You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2014.

ScanWhat’s the book about?

So, The Severed Streets is a sequel to London Falling which I read and enjoyed last year (you can find my thoughts about it here), though it’s a sequel in the sense of using the same characters and advancing their story arc with a standalone story.

It’s London, it’s summer and there are protests and riots with masked mobs blocking the streets and causing chaos. An MP is being driven in his official car when he is surrounded by one of these mobs and as a result is brutally murdered. But there is something odd; how did the killer get in (and out of ) the car without being spotted. And is what the driver saw really believable?

Enter Quill and his team who are still feeling their way around their new ability of second sight, and who are clear that something out of this world is involved in the death. And the others that follow. So they go into the underground community to find out what they can alongside good old-fashioned policing methods.

Why did I want to read it?

I really enjoy the whole urban fantasy genre (which I think this fits into but I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) and this series sits nicely alongside Fowler and Aaronovitch, and regular readers will know how much I love them. I really wanted to see how the team would develop and deal with the personal issues arising from the first book.

What did I think?

I read the final two-thirds of the novel during one of my many recent bouts of insomnia and it is meant as a real compliment when I say that I was so engrossed I actually forgot I was tired. I liked the way the characters developed, still the people we met in the first book but obviously changed by their experiences and trying to find a way to use their new abilities without any help or guidance. I though the story itself was very enjoyable and timely given recent events on which I won’t elaborate as I don’t want to get into the plot too much.

I particularly enjoyed the Neil Gaiman cameo; in other hands it might not have worked but he is properly integrated into the story (a bit more than I expected actually and in a very interesting and unexpected way). I liked the resolution and the introduction of new elements and characters which I hope will continue into future volumes. Quill is a great protagonist and it’s really nice to see a detective with what appears to be a happy home life.

New readers could start here but I would recommend reading them in order. I really enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to the next one.

I have a mild (OK, not that mild) interest with fashion and jewellery and over the past month I’ve had some major issues with insomnia – just one of those things but deeply annoying at the time. You may wonder why these two things are connected, so let me explain…..

One of my tactics is to not lie there feeling sorry for myself, willing myself to go to sleep etc., but to get up and do something to take my mind off the sleeplessness. Sometimes that means watching TV, sometimes reading fiction, but often dipping into what are sometimes described as coffee-table books. And these are my two most recent, all about QEII.

 

Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly

Dressing-the-Queen-CoverAngela Kelly is a designer and Personal Assistant, Adviser and Curator to the Queen, and this book takes us through the steps involved in creating the dazzling suite of outfits that the Queen wore during the Diamond Jubilee and it is totally fascinating. Fabulous pictures in full colour, covering everything from fabric to storage to packing to hats and umbrellas, shawls and accessories. It’s quite a light book, not at all academic but nice and gossipy without being indiscreet. It is entirely responsible for my new obsession of spotting the hat pin(s) whenever I see a photo of the Queen.

 

The Queen’s Diamonds by Hugh Roberts

The Queen's Diamonds, coverI still feel a little bit guilty about this. Last year the Book God and I finally (after living in London for 26 years) took the tour of Buckingham Palace, partly because it was something we’d always wanted to do and partly because of the special exhibition about the Coronation. And of course we ended up in the garden shop and of course we bought stuff, and this was my indulgence. I love love love jewellery, and this is apparently the first authorised account of the history of the diamonds in the royal collection from the time of Queen Adelaide in the 1830s to now. It is full of astonishing pictures of fabulous things. Written by the Surveyor Emeritus of the Queen’s Works of Art (what a title) and a previous Director of the Royal Collection. An expensive indulgence but a lovely thing to look at if you love bling.

 

onceup8200How on earth did that happen? Suddenly here we are on 22 June, and Once Upon a Time VIII is over for another year. 😦

I planned to attempt Quest the First as outlined in my post here.

Sadly, I only managed two of the five books I hoped to read, and started a third. I will persevere with the others as I really want to read them and would hate to see them on the list for next year’s challenge.

The two I managed to read (with links to my thoughts) were:

I still plan to re-read The Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear because it’s awesome.

Must start thinking about books for RIP IX; September will be with us before you know it!

 

IMG_0081What’s it all about?

Black Thursday. Four passenger planes fall out of the sky in four different locations for apparently no reason. Three children from separate flights have miraculously survived . There is also a mysterious message left by a dying American woman. What does it all mean? Who are The Three and is there a purpose behind their survival? And how will the world react?

Why did I want to read it?

I didn’t know anything about this book until (I think) I saw a tweet from Lauren Beukes (author of The Shining Girls which I adored and am therefore pre-disposed to listen to her opinions). I then saw a couple of reviews which suggested that this might be My Sort of Thing.

What did I think about it?

This was great stuff, a nicely creepy conspiracy thriller (bordering on horror), written at real pace and a proper page turner. I like the structure very much, it reminded me a bit of Carrie though with less real-time action and (obviously) more of the story being told through extracts from books and interviews and so on and consequently with several POVs, though the main character (if there is one) is Elspeth, the journalist who wrote a sensational book about The Three and which, along with the message left by Pamela May Donald as she lay dying, gives impetus to a range of conspiracy nuts including a pastor who uses suspicions about the children to set up his own church. Growing paranoia leads to the search for a fourth child survivor and it all ends up in various forms of violence.

I don’t want to go into the plot too much because half the fun is working out where it’s all going; there are lots of hints throughout the story of something bigger and there is a sort of resolution though I think it leaves some of the story elements open (which is not necessarily a bad thing, I don’t necessarily need everything tied up in a bow!).

Another absorbing read.

IMG_0080What’s it about?

Ursula Todd is born during an English snowstorm in 1910 and dies immediately.

Ursula Todd is born during an English snowstorm and lives.

And at key points throughout her life things happen to her or she makes choices which sometimes see her die and sometimes see her live, and also see the fates of those around her change, all running in parallel with major events of the twentieth century, particularly World War Two.

Why did I want to read this?

I like what I’ve read of Kate Atkinson’s work, most especially Case Histories (read before I started this blog so no review I’m afraid). Life After Life was consistently well reviewed and everyone seemed to be reading it all at once, especially after it won the Costa award. I knew that I was always going to read this but wanted to wait until I was good and ready  so that I could savour the book without too much chatter. And I’m glad to say it was worth the wait.

What did I think about it?

I thought this was an absolutely wonderful novel. It starts off quite sensationally with the attempted (we’re not sure if Ursula is successful on this occasion) assassination of Hitler, then leaps back to a very short chapter, really only a paragraph, describing the first time (we assume) that Ursula is born, dying before she can take her first breath as she is strangled by her umbilical cord. The throughout the book we are in a world of parallel universes, where Ursula’s life takes different paths at what we come to recognise are key points. In that sense there is a thriller element to it; what’s going to happen to her this time, at what point will the darkness of death descend and she start her story again.

Two things in particular make this work for me. The first is that we avoid Groundhog Day comparisons; not only is Ursula not living the same day over and over, but Atkinson has us picking up the story at different points.

The second is that I really like Ursula as a character and wanted her to have a long and happy life. This is a real issue in one of the strands where she is the victim of domestic violence to quite a horrendous extent, so well written that I was anxious and cringing while I read it (and just wanted to get out of the storyline as quickly as possible, just because of the power of the writing).

The most compelling parts of the novel are those around WW2, whether we are with Ursula in Germany where she has married a man who will become a member of Hitler’s inner circle, or whether we are with her in London during the Blitz. The latter is really astonishing in its recreation of what I imagine it must have been like to be bombed, really very moving. The characters around Ursula are very well drawn and themselves often affected by the different timelines, sometimes living and sometimes dying.

The key question of course is whether there is a purpose to all of this. There are points in the novel where you can clearly see that Ursula knows or suspects things ands tries to prevent them happening and ends up under psychiatric treatment. There are also hints that some of her family may have something like deja vu and get glimpses of what might have been. And the end is quite odd, leaving us with a very minor character, though I for one am not sure why, though still very affecting.

It’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far and a book that I will definitely go back to to see whether I can follow the various threads now that I know where rings are likely to end up.

So if you are one of the few people who hasn’t read this then I can highly recommend it.

 

IMG_0074What’s it all about?

Authority is the second novel in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. It picks up from the events of the first novel with the survivors of that expedition having made their way back without knowing how and remembering little if anything of what happened while they were there.

This new instalment is told through the perspective of Control, the new leader of the team of scientists who monitor the Southern Reach and who send each expedition in and try to deal with the aftermath. Control wants answers, but is himself apparently thwarted at every turn by his second in command and becomes dangerously obsessed.

Why did I want to read this?

I really loved the first volume, Annihilation, which I devoured and wrote about here. I pre-ordered this as soon as I finished the first and I’m anxious to get my hands on the final volume when it comes out later this year.

What did I think of it?

I just thought it was all wonderful stuff. The change of perspective was unexpected but just as compelling as the events in the first novel. It’s not really a fair or accurate comparison, but while I was reading it in my head I had the feeling that if Annihilation was Alien then Authority is Aliens and that has kind of stuck with me as a reference.

I loved the fact that we were seeing quite extraordinary events from the the other side of the fence (almost literally) with office politics and alliances and secrets and behind-the-scenes machinations all getting in the way of Control figuring out what’s going on.

I really liked the fact that his predecessor had actually broken protocol and led the ill-fated (as they all are) 12th expedition, which gives the events of the first book a really different slant (and guarantees a re-read). The sense of dread, the unsettling feeling, the paranoia all carried through to Authority, and once again I read this in virtually a single chunk, I was so keen to find out what revelations were in store. And we did get some revelations, though as with all of these things we may have been given some answers but there are still a lot of questions tantalisingly hanging there.

I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next, but I can hardly wait to find out!

IMG_0072What’s it all about?

Stevie Flint is a presenter on a TV shopping channel (she used to be a journalist), with a job that seems to suit her (up to a point) and a glamorous doctor for a boyfriend. But something is going wrong in the London she works in; a mysterious disease, “the sweats” is spreading though out the population at a rapid rate. When her boyfriend fails to turn up for their planned date she finds him dead in his flat and of course first thoughts are that he too has succumbed to the same sickness as so many others. But it becomes clear to Stevie that his death doesn’t fit, and she starts to investigate his apparent murder against a backdrop of death and paranoia and societal breakdown.

Why did I want to read this?

I’ve not read much of Louise Welsh’s work but I’ve really enjoyed what I have read, particularly The Girl on the Stairs which was one of my last reads of 2013 and was really gripping, so a dystopian thriller slash murder mystery which is also the first of a trilogy couldn’t be resisted.

What did I think of it?

I enjoyed it so much I mentioned the author in a Tweet (what a fangirl I can be sometimes, even at my age) (and she very kindly replied, even better!).

A Lovely Way to Burn is a really interesting book which starts off with some action (the random shootings carried out by three different people) implying one sort of book and then heads off in a rather different and in some ways more interesting direction.I kept expecting certain things to be connected and was consistently wrong-footed which I particularly liked. Stevie is a fabulous character, strong but vulnerable, and determined to get answers.

I read this in two sittings over a weekend and was desperate to get to the end. The stuff about how quickly society can fall apart under duress was really convincing and provided an unsettling backdrop to what could have been a fairly standard murder mystery. I’m so glad this is part of a series, I can’t wait to see what the next volume has in store. Recommended.

Scan 30What’s it all about?

The Child’s Child is a book within a book, or at least a contemporary story wrapped around a tale of an unmarried mother in Devon which starts off between the wars. Grace is working on her thesis about illegitimacy in the English novel and is asked to read the story of Maud and her pregnancy and the things she has to do to maintain face at a time when this sort of thing was a major problem (disowned by her parents, that sort of thing). The events of Maud’s story start to echo what’s happening in Grace’s life as she shares a house with her brother Andrew and begins to deal with his partner James who moves in with them setting off a chain of events that will change them all.

Why did I want to read this?

I really like the Barbara Vine novels; I’m pretty sure I have read all of them over time, and I certainly have come to prefer them to Ruth Rendell’s (for it is she, of course) more straightforward police procedurals. So it’s always a bit of an event when a new Vine is published.

What did I think of it?

I enjoyed reading this novel but the lingering feeling I have, almost six weeks later (I am SO behind on my posts) is one of vague disappointment. I came to find Maud really, really annoying, and although I know that the way she behaves is a product of what has happened to her and the way she has had to adapt to her circumstances but I came to find her deeply unlikable. I know very well that you don’t have to like a character to find their story compelling but I came to care about the futures of almost everyone except her. At the same time I wanted to know more about Grace and the modern-day setting which I found much more interesting and which seemed to me to be a bit rushed. And for me the connections between the two narratives were a bit tenuous.

dewey-300x300So by no means bad, well written as always and worth reading, it just seemed to be missing something for me at any rate. Will still look forward to her next novel, though!

This was my final book for Readathon !!

Scan 29What’s it all about?

This is a story set some time in the future, where the world has gone through some form of environmental crisis and large numbers of people no longer want to continue living. And in order to help them shuffle off their mortal coil(s), the Tuvache family has for many many years run The Suicide Shop, providing a range of means to end it all to suit all pockets. They are a family suited to this work, a mournful bunch. But then something extraordinary happens – Mme. Tuvache gives birth to Alan (named after Alan Turing who of course committed suicide himself), who turns out to be a bit of a disappointment – he really enjoys life, and sets out on a mission – to make his family happy.

Why did I want to read this?

I came across this initially not as a book but as a film, an animation which sadly doesn’t seem to have been released in the UK and isn’t available on DVD unless you can speak French (which despite many years of school I still haven’t managed). The Book God found out that the novel was published in English and having read and enjoyed (if that’s the word, and I’m really not sure it is) Eat Him if You Like by the same author I decided to give this a go.

What did I think of it?

I enjoyed this short novel very much. Alan is a lovely character, completely subversive, going about the business of changing his family quietly and steadily and against all the odds. It’s described as a black comedy and that seems fair; it’s amusing rather than laugh out loud funny and is also actually very sweet.

I won’t give away whether Alan succeeds, I’ll only say that I found the end both unexpected (though perhaps I shouldn’t have) and satisfying, and would definitely recommend this to you if you would like something a little bit different and, yes, very French. I would love to see how the film handles the story.

This was my seventh and penultimate Readathon book.dewey-300x300

Book-Blog-Walkers-2014I’m using this post to keep track of my walking during June as part of the Book Blog Walkers thingy. I will be posting my final May results here tomorrow.

Week 1 (Jun 2)

  • 21,964 steps
  • 14.2 km
  • 3.33 hours

Week 2 (June 9)

  • 18,460 steps
  • 13.2 km
  • 3:26 hours

Week 3 (June 16)

  • 24,089 steps
  • 15.4 km
  • 3:44 hours

Week 4 (June 23)

  • 27,745 steps
  • 18 km
  • 4:15 hours

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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