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!

Carpathia | Matt Forbeck

It has been a very long time since I have written a standalone book review. I had to go back to September 24, 2019, to find one so apologies if I’m a little bit rusty 🙂

It seems fitting that the book I’m talking about today is one I’ve had in the stacks for absolutely ages – Carpathia by Matt Forbeck.

When the survivors of the Titanic are picked up by the passenger steamship Carpathia, they thought their problems were over. But something’s sleeping in the darkest recesses of the ship. Something old. Something hungry.

Something that’s trying to get back to the Old Country. Yes, you’ve guessed it – vampires.

Vampires have always been my favourite supernatural monster-type thing, going way back to reading Dracula of course, but mostly I blame Stephen King and Salems Lot, both the TV version starring David Soul and the amazing book it’s based on, still my favourite of King’s vast output. However, I had drifted away from them due to a combination of the increasing daftness of Anne Rice’s novels and the twinkly dark romance of the Twilight saga.

Then, over the New Year, we watched the BBC Dracula which was awesome, and as I was looking for my next read I decided Carpathia would be just the ticket.

And I was right – it’s great fun as long as your idea of fun is out of the frying pan (the freezing Atlantic post-iceberg) into the fire (a band of vampires travelling back to Europe because they were becoming too visible in America – spoiler – not all of the vampires are happy about that) with a love triangle and early feminism thrown into the mix.

Our main protagonists all have names derived from the original Dracula and in a nice touch it becomes clear that their parents (a) knew Bram Stoker, (b) were referenced in the novel and, (c) had a lot of garlic and crosses around their homes when the kids were growing up, from which you can draw your own conclusions.

The descriptions of the sinking of the Titanic and the ordeal survivors went through are well done, and the willingness to believe in actual vampires by a (small) number of the characters arrives quickly given the evidence of their own eyes. I’m often exasperated by the tendency of figures in horror blithely banging on about how there must be a rational explanation for the handsome man in a cloak chewing on someone’s neck.

I also really liked the idea that “modern” vampires might be reckless compared to the older ones who are more reserved (and have therefore survived) and will not listen to their advice.

It gets a bit breathless towards the end and there is a lingering suspicion that a sequel may have been on the cards, but overall I liked it.

6 Underground

This is a Michael Bay film. Just warning you.

Meet a new kind of action hero. Six untraceable agents, totally off the grid. They’ve buried their pasts so that they can change the future.

I was going to say that I have a love/hate relationship with Michael Bay but that wouldn’t be true. I just don’t like his stuff very much. I went on IMDb to have a look at his directing credits and found out that the last one I willingly watched was the first Transformers movie and the last one I can say that I enjoyed (with reservations) is Armageddon.

Armageddon was released in 1998.

So given all this, you may be wondering why I was willing to put myself through watching 6 Underground. I have two words for you.

Ryan Reynolds.

Now some of you have been here a while and will know that I do not really do romantic comedies, and by not really I mean not at all. For this reason, quite a lot of Mr Reynolds’ performances have passed me by. Until Green Lantern, which was universally panned (including by the star himself) but which I enjoyed quite a bit.

Then came Deadpool and I was smitten.

Therefore, I am always willing to give his movies a shot and this looked like it might be fun, plus it was on Netflix, so could be watched in the comfort of my own home. This is a big advantage when you are looking at a film that you are totally unsure about

So what did I think?

Put it this way – I gave it 2 stars on Letterboxd (see here) simply because of the lovely Ryan. One of those points was purely for the excellent product placement of Aviation Gin, a company which he owns.

It’s loud and stupid with lots of car chases and explosions and a disjointed plot which doesn’t really make sense. You will also note from the poster that there are actually seven people in Ryan’s gang. Though not necessarily all at the same time.

In short, to quote my legendary compatriot, Macbeth, it is a story

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.

(Still love Ryan though)

Dazzling details: directed by Michael Bay, this is 2h 8m long and rated 15 for (takes a deep breath) strong bloody violence, gore, sex, sex references, very strong language.

Seriously, what do you need to do to get an 18 these days – like I have said more times than I can remember?

Sunday Salon | 26 January

It has been very grey and murky in SW London for the past wee while which is ideal weather for reading and not actually that bad for going on a walk. This week has been a bit of both for me.

January so far has been a good reading month; I’m ahead of my Goodreads target (not something I bother about too much but it’s nice to know). Reviews will follow for some of these but I thought I’d capture here one that I enjoyed very much.

Beast by Matt Wesolowski

Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the ‘legendary vampire’ tower in another explosive episode of Six Stories

I love the Six Stories series; I enjoy the mix of podcast transcript and background notes with a nice bit of foreshadowing (as often happens in real-life podcasts). At the end of the third volume, I really thought that there weren’t going to be any more – it felt like the revelation at the end of that story provided an element of closure. So I was thrilled to see Beast pop up when I was looking for something else, and of course I had to buy it.

And it’s a really good story. Elizabeth Barton is a vlogger who has built up a large following in her small town in Northumberland (and further afield). She was found dead at a local landmark after taking part in a challenge and three young men were convicted of causing her death.

But someone is trying to throw a spotlight on the case by asking “who locked Elizabeth in the tower”? In looking into the story Scott finds that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Of course.

The manipulation of followers and participants along with the curated nature of (some) vloggers’ output is brought to the fore here, and as well as Elizabeth’s individual story there’s a lot for us to think about in terms of how far we should believe what we see.

It’s a really good story and I hope there will be more.


This last week we have also been on an outing to Osterley House and gardens, part of the National Trust but once owned by a large banking family. The house is closed at the moment but there is an exhibition of treasures including a famous work portraying Saint Agatha by Dolci. It’s a luminous work but Agatha’s story is beyond grim and possibly should have a content warning.


It was this blog’s birthday this past week, and this coming week is my actual real-life birthday at the end of the month, actually on Brexit Day (boo hiss). My way of coping with this is to assume that anyone daft enough to celebrate our exit from the European Union is actually commemorating my special day.

Hope you all have a wonderful reading week, with apologies for the rambles. I’ll see you in my next post!

Toy Story 4

When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.

As I am nothing if not a Picker of Nits (which sounds really gross when written out like that) I have to note that this description of the film implies a causality that does not exist. Or am I being too pedantic? Is it possible to be too pedantic (rhetorical)?

Anyway, Woody and the gang are off on said road trip with Bonnie (very cute) and her family. Woody has been struggling with his role as the toy that often gets left in the cupboard when Bonnie chooses what she wants to play with, so he decides to become Forky’s mentor. Forky is struggling with being a toy rather than just trash, which is what he has been created from by Bonnie.

Cue shenanigans.

Lessons are learned, the ending is bittersweet for everyone but hopeful all the same.

I shall say no more.

Except that I really loved this film. We had missed it in the cinema and as the Book God had requested it as a Christmas gift and we had not yet chosen our traditional New Year’s Eve feelgood film which we watch to occupy the time until The Bells, a glass of whisky and a piece of shortbread, and the traditional telephone first footing from my brother, this was a no brainer.

I am willing to explain all of the Scottishness in that last paragraph if required, just let me know in the comments 😀

I was impressed by how good this film was given that it is the fourth in a series and the law of diminishing returns would normally apply. There are too many good things to single out but my favourite thing of all was the great Keanu Reeves voicing Duke Kaboom. Simply awesome.

Oh, nearly forgot – Plush Rush!

You’ve probably already seen this so you don’t need me to recommend but, you know, that’s what I’m here for, so watch it (again, if necessary!)

Sunday Salon | 5 January

So, here we are in the first Salon of the new decade! I hope everyone has a very happy and healthy 2020.

Photo by Daniela Turcanu on Unsplash

We had a super-quiet Hogmanay chez Bride and not much reading was done (I finished one book which I’ll be talking about later in the week) as I was distracted by other things, namely:

Podcast of the WeekHunting Warhead, a CBC podcast about the international hunt for the administrator behind a heavily used online child abuse site. The way in which the authorities managed to track and identify Warhead and prosecute him was fascinating, and although the subject matter is very distressing the podcast was not at all graphic and treated all aspects with sensitivity. Would recommend but only if you have the stomach for that sort of thing.

Drama of the Week – the BBC adaptation of Dracula, starring Claes Bang and Dolly Wells. You may have seen in the Twitterverse that a lot of folk did not like this, mainly because of the third and final episode. I am here to tell you that I reject their opinions; I adored it and have already ordered the blu-ray so I can watch whenever I want. It is funny and clever and properly horrifying (in the right way) so if gothic horror is your thing please give it a try.

New Book of the Week – I received one new book this week, a pre-order of The Great Pretender by Susan Cahalan which tells the story of an undercover investigation into the treatment of mental ilness which ended up leading to major changes in the field. I am lucky in that my own mental health struggles are well managed through medication and wider support from my local health authority and I am fascinated by how such issues were treated in the past especially where women are concerned.

Hope you all have a fabulous reading week!