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 | Out & About & Mini-Reviews

This time last week we were celebrating the Book God’s birthday, and those celebrations extended into the Monday when we travelled to Brighton so that we could visit the Royal Pavilion. Now we’re back to old clothes and porridge as they say (in a stronger Scottish accent) where I come from. More on Brighton later, but first – the books

I had a really good reading week, finishing three books, starting with Siren Song by Robert Edric, which I’ll review in a day or so.

As for the other two:

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark – so I am fascinated by true crime as I have gone on about here ad nauseam, and one of my favourite sources is the podcast My Favourite Murder hosted by Karen & Georgia, the authors of this book, which is basically a joint memoir expanding on the stories they have told about their lives during the non-murdery parts of their broadcast. I love them and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Private Life of Elder Things is “a collection of new Lovecraftian fiction about confronting, discovering and living alongside the creatures of the Mythos.” This is a bit patchy as all anthologies tend to be, but there are some very good stories included. A quick read with one of my favourite things, author’s notes.

This week’s new books:

  • The October Man * Ben Aaronovitch – A Rivers of London novella. Trier is famous for wine, Romans and for being Germany’s oldest city. So when a man is found dead with, his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth. Fortunately, this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything. [Pre-order]
  • The Paper Wasp * Lauren Acampora – An electrifying debut novel of two women’s friendship, a haunting obsession and twisted ambition, set against the feverish backdrop of contemporary Hollywood. [Pre-order]
  • 1913: The Defiant Swan Song * Virginia Cowles – It’s the eve of the First World War. One era ends as another is set to begin. Before life is changed forever in the maelstrom of war, the excess and extravagance of European high society blazes its trail. Acclaimed historian Virginia Cowles paints a picture of the glamour and scandals within the upper echelon of society of seven major cities, through rich prose and lively anecdotes.
  • Just One Damned Thing After Another * Jodi Taylor – Chronicles of St Mary’s Book 1 – When Madeleine Maxwell is recruited by the St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, she discovers the historians there don’t just study the past – they revisit it. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And she soon discovers it’s not just History she’s fighting…

I’m currently reading The Man from the Train by Bill James which is an early twentieth-century true crime murder mystery. I’m still considering my fiction read.

Back to Brighton. We had a super day walking around the Pavilion before having a delicious meal in a local Italian restaurant, all of this despite the best efforts of two railway companies and rain that was at almost biblical levels. Seriously, it was running down the streets. But we still had fun.

Have a great reading week!

My Reading Week (or two….)

I haven’t posted for 10 days or so even though I have a lot to say about stuff, so I thought I’d pop in and say hello and catch you up with what I’ve been reading and buying and so forth. I don’t even have a picture for the top of this post: so sorry but I’m sure we’ll all get over it 🙂

Books finished:

  • Currently by Sarah Mensinga
  • Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain
  • The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

It’s good when you get a run of really enjoyable books. Proper reviews will follow shortly, assuming I can get my act together.

New Books: all of these are ebooks and/or impulse purchases unless otherwise stated.

It’s OK To Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort – “This isn’t a cancer story. It’s a love story. Twenty-something Nora bounced from boyfriend to dopey ‘boyfriend’ until she met Aaron – a charismatic art director and comic-book nerd who made her laugh. When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron’s hospital bed and had a baby boy while he was on chemo.” I have listened to Nora’s stand in as co-host on TBTL, one of my favourite podcasts, and fins her engaging and funny and moving, so I’m very much looking forward to reading this.

Saturday’s Child by Deborah Burns – “An only child, Deborah Burns grew up in prim 1950s America in the shadow of her beautiful, unconventional, rule-breaking mother, Dorothy—a red-haired beauty who looked like Rita Hayworth and skirted norms with a style and flare that made her the darling of men and women alike. Married to the son of a renowned Italian family with ties to the underworld, Dorothy fervently eschewed motherhood and domesticity, turning Deborah over to her spinster aunts to raise while she was the star of a vibrant social life. As a child, Deborah revered her charismatic mother, but Dorothy was a woman full of secrets with a troubled past—a mistress of illusion whose love seemed just out of her daughter’s grasp.” Sounds fascinating.

Illness as a Metaphor & AIDS and it’s Metaphors by Susan Sontag – I have been listening to past episodes of This Podcast Will Kill You which is a fascinating examination of disease, and the two Erins who present the show made mention of this book in their episode on HIV. So here we are.

Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain – this is the sixth and, as far as I can see final, final instalment of the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell serial killer novels. I’ve only just finished book number 5 (see books read above) and I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s all over. I shall be bereft. The plots are getting dafter and Gretchen is virtually superhuman but they are SO enjoyable

Shorter Days by Anna Katharina Hahn – translated from german and set in Stuttgart this is all about how “[o]ver the course of a few days, Judith and Leonie’s apparently stable, successful lives are thrown into turmoil by the secrets they keep, the pressures they’ve been keeping at bay, and the waves of change lapping at the peaceful shores of their existence.” I picked this up following a review by my blog chum Jinjer.

The Half Man by Anne Billson – as well as a fabulous film critic and excellent person to follow on Twitter, Anne has also written a number of horror novels and this is her latest, more of a supernatural thriller I think. Purchased because it’s a good thing to support people you like who create things.

Frock Consciousness – an actual physical book from the London Review of Books which collects writing about clothes from their publication.

And finally, my single pre-order – If, Then by Kate Hope Day – “In a sleepy Oregon town at the base of a dormant volcano, four neighbours find their lives upended when they see visions of themselves in an alternate reality, and have to question the choices they’ve made as natural disaster looms.

Currently reading:

Caroline Moorehead’s biography of Iris Origo, which I’ve just started and is very readable.

Hope you all have a wonderful reading week!

My Reading Week… | … and the art of the list

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3764I didn’t do a huge amount of reading this week as I was working on other projects, including learning how to use the new software package which is going to help me sort out all of my family history research gathered over decades (I think I started in the late 1980s) and which needs to be collated so that I can start to work on it again now that I am retired and have the time.

So let’s get into the details:

Currently Reading – at the moment I’m reading Currently by Sarah Mensinga which I mentioned in last week’s round-up. I’m about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it; I just need to find a slot long enough for me to finish it in a single session.

New books – of course it wouldn’t be my weekly round-up without new books to add to the TBR pile – though it should be noted that in sorting some things out around the house I found another little pile of books to be donated to local charity shops, so I think there was no net gain on my part.

Anyway:

The Luminous Dead * Caitlin Starling – a pre-order – A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

Wicked Saints * Emily A Duncan –  a pre-order – A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

Wakenhyrst * Michelle Paver – a pre-order – In Edwardian Suffolk, a manor house stands alone in a lost corner of the Fens: a glinting wilderness of water whose whispering reeds guard ancient secrets. Maud is a lonely child growing up without a mother, ruled by her repressive father. When he finds a painted medieval devil in a graveyard, unhallowed forces are awakened.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone * Lori Gottlieb – non-fiction – As a therapist, Lori knows a lot about pain, about the ways in which pain is tied to loss, and how change and loss travel together. She knows how affirming it feels to blame the outside world for her frustrations, to deny ownership of whatever role she might have in the existential play called My Incredibly Important Life. When a devastating event takes place in Lori’s life, she realises that, before being able to help her patients, she must first learn how to help herself.

Heart Talk * Cleo Wade – I’m a support of Cindy Guentert-Baldo on Patreon and subscribe to her YouTube channel which covers art, lettering, planning and living with chronic illness. She is awesome, and occasionally hosts a book club. Heart Talk is her choice for April and is “A beautifully illustrated book from Cleo Wade—the artist, poet, and speaker who has been called “the Millennial Oprah” by New York Magazine—that offers creative inspiration and life lessons through poetry, mantras, and affirmations

Growing Pains * Emily Carr – Completed just before Emily Carr died in 1945, Growing Pains tells the story of Carr’s life, beginning with her girlhood in pioneer Victoria and going on to her training as an artist in San Francisco, England and France. Also here is the frustration she felt at the rejection of her art by Canadians, of the years of despair when she stopped painting.

Hundreds & Thousands * Emily Carr – Emily Carr’s journals from 1927 to 1941 portray the happy, productive period when she was able to resume painting after dismal years of raising dogs and renting out rooms to pay the bills. These revealing entries convey her passionate connection with nature, her struggle to find her voice as a writer, and her vision and philosophy as a painter.

The last two books on the list were bought as a result of my finishing L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau, a wonderful book which I absolutely loved. I have always been someone who makes lists, mostly of things to be done, packing lists, projects and to-dos, but this book takes the idea of a list further, and looks at it on a philosophical basis, as something that can help with spiritual and personal growth. The author is French but heavily influenced by Japanese culture. Much more philosophical than I had expected, this book gave me a lot to think about. Already considering the additional lists I am going to make!

And finally………

When your husband knows exactly what to get you as a belated extra birthday present 😀

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My Reading Week | 31 March

IMG_0818So here we are already at the end of March and another reading week has passed. How did I do?

Books finished = a big fat ZERO.

I set aside the book about Sandra Day O’Connor & Ruth Bader Ginsburg because constitutional law and politics in general is just stressful for me (as for many other people here in the UK) at the moment, but I will come back to it later in the year as RBG in particular is a remarkable and fascinating woman.

I gave the Jo Nesbo book the 50 pages test, and at that point realised that not only was I not enjoying the book, I didn’t care about any of the people or any of the events taking place, and as life is short and there are so many other books to read it had to stop. It’s going in the donation pile.

I’m currently reading two much better and more interesting books. Currently by Sarah Mensinga is a really good fantasy novel set in a world apparently inspired by early 20th century ocean travel; I’m enjoying it very much. L’art de la Liste is light reading of the best kind and I have marked up so many quotes in my Kindle app that it’s almost multi-coloured.

After the monumental book haul covered in my last post, we will all be relieved to note that only one additional book made it onto my Kindle this week:

  • My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – the blurb asks in giant shouty capitals “HOW WELL DO YOU REALLY KNOW THE ONE YOU LOVE THE MOST?” Apparently, also according to the blurb, I might think I’ve read stories like this before but I would be wrong. I have taken this as a personal challenge.

In other stuff it’s been a quiet week with just one outing, which was once again to Sadler’s Wells. If you follow me on social media you will have seen me post a picture of my programme for Northern Ballet’s Victoria. This was a dark and intense work looking back at Victoria’s life via the process of her daughter Princess Beatrice reading, editing and in some cases censoring her mother’s diaries. Enjoyed it very much indeed.

So, here’s to another month of interesting books. Hope you have a great reading week!