Booking Ahead: July 2020

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Time to select a few potential reads for the coming month. After all the time spent reading Lonesome Dove I think I fancy something a little bit Fantasy-themed this month, and so I‘ve chosen the following. I doubt I’ll manage to read all these this month, but they do all sound amazing; the only decision is which to pick first? It will probably be Ten Thousand Doors as I’ve wanted to read that one for quite a while now.

Here are a few of the books I’d like to read throughout July…

New Books

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang – New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

Books from the Backlist

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – This may finally be the month that I start reading this book. I’m really looking forward to it. A sprawling mansion, books, secret doors, other worlds? Can’t wait.

City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty – Eighteenth century Cairo, tales of djinn and spirits, enchantment and magic, and Nahri, who wishes to one day leave Cairo. Sounds like the start of an exciting trilogy, and the last book is already out so if I enjoy it I could just carry on reading.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – My final choice of potential reads for this month. Southern Mexico, someone dreaming of a different life, a meeting with a Mayan god of death, and the offer of a deal. Sounds intriguing.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Top Tens

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This week’s theme is:  Top Ten Tuesday Turns 10!


Top Ten Tuesday turns 10, so this week I’ve decided to look at previous top ten lists I’ve written…

Book Hangovers – The book hangover, for me it’s that feeling of finishing a great book and just not quite being ready to leave the world and the characters behind. It was fun to think back on some of the stories that I couldn’t quite leave behind, and looking over the post again brought back fond memories of book such as The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher and books from the Powder Mage world by Brian McClellan

5-Star Reads? – An opportunity to ponder on whether upcoming reads would become 5-star reads. I enjoyed looking back over this post even though I still haven’t read some of the books I mentioned at the time. I can confirm that Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker and The Poison Song by Jen Williams in indeed become 5-star reads for me.

From Page to Screen… – Occasionally I’ll read a great book and it strikes me that it would be perfect for either a big screen or tv series adaptation. This post featured books I would like to see become a movie/tv show. As yet only NOS4A2 by Joe Hill has made it to the screen, but I still think The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton would be great, and the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden could also make a great series.

Books With Single-Word Titles – When I first saw this topic I thought it would be really tough and for a while I couldn’t think of many at all but in the end I was surprised how many came to me and could have added a few more to the post.

Love Freebie – I showcased book covers in this Top Ten Tuesday ‘Love Freebie.’ Sometimes, browsing bookshop/library shelves, a really striking cover is the very first thing to catch my attention and make me want to find out more about a book.

Rainy Day Reads – There’s a real pleasure in having the opportunity to sit and read on a rainy day. It’s quiet and cosy, and every so often it’s great to pause and watch the rain trailing down the windows. Give me a mug of tea and a great book and I’ll be a happy reader. So, what would I possibly pick up on one of these occasions?

Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book – There are so many reasons I might choose to pick up a particular book and this post looked into a few of them.

Hidden or Not-So-Hidden Gems – I think most of the gems featured in this post were actually ‘not so hidden’ in the end.

Books I Loved with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads – This was an interesting post to revisit, seeing titles by Jen Williams and M. R. Carey and thinking how much I enjoyed those books. I’m surprised all over again that the books mentioned in this post didn’t have over 2,000 ratings on Goodreads at the time.

Freebie AKA All The Library Books I was Reluctant to Return – Library books are great but, of course, they have to be returned. That’s okay, until you come across one of those books that you really love.
It’s a beautiful book to look at, the story has been amazing, you’ve lived that tale with those characters and you can’t imagine not having that book in your possession any more. This post was devoted to library books I was reluctant to part with.


So, what did you write about this week?
See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Summer 2020 TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This week’s theme is:  Books on my Summer 2020 TBR List


Last week I featured books I’ve recently added to my TBR list, and some of those may end up on my Summer TBR pile too, but for now, here are ten more books I hope I’ll manage to read over the coming months…

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – I’ve wanted to read this for a while now, I think it might be the one I start next once I’ve finished…

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – My ongoing reading project. It’s still in progress so not technically a TBR book but one that’s taking up a fair bit of my reading time at the moment so it has to have a mention.

Sanctuary by V. V. James – A death deemed a tragic accident, but rumours of witchcraft mean there could be more to it. A supernatural thriller that I hope to get around to reading soon.

Guards! Guards! By Terry Pratchett – I’m still a little undecided about whether to read the Discworld books in order or go at random but this one keeps drawing my attention so I might end up taking the at random approach.

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty – The final book in this trilogy has just been released and I have the first two books already, so what better time to make a start?

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – I’ve mentioned this series before. I love the sound of the adventures of a librarian spy.

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang – In 1899 New York Tillie Pembroke’s sister has been found dead. Dracula has just been published, and Tillie can’t help but wonder whether a vampire may have been involved in her sister’s death.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Gracia – The Jazz Age, Mexican folklore, an ancient Mayan God. Sounds like a good pick for summer reading I think.

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver – Billed as a darkly gothic thriller, I like the sound of this, and might save it for the latter part of summer.

? – What else should I add to my TBR list?


So, have you read any of the books that made my list this week?  If so, what did you think of them? See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Added to my TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This week’s theme is:  Books Added to my TBR List


This week’s topic is Books I’ve Added to my TBR and Forgotten Why.
I have added many new books to my TBR list recently so I’m going in a slightly different direction with the prompt this and featuring some of the books that have caught my eye lately. So, here are ten books I’ve recently added to my TBR list, some already out there, some yet to be published…

If It Bleeds by Stephen King – The new Stephen King book couldn’t not feature on this list really, could it?

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant – Billed as a Les Misérables reimagining, there’s little chance this wouldn’t have ended up on my list. I’ve never read Les Misérables but I’ve seen various versions over time and look forward to a reimagining.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – Vampires and book clubs sound an interesting combination to me. Definitely not one I’ve come across before!

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – I’ve read a few books by Naomi Novik and found them all enjoyable so this latest release definitely gets a place on my TBR list. A school of magic and new student with dark powers? Yes please.

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence – A new-to-me author. I already have Red Sister and the following books on my e-reader (unread as yet), but I really like the sound of this new book too so onto the TBR list it goes.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen – Fantasy, folklore, the supernatural, the Old West. Everything about this makes it a book that warrants a place on my TBR list. I came across it whilst reading about Lonesome Dove. The West but with added Fantasy.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – I’ve added this as I remember enjoying Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell so I’m excited to see what this new tale has to offer.

The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey – Another author whose previous works I’ve always enjoyed. This sounds really different from his previous books and is the first in a series.

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison – Alternate 1880s London, angels, vampires and werewolves. Need I say more?

? – What have I missed that should be on my massive TBR list?


So, have you read any of the books that made my list this week?  If so, what did you think of them? See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Booking Ahead: June 2020

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

I had another fairly slow paced reading month last month and at my current pace I’ll be lucky to reach the end of Lonesome Dove by the end of this month!
That said, if I do finish it I really fancy reading some Fantasy next and there are a few titles that spring to mind, so, here’s what may end up in my reading pile in June…

Books from the Backlist

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – I’ve read over half of this now. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it this month.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – I’ve wanted to read this for a while and I’ve seen so many good reviews. Am really looking forward to finally discovering this book for myself.

And, some series beginnings that I like the sound of…

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – The adventures of a librarian spy, beginning with a visit to an alterative London? Sounds good to me!

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal – A Regency-era tale with added magic.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – ‘Follows a group of tea-soaked disaster magnets as they hurtle their way around History’. That description certainly grabs my attention for this first book in The Chronicles of St. Mary’s.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: Darkness There: Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

Name: Darkness There: Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
Author:  
Edgar Allan Poe, M.S. Corley (Illustrator)
Number of Pages:
81 (Kindle)
Published:
July 26th 2016 by AmazonEncore
Genre:  Classics, Horror

Goodreads

Edgar Allan Poe is known as the forefather of suspense and modern crime fiction. For the first time ever, Darkness There showcases some of his most famous tales with stunning digital illustrations. Each story explores a different twist of madness, murder, and melancholy, from the horror of being buried alive in “The Fall of the House of Usher” to the desperate case of two gruesome killings in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The heartbeat of paranoia in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the razor-sharp claustrophobia in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and a mourner’s torment in “The Raven” reveal—and revel in—life’s creepiest and craziest. These tales are not for the faint of heart or the thin of skin.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

This is my first encounter with the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a short collection of stories and a poem, and made a nice change to reading a really long novel. I enjoy long novels, but sometimes it’s nice to have something to read in one sitting, and most of the stories in this volume provided just that.

The Tell-Tale Heart goes straight to the heart of the matter, quite literally, as the unnamed narrator sets out to commit murder only to be plagued with guilt in the aftermath.

The Fall of the House of Usher paints and wonderfully grim and Gothic picture of a grand old family mansion and the strange siblings abiding there together, having never left the house for years. Into this our narrator goes for a visit and find himself confronted with surreal, eerie and strange events.

I think I’ve probably read bits of The Raven in the past, but can’t recall I’ve ever actually read the whole poem, never having been a great fan of poetry. I loved the musical rhythm of the verse, and the haunting melancholy of the mourner and the raven. Very atmospheric.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue offers up a locked room mystery. I found this one overly wordy to begin with but I stuck with it and witnessed a pretty unique solution to a double murder. Can’t say I’ve ever come across that before, and it’s not something I would ever have been able to guess at.

The Pit and the Pendulum was another surprise. I guess I’ve seen the general idea used in a movie or two, but had no idea what the actual story was about. I was confused at first, rather like the central character as he wakes to find he has no clue where he is, but the tension rises and the claustrophobia mounts and it built into quite an exciting conclusion to the story collection.

The scene is set quickly in these stories, and the air of creepiness pervades throughout each narrative to varying degrees. My first Poe reading experience was pretty mixed, and I’m surprised that I probably enjoyed the lyrical poetry of The Raven most of all, although I loved the dramatic conclusion of The Fall of the House of Usher too. I’d certainly try another tale or two by Edgar Allan Poe.

 

Booking Ahead: May 2020

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to my TBR pile once again! So many books and still I have little idea what I’d like to read next so compiling this post is a little tricky and I’ll probably go wherever the reading mood takes me. So how about I tell you about the books I’m already reading at the moment. I don’t usually read more than one book at a time, so this is new…

Books from the Backlist

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – A sprawling saga of a novel that follows the fortunes of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, a group run by two former Texas Rangers, as they travel from Texas to Montana, driving a huge herd of cattle in order to set up a new ranch in Montana. This is very different from the sort of book I would usually choose but it’s totally engrossing. The characters are brilliant and I really like most of them already, which probably isn’t going to go well throughout the duration of this massive novel. I wouldn’t be surprised if bad things lie ahead for at least some of them. It’s over 900 pages so I think Lonesome Dove will keep me occupied for quite a while.

Darkness There, Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe – I’m loving Lonesome Dove, but it’s incredibly long, so I thought I’d dip in to this short collection of stories by Poe now and again throughout the coming weeks, just for a change. I don’t actually think I’ve ever read anything by Poe before. This collection contains The Tell-Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Raven, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Pit and the Pendulum. I do fancy something a little Gothic, and so I’m hoping this short collection will fill that spot.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I’m still reading/listening to the audio of The Night Circus. I’m enjoying revisiting this book after such a long time, and there’s a lot that I don’t remember about it. I don’t tend to re-read very often at all, and audio is definitely a new experience for me. I’m glad I finally decided to try an audio book, and I wouldn’t be put off from trying another one if something caught my attention in future.

In other news, I’m watching the latest series of Outlander and I’m really enjoying it. It’s put me in mind to try and get back into the books because I know I started them. I only read the first book and then watching the series took over and for some reason I never went back to the books. Looking through my e-reader I was surprised to find I actually own all but two of the books, so I obviously intended to keep reading. I might try and fit a couple of smaller books in first having committed to the rather massive Lonesome Dove, but I would like to resume with the adventures of Jamie and Claire.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: A Different Kind of Evil (Agatha Christie #2) by Andrew Wilson

Name: A Different Kind of Evil (Agatha Christie #2)
Author:  
Andrew Wilson
Number of Pages:
416 (Paperback)
Published:
February 7th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Genre:  Mystery, Historical

Goodreads

Two months after the events of A Talent for Murder, during which Agatha Christie “disappeared,” the famed mystery writer’s remarkable talent for detection has captured the attention of British Special Agent Davison.
Now, at his behest, she is traveling to the beautiful Canary Islands to investigate the strange and gruesome death of Douglas Greene, an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service. As she embarks on a glamorous cruise ship to her destination, she suddenly hears a scream. Rushing over to the stern of the liner, she witnesses a woman fling herself over the side of the ship to her death.
After this shocking experience, she makes it to the Grand Hotel in a lush valley on the islands. There, she meets a diverse and fascinating cast of characters, including two men who are suspected to be involved in the murder of Douglas Greene: an occultist similar to Aleister Crowley; and the secretary to a prominent scholar, who may also be a Communist spy. But Agatha soon realizes that nothing is what it seems here and she is surprised to learn that the apparent suicide of the young woman on the ocean liner is related to the murder of Douglas Greene. Now she has to unmask a different kind of evil in this sinister and thrilling mystery.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

A Different Kind of Evil picks up shortly after the events of A Talent For Murder, a book I really enjoyed, so I was eager to see where Agatha’s travels and adventures would take her next.

Working with Davison, a British Special Agent, Agatha becomes involved in a murder mystery worthy of one of her own novels as a man has been found in a cave in Tenerife mummified and drained of blood. This gruesome discovery sets Agatha on the trail, but things take another turn when Agatha witnesses a woman jump from the deck of their ship as they’re travelling to Tenerife.
This event draws together a group of apparently unconnected travellers, including the Christie party, and they all end up at the same hotel. During they stay they encounter various locals, some of whom have a colourful history which potentially ties them to the case in which Agatha is interested. Who knows more than they’re letting on and who is simply an innocent bystander? And what will happen when Agatha herself becomes suspected of crime?

Once again Andrew Wilson takes various real life details and weaves them into an intriguing and mysterious tale of murder and deception. I kept thinking I had some idea what was going on and who was behind it all, but several twists later I discovered I hadn’t actually worked it out at all. I like it when the solution takes me by surprise.

I enjoyed A Different Kind of Evil, perhaps not quite as much as A Talent For Murder, but I look forward to returning to this series and some these characters in the next book in the series, which is already available.

 

Book Review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Name: The Kingdom
Author:  
Jess Rothenberg
Number of Pages:
340 (Paperback)
Published:
July 11th 2019 by Pan Macmillan
Genre:  Science Fiction, Fantasy

Goodreads

Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.
Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom™ is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species―formerly extinct―roam free.
Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.
But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty―and what it truly means to be human.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

How to describe The Kingdom? It’s certainly very different from anything else I’ve read lately, and for that reason I enjoyed it. The Kingdom itself is a theme park designed to make dreams come true, which features formerly extinct hybrid species and also the Fantasists, princesses in beautiful gowns, also robots engineered to meet requests of the guests without question or comment. They’re kind, generous, and generally perfect. They’re programmed that way. In theory…

Ana is a Fantasist, one of the park’s creations, and at the centre of the tale, which begins with a murder trial. Apparently Ana has gone beyond her programming and killed one of the park workers, which raises many questions and concerns as such a thing should not be possible. The narrative switches between the trial transcripts and evidence, and the build up to the event itself, and this style kept me turning the pages because there was clearly more to it all than a straight forward case of murder.

Watching Ana go from something created to serve a theme park to experiencing emotions and engaging with people beyond the platitudes of her Fantasist role was interesting. Genuine thought and feelings, and awakening to the reality of her situation leads on to such as whether Ana has developed genuine human traits and whether she can truly feel emotions that may influence her actions.

The world of The Kingdom seems too good to be true – swimming with mermaids, seeing all manner of unique creatures, living out your dreams, and of course there’s more going on beneath the polished surface of this dream-like world, and this is revealed over the course of Ana’s trial and the recounting of the past. To say more would give away too much, but when things seem too good to be true, they usually are.

The Kingdom reminded me a little of Westworld, more so when it referenced the “Violent delights have violent ends” quote from Romeo and Juliet that featured in that series. I did enjoy this book – It was entertaining, with some interesting themes and ideas, and the Kingdom itself is both dreamlike and awful all at the same time.

 

Book Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

Name: Dracul
Author:  
Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker
Number of Pages:
608 (Paperback)
Published:
October 17th 2019 by Black Swan
Genre:  Horror, Gothic

Goodreads

Dracul reveals not only the true origins of Dracula himself, but also of his creator, Bram Stoker . . . and of the elusive, enigmatic woman who connects them.
It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside an abbey’s tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast. He is armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun – and is kept company by a bottle of plum brandy. His fervent prayer is that he will survive this one night – a night that will prove to be the longest of his life.
Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, the young man scribbles out the events that brought him to this point – and tells an extraordinary tale of childhood illness, a mysterious nanny, and stories once thought to be fables now proven true.
Inspired by the notes DRACULA’s creator left behind, Dracul is a riveting, heart-stoppingly scary novel of Gothic suspense . . .

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The tale begins with Bram Stoker locked in a tower room adorned with all manner of defences against darkness. Holy water, mirrors, several crucifixes and white roses. It’s a nightmarish situation and Bram is under threat from something outside, determined to gain access despite Bram’s safeguards. The narrative then switches to Stoker’s childhood as he journals about incidents from his youth. How did all this come about? Who is after Bram and why?

Bram’s journaling recounts the mysterious illness that blighted his life until age 7. His family were convinced he would die, yet he rallied, possibly aided by Nanna Ellen, an enigmatic carer who apparently cures Bram where all other medical intervention has failed, but her help also seems to have a visible effect on her seen through her disappearances, and her changes in appearance as she visibly ages, only to appear again looking fresh-faced and young.
Ellen obviously has a secret, and I don’t think I’ll say more other than experiencing Bram and his sister Matilda discover what’s going on with her – the state of her room, her disappearances, the difficulty Matilda has in capturing her in a portrait – was brilliant. Her eventual departure from the family is surrounded in an enduring mystery that never quite leaves Bram and Matilda.

I like Matilda, and her enduring sibling relationship with Bram. During his childhood illness, his weakened state and the belief that he would not live, Matilda is a constant, telling him stories and gossip and encouraging all manner of mischief, going out into the night and listening to what others think shouldn’t concern her.

The story features unsent letters from Matilda to Ellen, journal entries from both Bram and Thornley Stoker, and notes written by Vambéry. I like this method of story telling, giving the whole picture from a variety of viewpoints and watching it all piece together gradually.

The vampire himself is teased out until the latter stages, although his presence is certainly felt well before he appears and when he does it definitely proves worth the wait.
Our group to take on this menace and his undead are the Stoker siblings and the wonderfully mysterious Arminius Vambéry, a man Thornley Stoker meets through the Hellfire club. He knows the truth about the nature of Ellen and her like, having seen such things before.

There are some really eerie and creepy moments, scenes of horror and scenes of family life played out in all innocence as some unknown adversary takes an interest in the Stoker household. Dark basements, a hospital mortuary, abandoned churchyards and unconsecrated ground, derelict towers, a room adorned with crosses and mirrors, and the secretive and mysterious realm of the Hellfire Club all add to the wonderfully Gothic air of this novel.

The way the past and the present are eventually tied together had me turning the pages long after night had drawn in, which certainly added something to the atmosphere. I couldn’t put it down and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a taste of the Gothic. Magic, murder, mystery and intrigue, they’re all within the pages of Dracul.