New Feature: Judging a Book… by it’s cover. Say’s it all. This may or maybe not come with tongue-in-cheek.

I was going to say you’re going to need to grab your  3D glasses but luckily these new editions of five new classics (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle  are coming out too). Before I say more see what you think:

Part of me would love the covers without the 3D but I am loving the retro-stylised design. They’ve made them all different and I think they capture something about the books. I know the 3D is a bit gimmicky but it’s made me smile and if it makes a few more people check out the these classics it’s not a bad thing right?

The Saltmarsh Muders by Gladys Mitchell
Out now in paperback from Vintage

The Saltmarsh Murders is one of six books reprinted (so far) in the Mrs Bradley Mysteries series by Gladys Mitchell. I’m not sure what made Vintage decide to do it but I’m glad they did. These books have been the inspiration for a short-lived 1998/9 TV series featuring Diana Rigg totaling a woeful five episodes. I guess they were too expensive to produce. There are 66 books featuring Mrs Bradley all written by Mitchell. I have a feeling that some are going to be more successfully than others. But I suspect that Vintage is presenting the cream of the crop and after reading The Saltmarsh Murders I think they are.

Anyway back to the book itself. The first surprising thing is the narrator. If you’ve watched the TV series Mrs Bradley turns and talks directly to the viewer so I was wrongly expecting this would be a first person or a third person story focusing on Mrs Bradley. But no the story is told by Noel Wells, the curate of the sleepy village Saltmarsh, who finds himself the sidekick of sometime detective and full-time Freudian Mrs Bradley.

Together they get to see into the lives of several key members of the village. And that is a clever device as Well’s gives all the connections to everyone who matters and can also report his own thoughts on the investigations as well as giving Mrs Bradley’s insights. He also acts as a buffer between what we suspect and what Mrs Bradley is thinking. There is an added touch at the end with an extract of Mrs Bradley’s Notebook for the period, which makes some of her actions a little more understandable, and if you thought she doesn’t care enough about what happens you might think differently after reading it.

I’d expect that Mitchell herself had several notebooks when writing this tale as the plot is complex for such a narrow cast. The complexity comes from the examination of human nature and the way we think and act. She unravels the means, motive and opportunity of the murder. And as she pulls and follow the threads as the suspects mount up as  there are plenty of motives for murder here.

It’s not all serious though Mitchell is having fun through Mrs Bradley you can tell as not only is she a wonderfully colourful she is sharp and humourful even if it’s a morose at times. She is presenting larger than life characters for her to examine and analyse and she makes references to other writers and their characters offhandedly.

Now this is a novel of its time. It was published in 1932 and it’s setting includes servants and one of these servants is black. He plays an important part of understanding of the crime. The reason I mention it is that I’m glad that one part has been left uncensored. The part has strong racist remarks from one character to another but they are a reflection of the characters that make them. I must admit to be a little shocked at their inclusion in the original but it would have been wrong to change them now because they may cause offensive. I hope it’s not just me that thinks that. And it’s more eye-opening moment for how far we’ve come rather than something that overshadows the novel.

I guess it does illustrate why books are reflections of the time they are written. Even if they are larger than life they do show a mirror to the thinking of the time on certain thought and feelings that might not shared now. There is a strong moral tone especially as we’re seeing things from a curate but he and the vicar are both practical when thinking of  the actions of their flock. For example if a girl gets caught with child the couple end up marrying after the fact. And that is where the trouble starts here. She doesn’t marry but has the child and no one knows who the father might be.

There is much to love in this novel. The characters. The plot. The read hearings. The nostalgia for simpler times. And the knowing that there are several motives that can be found if one looks hard enough for murder even from people who wouldn’t go as far as to actually kill.

But most of all it’s Mrs Bradley that makes this worth reading. She makes a unique and intriguing detective. I’m looking forward to reading When Last I Died next then hopefully Tom Brown’s Body then only another 64 to go… well the other thee reprints… for now at least.

Have Mercy on Us All by Fred Vargas
Out Now in Paperback from Vintage

Firstly I have to say I’m ashamed of myself. No, I really am. When do you think I read the last book in this series? JUNE 2009! Let me say that another way. It’s been over 14 months. I know time flies but that’s terrible. You know that it is right?

Should I have left it another 14 months? God no and I’m not waiting 14 months before reading Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand. I hope not at least as I ordered it as soon as I finished this one.

You know what I like about Eurocrime, at least the Eurocrime I’ve been reading, is that they focus in on the characters and give everything a foundation and a reason for happening. There isn’t drama for drama sake like guns and gangsters. These are ordinary people who have been twisted enough to kill.

And the method of killing in Have Mercy on Us All is certainly twisted and if I’m honest quite dramatic. The killer brings plague to the French capital but before he does he paints symbols on the door of those who are protected. At the same time he makes cryptic messages that are read out by a town crier though it takes a while for these ‘specials’ to reveal their intentions.

Again, Vargas leads the dance showing us all the events but somehow missing the right bits at the right time to end up surprising you at the end.

We find out more about Adamsberg’s character in this book and I’m not sure I like the revelation. It fits perfectly as he is a bit odd. He thinks and allows events to lead him. It’s like he’s an archaeologist slowly putting bits back together until he has enough to come to a decision on what he’s looking at. Though how he works it all out is a bit of a mystery. But he doesn’t care in the sense the he doesn’t make the emotional attachments that others would and this gets in him into trouble.

But the personal revelations show that Vargas has plans to keep his love life as complicated as the crimes he investigates.

I do need to say that I’m not sure if it’s the translation or Vargas’s writing style but this one feels a little rougher and flatter than the first two I’ve read. I think it might be the pacing or it might the that the translation has lost a little life somewhere. It was just enough to take the shine off the story.

But I’m invested and I enjoyed the crime and the solution and the mix of characters so what more can I ask?

Have Mercy on Us All

Firstly I have to say I’m ashamed of myself. No, I really am. When do you think I read the last book in this series? JUNE 2009! Let me say that another way. It’s been over 14 months (this review was first published in 13/8/2010 -gav.). I know time flies but that’s terrible. You know that it is right?

Should I have left it another 14 months? God no and I’m not waiting 14 months before reading Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand. I hope not at least as I ordered it as soon as I finished this one.

You know what I like about Eurocrime, at least the Eurocrime I’ve been reading, is that they focus in on the characters and give everything a foundation and a reason for happening. There isn’t drama for drama sake like guns and gangsters. These are ordinary people who have been twisted enough to kill.

And the method of killing in Have Mercy on Us All is certainly twisted and if I’m honest quite dramatic. The killer brings plague to the French capital but before he does he paints symbols on the door of those who are protected. At the same time he makes cryptic messages that are read out by a town crier though it takes a while for these ‘specials’ to reveal their intentions.

Again, Vargas leads the dance showing us all the events but somehow missing the right bits at the right time to end up surprising you at the end.

We find out more about Adamsberg’s character in this book and I’m not sure I like the revelation. It fits perfectly as he is a bit odd. He thinks and allows events to lead him. It’s like he’s an archaeologist slowly putting bits back together until he has enough to come to a decision on what he’s looking at. Though how he works it all out is a bit of a mystery. But he doesn’t care in the sense the he doesn’t make the emotional attachments that others would and this gets in him into trouble.

But the personal revelations show that Vargas has plans to keep his love life as complicated as the crimes he investigates.

I do need to say that I’m not sure if it’s the translation or Vargas’s writing style but this one feels a little rougher and flatter than the first two I’ve read. I think it might be the pacing or it might the that the translation has lost a little life somewhere. It was just enough to take the shine off the story.

But I’m invested and I enjoyed the crime and the solution and the mix of characters so what more can I ask?

 

Though it does feel a bit like juggling. I’ve been stupid and been dipping into several books that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while and one or two brand new ones.

This is a break in my usual routine of keeping two books going at the same time so that I can swap between them and if I’m not in the mood for one hopefully I’m in the mood for another but some how this usual pattern has been corrupted and I’m having an interesting time juggling everything.

I think it’s partly because I thought I might like to do some ‘Opening Chapters’ posts and with that in mind read the opening to a few, and then a couple more and now I’m on a mission to either post about them in part or or in full.

I thought you might like some thoughts and a glance at how I’m finding them so far.

Firstly I’m reading Iron Angel, the sequel to the debut Scar Night, I’m reading the paperback, and I have the final book, God of Clocks, waiting, so this one has taken a while to get to.

ironangel.jpgIron Angel is a bit of a different beast from Campbell’s first one. Now that’s we’re both settled into the world he’s created the opening shows that there is more than one got to worry about. I’m having great fun with the character John Anchor – his name says a lot when you know the his as a rope attached to him. I’m also a little sad about Dill but Campell has taken his tale to the next level.

It’s on the Summer Reads 2009 list, which I’ll admit was amazingly over ambitious has been an interesting challenge, though I think I’m going to have to admit that the Summer is over.

There is a strange synergy that seems to happen in my reading. I get books that aren’t covering the same thing but have an affinity to each other.

One big them that I have thre books exploring a similar time period through the lives of four extraordinary women.

missy Missy by Chris Hannah presents Missy, a nineteen-year-old flash-girl and opium user as she heads for a boom down in the 1862 American West. I’ve reached page 51. I’m not that caught up in her story, actually to be more accurate I’ve never been that excited by Westerns but I think I have to keep on going as Simon A  on Bookgeeks had this to say about it,

While Dol is not always easy to like, she is impossible not to admire, and her eventual epiphany, and the redemption that is promises, is a satisfying end to a very impressive debut novel.

themistressofnothing_thumb.jpgLeaving American and moving to Egypt but still around the 1860s we have The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger where Missy is a raucous character Sally a lady’s maid is more subdued but then she is in the service of Lady Duff Gordon. Another revelation is promised though this time unlike Missy, Sally discovers freedom but this is a luxury a maid can ill afford. Again 52 pages – there is something that that point where you decide if a book has grabbed you or not.  I’m not grabbed enough that if I put it I need to pick it up again but I do find the relationship between Lady Gordon and Sally fascinating and would like to see how the tale ends.

apropereducationforgirls_thumb.jpgThe final one is A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine di Rollo. It is set in 1950s and features the twins Lillian and Alice. Lilian has been banished to India and Alice is left behind in England as a strange curator to their fathers growing and eclectic collection which fills the huge family mansion. And she’s also alone with her father’s bizarre and hair raising schemes. This again deals with freedom but this time we see it from two completely different paths. Now this one I’m on page 114 of, and I think it’s the madness of the whole thing that’s driving me on.

At a minimum I have a feeling that I’ll easily and happily finish A Proper Education for Girls and Iron Angel and we’ll see if I can spend some more time in the company of Sally and Missy.

I had a request for more summary posts on the blog rather than spreading promotional posts out of over the month. You might still see a few promotional posts this month either because I’ve only just heard about a book and it can’t wait until July or that I’ve forgotten about it and I want to make sure I mention it.

In the spirit of ’reading shouldn’t have limits’ here is a selection of books from books I’ve received, books I’ve found and books that have been recommended in some way. Some I’m going to read no matter what and some I’m keen to try just because they look like something I might like and some I’ve heard so much about that I’m want to try them to see what I’m missing out on.

Isn’t that how most of use choose our books anyway?

So without further ado here is a personal selection of recent and June releases.

The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan (Simon and Schuster)

Nick and his brother Alan are on the run with their mother, who was once the lover of a powerful magician. When she left him, she stole an important charm – and he will stop at nothing to reclaim it. Now Alan has been marked with the sign of death by the magician’s demon, and only Nick can save him. But to do so he must face those he has fled from all his life – the magicians – and kill them. So the hunted becomes the hunter…but in saving his brother, Nick discovers something that will unravel his whole past…

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know a lot a bout children/YA books. It’s not my area though I have enjoyed several YA/Children’s titles. I haven’t got into the whole Twilight-thing. I did that when I was 17 and reading Anne Rice – I loved Queen of the Damned, though not too keen on Interview With a Vampire.

Anyway, Liz from MyFavouriteBooks and Ana from the BookSmugglers have been singing the praises of this one for ages. And I’m going to give it a go. You don’t know until you try, do you?

Jasmyn by Alex Bell (Gollancz)

jasmynOne day, without warning, Jasmyn’s husband died of an aneurysm. Since then, everything has been different. Wrapped up in her grief, Jasmyn is trapped in a world without colour, without flavour – without Liam. But even through the haze of misery she begins to notice strange events. Even with Liam gone, things are not as they should be, and eventually Jasmyn begins to explore the mysteries that have sprung up after her husband’s death . . . and follow their trail back into the events of his life. But the mysteries are deeper than Jasmyn expects, and are leading her in unexpected directions – into fairytales filled with swans, castles and bones; into a tale of a murder committed by a lake and a vicious battle between brothers; into a story of a lost past, and a stolen love. She’s entering a magical story. Jasmyn’s story.

In my review of her first novel, The Ninth Circle I said,

I found The Ninth Circle, compelling, descriptive, thoughtful and fully packed. Alex Bell’s debut makes her an author that I’m eager to read more of.

Alex Bell has a different take on the storytelling, at least that was the impression I was left with and I’ve been hearing good things about this one. I’ve also tried the first few pages and the start is interesting, very interesting…

Little Stranger by Sarah Walters (Virago)

littlestrangerAfter her award-winning trilogy of Victorian novels, Sarah Waters turned to the 1940s and wrote THE NIGHT WATCH, a tender and tragic novel set against the backdrop of wartime Britain. Shortlisted for both the Orange and the Man Booker, it went straight to number one in the bestseller chart. In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his. Prepare yourself. From this wonderful writer who continues to astonish us, now comes a chilling ghost story.

I must admit to trying Fingersmith and giving up half-way through if there was any excitement I didn’t see any. I did like the writing but the story itself wasn’t that absorbing at least for this reader. Little Stranger has a different vibe and I’m hoping that because it’s a ghost story that Waters is going to keep up the pressure and keep the plot-tight. Reviews have been good though.

Captivated: J. M. Barrie, Daphne Du Maurier and the Dark Side of Neverland by Peirs Dudgeon (Vintage)

captived“Captivated” is a true story of genius and possession. The background is the turn of the century, when a late-nineteenth-century world of mesmerists, psychics, trancers and table-turners gave way to a new twentieth-century age of psychology. The central character is the creator of Peter Pan, the famous novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie, a man tormented by inner demons since childhood. Barrie developed a consuming interest in the du Maurier family, beginning with George du Maurier, author of “Trilby”, a bestselling novel featuring his creation Svengali.In “Trilby”, George showed how it is possible, by means of hypnosis, for one person to gain control over the mind of another. Barrie made his move on the du Maurier family immediately after George died, assuming George’s mantel and using his ideas to dominate both his daughter Sylvia and his son Gerald. Soon Barrie was ‘Uncle Jim’ to Sylvia’s five sons and Gerald’s three daughters, playing romping games of adventure and make-believe, and inviting the children into the transcendental world of Neverland.Four of the boys (the ‘lost boys’ of Peter Pan) and one of the girls (the imaginative tomboy Daphne) were captivated. This fascinating book delves deep, makes links and yields up secrets. It is a story of bliss corrupted by greed which masquerades as supernatural power. It tells how Barrie’s victims – whom he would have not grow up – were lost to breakdown, suicide or an early death when they did. Daphne du Maurier, author of “Rebecca”, emerges as the lost boys’ surprise companion and the enigmatic chronicler of their fate.”Captivated” is about writing and the world of the imagination: it is a singular example of art being used not only to imitate life, but darkly to transform it. Piers Dudgeon knew Daphne du Maurier and worked with her in the 1980s. When he discovered that she had put a moratorium on publication of her adolescent diaries until fifty years after her death, he was prompted to begin his researches into her background. What was the mystery that had Daphne been so keen to suppress?

I hadn’t had much of an interest in Daphne Du Maurier until I was speaking to someone in work and I didn’t realise that Rebecca wasn’t another Jane Austin (I’m not a Jane Austin boy) but something a little more sinister. Looks like there was more to her and Peter Pan than I first thought.

Zoe’s Tale by Jon Scalzi (Tor)

zoestaleHow do you tell your part in the biggest tale in history? I ask because it’s what I have to do. I’m Zoe Boutin Perry: A colonist stranded on a deadly pioneer world. Holy icon to a race of aliens. A player (and a pawn) in a interstellar chess match to save humanity, or to see it fall. Witness to history. Friend. Daughter. Human. Seventeen years old. Everyone on Earth knows the tale I am part of. But you don’t know my tale: How I did what I did – how I did what I had to do – not just to stay alive but to keep you alive, too. All of you. I’m going to tell it to you now, the only way I know how: not straight but true, the whole thing, to try make you feel what I felt: the joy and terror and uncertainty, panic and wonder, despair and hope. Everything that happened, bringing us to Earth, and Earth out of its captivity. All through my eyes. It’s a story you know. But you don’t know it all.

I greatly enjoyed The Ghost Bridages and keep meaning to read Old Man’s War. I have a probably bad habit of keeping the last book in a series until the next one is out so now is the time to read it and maybe I’ll move straight on to this one.

The Highwayman by R.A Salvator (Tor)

thehighwayman Long ago, in a distant land, a lonely young man struggles to discover who he is and where he belongs. He carries the blood and magic of two peoples, a sword of unimaginable power, and a staggering potential for great good …or greater evil. In the land of Corona, the roads are unsafe to travel, as goblins and bloodthirsty Powries seek out human prey; and, in this savage world, princes feast while peasants starve, and two religions battle for control. A monk, Bran Dynard, returns from his mission in a far-off land with two prizes: a book of mystical knowledge and a new wife, the beautiful and mystical Sen Wi. But the world he left behind has changed, and Bran must now decide who he can trust, and where he should place his faith.

Aiden from A Dribble of Ink successfully put me off the last time I was interested in Salvator saying this was the better book to read so I’m holding that against him if I don’t like it!

Johannes Cabal – The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard (Headline)

JohannesCabal The start of a fantastic new series.

Johannes Cabal has never pretended to be a hero of any kind.

There is, after all, little heroic about robbing graves, stealing occult volumes, and being on nodding terms with demons. His purpose, however, is noble. His researches are all directed to raising the dead. Not as monstrosities but as people, just as they were when they lived: physically, mentally, and spiritually. For such a prize, some sacrifices are necessary. One such sacrifice was his own soul, but he now sees that was a mistake – it’s not just that he needs it for his research to have validity, but now he realises he needs it to be himself. Unfortunately, his soul now rests within the festering bureaucracy of Hell. Satan may be cruel and capricious but, most dangerously, he is bored. It is Cabal’s unhappy lot to provide him with amusement.

In short, a wager: in return for his own soul, Cabal must gather one hundred others. Placed in control of a diabolical carnival – created to tempt to contentiousness, to blasphemy, argumentation and murder, but one may also win coconuts – and armed only with his intelligence, a very large handgun, and a total absence of whimsy, Cabal has one year.

One year to beat the Devil at his own game. And isn’t that perhaps just a little heroic?

This just sounds fun!

Dreams from the Endz by Faiza Guene (Vintage)

dreamsoftheendz “Dreams from the Endz” is the story of twenty-four Ahleme, who is spirited, sassy and wise but has more problems than she knows how to deal with. Her father, The Boss, is permanently disabled after an accident on a building site, her sixteen-year-old brother, Foued, has been permanently excluded from school and seems intent on joining the drug-dealers who share their estate, while she is left to deal with the guilt trips from their family back in Algeria. But when she returns home – after a ten-year absence – she brokers a kind of truce, both with her homeland and the need to forge a future.

This is in the spirit of ‘no limits’ reading. I love the cover. That’s enough to start.

The Good Plain Cook by Bethan Roberts (Serpent’s Tail)

thecookplaincook It’s summer 1936, and the world is on the cusp of change, but there’s little sign of this in rural Sussex. So when Kitty Allen answers an advert looking for ‘a good plain cook’, she has no idea what she’s in for. For starters, her employer is an American called Ellen Steinberg who believes in having the staff call her by her first name and sunbathing in the nude. Then there’s Ellen’s eleven-year-old daughter, Geenie, a bright, unhappy little thing, and Mrs Steinberg’s gentleman friend, Mr Crane, who’s said to be a poet — even though he doesn’t have a beard and doesn’t actually write much poetry. Rich bohemians imagining themselves as communists, Steinberg and Crane see themselves as champions of ‘the people’ — not that they know the first thing about how the people actually live. Kitty is in no position to criticise — after all she claimed to be a good plain cook, despite hardly knowing how to boil an egg. Utterly out of her depth, she is relieved to have the gardener, Arthur, to talk to. Otherwise she’d never last a summer in this madhouse. Ellen Steinberg wants life to run as smoothly as the love story she imagines her lover George Crane to be writing. But as Kitty arrives, the dream is on the edge of falling apart.

Bethan Roberts wrote the haunting and disturbing The Pools, which I liked, this one sounds completely different but I like Roberts so looking forward to trying this.

In Ashes Lie by Marie Brennan (Orbit)

inasheslie September, 1666 – The mortal civil war is over. But the war among the fae is still raging, and London is its battleground. There are forces that despise the Onyx Court, and will do anything to destroy it. But now a greater threat has come, one that could destroy everything. In the house of a sleeping baker, a spark leaps free of the oven – and ignites a blaze that will burn London to the ground. For three harrowing days, the mortals and fae of the city will fight to save their home. While the humans struggle to halt the conflagration that is devouring London street by street, the fae pit themselves against a less tangible foe: the spirit of the fire itself, powerful enough to annihilate everything in its path. Neither side can win on its own – but can they find a way to fight together?

Another book that I’m excited by in fact I’m reading it at the minute and I met Marie Brennan when I was in London the other week thanks for the lovely people at Orbit. I really enjoyed Midnight Never Come and this moves the story on. Different but the same I think :D

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz)

bestservedcold Springtime in Styria. And that means war. There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king. War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employer’s taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die. Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started… Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

This was been buzzed and hyped for ages. I really really don’t know. I want to know what why other people love it but it’s just not my thing. I might try it or at least read The Blade Itself - I bought that months ago.

The Burning Man by Mark Chadbourn (Gollancz)

theburningman After a long journey across the ages, Jack Churchill has returned to the modern world, only to find it in the grip of a terrible, dark force. The population is unaware, mesmerised by the Mundane Spell that keeps them in thrall. With a small group of trusted allies, Jack sets out to find the two ‘keys’ that can shatter the spell. But the keys are people – one with the power of creation, one the power of destruction – and they are hidden somewhere among the world’s billions. As the search fans out across the globe, ancient powers begin to stir. In the bleak North, in Egypt, in Greece, in all the Great Dominions, the old gods are returning to stake their claim. The odds appear insurmountable, the need desperate . . . This is a time for heroes.

Yay, Mark Chadbourn. I’m more excited by Lords of Silence (out 6 July) because I’ve read this one ;) Actually more excited by Destroyer of Worlds, the last book in the series also out in July. And I’ve got train tickets to get to his signing in London’s Forbidden Planet!

The Edge of the World (Terra Incognita) by Kevin J. Anderson (Orbit)

theedgeoftheworld After generations of friction, the leaders of two lands meet in the holy city of Ishalem to bring an end to the bloodshed and to divide the world between them. Sadly, this new spirit of fellowship is shortlived. A single tragic accident destroys, in minutes, the peace that took years to build. The world is once more cast into the fires of war – and this time the flames may burn until nothing remains. From the highest lord to the lowest servant, no man or woman will be unchanged by the conflict. But while war rages across both continents, a great quest will defy storms and sea serpents to venture beyond the horizon, where no maps exist – to search for a land out of legend. It is a perilous undertaking, but there will always be the impetuous, the brave and the mad who are willing to leave their homes to explore the unknown. Even unto the edge of the world …

Ships seem to be the in-thing at the minute. just looks interesting.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (William Heinemann)

themagicians Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path to any he’d ever imagined. The envelope, and the mysterious manuscript it contains, leads to a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power and, for a while, it’s a world that seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last – and when it’s finally shattered, Quentin is drawn into something darker and far more dangerous than anything he could ever have expected…

I saw a review in SFX describing it as Harry Potter for adults… I’m not sure that would be the best reason to read it but it got a stared review as well, I think.

Ooga-booga by Frederick Seidel (Faber)

Ooga-booga ‘Seidel grips the twentieth century between his teeth like a blade as he speaks. He is one of the more formidable poets of the last third of the century’ – Calvin Bedient, “Poetry”. ‘He is scary, but funny, but scary. You would have go back to confessional masters like Lowell and Berryman to find poetry as daringly self-revealing, as risky and compelling, as the best of Frederick Seidel’s’ – Adam Kirsch, “The New York Sun”. ‘The moral thrills of his poetry can be as daunting as the moral spills, the cruel intelligence of glamour as alluring as the mystical stillness that is somewhere also at the heart of his poetry’ – Adam Phillips, “Raritan”. ‘The poems in “Ooga-Booga” are the richest yet and read like no one else’s: they’re surreal, utterly unpretentious, and suffused with the peculiar American loneliness of Raymond Chandler. While I can think of a more likable book of poems, I can scarcely imagine a better one’ – Alex Halberstadt, “New York” magazine. ‘”Ooga-Booga” is as beguiling and magisterial as anything Seidel has written. I can’t decide whether he has more in common with Philip Larkin or John Ashbery, but the fact that Seidel can prompt such a bizarre question is more revealing than any possible answer’ – “The New York Times Book Review”

Sarah Crown sold this this to me in the guardian;

The audacity of his talent is evident from the title onwards: it’s difficult to imagine another poet who would have the chutzpah to call his collection anything as childishly risible as Ooga-Booga – and impossible to imagine another who could pull it off as Seidel does

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo (Macmillan)

sworntosilence Some secrets are too terrible to reveal …Some crimes are too unspeakable to solve …Painter’s Creek, Ohio may be a sleepy, rural town with both Amish and ‘English’ residents, but it’s also the place where a series of brutal murders shattered the lives of an entire community over a decade ago. When the killing stopped, it left in its aftermath a sense of fragility, and for the young Amish girl, Katie Burkholder, a realization that she didn’t belong. Now, 15 years, two dead parents and a wealth of experience later, Katie has been asked to return as Chief of Police. Her Amish background combined with her big-city law enforcement expertise make her the perfect candidate. Katie is certain she has come to terms with the past. Until the first body of a slaughtered young woman is found in a pristine, snowy field…

I must admit to liking the concept behind this one. I’m not sure how successful this is going to be but it’ll be interesting to find out!

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Weidenfeld & Nicolson )

darkplaces Libby Day was just seven years old when her older brother massacred her family while she hid in a cupboard. Her evidence helped put him away. Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over twenty years on the proceeds of the ‘Libby Day fund’. But now the money is running out and Libby is desperate. When she is offered $500 to do a guest appearance, she feels she has to accept. But this is no ordinary gathering. The Kill Club is a group of true-crime obsessives who share information on notorious murders, and they think her brother Ben is innocent. It is 2 January 1985 – the day of the murders. Ben is a social misfit, ground down by the small-town farming community in which he lives. His family is extremely poor, and his father Runner is violent, gambles and disappears for months on end. But Ben does have a girlfriend – a brooding heavy metal fan called Diondra. Through her, Ben becomes involved with drugs and the dark arts. When the town suddenly turns against him, his thoughts turn black. But is he capable of murder?In a brilliantly interwoven plot, Gillian Flynn keeps the reader balanced on a knife-edge, as Libby delves into her family’s past and Ben spirals towards destruction.

Finally, for now, we have the next book by Gillian Flynn, whose debut, Sharp Odjects, was highly by one of my faves Stephen King.

Any you fancy? Any I’ve missed?


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Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas
Published by Vintage Books – Out Now

Returning to the next books in a series is always a bit nerve racking especially as Fred Vargas cleverly lead me up the garden path and then threw me off the edge of a cliff in her last one. It’s a hard trick to pull off once never mind twice.

Following a few years on from The Chalk Circle Man we catch up with Commissionaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg in Seeking Whom He May Devour as he’s drawn into investigating the death of the farmer Suzanne Rosselin at the hands, or should that be teeth, of a werewolf. Well that’s the opinion of a small group who are convinced that the attacks on sheep in the French mountains and her death hasn’t been caused by a wolf of unnatural size and strength that’s roaming the countryside but a human beast.

The strange thing for a detective novel is that for most part Adamsberg takes a back seat. He watches the strange and disturbing events from Paris, slowly, sifting and separating, and waiting. And even though the reader knows he’s going to get involved we’re not sure when or how.

Vargas makes the reader wait. Instead she focuses on building the characters and the relationships around Suzanne’s friend Camille as she is persuaded to join Suzanne’s son, Soliman and the farmer’s shepherd, Watchee, as they try to track down the beast.

One of the main strengths in Seeking Whom He May Devour is the focus on developing characters. Camille is fascinating not only from knowing a part of her history from reading The Chalk Circle Man but the way she uses a DIY catalogue, her relationship with the documentary maker Johnstone and how Adamsberg complicates all this.

I enjoyed the pace that Vargas sets. She introduces Adamsberg into the main thread when he really has is own problems and getting involved in this case that isn’t his going to complicate his life even more.

When the revelation of whether it’s a man or werewolf or wolf is revealed I for one again fell off the cliff. Now this sounds like Vargas is out to trick the reader and manipulate them. I don’t think she is. There are no dirty tricks here.  She does keep you guessing and lulls you into the lives of the main case that you don’t see what else could be happening.

I need to read Have Mercy On Us All now. She’s that good.

I don’t really take too much notice of Richard & Judy’s Book Club, not that there is anything wrong with it but usually they don’t spark too much interest on the radar. But the Summer Reads have a couple of genre-touching titles you might like.

 

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Mystery Man by Colin Bateman
Published by Headline and released 14 May 2009 in paperback

He’s the Man With No Name and the owner of No Alibis, a mystery bookshop in Belfast. But when a detective agency next door goes bust, the agency’s clients start calling into his shop asking him to solve their cases. It’s an easy way to sell books to his gullible customers and Alison, the beautiful girl in the jewellery shop across the road, will surely be impressed. Except she’s not. And when they break into the shuttered shop on a dare, they have their answer. Suddenly they’re catapulted along a murder trail which leads them from modern dance to Nazi secrets and serial killers…

I’ve read a Colin Bateman some time ago though I can’t remember for the life of me remember what it was called. I know I enjoyed it at the time so I have a feeling that this one will be quite fun too.

 

palacecouncil

Palace Council by Stephen L. Carter
Published by Vintage and Out Now in paperback

Summer, 1952. Twenty powerful men gather in secret and devise a plot to manipulate the President of the United States. Soon after, writer Eddie Wesley leaves a party hosted by affluent and influential members of black society, and discovers a body. The murdered man had an unusual gold cross gripped between his hands and Eddie is determined to find out why he was killed and what the cross signifies. But then Eddie’s sister Junie becomes entangled in an underground movement and vanishes…Is her disappearance connected to the conspiracy to control the President of the United States?

I do like the odd conspiracy theory and I’m a bit of Americanophile. I’m also a lover of things like The West Wing so this sounds quite fun!

Actually both seem to fit in the escapist fiction category and what better type of book do you need when on holiday?

I really need to start thinking about a post on Summer Reads. Now that’s a good idea. Whilst I’m thinking about that. What do you take on holiday to read?

Glister

Glister by John Burnside
Published by Vintage and out in paperback 7 May 2009

 

The children of Innertown exist in a state of suspended terror. Every year or so, a boy from their school disappears, vanishing into the wasteland of the old chemical plant. Nobody knows where these boys go, or whether they are alive or dead, and without evidence the authorities claim they are simply runaways. The town policeman, Morrison knows otherwise. He was involved in the cover-up of one boy’s murder, and he believes all the boys have been killed. Though he is seriously compromised, he would still like to find out the killer’s identity. The local children also want to know and, in their fear and frustration, they turn on Rivers, a sad fantasist and suspected paedophile living alone at the edge of the wasteland.Trapped and frightened, one of the boys, Leonard, tries to escape, taking refuge in the poisoned ruins of the old plant; there he finds another boy, who might be the missing Liam and might be a figment of his imagination. With his help, Leonard comes to understand the policeman’s involvement, and exacts the necessary revenge – before following Liam into the Glister: possibly a disused chemical weapons facility, possibly a passage to the outer world. A terrifying exploration of loss and the violence that pools under the surface of the everyday, “Glister” is an exquisitely written, darkly imagined novel by one of our greatest contemporary writers.

The only think that I know about John Burnside is that I bought his poetry collection The Asylum Dance for £1 in WHSmith a few years ago. I don’t think I even have it anymore. I just had to check – nope I gave to a poet friend of mine. I should buy more poetry. I used to buy lots of it but now only now and again. The last was Long-Haul Travellers by the amazing Sheenagh Pugh (no relation).

Anyway, we have missing boys, figments of imagination and wastelands – Glister, maybe a disused chemical weapons facility or maybe a passage to the outer world, whatever that is.

Oh and I love the woodcut illustration. Amazing.

TheSeance

The Seance – A Victorian Mystery by John Harwood
Published by Vintage and out now

‘Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plough the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there…’ London, the 1880s. A young girl grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance Langton takes her to a seance. Perhaps they will find comfort from beyond the grave. But that seance has tragic consequences.Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest will blight her life. So begins “The Seance”, John Harwood’s brilliant second novel, a gripping, dark mystery set in late Victorian England. It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villains – and murder. For Constance’s bequest comes in two parts: a house, and a mystery. Years before a family disappeared at Wraxford Hall, a terrifying stately home near the Suffolk coast. Now Constance must find the truth behind the mystery, even at the cost of her life. Because without the truth, she is lost.

How can you not like the sound of that! Late Victorian England, a terrifying stately home and a mystery? Couldn’t sound better.