Saturday, 31 October 2020

The Curse of the House of Foskett

  

I'm sorry, I disappeared for a while. Work has been rather full-on and it's left me little time for anything else, including writing, which is a shame. But, needs must.

Returning with the first of a few catch-up reviews.

Sidney Grice once had a reputation as London's most perspicacious personal detective. But since his last case led an innocent man to the gallows, business has been light.

Listless and depressed, Grice has taken to lying in the bath for hours, emerging in the evenings for a little dry toast and a lot of tea. Usually a voracious reader, he will pick up neither book nor newspaper. He has not even gathered the strength to re-insert his glass eye. His ward, March Middleton, has been left to dine alone.

Then an eccentric member of a Final Death Society has the temerity to die on his study floor. Finally Sidney and March have an investigation to mount – an investigation that will draw them to an eerie house in Kew, and the mysterious Baroness Foskett... 

I picked this up in a sale because I really liked the cover.

However, I must stop doing that. As with The Labyrinth of the Spirits, it was actually not the first in its series. Unlike The Labyrinth of the Spirits, I hadn't read the first one, so there were a few back-story references that I hadn't a clue about.

It was fine enough, but not entirely my cup of tea. With the exception of The Ruby in the Smoke series, I have limited enthusiasm for the Victorian era. I set half of Secure the Shadow there simply because you really have to if you're talking about the history of photography. It was the subject that took me there, rather than a deep affiliation for the period. Although, I do adore steampunk fashion.

Anyway... This is very Victorian. It was a good story, but the main character is rampantly misogynistic the entire way through. That's fine, it's his character, but I read for escapism, so to escape into the arms of that doesn't feel like much of a holiday. He didn't really have any redeeming features, so it was a bit Sherlock Holmes without any of the charm.

I also mentioned in my review of The Wasp Factory that, although I love the darker side of fiction, I can get ever so slightly squeamish when animal cruelty is involved. There was a very particular issue with cats in this one that left me squinting a bit. Mind you, there's also quite a fascinating bit about brain-eating maggots, which was also quite icky but far more engaging. 

Unfortunately, I also guessed very early on who the culprit was, although not the reason. This didn't detract, but as I hadn't particularly warmed to Sidney Grice, I didn't really mind if the baddie killed him. 

The book is the second in The Gower Street Detective Series. If you enjoy slightly gory, unsettling, Victorian-era whodunnits, I think you'd probably enjoy this. It's more of a dark-nights fireside read than a holiday beach read.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Akkad at 12k

  

 

Well, I said I was about to start writing again. 

In the past five days I've written around 11,500 words. 

I started by deleting 6,000 words that I wrote last year. It was difficult, but they had to go. 

The problem that I now face is this:

 

 

Which is a serious issue. But I've been running the chapter maths in my head and I reckon I can just about scrape it. The Children of Lir was just under 120,000. I expect this is likely to be longer. However, there are plenty of books longer than that.

I am so into this book. It's such a pleasure to sit down each day and know the words will just flow. But I'm worried they might be flowing in the wrong direction. I'm going with a very risqué technique, the ol' first person/third person split, where part of the book is written in third person and the rest in first. It's generally  frowned upon, but I don't see a way around it.

The main story is, as most of my main stories are, told through the lead character's eyes. However, I need to tell somebody else's story first, and it happens before she is born. So, I'm diving into third for that.

I think I can make it work, but it makes me nervous all the same.

Heck, I stand by writing The Children of Lir in multi-character first person, though some said I was crazy.



I think that worked out okay.

And I can't think of another way around it other than to turn the first story into an entirely separate novel. Which is almost tempting - but no.

So, it's still early days. Just got to plough on and see where we end up. But I'm happy, and I'm really enjoying writing it, though the research is brutal. Every other paragraph results in a four-hour YouTube documentary break. It's sort of on the level of Rosy Hours in that respect. 

More updates as stuff happens.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Bore Da

 

This is my lovely Aunty Patsy teaching Welsh to children on the beach in Wales, with a little bit of Sign Language thrown in. Sing/sign along. There's more Welsh lessons for children here and you can find a Welsh course for adults on Duolingo.

Friday, 9 October 2020

The Hammer of Eden

  

 

So, here's a slight curveball in my reading pattern. 

Do you remember that mystery book I found whilst exploring my bookshelves? Turned out to be a copy of Ken Follet's The Hammer of Eden.


 

So, I thought I might as well read it so that I could give it away. I actually got the audiobook, because that's my thing nowadays - the only time I have time to read is in the shower, whilst cooking or just before falling asleep, so audiobooks are fantastic for that.

I don't know why I was so apprehensive. It's by Ken Follett, and he wrote The Pillars of the Earth, which is one of the greatest historical fictions of all time. Certainly gave Eddie Redmayne's career a boost. But then, I think it's natural when you love an author for one particular work to feel apprehensive about reading their other work. Especially as contemporary crime thrillers aren't a genre I often delve into. The missing dust cover might also have had something to do with it.

The FBI doesn’t believe it. The Governor wants the problem to disappear. But agent Judy Maddox knows the threat is real: An extreme group of eco-terrorists has the means and the know-how to set off a massive earthquake of epic proportions. For California, time is running out.
 
Now Maddox is scrambling to hunt down a petty criminal turned cult leader turned homicidal mastermind. Because she knows that the dying has already begun. And things will only get worse when the earth violently shifts, bolts, and shakes down to its very core.

It was actually pretty good.

I particularly liked the fact that it was read by a woman, as this genre is often considered to be a male-dominated domain and I'd say the majority of audiobooks with either a single male POV or a majority male POV opt for male narrators. This is split between male and female POV, but kicks off with male, so it was great they went with a female narrator and January LaVoy was excellent. 

There was one scene in there which was the literary equivalent of Glen's exit in The Walking Dead. Succeeded in making me a little queezy, which is something I very rarely get as I love horror stories. That weirdly puts Ken Follet in the same category as Shaun Hutson for 'books that make me uncomfortable.' Something I would never have expected.

So, all in all, good fun. If you're into FBI cat-and-mouse chases, you might enjoy it.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Ratched


I am loving this. Netflix has based an entire series around Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and it is delightful. Set in the same mental hospital, where the staff are more deranged than the patients.

Also found this very entertaining segment where the female cast read from a 1940's guide to hiring women. Oh me, oh my.


Sunday, 4 October 2020

A History of the World in 21 Women

  


This was a really interesting read. Written by Jenni Murray, former presenter of Woman's Hour, which she left this year

The history of the world is the history of great women.

Marie Curie discovered radium and revolutionised medical science. Empress Cixi transformed China. Frida Kahlo turned an unflinching eye on life and death. Anna Politkovskaya dared to speak truth to power, no matter the cost. Their names should be shouted from the rooftops.

And that is exactly what Jenni Murray is here to do. 

She also wrote A History of Britain in 21 Women.

It was a really interesting read and went by so fast it felt like there should have been a lot more. Everyone from Madonna to Benazir Bhutto. 

I especially enjoyed the people I hadn't heard about before, such as composer Clara Schumann and artist Artemisia Gentileschi, who was recently reviewed by Will Gompertz. She laments that hundreds of talented women were pressured into believing that composing was simply not a job for a woman, even though Hildegard of Bingen is one of the earliest composers we know of. It made me think about Enheduanna and Murasaki Shikibu, possibly the earliets author and novelist respectively, even though 'author' derived from the word 'father' and eventually women were shunted out of the way and expected to publish under male names if they wanted to get anywhere. Even today, you're apparently more likely to get a book deal as a man.

Interesting stuff, and I like that Murray chooses a few women who perhaps had some questionable morals and dubious interests, quoting Margaret Atwood that 'women don't have to be gooder.'

An all-round excellent read.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Emma Lawson Interview

 

A really lovely interview today with my former writing student, Emma Lawson. It was a pleasure to be featured on her blog. She's also a really good editor if anyone's looking.