February wrap

Well, after a fairly ordinary January, I found myself devouring books in February for no particular reason other than picking some really absorbing titles and, if I’m honest, finishing a couple of books that didn’t quite make it the previous month.

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The Stats

Books read = 10 (I know!)

Pages read = 3,861

Goodreads progress = 22% of my goal, 4 books ahead of schedule

I’m going to cover the books I read in a couple of posts over the next few days so look out for them. I will mention one DNF or (more accurately) one set aside for later as I think I still want to read it. That book is The Quantum Curators & the Faberge Egg by Eva St John. I picked it up because I had been reading a lot of intense and dark stuff and thought I could do with a bit of humour and whimsy but apparently I was wrong. Nothing negative to say about the book, I was just in the wrong frame of mind, and intend to pick it back up at some point.

March pre-orders

Coming up this month:

  • Stars and Bones by Gareth Powell – this may look familiar as I mentioned it last time; due originally for publication in February I actually received it this morning
  • Sundial by Catriona Ward – Stephen King says it’s authentically terrifying so who am I to argue?
  • The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St James – a true crime blogger gets more than she bargained for….
  • Femina by Janina Ramirez – a new history of the middle ages focussing on the women written out of traditional narrative, really looking forward to this
  • Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough – another book about not being able to sleep – feel drawn to this theme at the moment even as my own intermittent insomnia is dormant (I’m probably going to regret saying that…)
  • A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear – Maisie Dobbs #17 – I am very behind with this series also
  • The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd – maps, I love maps
  • Dark Queens by Shelley Pulaski – more medieval history focussing on women; i think I see a pattern here
  • Escape from Yokai Land by Charles Stress (the 12th Laundry Files book – I really need to catch up with this series being only at book 7) – also arrived this morning and now I look at it properly it is (a) a novella and (b) actually book 7.5 so will probably shoot up my TBR 🙂

Currently reading Gallows Court by Martin Edwards but haven’t picked my non-fiction read as yet.

What are your plans for March? Let me know in the comments.

Have a great month everyone, stay safe!

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life. She’s worked with the revered crime writer for years and his detective, Atticus Pund, is renowned for solving crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s. As Susan knows only too well, vintage crime sells handsomely. It’s just a shame that it means dealing with an author like Alan Conway…

Magpie Murders is a beautifully constructed murder mystery in two timelines, with the two stories linked by the author Alan Conway. One is a book within a book, Conway’s latest Atticus Pund mystery, and the other is set in the modern day where Susan Ryeland is trying to find the missing last chapter of the book, following Conway’s sudden demise.

I love Anthony Horowitz and I remember buying this not long after it came out several years ago, but failed to read it at the time (which is sadly normal for me these days). I hadn’t forgotten about it exactly but two recent events definitely brought it back to mind:

So what else could I do? And I’m glad I did pick it up because it is such fun and of course beautifully written. One of the things that I really loved was that the bulk of the Atticus Pund story is front-loaded so that we are reading it along with Susan and come to the realisation that the final chapter is missing and the story just stops dead along with her.

Why do English villages lend themselves so well to murder?

The modern day mystery is also very enjoyable as Susan goes off in search of the missing chapter and to fins out what actually happened to Alan Conway, whom she doesn’t even like, but who is their company’s biggest seller. Both aspects are excellent in their own right, but together they create something special.

I have also seen the first episode of the TV series and I can recommend it highly. Horowitz has written the script and changed the structure to fit the screen better. Wonderful cast and beautiful locations, I am deeply envious of all of the outfits that Lesley Manville (who plays Susan) is wearing in the series.

There is a sequel which I will try to pick up sooner rather than later.

Have you read this, and if so what did you think?

Saturday Night at the Movies #1

At the end of the year the Book God and I reinstated Saturday Night is Movie Night chez Bride, and there are many good movies that for various reasons I haven’t talked about here as yet, but that’s all going to change with what I hope will become a regular monthly movie update.

DUNE Part 1 – 2021 * 2h 35m * Denis Villeneuve

Beyond fear, destiny awaits

I actually quite enjoyed the David Lynch version of Dune despite its occasional silliness and terrible ending, but I was very excited when I heard that Denis Villeneuve was going to direct a new versions, and I wasn’t disappointed. Such a great cast, stunning visuals and a fairly faithful representation of the story made this a real pleasure to watch. If you like beautiful, intelligent science fiction then this is for you, but let me warn you, its a long one…..


ETERNALS – 2021 * 2h 36m *Chloe Zhao

In the beginning…

… were the Eternals, immortal beings planted on Earth for reasons we don’t find out for ages, influencing humans, being celebrated in myth and legend and coming together after many years apart because the bad guys turn up and cause havoc. They are a nicely diverse bunch with different powers who have fractured as a group over time but are determined to save humanity from the nasties. Doesn’t turn out to be quite that simple. Cue two and a half hours of enjoyable shenanigans I didn’t know much about this aspect of the MCU before going in but I managed to keep up and it was certainly a spectacular film, though perhaps a tad too long. I’m, sure I’ll watch it again, especially given that one of the Eternals is very, very Scottish, which I appreciate. And my girl crush on Angelina Jolie remains intact.


THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE – 2004 * 2h 9m * Jonathan Demme

Everything is under control

Towards the end of last year I finally got around to watching the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate, based on Richard Condon’s novel and starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey & Angela Lansbury. I enjoyed it, although it was very much of its time. I decided that I would like to watch the remake where Sinatra becomes Denzel Washington, Harvey is Live Schreiber & Meryl Streep is the new Angela Lansbury, and the setting is moved from the Cold War to the aftermath of the first Gulf War, but the story is still the same – a group of soldiers is kidnapped and brainwashed to nefarious ends. Having watched them both I think I favour the 2004 version; there’s a feeling of dread and paranoia that’s missing from the original. Well worth a watch.

January wrap-up

It’s time for the first monthly wrap-up of 2022, and this post coincidentally (not really) falls on my actual birthday. I am 60 today; how did that happen so quickly? Anyhow, there will be a small book haul to celebrate in a separate post, but this is all about the month just ending, so here we go….

Books read = 4

Pages read = 1076

Goodreads progress = 6% of 65 book target (1 behind schedule)

Actually quite pleased with that; I don’t pay much attention to where I am on the schedule but it’s nice to know I suppose

I didn’t write reviews of the four books I read so here are the details and a few thoughts:

  • A Killer by Design by Ann Wolbert Burgess – a memoir of her career including the many years she collaborated with the FBI BAU – she is the basis for Anna Torv’s character in Mindhunter. I hadn’t originally intended to buy this but I heard her talking on The Murder Squad podcast and she sounded fascinating, so I gave in and actually devoured the book in a couple of sittings. A worthwhile addition to any true crime library
  • Love, Bombs & Molesters by Kenneth V. Lanning – the author is one of Ann Burgess’s colleagues in the BAU, specialising in the sexual exploitation of children; I didn’t warm to him as a person as much, but his thoughts on the “Satanic Panic” about which he became increasingly sceptical, and the impact of his Catholic faith on his work stood out to me as highlights
  • Beneath a Pale Sky by Philip Fracassi – a really interesting collection of horror stories; will definitely be reading more from this author
  • Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by GS Denning – if you have been here for a while you will know that I love all things Sherlockian and this was huge fun; I giggled a lot and have already bought the rest of the series.

February’s pre-orders:

I’m trying to be more intentional about my pre-orders, making sure that I’m sticking to those books I really feel that I absolutely must have with everything else going on my wishlist. So I am limiting myself to:

and an actual physical book, Holy Terror by Cherie Priest. Looking forward to receiving all of these.

I hope you are all doing well, staying safe and have a great reading February!

What’s coming up in January 2022

Feels very strange to be typing that number….

But here we are 😀

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I have set a Goodreads goal for the year, and will be aiming to hit 65 books. In the past two years I have managed to reach 66 but didn’t want to stretch too much beyond that. I feel pretty good about the target I’ve set but we’ll see what happens when I hit the inevitable slump 🙂

This is also the year (and in fact the month) when I will turn 60, about which I am surprisingly excited. Again, we’ll see what happens when the day actually arrives but I feel pretty secure about my feelings.

I am trying a new (actual) schedule for my blog posts, aiming for two per week likely to be on Wednesdays (like this one) and Sundays, with additional posts inserted if there’s something I want to talk about separately. I have been thinking seriously about whether I wanted to continue with this blog, but to be honest why the hell not, so let’s keep going.

January pre-orders:

That’s it for the first month of the year. Hope you are all well and staying safe and I’ll see you in my next post!

A Quick Look back at 2021

Including a Christmas book haul!

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year. As we are already a few days into 2022, and before I share what’s coming up in January, I thought I would take a quick look back and share the outcome of my Goodreads challenge, the last couple of books I read in December and the amazing books I got for Christmas.

So let’s get to it.

I set myself the goal of reading 60 books in 2021 and I managed to read 66. I’m really pleased about that because I had a couple of reading slumps so it’s possible that I could have managed more. I have set myself a target for 2022 but will tell you about that in my next post.

I have been (and still am) reading Faith Jones’ Sex Cult Nun which talks about her life in The Children of God cult and is (as I described it on Twitter) icky, and I was determined that it wasn’t going to be that last book I finished in the year, so I picked up two shorter works, which were both fantastic:

A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers was just delightful and I wrote down more quotes from this small but perfectly formed story than I would have expected, but contains great wisdom and I’m really looking forward to the next volume which is due to come out in July

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M Valente; I think this might have been the first of her books that I have read although I have several in my stash. I really enjoyed it; it gave me (trying not to spoil) a real Mother! vibe

And now the book haul. I’m just going to list titles and link to Goodreads. These are books that were on my wishlist either because they were only available in hard copy or I couldn’t quite justify buying them at the time and they became excellent suggestions for anyone who wanted to get me a book gift.

The Spirit Engineer by AJ West (hardback)

The Chosen & the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (hardback)

The House of Dust by Noah Broyles (paperback)

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling (hardback)

The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostettter (hardback)

In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone (hardback)

The King is Dead by Hugh Morrison (Kindle)

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean (Kindle)

The Lighthouse Witches by CJ Cooke (Kindle)

The Scholars of Night by John M Ford (Kindle)

Not a bad list even if I say so myself. Let me know what books you were gifted during the holidays.

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.

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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 🙂