Read but not Reviewed | April Edition

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.

And with May’s reading so far covered in my recent post (which you can read here) I am up to date!

Sunday Salon | Books read in May so far

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?

Sunday Salon |3 May

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.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

May’s pre-orders

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 Mother Code by Carol Stivers:

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.

Hmm. Probably won’t read that just at the moment.

Westside Saints by WM Akers:

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…..

Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford:

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?

Movie Round-Up | Phase One

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.

So here we go!

1917

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

Weathering With You

A high-school boy who has run away to Tokyo befriends a girl who appears to be able to manipulate the weather.

Another beautiful Japanese animation with magical realism, star-crossed lovers and astonishing art. It’s just a lovely film and strongly recommended.

Directed by Makoto Shinkai, it’s 1h 52 long, rated 12A for moderate violence, threat, sex references. We saw the version dubbed into English

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Henceforth to be known as BoP etc.

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

Onward

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

Sunday Salon | 19 April

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

Other Stuff

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!

Sunday Salon | 5 April

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in SW London, windows are open and the birds are singing and I’m staying inside because that’s the sensible thing to do. There’s a lot of moralising here about people going to parks and so on and I won’t weigh in on that as we all have to make our own choices but I will say that as someone who really enjoys being a homebody even I’m beginning to get a bit stir crazy, so I understand the desire.

I did go out for a 40-minute walk around the neighbourhood yesterday and I looked like I was off to rob a bank. The selfie is on my Instagram (link above) if you’re interested in what the shabbily chic potential criminal is wearing these days!


I still haven’t got back into the blogging habit and I’m going to cut myself some slack because there’s just so much going on in my brain that sitting and concentrating on being coherent is all a bit much. This doesn’t count because it’s all stream of consciousness anyway.

A couple of commenters last week (waves hello to Bryan and Jenny) asked what I’d been watching, so here’s a quick round-up of the TV stuff we’ve finished in March:

  • The Expanse S2 (we’ve also started S3)
  • Doctor Who S13
  • My Life is Murder S1 (Australian light crime drama with Lucy Lawless)
  • Traces (Scottish murder mystery co-created by the great Val McDermid)
  • Stockholm Requiem (Swedish noir)
  • Star Trek: Picard

I’m still watching Criminal Minds and preparing for it to end, except I’m not prepared at all – what will I do without Spencer Reid and Penelope Garcia? And I am also really enjoying The Mandalorian – any suggestion that I have pre-ordered a Baby Yoda toy would be entirely accurate!

The TV highlight this week was a BBC film by Mark Gatiss on the life and work of Aubrey Beardsley, designed to accompany an exhibition that none of us can visit. Such a thoughtful and intelligent programme, do watch it if you can.

The Peacock Skirt (1893) – Stephen Calloway

And I am reading – finished three books this week and well into a fourth!

Hope you are all keeping well and staying safe. Until next time!

Sunday Salon | 29 March

Well, it’s been a while since I last posted here and the world has gone to hell in a handcart as my old Gran would declare.

There isn’t much more to say about the current situation apart from it being good to see in a time of genuine crisis that there are vastly more kind people than there are idiots, though I’m sad to say that most of the biggest idiots are in positions of power and their decision making has not been stellar.

But no more about that.

Richmond Park, March

Like everyone else, here at Chez Bride we have been staying home and trying to be sensible. Both Mr B and I have existing chronic conditions and are being careful to minimise our exposure and also to behave as if we might infect others.

Of course, I had to develop a nasty cough because, apparently, I don’t like being left out of anything. I have had no other symptoms, so I think I’ve been suffering from a mix of a cold (which in my case always leads to a cough), irritation due to dust exposure as I occupy myself with some major decluttering, all topped up with seasonal allergies. It’s been sunny and windy here in my corner of London and as I have been exclusively indoors since 20 March I’ve been making a point of opening the windows as often as I can, so the pollen etc. has been coming to me as I haven’t been able to go to it.

I’m beginning to get cabin fever though and hope to be able to venture out tomorrow on a grocery run and we’ll take it from there.

I have been reading and watching film/TV and really do want to start blogging again so that I can bore you all to tears with my various observations on stuff so watch this space. I will not, however, be admitting to the number of new books that have made it into my collection since my last post; I will start afresh in April.

I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe and I’ll be back here again soon.

Sunday Salon | 16 February

I’m currently writing this on Sunday afternoon as Storm Dennis has whipped its way across the UK. It is wet.

I’ve not been reading quite as much this week as I’ve been a tad under the weather (pun not intended). I met up with my friend Silvery Dude for the first time this year and we exchanged book and TV show titles to look out for and uncharacteristically did not have any alcohol.

I finished the second Charlie Parker novel and am now officially obsessed and I now have all the titles up to and including volume eight which isn’t even halfway through the series. I sense a project here.

At home, we dipped our toes into The October Faction and Locke & Key and will probably continue watching them as they were very promising.

And we went to see the Birds of Prey movie which I will review soon but the highlights are that this is an absolute hoot, Margot Robbie is fabulous and sleazy Ewan McGregor is the best Ewan McGregor.

That latter statement is not up for debate 😀

New Books

  • What We Did in the Dark by Ajay Close – a fictionalised account of author Catherine Carswell’s first marriage
  • The Decent Inn of Death by Rennie Airth – Snowed in at a country manor, former Scotland Yard inspectors John Madden and Angus Sinclair find themselves trapped in the company of a murderer.
  • The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep – The ultimate book-lover’s fantasy, featuring a young scholar with the power to bring literary characters into the world

I finished Dark Hollow by John Connolly – Charlie Parker #2

I am currently reading The Killing Kind by John Connolly – Charlie Parker 3

There is a pattern here, I think :-), can you tell?

Hope you all have a great reading week!

January in Books

Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

Only 2 weeks later than planned (oops), here is a round-up of my reading adventures and new books that weren’t gifted; for my birthday book haul see here.

Now for the stats

  • Books started = 7
  • Books finished = 9
  • Pages read = 2356

Books bought – here’s the list!

The Pre-orders

  • Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire – The fifth installment in the award-winning, bestselling Wayward Children series
  • The Other People by CJ Tudor – Three years ago, Gabe saw his daughter taken. In the back of a rusty old car, covered in bumper stickers. He was driving behind the car. He watched her disappear. But no one believes him. 
  • Motherwell by Deborah Orr – Just shy of 18, Deborah Orr left Motherwell – the town she both loved and hated – to go to university
  • Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman – Memory defines us–but what if you lost all memory of who you are? Or where you came from?

The Ones from my Christmas Wish List

(which somehow didn’t appear under the tree but were absolutely necessary to have)

  • The Wake by Linden MacIntyre – An incredible true story of destruction and survival in Newfoundland by one of Canada’s best-known writers
  • The Death of Mao by James Palmer – In the summer of 1976, Mao lay dying, and China was struck by a great natural disaster. This title recreates the tensions of that fateful summer, when the fate of China and the world were in the balance

The True Crime Ones

  • Devil in the Darkness by JT Hunter (already finished) – the second book about Israel Keyes on my list
  • The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper – On the scorching February day in 2009 that became known as Black Saturday, a man lit two fires in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, then sat on the roof of his house to watch the inferno.

The Ones Inspired by Watching TV

  • The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward by Anthony Summers – The Profumo Affair was the political scandal of the twentieth century. The Tory War Minister, John Profumo, had been sleeping with the teenage Christine Keeler, while at the same time she had been sleeping with a Russian spy. The ensuing investigation revealed a secret world where titled men and prostitutes mixed, of orgies and S&M parties.
  • Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson – In the middle of a rainy Swedish summer, a little girl is abducted from a crowded train. 

Non-Fiction

  • The Shapeless Unease by Samantha Harvey – In 2016, Samantha Harvey began to lose sleep. She tried everything to appease her wakefulness: from medication to therapy, changes in her diet to changes in her living arrangements. Nothing seemed to help.
  • Working Stiff by Judy Melinek – The fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases—hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex—that shaped her as both a physician and a mother.
  • The Quest for Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy – When James Pope-Hennessy began his work on Queen Mary’s official biography, it opened the door to meetings with royalty, court members and retainers around Europe. The series of candid observations, secrets and indiscretions contained in his notes were to be kept private for 50 years. 
  • The Ladies Loos by Kate Harrad – Drawn from the popular web community, The Ladies’ Loos, this new guide represents the collected knowledge of hundreds of ladies on numerous subjects. 

The Rest

  • Mem by Bethany C Morrow – MEM is a rare novel, a small book carrying very big ideas, the kind of story that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
  • The Other by Thomas Tryon – Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. 
  • Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone – Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes – meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. 

February has already started off well so watch this space!

Sunday Salon | 2 February

It’s that time of year again – here is a gift book haul and other celebratory stuff. Although THEY organised Brexit for my birthday I was not deterred and had a really lovely day. Book stuff first, as always 😀

The Book God got me:

My brother gave me a gift voucher and I spent some time deciding whether to buy a couple of more expensive books or a pile of Kindle editions. (You can take the girl out of procurement etc. so of course I went for the latter!)

This is what I ended up with:


We had a really lovely lunch the day before my birthday in a super Viennese restaurant in Marylebone, but before that, we popped into Daunts and I treated myself to a couple of books


The big event of my birthday was a trip to the theatre to see Endgame and Rough Theatre II by Samuel Beckett. I’ve never really been a Beckett admirer but this production starred two of my favourite actors, Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe. Really excellent evening out.


January has been a really good reading month, and I’m hoping that February will continue that streak. How is your reading going so far this year?