Sunday Salon | 10 November

I seem to have spent a lot of time napping this week, which I’m going to continue to blame on the end of British Summertime even though that was a fortnight ago.

I am willing to die on that hill.

I’m still having problems progressing with fiction but my tried and tested anti-slump technique of reading non-fiction worked again, as I picked up and quickly finished A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup, which is all about the poisons Agatha Christie used in her dtective stories. really intersting and has sent me down a rabbit hole, the results of which will become obvious soon-ish.

Despite having just published two long posts about the books I bought during my hiatus in October, more books have arrived on my e-reader this week:

  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – the long awaited follow-up to The Night Circus which I loved back in the day, this is getting much praise. I’m saving it until I know I’m going to be able to finish it
  • Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky – there are tiny puppety things and the main character is called Coppelia; I shall say no more
  • Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas – modern boarding school mystery with Russian twist
  • The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes – a novel based on the life of the French surgeon Samuel Pozzi, subject of one of my favourite John Singer Sargent portraits (though I’m not sure that there are any I don’t like)

Those were all pre-ordered. There was only on impulse buy this week The Spectral City by Leanna Renee Hieber, as recommended by the Book God himself. Oh, and I also got a free book from Amazon – true crime in the shape of If You Tell by Gregg Olsen which I must admit looks incredibly grim.

All links are to Goodreads btw.

In other stuff, I took myself to see Doctor Sleep, based partly on the Stephen King sequel to The Shining, and partly to the Kubrick movie of the same. If you have read/seen both then you will know that there are differences in plot, and if you have been visiting here for any length of time then you will know that I am not a major fan of the Kubrick movie, mostly because if the way it chooses to treat Wendy Torrance. But Doctor Sleep was excellent, and I’ll be writing about it more fully shortly.

In other “what I’ve been watching” news, I was absolutely (and surprisingly) gutted to realise that not only was last week’s episode of Instinct (starring the wonderful Alan Cumming) was the last in season 2, it was also the last one EVER. I was very cross about this as it was something of a guilty pleasure for me – at least it would have been if I believe there is such a thing. You should love what you love, people, and not make excuses for it.

And finally, our big outing this week was to the National Portrait Gellery to see the exhibition “Pre-Raphaelite Sisters” which was simply lovely and I learned a great deal. I may also have bought the catalogue….

It’s disappointing to hear that the NPG will be closing for efurbishment for around 3 years which seems rather extreme to me.

Hopefully some interesting things coming up this week. Hope you all have a great one!

Sunday Salon | 3 November

So, back to the old routine. Although I had planned to post before today I (as always) underestimated just how long it takes to get back to normal after a holiday. Especially where laundry is concerned. How can two adults create so much stuff in 10 days?

But what of this week? Well it was Halloween so of course I had good intentions of watching and/or reading creepy stuff but that just didn’t happen. Except for going to see The Addams Family, which I will blog about separately. I am hoping to rectify this oversight by going to see Doctor Sleep this coming week. By myself.

Books read – nothing finished since I got back home

New books – so many during October that two, count them TWO, posts will be necessary to cover them all.

Currently reading: the same list I had before going away with two additions:

  • Gilded Needles by Michael McDowell – historical Gothic-ish novel recommended by Christopher Fowler and so far very gripping
  • Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore – ticks so many boxes! When you discover you have something sartorial in common with Samuel Beckett it kind of makes your day 🙂

What we are watching – too many series to list here BUT if you haven’t been watching John Turturro in The Name of the Rose then you must seek it out immediately. Yes, it’s “slow” (rolls eyes) but worth it if you loved the book. And of course this evening in the UK we have episode one of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and I couldn’t be more excited.

Have a great reading week!

Two Mini-Reviews and a Hiatus |Sunday Salon * 29 September

It’s dark and windy outside and feeling distinctly autumnal and seemed like the right time for a Sunday Salon post.

As with last week there has been no progress on reading – I’m still [not] reading the same two books and that means I haven’t finished any either. But as we are in peak publishing season a few new books arrived on my Kindle app this week, mostly pre-orders. Here, in no particular order, are the details:

  • Grave Importance * Vivian Shaw – the third Greta Helsing novel, set in a health spa for mummies. The Book God has already read this and recommends highly.
  • The Monster of Elendhaven * Jennifer Giesbrecht – defnitely a Halloween book, this tells the story of the city of Elendhaven which “sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats.”
  • The Tenth Girl * Sara Faring – a Gothic haunted school set in a mansion in Argentina with a family curse.
  • The Flower Arranger * JJ Ellis – Tokyo-set police procedural involving a reporter teaming up with the police to look into the disappearance of a number of young women
  • Starvation Heights * Gregg Olsen – a true story of murder, malice, quackery, a snake-oil saleswoman and untimely deaths. Fasting treatment is rarely if ever a good thing. Bought this after hearing the ladies on My Favourite Murder outline the story; I was really keen for a deep dive and this came recommended.
  • My Name is Anna * Lizzy Barber – “Two women – desperate to unlock the truth. How far will they go to lay the past to rest?
  • Gone * Leona Deakin – the first Dr Augusta Bloom mystery. I’m a sucker for any book where the protagonist is a psychologist and a private investigator, so here we are. “Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read: YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME. DARE TO PLAY?

So, plenty to be getting on with as the nights get longer and I hopefully start reading properly again.

But if I haven’t been reading, what have I been doing?

Well, for three days this week I was away from home accompanying the Book God to the annual Jeff Hawke Society meet-up, for the second year in a row at West Dean College in Sussex. Also for the second year in a row the weather was very, very rainy. We spent a lovely day in Chichester (see arty picture below), and thankfully the food, drink and company was excellent and we had a good time.

I also took the opportunity to think about the blog as I have a lot going on over the next few weeks.

On Tuesday I will be having a minor surgical procedure (under general anaesthetic no less, something I haven’t experienced since I got my tonsils and adenoids removed when I was five (or six?) years old). It should be straightforward, and the biggest concern I have is which physical book I’m going to take with me to read during the inevitable waiting, though I understand that my age and chronic condition means I might actually be first on the list.

After that the London Film Festival kicks off and for a few days in a row I have new movies to see.

And finally we go on holiday later in October, off up to Scotland where we haven’t been for any length of time in quite a few years. So looking forward to going home and eating all of the wrong things….. especially if those things happen to be Empire biscuits!

So I’ve decided to take some pressure off of myself and put the blog on a break during all of these shenanigans, hoping to return on Sunday 27th October. Fret not, because I will be occasionally tweeting and regularly posting on Instagram, so please follow me there if you don’t already. The link are above, (she says, gesticulating vaguely)

The only thing left for me to do is mention two books I read in September which I haven’t reviewed as yet, just included for completeness.

Swan Song by Robert Edric is the last in his Song Cycle trilogy about a PI working in Hull. Young women are being brutally killed, the chief suspect is in a coma but it becomes clear that he isn’t really connected to the killings. Add an ambitious chief constable and our hero Leo Rivers has a lot on his plate. This has been a great series (I reviewed the others here and here) and I recommend them heartily.

Dahlia Black by Keith Thomas – when I bought this I said “this is ” … a suspenseful oral history commemorating the five-year anniversary of the Pulse—the alien code that hacked the DNA of Earth’s population—and the response team who faced the world-changing phenomenon.” They had me at “for fans of World War Z” :-)” And I was right. Really enjoyed this one as well. Nice slow release of information through various characters as we all learn what happened and what it might mean.

So that’s it from me for a while. See you on the other side!

Munday Salon | 23 September

Better late than never, I guess, here is my round-up of last week which had very little in the way of reading (ie no progress on either of my books), a situation that’s likely to continue into this week as well, as I am away for a few days.

But still, the details……

Currently reading the two that I was reading in my last post, namely Roy Strong’s diaries and Sarah Lotz’s Missing Person.

Several new books arrived including a sighting of the rare lesser-spotted paperback:

  • A House of Ghosts * WC Ryan – a mystery of the classic kind set during WWI, described as And Then There Were None meets The Silent Companions, and therefore deeply intriguing
  • Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare * Giles Milton – The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Downfall, recommended by Christopher Fowler in a recent blog post, this looked fascinating and was heavily discounted so I snapped it up.
  • Monster, She Wrote * Lisa Kroger & Melanie R Anderson – all about the women who pioneered horror and speculative fiction, from Mary Shelley onwards. Given my interests it was inevitable that I would get my hands on this.
  • Mythos * Stephen Fry – just because I like re-tellings of ancient myths.
  • The Grip of It * Jac Jemc – so on Saturday afternoon I just happened to be in the Waterloo Station branch of Foyles buying a birthday card for my brother when my eyes fell on this actual physical book, which I then bought because of Jeff VanderMeer’s comment on the cover. Young couple. Haunted house. Yes please.

In other news we went to see the new Brad Pitt movie, Ad Astra, this week. I will be reviewing it properly shortly; just wanted to say that I think it will be divisive but I loved it.

I also hit Sadler’s Wells again on Saturday to see the English National Ballet perform a re-working of Giselle. The fluttering ghostly women in the second act were significantly creepier and 100% more vengeful looking in this version, and I adored it. Lovely start to the weekend.

Hope you all have a great reading week!

Photo by Kristina Tamašauskaitė on Unsplash

Sunday Salon | 15 September

So here we are, halfway through the ninth month of the year and autumn is definitely on its way. This has been a bit of a stressful week – various medcial appointments meant that I spent a lot of time just hanging around waiting, which had an impact on my reading. I was very glad to end the week on a really joyful event (more on that later!)

The Stats

Books read = 1 single solitary volume – Dahlia Black by Keith Thomas which I really enjoyed and will be reviewing shortly

Currently reading – as I said above, I did a lot of hanging around so decided not to launch into Missing Person (as mentioned last week) but picked up the first volume of Roy Strong’s diaries, covering the period 1967 to 1987. Strong was director of two of my favourite museums – the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery – and moved in rarefied social cricles so this is a real treat full of gossip and waspishness and fashion. Ideal for reading in snatches.

Books bought – the pre-orders

  • Gideon the Ninth * Tamsyn Muir – “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” —Charles Stross
  • The Testaments * Margaret Atwood – the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Only Plane in the Sky * Garrett M Graff – a comprehensive oral history of the events of 9/11

Books bought – the impulse purchases

  • The Outside * Ada Hoffman – superintelligent AI Gods rule the galaxy, apparently. Recommended by the Book God
  • The Golden Hour * Beatriz Williams – a romantic thriller set in the Bahamas in 1941 against the background of the Duke & Duchess of Windsor and the murder of Harry Oakes. Not that I’m suggesting the Windors murdered him, of course….
  • The Destroyer * Tara Isabella Burton – a mother and daughter mad scientist story
  • Ragdoll * Daniel Cole – a body is discovered but not just any body, oh no, this is built up of six victims stitched together.
  • A Memory Called Empire * Arkady Martine – civil servants in space! Recommended by Twitter and the Book God (again)

Other Stuff

On Saturday afternoon I went to Sadler’s Wells to see a programme of pieces performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. It was so, so good, especially Revelations which they perform on every appearance.

It’s set to a soundtrack of African-American spirituals, gospel and blues and reflects black life in the American South. Brilliant stuff, standing ovation and it’s not that often the company applauds the audience. I came out of the performance feeling so happy and energised.

Hope that we all have a wonderful reading week!

Sunday Salon | 8 September

The season is changing and I for one am happy to welcome our autumnal overlord.

This has been a quiet week focussed mainly on medical and associated stuff, namely routine appointments and new computer glasses. At the moment all is good and hopefully will stay that way.

Bookish stuff:

Read this week – Swan Song by Robert Edric, the third in his Song Cycle Trilogy set in Hull. Loved it. The whole series was excellent and I’ll be writing a review soonish (I’m a little behind again but not by much)

Currently reading – Dahlia Black by Keith Thomas, one of those fictional oral history books that I can never resist. Not quite halfway through but thoroughly enjoying it.

Up next – Missing Person by Sarah Lotz. This also counts as my single purchase of the week. I always pre-order her novels as soon as they are announced because I just love her stuff. Looking forward to launching into this one.

What we’ve been watching:

I don’t normally talk about what the Book God and I watch on TV because there is so much and most of it is dragged out over time – a binge watch for us is three episodes 😀 Anyway, worth noting that being characteristically late to the party we have just finished the first season of Bosch and thought it was great. We are also working our way through Dig (hello to Jason Isaacs!) which is very silly and immensely enjoyable.

Other stuff:

Booking for the London Film Festival opened to memebers this week and I managed to snag tickets to all four of the films I wanted to see:

  • The Personal History of David Copperfield, dir. Armando Ianucci
  • The Lighthouse, dir. Robert Eggers
  • Marriage Story, dir. Noah Baumbach
  • Knives Out, dir. Rian Johnson

We normally miss the LFF because we are on our annual holiday but we are heading off to Scotland a little bit later this year so I’m finally getting the chance to go. I am very excited 😀

That’s me for this post. Hoping to get three reviews up before the next Sunday Salon (have probably just jinxed myself!), and wishing you all a wonderful reading week!

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Sunday Salon | 1 September

It’s been a quiet week mainly doing stuff around the house. And as it’s 1 September I have, of course, deployed a cardigan; it really does feel a bit cooler today.

A picture from my long walk around the town yesterday.

In terms of bookish stuff, I have been reading but haven’t finished anything yet. I totally failed on #20BooksofSummer – I managed to read 9 (might make it to 10 before Tuesday), with 2 started and not progressed. I blame my August reading slump for this, and will Do Better next time.

New books – very low this week (by no means a bad thing)

The Art of Dying * Ambrose Parry – second in a series which I haven’t started yet but fully expect to enjoy; the details “Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

The Man Who Played With Fire * Jan Stocklassa – Subtitled Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin. “The author of the Millennium novels laid out the clues. Now a journalist is following them. When Stieg Larsson died, the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had been working on a true mystery that out-twisted his Millennium novels: the assassination on February 28, 1986, of Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister. It was the first time in history that a head of state had been murdered without a clue who’d done it—and on a Stockholm street at point-blank range.

Drowning with Others * Linda Keir – “Prep school sweethearts Ian and Andi Copeland are envied by everyone they know. They have successful businesses, a beautiful house in St. Louis, and their eldest daughter, Cassidy, is following in their footsteps by attending prestigious Glenlake Academy. Then, a submerged car is dredged from the bottom of a swimming hole near the campus. So are the remains of a former writer-in-residence who vanished twenty years ago—during Ian and Andi’s senior year. When Cassidy’s journalism class begins investigating the death, Ian and Andi’s high school secrets rise to the surface.” 

That’s all I have guys. Have a great reading week!