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!

Sunday Salon | 2 February

It’s that time of year again – here is a gift book haul and other celebratory stuff. Although THEY organised Brexit for my birthday I was not deterred and had a really lovely day. Book stuff first, as always 😀

The Book God got me:

My brother gave me a gift voucher and I spent some time deciding whether to buy a couple of more expensive books or a pile of Kindle editions. (You can take the girl out of procurement etc. so of course I went for the latter!)

This is what I ended up with:


We had a really lovely lunch the day before my birthday in a super Viennese restaurant in Marylebone, but before that, we popped into Daunts and I treated myself to a couple of books


The big event of my birthday was a trip to the theatre to see Endgame and Rough Theatre II by Samuel Beckett. I’ve never really been a Beckett admirer but this production starred two of my favourite actors, Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe. Really excellent evening out.


January has been a really good reading month, and I’m hoping that February will continue that streak. How is your reading going so far this year?

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!

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!

Sunday Salon | Books Read

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season. In getting ready for 2020 I thought I would write up some short reviews of (most of) the books I’ve read recently. All links are to Goodreads btw.

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

I shall declare an interest here as I am one of Jason’s supporters on Patreon so obviously think he is a top bloke. Ghoster is the first full length novel by Jason that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it, although as an Old I had to look up what ghosting actually meant – you, young reader, are probably way ahead of me. Kate has met Scott, fallen in love and is driving to another city to move in with him. She’s given up her flat, transferred to another employer (she’s a paramedic) and is well on her way to future happiness when she realises that she can’t contact Scott. At all. And when she gets to his place it is empty and he isn’t there. But his phone is……

I spent a lot of time during this creepy book inwardly yelling to Kate not to do the thing that she was about to do, but of course it wouldn’t be a horror novel if the protagonist was sensible so it is only to be expected that things do not go well. Great fun.

Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore by Terry Newman

With an iconic image of Joan Didion on the cover and a blurb that stated I would find out about the “signature sartorial and literary style of fifty men and women of letters” thus combining two of my favourite things – fashion & books – it was obvious that I would get this.

It’s quite a slight volume and doesn’t entirely deliver on the sartorial stuff – not enough detail about what they actually wore for my taste – but there were enough tidbits to satify my curiosity.

That Virginia Woolf worried about bad hat days is also a comforting fact for the dedicated reader and follower of style.

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

I’m not sure exactly where I came across the name of Israel Keyes. It must have been one of the true crime podcasts that I listen to (yes, more than one, don’t jusge me) but I can’t for the life of me remember which one. However I found out about him, I was immediately fascinated by how this man could have carried out so many awful deeds without anyone knowing about it. The subtitle of the book says it all:

The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century

He is of course a deeply disturbing and horrible figure who killed all over the USA during a period of fourteen years, burying kill kits for future use, many of which have never been found. This book focusses mainly on the somewhat flawed investigation into his crimes, and I will be following it up by listening to yet another podcast – True Crime Bullshit – which is only about Keyes.

An American Story by Christopher Priest

This is a very well-written novel with a sympathetic (mostly) protagonist and one of the most momentous events of the past few decades in the shape of the 9/11 attacks as context. Ben is a freelance journalist whose then girlfriend died in the attack on the Pentagon; she wasn’t supposed to be on the plane that crashed into the building and like many others her remains were never found, so Ben begins to wonder if she ever really died and if she did whether the accepted story told the whole truth.

There are too many of these inconsistencies to be ignored. At every step of the 9/11 story there is doubt, or there are unanswered questions, or simple logical gaps.

If you concentrate on this story being about loss and in particular the pain experienced when no body is recovered, so there is no certainty and no resting place where one can grieve and find solace, then this is a powerful novel. The 9/11 conspiracy theories work for that reason and that reason only but I still find them very disturbing.

The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett Graff

[..] in The Only Plane in the Sky, award-winning journalist and bestselling historian Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, Graff paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.

An incredibly moving companion piece to Priest’s novel, it covers the events of that day from a wide range of sources. Extraordinarily sad, powerful reading.

Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

More true crime (sorry, not sorry) this time from the perspective of a journalist who stopped writing about crime and started trying to solve cold cases as a citizen detective. It is a fascinating book, and you can follow Billy’s work alongside his co-host Paul Holes on their podcast Murder Squad. A must-read for all Murderinos, though if you are a Murderino you’ve almost certainly read this already.

Sunday Salon | 1 December

Hey, it’s December 1st so that means it’s Christmas, right?

Thought so.

I was surprised when I sat down to write this that 2 weeks had passed since my last post on the blog, but a lot has happened chez Bride and I’ve been a tad distracted, so this will be a life update of sorts, with book and movie stuff to follow.

Promise.

First the catastrophe. I was working away on something when I heard a loud thump and the sound of Mr B yelling. When I made it down to the kitchen I discovered that he had opened our fridge and the door completely detached itself and landed on him. I emptied out the contents of the door shelves while he held it up, and then we had to move everything into our spare fridge (yes, we have a spare fridge, don’t at me). Luckily Mr B was only mildly hurt (physically – I think his dignity was severely dented) but it was clear that we needed a new fridge. That’s all done now and New Fridge is awesome by the way.

Secondly, necessary but not enjoyable – mammogram time. As a woman of a certain age, I get checked out at regular intervals and although the NHS staff are uniformly kind and professional it is SO undignified and I always feel stressed and pretty rotten afterwards. But I just have to wait for the results and that’s me for another couple of years.

Thirdly, all of the nice stuff

  • we had a day out at the British Museum to see the Inspired by the East exhibition, all about how western art has been influenced by the Islamic world, very interesting and enjoyable
  • I was able to book tickets to see Hilary Mantel talk about her third and final Thomas Cromwell novel. I have such a girl crush on her and this will be great.
  • I was able to support a couple of lovely people by buying from their Etsy shops on Black Friday – if you are interested please check out Cindy & Erin

Saving the best until last…..

We went to see My Favorite Murder Live at the Apollo in Hammersmith. MFM is one of my favourite podcasts; if you’ve been around here long enough you will know that I am into true crime so this was a huge treat. The MFM ladies were extremely funny and we had a great night out. I highly recommend both the podcast and the live show.

So that’s my last two weeks. I don’t know how I managed to cope with all of the excitement 🙂

Hope you all have a super week.

Sunday Salon | 17 November

Suddenly (or so it seems to me at least) we are in the middle of November and I am starting to think of all things Christmas. This includes the wishlists that the Book God and I exchange – a simple idea that’s worked very well for the 25 years we’ve lived together. We each agree a number of gifts (almost always books, but sometimes music or movies), then exchange lists containing at least three times that number of suggestions. That way, we always get something that we want but we don’t know exactly what that will be.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

This approach has two consequences (a) a book buying ban from, oh, around about now and (b) a Boxing Day online shopping spree for things we (OK, I) have asked for but didn’t get and now realise are absolutely must-haves.

But this hasn’t stopped the flow of new books coming into the Bride’s home in November. Let’s check them out, shall we?

The Pre-Orders

  • The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North – I love Claire and was lucky wnought to meet her at a reading on the publication of Touch which she kindly signed for me, and wher we all agreed that Roger Zelazny was a genius. Her newest novel is set in South Africa in the 1880s and involves a curse…..
  • Who Loses, Who Wins by Kenneth Rose – the second volume of his journals, this covers the period from 1979 and the election of That Woman, to Rose’s own death in 2014.
  • Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe – an author new to me, but any novel set in the 1920s using a photograph of Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong and Leni Riefenstahl in one frame at a party in Berlin has me intrigued

The Impulse Buys

  • Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire – the collected short stories of the author who also writes as Mira Grant, these cover “airy tale forest to gloomy gothic moor, from gleaming epidemiologist’s lab to the sandy shores of Neverland
  • Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver – “When strangers take part in a series of group suicides, everything suggests that a cult is to blame. How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?
  • The Vagina Bible by Dr Jen Gunter – I follow Dr Gunter on Twitter and very much enjoy the way she debunks some of the myths around reproductive health pushed by celebrities (my hard stare is directed at you, Gwyneth Paltrow) and gives sound advice to women of all ages. She gets a lot of stick online and I wanted to buy her book not only to support her but to learn things. Even at my advanced age.
  • Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge – “1960s New York, and Emma Bowden seems to have it all – a glamorous Manhattan apartment, a loving husband, and a successful writing career. But while Emma and her husband Jonathan are on vacation at the Hamptons, a child drowns in the sea, and suspicion falls on Emma.

I’ve done very little reading this week but have been listening to podcasts instead, particularly Jensen & Holes: Murder Squad. Yes, it’s tru crime, however did you guess?

Also of note this week was my first chance to attend a technical rhearsal at Sadlers Wells. The Dorrance Dance Company was performing – they use tap in a very modern and at times astonishing way and I had a great time. They are very much worth looking out for.

So, that’s my week. Hope you guys are all doing well and will see you in my next post (spoiler – I will go on at length about Doctor Sleep!)

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!