My Reading Week (or two….)

I haven’t posted for 10 days or so even though I have a lot to say about stuff, so I thought I’d pop in and say hello and catch you up with what I’ve been reading and buying and so forth. I don’t even have a picture for the top of this post: so sorry but I’m sure we’ll all get over it 🙂

Books finished:

  • Currently by Sarah Mensinga
  • Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain
  • The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

It’s good when you get a run of really enjoyable books. Proper reviews will follow shortly, assuming I can get my act together.

New Books: all of these are ebooks and/or impulse purchases unless otherwise stated.

It’s OK To Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort – “This isn’t a cancer story. It’s a love story. Twenty-something Nora bounced from boyfriend to dopey ‘boyfriend’ until she met Aaron – a charismatic art director and comic-book nerd who made her laugh. When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron’s hospital bed and had a baby boy while he was on chemo.” I have listened to Nora’s stand in as co-host on TBTL, one of my favourite podcasts, and fins her engaging and funny and moving, so I’m very much looking forward to reading this.

Saturday’s Child by Deborah Burns – “An only child, Deborah Burns grew up in prim 1950s America in the shadow of her beautiful, unconventional, rule-breaking mother, Dorothy—a red-haired beauty who looked like Rita Hayworth and skirted norms with a style and flare that made her the darling of men and women alike. Married to the son of a renowned Italian family with ties to the underworld, Dorothy fervently eschewed motherhood and domesticity, turning Deborah over to her spinster aunts to raise while she was the star of a vibrant social life. As a child, Deborah revered her charismatic mother, but Dorothy was a woman full of secrets with a troubled past—a mistress of illusion whose love seemed just out of her daughter’s grasp.” Sounds fascinating.

Illness as a Metaphor & AIDS and it’s Metaphors by Susan Sontag – I have been listening to past episodes of This Podcast Will Kill You which is a fascinating examination of disease, and the two Erins who present the show made mention of this book in their episode on HIV. So here we are.

Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain – this is the sixth and, as far as I can see final, final instalment of the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell serial killer novels. I’ve only just finished book number 5 (see books read above) and I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s all over. I shall be bereft. The plots are getting dafter and Gretchen is virtually superhuman but they are SO enjoyable

Shorter Days by Anna Katharina Hahn – translated from german and set in Stuttgart this is all about how “[o]ver the course of a few days, Judith and Leonie’s apparently stable, successful lives are thrown into turmoil by the secrets they keep, the pressures they’ve been keeping at bay, and the waves of change lapping at the peaceful shores of their existence.” I picked this up following a review by my blog chum Jinjer.

The Half Man by Anne Billson – as well as a fabulous film critic and excellent person to follow on Twitter, Anne has also written a number of horror novels and this is her latest, more of a supernatural thriller I think. Purchased because it’s a good thing to support people you like who create things.

Frock Consciousness – an actual physical book from the London Review of Books which collects writing about clothes from their publication.

And finally, my single pre-order – If, Then by Kate Hope Day – “In a sleepy Oregon town at the base of a dormant volcano, four neighbours find their lives upended when they see visions of themselves in an alternate reality, and have to question the choices they’ve made as natural disaster looms.

Currently reading:

Caroline Moorehead’s biography of Iris Origo, which I’ve just started and is very readable.

Hope you all have a wonderful reading week!

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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My Reading Week | 31 March

IMG_0818So here we are already at the end of March and another reading week has passed. How did I do?

Books finished = a big fat ZERO.

I set aside the book about Sandra Day O’Connor & Ruth Bader Ginsburg because constitutional law and politics in general is just stressful for me (as for many other people here in the UK) at the moment, but I will come back to it later in the year as RBG in particular is a remarkable and fascinating woman.

I gave the Jo Nesbo book the 50 pages test, and at that point realised that not only was I not enjoying the book, I didn’t care about any of the people or any of the events taking place, and as life is short and there are so many other books to read it had to stop. It’s going in the donation pile.

I’m currently reading two much better and more interesting books. Currently by Sarah Mensinga is a really good fantasy novel set in a world apparently inspired by early 20th century ocean travel; I’m enjoying it very much. L’art de la Liste is light reading of the best kind and I have marked up so many quotes in my Kindle app that it’s almost multi-coloured.

After the monumental book haul covered in my last post, we will all be relieved to note that only one additional book made it onto my Kindle this week:

  • My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – the blurb asks in giant shouty capitals “HOW WELL DO YOU REALLY KNOW THE ONE YOU LOVE THE MOST?” Apparently, also according to the blurb, I might think I’ve read stories like this before but I would be wrong. I have taken this as a personal challenge.

In other stuff it’s been a quiet week with just one outing, which was once again to Sadler’s Wells. If you follow me on social media you will have seen me post a picture of my programme for Northern Ballet’s Victoria. This was a dark and intense work looking back at Victoria’s life via the process of her daughter Princess Beatrice reading, editing and in some cases censoring her mother’s diaries. Enjoyed it very much indeed.

So, here’s to another month of interesting books. Hope you have a great reading week!

Sunday Salon | 24 March

Somehow I managed to miss posting last week, and also nearly missed this week, but here we are with a round-up of what I’ve been up to since my last Sunday Salon post (which is here if you need a refresher – I know I did!)

Books read since my last post; I’ll be blogging about all of these in the near future:

  • Death in the Air by Kate Winkler Dawson. I have thoughts about this book, which was not entirely successful IMHO.
  • Bad Blood by John Carreryou. A really fascinating examination of the creation and downfall of the Silicon Valley start-up Theranos.
  • Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert. Another classic crime re-published by the British Library, I absolutely loved it.

New books – there a lot of these, so many that a separate haul post will be going up here tomorrow.

I’m (still) currently reading Global Crisis and Sisters in Law, both mentioned here before and I haven’t made progress on either, likewise Broken Things. I have started two other books this week:

  • Redbreast by Jo Nesbo – I thought I should go back to the beginning or thereabouts having read The Snowman last year. Early days yet. This will contribute to my climb of Mont Blanc
  • L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau, because I love lists and books about organising even though I apparently can’t get my act together to post on a regular schedule 😀

Other stuff:

I’ve been out and about quite a lot in the past two weeks. We went to see Rebus: Long Shadows, a play by Ian Rankin and Rona Munro which was very enjoyable, especially as it starred Ron Donnachie, and excellent and underrated Scottish actor.

I was invited to Christopher Fowler’s book launch for the new Bryant & May but was unwell so sadly couldn’t make it 😦

The BFI Flare film festival launched at the end of the week and I was lucky enough to get tickets to see Vita & Virginia, directed by Chanya Button. I’ll write about that separately also, but worth saying that if you are at all interested in Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West and/or the Bloomsbury Group in general you won’t want to miss this when it hits cinemas here in the UK in July. I loved it.

And finally I trotted off to Sadler’s Wells to see the Mark Morris Dance Group perform Pepperland, inspired by the Beatles music. So colourful and exciting, with an excellent band, live singer and – squee – a theremin. I love theremin.

Anyway that’s this past fortnight all caught up. Will have more to report next week, but in the meantime enjoy your reading!

Sunday Salon | 10 March 2019

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So, it’s a wet and very windy Sunday here in my corner of SW London and I’m here to tell you all about my reading week.

If my maternal Gran were still alive today would be her 100th birthday. She was a sharp and difficult woman of a type very recognisable in the West of Scotland, and although I got on with her reasonably well the one thing she would never ever do was buy me books for my birthday or Christmas. This was a bone of contention and probably helped turn me into the inveterate book purchaser I am today.

Books read this week

I made progress with a number of the books in my currently reading pile but only finished one, that being the very enjoyable The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz. I think I might be in the middle of one of my periodic crime-reading sprees, which I do not mind at all.

Started this week

I’ve decided to dump the currently reading section because a couple of the books on my sofa are really chunky and seeing the same names over and over can be irritating, especially when there’s a nice widget on my sidebar showing you my Goodreads Currently Reading bookshelf.

But, it’s worth noting that  have started two new books – Broken Things by Padrika Tarrant which is a very short collection of short stories but is already creeping me out, and Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert, a very classic crime novel in the excellent British Library series.

New Books

Pre-orders:

  • The Night of Fear * Murray Dalton – A Golden Age Mystery – A Christmas gathering of young and old in a great country house in England—a masquerade—and the lights are turned off for a game of hide and seek. Silence—then a man’s cry for “Lights!” The lights come on, revealing Hugh Darrow, blind since the War, standing in the main hall, fresh blood dripping from his hands and covering his white Pierrot costume.
  • Do You Dream of Terra Two? * Temi Oh – A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.
  • Ancestral Night * Elizabeth Bear – A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from the multi award-winning author .
  • Last Ones Left Alive * Sarah Davis-Goff – Raised by her mother and Maeve on Slanbeg, an island off the west coast of Ireland, Orpen has a childhood of love and stories by the fireside. But the stories grow darker, and the training begins. Ireland has been devoured by a ravening menace known as the skrake, and though Slanbeg is safe for now, the women must always be ready to run, or to fight.

Bought on spec:

Flowers Over the Inferno * Ilaria Tuti – In a quiet village surrounded by the imposing Italian Alps, a series of brutal assaults take place. Police inspector Teresa Battaglia is called in when the first body is found. Soon more victims are discovered – all horrifically mutilated – and when a new-born baby is kidnapped, Teresa’s investigation becomes a race against the clock. But Teresa is also fighting a battle against her own body, weighed down by age and diabetes, and her mind, once invincible and now slowly gnawing away at her memory..

Living on Paper: Letters of Iris Murdoch 1934-1995 * Iris Murdoch – This collection of Iris Murdoch’s most interesting and revealing letters gives us a living portrait of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers and thinkers. The letters show a great mind at work – we see the young Murdoch grappling with philosophical questions, as well as feeling her anguish when a novel obstinately refuses to come together.

Lud-in-the-Mist * Hope Mirrlees – Recommended by Neil Gaiman via my good friend Silvery Dude – Lud-in-the-Mist – a prosperous country town situated where two rivers meet: the Dawl and the Dapple. The latter, which has its source in the land of Faerie, is a great trial to Lud, which had long rejected anything ‘other’, preferring to believe only in what is known, what is solid.

Six Wakes * Mur Lafferty – In this Hugo nominated science fiction thriller [ ], a crew of clones awakens among their own dead bodies. They’ve lost decades of memories, their cloning technology is sabotaged, and any one of them could be the murderer. Maria Arena and her five crewmates must fix the ship, their equipment, and address hundreds of years of secrets to uncover the murderer their motives.

Hope you all have a fabulous reading week!

 

 

 

Sunday Salon | 3 March ’19

img_0823It’s Sunday evening and Storm Freya is hitting the UK with strong winds, and although we’re likely to miss the worst of it here in my corner of London it is howling wildly outside my window – I love that sound! Anyway, let’s dive in to my reading week.

Books read:

I actually finished a couple of books this week – The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (the first in his Newbury & Hobbes series) and Night Season by Chelsea Cain (the fourth in her Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series) – one of the things I wanted to do this year is focus on series that I’ve partially read or wanted to start and I’m pleased that I’ve managed that this week. I enjoyed both of them very much and will review soon.

Currently reading:

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz; this is the second in a detective series where he himself features as a character – great fun.

Death in the Air by Kate Winkler Dawson – I mentioned this in my last post and although it’s still irritating me, the story of the deadly fog of December 1952 and the crimes of one John Reginald Christie have me hooked so I expect to finish this one soon

New books:

Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain – number five in the Sheridan/Lowell series I mentioned above – Archie Sheridan should be recovering from his past run-ins with serial killer Gretchen Lowell, yet he’s just as haunted as the day she let him go. But when a cyclist comes across a corpse in Mount Tabor Park on the eastern side of Portland, Archie suddenly has a new case to focus on.

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold – very excited to read this new perspective on Jack the Ripper, focussed on the women he killed – Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie – A+ fantasy if the reviews are to be believed – Listen. A god is speaking. My voice echoes through the stone of your master’s castle. The castle where he finds his uncle on his father’s throne. You want to help him. You cannot. You are the only one who can hear me. You will change the world.

Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings – I love her so much as you will have guessed if you’ve read my non-fiction round-up post – In this honest and wry memoir, popular blogger, author, and former child actor Quinn Cummings recounts her family’s decision to wade into the unfamiliar waters of homeschooling – the fastest-growing educational trend of our time — despite a chronic lack of discipline, some major gaps in academic knowledge, and a serious case of math aversion. (And that’s just Quinn.)

So that’s it – hope you all have a great reading week!

Sunday Salon | 24 February ’19

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It’s beautiful sunny spring day here in SW London. The windows are open, the birds are singing and I’m having a relaxing day as I prepare to stay up all night to watch the Oscars; there is wine and there may be a small box of chocolates to see me through to tomorrow morning. But first, the books!

Books read

Since my last post two weeks ago I have finished Changeling by Matt Wesolowski (my review is here) and Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon which I shall review alongside some other classic crime novels shortly.

Currently reading

Taking a break from Global Crisis and have set aside Our Tragic Universe as I’m not in the right frame of mind to give it the attention it deserves, though I will definitely pick it up again soon. So I’m 3/4 of the way through The Affinity Bridge by George Mann and in the early stages of Death in the Air. Thoroughly enjoying the former but not sure about the latter; will give it another couple of chapters before I decide.

New books – the speculative purchases

  • No Bells on Sunday by Rachel Roberts – I bought this second-hand having been reading about Roberts after watching her in Murder on the Orient Express; these are her journals interspersed with biographical details of her tragic life.
  • The Flower Girls by Alice Clarke-Platts – “THREE CHILDREN WENT OUT TO PLAY. ONLY TWO CAME BACK. The Flower Girls. Laurel and Primrose. One convicted of murder, the other given a new identity. Now, nineteen years later, another child has gone missing. And the Flower Girls are about to hit the headlines all over again…”
  • The Man from the Train by Bill James & Rachel McCarthy James – “Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Some of these cases—like the infamous Villisca, Iowa, murders—received national attention. But most incidents went almost unnoticed outside the communities in which they occurred. Few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.”
  • The Sea Dreams it is the Sky by John Horner Jacobs – “They had escaped their country, but they couldn’t escape the past – a novella of cosmic horror”
  • The Pale Ones by Bartholomew Bennett – “Few books are treasured. Most linger in the dusty purgatory of the bookshelf, the attic, the charity shop, their sallow pages filled with superfluous knowledge. And with stories. Darker than ink, paler than paper, something is rustling through their pages.”
  • The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald – “Abi Knight is startled awake in the middle of the night to a ringing phone and devastating news – her teenage daughter, Olivia, has been in a terrible accident.”

New books – the pre-orders

  • The Plotters by Un-su Kim – continuing my interest in Korean crime fiction – Reseng was raised by cantankerous Old Raccoon in the Library of Dogs. To anyone asking, it’s just an ordinary library. To anyone in the know, it’s a hub for Seoul’s organised crime, and a place where contract killings are plotted and planned. So it’s no surprise that Reseng has grown up to become one of the best hitmen in Seoul. He takes orders from the plotters, carries out his grim duties, and comforts himself afterwards with copious quantities of beer and his two cats, Desk and Lampshade.
  • The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders – January is a dying planet – divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk. But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the wastelands outside.
  • The Revenant Express by George Mann – Sir Maurice Newbury is bereft as his trusty assistant Veronica Hobbes lies dying with a wounded heart. Newbury and Veronica’s sister Amelia must take a sleeper train across Europe to St. Petersburg to claim a clockwork heart that Newbury has commissioned from Fabergé to save Veronica from a life trapped in limbo.
  • The Buried Girl by Richard Montanari – When New York psychologist Will Hardy’s wife is killed, he and his teenage daughter Bernadette move into Godwin Hall, a dusty, shut-up mansion in the small town of Abbeville, Ohio.Meanwhile, Abbeville Chief of Police Ivy Holgrave is investigating the death of a local girl, convinced this may only be the latest in a long line of murders dating back decades – including her own long-missing sister.
  • Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech – Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught. Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers. Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P Djeli Clark – Cairo, 1912: The case started as a simple one for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities — handling a possessed tram car.Soon, however, Agent Hamed Nasr and his new partner Agent Onsi Youssef are exposed to a new side of Cairo stirring with suffragettes, secret societies, and sentient automatons in a race against time to protect the city from an encroaching danger that crosses the line between the magical and the mundane.
  • Master of Sorrows by Justin Travers Call – The Academy of Chaenbalu has stood against magic for centuries. Hidden from the world, acting from the shadows, it trains its students to detect and retrieve magic artifacts, which it jealously guards from the misuse of others. Because magic is dangerous: something that heals can also harm, and a power that aids one person may destroy another.
  • The Taking of Annie Thorne by CJ Tudor – One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, after 48 hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.
  • Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce – Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…
  • The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch – London, 1853: Having earned some renown by solving a case that baffled Scotland Yard, young Charles Lenox is called upon by the Duke of Dorset, one of England’s most revered noblemen, for help. A painting of the Duke’s great-grandfather has been stolen from his private study. But the Duke’s concern is not for his ancestor’s portrait; hiding in plain sight nearby is another painting of infinitely more value, one that holds the key to one of the country’s most famous and best-kept secrets.

I am probably going to try to avoid speculative purchases next month, though I have quite a few pre-orders on the books. We shall see 🙂

Hope everyone has a wonderful reading week!