The Last Sunday Salon of the Year

IMG_0796I hope everyone had an enjoyable festive season. It was a lovely and relaxing time chez Bride, and here we are already at the last Sunday of 2018.

You would think that having had a fine selection of gifts given to me (see my haul post here) I would not have been buying myself any books but if you know me at all then you know that would be very uncharacteristic. So here goes….

Books bought this week:

  • Vigil by Angela Slatter – the first in a trilogy of urban fantasy set in Australia; really looking forward to this one
  • Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley – his second novel after the very successful and highly praised The Lony (which I still haven’t read, oops)
  • The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy – a recommendation by blogger Ali at heavenali.wordpress.com, beware that Amazon gives away much of the plot if you are thinking of investigating this one
  • The Lingering by SJI Holliday – it’s Gothic and therefore a no-brainer
  • John Dies at the End by David Wong – I just liked the title; no offence to anyone I know called John, of course
  • Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss – so many people have recommended this one so I thought ‘why not?’
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – I was at a party on Saturday 29th and a fellow guest recommended this to me; I think it’s been on my wish list for a while so I succumbed.

Books finished this week? Hmm? Move along, nothing to see here…..

I’m still reading The Hanging Tree and determined to finish it on New Year’s Eve, though to be honest I’m not particularly bothered about it drifting into 2019, it would just be neat to tie things up on the last day of the year.

Making good progress with Global Crisis, and the thing I learned this week that stuck with me most was the fact that

In 1595 Sultan Mehmet III had followed tradition and executed all 19 of his brothers, some of them infants, as well as pregnant slaves in the harem, and he later executed the crown prince on suspicion of treason, so that at his death in 1603 only two male members of the Ottoman dynasty survived: his sons Ahmed (aged 13, who became the new sultan) and Mustafa (aged 4)

Such a waste.

Hope everyone has a fine reading week and a very Happy New Year!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

IMG_2190Here we are with the last Sunday Salon post before Christmas. There are already a few book-shaped packages underneath our tree so no worries there. It has been a good week but I haven’t been able to do much reading.

Well, not actual books anyway.

So, what have I actually been doing since my last post? Well, there was the carol service I attended in London on Monday (hence the super picture above) in which my singing voice (such as it is) betrayed my recent chest infection. My voice cracked at all the best bits, but as usual I made up for being a lousy singer with significant amounts of enthusiasm. We also headed into London to do some Christmas shopping for luxuries. Have a look at my Instagram if you want to see a Bride’s eye view of the Christmas retail experience!

IMG_3187In terms of reading, there has been very little (as I said above), but I needed a self-care day yesterday so launched into Comixology for a heartening amount of violence. Say hello to my new special friend, Katana –>.

But you want the dazzling details I presume?

Books bought this week:

  • The Year of Less by Cait Flanders – how a young woman in her twenties stopped shopping, gave away her belongings and discovered that life was yada yada – I can’t resist these things so will read while no doubt rolling my eyes a bit
  • Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar – I love Margrate Millar and this is apparently a rediscovereed noir classic – not only that but its a physical book I bought in an actual bookshop

Books finished:

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Next question.

Currently reading (still):

  • The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch – I am determined to finish this before Christmas Day when I am more than likely going to be distracted by the bookish equivalent of Bright and Shiny Things

I’m also still reading Global Crisis, which brings me to this week’s fun fact from the 17th Century –

In Scotland, exasperated by the constant lawlessness of one particular clan, in 1626 the government deported all men named “Macgregor” to continental Europe, “sufficiently guarded by some of their officers who will be answerable for their not escaping”.

Indeed.

I hope you all have a wonderful festive season however you celebrate it or not.

An Unexpected Hiatus

I haven’t written here since * checks blog * oh – last month apparently. This unplanned break was entirely due to my developing a nasty chest infection which required lots of inactivity (believe me, any movement led to the most dreadful coughing fits). But as described by Silvery Dude, I am no longer sickly and off games, so thought I’d catch up with what’s been happening round these parts, besides the coughing of course.

The last thing I did in the great outdoors before succumbing to the dreaded lurgy was visiting the British Museum to see the exhibition on Ashurbanipal, which was fascinating and full of wonderful objects (as in the photo above). I love Assyrian art (I always visit the permanent exhibition whenever I’m in the BM) but recognise that they were a bloodthirsty lot, at least at the kingly level, so some of the images are graphic. I can recommend this if you are in London, I think it’s on until late February.

I may have bought a lot of things in the gift shop, including the book listed below – don’t judge me.

After that it’s all a blur. I was supposed to attend the British Library on 2 December to hear Ian Rankin talk, but just wasn’t well enough and, let’s face it, no-one wanted to hear me coughing over all of the speakers (I suspect there would have been very hard stares and possibly some tutting). I tweeted my disappoint and got a very nice get well soon tweet from Mr Rankin himself, which was unexpected and demonstrates once again that book people are good people.

I did a little bit of reading but didn’t finish anything, so current reading status is still:

  • The Hanging Tree – about 50%, hoping to finish it this weekend
  • Global Crisis – about 11% through but I’m reading this slowly because it is both enormous and full of interesting facts which I may share here on occasion

Actually, let’s go ahead. This week’s interesting fact is about intermarriage in the Spanish royal family which meant that:

Philip IV of Spain boasted only 8 great-grandparents instead of the normal 16; and after he married his niece in 1649, he became the great-uncle as well as the father of his children, while their mother was also their cousin

Books bought in December so far:

  • Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield – A SPELLBINDING, MULTI-LAYERED MYSTERY SET IN THE 19TH CENTURY AROUND THE THAMES shouted Amazon; this was a pre-order
  • The Willows by Algernon Blackwood – short early weird horror
  • The Favourite: Ralegh & his Queen by Matthew Lyons – the 16th century never loses its fascination for me
  • Cradle Song by Robert Edric – dark and grim crime novel, first of a trilogy set in Hull; don’t know why I do this to myself….
  • When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger – I can’t resist reading or listening to podcasts about cults, so this academic study on how a group handles the failure of their prophecy that the end of the world is/was due was a no-brainer
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean – a book about the fire which destroyed 400,000 books in the Los Angeles Public Library, this was a pre-order that arrived signficantly earlier than I expected; a nice surprise
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages – finalist for the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella
  • A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P Djeli Clarke – “Egypt, 1912. In an alternate Cairo infused with the otherworldly, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine” – had to be done
  • New Amsterdam 2 by Elizabeth Bear – more stories from the wonderful Ms Bear
  • Should I Stay or Should I Go by James Ball – and 87 other serious answers to questions in songs, such as how do you solve a problem like Maria?
  • How to be Invisible by Kate Bush – when you discover that one of your favourite authors is a hardcore Kate Bush fan, and then discover that he has written an introduction to a book of her lyrics, well – David Mitchell has gone up even higher in my estimation!

Of course these all break my self-imposed book-buying embargo, but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t (and none of them were on my Christmas list so technically that’s OK. I think.)

Anyway,  have a wonderful reading week and hopefully normal blogging activity has resumed chez Bride!

 

This Week in Books & a Non-Fiction Round-up

It’s been getting cooler and duller and lights are being switched on earlier each day so we are definitely in curling up in a chair and reading a good book season. So how did this week in reading go?

Currently reading

  • Global Crisis – I’ve not progressed this since my last post so will be making time for a few chapters this week
  • The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch – this the sixth of the Peter Grant books and I’m about halfway through; I like to read series in order of course and you will understand why I picked this up because….

Books bought

  • Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – this is the seventh Peter Grant book and when it arrived I realised I hadn’t read the previous one; what can I say, I decided to deal with that immediately (see above)
  • Fire Lover by Joseph Wambaugh – more true crime, the story of the Pillow Pyro arsonist; I bought this because I heard the story in a back episode of My Favourite Murder and wanted to get more details
  • Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman – apparently ‘plunges us into the depths of psychological horror, where you can’t always believe everything you hear

Books finished

  • Bestial by Harold Schechter – more true crime, this is the story of one of the first known serial killers in the USA; I have NOTES so will write about this another time.

I also wanted to write up a few thoughts on recent non-fiction reads because I am a completist.

Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes

All about how the Victorians viewed their bodies told through five specific stories. So many fascinating details, it’s the kind of book has you reading things out to anyone within hearing distance; for example, Charlotte Bronte apparently spoke with a strong Northern Irish accent – who knew?

The final story in the book tells the horrendous murder of Fanny Adams, and the magistrate involved in the case was Jane Austen’s nephew Edward Knight, born in 1794 and died in 1879. The author makes the excellent point that although we feel the need to carve our history up and put things into boxes Edward Knight’s long life is ‘a reminder of how bodies join up the past in a continuous ribbon of experience and feeling‘; I loved that idea so much.

Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd

I picked this up as a sort of follow-up to the book I read earlier this year by Dame Professor Sue Black about her life as a forensic anthropologist, and she was quoted on the cover of this volume. So Richard Shepherd was one of the most senior and well-known forensic pathologists in the UK. He’s handled a number of the most significant and high-profile cases in the country, including (controversially) the Marchioness disaster, the Harold Shipman murders, and the London bombings.

This is a memoir of his life and career and the impact that his work has had on his personal life – after all, he reckons he’s carried out over 20,00 autopsies. It’s a very honest book and worth reading if you are at all interested in this subject.

The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen

We all know what happened to the dinosaurs, but it was only one of (so far) five major extinction events that have taken place in Earth’s history. A good example of popular science at its best, the author goes through the various ways life on our planet was almost extinguished via fire, ice, poison gas, suffocation and of course asteroids. He also speculates on what all of this may tell us about the future.

Hope you all have a great reading week!

 

 

Sunday Salon – 18 November

fullsizeoutput_8b5Here we are again with another quick review of my week in reading and other stuff as needed.

Currently reading:

Global Crisis by Geoffrey Parker – war, catastrophe and climate change in the 17th century; I bought this as a gift for the Book God a couple of years ago but it is an enormous tome so treated myself to the Kindle version to make reading easier. Extremely interesting so far.

Bestial by Harold Schechter – from social outcast to necrophile and murderer – his appalling crimes stunned an era. This starts off in 1920s San Francisco and goes rapidly downhill from there. I’m fascinated by true crime (as most of you will have noticed I’m sure) and this story came up while I was listening to an old episode of My Favourite Murder (a brilliant podcast) so I dug this out from the virtual stacks.

Books finished this week:

Only one, The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll – a strong refresher for the planning method I use these days. Lots to think about.

Books bought this week:

  • Bedfellow by Jeremy C Shipp – a tense dark fantasy novel of psychological horror; sign me up!
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama – I think she’s awesome and I’m looking forward to reading this very much. Sadly didn’t get tickets for her appearance in London though….
  • Black Prince by Adam Roberts & Anthony Burgess –  a brutal historical tale of chivalry, religious belief, obsession, siege and bloody warfare based on an original script by the late Mr Burgess. I have a lot of respect for Adam Roberts and have read several of his books so I’m giving this a go because of him and the subject matter rather than Mr Burgess, whom I’ve always found difficult.
  • The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles – A lord in danger. A magician in turmoil. A snowball in hell. I don’t really read romance but this author was recommended and I thought I should read something outside my comfort zone, but not too far – this is SFF romance after all.

Things should start to get quiet as the pre-Christmas book-buying embargo sets in once wish lists have ben exchanged. I have made my list, checked it twice and will be handing it over later today.

Hope you have a great reading week!

 

 

Munday Salon – 12 October

fullsizeoutput_89dA day late but that’s how things roll around here sometimes! Today has been all about the rain and thunderstorms and the sad loss of both Douglas Rain and Stan Lee. My nerdish self is rather sad.

But now, to the books!

Currently reading?

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll because I’m all about journalling and stationery and managing my busy retirement. I wish I’d found this while I was still working…..

I’m also about to start Global Crisis by Geoffrey Parker, one of my favourite historians (if it’s possible to have such a thing). This is all about war, climate change and catastrophe, but in the 17th century. It’s a chunkster which the Book God read in a very heavy paperback but I have on the Kindle app because of its very size.

Books finished?

  • The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen – the five great mass extinctions in Earth history and whether we’re heading for another one (or maybe even in it already). Lots to think about
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman – I’ve had this for ages but was motivated to pick it up as there is going to be a film made of the story starring Sandra Bullock. It’s horror and will be interesting to see what they do with it

Reviews of both of these will follow soon

This week’s book haul:

  1. The Sentence is Death by Antony Horowitz – the second Daniel Hawthorne novel, I didn’t even realise this was out until I came across it by accident; loved the first one
  2. Someone Like Me by MR Carey – a heart-stopping psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming and a heroine you can’t trust . . .
  3. Notes from the Underwire by Quinn Cummings – memoir type-thing from someone I hadn’t hears of until I saw a brilliant story she told on Twitter and I was hooked
  4. Without the Moon by Cathi Unsworth – serial killer in London during the Blitz…
  5. The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter – ooh, family drama + 40 yr old murder + devastating truth = a good read (I hope)

Hope you all have a fabulous reading week!

Sunday Salon – 4 November

fullsizeoutput_88dThis has been a week full of medical appointments of one kind or another, all routine but not matter how kind and efficient everyone is it’s all just such a time suck. This is when the app on my phone comes into its own and I can merrily read away without lugging books around with me. Heresy I know but I really only read physical books when I’m at home these days.

Talking about books, I haven’t finished any books since the beginning of November but I’m making good progress with both of the works I’m currently reading:

  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman – I’ve had this one for a while but pulled it to the top of the TBR pile so I can read it in advance oft he Sandra Bullock movie which is coming to Netflix (I think) soon; and
  • The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen – as if horror wasn’t enough, I decided to treat myself to reading about the five biggest mass-extinctions in the Earth’s history. Keeps me cheerful

In terms of new books, yes I have bought more despite the fact that I was too embarrassed to share last month’s purchases on t’Internet. Some of these were pre-orders so I don’t feel quite so bad about that.

This week’s haul:

  • Devices & Desires by Kate Hubbard – an addition to my small but perfectly formed collection of books about Bess of Hardwick
  • Henry VIII & the Men Who Made Him by Tracy Borman – written by a former colleague from my PRO days, I can’t resist books about Henry even though I loathe him deeply. This looks especially interesting.
  • Titus Awakes by Maeve Gilmore & Mervyn Peake – more about this later in the post
  • Man With No Name by Laird Barron – crime meets horror
  • Chills by Mary SanGiovanni – horror meets crime
  • Madame Victoria by Catherine Leroux – French-Canadian novel about an unidentified woman’s body in a mortuary and 12 variations on what her life may have been like. Very interested in this one I must say.

The highlight of this week was the trip the Book God and I took to the British Library on Friday for their Mervyn Peake evening. Marking the 50th anniversary of his death, it was a lively discussion between Liz Jensen, Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell and Fabian Peake, with readings from Gormenghast by Miranda Richardson. A very enjoyable evening with many things to think about. I’ve seen Neil Gaiman live before but not Chris Riddell, who produced the most amazing illustrations on stage while the readings were taking place. It has of course made me want to re-read Gormeghast, and triggered the purchase of the fourth book as mentioned above. Plugging it into my reading plans for nest year which though loose are beginning to take shape. Terrible photo below!

IMG_2150

Hope you all have a fabulous reading week!