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

Sunday Salon | 15 September

So here we are, halfway through the ninth month of the year and autumn is definitely on its way. This has been a bit of a stressful week – various medcial appointments meant that I spent a lot of time just hanging around waiting, which had an impact on my reading. I was very glad to end the week on a really joyful event (more on that later!)

The Stats

Books read = 1 single solitary volume – Dahlia Black by Keith Thomas which I really enjoyed and will be reviewing shortly

Currently reading – as I said above, I did a lot of hanging around so decided not to launch into Missing Person (as mentioned last week) but picked up the first volume of Roy Strong’s diaries, covering the period 1967 to 1987. Strong was director of two of my favourite museums – the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery – and moved in rarefied social cricles so this is a real treat full of gossip and waspishness and fashion. Ideal for reading in snatches.

Books bought – the pre-orders

  • Gideon the Ninth * Tamsyn Muir – “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” —Charles Stross
  • The Testaments * Margaret Atwood – the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Only Plane in the Sky * Garrett M Graff – a comprehensive oral history of the events of 9/11

Books bought – the impulse purchases

  • The Outside * Ada Hoffman – superintelligent AI Gods rule the galaxy, apparently. Recommended by the Book God
  • The Golden Hour * Beatriz Williams – a romantic thriller set in the Bahamas in 1941 against the background of the Duke & Duchess of Windsor and the murder of Harry Oakes. Not that I’m suggesting the Windors murdered him, of course….
  • The Destroyer * Tara Isabella Burton – a mother and daughter mad scientist story
  • Ragdoll * Daniel Cole – a body is discovered but not just any body, oh no, this is built up of six victims stitched together.
  • A Memory Called Empire * Arkady Martine – civil servants in space! Recommended by Twitter and the Book God (again)

Other Stuff

On Saturday afternoon I went to Sadler’s Wells to see a programme of pieces performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. It was so, so good, especially Revelations which they perform on every appearance.

It’s set to a soundtrack of African-American spirituals, gospel and blues and reflects black life in the American South. Brilliant stuff, standing ovation and it’s not that often the company applauds the audience. I came out of the performance feeling so happy and energised.

Hope that we all have a wonderful reading week!

Sunday Salon | 8 September

The season is changing and I for one am happy to welcome our autumnal overlord.

This has been a quiet week focussed mainly on medical and associated stuff, namely routine appointments and new computer glasses. At the moment all is good and hopefully will stay that way.

Bookish stuff:

Read this week – Swan Song by Robert Edric, the third in his Song Cycle Trilogy set in Hull. Loved it. The whole series was excellent and I’ll be writing a review soonish (I’m a little behind again but not by much)

Currently reading – Dahlia Black by Keith Thomas, one of those fictional oral history books that I can never resist. Not quite halfway through but thoroughly enjoying it.

Up next – Missing Person by Sarah Lotz. This also counts as my single purchase of the week. I always pre-order her novels as soon as they are announced because I just love her stuff. Looking forward to launching into this one.

What we’ve been watching:

I don’t normally talk about what the Book God and I watch on TV because there is so much and most of it is dragged out over time – a binge watch for us is three episodes 😀 Anyway, worth noting that being characteristically late to the party we have just finished the first season of Bosch and thought it was great. We are also working our way through Dig (hello to Jason Isaacs!) which is very silly and immensely enjoyable.

Other stuff:

Booking for the London Film Festival opened to memebers this week and I managed to snag tickets to all four of the films I wanted to see:

  • The Personal History of David Copperfield, dir. Armando Ianucci
  • The Lighthouse, dir. Robert Eggers
  • Marriage Story, dir. Noah Baumbach
  • Knives Out, dir. Rian Johnson

We normally miss the LFF because we are on our annual holiday but we are heading off to Scotland a little bit later this year so I’m finally getting the chance to go. I am very excited 😀

That’s me for this post. Hoping to get three reviews up before the next Sunday Salon (have probably just jinxed myself!), and wishing you all a wonderful reading week!

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Sunday Salon | 1 September

It’s been a quiet week mainly doing stuff around the house. And as it’s 1 September I have, of course, deployed a cardigan; it really does feel a bit cooler today.

A picture from my long walk around the town yesterday.

In terms of bookish stuff, I have been reading but haven’t finished anything yet. I totally failed on #20BooksofSummer – I managed to read 9 (might make it to 10 before Tuesday), with 2 started and not progressed. I blame my August reading slump for this, and will Do Better next time.

New books – very low this week (by no means a bad thing)

The Art of Dying * Ambrose Parry – second in a series which I haven’t started yet but fully expect to enjoy; the details “Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

The Man Who Played With Fire * Jan Stocklassa – Subtitled Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin. “The author of the Millennium novels laid out the clues. Now a journalist is following them. When Stieg Larsson died, the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had been working on a true mystery that out-twisted his Millennium novels: the assassination on February 28, 1986, of Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister. It was the first time in history that a head of state had been murdered without a clue who’d done it—and on a Stockholm street at point-blank range.

Drowning with Others * Linda Keir – “Prep school sweethearts Ian and Andi Copeland are envied by everyone they know. They have successful businesses, a beautiful house in St. Louis, and their eldest daughter, Cassidy, is following in their footsteps by attending prestigious Glenlake Academy. Then, a submerged car is dredged from the bottom of a swimming hole near the campus. So are the remains of a former writer-in-residence who vanished twenty years ago—during Ian and Andi’s senior year. When Cassidy’s journalism class begins investigating the death, Ian and Andi’s high school secrets rise to the surface.” 

That’s all I have guys. Have a great reading week!

Sunday Salon | 25 August

Waving from warm and sunny London with a round-up of this past week.

First of all, the bookish stuff:

I actually finished some books this week! After my post last Sunday, I decided to go back into the books on my Kindle that I had set aside, picked two and managed to finish both of them, namely:

  • Slowly We Die by Emilie Schepp
  • The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Reviews of both will follow soon. Promise.

Of course I was still buying new books. Of course I was. Most were pre-orders but in reading some articles and blogs I was persuaded to make a couple of speculative purchases. Here’s the dazzling detail:

  • The Song of the Sycamore * Edward Cox – I’ve met Ed a couple of times and he is a lovely bloke who dispenses hugs as required and writes excellent books. This is his latest and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.
  • Our War * Craig DiLouie – “After his impeachment, the president of the United States refuses to leave office, and the country erupts into a fractured and violent war. Orphaned by the fighting and looking for a home, 10-year-old Hannah Miller joins a citizen militia in a besieged Indianapolis.
  • The Zeppelin Deception * Colleen Gleason – Stoker & Holmes Book 5, neatly arriving just after I finished Stoker & Holmes Book 1 as noted above.
  • Old Bones * Preston & Childs – These authors have been around forever as far as I can tell but are new to me, brought to my attention by the Book God. And rightly so because it’s a Donner Party archaelogical mystery which really speaks to my interests!
  • Ashes to Ashes * Tami Hoag – “A killer performs a bizarre ceremony in a wooded Minneapolis park, setting the bodies ablaze. He has already claimed three lives, and he won’t stop there. Only this time there is a witness. But she isn’t talking.” A recommendation from an article referenced in CrimeReads.
  • Alternate Side * Anna Quindlen – Ms Quindlen is on the (relatively short) list of authors who have made me cry in public, as evidenced in this review. This is her new one and I think it looks good

In other stuff, we had a really good day out on Tuesday, visiting the Olympic Park in east London. I didn’t attend of the Olympics back on 2012 but watched chunks of it on TV, so it was cool to visit the site and see how it’s now being used. The photo at the top of the post is just some of the planting in the park. It’s possible that we had excellent ice cream in the adjacent Westfield shopping centre, I can neither conform or deny.

I also had my annual eye test; I spend a lot of time having my head examined because I have stable diabetic maculopathy, but this was about ordinary eye testing so no stinging eye drops were required. I’ve ordered new computer glasses and am quite excited about that.

No real plans for the coming week so hoping to read a bit more. Hope you all have a great reading week! 😀

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 😀