My Week in Review – 26 May

Not much reading done but immersed myself in several projects, a couple of trips and avoiding spoilers about Game of Thrones, closely followed by avoiding enraged GoT fans on Twitter.

For the record, I thought the finale was absolutely fine but would have liked the series to have had a few more episodes – everything seemed to happen very quickly. But that’s a minor quibble and I don’t really have a huge investment in the series as I have never read the books. The Book God has and he was equally OK with the outcome. More exciting is Good Omens coming to Amazon Prime at the end of this week; love that book and can’t wait to watch.

So, what else did I get up to this week?

  • we attended the Members Evening at the V&A and I got to see the Christian Dior exhibition with a reasonably sized crowd and no queues. I think it is possibly the most beautiful exhibition I have ever seen, not just because of the gowns but also the setting. It was magical and I may try to see it again before it closes in (I think) September
I may have gone a little overboard in the exhibition shop
  • we also went to see John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum which I really enjoyed and will write about in a day or two.

In terms of books, I finished one novella – Black Helicopters by Caitlin R Kiernan which I’m not sure I entirely ‘got’ and I’m still mulling over what I’m going to say about it when I finally get round to reviewing.

I’m currently reading the last of the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain. I’m only about 25% into the book and there is no Gretchen so far. I still have hope.

New books:

  • All the Lives We Ever Lived * Katharine Smyth – Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf. – ” Katharine Smyth was a student at Oxford when she first read Virginia Woolf’s modernist masterpiece To the Lighthouse in the comfort of an English sitting room, and in the companionable silence she shared with her father. After his death – a calamity that claimed her favourite person – she returned to that beloved novel as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.”
  • Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water * Vylar Kaftan – a pre-order – ” All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth”
  • The Carnelian Crow * Colleen Gleason – Stoker & Holmes Book 4 – ” Evaline Stoker (sister of Bram) and Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock) return in the fourth volume of the steampunk adventure series set in an alternate Victorian London.”
  • The Killer You Know * SR Masters – “I’ll murder three strangers. And you’ll know it was me . . . ” (cue maniacal laughter)
  • The Vanishing Season * Dot Hutchison – The Collector Book 4 – ” Eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer has gone missing. And as accustomed as FBI agents Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison are to such harrowing cases, this one has struck a nerve. It marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Eddison’s own little sister. Disturbing, too, is the girl’s resemblance to Eliza—so uncanny they could be mother and daughter.” This was a pre-order and I’m extremely excited to read this book; I love this series and it has shot right up to the top of my TBR pile!

Which brings me to the last thing of note that happened this week – I’ve decided to take part in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge – you can see the book list at my sign-up post.

Hope you all have a great reading week!

20 Books of Summer 2019

Yes, it’s that time again! From 3 June to 3 September I’ll be taking part in #20BooksofSummer hosted by Cathy over at 746 Books. I’ve been mulling over what I might include during the past wee while and have finally come up with a list.

All the titles are on my Kindle app but other than that the only thing they have in common is that they’re just books I really fancy reading. So, to the list!

  • Westside by M Akers – when the blurb includes references to Algernon Blackwood, Caleb Carr, Raymond Chandler and Neil Gaiman then you really can’t ignore it. Set in 1920’s Manhattan as an added bonus.
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson – WWII espionage, Fascists, and the BBC in the 1950s. Kate Atkinson is a wonderful writer and I’m glad to be finally getting round to reading her latest.
  • Winter Journal by Paul Auster – a book about growing old from a writer I’ve enjoyed in the past though I often find him challenging; I’ll be interested to see how fundamentally male this is or whether it will resonate with 57 year old menopausal me.
  • MI5 and Me by Charlotte Bingham – more spies, this time real rather than fictional, as Charlotte Bingham explains what it’s like to discover your Dad is a spy and then begin work as a typist at MI5
  • Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown – a “kaleidoscopic experiment in biography” this is all about Princess Margaret in her heyday and beyond. Much praised so very willing to give it a try.
  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – the second in the Wayfarers trilogy, included here because I loved the first volume and I’m trying quite hard this year to catch up with series where I’ve fallen behind
  • Siren Song by Robert Edric – as above but a more recent find as I just finished Cradle Song in the past few weeks. Interesting to see if there is more to the trilogy than the same lead character.
  • The Ka of Gifford Hillary by Dennis Wheatley – I love some good black magic, and Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out is one of my favourites; I haven’t come across the Ka before but the Book God assures me it’s a goody
  • The Private Lives of Elder Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky and others – Lovecraftian short stories. Lovely.
  • I Still Dream by James Smythe – I like James Smythe a lot and had the pleasure of chatting to him once at Nineworlds, so I am excited to read this, underlined by the Kate Bush references.
  • Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw – A female Helsing. London. A strange medical practice. A sect of murderous monks. My friend Silvery Dude tells me this is awesome and I have no reason to doubt him 🙂
  • Into the Fire by Manda Scott – appalled to discover that I bought this in 2015. I know I started to read it but was going through some stuff at the time and set it aside until my brain was ready to give it the attention it deserved. With added Joan of Arc.
  • Slowly We Die by Emelie Schepp – Scandinavian medical serial killer mystery. These are all words that go together very well in a single sentence.
  • Real Tigers by Mick Herron – more spies and more catching up with enjoyable series; this is the third Jackson Lamb novel out of six so far and they are so so good.
  • The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchison – when you think something’s a trilogy and feel understandably bereft when you get to the last book, then discover there’s going to be a fourth but it’s a year away, you’re going to jump up and down when it finally arrives.
  • The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleeson – another book I’ve had for rather a long time, this is a Holmes & Stoker novel – as in Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram. First in a series.
  • Carpathia by Matt Forbeck – so you’re on the Titanic, it hits the iceberg, it sinks but you’re picked up by another ship and you’re going to be OK except there’s something nasty in the Carpathia……
  • Crooked by Austin Grossman – an alternate history horror novel starring Richard Milhouse Nixon. I have no idea what this is like but I’m looking forward to giving it a try.
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz – a classic murder mystery with a twist. A fiendish twist, apparently.
  • The Man from the Train by Bill James – it wouldn’t be a Bride list if there wasn’t some true crime in here somewhere and this investigation of a historical serial killer mystery sounds totally fascinating.

And that’s my plan!

I’ve no idea whether I really will finish them all – I think I got about halfway last time (too lazy to go look) but I do know I will start with The Vanishing Season because I love that series and have been waiting for it to be published!

Catching Up – The Crime Edition

The first in an ongoing series, where I attempt to catch up with books read but not reviewed.

Convent on Styx by Gladys Mitchell

The nuns of the Order of Companions of the Poor summon eminent psychiatrist and sleuth Dame Beatrice Lestrange Bradley to investigate a series of anonymous letters, but when she arrives the prime suspect has just been found drowned in the convent school pond, with, appropriately enough, her own massive Family Bible. Dame Beatrice leads a fine cast of eccentric characters as she gradually unravels the truth from the sniping gossip of the convent’s paying guests and the rumours of ghosts among the school children.

I am a huge fan of Gladys Mitchell and am slowly working through all of the novels. This is a very engaging story even though (or perhaps because of) Dame Beatrice not making an appearance until halfway through the story. That allows the life of the convent and the key characters to be well established before we get to the investigation. Thoroughly enjoyable. Trying to decide which one to read next.

Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon

On a fine autumn weekend, Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate – but John is nursing a secret of his own. Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the houseguests, and the police are called.

I actually started reading this book back in 2018 but for some reason just wasn’t feeling it and set it aside. I picked it up again in February this year and really enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold at the second attempt. I do love a country house weekend murder.

Smallbone Deceased by Michael 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.

I had come across Michael Gilbert’s name in my reading about the history of classic crime but hadn’t come across any of his work, so was really pleased to see the British Museum publishing what’s often been considered his best novel. I’m a sucker for legal thrillers and this is a wonderful example. Didn’t work out who the killer was but liked the solution very much. I’m definitely going to read more of Gilbert’s work.

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…’

These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise. Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed?

This is the second Daniel Hawthorne novel in which the author features as one of the main characters, acting as a sidekick to the former policeman turned private investigator. This series is really good fun, especially the references to Horowitz’s other work, especially Foyle’s War which my husband absolutely loves. Hopefully, there will be more books in this series.

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!