2020671363What year are we in? 1933

What’s Maisie’s case?

In Leaving Everything Most Loved, Maisie is called in by Scotland Yard when the brother of a young Indian woman (who has been shot in London), appalled at the lack of progress being made but the police, wants to know why she was killed. For various reasons this becomes connected with an unfinished case and Usha’s death is not the first.

What did I learn that I didn’t know before?

Lots of interesting stuff about the Indian community in London between the wars, mixed marriages and so on, stuff I had never really thought about before and saw as a post-WWII issue (and shame on me for that).

What’s happening in Maisie’s personal life?

Big changes to her family, her business and her love life.

Did I enjoy it?

Really good story, one of the few times in the books where we see Maisie really speak her mind when previously she would have been more circumspect and I cheered when she did it (well, inward cheering anyway). The plight of women brought over from India as servants when they lost their positions for whatever reason was very sad. This is very much a game-changer in the series and I could see it being a finale, but understand the author plans to start a new series with Maisie still at the centre sometime in 2015. So hurrah for that.

I really enjoyed immersing myself in Maisie’s world through reading in such quick succession books that would normally have been available a year apart.

elegy for eddieWhat year are we in? 1933

What’s Maisie’s case?

In Elegy for Eddie Maisie is approached by a group of men from her childhood who want her to look into the death of Eddie, a gentle but educationally challenged man with a real talent for working with horses, who has been killed in an apparent accident at a local paper factory. But he wasn’t himself in the weeks up to his death and his friends are convinced there is more to his death than appears.

What did I learn that I didn’t know before?

This is less about the impact of the war than most of the other novels in the series so not much knew to learn, but there is quite a bit about the inter-war period and politics and the shadow of coming war.

What’s happening in Maisie’s personal life?

She is still getting used to her change in circumstances, but worries about her love life are lurking in the background.

Did I enjoy it?

I came to enjoy this once the story really got going, but was worried at first because it smacked a little of those episodes of crime stories on TV where the murder of the week directly involves one or more members of the resident cast in a way that I almost always find entirely implausible. But here it makes sense that the men would seek out someone they knew and trusted to look into things and it does develop into something rather more interesting. I also like the fact that matters don’t work out entirely to Maisie’s satisfaction, which also seems realistic. A transitional novel for reasons that will become clear if and when you read it.

6553732What year are we in? 1932

What’s Maisie’s case?

In A Lesson in Secrets, Maisie goes undercover in an independent college in Cambridge on behalf of Special Branch and the Secret Service to observe the goings-on of students and staff in the light of potential un-British activities (though I’m not sure such a thing actually exists). It’s all about the politics. there is of course a death and there is also much about identity and passing off.

What did I learn that I didn’t know before?

I didn’t know how badly some conscientious observers were treated when they ended up in prison rather than driving ambulances or working on the land. Horrible.

What’s happening in Maisie’s personal life?

She is getting used to her change in circumstances, and love continues to develop. Oh and it’s clear she is really good at teaching (and enjoys it).

Did I enjoy it?

I think this is my favourite of the four I read in a row, simply because I’m an absolute sucker for tales set in college or university and the whole administration of it all. I worked out quite early on what the reason behind the murder was but dithered backwards and forwards on the who dunnit part. And this is the first of the books where the rise of the Nazis has an impact.

6553733I’ve talked about my binge-reading of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries here so won’t go into the details again, but I will say that I have read and enjoyed all of the novels in the series (and we are now on volume 10 and a little gap in the story) and they are just lovely books to read. I love Maisie as a character and one of the most enjoyable things is the development of her story over time informed by the cases she’s investigating, all harking back to her experiences in WWI. So when you read this and next three mini-reviews please keep this in mind as I want to avoid repeating myself. :-)

And Lee Child is a massive fan apparently, so there you go.

What year are we in? 1932

What’s Maisie’s case?

In The Mapping of Love and Death, the remains of an American of English heritage who joined the British Army as a cartographer have been found and there are questions about how he actually died. Maisie is asked by his parents to look into the matter, and in particular to find the young English nurse with whom he fell in love.

What did I learn that I didn’t know before?

All the stuff about the work of cartographers in WWI was fascinating, and I also learned a little bit about the early days of documentary film-making.

What’s happening in Maisie’s personal life?

A key figure  is coming to the end of his life, but love is on the horizon.

Did I enjoy it?

Absolutely, the story of the young soldier far from home and finding love and how the consequences of that all spilled over into the present was very affecting, and I was glad the ending didn’t tie everything up into a neat bow.

IMG_0120What’s the book about?

Broken Monsters finds us in Detroit where there has been an unpleasant and unusual murder (young boy mutilated and found in the company of animal remains, let’s not go into the gruesome details here) and we follow motley group of characters (the lead detective, her daughter, some homeless people, a local artist, a journalist and his girlfriend) who all clearly have some involvement with the death. A death which is of course the first but not the last.

Why did I want to read it.

I loved The Shining Girls (which I read last year and reviewed here) and was keen to read Lauren Beukes next novel to see if it was as good. And it is a serial killer novel so therefore falls into crime month territory.

What did I think of it?

Gosh this is grim. The Detroit location is a grubby and effective backdrop to a nasty set of murders with a side order of mental breakdown, poverty, journalists on the make with no thought to the consequences and the perils of social media for young people. You know that every one of the characters are going to get sucked into the story but not exactly how. I enjoyed it in the way that I enjoy quite a lot of horror that I read and at least one reviewer I’ve seen makes a link to the work of Stephen King which I don’t entirely agree with but can see where it’s come from (and isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I love King) but it’s worth saying that Beukes style is very much her own and I read the last third in one major chunk.

I think I still prefer The Shining Girls, which was so astonishing, but this is a worthy successor.

Oh, but it’s dark so be warned.

 

5a1b5760cf3cfc64c27495684f3d75f0So a couple of weeks ago I was pretty unwell and off work for a couple of days, but thankfully was able to read my way through being stuck on the sofa wrapped in a blanket with a hot water bottle (which is weird for late July it must be said) and was so absorbed that I managed to stop feeling sorry for myself (quite a feat as that’s one of my best skills right there).

I’ve been more or less under the weather since then and finding real solace in books, and as the latter half of this week has been particularly tiring and I am well into August crime month I have found myself in a major binge read, almost exclusively of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs mysteries. And when I say a binge read, I mean four not-inconsiderable novels in three days. And it has worked; I feel distinctly more cheerful than I did when I started, I’m sure because these are very easy reads; that’s not to do them down, I just mean I find Winspear’s style flows so lightly that before you know it you’re a couple of hundred pages in and so absorbed int he story that you have to get to the end.

That being in the zone where reading is concerned, for whatever reason, brings me to my dilemma. There are two people whose opinions I value greatly, my other half the Book God and my closest friend Silvery Dude. And they are both strongly encouraging me to start reading the Song of Ice and Fire cycle by George RR Martin, the former because he has read them all, the latter because he’s just discovered them and come over all enthusiastic, and both because they think I would really enjoy them.

But.

I have a complicated relationship with certain types of fantasy (setting Tolkien aside) and I can find the sort with swords and stuff set in other worlds or versions of our own world a bit of a problem. Add to that the fact that I’ve seen (and to be fair enjoyed) all four seasons of Game of Thrones on TV and I’m asking myself the question “what more can I get out of reading the books?”

So that’s a question for you all – should I give them a go or leave well alone?

Scan 33What’s it all about?

The Atrocity Archives is all about The Laundry, a secret part of the British security services which deals with the supernatural and the occult and unmentionable things in other dimensions and that sort of stuff. It is most particularly the story of Bob Howard and how he moves from being the tech guy (albeit the tech guy with some very particular knowledge and skills) to an operative in the field. Other than that I shall say nothing about the events that transpire in the two connected stories that make up the novel.

Why did I want to read it?

This is actually a re-read, picked up again because I bought the most recent Laundry Files novel by Charles Stross (The Rhesus Chart) and realised that it would be a good thing to read the lot in sequence and then appalled myself by realising I only had the first one so decided to start from the top and ease myself back into the Laundry world.

What did I think of it?

Re-reads are often a bit dangerous especially after some time has passed because what you may have loved way back then you may not still love now. However, I was really pleased that I found this equally as enjoyable as the first time I read it and it sets me up nicely for the rest of the sequence. Bob is a very engaging character and his origin story (for it kind of is that thing) is cleverer than most because he’s already in the secret organisation, so knows loads of stuff, it’s just the change in his status because of the particular case he gets involved in that by necessity leads him into learning loads of additional cool stuff; and he is good at what he does without being totally smug.

I particularly love this because having been a civil servant for *gulp* 28 years – I was very, very young when I started :-) – I recognise the bureaucracy and the obsession with the small things at the risk of missing the bigger picture and the office politics and petty rivalries and the jockeying for position which made this all so believable. Well, recognisable when you put aside the liberal use of the adjective squamous, the zombie doorman, the deployment of Hands of Glory and the general Lovecraftian-ness of it all.

Though now I come to think of it…..

The staff disciplinary measures are a bit extreme!

Great fun and looking forward to working my way steadily through the remaining four novels and three (I think) short stories.

 

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

Week 1 (Aug 4)

  • 17,269 steps
  • 12.3 km
  • 3:23 hours

Week 2 (Aug 11)

  • 11,500 steps (minimum and a guess as the Moves app on my iPhone has been bought by Facebook and is now mostly inaccurate rubbish!)
  • 16.3 km
  • 3:43 hours

Week 3 (Aug 18)

  • steps
  • km
  • hours

Week 4 (Aug 25)

  • steps
  • km
  • hours

IMG_0114What’s it all about?

The Girl With All The Gifts is the story of Melanie, about 10 years old and clearly very bright indeed. She also happens to be a zombie, something we learn very early on in the story though Melanie herself doesn’t come to realise this for quite some time. She attends school on an army base with a number of other children just like her in that although they have the drive to eat human flesh like the other “hungries” who have apparently overrun the world, they are also high functioning, intelligent, able to learn and therefore of great interest to the authorities. For the reason they are being held on this base is to be tested (by being taught like normal children would) and experimented on (in rather unpleasant ways) to find out exactly why they are so different and whether this could lead to a cure.

And then it all goes a bit wrong….

Why did I want to read this?

I think I’ve said before that I tend to be more of a vampire than zombie girl but I’ve had the good fortune to read a couple of very good zombie stories over the past few years, and this one came highly recommended. The idea of intelligent zombies who can (at least in Melanie’s case) come to understand what they are and up to a point exercise some level of self-control sounded fascinating, and I really wanted to give this a go to see if it lived up to expectations.

What did I think of it?

Oh, I had all the feelings about this book!

This is an absolutely brilliant novel and I read it in a couple of sittings, desperate to find out what would happen to Melanie. The great strength of the novel is the characterisation, and not just that of Melanie whose side I was definitely on all the way through but the adults that surround her especially once things move outside the base itself. The most sympathetic is Miss Justineau, Melanie’s favourite teacher who has come to think of her as a “normal” child  and has introduced her to the Greek myths including the story of Pandora (who was the original “girl with all the gifts”) and believes that her life is worth preserving despite the risks.

But we also have Sgt Parks who over time comes to respect Melanie (in his own way), Pte Gallagher who has known nothing other than a world full of zombies, and Dr Caldwell, the female scientist so obsessed with understanding how the infection that caused zombies spread that she is unable (or refuses) to see the children as people and treats them with appalling cold-bloodedness.

I’m not going to say anything else about the plot because it needs to be experienced first hand though I would agree with other reviews that there isn’t a huge amount that is new here, but I came to feel so strongly about Melanie that none of that mattered. I could see where it might end up and was mostly right but that’s not really the point, and I found the end of the story very satisfying.

I was really pleased that this turned out to be such a good read given that I persuaded Silvery Dude to buy a copy to take on holiday with him. I think he’s finished it but he hasn’t told me what he thinks of it – I’m assuming positive response as we had an exchange of e-mails casting the movie version.

I loved this and can’t recommend it highly enough.

august-crimeI have done this before a couple of times but not for a few years and I just have a hankering to read lots of crime function during August when it (theoretically) gets a bit quieter as friends and workmates go off on holiday.

This is a sort of personal challenge but one that doesn’t have any real goals and until yesterday afternoon was going to have a suggested reading list but frankly when I looked at the crime section of my TBR mountain I quailed at the enormity of the the task and I’m basically just going to wing it.

Although I will almost certainly start with the new Lauren Beukes which appeared as if by magic on my Kindle app yesterday morning :-)

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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