Sunday Salon | 1 September

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

A picture from my long walk around the town yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange Practice

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Can you feel a BUT coming?

BUT, when Greta is called in by her friend, the vampire Edward Ruthven, to tend to another famous vampire, Sir Francis Varney, who has been attacked in his home with a combination of garlic and a cross-shaped dagger coated with something nasty, it becomes clear that there is a concerted effort to destroy the “monstrous” and the humans who work with them.

Of course, this means Greta herself is in danger along with the motley crew of vampires, ghouls, a demon and a researcher from the British Museum from a rampaging group of monks with a mission. But what’s motivating them and how can they be stopped?

Strange Practice is a really enjoyable urban fantasy which manages to mix traditional mythology (garlic, crosses and os on) with a different approach (alliances between human and undead), particularly the concept that such creatures would need medical support.

It works because not only is the conceit well-thought-out, but the characters, especially Greta, are complex, engaging and likeable. There’s even a glorious cameo from the Devil, and the use of my new favourite phrase “inferno-celestial politics”

I loved this and am looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series.

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!

The Vanishing Season

A recent abduction becomes an unexpected link to a decades-long spree of unspeakable crimes.

This is the fourth entry in what was originally The Collector Trilogy which last year turned into The Collector Series. I had been quite sad when I finished The Summer Children (number 3) because I enjoyed this series so much, a feeling that turned to pleasure when I realised there was going to be a fourth book, and now I’m sad again because the changes that occur to a number of the main characters in The Vanishing Season are sufficiently significant that any additional books would require a major shift.

But at least the series gets a proper conclusion, and for that I should be grateful.

An eight-year-old girl, Brooklyn, has gone missing. Not only does this happen on the anniversary of the disappearance of FBI agent Brandon Eddison’s little sister, but the girls are also the spitting image of each other making this case particularly difficult for everyone involved. The Crimes Against Children team investigate and Agent Eliza Sterling quickly comes to the conclusion that not only are the two cases linked but there are many other cases going back decades.

Can they solve it? Yes, they can.

I really enjoyed this novel. It is well-written, nicely paced and although the crimes are awful the author doesn’t dwell on the nastiness too much, focussing instead on the procedural aspect of the investigation, and I’m a sucker for that sort of thing so this was very much in my wheelhouse

The series as a whole has developed nicely, moving from a story about victims in The Butterfly Garden which border on horror to the focus on the CAC team in the latest volume. This is a change that has happened gradually and organically but without losing any of the key people from the earlier stories.

I can’t recommend these books enough.

Series Details

Tnis is my first completed read for #20BooksOfSummer

Sunday Salon | 9 June

As I sat down to write/type this I realised that I hadn’t take any pictures to use for the post image this week, so just imagine something suitably pretty somewhere abov this paragraph 😀

It’s been a very quiet week focussed on domestic stuff, mostly to do with the replacement of our central heating boiler which has now been installed by Wayne, the very nice and extremely skilled British Gas engineer who spent the whole of Thursday Chez Bride.

It’s also the Book God’s birthday today, which means that loads of books have come into the house, they just weren’t for me. Sad.

Anyway, what about this week in books?

I finished two books this week, each bringing a series to a close. Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain is the last of the Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell serial killer series, and I’ve already written about it over here, and The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchison, my first book for #20booksofsummer which I’ll review soon.

New books

Just because most of the new books this week are for my other half, doesn’t mean that I didn’t get anything for myself, oh no. There were a couple of pre-orders that came out this week, namely:

  • My Life as a Rat * Joyce Carol Oates – Violet Rue is the baby of the seven Kerrigan children and adores her big brothers. What’s more, she knows that a family protects its own. To go outside the family – to betray the family – is unforgivable. So when she overhears a conversation not meant for her ears and discovers that her brothers have committed a heinous crime, she is torn between her loyalty to her family and her sense of justice. The decision she takes will change her life for ever.
  • Inspection * Josh Malerman – J is one of only twenty-six students, all of whom think of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father. J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know-and all they are allowed to know.

Currently reading

I have started Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff and am enjoying it very much, and I am also about a quarter of the way through my second #20books selection, Siren Song by Robert Edric.

Hope you have a great reading week.

20 Books of Summer 2019

Yes, it’s that time again! From 3 June to 3 September I’ll be taking part in #20BooksofSummer hosted by Cathy over at 746 Books. I’ve been mulling over what I might include during the past wee while and have finally come up with a list.

All the titles are on my Kindle app but other than that the only thing they have in common is that they’re just books I really fancy reading. So, to the list!

  • Westside by M Akers – when the blurb includes references to Algernon Blackwood, Caleb Carr, Raymond Chandler and Neil Gaiman then you really can’t ignore it. Set in 1920’s Manhattan as an added bonus.
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson – WWII espionage, Fascists, and the BBC in the 1950s. Kate Atkinson is a wonderful writer and I’m glad to be finally getting round to reading her latest.
  • Winter Journal by Paul Auster – a book about growing old from a writer I’ve enjoyed in the past though I often find him challenging; I’ll be interested to see how fundamentally male this is or whether it will resonate with 57 year old menopausal me.
  • MI5 and Me by Charlotte Bingham – more spies, this time real rather than fictional, as Charlotte Bingham explains what it’s like to discover your Dad is a spy and then begin work as a typist at MI5
  • Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown – a “kaleidoscopic experiment in biography” this is all about Princess Margaret in her heyday and beyond. Much praised so very willing to give it a try.
  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – the second in the Wayfarers trilogy, included here because I loved the first volume and I’m trying quite hard this year to catch up with series where I’ve fallen behind
  • Siren Song by Robert Edric – as above but a more recent find as I just finished Cradle Song in the past few weeks. Interesting to see if there is more to the trilogy than the same lead character.
  • The Ka of Gifford Hillary by Dennis Wheatley – I love some good black magic, and Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out is one of my favourites; I haven’t come across the Ka before but the Book God assures me it’s a goody
  • The Private Lives of Elder Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky and others – Lovecraftian short stories. Lovely.
  • I Still Dream by James Smythe – I like James Smythe a lot and had the pleasure of chatting to him once at Nineworlds, so I am excited to read this, underlined by the Kate Bush references.
  • Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw – A female Helsing. London. A strange medical practice. A sect of murderous monks. My friend Silvery Dude tells me this is awesome and I have no reason to doubt him 🙂
  • Into the Fire by Manda Scott – appalled to discover that I bought this in 2015. I know I started to read it but was going through some stuff at the time and set it aside until my brain was ready to give it the attention it deserved. With added Joan of Arc.
  • Slowly We Die by Emelie Schepp – Scandinavian medical serial killer mystery. These are all words that go together very well in a single sentence.
  • Real Tigers by Mick Herron – more spies and more catching up with enjoyable series; this is the third Jackson Lamb novel out of six so far and they are so so good.
  • The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchison – when you think something’s a trilogy and feel understandably bereft when you get to the last book, then discover there’s going to be a fourth but it’s a year away, you’re going to jump up and down when it finally arrives.
  • The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleeson – another book I’ve had for rather a long time, this is a Holmes & Stoker novel – as in Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram. First in a series.
  • Carpathia by Matt Forbeck – so you’re on the Titanic, it hits the iceberg, it sinks but you’re picked up by another ship and you’re going to be OK except there’s something nasty in the Carpathia……
  • Crooked by Austin Grossman – an alternate history horror novel starring Richard Milhouse Nixon. I have no idea what this is like but I’m looking forward to giving it a try.
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz – a classic murder mystery with a twist. A fiendish twist, apparently.
  • The Man from the Train by Bill James – it wouldn’t be a Bride list if there wasn’t some true crime in here somewhere and this investigation of a historical serial killer mystery sounds totally fascinating.

And that’s my plan!

I’ve no idea whether I really will finish them all – I think I got about halfway last time (too lazy to go look) but I do know I will start with The Vanishing Season because I love that series and have been waiting for it to be published!