Sunday Salon | 25 August

Waving from warm and sunny London with a round-up of this past week.

First of all, the bookish stuff:

I actually finished some books this week! After my post last Sunday, I decided to go back into the books on my Kindle that I had set aside, picked two and managed to finish both of them, namely:

  • Slowly We Die by Emilie Schepp
  • The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Reviews of both will follow soon. Promise.

Of course I was still buying new books. Of course I was. Most were pre-orders but in reading some articles and blogs I was persuaded to make a couple of speculative purchases. Here’s the dazzling detail:

  • The Song of the Sycamore * Edward Cox – I’ve met Ed a couple of times and he is a lovely bloke who dispenses hugs as required and writes excellent books. This is his latest and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.
  • Our War * Craig DiLouie – “After his impeachment, the president of the United States refuses to leave office, and the country erupts into a fractured and violent war. Orphaned by the fighting and looking for a home, 10-year-old Hannah Miller joins a citizen militia in a besieged Indianapolis.
  • The Zeppelin Deception * Colleen Gleason – Stoker & Holmes Book 5, neatly arriving just after I finished Stoker & Holmes Book 1 as noted above.
  • Old Bones * Preston & Childs – These authors have been around forever as far as I can tell but are new to me, brought to my attention by the Book God. And rightly so because it’s a Donner Party archaelogical mystery which really speaks to my interests!
  • Ashes to Ashes * Tami Hoag – “A killer performs a bizarre ceremony in a wooded Minneapolis park, setting the bodies ablaze. He has already claimed three lives, and he won’t stop there. Only this time there is a witness. But she isn’t talking.” A recommendation from an article referenced in CrimeReads.
  • Alternate Side * Anna Quindlen – Ms Quindlen is on the (relatively short) list of authors who have made me cry in public, as evidenced in this review. This is her new one and I think it looks good

In other stuff, we had a really good day out on Tuesday, visiting the Olympic Park in east London. I didn’t attend of the Olympics back on 2012 but watched chunks of it on TV, so it was cool to visit the site and see how it’s now being used. The photo at the top of the post is just some of the planting in the park. It’s possible that we had excellent ice cream in the adjacent Westfield shopping centre, I can neither conform or deny.

I also had my annual eye test; I spend a lot of time having my head examined because I have stable diabetic maculopathy, but this was about ordinary eye testing so no stinging eye drops were required. I’ve ordered new computer glasses and am quite excited about that.

No real plans for the coming week so hoping to read a bit more. Hope you all have a great reading week! 😀

Sunday Salon | 18 August (for real this time!)

I can’t decide whether no-one noticed that I got the date wrong last time or if everyone was just being polite.

Anyway, here we are on the genuine, accept no imitations Sunday 18 August 2019 for my weekly round-up. It will be a short one this week because….

  • my brain is mush after writing my mega-movie round up which I published yesterday;
  • I still haven’t finished any of the books I’m reading;
  • my current reading list hasn’t really changed since my last post;
  • I haven’t been anywhere interesting, working on stuff at home instead; and
  • I only bought two new books, both pre-orders; more about them later

But you will have realised from the picture accompanying this post that we did go and see the new Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I really liked it and will be reviewing it shortly; it has got me running down Manson-related rabbit holes the contents of which I will no doubt talk about here in due course.

As for the new books ….

  • Chase Darkness With Me * Billy Jensen – the memoir by the journalist and true crime podcaster about his career and involvement in solving cold cases. He finished Michelle McNamara’s book on the Golden State Killer after her sudden death, and manages to be absolutely serious and very entertaining all at once. I’m really looking forward to reading this on as I’m a regular listener to Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad
  • Dahlia Black * Keith Thomas – ” … 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 that’s it. I have a few pre-orders being delivered next week and a couple of outings planned so should have more to talk about. Have a great reading week!

Sunday Salon | 18 August

I haven’t blogged for a wee while because I have become a bit overwhelmed by the backlog of reviews I have on my To-Do list, so I took some time to have a think and hopefully you’ll be seeing the outcome of that thinking very shortly. Let’s just say that there may be some mega-posts on the way.

But what about this last week or so, you are asking?

Well …….

The Books

I’m not exactly in a reading slump but I do seem to find myself unable to settle to a single book and have about half a dozen titles on the go. It will be no surprise to you that I haven’t finished any books in recent memory. If you’re interested in the specifics my Goodreads list should be in my sidebar.

I have still been buying though, mostly pre-orders with a couple of speculative purchases.

  • Here There Are Monsters * Amelinda Berube – “The Blair Witch Project meets Imaginary Girls in this story of sisterhood turned toxic, imaginary monsters brought to life and secrets that won’t stay buried.”
  • Hunting Killers * Mark Williams-Thomas – the author “is a former police detective and multi-award-winning investigative journalist. He has been at the centre of some of the most high-profile investigations of recent years involving killers and paedophiles. In this gripping and unflinching book, Mark reveals how he has pieced together these complex cases.
  • Sanctuary * VV James – “To Detective Maggie Knight, the death of Sanctuary’s star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident. Then the rumours start. Everyone knows his ex-girlfriend is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.” Full disclosure, Vic is an acquaintance of mine and a super cool person. Worth noting that I would buy her books even if I didn’t know her!
  • To Be Taught if Fortunate * Becky Chambers – “At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.
  • The Undoing of Arlo Knott * Heather Child – “Arlo Knott develops the mysterious ability to reverse his last action. It makes him able to experience anything, to charm any woman and impress any friend. His is a life free of mistakes, a life without regret. But second chances aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. As wonderful as his new life is, a mistake in Arlo’s traumatic childhood still haunts him and the temptation to undo, undo and keep undoing could be too much to resist.
  • The Coming Thing * Anne Billson – “Your best friend gets all the attention. Now she’s pregnant with the Antichrist, religious maniacs are trying to kill her, and she wants to get an abortion. How do you compete with that, persuade her to keep the baby, and at the same time hold down your job as a bookshop assistant while trying not to think too much about decapitated Chihuahuas and the unpleasantness at the clinic? It’s not easy.” I really like Anne’s stuff whether its novels or film reviews, but bought this following an exchange about decorative plasters on Twitter.
  • Helter Skelter * Vincent Bugliosi & Curt Gentry – the true story of the Manson murders, which were 50 years ago this week and form part of the new Tarantino movie which I will be seeing next week. Given my deep fascination with true crime, it astonishes me that I haven’t read this yet.

Other stuff

I went to Sadler’s Wells yesterday afternoon to see Sir Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of my favourite ballet of all time, Romeo & Juliet with the Prokofiev score. It was a production set in the Verona Institute in the near future (as explained in the programme) and the company consisted of young dancers starting out on their careers. It was really awesome, a very different take on the tale of young love, and I could happily have sat through the whole thing again. Do see this if you possibly can.

That’s my week. See you next time 🙂

Sunday Salon | 28 July

It’s been so humid this past week that I’ve been hiding in the house with my aircon on and out of necessity actually reading; I finished two books but then stalled. Again.

I stalled mostly because of the last few stages of the Tour de France which was extremely exciting, and although I feel sorry for Julian Alaphilippe, I am also quite pleased with Egan Bernal’s win. He’s only 22; when I was 22 I got married for the first time and was pretending I was an adult. That was a long time ago *sighs wistfully*

Cue gratuitous cyclist photo:

So the books I read this week were Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown, an unusual and partly fantasised biography of the late Princess Margaret, which was very amusing and quite poignant in places, and Real Tigers, the third in the Jackson Lamb series by Mick Herron, which I read cover to cover in a single afternoon. Both excellent in their own way and both getting a review of their own at some point.

When it comes to what I’m currently reading then it’s very much as I was last week – I’ve set aside for now Slowly We Die and The Clockwork Scarab, and have started The Ka of Gifford Hillary, a Denis Wheatley novel with a cracking plot but heavy doses of eye-rolling right-wingery.

I also bought a few new books this week.

My single pre-order was The Last Astronaut by David Wellington, in which something big and alien is hanging above the Earth but won’t communicate, and our only surviving astronaut, a woman (hurrah), has to take a team of novices up there to make contact. I predict this will not work out as planned.

I ordered both volumes of the Roy Strong diaries purely because of the extracts in Ma’am Darling; volume one covers 1967 to 1987, and volume two 1988 to 2003. I think they are going to be a treat as Strong has been Director of two of my favorite London places, the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum, and comes across as a Grade A Gossip.

And the final two were based on recommendations. Via CrimeHub comes Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada, a locked door mystery from one of the Japanese greats, and a Twitter recommendation led me to An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, set in a small Australian town where a young woman has been murdered and the impact on her family is examined; it was shortlisted for heaps of awards so I’m looking forward to trying it out.

And that’s me done! Have a great reading week 😀

Sunday Salon | 21 July 2019

The tennis at Wimbledon is over and I’m only watching the Tour de France highlights each evening so there is no reason not to be reading, but here we are, with not much progress made. But it’s been an interesting couple of weeks since my last post so I shouldn’t complain (though of course I will, because that’s what I do!)

Instead, I’ve been on a horror film kick which means watching movies by myself as the Book God, who enjoys a good monster movie, doesn’t like the sort of thing that I’ve been focussed on, so it’s just as well that I am happy to go to the cinema by myself. Reviews of The Dead Don’t Die, Hereditary and Midsommar will follow shortly.

We also finally got to see the Manga exhibition at the British Museum, which was really excellent – there’s a small gallery of pictures I took there on my Instagram feed, as well as the one at the top of this post. If you’re in London I can really recommend it as there is so much to see.

But what about the books?

Books read since my last post:

Stalling for Time by Gary Noesner – I mentioned this in my last post and will be writing about it shortly. I found it absolutely fascinating as a companion to the Waco TV series which we have been watching

Our Rainbow Queen by Sali Hughes is a coffee table book which looks at QEII’s fashion over her long life organised by colour. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you will know that I love fashion so this was a no-brainer though I decided to get it in the Kindle edition. It’s a light and quick read consisting of photographs with captions by the author. I had a couple of quibbles about some of the information in the captions but this is more than made up for by the wonderful photographs.

New books since my last post, of which there are quite a few because I might not be reading but that doesn’t mean I’m not still collecting! These aren’t in any order….

Eternity’s Sunrise * Marion Milner – subtitled A Way of Keeping a Diary, this is another area of interest for me. I’m a very patchy journal-keeper and want to become more consistent in the practice. I like the idea behind this book, which suggests asking the simple question “What is the most important thing that happened yesterday?”

Exhalation * Ted Chiang – a new collection of short stories from the mind behind the story that was the basis for the movie Arrival. His work is quite challenging but worth the investment. This was a pre-order.

Five Seasons * Mons Kallentoft – I can be influenced by the “people who bought this book also bought these books” flags on Amazon and that’s how I found this author, and couldn’t resist buying the omnibus containing the five Malin Fors books.

Not For Use In Navigation * Iona Datt Sharma – more short works, described as thirteen stories of love and queerness, hope and decolonisation, and the inevitability of change. I may have been attracted by the cover.

Perihelion Summer * Greg Egan – science fiction novel by an author I don’t think I have read before. Looks good.

Rain Girl * Gabi Kreslehner – the first Franza Oberweiser detective novel with the standard young woman found dead and a search for justice undertaken but looks very interesting.

The Bee’s Kiss * Barbara Cleverley – a detective novel set in 1920s London, this is actually the fifth in the Joe Sandilands series. The first four are set in India and didn’t really appeal, though the Book God loved them. I understand that this book effectively kicks off a new series which shares the same character and is a good place to start.

The Reapers are the Angels * Alden Bell – a Southern Gothic post-apocalyptic novel which was included on a “best of” list on, I think, Crime Reads. Speaks to my interests.

The Survival of Molly Southbourne * Tade Thompson – the sequel to The Murders of Molly Southbourne which was one of my favourite reads from last year, I pre-ordered this as soon as it was announced. Excellent stuff and Thompson has just won the Arther C Clarke award for his novel Rosewater which I also have.

The Toll * Cherie Priest – another pre-order, this is a ghostly tale of swamps, cabins, mysterious bridges that may or may not exist and a missing wife. Creepy.

The Triumph of the Spider Monkey * Joyce Carol Oates – Ms Oates is one of my favourite writers and so prolific that I find it difficult to keep track of what she has published. This has been out of print for forty years or so and I am only aware of it because a fellow blogger reviewed it. madness, murder and maniacs.

This Is How You Lose the Time War * Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – this has been on my radar for a while but shot up my to-buy list when I found out it’s an epistolary novel. I’m a sucker for those. Reviews have all been good.

Traces * Patricia Wiltshire – more non-fiction in the forensic science field.

Wanderers * Chuck Wendig – I’ve been looking forward to the release of this novel, which has been described as “a suspenseful, twisty, satisfying, surprising, thought-provoking epic.” A pre-order.

Wilder Girls * Rory Power – a disease which has killed many, a quarantined girls school, this sounds a bit Lord of the Flies, which is not a bad thing.

I’m currently reading The Clockwork Scarab (still) and Slowly We Die by Emilie Schep, Scandi noir. I’m about halfway through both of these and hope to finish them soon.

Hope you have a great reading week!

My Week | 7 July (with added pig)

I haven’t referred to this as an update on my reading week because I haven’t actually done much reading, for which I blame Wimbledon. Sporting distraction will be made much worse by the advent of the Tour de France which started yesterday but that is much more manageable because I tend to only watch the highlights. So that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

More about the pig later.

So I’m currently reading two books; The Clockwork Scarab which I mentioned in last week’s post I think (checks – yes, I did), and Stalling for Time which I’ll talk about more below. I’ve given myself a target to finish them both this week, which I think is achievable if I just manage to Pick. Them. Up.

In terms of new books, it’s been a good week as I try to limit my spending and I only bought two things:

  • the aforementioned Stalling for Time by Gary Noesner which I bought because we have started watching the Waco TV series and he is one of the FBI hostage negotiators featured. The blurb says that Noesner will take us on ” a harrowing tour through many of the most famous hostage crises in the history of the modern FBI, including the siege at Waco, the Montana Freemen standoff, and the D.C. sniper attacks.” I haven’t read much of the book but so far it is totally fascinating.
  • Growing Things & other stories by Paul Tremblay – “Unearth nineteen tales of suspense and literary horror, [..] that offer a terrifying glimpse into Tremblay’s fantastically fertile imagination.” I read The Cabin at the End of the World last year and was impressed enough to buy his other books. This is a new release which I think makes his short fiction available in the UK for the first time.

I also had an unplanned outing this week. I accompanied the Book God to an appointment and after that we took the opportunity to head to Greenwich to visit the Old Royal Naval College, specifically the Painted Hall which is a wonderful space as you can (hopefully) see from the picture at the top of the post. They provide wide seats in the centre of the room so that you can lie down and appreciate that ceiling. It’s also where Nelson’s body lay in state before his funeral.

And now ….. some of you will know that I was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago and one of the things I try to do to help manage my condition, with varying degrees of success, is exercise going for walks. This usually means covering a minimum of 3 miles at a time around my neighbourhood.

I really didn’t want to do it today – it had been drizzling and was very humid, but I got myself ready, plugged in my headphones so I could listen to podcasts (on this occasion My Favourite Murder and Quinn Cummings Gives Bad Advice) and set off. And I got an unexpected and delightful reward, because walking down a residential street not far from my house I met a young woman who was taking her pig for a walk. On a lead.

I live in south-west London and it is not usual to see a pig in the street 😀

Anyway I stopped to speak to the woman and complimented her on the pig, who was a handsome chocolate-brown chap standing about hip-height and a very solid animal. I didn’t want to impose too much and knew I had to make a choice – ask to take a photo or ask to touch the pig.

Reader, I stroked the pig.

It was awesome. And in the absence of a photo you will just have to take my word for it!

Have a great reading week!

June 2019 | Second Half Round-Up

Halfway through the year already and as I didn’t post last week because I was under the weather for a few days this will be a catch up for the second half of the month. Here we go!

Books read

I managed to finish two books, both in this past week. The Man From the Train is a true crime book which was totally fascinating, and Strange Practice was a really excellent urban fantasy which I’ve had on my virtual TBR shelf since it came out a couple of years ago. I enjoyed it so much I’ve bought/pre-ordered the rest of the series (see below). Reviews of both of these books will follow later this week if I stick to my planned schedule.
I’m also on track for my #20BooksOfSummer reading plan.

New books

  • Chanel’s Riviera * Anne de Courcy – Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Cote d’Azur 1930-1944 – ‘Far from worrying about the onset of war, in the spring of 1938 the burning question on the French Riviera was whether one should curtsey to the Duchess of Windsor. Few of those who had settled there thought much about what was going on in the rest of Europe. It was a golden, glamorous life, far removed from politics or conflict.
  • Chaos * Tom O’Neill – Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties – ‘In 1999, when Tom O’Neill was assigned a magazine piece about the thirtieth anniversary of the Manson murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Weren’t the facts indisputable? Charles Manson had ordered his teenage followers to commit seven brutal murders, and in his thrall, they’d gladly complied. But when O’Neill began reporting the story, he kept finding holes in the prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s narrative, long enshrined in the bestselling Helter Skelter. Before long, O’Neill had questions about everything from the motive to the manhunt. Though he’d never considered himself a conspiracy theorist, the Manson murders swallowed the next two decades of his career. He was obsessed.
  • Dreadful Company * Vivian Shaw – A Dr Greta Helsing novel – ‘When Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, is called to Paris to present at a medical conference, she expects nothing more exciting than professional discourse on zombie reconstructive surgery. Unfortunately for Greta, Paris happens to be infested with a coven of vampires – and not the civilised kind. If she hopes to survive, Greta must navigate the maze of ancient catacombs beneath the streets, where there is more to find than simply dead men’s bones
  • Our Rainbow Queen * Sali Hughes – ‘This riotously colourful book takes a photographic journey through Queen Elizabeth II’s ten decades of colour-blocked style. The photographs, which span the colours of the rainbow and a century of style, are gloriously accessorised with captions and commentary by journalist and broadcaster Sali Hughes.
  • The Affair of the Mysterious Letter * Alexis Hall – ‘Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation. When Ms Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham is drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way, he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark.

Currently reading

This morning I started The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason, a sort of steampunk-alternative-history-YA-romance-mystery starring Sherlock Holmes’ niece and Bram Stoker’s sister. So far lots of fun, a lovely light read..

Other stuff

We had a couple of really good days out this last week despite horrendous humidity which left us both exhausted and grateful for our aircon at home.

On Tuesday we went to the House of Illustration in King’s Cross with our friend Susan to see the Posy Simmonds retrospective. It was so, so good to get close to her work; many of the cartoons I remember from reading her contributions to the Guardian’s Women’s Page back in the day had the original artwork on display. I may have bought one or two things from the gallery shop.

We also went to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden which was huge fun; it’s ages since I’ve been there.

Photos from both events are available to view on my Instagram feed; do go and have a look if you don’t follow me there already.

Hope you all have a great reading week!