book log April 2013

14) Oscar Wilde — The Picture of Dorian Grey
Lots of reviews and critiques out there already, so I’ll simply say that I liked it.

15) Gladys Mitchell — Watson’s Choice

28th Mrs Bradley mystery. Mrs Bradley is invited to a weekend country house party thrown to celebrate the Sherlock Holmes anniversary. Naturally, someone provides a real life mystery, complete with a real live Hound of the Baskervilles. The plot wanders a bit, but it’s still a lot of fun if you’re a Holmes fan. I suspect that it will be less fun if you’re not, as the book is stuffed with Holmes references and jokes.

http://www.librarything.com/work/439987
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

16) Mary Stewart — Stormy Petrel

Romantic suspense set on a remote Scottish Island. the story’s fairly simple, and the appeal is in watching the interplay of the characters, and the evocative descriptions of the island and its way of life. It has mixed reviews, and I can see why; but I liked it a lot.

http://www.librarything.com/work/96426
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

17) EM Forster — Where Angels Fear To Tread

There are plenty of other reviews, so I will only note that I liked part of the novel, but it didn’t quite gel for me even though I like this sort of social satire. I don’t regret the time spent reading it but am not inclined to re-read. It’s out of copyright in some countries, and thus available on public domain sites.

http://www.librarything.com/work/20427

18) Agatha Christie — Death on the Nile (audiobook)

Abridged audiobook on 3 CDs, read by David Timson. Heiress steals friend’s fiancee, friend starts blatantly stalking, even unto the honeymoon cruise on the Nile. Heiress is found murdered, and as the husband points out, the ex-friend has an obvious motive. The one problem is that she couldn’t possibly have done it. Nor could any of the other people the heiress has provided with motives. The abridged audiobook has been well edited for the plot, but does by necessity skimp on the character development and social observation. There’s also an unabridged audio edition, read by David Suchet, which I’ve not yet listened to.

http://www.librarything.com/work/29995
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

19) T Baggins — Fifteen Shades of Gay (for Pay)

Contemporary m/m romance, and yes, the title’s riffing off That Book. What it isn’t is a rip-off of That Book. It’s a thoughtful and well-written look at men coming to terms with their sexuality, seen through the eyes of a young actor who takes on male escort work to pay for his sister’s chemotherapy, even though he’s straight. The blurb for the book tells you all you need to know about the plot, and there’s little point in rehashing it. It’s a plot that has the potential to be very cliched, but Baggins shows what a skilled writer can do with the concept, and the book is a joy to read.

It’s an m/m romance, so of course the POV character isn’t straight after all. But this isn’t a gay-for-you story. There’s a solidly laid foundation for a character who is in deep denial about his bisexuality, and has good reason to be that way. It’s Andrew’s story, so we see his character grow and change the most; but there are also good portrayals of men who aren’t in denial to themselves, but are closeted to their family and have different ways of coping with that. Perhaps it edges over into fairytale territory with how quickly Andrew comes to accept having gay sex without accepting that he’s bi, but the story’s good enough to carry it.

Be warned that it has the potential to be triggery for readers who’ve had to deal with cancer. Baggins doesn’t dwell on the reality of living with cancer in a loved one, but doesn’t gloss over it either — the one that got me was the comment about neighbours who insist on showing their neighbourliness by just popping in to see how you are even though they’re not well themselves, and infectious. But with that one caveat, thoroughly recommended.

http://www.librarything.com/work/13260408
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

Advertisements

book log February 2013

It’s the return of the book log! Not a particularly detailed book log, since it’s a long time since February… But here are such thoughts as I can remember about what I read way back then.

5) Gladys Mitchell — Tom Brown’s Body

Another mystery for Mrs Bradley to solve. This one involves the murder of a junior master at a boy’s school. Mr Conway was unpopular with both boys and teachers alike, for a variety of reasons. A lot of fun, with some sharp social observation. It was first published in 1949, which has some bearing on one of the minor plot threads. One of the boys is Jewish, and subject to anti-Semitic bullying. He does engage in some stereotypical behaviour, but Mitchell, through her lead character, observes that the behaviour is in response to the bullying and not the other way around. I get the impression from this and other books that Mitchell had a low opinion of racists.

LibraryThing
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

6) Fiona Glass — Gleams of a remoter World

LGBT paranormal mystery, where the mystery is long in the past, and the investigator is a ghost hunter. There’s a romance sub-plot, but the emphasis here is on the mystery. I can’t write a sensible review of this one because I’ve left it so long, but I stayed up far too late to finish it, and it will be no hardship to read it again at some point in order to review it properly. You can find the blurb and the first chapter on the book’s page at at the publisher’s website.

Librarything
at amazon UK
at Amazon US

7) Dick Francis – Under Orders

Another entertaining thriller set in the world of horse racing. This one features jockey turned private detective Sid Halley, pursuing leads in the murky world of online betting.

Librarything
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

8) Mary Stewart — Thornyhold

Romantic suspense novel from Mary Stewart, published in 1988, but set in the 1940s and 1950s. Young Geillis, known as Jilly has had a quietly miserable childhood, followed by leaving university early to look after her newly widowed father. Her future as a jobless spinster with no savings and no inheritance to speak of might have been bleak after his death, save for her older cousin and namesake leaving her Thornyhold — Cousin Geillis’s woodland cottage.

Jilly finds that her cousin has left her enough money to live on if she’s careful, together with all of Thornyhold’s contents. Those contents include the still room — and Cousin Geillis’s reputation as a witch. There is nothing but good in that reputation, but Jilly is still drawn into strange occurrences, some of which have an obvious rational explanation but which still leave her unsettled.

She’s even more unsettled when she meets a handsome neighbour — and then life becomes very odd indeed…

Highly enjoyable period romantic suspense, with well-drawn characters and just a touch of magic left even when the explanations are done. Definitely one I’ll enjoy re-reading.

Librarything
at Amazon UK
at AmazonUS

9) Agatha Christie — The Secret Adversary

First of the Tommy and Tuppence books. It’s shortly after the end of the Great War, and a pair of bright young things are finding peacetime both rather boring and rather financially restrictive. They decide to advertise themselves as “The young Adventurers”, in the hope of finding a job. There follow many adventures in pursuit of a missing document, served with a large helping of fun and an even larger helping of red herrings. The politics are somewhat eyebrow-raising, but a reflection of the time when the book was written. I didn’t find this as appealing as the Marple and Poirot stories, but it was a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours. It’s still in print, but also now out of copyright in some countries and thus available on various public domain sites.

LibararyThing
at Amazon UK

book log July 2012

67) Francis Durbridge — Tim Frazer Gets The Message [audiobook]

Abridged on 2 CDs and read by Anthony Head. Another case for engineer turned spy Tim Frazer. British intelligence agent Miss Thackery was last heard of in Asia, so why has she turned up dead in the Welsh countryside? And is her murder linked with the disappearance of a German scientist who was working at the British government? Another enjoyable 1960s espionage novel, splendidly read by Anthony Head.

http://www.librarything.com/work/12339476

68) Mary Stewart — The Moonspinners

1960s romantic suspense. A young woman working at the British Embassy goes to Crete for an Easter break with her cousin, and walks into a cover-up of a murder and a witness in hiding. The mystery is not in whodunnit, but why. An excellent romantic suspense with a vivid sense of place.

http://www.librarything.com/work/26721/

69) Dick Francis — Flying Finish

Lord Henry Grey holds down an ordinary office job, to the horror of his family who think that he should solve the family financial problems by the traditional method of marrying an heiress in search of a title — or as he calls it, prostituting himself. He hasn’t told his family about his other activities — amateur jockey, and semi-amateur pilot. When he shifts jobs into working for a bloodstock shipping agent, nobody thinks he’ll stick to it. But Grey not only sticks with the job, he inconveniences other people by doing so, and by being bright enough to notice that there’s something very odd going on.

Another solid suspense novel from Francis, as ever tied into the world of horse-racing, and with a good romance sub-plot.

http://www.librarything.com/work/71205

69) Paul Doherty — Corpse Candle

Thirteenth of the medieval mystery series starring Sir Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the King’s Seal. I’m not familiar with the series and this one’s a long way into the run, but I found that Doherty does a good job of introducing his characters to new readers. Corbett is sent by the King to investigate the death of Abbot Stephen of St Martin’s-in-the-fields, an abbey in a remote area plagued by bandits. It’s a locked room murder mystery that leaves Corbett initially baffled, but then he finds himself with more murders to investigate, providing both more clues and an incentive to find the killer fast. Very enjoyable, and I’d like to read more of the series.

http://www.librarything.com/work/532013

70) PD James — Cover Her Face [audiobook]

Full cast dramatisation from BBc Radio 4 of the first Adam Dalgliesh mystery, on two CDs. Very well done, and with the original novel being fairly short, this one doesn’t have to leave out large chunks of the book, even if if it is still abridged.

http://www.librarything.com/work/14341

71) Mary Stewart — This Rough Magic

Another romantic suspense from Stewart, this one set on Corfu and themed around Shakespeare’s Tempest. I enjoyed it a lot, but felt that the heroine was rather more blatantly collecting plot coupons than in some of Stewart’s books.

http://www.librarything.com/work/25998

Book log 1) Mary Stewart — Wildfire at Midnight

1956 contemporary romantic suspense set on the Isle of Skye. Fashion model Gianetta Drury needs some peace and quiet, She’s never fully recovered from her divorce to the husband she still loves, and London during the build-up to the Coronation is more excitement and fuss than she wants. A holiday on the Isle of Skye seems ideal, until she discovers that her ex-husband Nicholas has signed into the same hotel on the same day. And if that wasn’t enough, it turns out that there has been a recent murder, and the other residents of the hotel are suspects. Nicholas isn’t exempt, because he was staying in the hotel on a previous trip. And then there is another murder…

While I picked out the correct candidate for murderer readily enough at the first clear clue/herring, the story’s well enough written that it doesn’t matter. There’s still plenty of suspense in whether the characters will recognise the right pattern in time. The book has some engaging lead characters in a strongly drawn setting, and some genuinely chilling scenes. A particular highlight for me was the chase in the fog towards the end of the book. One with re-read potential even after you know the solution.

http://www.librarything.com/work/26796