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Rather unfairly, I feel as if I had been reading this book for decades, and that’s a shame because (a) it was really very enjoyable in many ways and (b) I have the other two books in the trilogy still to read so am taking a break and trying very hard not to not read them.

If that makes sense.

Because both the Book God and Silvery Dude enjoyed the story (SD has I believe now read them all) and I am not one to give in when the recommendations of bookish cohorts are causing me trouble (not that it’s a competition, no of course it isn’t, don’t be silly).

But it took me AGES to get through this. It’s not that I wasn’t having a good time with the lush prose and the melodrama and the plot twists and the villains, alliances made and lost and made again, all with some naughtiness to boot.

It was just a reluctance to pick the thing up; it was HEAVY in hardback, though undoubtedly a pretty book – what you can’t tell from the picture is that this is a white hardback with transparent blue plastic overlay (which I was always anxious not to damage, so that didn’t help) and an embossed black mask – masks are very important to this story. And it was tiring to read – something about the prose style which was so over the top (though it suited the story) that it was at times exhausting. But I struggled on through all these hardships because I liked the three main characters and I wanted to know what was going to happen.

So you have Celeste Temple, a young woman in a strange city who has just been dumped by her fiancé; Cardinal Chang who is a hired killer whose intended victim has already met foul play; and Dr Svenson, a medical man looking after a rather unpleasant prince engaged to be married to some poor girl. The stories of all three become intertwined with a far-ranging and diabolical conspiracy involving a mysterious painting and, of course, the glass books themselves. Which are blue.

The men are either dashing or villainous and on occasion villainously dashing; the women are chaste but brave, or vampish in a dastardly way, but all have heaving bosoms and a tendency to use their womanly wiles to manipulate the other characters for good or ill. The plot itself cracks along but I’m not entirely sure I understood what the point of it actually was. But there are steam trains and mines and converted castles and airships and a body count of significant proportions and it would probably make a brilliant TV series, and I will read the others at some point.

Honestly.

So once again I’m facing up to the fact that I am appallingly behind with my blog posts and I have set myself the task of catching up with the backlog so that I can start next year (gulp) with a clean sheet. A big ask as I have nine book and six film reviews (at the other place) to write and some of them go way way back to the time of the year when I was actually reading.

Such is the case with The Last Werewolf which I first heard of before Christmas last year when I was having drinks with Silvery Dude and friends in a pub in London. And I did that thing that I always do which is avoid reading what everyone else is reading which is why once again I feel like the last person in the known universe to have read this.

Which I did. In June. And am only writing about it now.

But it’s a keeper, this one, and I’ve already bought the sequel which tells you something I hope. Quick synopsis just in case there is some other soul out there who wants to read this but hasn’t (I’m always reminded about the old advert for Lord of the Rings – the world is divided into those who have read LoTR and those who are going to – missing out those who wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot barge pole no matter how you try to convince them its brilliant) so this short review is not for everyone except those who don’t read books about werewolves and vampires and conspiracies with lots of blood and sex. if that person is you then you should step away from whatever electronic device you are using.

For everyone else this is definitely the anti-Twilight; grown-up, sexy, gory, morally ambiguous and gripping. Jacob is the last werewolf, tired of life and resigned to dying himself sometime soon as the folk who hunt his like down are closing in. And then something happens which makes him realise that he has a lot to live for and he decides to fight back.

Or something like that.

The story is of course important but its the characters that really drew me in to this book, and especially Jacob and the uncompromising nature of his first kill which taints the rest of his life and was really a ‘wow did he actually do that?’ moment for me. I wanted to know how it was all going to play out and it was incredibly satisfying to accompany him on his journey right up to the impressive ending.

So if you enjoy a really good horror novel then this is for you.

So this is one of the books that Silvery Dude was trying to persuade me to read because he had read and enjoyed it, and it certainly sounded interesting and became a must read (a) when the Book God mentioned he had a book of short stories by the same author which he regarded highly and (b) it became necessary to quieten Silvery Dude down.

And it really did turn out to be a smashing little story, and I don’t use those adjectives as a means of putting this book down, because it is just lovely with charming characters and a simple but effective plot structure, and the story moves forward at a solid pace and it was a really positive experience to read.

And I really should learn to breathe grammatically. But never mind, I’m sure you catch my drift.

The Kings of Eternity takes place across two time periods – 1935 when Jonathan Langham and Edward Vaughan go to the country to help their friend deal with what turns out to be an incursion from another world (really not giving anything away here, its in the blurb and the front cover artwork kind of gives it away), and 1999 when we find Daniel Langham, a famous author living a life of seclusion on a Greek island , where the secrets of the past threaten to catch him up.

So on the one hand we have a marvelous HG Wells type story and on other we have what turns out to be rather a sweet love story, and of course the two will merge and we will understand what’s been going on all along.

Actually, anyone who has read a lot of sci-fi will work out quite early on what’s going on and I certainly found it quite easy to work out how this was all going to end. But that doesn’t matter. Because the HG Wells bits are fabulous, the love story is really sweet and all the characters that you are supposed to be rooting for are really nice.

I don’t think it is a “novel of vast scope and depth” as it says in the blurb on my edition, but it is “imbued with humanity and characters you’ll come to love”

I certainly did so, and can recommend it.

Since my last post to the Sunday Salon I have singularly failed to finish anything though I have been dipping in and out of a number of books.

And despite the imposition of an alleged book buying embargo, I have obtained the following new books since my last post (some paid for by a book token left over from my birthday so not quite as damning as it looks):

  • Watson’s Choice by Gladys Mitchell – Sir Bohun Chantry’s party to celebrate Sherlock Holmes is thrown into disarray by the arrival of the Hound of the Baskervilles but luckily Mrs Bradley is there to put things to rights (as soon as I got this I added  it to my Readathon pile and it is well and truly read)
  • The Kings of Eternity by Eric Brown – ” a novel of vast scope and depth, yet imbued with humanity and characters you’ll come to love” and a recommendation from Silvery Dude, as is:
  • The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan – “You’re the last. I’m sorry. The end is coming” Justin Cronin says its glorious so how could it possibly be avoided?
  • Adorned in Dreams by Elizabeth Wilson – an updated version of a book on fashion and modernity which was first published in 1985. When it came out, Angela Carter said it was “the  best I have read on the subject, bar none”
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – the sequel to Wolf Hall, and a means of encouraging me to finally getting round to finishing it
  • Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel – “Alison Hart, a medium by trade, tours the dormitory tons of London’s orbital road with her flint-hearted sidekick Colette, passing on messages from dead ancestors” Philip Pullman says this is one of he greatest ghost stories in the language
  • A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel – I think i can see a bit of a pattern here – “a gripping epic and tour de force of historical imagination”
  • The Saltmarsh Murders by Gladys Mitchell – Mrs Bradley once again, proving that “some English villages can be murderously peaceful”
  • Foundation: The History of England Part 1 by Peter Ackroyd – just dipping into this on the way home in the cab was a joy; takes us up to the death of Henry VII

Not a bad haul; now if I could only get some of my current reads FINISHED…….

Well now, this one is a bit special.

Readers of this blog will know that I am very fond of John Ajvide Lindqvist having read and reviewed his Swedish vampire novel (Let the Right One In) followed by his Swedish zombie novel (Handling the Undead) both of which were about considerably more than the tags I’ve given them here. Both were about love and relationships and harbour is in many ways no different, though I haven’t yet been able to come up with a suitable Swedish tag for it.

There is a tiny wee story behind this, in that having persuaded my friend Silvery Dude to try Lindqvist  he has been racing ahead and actually read this some months before I did. he recommended that I save this until the autumn, which is why I took it with me to berlin on my recent trip. It felt right to be reading this story in a more European setting than good old Surrey, and his recommendation and my instinct were both correct.

So, Harbour tells the story of a community, Domaro, which makes its living from the sea and from the summer visitors who have built houses there. Our entry to the community is through Anders who has a foot in both camps. One winter day he and his wife take their little girl, Maja, out onto the thick ice to visit the local lighthouse. They only look away for a few minutes, but in that short time every parents nightmare occurs; Maja has disappeared. There are no holes in the ice, nowhere that she could have gone, and despite searching high and low with the help of their neighbours, Maja can’t be found.

Two years later, his marriage destroyed and dependent on alcohol, Anders returns to Domaro determined to find out what happened. At this point we are also introduced to Simon, a stage magician and the partner of Anders’ grandmother. As strange events begin to occur and the secrets of Domaro begin to be revealed, Simon comes to understand that despite the number of years he has spent there he is very much an outsider. Between them he and Anders begin to unpick, albeit accidentally at times, what has been lurking underneath daily life.

I really, really enjoyed this novel. As in his previous books, Lindqvist shows great skill in describing strong emotions such as love, grief, betrayal and anger. His characters are fully rounded (my favourite was Simon) and I really wanted to know how they would get through the events which unfolded. The introduction of the supernatural elements (I’m not sure how else to describe them) builds up slowly and by the time some of the more bizarre incidents take place I was really invested in the story. How the community came to collude in and rely on the secret at its heart was all too plausible. If weird.

I agree whole heartedly with the comment on the cover “a third consecutive masterpiece”; so much so that I have already got a hold of his fourth novel, Little Star.

Strongly recommended.

So, you know that feeling when one of your dearest friends, someone whose opinion you respect and rely on, goes on and on and on about a book they’ve discovered that you absolutely must read, and you do the “yeah yeah” thing and they still go on about it, not just to you but to anyone who will listen, about how excellent said book is, and how it’s “just all about life, y’know?” and you finally give in and get a copy so that you can have something that resembles a grown up conversation about something that clearly had an impact on them but secretly you reckon it won’t live up to the hype, but it does and you are grateful that they brought it to your attention?

Or is that just me?

Take that first paragraph and insert me, Silvery Dude and A Visit from the Goon Squad at appropriate points and you have a fair idea of what the bits of my life that crossed with the Dudeness over the past few weeks have been like. For more of a picture alcohol should probably be included, and for total accuracy that alcohol should be in the form of red wine and Cosmopolitans.

OK, I will put my hands up and say that I have been a tad unfair to the Silvery One as I often suggest titles to him as a means of “enriching his cultural life” in that annoying “I have a book blog and therefore know of what I speak” way that I sometimes can’t resist just as a wind-up. But he did really enjoy this and said he thought I would as well and so it became my homework while he and his lovely family are having their annual holiday in la belle France. And this is by way of a book report.

And, well AVFTGS is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel and must therefore be both interesting and well written and have something to say, and I settled down to read it and finished the whole thing in two sessions, including a Friday night marathon which led to a late dinner because I wanted to get to the end. And it is all about life, specifically that of a group of friends and acquaintances which takes place over an unspecified period of time (but we are talking years here) with all the good and bad bits and even a bit of a vision of the near future.

I loved the structure which is sort of linked short stories but it doesn’t just take a character from the first and drop them into the second and proceed like that, it goes backwards and forwards and loops about and comes to a satisfying end.

And I didn’t want it to finish and when it did I wanted to start reading it again, I loved it so much. I have ordered a couple more Jennifer Egan novels just to see if this is a one-off (hoping it’s not).

And Silvery Dude can be smug for as long as he likes, because he was right.

The End.

Going through a bit of a “must buy” phase at the moment, and these are the newest additions to the TBR pile (which now resembles one of the Alps….)

  • The Deadly Space Between by Patricia Duncker: after the success of The Composer (as reviewed here), why read the books by her that I already have when I can go out and buy a new one?
  • Famous Players by Rick Geary: following on from Jack the Ripper, I thought I’d try one of the titles from the Treasury of XXth Century Murder
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: “You must read this!” said Silvery Dude; I always do what I am told….
  • The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood: this is actually sort of a present for the Book God but once I saw it I realised I want to read it too, a blend of history and dark fantasy in 1407 Venice
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: everyone will know what this is all about; with the film being heavily touted I thought I should give this a go;
  • Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver: having thoroughly enjoyed Dark Matter and following a recommendation from Silvery Dude, I thought I would try her children’s series;
  • Your Presence is Required at Suvanto by Maile Chapman: I know absolutely nothing about this book, it was simply lying on a table in the Wimbledon branch of Waterstone’s and I liked the cover and found the idea of a sanatorium in early twentieth century Finland intriguing;
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: the only one of the Booker long list that has piqued my interest so far;
  • How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran: bought because I follow her on Twitter and everyone (including the young woman at the till in Waterstone’s while I was paying for it) told me how funny it was;
  • The Possession of Dr Forrest by Richard T Kelly: Scottish doctors, friends since boyhood, one goes missing, bizarre, unnerving, menacing, one for RIP

It’s good to be excited by books again.

Well, lots of things have been happening chez Bride, including preparing for an interview and getting myself properly promoted into the job that I’ve been doing for just over a year. Massively exciting and not a little stressful which is why I haven’t been reading, blogging or commenting but hopefully things will settle down now that I’ve been successful, especially now that another big decision has been made, which is that the Book God will be retiring from the wonderful world of work in the early summer.

I don’t know about you guys but when I’m going through periods of change I find it difficult to settle to read. But I have a plan; I am hoping to carve out proper time for reading every day from now on and set myself sensible goals, even if it’s just “read 20 pages of x today”.

 And all I need to kickstart myself is another book as good as Rivers of London.

I have to give thanks to Silvery Dude who bought this for me as a birthday present, for two reasons really (1) it’s a cracking story and (2) it was exactly the right thing for the two days on which I succumbed to my horrible cold and sulked in my tent until I felt better. So I read this in two sittings.

Peter Grant is a probationary police constable in central London who discovers he has some interesting talents (basically he can speak to the dead) when a strange crime is committed on Covent Garden. He comes to the attention of Inspector Nightingale (who just happens to be the last wizard in England) and a whole new world opens up to him.

This is a fabulous story; a quote on the cover suggests that this is what it would be like if Harry Potter grew up and joined the police and I can understand where that’s come from but this is remarkably inventive and enjoyable in a totally different way; for a start it’s considerably more violent than HP (bit not excessively so). It’s a serial killer novel with magic and mythology. And I loved it.

For a start, most of the action takes place in Covent Garden and The Strand, both of which are close to where I work, and it was great fun to imagine the rather strange plot unfolding in such familiar surroundings. And then there’s the whole mythology of the Thames, with the rivers in human form, which I thought worked wonderfully well.

I haven’t said much about the plot, but it’s a great story of the supernatural and mythological punching through to the real world (no pun intended…)

I loved it so much that I’ve pre-ordered the sequel, and it definitely took my mind off my unwellness. You should really, really get this.

So this is a recommendation from Silvery Dude for which he does need to receive full credit as it was a really good read; bought last year and dragged all the way to Scotland and back during my annual holiday so that I could totally fail to read it as part of last year’s RIP IV challenge, but definitely worth waiting for.

And I say this as someone who has a bit of a love/hate relationship with Peter Ackroyd, though to be fair it’s currently waited heavily on the love side, if only for his masterful biography of London.

Anyway, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is exactly what it says on the tin; it’s Frankenstein’s own version of his experiments and their outcome with particular emphasis on those close to him. So much so normal revised version of old story, but this has a couple of interesting aspects to it which made it more than just another retelling of something familiar.

There is the standard mix of fact and fiction, so we get to meet Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Dr Polidori. But most of the experiments take place in and around London’s East End rather than on the continent. We have resurrectionists bringing whole corpses rather than the body parts sewn together thing so beloved of old movies. We have stuff about doppelgängers, split personalities, cutting-edge scientific experimentation taken to its limits all explained by someone who can at best be described as an unreliable narrator.

It has a wonderfully creepy and unsettling atmosphere which wasn’t lost on me despite the fact that I read it mostly in balzing hot sunshine rather than howling autumnal wind and rain which might have suited it slightly better.

I will say that I was slightly thrown by the end which, though it makes sense  when you look back at the novel seemed to happen very suddenly. But that shouldn’t take away from what was a really good story well told.

OK, so before I start talking about Barking, which has as its central character (and quite a few of its secondary characters as well) a lawyer (specialising in winding up the estates of deceased persons) I feel I need to point out (given how disparagingly they are referred to throughout the novel) that some of my best friends are lawyers.

Seriously.

Well, two of my best friends, including Silvery Dude who actually got this for me as a birthday present to show that he has a sense of humour (which he has) as well as a reasonable taste in fantasy novels (which he also has). The other lawyer friend has no nickname for the purposes of this blog, but does also have sense of humour as well as a taste for light opera, but that can’t be helped.

In order to put this into a wider context, the rest of my best friends are either accountants or civil servants or (in more than one case) both. Now you can see why I don’t blog here every day, my life is just one giant whirlwind of excitement and really wild things.

Or something like that.

But nothing as wild as what happens to Duncan Hughes in Barking.

So here we have a man who is in a dead-end job doing OK, not yet a partner, divorced and kind of just muddling along, when an old friend from school comes back into his life, teases him away from his current firm (with the help of Duncan’s boss who decides to fire him) and  makes him a partner in a rather unusual way. He bites him and turns him into a werewolf.

This is not the weirdest thing that happens in the novel. There are vampires (also a firm of lawyers). There are reanimated people (not exactly zombies). There is a unicorn. And there is the estate of Bowden Allshapes, whose file follows Duncan to his new firm and which has been a constant in his working life for some time. If only he could get the accounts to balance….

This is huge fun, very amusing, well-written with a great story at the heart of it. I’m always a bit wary of comic fantasy; for every great author (Pratchett, Adams) there are lots of misses so I tend to take a cautious approach but I’m glad the Dude of Silver introduced me to this and I enjoyed the whole reading experience very much.

And it’s not giving too much away to say that it has a happy ending.

And the best thing of all is I’ve found a new author to binge on.

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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