Better Late Than Never (with some mini-reviews)

I really did have the best of intentions to write a Sunday Salon post this time last week but we were going to see Avengers: Endgame again and I ran out of time, and then it turned out to be the one week in the year (there is usually one) when I had something planned for every day, and here we are with two weeks to catch up on.

So, in terms of stuff done:

The Rite of Spring
  • I went to see a performance of the Rite of Spring at Sadler’s Wells, choreographed by the Chinese dancer Yang Liping, mixing Stravinsky with Tibetan music. It was strange and beautiful
  • Saw the Elizabethan miniatures exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery
  • Missed dinner with friends due to travel problems, but had lunch with other friends the following day neat Tower Bridge
  • Missed a book launch but attended a funeral

All human life is here.

It has been a really good couple of weeks from a reading perspective. I’m currently slightly more than halfway through Black Helicopters by Caitlin R Kiernan, and in the very last chapters of the Iris Origo biography I’ve been reading for what seems like forever.

I have finished the following:

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor – a new writer to me, I thought this creepy murder mystery with tinges of horror was very well done and I read it in a couple of sessions. Enjoyed it so much I’ve already bought her next novel and have the one after that on my wish list.

Cradle Song by Robert Edric – the first his Song Cycle trilogy featuring his private detective Leo Rivers, this was also very well written and a compelling story. Will be interested to see whether the following volumes are linked in ways other than sharing a main character, because of course I bought them both as soon as I had finished this one.

The Gameshouse Trilogy by Claire North – I love Claire North. She is a remarkable young woman with an impressive catalogue of work and I had the pleasure of meeting her when her second novel Touch came out a few years ago. I bought these novellas (due to come out in a single volume very soon) when they were originally issued but only got round to reading them in the past week and they are so so good. The Serpent is set in 17th century Venice, The Thief in 1930s Thailand and The Master in the modern day. Highly recommended.

New books:

  • Siren Song and Swan Song by Robert Edric, as mentioned above
  • The Poison Song by Jen Williams – the final book in her Winnowing Flame trilogy, I was sad to miss the book launch but excited for all of the excellent reviews this book has been receiving
  • King of Spies: The Dark Reign of America’s Spymaster in Korea by Blaine Harden – “based on long-classified government records, unsealed court documents and interviews in Korea and the US […] tells the gripping story of the reign of an intelligence commander who lost touch with morality, legality and possibily even sanity” Irresistible.
  • Milk of Paradise: A History of Opium by Lucy inglis – “a tale of addiction, trade, crime, sex, war, literature, medicine, and, above all, money
  • Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep – “The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Killer Across the Table by John E Douglas & Mark Olshaker – more true crime based on the experiences of Douglas, one of the original FBI profilers.

I am very, very behind with reviews so please look out for some round-up posts over the next week or so as I try to get back into some sort of regular posting schedule.

Have a great reading week!

The Bone Key

13100615Subtitled ‘ The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison’, The Bone Key by Sarah Monette is a collection of ten stories linked by said Mr Booth and was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award in 2007.

Booth is an academic, specifically a curator of manuscripts in a museum located in an unnamed city , and this, along with the obvious supernatural elements that play out in each story shows the undoubted influence of MR James and, in my mind to a lesser extent, HP Lovecraft.

Booth is an odd figure, with few connections to those around him other than work colleagues, which puts him firmly in confirmed bachelor status. Unlike her predecessors though, Sarah Monette is more explicit in dealing with Booth’s issues with intimacy and his sexuality in particular. In addition, he’s a man labouring under a family curse and whose dabbling in necromancy has attracted all sorts of supernatural elements into his orbit, many through his work of course. Those pesky manuscripts, they get you every time….

I was interested in reading this book because of my previous experience with Sarah Monette’s stories in various anthologies which I’ve enjoyed very much, but also because I am a complete sucker for the MR James style of story. We learn more about Booth than we ever do with any of James’ characters but that’s perhaps inevitable given that we are talking about a single individual through a series of stories rather than James’ standalone approach. I read this as if it was a novel because I have no discipline whatsoever and couldn’t spread out reading a good set of stories even if my life depended on it.

What is interesting about The Bone Key, which I should say I enjoyed very much, is that it isn’t clear when or where the stories take place. I think it’s safe to say that we are probably somewhere in New England, but that’s about all I was able to come up with.
I really enjoyed all of these stories, my favourite being The Wall of Clouds where Booth is at a spa hotel recovering from a mysterious and almost fatal illness which is never directly explained (but we can make a guess given the stories that have gone before). I expect the impact this collection has on the reader depends very much on whether you like and trust Booth as a narrator.

I would love to read more about Booth’s experiences but I don’t think the author is planning more stories in this world, which is a shame.

Last Week Chez Bride | 5 May

It’s been a week full of stuff but not much reading, which is a shame but that’s how it works out sometimes as I’m sure you all know 🙂

On Monday we went to see Avengers: Endgame with our unofficial film club at the Picture House Central in London, a lovely cinema complex with very comfy seats which is just as well given that the film weighs in at just over 3 hours. I’m not going to say too much about it except (1) it’s brilliant, (2) I may have cried a bit, don’t judge me, (3) I laughed a lot more than I expected and (4) did I mention it was brilliant? We are going to see it again this week, and I’m just as excited as I was the first time.

We then came straight home for a snack and stayed up until ridiculously late to watch Game of Thrones. Ooooh, that was also good. Got to bed at 02:30 I think, but one of the perks of being retired is that sort of thing doesn’t actually matter.

Tuesday was an outing on my own. The V&A was hosting a talk/interview about Princess Grace of Monaco and her relationship with Dior to tie in with their current mega-exhibition. It was really interesting to hear the discussion of how such a relationship works including the fact that to the French visiting a couture house is like going to visit your doctor, so measurements are never shared with the outside world.

queen_victoria1I took the opportunity to pop into the jewellery collection to see Queen Victoria’s sapphire & diamond coronet which now on permanent display. It is so so sparkly, relatively tiny and very beautiful.

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Apart from those two things the week was pretty quiet, so let’s talk about books.

Currently reading: I didn’t finish any books this week, but made really good progress with the Iris Origo biography which I am enjoying very much and which is leading me down a number of rabbit holes but that is a good thing.

I also made a bit of progress with Sadie, but I’m not sure if I’m in the right frame of mind for that boo at the moment, so I’m going to give it another couple of chapters before I decide whether to set it aside temporarily or make it a DNF.

New books this week:

The Last Stone by Mark Bowden – “a haunting and gripping account of the true-life search for the perpetrator of a hideous crime-the abduction and likely murder of two young girls in 1975-and the skilful work of the cold case team that finally brought their kidnapper to justice.

The Lazarus Files by Matthew McGough – “A deeply reported, riveting account of a cold case murder in Los Angeles, unsolved until DNA evidence implicated a shocking suspect – a female detective within the LAPD’s own ranks.

Those were both pre-orders

The Girls in the Water by Victoria Jenkins – “Early one icy winter morning, Detective Alex King is called to a murder scene at a local park. The river is running high, and in the water lies the body of a woman, her wrists tied, and all her fingernails missing. The victim, beautiful, young Lola Evans, had a troubled past, but Alex’s team can’t find a reason why anyone would want to kill her. The pressure to solve the case keeps mounting, but all their leads run dry. Then, another body is found in the water.

Quite pleased that I’m reining in my book-buying, and hoping to stick to only pre-orders for the rest of the month; there are quite a few of those 😀

Hope everyone has a great reading week!

Sunday Salon | 28 April 2019

Happy Avengers: Endgame weekend! I will not be seeing it until tomorrow and am so excited I can’t find the words. Which is a situation I hope will change as I’m obviously intending to write about it afterwards.

Anyway, to this week’s book stuff.

Books read:

25903764Only one finished this week, and that was a graphic novel which I must have bought ages ago and forgot all about and then found on my Comixology app when I wanted something light-ish to read. So, Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier tells the story of Catrina and her family who move to Northern California to help her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis and the climate in Bahía de la Luna will be beneficial. They find out that there are ghosts in the town, attracted by the same things that will help Maya. Cat is not at all happy about this……  This is a lovely and moving book, beautifully illustrated and dealing with some difficult subjects such as illness and death in a positive and accessible way. I loved it.

New books:

Ragged Alice by Gareth L Powell – a pre-order – “Orphaned at an early age, DCI Holly Craig grew up in the small Welsh coastal town of Pontyrhudd. As soon as she was old enough, she ran away to London and joined the police. Now, fifteen years later, she’s back in her old hometown to investigate what seems at first to be a simple hit-and-run, but which soon escalates into something far deadlier and unexpectedly personal—something that will take all of her peculiar talents to solve.”

The Migration by Helen Marshall – according to Amazon this is “creepy & atmospheric” and “evocative of Pet Sematary” – “When I was younger I didn’t know a thing about death. I thought it meant stillness, a body gone limp. A marionette with its strings cut. Death was like a long vacation – a going away” – you can tell there’s a “but” coming, can’t you?

Images & Shadows: Part of a Life by Iris Origo – I’ve become mildly obsessed by Iris, and in addition to her two volumes of war diaries (which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before) I couldn’t resist this autobiography.

Currently reading:

The books I’m actively reading are both titles I’ve defintely referred to before, namely the biography of Iris Origo by Caroline Moorehead which is hugely enjoyable and feeding the obsession I mentioned above, and Sadie by Courtney Summers which I’ve only just started but looks very promising indeed.

Hope you have a great week, whether you are avenging or not 😀

My Reading Week (or two….)

I haven’t posted for 10 days or so even though I have a lot to say about stuff, so I thought I’d pop in and say hello and catch you up with what I’ve been reading and buying and so forth. I don’t even have a picture for the top of this post: so sorry but I’m sure we’ll all get over it 🙂

Books finished:

  • Currently by Sarah Mensinga
  • Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain
  • The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

It’s good when you get a run of really enjoyable books. Proper reviews will follow shortly, assuming I can get my act together.

New Books: all of these are ebooks and/or impulse purchases unless otherwise stated.

It’s OK To Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort – “This isn’t a cancer story. It’s a love story. Twenty-something Nora bounced from boyfriend to dopey ‘boyfriend’ until she met Aaron – a charismatic art director and comic-book nerd who made her laugh. When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron’s hospital bed and had a baby boy while he was on chemo.” I have listened to Nora’s stand in as co-host on TBTL, one of my favourite podcasts, and fins her engaging and funny and moving, so I’m very much looking forward to reading this.

Saturday’s Child by Deborah Burns – “An only child, Deborah Burns grew up in prim 1950s America in the shadow of her beautiful, unconventional, rule-breaking mother, Dorothy—a red-haired beauty who looked like Rita Hayworth and skirted norms with a style and flare that made her the darling of men and women alike. Married to the son of a renowned Italian family with ties to the underworld, Dorothy fervently eschewed motherhood and domesticity, turning Deborah over to her spinster aunts to raise while she was the star of a vibrant social life. As a child, Deborah revered her charismatic mother, but Dorothy was a woman full of secrets with a troubled past—a mistress of illusion whose love seemed just out of her daughter’s grasp.” Sounds fascinating.

Illness as a Metaphor & AIDS and it’s Metaphors by Susan Sontag – I have been listening to past episodes of This Podcast Will Kill You which is a fascinating examination of disease, and the two Erins who present the show made mention of this book in their episode on HIV. So here we are.

Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain – this is the sixth and, as far as I can see final, final instalment of the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell serial killer novels. I’ve only just finished book number 5 (see books read above) and I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s all over. I shall be bereft. The plots are getting dafter and Gretchen is virtually superhuman but they are SO enjoyable

Shorter Days by Anna Katharina Hahn – translated from german and set in Stuttgart this is all about how “[o]ver the course of a few days, Judith and Leonie’s apparently stable, successful lives are thrown into turmoil by the secrets they keep, the pressures they’ve been keeping at bay, and the waves of change lapping at the peaceful shores of their existence.” I picked this up following a review by my blog chum Jinjer.

The Half Man by Anne Billson – as well as a fabulous film critic and excellent person to follow on Twitter, Anne has also written a number of horror novels and this is her latest, more of a supernatural thriller I think. Purchased because it’s a good thing to support people you like who create things.

Frock Consciousness – an actual physical book from the London Review of Books which collects writing about clothes from their publication.

And finally, my single pre-order – If, Then by Kate Hope Day – “In a sleepy Oregon town at the base of a dormant volcano, four neighbours find their lives upended when they see visions of themselves in an alternate reality, and have to question the choices they’ve made as natural disaster looms.

Currently reading:

Caroline Moorehead’s biography of Iris Origo, which I’ve just started and is very readable.

Hope you all have a wonderful reading week!

Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel  was one of the films I was most looking forward to in 2019. But what’s it all about, you ask, next to the rock from under which you have just crawled.

Well, according to IMDb:

Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

Does she though? I mean, at the start of the film she is already one of the universe’s most powerful heroes and her connection to Earth is tenuous at best. But I quibble, of course, because that’s what I do.

So, I went into this film with high expectations which were not only met but exceeded. I wish films like this had been around when I was a girl (which was a very long time ago let me tell you) but I am so very glad they’re here now.

This is an origin story with a twist. As I mentioned above, Carole Danvers is already hugely powerful but is living under the impression that she is something she is not. When the events of the film bring her to Earth and cut her off from her team, she teams up with Nick Fury (for it is he) and slowly begins to piece together her past, what happened to her and that rather than being supported, she is being held back by the race she has inadvertently become a part of. The relationships in this story are hugely important, not only with Fury but with her best friend Maria and Maria’s daughter Monica, and those relationships which give her the means to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Oh, and there is Goose; a very, very special cat.

Brie Larson is excellent in the lead role, with just the right balance of vulnerability and strength. The special effects are of course really well done, especially the process used to make Samuel L Jackson and Clark Gregg younger versions of themselves, the aliens are all brilliant and there is added Annette Bening, which is always a good thing.

Ignore the small group of haters on social media; I love this, and can’t wait to see Captain Marvel in the new Avengers movie. Not long now 😀

Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck | 2h 3m running time | 12A for moderate fantasy violence and implied strong language.

 

 

A List

2757569A list of my favourite extracts from L’art de la Liste, as mentioned in my most recent post. Italics are my comments, ditto any bold emphases  🙂

Also please note I did not read this in the original French. I took my French Higher back in 1978 and have managed to forget it all since then!

  • [M]aking systems is a way to make meaning, to back up your memory, to refresh it, and to live in a more intense way.
  • The list is the most concise form of expression available to us. But, paradoxically, its elliptical nature allows us to be as exhaustive as possible.
  • Do it, don’t procrastinate. (Doing nothing is the most time-consuming thing in the world. Doing things takes far less time.)
  • If you make lists, you’ll only have to update them. [not start afresh every time]
  • What a shame it is to lose the memory of certain meals. Generally, we don’t write down what we eat, even if we keep a diary, and yet special meals can form some of the best moments of our lives. Recording the place, the food, the wine and the people present is a way of rekindling these exceptional memories. [better than taking a photograph of your food; probably]
  • Make a list of what needs to be done in each room. This will help you psychologically. You’ll have so much more energy in a tidy, well-kept room. Time spent on housework is never wasted, whatever some people may think. [that would be me]
  • In order to get to know yourself better, and to preserve the ‘traces’ of yourself – which is better than keeping objects or photos – make your own ‘almanac’. The best way to do this is by keeping lists. We are one and we are multitudes. We are our true self, and we are the different selves we become in the presence of others, according to who they are and where we are…
  • For your next birthday, why not write yourself a list of all the things you would rather never do again. Self-awareness comes with age, but so too does the knowledge that we won’t live forever.
  • It is therefore wise only to write down what you want to happen, not what you don’t want to happen, because to write is to change the course of events.
  • In difficult times – in times of tension and crisis, whether personal or public – the most important thing is to remain centred and to keep your calm. Not to allow yourself to be influenced or swept away by circumstances, however dramatic these may be, or by negative energies or emotions. This is by no means an easy task. But in trying times, turn inward. 
  • By gaining greater awareness, you will be able to do what you want with your thoughts, with your days and with your life. This power is lying dormant inside you. You can awaken it by making lists.
  • […] the most important books aren’t the ones we read. They’re the ones we reread
  • But whatever the subject of our lists, the most important thing is always to keep them.