Yet Another Book Haul

IMG_0812I’ve skipped a couple of Sunday Salons and am behind on reviews and other stuff so I thought I’d ease myself back into the blogosphere by confessing what I have bought bookwise since my last post. I deliberately didn’t ask for books for my birthday but did that stop me from buying them for myself? Of course not.

So here goes

Speculative fiction

The Last by Hanna Jameson – Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilisation, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia, and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message. Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive. Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.  This was a pre-order.

The Line Between by Tosca Lee – An extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming. This was a pre-order.

Rosewater by Tade Thompson – I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get a copy of this highly-regarded novel, but here we are. If you’re not aware, this won Africa’s first award for speculative fiction. Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumoured healing powers.

Crime & Thrillers

The Great Mistake by Mary Roberts Rinehart – Illness, jealousy, and murder poison the atmosphere in an ultrawealthy community. MRR is one of my favourite old-school American crime writers so new editions of her works are always welcome chez Bride.

The Charlie Parker Collection 1-4 by John Connolly – I’ve read some of Connolly’s other work and some Parker short stories but it feels like its time to work my way through the novels.

Smallbone Deceased by Micheal Gilbert – Horniman, Birley and Craine is a highly respected legal firm with clients drawn from the highest in the land. When a deed box in the office is opened to reveal a corpse, the threat of scandal promises to wreak havoc on the firm’s reputation – especially as the murder looks like an inside job. The partners and staff of the firm keep a watchful and suspicious eye on their colleagues, as Inspector Hazlerigg sets out to solve the mystery of who Mr Smallbone was – and why he had to die. Another lovely British Library re-issue.

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey – In a crumbling park in the crumbling back end of Copacabana, a woman stopped under an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar. That was the last time anyone saw the famous Brazilian novelist Beatriz Yagoda. Upon hearing the news of her disappearance, her American translator Emma flies immediately to Brazil. There, in the sticky, sugary heat of Rio, Emma and Beatriz’s two grown children conspire to solve the author’s curious disappearance.

Horror

Help the Witch by Tom Cox – Inspired by our native landscapes, saturated by the shadows beneath trees and behind doors, listening to the run of water and half-heard voices, Tom Cox’s first collection of short stories is a series of evocative and unsettling trips into worlds previously visited by the likes of M. R. James and E. F. Benson. In other words, creepy stories!

Sleeping with the Lights On by Darryl Jones – Four o’clock in the morning, and the lights are on and still there’s no way we’re going to sleep, not after the film we just saw. The book we just read. Fear is one of the most primal human emotions, and one of the hardest to reason with and dispel. So why do we scare ourselves? 

I seem to have a lot of pre-orders for download in February but I’ll try to cover those in Salon posts o that it doesn’t look quite so bad 😀

 

 

 

 

Mid-January Book Haul

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As mentioned in my Sunday Salon post, I have already bought enough books by the middle of January to justify their own post, so here we are. Try not to be tempted too much – I clearly failed!

These aren’t in any particular order of purchase or preference, I’m just adding them as they come.

The Histories

Hitler & the Hapsburgs by James Longo – I didn’t know that Hitler, because he loathed the Hapsburg dynasty so much,  pursued the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (yes that Archduke Franz Ferdinand) throughout his time in power. I am fascinated by all things Hapsburg and this has been well-received

The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman – subtitled “Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicines and Murder Most Foul”; I love all of these 😀

Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Diaries of Kenneth Rose 1944 to 1979 – from the bombing of London in WWII to the election of the Thatcher woman, this promises to be full of gossip; I can’t resist reading other people’s diaries and letters.

The Crimes

The Puppet Show by MW Craven – “A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.” Sometimes you have to make your own entertainment

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup – “October, Copenhagen. The police make a terrible discovery – a young woman is found brutally murdered, with one of her hands cut off.Next to her lifeless body hangs a strange doll made of chestnuts . . .” Murder and crafting. Written by the author of The Killing which I loved, except for the ending of Series 3.

The Katherina Code by Jorn Hier Lorst – “Katharina went missing twenty-four years ago. Each year on the anniversary of her disappearance Chief Inspector William Wisting visits her husband, the man he could never help. He re-reads her files, searching for the answer he could never find. The code he could never solve. Until now.” Wisting is the new Wallander, according to Amazon at least.

The “I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read That Yet”

The Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins – in my defence I have seen and loved the film and toyed with the graphic novel but when my husband, a huge Collins fan who has been trying to get me to read his stuff for years, pointed out that there was a “new expanded novel” I finally agreed.

The Stuff That Only I Find Interesting

If you find this sort of thing interesting too, then you are my kind of people.

Declutter by Debora Robertson – “the get real guide to creating calm from chaos” Nigella Lawson said she needed this book and who am I to gainsay Nigella? Real solutions for real people. I am looking forward to reading this and comparing it to Marie Kondo’s approach (I’m reading her book at the moment and being irritated by many of the hot takes on Twitter). Whether I will actually declutter is yet to be seen.

L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau – I love lists and have been making them for as long as I can remember. I can’t decide if always writing things down has led to my memory becoming a little wonkier because I no longer rely on it so much, or whether I’m just getting older (I suspect it’s the latter). ” The humble list has the power to change your life. In its immediacy, its simplicity and its concise, contained form, the list enables us to organise, to save time and to approach facts with clarity.

Rituals for Every Day by Nadia Narain – “Let rituals bring you back to yourself.” I’m always looking for things to help me structure my day as a retired person, knowing that otherwise I would spend my life on the sofa reading. According to the Sunday Times this is non-patronising and authentic. I hate the word authentic in this sort of context but let’s give this a go.

Everything Else (otherwise known as the Bride gets bored with categorising)

Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill – “This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements the original work.” One of my favourite authors, Ronald Frame, thought this was fiendishly ingenious.

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – A fourth entry and prequel to the Wayward Children series. I enjoy her stuff immensely. This was a pre-order.

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – I found this by going down one of those Amazon ‘customers who bought that also bought this’ rabbit hole. “When it begins, it begins as an opera should begin: in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger, who you discover has your fate in his hands . . .  She is Lilliet Berne. And she is the soprano.” I know nothing about this at all. Liked the cover though.

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar – alternative-history novel, love those, and Tidhar is an extremely interesting author, so looking forward to this one very much.

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart – “The rambling house called Thornyhold is like something out of a fairy tale. Left to Gilly Ramsey by the cousin whose occasional visits brightened her childhood, the cottage, set deep in a wild wood, has come just in time to save her from a bleak future. With its reputation for magic and its resident black cat, Thornyhold offers Gilly more than just a new home. It offers her a chance to start over.”

So that’s it. For now at least 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hanging Tree

61d9sdyio4l._sx310_bo1,204,203,200_The Hanging Tree is the sixth novel in the Rivers of London series featuring PC Peter Grant and the Folly – the Met Police’s little-loved organisation called in to investigate crimes with a magical element.

It’s fair to say that new readers should probably not start here. There is a lot of referring back to previous cases and also developments in the main story arc, so although it would be possible to read this as a standalone a first-time reader would miss so much of the richness that is one of the pleasures of the series.

So, Peter is back in London and has been pulled into the investigation of a young woman’s drug-related death at a party in an expensive flat in Mayfair. Not normally his kind of thing in policing terms, but River Goddess Lady Ty’s daughter is involved in some way and so favours are being called in. It quickly  becomes clear that magic is involved; the young woman shows signs of being a magical practitioner. Cue the usual mayhem and double-dealing, especially when the Americans get involved.

There is a lot to be enjoyed in this novel. As always, Peter’s first person narration of the story really works and doesn’t suffer from the problems other first person stories often have. It also helps that his voice is distinctive and often very funny. All of the supporting characters are well-rounded and recognisable as individuals. And the ongoing story of the series’ Mega Villain (The Faceless Man) gets a major development that is both very satisfying and augurs well for future volumes.

The only quibble I have, which I’ve seen mentioned by other reviewers, is that there is insufficient Nightingale. But then I always think that’s the case…..

We all had to wait a long time for The Hanging Tree, but because I delayed reading it I already have the next volume (plus the novella released in between, and the comics) to hand, though I think I’ll space them out over 2019.

If you are a long-time reader of this series you won’t be disappointed.

On the Box – 2018

I don’t normally write about TV here but I thought it would be fun to capture the stuff I enjoyed this past year.

The stuff I knew I would enjoy and did

The stuff I came to a million years after everyone else

The stuff I’ve given up on because I just can’t any more

The stuff I enjoyed thoroughly despite possibly not actually being very good; though I will fight anyone who doesn’t like Instinct.

The stuff I rediscovered after thinking I would never watch it again

Do you have thoughts on any of these?

2018 Christmas Haul

IMG_0793As is traditional around these here parts, I thought I’d pull together a quick post to boast about, sorry, update everyone on the cool books and other stuff that I got for Christmas.

Book stuff

Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking by Deborah Cadbury – “In the late nineteenth century, Queen Victoria had over thirty surviving grandchildren. To maintain and increase power in Europe, she hoped to manoeuvre them into dynastic marriages.”

The Rig by Roger Levy – An astounding SF thriller for fans of Adrian Tchaikovsky, Neal Stephenson, Alastair Reynolds and David Mitchell says the blurb.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry – “Twenty years ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for, and she has spent every day since barricading herself against its memory. But her sheltered life is about to change.”

A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang – “The year is 1924. The cobblestoned streets of St. James ring with jazz as Britain races forward into an age of peace and prosperity. London’s back alleys, however, are filled with broken soldiers and still enshadowed by the lingering horrors of the Great War.”

Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull – “Great Barwick’s least popular man is murdered on a train. Twelve jurors sit in court. Four suspects are identified but which of them is on trial?”

Thomas Cromwell by Diarmaid MacCulloch – how many biographies of Master Cromwell does one need? All of them!

Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds – “Cassandra Darke is an art dealer, mean, selfish, solitary by nature, living in Chelsea in a house worth £7 million.” A modern-day Scrooge?

Non-book stuff

The Meg – Jason Statham versus an enormous shark; I know who my money is on…

Ghost Stories Based on Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s original Olivier nominated stage production, the same team have co-written and directed this adaptation for the big screen.

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Loved this in the cinema so it had to be added to the permanent collection

The Steampunk TarotRetooling the gears of the Rider-Waite tradition, the artwork evokes the imagery and spirit of this unique visual style. Another deck for my collection.

Something 16th century? Check. At least one crime novel? Check. Something horror adjacent? Check. Tom Cruise? Check.

Well, everything seems in order here!

The Last of My Autumn Reading

So here we are, hurtling towards the end of 2018 and it’s the time of year when I scramble to catch up with reviews of those books and movies that I didn’t get around to talking about at the time I read/watched them.

In this post I’m covering three books I read in the autumn, which brings me up to date as I haven’t finished anything else since then.

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

I have a tendency to veer towards Scandi noir fiction but only in a very patchy way, which is why I think I hadn’t heard of this husband and wife team writing as Lars Kepler even though they are huge best-sellers and there are already a number of volumes in this series. I started with the first  and it is an odd book.

I read the title and thought “ooh, serial killer hypnotist” but * SPOILER ALERT * – though not really giving anything away – the hypnotist of the title is involved in assisting the police in investigating a family murder. Of course things go horribly wrong, and a chunk of the book is focussed on said hypnotist’s back story. For that reason I don’t think the book is entirely successful – I wanted more of a police procedural rather than a sort of psychological study, but having said that a lot of the writing was very good and I had no problem finishing the thing. I have, of course, already bought the second…..

The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel

Whom I kept on thinking of as Oscar de la Renta; which is very sloppy thinking on my part, possibly offensive to the gentleman concerned and shows that clearly I’m reading too much Vogue.

Anyway, this was recommended in a blog post by (I think – apologies if not) Christopher Fowler, so I thought I’d give it a try only to discover that I had already purchased a copy a few years ago and had just forgotten. The novel is set in Edinburgh around the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, and our hero, Inspector Ian Frey, is sent to Scotland when a violinist is murdered in a way reminiscent of the Ripper’s crimes. Frey is partnered with “Nine-Nails McGray”, a notorious local inspector with Tragedy in his past and an interest in the supernatural and related things. They insult each other constantly and at a wonderfully extreme level which I found very funny. What starts off as a locked room mystery followed, of course, by other deaths is very cleverly done and I enjoyed this thoroughly. Recommended if you like a mixture of horror, historical crime and comedy.

And finally….

Bestial by Harold Schechter

A fascinating, deeply gruesome and upsetting non-fiction examination of the crime spree carried out in the 1920s by Earle Leonard Nelson, starting in San Francisco and ending in Canada. To give you an idea of what’s covered here the blurb on the book screams:

From social outcast to necrophile & murderer, his appalling crimes stunned an era.

So, obviously reader beware – this is only for experienced aficionados of true crime. It’s clearly been throughly researched and is written in a breezy journalistic style but, as a woman in my late 50s, I became increasingly grumpy at the descriptions of Nelson’s older wife by (presumably) the author. Is 58 elderly? Is a woman in her 60s really a crone? I know things were different back in the 1920s and a woman of that age would have had a harder life than the one I have experienced, but who calls anyone a crone? Honestly, says Disgusted of New Malden. But Ann Rule rated Schechter so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

All caught up on the book front – yay me!

Widows

MV5BMjM3ODc5NDEyOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTI4MDcxNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,631,1000_AL_Four women lose their husbands in a robbery gone spectacularly wrong. They find themselves in danger from the victim of the robbery, and the gang leader’s widow, Veronica, realises that the only way to put things right is to carry out the next job her husband had planned.

I was very excited to see Widows, both because I had fond but vague memories of Lynda LaPlante’s original series from (I think) the 1980s, and because of the amazing ensemble cast. The action has been moved from London to Chicago but the key elements, especially the fact that no-one would suspect these women as robbers, are very much in place.

It’s an impressive and gripping film, beautifully structured and with strong performances from everyone involved. The stand-outs for me were Viola Davis as Veronica, Elizabeth Debicki as Alice and Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme, but to single these performances out is to do a disservice to everyone else in the film. All of the characters are ideally cast and excellently performed, from the members of Harry’s gang whom we see fleetingly at the beginning, to the politicians who are involved in this crime up to their necks.

I saw one critic (I think it was Mark Kermode) say that the writing was particularly strong in that none of the characters felt the need to explain the plot to each other; the audience is trusted to work things out on their own. I think he is absolutely right; the dialogue is so clear and realistic, as you would expect from Gillian Flynn who adapted this from the original series.

It’s less of a heist film than a character piece, but the final robbery is still exciting and heart stopping, and the film’s conclusion is very satisfying. I thought this was absolutely fabulous. My husband’s verdict? “All the men are shits!” And he isn’t wrong!

Highly recommended.

Directed by Steve McQueen, Widows is 129 minutes long and rated 15 for strong violence, sex and strong language.