Chris Carter’s Robert Hunter Novels #1-3

Whenever I see the name Chris Carter I immediately think of the X-Files but this Chris Carter is not the creator of the Truth is Out There, but the author of several (I haven’t gone to look at exactly how many) crime novels featuring his homicide detective and all-round whizz-kid Robert Hunter.

Hunter’s expertise is such that he gets all the really weird and gruesome murders that are almost always carried out by serial killers.

Earlier in the summer, I read the first three novels in the series, which are:

The Crucifix Killer – the body of a young woman is found in an abandoned cottage; tattoo on her neck is the signature of said Crucifix Killer but surely it can’t be him because he was caught, convicted and executed. More deaths follow. Did Hunter get the wrong man?

The Executioner – the body of a priest is found in his church on the altar steps, grotesquely mutilated and with the number 3 written on his chest in blood. More deaths follow, all numbered. What links the victims and who knows what they fear the most?

The Night Stalker – a woman has been abducted and murdered in a deeply gruesome way. More deaths follow. What links the victims and why are they being killed like this?

First things first, I really enjoyed these novels. The style, which is very straightforward and almost journalistic, is reminiscent of two other favourites writing in the genre – Richard Montanari and Chelsea Cain, both of whom I love.

The key to whether you’ll enjoy these books, assuming you are willing to accept without flinching the descriptions of murder and mutilation, is whether you like Robert Hunter or not. He has a very specific set of characteristics:

  • he is super-intelligent, a child prodigy who raced through school and college and whose unpublished thesis is, of course, required reading by those in the field
  • he is damaged – of course he is – for him it takes the form of insomnia
  • he self-medicates with single malt whisky so he gets extra points from me for that 😀
  • he is extremely good looking, and every woman he comes into contact with flirts with him
  • he is empathetic
  • he is attracted to strong women but these relationships do not end well, usually for the woman but just as often for him
  • people around him often get hurt; it is risky being his colleague
  • is there anything he doesn’t know and did he really learn it all from books?

At the moment I like him, and also the author’s style with one exception – his tendency to be overly specific about cars; I will definitely be reading the whole series.

My Week | 11 October ’20

It has been a very quiet week chez Bride. I’ve been somewhat under the weather and spending a lot of my time not sleeping well then napping, so on and so forth.

Naps are something new to me – when I was younger I just couldn’t sleep during the day unless I was ill, and now that I’m pushing 60 it’s staying awake that’s the problem 😀

I didn’t finish any books this week, and I’m still reading the third Malin Fors novel which I would like to complete as I’m itching to get into some creepy books for Hallowe’en season. I have a nice little list from which to select and I’m going to pick randomly from them as my fancy takes me.

I’m pleased to report that I only bought one book that wasn’t a pre-order, and that was Poems to Save the World With, selected and illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Chris Riddell.

I don’t read poetry very often but how can you resist a book which contains this image (to represent Ozymandias by Shelley):

What I have been doing instead of reading is decluttering my wardrobe, listening to podcasts (as always) and watching TV with Mr B. Season 1 of Evil has turned into something of a hit with us, and we were sad to see the end of S2 of The Boys – we both loved the comics and reckon the adaptation captures the spirit of the original, including the gore.

The big revelation has been Elementary. Yes, I know that I’m probably the last person in the universe to watch this, but in my defence Sherlock with Mr Cumberbatch got to me first, I had space for only one Holmes at a time, and I thought (wrongly) that the man himself may have been Americanised rather than just the setting moved to New York.

I admit it. I was wrong.

Not only is it really, really good but Jonny Lee Miller may be one of my absolutely favourite incarnations of Holmes (Basil Rathbone will always be my No. 1. I know his films are flawed. Don’t at me). I’m devouring the first season and looking forward to steadily working my way through the lot.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Hope you are all staying safe and well, and have a great reading week.

It’s a Book Haul

Forget that you ever, ever saw me mention a no-spend policy because as you will see, I blew that plan completely out of the water. And as I have absolutely no shame, I thought I would share my purchases from mid-September to date.

The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier – “War brought the Harvest. Willa Mae Wallace is a Reaper.” Society is split along blood type lines as a result of mandatory drawing to support the war effort. There is of course a Big Secret and Willa will try to get to the bottom of it.

Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden – first published in 1939 and made into a remarkable film starring Deborah Kerr, as soon as I realised the BBC was producing an adaptation for Christmas I knew I should read the original.

That led me down a rabbit hole of classics…..

Effie Briest by Theodor Fontane – first published in 1894, this is the story of Effie, married off to a man twice her age, gets bored, has an affair with someone unsuitable which later comes back to haunt her. The consequences are fatal, of course. I will try not to think of Madame Bovary.

The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Kelin – first published in 1932, this tale of Doris who runs off to 1920s Berlin to make it big in the movies but sinks into the city’s lower echelons was a huge bestseller in Weimar Germany until it was, of course, banned by the Nazis. I will try not to think of Cabaret.

The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett – a long time since I read Bennett’s famous Old Wives Tale, this sounds like a very different kettle of fish. Nella is refused service in the Grand Babylon Hotel, but her father is a millionaire so buys the thing for her. Shenanigans ensue. I will try not to get this confused with the Grand Budapest Hotel.

Now back to the present/near future…..

Adaptation by Malinda Lo – vast global conspiracy ahoy, involving birds, because of course it does. Reese is involved in an accident and is in a coma or similar for about a month. When she wakes up she remembers nothing but knows one thing – she’s different now……. I believe this is the first in a series. Any similarities to The Birds is coincidental, I’m sure.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnston – nominated for the 2018 Booker Prize, this is, according to the blurb, “an electrifying reinterpretation of a classical myth” and unsettling. I like unsettling.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – here is a confession – I haven’t read any Naomi Novik. Yet. There is a sorceress who doesn’t want to be one but has a destiny which involves changing the rules of magic. This sounds a good place to start.

Fashion on the Ration by Julie Summers – last week I was able to watch/listen to a lecture by Julie Summers via my V&A membership, talking about her latest book (which I bought earlier this year, it’s the life of the editor of British Vogue during the war years) but I was diverted by one of her anecdotes to look up this book about style in World War II and the difficulties of finding silk for your camiknickers.

Alice Diamond and the Forty Elephants by Brian McDonald – the history of Britain’s first female crime syndicate, who made shoplifting kind of glamorous, hiding the stuff they stole (fashion, jewels, furs) in specially adapted clothing and blowing the proceeds on the high life.

A Wash of Black by Chris McDonald – the first in the DI Erika Piper series, a famous actress is found dead and mutilated on an ice rink in Manchester, a copy of a scene from one of her big movies. Our heroine is now hunting the Blood Ice Killer, because of course there is a nickname; there is always a nickname.

And the first few books of October……

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton – it’s 1634 and the world’s greatest detective is being shipped to Amsterdam to be executed, but once the boat sets sail nasty things start to happen. Death, yes. Destruction, undoubtedly. But demons?

The SS Officer’s Armchair by Daniel Lee – subtitled In Search of a Hidden Life. You buy an armchair and then find a bundle of documents sewn into the chair’s cushion. They are covered in swastikas, so of course you need to set off on a quest to find out who owned the chair and presumably the documents.

Mr Cadmus by Peter Ackroyd – a stranger arrives in Little Camborne and in his wake comes mystery, revenge, murder, greed and jealousy. Everyday life in an English village. Where is Miss Marple when you need her?

Mantel Pieces by Hilary Mantel – even if she wasn’t already one of my very favourite literary people, the pun in the title would have been enough to make me want to read this collection of her essays, mostly (I think) from the London Review of Books.

Witness X by SE Moorehead – Neuropsycholgist hunts serial killer in the near future. Silence of the Lambs meets Blade Runner with a tinge of Stranger Things. Apparently.

The Girls of Brackenhill by Kate Moretti – Newly engaged. Dead aunt. Seriously ill uncle with not long to go. A mansion in the Catskills, and a sister who disappeared years ago. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Quite a varied selection I think you’ll agree 🙂

Sunday Salon | September round-up

A quiet but solid reading month. Here are the stats:

The Reader by Marie Fontain Latour

Books read = 5

Number of pages = 2096

I have read 56 out of 60 books so I’m tantalisingly close to my goal for 2020 (and in fact as I’m writing this I’ve actually hit 57 which is 95%)

I bought quite a few books in the second half of September so I will be posting a book haul in the next couple of days.

October pre-orders (titles only and not including four that I’ve already received and will be in the book haul post referenced above!)

  • Ruby by Nina Allan
  • Dark Archives by Megan Rosenbloom
  • The Silence by Don DeLillo
  • Over the Woodward Wall by A Deborah Baker – this is the book within the book from Middlegame
  • The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by VE Schwab
  • The Tindalos Asset by Caitlin R Kiernan
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by Chris Riddell – an actual, physical book!
  • Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

Hope you have a great reading week – see you in my next post!

Sunday Salon | 20 September

It’s starting to feel a lot like autumn. Here in SW London it’s been sunny but the wind has a bit of an edge to it and I for one am very happy about it.

From my walk earlier today

Books finished this week:

Reviews to follow shortly.

I’m currently reading a second novel by Mons Kallentoft and that’s all for the moment, which is unusual for me as I almost always have more than one book on the go, and I’m sure that practice will start up again soon.

New books:

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – I tried to read Jonathan Strange twice, and gave the TV series a shot (gave up on that too), but Piranesi sounds fascinating and less hyped and hopefully that will help
  • The Trials of Koli by MR Carey – the second novel in the well regarded Rampart trilogy
  • Standalone by Paul Michael Anderson – They are killers. They are monsters. They are evil. They are right up my street.
  • The 2084 Report by James Powell – An oral history of the Great Warming – used my Audible credit to get this one. I love a fictional oral history.

Hope you all have a great reading week. Take care and stay safe.

Madame Victoria

In 2001 the skeleton of a woman was found in woodland at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. The hospital checked all of its patient records, DNA tests were carried out and forensic specialists built a reconstruction of her face to be used in public appeals. Despite all of this, the woman has never been identified, and her remains were put into storage, labelled Madame Victoria.

The investigation has stalled. The case has been assigned to a forensic anthropologist and crime novel celebrity*, who runs new tests on the skeleton and finds that Madame Victoria was a Caucasian woman of about fifty suffering from osteoporosis and arthritis-ridden joints but showing no signs of a violent death.

Catherine Leroux has written twelve stories, each of which imagines a different route to the eventual death of Madame Victoria in the woods. She has said in interviews that she was inspired less by the fact that the woman was found, but by the great efforts that the authorities took to identify her. She has said that she intended each chapter as a tribute, and she never forgot that this was a person who actually existed. And that she hopes Madame Victoria is eventually identified.

I enjoyed this book very much. In any selection of stories there some stronger than others, and this is no exception, though I felt that most of the tales here tended to the strong side.

I think it works as a concept because each of the stories is very different – Leroux has tried several genres including historical fiction, fantasy and sci-fi. Some common elements and references pop up in several of the stories but it’s very subtly done and I only really picked it up in the later ones. I wonder if I read it again whether I would find more?

In an interview about the book in the Montreal Gazette, Leroux said that in writing about a completely anonymous woman she found herself examining how women “were, and are, erased, in so many ways.”

This was a read for Twenty Books of Summer, and I highly recommend it if you want to try something a bit different, or you are looking for works by women in translation. Or, you know, both.

*Note – I’m assuming this is a reference to Kathy Reichs

Scary Sequels. More or Less.

Earlier this year I watched a couple of scary kind-of movies. Or more accurately, kind-of scary, because without a doubt they were movies 🙂

Anyway, I enjoyed them both and thought I would watch their sequels. Alone as per usual.

First up was Unfriended: Dark Web, directed by Stephen Susco, made in 2018 and rated 15 for strong threat, violence and language.

A teen comes into possession of a new laptop and soon discovers that the previous owner is not only watching him but will also do anything to get it back

A similar set up to its predecessor, I think this is actually the slightly better film, albeit that it lacks the supernatural elements. The horror is very much about the helplessness in watching your friends being targetted because of something you’ve done – in this case, it becomes clear that our teen protagonist may have come by this laptop by seeing it unattended in a coffee shop and just walking off with it. As with the original Unfriended, there are times when I found myself yelling at people not to do things, but it wouldn’t be a horror film if people were sensible, would it?

Then there is Creep 2, which is a proper sequel to a film which I really loved when I watched it a few months ago. This is just as good. Trust me.

A video artist looking for work drives to a remote in the forest to meet a man claiming to be a serial killer. But after agreeing to spend the day with him, she soon realises that she made a deadly mistake.

I don’t want to give to much away about this film except that it is equally as unsettling as the original Creep, with the same lead actor (Mark Duplass who is super), the same director (Patrick Brice) and I would recommend that you watch them in sequence because Creep 2 refers directly back to the first one.

That was a bit of a rambling paragraph but hopefully you’ll get the gist of what I’m trying to say.

So basically, fun films but not, IMHO, all that frightening. Creepy, yes, but not frightening. YMMV.