You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2011.
This has been my first full week at home and we have been out and about visiting interesting places as we did in Berlin but on coming home after each trip it wasn’t a curl up in the hotel with a good book scenario but chores and admin and cooking very little reading done at all.
All that means that I am still reading and enjoying Look at Me by Jennifer Egan, and am hoping to finish it this week when my commute to work restarts.
I made up for the lack of reading and of new books in previous weeks with the following haul:
- Deadline by Mira Grant – “The truth won’t rest. Neither will the dead” A continuation of the Newsflesh series which started with Feed, the book which single-handedly broke my reading slump
- To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey – “If a crime had been committed, , was it murder … or fraud … or simply some macabre practical joke?” A mystery by the classic crime writer which I had not been aware of, so of course it had to be bought
- The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode – what’s wrong with modern movies?
- Virginia Woolf by Alexandra Harris – because you can never have too many biographies of Virginia Woolf
- The Baskerville Legacy by John O’Connell – “a thrilling, frequently terrifying exploration of friendship and rivalry, love and lust, ambition and the limits of talent”
- The Hound of the D’Urbervilles by Kim Newman – “a volume in vermilion” – love Kim Newman, really looking forward to reading this
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – because it has been recommended by so many other bloggers
- The Corn Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates – because she is my hero and I can never resist her.
I’ve really enjoyed the RIP VI challenge which finishes tomorrow, and suspect I will continue reading creepy books as we move into the winter months.
This was an interesting one. I must admit that I bought it largely for the cover, I am a sucker for pumpkin-headed things and am still disappointed that my copy of Simon R Green’s Shadow’s Fall has this cover rather than this one.
Anyway, that’s what attracted my attention, and then of course I read the blurb and liked the idea of an annual animated pumpkin thing rising from fields and running a gauntlet of young men, and one of the quotes on the back talked about blood and gore and candy, so it was a clear choice for RIP.
And then I started reading it and hit a bit of a snag at first because it was unpleasant and nasty and I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. But, just at the point I was seriously considering setting this aside something changed. I’m not sure exactly what or when – perhaps it was the background to the October Boy being explained made it more interesting – but I decided that I would persevere and I’m glad I did because although it continued being nasty and unpleasant it was also well-written and had a real narrative drive and I did begin to like the “hero” a bit more and the character that I particularly loathed got his comeuppance in a suitable way.
So with retribution meted out it turned out to be a good read.
And as I said, very apt for RIP VI for which I think it’s my fifth read.
So back from a wonderful visit to Berlin where we did all the stuff you would expect (said hello to Nefertiti, ate lots of cake, drank lots of Berliner Weisse mit Himbeer and developed a taste for currywurst) but interestingly the one thing that stuck in my head from this trip was triggered by a postcard I bought of an Otto Dix painting (which isn’t even in Berlin) – a portrait of the dancer Anita Berber from 1925.
Apart from the glorious colour I was fascinated by her face and went off to try to find out more about her.
Books weren’t plentiful (I think there is one biography in English) but I remembered that I had a copy of Anton Gill’s A Dance Between Flames: Berlin Between the Wars and sure enough there she was:
She could have reached the peak of her profession, but she went to the bad, and in Berlin in the Twenties you could do that very thoroughly. She attracted scandal wherever she went […]
Addictions to alcohol, cocaine and morphine led to her developing consumption and she was dead at 29. She has become a cult figure in Berlin and if I’d only known before I went I could have visited her house and taken a picture of the plaque marking the spot. But there you are.
I have a real urge to go off and watch Cabaret again.
So, back to sort-of normal after my trip to Berlin; still on holiday for a week so hoping to get a bit more reading done. Given all the distractions of being on holiday in such a fascinating city I was really pleased that I managed to finish one book – Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge (which I had hoped to finish before I went but events conspired against me) – and completely read another one – Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist, which I loved – both for RIP VI.
Currently reading: Look at Me by Jennifer Egan and enjoying it very much.
No new books made it into the Bride’s household this week but I’m working on it.
Thoughts this week have turned very much towards going on holiday; I fly off to Berlin with the Book God on Monday for 10 days of relaxation, and of course the big topic has been what books to take. I have finally made my decision and am packing three actual real books, most of which are relatively new and been mentioned in previous Sunday Salon and one which has been kicking about for a bit:
- Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood by Christopher Fowler;
- Look at Me by Jennifer Egan; and
- Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist
I’ll also have my iPad with me with a variety of ebooks just in case.
One new book has made it into the Bride’s household this week:
- The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill is the latest Simon Serailler mysteries; a series I enjoy very much
In other news I finally watched the Culture Show special on Hilary Mantel and fell completely in love with her, so will be digging out the stuff of hers I have but not yet read (Wolf Hall and Fludd) and looking for the copy of A Place of Greater Safety which the Book God tells me we have but neither of us can locate.
I’ve also started giving some thought to special blogging plans for 2012; I turn 50 at the end of January and want to mark that in some way, but more of that later in the year…..
A slightly different genre for my next RIP VI read, The Rapture is a described as a psychological thriller; now I’ve never been entirely sure what that means, but I can certainly say that this was thriller of the “will it all really happen the way she predicted kind”, with a world potentially on the brink of catastrophic disaster and only the delusions and/or predictions of a murderous teenager in an institution to warn us of what is to come.
What I don’t think it is is a “haunting story of human passion and burning faith” as it says on the back cover; it has elements of both of those things, yes, but this is more a 2012 ecological end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it story, albeit much less silly than that particular film (and you can find out what I thought about that here.) And my disgruntlement with the world of the blurb-writer goes on…..
So we have Bethany, incarcerated in a facility for the disturbed because of the brutal murder of her mother a few years before. We have Gabrielle, confined to a wheelchair after a car accident, trying to rebuild her career as a therapist. We have Fraser, a scientist who gets drawn into the story when he helps Gabrielle investigate the predictions Bethany has been making and which certainly seem to be coming true. But are they true or is everyone being drawn into Bethany’s delusions as has happened before?
There is evangelical religion in the form of Bethany’s father; what role did that play in how she is now? There are Gabrielle’s trust issues as she struggles to come to terms with her situation. There is romance and distrust and skullduggery, but most of all there is freak weather, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and at this point I want to start quoting Bill Murray from Ghostbusters when he’s trying to convince the mayor to let them sort out the Big Bad.
And that would be really unfair.
Because although this novel strays into soap-opera-ish melodrama on more than one occasion it does have serious stuff to say about how we manage our planet and the dangers of some forms of extreme religion when faced with real and practical problems. And the author doesn’t dwell on the disasters more than is necessary to give us a sense of scale and to give our heroes a real dilemma to deal with – if you think you know something terrible is going to happen but your source is frankly unbelievable and talking about it could ruin your career do you still have a moral obligation to take action?
I enjoyed this in a potboilery way, it moved along at a fair clip and I was interested in what would happen to the characters and how the scenario would play out. I’m still not sure whether I really liked any of the characters, but let’s face it, we weren’t really seeing them at their best.
This was my fourth read for the RIP VI challenge, and there is more than enough peril in this book for most readers.
So this week I managed to finish one book, The Rapture, which will be my fourth read for RIP VI and means that I have technically met that part of this year’s challenge, though I am going to continue reading in the appropriate genres until the end of October. I am enjoying taking part in this chellenge very, very much.
I am still working my way through the Lovecraft-influenced book of short stories, and have started (but not got very far with) Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge.
Two new book purchasse this week :
- Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood by Christopher Fowler – I have said elsewhere how much I love this series so won’t bang on about it any more, but this looks great, murder in the London theatre, and may possibly accompany me on holiday to Berlin;
- Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist – baby found in pastic bag in woods, when given kiss of life her first breath is a perfect musical notes and presumably its all downhill from there; new king of modern horror, apparently, and the evidence so far backs that up
Now giving serious thought to what books to take on holiday with me; more on that next week.
I think it’s fair to say that The Dead of Winter is one of the very best ghost stories that I have ever read, and I say that as someone who thoroughly enjoyed and was totally creeped out by Dark Matter earlier this year. And it’s not just that I am a huge Chris Priestley fan, having read his three books of Terrible Tales (see here, here and here), though of course I am. I just loved this well-written, perfect, little tale.
This is the tale of Michael Vyner, looking back as an adult at the Christmas he spent with his guardian in his isolated East Anglian house, Hawton Mere, and the terrible events that unfolded there. Michael is not there out of choice; his mother has just died, and Sir Stephen is someone he wants nothing to do with – he is bitter that his father was killed saving Sir Stephen while they served together in the army and Michael believes that the wrong man died. But he is a young boy with no other family and reluctantly accedes to his mother’s dying wish that he allow Sir Stephen to give him a new start in life. But Hawton Mere hides a dreadful secret…..
And that’s all I’m going to say because anything more would just spoil it.
This is just smashing, I read it virtually in one sitting and it was totally satisfying as a ghostly tale, very traditional and I mean that in a good way. It’s set in the Victorian period and has everything you might expect – friendly servants, an aloof but actually rather nice lawyer, the strange guardian and his devoted sister, and mysterious goings on some of which are pretty scary. I keep on wanting to compare it to both MR James and The Woman in Black, all for the very best reasons, but that’s a bit lazy of me.
All I will say that if you enjoy ghost stories you will love this.
It is my third read for RIP VI challenge. The shortest so far but already shaping up to be my favourite.