51NXivWtcjL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_So what’s the set-up?

The Skin Gods is the second in the Byrne & Balzano Philadelphia series of crime novels, taking place some time after the events of The Rosary Girls because of Stuff I Can’t Get Into (without spilling the beans on the previous book’s ending). The structure is the same as before, alternating narratives from the perspectives of the two detectives and the unidentified murderer.

What’s the killer’s thing?

Murder and mutilation of a wide range of people in the manner of famous movie murders, scenes which are filmed and spliced into video tapes for innocent members of the public to find.

What’s the situation with Byrne?

Suggestions of tainted evidence in an old case let a very nasty person out of jail while his conviction is reconsidered, and Byrne (who helped put him away) feels responsible for the woman said bad guy attacked and goes off the grid for parts of the novel to find out what’s going on and Put It Right.

What’s the situation with Balzano?

Still dealing with whether her husband is cheating or not. Has the joy of going undercover into the seedy parts of the film industry. Is still very good at hitting things.

What did I think of it?

Another enjoyable and pacy serial killer thriller (surely that’s a thing?), with some incredibly gory set pieces and a high level of inter-connectedness in the victims which strains credibility a touch but only if you stop to think about it, so I didn’t. Once again I thought I had worked out who the killer was only to get it totally wrong. Oh, and the FBI get involved in this one, and as someone who loves shows like Criminal Minds it was nice to see what it’s like from the local PD point of view when the Feds turn up. There is potential for the books to become a bit formulaic if the pattern in the first two is followed too closely in future volumes, but at the moment it’s still cool, largely because the two main characters are still flawed but immensely likeable.

I’ve already finished the third in the series and have started the fourth so that should tell you something. I may have said that before *tut* repetition, repetition :D

1182706So thanks first of all to Lynn because if she hadn’t written this review I would never have come across the work of Richard Montanari. I’ve read the first two of his (so far) eight book series about Philly detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano and am not quite halfway through the third. They are exactly what I needed to get me out of my recent mini-reading slump.

So what’s the set-up?

So in The Rosary Girls we are introduced to the recurring characters of Byrne (veteran) and Balzano (newbie), detectives in the Philadelphia PD Homicide division. And what do you know, the first case they work on together is an unpleasant serial killer targeting young girls. The structure of the books is based around alternating narratives from the perspectives of the two detectives and the unidentified murderer.

What’s the killer’s thing?

Murder and mutilation of Catholic schoolgirls for reasons that are unclear initially of course, but there is (as always) a logic of sorts, and other deaths as collateral damage.

What’s the situation with Byrne?

Veteran detective finally (possibly) putting to bed an old case while getting used to a new partner. He drinks, he’s divorced, his daughter is deaf, he has a tendency to deal with matters in his own way, but I liked him. Oh, and there’s possibly a bit of a psychic thing going on. Irish background.

What’s the situation with Balzano?

Daughter of a police officer, first case as a new homicide detective, smart, well organised, small daughter, unofficially separated from cheating husband who is also a police officer. Oh and she is a boxer. Italian background. I liked her too.

What did I think of it?

Must have enjoyed it because I’m on the third in the series as I said at the top of the post. I really like a good police procedural and although I think the subject matter would be pretty dark for many readers (I have a tendency towards the gruesome and unpleasant so this wasn’t a problem for me) it’s a well written and pacy novel which takes you through how the police handle a case like this through a mixture of their day to day work and (just as importantly), the effect it has on their lives when they are off duty. I really thought I’d worked out who the killer was and was close but no cigar. The most enjoyable thing for me was that the two main characters actually like and respect each other; the necessary drama in their private lives is with other people, but together they are a great team. And no romance on the horizon, at least not with each other, a good thing IMHO.

sunday-salon-2Pleased to say that after a few weeks of not reading very much I have started to get back into the swing of things

Challenges:

I still haven’t started my reading for Once Upon a Time IX but I will get there soon. Honestly.

In progress:

As I said the last time I posted, I pulled Child 44 from my TBR pile so that I could read it in advance of the film being released in the next few weeks, but good grief it’s grim and depressing and absolutely not the thing I wanted at the moment so I have set it aside. And I’ve just heard a review of the film which suggests it’s boring so I may just ignore it all together.

What I am actually reading is a non-fiction memoir-y sort of thing about stationery. Yes, stationery. The first chapter is a short history of the paperclip and it is great, so a piece of light relief.

What has got my reading  mojo is discovering an American author new to me called Richard Montanari. I’m working my way through his gritty serial killer Byrne and Balzano novels and they’re really great fun (if books that are based on lots of people being killed horribly can be said to be fun, but I love that sort of stuff). I have polished off the first two and just started the third. Of eight.

New Books

I’ve bought a lot of books in April but who cares; I don’t :D

Events

Since my last post I’ve managed to miss (because of work and health issues) a couple of bookish events, but I did make it to Waterstones in Piccadilly to hear Sarah Pinborough interview Deborah Harkness and Victoria Schwab about their new London-based novels. I haven’t read either of them before though I was thrilled to find out that I have one of Deborah H’s non-fiction books about science in the 16th century which is my sort of thing.

So looks like I’m getting back to normal, but we shall see :-)

IMG_0238What’s it all about?

Triss wakes up after an accident which resulted in her being pulled half-drowned from a river near the cottage where she is staying with her parents and her younger sister Pen. But something isn’t right, Triss has changed in ways she doesn’t understand, and she needs to travel to some dark places to find out what’s going on and, more importantly perhaps, who she is.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve had Cuckoo Song on my eTBR for a while but it was only when it was nominated for the first James Herbert award that I pulled it forward to read. I was intrigued about what could be in an ostensibly children’s book that got it onto that nominee list.

What did I think of it?

This is definitely a slow burner of a read, but incredibly atmospheric and once the world that Triss finds herself in has been established the plot really kicks off and builds to a very satisfying climax. Without being too spoilery, it’s clear from very early on that our Triss isn’t the real Triss but some form of changeling, and the question is how and why that has happened and to what ultimate purpose. So we get into some complicated family dynamics, parents who have become overprotective of their children because of the death of their only son in WWI, resentment between siblings, frustration at being hemmed in and the bargains people will make to get what they think they want without any real thought for the consequences.

It’s set in a version on 1920s England that has a steampunk aesthetic (at least that’s how I thought of it) but also a sense of there being another world of strange creatures sitting just to the side of the real world that our characters inhabit. There’s cruelty and kindness of all kinds, but the main impetus of the story is not-Triss trying to establish some form of identity for herself while trying to put right the things that have been done with her as an unwitting participant. And it has a really cool bad guy.

It took a little while for me to get into the story, and I actually set it aside for a bit until I was in the right frame of mind for this dark and unsettling fairy tale, but I’m glad I went back to it because it is a really well-written and effective story with some genuine horror at its heart.

I am counting this towards both Once Upon a Time IX (for the fairy tale and fantasy elements though it wasn’t on my planned reading list), and 2015 Horror Reading Challenge (because of the James Herbert nomination).

I have at least two more (possibly three) of Hardinge’s books and I will be sure to read them given how much I came to like Cuckoo Song.

sunday-salon-2Reading still a bit slow this week though, having briefly set it aside because I really wanted to finish it but wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind, I galloped through the second half of Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song which was very enjoyable in a dark and creepy sort of way :-)

But this week, because I was only at work for two days and the rest of the time I was on a break, I have mainly been binge-watching TV on my iPad which has been very relaxing.

Challenges:

I still haven’t started my reading for Once Upon a Time IX but have at least selected the book I’m going to start with, so that’s progress of sorts, and I’m considering whether the Hardinge could be included in this challenge (given it’s about a changeling) as well as the horror reading challenge. I probably won’t decide until I actually sit down to write my review.

In progress:

I have pulled Child 44 from my TBR pile so that I can read it in advance of the film being released in the next few weeks, but good grief it’s grim and depressing and I’m only working through it very slowly indeed.

New Books

I’ve bought four or five books this week though it’s worth pointing out that two of them were pre-orders. I also managed to walk into a physical book shop and after some browsing walk out without buying anything. I had to lie down in a dark room afterwards to cope with the shock :D

All back to normal this week, so hopefully more reading time.

IMG_0380So, in order to take part in the Cornflower Book Group for April 2015 I committed myself to reading Jane Eyre, an undoubted classic by Charlotte Bronte which I had never read before. I had about 10 weeks to read it, and I dragged my feet dreadfully, partly for good reasons and partly because, as I admitted to myself earlier this weekend, I just didn’t want to.

So, it is officially abandoned after only 4 chapters.

I was very happy to make that decision but I started to wonder why this was, and I have come up with what appears to be a slightly uncomfortable truth – women’s writing from the 19th century *whispers* just doesn’t appeal.

Now I don’t mean all women – I’ve read and enjoyed the two other Bronte sisters, and I’ve read Charlotte Perkins Gilman and if we throw in children’s books then Louisa May Alcott and Susan Coolidge spring to mind as great favourites. And I don’t think it’s an aversion to pre-20th century works – I’ve read Dickens & Collins, Tolstoy & Trollope, amongst others. It’s just….

Well I’m not sure what it just is, but I have a confession to make; more than one actually:

  • I just wanted to slap Jane Eyre, and I have tried and failed to get very far with Villette or Shirley (sorry Charlotte, but you’re a bit of a prig)
  • I have tried really hard with Jane Austen, but the only one of her novels I came close to liking was Northanger Abbey, and I’ve only ever managed to finish Emma and Mansfield Park, and both were a bit of a struggle. I just don’t like Austen and I get puzzled by the adoration she receives
  • I abandoned both Ruth and Cranford very early on so that’s it for Mrs Gaskell
  • I have tried to read Middlemarch twice and failed both times, ditto The Mill on the Floss (sorry George Eliot); Middlemarch is the one I’m most disappointed with myself for not finishing

I’m not sure it evens things out, but I have never got on with Thomas Hardy either.

So, I’m going to admit that when it comes to the classics I have a bit of a blind spot, and I’ll just have to learn to live with the shame :-)

The Burning ManWhat’s The Burning Man all about?

Still under the auspices of the City of London Police, Bryant & May and the remainder of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are pulled into the investigation of the death of a homeless man during anti-capitalist protests in the city. The man was killed when a bank (in whose doorway he was sleeping rough) is firebombed. But of course there is much, much more to it than that, as an apparent random act is followed by other deaths by fire that indicate that someone is using the rioting as a cover for a protest of his own.

Why did I want to read it?

As I’ve said ad nauseam on this blog, I love these books and look forward to each one, snaffling it as soon as it’s published. Added frisson this time as I got my copy signed (see more of that below), and it might be the last we see of the PCU in this form. Which will be sad if true.

What did I think of it?

Another great story, as always full of plausible events with a strong sense of place and a delight in the characters, building on years of development but never (I think) shutting out the new or casual reader (though of course you always get more out of a series when you read them in order IMHO). And once again Christopher Fowler brings London to life with details of its history and legends underpinning the plot. For a start I am going to have to go and find Crutched Friars next time I’m near the Tower. And it was great to have a relatively rare foray outside of London, to visit the bonfires of Lewes on Guy Fawkes Night. The Book God is a Sussex man and I’ve had the opportunity to see a number of these amazing bonfires being constructed, though never been there on the big night itself, so interesting to see them incorporated into the story in such a significant way.

But back to the story; I was slightly anxious reading this as it seemed that the series was coming to an end, and although the thing that I feared did not come to pass there are significant changes for a number of members (actually probably all of them now I come to think of it) of the PCU. I understand there’s going to be a collection of short stories later in the year but this may very well be the last novel, which makes me sad.

IMG_0378As I mentioned I was lucky enough to get to Forbidden Planet on publication day to finally meet Christopher and get my book signed. He was as lovely and charming as I had expected and it was a real treat to meet him after more than 20 years of reading his books (I first read Darkest Day on holiday in Istanbul in 1993), and I hope to be reading them for many more years to come.

sunday-salon-2Reading slumped a bit this week and I haven’t read anything much at all over this Easter weekend, which is a shame. But I did finish reading the new Christopher Fowler novel (Bryant & May and The Burning Man) and thoroughly enjoyed it (though I haven’t written my post on it just yet).

Challenges:

I completed the TBR Double Dog challenge; my wrap-up post is here if you’re interested in how I did. I also completed the King’s March challenge and was pleased with the three novels and two short stories I read in the month. I really like these shorter, more focused challenges and may look out for some more.

I still haven’t started my reading for Once Upon a Time IX but have at least selected the book I’m going to start with, so that’s progress of sorts.

Oh, and I did write up the first quarterly update on my progress with the 2015 Horror Reading Challenge which you can find here. I was slightly astonished at the number of horror titles I’ve read since the beginning of January, I must really be in the mood for the darkness :-)

In progress

I am still reading the Hardinge novel which I’m now about halfway through. But I have decided to abandon both Jane Eyre and The Voyage Out; I just don’t have time to spend on books I’m not enjoying. I know I’ll come back to Woolf in the future, as I keep on talking about a major re-read of her works, but I may write a DNF post on the Bronte to talk about why I’ve given it up.

New Books

So the self-imposed book-buying embargo finished on 31 March and I did indeed go on a bit of a spree, downloading a number of eBooks. It was very enjoyable and nice to carry out a major refresh of my TBR stack but I’m not going o make a habit of it :D (says she, fingers crossed!)

So I signed up for the TBR Double Dog Dare hosted by Jtbr-dare-2014ames at James Reads Books back in November, with the intention that between 1 January and 1 April 2015 I only read books that I already owned and wanted to read.

So how did I do?

  • Books read = 17, of which 11 were eBooks and one was a re-read
  • Books read which met the rules of the dare = 14
  • What about the other 3? All were read for bookish events, honest

Quite pleased with that :-)

The self-imposed book buying embargo comes to an end at midnight tonight. A number of books did come into the house but all but three were books that I had pre-ordered before 31 December, and the other three were related to book events – you have to buy the book if you want the author to sign it people! So I am declaring that a success, and even if I don’t take a buying holiday again for a while I will be asking myself some hard questions before I buy.

The thing I’ve noticed most about this dare is that it has made me think about how I choose what I’m going to read. I am very easily distracted by bright and shiny new things but there were some good books that I’d had for a while. Perhaps my habits will change, who knows.

Now, where are those credit cards…..

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 4.47.12 PMWhat did I say I was going to do?

As I said in my sign up post, I am aiming to be a Brave Reader, which means reading 6-10 books during the course of the year.

How am I doing?

Really well actually! I have read and reviewed the following (assisted by signing up for the King’s March challenge so this is a bit heavy on Mr K’s work):

Short stories (individual and collections)

Novels

  • The Death House by Sarah Pinborough – some might not call this horror but I thought it dealt with some very dark issues and it had huge impact on me
  • Revival by Stephen King – King meets Lovecraft
  • Carrie by Stephen King – where it all began, an important re-read for me
  • Cell by Stephen King – King meets (sort-of) zombies

Series

I have been reading the Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross for several years and have now (almost) caught up. Many people consider these sci-fi but all the Lovecraftian stuff puts them firmly in horror for me.

So not bad at all. I really didn’t expect to do so well so early but that King challenge came along at the right time :-)

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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No idea what this was all about. Spotted on my walk this morning.

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