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Scan 28What’s it all about?

The Dead Men Stood Together is a re-telling of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, from the perspective of a young boy serving on the voyage, whose uncle is instrumental in the terrible events that befall the ship and its crew.

Why did I want to read it?

I love Chris Priestley. I think I now have all of his published novels and short story collections, whether in hard copy or as e-books. He has a wonderful way with the ghostly and the ghoulish and the downright creepy. And of course who can resist the Ancient Mariner, an iconic tale.

What did I think of it?

Thoroughly enjoyed it. As well as the traditional elements of the tale it gives a both a back story to the events and a resolution which is really moving (well I thought so anyway). The prose is simple but the story is totally compelling even though it is entirely familiar (to anyone who has read the poem of course; and if you haven’t then go and do so now. I’ll wait). dewey-300x300

It is dark and atmospheric and another good book to read in the dark in the middle of the night. Recommended.

Though someone does really need to start thinking about the poor old albatross.

This was my sixth Readathon book.


Scan 27What’s it all about?

The House of Dead Maids is set in an unidentified part of (presumably) the British Isles and tells the story of Tabby, who is taken from the orphanage where she lives and brought to Seldom House, a decaying mansion in the middle of nowhere, as she understands it to take up a position as a maid. When she is joined by a young boy it becomes clear that there is something rather more sinister going and, reinforced by the number of ghostly maids and masters that haunt the house, she fears for her life.

Why did I want to read it?

As happens far too often these days I have no recollection of where I found out about this book, but it went onto my Christmas wish list and duly turned up under the tree. I liked the premise and found the cover compelling. Of course I entirely missed the obvious (i.e. it’s mentioned on the front cover) reference to the sort being “a chilling prelude to Wuthering Heights”, duh!

What did I think of it?

This is definitely a good book to read in the middle of the night if you want to be creeped out. It’s dark and Gothic and has a strong atmosphere, and I felt worried for the fate of Tabitha and the little unnamed boy and the rather unpleasant adults that surround them. Well, at least one adult was kind to them  but she was of the determined not to interfere variety of servant. A short book, very enjoyable and the author’s epilogue gives some good links to the real Bronte world.dewey-300x300

This was my fifth Readathon book.


Scan 26So, this is an odd little book. We are in the basement of the library where our unnamed narrator, one of the librarians, is setting up for the day and has found one of the library patrons who has managed to get himself locked in overnight (I’m pretty sure it’s a man though I can’t remember if that’s ever made explicit) and as she can’t let him out until the library is actually opened. She explains this but I’m not sure if it’s true or she just wants a captive audience for her to vent.

Because we are very much in the world of the unreliable narrator and she is going to let it all out, not just her view of her own position (disappointed in her career), her colleagues and the various strictures of librarianship but the passion she has developed for a young man called Martin who comes to the library to carry out research.

The Library of Unrequited Love is translated from the French and I’m not sure if that’s why the way in which the narrator spoke didn’t ring entirely true with me, but she certainly has a lot to say in such a small book.

dewey-300x300I have the feeling that she is older than Martin, not that that matters at all of course but it gave me a sense that her love would remain totally one-sided. Not sure I would like her in person but it was interesting to spend an hour in her company.

My fourth Readathon book.

Book-Blog-Walkers-2014I’m using this post to keep track of my walking during May as part of the Book Blog Walkers thingy.

Week 1 (May 5)

  • 18,499 steps
  • 12.2 km
  • 2:59 hours

Week 2 (May 12)

  • 22,567 steps
  • 14.8 km
  • 3:19 hours

Week 3 (May 19)

  • 25,778 steps
  • 16.2 km
  • 3:55 hours

Week 4 (May 26)

  • 12,845 steps
  • 8.9 km
  • 2:14 hours


Scan 25At its simplest Levels of Life is a book about loss and grief  and love and sorrow. It brings together a number of disparate characters who are linked through their experience of ballooning – Nadar, an aerial photographer, Colonel Fred Burnaby, a British soldier and Sarah Bernhardt, the actress with whom it is thought Burnaby had an affair.

In considering their stories Julian Barnes also talks openly about his own grief at the loss of his wife, the absence that is in his life and his reaction to it.

You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed. People may not notice it at the time, but that doesn’t matter. The world has been changed nonetheless.

You put together two people who have not been put together before. […] Then, at some point, sooner or later, for this reason or that, one of them is taken away. And what is taken away is greater than the sum of what was there. This may not be mathematically possible; but it is emotionally possible.

This is a terribly sad book, and his emotions will be recognisable to anyone who has lost someone close to them, though the loss of a partner is not something I’ve experienced and must represent a real shift in perception of the future; the person you thought you were going to spend your whole life with is not longer there.

dewey-300x300Deeply moving.

My third Readathon book.

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!)



Scan 23What’s it all about?

Antony Gillingham is in the country and realising that he is not too far away from The Red House where his friend Bill Beverley is spending the weekend decides to wander over on a surprise visit, arriving just in time for a locked room mystery; the discovery of a dead body, a missing host and a soon-to-be-baffled local constabulary. And of course he decides to look into the matter himself, because that’s what you would do, wouldn’t you?

Why did I want to read this?

Recommendation from someone else’s blog (and sorry to that person, I can’t remember exactly where I saw this mentioned) plus attractive cover plus love of classic era whodunits made this irresistible.

What did I think of it?

The Red House Mystery is the only detective novel written by AA Milne, he of Winnie the Pooh fame, and the latter fact is hammered home to us several times on the cover of  this book.

Far from the gentle slopes of the Hundred Acre Wood lies The Red House

[..] a lost gem from the time before Tigger [..]

and so on; you get the drift. And in some ways the harping on at Milne’s more famous creation seems to suggest the publisher is almost apologetic about this book which is a real shame as this really is a little masterpiece of detective fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The lead characters are charming, the mystery is just mysterious enough and although I guessed the “twist” quite early on (which just shows that I spend far too much time watching crime shows on TV) and I had a fairly good idea of who the killer might be, I had absolutely no inkling as to the motive and none of this spoiled my enjoyment of a brisk and breezy read which was really great fun.

dewey-300x300And as a bonus there is an introduction from Milne who outs himself as an aficionado of this type of fiction and makes very clear his likes and dislikes and that basically he wrote this novel for himself.

Such a shame that this is his only one. Really smashing, and a good start to Readathon.

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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May 2014