Sunday Salon | 10 February ’19

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Missed another Sunday blog but never mind, here we are with a round-up post. This week has been quiet on the reading front as I seem to have been more focussed on watching films (five in February so far!), but that hasn’t stopped me buying more books. Yes, more since posting my recent haul, what are you implying?

Books Read – reviews will follow

  • The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams
  • The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
  • Convent on Styx by Gladys Mitchell
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
  • The Big Ones by Dr Lucy Jones

Currently Reading

Still continuing with Global Crisis – I’ve finally started the Stuart & Civil Wars chapters, in the early stages of Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas for Mount TBR, and more than halfway through Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon (I started this last year, set aside because I wasn’t in the mood and now picked up again).

New Books

  • Murder Theory by Andrew Mayne – Book 3 in The Naturalist series – Computational biologist and serial-killer hunter Dr. Theo Cray receives an off-the-record request from the FBI to investigate an inexplicable double homicide. It happened at the excavation site where a murderer had buried his victims’ remains. In custody is a forensic technician in shock, with no history of aggression. He doesn’t remember a thing. His colleagues don’t even recognize the man they thought they knew. But an MRI reveals something peculiar. And abnormal. What on earth made him commit murder
  • A Chill in the Air by Iris Origo – an Italian War Diary 1939-40 – With piercing insight, Origo documents the grim absurdities that her adopted Italy underwent as war became more and more unavoidable. Connected to everyone, from the peasants on her estate to the US ambassador, she writes of the turmoil, the danger, and the dreadful bleakness of Italy in 1939-1940.
  • Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge – because Christopher Fowler recommended it – When Master Georgie – George Hardy, surgeon and photographer – sets off from the cold squalor of Victorian Liverpool for the heat and glitter of the Bosphorus to offer his services in the Crimea, there straggles behind him a small caravan of devoted followers; Myrtle, his adoring adoptive sister; lapsed geologist Dr Potter; and photographer’s assistant and sometime fire-eater Pompey Jones, all of them driven onwards through a rising tide of death and disease by a shared and mysterious guilt
  • Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – because it was recommended by blogger The Intrepid ArkansawyerHow do you conjure a life examined? Give the truest account of what you saw, felt, learned, loved, strived for? For Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the surprising answer came in the form of an encyclopedia.
  • Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman – the March selection for the new  Non-Fiction Women Book Club – the fascinating story of the intertwined lives of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first and second women to serve as Supreme Court justices.
  • Figuring by Maria Popova – I support Maria’s site brainpickings.org and this is her first book – Figuring explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four centuries – beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalysed the environmental movement.
  • Figuring led me to The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd – In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.
  • And also to Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez – Lopez’s journey across our frozen planet is a celebration of the Arctic in all its guises. A hostile landscape of ice, freezing oceans and dazzling skyscapes.
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel – we saw the film version last week ( a really great film, by the way) and I had to read the memoir on which it was based)
  • You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian – a pre-order placed in october 2018 – a collection of short stories from the creator of Cat Person – the first short story to go viral – comes You Know You Want This, a compulsive collection about sex, dating and modern life. These are stories of women’s lives now. They also happen to be horror stories. In some, women endure the horror. In others, they inflict it.

Other stuff

Albert Finney passed away on Friday which was the perfect excuse to re-watch for the umpteenth time his Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express from 1974, my absolute favourite Christie film – if you want to know what I think of it here’s the last time I talked about it!

I also caught up with an astonishing documentary on Netflix – Abducted in Plain Sight – real gobsmacking stuff about child abduction and the impact of a master manipulator on one family. Worth watching knowing as little about it as possible; your reaction is likely to be WTF?

Hope you all have a fabulous reading week!

 

 

 

Yet Another Book Haul

IMG_0812I’ve skipped a couple of Sunday Salons and am behind on reviews and other stuff so I thought I’d ease myself back into the blogosphere by confessing what I have bought bookwise since my last post. I deliberately didn’t ask for books for my birthday but did that stop me from buying them for myself? Of course not.

So here goes

Speculative fiction

The Last by Hanna Jameson – Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilisation, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia, and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message. Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive. Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.  This was a pre-order.

The Line Between by Tosca Lee – An extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming. This was a pre-order.

Rosewater by Tade Thompson – I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get a copy of this highly-regarded novel, but here we are. If you’re not aware, this won Africa’s first award for speculative fiction. Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumoured healing powers.

Crime & Thrillers

The Great Mistake by Mary Roberts Rinehart – Illness, jealousy, and murder poison the atmosphere in an ultrawealthy community. MRR is one of my favourite old-school American crime writers so new editions of her works are always welcome chez Bride.

The Charlie Parker Collection 1-4 by John Connolly – I’ve read some of Connolly’s other work and some Parker short stories but it feels like its time to work my way through the novels.

Smallbone Deceased by Micheal Gilbert – Horniman, Birley and Craine is a highly respected legal firm with clients drawn from the highest in the land. When a deed box in the office is opened to reveal a corpse, the threat of scandal promises to wreak havoc on the firm’s reputation – especially as the murder looks like an inside job. The partners and staff of the firm keep a watchful and suspicious eye on their colleagues, as Inspector Hazlerigg sets out to solve the mystery of who Mr Smallbone was – and why he had to die. Another lovely British Library re-issue.

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey – In a crumbling park in the crumbling back end of Copacabana, a woman stopped under an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar. That was the last time anyone saw the famous Brazilian novelist Beatriz Yagoda. Upon hearing the news of her disappearance, her American translator Emma flies immediately to Brazil. There, in the sticky, sugary heat of Rio, Emma and Beatriz’s two grown children conspire to solve the author’s curious disappearance.

Horror

Help the Witch by Tom Cox – Inspired by our native landscapes, saturated by the shadows beneath trees and behind doors, listening to the run of water and half-heard voices, Tom Cox’s first collection of short stories is a series of evocative and unsettling trips into worlds previously visited by the likes of M. R. James and E. F. Benson. In other words, creepy stories!

Sleeping with the Lights On by Darryl Jones – Four o’clock in the morning, and the lights are on and still there’s no way we’re going to sleep, not after the film we just saw. The book we just read. Fear is one of the most primal human emotions, and one of the hardest to reason with and dispel. So why do we scare ourselves? 

I seem to have a lot of pre-orders for download in February but I’ll try to cover those in Salon posts o that it doesn’t look quite so bad 😀

 

 

 

 

Red Sparrow

mv5bmta3mdkxotc4nddeqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdaxnzgyntqz._v1_sy1000_cr0,0,674,1000_al_Jennifer Lawrence stars in Red Sparrow, an undoubtedly for grown-ups spy thriller, where she plays Domenika, a ballet dancer so badly injured in an onstage “accident” that she will not dance again, and as she just so happens to have an uncle who is senior in the Russian secret service she ends up recruited into the Red Sparrows, via a rather sordid piece of entrapment she is required to carry out as a favour for uncle and which goes spectacularly wrong, .

At the Sparrow Academy she is trained to submit her body for use by the state and is finally despatched to sort out a CIA agent and find out the name of a mole inside the Russian spy operation.

If you think this is going to turn out to be a female James Bond, with gadgets and cocktails and frocks and romantic seductions, you are going to be very wrong. This is a really grim, at times disturbing and unpleasant depiction of what this sort of thing might actually look like in the real world, and it is not at all pretty. There is rape, torture and general mayhem presented in very graphic terms but with a glossy sheen on top.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t enjoy this film, despite some of the things I’ve mentioned above which made me uncomfortable while watching it, and even more so afterwards when thinking about it. There are some positives.

Jennifer Lawrence is pretty good in a rather unforgiving role, there are some wonderfully British Russians and much as I don’t normally warm to Joel Edgerton he is well cast as the CIA agent. The fact that the actor playing the really nasty uncle is made up to look more than Putin-adjacent is very entertaining.

And there is double cross piled on triple cross to the extent that until the very, very late stages I couldn’t tell what was actually going to happen.

It doesn’t entirely deliver but it’s good to see an action film with a decent budget aimed squarely at those of us no longer in our twenties.  I am still stunned that this wasn’t rated 18.

Grim and unrelenting so watch with caution.

Dazzling details: directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation), Red Sparrow is 140 minutes long and rated (shakes head) 15 for (takes deep breath) strong bloody violence, gore, sexual violence, sex, very strong language

How Old is the Bride?

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This incarnation of the blog may only be 5 months old but the Bride has been around since 20/21/22 January (depending on what source you consult) in 2007 which means that the Bride is 12.

Cue balloons and cake!

When I was actually 12 years old it was 1974.

  • Christian Bale, Amanda Abbington, Alyson Hannigan & Matthew Macfadyan were born;
  • Agnes Moorehead, Georgette Heyer and Mama Cass Elliott died;
  • Tiger Feet and Waterloo (all hail ABBA)charted, and Andy Williams’ Solitaire was number one on my birthday;
  • Jeff Goldblum made his first appearance on the big screen; and
  • three of my favourite films were released – The Towering Inferno (still the best disaster movie in my view), Young Frankenstein and Murder on the Orient Express (the Albert Finney one, with a huge starry cast and a suitably sized moustache)

Elsewhere we had Watergate, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the publication of Carrie, the book that got me into contemporary horror.

That was indeed a year.

Here’s to another 12 months of blogging. Hope you will stick with me 😀

 

Sunday Salon | 20 January

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So here we are, within spitting distance of the end of the first month of the year. An unpleasant image perhaps, but one that is sticking with me for now as I get excited about my birthday – more about that no doubt in my next Salon post.

But what about the books!?

Books read

Yes, I have finally finished a book! Not one that I expected to read at all but it caught my fancy and I’ll be writing about it soon – Notes from the Underwire by Quinn Cummings.

Currently reading

Still reading Global Crisis – I’ve hit the two chapters about the Civil Wars and the Stuart monarchy which I already know quite a lot about, so familiarity is holding me back a bit though I’m assured by the Book God that the author has much that is new to share

I’ve made quite a bit of progress with City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin, and will try to finish it this week. It’s a chunkster but a very enjoyable one. Also started watching the Tv adaptation of the first novel in the trilogy, The Passage, which is so far very promising.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – if you read my book haul post from earlier this week you will know that I can’t resist this sort of book. I’ve had this volume for ages and had always planned to read it this month, so anyone who accuses me of jumping on the KonMari bandwagon will be given a Very Hard Stare.

I am stuck with The Behaviour of Moths – I am going to give it another chapter and if it’s still not grabbing me I’ll set it aside.

New books

You would be forgiven for thinking that after the book haul I would not have been buying anything else, but come on, this is me we are talking about. So the following came into the house this week:

The Valentine House by Emma Henderson – “this deeply involving, intriguing novel tells the story of an English family through the generations and a memorable French woman, whose lives seem worlds apart yet which become inextricably connected” – bought because of the cover…

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker – “Imagine a world where sleep could trap you, for days, for weeks, months… A world where you could, even, die of sleep rather than in your sleep.” – a pre-order and firmly in my wheelhouse

Heartsick by Dia Reeves – “A large creepy estate, mysterious twin brothers, family secrets, a diabolical invention known as the bone machine, and a young girl who is not at all human.” Likewise.

Long Live Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood – Tirzah, who has the Best Name Ever, was a very talented artist and wife of Eric Ravilious. I bought a Christmas card from Daunts with one of her haunting images on it and in finding out more about her came across this lovely autobiography published by Persephone. An actual physical book!

At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell – “Paris, near the turn of 1932-3. Three young friends meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and their friend Raymond Aron, who opens their eyes to a radical new way of thinking…” Who hasn’t wanted a light and readable book about the key tenets of French philosophy?

So that’s it for this round-up. Hope you all have a wonderful reading week 🙂

 

 

Mid-January Book Haul

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As mentioned in my Sunday Salon post, I have already bought enough books by the middle of January to justify their own post, so here we are. Try not to be tempted too much – I clearly failed!

These aren’t in any particular order of purchase or preference, I’m just adding them as they come.

The Histories

Hitler & the Hapsburgs by James Longo – I didn’t know that Hitler, because he loathed the Hapsburg dynasty so much,  pursued the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (yes that Archduke Franz Ferdinand) throughout his time in power. I am fascinated by all things Hapsburg and this has been well-received

The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman – subtitled “Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicines and Murder Most Foul”; I love all of these 😀

Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Diaries of Kenneth Rose 1944 to 1979 – from the bombing of London in WWII to the election of the Thatcher woman, this promises to be full of gossip; I can’t resist reading other people’s diaries and letters.

The Crimes

The Puppet Show by MW Craven – “A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.” Sometimes you have to make your own entertainment

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup – “October, Copenhagen. The police make a terrible discovery – a young woman is found brutally murdered, with one of her hands cut off.Next to her lifeless body hangs a strange doll made of chestnuts . . .” Murder and crafting. Written by the author of The Killing which I loved, except for the ending of Series 3.

The Katherina Code by Jorn Hier Lorst – “Katharina went missing twenty-four years ago. Each year on the anniversary of her disappearance Chief Inspector William Wisting visits her husband, the man he could never help. He re-reads her files, searching for the answer he could never find. The code he could never solve. Until now.” Wisting is the new Wallander, according to Amazon at least.

The “I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read That Yet”

The Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins – in my defence I have seen and loved the film and toyed with the graphic novel but when my husband, a huge Collins fan who has been trying to get me to read his stuff for years, pointed out that there was a “new expanded novel” I finally agreed.

The Stuff That Only I Find Interesting

If you find this sort of thing interesting too, then you are my kind of people.

Declutter by Debora Robertson – “the get real guide to creating calm from chaos” Nigella Lawson said she needed this book and who am I to gainsay Nigella? Real solutions for real people. I am looking forward to reading this and comparing it to Marie Kondo’s approach (I’m reading her book at the moment and being irritated by many of the hot takes on Twitter). Whether I will actually declutter is yet to be seen.

L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau – I love lists and have been making them for as long as I can remember. I can’t decide if always writing things down has led to my memory becoming a little wonkier because I no longer rely on it so much, or whether I’m just getting older (I suspect it’s the latter). ” The humble list has the power to change your life. In its immediacy, its simplicity and its concise, contained form, the list enables us to organise, to save time and to approach facts with clarity.

Rituals for Every Day by Nadia Narain – “Let rituals bring you back to yourself.” I’m always looking for things to help me structure my day as a retired person, knowing that otherwise I would spend my life on the sofa reading. According to the Sunday Times this is non-patronising and authentic. I hate the word authentic in this sort of context but let’s give this a go.

Everything Else (otherwise known as the Bride gets bored with categorising)

Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill – “This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements the original work.” One of my favourite authors, Ronald Frame, thought this was fiendishly ingenious.

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – A fourth entry and prequel to the Wayward Children series. I enjoy her stuff immensely. This was a pre-order.

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – I found this by going down one of those Amazon ‘customers who bought that also bought this’ rabbit hole. “When it begins, it begins as an opera should begin: in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger, who you discover has your fate in his hands . . .  She is Lilliet Berne. And she is the soprano.” I know nothing about this at all. Liked the cover though.

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar – alternative-history novel, love those, and Tidhar is an extremely interesting author, so looking forward to this one very much.

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart – “The rambling house called Thornyhold is like something out of a fairy tale. Left to Gilly Ramsey by the cousin whose occasional visits brightened her childhood, the cottage, set deep in a wild wood, has come just in time to save her from a bleak future. With its reputation for magic and its resident black cat, Thornyhold offers Gilly more than just a new home. It offers her a chance to start over.”

So that’s it. For now at least 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Poppins Returns

step_payoff_poster3_united_kingdomThose of us who were children in the 1960s will have strong, and in my case very fond, memories of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, so when it was announced that a new film was going to be made I was a little anxious about how it would turn out. Once Emily Blunt was cast as the lead I relaxed a bit, and began to be excited about seeing the film.

And before I go into more detail, I am pleased to be able to say that it is really lovely and charming and highly entertaining.

Mary Poppins Returns is set in the Depression, several decades after the original, with the Banks children all grown up. Jane has followed her mother into political activism (hands up anyone who’d forgotten that Mrs Banks was a Suffragette) and Michael is a recent widower with three children, a job in the bank at which his father worked, and financial difficulties which may lead to the loss of the family home.

Cue the arrival of Mary Poppins.

If the original film was all about saving Mr Banks (and if you haven’t seen that film with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks then you really should), then MP Returns is definitely about saving Michael. I will fight anyone who says it isn’t.

It is fair to say (as others already have) that this is less of a sequel and more an exercise in revisiting the original film. Not sure?

  • Non-cockney Cockney? Check.
  • Cartoon sequence? Check.
  • Really good songs? Absolutely, though only time will tell if they will last as long as, for example, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or A Spoonful of Sugar. But let’s give it time.
  • Lessons to be learned even in the middle of surreal situations? Yep.

Everyone will rightly talk about Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda but for me, Ben Whishaw was one of the best things in the movie. The children were also excellent and there were some very enjoyable cameos. And a special shout-out to Colin Firth’s moustache which made me very suspicious from the outset as to his intentions.

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Mary Poppins Returns was clearly made by people who actually love the original. It looks very familiar but also totally fresh and really manages to retain the spirit of the original film. And has made me want to re-read the books.

Highly recommended; it’s super.

Dazzling details: directed by Rob Marshall, MPR is 130 minutes long and rated U for everyone if you are OK with very mild threat. I feel I may have said this recently about something else….