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I really really did intend to write proper full reviews for each of the books below (and still will for my actual final read of the year because I will be linking it to something else) but life sort of got in the way and I want to start the new year with a reasonably clean slate so the fact that I have chosen to do mini-reviews for each of these is no reflection on the books themselves; I really enjoyed all three of them.

And when you write a paragraph-long sentence you need to stop and breathe ūüėÄ

Bryant & May: London’s Glory by Christopher Fowler

25886638I’m not going to go on again about how much I love these books, but will just say that this short story collection was a real treat and I had only read one of them previously so that was even better. The additional pleasure was to be found in the extras:

  • an introduction which gave us CF’s insights into crime fictions, always fascinating
  • additional information on each of the stories; and
  • a synopsis of each of full-length cases so far (there’s another one coming in a few months)

Great fun

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

25228309Along with the Fowler collection this chunky book of stories from my favourite writer of horror really got me back into the pleasure of reading short fiction.

Again, brilliant notes from the author and the two stories I had read before really stood up well to a revisit.

I think King’s short works are often overlooked and this had some real goodies. If you haven’t tried them you really should.

 

Slade House by David Mitchell

24500887The Bone Clocks was one of my favourite reads of 2015 so when I found out that Mitchell was bringing out a short book¬†set in¬†the world of that novel then I know I was going to read it as soon as I could, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apart from the fact that it has one of the most beautiful book covers of the year, it is really very creepy and disorienting and reinforced my feeling that Mitchell will become a regular on my to buy list. Luckily I have a couple of his novels already on the stacks as I am on a buying freeze. This is a goodie and one I intend to re-read. Still thinking about it weeks after I finished reading it.

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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.

00 OUAT IXHurrah, here we are, spring is definitely on the way because it’s time for Carl’s annual¬†Once Upon a Time challenge! And the eighth time I’ve got involved in the nine years it’s been running. The challenge starts today and runs until 21 June, which seems ages away but given how quickly the first quarter of this year has disappeared it will come around in a flash ūüôā

I’ve pulled together quite a long (for me) list to choose from but I’m only aiming to complete Quest the First which means I have to:

read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres

Really looking forward to taking part!

So, this is what I will be selecting from (in no particular order):

  • Tithe¬†by Holly Black – I’ve been planing to read this for years¬†“Sixteen year old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces them back to her child home. The place where she used to see faeries”
  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce – “It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phone call from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery”
  • Poison by Sarah Pinborough – SP¬†is becoming a favourite author, and¬†this is “a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires”
  • The Road to Bedlam by Mike Shevdon – the is the second volume in a series of four and I reviewed the first one here¬†“There’s been an accident. It’s your daughter. But Alex isn’t dead. She’s been snatched because she came into her magical power early. Her father, Niall Petersen, must use his own wayward magic to track her down and save her from the madness of Bedlam.
  • On Becoming a Fairy Godmother by Sara Maitland – I started this book for last year’s challenge but for some reason didn’t get very far with it, so happy to pick it up again; this is a¬†collection that “breathes new life into old legends and brings the magic of myth back into modern women’s lives”
  • The Copper Promise by Jen Williams – I have signed copy of this novel from book event where I met the JW¬†(along with Den Patrick below); “There are some tall stories about the caverns beneath the Citadel – about magic and mages and monsters and gods.”
  • Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear – a re-read of what I thought was a hugely important fantasy book. “The Song of Power opens the gateway to the Realm of the Sidhe, a fantastic, beautiful, dangerous world.”
  • White Apples by Jonathan Carroll – which is “a captivating and constantly surprising tale of life, death, and the realm between.”
  • The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick – as mentioned above, I also have a signed copy of this – “Lucien de Fontein is one of the Orfano, the deformed of Landfall. He is lonely, tormented by his difference and a pawn in a political game.”
  • Time and Again by Jack Finney – “Si Morley is marking time: he’s bored with his job as a commercial artist and his social life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So when he’s approached by an affable ex-football star and told he’s just what the government is looking for to be part of a top-secret project, he doesn’t hesitate for long.”
  • The Mark of the Beast by Rudyard Kipling – a selection of the fantastical stories of Kipling, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman and an afterword by Stephen Jones who edited the collection. I have already started this one!
  • The Book of the New Sun (Volume 1) by Gene Wolfe – “Recently voted the greatest fantasy of all time, after The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun is an extraordinary epic, set a million years in the future, on an Earth transformed in mysterious and wondrous ways, in a time when our present culture is no longer even a memory.”

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I’m also going to take part in Quest on the Screen and will try to watch two films I’ve had on my shelves for ages:

  • Stardust – based on Neil Gaiman’s lovely novel, I’m embarrassed that I haven’t watched this yet
  • Tangled – Rapunzel in cartoon form, thought I’d watch this in preference to Frozen (though I will get to that eventually!)

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IMG_0223What’s it all about?

Irregularity is an anthology of short stories which, as the blurb says

is a collaboration between the National Maritime Museum and award-winning publisher Jurassic London: a collection of original stories inspired by the Age of Reason.¬†Using the Longitude Act as the jumping off point, IRREGULARITY is inspired by the great thinkers of the Age of Reason – those courageous men and women who set out to map, chart, name and classify the world around them. The great minds who brought order and discipline to the universe. Except where they didn’t.

I couldn’t have put it better myself and as you can see I didn’t even consider trying¬†ūüôā

Why did I want to read it?

I think I first came across this because I follow one of the authors on Twitter (I actually follow a few of them now) and she (pretty sure it was @kimecurran) mentioned that she had a story included in this volume, and then I looked at the other authors listed many of whom already were or were on the way to becoming favourites, and so downloaded it was.

What did I think of it?

I’ve said this ad nauseam but I’m going to repeat it, just because – anthologies are tricky to review because there are very few collections in which every story hits the spot.¬†And I have to say that at first – and I will admit that I may possibly *ahem* have forgotten what the theme of the collection was when I started reading it – I wasn’t entirely sure where this was all going, but I can safely say that only a couple of the stories¬†didn’t do it for me, and that’s not a bad hit rate out of 14.

It’s worth mentioning the following, which stood out:

  • The Spiders of Stockholm by EJ Swift – a writer new to me whom I was lucky enough to meet at a reading at the end of January, this is a story about spiders and dreams and categorisation and what happens when you¬†put a name to something (and this story is up for the Sunday Times short story¬†award)
  • The Assassination of Isaac Newton by the Coward Robert Boyle by Adam Roberts – (1) extraordinarily cool title (2) draws attention to Newton’s resemblance to (yes, that) Brian May (3) totally bonkers
  • The Voyage of the Basset by Claire North – Darwin + butterflies + coronation = wonderful story
  • A Woman out of Time by Kim Curran – things must happen as intended, ut who makes sure that it does?

As well as these the collection covers mapping the winds, understanding clocks, the hunt for impossible animals, dissection & art, animated dinosaurs and whether science can quantify love. Amongst lots of other stuff. Recommended.

823763Sigh. I have had two attempts at reading this book, once last year in hardback as part of the Long Awaited Reads Challenge and then again last year (running into this one) when my friend MargaRita give me a copy of the paperback as a gift. But for some reason I just cannot get into it at all, and as reported in last week’s Sunday Salon post I have finally thrown in the towel (and as a fan of H2G2, I am a hoopy frood who always knows where my towel is, even if only for the purpose of throwing it in) and just stopped.

I don’t normally have a problem setting aside books I’m not enjoying; life is too short and there are far too many books in the world to persevere with those¬†that you aren’t enjoying, but for some reason I feel quite bad about this one. On the surface I really should enjoy it – historical fiction with integrated logical magic – but although I was quite happy while I was actually¬†reading it, when I put it down I had no desire to pick it up again. So sadly,¬†having got to page 148 with no appearance from Jonathan Strange, I have retired from the field.

I am still quite keen to see the TV series when the BBC broadcasts it in the spring, and who knows I may make another attempt at some point, but for now enough is enough *sad face*

13603362What’s it all about?

Shoggoths in Bloom is a collection of shorter fiction by Elizabeth Bear, must-award winning sci-fi and fantasy author. Includes a couple of tales that bagged her one or two Hugos.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve read some of her work before in anthologies and her stories have always stuck out for me (she was probably my favourite from the¬†recent Lovecraft themed collection which I read and reviewed here), particularly as she often writes tales related to the Cthulu mythos. So I wanted to get to know her work better.

Plus I loved the cover.

And the title.

What did I think of it?

A really strong collection showcasing the variety of her work. If I’m honest I was a tiny wee bit disappointed in the title story, which was good but not great IMHO. But there wasn’t a bad story in here and my particular favourites were:

  • Tideline – one of the Hugo winners, very moving. Loved Chalcedony.
  • In the House of Aryaman, A Lonely Signal Burns – a murder mystery in¬†a futuristic India, with one of the characters being a genetically manufactured hyacinth parrot-cat
  • Cryptic Coloration – dealing with mythical beasties in the real world
  • Confessor – what’s really going on in that hidden lab up that mountain trail?

There are some themes that Bear is clearly interested in, mythical creatures and genetic modifications but two. I like¬†the¬†fact that she writes well across a range of genres and she is a genuine pleasure to read. I’ve already got my hands on more of her stories. Recommended.

FoxgloveSummerCoverI think I’ve said all I have to say about how much I enjoy the Peter Grant novels by Ben Aaronovitch, reinforced last week by the talk and book signing which I attended a week ago and have been banging on about ever since. But does Foxglove Summer live up to the other books in the series?

Well, of course it does.

But it is a little bit different, in that Peter is outside his comfort zone, having been despatched by Nightingale to rural Herefordshire to look into¬†the apparent abduction of two little girls. The Folly’s intervention hasn’t been requested, but they always look into cases where children disappear because, you know, there’s a history of that sort of thing. Although at first it looks to be a sad but ordinary case it becomes clear that there may very well be a supernatural element and Peter stays on to assist with the investigation, which takes a distinctly unexpected¬†turn.

I¬†don’t want to say too much more because as always the fun is in seeing the plot develop. There’s a particular phrase stuck in my head which I so much want to type out here but I won’t. Though I really want to. But I won’t.

I loved it. I read it in two sittings and thoroughly enjoyed it. The new characters were just as well-rounded and interesting as the main cast (particular shout out to Dominic). It gains rather than loses from being set outside the normal London stamping ground (some people worry about that sort of thing but I like long-running series to be shaken up every once in a while). Beverley is there. The whole Lesley situation set off at the end of Broken Homes is still bubbling away. We learn something about Molly. And we meet another, if somewhat elderly, practitioner.

As always my only quibble is insufficient presence of Nightingale, but that’s a small thing really given the other pleasures on the novel.

If you have been reading along¬†then this is a fine addition to the series. And if you haven’t then what are you waiting for?

5a1b5760cf3cfc64c27495684f3d75f0So a couple of weeks ago I was pretty unwell and off work for a couple of days, but¬†thankfully was able to read my way through being stuck on the sofa wrapped in a blanket with a hot water bottle (which is weird for late July it must be said) and¬†was so absorbed that I managed to stop feeling sorry for myself (quite a feat as that’s one of my best skills right there).

I’ve been more or less under the weather since then and finding real solace in books, and as the latter half of this week has been particularly tiring and I am well into August crime month I have found myself in a major binge read, almost exclusively of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs mysteries. And when I say a binge read, I mean four not-inconsiderable novels in three days. And it has worked; I feel distinctly more cheerful than I did when I started, I’m sure because these are very easy reads; that’s not to do them down, I just mean I find Winspear’s style flows so lightly¬†that before you know it you’re a couple of hundred pages in and so absorbed int he story that you have to get to the end.

That being in the zone where reading is concerned, for whatever reason, brings me to my dilemma. There are two people whose opinions I value greatly, my other half the Book God and my closest friend Silvery Dude. And they are both strongly encouraging me to start reading the Song of Ice and Fire cycle by George RR Martin, the former because he has read them all, the latter because he’s just discovered them and come over all enthusiastic, and both because they think I would really enjoy them.

But.

I have a complicated relationship with certain types of fantasy (setting Tolkien aside) and I can find the sort with swords and stuff set in other worlds or versions of our own world a bit of a problem. Add to that the fact that I’ve seen (and to be fair enjoyed) all four seasons of Game of Thrones on TV and I’m asking myself the question “what more can I get out of reading the books?”

So that’s a question for you all – should I give them a go or leave well alone?

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

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!

 

Scan 24What’s it all about?

We are in Edinburgh and it is 1874. Jack comes into the world on the coldest night imaginable; his heart is frozen and Dr Madeleine, who¬†has delivered him, has to perform an operation immediately to ensure that he lives. But she is an unusual doctor, and her response to the crisis is to surgically attach¬†a cuckoo clock to his chest. So, clearly we are in the land of fairy tales. And all is well (more or less) until he falls in love…

Why did I want to read it?

This is one of those occasions where I was definitely attracted by the lovely cover. I bought it in Forbidden Planet on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue on a book-buying jaunt with (I think) Silvery Dude. And I’m embarrassed to say that I have had this in my possession for years, and it’s made its way on and off Once Upon a Time challenge reading lists. But this year I was determined to read it.

What did I think of it?

The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart is a wonderfully dark story of love and obsession and difference and rivalry and jealousy and people doing what they think is the right thing without really considering the consequences. One to go back to, I think.

My second Readathon book, and my first completed read for OUAT VIII. (Edit – though of course it wasn’t , it was my second, duh!)

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onceup8200

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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My Dad passed away a week ago, on Friday 10 November. This is my favourite photo of him and my late Mum at a wedding in (I think) 1961. Will be heading back home to Paisley for the funeral next week.

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