Mid-month Musings

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

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

I looked at pictures of kittens for several days afterwards.

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

In other news….

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

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

Stay safe!

The Chestnut Man – Soren Sveistrup

If you find one, he’s already found you

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

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

Anyway, to the Plotmobile!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunpowder Milkshake [2021]

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

That would be men then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Week – 26 September edition

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

Photo by rikka ameboshi on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

No more looking back…..

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

Photo by Shane Hauser on Unsplash

So what’s been happening chez Bride?

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

I’m currently reading two books:

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

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

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

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

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back at June 2021

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

The stats:

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

Challenges:

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

And now to July’s pre-orders

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

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

1974 by David Peace

David Peace is an author I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time, but I suppose I was nervous to give him a try as I had heard that he was difficult to read and/or an acquired taste. But what is #20booksofsummer for if not to give new things a try. So I thought I’d start at the very beginning with the author’s very first novel.

A young girl has gone missing in Yorkshire. Eddie Dunford, is the local young reporter assigned to the case. Because the child is found dead and mutilated, Eddie starts to make connections between this case and previous murders of young girls, which in turn leads him into the very murky world of corruption, police brutality and violence. It does not end well. At all.

I was born in 1962 so a lot of the references in this novel to the mid-1970s are so, so familiar. Everything was a shade of brown, mostly due to the seemingly constant smoking. There is/was so much drinking. And of course there is the horrible murder itself with echoes of Hindley & Brady and the Yorkshire Ripper yet to come. There are some scenes of genuinely horrifying brutality which were quite difficult to read, but they added such depth to what is undoubtedly an immensely powerful novel.

I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to engage with David Peace’s work, but I’ve already bought the next novel in the Red Riding sequence and can see myself reading much more.

This was my second read for Twenty Books of Summer 2021

Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird

My first book in this year’s 20 Books of Summer is by an author new to me, writing in one of my favourite genres – Sherlock Holmes stories.

It is the winter of 1888, and a very, very bored Sherlock Holmes is only pulled out of his deep fug by the receipt of a letter from France, written in code. The writer is a Parisian cabaret artist, Mlle de Victoire, who needs his help in finding her missing son. Her boy’s father is a British aristocrat married to an American who is raising the child as her own, and is also (the aristo) deeply involved in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Winged Victory from Marseilles, the suspicion being that it is heading to England to be added to his art collection.

Holmes and Watson of course take on the case with some pressure from brother Mycroft, and find themselves dealing with a rival French detective and an additional mystery surrounding the deaths of children who had worked in said aristo’s Lancashire silk mills.

As you might expect, all of this is connected.

Like I said at the top of the post, I love a good Holmes pastiche (if that’s the right word?) and there was no way I was going to ignore this one, especially given the very favourable reviews at the time of publication and the gorgeous cover which is what caught my eye in the first place.

This was a really well-done story, building on Holmesian tradition in terms of relationship dynamics (especially Holmes-Watson-Mycroft but modernised in the way that the crimes that take place are described. The sadism of of one character is not only explicitly referenced but we get to see his brutality in action. The implicit abuse of children is also made explicit when the murderer is unmasked as a pederast (a word you don’t hear very often these days).

Holmes himself continues to be drug-addicted, abrupt and often callous bu driven by the desire to achieve justice, which is his saving grace I suppose. How Watson stands him I do not know, let alone how Mrs Hudson copes. But his complexity is what makes me to continue reading about him. I ahem stopped envisioning him as Basil Rathbone and am now imagining him as Jonny Lee Miller, albeit in a top hat.

I really enjoyed this story, so much that I have ordered the remainder of the series (a further three novels as of now) and am looking forward to reading them in the not too distant future.

My Month in Review | May 2021

I can’t believe that we are already at the end of May (or the start of June when this will be published); almost halfway through the year. So much better than this time last year. The Book God and I have both been fully vaccinated, we’ve ventured out to a restaurant for the first time in I don’t know how long, and we have plans to do interesting things over the next few weeks.

The sun is also shining and the temperatures are beginning to climb above 20 degrees (centigrade) and things are looking good.

I’ve probably jinxed it now!

It’s been a good reading month too.

  • Books read this month = 8
  • Pages read = 3417
  • Progress against Goodreads challenge = 53% (8 books ahead of schedule)

In terms of challenges, I have half-heartedly started the David Copperfield Reading project with nothing substantive to report so far, and the Twenty Books of Summer challenge starts tomorrow (1 June). You can find my book selections here.

Next month’s pre-orders:

  • Castle Shade by Laurie R King – Mary & Holmes get caught up in a mystery involving Queen Marie of Romania. Transylvania might just be involved! This is the 17th entry in this series and I really do need to get caught up
  • The Wood Bee Queen by Edward Cox – librarians, local folklore, magical stones – what’ not to love! 
  • The Murder of Graham Catton by Katie Lowe – death of Mr C thought to be solved, done and dusted but along comes one of those pesky true crime podcasts to stir things up again
  • The Maidens by Alex Michaelides – exclusive students in a Cambridge college – actually made it four comments down on the Amazon page before I hit my first reference to The Secret History
  • Falling by TJ Newman – pilot’s family is kidnapped and the only way to save them is to crash the plane…..
  • Star Eater by Kerstin Hall – magical bloodlines, shadowy factions, spying, all of the things
  • Artifact Space by Miles Cameron – what is targeting the great spaceships which transport stuff  in human occupied space?

I’m going to try really, really hard not to buy anything else but we shall see. My track record is not good…

Nothing much else to add here, so I’ll wish you very happy reading, and stay safe!