You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2013.

IMG_0128What’s it all about?

Jane Logan is Scottish, lesbian, six month’s pregnant and newly arrived in Berlin to live with her partner Petra. She is left to her own devices while Petra is off at work and becomes convinced that her neighbour is abusing his daughter Anna.

Why did I want to read it?

A good question. The cover attracted my eye. I have read Louise Welsh before and enjoyed her books. It sounded intriguing. The words “psychological thriller” clearly trigger a particular response in the bit of my brain that allegedly controls my book buying impulse.

What did I think of it?

Oh boy, The Girl on the Stairs was an uncomfortable read, but for all the right reasons. I felt so tense reading this book; if had been physically possible I would have read it through my fingers.  It felt like watching a disaster unfold, I just wanted to shout at Jane to stop and think but her obsession was so overpowering it’s clear that no-one in her own world could talk any sense into her, let alone a reader on the other side of the fourth wall (I think that’s what I mean, you know what I’m getting at, don’t you?) and it infected her whole life. And the ending was just so….. well, just SO. I had to read the penultimate chapter twice just to make sure I’d understood where this was all going.

Conclusion

Very unsettling. So much unpleasantness and death. Feeling of being effectively alone in a strange city very disquieting. Still living with me several days after I finished it.

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Scan 46What’s it all about?

Vida Winter, famous author, is dying and summons the relatively unknown Margaret Lea to write her biography. It’s clear that there is a story she wants to get off her chest before she passes away. Could this be the basis of the mysterious unwritten thirteenth tale?

Why did I want to read it?

A dramatisation of the novel starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave will be on the BBC over the Christmas holidays (probably already broadcast by the time this is published now I come to think of it) and I wanted to read the book before I watched it. Plus I’ve had the book since it came out and am embarrassed that I haven’t read it before now, making me the last person in the universe to do so. Though that may be a slight exaggeration.

What did I think of it?

The Thirteenth Tale really lived up to what others have said about it and I really enjoyed reading it. It has everything you would expect from a good Gothic; dying person haunted by a secret, main character with issues of her own, potentially inappropriate family relationships, abandoned babies, twins, devoted servants, death and destruction, and will we get to the truth before the end? Hint – of course we will.

Conclusion

Very satisfying indeed. Looking forward to see how they can possibly turn what is a complicated structure with flashbacks and revelations and heaps of atmosphere into a coherent film. I shall report back! but if it turns out that you are the only other person besides me who hadn’t read this then do please have a go; very well written, believable characters, suitable ending (IMHO anyway).

Scan 45What’s it all about?

So, you’re on your way to work in the morning and you have what appears to be a heart-attack on the Tube but your life is saved by an oldish lady who turns out not to be an oldish lady but actually is part of the Feyre and you find out that you are too and nasties are after you and you have to work out an ancient ritual to save like everything.

Why did I want to read it?

Duh! All that stuff up there. Plus the Book God recommended it. Then Silvery Dude read it and said I had to. And it says on the rear of the paperback that this should be filed under Urban Fantasy [hidden war / secret history / deadly duel / ancient rites] division. So duh! once again.

What did I think of it?

Loved it. I liked Niall and Blackbird and the whole world of the Feyre and how it interacted with ours. It has a strong internal logic which helps to make it entirely believable. It has been compared to Neverwhere and I can understand why having read both (and currently listening to the repeated Gaiman dramatisation on Radio 4) but it is very much its own thing. Part of something that’s becoming a genre in itself, the London Fantastical Novel, and I can’t get enough of them.

Conclusion

Sixty-One Nails is the first book in a set of four and I have them all *cue maniacal laughter*

Recommended if you like urban fantasy. And who doesn’t, right?

Scan 44What’s it all about?

The sins of the fathers. The souls of the innocent. The Accursed is a Gothic tale which tells the story of a curse which has apparently fallen on the town of Princeton between 1905 and 1906, featuring a mixture of real and fictitious characters and some quite grotesque events.

Why did I want to read it?

Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favourite authors and this looked to be an unusual addition to her remarkably large body of work.

What did I think of it?

Well. This is without a doubt one of the oddest books I have ever read. I don’t actually have the words to describe it (and I’m not alone in finding writing about the novel difficult because Stephen King reviewed it for  the NYTimes and had a similar issue but handled it significantly better as you would expect).

There is a kidnapping at a wedding, a mysterious stranger with an unnatural influence over the townsfolk, a series of murders (all very unpleasant), cover-ups, political intrigue and a fantasy world of cruelty and despair. And a secret which looms large over one particular family. All about as Gothic as it’s possible to get.

Conclusion

Astonishing. Difficult. Lengthy. Purple. Cover implies vampires but if they’re there they aren’t your usual suspects. Did I mention it’s astonishing? Took many hours of my life. Not entirely successful as a novel but blimey, quite an experience.

Scan 43What’s it all about?

This is a tiny wee bit spoilery but I’m not going to say anything that you can’t pick up from the inside flap of the hardback cover, and that will have to do. So at the end of The Last Werewolf we find ourselves with Talulla Demetriou not only being said last werewolf but also very pregnant. Talulla Rising opens with her about to give birth, which she does very messily and under unusually stressful circumstances even for a werewolf. It ends badly. Baby boy werewolf snatched from her arms and spirited away. Desire for revenge and getting the lad back fuels the rest of the book.

Why did I want to read it?

I bought this as soon as I finished The Last Werewolf (which I enjoyed immensely) as I really wanted to know what happened next, but as is often the case with me it had been sitting on the shelf ever since. Until Silvery Dude requested that I extract my digit and read so that I could explain the ending to him. I (almost) always do what the Silvery One tells me so off I went on a lupine adventure.

What did I think of it?

This is an absolute hoot, a real joyride full of violence and sex and blood and revenge and werewolves and vampires and mythology and weapons and secret societies and global conspiracies and did I mention the violence and the sex? I loved it so much I have pre-ordered the final volume even though it isn’t published for absolutely ages. AND I was able to explain the end to Silvery Dude’s satisfaction, so a good thing all round.

Conclusion

Clever and fun and highly recommended. Led me to say out loud in public that perhaps I just relate better to lady werewolves. It is definitely not Twilight.

Scan 42What’s it all about?

Alex is a teenager who has been badly affected by his parents’ divorce and after trouble at school goes on a business trip to Amsterdam with his father; he is left in the company of the much older daughter of his father’s publisher who takes him around the city and shares some of her historical research with him. He is drawn to a Japanese mask which seems to be haunted. Creepiness ensues.

Why did I want to read it?

I love Chris Priestley. I’ve read all his Tales of Terror and adored both The Dead of Winter and Mister Creecher. Always look forward to his books.

What did I think?

I really liked Through Dead Eyes. I sympathised with Alex a great deal, with his sulkiness and confused feelings and hating his Mum while missing her and resenting the bits of his Dad’s life that were going on as normal. The supernatural elements of the story work well, with enough tension between “is it real?” and “is it just his imagination?” to keep you hooked. I always associate Amsterdam with sunny days and bustling tourists but it comes across as dark and cold and sinister in this story.

Conclusion

Aimed at young adults like most of Priestley’s books yet this old girl enjoyed it very much. I had to read it over a couple of days but it could easily be gobbled up in one sitting (and would be all the more effective for that).

comics-nos-4r2-cover-artworkAt least I think that’s how you’re supposed to write it…..

What’s it all about?

Very nasty serial killer with supernatural car and obsession with Christmas seems to have come back to life and is going after the girl who got away in order to wreak his revenge.

Why did I want to read it?

It’s complicated.

What did I think of it?

That’s also complicated. N0S-4R2 had the same effect on me that Drood did only slightly more so. I have several Joe Hill books but until this had only read one (Heart-Shaped Box which I reviewed here). I should have loved this one; after all serial killer, nasty accomplice, heroine who has had her life ruined by early trauma having to face up to her fears, plucky small boy, flawed but loving husband. And then there are the supernatural elements, our heroine’s special ability, the whole Christmasland thing, and of course the car. I didn’t mind the violence; let’s face it I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of horror so violence isn’t something I’m overly bothered about. I came to like several of the characters. There was just something that didn’t click for me which left this being a good book rather than a great one. I think it was just too long and baggy for the story that was being told; I stopped reading it for a bit because a little voice in my head which kept asking why is this taking so long? And yet despite that the ending felt a bit rushed to me (while also setting up a possible sequel). What it comes down to is that I felt tense and anxious for the Vic and Lou and Wayne while I was reading it but I was never actually scared

Conclusion

A hard one. I really wanted to like this more. It’s by no means bad, has real flashes of inventiveness but *whispers* it outstayed its welcome. Hasn’t stopped me buying the comic though (Lord knows what that says about me).

Scan 41What it’s all about?

A mysterious death in a church. Children playing a game of witch-hunter. The world turned upside down as Bryant and May are asked by their arch-enemy Oscar Kasavian to find out what’s happening to his young eastern European wife Sabira – is someone trying to drive her mad in order to get at her husband or is she (as she believes) the victim of witchcraft? Secrets from the past. All brilliant stuff.

Why did I want to read it?

The answer is here. Love these books.

What did I think of it?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I loved The Invisible Code. I found this one particularly touching for some reason. I really felt for the plight of Sabira who loved her husband but just didn’t fit into his world and found herself struggling to make sense of it all. I liked Bryant keeping things to himself (which he often does to be fair) in order to protect his friends and colleagues. I felt anxious all the way through reading the novel (that’s a good thing by the way).

I also realised that I really have to visit Sir John Soane’s Museum, which should be an easy thing to do as I work on Kingsway and often walk past the building on my way to visit my friend who works on Fetter Lane but I have never been inside. You may not think this is a big thing but I have been working here for thirteen years and really have no excuse whatsoever.

Conclusion

This series just keeps on getting better and better. Which given that it started at a pretty high point is a remarkable thing. Two more already written I believe. Fabulous.

UnknownWhat’s it all about?

Who survives when disaster strikes and why. A journalistic investigation into man-made and natural disasters with first-person narratives and discussions with researchers about what makes some people more likely to survive than others

Why did I want to read it?

The Book God and I watched a couple of episodes of a series whose name I have now forgotten (Perfect something or other) on one of the satellite channels tucked away somewhere far down the TV listings (I want to say the Hitler History Channel but that may not be right) which gave dramatic reconstructions of disasters through the ages, e.g. the Lisbon earthquake, the hurricane that flattened Galveston and so on. The acting was pretty awful and the narration overly portentous but the one bright spot in each programme we watched was Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkablewho was able to give some insight into how people behave in these situations. So I got the book for my Kindle app.

What did I think about it?

Very easy to read, quite fascinating in places, written int hat breezy American journalistic style that I quite enjoy, assertions supported by proper evidence and a solid set of footnotes. Good author’s note where she goes through her methodology in detail so you can have some  confidence in her work. She also gives some practical tips on how to improve your chances. Really interesting.

IMG_0123What’s it all about?

The subtitle of Oliver Burkeman’s book gives us a clue: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done. It’s basically a collection of newspaper columns that he wrote for the Guardian about the problem of human happiness (his words) where he began to delve into

self-help, happiness studies, life hacking, and other ideas with an emphasis on practical implementation by a mass audience

Why did I want to read it?

I heard Burkeman being interviewed on the Guardian books podcast a couple of years ago and he sounded so interesting and non-judgemental that I thought this was worth a look. And there’s also a tiny part of me (which I try to disown) that thinks there might actually just possibly be a simple answer to life, the universe and everything and that this could possibly just be found within the pages of a self-help book.

What did I think of it?

It is a really fascinating book, very funny in places and extremely quotable.  For example:

  • he talks about journalling, and the fact that though focussed writing can be very positive, people who journal a lot to tend to wallow a bit and tell the same story over and over again (I am ashamed to say that I recognise this in myself which is why my diary is not something sensational to read on the train as Gwendolen Fairfax would have it but a fairly boring repetition of the same whinges – though I may be being a little hard on myself there);
  • in talking about stress, he asks whether rather than doing things that avoid triggering our stress response we should try working on our response instead;
  • that the best thing to do when you get an unwanted invitation is just to say no and not try to come up with a justification or elaborate excuse (he suggests Emily Post’s “I’m afraid that won’t be possible” can’t be beaten);
  • that meetings should be abolished;
  • that you won’t transform your life in seven days, but you won’t do that by reading books called Transform Your Life in Seven Days either.

Conclusion

Well worth a read if you are at all interested in any aspect of the self-help industry.  I enjoyed it very much.

Bride of the Book God

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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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Saying hello to Fred on my way for some Prosecco with my BFF

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