interim August book log 2

August 20, 2010

This week’s books: (NB — added the Heyer, which had escaped from the pile awaiting logging)

48) Edward Marston — Murder on the Brighton Express
Fifth in the Railway Detective series. This time Detective Inspector Colbeck has reason to think that a train was deliberately derailed, with multiple fatalities, specifically to kill one man — but which man? As with previous books in the series, this is enjoyable pulp that I’d be happy to read more of if it came my way, but which doesn’t leave me actively wanting to seek out future books.
LibraryThing entry

49) Georgette Heyer — Behold, Here’s Poison
Second in the Hannasyde series, which started with Death in the stocks. A wealthy man is found dead one morning. There is no obvious reason to think it anything other than than his medical history catching up with him, but his sister insists that it must be poison and demands a post-mortem. Poison it is, and there are suspects aplenty within the family. Another entertaining and witty 1930s police procedural from Heyer.
LibraryThing entry

50) Jonathan Fast — Mortal Gods
Science fiction set in a future where humans have colonised a significant fraction of the galaxy, but are not the only intelligent species to have done so. Human politics haven’t changed all that much, even if the technology has, and a PR man from a genetic engineering company learns this the hard way when he’s given the job of liaison with an envoy from an alien species in desperate need of the company’s services. I liked it a lot once I got past some clunkiness in the writing in the first couple of chapters.
LibraryThing entry

51) Frank Herbert — The Green Brain
Near-future (from the point of view of the 1960s) sf about a campaign to eradicate all insects other than genetically engineered bees, and the desperate attempt of an intelligent hive mind to communicate and/or fight back. There’s a very tight focus on three individual humans, building the world of the novella through their interactions with one another. It relies heavily on silly stereotypes, but is still worth reading, and although it’s clearly written with a sixties ecology sensibility, it hasn’t suffered from the passage of time.
LibraryThing entry

And my current audiobook-in-progress is “The moon’s a balloon”, the first volume of David Niven’s autobiography.


interim August book log

August 14, 2010

As usual, a quick placeholder in case I don’t get around to writing something a bit more detailed about the last few books read.

45) Lillian Stewart Carl — Ashes to Ashes

Paranormal romance mystery, written as a contemporary in 1990. I originally bought this about 12 or 13 years ago because of the Blake’s 7 connection. Carl was active in the fandom (including writing fanfic), and the book includes a character who could be played by one of the B7 actors, and several direct references. It’s an odd one for me — I think it’s well written, but it also has several things I find annoying, not least the very heavy on-page Scots accent of one of the lead characters, which sometimes comes over to me as exactly the sort of “parading the pet noble savage” that the character himself complains about at one point. Compare and contrast with “The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie”, which I liked in part because the Scottish characters sounded Scottish without the author beating the reader over the head with it.
LibraryThing entry

46) Agatha Christie — The ABC Murders (audiobook)

Abridged audiobook on 3 CDs, read by Hugh Fraser (Hastings in the ITV series). A serial killer challenges Poirot to a deadly game, by killing his victims in alphabetical order and sending Poirot a taunting letter with a clue shortly before each murder. I’d read this years ago and completely forgotten the plot, but had obviously retained enough subconscious memory to pick up the clues first time through. They’re very well planted. A very enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
LibraryThing entry

47) Nancy Mitford — Don’t Tell Alfred

I’ve long enjoyed “The pursuit of love” and “Love in a cold climate”, so when I saw this in Oxfam a couple of weeks ago, I grabbed it. It’s set a couple of decades later, and tells how Fanny’s life changes when her husband is appointed as the British Ambassador to France. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first two, but it’s still a hilarious tale of life in the English upper classes.
LibraryThing entry


so many books, so little time…

August 5, 2010

Thanks to The Works, as of this evening I have all bar one of the Orion re-release series of the Wycliffe books. I am now missing only # 20, The House of Fear. I’ve read almost all of them on and off as I picked up new titles in the bookshop or encountered them in the library, but I think that I shall celebrate ownership of an almost complete set by making it my next “read through the series in order” project, to be undertaken once I’ve got through the remaining backlog of review-owed books.

On a related subject, on the bus home last night my neighbours across the aisle asked if I knew where any good second-hand bookshops were, as they had been most disappointed by the ones they’d found in the city centre, and were wondering about the ones further out on the bus route. The context appeared to be that they were visitors who wanted to spend a few days touring the local bookshops, to judge by the printout of a “bookshops in the Manchester area” list they were clutching. It was possibly the fact that I was reading what was obviously a second-hand book that led them to think I was a good person to ask…


July 2010 book log

August 4, 2010

For completeness, the July book log in one post, although it’s only the two interim posts put together. At the moment I’m not planning on reviewing any more of these in detail, because I still have two books where I asked for review copies where the reviews are well overdue. However, I expect to re-read most of them at some time or another, so reviews probably will appear eventually. 7 books this month, although one is a cheat because I’ve been reading it for a while.

38) Edward Marston — The Iron Horse
Fourth book in the Railway Detective series. Victorian era police procedural, this volume being about a very nasty attempt to interfere with the favourites in the Derby. The case starts with the discovery of a severed head in a hatbox… As with the others in the series, I enjoyed this competently written pulp, but not a keeper for me.
LibraryThing entry

39) Georgette Heyer — Death in the Stocks
Another of Heyer’s mysteries, this one being the first of four about Superintendent Hannasyde, or so LibraryThing tells me. Lots of fun, although the characters were occasionally annoyingly rather than entertainingly eccentric. I liked it enough to stay up late finishing it.
LibraryThing entry

40) Jennifer Ashley — The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
Bought this one on the strength of the review at Dear Author. Historical romance with a hero who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Very, very well done, and the person who was going to get my copy if I didn’t want to keep it is going to have to buy her own. :-)
LibraryThing entry

41) Val McDermid — Blue Genes
First one from this author that I’ve read, and I liked it a lot. Fifth in the series about Manchester-based Private investigator Kate Mulligan. I will note that part of what I enjoyed about it was the immersion in the city I currently live in. I’ll probably go and get more of these once I’ve reduced the tbr mountain a bit.
LibraryThing entry

42) Isaac Asimov — A Whiff of Death
A university chemistry lecturer finds one of his PhD students dead in the lab. At first glance it looks like an unfortunate accident with a bottle of cyanide, but it’s clear to Lou Brade that his student was murdered — and that he’s the one who had the best opportunity to do it. Lou has a strong motive to find the killer before the police fix on *him* as the prime suspect, but to do so he has to navigate the office politics that could be just as deadly to his career as an outright accusation of murder.

Published in 1958, this is now a period piece and very much of its time in its social attitudes. But it’s still a good read, both in spite and because of that, nicely dissecting the ruthlessness of the academic life. Asimov constructed his story well, and while the habits of chemists and their materials are an essential part of the plot and the story is permeated with chemistry, you don’t need to know any chemistry yourself to follow the story or to work out whodunnit.
LibraryThing entry

43) John Barrowman — Anything Goes
The first volume of Barrowman’s autobiography, which I bought not so much for fangirl reasons but because I learnt from David Niven’s work that well-written actor’s memoirs can be entertaining even if you know nothing about the actor at the time. I’ve been reading this on and off over the last few months, and while it’s not to the same level as some memoirs, it’s an entertaining read. Barrowman comes over as being possessed of both an enormous ego and great generosity of spirit — and as being much more solidly grounded in reality than many celebrities.
LibraryThing entry

44) Alexi Panshin — Star Well
This is one of my comfort reads, and I started it on Thursday night when I was getting over the migraine enough to want to read, but not to feel up to tackling something new. I also didn’t feel like pulling out my current bus book and reading that, so Star Well got pulled off the shelf. I bought it some thirty years ago, and have read it often enough that it’s probably a good thing that I committed the unspeakable crime against its paperback person of sticky-backed plastic. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, it’s an sf comedy of manners that has by now delighted several generations of sf fans, even though it’s been out of print in treeware for years. (Fortunately it is readily available as part of a legal ebook omnibus of the 3 published books in the series, either direct from the publisher or through Fictionwise.)
LibraryThing entry

Started but not yet finished:
The bus book started on Thursday was Ashes to Ashes by Lillian Stewart Carl, a book I bought several years ago because of a Blake’s 7 connection (one of the main characters is an avatar). And I’m still on actor memoirs for my bedtime reading, having now started “My word is my Bond” by Roger Moore.


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