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!

Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel  was one of the films I was most looking forward to in 2019. But what’s it all about, you ask, next to the rock from under which you have just crawled.

Well, according to IMDb:

Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

Does she though? I mean, at the start of the film she is already one of the universe’s most powerful heroes and her connection to Earth is tenuous at best. But I quibble, of course, because that’s what I do.

So, I went into this film with high expectations which were not only met but exceeded. I wish films like this had been around when I was a girl (which was a very long time ago let me tell you) but I am so very glad they’re here now.

This is an origin story with a twist. As I mentioned above, Carole Danvers is already hugely powerful but is living under the impression that she is something she is not. When the events of the film bring her to Earth and cut her off from her team, she teams up with Nick Fury (for it is he) and slowly begins to piece together her past, what happened to her and that rather than being supported, she is being held back by the race she has inadvertently become a part of. The relationships in this story are hugely important, not only with Fury but with her best friend Maria and Maria’s daughter Monica, and those relationships which give her the means to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Oh, and there is Goose; a very, very special cat.

Brie Larson is excellent in the lead role, with just the right balance of vulnerability and strength. The special effects are of course really well done, especially the process used to make Samuel L Jackson and Clark Gregg younger versions of themselves, the aliens are all brilliant and there is added Annette Bening, which is always a good thing.

Ignore the small group of haters on social media; I love this, and can’t wait to see Captain Marvel in the new Avengers movie. Not long now 😀

Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck | 2h 3m running time | 12A for moderate fantasy violence and implied strong language.

 

 

A List

2757569A list of my favourite extracts from L’art de la Liste, as mentioned in my most recent post. Italics are my comments, ditto any bold emphases  🙂

Also please note I did not read this in the original French. I took my French Higher back in 1978 and have managed to forget it all since then!

  • [M]aking systems is a way to make meaning, to back up your memory, to refresh it, and to live in a more intense way.
  • The list is the most concise form of expression available to us. But, paradoxically, its elliptical nature allows us to be as exhaustive as possible.
  • Do it, don’t procrastinate. (Doing nothing is the most time-consuming thing in the world. Doing things takes far less time.)
  • If you make lists, you’ll only have to update them. [not start afresh every time]
  • What a shame it is to lose the memory of certain meals. Generally, we don’t write down what we eat, even if we keep a diary, and yet special meals can form some of the best moments of our lives. Recording the place, the food, the wine and the people present is a way of rekindling these exceptional memories. [better than taking a photograph of your food; probably]
  • Make a list of what needs to be done in each room. This will help you psychologically. You’ll have so much more energy in a tidy, well-kept room. Time spent on housework is never wasted, whatever some people may think. [that would be me]
  • In order to get to know yourself better, and to preserve the ‘traces’ of yourself – which is better than keeping objects or photos – make your own ‘almanac’. The best way to do this is by keeping lists. We are one and we are multitudes. We are our true self, and we are the different selves we become in the presence of others, according to who they are and where we are…
  • For your next birthday, why not write yourself a list of all the things you would rather never do again. Self-awareness comes with age, but so too does the knowledge that we won’t live forever.
  • It is therefore wise only to write down what you want to happen, not what you don’t want to happen, because to write is to change the course of events.
  • In difficult times – in times of tension and crisis, whether personal or public – the most important thing is to remain centred and to keep your calm. Not to allow yourself to be influenced or swept away by circumstances, however dramatic these may be, or by negative energies or emotions. This is by no means an easy task. But in trying times, turn inward. 
  • By gaining greater awareness, you will be able to do what you want with your thoughts, with your days and with your life. This power is lying dormant inside you. You can awaken it by making lists.
  • […] the most important books aren’t the ones we read. They’re the ones we reread
  • But whatever the subject of our lists, the most important thing is always to keep them.

My Reading Week… | … and the art of the list

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3764I didn’t do a huge amount of reading this week as I was working on other projects, including learning how to use the new software package which is going to help me sort out all of my family history research gathered over decades (I think I started in the late 1980s) and which needs to be collated so that I can start to work on it again now that I am retired and have the time.

So let’s get into the details:

Currently Reading – at the moment I’m reading Currently by Sarah Mensinga which I mentioned in last week’s round-up. I’m about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it; I just need to find a slot long enough for me to finish it in a single session.

New books – of course it wouldn’t be my weekly round-up without new books to add to the TBR pile – though it should be noted that in sorting some things out around the house I found another little pile of books to be donated to local charity shops, so I think there was no net gain on my part.

Anyway:

The Luminous Dead * Caitlin Starling – a pre-order – A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

Wicked Saints * Emily A Duncan –  a pre-order – A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

Wakenhyrst * Michelle Paver – a pre-order – In Edwardian Suffolk, a manor house stands alone in a lost corner of the Fens: a glinting wilderness of water whose whispering reeds guard ancient secrets. Maud is a lonely child growing up without a mother, ruled by her repressive father. When he finds a painted medieval devil in a graveyard, unhallowed forces are awakened.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone * Lori Gottlieb – non-fiction – As a therapist, Lori knows a lot about pain, about the ways in which pain is tied to loss, and how change and loss travel together. She knows how affirming it feels to blame the outside world for her frustrations, to deny ownership of whatever role she might have in the existential play called My Incredibly Important Life. When a devastating event takes place in Lori’s life, she realises that, before being able to help her patients, she must first learn how to help herself.

Heart Talk * Cleo Wade – I’m a support of Cindy Guentert-Baldo on Patreon and subscribe to her YouTube channel which covers art, lettering, planning and living with chronic illness. She is awesome, and occasionally hosts a book club. Heart Talk is her choice for April and is “A beautifully illustrated book from Cleo Wade—the artist, poet, and speaker who has been called “the Millennial Oprah” by New York Magazine—that offers creative inspiration and life lessons through poetry, mantras, and affirmations

Growing Pains * Emily Carr – Completed just before Emily Carr died in 1945, Growing Pains tells the story of Carr’s life, beginning with her girlhood in pioneer Victoria and going on to her training as an artist in San Francisco, England and France. Also here is the frustration she felt at the rejection of her art by Canadians, of the years of despair when she stopped painting.

Hundreds & Thousands * Emily Carr – Emily Carr’s journals from 1927 to 1941 portray the happy, productive period when she was able to resume painting after dismal years of raising dogs and renting out rooms to pay the bills. These revealing entries convey her passionate connection with nature, her struggle to find her voice as a writer, and her vision and philosophy as a painter.

The last two books on the list were bought as a result of my finishing L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau, a wonderful book which I absolutely loved. I have always been someone who makes lists, mostly of things to be done, packing lists, projects and to-dos, but this book takes the idea of a list further, and looks at it on a philosophical basis, as something that can help with spiritual and personal growth. The author is French but heavily influenced by Japanese culture. Much more philosophical than I had expected, this book gave me a lot to think about. Already considering the additional lists I am going to make!

And finally………

When your husband knows exactly what to get you as a belated extra birthday present 😀

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Book Haul Alert

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It’s that time again…..

The Pre-orders

A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther – Exploring themes of ownership and abandonment, Eleanor Anstruther’s debut is a fictionalised account of the true story of Enid Campbell (1892–1964), granddaughter of the 8th Duke of Argyll and the whole handing over a child for money thing

Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour by Christopher Fowler – the seventeenth entry in one of my very favourite series, though I am behind in reading them by two or three volumes. I was invited to the book launch but sadly couldn’t attend. Anyway – On a rainy winter night outside a run-down nightclub in the wrong part of London, four strangers meet for the first time at 4:00am. A few weeks later the body of an Indian textile worker is found hanging upside down inside a willow tree on Hampstead Heath. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. The victim was found surrounded by the paraphernalia of black magic, and so Arthur Bryant and John May set off to question experts in the field. But the case is not what it appears

The Near Witch by VE Schwab – The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry – Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma. In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them. Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurtling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.

The Ones with Crime

Breathe by Dominick Donald – I bought this because I had recently finished Death in the Air and this has similar themes but in a fictional setting – London, 1952. Dick Bourton is not like the other probationer policemen in Notting Hill. He’s older, having fought in Europe and then Korea. And he’s no Londoner, being from Cotswold farming stock. Then there’s Anna, the exotically beautiful White Russian fiancée he has brought back to these drab streets and empty bombsites. She may as well come from a different planet. The new copper also has a mind of his own. After an older colleague is shot by a small-time gangster they are chasing in a pea-souper fog, something nags at Bourton’s memory. He begins to make connections which his superiors don’t want to see, linking a whole series of deaths and the fogs that stop the city in its tracks.

Death Has Deep Roots by Michael Gilbert – originally published in 1951 – An eager London crowd awaits the trial of Victoria Lamartine: hotel worker, ex-French Resistance fighter, and the only logical suspect for the murder of her supposed lover, Major Eric Thoseby. Lamartine – who once escaped from the clutches of the Gestapo – is set to meet her end at the gallows. One final opportunity remains: the defendant calls on solicitor Nap Rumbold to replace the defence counsel, and grants an eight-day reprieve from the proceedings. Without any time to spare, Rumbold boards a ferry across the Channel, tracing the roots of the brutal murder back into the war-torn past.

Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm by Gil North – originally published in 1960 – Amy Snowden, in middle age, has long since settled into a lonely life in the Yorkshire town of Gunnarshaw, until – to her neighbours’ surprise – she suddenly marries a much younger man. Months later, Amy is found dead – apparently by her own hand – and her husband, Wright, has disappeared.Sergeant Caleb Cluff – silent, watchful, a man at home in the bleak moorland landscape of Gunnarshaw – must find the truth about the couple’s unlikely marriage, and solve the riddle of Amy’s death.

Streets of Darkness by AA Dhand – DI Harry Virdee Book 1 – bought following an article about the author on the BBC website – The sky over Bradford is heavy with foreboding. It always is. But this morning it has reason to be – this morning a body has been found. And it’s not just any body. Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.

The Ones That Are True

Dopesick by Beth Macy – Dealers, Doctors & the Drug Company that Addicted America –This powerful and moving story explains how a large corporation, Purdue, encouraged small town doctors to prescribe OxyContin to a country already awash in painkillers. The drug’s dangerously addictive nature was hidden, whilst many used it as an escape, to numb the pain of joblessness and the need to pay the bills. Macy tries to answer a grieving mother’s question – why her only son died – and comes away with a harrowing tale of greed and need.

Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein & Paula Bernstein – I bought this after watching Three Identical Strangers in which these twin sisters feature briefly, so was interested in reading more about their experiences in this, to me, shocking experiment. The documentary is excellent btw; I’ll be writing about it soon.

What Would Boudicca Do? by Elizabeth Foley & Beth Coates – It is time to start channelling the spiky superwomen of history to conquer today. It is time to turn to women like Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker, Hypatia and Cleopatra, Coco Chanel and Empress Cixi. In this irreverent guide they will help you figure out how to dispatch a loverat, back yourself, kill it at work and trounce FoMo. Saw this in the Foyles branch in Waterloo station and could not resist it.

The Rest

A Vengeance of Spies by Manda Scott – a WWII novella – War hides many secrets and some of them are better kept. But the secret of Hut Ten was never that kind: it could have been leaked and a life would have been saved. One man could have made that difference. He didn’t – and vengeance has taken forty years to catch up with him.

Mask of the Other by Greg Stolze – In 1974, something came out of the sea during the invasion of Cyprus, killing Greeks and Turks indiscriminately until it was bombed into dormancy and entombed. In 1988 a rock band disappeared while filming on an abandoned island-town off the coast of Japan. In 1991, a squad of US infantry was attacked in Iraq by a bulletproof, invisible entity.  [This book] connects these disparate events, as a group of soldiers plunders the remnants of Saddam’s occult weapons program and attempts to engage with creatures of an inhuman mythos… as equals. 

Scrublands by Chris Hammer – In an isolated country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself. A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don’t fit with the accepted version of events. Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers – missing since the time of the massacre – are found in the scrublands.

As if all of that wasn’t enough I also bought the first six Dune books in Kindle form to re-read in anticipation of Denis Villeneuve’s film adaptation, which I am convinced will be awesome.