[Bloggers note: yes, it’s the 1 June but this was all ready to be loaded yesterday and I just …. forgot 😦 ]
The end of May already. This year has been so weird but one constant for me has of course been reading and buying books. Mostly buying if I’m being honest 😀
So here is my round-up of the month.
Books read = 6;
Number of Pages = 1968;
Progress against Goodreads challenge = 52% (7 books ahead of schedule)
May Book Haul
Because I’ve been flaky when it comes to updating new books I was going to do a list here BUT when I looked at how many there were and considered that my last two posts were basically just lists of books I’ve decided not to do that again, or at least not so soon. But in case you are interested…
4 x sci-fi/fantasy titles;
7 x crime;
1 x general fiction;
2 x true crime; and
6 x non-fiction
This list excludes pre-orders. That’s a lot. I’m going to try to do better next month by which I of course mean less. Having said that…
Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. – JCO – “a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways, and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all.” JCO is one of my favourite contemporary authors so, you know, had to be done. A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by HG Parry – “A sweeping tale of revolution and wonder in a world not quite like our own, [it] is a genre-defying story of magic, war, and the struggle for freedom.“ Riviera Gold by Laurie R King – the latest in the consistently excellent Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver – volume 3 in a series of which I haven’t read any so far, but the premise sounded great and I can always go back to the others later
In other stuff……
Currently watching Stumptown and Snowpiercer and despite the horrors of the world enjoying John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) whenever he appears – this week’s should be a must-watch.
20 Books of Summer – it’s that time again, and you will already have (hopefully) seen my reading list post
Celebrating our wedding anniversary during the quarantine involved my home-made lasagna, a couple of glasses of fizzy wine and two hours of Chinese sci-fi on Netflix because that is how we, as a couple, roll.
Moaning about the fact that hardly anyone except me seems to be wearing masks when outside.
Hope you have a great reading week, and stay safe!
It’s that time of year again where Cathy at 746Books hosts her twenty books of summer challenge and this year will be my year to actually finish all twenty of my picks. I’m convinced of it 😀
As you may have seen if you follow me on Instagram I have already posted the handwritten list that I created for my Bullet Journal, but here are the full details. In alphabetical order by title because that’s the way my Kindle app rolls; it’s worth noting that all of these are eBooks and all are fiction.
A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi-award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.
I’ve read some of her short stories but this will be the first of her novels I’ve picked up. I adore space opera.
Blood Pearl by Anne Billson – The Camillography Volume 1 Bought June 2019 – 180 pages
Millie Greenwood leads an uneventful life with her overprotective parents in Bramblewood, the most boring village in England – until one day, not long after her sixteenth birthday, she sneakily forges her mother’s signature to go on a school trip to Paris.
I love Anne, she’s a great film critic and I’ve read several of her novels so looking forward to this because, you know, there may be vampires.
Breathe by Dominick Donald Bought March 2018 – 528 pages
Amazon yells that a killer lurks in the worst fog London has ever known
London, 1952. Dick Bourton is not like the other probationer policemen in Notting Hill. He fought in Europe and then Korea, and has now brought his exotically beautiful Russian fiancée back to drab streets and empty bombsites. The new copper also has a mind of his own. After an older colleague is shot by a small-time gangster in a pea-souper fog, Bourton begins to make connections his superiors don’t want to see, linking a series of deaths with the fogs that stop the city in its tracks.
I picked this up after reading Death in the Air which I found disappointing, so will be interested to see how this compares, even though that’s probably unfair given only one of them is non-fiction.
Cataveiro by EJ Swift – The Osiris Project Book 2 Don’t know when I bought this – 400 pages
For political exile Taeo Ybanez, this could be his ticket home. Relations between the Antarcticans and the Patagonians are worse than ever, and to be caught on the wrong side could prove deadly.
I read the first volume in this series several years ago (I think I was on holiday in Vienna) and it has always stuck with me so it feels like a good time to pick up the story.
Welcome to Babylon, a typical sleepy southern town, where years earlier the Larkin family suffered a terrible tragedy. Now they are about to endure another: fourteen-year-old Margaret Larkin will be robbed of her innocence and her life by a killer who is beyond the reach of the law.
I discovered Michael McDowell through Christopher Fowler’s Invisible Ink, and have already read Gilded Needles which I really should have reviewed as it was awesome, so looking forward to this.
Under the watchful eye of The Company, three characters — Grayson, Morse and Chen — shapeshifters, amorphous, part human, part extensions of the landscape, make their way through forces that would consume them. A blue fox, a giant fish and language stretched to the limit.
Vandermeer is one of the authors I buy automatically regardless of what his new book is about. This takes place in the same universe as Borne, which I adored, so I’m excited.
The Deep by Nick Cutter Bought April 2015 – 401 pages
A plague is destroying the world’s population. The ‘Gets makes people forget. First it’s the small things, like where you left your keys … then the not-so-small things, like how to drive. And finally your body forgets how to live.
This is likely to be gross horror which feels about right.
Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. At a time when the supernatural world is in upheaval and spilling over into the mundane reality of the living, his skills have never been more in demand. A good exorcist can charge what he likes – and enjoy a hell of a life-style – but there’s a risk: sooner or later he’s going to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him.
I feel the need for a new/additional urban fantasy series to follow, so let’s give this a go.
WHO IS CLAIRE’S FATHER? A privileged man, surrounded by devoted friends and a family he adores?Or the deranged killer who attacked Claire’s mother and then vanished in thin air? For thirty years Claire has been obsessed with uncovering the mystery at the heart of her life, and she knows her father’s friends – wealthy, powerful, ruthless – hold the key to the truth. They know where Claire’s father is. And it’s time their perfect lives met her fury.
This is inspired by the Lord Lucan case which I have always found fascinating. This has been well-reviewed and it will be nice to read non-genre fiction.
Sooner or later, death visits everyone. Before that, they meet Charlie. Charlie meets everyone – but only once. Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. Either way, this is going to be the most important meeting of your life.
I met Claire at a reading once when her novel Touch came out, and as you might expect she was delightful and a Roger Zelazny fan and I love reading her stuff.
A girl is strangled in a London alley, the mangled corpse of a peeping Tom is found in a railway tunnel and the juicy details of the latest trunk murder are updated hourly in fresh editions of the evening papers. Into this insalubrious world steps Dora Strang, a doctor’s daughter with an unmaidenly passion for anatomy. Denied her own medical career, she moves into lodgings with a hilarious, insecticidal landlady and begins life as filing clerk to the country’s pre-eminent pathologist, Alfred Kemble.
This book is set in 1929 and speaks to my interests
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – The Locked Tomb Trilogy #1 Bought September 2019 – 479 pages
The Emperor needs necromancers. The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman. Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.
Everyone loved this and the sequel comes out soon so need to catch up.
Amazon yells this is the perfect ghostly golden age mystery
Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives. At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
Keywords – WWI, spiritualist, islands, gothic. No brainer.
I’m Jack by Mark Blacklock Bought May 2020 – 272 pages
In this provocative novel, Mark Blacklock portrays the true and complex history of John Humble, aka Wearside Jack, the Ripper Hoaxer, a timewaster and criminal, sympathetic and revolting, the man hidden by a wall of words, a fiction-spinner worthy of textual analysis. In this remarkable work, John Humble leads the reader into an allusive, elusive labyrinth of interpretations, simultaneously hoodwinking and revealing
I was a teenager during the whole Yorkshire Ripper awfulness and remember hearing the tape being played on the TV news, so I’m very interested in what the author will do with this.
It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.
Full disclosure: I’m one of Jason’s supporters on Patreon and received a Christmas card from Mr Sparks (at least that’s who he said he was!) so it’s about time I picked this up.
In 2001, a woman’s skeleton was found in the woods overlooking Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Despite an audit of the hospital’s patient records, a forensic reconstruction of the woman’s face, missing-person appeals, and DNA tests that revealed not only where she had lived, but how she ate, the woman was never identified. Assigned the name Madame Victoria, her remains were placed in a box in an evidence room and, eventually, forgotten. But not by Catherine Leroux, who constructs in her form-bending Madame Victoria twelve different histories for the unknown woman.
Sounds intriguing, and different and I can’t resist.
The long-awaited novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.
I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of Jennifer Egan and this sounds cool.
For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo – aide to the true heir to the throne – arrives. In seeking to help his master reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself… and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.
I have absolutely no idea why I haven’t read any Ann leckie, especially as her surname is one of my famil names, – but this isn’t about me) and I’ve heard really good things about this so thought it was a good place to start.
In 1940, eighteen-year-old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past.
Cross with myself that it’s taken so long to get to this but I’m here now, so that’s good, surely?
Sometimes you just have to accept that you are not going to get around to clearing that backlog of book reviews even if you are sufficiently motivated to give it a try. What to do?
That’s what round-up posts are for.
So here are the books that I read in April which may have been mentioned in passing but didn’t get a review. Anything from the Before Times may be lost to those who will follow but you never know, one or two titles may pop up elsewhere.
But onwards backwards to April!
Pet Sounds by Quinn Cummings
Quinn is a former actor, writer and all-round funny person who is consistent in her ability to make me laugh to the extent that I follow her on Twitter and support her on Patreon. This is the last of her three books that I have read and it’s so good. If you have ever had a pet of any kind you will recognise much of what’s in here. I may now be scared of testosterone-fuelled bunny rabbits.
Mists of the Miskatonic V1 & 2 by AL Halsey
“It wasn’t personal” she coughed. Blood dripped from her teeth stained crimson”
But why not her crimson-stained teeth? Just one example of what irritated me as I was reading these two collections of short stories. I’m possibly being unfair as the premise – using individual stories by HP Lovecraft as a starting point – is not bad but it’s all undermined by annoying repetition and far too much research being shoved onto the page. Yes, we understand that you know what the Latin for that piece of Roman military kit is but you only needed to say it once (if at all…) All of that took me out of the stories. A shame. I believe volume 3 may be on the way. Will I read it? Who knows…
The Adventures of Roderick Langham by Rafe McGregor
A collection of short stories about the titular Mr Langham, described as a retired soldier, a disgraced police detective and someone who becomes involved in investigating the occult. The stories are set in the same world that contains Holmes, Watson and Moriarty. There are nine stories and, as a collection, really enjoyable with a nice sense of place and atmosphere. Can definitely see myself dipping into these again. Great fun.
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
What if you survived something horrible, in the horror movie sense of horrible, like being partially eaten by cannibals or defeating monsters or having messages carved on your bones which (of course) you can’t read. How do you cope? Well, if invited, you might join a therapy group along with a potential mass-murdering arsonist and someone who never takes his sunglasses off. That’s the thrust of this novella which is so compelling and well-written I just couldn’t put it down. I liked the characters, I thought the premise was excellent and very well executed. I highly recommend this if you like good genre fiction.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
So, there’s this family, the Barretts living in New England where the older of their two daughters stars to exhibit signs of mental illness. Or does she? Her behaviour, which looks to many to be similar to possession, causes immense stress on the family but somehow they find themselves taking part in a reality TV show which seems to think its the Exorcist. Things do not go well – surprise, surprise! It reminded me of Amityville and an episode of Hammer House of Horror from 1980 (The House that Bled to Death) but is very much its own thing. This is my second Tremblay novel and I think I prefer it slightly to The Cabin at the End of the World, though it is equally dark.
True Crime Addict by James Renner
As a young boy, the author became obsessed with a local girl who had gone missing, developing over time into an overwhelming interest in true crime, which he turned into a journalism career, a couple of successful books, and which left him with PTSD. In 2011 he started to look into the case of Maura Murray who disappeared after a car crash, and once again his interest became obsessive as he delves into the details of the case, not looking after himself, and allowing it to intrude into his personal relationships. The book focuses almost equally on both aspects of the story, for me more successfully in Renner’s personal story as it isn’t even definite that Maura has been the victim of any crime. She is still missing.
So here we are after a break of 3 weeks and I thought it might be fun to look at the books I’ve finished so far this month.
It’s been a fairly good month for reading but not a great one for blogging; what can I say? More mini-reviews are likely to follow, but let’s stick with these six for now, along with an update on what I’m currently reading and some other stuff that might be of interest.
Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette – a collection of short stories missing fantasy & science fiction which I really enjoyed, especially as it includes a Kyle Murchison Booth story (see my review of her collected Booth stories here)
Follow Me by Angela Clarke – an enjoyably fast read, a police procedural with social media right at the forefront. I read it in one sitting and have bought the sequels
Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky – a very creepy sci-fi novel which was almost psychedelic in its language and imagery. Very unsettling. So good.
The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel – as I’m getting older I’m finding that my interest is shifting from WWI to WWII, especially social history and the home front. This is a joint biography of several authors (namely Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macaulay, Henry Green, Graham Greene and Hilde Spiel) who were all based in London in the Blitz. It was fascinating to find out about their complicated personal lives.
The Last Book on the Left – from the guys who write & present the Last Podcast on the Left, this is a quick trot through the lives and crimes of several very well-known serial killers. Now, if you’ve been here for any length of time you will know that I cannot resist true crime and I follow many podcasts (I’m a proud Murderino for example) but I’ve never found this one particularly engaging. The book is fine but the comic interjections just didn’t work for me.
The Killing Streets by Tanya Bretherton – another true crime read, this covers the story of what appears to be the first known serial killer in Australia. Set in the 1930s in Sydney, the main interest for me is the social history elements – the expectations on women, the behaviour of the police and so on – but I wasn’t totally convinced that these murders of young women were connected.
In terms of what I’m currently reading, I seem to be stuck in the middle of several books and not making much progress.
Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – the seventh in the Rivers of London series, I started this in January and have been making very slow progress for reasons I don’t understand, but I do want to finish it because I have three more to read 🙂
The Outsider by Stephen King – enjoyed what I’ve read so far and really want to know how it turns out so this will get finished
True Detective by Max Allan Collins – the first Nathan Heller novel, I picked this up because the Book God has read many (if not all) of the series and thought I would enjoy it and so far he has been spot on.
As none of these titles is on my list for this year’s Twenty Books of Summer challenge, I need to make an effort to finish them by June 1.
As if that wasn’t enough, my need for non-fiction has led me to start a book about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, which ticks so many boxes for me it isn’t true.
And I have finally succumbed and signed up to Audible so that if nothing else I can listen to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman when it launches in July.
Being indoors apart from forays for groceries and exercise, we’ve been watching more films – I miss going to the cinema more than anything else – and some great TV. Killing Eve hasn’t finished yet so I’m reserving judgement, but last night, so much later than everyone else, of course, we finished watching DEVS. I loved it so much. I think Alex Garland is an amazing writer/director and the series was thought-provoking and beautiful. A highlight of this year so far.
How are you guys holding up in these unusual times?
So, it’s been a while. Again. I must confess that I just haven’t been in the mood for blogging, and although I have been reading I’ve not finished anything, flitting from one book to another. But given it’s the beginning of a new month (apparently – who knows any more) I decided to shove some thoughts down in the hopes that it kickstarts me into blogging more regularly
But don’t hold your breath. I mean that, breath-holding really isn’t a very good idea at the moment.
This was going to be a longer list but the current situation has seen schedules being moved around quite a lot. The new Stephen King was brought forward to April and a couple of others on my original list have been moved forward to late summer. But these three still seem to be heading my way
The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.
Return to a twisted version of Jazz Age New York in this follow up to the critically acclaimed fantasy Westside, as relentless sleuth Gilda Carr’s pursuit of tiny mysteries drags her into a case that will rewrite everything she knows about her past.
I really, really do need to read the first book in this series…..
A small-town librarian witnesses a murder at his local deli, and what had been routine sleep paralysis begins to transform into something far more disturbing. The trauma of holding a dying girl in his arms drives him out of his own body. The town he knows so well is suddenly revealed to him from a whole new perspective. Secrets are everywhere and demons fester behind closed doors.
I love Jeffrey Ford so I am very much looking forward to this.
What are you looking forward to bookwise this month?
I had to go way back to find when I had last reviewed a movie (it was HERE if you’re interested), and thought it was high time that I caught up though to be fair its been a fairly slow start on the movie watching front.
April 6th, 1917. As a regiment assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory, two soldiers are assigned to race against time and deliver a message that will stop 1,600 men from walking straight into a deadly trap.
I have been fascinated by WWI for as long as I can remember, mostly because of family stories of my Papa (my Dad’s Dad) lying about his age in 1916 and running off to join the Seaforth Highlanders, and my Great-Uncle John being killed in August 1918 when he was only 20 years old. I have read a great deal about the subject and will always look favourably on related movies, so going to see 1917 was always going to happen.
We saw it at IMAX which was quite an experience – beautifully put together and very moving while not shying away from the horrors of war and full of well known British actors in small but important roles. If any members of my family experienced even a quarter of the stuff we saw on screen then no wonder they never wanted to talk about it.
Directed by Sam Mendes, 1917 is almost 2 hrs long and rated 15 for strong injury detail, language
After splitting with the Joker, HQ joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress & Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord.
This was an absolute hoot. Bright and loud with very strong female leads. Margo Robbie is an absolute delight and as I said here previously sleazy Ewan McGregor is the best Ewan McGregor. Everyone looked like they were having a ball but not to the detriment of the film. Harley Quinn is one of my favourite DC characters and was the best thing in Suicide Squad by several orders of magnitude. I hope there will be more appearances by her on the big screen.
Directed by Cathy Yan, BoP etc. is a lively 1h 49m long and of course rated 15 for strong violence, injury detail, language, sexual threat
Set in a suburban fantasy world two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there
I try not to miss a Pixar movie and this looked like fun so off we went on our last outing before Coronavirus struck and I’m so glad we did this was such a lovely film. I knew very little about it beforehand so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s about family and love and loss, brothers and sons and dads and very cool Mums. I liked the relationship between the two brothers – it was cool without being super sickly sweet and avoided the standard hating each other until the point that they don’t. All of the quest stuff was great fun.
This is an early but strong contender for this year’s New Year’s Eve feel-good movie.
Directed by Dan Scanlon, it’s 1h 42 long and rated U for mild fantasy threat, very mild bad language
So here we are at the end of another week of isolation and I have been outside exactly once when I went for some exercise on one of our sunnier days, but please don’t ask me what day it was because I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head.
OK, I checked.
It was Tuesday.
Apart from that, and as Mr B has been managing the grocery shopping, I’ve been puttering around the house doing chores, working on some of my hobbies (sorting out all of my neglected family history research notes for example), and reading, but mostly buying, books.So it seems that it’s time for a round-up.
Books read – in April so far:
Pet Sounds by Quinn Cummings
The White Road by John Connolly
The Mists of the Miskatonic Volume 2 by AL Halsey
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Reviews will be following in due course so I’ll say no more about them here, for now.
Pre-orders received since my last post
The Book of Koli – the first book in the Rampart Trilogy because its MR Carey and no other reasoning is required
Creeping Jenny by Jeff Noon because it sounded good
The Ratline by – because I’m currently interested in WW2
You can see the books I’m currently reading on the Goodreads shelf in my sidebar
I am still very sad at the death last week of Tim Brooke-Taylor, one of the Goodies and a key figure in my teenage TV-watching years. I am also sad at the end of Criminal Minds, one of the very few series where I have never missed an episode. I liked the way it ended; its always pleasing when a series gets a proper and in this case positive ending.
We have also started watching DEVS which is extremely interesting, and Killing Eve is back and I had totally forgotten that they filmed some of it in New Malden, where I live. Super cool.
Hope you are all staying safe, sending virtual hugs to you all!