20140728-175313-64393728What’s it all about?

Savage Magic is the third in Lloyd Shepherd’s series about London’s River Police which started with The English Monster (which I reviewed here) and continued with The Poisoned Island which was my first read of this year, and to (for?) which this novel is something of a sequel, as the starting point for several of the characters is a direct result of the events of the previous novel. So although you don’t need to have read that first, it will all make a bit more sense if you have.

Unofficial plug over.

But what of the plot? Well….

It’s 1814 and London’s Covent Garden is at the centre of a dark trade, enticing rich and poor alike with a cocktail of gin and beer and sex. In the surrounding parishes a group of aristocratic young men are found murdered, all of them wearing the mask of a satyr, all of them behind locked doors with no sign of entry.

And if that wasn’t enough, there are also accusations of witchcraft in the countryside outside London which need to be looked into ….

Why did I want to read it?

I am a great fan of this series and had pre-ordered this as soon as I knew it was coming out. It’s a period of London history that I don’t know very much about and I have become fond of the main characters, particularly Abigail Horton, the wife of our main protagonist, so picking this up was a no-brainer for me.

What did I think of it?

As I’ve already said I enjoy this series very much but I think this is the best so far, which is interesting given that at least one of the main characters from previous volumes (Harrington) is offstage through illness for most of the narrative and the others (Abigail, her husband Charles and Aaron Graham) are apart for most of the novel for very good and important-to-the-plot reasons. In fact I became very anxious indeed about Abigail’s situation…..

The other interesting thing is that very little of the story has anything to do with the Thames at all, though convict transport to Australia and return to England do feature. What we do have is a thoroughly absorbing story which touches on the treatment of the insane (hint – it isn’t good, especially for female patients), the sex trade and in particular the debauchery of the wealthy (which seems in this case to have very few if any limits) and witchcraft and superstition, alive and well in rural parts even post-Enlightenment. I do enjoy a good-locked room mystery, and I also like to see how the various plot strands come together as they inevitably do. Very ingeniously done in this case, with a whiff of the not entirely natural which has been a theme of the series.

It’s also great fun to read about an area that I know pretty well given that when I’m working in London I’m based on Kingsway, just round the corner from Graham’s home in Great Queen Street and a stone’s throw away from Covent Garden.

The reading experience was an unusual one for me in that I started the novel some time ago and then a combination of increased workload before holiday (never a good time to read anything that requires attention in my experience) and the previously mentioned anxiety about what the author was going to put Abigail through meant that it languished on the TBR pile until I found myself in a hotel in the south-west of Scotland where I could give it the attention it deserved, and I read the last third in a single sitting late into the night. And very satisfying it was too.

If you haven’t given this series a try then you really should, whether it’s for the historical setting, the supernatural stuff or a good novel of detection. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next.

This was my third read for RIP IX. It is also the book that got me to my target of 52 books in 52 weeks, so everything I read after that is a bonus!

WORAT1024A monthly event hosted by The Book Vixen

By the end of this weekend and before I return to work after a three week break, I aim to have written and published or scheduled the following:

  • Savage Magic
  • The Cold Calling
  • The Jennifer Morgue
  • The Book of the Spirits

If I finish it this weekend I may also write and schedule a post on

  • Murder

I’m planning to see The Book of Life at the cinema on Sunday afternoon but it may be too much to expect to write a review the same evening (though I have done that before so not totally beyond the realms of possibility) and may try to fit in something horror-cinema-related on Saturday afternoon.

I also want to scope out my reading list for November where I want to focus on books about WWI as mentioned here.

IMG_0166Let the Old Dreams Die is a book of horror short stories by the Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, first published in 2006 but only relatively recently available in an English language translation. I was very keen to read some of his shorter work having been very impressed by the three of his four novels that I’ve read so far:

I really enjoyed this collection which I read over several days while on holiday, staying in a former stately home in Cumbria. I like Lindqvist’s take on horror, which doesn’t ignore gory unpleasantness (as anyone who knows what happens at the end of Let the Right One In will confirm) but is overwhelmingly, to my mind at any rate, one of creepiness tinged with melancholy, which means they aren’t the sort of stories you can binge on. As an aside, I once heard an author being interviewed on the radio (I think it was Anne Enright but I’m not sure) who said something along the lines that people tend to approach anthologies the way they do a box of chocolates – they either eat them singly over time and savour each one, or they devour the lot in one go – I have done both in my time. This is definitely a one sweetie at a time thing.

I’m not going to pick out any individual stories to mention (except perhaps Village on the Hill which led me to consider drains more carefully than I had before) but will say that for many readers the two titles of most interest  will be the title story which is sort of but not quite a sequel to Let the Right One In (Lindqvist himself says in his afterword that it deals with a problem of interpretation that he hadn’t identified until he saw the movie version) and The Final Processing, the longest story in the collection, which is basically a sequel to Handling the Undead. There is also Eternal/Love where I think you can see Lindqvist exploring some of the themes that pop up in Harbour.

I really enjoyed this selection; it was a perfect autumn holiday read and it has made me want to pick up the most recent novel, Little Star. Recommended.

This was my second read for RIP IX.

imageWhat’s it all about?

Edward Prendick survives a shipwreck and is picked up by another ship transporting a strange cargo under the direction of the disreputable Montgomery to a mysterious island in the tropics, home to Dr Moreau and his laboratory. Prendick finds out that Moreau is experimenting on animals, continuing work he started back in England but which appalled those in the know so much that he was forced to leave if he wished to continue his research. The callous disregard he has for the subjects of his experiments and the torture he puts them through does not end well, but what will it mean for Prendick?

Why did I want to read it?

The Island of Dr Moreau is one of those classics that you know so much about you think that you’ve actually read it and then of course you realise that you haven’t, and I thought it was about high time that I did. As you can see from the cover image from the edition I read I’ve had a copy of this since the release of the ill-fated and not terribly well-received 1996 movie version.

That’s how long things can moulder on Mount TBR round these parts.

What did I think of it?

I’m not sure it’s what I expected really, based on my only other Wells reading experience which is War of the Worlds, an exciting and pacy read. I thought this would be similar but it’s clearly trying to make more of a point in terms of its message on the price of scientific enquiry and the role of vivisection which has always been a contentious issue. Moreau himself has no redeeming features whatsoever and even Prendick is at times an ambivalent figure; he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the principles being applied, it’s Moreau’s methodology he takes issue with. The beasts themselves are for the most part not well developed and the social satire elements were lost on me.

I’m glad I read it as it is a classic which has influenced other works across a number of media; the song No Spill Blood by Oingo Boingo has just popped into my head and even my late lamented dentist used to refer to his surgery as the House of Pain.  So many of the references are embedded in popular culture but I must admit that as a novel it left me entirely cold.

This was my first read for RIP IX.

Reading WomanSo I may have mentioned that I’ve been on holiday for a few weeks and have done quite  bit of reading, mostly for Carl’s RIP IX challenge (my proposed book list for that is here and so far I’ve read six and have started on a seventh of the books mentioned with a week to go). One of the things that often happen after my annual break is I start thinking about what I might want to read over the next few months. I also usually buy some new books as I can’t resist popping into every bookshop I can see, and this year has been no exception on either count.

New books

A modest pile for me:

but there have also been various Kindle downloads too numerous to mention which would crank the number up if I could make the effort to list them all.

Reading lists

My reading has been very genre heavy this year, which isn’t a bad thing but I feel the need to stretch my wings a little bit.

There are five or six novels which my friend Silvery Dude has been pushing me to read, so that’s a list in itself (including Game of Thrones which I mentioned here, as well as Tigerman, Little Star and Norwegian Wood, which might lead me to a Japanese focussed list as I also have some unread Mishima which has been gathering dust in the stacks for donkey’s years).

I would also like to finish working my way through The Big Re-Read, a personal challenge which I talk about here and which has been chuntering on for ages.

I am also very keen to focus on a couple of my favourite authors, including a re-read of Virginia Woolf and attacking my backlog of Joyce Carol Oates’ books (she is so prolific, I can’t keep up).

But first I would like to do some reading in November around World War I. I probably won’t re-read A Testament of Youth which had a huge impact on me when I was in my late teens, but though the Royle book mentioned above plus a couple of novels (Helen Zenna Smith is somewhere on my shelves) but I haven’t thought it through as yet.

I always find it difficult to strike a balance between planning my reading and keeping some spontaneity so we’ll see how it works this time round!

www_wednesdays4I’ve been (and actually still am) on holiday (though back home now after a fortnight of comfortable hotels and working my way through a menu consisting largely of British wildlife) and thought I’d ease myself gently back into blogging by answering these three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What am I currently reading?

Murder by Sarah Pinborough, on Kindle. It’s the sequel to Mayhem which I read and enjoyed last year (my review is here). I’m about 20% of the way through and enjoying it though reading has slowed down as I’m still unpacking and sorting laundry and all that post-holiday stuff that we all enjoy so much.

What did I recently finish reading?

The Book of Whispering Spirits by Jeff Ferrell. Purchased on Kindle largely because of the Abigail Larson cover illustration (I love her work very much) and also because I really enjoy short stories. A review will follow in the next few days I’m sure.

What do I think I’ll read next?

I’m pondering a number of choices but as I’m still in the throes of RIP IX I suspect I’ll pick up The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd next.

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

I am on holiday for three weeks (hurrah) so although I will be walking (a lot, probably) updates will be at a minimum until I get back.

Week 1 (Sep 29)

  • 22 km
  • 5:32 hours

Week 2 (Oct 6)

  • 12.3 km
  • 3:40 hours

Week 3 (Oct 13)

  • 3.7 km
  • 1:14 hours

The totals for the previous 2 weeks are the absolute minimum walked. The app I use to track myself is on my phone which of course requires a suitable connection and for a lot of the time I was in the middle of nowhere, when I wasn’t actually in the back of beyond :-)

Week 4 (Oct 20)

  • km
  • hours

IMG_0150What’s it all about?

Acceptance is the concluding volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. Where the first volume told the story of the 12th expedition into Area X and the second looked at things from the perspective of the organisation tasked with sending those expeditions in to investigate, this final volume brings both sides of the story together as surviving characters deal with the aftermath of earlier events and try once again to understand the anomaly from the inside.

Why did I want to read it?

I just love this series of books and hated having to wait quite so long to get my hands on the final volume. Even though I was in the middle of something else when this arrived on my Kindle app I just had to start reading, and I finished it in a single Saturday’s concentrated effort. Though it really wasn’t an effort at all, I was totally absorbed.

What did I think of it?

I really really liked Acceptance, I thought it was a very fitting conclusion to the series and brought together existing strands and themes very well while still managing to introduce new material, including quite a few flashbacks which explained some of the background to both what Area X is and how it came to be. I found myself really committed to the characters and the growing sense of otherness and weirdness was gripping, especially to someone like me who has a great love for all things strange. It manages to balance the creepiness of a Lovecraft tale with real human drama as characters I had come to care about dealt with their experiences.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because this is a book that only makes senses if you have read its predecessors. What I will say though is that I will definitely re-read this trilogy and I have already sought out more of VanderMeer’s work. Though I can understand why some readers have found the lack of a complete set of answers a bit frustrating I rather liked the open ending. Really really enjoyed it.

Book-Blog-Walkers-2014I’m using this post to keep track of my walking during September as part of the Book Blog Walkers thingy. My final tally for August can be found here. Week 1 (Sep 1)

  • 21,848 steps
  • 14.8 km
  • 3:30 hours

Week 2 (Sep 8)

  • 17,436 steps
  • 11.5 km
  • 2:43 hours

(Not bad considering I had a problem with my back for much of the week and was pretty ill an housebound on Thursday)

Week 3 (Sep 15)

  • 23,360 steps
  • 14.9 km
  • 3:19 hours

Week 4 (Sep 22)

  • 21,353 steps
  • 13.6 km
  • 3:10 hours

lavinia-portraitRIP92751How did it get to be September already?

So, I love the autumn, always have done, but the onset of mellow fruitfulness and longer nights and all that stuff is made even more pleasurable by the advent of Carl’s annual RIP challenge now in its ninth year where we all come together to read dark stuff with ghosts and horror and mystery and danger. It starts on 1 September and runs to 31 October.

I have a list that’s far too long even for someone who’s playing a blinder in her reading plans (already only four volumes away from my target for the year) out of which I will attempt to read four so I can take part in Peril the First.

Before I go on I must say that I love the Abigail Larson art that Carl has chosen, partly because she has designed the cover for the first book on my list but mostly because I am lucky enough to have a framed print of her Masque of the Red Death.

ripnineperilfirst

But enough of that; to the list:

That looks like a pretty fine haul.

ripnineperilscreen

I will also try to take part in Peril on the Screen by finding stuff that is suitably creepy. At the very least I hope to watch Triangle which I’ve had for ages and still not seen. And maybe some revisits to old favourites, Theatre of Blood springing to mind.

Looking forward to seeing everyone else’s lists!

 

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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