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!

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.

Sunday Salon | 2 June 2019

Here we are almost halfway through the year and as I write this #20BooksOfSummer is kicking off, though there is the small matter of finishing the book I’m in the middle of at the moment before I can start participating properly.

A deliberate choice of angle
and not the result of a French Martini

Last week was one of ups and downs. The downs were mainly focussed on our central heating boiler which was so temperamental that I was convinced that it had achieved sentience and was just pissing about with us. It took three visits by two very nice British Gas engineers before it was definitively identified that a new boiler would be required. We will be ceremoniously smashing open the piggy bank later 😀

The up was my (our) wedding anniversary which we celebrated with a trip to the Museum of London Docklands to view the Secret Rivers exhibition – of course, I took a (not very good) photo of the books inspired by the Thames display – and an excellent lunch at one of the most hipsterish restaurants I have ever visited. I may have led a sheltered life though.

How many of these have you read?

What I read

I managed to finish two books this week – the biography of Iris Origo which I have been reading for what seems like an age. I’m going to read some of her own work before I decide whether I’m going to write any more about her, but reading Caroline Moorehead’s beautifully written book has sent me down some WW2 rabbit-holes.

I also read King of Spies by Blaine Harden; the subtitle – the dark reign of America’s spymaster in Korea – tells you all that you need to know about the subject matter. I live in the part of southwest London with a very large South Korean population but realised that I knew very little about that country’s history. A fascinating but disturbing read which has inspired me to find out more.

What I bought

  • Walking to Aldebaran * Adrian Tchaikovsky – I’M LOST. I’M SCARED. AND THERE’S SOMETHING HORRIBLE IN HERE. [Pre-order]
  • Longer * Michael Blumlein- In Longer, Michael Blumlein explores dauntingly epic topics—love, the expanse of the human lifespan, mortality—with a beautifully sharp story that glows with grace and good humour even as it forces us to confront deep, universal fears. [Pre-order]
  • Stormtide * Den Patrick – Book Two of the Ashen Torment series; I really like Den’s work and will be looking forward to readig this series. [Pre-order]
  • Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered * Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark – reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the podcasting world. I follow their podcast religiously and am a member of their MFM Fan Cult so there was no way I wasn’t going to get this book. [Pre-order]
  • Pandemic * Sonia Shah – Scientists agree that a pathogen is likely to cause a global pandemic in the near future. But which one? And how? Bought this because of another podcast I follow (This Podcast Will Kill You – it’s awesome)
  • Blood Pearl * Anne Billson – Camillography Book 1 – Millie Greenwood leads an uneventful life with her overprotective parents in Bramblewood, the most boring village in England – until one day, not long after her sixteenth birthday, she sneakily forges her mother’s signature to go on a school trip to Paris.  I love Anne’s work as an author and a film critic so again this was always going to be on my To Buy list. Plus VAMPIRES!

What I’m reading now

Currently trying to finish the final Archie Sheriden & Gretchen Lowell serial killer novel by Chelsea Cain. I will have thoughts on the series as a whole I’m sure. I talked about the first three here if you are interested.

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!

Book Haul Alert

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It’s that time again…..

The Pre-orders

A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther – Exploring themes of ownership and abandonment, Eleanor Anstruther’s debut is a fictionalised account of the true story of Enid Campbell (1892–1964), granddaughter of the 8th Duke of Argyll and the whole handing over a child for money thing

Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour by Christopher Fowler – the seventeenth entry in one of my very favourite series, though I am behind in reading them by two or three volumes. I was invited to the book launch but sadly couldn’t attend. Anyway – On a rainy winter night outside a run-down nightclub in the wrong part of London, four strangers meet for the first time at 4:00am. A few weeks later the body of an Indian textile worker is found hanging upside down inside a willow tree on Hampstead Heath. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. The victim was found surrounded by the paraphernalia of black magic, and so Arthur Bryant and John May set off to question experts in the field. But the case is not what it appears

The Near Witch by VE Schwab – The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry – Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma. In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them. Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurtling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.

The Ones with Crime

Breathe by Dominick Donald – I bought this because I had recently finished Death in the Air and this has similar themes but in a fictional setting – London, 1952. Dick Bourton is not like the other probationer policemen in Notting Hill. He’s older, having fought in Europe and then Korea. And he’s no Londoner, being from Cotswold farming stock. Then there’s Anna, the exotically beautiful White Russian fiancée he has brought back to these drab streets and empty bombsites. She may as well come from a different planet. The new copper also has a mind of his own. After an older colleague is shot by a small-time gangster they are chasing in a pea-souper fog, something nags at Bourton’s memory. He begins to make connections which his superiors don’t want to see, linking a whole series of deaths and the fogs that stop the city in its tracks.

Death Has Deep Roots by Michael Gilbert – originally published in 1951 – An eager London crowd awaits the trial of Victoria Lamartine: hotel worker, ex-French Resistance fighter, and the only logical suspect for the murder of her supposed lover, Major Eric Thoseby. Lamartine – who once escaped from the clutches of the Gestapo – is set to meet her end at the gallows. One final opportunity remains: the defendant calls on solicitor Nap Rumbold to replace the defence counsel, and grants an eight-day reprieve from the proceedings. Without any time to spare, Rumbold boards a ferry across the Channel, tracing the roots of the brutal murder back into the war-torn past.

Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm by Gil North – originally published in 1960 – Amy Snowden, in middle age, has long since settled into a lonely life in the Yorkshire town of Gunnarshaw, until – to her neighbours’ surprise – she suddenly marries a much younger man. Months later, Amy is found dead – apparently by her own hand – and her husband, Wright, has disappeared.Sergeant Caleb Cluff – silent, watchful, a man at home in the bleak moorland landscape of Gunnarshaw – must find the truth about the couple’s unlikely marriage, and solve the riddle of Amy’s death.

Streets of Darkness by AA Dhand – DI Harry Virdee Book 1 – bought following an article about the author on the BBC website – The sky over Bradford is heavy with foreboding. It always is. But this morning it has reason to be – this morning a body has been found. And it’s not just any body. Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.

The Ones That Are True

Dopesick by Beth Macy – Dealers, Doctors & the Drug Company that Addicted America –This powerful and moving story explains how a large corporation, Purdue, encouraged small town doctors to prescribe OxyContin to a country already awash in painkillers. The drug’s dangerously addictive nature was hidden, whilst many used it as an escape, to numb the pain of joblessness and the need to pay the bills. Macy tries to answer a grieving mother’s question – why her only son died – and comes away with a harrowing tale of greed and need.

Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein & Paula Bernstein – I bought this after watching Three Identical Strangers in which these twin sisters feature briefly, so was interested in reading more about their experiences in this, to me, shocking experiment. The documentary is excellent btw; I’ll be writing about it soon.

What Would Boudicca Do? by Elizabeth Foley & Beth Coates – It is time to start channelling the spiky superwomen of history to conquer today. It is time to turn to women like Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker, Hypatia and Cleopatra, Coco Chanel and Empress Cixi. In this irreverent guide they will help you figure out how to dispatch a loverat, back yourself, kill it at work and trounce FoMo. Saw this in the Foyles branch in Waterloo station and could not resist it.

The Rest

A Vengeance of Spies by Manda Scott – a WWII novella – War hides many secrets and some of them are better kept. But the secret of Hut Ten was never that kind: it could have been leaked and a life would have been saved. One man could have made that difference. He didn’t – and vengeance has taken forty years to catch up with him.

Mask of the Other by Greg Stolze – In 1974, something came out of the sea during the invasion of Cyprus, killing Greeks and Turks indiscriminately until it was bombed into dormancy and entombed. In 1988 a rock band disappeared while filming on an abandoned island-town off the coast of Japan. In 1991, a squad of US infantry was attacked in Iraq by a bulletproof, invisible entity.  [This book] connects these disparate events, as a group of soldiers plunders the remnants of Saddam’s occult weapons program and attempts to engage with creatures of an inhuman mythos… as equals. 

Scrublands by Chris Hammer – In an isolated country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself. A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don’t fit with the accepted version of events. Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers – missing since the time of the massacre – are found in the scrublands.

As if all of that wasn’t enough I also bought the first six Dune books in Kindle form to re-read in anticipation of Denis Villeneuve’s film adaptation, which I am convinced will be awesome.