IMG_0099What’s the book about?

As I think I am one of the very last people in the universe to read this it seems a bit redundant to talk about the plot, but just in case there is someone out there even further behind in catching up with best-sellers than I am, it’s worth explaining that this is the story of Christine Lucas, who wakes up every day with no memory of what’s gone before and has to reconstruct her past before she goes to sleep and loses it all again (hence the title). But it becomes clear that she wants to get better, is seeing a doctor and has begun to keep a journal so that she has access to things that would otherwise be completely gone, and through this process starts to question what she has been told about her life and what happened to her.

Why did I want to read it?

There was a point when you absolutely could not miss the advertising for Before I Go To Sleep, something to which I often react badly (I have spoken before about my perversity in not wanting to read what everyone else is reading, at least while they are all reading it), but I knew I would eventually succumb as I enjoy a good psychological thriller so its been lurking on iBooks for ages. The trigger to actually picking it up (if you can pick up an e-book in the traditional sense) was the trailer for the movie version with Nicole Kidman which I really fancy watching so thought I should read the thing first.

What did I think of it?

I really enjoyed it. I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for protagonists who share my first name (even when they are evil possessed murderous cars who are IMHO vastly misunderstood!) and this Christine isn’t that much younger than me. I liked the way she swung to and fro on whether to trust her husband, rationalising why he might tell her things that she finds out are not accurate, sympathising with his point of view in having stood by her in what she can see even in her distress are horrendously difficult circumstances. I like the way she begins to question everything, her understandable vulnerability which is necessary for the plot and which I would have found really really annoying in anyone else but her condition makes understandable.

Of course most of the fun in this sort of psychological thriller is working out what’s real and what isn’t, who to trust and who not, will she work it out and if so will she survive. I spent most of the book coming up with theories of my own about how the story would work out and reckon I was 40% right. I think the ending was a little too rushed compared to the careful groundwork that had gone before but that’s a very small quibble (and I know others have pointed that out before me so nothing new in that thought).

The only downside of having seen the film trailer is a tendency to fit the actors into the characters on the page rather than letting them come alive in my own imagination but again that wasn’t a big issue. I found the story satisfying and enjoyable, and knowing the outcome would be interested in seeing through a re-read how well (if at all) the clues were planted and why I missed them.

Updated to show how I did

IWORAT726‘ve just come across this monthly event which is hosted by The Book Vixen (thanks to The Writerly Reader), and which is all about dedicating two days a month to sorting out all of those unwritten, unfinished or unpublished reviews lurking around. Most months I’m OK but I’m a little behind in July so by close of tomorrow (Sunday 27 July) I aim to have written and scheduled the following:

Over at Bride of the Screen God

  • How to Train Your Dragon [Written and published]

Here at Bride of the Book God

  • Before I Go to Sleep [Written and published]
  • The Gospel of Loki [Written and scheduled]
  • The Gone-Away World [Written and scheduled]

and if I finish it this weekend

  • The Girl With All the Gifts [Not yet finished]

I also need to plan out my reading list for the revival of August Crime Month after a hiatus of *gulp* has it really been 4 YEARS. How did that happen? And does that mean that I haven’t had enough crime months to make it a tradition?

Into the Woods by John Yorke

John YorkeI think it’s worth saying up front that I am not a writer. I use my blogs (here and at Screen God) to record my feelings about books and films so I can share them with others who might be interested, and that’s all. I know lots of bloggers who write fiction or poetry but that’s not me. But I am fascinated by the creative process; as well as loving to read about books, I like to read about how writers write, and Into the Woods (subtitled “How stories work and why we tell them”) definitely falls into that category, though its focus is on film and TV scriptwriting. It’s really fascinating, wonderfully write and full of insight. I now understand a little better three and five act structures and how they still apply even when the writer is consciously trying to subvert them. Lots and lots of practical examples (one of the appendices has the act structure for Raiders of the Lost Ark), I now spend my time looking for Inciting Incidents in everything I’m reading. Very worthwhile.

Darling Monster by Diana Cooper

IMG_0073I have mentioned elsewhere I’m sure the fascination I have with aristocratic and Royal ladies especially, and I couldn’t resist the letters of Lady Diana Cooper to her son John Julius Norwich, written between 1939 to 1952, so covering the momentous events of WW2 (when her husband Duff Cooper was in Churchill’s government) and their time spent in the British Embassy in Paris. Full of gossip and clothes and politics and culture and farming, this is a really touching collection and I was absorbed all the way through.

 

A quick round-up of recent short reads.

 

IMG_0097I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant

Linda Grant, like all writers I suppose, was totally surrounded by books, a collection built up over many years. But moving house meant weeding out her extensive collection to fit into her new space. In doing so she is taking apart her own history and in this short work talk about how she went about it, how it feels like now and how our development as people is reflected in the book collection we have. If you’re the kind of person who keeps books, that is. Really enjoyed this but a chill did settle on my heart as the Book God and I really really need to do something similar though not because we’re moving but simply because we are running out of room. Book lovers will enjoy this.

 

IMG_0086Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome by John Scalzi

This is a taster for the novel Locked In which is due out over the summer and which I have already pre-ordered based on the strength of this story and a sample chapter which I’ve read. I’m a sucker for this kind of plague/disease/disaster type thing and I am also very fond of the oral history style (whether in fiction or non-fiction). Great little store explaining what Haden’s Syndrome was, how it was dealt with (or not) and where we are at the point the main story will start. Clever way to get that info out there without burdening the narrative (at least that’s my assumption, we’ll have to wait and see). Cool, though.

Scan 32What’s the book about?

Mr Mercedes is a proper crime thriller from the pen of the great master of horror Stephen King. It starts with a retired police detective, Bill Hodges, who is in a bit of a state, without any purpose in life now that he is no longer serving. He gets a letter from the perpetrator of one of the cases he never solved, that of a number of people killed when a Mercedes was driven into a queue of unemployed people outside a job fair. The letter is taunting Bill with his failure, but instead o driving him to suicide it gives him a new lease of life and he is determined to track the killer down.

Why did I want to read it?

King is one of my favourite authors, I’ve reviewed a number of his book on this blog and have been reading him since I was 15 (but I’m not going to labour the point – I just think he’s great). He’s often underrated as a writer because his preferred genre is seen as horror although I’ve always been clear in my own mind that he has drifted into other genres at various points in his career. I will admit that I pre-ordered the automatically before I knew what it was actually about but was excited about trying something a little bit different.

What did I think?

This was really I had a great time reading this. I’ve always been quickly drawn in by King’s prose style which is deceptively easy to read but has real pace and verve. I liked the structure of the book; we find out extremely early on who Mr Mercedes actually is and the book alternates between him and Bill as the former’s plans careen out of control and the latter works with some unlikely helpers to track the killer down. There are a couple of points where King tries to lead us a little bit astray which I found great fun. I liked Bill very much; I was sorry that one of the plot strands didn’t work out for him at the same time that I could see why it obviously couldn’t (speaking us someone still bearing the scars of ‘Salem’s Lot many years afterwards) but it’s a crime thriller so there is peril and racing against time and a satisfactory resolution. Spent time between reading sessions trying to cast the movie. Brilliant stuff.

Book-Blog-Walkers-2014I’m using this post to keep track of my walking during July as part of the Book Blog Walkers thingy. My final tally for June can be found here.

Week 1 (Jun 30)

  • 26,899 steps
  • 16.9 km
  • 4:15 hours

Week 2 (July 7)

  • 32,384 steps
  • 20.1 km
  • 5.03 hours

Week 3 (July 14)

  • 18,862 steps
  • 12 km
  • 2:57 hours

Week 4 (July 21)

  • 25,803 steps
  • 16.6 km
  • 4:09 hours

Week 5 (July 28)

  • steps
  • km
  • hours

Scan 31What’s the book about?

Beth is a teacher living on the Isle of Wight (though we’re not told that for a while) in a slightly future Britain where climate change has had a real impact socially and financially. She is on her own; her husband Vic has come back from war with significant problems and has been the victim of a treatment regime which has gone wrong, leaving him unable to communicate or look after himself. The treatment is delivered by The Machine, now out of use because of the damage done, and the story starts with her buying one of these devices on the black market because she wants to bring her husband back be reversing the treatment if she can.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve read two of Smythe’s novels this year (reviewed here and here) and found both really compelling (if bleak, though I absolutely don’t mind bleak at all if the story warrants it, which both of those did) and always intended to read more, partly because of the number of favourable mentions I’ve seen on other blogs and elsewhere.

What did I think?

I thought this was great, another book that I stayed up late to finish (there have been quite a few of those recently, which is no bad thing) and I was totally absorbed in Beth’s story; I feel it’s important to stress that this really is Beth’s story. Of course Vic is important, there would be no book without him, but this is all about Beth’s loneliness and grief and drive to achieve what she needs, which is to get her husband home despite any risks. This is all against the background of the heat and a dysfunctional community and a friend who turns out to not be what she seems.

The book has been compared to Frankenstein but for me it has more of a resonance with The Monkey’s Paw, in the sense of getting what you wish for and that not being what you thought. Of course there are other layers to this story which, once you have read the end (and I read it twice just to make sure that what had happened had happened) become clearer and explained a key event which was pivotal to the plot but took place “offstage” (I wondered why at the time and came up with an explanation which turned out to be entirely wrong). The end has been much commented on; I don’t have a problem with it as such but I would like to read The Machine again as I’m sure it has made me want to re-read the book to see if I had missed anything obvious.

How you feel about this book will depend on what you think of Beth herself. I felt hugely sorry for her and understood why she thought she had to try to reconstitute Vic but there was always a feeling this wouldn’t end well.

I’ve already got a hold of another Smythe work, saving that for later :-)

 

 

ScanWhat’s the book about?

So, The Severed Streets is a sequel to London Falling which I read and enjoyed last year (you can find my thoughts about it here), though it’s a sequel in the sense of using the same characters and advancing their story arc with a standalone story.

It’s London, it’s summer and there are protests and riots with masked mobs blocking the streets and causing chaos. An MP is being driven in his official car when he is surrounded by one of these mobs and as a result is brutally murdered. But there is something odd; how did the killer get in (and out of ) the car without being spotted. And is what the driver saw really believable?

Enter Quill and his team who are still feeling their way around their new ability of second sight, and who are clear that something out of this world is involved in the death. And the others that follow. So they go into the underground community to find out what they can alongside good old-fashioned policing methods.

Why did I want to read it?

I really enjoy the whole urban fantasy genre (which I think this fits into but I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) and this series sits nicely alongside Fowler and Aaronovitch, and regular readers will know how much I love them. I really wanted to see how the team would develop and deal with the personal issues arising from the first book.

What did I think?

I read the final two-thirds of the novel during one of my many recent bouts of insomnia and it is meant as a real compliment when I say that I was so engrossed I actually forgot I was tired. I liked the way the characters developed, still the people we met in the first book but obviously changed by their experiences and trying to find a way to use their new abilities without any help or guidance. I though the story itself was very enjoyable and timely given recent events on which I won’t elaborate as I don’t want to get into the plot too much.

I particularly enjoyed the Neil Gaiman cameo; in other hands it might not have worked but he is properly integrated into the story (a bit more than I expected actually and in a very interesting and unexpected way). I liked the resolution and the introduction of new elements and characters which I hope will continue into future volumes. Quill is a great protagonist and it’s really nice to see a detective with what appears to be a happy home life.

New readers could start here but I would recommend reading them in order. I really enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to the next one.

I have a mild (OK, not that mild) interest with fashion and jewellery and over the past month I’ve had some major issues with insomnia – just one of those things but deeply annoying at the time. You may wonder why these two things are connected, so let me explain…..

One of my tactics is to not lie there feeling sorry for myself, willing myself to go to sleep etc., but to get up and do something to take my mind off the sleeplessness. Sometimes that means watching TV, sometimes reading fiction, but often dipping into what are sometimes described as coffee-table books. And these are my two most recent, all about QEII.

 

Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly

Dressing-the-Queen-CoverAngela Kelly is a designer and Personal Assistant, Adviser and Curator to the Queen, and this book takes us through the steps involved in creating the dazzling suite of outfits that the Queen wore during the Diamond Jubilee and it is totally fascinating. Fabulous pictures in full colour, covering everything from fabric to storage to packing to hats and umbrellas, shawls and accessories. It’s quite a light book, not at all academic but nice and gossipy without being indiscreet. It is entirely responsible for my new obsession of spotting the hat pin(s) whenever I see a photo of the Queen.

 

The Queen’s Diamonds by Hugh Roberts

The Queen's Diamonds, coverI still feel a little bit guilty about this. Last year the Book God and I finally (after living in London for 26 years) took the tour of Buckingham Palace, partly because it was something we’d always wanted to do and partly because of the special exhibition about the Coronation. And of course we ended up in the garden shop and of course we bought stuff, and this was my indulgence. I love love love jewellery, and this is apparently the first authorised account of the history of the diamonds in the royal collection from the time of Queen Adelaide in the 1830s to now. It is full of astonishing pictures of fabulous things. Written by the Surveyor Emeritus of the Queen’s Works of Art (what a title) and a previous Director of the Royal Collection. An expensive indulgence but a lovely thing to look at if you love bling.

 

onceup8200How on earth did that happen? Suddenly here we are on 22 June, and Once Upon a Time VIII is over for another year. :-(

I planned to attempt Quest the First as outlined in my post here.

Sadly, I only managed two of the five books I hoped to read, and started a third. I will persevere with the others as I really want to read them and would hate to see them on the list for next year’s challenge.

The two I managed to read (with links to my thoughts) were:

I still plan to re-read The Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear because it’s awesome.

Must start thinking about books for RIP IX; September will be with us before you know it!

 

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, entering my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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