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 😀

 

 

 

 

Mary Poppins Returns

step_payoff_poster3_united_kingdomThose of us who were children in the 1960s will have strong, and in my case very fond, memories of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, so when it was announced that a new film was going to be made I was a little anxious about how it would turn out. Once Emily Blunt was cast as the lead I relaxed a bit, and began to be excited about seeing the film.

And before I go into more detail, I am pleased to be able to say that it is really lovely and charming and highly entertaining.

Mary Poppins Returns is set in the Depression, several decades after the original, with the Banks children all grown up. Jane has followed her mother into political activism (hands up anyone who’d forgotten that Mrs Banks was a Suffragette) and Michael is a recent widower with three children, a job in the bank at which his father worked, and financial difficulties which may lead to the loss of the family home.

Cue the arrival of Mary Poppins.

If the original film was all about saving Mr Banks (and if you haven’t seen that film with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks then you really should), then MP Returns is definitely about saving Michael. I will fight anyone who says it isn’t.

It is fair to say (as others already have) that this is less of a sequel and more an exercise in revisiting the original film. Not sure?

  • Non-cockney Cockney? Check.
  • Cartoon sequence? Check.
  • Really good songs? Absolutely, though only time will tell if they will last as long as, for example, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or A Spoonful of Sugar. But let’s give it time.
  • Lessons to be learned even in the middle of surreal situations? Yep.

Everyone will rightly talk about Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda but for me, Ben Whishaw was one of the best things in the movie. The children were also excellent and there were some very enjoyable cameos. And a special shout-out to Colin Firth’s moustache which made me very suspicious from the outset as to his intentions.

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Mary Poppins Returns was clearly made by people who actually love the original. It looks very familiar but also totally fresh and really manages to retain the spirit of the original film. And has made me want to re-read the books.

Highly recommended; it’s super.

Dazzling details: directed by Rob Marshall, MPR is 130 minutes long and rated U for everyone if you are OK with very mild threat. I feel I may have said this recently about something else….

A Christmas Carol @ The Old Vic

aac-18-017A Christmas Carol is my absolutely favourite Dickens work and probably one of my favourite stories of all time. I have seen so many versions on film (my favourite of course being this 1951 version with Alastair Sim, and the most recent A Muppet Christmas Carol which *gasp* my husband had never seen) but it has been a long time since I saw a version on stage, so when I relaised that the Old Vic was repeating its hit from 2017 I bought tickets for us to see the production, which we did on 4 January.

It was totally worth it.

A Christmas Carol was written by Dickens in just 6 weeks during 1843, fueled by his rage and disgust at the poverty he saw around him and the lack of care, sympathy and, most importantly, practical help from those in society who were signifcantly better off. Or, as Dickens himself put it in a letter to a friend, the

sleek, slobbering, bow-paunched, overfed, apopleptic, snorting cattle

The staging in this production is nothing short of magical, with mince pies and satsumas being handed out as you enter the auditorium and lanterns hanging from the ceiling – I took a picture when we arrived which you can see on my Instagram feed.

The story has been re-worked but is still essentially that which we know and love, and the changes both make sense and are successful which is all that you can ask for, really. Stephen Tompkinson takes on the role from Rhys Ifans (whom I would have loved to have seen, having just caught him on TV as Hector in season one of Berlin Station) and is really very good indeed in the role. The use of music is wonderful, with everything from Christmas carols to handbell ringing, adding up to a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

It’s on until 19 January I believe, so if you get the chance do go and see it 🙂

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.

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!

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.

Phantom Thread

fullsizeoutput_895I love all things fashion so was very excited to see this film. Unfortunately, I missed it in the cinema but treated myself to the DVD on release and I’m so glad I did. It was very much worth waiting for.

Phantom Thread is set in the world of couture in London in the 1950s. Reynolds Woodcock (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) is a renowned dress designer who is famously difficult and requires his home and working space to be rigidly ordered to his particular requirements. Supported by his sister Cyril (the amazing Lesley Manville), he is captivated by a succession of young women who act as his muse, but who are despatched by Cyril once Reynolds inevitably becomes tired of them. Into this set-up walks Alma (Vicky Krieps), a very different type of young woman willing to stand up to Reynolds and his frequently appalling behaviour.

This is a beautifully constructed film. We are quickly brought up to speed with the type of man Reynolds is; a self-absorbed creative talent who uses his position as an artist to get away with demands and behaviour that would be completely unacceptable elsewhere. Obsessed with his late mother, reliant on the practical skills of his sister, he favours young women with his attention until boredom hits and he dismisses them out of hand. When Alma is brought into the household we expect the same pattern to repeat itself, but she is more than capable of holding her ground and will not go willingly. Over the course of the film the two of them battle for supremacy and eventually reach a solution which to my mind is rather drastic but seems to satisfy them both.

The acting is, as you would expect, wonderful; the whole cast seems to thoroughly enjoy delivering a succession of fabulous lines with an air of waspishness which I loved. And of course the clothes are so sumptuous and beautiful I could stare at them for ever. I would love to see them exhibited somewhere but not sure if that will ever be on the cards.

I also absolutely love House Woodcock, a combined living, working and selling space which would suit me to a tee.

If you are interested in fashion and want to experience overbearing masculinity subtly put in its place in a somewhat Gothic setting then I recommend this highly.

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread is 2hrs 10 mins long and rated 15 for strong language.