fullsizeoutput_7b8Just a very quick post to brag, sorry, update everyone on the books I was given for my recent birthday, especially as I failed to do this with my more substantial Christmas haul; that moment has passed.

America’s Queen by Sarah Bradford – a biography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; I’ve always been fascinated by Jackie K (and Eleanor Roosevelt but probably for different reasons). This is a chunkster.

Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird – a Sherlock Holmes adventure with a cool premise and even cooler cover. I cannot resist a good Holmesian tribute.

Flappers by Judith Mackrell – my fascination with aristocratic and/or glamorous women continues…..

The Golden Fleece by Muriel Spark – for the Centenary, a book of essays to add to the read along list

I’d Die for You & Other Lost Stories by F Scott Fitzgerald – because it’s Fitzgerald.

You will also see a couple of DVDs in the stack. I make no apologies for the presence of Tom Cruise.

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pTodBdEncIt’s my blogiversary; Bride of the Book God is 11 years old today. Who would have thought it?

I was 11 in 1973.

Neil Patrick Harris, Adrien Brody & Pharell Williams were born. Noel Coward, Picasso, Bruce Lee & JRR Tolkien died, as did Roger Delgado (the very best Master in Dr Who). The Sting & The Exorcist were released.

Princess Anne got married for the first time and we were allowed to watch some of it at school. I started junior high school. The UK joined the EU; as a proud Remainer I’m still seething about Brexit but as this is usually a politics-free zone I won’t go on about it (but seething, really).

So as is customary please help yourself to the virtual cake at the top of this post and pour yourself a glass of Prosecco and toast Year 12!

I’m really keen to start 2018 with a clean slate and have decided that I don’t have time or inclination to review the books I read between May and November 2017 (at least up to finishing The Ritual which I reviewed here) before then of the year, which is tomorrow.

I mean this in the sense that I wouldn’t be able to review them in the detail they deserved and that would do the authors and the stories a disservice. I liked them all, some of my favourite authors are in here and I wanted to mark them in some way.

So here are some pretty covers and the statement of intent that I will do better in 2018. Honestly.

 

 

51mOgPy-TCLWhat’s it all about?

In Adam Nevill’s The Ritual, four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer young men, they have little left in common and tensions rise as they struggle to connect. Frustrated and tired they take a shortcut that turns their hike into a nightmare that could cost them their lives.

Why did I want to read it?

Amusingly, the Kindle edition of this book has as part of its title “Now A Major Film, The Most Thrilling Chiller You’ll Read This Year”, and to be fair that’s partly why I bought it. It also fitted in with some of my autumn reading which involved a mixture of Scandinavia, the supernatural, death and gore and appalling weather. You will see more of this as I catch up with my humongous backlog of posts.

What did I think of it?

I have several Adam Nevill books but haven’t got around to reading any of them until now, and as I said above this was triggered by the release of the film which, by the way, I haven’t seen.

So, these four guys are doing the male bonding thing and it isn’t going well so Hutch, the one who is leading their expedition, suggests a shortcut; this is a horror novel so of course this is not going to end well. They come across evidence of some very strange practices and there is definitely Something Out There and it is not friendly.  And when you think you know where this might be going it takes a weird turn.

And then it ends.

It’s a very blokey novel and I definitely felt that I was not the target audience, which is fine, but I was mildly annoyed that all of the women referenced in the story were so, well, unpleasant. The Big Nasty was creepy and horrible and well done, and the story definitely unsettling. Although it’s not written in the first person it becomes clear very early on that Luke is the guy we are supposed to be rooting for as we see everything from his perspective, but he really is a bit of a jerk. And the book ends just at the point where it got really interesting. How is Luke going to explain all of this? Sadly, we will never know.

So it’s fine as a novel. Will be fascinated to see how it works as a film, though not fascinated enough to spend any money seeing it. I will read the other works by Nevill that I already have, but won’t be rushing out to buy any more for now.

 

 

 

 

 

28225843What’s it all about?

A novel that is simultaneously harrowing, dark, dangerous, funny and uplifting from the author of the Southern Reach trilogy

“Am I a person?” Borne asks Rachel, in extremis.
“Yes, you are a person,” Rachel tells him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”

Why did I want to read it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s Southern Reach trilogy and have been very keen to read more of is work. I thought I’d start here.

What did I think of it?

I loved this book so much, I basically devoured it. It’s everything the blurb says it is, and much more too.

Our protagonist is Rachel, a scavenger in the remnants of a city ravaged by disaster (though we’re not entirely clear what that disaster may have been). She lives in a block of flats which is falling apart with her partner Wick, who knows stuff about biotech and deals in the things that Rachel finds for him.

When out scavenging she comes across Borne (as she names it), a form of biotech which she becomes attached to (not literally) and begins to nurture. It becomes clear that Borne is sentient and develops as a human child would, though with the ability  to change shape (the cover above is I guess a representation of it) and to learn about things by, well, absorbing them (ie eating them).

There is a mystery at the heart of Rachel’s story; she has memories of her past away from the city but her family is gone. There are rivalries between the various communities as they each seek dominance, and there is of course the Company that has created all of the biotech which is swarming around, including an enormous flying bear which I found hard to visualise at first but came to accept quite quickly.

Although there is a conclusion to the story (and a satisfying one at that) the plot is any many ways not the core of why this book is so good. It’s all about the characters and their relationships. This is especially the case with Rachel and Borne; the latter has a very distinctive voice which develops as he grows from toddler to teenager to young adult and learns to navigate the world.

Like I said, I loved this and can’t recommend it highly enough. Go read!

16046748What’s it all about?

Countdown City is the second volume of the Last Policeman Trilogy (read about volume one here), thusly:

There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank’s days of solving crimes are over…until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.

Why did I want to read it?

I really enjoyed the first novel and wanted to see how the story developed.

What did I think about it?

Countdown City continues to develop the story of Hank and his desire to help people and get to the truth of the puzzle he is presented with. On this occasion, the woman who used to babysit for him and his sister needs his help to find her husband who has basically disappeared. Of course, almost everyone assumes that like many other people he has just taken himself off to wait out the end of the world in his own way, but it isn’t as simple as that, and what Hank finds sets up some issues for the future, particularly in relation to the conduct of government agencies during this crisis. And behind all of that is the problem of his sister and her conspiracy theories.

What sets this series apart I think is the way the impending catastrophe is not at the forefront of the story. I mean, it’s obviously the reason for everything that’s happening, but the author concentrates on the human stories, how people are coping and how society is changing and what that means for Hank and his friends as they pass their last days. In a world where you would be forgiven for expecting everyone to be out for themselves, there are people who still care for wider society, and it’s clear that this is the theme that will run into the third and final volume. I’m looking forward to finding out how this all concludes.

15721904All the characters are real. All the events depicted are true.

HHhH (initials representing the German phrase which translates as  ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich‘) is ostensibly about the plot to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in 1942, otherwise know as Operation Anthropoid. But it’s so much more than that….

when you are a novelist writing about real people how do you resist the temptation to make things up?

I resisted picking up this much praised book for a long time, put off by the notion that this was a novel that was too clever by half, being about the author as much as its subject. I tend to resist that sort of thing because it can be very superficial (to my mind at least) but on this occasion I was absolutely swept away.

Binet is trying to write the story of the two men – one Czech, the other Slovak – who flew from London to Prague to carry out the assassination, knowing that they would almost certainly not survive and that there would likely be significant reprisals against their fellow countrymen. But Binet gets drawn in to the life, career and just general horror of Heydrich that he spends a lot of the novel giving us this background and of course interjecting himself into the narrative.

I really did not think I was going to like this at all but whether it’s the author’s personality (whether real or artificial, because once you start thinking about making things up about real people you have to wonder whether what you are seeing of the author is accurate or not) or the structure of the novel with short punchy chapters, some only a paragraph long for effect, I was gripped and read the book very quickly.

A compelling story well told and one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

23154785What’s it all about?

The Annihilation Score is Book 6 in Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series, so probably not a good place for new readers to start, but very exciting for old hands like me 🙂

This time around the focus is on Mo O’Brien, an agent for the Laundry, which is the secret government agency which deals with occult powers and the threats they present. Mo has a very special set of skills alongside wielding a bloodthirsty possessed violin as her main weapon.

Ordinary people are developing superpowers and the Laundry needs to work with the mainstream police force to contain the potential threat. Of course it’s not as simple as that and there are consequences (with a capital C).

Why did I want to read it?

I have been reading this series since it started and enjoy watching the characters develop and the shift in tone as different threats are dealt with; everything from megalomaniacs wanting to take over the world, Lovecraftian entities from other dimensions, underwater beings and, of course, vampires. Wouldn’t miss new entries in the series for the world.

What did I think about it?

I really enjoyed this entry in the series, with its shift in focus away from Bob, our normal protagonist, to his wife Mo. The story stands or falls on whether you like Mo as a character or not and I do. I particularly liked the fact that a significant number of the leading characters in the story are women, and that they aren’t spending all of their time snarking at each other, but find a way to work together despite tensions in their working and personal relationships.

But the great joy in this series for an old civil servant like me is the accuracy of the bureaucracy that always arises when different bits of the public sector have to work with each other more closely than they would like, and the jockeying for position and advantage that results. Setting aside the whole occult thing (obviously) some of the situations will be recognisable to anyone who has worked in an office environment, especially within government. Gives an added depth to what’s already a good story.

I already have book seven in the stacks, and book eight has been pre-ordered, so more Laundry shenanigans to come.

JPEG image-5DF314AE8C2D-1

My reading progress is still very up and down, mostly because I’ve been unwell for chunks of time since Christmas and not felt able to blog. But here I am, wanting to make sure I note thoughts about the first few books I finished this year.

Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock

I have been a long-time subscriber to the Fortean Times because I just can’t resist any of the stuff that they cover. Ann Fadiman wrote about the shelf everyone has where they keep books about their obsession (I think hers was Arctic exploration); I definitely fall into that category of person, though I have more than one (if you’re interested the other two are posh, titled and/or fashionable women, and 16th century history). Since reading The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail I have ben fascinated by the complex theories weaved by authors about the past. I read Hancock’s  Fingerprints of the Gods many years ago, and this is something of a follow-up. From the blurb:

The evidence revealed in this book shows beyond reasonable doubt that an advanced civilisation that flourished during the Ice Age was destroyed in the global cataclysm between 12,800 and 11,600 years ago. But there were survivors.

Firstly, no it doesn’t. Nowhere close. The stuff about the cataclysm makes sense but there is no evidence for his other claims. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t entertaining, though his style grates on you after a while. He takes pops whenever he can at traditional archaeologists, and has a clear sense of grievance. He is rolling back on previous claims but not really very far. But repeatedly saying something is true doesn’t make it so.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I came late to this one. A powerful, beautifully written story about a boy coming to terms with his mother’s illness and possible death, and the Monster that comes to him to help. But don’t take my word for it; the Guardian said:

Exceptional…. This is storytelling as it should be – harrowing, lyrical and transcendent

I finished it on the concourse of Euston station while waiting for a train to Manchester, and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried at the end. recently made into an amazing film which I have talked about over on the Screen God.

Nod by Adrian Barnes

Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no-one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no-one ….. Bizarre new world arises

I completely forgot I had this on my Kindle app until a  friend mentioned that he was reading it and thought it was something I would enjoy. Combining two of my favourite things – the aftermath of global catastrophe, and all things Canadian – I read this n just a couple of sittings (it isn’t a terrible long book). Although the focus is mainly on those who can still sleep, I was just as fascinated but the prognosis for those that can’t. A bit scary for a fairly frequent insomniac. The first person narrative is as always occasionally problematic, and the ending is inconclusive (which I like). Some people absolutely hated this book, but I thought it an interesting and original addition to the whole dystopian trend.

Knocked Out Loaded: A Comic Art Novelty by Michael Jantze

Norm Miller, stressed about marriage and all that implies, heads of for a solo skiing trip only to return without any of his emotional baggage

I love the Norm comic strip and was very pleased to find out that there was a graphic novel exploring the more series issues around Norm and his marriage to Reine and that entails. Thoroughly enjoyed it and expect to read it again.

img_1116And just over a week after my blog birthday it was my real birthday. I’m a very long way from being 10 years old but still enjoy opening my presents. As is traditional, here is the detail of my book haul (which some of you ill already have seen a photo of on Facebook.

  • How to Ruin a Queen by Jonathan Beckman – Marie Antoinette, the stolen diamonds and the scandal that shook the French throne; had me at diamonds. Oh, and scandal…
  • Bird in a Cage by Frederic Dard – deadly deceit in 19602s Paris
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons – “It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. […] But amid the sundrenched cornfields their loyalty will be pitilessly tested.
  • The Fisherman by John Langan – “It’s a tale of dark pacts, of long-buried secrets, and of a mysterious figure known as Der Fisher: the Fisherman
  • Margaret Pole by Susan Higginbotham – “Of the many executions ordered by Henry VIII, surely the most horrifying was that of sixty-seven-year-old Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, hacked to pieces on the scaffold by a blundering headsman.”

As is also traditional, I am now on a book-buying freeze, probably until end of March, certainly until end of February, when only pre-orders well cross the threshold chez Bride.

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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