Sunday Salon | 17 November

Suddenly (or so it seems to me at least) we are in the middle of November and I am starting to think of all things Christmas. This includes the wishlists that the Book God and I exchange – a simple idea that’s worked very well for the 25 years we’ve lived together. We each agree a number of gifts (almost always books, but sometimes music or movies), then exchange lists containing at least three times that number of suggestions. That way, we always get something that we want but we don’t know exactly what that will be.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

This approach has two consequences (a) a book buying ban from, oh, around about now and (b) a Boxing Day online shopping spree for things we (OK, I) have asked for but didn’t get and now realise are absolutely must-haves.

But this hasn’t stopped the flow of new books coming into the Bride’s home in November. Let’s check them out, shall we?

The Pre-Orders

  • The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North – I love Claire and was lucky wnought to meet her at a reading on the publication of Touch which she kindly signed for me, and wher we all agreed that Roger Zelazny was a genius. Her newest novel is set in South Africa in the 1880s and involves a curse…..
  • Who Loses, Who Wins by Kenneth Rose – the second volume of his journals, this covers the period from 1979 and the election of That Woman, to Rose’s own death in 2014.
  • Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe – an author new to me, but any novel set in the 1920s using a photograph of Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong and Leni Riefenstahl in one frame at a party in Berlin has me intrigued

The Impulse Buys

  • Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire – the collected short stories of the author who also writes as Mira Grant, these cover “airy tale forest to gloomy gothic moor, from gleaming epidemiologist’s lab to the sandy shores of Neverland
  • Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver – “When strangers take part in a series of group suicides, everything suggests that a cult is to blame. How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?
  • The Vagina Bible by Dr Jen Gunter – I follow Dr Gunter on Twitter and very much enjoy the way she debunks some of the myths around reproductive health pushed by celebrities (my hard stare is directed at you, Gwyneth Paltrow) and gives sound advice to women of all ages. She gets a lot of stick online and I wanted to buy her book not only to support her but to learn things. Even at my advanced age.
  • Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge – “1960s New York, and Emma Bowden seems to have it all – a glamorous Manhattan apartment, a loving husband, and a successful writing career. But while Emma and her husband Jonathan are on vacation at the Hamptons, a child drowns in the sea, and suspicion falls on Emma.

I’ve done very little reading this week but have been listening to podcasts instead, particularly Jensen & Holes: Murder Squad. Yes, it’s tru crime, however did you guess?

Also of note this week was my first chance to attend a technical rhearsal at Sadlers Wells. The Dorrance Dance Company was performing – they use tap in a very modern and at times astonishing way and I had a great time. They are very much worth looking out for.

So, that’s my week. Hope you guys are all doing well and will see you in my next post (spoiler – I will go on at length about Doctor Sleep!)

Sunday Salon | 10 November

I seem to have spent a lot of time napping this week, which I’m going to continue to blame on the end of British Summertime even though that was a fortnight ago.

I am willing to die on that hill.

I’m still having problems progressing with fiction but my tried and tested anti-slump technique of reading non-fiction worked again, as I picked up and quickly finished A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup, which is all about the poisons Agatha Christie used in her dtective stories. really intersting and has sent me down a rabbit hole, the results of which will become obvious soon-ish.

Despite having just published two long posts about the books I bought during my hiatus in October, more books have arrived on my e-reader this week:

  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – the long awaited follow-up to The Night Circus which I loved back in the day, this is getting much praise. I’m saving it until I know I’m going to be able to finish it
  • Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky – there are tiny puppety things and the main character is called Coppelia; I shall say no more
  • Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas – modern boarding school mystery with Russian twist
  • The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes – a novel based on the life of the French surgeon Samuel Pozzi, subject of one of my favourite John Singer Sargent portraits (though I’m not sure that there are any I don’t like)

Those were all pre-ordered. There was only on impulse buy this week The Spectral City by Leanna Renee Hieber, as recommended by the Book God himself. Oh, and I also got a free book from Amazon – true crime in the shape of If You Tell by Gregg Olsen which I must admit looks incredibly grim.

All links are to Goodreads btw.

In other stuff, I took myself to see Doctor Sleep, based partly on the Stephen King sequel to The Shining, and partly to the Kubrick movie of the same. If you have read/seen both then you will know that there are differences in plot, and if you have been visiting here for any length of time then you will know that I am not a major fan of the Kubrick movie, mostly because if the way it chooses to treat Wendy Torrance. But Doctor Sleep was excellent, and I’ll be writing about it more fully shortly.

In other “what I’ve been watching” news, I was absolutely (and surprisingly) gutted to realise that not only was last week’s episode of Instinct (starring the wonderful Alan Cumming) was the last in season 2, it was also the last one EVER. I was very cross about this as it was something of a guilty pleasure for me – at least it would have been if I believe there is such a thing. You should love what you love, people, and not make excuses for it.

And finally, our big outing this week was to the National Portrait Gellery to see the exhibition “Pre-Raphaelite Sisters” which was simply lovely and I learned a great deal. I may also have bought the catalogue….

It’s disappointing to hear that the NPG will be closing for efurbishment for around 3 years which seems rather extreme to me.

Hopefully some interesting things coming up this week. Hope you all have a great one!

October Round-Up | New Books | The Impulse Purchases

Photo by César Viteri on Unsplash

All of the books I didn’t know I was going to buy but I succumbed for whatever reason. If I actually remember what those reasons were I will be sure to let you know below 🙂

The Horror…. almost entirely bought simply because it was October

The Non-Fiction

  • Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming – one of my favourite actors, I’m still devastated that Instinct has been cancelled, so obviously had to get this to keep me company until I see him on stage next year.
  • Pet Sounds by Quinn Cummings – my love for Quinn has been mentioned here more than once; sadly once I finish this I will have read all of her books and will only have her podcast left…
  • The Pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carre – spies and writing, two of the things I enjoy reading about, this looks totally absorbing.

The Rest

  • Out by Natsuo Kirino – my fascination with Japanese crime fiction continues
  • The Last Days by Laurent Seksik – a fictionalised version of the last months of the writer Stefan Zweig before he took his own life in 1942
  • You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlman – I think I saw this recommended by another blogger, but in any case it looks interesting (and may possibly have been added to the Horror list)
  • The Witch Who Came in from the Cold S1 – having mentioned reading the first chapter here I was clearly going to by the complete version, so I did
  • Defender by GX Todd – when the blurb mentions both Stephen King and Neil Gaiman then I have to give this author a try.

Have you read any of these?

October Round-Up | New Books | The Pre-Orders

This post will do what it says on the tin, listing the many pre-orders which landed on my Kindle app (unless otherwise stated) during October. All links are to Goodreads.

Photo by Paolo Chiabrando on Unsplash

Life Undercover by Amaryllis Fox – recruited by the CIA when she was only 21, this is her memoir of her life as an operative

The Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates – a woman with a haunted past, a husband trying to get to the bottom of it all

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp – Kate Collins has been ghosted. She was supposed to be moving in with her new boyfriend Scott, but all she finds after relocating to Brighton is an empty apartment. Scott has vanished. His possessions have all disappeared. Except for his mobile phone.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, this is apparently “A speculative thriller in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power

Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley – […] a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.

The Reddening by Adam Nevill – given the cover, if there is not at least one werewolf in this folk horror novel then I shall be severely disappointed.

Interference by Sue Burke – the second novel in the Semiosis Duology; I already have, but not yet read, the first one….

Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma – short fantasy, coming-of-age, all about the land.

Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather – all about the Sisters of the Order of St Rita and their mission. In space. That’s right – Nuns in Space!

And a flurry of crime novels:

Let me know if there is anything in this list that captures your interest, or that you’ve already read.

Sunday Salon | 3 November

So, back to the old routine. Although I had planned to post before today I (as always) underestimated just how long it takes to get back to normal after a holiday. Especially where laundry is concerned. How can two adults create so much stuff in 10 days?

But what of this week? Well it was Halloween so of course I had good intentions of watching and/or reading creepy stuff but that just didn’t happen. Except for going to see The Addams Family, which I will blog about separately. I am hoping to rectify this oversight by going to see Doctor Sleep this coming week. By myself.

Books read – nothing finished since I got back home

New books – so many during October that two, count them TWO, posts will be necessary to cover them all.

Currently reading: the same list I had before going away with two additions:

  • Gilded Needles by Michael McDowell – historical Gothic-ish novel recommended by Christopher Fowler and so far very gripping
  • Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore – ticks so many boxes! When you discover you have something sartorial in common with Samuel Beckett it kind of makes your day 🙂

What we are watching – too many series to list here BUT if you haven’t been watching John Turturro in The Name of the Rose then you must seek it out immediately. Yes, it’s “slow” (rolls eyes) but worth it if you loved the book. And of course this evening in the UK we have episode one of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and I couldn’t be more excited.

Have a great reading week!

Two Mini-Reviews and a Hiatus |Sunday Salon * 29 September

It’s dark and windy outside and feeling distinctly autumnal and seemed like the right time for a Sunday Salon post.

As with last week there has been no progress on reading – I’m still [not] reading the same two books and that means I haven’t finished any either. But as we are in peak publishing season a few new books arrived on my Kindle app this week, mostly pre-orders. Here, in no particular order, are the details:

  • Grave Importance * Vivian Shaw – the third Greta Helsing novel, set in a health spa for mummies. The Book God has already read this and recommends highly.
  • The Monster of Elendhaven * Jennifer Giesbrecht – defnitely a Halloween book, this tells the story of the city of Elendhaven which “sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats.”
  • The Tenth Girl * Sara Faring – a Gothic haunted school set in a mansion in Argentina with a family curse.
  • The Flower Arranger * JJ Ellis – Tokyo-set police procedural involving a reporter teaming up with the police to look into the disappearance of a number of young women
  • Starvation Heights * Gregg Olsen – a true story of murder, malice, quackery, a snake-oil saleswoman and untimely deaths. Fasting treatment is rarely if ever a good thing. Bought this after hearing the ladies on My Favourite Murder outline the story; I was really keen for a deep dive and this came recommended.
  • My Name is Anna * Lizzy Barber – “Two women – desperate to unlock the truth. How far will they go to lay the past to rest?
  • Gone * Leona Deakin – the first Dr Augusta Bloom mystery. I’m a sucker for any book where the protagonist is a psychologist and a private investigator, so here we are. “Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read: YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME. DARE TO PLAY?

So, plenty to be getting on with as the nights get longer and I hopefully start reading properly again.

But if I haven’t been reading, what have I been doing?

Well, for three days this week I was away from home accompanying the Book God to the annual Jeff Hawke Society meet-up, for the second year in a row at West Dean College in Sussex. Also for the second year in a row the weather was very, very rainy. We spent a lovely day in Chichester (see arty picture below), and thankfully the food, drink and company was excellent and we had a good time.

I also took the opportunity to think about the blog as I have a lot going on over the next few weeks.

On Tuesday I will be having a minor surgical procedure (under general anaesthetic no less, something I haven’t experienced since I got my tonsils and adenoids removed when I was five (or six?) years old). It should be straightforward, and the biggest concern I have is which physical book I’m going to take with me to read during the inevitable waiting, though I understand that my age and chronic condition means I might actually be first on the list.

After that the London Film Festival kicks off and for a few days in a row I have new movies to see.

And finally we go on holiday later in October, off up to Scotland where we haven’t been for any length of time in quite a few years. So looking forward to going home and eating all of the wrong things….. especially if those things happen to be Empire biscuits!

So I’ve decided to take some pressure off of myself and put the blog on a break during all of these shenanigans, hoping to return on Sunday 27th October. Fret not, because I will be occasionally tweeting and regularly posting on Instagram, so please follow me there if you don’t already. The link are above, (she says, gesticulating vaguely)

The only thing left for me to do is mention two books I read in September which I haven’t reviewed as yet, just included for completeness.

Swan Song by Robert Edric is the last in his Song Cycle trilogy about a PI working in Hull. Young women are being brutally killed, the chief suspect is in a coma but it becomes clear that he isn’t really connected to the killings. Add an ambitious chief constable and our hero Leo Rivers has a lot on his plate. This has been a great series (I reviewed the others here and here) and I recommend them heartily.

Dahlia Black by Keith Thomas – when I bought this I said “this is ” … a suspenseful oral history commemorating the five-year anniversary of the Pulse—the alien code that hacked the DNA of Earth’s population—and the response team who faced the world-changing phenomenon.” They had me at “for fans of World War Z” :-)” And I was right. Really enjoyed this one as well. Nice slow release of information through various characters as we all learn what happened and what it might mean.

So that’s it from me for a while. See you on the other side!

Munday Salon | 23 September

Better late than never, I guess, here is my round-up of last week which had very little in the way of reading (ie no progress on either of my books), a situation that’s likely to continue into this week as well, as I am away for a few days.

But still, the details……

Currently reading the two that I was reading in my last post, namely Roy Strong’s diaries and Sarah Lotz’s Missing Person.

Several new books arrived including a sighting of the rare lesser-spotted paperback:

  • A House of Ghosts * WC Ryan – a mystery of the classic kind set during WWI, described as And Then There Were None meets The Silent Companions, and therefore deeply intriguing
  • Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare * Giles Milton – The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Downfall, recommended by Christopher Fowler in a recent blog post, this looked fascinating and was heavily discounted so I snapped it up.
  • Monster, She Wrote * Lisa Kroger & Melanie R Anderson – all about the women who pioneered horror and speculative fiction, from Mary Shelley onwards. Given my interests it was inevitable that I would get my hands on this.
  • Mythos * Stephen Fry – just because I like re-tellings of ancient myths.
  • The Grip of It * Jac Jemc – so on Saturday afternoon I just happened to be in the Waterloo Station branch of Foyles buying a birthday card for my brother when my eyes fell on this actual physical book, which I then bought because of Jeff VanderMeer’s comment on the cover. Young couple. Haunted house. Yes please.

In other news we went to see the new Brad Pitt movie, Ad Astra, this week. I will be reviewing it properly shortly; just wanted to say that I think it will be divisive but I loved it.

I also hit Sadler’s Wells again on Saturday to see the English National Ballet perform a re-working of Giselle. The fluttering ghostly women in the second act were significantly creepier and 100% more vengeful looking in this version, and I adored it. Lovely start to the weekend.

Hope you all have a great reading week!

Photo by Kristina Tamašauskaitė on Unsplash