Mid-month Musings

It seems only a few hours ago that I was thinking about writing a post about what’s coming up for me in November and suddenly here we are a fortnight later and I’m only sitting down to type now. Time flies when you’re having fun, apparently.

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

My reading has been going well and several reviews will follow, but there were some thoughts that I wanted to include here.

I finished A Night in the Lonesome October on Halloween as is meant to be. I read a chapter a day which was great fun, apart from the constant temptation to keep going to the end. I love this story so much and can see it being an annual event from now on.

I also read a couple of non-fiction books, both in the true crime (?) or at least the more general justice system arena.

The first was Perversion of Justice by Julie K Brown, which captures the work she did for the Miami Herald in exposing Jeffrey Epstein’s horrendous deeds and especially the at best dubious and at worst downright corrupt deal that was struck with prosecutors in 2008. An excellent depiction of how an investigative journalist works, but the subject matter, though sensitively handled, requires a brain cleanse.

I looked at pictures of kittens for several days afterwards.

Janet Malcolm’s Iphigenia in Forest Hills is the story of a murder trial told in a very detached manner with not much interest in the crime itself or the guilt or innocence of the accused, but more on the judge wanting to get the case over quickly so he can go on holiday, and a dodgy advocate who seemed to think his role was not to advance the interests of the child he represented but to express his personal views. It’s an odd book and although it held my interest for its (short) length, I wasn’t sure what the point of it all was. I know she’s a controversial figure in the world of journalism and I’m not sure if I’ll pick up any of her other works.

In other news….

I’ve had my Covid booster jag (that’s Scottish for injection btw) as well as my annual flu vaccine so peace of mind has increased after a couple of occasions where I was discomfited by the number of people not wearing masks.

The rest of this month will be very quiet but I have quite a few things to post about so watch this space. Yes, I know I say that a lot but I mean it this time. I do. Really.

Stay safe!

The Chestnut Man – Soren Sveistrup

If you find one, he’s already found you

I have had this book in my TBR pile for a while and just hadn’t picked it up (all of this being virtual because it’s on my Kindle app, but you know what I mean..) but then the Book God spotted that it existed as a Netflix series.

We have both become fond of police procedurals from Europe and he felt this was definitely one for us, but I put my foot down (not really, it was more of a gentle suggestion) that I would like to read the book first because that is who I am – not something I always do but if I already have the book then I know that if I watch the adaptation I’m not very likely to read the thing which is a bit of a waste.

Anyway, to the Plotmobile!

We are in Copenhagen, classic Scandi-noir territory, and a murderer is leaving little handmade chestnut men alongside his gruesomely mutilated victims. There is a connection to a young girl missing presumed killed the previous year. Our protagonists have to work together to figure out what the dolls mean, how the seemingly random victims are being selected and of course who is committing the crimes (and why).

I enjoyed this very much but it’s fair to say that it has not exactly a formula but there are certain trends that are completely recognisable from other books/TV series in the genre. Sveistrup is the writer of The Killing which was such a sensation back in 2007 – that seems so long ago! – so perhaps this isn’t unexpected, and to me it had a very cinematic quality. What are these trends?

Do we have an influential but vulnerable politician whose role in the story seems straightforward but might be more complicated?

Do we have a pair of detectives thrown together to solve the case but who can barely tolerate each other?

Is one of those detectives a woman with a slightly unconventional private life trying to make her mark in a male-dominated career?

Is the other a disgraced maverick with a tragic past who resents being dumped onto this case while his long-term fate is being settled elsewhere?

Is at least one of them in personal danger as we move towards a solution?

If you answered yes to any or all of these then you are dead right, but like I said above that doesn’t mean that the story isn’t compelling and the solution satisfying and worth your time.

I will be very interested to see how the Netflix series handles this. Recommended.

My Week – 17 October edition

It has been a much quieter week than I had intended.

Last Sunday I went to the first of three planned screenings at the London Film Festival, and saw the new Edgar Wright film Last Night in Soho (which I loved btw) but due to Life Happenings, I didn’t make it to the other two. A shame, but can’t be helped, and they are films that I will catch up own later.

Photo by Sajad Nori on Unsplash

It’s also been a week of family anniversaries:

  • Monday 11th was my American sister-in-law’s birthday (my baby brother lives in West Virginia)
  • Tuesday 12th would have been my late Dad’s 87th birthday
  • Thursday 14th was my brother’s birthday
  • Saturday 16th marked 30 years since my Mum died, which is astonishing to me; it seems so long ago and also just yesterday all at once…..

I didn’t buy any new books this week, other than expected pre-orders of course, I haven’t entirely lost my mind 😀 and I made progress on all of the books I’m currently reading and finished one – The Chestnut Man which I’ll talk about soon. You can see what I’m reading on my sidebar.

It’s just been quiet and autumnal and there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I just need to slow down and that’s OK.

Hope you are all well and staying safe!

Gunpowder Milkshake [2021]

Three generations of women fight back against those who could take everything from them

That would be men then.

I dithered over whether to watch this film. At first I thought ‘this looks cool’ and then I saw some iffy comments and thought ‘hmm, perhaps not’ and then the Book God said he really wanted to watch it so I thought ‘why not’.

And I’m glad I did watch it because it was a lot of fun.

Karen Gillan is a hit-woman for a mysterious organisation whose public face is Paul Giamatti; he’s been looking out for her since her Mum, also a hit woman and played by Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister is Amy Pond’s Mum!!) had to disappear after a job went wrong. History then repeats itself a bit, when Karen also has a job go completely off the rails and finds herself with a target on her back and a young girl whom she has taken under her wing to protect. So of course she goes back to her roots to connect with her mother’s support network – three women who run a library where there is more in the books than just words. Cue an immense firefight of epic proportions.

Like I said, this was great fun. Did it break any new ground? Not at all; you can see the influence of films like John Wick and the world in which it is set is very much like a video game (I am not the first person to say this!). We did have a fun moment where BG and I both yelled “That’s Berlin!” as indeed it was.

The strength in the film is in the performances. I love Karen Gillan and she is really excellent in this, and the wee girl Emily is played by Chloe Coleman who is so so good and will be a star one day I am sure. When your Mum is Lena H and her mates are Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett and Carla Gugino then you’re in a good place; they are all so iconic, it’s awesome.

If you are looking for innovation and/or a story that you have never seen before then this is not the place for you, but if you want some great action sequences and strong women then sign up for sure.

Dazzling details: Directed by Navot Papshado, Gunpowder Milkshake is 1h 54m long and rated 15 for strong bloody violence, language and drug misuse.

What’s coming up in ….. October 2021

I seem to have created a busy month for myself in October but I can’t really complain as we have decided not to go on holiday as we normally would (we didn’t last year for obvious reasons) so it’s nice to have other things going on….

Image = wallpaper from VladStudio

Pre-orders – new books coming into the Bride’s TBR list

That’s quite a list; ordered over many months which is why it’s always a bit of a shock to see them all typed out like this 🙂

Events

Tomorrow I’m heading off to the Victoria & Albert Museum to see the Alice in Wonderland exhibition – I’ll talk about that in a future post, and later in the week I’m hoping to zoom into an online session, again hosted but he V&A, where Amy Fine Collins will be talking about the history of the International Best Dressed List. I may have bought the actual, physical book – a rarity for me these days.

Later in the month I’m heading off to an event at the Cartoon Museum celebrating the career of Sydney Jordan, creator of the sci-fi comic strip Jeff Hawke. The Book God is a member of the Jeff Hawke Society and we’ve met Sydney several times.

And I’ve also booked tickets for a few films at the London Film Festival, including new films by Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson. All very exciting.

If you are interested in my thoughts on any of the above then watch this space! And let me know what you guys have going on.

My Week – 26 September edition

It has been a very quiet week chez Bride, partly because I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather and consequently lethargic, which has meant watching YouTube videos and sleeping. That also means not much reading, though I did manage to finish The Eleventh Day which I mentioned in my post last week.

Photo by rikka ameboshi on Pexels.com

I’m still currently reading The Black Angel which I also mentioned last week; I think I’m about a third of the way through and continue to enjoy. I have also started Perversion of Justice by Julie K Brown, the investigative reporter who broke a lot of the Jeffrey Epstein stuff and has now pulled it all together in book format. Like everyone else I’ve picked up a lot of the stuff surrounding Epstein’s awfulness, and being a Brit of course there is the whole Prince Andrew situation, but I mainly picked this up after listening to a podcast called Chasing Ghislaine which I can recommend. The whole thing is just so ugh.

Long-time followers will know that there isn’t a true crime subject that I will not follow, so it will come as no surprise that I’ve been enjoying Only Murders in the Building which pokes gentle fun at our obsessions with such things and has a good mystery to boot.

A few books came into the Bride’s home this week, the two standouts being the Audible Sandman Act II (I loved Act I and am looking forward to this accompanying me on my walks) and most importantly Will Carver’s Psychopaths Anonymous. I am very excited for this as it is an unexpected fourth entry in the Detective Pace series which I thought had finished with Hinton Hollow Death Trip, one of my favourite books of 2021. This is likely to be my next read and after that I may go back to the original trilogy again just because I can. They are so rewardingly odd and he is becoming one of my favourite authors.

So like I said, very quiet. Hope to have more to share in my next post but in the meantime I hope you all have a great week and stay safe 🙂

No more looking back…..

I think that I may be coming out of my reading slump but I’m still a little wary of declaring victory just yet. I’ve also made decisions on my backlog of reviews and I’ve decided to dump the lot – the long list is making me anxious which is something I don’t need right now, and to be honest I don’t actually need to write full reviews of everything I watch or read – this is meant to be fun, not a chore.

Photo by Shane Hauser on Unsplash

So what’s been happening chez Bride?

I finished one book this week. After re-reading The Only Plane in the Sky, a very moving oral history of 9/11, I wanted something trashy and lightweight and I found that in the first of the Dr Harper Therapy series (I’m a Therapist and my Patient is Going to be the Next School Shooter) which is very silly in a horror-adjacent way and just what I needed. I was amused to see some people had picked this up thinking it was going to be a genuine memoir – cue howls of outrage.

I’m currently reading two books:

  • The Eleventh Day by Anthony & Robyn Summers, which is a narrative history of 9/11 with lots of new to me information on bin Laden and Al Qaeda and what happened after the attacks. My interest in the subject is partly to do with having watched The Looming Tower, listened to Missing on 9/11 podcast and, of course, the recent anniversary.
  • The Black Angel by John Connolly – this is the fifth in the impressive Charlie Parker series, grim as always but so well written

I was going to write a full review of The Suicide Squad which we watched last weekend, but I don’t think there’s much I can add to what’s already out there. You’re either already a fan and loving it or it isn’t your cup of tea. I thoroughly enjoyed it; if you’ve been around here for a while you may remember that I am a huge Harley Quinn fan and love the way she is portrayed by Margot Robbie, but the addition of Idris Elba to the cast didn’t hurt. Great bloody foul-mouthed fun.

My current watching obsession is the TV series The Crimson Rivers (original title: Les rivières pourpres), which involves unusual murders, a tenacious pair of detectives and a lot of dead bodies. Most of the murders have some kind of ritual element to them and the series doesn’t shy away from gruesome detail. It’s brilliant and very, very French. We devoured S2 which was showing on TV here very recently, and have gone back to S1.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I hope you are all well and staying safe 🙂

Looking back at Summer 2021

So, here we are well into the first full week of September and I am only just picking up my virtual pen in order to look back at the past two months after an unplanned break in blogging.

Photo by Nicolas Picard on Unsplash

The break was not planned (unlike last year when I took a month off) but was in response to a major reading slump which hit me in mid-July. None of my normal tactics to get over this worked – reading non-fiction, especially true crime is usually the cure – and it wasn’t so much that I didn’t enjoy the books I’d selected while I was reading them, it was a mixture of not feeling like picking any of them up, and even when I did engage a bit more I just couldn’t finish anything. I hate when that happens.

Of course, it didn’t stop me from buying more books – too many to list here I’m afraid.

The first major category was Twenty Books of Summer. I finished five, reviewed three, started another three and stopped. And then I stopped writing because I had nothing to say.

But fingers crossed, I may have come out the other side and am keen to get back to both reading and talking about the books I’ve read. So I’m going to do some round-up posts and some short movie reviews until I have caught up. I was also going to avoid challenges but I see that there’s a novella challenge coming up in a month or so and I might give that a go because Short Reads 🙂

I hope you have all had a great summer and will stick around this wee blog of mine!

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

My third read for Twenty Books of Summer is short book packed full of atmosphere, which unsurprisingly won the Shirley Jackson award.

A group of young acid-folk musicians are sent off to an old country house a la Mike Oldfield by their manager to work on that difficult second album (at least I think it’s their second, but that’s not important right now). However, all is not as it seems. There is something distinctly odd about the house itself; the village is pretty welcoming, though their closest neighbour warns that they shouldn’t wander in the woods alone…..

Of course this warning goes unheeded by the band’s charismatic lead singer Julian. Among the standard sex & drugs & rock’n’roll there are the usual musical and relationship tensions and the appearance of a mysterious unnamed young girl with whom Julian becomes obsessed. And then he disappears and never comes back.

The story is told by the surviving band members, friends and associates as someone is making a documentary about what became a hugely influential album with a very influential cover. Who is that strange figure that no-one remembers being there on the day.

I will admit that I had to look up what acid rock actually was, only to find that I had listened to loads of it over the years which amused me greatly. It became popular in the 1960s and merged acoustic folk with instruments with elements more often found in psychedelia. Think early T.Rex and my fellow countryman Donovan.

I enjoyed this very much. I loved the structure of the novel because I’m a sucker for anything resembling oral history, podcast transcripts and so on, and this is a really good example of that genre (if it’s a genre). The story has a lovely creepy gothic quality enhanced by the hazy summer setting, and has some unsettling moments. Very much worth reading.

Looking back at June 2021

A quick round-up of bookish things from the last month. There was so. much. RAIN!

The stats:

  • Books read – 5
  • Pages read – 1382
  • Goodreads update – 37 books completed, 62% of my target

Challenges:

  • 20 Books of Summer – I have only read five books from the 20 I’m aiming for, with three currently underway.
  • David Copperfield – I’ve decided not to do this now; I think it’s more of a winter project for me.

And now to July’s pre-orders

  • What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo – being described as Miss Peregrine meets the Addams Family; works for me.
  • Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North – “Ven was once a holy man, a keeper of ancient archives. It was his duty to interpret archaic texts, sorting useful knowledge from the heretical ideas of the Burning Age – a time of excess and climate disaster. For in Ven’s world, such material must be closely guarded, so that the ills that led to that cataclysmic era can never be repeated.” I love Claire and I’m really looking forward to this.
  • A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers – the beginning of a new series called Monk and Robot; much anticipated.
  • The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix – sounds most excellent and I’ll try very very hard not to compare if to We Are All Completely Fine 🙂
  • Mimic by Daniel Cole – more serial killers; this one recreating works of art with dead bodies because of course they are
  • The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig – Rural Pennsylvania, long-buried secrets, a child in danger – share your secrets with your family before you move into the creepy house, people!
  • The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox – a supernatural police force, a spirit guide and a detective called Lazarus; should be fun
  • Bryant & May – London Bridge is Falling Down by Christopher Fowler – the next entry in the long-running and thoroughly enjoyable B&M series.
  • Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams – I have a lot of admiration for Jen and am really looking forward to her first foray into crime/thriller territory
  • The Letters of Shirley Jackson, because I love reading other people’s letters……

I’m currently reading four books and hoping to have a prolific month, but we’ll have to wait and see. Hope you all have a great July and stay well 🙂