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 Week in Review – 26 May

Not much reading done but immersed myself in several projects, a couple of trips and avoiding spoilers about Game of Thrones, closely followed by avoiding enraged GoT fans on Twitter.

For the record, I thought the finale was absolutely fine but would have liked the series to have had a few more episodes – everything seemed to happen very quickly. But that’s a minor quibble and I don’t really have a huge investment in the series as I have never read the books. The Book God has and he was equally OK with the outcome. More exciting is Good Omens coming to Amazon Prime at the end of this week; love that book and can’t wait to watch.

So, what else did I get up to this week?

  • we attended the Members Evening at the V&A and I got to see the Christian Dior exhibition with a reasonably sized crowd and no queues. I think it is possibly the most beautiful exhibition I have ever seen, not just because of the gowns but also the setting. It was magical and I may try to see it again before it closes in (I think) September
I may have gone a little overboard in the exhibition shop
  • we also went to see John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum which I really enjoyed and will write about in a day or two.

In terms of books, I finished one novella – Black Helicopters by Caitlin R Kiernan which I’m not sure I entirely ‘got’ and I’m still mulling over what I’m going to say about it when I finally get round to reviewing.

I’m currently reading the last of the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain. I’m only about 25% into the book and there is no Gretchen so far. I still have hope.

New books:

  • All the Lives We Ever Lived * Katharine Smyth – Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf. – ” Katharine Smyth was a student at Oxford when she first read Virginia Woolf’s modernist masterpiece To the Lighthouse in the comfort of an English sitting room, and in the companionable silence she shared with her father. After his death – a calamity that claimed her favourite person – she returned to that beloved novel as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.”
  • Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water * Vylar Kaftan – a pre-order – ” All Bee has ever known is darkness. She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth”
  • The Carnelian Crow * Colleen Gleason – Stoker & Holmes Book 4 – ” Evaline Stoker (sister of Bram) and Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock) return in the fourth volume of the steampunk adventure series set in an alternate Victorian London.”
  • The Killer You Know * SR Masters – “I’ll murder three strangers. And you’ll know it was me . . . ” (cue maniacal laughter)
  • The Vanishing Season * Dot Hutchison – The Collector Book 4 – ” Eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer has gone missing. And as accustomed as FBI agents Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison are to such harrowing cases, this one has struck a nerve. It marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Eddison’s own little sister. Disturbing, too, is the girl’s resemblance to Eliza—so uncanny they could be mother and daughter.” This was a pre-order and I’m extremely excited to read this book; I love this series and it has shot right up to the top of my TBR pile!

Which brings me to the last thing of note that happened this week – I’ve decided to take part in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge – you can see the book list at my sign-up post.

Hope you all 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 | 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!

Sunday Salon | 24 March

Somehow I managed to miss posting last week, and also nearly missed this week, but here we are with a round-up of what I’ve been up to since my last Sunday Salon post (which is here if you need a refresher – I know I did!)

Books read since my last post; I’ll be blogging about all of these in the near future:

  • Death in the Air by Kate Winkler Dawson. I have thoughts about this book, which was not entirely successful IMHO.
  • Bad Blood by John Carreryou. A really fascinating examination of the creation and downfall of the Silicon Valley start-up Theranos.
  • Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert. Another classic crime re-published by the British Library, I absolutely loved it.

New books – there a lot of these, so many that a separate haul post will be going up here tomorrow.

I’m (still) currently reading Global Crisis and Sisters in Law, both mentioned here before and I haven’t made progress on either, likewise Broken Things. I have started two other books this week:

  • Redbreast by Jo Nesbo – I thought I should go back to the beginning or thereabouts having read The Snowman last year. Early days yet. This will contribute to my climb of Mont Blanc
  • L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau, because I love lists and books about organising even though I apparently can’t get my act together to post on a regular schedule 😀

Other stuff:

I’ve been out and about quite a lot in the past two weeks. We went to see Rebus: Long Shadows, a play by Ian Rankin and Rona Munro which was very enjoyable, especially as it starred Ron Donnachie, and excellent and underrated Scottish actor.

I was invited to Christopher Fowler’s book launch for the new Bryant & May but was unwell so sadly couldn’t make it 😦

The BFI Flare film festival launched at the end of the week and I was lucky enough to get tickets to see Vita & Virginia, directed by Chanya Button. I’ll write about that separately also, but worth saying that if you are at all interested in Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West and/or the Bloomsbury Group in general you won’t want to miss this when it hits cinemas here in the UK in July. I loved it.

And finally I trotted off to Sadler’s Wells to see the Mark Morris Dance Group perform Pepperland, inspired by the Beatles music. So colourful and exciting, with an excellent band, live singer and – squee – a theremin. I love theremin.

Anyway that’s this past fortnight all caught up. Will have more to report next week, but in the meantime enjoy your reading!

Sunday Salon | 10 February ’19

bookcase books classroom college

Missed another Sunday blog but never mind, here we are with a round-up post. This week has been quiet on the reading front as I seem to have been more focussed on watching films (five in February so far!), but that hasn’t stopped me buying more books. Yes, more since posting my recent haul, what are you implying?

Books Read – reviews will follow

  • The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams
  • The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
  • Convent on Styx by Gladys Mitchell
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
  • The Big Ones by Dr Lucy Jones

Currently Reading

Still continuing with Global Crisis – I’ve finally started the Stuart & Civil Wars chapters, in the early stages of Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas for Mount TBR, and more than halfway through Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon (I started this last year, set aside because I wasn’t in the mood and now picked up again).

New Books

  • Murder Theory by Andrew Mayne – Book 3 in The Naturalist series – Computational biologist and serial-killer hunter Dr. Theo Cray receives an off-the-record request from the FBI to investigate an inexplicable double homicide. It happened at the excavation site where a murderer had buried his victims’ remains. In custody is a forensic technician in shock, with no history of aggression. He doesn’t remember a thing. His colleagues don’t even recognize the man they thought they knew. But an MRI reveals something peculiar. And abnormal. What on earth made him commit murder
  • A Chill in the Air by Iris Origo – an Italian War Diary 1939-40 – With piercing insight, Origo documents the grim absurdities that her adopted Italy underwent as war became more and more unavoidable. Connected to everyone, from the peasants on her estate to the US ambassador, she writes of the turmoil, the danger, and the dreadful bleakness of Italy in 1939-1940.
  • Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge – because Christopher Fowler recommended it – When Master Georgie – George Hardy, surgeon and photographer – sets off from the cold squalor of Victorian Liverpool for the heat and glitter of the Bosphorus to offer his services in the Crimea, there straggles behind him a small caravan of devoted followers; Myrtle, his adoring adoptive sister; lapsed geologist Dr Potter; and photographer’s assistant and sometime fire-eater Pompey Jones, all of them driven onwards through a rising tide of death and disease by a shared and mysterious guilt
  • Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – because it was recommended by blogger The Intrepid ArkansawyerHow do you conjure a life examined? Give the truest account of what you saw, felt, learned, loved, strived for? For Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the surprising answer came in the form of an encyclopedia.
  • Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman – the March selection for the new  Non-Fiction Women Book Club – the fascinating story of the intertwined lives of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first and second women to serve as Supreme Court justices.
  • Figuring by Maria Popova – I support Maria’s site brainpickings.org and this is her first book – Figuring explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four centuries – beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalysed the environmental movement.
  • Figuring led me to The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd – In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.
  • And also to Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez – Lopez’s journey across our frozen planet is a celebration of the Arctic in all its guises. A hostile landscape of ice, freezing oceans and dazzling skyscapes.
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel – we saw the film version last week ( a really great film, by the way) and I had to read the memoir on which it was based)
  • You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian – a pre-order placed in october 2018 – a collection of short stories from the creator of Cat Person – the first short story to go viral – comes You Know You Want This, a compulsive collection about sex, dating and modern life. These are stories of women’s lives now. They also happen to be horror stories. In some, women endure the horror. In others, they inflict it.

Other stuff

Albert Finney passed away on Friday which was the perfect excuse to re-watch for the umpteenth time his Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express from 1974, my absolute favourite Christie film – if you want to know what I think of it here’s the last time I talked about it!

I also caught up with an astonishing documentary on Netflix – Abducted in Plain Sight – real gobsmacking stuff about child abduction and the impact of a master manipulator on one family. Worth watching knowing as little about it as possible; your reaction is likely to be WTF?

Hope you all have a fabulous reading week!

 

 

 

This Week in Books & a Non-Fiction Round-up

It’s been getting cooler and duller and lights are being switched on earlier each day so we are definitely in curling up in a chair and reading a good book season. So how did this week in reading go?

Currently reading

  • Global Crisis – I’ve not progressed this since my last post so will be making time for a few chapters this week
  • The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch – this the sixth of the Peter Grant books and I’m about halfway through; I like to read series in order of course and you will understand why I picked this up because….

Books bought

  • Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – this is the seventh Peter Grant book and when it arrived I realised I hadn’t read the previous one; what can I say, I decided to deal with that immediately (see above)
  • Fire Lover by Joseph Wambaugh – more true crime, the story of the Pillow Pyro arsonist; I bought this because I heard the story in a back episode of My Favourite Murder and wanted to get more details
  • Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman – apparently ‘plunges us into the depths of psychological horror, where you can’t always believe everything you hear

Books finished

  • Bestial by Harold Schechter – more true crime, this is the story of one of the first known serial killers in the USA; I have NOTES so will write about this another time.

I also wanted to write up a few thoughts on recent non-fiction reads because I am a completist.

Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes

All about how the Victorians viewed their bodies told through five specific stories. So many fascinating details, it’s the kind of book has you reading things out to anyone within hearing distance; for example, Charlotte Bronte apparently spoke with a strong Northern Irish accent – who knew?

The final story in the book tells the horrendous murder of Fanny Adams, and the magistrate involved in the case was Jane Austen’s nephew Edward Knight, born in 1794 and died in 1879. The author makes the excellent point that although we feel the need to carve our history up and put things into boxes Edward Knight’s long life is ‘a reminder of how bodies join up the past in a continuous ribbon of experience and feeling‘; I loved that idea so much.

Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd

I picked this up as a sort of follow-up to the book I read earlier this year by Dame Professor Sue Black about her life as a forensic anthropologist, and she was quoted on the cover of this volume. So Richard Shepherd was one of the most senior and well-known forensic pathologists in the UK. He’s handled a number of the most significant and high-profile cases in the country, including (controversially) the Marchioness disaster, the Harold Shipman murders, and the London bombings.

This is a memoir of his life and career and the impact that his work has had on his personal life – after all, he reckons he’s carried out over 20,00 autopsies. It’s a very honest book and worth reading if you are at all interested in this subject.

The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen

We all know what happened to the dinosaurs, but it was only one of (so far) five major extinction events that have taken place in Earth’s history. A good example of popular science at its best, the author goes through the various ways life on our planet was almost extinguished via fire, ice, poison gas, suffocation and of course asteroids. He also speculates on what all of this may tell us about the future.

Hope you all have a great reading week!