25434372So, you might have noticed that I haven’t been around for a while. The simple reason for that is that I haven’t been reading. At all. My tally so far this year has been 3 books finished up to early March, one of them almost certainly started before the new year and the third (although i enjoyed it) I don’t ever get around to reviewing here. I have no explanation for this, the longest reading slump in my whole life (and believe me that represents a significant number of years!)

But I decided this could not go on and when I realised I had a day trip to Manchester (slightly over 2 hours each way not including the journey from my home to Euston) and that (for various reasons) I wasn’t taking my work laptop and therefore wouldn’t be working on the train I decided that this was a prime opportunity to pick up a physical book and get reading. And what do you know – it worked!

The Bullet is the story of Caroline Cashion, a professor of French literature who is having some physical problems – maybe RSI, maybe not – and during an MRI it is discovered that she has a bullet lodged in her neck, near the bottom of her skull. This is a huge shock as she has no memory of ever being shot and there seems to be no scar. When she confronts her family about this she discovers a number of significant facts – she is adopted, her birth parents were murdered in front of her when she was 3 years old, she was injured in the attack and apparently left for dead, and worst of all (in my mind anyway) the person who did all this was never caught. So, this being a thriller you just know what she’s going to do; yep, you’ve guessed it, she starts rummaging around and puts herself in danger. Of course. I think I might have done the same, to be fair.

I’m not going to say much more about the plot which unfolds in a very satisfying way. It moves at a fair speed and stays on the right side of being far-fetched. It is a first person narrative which for me succeeds or fails on the likability of the character and happily I liked Caroline very much, especially her interaction with her (adoptive) brothers; I have two brothers of my own and this rang true. And yes, there’s a bit of romance but at least she doesn’t rely on him to sort this all out for her (very much the opposite in fact).

So all in all a very satisfying reading experience. Recommended.

 

sunday-salon-2Happy Valentine’s Day, if you mark that sort of thing. I’d love to be able to say that I got chocolates and flowers, but the reason we haven’t done much to celebrate the festival here chez Bride is because I am shortly about to start fasting – nothing but water for 12 hours in advance of a blood test tomorrow morning, and bringing chocolate into the house would just have been adding insult to injury:-)

I’m possibly in the early stages of another reading slump which will be very disappointing if it comes to pass. I’m going to try to set myself a minimum number of pages a day to read as this technique seems to be working with the book on Anne Boleyn I’m studying, where I have set myself two chapters every Sunday and so far (except for one weekend when I was unwell) I have stuck to it. My intention to read a lot in the hospital waiting area early this week came to nothing because they actually dealt with me pretty quickly so I didn’t really settle down with a book. This week I have a couple of days in London and a trip to Manchester so commuter reading is a distinct possibility and usually works.

I may not have finished reading anything this week but I’m still buying, though all of these are eBooks so no need to find space for them.

  • Olivia Manning biography by Deirdre David – I love the Balkan and Levant trilogies and was interested in this recommendation from another blog (I think it was Dovegreyreader but as usual I failed to take a note of where I saw it and am too lazy to go and look)
  • Data: A Love Story by Amy Webb, purchased because I heard her very enjoyable interview on The Allusionist podcast and had to find out more (you should check out the podcast if you are at all interested in language, it’s never less than fascinating)
  • Fashion Victims by Alison Matthews David – recommended to me by my husband who read a review in a history magazine. Looks likely to be full of fascinating facts including the hazards of storing felt hats in museums because of potential toxicity.

But can’t touch any of them until April! Which shockingly isn’t actually all that far away….

sunday-salon-2Didn’t do as much reading as I would have liked to this week but I did make progress with all of the books that I’m currently reading (see sidebar), so that’s pleasing:-)

I did buy a couple of new books(both for my Kindle app):

  • Imprudent King by Geoffrey Parker – a new biography of Philip II of Spain, really looking forward to this, may make it the next 16th century study subject (as that doesn’t count for the Triple Dog Dare because, studying)
  • The Beauty of Murder by AK Benedict – absolutely no idea where I saw the information for this but it looked interesting – “a serial killer wit all the time in the world” – who could possibly resist.

I will be spending most of Tuesday this coming week sitting in various hospital waiting areas as I go through the various stages of my regular retinopathy scan (or having my head examined as I prefer to call it). I will therefore have heaps of time to read, so not all bad (plus making sure your eyes work properly is generally A Good Thing). Hopefully more to report on the book front next week, hope you all have good one:-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20518872What’s it all about?

Kicking off during the Cultural Revolution in 1960’s China and moving rapidly into the present day, The Three-Body Problem is a sci-fi novel which explores the impact of a major event on one individual and the repercussions that can have for the whole of mankind. A spate of suicides amongst scientists. A strange immersive online game. Conspiracies. And lots and lots of science.

Why did I want to read it?

It just sounded so intriguing. I love science fiction, especially when there’s lots of hard science in it, and (as this is translated from the Chinese) I was interested particulary in reading from a different cultural background. Plus it was of course the winner of the Hugo award for best sci-fi novel in 2015 (and rightly so IMHO)

What did I think of it?

Oh, this definitely delivered on its promise! I knew a little bit about the actual three-body problem because my first husband’s degree was in theoretical physics, so I understand enough to know that it’s about the mechanics of celestial bodies and how they move in relation to each other, especially under the influence of gravity (eg Sun + Earth + Moon) and how it can be unpredictable. That’s the extent of my knowledge though!

I liked the mystery element of the novel – what is the countdown that Wang Miao sees that no-one else can; is the Trisolaran system in the game based on reality; what really went on at the Red Coast Base over all those years and what was Ye Wenjie’s part in it?

Of course I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy (as long as it’s fiction; I get mildly cross with claims of huge conspiracies claimed for real life – see my last review for thoughts on that) and this one reveals itself gradually throughout the course of the novel. I was also interested in the idea (which I’ve come across elsewhere) that humanity is a disease or infection and some feel that removing us from the Earth is a Good Thing (I do not of course agree with that nihilistic view).

This is a really excellent novel, beautifully translated and giving me at least something fresh and different while still firmly within traditional sci-fi. If I tell you that I was so absorbed in the story that I didn’t realise I had reached the end of the line on my morning commute that should give you some idea of how good I thought this was. I’ve already downloaded book 2 in the trilogy. Highly recommended.

sunday-salon-2It’s my birthday today, so of course that means presents, and presents mean books!

Main things to note before we get to the really good stuff is that I finished my second book of the year, The Three-Body Problem, an excellent (and award winning) piece of sci-fi translated from the Chinese. If you like lots of science in your science fiction then this is one for you.

It was so good that one of the three books I bought myself this week was the sequel:

And now to the pressies!

  • The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin – “as inventive as Agatha Christie, as hilarious as PG Wodehouse”
  • God’s Traitors by Jessie Childs – terror and faith in Elizabethan England
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson – “Berlin 1933, William Dodd is America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany and is about to witness a turning point in history”
  • Numero Zero by Umberto Eco – “fuelled by conspiracy theories, Mafiosi, love, corruption, and murder”
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness – “not everyone has to be the chosen one”
  • Mr Gaunt by John Langan – and other uneasy encounters

So feeling very pleased with myself as you can imagine and hoping to do quite a lot of reading this week:-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24343739I have taken quite a while to get round to writing about They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper because it’s really hard to know quite where to start. To help set some context I was going to quote from the blurb on the book’s Amazon page but I got quite cross reading the thing because it makes some claims (especially about the scholarship involved) that I don’t think really hold up. It’s basically a bonkers book.

What’s it all about?

So Bruce Robinson, former actor and most notably director of Withnail and I, has spent at least fifteen years researching the case of Jack the Ripper and this enormous book is the result of his labours. And it really is a huge thing so I’m glad I had the Kindle version (you may have read in one of my Sunday Salon posts that I saw this in a book shop teetering on the edge of a shelf, only just managing not to plummet to the floor due to its sheer size). Robinson has a preferred suspect and his book is all about proving he’s right, why the guy did it and how he managed not to get caught.

Why did I want to read it?

I will put my hand up and admit that I’ve long been fascinated by Jack the Ripper, though I am well aware that it is all petty lurid stuff. I’ve read enough to be clear that a lot of the ‘facts’ out there are just theories, and some of those are fairly crackpot. So I was interested to see what this latest one would reveal. Also it was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction which gave it a certain additional interest.

What did I think of it?

Well. I’ve always been a great believer in the cock-up rather than the conspiracy theory of history. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think plots and conspiracies can happen; they manifestly have, and some of have been very successful. But to my mind those are the exceptions, and so when it became clear right from the very beginning of this book that the identity of Jack the Ripper was protected by a consipracy that is so enormous that it would collapse under its own weight I felt a familiar sinking feeling.

Robinson identifies the Ripper as Michael Maybrick, a surname that may be familiar to some of you because of the Ripper diaries that were floating around some years ago where James Maybrick was outed as (potentially) being Jack, having been (allegedly) murdered by his wife. The diaries were eventually discredited, but the theory here is that Michael was Jack, murdered his brother and set him up to be the Ripper, and because he was that kind of guy, framed his hated sister-in-law Florence for the killing, with the collusion of the police and the judiciary, because *gasp* Freemasonry.

Yes, it’s the Freemasons what done it, or at least covered it all up. Knew who it was all along etc. and sacrificed the truth to protect the establishment.

I don’t think this holds up because it simply doesn’t make sense, and there is a definite air of selecting material to support a theory and ignoring the bits that don’t fit. Perhaps the Ripper sections on their own, though fairly potty, make some sort of case, but the mashing together with the Florence Maybrick case (which was a clear miscarriage of justice and Robinson is right to be angry about it), just doesn’t work IMHO.

The book is exhausting to read because the author is so angry about everything; it felt like the man was writing the whole thing with his CAPS lock on. It was like being shouted at constantly. His obsessions and prejudices shine through and his language is crude and at times inappropriate to my mind, and that really jars. There were a number of “wow – did he really just say that” moments

But…..

Having said all that, it’s also quite entertaining – even funny in places – and he makes some very good points about the Ripperology industry. BI certainly never consdered abandoning the book at any point. But having dumped all this information and conspiracy theory stuff on his readers, the whole thing gets a bit rushed and then. Just. Stops. A bit like Jack the Ripper himself.

A real oddity of a book.

sunday-salon-2It’s been a busy week but here is a re-cap of my book-related activities.

Main things to note:

  • I finally finished my first book of the year, They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper by Bruce Robinson. It was enormous and fairly potty and I felt like I’d been reading it for millennia, but it was remarkably entertaining and I’m going to publish my review soon, hopefully tomorrow
  • I went to a book launch in London for the publication of The Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick who is a lovely person and was accompanied by other authors Edward Cox and Jen Williams, also lovely. There was wine, and good chat and I got my book signed (so I have signed copies of the whole set)
  • I have thrown in the towel on the book embargo and I’ll be buying new things as I see them because why suffer? BUT I will be sticking to the TBR Triple Dog Dare and not reading anything bought after midnight on 31 December until April.

So, what have I bought? Because there must be a reason for dumping the no-buy rule, right?

This is what’s come into the Bride’s possession this week:

  • Den’s book obvs (as mentioned above)
  • Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan, pre-ordered last year
  • If This is a Woman by Sarah Helm, because I enjoyed (if that’s the word) her previous book about Vera Atkins which I reviewed here
  • Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne because I love vintage crime and it is set in Scotland and was on my wishlist
  • Seveneves by Neal Stephenson because I had breakfast with my friend Silvery Dude and he is currently reading it and told me I would enjoy it (and he’s often though not always right about that sort of thing)
  • Disclaimer by Renee Knight because it’s the Next Big Thing – or at least it was; as always I’m a bit late to the party on this one
  • The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle because I read a review of it on Clothes in Books and it sounded interesting.

I’m going to try to be good over the next few days because it’s my birthday next week and I believe there may be a book or two amongst my presents. And I’m hoping to finish my current read, The Three Body Problem, which I’m really, really enjoying.

 

 

 

 

1216180084465863391Chrisdesign_birthday_cake_svg_medEvery year I think my blogiversary is 21 January and every year the good folks at WordPress send me a wee message reminding me that it is in fact today, 20 January. My blog is 9 years old. It is only fitting that I managed to finish my first read of the year today; seems a long way into the year but it was a chunkster and one that I think I just might enjoy talking about on here…….

When I was 9 it was 1971, and on my birthday Apollo 14 launched which I didn’t know until I was skimming Wikipedia to look for interesting 1971-related things. I was probably reading lots of Nancy Drew. I took a quick look at the BBC website to see what exciting things are happening on the Bride’s birthday but it was a bit depressing so let’s ignore that. Have some virtual cake instead! Oh and thank you for reading😀

sunday-salon-2So here we are, Sunday once again and I still don’t have any finished books to report, but I’m being very relaxed about that because I am still actually reading, and like I mentioned last week significantly more than I was managing at the end of last year.

I’m concentrating on trying to finish Bruce Robinson’s They All Love Jack, which is all about his theory on who Jack the Ripper really was and the (alleged) cover-up which has kept his identity hidden for all these years. I’m about three-quarters of the way through and enjoying it even though in most respects it’s completely mad. I knew it was a long book but it was only when I saw a physical copy (I’m reading it on my Kindle app) that I realised just how enormous it was. I wish I’d taken a photo because stacked face forward on the shelves the copy at the front looked like it was going to plummet to the floor if you so much as glanced at it.

Some of you will have twigged that if I saw Jack in the wild that means I must have been in a bookshop and it’s true; I suspended (I prefer that to broke) my self-imposed book buying embargo on Thursday by going into Waterstones and buying two books. I had a good excuse though; I had just spent an hour in the dentist’s chair having my broken front tooth reconstructed and I reckoned I earned a treat. The treat took the form of:

The trip to the dentist and subsequent need to curl up on the sofa and feel sorry for myself meant I didn’t get to the Horror Book Club which is dat as well as I hadn’t finished the reading.

Other than that I have been good, though I’m going to a book launch this week and it’s usually pretty hard to get a book signed if you haven’t bought it, so I’ll do what has to be done😀

 

sunday-salon-2So what’s been happening since my last post?

I am reading significantly more than I have been for ages, and although I haven’t finished any books so far this year I’m feeling very positive about it all. Hoping to finish either the Jack the Ripper book or the Chinese sci-fi novel, and absolutely must finish The Troop as I will hopefully be attending the Horror Book Club to discuss it this coming Thursday. So far so creepy, haven’t got to the gruesome body horror stuff yet. Ideal read for commuting:-)

The big thing for me this week was deciding to start studying again for my own pleasure and to get my brain working. My great love is 16th century history so that’s where I’m headed, starting with Anne Boleyn and how she has been perceived by succeeding generations. I will be tracking all of this over on my other blog if you are interested.

I’m still sticking to my intention not to buy any books though I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of All the Birds in the Sky from the publisher to read and review, so that will be my next mission. Sounds wonderful so really looking forward to it.

And of course it’s my birthday at the end of the month so I’ve constructed yet another present list for the Book God to choose from. There might be some books involved there, watch this space……

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in 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.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

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

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Tidying my handbag (it's a thing, don't judge me) and found this lovely thing which @drvictoriajames gave me at @SRFantasyClub

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